Numbers 32 records the petition the children of Reuben and Gad made to Moses and the leaders of the congregation of Israel. They desired to settle on the east side of the Jordan River rather than with the rest of the Israelites in Canaan. Moses agreed to allow this, so long as the two tribes guaranteed they would fight with the rest of Israel until “until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance” (vs. 18). Having given his approval, Moses warned the people should they go back on their word:
“But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out” (vs. 23).
There are many different examples, in both the Old and New Testaments, of people trying to hide their sin. While it is possible for the sinner to hide his sin from men, it is not possible to hide his sin from the Almighty.
This can be seen from David’s dalliance with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). David took great pains to conceal his sin, leading to other lies and treachery. However, verse 27 states, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Despite his best efforts, David’s sin found him. He was admonished by Nathan, and lost his son. He suffered greatly because of his sin.
Another example is the sin of Achan, as recorded in Joshua 7. Achan took of the spoils after the fall of Jericho, in defiance of the Almighty’s decree. He took a beautiful Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold. He dug a hole in the midst of his tent and buried the evidence of his sin, but his sin found him. Because of his greed, he lost his life.
Ananias and Sapphira were greedy as well, though their greater sin was dishonesty. Their desire to appear diligent to the brethren caused them to misrepresent the nature of their giving. As Peter said, “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). Despite their efforts to hide their sin, it found them out. They died at the feet of Peter as a consequence of their treachery.
There can only be two reasons for men to sin without at least considering the spiritual consequences of their actions. The first possibility is a belief that God is impotent. As they rebel, they do so thinking they may, with impunity, do as they wish. God’s longsuffering is equated with weakness (cf. 2 Peter 3:8-13). The other possible rationale is a belief that God is tolerant of their sin. They do not recognize that it is “a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you… in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6,8).
Regardless of whether they question God’s power or His righteousness, they are guilty of the same thing. They misunderstand God’s nature as did the wicked to which the Psalmist referred in 50:19-21, “You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes.”
In contrast to the attempts of the wicked to hide their sin, those who have a love for God will readily admit it. In David’s case, though he at first sought to hide his adultery, he changed his demeanor when confronted by Nathan. His confession of sin is one of the most ardent and moving found in all of scripture. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4).
David’s contrite confession should be modeled by every Christian. When sin finds us, our only concern should be to vindicate ourselves before God and man. Paul’s praise of the Corinthians’ repentance shows what God expects of us in this. “For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Corinthians 7:11).
The lesson is clear. Our sin will find us out. Therefore, repentance is essential to avoid the wrath of God. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).