But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.
This statement is made by Moses in the context of the tribes of Gad and Reuben deciding that they want the land that the Israelites had conquered before crossing over the Jordan. Much has probably already been written and said about how Gad and Reuben were focused on the moment and how they were putting barriers — a river, in this instance — between themselves and the rest of the Israelites. I do not plan to think too much about those things this morning. Much has definitely been written about the promise this statement responds to. Gad and Reuben promise to send their fighting men across the Jordan with the rest of the Israelites and help them conquer the Promised Land before returning to the side of the Jordan they were on. And the last part of this verse — your sin will find you out — has been quoted in isolation and without full understanding of its context so often that it is absurd.
There are two parts to this statement.
Part one: you have sinned against the LORD. Much later in The Bible, David will write the words against You, You only, I have sinned (Psalm 51:4) when praying that God would forgive him of his adultery with Bathsheba. All sin, whether it involves another person or not, comes back to a violation of God’s Law and an offense against God. While people may agree with God’s Law — and many agree with some portion of it — it is not human law that has primarily been transgressed. God’s Law overrules human law. Thus more than a few conscientious objectors pointed to God’s Law — Do not murder. — as a justification for refusing to kill anyone in war while still doing their best to obey the spirit of the human law that bade them serve their country in wartime. While it is possible to sin against another person, murder being an excellent example of doing so, the offense will always come back around to sinning against God.
It is in the context of knowing that my sin is ultimately against God that the follow-on — and be sure your sin will find you out — comes into play. This is, in effect, a call out to the omniscience of God; to God’s all-knowing nature. I cannot sin in secret where God is concerned. And my sin has consequences. Like every action, there is a resultant reaction. While Isaac Newton probably did not have sin in mind when he wrote that physical law down, it is generally true. Sometimes, the reaction happens in a way that I do not anticipate. Sometimes it is immediate, while other times it seems to delay. But I should never think that the reaction; the consequence of my sin is not coming. More, I need to pay attention to the fact that what Moses is calling a sin in this verse is people not keeping their word; not making good on their promises.
The application is straightforward. All sin is, at its core, a violation of God’s Law and every sin is, first and foremost, against God. And every sin, no matter how seemingly innocuous, has consequences that come from it.
Father, thank You for this reminder of the nature of sin. Thank You for the reminder that the consequences come, regardless of how long they seem to take in so doing.