Numbers 5:1-10 (Part 2) – Calling Us Out! Getting the Sin Out of Our Camps!

Posted: July 9, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 5:1-10 (Part 2)

Purity in Israel’s Camp

 

The other night, we had a birthday dinner/cookout for my stepdaughter here at the house. My oldest daughter, my son-in-law and his son came over for the meal. My youngest daughter was not there but it was most of my little family. During the meal, my son-in-law and my stepdaughter, a career cop and a career retail store manager, respectively, were talking about interrogation techniques and the cues you can pick up on in a person’s demeanor when they are lying and when they are telling the truth. It was an interesting conversation about how our bodies give us away when we tell lies. There are certain postures that our bodies take on when we are accessing the creative parts of our brain, the part we access when we tell lies. There are physical results as well. The vocal chords get tighter. The skin prepares to sweat so it becomes supple and clammy. There are a host of other visual cues. Of course, interrogators also ask the same question in slightly differentiated wording to see if the suspect will give the same answer to basically the same question. To get to the truth, an interrogator must be able to get through the layers of lies. Lies can prevent justice from prevailing. Lies have sent innocent men to jail while the liars go free. Therefore, it is imperative for an investigator or interrogator to get to the truth – to separate the lies from the truth. Lies in the workplace, lies in criminal investigation can cause destruction and miscarriages of justice. Lies must be rooted out so that the truth can prevail. The truth is the ideal state of existence. It needs no alibi. It needs no cover up. The truth does not need to be constantly maintained. The truth does not need to be justified. But lies are rampant in this fallen world in which we live. If we care anything about the truth, we must ferret out the lies so that the truth comes out and the truth prevails.

 

In a world of inclusiveness, this passage today seems almost discriminatory. To exclude people from camp because of a skin disease or other such bodily malady seems against our sensibilities of all-inclusiveness these days. We, today, glorify lifestyles that have historically demonstrated to be closely associated with immune disorders that will kill us. We, today, glorify as good citizens those who have long criminal records who end up in confrontations with cops. We, today, glorify those things that are not consistent with God’s Word and not consistent with God’s ways. We allow sins to fester in our midst and destroy the fabric of our people. We act shocked when people die of diseases that seem forever linked with certain sexual orientations. We act shocked when a person with a history of breaking the law ends up in a confrontation with the cops. We live in a world where we refuse for there to be consequences for dabbling in behaviors that are bad for us. We allow sin of all kinds and all behaviors to run rampant in our society because we are self-actualizing ourselves, right? Do what feels good to me! Do what feels right to me! We refuse for there to be consequences for bad behavior. We refuse for there to be consequences for our sins. We act all shocked when there are consequences to our self-seeking. We would rather revel in our sins than consider that there are consequences. We would rather think God accepts us pursuing what makes us feel good. We would rather ignore the moral absolutes established by God so that we can achieve our heart’s desires. Do whacha wanna do? No consequences. No moral absolutes. No definitive right or wrong. I define truth for myself and what makes me feel good about myself is truth.

 

So, in our second day in the passage, Numbers 5:1-10, let us consider vv. 1-5 specifically, when we read:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease[a] or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” 4 The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way[b] and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty 7 and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. 8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer. 9 All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Sacred things belong to their owners, but what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’”

 

As we said earlier, this part of the passage seems almost discriminatory in our 21st century sensibilities. However, let us consider it from two perspectives. First, let us consider the medical and, second, let us consider the theological.

