Numbers 15 – Various Laws and Provisions
A. Grain, drink, and wave offerings.
1. (1-5) The sacrifice of a lamb to be accompanied with grain and wine.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you, and you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the Lord, from the herd or the flock, then he who presents his offering to the Lord shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephahof fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a HIN of oil; and one-fourth of a HIN of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb.’“
a. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: Israel was at one of its lowest points in history. It had just rebelliously rejected God’s offer to bring the nation into the Promised Land. God had consigned them to wander in the wilderness for 38 years, until the unbelieving generation had perished in the wilderness and a new generation of faith would take the Promised Land. Yet, immediately after this stinging rebellion and the chastisement from the Lord, Israel received precious tokens of God’s mercy, care, and help to Israel.
b. And you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice: God was merciful to Israel, in that this section deals with sacrifice, sacrifice to cover sin and sacrifice as an expression of thanksgiving. Israel, at their point of failure, needed to be reminded of sacrificial atonement, and the need to give thanks – even in the wilderness.
i. The grain with the drink offering of wine meant to accompany the blood sacrifice speak of thanksgiving and joy; we really can have thanksgiving and joy in the Lord, even if we are smarting from our own failure and from the loving correction of God.
ii. This passage also shows how God helped Israel. This section reads just like the passages of law God had so patiently instructed Israel with at Sinai; now, after their failure at Kadesh-Barnea, God is taking them back to school.
c. When you have come into the land: God cared for Israel. These were commands that could only be fulfilled in the Promised Land. Inherent in these commands was the promise that God would lead them there, and would not leave them in the wilderness forever.
i. God said, “When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you.” He said, when you come into land, and not if you come into the land. God has not, and will not give up on Israel. Many a believer under the rod of God’s correction has felt abandoned by God, as if He had given up on them, but God is always near to the believer under correction.
2. (6-7) The sacrifice of a ram to be accompanied with grain and wine.
Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephahof fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil; and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a sweet aroma to the Lord.
3. (8-10) The sacrifice of a bull to be accompanied with grain and wine.
And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow, or as a peace offering to the Lord, then shall be offered with the young bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephahof fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil; and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.
a. Fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil: The offering of the ram and bull each needed progressively greater amounts of grain and wine to accompany them, because they were progressively bigger sacrifices. The greater our sacrifice unto the Lord, the more thanksgiving and joy should come with the offering.
4. (11-16) The universal character of these laws.
Thus it shall be done for each young bull, for each ram, or for each lamb or young goat. According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do with everyone according to their number. All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.
a. Thus it shall be done for each: Everyone who made a sacrifice had to bring it with the thanksgiving of grain and the joy of wine; God did not want grudging, griping sacrifices brought to Him. If one could not serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:2), then God didn’t want his service at all.
5. (17-21) A heave offering of thanksgiving to the Lord.
Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations.’“
a. When you come into the land in which I bring you: This shows how rich in promise and encouragement these commands are. God sets their mind on the Promised Land, even though they are a long way away from it. Keeping their minds on His promise will help see them through the wilderness and prepare the hearts of the new generation to succeed where the old generation failed.
b. Then it will be: This set their minds forward to the promise. Even if a child of God isn’t walking in the richness of God’s promises now, they need to set their mind on heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says God has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus – even if it doesn’t feel like it now, set your mind on those heavenly places!
B. Remedies for sin.
1. (22-29) Addressing unintentional sin, both as a nation and individuals.
If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses; all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations; then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally. And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.
a. If you sin unintentionally: Significantly, the Bible talks about sins unintentionally committed. Many today think and live as if an action is unintentional, it cannot be sin. But many of the worst sins are committed with the best of intentions. Intentions matter nothing when the result is sin.
i. Especially in the 20th century, all sorts of horrific atrocities and terror have been committed by those dedicated to honorable causes; Communism sought to establish a just, fair economy where each worked according to his ability and received according to his need – and became the instrument of the genocide of tens of millions of people.
ii. Today, in the church, many a gossip, many a talebearer, many a divisive person will claim the best of intentions. Even if we agree they have the right intentions, they still may be in grievous sin. The same applies for a myriad of other sins we are often ready to ignore or think lightly of, all on the basis of “after all, they had good intentions.”
b. That the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering: Unintentional sins needed a blood atonement; a bull had to be sacrificed with the nation as a whole was guilty, and a female goat had to be sacrificed when an individual was guilty.
c. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally: There was to be no exception. Sin is sin, and must be accounted as such, even if the motive seemed good.
2. (30-31) Addressing presumptuous sin.
But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.
a. But the person who does anything presumptuously: Literally, to sin presumptuously means to sin “with a high hand.” It speaks of a flagrant rebellion against God, the law of Moses, and the nation as a whole.
b. That person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him: Such sin was not to be tolerated in Israel. This command was a cultural mechanism for addressing this sin, and ensuring that such arrogant flaunting of public morality would not be rewarded.
i. This is in stark contrast to modern culture where notorious, flagrant sinners are rewarded with fame and fortune. Instead of his guilt shall be upon him, our society puts guilt on anyone who would judge or condemn such depraved individuals by calling what they do evil.
3. (32-36) Execution of a Sabbath violator.
Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.
a. They found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day: This was an immediate example of dealing with someone who sinned presumptuously. All of Israel knew the Sabbath law, and this man no doubt thought him self a courageous social reformer, trying by his example to free the nation from the shackles of heaven’s law.
i. “It seems likely that the following story of the sabbath breaker illustrates what sinning with a high hand means.” (Wenham)
b. The man must surely be put to death: Instead, God commanded the execution of this presumptuous sinner, that all might fear. This was so all would know that the social order and law of God are more important than any individual’s “right” to attack or destroy that social order or law of God.
4. (37-41) Reminders for a holy people.
Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”
a. Tassels on the corners of their garments and the blue thread in the tassels of the corners: These were intended to remind Israel to Whom they belonged; they were God’s people. Such reminders are an effective preventive remedy for sin.
i. Perhaps a blue thread was commanded because the ark of the covenant was covered with a blue cloth, blue curtains adorned the tabernacle, and blue was in the high priest’s garments. The color blue was full of holy reminders.
b. That you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them: We might imagine an Israelite being tempted into some kind of sin, and then catching sight of his own distinctive garments – reminding him of who he is, and reminding him that others can see who he is: A child of God, and not a child of the sin he is contemplating.
i. In this sense, Christian theme clothing and jewelry and such can indeed serve a purpose. Such things can remind us of who we are, and provide a kind of “walking accountability” for our conduct.
ii. However, man’s instinctive pride always has a way of perverting such good and holy commands of God; in Jesus’ day, He directly rebuked the abuse of this command among the religious elite, speaking of how they would enlarge the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5), making the tasseled area as conspicuous as possible, as an ostentatious display of their “holiness.”
iii. The same can also be said of today’s Christian theme clothing and jewelry; it can also be abused in the same self-righteous, hypocritical manner.
© 2006 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission