24 October 2012

A Survey of the Old Testament Law--The Trespass Offering (Leviticus chapter 5; 7:1-10) Part 1

OK, today we move on to Leviticus chapter 5. This section deals with the Trespass Offering, or the אָשָׁם (asham). These, it seems, would be sins that you committed when you thought you were doing something harmless. For example, if I went out to my sheepfold and grabbed a sheep, cooked it and fed it to my family and later on I somehow discovered that it actually belonged to my neighbor—or perhaps I knew from the outset that it belonged to my neighbor and cooked it anyway—I would bring a Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם (asham)) to the priest, and I would also restore that sheep to my neighbor and add somewhat to that restitution. Or, if during one of their captivities the people broke one of the commandments in the civil portion of the Law, but not necessarily one of the Ten Commandments. It could also be what we call a “sin of omission.”

So we will begin with the first offence that would require a Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם (asham)). Leviticus 5:1“‘If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.’” The words here are pretty self-explanatory. Suppose you hear someone swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”—especially if that person is under oath by the name of YHVH—and you hear that person say something that you know is not true. If you do not speak up and say something, guess what? You have just sinned. There are several reasons for this ordinance. First, and most obvious, you are encouraging one to bear false witness against their neighbor. Second, to hear someone lie about a matter and not act is to throw one’s lot in with that person. By sitting idly by you allow that person to escape the punishment for that sin, and perhaps allow that one to commit more crimes, when you had it in your power to stop them. You are, by your inaction, giving approval to those who do such things. As Paul said in Romans 1:32Knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, [they] not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Third, and the scariest of all, consider when the person swears an oath in the name of YHVH, and you know they're lying you are, in effect, just as guilty of taking the name of YHVH in vain as the liar is. You are saying, in effect, “Yes, I agree, in the name of YHVH, that this person is telling the truth.” By not speaking up when you hear someone lying in the name of YHVH, by not doing anything you are sinning by default. Much like what James wrote about when he said in James 4:17To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Leviticus 5:2-3“‘2 Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty. 3 Or if he touches human uncleanness—whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.’” The commands here—don’t touch dead unclean things; don’t touch human waste, or the discharge from a leprous person. As far as the “don’t touch dead stuff”—in Leviticus 11 (which we will cover in just a little while in this lesson), we will encounter a laundry list of what animals are clean and which ones are unclean. The common man, who does not read these lists day in and day out, may be out in the wild, and kill an animal thinking it to be clean. But when he picks it up, he realizes that’s not the animal he thought it was. “Hey, that’s a rock hyrax! Yitzhak, is that clean or unclean?” Of course Yitzhak doesn't know one way or another so when you get back to camp you go to the priest and you say, “Is a rock hyrax clean or unclean?” And he tells you it is unclean—you have just defiled yourself with the carcass of an unclean animal. And you must bring a Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם (asham)) for that. Just like if you pull up your fishing net and have a bunch of dead shrimp fall on you, or—well, if you somehow come in contact with the carcass of any of the animals listed in Leviticus 11, you have become defiled.

Now, this in mind, let’s examine the case of Samson. Judges 14:5-95 So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. 6 And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. 8 After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. 9 He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion. Did Samson thus become unclean? Yes, he did. Many scholars have speculated over the years, I suppose trying to excuse Samson for his actions, trying to come up with some reason why he could have been excused for his actions. Some say that this was perhaps a year later, and the carcass had been torn by scavengers and bleached by the sun and was now nothing but a skeleton. The problem is we can't draw that out of the text because it does not give any indication about the length of time between Samson killing the animal and seeing the honeycomb. Besides, the word translated “carcass” the first time in Judges 14:8—After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. This is the Hebrew מַפֶּלֶת (mappeleth). It literally means “carcass”—not “bones”; not “skeleton”—but “carcass.” So Samson did, indeed, touch the dead, rotting corpse of the lion he killed just to get at some honey.

