Picking Up Sticks | The Institute for Creation Research
Picking Up Sticks

“And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day” (Numbers 15:32).

Many young children play a game called “Pick-up Sticks.” In our text, a man was found playing a game of pick-up sticks with God. He was gathering sticks on the Sabbath day to be used as firewood. He was brought before Moses and Aaron who prayed about the matter (vv.34,35). The Lord answered that he should be stoned, which they did (vv.35,36).

Was the Lord too hard on the man? After all, he was only gathering a few sticks! In order to answer this, we must look at two types of sin mentioned previously in the chapter.

The first is called a sin of ignorance. Please note where this term is found in verses 24–29. Sins of ignorance were sins of omission; they were unintentional sins—sins that people did not know they were committing. When the congregation or an individual realized it, they could bring their offering, and the sin would be forgiven, or atoned for (v.28).

The second sin is called a sin of presumption (v.30). This sin can be described as a defiant, open, willful, “I don’t care what God says!” type of sin. The stick gatherer committed a presumptuous sin. He knew exactly what he was doing, because he knew exactly what God had said about not doing this on the Sabbath day. He also knew the penalty was death (Exodus 35:2,3). Therefore, God would not have been true to His previous, clear word, if He had allowed him to live.

King David, in Psalm 19, understood the difference between these two sins. He said, in verses 12 and 13, “cleanse thou me from secret faults [sins of ignorance]. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: . . . and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” That’s a good prayer for all of us. Christians who try to play pick-up sticks with God will lose! NPS

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