On Celebration, Forgiveness, Inclusion, and Simplicity

Dec 14, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Lately, social media has been buzzing over the words of a certain political candidate’s views on how we should allow or ban foreigners from entering this country–specific foreigners, in fact. I do not want to spend time on my opinion here. But I would simply ask the question, what would God tell us here? I feel that Numbers 15 gives some perspective.

Numbers 15 seems to be all over the place: Celebratory sacrifices and what should accompany them; absolution offerings and how they are done; what happens when a person, or a group, deliberately sins; a man breaking the Sabbath and his resulting execution; wearing tassels on garments… Sometimes the dots are harder to connect. But I have always felt that they are connectable, even if it takes more time to connect them.

What should accompany a freewill or peace or whole burnt offering? God gives very specific instructions about the grain and drink offerings that should do this. These are the kinds of offerings you might give at one of the appointed festivals that every Israelite was supposed to celebrate.

What should happen when a person sins unintentionally? Or when the entire community sins unintentionally? Specific instructions are given as to how absolution offerings were to be brought to the Sanctuary.

What should happen when it’s presumptuous (deliberate) sin? God tells the people they are to cut that person off from the community. This is demonstrated in a very memorable way when a man is found collecting wood on the Sabbath. The community was to take the man out of the camp and kill him by stoning him. Let the power of that lesson sink in. God didn’t just strike the man down. The sentence was carried out by the people! This man’s deliberate sin very deliberately dealt with, and the man was cut off from the people in a very definitive way. I finished this part wondering if all deliberate sins are really equal. I would think non-repentance is a factor. Obviously, if you steal something, you didn’t do that kind of think accidentally, you could be forgiven. I get the impression that this man may have been caught breaking a commandment, was likely warned, but refused to stop and refused to confess his wrongdoing.

Following this, Israelites were told to sow tassels onto their garments a blue thread to remind them to keep the commandments and be separate from the nations around them, avoiding their evil ways.

A few things speak to me from this. First, when I celebrate at all, I should celebrate God and remember that He celebrates with me (assuming the celebration is one He would condone). Never forget that God loves celebration, particular when it honors Him and His goodness.

Second, take advantage of the paths of forgiveness that God has provided. It is so much easier today than it was for the Israelites. I don’t have to kill anything on an altar. However, each day is a chance to put my self¬†on the altar (in prayer) and be forgiven. Sin is never to be taken lightly, but neither is Jesus and His sacrifice.

Third, treat people well. Don’t qualify your treatment of others by who they are and how they are like you or different from you. God gave both celebration instructions and paths to forgiveness instructions to both Israelite and foreigner. Believers, live a life of blessing to unbelievers. Don’t be afraid to invite them to your parties where they can see you celebrating the goodness of God!

Fourth, do what it takes to remember God at all times. For Israel it was to be tassels. What can it be for me? I feel that I need to be more distinguishable from the patterns of the society around me. It is not a call to be bizarre. But it does call me to do simple things, to be simple (not to be a simpleton of course), and to try and keep anything out of me and off of me that would keep them from seeing Christ in me. Perhaps even a simple alarm on my phone can remind me to look into God’s goodness through His Word or through prayer at set times during the day.

Back to that opening paragraph. Any nation God has ever blessed was blessed for the intention of being a blessing. We are no different. Clearly God expected “foreigners” to be grafted into His people over time. They were to enjoy the things God blessed His own people with. This may mean there were people that would join them over time that came from areas of concern in the surrounding world. Yet as long as they could tell that they were people who intended no harm, but desired what they had in their God, there was a path for them.

Celebration. Forgiveness. Inclusion. Obedience. These blessings were intended for all people. They still are. How should this be considered today?

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