The text for the lesson before us is found in Numbers 32:23. God spoke through Moses and said, “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.”
The setting for the Bible passage just quoted was the occasion when two-and-one-half of the twelve tribes of Israel had asked Moses for permission to settle on the east side of the Jordan River instead of crossing over the River into the land of Canaan. They were granted permission to settle on the East, provided they would go over the Jordan and help the other tribes possess the land of Canaan before returning to their portion back on the east side of the River. And Moses warned: “If you fail to help the other tribes, you will be sinning against God—and be sure your sin will find you out.”
The statement, “Be sure your sin will find you out,” is an eternal principle with God. Two men tiptoed out of their rooming-house in a western city and sneaked down a back alley. They broke into a service station and stole a paint sprayer, a tool box, and a dozen cans of paint. They tiptoed back to their room apparently thinking they would never get caught. But a few hours later, the owner of the station along with a city policeman were standing at the door. One of the cans of paint had leaked, and had left a bright colored trail all the way from the station right to their front door! Their sin had found them out.
The devil tries to deceive people into believing that they can sin and get by, and that they can break God’s laws and never get caught. His philosophy is that “no one will ever know.” We are uncertain about some things in life, but this is one thing all of us can be sure of: Sin will catch up with us; payday will surely come. Sin will find us out!
Sin usually looks inviting and attractive at the beginning, and so it is man’s natural tendency to toy with it—but he finds out in the end that it doesn’t pay. A young lady lives immorally, and comes home expecting a child. A teenager drives too fast on the highway, and is guilty of manslaughter. A husband begins to gamble, and then embezzles money to meet his obligations. The devil doesn’t tell people about the awful cost of sin. He only shows its attractiveness and its glitter—but someday those who listen to Satan discover with a bleeding heart that the price of sin has been extremely high. But even more than this, our sins eventually come to light and are uncovered. The following paragraphs describe some ways in which sins are exposed.
1. Sin Finds Us Out in Our Bodies
Sin always lets a slimy, disfiguring trail, and sometimes it lets marks and brands on the body. If we break God’s laws we will often reap what we sow—even in our own bodies. Many people have broken bodies and shattered minds today because their sins have found them out. True, some diseases come from accident. For example, an automobile accident can cause bruised tissue which can lead to cancer. And some diseases arise from other causes—but much bodily deformity is the direct result of sinful loose living.
Criticism and anger can let marks on the face. A grumbling, complaining, ungrateful disposition affects the body. It interferes with the digestive system. The use of alcohol brings disease to the liver and leads to a breakdown of one’s entire constitution. Those who practice sexual immorality are going to be troubled with venereal diseases and sometimes there are serious abnormal emotional disturbances. No one can smoke and drink and chew tobacco and live a fast and loose moral life—and at the same time keep a strong clean healthy body. Good clean moral living is conducive to good health and a strong body. An immoral life leads to disease and to the general breakdown of one’s physical constitution.
Sin weakens the body. Jesus implied this when He told the man who had been healed of an infirmity which he had had for thirty-eight years. Jesus said, “Behold, thou art whole; sin no more lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). To continue on in sin, Jesus said, would have brought even more severe infirmities upon this man’s body. Sin can find us out in the body.
2. Sin Finds Us Out in Our Characters
Sin does not stop with merely distorting one’s face and body. It destroys character as well. And surely a rotting character is worse than a festering body.
The person who drinks alcoholic beverages, for example, is not the same person he was before he started drinking. The worst thing that alcohol does for the drinker, is not to injure his lungs and bring disease to his liver and weaken his bodily constitution; the worst thing that drinking does for the man who drinks, is that it produces a change in his character. His will-power is weakened; his self-control is gone; his perception of right and wrong becomes deadened. No person ever indulges in sin without letting some kind of injury to the inner man—injury to his character. The Apostle Peter says that “fleshly lusts war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
I counseled one time with a man who had come forward during the invitation at a service at the Bowery Mission in New York City. His breath smelled of whiskey; his wife had left him; he had lost his job many years before. He was an intelligent man; he had had a good job; he had two daughters and two grandchildren. But now he was a drunkard, roaming the streets and found that he couldn’t let liquor alone. He will drink hair tonic, rubbing alcohol, and even certain kinds of automobile antifreeze just to satisfy the craving for booze. Barney’s past mistakes could all be straightened out. If he would sober up and prove himself upright and true, his wife would return to him again. He said that she would. He could get his job back again, or at least another job like it. But standing in the way of all this—is the simple fact that his character has been damaged. He has become a slave of sin; he has no self-control; when the devil says “frog” he jumps! He is not the same man his wife once loved and married. He is not the same, sober, reliable employee who once held a job for many years and did good work. The wages of sin is death—death not only to the body, but also to the character.
