In the scripture all sin is reckoned as a debt in the basic law of restitution which is found in Exodus 22. If we ever hope to understand the manner in which God deals with men and nations, we must see that God reckons all sin in arms of debt. This is made manifest in the New Testament as well. We have already covered the story of the debtor who owed 10,000 talents (Matt. 18:21-35). The moral of the story in the final verse of that chapter tells us that Jesus was talking about forgiving sin, not merely debts. Matthew 18:35 says, “so likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”
The sin –debt connection is also made abundantly clear by reading the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 for if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.(Matthew 6:12-15)
Compare this passage with Luke’s account of this same prayer. Luke 11:4 reads, “And forgives us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.”
God’s law in Exodus 22 makes it clear that true justice is not done until full restitution has been paid to all the victims of injustice. In other words, if a man damages someone else’s property, he must pay restitution to repair or replace it. Until he does, he owes the victim the value of that property. If a man should steal another man’s property, he must restore that which he stole, plus another of equal value. If a thief steals a car, for example, and gets caught, he must first return the Car to its rightful owner. Then the thief must give his victim another car equivalent to it, or monetary compensation that satisfies both parties. Of course, if the stolen car is wrecked, or if the stolen animal is killed, the thief must pay fourfold or five fold restitution (Ex. 22:1).
The restitution must always fit the crime, and a judge has no right to make the restitution less or more that the law specifies. Only the victim has the right to forgive all or part of the debt owed, once the sentence of the law has been passed. But the main point is to see the principle.
The Law of Redemption
A second major principle is the law of redemption. It tells us what to do if the thief does not have the means to repay his victim. Exodus 22:3 says, “He shall be sold for his theft.” In other words, he is to be redeemed- sold to whoever is willing to pay the most for his labour Whoever “buys” the thief is the redeemer; he is purchasing the thief’s debt note. In return for the debtor’s labour, the redeemer must pay the victim whatever the thief owes him. Thus, the sinners no longer held liable for his sin, for all liability is shifted to the redeemer.
Jesus Himself is called a redeemer. Those who claim to be redeemed by Him are thus obligated to serve him. Those who believe they are free to go on their own way of liberty have no understanding of the Law of Redemption. The bible knows no redemption without obligation to serve God and his Law. We already discussed this in the law of forgiveness so we will say no more here.
This view of divine justice forms the backdrop for the Bible and for an entire study of how God deals with men and nations.May the Lord help us. Shalom!