The Sin Offering taught us that the guilt of sin not only needs to be paid for but also cleansing. Here, the Reparation/Guilt Offering teaches us that sin must always be repented of and some sins require us to do restitution.
Leviticus 1: Ascension Offering – God invites us to draw near with all that we are: the whole animal goes on the altar.
Leviticus 2: Tribute Offering – God provides our daily bread and all things, and therefore, He claims our full allegiance: bread on the altar.
Leviticus 3: Peace Offering – God invites us to have fellowship with Him and one another with a meal: the fat goes on the altar and we eat together in the presence of God.
Leviticus 4: Sin Offering – Our sin defiles us and our land, but God takes it upon Himself so we can be clean: the blood goes in front of the veil and on the altar for cleansing and the carcass is burned outside the camp.
“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt…” (Lev. 5–6:7)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
It is unclear how the Reparation Offering is related to the Sin Offering (if at all), but the clear emphasis here is on the effects of certain sins: failure to testify (5:1), thoughtless oaths (5:4), sins against the sanctuary (5:2-3, 15), sins of deception, theft, or damage (6:2-3). In these instances, it seems that a sin offering would ordinarily be offered and then depending on the exact offense, a Reparation Offering would also be required (5:6). For those who could not afford the ordinary Sin Offering, two birds or even a grain offering without oil might be offered (5:7-13). The Reparation Offering was always a ram without blemish and included twenty percent restitution (5:14-6:7).
PUBLIC TESTIMONY & OATHS
On the one hand we know that “whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17), but we must not close our eyes or remain silent when injustice is being perpetrated right in front of us (Lev. 20:4). Here, the first situation seems to be a public hearing presumably for a crime (Lev. 5:1). The law requires two or three witnesses to convict someone of anything (Dt. 19:15). Failure to speak up when you know that a witness is lying or else you were a witness that can provide other crucial information is not only bearing false witness but participating in the miscarriage of justice and unjust penalties. False witnesses are liable to receive the punishment that would have fallen on the falsely accused (Dt. 19:16-21). This is part of the problem with anonymous witnesses: they cannot be held accountable.
When someone is convicted of their sin, they are to confess their sin to the one they sinned against and to God (Lev. 5:5-6), and they are to restore what was damaged in full plus twenty percent (Lev. 6:1-5, cf. 5:16). The principle is full replacement plus a double tithe. The double tithe seems to be based on the ordinary requirement of the law of double replacement for stolen items that are found (Ex. 22:4). This is based on the lex talionis (“eye for eye”): what you intended to do to another is done to you (but no more) (Lev. 24:19-20). When a thief repents, he restores what he stole plus the double tithe as an admission on his part that he deserves to have to restore double. If there is no one to give the restitution to, it is given to the Lord (Num. 5:5-8). But unrepentant thieves who sell or destroy stolen goods can be required to restore up to four or five times the value (Ex. 22:1), which Zacchaeus did when he repented (Lk. 19:8).
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
Don’t miss the fact that when Zacchaeus announced his restitution, Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:9). Notice that Jesus didn’t say that Zacchaeus was being legalistic and shouldn’t worry about paying people back since we’re under grace and not under law. No, Jesus calls this “salvation.” In fact, the New Testament repeatedly calls unbelievers to “repentance” for salvation (Acts 3:19, Lk. 24:46-47). Repentance means turning away from sin and turning to God (Acts 26:18). Faith in Christ is the first movement of repentance, but a faith that does not follow through with the fruit of repentance is no real faith (Lk. 3:8ff). Also notice that this restoration process is part of what Jesus came to save. When Jesus saves lost people, He also restores economies, livelihoods, and families through repentance.
Once again, Jesus is the fulfillment of this sacrifice. Isaiah 53 says that the Suffering Servant (Jesus) would become our Reparation/Guilt Offering (Is. 53:10). And just as God provided the ram as the substitute for Isaac on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:13), Jesus is our ram on Golgotha, our full restitution to God, so that times of refreshing may come (Acts 3:19).
While the notion of “reparations” has been highly politicized in our day, Christians do not object to concrete wrongs being put right, even old ones. We believe in the healing of real restitution, but we object to the tapeworm of reparations: guilt that can never be forgiven and grievances that can never be put right. And part of this means trusting that full justice awaits the final judgment.
Many Christians wonder why they feel like they’re running on fumes; one reason is often failure to fully repent and do restitution. Christ died not merely that you might be made right with God, but also that you might go make it right with anyone and everyone you have wronged. This fruit of repentance is not a harsh duty but the real fruit of Christ in you. When Christians live consistently in that kind of repentance it is truly refreshing to everyone, and when millions of Christians begin living that way, we will have a Reformation on our hands.