Besides, when he brought the honey home to mom and dad, did he tell them where he got it from? No. Why not? Because he knew that if he told them it came from the dead, rotting corpse of a lion he had killed, they would not eat it. And why would they not have eaten it? Because they would have defiled themselves. This passage would apply to Samson’s parents, because they did not know where the honey came from. Keep in mind, Samson was not always the most scrupulous of men. Now, were mom and dad defiled because they ate honey that came from the rotting corpse of a lion? Technically, yes. They had eaten something that came from the carcass of a dead unclean animal.  So if Samson had he told mom and dad where he got that honey from, they would have been defiled by that knowledge and they would have had to bring a Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם (asham)).

We have a command in the New Testament that is very similar to the commands in Leviticus 5:2-3. We find these commands in 2nd Corinthians 6:14-1714 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." 17 Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." And yet what do we see happening in so many churches these days? Using movies and music to try and “excite” their “crowds” and bring in the masses. And many times, these movies and music are not godly whatsoever. But what do these churches do? They promote a sermon series with a title that starts with the words “The Gospel According to—” You name it “The Gospel According to the Beatles.” Or “The Gospel According to Lost”—yes, that’s right. Thomas Nelson Publishers have put out a book showing where to find the gospel in a TV show that was all about how there are many ways to Heaven and we must each find our own way to God, and we’ll all meet up in that big happy place in the sky. No, I'm not kidding, why do you ask? The same guy that wrote that dreck has also written a book entitled “The Gospel According to Tony Soprano.” No, I'm not kidding, why do you ask? I guess when Tony was killing his rivals and cutting of his associate’s head, he was simply trying to usher them into the Kingdom a little faster. These things ought not to be so. The church should not be joining the things of God with the sludge of the world. To do so is to belittle God, blaspheme His name, and make a mockery of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another application concerns what we would call “interfaith ministries.” When Christians get together with Muslims and Buddhists and people of other faiths to “do some good.” And they make a show of the fact that they are “joining with other faiths to…” do such and such. They are yoking themselves with the unrighteous. Now, is this to say that we should not be associated, at all, with people of other faiths? No. In fact, Paul says that we should avoid those who call themselves Christians—yet live an ungodly lifestyle—rather than avoid those who do not know Christ. 1st Corinthians 5:9-119 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. He says, in a nutshell, “Don’t bother trying to completely avoid the sinful people of the world. Because you can't do it. You can, however, avoid those who claim the name of Christ with their lips yet deny Him by their lifestyle.” And why is that? Why this command to avoid such people? Simple, really: because of the conscience of the weak. If they see you hanging around with “Christians” who live ungodly lives, then you are giving tacit approval to one who thinks that one can walk with Christ and still continue in sin.

Even the apostle John rebuked that kind of thinking when he wrote in 1st John 3:8-108 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. It’s all about conscience. When one’s conscience is seared to the point that they feel like they can continue in sin, that it does not bother them one whit, they don’t feel they need they need to change because “Hey, Jesus died for my sins; I can live any way I want to”—they are then to the point where they sin willfully, and if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26). But that’s Deuteronomy, and we’ll talk about that when we get there.

Moving on, Leviticus 5:4“‘4 Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters.’” How many times have you had this happen: you put something somewhere, or you do something. Later on, you realize that you only thought you put it there, or you only thought you did such-and-such. And what do we always say? “I could have sworn I put it there” or “I could have sworn I did such-and-such.” Let’s bump that up a notch. You are on the witness stand. Under oath, either during direct questioning or under cross-examination, you swear, under oath, that “Yes, I saw the defendant threaten the victim with a gun.” But then the defense plays the video from a store’s security camera, and you see that the defendant was not pointing a gun at the victim, but was simply gesturing with his cell phone. You have testified, under oath, to something that was not true. You are guilty of perjury. You then go back on the stand, still under oath, and you recant your statement.

