Sunday, April 22, 2007

Matt's Messages - I Am the LORD Your God

“I Am the LORD Your God”
Life in the Wilderness
April 22, 2007
Numbers 15:1-41

Last week, we read about the lowest low point in the book of Numbers, what we called, “The Retreat of Unbelief.”

All of the those chapters of military, priestly, and collective preparation to conquer the Promised Land were proved futile by the unbelief of 10 spies and the rest of the 603,548 (minus Joshua & Caleb) fighting men.

Israel decided to NOT believe God and NOT obey God and NOT go up to the Promised Land.

And God was very angry, and rightly so, at this wickedness and rebellion. And even after the intervention and intercession of Moses, God’s verdict, God’s sentence for unbelieving Israel was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for every day the spies had been in the land) and the death of an entire generation.

Forty years of funerals, one on top of another. Funeral, funeral, funeral, funeral, funeral.

The lowest of the low points in the book of Numbers.

And now, if you were writing the book of Numbers, what would you write about next?

Maybe how the Israelites felt about their somewhat-commuted death sentence?

What life in the wilderness was really like?

The next rebellion (like we’ll see next week in chapter 16)?

If you were writing the book of Numbers, what would you write about next?

Numbers chapter 15 turns out to code.

The NIV subheadings for this chapter are excitedly titled, “Supplementary Offerings” “Offerings for Unintentional Sins” “The Sabbath-Break Put to Death” and (my personal favorite) “Tassels on Garments.”


Sounds exciting, huh?

I told you that the book of Numbers is one of the strangest books that we’ll ever study together! And remember, there were no chapter divisions in the original. It just flows from chapter 14 right into chapter 15.

Who would have ever thought of putting these things in chapter 15 after the story we just got done reading in chapters 13 and 14?

Well, God did. That’s how His Holy Bible was written!

And there are reasons for it.

I think that the key to understanding this chapter is, not just that we take a break from the action [my wife suggested that this chapter is a little like a commercial break during an exciting show–giving us all a chance to breath again before the drama gets back underway–I think that’s right. That’s one of the reasons why it’s here. But not just to take a break from the action...] but to remind us in an unusual, attention-getting way Who our God really is.

And I get that from the very last verse in the chapter. Numbers chapter 15, verse 41.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.”

Numbers 15 is in your Bible for a reason. To break the action after the lowest of low points to remind us, “I am the LORD your God.”

God says, “I am the LORD Your God.”


“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'After you enter the land I am giving you as a home...”

Wait! Stop right there.

Did you catch that?

What was God saying? “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home...”

What’s He talking about? He’s talking about the Promised Land again.

Almost as if chapters 13&14 hadn’t happened!

The promise stands.

The original generation won’t see the land.

But the promise stands.

“I am giving [it to] you as a home...”

The march towards Canaan will happen again.

The promise stands!

And when you are there, you will celebrate God. V.3

“After you enter the land I am giving you as a home and you present to the LORD offerings made by fire, from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the LORD–whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings [these are supplementary offerings, additional free-will, voluntary offerings just because God is worth them!–then the one who brings his offering shall present to the LORD a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil. With each lamb for the burnt offering or the sacrifice, prepare a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. With a ram prepare a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil, and a third of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Offer it as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. [A little bit bigger. V.8] When you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, for a special vow or a fellowship offering to the LORD, bring with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil. Also bring half a hin of wine as a drink offering. It will be an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Each bull or ram, each lamb or young goat, is to be prepared in this manner. Do this for each one, for as many as you prepare.”

Now, these offerings were by and large supplementary, additional freewill, voluntary offerings–just because of how good God is.

And when the offered them, they were to include not just the meat but a little carbohydrates and a drink–wine, I think as a celebration of Who God is and what He has done.

Wine is for celebrating. And these offerings would be pleasing to the Lord, as His people worshiped Him.

Why? Because God always keeps His promises.

These were instructions for when they got into the land. Are they there yet?

Not for 40 years. But God immediately gave them these instructions to reassure them that they would get there.

And look at verse 13!

“Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must do exactly as you do. The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.”

Now, the main thrust of that passage is that Gentiles (like you and me) should be included (if they become a part of Israel) and treated the same. And that’s good news.

But what I want to point out to you is the fourth and fifth word in verse 13.


How many native-born Israelites are there right now?

How many have been born in the Promised Land?

God is saying that there will be native-born Israelites.

There will be Israelites who are born in the Land.

Because God always keeps His promises.

He says it again in verse 18.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land to which I am taking you [WHEN, not IF! I’m taking you there! It’ll take 40 years, but I’m taking you there...] and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a cake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you are to give this offering to the LORD from the first of your ground meal.”

Do you see how much God is promising here? How much He is calling on them to believe?

It will take 40 more years because of Israel’s unbelief, but God will keep His promises.

And when He does, they should recognize His faithfulness, His gifts to them, and give Him the firstfruits, even the first loaf of bread that is produced from the threshing floor.

Brothers and sister, this is the LORD your God: a faithful God!

Who always keeps His promises.

Do you believe that?

Do you need reminded of that?

Obviously we do, or God wouldn’t have to say it so often in His Word. It’s really the theme of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible).

God always keeps His promises.

What promises are you trusting Him for today?

As a district of the EFCA, we celebrated our 25th anniversary this weekend. God has been faithful to our district, taking a rag tag group of 8 churches and multiplying it to 4 times that in the first 25 years.

