Numbers 5:11-31 (Part 2) – Like An 8-Year Old Boy at the Edge of the Highest Diving Platform…

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 5:11-31 (Part 2)

Protecting Marital Faithfulness

Climbing up to the top of the high dive, he was beginning to wonder why he had agreed to do such a crazy thing. This little boy was afraid of nothing. It was nothing when he was six to play football with kids twice his age. He was fearless. However, down on the ground at the swimming pool with his buddies, it really didn’t look that bad. If this fearless little boy had a weakness though it was unrestrained heights. He did not mind going up to high places when he was in an enclosure that would keep him from falling. His worst nightmares were always of falling from high places where there was nothing to hold you back. So, as he ascends the ladder, that fear is being remembered. At 8 years old, when he gets to the highest diving platform, the platform seems so wide and so unrestrained. This fearless boy who would tackle a football player twice his size and twice his age learns fear really for the first time. He was the kind of kid who would hold a firecracker in his hand to the last second. He would throw aerosol cans in burning flames just to watch them explode not caring that he might get hit by shrapnel from the can. Here, the platform seem as though it was a mile above the earth. It took him awhile to get to the edge of the platform and he is nervous beyond belief. He walks back from the edge of the platform. His pals below are kidding him about being scared. He goes back to the edge. His manhood or…well, boyhood, was being called into question in the pre-teen kingdom of the community pool. Eight year old boys can’t have that. It is at this moment, dealing with this, his one worst fear (unrestrained heights), he comes to know a dependence on God that he never had known before. His adam’s apple felt like it was in the back of his mouth and was going to jump out of his mouth and bail on him. He could hear every breath in what seemed like an eternity. The chiding and kidding of his pals down below ringing in his ears. At this moment, he thought, “Man, if it was just a couple of weeks from now, I would be in a classroom right now and not on the highest diving board at the community pool.” That moment on the edge of the highest platform seemed an eternity. He was in a quandary, he was like totally afraid but if he bailed on the attempt at the jump off the highest platform, he would never ever hear the end of it.

 

This moment, in 8 year old Hartsville (SC) boy social circles would have dogged him til the next summer or til he, as a Methodist preacher’s kid, moved to the next town his dad would serve in. To make matters worse, there were teenagers behind just waiting to do their daring dives off the platform. They were giving him a hard time, too. Sayings like “C’mon little man, piss or get off the pot!” or “Quit wasting our time! C’mon!” At this moment, this 8 year old places his faith in a God that he barely knew and did not know as His Savior until 30 years later. He cries out to God to protect him (internally mind you…8 year old tough boys don’t cry out when they jump off a high dive). No professional dive here. Just a leap off the unrestrained platform. Bungy jumping would not be invented until probably fifteen years later, but he had wished for something to be attached to him. The leap out away from the platform reminded him of those Wiley Coyote/Road Runner cartoons where Wiley walks off the cliff and is suspended in mid-air for a second or two before he realizes he is in mid-air high above the canyon floor. Where’s the “Yikes” sign, the 8 year old tough boy thinks for that split second that he feels suspended in mid-air. Gravity takes over, of course, and the boy just closes his eyes and hopes that he does not die. It seems an eternity as he plummets from the summit toward the water. He crashes through the surface of the water feet first. No cannonballs on this diving board. No dives. Just survival. He descent feet first with no fancy moves makes him like a missile when he slides through the air toward the water and crashes through the surface of the water and continues slicing through it all the way to the bottom of the deep of the pool some nine or 10 feet below. He pushes off the bottom as quickly as possible and desperately swims for the ladder. Gets out and find the nearest early 70’s style lounge chair that is open and sits down and quietly thanks the God he does not yet know personally for having saved him from certain death and even worse 8 year old social embarrassment. He survived. He moved on to greater acceptance among the social circles of 8 year olds in Hartsville, SC in the early 1970’s. He survived. It was a miracle to him. He made a leap of faith into the hands of God and survived his biggest fear. Some 45 years later, he still remembers that moment where teenagers were behind him waiting on him that prevented his escape and his so-called friends down below chiding and kidding him. It was one of those no-turning-back moments that we find ourselves in at times. All we can do is jump. All we can do is hope that God will protect us. All we can do is jump into the hands of God.

