The guilt offering, or "reparation offering" as it is also called, is similar to the sin offering, but with some key differences. Unlike the sin offering, the guilt offering was connected to wrongs that could be practically repaid.
These verses deal with wrongs done to objects and furnishings dedicated to the worship of Yahweh. The wrong done may be in the form of damage or neglect and required a sacrifice that dealt with the sin on a "justice level", as well as additional payment that dealt with the sin on the "practical level", replacing or restoring what was damaged, neglected or misused.
This section deals with wrongs done that resulted in a person losing wealth or property that rightfully belonged to them. Like wrongs done against objects dedicated to Yahweh, the offender had to repay with interest what he had taken or withheld from someone else.
It's both interesting and important to note that even though the offender seemed to be stealing from other humans, he still had to offer a sacrifice to God. When we sin, we first and foremost sin against God, even if our intended target is someone else. Two portions of scripture come to mind that support this idea.
The first is when Joseph refuses to sleep with a married woman who attempts to seduce him. He tells her that he can't, saying "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9,ESV)
Likewise, Jesus said that when we neglect those in need, we neglect God himself. "Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’"(Matthew 25:45,ESV)
Maybe you're the quiet kind of geek, who feels mistreated and misunderstood, but it's a status you've come to accept. You accept that when you enter into certain social situations you will be judged, neglected or mistreated.
Or maybe you're like me, the kind of geek who feels insecure and compensates by making every conversation about themselves as early as possible. Maybe, like me, you care more about being interesting and less about being interested in other people, failing to see how you're mistreating those around you.
In the Guilt Offering, we see a warning and we see hope for the way we interact with others. Buried in the middle of yet another strange-sounding ritual of Israel's past, is an indication that God is so invested, so in love with each and every human being, that he identifies with them as if he himself were literally in their place.
God is outraged on our behalf even when repeated wounds have caused our feelings to deaden. And when we limply say, "That's okay, don't worry about it," Yahweh says "No! That is NOT okay for you to be treated that way, and it is NOT okay that people consider mistreatment acceptable."
Yahweh is not a God who says "Everyone is basically okay." He is not a God who will usher everyone into an eternal existence in which people are pretty much the way they are now. He is not content that anyone be treated in any way that is anything less than perfect.
This small detail of the guilt offering indicates that God is not content to coldly stand by while we hurt each other. Justice is required, wrongs must be righted. And while the guilt offering doesn't really do the job, it serves as a promise that the job will eventually be done. The confirmation of that promise is found later in scripture.
(Revelation 21:4-5,ESV) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
One day he will make all things new. But not everyone will be a part of this new creation. Only those who are willing to admit that they are sick and who also let Jesus act as their surgeon.
(John 3:17-18,ESV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
When we choose to trust Jesus with our standing before God, he begins the process of removing those parts of us that may seem vital to who we are, but that are actually no longer our defining characteristics.
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11,ESV) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
As we wrap up our look at some of the key rituals of the Old Testament, I'm reminded that God is mysteriously both completely perfect and rightfully separated from us, but at the same time desires to have a deep, vulnerable, unfailing friendship with us. He is our judge and our defender. He's deserving of terrified worship yet wants us to rest in his lap.
Hopefully our time in the Old Testament has given you a greater awareness of these comparatively surprising facets of Yahweh's character. The ancient Hebrews sure had a hard time reconciling them. But in a few weeks we'll start into the New Testament book of Hebrews and will see how the amazing story of God's love was explained to them, meeting them right where they were at.