Bible reading for May 7.
"So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God." (Numbers 15:40)
SACRIFICES AND SABBATH-BREAKING. Chapter 15 includes a summary of the sacrificial offerings (vv 1-31), and it was emphasized that these laws applied also to the non-Israelites who accompanied the Israelites (Ex 12:38). This mixed multitude caused problems for the nation (Num 11:4). Even today, a local church can experience much turmoil from those in their congregation who are not truly born again or walking with the Lord. Along with the instructions, the Lord reiterates that the people will indeed enter the land one day and be worshiping God there. The judges of Israel were to deal decisively with "high-handed" (flagrant, rebellious) sins, and the example is given of a man put to death for violating the Sabbath (vv 32-36). This man was not someone who merely forgot what day it was. Keeping the Sabbath was a major observance, and most of the nation was observing it at that time. So, a person collecting firewood (to cook his meal) was basically thumbing his nose at the entire Mosaic Law. It was high-handed and flagrant.
TASSELS FOR REMEMBRANCE. As an aid to memory the Lord told the people to make tassels for their garments so that they might think about God's commandments. But even this people turned into a point of pride before others (Matt 23:5). It would be like wearing a gold cross on a necklace, wearing it to appear holy (or merely for adornment) rather than for what it stands for. Or, it's like having beautiful Scripture in calligraphy on your walls at home, but primarily for show. It's ironic that many helps in the Christian life -- even prayer (Matt 6:5) -- can be done to be seen by others.
DO NOT FOLLOW YOUR HEART. The two great commandments of the post-modern world are 1) you shall not judge; and 2) follow your heart. I have lost count of how many times in movies and popular literature someone says that it is important to follow one's heart. But here God could not be clearer: "so that you do not follow after your own heart and your own eyes..." (Num 15:39). Since the fall of Adam our hearts have been deceitful (Jer 17:9) and are the source of much evil (Matt 15:19). We should be faithful to God -- who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend -- rather than to our hearts.
"Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:2)
AGAINST YOU ONLY. The backstory on this psalm is found in 2 Samuel 11-12. Like Psalm 32 and Psalm 38 this is a penitential psalm. (See the April 21 post on our Bible reading.) "Against you, you only, have I sinned" (v 4) does not mean that David did not sin against Bathsheba, and Uriah her husband, and his family and nation, and his office as upholder of justice. All of these are true. What David means is that he realizes that as a child and creation of God he has sinned against others made in the image of God, in the sight of a righteous and holy God, who created and owns all things. All sin ultimately is against God. And it's personal, because both God and we are personal. Today most people think of sin, or wrong-doing, only in terms only of that which hurts somebody else, a fellow creature. But the Bible teaches that when we sin, it is God's creation, his children, his possessions, and his will that we sin against, and so we sin against him. Verse 5 tells us that we have this sinful condition from conception.
TAKE NOT YOUR HOLY SPIRIT. Sometimes Christians wonder if this has happened to them, that God has taken his Holy Spirit away from them (v 11). But the ministry of the Spirit in the OT was not as permanent (or as universal) as his work in the NT (John 14:16; Eph 4:30). The believer can certainly grieve the Holy Spirit, but we have his promise that he has sealed us for the day of redemption and will be with us forever. In the OT the Holy Spirit was given to judges, kings, and prophets in order to strengthen them for service to the Lord. For David, God's presence through the Holy Spirit was too precious to lose! Joel prophesied that the day would come that the Holy Spirit would be given to all who believe (Joel 2:28-29; cf Eph 1:13). The indwelling Holy Spirit is the greatest blessing from God that we receive through the work of Christ!
Image credit: photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.