And the priest shall make an atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their ignorance. — Numbers 15:25
We are responsible for adhering to the laws of our country, whether they are traffic laws, local city ordinances, or IRS regulations. Ignorance is “no excuse.” A violator would not find much sympathy in traffic court if his defense was, “I never read that page of the Drivers’ Manual.” In numerous cases, courts have found individuals and companies guilty on the basis that they should have known. Perhaps such individuals truly may not have known, and possibly some of them actually had never been exposed to the information. They were guilty nonetheless.
There is a root relationship between the words ignorance and ignore. There is, however, an immense difference in our understanding of these two words. We interpret ignorance as “unknowing” and can easily assume that it is innocent. The word ignore, on the other hand, means “to disregard,” and our interpretation is that it is done knowingly.
A number of years ago I was talking to a man about the Gospel and what I viewed as God’s plan for our lives. He interrupted me and said, “Don’t tell me any more. I don’t want to be responsible for knowing that.” He was really choosing ignorance — hoping he wouldn’t be held accountable for what he didn’t want to know.
For those under the Mosaic Law, neither ignorance nor purposely ignoring was excusable. When errors occurred or God’s commandments were not kept, sacrificial obligations were required. Although animal sacrifices are no longer necessary in our day, we will someday be accountable to our Creator and Judge. All errors, transgressions, and violations will be addressed in the Day of Judgment whether or not we didn’t know or we chose not to. Let us purpose to learn what God wants us to do, and then do it!
Throughout their history, the Israelites were rebellious, although not necessarily always with the same level of intensity. At times this rebellion manifested itself openly toward the leadership of the nation. It also appeared to be directed toward God’s commandments and protocol. Perhaps it was rebellion-caused indifference that led to the ignorance that was addressed in Numbers 15:24 and 25. Whatever the reason for the infringement, the Law required sacrifices when God’s laws were not followed. This penalty was imposed even if people or the community were unaware or “ignorant” of the regulation.
This chapter documents God’s directions concerning how the Children of Israel were to bring offerings to the Lord when they came to the Land of Canaan. These offerings included meat offerings, drink offerings, burnt offerings, vow offerings, and peace offerings. The quantity of flour, oil, and wine was proportional to the size of the sacrifice with which it was offered.
These instructions may well have been given at this time for two reasons. God wanted the people of Israel to understand that the Law, which was given at Mount Sinai, was still in effect even though the entry into the Promised Land had been delayed by their unbelief. Perhaps He also wanted to extend hope to the younger generation by reminding them that someday they would go into Canaan.
The judgment of the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day was an object lesson and reminder to the Israelites that rebellion would be punished. This man could not have taken the sticks in ignorance. If nothing else, the camp would have been quiet, and the lack of activity noticeable. So his act was one of rebellion and defiance against God and the requirements He had set down.
Even though God blessed Israel with many miracles, and they saw His presence in the pillar of the cloud and the fire, they had a strong tendency to go their own way. God wanted them to remember His laws and follow Him. The blue cord and fringes on their garments were also visual, ever-present reminders of God’s commandments. God did all He could to help them stay focused on Him and on what was important in their lives.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The journey from Sinai to the plains of Moab
C. The wanderings in the wilderness
1. Miscellaneous legislation (15:1-41)
a. Concerning offerings in the land (15:1-31)
b. Concerning Sabbath breaking (15:32-36)
c. Concerning the blue cord (15:37-41)
We have an obligation first to keep God’s Law. Second, we cannot ignore or be ignorant of our obligations to help lead others to Christ. Are we doing our part?