In the 32nd chapter of Numbers is the familiar story about the Israelites when they are about to go across the Jordan River into the promise land. As the chapter begins, the tribes of the Reubenites and the Gadites have looked at the land on the east side of the Jordan and decided that it’s good enough for them and they request to stay behind and settle there. Moses is angered by their request. He asks them a very condemning question in verse 6: “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” It was a good question. It showed that these two tribes had gotten what they wanted and they didn’t want to go on, let alone fight for the very thing God had led them to and commanded them to possess. It showed their indifference to continuing to do the Lord’s will because they had obtained what they wanted and were satisfied. “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” Shall others stand for the truth and keeping God’s commandments and you sit here and do nothing? Many a Christian should be asked the same question when they let others fight the good fight while they stand back and do nothing and busy themselves with their own desires and priorities instead of the Lord’s.
Moses then asks them another very important question in verse 7: “And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them?” Not only were these tribes indifferent to doing God’s will, their indifference was discouraging to everyone else. The same is true for Christians who are indifferent. Their example discourages the whole congregation and, perhaps, even beyond. Why bother staying on the straight and narrow if these all turn aside? What’s the use? It’s discouraging. Finally, as Moses chastises the Gadites and Reubenites, he says this in verse 15: “For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.” Their actions would result in the worst possible outcome. Their indifference, their discouragement would result in the destruction of all of Israel. The same can happen as a result of a Christian’s choices and a Christian’s actions. It may be far reaching and cost their own souls as well as the souls of many other Christians.
In this situation though, Moses remains strong and firm in his convictions. He gets the Reubenites and the Gadites to commit to fight the fight they came for. Brethren, we must work to get every Christian to fight the fight we came for. And we must fight until the very end. Moses gets their commitment to go and fight on the other side of Jordan and secure the inheritance along with the other 10 tribes. But even then, Moses is concerned that they won’t follow through with their commitment. He threatens them with a stern warning in verse 23. A verse that is all too familiar to any student of the Bible. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.”
What a familiar verse this is! Yet, in the same breath, I’m not sure we really understand what Moses is saying. What does it mean when Moses says: “be sure your sin will find you out.”? Does that mean that their sin will be discovered? Does it mean that their sin will be revealed? Does it mean that their sin will be made known to all? No, that’s not what Moses meant. He didn’t say “be sure that I’ll find out about your sin.” He said: “Be sure your sin will find YOU out.” What does that mean? How does sin find us out? What is the action and result here? It simply means that sin will bring its own punishment. It will ruin and destroy us. One Bible scholar put it this way: ““You will recognize your sin when it overtakes you.” Many fail to recognize their sin at the time. First, they may even fail to recognize that it is a sin at all. Second, they may fail to recognize how great a sin it is. But eventually, each and every individual will be made to be fully conscious of their own sin. We’ve all heard the old saying about when the chickens come home to roost. It sounds like something a Texan would say, or at least a Southerner. But, in reality, it is a much older saying. In fact, it is an ancient Eastern proverb that goes like this: “Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost.” The same is true for sin. It’s always going to come back on us. It’s always going to bring its own punishment if we don’t repent. And, sometimes, even if we do repent and ask God’s forgiveness, the action of our sinful conduct has its own irreversible consequences in this life. A drunk runs over a child and kills them. They may be forgiven, but that won’t ever bring the child’s life back.
Instead of sin finding us out, we need to find sin out. That is, we need to know what is contrary to the will of God and avoid it at all costs. And we must make clear to others where we stand.
To that purpose, we can benefit from a study of some famous men in the Bible and their sins. The goal is to seek to know why they sinned, what happened to them, and finally, to gain understanding from them and, in turn, learn the possible reasons why we sin with the ultimate goal to be to learn how to avoid going down the same path which leads to destruction.
Our sins finding us out is inevitable. The punishment of our unrepented sin is assured. By the examples of the men we will look at, we will learn that no matter how or why they may have committed their sins, their sins found them out.
We are all familiar with the story of Cain and Able, how Cain slew his brother Able in Genesis 4:8-10. What we can learn from Cain is that even though his sin was done in secret, it found him out. Cain’s sin was in secret for a good reason. The basis of his sin was being angry at someone who was doing right and good. His anger was because of envy. His brother Able’s sacrifice was acceptable to God while Cain’s was not. The right action for Cain was simple. God told Cain Himself in Gen. 4:7: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” Frankly, to me, it seems like God goes pretty easy on Cain. He doesn’t strike him dead. He doesn’t give him leprosy or some other dread disease. He doesn’t cast Cain out to live alone for the rest of his life. God just tells Cain, “look, you just need to do right.” But, instead of changing, Cain got rid of the one who was making him look bad. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Cain lied to God when God asked him where Able was: “I know not.” And then he was obstinate and desperate in refusing to confess his sin. Finally, when God appropriately punishes him, Cain whines that it’s too much to bear.
The lesson from Cain is to recognize when we’re wrong and just go correct it. Repent, confess, ask forgiveness and then don’t do it again. Don’t try to defend it. Don’t try to cover it up. Don’t try to make it look like someone else’s fault. And don’t lie about it.