On Friday, Super Jeff Powell (our district superintendent) and the district board presented us with a budget that doesn’t make sense. After a year where we didn’t make budget by almost $40,000, they presented an increase in budget of over $90,000.

Now, we have some strategic reserves that they are using for this increased budget, but they have determined that now is the time to get aggressive about church planting among the 8 to 12 million people who live in our district who don’t know Jesus like we do.

And they are saying that our little group of thirtysome churches and church plants needs to reach out and plant scores of churches. And we’ve hired a full-time director of church planting.

That’s pretty big. How do we know that it’s going to work?

We don’t know.

But we know this.

God is faithful.

He always keeps His promises.

And so, we’re going to trust Him and venture out on faith.

What promises are you trusting Him for right now?

And when He comes through, be ready to celebrate Him with worship that is a pleasing aroma to Him.

In the New Covenant, our lives of love and our words of praise are the fragrance that is a pleasing aroma to our faithful God (Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 13:15).

But God’s faithfulness is not all that we see here in chapter 15.

We also see His graciousness.

“I am the LORD your God”


This comes from the next set of offerings. They are for unintentional sins. V.22

“Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses– any of the LORD's commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come–and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement [key word] for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.”

Notice how seriously God takes sin.

Not all sins are the same. Sometimes we just miss something that we should have caught.

We don’t always set out to do wrong, though we often end up there.

And God knows that. He knows that.

And He makes provision for it.

But He still cares about it.

God is holy and even the most minor sins require atonement.

In fact, they require death.

The Bible is clear, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22 and elsewhere).

Even unintentional sins.

But God is also gracious. He makes provision (atonement) for sins.

He provided these sacrifices as ways to make things right between Him and His people again.

God always forgives repentant sinners.

You know where I’m going now, don’t you?!

The Cross. The Atonement!

Where God’s Son absorbed the just wrath of God the Father.

He shed His blood so that you and I could be forgiven.

But to receive that forgiveness, we have to repent.

We have to turn from our sins.
We have to turn from our own way of doing things.
We have to turn from our own way of living.
Our own gospel and turn to His.

We have to repent and trust in Jesus Christ.

God always forgiveness repentant sinners who turn and trust in Christ.

But He does not forgive the unrepentant...

That’s the point of verses 30-36.

“But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD's word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.”

Literally, these sins are called “sins of the high or raised hand.” We would call them thumbing the nose at God or stronger: giving God “the finger.”

If someone sins in arrogance and blasphemy and revolt and will not repentant, God does not forgive.

Do you know that about God?

Sometimes, in stressing the forgiveness of God, we downplay His holiness.

The Cross preserves grace and His holiness in that all repented sins are forgiven through the payment of Jesus for them.

And Hell exists to preserve God’s holiness and justice, as well.

All unrepentant sinners wind up there.

God does not forgive the unrepentant.

And here’s an illustration. V.32

“While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. [What do you think?] Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.’ So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

I think that this passage is an illustration of verses 30 and 31.

This man got up on Saturday, when everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to work and the law clearly says that you aren’t supposed to make a fire, and he goes out and gets busy doing both–in public.

We might have said, no big deal!

God says, “Stone him.” Which is an awful way to die.

This man was thumbing his nose at God.

Unrepentant. “Forget you, God. Who needs you? Get lost! I’ll do it my way.”

And God said, “You’re done.”

God does not forgive the unrepentant.

But He always forgives repentant sinners. Those who turn from their own way and trust in Him.

Have you repented? Have you turned and trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the sure hope of eternal life?

I don’t invite you to do this today.

I’m telling you that it’s what God requires.

Repent of your sins, your way, your efforts. Turn.

And trust in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.

Receive Him as Savior and King. As Rescuer and Lord.

And He will receive you.

He will forgive you.

Because God always forgives truly repentant sinners.

And He turns them into His own holy people.

That’s #3.

“I am the LORD your God.”


“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’”

These tassels were like sticky notes.

I don’t know about you, but I go through a pile of sticky notes about every week.

Reminders that you stick up everywhere to prompt you to remember something.

These were sewed onto the Israelites clothing at the hem (considered probably the most important part of the garment).

They had a little bit of blue in them to match the holiest parts of the coloring of the Tabernacle. It was like a uniform to remind them what army they were a part of.

What group they were a part of.

They were the LORD’s people.

And whenever they saw these tassels they would (v.39) “remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated (holy) to your God.”

God always calls His people to be holy.

And He reminds us again and again.

We don’t have a certain kind of clothing now that we wear in the New Covenant.

We could do things like wearing crosses and that sort of thing as a something similar, but the New Testament doesn’t mandate those.

But it does call us to remember who we are and whose we are and to act appropriately.

If anything, the New Testament equivalent of these tassels is our baptisms.

Like we saw two weeks ago with Rusty and Chris, the New Testament assumes that all believers in Jesus Christ get baptized to demonstrate that they are believers in Jesus Christ.

And we who are baptized look back on our baptism and the meaning of our baptism to remind us to live holy lives.

“We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Again, that’s what your baptism means. What it points to.

It’s a reminder of who you are and whose you are.

You are called to be holy because you belong to a holy God. V.41

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt (salvation!) to be your God. I am the LORD your God.”

Are you living a holy life by faith?

Not perfect. But headed in the direction of holiness?

Trusting the faithfulness of God.
Repenting of sin.
And obeying all His commands, consecrated to your God?
Not prostituting yourself by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes?

This is what means to be holy.

To trust Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He offers and then to obey Jesus Christ and live the life He commands, both by faith.

Because He is the LORD our God.