3. Sin Finds Us Out in Our Children
One of the dreadful things about sinning is that the damnation many times falls on other people. If the sinner himself were the only one who suffered for his sins, it would be bad enough—but our sins can hurt other people. We can’t always confine the results of our sins to our own lives.
The Lord God says, “I am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5). This principle is illustrated in the life of David. David’s lust and sin of adultery with Bathsheba led to the murder of Uriah her husband (2 Samuel 11:1-27). And a number of other consequences of David’s sin were still to follow. First of all, the child of the illicit relationship between David and Bathsheba afterward died. When the little child passed into eternity, David anointed his head and ate food, and no doubt said to himself with a sense of relief: “Well, maybe the worst is over; God in His mercy punished me and took away this child; but I deserved it; perhaps this is the end of the matter.” Was it all over? Can a man take another man’s wife and get rid of her husband like David did, and commit adultery with her—and have the whole thing “over with” so quickly? Not at all.
David reaped the consequences of his sin in his children. He had a son named Amnon who was a wild and reckless young fellow. No doubt he knew about his father’s affairs with Bathsheba, and may very well have been influenced by his father’s conduct. Amnon loved his half-sister Tamar—a beautiful girl—and so he played sick one day, and had Tamar brought to his room under the pretense of making a meal for him—and there he raped his own sister. Imagine the shame and grief that must have come to David’s heart when he learned that his daughter had been ruined by her own brother. Can you imagine how David must have blamed himself and perhaps said, “How can I punish this boy? He has committed the same sin that I committed. I’m reaping just what I’ve sown.”
When another of David’s sons, Absalom, learned what happened to his sister Tamar, he schemed a plan whereby Amnon was slain in revenge because of his misdeed. So—David’s child died; Tamar was raped; Amnon was murdered; and later, Absalom himself stirred up a rebellion against his father’s kingdom and was killed by David’s own armies. Friends—the way of the transgressor is hard. Your sin will find you out. You cannot sin successfully! David would many times have gladly traded his tragic life story for the innocence he had once known when he was still a shepherd boy out on the hillsides near Bethlehem. But now it was too late.
4. Sin Finds Us Out in Our Consciences
We may be able to hide certain sins from other people, but we will never be able to hide them from ourselves. The story of Joseph and his brothers illustrates this fact very clearly.
Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave into the country of Egypt, and the brothers covered up their tracks pretty well. They took Joseph’s coat and smeared it with goat’s blood, and told their father they found the coat—and created the impression that some wild beast had slain Joseph. They deceived their father, Jacob. He thought that Joseph was dead and that the older brothers were innocent. The brothers thought it was all over and that the whole incident was covered up. But they did not get by with their sin; it found them out in their consciences.
When the brothers later had gone down into Egypt to get grain, they were required to let one of the brothers bound in prison until they could go back home and bring their younger brother Benjamin with them. And the Bible says, “They said one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother (Joseph); therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21). They remembered how that many years before they had rudely sold Joseph into the hands of strangers, and now their consciences were accusing them. Joseph’s brothers likely spent many a long, sleepless night—simply because their own inner spirits tormented them and their consciences accused them.
A newspaper clipping some years ago told about a businessman who went into the sheriff’s office one day and said, “I’ve come to give myself up; I’m wanted for murder.” He told how he had murdered a man twenty-three years before, back in one of the New England states. This man was never suspected of the crime. He had become a well-known citizen; he was respected in the community to which he had moved; he had a nice family. He had made a good name—yet he insisted that he had murdered. The sheriff wired back to the town where the murder was to have been committed, and just as the man had said, a man had been murdered twenty-three years before and the killer had never been found. The crime had baffled police for nearly a quarter of a century.
