I copied over this chapter a couple of days ago, and my initial reaction to it was one of surprise. Numbers 14, the chapter before, was all about how the people did not listen to YHWH, but took the bad report from their leaders and instead disobeyed God. As a result of that, the people are sent to the wilderness for another 40 years so that they will die in the wilderness and their children will inherit the land. Yet, here we are in Numbers 15 and the chapter starts out; “Now the LORD (YHWH) spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving you, then make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to…“, and it goes on.
Am I the only one that is a little confused about this? The people have just been told that because of their sin, they will spend the next 40 years wandering around in the wilderness. They will die and will never see the land promised to their forefathers by YHWH. Now suddenly YHWH is telling them that when they enter the land that He is giving them, they are to make an offering by fire to Him, and then He proceeds to explain the offering to them!?
That question went to the back of my mind as the chapter went on. Any sacrifice made by someone who is an alien (later to be referred to as gentile) or sojourner was to be the same as that of the native (Jew). The firstfruits were to be lifted up as an offering, and offering for unintentionally sinning. There was a man who had been gathering wood on the Sabbath day, and the people’s response to that. Then finally it ends with YHWH instructing the people to put tassels on the corners of their garments each with a cord of blue to remind them of YHWH’s laws and to obey them.
However, this morning i turned to Numbers 15 to write this post, and the answer hit me. It wasn’t that YHWH was trying to be cruel to them, or that He was trying to tell them that they actually would enter the promised land. It was not Him teasing the people, it was about Him giving them hope. Because of their sin to God, the people have just lost everything that they had been working towards. The wilderness was now all that they would know and see. As a result the people would become demoralized and hope / vision less, and as Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.”
These statements are made to provide the people with hope. To give them something to look to. The people’s hope and purpose is now to raise up their children to be the generation that will not turn away from YHWH, that will go forward and take the land. They may not be entering it themselves, but their children would, and they needed them to be ready!
These three abide / remain / are not consumed; faith, hope, and love! With YHWH these will always be. The people needed the answer of hope. What do you need?
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.