The trespass-offering is for sin looked at as injury, and in view of the government of God, as the sin-offering contemplates it in its intrinsic character as abhorrent to His nature. Thus restitution — "amends for the harm that he hath done" — is so prominent a feature in the trespass-offering, the ram of which is itself valued, and becomes part of the repayment. The governmental view or the atonement, which so many in the present day contend for, while it is thus justified as a partial view, falls entirely short in its estimate of it when taken as the whole. It is not in government merely that God hides His face from sin. The darkness and the cry of desertion of the cross express more than governmental atonement. Indeed, to the mass of writers upon the subject these are features whose significance is of little import. In the punishment of the wicked finally, few or many stripes express the governmental award of the "great white throne;" but the "utter darkness," the necessary separation of God from what is abhorrent to His nature, is not merely governmental, but the necessary portion alike of all.
Hence that offering burnt in the outer place alone had power to penetrate into the sanctuary, the abode of divine light, and when really offered, to rend the wail and bring us into the light of the divine presence. Hence, as we have seen, the sin-offering for the high-priest and congregation is the only one which we can regard as the true sin-offering. All others were but partial and defective forms.
The trespass-offering, as far as its ritual is concerned, has little to distinguish it from these lower grades of the sin-offering. There is no laying on of hands, so far as we read, and the blood is not put upon the horns of the altar, but simply sprinkled on it round about. The fat alone is burnt upon the altar; the rest eaten by the priests.
The ram is the victim here alone appointed, although elsewhere for the leper (Lev. 14) and the Nazarite (Num. 6) a lamb was to be offered. The ram was evidently the fuller type, — the female sheep and lamb giving the character of meek submission, the male sheep more of energy in devotedness; in the coverings of the tabernacle the ram-skins were dyed red, to show that devotedness even to death which characterized the Lord.
The great thought impressed upon us in the trespass-offering is that of restitution — amends for the harm done. This has to be estimated by the priest in shekels of silver after the shekel of the sanctuary. The estimation was to be a divine one, the priest giving the divine judgment; while the restitution-money was to be also the sanctuary shekel. But even this was not enough; the fifth part more was still to be added; for. God would have an overplus of good result from evil, not mere making up to where things were before. That would not be worthy of Him. How could He have suffered sin at all, merely to show His power in vanquishing it and no more? Such victory would be little better than defeat. And yet this is what the mass of Christians perhaps suppose. Christ is to bring us back, they think, to the point from which Adam wandered, or which he ought to have reached but failed. But this is a deep degradation of Christ's blessed work. On the contrary, it is a second Man and a new creation which the word proclaims, of which the old is but the mere figure, and to which it gives place. The "fifth part more," heartily believed, would do away with much error and replace it with much precious and needed truth.
Christ has restored that which He took not away; but it is after the divine and not the human fashion. As the trespass-offering is here looked at in connection with trespasses against God or against man, so the cross has brought to God an infinite glory overpassing all the dishonor done to Him by the fall of the creature, and to man a wealth of blessing such as Eden never knew.
For the detail of this we must go to the New Testament. The trespass-offering itself says nothing even in type, only indicates an over-recompense, the nature of which it does not further declare. But we, thank God, can declare it. "Now," says the Lord, speaking of what He was soon to suffer, — "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him." (John 13:31, 32.) This surely is the key of all that the offering implies. The glory of God accomplished by One who has become Son of Man' for this purpose; this answered in glory by God, an answer in which the objects of His grace are made to share: how far beyond the mere putting away of sin and its results is thus indicated! Goodness, holiness, righteousness in God maintained and manifested as no where else; mercy and grace declared how wondrously! For men, in result, not an earthly paradise again restored, but heaven opened; not innocence, but the image of God in righteousness and holiness of truth; not Adam-life, but Christ as Life eternal; not part with merely sinless men, but part with Christ in glory. For "not as the offense even so is the free gift; . . . . for if through one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ."
Thus in both ways through our Trespass-Offering is the fifth part more made good. And now, having completed, briefly enough, our survey of these Levitical sacrifices, let us look back at them for a moment in what was in fact, as we see in the law of the leper, the order of application. This was not a simple reversal of the order in which these chapters give them however, for while the trespass-offering preceded in this way all the rest, and the sin-offering always, for an obvious reason, the sweet-savor offerings, on the contrary the burnt-offering invariably preceded the rest of these; the meat-offering following next, and connected with it often as if its proper appendage, "the burnt-offering and its meat-offering" (Lev. 23:13, 18; Num. 8:8; Num. 15:24; Num. 29:3, 9, etc.) the peace-offering closing the whole. When, however, the peace-offering alone was offered, the meat-offering became its adjunct, and was prescribed in a scale proportionate to the value of this, as it was in the case of the burnt-offering itself (Num. 15:1-14).
First, then, we have the offerings which settled the whole question of sin as against the offerer, and then those for acceptance, or a sweet savor. Not only the burnt-offering was for the "acceptance" of him who brought it, but the peace-offering also (Lev. 19:5; Lev. 22:25). This is not said directly of the meat-offering, but it is of the sheaf of first-fruits (Lev. 23:11), with which, however, a burnt-offering was offered. The difference of course results from the meat-offering being no real sacrifice, although it might be offered, as we have seen, even for a sin-offering, where the extreme poverty of the offerer permitted nothing more. The meat-offering spoke of Christ, but in the perfection of His. holy life, not as a vicarious Substitute for sinners. The perfection of His life could not, it is plain, atone for sin, nor be in itself the acceptance of a sinner; yet it could not be omitted either from God's estimate of the work of His beloved Son. Hence, as it makes necessary part of that accomplished righteousness in the value of which He has entered into His presence and as man sat down there, so in its value also we stand before God. The place of the meat-offering in connection with the burnt-offering speaks clearly here.
Finally, the peace-offering closing all is witness to us that God would have our communion with Himself find its measure and character from the apprehension of this place of acceptance and what has procured it for us: in Christ; as Christ; justified and sanctified in His precious name. When we compare this place with the feebleness of our apprehension of it, we have cause indeed for the deepest humiliation before God; but what reason for encouragement also in this grace that continually beckons us forward to enjoy our portion according to the fullness of it as the word of God's grace so constantly presents it before our eyes, and in the power of the Spirit of Christ given to us, without limit, save as, alas! unbelief on our part may impose a limit!