We are familiar with the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25:32-33. It is also mentioned in Hebrews 12:16-17. What were the circumstances of Esau’s sin? Clearly, it was a sin that was committed under the impulse of the moment. I look at what Esau did and wonder a couple of things. First, when Christians look at Esau, do they scoff and condemn him and tell themselves that they would never do such a foolish thing? Indeed, what Esau did was very foolish. He gave up his birthright, his inheritance. In his future was great wealth and he traded it for something insignificant and fleeting – a bowl of red stew. But do those same Christians give up salvation and eternal life because it is potentially way off in the future, and trade it for sin and pleasure and worldly wealth and doing what they want which, like a bowl of red stew, is insignificant and fleeting?
Like the sin of Joseph’s brethren, who sold him into slavery, it may be years before it is discovered (Gen. 42:21-22). Why is it that if nobody knows and a lot of time goes by, some think they’ve gotten away with it? But a long time does not equal repentance, confession and forgiveness. It is a dangerous thing for Christians to dismiss a sin by saying “Oh, that happened a long time ago.” What if others do know about it but keep their mouths shut. Wasn’t this the case with all of Joseph’s brethren? And worst of all, there may be those who plead with us beforehand not to commit such a sin. Didn’t Reuben plead with his brothers not to kill Joseph? (Genesis 37:21-22) Didn’t he try to talk them out of it altogether? But with all his pleading, he was unable to prevent the wickedness of his brethren. While Reuben was gone, his brothers sold Joseph into slavery. And they were proud of their wickedness. And they got rid of their problem, so to speak. Then they could live like they wanted, thinking that they would never have to give an account of their actions. It’s amazing that they didn’t get rid of Reuben along with Joseph. But what’s more amazing is that Reuben fell silent to their evil deed and never told his father. The truth and right had been silenced. But in God’s scheme of things – not for long! Their sin found them out!
Like the sin of Achan in Joshua 7:19-25, sin may be well covered up. You will recall the background of this sin. God had told the people that they were not to take any of the accursed things of silver and gold and brass and iron. But Achan disobeyed and hid some of these things underground inside his tent. Up until this, God had blessed Joshua and the people of God as they fought their enemies. But after Achan did this, they went into a small, easily won battle and promptly lost. Not only that, but 36 men died. Sometimes, I think we just get numb to things like this in the Bible. Can you imagine a member of this congregation planning and plotting something, knowing it was wrong, and then, when done, cost the lives of 36 of our members? I’d be beside myself with anger. But that’s what happens when a brother or sister tries to convince us something is right when the Bible says it’s wrong? And they cost the souls of other Christians – a far greater and eternal loss! Yet, too often, we sit idly by and do nothing. Joshua knew something was terribly wrong. God told him that Israel had sinned. And then God told Joshua how to find the culprit. But, only when confronted, did Achan confess. Only when backed into a corner, did he “fess up.” In Joshua 7:21 he confesses: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” Achan coveted worldly wealth more than obeying God. He thought he could get away with it and keep it from being known. He thought he could commit a sin, not repent, and still be counted as faithful to God. But worse than that, his sin cost the lives of 36 men in battle. The blood of 36 men was on Achan’s hands. And not only that, Achan’s sin cost the lives of his family. Their blood was also on Achan’s hands because they too were destroyed along with Achan. Men may sin and think they’ve gotten away with it. But be sure your sin will find you out. And it may cost not only their soul, but the souls of others – their own family and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Like the sin of Samson in Judges 16:16-17, it may be a sin that is committed reluctantly. Perhaps we’ve found ourselves in a similar situation. Samson was in a place where he shouldn’t have been. And, he had chosen to be with people he shouldn’t have been with – wicked people – instead of surrounding himself with those that were faithful to God. Finally, he desired worldly things. He didn’t want a wife from the people of God (Judges 14:3). He wanted a woman of the world. He wanted a Philistine woman. But, he still knew that he was different. He knew that he was special. He knew that from his birth he had been consecrated as a servant of God – a Nazarite. But he wanted something he shouldn’t have. And when he went after it. He let the wrong people influence him. In surrounding himself with wicked people, they, particularly Delilah, wore him down until he did what he knew was wrong. Samson was born a Nazarite and we are Christians, born again through obedience to the gospel plan of salvation to obey and keep God’s commandments. Why do some Christians surround themselves with worldly friends and even those in the Church who do not live according to all of God’s commandments – who will wear them down and make them give up their source of strength? Our source of strength is God’s Word. Our source of strength is prayer. Our source of strength is being with those of like precious faith who stay true to God’s Word and obey it. There are those in the world who will wear us down until they get what they want from us and then they’ll cast us aside. It will have no value on the judgment day to say we sinned reluctantly. “I sinned, but I really didn’t want to!” Be sure your sin will find you out!