The man who confessed the deed had fled away under a fictitious name. He had gone west and married and lived a clean life. Now he was sent back east to face the charge and the penalty that would go with it. The United States Marshall who was called in to investigate the case, said to the man who had committed the murder: “Why did you come and make this confession? You have made good; you have lived straight; certainly you have repented long ago. Why in the world did you come back and confess a crime which after all these years could never have been tracked down?”
The trembling man’s answer was significant. He said, “I never walk down the sidewalks of this town, but what if somebody bumps against my elbow unexpectedly, my heart leaps with fear. I’m always expecting an officer to say, ‘Come with me; you’re wanted for murder.’ I’ve lived with the anguish of a tormenting, grieving conscience for twenty-three years.” He continued, “I’ve got to face this matter and get it off my conscience.”
To all who think they can sin and get by, let it be said that there is no physical suffering anywhere in the whole world that can equal the torment of an accusing conscience. Sin will find us out in our consciences.
5. Sin Will Find One Out in Eternity
Our text implies that every sin we commit lets a trail behind us—just like the dripping can of paint mentioned at the beginning of the message. The trail is not always seen by others but it is always visible to the all-seeing eye of God. Not every sinner is found out as quickly as the paint-stealers were. Some are not found for long years afterwards. Some are never found out here in this life. Some live and die without ever being discovered by man. But every person will meet his sins in eternity, and there, unless they are atoned for by the blood of Jesus, it will be too late to plead forgiveness.
Many years ago in a small town in the midwest, a farmer had gone to the bank one evening to withdraw some money. Just after dark he untied his horses and started for home. He was never seen again.
The next morning his team of horses was found standing at the farm gate. There was no evidence of any kind of a struggle. Everything was in place, but they couldn’t find the farmer. Soon afterwards, the authorities arrested a neighbor who had been quarreling with the farmer not too long before. They were almost certain he was the one who had disposed of the missing man, but there was not quite enough evidence to convict him, and so he was acquitted.
Several years later, the accused neighbor sold his farm and moved away to another community. Years and years went by—and then one summer there was a long hot dry spell—and the spring that fed the pond on the farm of the man who had been accused of the killing—went dry. And out in the middle of the pond, they found the skeleton of a man with a log-chain about him. And on that chain were the initials of the neighbor who had earlier been arrested. The authorities scoured the country and finally found him in a home for the aging, dying from tuberculosis of the lungs. He was too sick to move, but a few hours before he died, he confessed that it was he who had committed the murder and taken the body out to the pond.
This man was able to hide his sin until the day of his death. But sometimes our sins are never found out in this life. Remember however that God will bring “every work into judgment, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). There is a day coming when every unconfessed sin will be brought into judgment. This life does not end it all. There is more beyond. There is a future life—and if one’s sin does not find him out here, it will find him out in the world to come.
All that has been said about the consequences of sin in the preceding paragraphs is true. However there is a message of good news in the Scriptures. The Bible says that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). If sin is the strongest, darkest, most terrible fact in life—it is matched by another fact. The other fact is a mightier and a stronger fact—and that is the fact that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. To those who repent and confess their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ and turn from their sinful living—there is no more condemnation for sin. The Bible says that even though one’s sins are red like crimson, they can be made “as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
When we say that one can be washed and cleansed and made as white as snow, we do not mean that the consequences of sin can be completely erased. Sin is a terrible thing. The consequences may not be completely erased, but your sin can be forgiven. Even a Christian man, if he in an unguarded moment gets into a sprawl and loses an eye—he can be forgiven, but he will be a one-eyed person the rest of his life. He will still suffer the consequences of his sin.
A man whose sinful living had brought him to the place of misery, came to the preacher for help. The preacher said to the man: “If you could see Jesus Christ face to face and if you could talk to Him right now, what would you ask Him to do for you?” The man quickly replied, “Sir, I’d ask Him to make me over again.” And friend—that’s exactly what Jesus Christ wants to do for you today. He wants to forgive your sin and make you over again. He can do it if you will believe the Gospel and submit your life to Him. Do it today, for He may never pass your way again.