Restitution and Sacrifice – These hurt.


I was reading Numbers 5:5-10 and a few things popped out that I believe are worth investigating.  This portion of scripture talks about restitution and sacrifice, I looked at what you have to biblically do when you wrong another person, or wrong God.  When I read these, I had to balance God’s justice and God’s love, and something just clicked, but I’ll give you the full journey, first.Restitution goes like this:  I do something bad to another person, and for example I’ll say I hit someone on the head.  For me to have a clean conscious, God says I need to pay that person back in full, plus one fifth.  I don’t just allow us to be even, but I also have to give them a little more compensation, too.  I don’t like that concept, but there is nowhere in the bible that says I have to like the rules, but I do have to follow them.

Sacrifice, in context of Numbers 5, is about atoning sacrifice (the Jewish sacrifice system had certain sacrifices for certain occasions and situations).  In this instance, the sacrifice was a first-born male virgin goat.  In the cultural context, if you own an animal, regardless of breed or species, it is a source of wealth, especially the first offspring, and even more importantly, a male.  Especially for Jewish people, if someone else had to do this sacrifice and didn’t have a goat, then you’re goat became, essentially, instant profit.  Regardless, if you had a goat, you lost a huge chunk of wealth, and if you didn’t, you’d have to spend a huge chunk of wealth.  Either way, it’s cutting into your pocket.

So, I asked myself, why would God implement rules that don’t seem to have a lot of love in them?  I prayed about it, and then it came to me: it’s because they hurt.  Why does God want to hurt us?  He doesn’t – these are in place so we shouldn’t want to do something wrong against another man or God.  God is giving us motivation to do/be good.  What really blew my mind is that God even subjected Himself to these rules as Jesus, and paid our retribution on our behalf because we aren’t capable.  If we have a choice between killing an animal to sacrifice to God or avoiding it with a “I’ll deal with it later” approach, of course we’re more likely to go with the second option.  The problem is, in terms of sin, we can’t deal with it, whether it’s now or later.  The consequence of sin is death, and retribution calls for death, plus one fifth.  Unfortunately, when we die, we don’t have any more than what we gave in death.  God, on the other hand, is fully capable of dealing with it because He is not limited by death like we are, or limited at all, like we are.  God can be perfect in His retribution for Himself, and He does this through another law He has implemented: the kinsmen-redeemer, but I’ll cover that another time (but if you’re interested right now, read the book of Ruth).

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