Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 3) – My Dad and The Non-Negotiability of the Street Light Test

Posted: August 13, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 3)

The Second Passover

If there was one word that I would describe my dad’s parenting of me, it would be consistency. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was a loving dad and he was as much fun to hang out with as he was consistent when it came to discipline. My brother, RT, and I knew what our boundaries of behavior were. We knew the limits. The limits to our behavior were more than lines in the sand. They were boundaries set in concrete.  Immutable. Unchangeable. No negotiating away punishment when those boundaries were crossed. When we were young and relied on bicycles for our mode of transportation, Saturdays meant freedom to do what we wanted. We and our buddies would set out on Saturday morning and be gone all day on bikes. We were the classic 70’s kids with the raised handle bars where you reaching out not down to hold the steering of your bike. The banana seats were a must. The big thick back tire for sliding when you put on breaks was a necessary part too. We rode the devil out those bikes. All over town. We had one rule that we had to observe though on our freedom Saturdays. We had to be home before the street light in front of the parsonage in Rembert, then Hartsville, then Elgin, SC came on. Simple immutable rule. There was no negotiating about where it was completely dark yet or not. It the street light was on in front of our house and we were not in the yard at the time it came on, we were late. We would suffer the consequences regardless of the excuse. Street light on. Not in the yard. Punishment. That was the rule and nothing, no amount of begging and pleading, would change it. Not even if me or my brother had an excuse that we were almost there. Not even if one of us had a flat tire. Didn’t matter. We should have planned our day better so that there would be no crisis when it came to getting home before the street light came on. If we were not there, there would be punishment. Extra chores. Or we would not be allowed to do something we wanted to do or our freedom Saturday would be restricted somehow.

 

In order to get freedoms, we had to observe certain unchangeable and unflinching rules of my dad. There were other boundaries of behavior. There were other requirements and duties that we had to perform that were unchanging. There was structure and expectation. There was no freeloading as a member of dad’s home. We had to participate. Before we were free on Saturday mornings, there were chores that had to be done first. No excuses. No exceptions. RT had his duties. I had mine. We knew what those duties were and we had to get them done. No reminding or cajoling us to get our chores done. We knew what they were and we had to do them. Consequences would result if the chores were not done right or if not done. There was no outlet to the “I forgot about it”. That held no sway with my dad. He and my mom provided the home we lived in, the clothes we wore, the food we ate, the TV we watched, the bikes we rode around town. He provided it all and because of that we had some weight to carry around the house. No exceptions. No talking your way out of it. Discipline would result for disobeying family rules and those rules were known and understood by both RT and me.

 

I did not really care for my dad’s hard and fast and unpenetrable rules when I was a kid at home. But, as I grew up and entered the working world where there is no tolerance for whining our way out of things and from raising kids myself, I appreciate what my dad did for me. He prepared me for being a man in the adult world where you have to grin and bear it sometimes. Where you try to raise your own kids to understand that the world is a whole lot less impressed with us as we are with ourselves and that the world does not revolve around us (surprise, surprise!). Thanks, dad, for the consistency in your discipline of us growing up. Didn’t like it then but appreciate it now.

 

It was that thought of consistency and the unchanging nature of God that jumped out at me as I read through this passage a third time today. Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the third time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on vv. 6-14 today:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

The issue here was that several men had come in contact or had come into the house of where there was a dead body and thus had become ceremonially unclean. As a result, they could not participate in the Passover Meal. The thing that is striking to me here today is that we must take notice that God did not adjust the requirements of the Passover. The standards of holiness of our God remained unchanged. The men were not allowed to participate, plain and simple. God did not make an exception. He allowed them to celebrate at a later date but the official Passover Meal, from it, they were disqualified. It is like the street light test between two sons and their dad. It did not matter that we might have had an excuse. If the both tires of our bikes were not inside our property lines when the street light came on, we were automatically disqualified from certain freedoms as a child in my dad’s house.

