Numbers 15:22-31 – Sorry Don’t Feed The Bulldog! Huh? What?

Posted: September 11, 2016 in 04-Numbers
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Numbers 15:22-31

Offerings for Unintentional Sins

“But I didn’t mean to!” Famous last words of many a kid. That is the exclamation of a child who has been caught doing something they were not supposed to do. The invocation of the “I didn’t mean to” defense, in a child’s mind, is a valid defense in the parental courtroom of family law. Although it is offered up, it is rarely a defense that works. It is often followed by the sheepish eyed look, that Puss-N-Boots from the movie, Shrek, look and an “I’m sorry” response.


One of my dad’s oft-used sayings (and come to think of it, he had a bunch of sayings) was “Sorry don’t feed the bulldog!” What? Huh? That was a strange one. I have never heard it used by anyone other than my dad. I googled the phrase this morning, expecting to get a blank response from Google. Humorously, in my mind, I thought Google would come back with like, “What?!?!” or a WTF response. However, this phrase is documented outside my dad’s spouting of his many sayings. “Sorry don’t feed the bulldog” is a real saying not just something my dad made up. Come to find out it is often used in a business setting (though I have never heard it used in my 32-year business career). According to, in a business setting,


“to “feed the bulldog” is to generate sufficient revenue to meet expenses. I don’t know much about bulldogs, but I’m willing to bet they get aggressive and insistently unhappy when not fed on a regular schedule. Overhead costs tend to be like that, too. The rent must be paid. The payroll must be met. Productive actions, not mere words, will feed the bulldog”


Well, I’m just blown away. One of my dad’s catch phrases is a real thing! In my dad’s context within our family, it had a similar meaning. At our house, it meant that just saying that you are sorry doesn’t change the fact that you did something wrong. A crime against family law was committed regardless of whether you are sorry for having done it or not. Punishment was to follow regardless of whether you were repentant or not. Dad did not care for determining whether I or my brother were sorry we got caught or whether we were truly repentant for the error of our ways. Punishment happened because “sorry don’t feed the bulldog!”


It was that phrase that was so often used by my dad that came to mind when I read today’s passage, Numbers 15:22-31. Let’s read it together this morning:


22 “‘Now if you as a community unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the Lord gave Moses— 23 any of the Lord’s commands to you through him, from the day the Lord gave them and continuing through the generations to come— 24 and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering.[a] 25 The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have presented to the Lord for their wrong a food offering and a sin offering. 26 The whole Israelite community and the foreigners residing among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong.


27 “‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, that person must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest is to make atonement before the Lord for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made, that person will be forgiven. 29 One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner residing among you.


30 “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the Lord and must be cut off from the people of Israel. 31 Because they have despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’”


According to my dad’s law of “sorry don’t feed the bulldog”, it would not have mattered if a violation of family law was intentional or unintentional, a crime was committed and you had to pay. It seems inconsistent with God’s character for there to be a differentiation between unintentional and intentional sin. Is it not true that Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have fallen short of the glory of God because we have sinned? And, the New Testament, overall, hammers home the point that just one sin no matter how egregious it is or not separates us from God. One sin regardless of its severity or intention separates us from God. Is this a contradiction between the Old and New Testaments and thus brings into the question the inerrancy of the whole Bible?


I do not think that God and His Word are being inconsistent here. What God is making a distinction between, here, is the punishment for sin, the consequences of sin. If a person or the whole nation of Israel violated God’s law without realizing they had done so at the time, the punishment was less severe than if a person brazenly and defiantly violates God’s law. The person who unintentionally sins when called out on it, repents of the sins, makes the offering and gets right with God whereas a person who does not care that they have violated the law and thumbs his nose up at God will receive a stiffer penalty. Each pays a price for their crime. There is justice handed out. Just as all murder is wrong, but a husband who murders a criminal is who in the midst of raping the husband’s wife may get a different sentence than a man who simply murders for the sport of it. God will forgive those who have repentant hearts for the sins. The difference between a repentant heart and a heart that is sorry they got caught is that the repentant heart is willing to make recompense for their crime or suffer the consequences of their crime anyway. Here, we see God telling the difference in our hearts. Are we repentant or are we just upset that we got caught with no intention of changing our behavior. God sees the heart and hands down punishment that is fitting. There is still punishment. There is still a price to be paid though. God would be inconsistent with Himself otherwise. We must pay for our crimes of sin. Simply a sorry does not feed the bulldog.


The offerings of the Old Testament foreshadowed the offering of Jesus Christ Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the sufficient substitute for forgiveness and eternal life. This is true regardless of intentional or unintentional sins, whether a person believes he has sinned a little or sinned a lot.


The emphasis in Scripture is that humanity was created good but is sinful now as a result of the Fall (Genesis 3). Regardless of the type or level of sins a person has committed, Jesus is sufficient to forgive and offer eternal life. Those who reject the gospel, regardless of how much or how little sin they have committed, will be separated from God for eternity and will experience everlasting punishment for their sins. God calls all people to come to Him, for there is no other name under heaven given to offer salvation (Acts 4:12).


So my dad was right. Sorry don’t feed the bulldog. Our sins whether intentional or not require a price to be paid. Our price for sin, even just one sin in a lifetime much less all the sins we commit (whether intentional or not) is eternal separation from God. The only way we can be reconciled is through the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is the only way that we can commute our sentence and be set free. We cannot feed the bulldog by doing good deeds to offset our sins. Our sins are crimes and crimes must be punished. It is only through Jesus Christ that we are released from our just and right prison cell for the crimes, the sins, we have committed.


Because sorry don’t feed the bulldog.



Amen and Amen.

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