Most every reference to ignorance in the OT speaks to the offering that was to be brought when a soul (Leviticus 4:2; 5:15, 18) or a ruler (Leviticus 4:22) or any of the common people (Leviticus 4:27) or all the congregation (Leviticus 4:13; Numbers 15:24-29) had sinned through ignorance. Now think about what that means. If they sinned THROUGH ignorance, then it was their ignorance that led them to sin.
When David prayed that he’d think and say those things that God found acceptable (Psalm 19:14), He asked for the Lord’s helping in keeping himself from secret faults (sins of ignorance, v. 12) as well as presumptuous sins (knowing it’s wrong and doing it anyway, v. 13). And the answer to David’s request is in the immediate context. Verse 11 says, “Moreover by THEM (the word of God, vv. 7-10) is thy servant warned: and in keeping of THEM is great reward.”
May the Lord burn this simple but so important truth in our minds and hearts. In order to keep from sinning against our God, we must hide His word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11; Colossians 3:16).
Now here’s what we learn when we examine the usage of the word “ignorance” throughout the NT scriptures.
THE EFFECTS OF IGNORANCE
Israel’s ignorance caused them to miss out on God’s righteousness and left them in dire need of His salvation (Romans 10:1-4). The Gentiles are said to be alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:18). God’s children often return to the former lusts due to their ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).
COMMANDS REGARDING IGNORANCE
Paul often repeated his desire that God’s people not be ignorant. This statement is repeated by him in reference to the mystery of Israel’s blindness (Romans 11:25); the purpose of the OT examples (1 Corinthians 10:1, 11); the truth regarding spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1); the devices of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:11); the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18); and by Peter in reference to the imminency of Christ’s return (2 Peter 3:8-14).
THE CAUSE OF IGNORANCE
Get this. This is important. What’s the root word of “IGNORance?” That’s right – ignore. The reason we are ignorant and the reason it causes us to sin against God is not that the truth isn’t available or that we don’t have it, but rather that we ignore it. We hold the truth, but we do so in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
The point is that nobody has to be ignorant. It is a willful condition (2 Peter 3:5; 1 Corinthians 14:38). We are only ignorant because we want to be ignorant. Somehow, maybe subconsciously, we think it gives us an excuse for our sin. But it doesn’t.
Now that’s tough. The Bible forces me to admit that the ONLY reason I fail to live up to all that God wants me to be is that I DON’T WANT to be all that God can make me. You and I have absolutely no other excuse than our LACK OF DESIRE to obey and honor and glorify the Almighty God who created us for His pleasure and saved us by His grace.
THE CURE FOR IGNORANCE
The cure for ignorance is found in the mercy of God and is available to those willing to humble themselves and repent. Paul was an ignorant man who found complete and total forgiveness at the feet of a merciful God, when he bowed himself in belief (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Peter called upon the Jewish people to REPENT, even though it was through ignorance that they and their leaders had crucified their Messiah (Acts 3:17-19). Likewise, Paul called upon the men of Athens, who ignorantly worshipped God, to fulfill His one command to all mankind – REPENT (Acts 17:23, 30-31).
So the cure is available, and it’s simple. We just need to fall humbly on our faces before God and repent. In turning away from our ignorance, we need to turn to the God who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5), and may it spark a desire down deep in our hearts to do what pleases Him. And in turning away from our ignorance, we need to turn to the book that He inspired and preserved so we can know just exactly how we ought to go about doing the things that are acceptable in His sight.