Atonement and Repentance - RR172D7

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Atonement and Repentance
Course: Course - Leviticus; The Law of Holiness and Grace
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 7
Length: 0:35:40
TapeCode: RR172D7
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Leviticus The Law of Holiness and Grace.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission

Let us worship God.

This is the confidence we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. Having these promises, let us draw near to the throne of grace with true hearts with full assurance of faith. My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, Oh Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up. Let us pray.

Oh Lord our God we thank Thee that in the day when the heathen rage and take counsel together against Thee and against thine anointed, Thou art on the throne. Thy government shall prevail and Thou wilt smite all thine enemies in Thy due time with a rod of iron. Make us ever zealous in Thy service and confident in the victory of Christ our Lord and our victory in Him. That in the evil day we may stand and rejoice to see Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done in our midst. Bless us this day and always by Thy word and by Thy spirit, in Thy service and to Thy praise and glory. In Christ’s name, amen.

Our scripture is from Leviticus 6:1-13. Our subject, atonement and repentance.

Leviticus 6:1-13:

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbor;

3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:

4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,

5 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.

6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest:

7 And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.

8 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

9 Command Aaron and his sons, saying, this is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.

10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar.

11 And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place.

12 And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offering.

13 The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” [00:04:32]

The sin offering and the trespass offering both had

The sin offering and the trespass offering both had the common end of abolishing any interruption of the covenant relationship between God and man. That relationship was broken by transgression. The trespass offering in particular presupposes an act of defrauding chiefly a neighbor, of his property rights. This however is a violation of God’s Law. All sin is against God, whether or not it involves our neighbor because it is His law that is broken.

Unlike other trespass offerings, what we have in these verses does not deal with sins of ignorance nor inadvertent sins. Three examples are cited.

  1. A neighbor loans something to a trusted friend for safe-keeping. Perhaps he’s going on a trip. Perhaps for some reason or another, he wants someone else to have it so that it will be safe. The person then denies that such a deposit was ever given, or that the deposit was what it was said to be. To illustrate, if you left $500 in cash with a friend because you were going to be away from your home and you didn’t want to take it to the bank (it was late) and you asked your friend to keep it for you. And when you returned, he said, “You only gave me $400.” Or “What money? You didn’t give me anything.” And it was just your word and his.
  2. Through a lie or a subterfuge. A neighbor is robbed.

  1. A man loses something and the finder denies having found it and quietly keeps it.

All such offenses, of course, are destructive of the community life and of covenant fellowship. [00:07:11]

In these instances, the law is not dealing with a man

In these instances, the law is not dealing with a man who is caught in what he is doing. In such cases, conviction led to restitution from two-fold to five-fold. But here the law refers to instances where the crime is not readily detectable or somehow the thief has not been forthcoming. And the man himself comes forward because he is conscience-stricken and confesses his sin before his offense is detected or legal steps are taken against him. This means that he has repented.

As C.D. Ginsberg noted a century ago, “The first thing the offender must do when he realizes and confesses his guilt is to make restitution of the property which he had embezzled, if he still has it. Or if that be impossible, he is to pay the value of it as estimated by the authorized tribunal. Beside this, the offender is to add a fifth part of the principal to compensate for the loss which the owner sustained during the interval. It will be seen that in Exodus 22:1-9 when a person was guilty of any of the offenses here specified, the offender was condemned to make a four-fold restitution. While in the passage before us, it is reduced to the principal with the addition of the fifth part. The reason of this difference is that the law in Exodus deals with a culprit who is convicted of his crime in a court of justice by means of witnesses, whilst the law before us deals with an offender who through the compunction of mind voluntarily confesses his guilt, and to whom without this voluntary confession, the offense could not be brought home. It is this difference which constitutes it a case for a trespass offering.” The key point thus, which motivates the sinners in these cases is the recognition that he hath sinned and is guilty and must make therefore restitution. [00:09:49]

As Thomas Scott, almost two centuries ago, commented

As Thomas Scott, almost two centuries ago, commented, “If the offender had been convicted, he would have been exposed to punishment by the magistrate, and must in some of the cases, have made larger restitution to the injured person. But as he voluntarily confessed his crime, which seemed to imply repentance, he was only required to add a fifth part of the value of the defraud or robbery, according to the valuation of the priest, and give it to the injured person. He must however, also bring a trespass offering to the Lord. This was evidently to show that disobedience to God is the great evil, even of those crimes which are injurious to man, and that repentance and works meet for repentance, though needful in order to forgiveness, cannot atone for sin, which can only be expiated by the blood of Christ and pardoned through faith in His name.” The trespass offering could only be brought to the altar after restitution had been made. And this was as calculated by the priest who estimated, if the actual principal could not be produced, the value of the principal to which a fifth part was added. The fifteenth verse, uh, Leviticus 5:15, is rendered by the Berkeley version and is relevant here: when a person behaves unfaithfully and sins unintentionally in matters that are holy to the Lord, then to make matters good, he shall bring the Lord a flawless ram of the flock, evaluated by {?} in silver coin according to the sanctuary standards. It is a trespass offering. [00:11:51]

Now this was even more true of intentional sins

Now this was even more true of intentional sins. Verses 8-13 then go on to deal with whole, or burnt, offerings. And the Hebrew word can be rendered “holocaust offerings” because all was given to God. The fire was never allowed to die on the altar, even though there might be no sacrifice upon it. It was kept alive for centuries to remind Israel that sin was not a sometime thing, but continual in the world, and that the world and our lives constantly need God’s grace.

One symbol of God, moreover, is fire. We are told in Hebrews that our God is a consuming fire. The burning bush is another symbol of God. The fire burns and the bush is not consumed. This is called the whole offering, the whole consumption on the altar that peace might result. The Hebrew word for peace, ‘shalom’ has also the meaning of wholeness and completeness. The goal of this offering is wholeness. It is both the wholeness of God’s judgment on man’s sin and the resulting wholeness of a new creation for man and the earth when God’s purpose of atonement and restoration is accomplished.

Now, for modern man, all these sacrifices are much ado about nothing. Sin for the modern man is something to forget about, not to make restitution or seek atonement for. Modern man’s goal is never having to say that you are sorry. Moreover, modern egalitarianism, the whole movement for equality, is hostile to all that these verses represent. Because to seek atonement and to make restitution requires an awareness of our guilt and humility, and humility is a virtue singularly lacking in the modern era. The rich certainly feel assured of their superiority and lack humility. And the poor resent anyone who is above them, so who is left to be humble? Neither the rich nor the poor, nor anyone in between is humble. The essential result of equalitarian thinking is destructive to humility because it denies that God or man can be better than we are. Thus, there is no need for humility, no need for gratitude. The rich feel no gratitude to God and the poor, to none also. [00:15:29]

In one of our journals, we had an account of a Christian

In one of our journals, we had an account of a Christian school and church at East Bay that started a food program when economic problems hit their area. And what was the result? Many people, when they realized it as a Christian charity, refused to accept anything, because they didn’t want to feel grateful. They only wanted federal charity, as their right—as an entitlement. Now, this is what our modern world creates: no need for gratitude. Socialized charity destroys gratitude and humility, and charity is now seen as an entitlement. In fact, every class in the U.S. has some form of entitlement today. Entitlements replace grace. Natural rights replace Heaven and Hell and power replaces humility and faith.

Joseph Parker, one of the great men of the English pulpit more than a century ago saw the problem, and he commented in part on verse 13, “We have escaped all the Jewish ceremony; all the puritan tediousness. Into what liberty have we come? What is the practical result of all such escapes? A greater love of brevity? A keener sense of liberty which really means in such lips, licentiousness? We have nothing to do, nothing to give, nothing to suffer, all to enjoy, and just when we please and as much as we please. And thus we have sunk into the idolatry of self. To suppose that discipline has ceased is to give up all that is worth living for. Our object should not be to escape discipline but to make commandments pleasant, to turn statutes into song in the house of our pilgrimage, to make obedience not a penalty, but a delight.” [00:18:08]

