Consequences, Not Condemnation

I don't know why I think I can get away with it! But I suppose I am no different than most people in thinking that somehow God will overlook my "little" failures and follies.

But offending God has its consequences, and eventually our failures and follies will come back to haunt all of us. And in case we don't think that our "little" ones are all that bad and God will overlook them, James 2:10 reminds us that to break one commandment is to break them all. And God will not let us off the hook.

This was the warning issued by Moses in Numbers 32. Two and a half tribes of the twelve that had set out for the Promised Land had decided to settle east of the Jordan River. This was fine. But there was a condition. When it came time for God's people to cross over the river to take possession of what God had promised, the two and a half tribes were to enter the land with their brothers and help them conquer the Canaanites who lived there. Then and only then, would they be able to go back across the river and settle in the territory assigned to them. To do anything other than fulfill the conditions was a sin. But it is interesting to note that this was not considered by Moses to be a sin against their brothers. Rather, it was a sin against the Lord. He writes:

"But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23).

The consequences of not keeping their promise appear to be the loss of the land that they had claimed on the east side of the river (23:30).

David's attitude was similar to that of Moses. Even though he had committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and then committed the sin of murder against her husband, he recognized that in the end his sin was against the Lord and it was the Lord's choice to decide on the punishment. The book of Samuel records: "And David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). This is echoed in David's psalm of repentance: "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge" (Psalm 52:3, 4).

The latter part of these verses is important. We'd like to think that our legal system punishes people according to their crimes—though to my mind it is naive to imagine that to be true. But regardless of what we do, God is just in the judgment He metes out for the sins that are committed against Him.

The wonderful thing is, like David, we can be grateful to God that while there are consequences for sin, there is no longer condemnation for sin for the one who has come to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing. Romans 8:1 tells us: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

It would be better for me not to sin, but like the poor kitty in the photo, I do. And there are consequences. But thanks be to God there is no condemnation. I can come to the Lord and cry like David: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1, 2). And as is promised in places like 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

It's a promise that applies to all of us.


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