Numbers 15:32-36 – Like Giving Your Dad the Middle Finger When He Tells You To Do Something…

Posted: September 12, 2016 in 99-Uncategorized

Numbers 15:32-36

Penalty for Breaking the Sabbath

Have you ever had your son give you the middle finger in defiance to something you ordered him to do? Or even worse, what if you are a father and what if your teenage son said an expletive to you that was referencing the fact that you should have sex with yourself? You know the expletive I’m talking about. The first word rhymes with truck and the second word of the phrase is a pronoun. It’s one thing for them to say this expletive toward you after they slam the door to their bedroom and say it as you walk away and there are walls and doors between you. It is a whole ‘nother level if they said such a thing to you face. They might for example say it to your face and walk out the door. It is a deliberate act of rebellion and defiance. It is an act of complete and utter disdain by the son toward the father. That situation must be dealt with in some way. It is not one of those things that you can ignore or leave hanging in the air. It must be dealt with right then and there. There has to be an immediate and measured response for such insolence. How would you respond?


Although when I was a stepfather to stepsons there were some tense moments of direct defiance when they were teens or pre-teens but never did even these boys push it that far. I am not sure what I would have done. What would you do? Would you strike your son or stepson? Would you kick them out of the house at least temporarily? Would you take away their keys, their cell phone, remove the TV, the video gaming system, etc. from their room? Would you lock the doors and not let them in when the get home? Maybe change the locks on the doors? Would you take your belt off and give a teenager a whipping? Would you slap the crap out of them? Would you lunge into them and tackle them and take them to the ground? What would you do? A response is necessary and immediate. What would you do? You cannot act like nothing happened. You would lose what credibility you had left with the teenage boy.


In today’s world, you might get arrested for child abuse for reacting violently. The media would vilify you and the public would crucify you in the court of public opinion. It would not matter the context of the situation. You would just be seen as a mean-spirited person and the child would be glorified. In today’s world, context doesn’t matter. It’s who gets to the media first.


Today’s passage seems kind of harsh when set against our modern sensibilities. When you hear people talk about the harshness of God in the Old Testament and claim that they are “New Testament Christians” as a result. Taken out of context and simply reading this passage alone, we could easily see why people would say that. This passage, on its own merits, is difficult to understand for the modern reader. Let’s jump into it then, Numbers 15:32-36:


32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.


You go “Oh wow! I am glad I was not living back then!” when you read that. It seems harsh. It seems an extreme response for a slight offense. However, we must read this passage in context of the previous one. There was a distinction between unintentional sins and intentional ones. A person who unintentionally commits a sin is repentant when he realizes that He has violated God’s law and wants to make amends for it. Intentional sins are acts of defiance. Intentional sins are when you defiantly know that you are committing a sin, you do it anyway, and raise your fist at God while you are doing it. Intentional sinners were to be cut off from the community (not only as a way to punish the defiant sinner but also to keep their “cancerous attitude” from spreading throughout the camp). Another sense of the context here is the fact that the entire nation of Israel had just raised their fist at God by refusing to “go with God” by taking the Promised Land. This was not some isolated incident. Just as a son saying “@#$% you” to his father is no isolated incident. There is a long history that leads up to that moment. There is a context of continuing, building rebellion that leads to these watershed moments between a father and a son. It is the same way here in this passage between God and the defiant elements of the nation of Israel.


The wood gatherer knew the Law. He chose to ignore it. He probably even justified why it was OK. He was saying and thinking that God doesn’t know what He’s talking about. God is foolish. I choose not to believe in God because it keeps me from doing what I want to do. Sound familiar? He probably was part of the population that thought God was too restrictive. He didn’t care for that kind of God. He wanted a God that would let Him do whatever made him feel good. Even though He knew the Law, he defiantly disobeyed it. He may have even come up with his own interpretations of why God’s law did not apply to what He was doing. He may have even come up with interpretations of God’s Word that says his behavior is OK. Think you have heard arguments similar to that today?


Another thing that is interesting here is that the people of Israel already knew the Law but did acted as if they did not know what to do with the person involved here. It kind of reminds you of how some denominations of Christian church today have watered down their message of the gospel so much to accept certain sins as OK just to blend in with the culture that we ultimately forget what our message is to begin with. Jesus becomes an option then instead of the necessary remedy for our sin problem. If we make our sins OK, there is no need for Jesus. He is just a self-help guru. He is not the absolute necessity that He really is. Israel had become a nation of rebellion against God so it is no wonder that they had forgotten the Word of God. One of the dangerous tight ropes we walk as Christians is being in the world and not of it. We must remember the message – there is no one righteous before God, we are all sinners (just one sin of any kind disqualifies us from the presence of God), we need an intervention to cleanse of our sin and the penalty that we deserve for it, and it is only Jesus, of one and the same essence as the Father in heaven, that can provide us the reprieve from hell that we deserve through His sacrificial, atoning death on the cross for our sins. It is that message that no sin is OK, that we are all doomed in the absence of Jesus that must never be lost and watered down to the point that we may this sin OK or that sin OK. Our calling a sin OK doesn’t negate the fact that God says it is sin and deserves justice.


This passage is also foreboding of the final justice that will be the end times. God’s patience with us with come to an end. Our evil and our defiance of His Law and our ignoring Him will come to an end. There will be that day that comes where God will say is enough is enough. Time’s up. Which side of eternity will be one when that day comes? Defiantly shaking your fist at God or will you be humbly bowing before the Lord? His patience will end one day, where will you stand? Will you be saying “@#$% you” to the Lord and defiantly be separated from Him in the place where there is gnashing of teeth and burning flesh forever? Or are you going be humbly bowing before the Lord and begging for Jesus to cover you for you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord?


Which path will you take? God’s patience will not be forever.


Amen and Amen.

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