The book of Numbers records the events and travels of the Israelites. The first section records the events during the year in the wilderness of Sinai, following by the trails in the plains of Moab, and ending with preparations for conquering Canaan. Numbers can be a bit of a hard read because of the strange mix of information. In some sections we have armies and tribal counts, in others we have records of commands, offerings, and ceremonial law. However, there are several very interesting stories sprinkled throughout the book! For instance, the story of Balaamʼs disobedience, and the story of Phinehas, son of Eleazar (weʼll take a look at these stories in upcoming weeks!).
It also teaches us about Godʼs laws and manʼs sinfulness. The Sabbath (our Saturday) was an important day that was set aside for the Lord. It was so important that God, who neither grows tired nor weak, took a break from the creation of the world on the seventh day just to model Sabbath rest. The people of Israel were commanded to do absolutely no work. In fact when the Lord provided the miracle food called “manna” in the desert, the Israelites were commanded to gather twice as much food on Friday so that they would have enough for the Sabbath without working that day.
If youʼve played Redemption for a little while, there is a Sabbath character that has likely already crosses your mind. Heʼs a small character, based upon a small story, given no name, and yet we learn a large life lesson from him.
While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. (Numbers 15:32-34)
This may not sound like a major offense, so perhaps an illustration may help. Imagine that the President of the United States stood at ground zero in New York, remembering the terrible loss of innocent lives on September 11, 2001. Imagine that he has just called the crowd to observe 5 minutes of silence in honor of those who lost their lives. Just then a man bolts past security, grabs a microphone, and loudly announces that his band is selling CDs just around corner. He yells “Free Bird!” then jumps off stage. Can you imagine the outrage for such disrespect?
There is a time and place for silence, for gathering sticks, or advertising your new album. None of these are sins in their own time and place. But when this Sabbath Breaker got an arm full of firewood, he actively chose lumber over his Lord. This idolatry would cost him his life.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36)
In Redemption, when the Sabbath Breaker blocks, he represents gray brigade well. He wanted to get ahead (draw 3 sticks, er, cards) on the Sabbath day. Like the Pharisees of the New Testament, his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord. Ironically thousands of years later these Hard Hearted Religious Leaders would go too far to the other extreme and attempt to use the Sabbath law to keep Jesus from healing.
Devoting a day to rest was only a surface issue. The heart issue really seems to be idolatry (that is, placing something or someone above God in our hearts). I love the way Colossians 2:17 helps us understand the Old Testament. Paul says “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Have you ever made shadow puppets on the wall? The image on the wall is just a shadow, your hand is the reality. So if the Sabbath is a mere shadow of Christ, what is the true image we are to see fulfilled in Him? Should we stone people who mow their lawn on Saturday? What is the deeper issue?
Iʼll let the author of Hebrews answer that and wrap things up for us today;
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters Godʼs rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (12:1)
Though we are under grace, not under the law, we must still ask ourselves this question: “what do I allow to come before my personal time with God?”
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