THAT is this sin about which the Spirit of God says by Moses, “Be sure your sin will find you out?” A learned divine has delivered a sermon upon the sin of murder from this text, another upon theft, another upon falsehood. Now they are very good sermons, but they have nothing to do with this text, if it be read as Moses uttered it. If you take the text as it stands, there is nothing in it about murder, or theft, or anything of the kind.
In fact, it is not about what men do, but it is about what men do not do.
The iniquity of doing nothing is a sin which is not so often spoken of as it should be. A sin of omission is clearly aimed at in this warning, — “If ye will not do so, be sure your sin will find you out.”
What, then, was this sin? Remember that it is the sin of God’s own people.
It is not the sin of Egyptians and Philistines, but the sin of God’s chosen nation; and therefore this text is for you that belong to any of the tribes of Israel — you to whom God has given a portion among his beloved ones. It is to you, professed Christians and church-members, that the text comes, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” And what is that sin? Very sadly common it is among professed Christians, and needs to be dealt with: it is the sin which leads any to forget their share in the holy war which is to be carried out for God and for his church. A great many wrongs are tangled together in this crime, and we must try to separate them, and set them in order before your eyes.
First, it was the sin of idleness and of self-indulgence. “We have cattle: here is a land that yields much pasture: let us have this for our cattle, and we will build folds for our sheep with the abundant stones that lie about, and we will repair these cities of the Amorites, and we will dwell in them.
They are nearly ready for us, and there shall our little ones dwell in comfort. We do not care about fighting: we have seen enough of it already in the wars with Sihon and Og. Reuben would rather abide by the sheepfolds. Gad has more delight in the bleating of the sheep and in the folding of the lambs in his bosom than in going forth to battle.” Alas, the tribe of Reuben is not dead, and the tribe of Gad has not passed away!
Many who are of the household of faith are equally indisposed to exertion, equally fond of ease. Hear them say, “Thank God we are safe! We have passed from death unto life. We have named the name of Christ; we are washed in his precious blood, and therefore we are secure.” Then, with a strange inconsistency, they, permit the evil of the flesh to crave carnal ease, and they cry, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Spiritual self-indulgence is a monstrous evil; yet we see it all around. On Sunday these loafers must be well fed. They look out for such sermons as will feed their souls. The thought does not occur to these people that there is something else to be done besides feeding. Soul-saving is pushed into the background. The crowds are perishing at their gates; the multitudes with their sins defile the air; the age is getting worse and worse, and man, by a process of evolution, is evolving a devil; and yet these people want pleasant things preached to them. They eat the fat and drink the sweet, and they crowd to the feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined — spiritual festivals are their delight: sermons, conference, Bible-readings, and so forth, are sought after, but regular service in ordinary ways is neglected.
Not a hand’s turn will they do. They gird on no armor, they grasp no sword, they wield no sling, they throw no stone. No, they have gotten their possession; they know they have, and they sit down in carnal security, satisfied to do nothing. They neither work for life, nor from life: they are arrant sluggards, as lazy as they are long. Nowhere are they at home except where they can enjoy themselves, and take things easy. They love their beds, but the Lord’s fields they will neither plow nor reap. This is the sin pointed out in the text — “If ye do not go forth to the battles of the Lord, and contend for the Lord God and for his people, ye do sin against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” The sin of doing nothing is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves most of the others. The sin of sitting still while your brethren go forth to war breaks both tables of the law, and has in it a huge idolatry of self, which neither allows love to God or man. Horrible idleness! God save us from it!