Replica of the Tabernacle

Replica of the Tabernacle

The story of Numbers is any interesting look at two main aspects of sin, according to Tim at Seward Church.  As we continue our journey looking for the Gospel message in the 66 books of the Bible, Numbers is our 4th stop.

A few quick thoughts on the book – it is called Numbers because it opens and closes with a census being taken. There are about 2 million Israelites or the size of the Twin Cities Metro area living on a vast plain.  The book though, shares the story of the wandering Israelites and their quest to enter the promised land.  Yes, Number is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, Hebrews 3:15-17 and I Corinthians 10:1-13.

So what are the two aspects of sin?  1) A longing to be an insider and 2) a longing to be satisfied.

We all have a desire to be a part of the “in-crowd” or on the inside of a group, or what C.S Lewis calls the inner-ring.  We may not aspire for a place of power, but we usually want to be within the group of people where power comes from though.  God created this desire within us. Wait. Isn’t that a contradiction, are you saying God created a sinful desire within us?  Nope, only that God created within us the desire to be in His inner circle, what in the Old Testament is referred to as the “Holy of Holies” or the inner-circle in the temple, tabernacle, or the tent. This is the place that only the High Priest can enter and only once a year.

Many passages throughout Numbers make it clear that only those whom God allows are to take part in the priesthood, tabernacle, and other holy things.  Take for instance Numbers 1:51 “When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.” Yikes! God is pretty strict about His holiness.

God has a high standard for who He lets in to the holiest parts, if you try to take part and shouldn’t be the consequence is… death. Our sin is that we try to lower God’s standards and create our own inside groups, cliques, and our own standards to get in.  Or maybe more importantly, we create standards to keep people out (ie racism).  Like in Numbers 12:1-2 or 16:1-11 we make-up some reason to block people out of our circles.  We will continue to be miserable, always seeking approval until we stop and seek approval only from God. The Gospel of Jesus slams all of the circles and bubbles of our life together not letting us keep people in or out.

Oh and in case you are wondering… all who come to Christ are accepted by God.

The second major aspect of sin is that we all have a longing to be satisfied.  You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  Well that was here in Numbers as well. The group of people actually started grumbling the minute God set out to free them… and continued even though He contiuned to provide for their every need.  Sound familiar?  I wonder how often we sit around and grumble, even though God has proven Himself faithful?

You might recall that God provided for the nutritional needs each day through manna.  One day God provided them with a supplement of quail to eat.  They literally had quail coming out the nostrils!  Then God returned to providing them regular old manna.  At that point according to Numbers 11:4-6 they decided that slavery under Egypt was better than freedom – because they ate better as slaves.  That seems stupid doesn’t it?

It is amazing that God continues to love and accept us, despite our foolishness and our desire to enslave ourselves to the ways of this world. Through our hero – Jesus – we are saved from our folly and receive an amazing and abundant grace.  Christ died so that we can be satisfied.  His death opens up the holiest of places for us to enter. He is the perfect high priest, the final blood sacrifice.

Through Jesus God is able to accept us completely and allows us to enter the holiest places.  Satan wants us to question this, which is why he creates unhealthy cravings and longings within us.  God won’t necessarily take away or fill our desires, but will direct us to a better place. He is willing to meet us where we are and offer us grace.  Ultimately, we have an offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:14).

Let us be free today from the longings and desires that keep us from chasing after God.

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