GUILT: asham (Strong’s 817, 816-819).
Sounds like: aw-shawm
People don’t tend to like the word guilt, but it does pepper our language a fair bit: guilt trip, guilty pleasure, guilty conscience, guilt by association, innocent until proven guilty… Problem is, we make guilt a very “ME” centred word. It’s something that makes us feel bad. It’s a shot at our sense of worth and we don’t like how that makes us feel. Society tells us we should just “let it go”… it tells us, “don’t be so hard on yourself”.
The truth is, it isn’t all about you. According to the Bible, we are all guilty… (For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)). Guilt isn’t all about you, it’s about us.
Then YHWH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore YHWH God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
Here’s the breakdown: The representatives of humankind, Adam (mankind) and Eve (life), made the wrong choice, issuing the “fall” of humanity. Instead of putting faith in YHWH, we decided to define good and evil on our own terms, making us instantly guilty and punishable.
But YHWH didn’t want humankind to fail, He wanted them to flourish… so the institution of sacrificial forgiveness was put into place. Something had to pay. Something had to give. With the sacrificial system all God asked for was an action showing they were penitent, and He wanted the people’s allegiance and love. They were to seek God and live in righteousness, and when they failed, they were to bring an animal as an atonement for their sins. It wasn’t ideal, but it was simple.
However, God didn’t see this as an means to an end. It wasn’t the ideal situation and it really wasn’t what God created animals for. This was a temporary fix. And so God, in His infinite wisdom, made a hopeful covenant with His creation. He would personally fix our own mistakes. He would send part of Himself to wipe out the verdict of guilty. He would anoint His own Son to become our single guilt offering to cover the sins of ALL humanity. YHWH would become our living, eternal, atonement. He would resolve our guilt and set us free.
But until that fateful day, the guilt offering would have to do.
Two of the most significant sacrificial offerings were sin offerings and guilt offerings. Guilt is the result of sin, so whereas a sin offering dealt with the deed itself, the guilt offering addressed the damaging results caused by the sin.
‘Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which YHWH has commanded not to be done, they become guilty [w-ashemu].’
Leviticus laid out the laws regarding guilt offerings:
Then YHWH said to Moses, “If someone acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against any of YHWH’s holy things, he must bring his guilt offering [ashamow] to YHWH: an unblemished ram from the flock, of proper value in silver shekels according to the sanctuary shekel; it is a guilt offering [l-asham]. Regarding any holy thing he has harmed, he must make restitution by adding a fifth of its value to it and giving it to the priest, who will make atonement on his behalf with the ram as a guilt offering [ha-asham], and he will be forgiven.
Guilt is deeply connected to acting unfaithfully:
Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against YHWH, and that person is guilty [w-ash’emah], then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his guilt [asha’mow] and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged (guilted) [asham].
Not only did they have to supply a guilt offering to cover all sins, but they also had to address the harm they did to the individuals they sinned against.
Responsibilities!… Warning & Education
Offerings of sin were made directly at the Tabernacle or Temple… but when early Jewish communities begin to take shape, civil law changed the direction of how guilt was handled in a secular setting. Although sacrificial offerings were still deemed necessary, civil law introduced judges and trials and hearings. There was also a recognition that there were communal responsibilities to maintaining law and order. It was not just about looking after yourself. Almost like an educational amendment, Jehoshaphat called on people in positions of authority to warn others against sin:
2 Chronicles 19:8-11
In Jerusalem also Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites and priests, and some of the heads of the fathers’ households of Israel, for the judgment of YHWH and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then he charged them saying, “Thus you shall do in the fear of YHWH, faithfully and wholeheartedly. Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty [yesh’mu] before YHWH, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty [we-lo te’shamu]. Behold, Amariah the chief priest will be over you in all that pertains to YHWH, and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, in all that pertains to the king. Also the Levites shall be officers before you. Act resolutely, and YHWH be with the upright.”
But it became apparent to the righteous that humanity was going in the complete opposite direction of the way set out by YHWH. People were not living faithfully and wholeheartedly. They reached out for strength and power to be their guide… and in their greed they sought gain, not God:
“All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on. But they will be held guilty [w-ashem], they whose strength is their god.”
God judges humanity and they are found GUILTY:
Although it really wasn’t his call, the Psalmist requested that those who blatantly disobeyed God would be charged as guilty:
O YHWH, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; make Your way straight before me.
There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.
Hold them guilty [ha-ashi’mem], O God; by their own devices let them fall!
In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O YHWH, You surround him with favour as with a shield.
And so God did take action against the guilty:
Behold, YHWH lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants. And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for YHWH has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty [wa-yesh’mu]. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.
This would be complete human upheaval: social chaos, bureaucratic chaos, environmental chaos. And YHWH wouldn’t stop until humans acknowledged their guilt:
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.
I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt [ye’shamu] and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
In the chaos they were taken captive to Babylon, ripped out of their homeland and dragged into servility. How would they get out of this? They lost everything; they no longer had a Temple; they could no longer sacrifice animals to atone for their sins. In their affliction they cried out to God, to seek redemption in this new reality they found themselves in:
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.
And so God sent a deliverer to be our salvation.
I find no guilt in Him… He is perfect for slaughter
It’s not surprising that the Gospel narratives cover a fair amount of detail regarding the trial of Yeshua (Jesus). Was He guilty or not?
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”
According to the laws regarding guilt offerings, the sacrificial animal had to be perfect, blameless, without blemish. The only way humanity could be redeemed, beyond animal sacrifice, was to sacrifice the perfect human. But YHWH, unlike pagan gods, didn’t demand it be one of us… And it couldn’t be one us because we are ALL guilty and we are certainly not perfect. YHWH did the only thing He could do to release us from the burden of being human: He sent His own Son, perfect and blameless, to be the guilt offering.
Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and to give Him slaps in the face.
Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!”
So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
The Jews had a law, and by that law they found God guilty. Three times Pilate said, “I find no guilt in Him”, but it was YHWH’s chosen people, the people from whose line the Saviour would come, who made the call to crucify the very Saviour they were waiting for. The Messiah had to die and it was His own family that sent Him to the cross.
Thousands of years earlier, when Abraham, ancestor of Jesus, offered his own son Isaac to be a human sacrifice to God, YHWH stopped him. Instead, YHWH provided a ram (the guilt offering of Leviticus 5) to be the sacrifice.
But the angel of YHWH called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place YHWH Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of YHWH it will be provided.”
And so YHWH did provide… He made a sacrifice to end all sacrifices, literally!
Yeshua is our guilt offering. He is our deliverer.
But YHWH was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering [ahsam], He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of YHWH will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.
Yeshua became the guilt offering for us and bore our sins. No one who takes refuge in Him is guilty. We are free from guilt. What an amazing gift!
The righteous cry, and YHWH hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
YHWH is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but YHWH delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be guilty [ye’shamu].
YHWH redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be guilty [ye’sh’mu].
Next week: Save! Hosanna!