“If by mistake you fail to observe all these mitzvot that Adonai has spoken to Moshe, yes, everything that Adonai has ordered you to do through Moshe, from the day Adonai gave the order and onward through all your generations, then, if it was done by mistake by the community and was not known to them, the whole community is to offer one young bull for a burnt offering as a fragrant aroma to Adonai, with its grain and drink offerings, in keeping with the rule, and one male goat as a sin offering.”-Numbers 15:22-24
We are continuing on with our text study of Numbers Chapter 15.
From verse 22, we run into an area we first studied in the Book of Leviticus: the issue of UNINTENTIONAL or INADVERTENT sins.
Do you remember what that was all about?
An unintentional or inadvertent sin is one of those offenses you commit against God but you did it by accident (you had not intended to do it) OR you had no idea it was a sin the first place.
For instance, remember that time in your life when you thought it was perfectly okay to go hog wild eating ham sandwiches and bacon cheeseburgers because “Jesus did away with the Law“.
Well, this would be a perfect example of an “unintentional” or “inadvertent” sin.
On the opposite side of the coin is what is called INTENTIONAL sin.
This is the no-excuse type of offense the Lord labeled as “high-handed“.
For example, murder and adultery are the prime examples of intentional sins.
Now both of these two types of sin, unintentional (inadvertent) and intentional (high-handed) are each divided into two categories.
You have sins committed by the whole community.
And you have sins committed by individuals.
I want to focus my discussion today on those sins committed by the whole community.
The first thing you need to know is that when Scripture uses phrases like “all the congregation” or the “entire community“, they are NOT to be taken literally.
Most of the time (like 99% of the time), these phrases are referring to the appointed elders or leaders of Israel who were selected to represent the common people.
Understand that although ancient Israel didn’t operate under a democratic voting system like we have in the United States, it was still a representative-based system.
The elders were expected to speak on behalf of their respective tribes and if a given leader was perceived as not acting in the best interests of his tribe, it wouldn’t be long before he would get the boot.
Even though ancient Israel didn’t operate under a democracy where every adult Israelite citizen was eligible to cast a vote to elect their leaders, God did NOT expect the common Israelite citizens to follow their leaders blindly if their actions were not in sync with God’s Torah.
Or to put it another way, if the leadership of Israel turned corrupt and the people turned a blind eye towards it, God would hold the people responsible for the sins of the leadership.
There may have ben a difference in degree in terms of how much the Lord held the people responsible in comparison to the leadership, but He held them responsible nevertheless.
This same principle would apply to the current pastor or leader of a congregation you attend.
If your church leader starts preaching that Israel should give up some of its land inheritance, starts promoting gay marriage, or adopts or has adopted (and you found out afterwards) some strange doctrine that is not in Scripture, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to speak out against it or separate yourself from that congregation.
Biblically speaking, God held Israel responsible for their sins on BOTH a communal and individual level.
Remember, ancient Israel was a “theocracy“, NOT a “democracy“.
In Scripture, the “whole congregation” was BOTH a religious and national term.