Sinning Against Our Fellow-man
It should be emphasized again and again that sinning against my fellow-man is sinning against the Lord. It is this that makes any sin so heinous. “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor” (Lev 6:2) begins this new section, as if to remind the reader that sins which may appear trivial in the eyes of men are obnoxious to the Lord.
Telling lies is regarded by many as just a way of life, nothing serious and not something about which to be greatly concerned. But in the matter of lying, God required, as with other sins, the shedding of the blood of a victim for forgiveness. After all, truth is the very nature of God, and one of His titles, repeated several times in the Old Testament, is “The God of truth” (Deut 32:4; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). Lies therefore are an abhorrence to the God of truth and for this reason Paul exhorts the believers to put away lying, and to “speak every man truth with his neighbor” and “lie not one to another” (Eph 4:25; Col 3:9; also James 3:14). Indeed the ancient commandment was, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exod 20:16) and this is quoted both by the Lord Jesus and by Paul (Matt 19:18; Rom 13:9).
As is so often the case, lies are employed to cover up some other sin, and this is what is envisaged in Leviticus 6. Here first is the case of a man to whom his neighbor has entrusted something to keep for him. It may be, as Dr Gill comments, “money or goods, or some living creature, sheep, cow, or horse.” Something has been deposited with him in good faith, but then, when the trusting neighbor seeks to recover that which was his, there is a denial of some sort. Perhaps it may be a denial that any such thing was ever received, or maybe a claim that the property had been lost or stolen. Either way there is the sin of theft covered up by the sin of lying.
Again, it may be that there has been an agreement to a partnership in some matter, and in that spirit of fellowship one party is trusted to preserve the money, goods or property. The whole arrangement is then denied and one partner is defrauded of his claim to his share. It is theft of course. It is embezzlement. It is again covered up by lies and the sin is therefore exacerbated by the fact that the man swears to the falsehood. Such swearing, says Delitzsch, “became frauds against Jehovah, adding guilt towards God to the injustice done to the neighbor.”
Then there is the more obvious sin of another man’s goods being taken from him by violence. This may be open robbery or perhaps a surreptitious seizing of what belongs to another. In certain instances this theft may be accomplished by deception so that a neighbor may be cheated and robbed of his goods cunningly.
There follows the case of a man who finds something which another man had lost. He well knows that he has found what belongs to another and he may also know the identity of the owner, but he lies concerning it. He may deny having found the money or goods, or, admitting that he did find them he may swear that he did not know to whom they belonged. He may even argue that he had tried in vain to trace the owner. Whichever, he has found and appropriated to himself what is certainly not his and swearing to a falsehood makes him guilty of perjury as well as of theft.
It becomes apparent then that in whatever way a man has sinned, his sin has a double effect. He has violated the rights of his neighbor and he has also contravened the plain commands of the Lord. To the neighbor who has suffered loss there must be restitution and to God also there must be compensation in the form of a Trespass Offering. Restitution to the rightful owner must be restoration of that which he lost, either the actual property, if that is possible, or the agreed full value of it, and to the principal there must be added the fifth part more.
This restitution must be attended to without delay in the day of the sinner’s Trespass Offering and it is assumed that the erring man has now come, with troubled conscience and in repentance seeking for forgiveness.
He must bring a ram, and once again those important words are added, “without blemish.” The words which follow, “with thy estimation,” have presented a difficulty. They may not apply to an estimated value of the ram but to the priest’s estimation and assessment of the value by which the fifth part is to be estimated. This would be necessary if the stolen goods were no longer to hand.
For those who believe, the typical meaning of it all is clear, and very precious. We have judged ourselves guilty. There is much to pay but we are spiritual paupers, unable to restore that which we have taken. We have sinned grievously, offending and insulting the throne of God. But then He came, the Lamb of God, sacrifice and surety for the guilty. He has restored that which He took not away and He has added the fifth part in glory to God.
He has given His life for us. His blood has been shed. Every demand of divine holiness has been fully met and those who believe are forgiven. It is now incumbent on us that we should abhor the sin which cost Him such deep sorrow and shame. We should live holily, for His pleasure Who has suffered so much for us.