Summary: Sometimes not doing anything can be a sin.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PASSAGE:
Sam Jones was a preacher who held revival services, which he called “quittin’ meetings.” His preaching was directed primarily to Christians, and he urged them to give up the sinful practices in their lives. Sam’s messages were very effective, and many people promised to quit swearing, drinking, smoking, lying, gossiping, or anything else that was displeasing to the Lord. On one occasion Jones asked a woman, “Just what is it that you’re quittin’?” She replied, “I’m guilty of not doing something -- and I’m going to quit doing that too!” Even though she had no bad habits to give up, she wasn’t actively living to please God. (Our Daily Bread, September 6, 1992)
The sacrifices described in Leviticus 1-7 took care of sins of commission, but the instructions here have to do with unintentional sins of omission, things that the people should have done but didn’t do. The sin might be corporate and involve the entire nation (vv. 24-26) or it might be the transgression of an individual (vv. 27-29). Even though the people who sinned didn’t realize their failure, what they didn’t do was still a sin and had to be dealt with.
One of the laws of Mount Sinai was, “Whosoever doeth any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death” (Ex. 31:15). Moses records an example of this type of sin by a man who was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (vv. 32-36). Certainly this man knew God’s commandments (Ex. 20:8-11); and yet he deliberately disobeyed them. Apparently he was gathering sticks to start a fire, and it was unlawful to kindle a fire on the Sabbath (Num. 35:1-3). This was a new experience for the Jews, so Moses sought the Lord’s will, and God told him to have the people stone this offender to death.
It is a dangerous thing for Christians to say, “I’ll go ahead and sin, because afterward, I can ask God to forgive me” based on I John 1:9. Professed Christians who repeatedly and deliberately sin probably aren’t Christians at all (I John 3:7-10); and true believers who adopt this careless attitude will be chastened by the Father until they submit to His will (Heb. 12:3-15). Lord please help me to never feel that I can sin because you will forgive me if I do.