Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out

Growing up, there was a saying my parents had. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

When i graduated high school and started reading the Bible for myself, i discovered that this is a Bible verse: Numbers 32:23.

But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.

ESV

The fact that this verse starts by saying, “If you will not do so,” forces us to ask, “Do what?” And this is where the context plays a huge role. What is Moses saying the people might not do?

This was when Moses first told the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh that they were free to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan River, provided they didn’t leave the conquering of the land on the western side to the other nine and a half tribes. Joshua reiterated this text in Joshua 1:10-18. Therefore, Moses tells them, “If you don’t help your fellow Israelites capture the land, be sure your sin will find you out. This is a sin against God.” (The link above serves to help explain why failure here would be a sin against God.)

But moving away from Numbers, there are several Bible stories that illustrate this truth. I will focus on two this morning, as that is as far as my Bible reading has gotten so far this year: Achan (Joshua 7) and Esau (Genesis 25 and Genesis 27; Hebrews 12:16-17).

Achan’s story is simple.

The Israelites were commanded to touch nothing and destroy everything in Jericho (cf. Joshua 6). God had handed the city to them and the victory had made them confident. They were so confident that they rushed off to the next battle with a much smaller force. “God was with us at Jericho; He’ll be with us again!”

But alas, they were defeated at Ai; Israel was beaten back in humiliation.

Why?

To make a longer story shorter, it’s because one of the Israelites—a man named Achan—had disobeyed God’s command, lusting (technically the word is “coveting”) after some fine pieces of treasure in the city. He had buried them in his tent, thinking this would keep his sin from being exposed.

But this failed. Because sin will always find us out.

He suffered the consequences—as well as his whole family, not to mention the nation—because sin can’t be contained. Its effects spread beyond the guilty individual. The nation lost the battle; his family was stoned to death just like he was. We must guard ourselves from sin!

Whereas Achan’s sin was found out quickly, Esau’s sin was slow to be discovered. In fact, the biblical text is clear that by the time Esau found out that his sin had caught up with him, he’d completely forgotten about his sin in the first place.

As the closing section of Genesis 25 makes plain, Esau was out for a hunt and came home famished. He was clearly exhausted–and not thinking straight–so when he asked his brother Jacob for some food, Jacob took advantage of the situation. “I’ll give you some food in exchange for your birthright.”

Esau heartily agreed.

Some time later, Jacob and Esau’s father–Isaac–thought he was about to die. As such, he told Esau to go out hunting and fix a meal for him, after which he would bless him. Rebekah–Jacob and Esau’s mother–heard this plan and decided to help Jacob trick his father into blessing him instead.

Technically, the blessing had already been sold, but Esau doesn’t take this into consideration. When he returns to his father–after Jacob has been blessed–he cries out,

“Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me twice now. He took my birthright, and look, now he has taken my blessing.”

Genesis 27:36

As one commentator helpfully points out, “Esau obfuscates the bargain struck between the brothers for the right of the firstborn (25:29–34) when he equates it here with this dastardly episode. He conveniently forgets his own part in the earlier deal (25:34).”1

This leads us to Hebrews. The author of Hebrews writes,

And make sure that there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person like Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal. For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears.

Hebrews 12:16-17

Esau’s sin of thinking about immediate gratification had far-reaching consequences. As a result, the Edomites (Esau’s descendants) are no more, but the Jews (Jacob’s descendants) are still a people with a presence today.

We could get into the Romans 9 discussion about God’s sovereignty regarding Jacob and Esau, but let’s save that for a future post. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how God’s sovereignty works, we are still held responsible for our choices. Our sin will find us out. And it might be at a time we don’t expect, or even at a time when it isn’t convenient.

Being a Christian isn’t an excuse to live however you want. Even King David–a man after God’s own heart–had his sin find him out (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12, and then the rest of 2 Samuel outlines the consequences he experienced). We must flee sin! We must pursue holiness!

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord

Hebrews 12:14 (HCSB)

As J. C. Ryle said, “He that pretends to be a saint, while he sneers at the Ten Commandments, and thinks nothing of lying, hypocrisy, swindling, ill-temper, slander, drunkenness, and breach of the seventh commandment, is under a fearful delusion. He will find it hard to prove that he is a ‘saint’ in the last day!”2

We must flee all forms of sin and pursue Jesus Christ wholeheartedly! When temptation springs up, listen to the Holy Spirit reminding you of potential future consequences. Don’t let your sin disqualify you from usefulness in the Kingdom of God.

I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:27

And if you’ve already sinned–which we all have–throw yourself on Christ’s grace and mercy and plead for forgiveness and cleansing to keep you from future defilements. He has the power to cleanse you.

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10

Confess your sin and trust in Christ. And pursue Him wholeheartedly, forsaking your sin!

In this with you

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Gratia
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading

References

  1. Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 435.
  2. J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 40.

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