Like the sin of Ahab, it may be a sin prompted by others. You know the story in I Kings 21:7-20. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard and Naboth wouldn’t sell. That was his inheritance. And, unlike Esau, he would not sell for any price. And I am thankful that there are Christians who will not sell their salvation for any price. But, Jezebel took matters in hand and falsely accused Naboth and had him put to death so that Ahab could steal Naboth’s vineyard for his own. It’s a sad day, but there are those who will all too willing to eagerly assist us in doing wrong, if we choose such a path. They may step in and “help us out” so to speak. And then reassure us with lies that nobody did anything wrong. They may reassure us that nothing bad has happened or is going to happen. But we all know what happened to Ahab. As Elijah prophesied, the dogs licked up the blood of Ahab on account of his wickedness. What is really sad in this story of Ahab, and what most people don’t realize, is that when Elijah confronted Ahab, that Ahab repented in sackcloth and ashes, according to I Kings 21:27-29. But he didn’t remain faithful, and God eventually carried out his punishment. In the end, we are still responsible for our own actions and conduct. Certainly Ahab was wicked in and of himself. And, finally, his true colors came through. I Kings 21:25 says: “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.”
Like the sin of Herod, it may be the result of a foolish promise. You will remember the story of Herod and how Herodias’ daughter danced before him and his guests in Matthew 14:6-10. He promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she asked. And, after consulting her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a charger. Sometimes others ask for our commitment before they tell us what they’ve done or what we’re getting into. Has anyone ever asked you: “If I tell you something, do you promise to keep it a secret?” and then we find out it’s something that we should not, even must not keep a secret. Or how about: “If I tell you something, will you promise not to get mad?” Or they may ask: “If I tell you something will you help me figure a way out of it?” Unless we know what we’re getting into, we can’t make a commitment based solely upon our past relationship with someone. It’s a sad thing to decide something is right because it was committed by a friend or family member when the Bible condemns it. But there are those in the Lord’s Church who are doing just that!
But the real issue and dilemma that Herod got himself into was making a promise in front of a lot of people. Perhaps, if he had been in private, he could have reneged. Perhaps he could have clarified and said his promise was limited to gold or silver or land. Herod’s problem was “them that sat with him at meat.” He had a lot of witnesses. He had made a grand gesture. Why, if he did what was right at this point, he would lose face, he would be humbled in front of his friends and those most important to him. People would lose respect for him. All of these thoughts must have gone through Herod’s mind when Herodias’ daughter made the awful request for John’ head. “I can’t back down now!” He was locked in. He couldn’t back down now, even though he knew it was the right thing to do. There are Christians who paint themselves into a box in a similar way. They take a position of error and refuse to back down. They justify their actions and eventually are convinced by their own argument. That latter state reminds me of an old aviation term. There was a time in our aviation history when planes could fly greater and greater distances. But even then, they could only carry enough fuel to go one way. And as the flight engineer charted their course, particularly across the ocean, he would always inform the captain when they reached a certain point. It was called “ The Point of No Return”. Some Christians reach that point, I’m sad to say. If someone thinks it doesn’t exist, all they have to do is read Hebrews 6:4-6: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” They disobey God’s commandments. They show that they despise Christ by their actions. And they bring reproach upon the Church. And the Bible says that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Be sure your sins will find you out.
Like the sin of Judas as he betrayed our savior into the hands of the Jews in Mark 14:10-11, it may be a sin that has the approval of those in authority. It may please people in high places. It may be those who are well known. They may, in one way or another, reward your sinful action or words. But, be certain, like Judas, your sins will find you out.
Like the sin of Pilate as he asked the people who he should release at the feast, his sin may be committed to please the people. In one sense, this was what Pilate was doing. But the reality was that Pilate had an angry mob on his hands. They were stirred up. They were shouting. They were demanding. There was a great potential for the crowd to become vicious and violent if he did not submit. Certainly, this is the toughest situation of all – to stand firm for Christ in the face of adversity, persecution and even the threat of life itself. But it will be no excuse on the day of judgment, if we fail to keep all of God’s commandments.
Finally, like the sin of the Jews, the sin may be one spawned in ignorance. In Luke 23:34, Jesus prayed to God, as He hung on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When it comes to knowing the word of God, brethren, we have become an ignorant people. More and more in the Lord’s Church are sinning because they don’t know any better. And they don’t know any better because they don’t read and study the Bible. They don’t want to read and study God’s Word. They don’t want to apply God’s word. It might require them to change the way they live and the way they want to live. Too often, someone proposes an idea and others go along with it, never questioning if it’s right and if the Bible provides command and example for what has been proposed. Then, when someone who does know their Bible comes along and tells them of their wrong, they’ve been doing it so long, they refuse to give it up. Wasn’t that the case of the Jews? Didn’t they substitute the traditions of men for the commandments of God? And when Jesus pointed it out to them, their response was not repentance – it was anger. They wanted to get rid of the messenger. They wanted to kill Jesus.
No matter why a sin may be committed, no matter what excuse is offered, be sure your sin will find you out. Punishment is certain for unrepented and unforgiven sins. Sins, like chickens, always come home to roost.
From a sermon delivered at Fossil Creek