Turning again to the matter of restitution, which is

Turning again to the matter of restitution, which is strictly required, Bonar said with respect to verses 4 and 5, “The fifth part is given in addition to the principal, justly as in the case of holy things being fraudulently withheld. It is a double tithe—two tenths. And so is equivalent to a double acknowledgement to the person’s right to the thing of which he had been for a time unjustly deprived.” These cases involve atonement and restitution where there is repentance. The word ‘repentance’ in the New Testament means something very different meaning we give to the word today. When we say, we believe somebody has repented, we say they have said they are sorry. That’s not Biblical repentance. Biblical repentance means a whole reversal of direction, of life, faith, and action. It means that you are on a journey in one direction and you reverse your course and go another direction. Repentance in the Biblical sense is a matter of the total life of the person. It’s not just saying, “I’m sorry I did it; forgive me,” that is alien to the Biblical rule. To repent means then, restitution must follow.

The sacrifice of atonement makes restitution to God. We must at the same time make restitution to man. This fact is referred to in verse 15. But it is important to remember that our Lord referred in the Sermon on the Mount to everything this chapter is talking about. He said in verses 23 and 24 in Matthew 5, “Therefore if thou bring thou gift to the altar,” (now that’s what this chapter is talking about) “and there rememberest that thy brother has ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift.” Restitution on the human scene is thus the prerequisite to communion with God. This is why, historically, the church has required it before men approach the altar for communion, or take communion however the church administers it. In many churches, including the Catholic, it has been over the centuries, a requirement of confession to the priest. And it used to be that in most, well, all Protestant churches that did not have confession, there was a service of confession that preceded the communion service or was held the night before, and in which you very often received a token which gave you admission then to the communion service. Restitution is a prerequisite to communion with God. [00:21:59]

Such a legal requirement thus negates the modern attitude

Such a legal requirement thus negates the modern attitude which never wants to say, “I’m sorry,” or “I’ve sinned and done that which is evil in Thy sight.” It also negates the belief that holiness is best attained by withdrawal from men and society. Leviticus is the holiness code of the Law. It requires us to see holiness as something attained in the context of this world, in the spheres of community life, work, and action. The Holy Ghost, the Holy God, has involved Himself in creation and in the work of redemption, even to the crucifixion of God the Son. Our holiness requires action in the world and the work of Christ’s kingdom. And our Lord says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

One further note: throughout these chapters, and this chapter, there is the emphasis on bringing an unblemished offering—an offering without blemish, referring to the lamb, or the kid, or the bullock, whatever was brought. Now, this has two meanings, and we usually hear about the first meaning nowadays, which indicates what’s wrong with so many people. The first meaning, that the unblemished sacrifice represented the sinless and perfect person of Christ. That’s very true! And Christ is called that unblemished offering. But there’s a second aspect of this going back to the days of Moses, and this is what is overlooked. It means that whatever gift we bring to God cannot be second-rate. It cannot be left over. It cannot be a blemished gift. We cannot dump on God what we don’t need. That’s an insult. It used to be when all churches had manses that the manses were furnished with a left over broken-down furniture that people discarded. And the pastor and his family were expected to be happy with it. Moreover, the left over clothing was given to the minister and his family. And more than one woman in the church would be indignant if her dress was not used—did the minister’s wife think she was too good for it? [00:25:10]

That was an insult to God

That was an insult to God. It’s one thing to give such things as charity to the needy, another to give our left overs to God and feel that God should be grateful or that his servant should be grateful. Now this is a prohibition against blemished offerings, and the requirement of an unblemished one. And yet, this is precisely what the World is busy doing. So often, things are done that are second-rate in the way of construction for a church. “Well, it’s for the Lord.” And that expression excuses anything that is fifth-rate, or tenth-rate. Somehow God is supposed to be grateful for left overs and cast-offs. When everything in scripture tells us that such giving to God brings forth His wrath. This may sound academic now, but the world which refuses to give to God and the nations which refuse to give to God, and the peoples who refuse to give to God will find in the very near future, what His judgment can be. Let us pray.

Lord, Thy word is truth. And Thy word lays down the requirements of communion with Thee and with one another. Give us grace, therefore, to know that we have exalted ourselves unto the throne of our lives and dethroned Thee, that we have been content with nothing less than to play God. Lord, have mercy upon us. Give us grace to serve Thee with all our heart, mind, and being, to make all that we give Thee and of ourselves as we give ourselves unto Thee unblemished offerings. Grant us this we beseech Thee, in Christ’s name, amen. [00:27:58]

Are there any questions now on our lesson?...

