Numbers: the fourth book of the Bible. It’s what I’m reading right now and it’s had me asking some strangely practical questions as of late:
How exactly do you mobilize a camp with a population presumably the size of Calgary?
How did they remove the stains from the priests’ robes after serving at the Tabernacle?
Were there flies?
What would it look like for tents to tumble into a crevice that opens beneath them?
They’re not exactly deep questions but I can’t deny they have kept me immersed in this portion of God’s word.
Last week, I reached chapter 28.
Numbers 28:3 When you make offerings by fire, you shall use yearling male lambs-each without defect. Two of them shall be offered each day as a regular burnt offering.
Sadly, as I read this verse, I was not struck by the act of worship that offering a sacrifice should have been. Instead, I saw the obligation and the repetition that this verse implied. As I underlined it in my Bible, I can’t deny I mumbled, “…no wonder they turned away…” Yes, I know how this story ends but I’m also all too familiar with the danger of disenchantment.
Six years ago I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As I began to work my new diagnosis into my life, I found myself determined to follow the rules. I was diligent in checking my blood sugars, I was concerned with making sure my carbs were counted accurately, and I truly believed that I would never be any less enthusiastic. I was wrong.
The danger of disenchantment is that even though something may have started with a sense of purpose, all too often it fades into routine. All too often it fades into obligation. All too often it becomes grounds for judgement; a source for fear of failure.
I offered it to God: Father, if You really knew these people as well as it seems You did…if You truly wanted them to genuinely love You, why did You demand from them acts that You knew would fade into obligation?
Sin. That was His answer.
Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given you the blood to sprinkle upon the alter as an atonement for your souls; it is the blood that makes atonement, because it is the life.
God chose the Israelites as His own but even in his great love for them, he couldn’t stand their sin. He despised their sin enough that, at a minimum, an offering of blood was required twice a day as a payment for the sins of the people.
“The law does not save,” I once heard a wise man say.
The offerings demanded by the law were not the ultimate answer. The debt had yet to be fully cancelled and forgiven. We rejoice because we know that even in the time of Moses and the Israelites in the desert, the wheels were already in motion for that final act of redemption.
Romans 3:25 (NIV) God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith…
Just as I wouldn’t be able to hope for a cure for diabetes the same way if I had never been diagnosed, I can only imagine the hope of those who lived under the rule of the law. I can only imagine their joy when they heard about the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I can only imagine their feeling of freedom the moment they believed.
He was their cure. He was their Redeemer.
Thanks be to God, He is my Redeemer, too.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, it always seems so small to simply say thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for canceling my debt. Thank you for forgiving my sins. As I walk on this earth, help me to remember that while the law may get old and repetitious, you are anything but. Where the world would lead me to believe I can only pass or fail, you help me to see that there is more. Where it would try to convince me I can only sink or swim, I can be free in the knowledge that with you, Jesus, I can stand upon the water.
Contributed by Julie Lee