But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterlly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” Numbers 15:30-31 ESV
The “high-handed” sin has no sacrifice to cover it in the Old Testament. As the sacrifices are described that make atonement for sin, only those sins that are “unintentional” are included. This begs the question, “what is a high-handed sin?” The context helps as it explains, “because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment.” It is only the word of the Lord that provides for an atoning sacrifice. If you reject the word of the Lord in one area, you reject it in all areas. You cannot pick and choose which parts of God you like and which you don’t. You either belong to Him or you don’t. He is your King or you bow to another. Just to show the seriousness of this, the passage continues,
While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” (Numbers 15:30-35 ESV)
In our culture’s estimation, this would not be considered much of a sin. All the guy did was pick up sticks. Even Moses and Aaron weren’t sure what to do with him. But the Lord sentences him to death. It was a high-handed sin against the Lord. It was as if the guy said, “I know you say don’t work on the sabbath, but I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.” Some may say, “yes, but that was the Old Testament. We live in the New.” While it is true that the particulars of how to keep the Sabbath may have changed (at least part of the Sabbath keeping was connected to the ceremonial law, which was indeed fulfilled in Christ), the particulars with regard to “high-handed” sin have not. We cannot say to God, “I know you tell me no, but I don’t care.” To do so is open rebellion against God. It is a failure to trust God and without trusting God and His provision for you, there is no salvation. Christ is the only way to the Father. To reject God’s provision for you is to reject Jesus which leaves no sacrifice to cover your sin.
This does not require us to be sinless. No one would qualify. David is a great example. David did things that he knew were wrong, such as his treatment of Bathseba and Uriah. But when the prophet Nathan gently confronted him in it, he repents. There was a sense in which David was temporarily blinded by his own temptation; temporarily ignorant of God’s law. When confronted by Nathan it was though the veil was lifted and he saw his sin, and repentance flowed. High-handed sin produces no repentance. There may be sorrow for consequences that come from it, but no real repentance because the heart is not turned away from it. Jesus explains, “you cannot serve two masters.” To believe in Jesus is to commit to Jesus. Its all or nothing. You can’t go halfway.
How does this idea of “high-handed sin” impact you and your thinking?
Chronological Reading Plan plus Psalms: Num 14-16, Ps 60