To tide you over until our regularly scheduled blogging resumes post-Memorial Day, i.e. tomorrow, here’s a devotion from Mbird’s own Alex Large:
While the people 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 in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.
This story from Numbers reminds me of the dojo scene in the 1984 movie The Karate Kid when the evil karate teacher asks his students what they are learning. “The way of the fist sir,” they shout, “Strike first, strike hard, no mercy sir. Strike first, strike hard, no mercy sir!”
This passage has absolutely no mercy. A man is stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath. There is no mercy and he is struck down for breaking the Law of God.
Numbers and many other sections of the Law remind us that God has impassable standards. One deliberate wrongdoing and you are out and stoned to death. There is no time for explanation, defense, or justification. God’s perfection and his perfect Law demand death for a man who gathered sticks on the day of rest. No mercy.
Jesus knew the Law of God better than anyone. He knew it better than the teachers of the Law. And yet Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. He stepped in and saved her when she should have been stoned to death for her wrongdoing. He saved her even though she failed to meet God’s rules and standards.
Jesus also stepped in for us deliberate sinners. He steps in for our affairs and our betrayals when we should be faithful to our spouse. He steps in for our wasteful spending when we should give our money to those in need. He steps in for our self centered personalities when we should be listening instead of talking. He steps in for our lies and cover-ups at work when we should be honest. He steps in for our tongues when we say something hurtful to our brother.
Jesus steps in for our continual failure to do what we are supposed to do. We, too, deserve death. The question is whether you want the Old Covenant penalty for your sins or do you want the New Covenant’s final answer for it?
You will not survive the Law of Numbers. Flee any teaching that seeks judgment over grace, discipline over forgiveness, or condemnation over freedom.
Jesus is the break from the stoning and accusing past to the living sacrifice for our new present life of forgiveness. Do not return now to an agreement with God that you cannot keep. Do not return to an agreement based on tablets of stone with hard stone consequences. Instead, put on the helmet of salvation that will protect you from yourself. Put on the salvation that will grant you freedom and protection from the penalty you cannot handle. Wear the salvation that gives you safety and assurance in an accusing and unsure world. And do not take the helmet off for a second or you will surely die.