Numbers 32

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out

“But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. – Numbers 32:23 NLT

This chapter contains one of those verses we’ve all heard before, but probably never knew where it came from. We’ve probably found ourselves using part of the verse without even knowing the context or the real meaning behind it. “Be sure your sins will find you out!,” are words that have probably flowed from our lips in one form or another. And if we’re parents, they were more than likely directed at one of our kids. So this morning as I read through chapter 32 of Numbers, I was a little surprised to see these familiar words in their original context. I had forgotten (if I had ever known) just why these words were first spoken by Moses. As the people of God prepared to enter the Promised Land, the land of Canaan, Moses is approached by the tribes of Reuben and Gad. They have a lot of flocks and have noticed that the land east of the Jordan has some great pastureland. So they make a request to Moses asking him for permission to remain on the east side of the river instead of crossing over with everyone else to the actual land of promise. Moses is flabbergasted by their request. It is eerily reminiscent of the time 40 years earlier when the people refused to enter the land, but instead listened to the bad report from the spies. That decision resulted in God’s wrath and punishment. Now 40 years later, that generation has died off and their descendants stand on the brink of entering the land. When Moses hears their request to settle outside the land of promise he is incensed. “Are you trying to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the LORD has given them? This is what your ancestors did when I sent them from Kadesh–barnea to explore the land” (Numbers 32:7-8 NLT). For Moses, this is deja vu all over again. He reminds them what happened to the last group of people who made this kind of decision.

But the Reubenites and Gadites assure Moses that they are not abandoning the people of God or attempting to persuade them from entering the land. They simply want to take advantage of the better pastureland on the east side of the river. They are willing to fight alongside their brothers and assist them in conquering the land of Canaan until every tribe has a possession in the land. They will not settle east of the Jordan until that happens. This assurance calms Moses’ fears, but he still issues them a warning, “But if you don’t do what you say, you will be sinning against GOD; you can be sure that your sin will track you down” (Numbers 32:23 MSG). Moses expects them to keep their word and reminds them that if they don’t, their sin will be against God, not the people. And God will remember their sin. God would deal with them severely if they broke their commitment.

In the end, these tribes did hold up their end of the bargain (Joshua 4:12-13, 22), but their plan was not necessarily God’s plan. It was motivated by greed and self-interest that overshadowed the promise that God had made to provide them with an abundant land on the west side of the Jordan.  Like Lot, they were attracted to what looked good physically and materially. Rather than wait for what God had promised, they chose what they could see with their own eyes. There seems to be an assumption on their part that there might not be any land on the west side of the Jordan useful for raising flocks. So they selfishly put their dibs on the land outside of Canaan. This decision, while approved by Moses, would prove to be a problem in the years to come. Distance from the other tribes would end up producing misunderstanding and disunity later (Joshua 22). It also created a hole in the defensive lines of the Israelites. This area was often the first to experience invasion, and Israel would lose control of it several times in her later history (2 Kings 15:29).

So what’s the point for me? First, that there is truth to the adage that my sins will find me out. They will track me down. They will ultimately come back to haunt me. I need to take my commitments and my sins seriously because God does. Also, I need to look closely at the motivation behind my decisions. Why am I doing what I am about to do? Am I being motivated out of selfishness and greed? What will be the long-term ramifications of my decision if it is wrongly motivated. My sins will find me out. So will my selfish decisions. And both can have a tremendous impact on others.

Father, I know that my sins are forgiven because of Christ’s work on the cross, but it does not change the fact that my sins have ramifications. So do my decisions. Help me to see the motivation behind my decisions. Am I being motivated by greed and selfishness? If so, expose it and help me to see it. I want to continue to learn to trust you instead of just relying on what I can see. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org