 

I would dare say that 6,000 years ago, medical science is not what it is now. Thus, simple diseases could have disastrous effects on society. Just think as recently as the mid-1300’s, where anywhere from 75 million to 200 million (depending on how the source defines the Black Plague) died as the result of diseased fleas imported on rats on merchant ships. These fleas carried a pathogen that wiped out about half the population of Europe at the time. So, just think of four millennia before that. Skin diseases could most often times be fatal in not cared for properly and were certainly spreadable very easily. God was establishing the first medical quarantines to keep disease from running rampant through the camp and wiping out His people. God was establishing rules of cleanliness for His people that would ensure their survival in what was a very unclean world at the time. Think of third world countries today where we are desperately trying to bring people clean drinking water. Clean water was hard thing to find back in those days and disease ran rampant as a result. God’s desire will these biblical regulations about food, and disease was to establish a standard through His people as to what a clean and healthy people. So, segregating and isolating diseased people was not discriminatory, it was necessary to ensure the health of all His people. Unchecked filth and disease could run through the camp and destroy the health and well-being of the camp. Those who were diseased had to be ferreted out and segregated from the rest of the people so as to ensure the long-term health of general population.

 

Another way of looking at these verses is to look at I theologically. It is a reminder to us that unchecked sin can lead to destruction. Sometimes, we need to have our sins called out and identified to us. These sins are not healthy for us and not healthy for those around us. According to J. Ligon Duncan III, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS in his sermon, “Why Is This in the Bible?” when preaching on similar passages in Leviticus, he says,

 

“The idea behind this, again, is that disease and decay are incompatible with the blessing of the presence of God in the assembly of His people. God is holy, and in contrast to that disease and decay remind us that we live in a fallen world, and that we ourselves have the effects of the fall exhibited in our bodies. It’s a picture…it’s a type, as it were, of sin. And therefore these diseases become things which exclude you from the assembly of God’s people in His presence and worship.”

 

Sin gets in the way of our proper relationship with God. Anything that we worship more than God is sin and sin separates us from God. When we believe the lies of sin, we are separated from God. When we masquerade around camp with sin in our souls, we are telling lies. When we parade ourselves as righteous when we are not, we are telling lies. We cannot lie to God. He knows it all. He can see right through our tricks and cover-ups. God’s truth and our lies are incompatible. He will separate us from the rest of the camp and call out our sins. And mind you now, no matter how we dress them up. No matter how we try to justify them as morally right. No matter how we want to seem shocked that there are consequences to our behaviors, God’s truth is unchanging. He is the truth. He is unchanging. The truth is the truth is the truth. We are accountable to our Creator no matter how much we wish that we did not have one. No matter how much we ignore Him does not make Him cease to exist. No matter how much we say that God is a folly of the common mind, something that we created, it does not make God go away. God existed before anything existed. Just because the rabbit doesn’t see Flash, my cat, behind him ready to pounce does not mean that Flash does not exist. It is the same with God. God will judge for our sins even if we never believe He existed. He will judge. He will set us outside the camp. He will show our sins to us. Where there is sin, there is an impediment and an impurity in our relationship with God. We cannot operate closely to God when we have unrepentant sins that we glory in and refuse to let go of. We will be set outside the camp. God will protect His people from our unrepentant sins. He will call us out to protect His people, to ensure the spiritual health of His people. Sin unchecked can run rampant in a society and destroy the very fabric of its being. Sin unchecked and calling what is sin not sin is a lie that spreads through a society and destroys it from the inside out. Just like a physical disease destroys our bodies from the inside out.

 

Let us go to God and ask Him to open our eyes to our own sins and how they are destroying the fabric of our lives and our families. Help us to see the lies that we have been manufacturing about our sins. Call us out, Lord. Call us out! Teach us that we cannot justify our sins in your presence, we must repent of them. We cannot say what You call sin no longer sin. You are truth. You are God. You are the one that defines what is right and what is wrong not us. Help us to see our sins as offensive to you and help us to repent and turn away from them. Help us a nation to see that our lack of respect and honor for God is causing sin to run rampant in our society and it is sin that causes us to justify our sinful behavior as right. Help us as a nation to return unto You, oh Lord! Help us to repent as a nation. Help us to root our sins. Help us to become the nation that is characterized like David, that we are a nation “after your own heart!”

 

Amen and Amen.

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