Numbers 15:22-31 Unintentional Sin

God’s line in the sand is ALWAYS drawn with love.

God goes over the laws regarding unintentional sin again. These instructions were first shared in Leviticus and added to here for after entering the Promised Land.

When I was first looking at this passage I wasn’t sure when it applied to the children of Israel. God gave Moses the Law earlier and instructions regarding sin offerings were given. What we are reading today IS the sin offering. But it also includes the additional offerings that Moses commanded the people to bring AFTER they reached the Promised Land.

God told the people to bring drink offerings and food offerings with each of their offerings after reaching the Promised Land. Those were not included when in the wilderness. What God is giving now contains those extra provisions so I’m assuming these instructions are for that same period. But the original sin offering is still in effect. And it covers the same issues; unintentional sin.

God made provision for people who mess up. Sin separates us from Him. But He desires to restore our relationship. This sacrifice, both versions, was meant to do that.

My problem, as before, lies with the words “unintentional” sin. I don’t know about you but I have found that when I sin there was at least some intention behind it. Unless I was ignorant of the “wrongness” of my actions at the time then there was some decision I made to engage in a wrong behavior. I CHOSE to act against God’s design. I chose to sin.

Sometimes it is a “self-preservation” sin; lie to keep out of trouble. Sometimes it is intended to assist others; lie to protect someone else from trouble. Sometimes it is a self-serving sin; take something that I want that wasn’t mine to take. But in ALL these cases I made the choice to do, or not do, something. No one made that choice for me nor was I unaware of what I was doing. So where does that leave me regarding the “unintentional” component of this law? Are my sins unredeemable?

When thinking about this I also looked up “high-handed.” I’m not sure the exact words other translations use but my English Standard Version states “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people” (verse 30). I wanted to know what this meant.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “high-handed” as “having or showing no regard for the rights, concerns, or feelings of others.” To me this means acting with wanton disregard for the consequences others will suffer because of your actions. In actions like this the perpetrator doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as he/she gets what they want. I believe I can honestly say my sins don’t fall in that category; or at least I pray they don’t.

Those who fit in that category, under the law, have to bear their own sin and God won’t forgive them. But how about now, in the dispensation of grace? Are these sins still unforgivable? Three examples came to mind when I was thinking this over. One was Jesus’ crucifixion. The second was Saul’s actions against the early church. The third was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.

All these events were done without regard or concerns for the feelings of those they were directed against. They were all sin.

When Jesus was crucified He prayed for those who brought that sentence against Him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The religious leaders were doing the work of salvation that HAD to be accomplished but they were being “high-handed” in their treatment of Jesus, yet He prayed they would be forgiven. He knew they didn’t understand the forces at work in that moment. They didn’t TRULY recognize the ramifications of what they were doing. Their sin was self-serving and intended to be protection for others.

When Saul was persecuting the early church he had NO regard for the concerns of those he went after. He used every means at his disposal to accomplish his task. And that task was a sin. He didn’t realize it as such until Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. He asked for, and received, forgiveness for this sin. God even used his testimony of forgiveness to grow His Kingdom exponentially.

Judas’ sin was definitely done with a “high-hand.” He showed NO concern for Jesus’ well-being during his actions. He regretted his decision later. Jesus said “Woe to that man by whom He is betrayed. It would have been better if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Does that mean that Judas’ sin was unforgivable or that Jesus knew Judas would die without asking for forgiveness?

All this brings me back to our wilderness wandering with the children of Israel. Their sin, just before God addressed the post Promised Land sacrifices, was grievous! Was it unforgivable? Was their sin unintentional? They weren’t cut off from their people but they permanently lost out on the promise of God.

God wasn’t done with them yet. Even though their sin was great and their future was forever altered, they still had a purpose. They were to raise up the next generation to honor Him as they hadn’t been able to do. They were given the responsibility of caring for and training those who would take their place in God’s plan. They had to learn to listen before they could teach their children too. We know the complaining didn’t end here though. They still had many lessons ahead. I don’t think ANY of us ever stop learning until the day we die.

Father God, I pray my sins NEVER cross into that “high-handed” category. I wonder if sometimes I feel too deeply for the people who do find themselves on the other side of the line. I see things through the eyes of others because of the heart You have given me. Believe it or not, I even see the acting out in pain that Adolf Hitler did in the beginning and wonder what could have been done differently to change his course. I know the man he became was certainly acting “high-handed.” Yet I feel for the little boy he was.

Is this how You see me? Do You see the progression of my acting out in pain or self-preservation that transforms into something more? If You see me heading down that path Father, STOP ME IN MY TRACKS! Please don’t ever let me walk so far into sin that I destroy Your way back. Keep my heart tender to You Spirit. Open my eyes and ears to Your words at all times. YOU know where the lines are and I trust You to keep me from stepping over them.

Forgive me for rambling today. I’m not sure I was following Your leading today but I trust You can make something out of our journey.

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