Are there any questions now on our lesson?


[Audience] Since the word ‘holocaust’ refers to offering consumed by fire—unblemished offering consumed by fire—as an expiration of sin, how do you explain the fact of that word, or the use of that word today, to refer to Hitler’s crimes, not against all the people that he committed them against, but against the Jews?

[Rushdoony] Yes. Ah, that’s a very good point, because we are more and more appropriating Biblical language for non-Biblical things, like the IRS giving you “90 days of grace to pay.” Grace. The word ‘holocaust’ should not be used. We can speak of acts of terrorism, we can speak of, ah, injustice, cruelty, oppression, but, uh, holocaust is, ah, a word that in origin should be reserved to the offering to God, the totality.


[Audience] Several states have enacted tax amnesty programs. Say, Delaware is one, not sure if California has it, or is, many many states have been considering it, and those who have done it have reaped, you know, a windfall of several million dollars. Illinois Senator Allan Dickson right now has a proposal in the federal government to have tax amnesty…

[Rushdoony] mm-hm

[Audience] …it seems like this passage we’ve just talked about here, Leviticus 6, is a form of spiritual amnesty, where if a person declared they were at fault, they would pay the, the—what they owed plus a 20% penalty, whereas if they were found out by a court of law, they could have 3-, 4-, 500% penalty. Do you think there is an application of this passage to the current proposals for tax amnesty?

[Rushdoony] Yes, uh, we have the, uh, bankruptcy laws, however much they are abused today (and they have been radically abused), actually go back to the sabbatical year law. In other words, debts could not be continued indefinitely. Debt is a form of slavery, and after six years, the debt had to be cancelled. This prevented the lender from lending too much because he was not going to get a return if it couldn’t be paid in six years. It was cancelled. It prevented the person from enslaving himself indefinitely. It created a very different economy.


[Audience] If I understood you correctly, you said the priest was the one who adjudicated how much the restitution would be if there was a doubt. Who would be the logical person today? [00:31:18]

[Rushdoony] It would be, ah, Christian authorities

[Rushdoony] It would be, ah, Christian authorities, something set up by the church, or Christians, ah, this was only in the cases that did not go to court, where the man came forward and confessed. If it went to court, he had to make atonement to the priests if he was repentant and wanted to be in communion with God, but the court established the restitution.

Any other questions or comments?


[Audience] Why do you think the churches moved away from the time of setting things straight between brothers before the communion service?

[Rushdoony] Cheap grace. The whole doctrine of cheap grace. Because antinomianism set in, finally what became just a tradition was dropped, and the pre-communion service went, and confession now is less and less important in circles that have historically held to a very strict view of confession. If it’s cheap grace, why should you be confronted with the fact that you have to be right with your neighbor, you have to make restitution, that you have to do penance, or whatever it is that the church will stress? And cheap grace is what virtually every church today proclaims. That’s a product of antinomianism. If the law doesn’t mean anything, sin doesn’t mean anything, and then what’s there to confess about? It’s just a trifle.

That kind of attitude, that sin is a trifle, is, ah, described by Solomon in the Proverbs as the adulterous woman who commits adultery and wipes her mouth and says, “It is nothing.” In other words, ah, sinning against your husband is no different than getting a little bit of food on the corner of your mouth. You wipe it and it’s nothing, it’s gone. So sin is depreciated in its significance by antinomianism, so sinning today has no consequence. We don’t feel that murderers should be executed any more. We’re beginning to insist on it, but the courts don’t believe in it, by and large because sin has been trivialized.

Any further questions or comments? If not, let us bow our heads in prayer.

Oh Lord our God, we thank Thee that Thy Word governs our every need and that Thy Word is a lamp unto our feet, a strength to our lives, and gives purpose and direction to all our days. Make us strong in Thy Word, and joyful in Thy salvation, that in all things we may be more than conquerors through Christ our Lord. Now go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day, and always. Amen. [00:35:16]

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