And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed. (Leviticus 5:5-6)
As I have said before, these offerings were engineered to reveal the heart of those who wished to draw near to the Creator. He was in no need of their sacrificial offerings but wanted a devoted heart — the offering was simply an expression of that commitment. The burnt offering, as well as the sin offering, expressed those inward inclinations. In somewhat of a contrast, the trespass offering dealt with the outward effect of the transgression. In other words, sometimes the intent of our heart can create an outward problem that can affect others — in this case, God. Therefore, acknowledging a sin should always be followed by restitution — putting things back the way they were when possible.
Saying, “I’m sorry” and turning from the sin is important but it is equally important to make things right. Doing one without the other leaves a situation in flux. If someone causes another harm, the situation isn’t always made better with just an apology. Many times the subsequent action — or inaction if that be the case — demonstrates whether the apology was sincere. On the other hand, repairing the harm without saying, “Forgive me” doesn’t always fix things either. That is why, when a person brought the trespass offering to the priest, it was also necessary to present a sin offering. In other words, before the “gift” of the trespass offering could be received, the person must be reconciled to Creator in every way. Put simply, acknowledgment of the sin had to precede the attempt at restitution.
Now let us consider this concept in a slightly different context. Judaism teaches that on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), man’s sins against God are atoned for. However, a man’s sins against his fellow man are not atoned for until the offender has made restitution with his neighbor. Until that takes place, his sins against God have yet to be forgiven. This idea should sound very familiar to us because Yeshua said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
All of this is to say that repentance is not complete until restitution, when possible, is made. It’s really easy to say, “I’m sorry” but it is another thing to prove it by doing the hard work to fix what you have broken, especially where our brother is concerned. It behooves us then to remember that God expects us to do this as a demonstration that our hearts are humble and compliant with His Will — humbling ourselves before God often requires us to humble ourselves before men. So, I’ll close with the words of Yeshua who, speaking on this subject, said:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
Blessings and Shalom,