 

That is the thing that we must take away this morning as we leave from reading this passage. God standards of behavior as laid out in the Bible are immutable and unchangeable. It must be that way. He is holy and perfect. That which is perfect is complete. That which is perfect cannot be wrong. That which is perfect cannot be changed. If it were to be changed then it would not be perfect. God is perfect. Therefore, his expectations of us are unchangeable. What was unacceptable in Old Testament times cannot all of a sudden be acceptable in the 21st century. We cannot change the truth of God’s Word to suit our 21st century desires. We cannot ignore the Old Testament or the New just so as to validate what was once abhorrent to God as being acceptable now. God is unchangeable. God is perfect. God is complete logic and understanding. He has all knowledge. He then as a result cannot be inconsistent with Himself. He cannot allow now what He has never allowed before. He cannot bend His own rules. It is us that is trying to excuse ourselves from His unchanging law. It could be no other way. He is the perfect and righteous Judge. We cannot argue our basic goodness in front of Him and say that although we violated these laws it is offset by the fact that we obeyed these laws. How would that work in our own legal system? We would be in chaos as a society. The laws we make are intended to be evenly applied to all citizens and if you break them, you suffer the consequences.

 

Why are we expecting God to be different? He is the Creator. He made the laws of the universe. He set the standards of behavior for His people so that they could be more holy and set apart from the world. His laws are perfect and unchanging and we cannot change them just because we want to luxuriate in our favorite sin and for God to be OK with that. God is not changing. We are just justifying. We want to rewrite the laws of the universe. We want to rewrite the Bible so that we will not be convicted of our sins any longer. We, in the process, eliminate our dire need for the way out that God provided us in Jesus. It makes Jesus into a friend rather than a necessity for our salvation.

 

God’s unchanging laws are necessary so that we can see where we sin and because we sin we deserve eternal punishment in hell. When we see that immutable truth that we stand convicted before the immutable and unchangeable standards of behavior required by God instead of trying to justify our behavior, we kneel before the One we need, Jesus Christ. It is only through Him that we are reconciled to God because He took on the wrath of God and the punishment of God for our sins on the cross and in His death and burial. When we are trying to rewrite the Bible to say that it no longer says what it has always said, we are ignoring the fact that just because we say ain’t so does not make not so. Just because we say something is OK and that God did not mean what for thousands of years has been accepted as His meaning, it does not change the meaning. We may say that this means this so as to justify our sins, but that does not change God’s eternal truth. It does not change. God does not wishy wash. God does not do 180 degree turns. God does not change His mind. He is all truth eternally. He thus cannot change. We may dress it up differently, but dog poop is dog poop no matter how you dress it up. Our sins are sins in the 21st century as they were in the Garden of Eden. Face it. We change. Not God! Face it. We really, really do need Jesus as a Savior not just as a buddy. We NEED him to cover us from the unchanging law of God. We need a Savior not a buddy who is just one of a whole bunch of prophets that are the multiple lanes to heaven. He is the only way. He said so Himself. That is eternal truth that cannot be changed because being a Christian is hard and unacceptable to society. We cannot change God’s eternal truth. We must accept it and thank Him for giving us Jesus as the one and only true way to the Father.

 

Just as here in this passage, God does not change the law to suit the current needs of these men. They stand unclean before God at the time that they needed to be clean to enter into the Passover Meal. They were convicted by their uncleanness. There was no justification of why it was OK. The law stands. They were judged by it. God did allow them to celebrate at a later date when they were clean. God gave them the opportunity to celebrate in the feast when they were clean. He does that with you and I through Jesus. We stand before God with uncleanliness all over us through our stockpiles of sins against God. However, we have a way to get clean and it is through  the covering of Jesus Christ through salvation. He is our way out from the weight of conviction before God’s unchanging nature.

Where are you right now? God will turn the street light on for us at some point for us. Where are the tires of your bike? Are your tires on God’s property? Our street light will come at any time. Our death could come at any time? Where is your bicycle? Is it home on God’s turf? Or are you out there making excuses as to why your bike is not on God’s property? The street light test is immutable and unchangeable. We must be home with both tires inside God’s property through Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do. No excuses will be made. Not all roads lead to heaven. Your bike must be home through the grace of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do. We stand convicted by the eternal truth of God. The unchanging truth of God. It is this unchanging truth by which we are judged and will be judged forever. We can argue that is not what God meant but it does not change the fact that it was what God meant. Where is your bike compared to the immutable evidence of the street light coming on? Are you home?

 

Amen and Amen.

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