by Frans Bakker
And it shall be forgiven them; for it is ignorance: and they shall bring their offering. —Numbers 15:25
The word “ignorance” found in Numbers 15:25, refers to sins committed in ignorance. That means to commit a sin without realizing it. There is no one who is not guilty of this sin. We can do many things, leave much undone, and have the best of intentions without realizing that our actions cannot stand before God. Just imagine that the Lord would forgive us only the sins that are known to us. There are many such sins. Reflect on them, from your youth on. But besides that there are also the transgressions that we have not viewed as sin, and they would have to remain an open guilt before God’s face.
A sinner exposed to his sins will not have enough tears to weep over his sins, because there are hidden sins that he does not even recognize he has. The psalmist refers to these sins in Psalm 19:12. Even if grace is granted for the sins that are known to him, then it would still be a lost case for the sinner, for he still has guilt due to the sins he does not know about. That is why these sins of ignorance must be resigned before the Lord. From our text we see that God also asks a sacrifice for all that is done in ignorance. God’s holy law demands payment for all sins. Man will never be able to cover his guilt with ignorance.
Therefore, more blood is necessary than a sinner himself is aware of. Woe to him who finds a reason in this to be at ease, because when we realize that even the sins committed in ignorance have to be atoned, we become fearful of ourselves and of our actions. We are afraid of who we are and afraid that we will, in blind ignorance, grieve the Spirit of God without even knowing it. Then we say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Ps. 139:23, 24).
But look; now we read in God’s Word, “And it shall be forgiven them.” So the Lord has also thought of the unknown and unconfessed guilt. Can God’s love go any further? The children of Israel had to bring a sacrifice for their unknown sins. God is still asking a sacrifice of His people for these sins. Not a sacrifice of serving Him, but a sacrifice of the heart, so that we can forgive our neighbor who can grieve us while he does not realize this. That sacrifice will be brought when the sins committed in ignorance become guilt before God. Also by this fruit the tree is known.
Sins of ignorance cause the sinner to become a greater sinner than he thought he was. But still there is no reason for despair, for now God provides the only Sacrifice sufficient to pay the price due for sin. There is no excuse for sins committed in ignorance, and when that Sacrifice was nailed to the cross, His first petition was: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
We need Jesus, our High Priest. He also died for sins committed in ignorance. In His work of intercession, He thought of the sins committed in ignorance. How great God is in the work of redemption! If sin becomes greater, salvation also becomes greater. Here the blind are led in a way they knew not, because much more had to be forgiven than they realized.
From The Everlasting Word by Frans Bakker, compiled and translated by Gerald R. Procee. Reformation Heritage Books and Free Reformed Publications, 2007. Used by permission. For further information, click here.