Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance
Guilt offerings were a very interesting concept in God’s covenant with Israel. Basically, they were to atone for something wrong you had done to someone else… but gotten away with. But now, you feel guilty about it. The law stated,
“Speak to the people of Israel, when a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him.”
So a guilt offering was giving back what you wrongly took, plus one fifth of its value. Making amends for what you took and adding some on top for having done it. This squared you away with the person whom you had wronged. THEN you had to offer up a ram to atone for the sin itself to make things right with God. Quite the expensive proposition, and all for something that no one but you knows is wrong. Oh. And God.
But as Psalm 14:1 tells us,
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.”
And our proverb today tells us a fool scoffs at the idea of personal accountability to others and to God, for something that you are simply feeling guilty for, but haven’t actually been caught doing.
We too may feel like there is no need to make things right with someone who is unaware of what we have done. Or, that as long as we have “made our peace” with God, then we are fine to just let things alone.
Jesus told his disciples, ““So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24)
This idea of the guilt offering is still applicable to us who follow Jesus today. Yes, Jesus has taken the place of the sacrificial animal, once and for all atoning for our sins before God. But we still need to make things right with our fellow man, as much as we are able to. We are to be blessed peacemakers, seeking “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18 ) That means, when it is in our power to do something to right a wrong we have committed against someone else, we should do it.
This concept of a guilt offering is a potent reminder that God does not exercise his right of forgiveness at the expense of people harmed by our misdeeds. He does not offer us psychological release from our guilt as a cheap substitute for making right the damage and hurt we have caused. Justice is important to God, and if we are to truly follow him, we must do our best to set things right with others as best we can.
The laws of the old covenant, fulfilled by Christ, can still show us the heart of God, and guide us in our interactions with others. James taught “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
It seems a little odd, from a worldly point of view, to try and make amends. Yet, many organizations who deal with recovering from various addictions include making amends as an important step. There is no peace, until at least the effort is made to set right what you have done wrong.
So today let’s follow this godly wisdom and make some amends where we can. We all have relationships that can benefit from humbly seeking to restore them by setting things right. Part of the peace that God offers us is not just between ourselves and Him, but between ourselves and others. We make a foolish choice when we deny ourselves the opportunity to make peace and grow in faith by righting the wrongs we have done.
Prayer for Today
Father, I know you see all that I do, show me the areas of my life where I can make peace with others. Jesus, I know you offer me forgiveness unconditionally. Help me to take that gift and willingly seek to make things right with others I have wronged. By your Holy Spirit, give me the wisdom I need to seek restoration where possible. Guide me today Lord, in your grace, mercy and peace. Amen.