Focus: They came to Moses and Aaron that day and said, “We have become ceremonially unclean by touching a dead body. But why should we be prevented from presenting the Lord’s offering at the proper time with the rest of the Israelites?”
Moses answered, “Wait here until I have received instructions for you from the Lord.” Numbers 9:7 – 8
In Today’s passage, we have God giving Moses a direct command that is to be followed by all of the Israelites. In verses 2 – 3, God told Moses: “Tell the Israelites to celebrate the Passover at the prescribed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. Be sure to follow all my decrees and regulations concerning this celebration.”
Pretty straightforward, right? Well, we’re humans, so very little can ever be that straightforward with us. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I have a tendency to like to play the “what if…” game. As a boy growing up, my friends and I often played that game to pass the time. “What if I were to say this in class to Mr. Teacher?” “What if I go up and kiss Sally Sue?” “I know Coach said to just block my man, but what if I swing over to the linebacker and spring you for a touchdown instead?” Even as an adult I still play this game with my friends and even myself – “What if I stay up too late?” “What if I call in sick tomorrow?” It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I find myself trying to play the “What if” game with God. “I know your Word says this, but “What if?”. “What if I’m put in this situation, isn’t it better to tell a little white lie?” “I know your Word says so an so, but what if I do this instead so they will respect me more, and I can tell them about you?” Obviously, trying to play any games with God is less than wise. As we’re told in Hebrews 10:31 when the author was discussing this very kind of behavior, It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Sometimes however, like in today’s reading, the “What if” scenario is legitimate and heart-felt. While these men had made themselves unclean (which is hard for us in our culture to understand the significance of what that meant in the ancient Middle East), they truly desired in their hearts to be clean again and to worship God as part of Passover.
God looks deeper than just face value; He knows what makes us tick, our motivations, our intent – in other words, He knows our heart. He tells us this throughout the Bible. For instance:
In 1 Samuel 16:7 when Samuel wants to anoint one of Jesse’s older sons to be the new king of Israel, God tells Samuel: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In Jeremiah 17:10, God says: “But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
In Luke 16:15, Jesus tells us: “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.”
In Acts 15:8, we are told: God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us.
There are many, many more instances where the Bible tell us that God knows our hearts (for example Proverbs 15:11, Proverbs 21:2, Jeremiah 20:12, 1 Kings 8:39, Matthew 12:25, Matthew 22:18, Mark 2:8, and John 2:25).
In today’s reading, Moses went back to God and sought His guidance for the “What if” he was given. God responded by providing the men a way to still worship Him without violating His commands. Two concepts here are important. First, if we want to be in a relationship with God, God will always provides us with a way to Him – He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. He wants us to love Him and worship Him. He wants us to experience eternal life through Jesus Christ. Just as a father or mother loves their children (but even more so), God loves us and wants us with Him. Secondly, God doesn’t change. He will NEVER tell us it’s OK to violate His Word or His commands. That’s just not how God operates. He will always provide us a way to Him, but He will never do so in a way that tells us it’s OK to violate scripture.
So what’s the way to Him that He provides? The way to eternal life with Him, is always through Jesus Christ. Just as Chris preached this weekend, Jesus always calls us to follow Him (if you missed the sermon las Sunday, it was extremely powerful, and I recommend you watch it; it’s available here under week six http://vineyardwheeling.com/sermons/ilmc/). By asking for Jesus’ forgiveness and following Him, we are cleansed of all our sins; the Bible tells us that our sins are like crimson and scarlet, but when we follow Jesus, we are washed clean as snow and white as wool (Isaiah 1:18). So God always provides us a way to Him – it’s just that way is never around His Word, but it’s always through His Son.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You love me so much that You always make a way for me to be with You. Thank You that You sent Jesus to cleanse me of my sins and make me as clean and pure as new fallen snow. Thank You that You have sent Your Holy Spirit to live in my heart to guide me in following Jesus. Please, Lord, forgive me when I continue to sin against You by ignoring Your commands or trying to rationalize my disobedience with the “What If” game. Please help me to listen and submit to Your will; please help and guide me in my growth. I love You. In Jesus’ Name… Amen