 

It was one of the first moments of my life as a child that I knew real, tangible, palpable fear. I was and to a certain extent still am a guy who will try feats of daring-do at least once. As I have grown older, reason has taken a greater role of knowing my physical limitations, but even up until my early 40s, I was a daredevil. But my kryptonite has always been unrestrained heights. I can go up in the world’s tallest buildings and look over the edge without a thought. I have even road that rollercoaster at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas that goes around the edge of the observatory. In all those cases, there were boundaries around me, restraints around me. But my kryptonite, is being in a high place with nothing to hold onto. So, that 8 year old moment is burned in my brain. I tasted, literally, in my mouth that day. It was something to that point, I had never known. I was a bull in a china shop kind of kid not afraid of anything. But on that day, I tasted fear and it was bitter. It was at that moment, I had to just leap into the arms of God and trust Him with the outcome.

 

It was that scary moment as an 8 year old boy in Hartsville, SC that immediately came to mind when I thought of the woman in this passage. Sometimes, we just have to trust God with the outcome:

 

 

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

 

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

 

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

 

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[c] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

 

29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”

 

Here, in this text for today, it differs from all others in the Bible is that this is the only case in biblical law where a judicial decision depended upon a miracle. Only here do we have a procedure in which the Lord intervenes directly and supernaturally in the outcome of what is in effect a case at bar. This is the only time in the Law of the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, the Pentateuch, where there is a trial by ordeal. In most cultures of the past and even here in America in the Salem witch trials, there were trials by ordeal.

 

Those trials by other cultures (such as the Inquisition and the Salem witch trials and many other cultures’ trials by ordeal) were stacked against the accused from the very beginning. Throwing someone in the river with weights around them is not exactly fair (if you float you are innocent and if you drown you are guilty). Telling someone to stick their hand in boiling water is not exactly fair (if your hand is not scalded you are innocent, if it is you are guilty). This particular trial by ordeal though was not a stacked deck. It was just water with some holy tabernacle floor dust in it. Anyone can survive that, right? However, God used this simple test to ferret out the adulterous woman from the woman whose husband is just jealous or paranoid. The truth of the situation would be judged by God’s handling of the effect of the water on the woman’s body. The fact that this is the only trial by ordeal in Mosaic law points us toward the seriousness with which God takes the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. No other situation is subjected to a trial by ordeal. Real unfaithfulness cannot destroy marriages and families. Perceived unfaithfulness, even when not true, can tear at the fabric of a marriage as well. God, in this situation, wants to reveal the unrevealed. He wants to put an end to rumor and reveal the truth. Marriages cannot survive with suspicion and without trust. So, let us grasp not so much the details of this test and not focus so much on the woman being subjected to this (which we will deal with tomorrow) but focus on how serious God takes the marriage covenant. And for today’s lesson, let us look at how sometimes, we get put into situations where we just have to trust God with the outcome.

 

I think of the innocent women in this case. The ones who had a jealous husband who did not trust his wife’s love for him. She may have been forced into this situation by a jealous husband. Maybe, she was a knock-out of a woman. Maybe, she was one of the most beautiful women among the Israelite people. But, yet, she loves her husband and follows his leadership of their home. She does everything right! She loves God, loves her husband, loves the fact that she bore his children and raises them. However, he is a jealous man. He does not trust that she loves him. Anytime another man looks at her, he thinks she is seeking affections from another man. She gets forced into this jealousy test. In other cultures, this would have been a death sentence. However, in God’s divine plan, she will truly live if found innocent. In this situation, an innocent wife must have had to simply trust in God that she would be vindicated. She simply had to make a leap of faith into God’s arms and trust that He would deliver her from false accusations of a jealous husband.

 

She doesn’t want this situation. She loves her husband. Sometimes, in life, though, we are forced into tough situations by the actions of other people. Sometimes, we find ourselves innocent of wrongdoing but are treated as if we have committed a crime. Sometimes, we get forced into situations that we don’t want to be in. Sometimes, circumstances force us to deal with a nasty situation from which there is going to be no apparent winner. Sometimes, we are oppressed and cheated and hurt by others. Sometimes, we get put into situations where we are pushed beyond what we think our limits are. Sometimes, we get to the edge of the highest diving platform and want to turn back but there is no way out but forward off the diving platform. Sometimes, we just have to put our faith in God that He knows what He is doing with this series of events in our lives. Sometimes, we just have do what is in front of us – jumping into the unknown, the fearful, and just trust God with the outcome. Sometimes, we are so afraid but we must walk ahead and leap into the arms of God.

 

Whatever you are going through – whether the situation is of your own doing or even worse you are dealing with consequences in life caused by another person, trust God with the outcome. He will lead us through the fall and through the deep water and to the edge of the pool. He will lift you up and set you down on solid ground where you can rest at the end of this ordeal. Whatever you are going through, you don’t know what to do – just do what God has in front of you. He is leading you to the solid ground. He will set you down on the solid ground that He has intended for you. He is your God. Trust Him with the outcome and just breath and just jump into the arms of God!

 

Amen and Amen.

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