Now let’s put this under the old covenant. You see Yitzhak butchering one of Shimon’s goats. You grab a neighbor, and together you both watch Yitzhak butcher and roast one of Shimon’s goats. You go to the priest, you both swear (because there must be one or two witnesses) to this matter. And long story short, come to find out that goat was a payment Shimon made to Yitzhak for some favor. Guess what? You and your partner are guilty of swearing falsely under oath. “I'm sorry, Yitzhak” ain't gonna cut it. But doesn't that seem to be enough for some people today? Some ruthless thug kills a family in one of the most violent and inhuman ways possible—but they get a lighter sentence because “the defendant showed remorse.” Anybody can “show remorse.” Under the terms of the old covenant, “showing remorse” would not mitigate punishment one yod. You need to bring an animal (אָשָׁם (asham)) to die in your place.

And now, we see the payment for sinning through ignorance; for touching uncleanness; for swearing falsely or rashly. Leviticus 5:5-6“‘5 And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; 6 and he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin.’” This is the “Trespass Offering” or אָשָׁם (asham). Not only do you bring your animal to be killed, cut up and burned, but you also have to confess your sin(s). This meant that there was to be not only an outward expression of guilt (the killing of the innocent animal), but also an inward sense of shame and guilt. The confession of the sin was meant to effect in the person a sense of shame for his offense toward not only God but also his fellow man. Leviticus 5:5“‘5 And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing.’”

Jesus picks up on this theme in the Sermon on the Mount. By that time, many people had developed an attitude that was nearly entirely external and judgmental toward others—all the while ignoring their own moral shortfalls. Said attitude developed, no doubt, in part if not in whole due to the coldness and deadness of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” who saw the sin in others but not in themselves. Matthew 5:21-26“21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” A rather peculiar juxtaposition, don’t you think? He teaches the fact that even expressing hatred for another is tantamount to murder, and He says, “Therefore—” Now, remember, when you see the word “therefore” you must ask yourself, “What is the word ‘therefore’ there…for?”

He teaches on murder in verses 21-22, and then He says in verse 23, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you…” What could bringing a gift possibly have to do with hatred/murder? Well, let’s talk about it. The word ‘gift’ is translated from the Greek δῶρον (doron), which is the equivalent of the Hebrew קָרְבָּן (qorban). Where have we talked about קָרְבָּן (qorban) before? Ah yes, when we studied the Peace Offerings (שָׁלַם (shalam)). What Jesus is doing here is stomping on the hypocrisy of their outward religion. Their self-righteousness. They were bringing Peace Offerings and offering thanks to God. However, they were offering the kinds of thanks that the Pharisee was offering in Luke 18:11-12“11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'” They had the outward stuff down pat. They were good in that regard. In fact, Jesus even commended their tithing in Matthew 23:23. However, within the very same breath He says, “But…” Yes, they were very meticulous in their tithing and in their giving to the temple—but they had forgotten the more important things, “justice and mercy and faith.” And while they were very particular in bringing their Peace Offerings, they were forgetting one thing—there were people to whom they owed debt. Not monetary debt, but spiritual debt, so to speak.

So He tells them, when you bring your δῶρον (doron), your קָרְבָּן (qorban), your Peace Offering (שָׁלַם (shalam)), thanking God that you are “not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector,” don’t forget one thing—that you are, “like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” And all the times you have spoken against others, and unjustly condemned them with your words—they “have something against you.” And He says, “Before you kill an animal as a way of thanking Me that you aren’t a sinner—remember that you are a sinner, and go make peace with that person before you even think of killing an animal for My sake. Because if you kill that animal before you make peace with your neighbor—don't even think you have peace with Me. Because you don’t.” And by the simple act of going to your brother and confessing your hatred toward him, your Peace Offering (שָׁלַם (shalam)) has now become a Trespass Offering (אָשָׁם (asham)). Furthermore, He would say, maybe not even a minute later, in Matthew 6:14-15“14 If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” So Jesus’ point to the people was this—when they brought gifts to God, they were to consider themselves, their attitude towards others, and if they harbored any hatred in their heart towards another, they were guilty of murder. And until they went to that one they were killing with their hatred, God didn’t even want that dead animal.

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