At the culmination of the previous chapter, we saw God declare, the current generation of Israelites who rebelled against him would not enter the promised land but instead would spend their days wandering the wilderness.
Chapter 15 begins with instruction from the Lord to the people on offerings to be made to the Lord after they enter the land.
Num 15:1-3 “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land, I am giving you as a home and you present to the Lord food offerings from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the Lord—whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings.”
Why do we see the Lord address this right after the judgement he passed on them?
When on the receiving end of God’s discipline, we can sometimes wonder if we have altogether lost his favour. Under the discipline of God, you can feel less loved by him, but God is never far, he never forsakes us. Never stops caring for us. His word and his promise stands.
And so, through these words from God, his grace and mercy are magnified, pointing to his faithful nature. These words point to the ultimate realization of his promise to Abraham, as well as his promise of entering the promised land. With the disobedience of the people, the blessing was delayed but God’s promise will be kept. It was reminder for the people that although they were under his discipline, they were not out of his love, nothing can separate us from the love of the Father (Romans 8).
What do these offerings point to?
It points to a continued relationship with him. The promised land was the promised blessing but reaching that destination would not mean the need to be in relationship with God was in any way to diminish in importance. God’s instructions point to a life lived with their eyes focused on him.
The two main offerings mentioned were the grain offerings and the burnt offerings.
Grain offering – By offering the best of the fruits of their labour, the grain offerings would acknowledge the blessings and provision of God.
Burnt offering – Where an animal would be offered and totally consumed by fire, it represented total devotion to God.
These instructions were to bind people to a way of life that had God in their hearts and minds always. He was not meant to be in the past, a part of their journey to the promised land but to be the very centre of their daily living. And the rules he established applied to both the Israelites and the foreigners residing amongst them, thereby acknowledging the universal need for God and the need for atonement to be made right with Him. There is indeed only one way to the Father for us and that is through Jesus.
Our Intention matters to God
God continues to give instructions, in verses 22-31, we see God instruct on unintentionally committed and intentionally committed sins. When someone sins unintentionally and makes atonement for it, they would be forgiven. But the one who intentionally sins, brings reproach to the Lord and would be cut off from the people. The attitude behind intentional sin conveys a willful disobedience of God’s word. Intention matters to God.
We then go on to read in verses 32-36 of how a man who broke the sabbath was instructed by God to be put to death. At first glance, these verses were hard to accept. Why such a harsh punishment for collecting wood on the sabbath.
Let’s look back to Exodus 31:14-15 “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.”
God was very clear when he gave his instructions on how they were to treat the sabbath. In context of unintentional and intentional sins just mentioned, these verses serve as an example of how God views presumptuous sins. Our God is a compassionate and good God who makes a way for us despite our sinful nature, but his grace and mercy are not to be trifled with, as we read in Hebrews 10:26-27 “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
This chapter ends with instructions on tying tassels on the end of their garments.
Num 15:39-41 “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”
These tassels served as a reminder to the people of God, that they belonged to him and to live honouring him in all that they do.
We might have something special that serves as a reminder in a similar manner, it could be a cross, scripture written in places around the house, a bookmark, bracelet or a pendant, a screensaver, or a picture.
What do you tend to keep that serves as a visual reminder to encourage you in your walk with God?
For that generation of Israelites, their life did not go on as they thought it would. Although responsible for how their circumstances came about, God was with them, and they were to hold onto their identity as God’s people. As children of God, we can always have hope that is rooted in Him. The reality of hope we have as believers is not determined by whether life works out the way we thought it would or not. Our hope is rooted in our position in Christ.