SOAP Journal – 20 March 2017 (Numbers 15:14-16)

If an alien sojourns with you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he [wishes to] make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the LORD, just as you do so he shall do. [As for] the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns [with you], a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the LORD. There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.

Numbers 15:14-16

The Israelites just rebelled and said they would not go into the Promised Land after ten out of twelve spies came back and reported that going into the land would be a mistake. It is not that they saw anything different than the two spies who came back and said that the Israelites should go in and conquer the land, but that they acted from fear, not from faith. The Israelites listened and decided not to go in and went so far as to start getting together an insurrection.before God put the kibosh on that. The Israelites realized that they had made a mistake and tried to go into the Promised Land, only to find out that delayed obedience causes as much trouble as disobedience. They lived out their fear and were routed by the inhabitants of the land.

It is that context that God gives Moses instruction about how things are going to happen when the Israelites do enter the Promised Land. God gives instruction about how certain kinds of offering were to be made and how much of the accompanying things was to be offered with those offerings. Then God added this morning’s verses.

God notes that the sojourner might see the Israelites doing as God commanded and decide that he, too, wants to follow God and live in obedience. It would not have been merely the obedience that the sojourner saw, but the blessing that resulted. In any event, the sojourner in question decides that he or she wants to make an offering. God preemptively quashes any notion of making Him (God) any more or less accessible to non-Israelites. God states that there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns [with you].

There is one Law; one acceptable way to approach God and be accepted by Him. The Law does not become more stringent for a non-Israelite and it does not become less so. The Law is the Law and does not alter itself to accommodate or bar anyone.

Immediately, this set of verses brings back to my mind the oft-repeated argument about how much of the Law applies to non-Jewish believers. And, thank God, the argument’s resolution (Acts 15) follows close on its heels. And there is something said in the resolution of the debate that rings of these verses. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are. (vv 7-11, emphasis added) Just as the way of approach under the covenant of the Law was singular, so, too, is the Way of salvation singular. God makes no distinction and plays no favorites. All who would come must come through Christ and His cross or not at all.

On to the application.

First, I am not to alter God’s prescribed method of salvation one bit. Access to the Father is through Christ or not at all. I cannot make the message more seeker friendly or, as one more recent appellation has it, seeker-sensitive. God will always have those who seek Him. And those who would worship Him must worship Him on His terms. This also means that I am not to make God any less accessible.There are folks who put blocks in the way of those who are seeking God. While I am not permitted to soften the message or the requirements of salvation, I am also not permitted to make them more strict. God’s Way of salvation is through Christ and His cross and I cannot change that. Not even if I wanted to.

Second, there is only One Way to the Father. There was only one way under the covenant of the Law and there is only One Way under the covenant of grace.

Third, I should be living out my faith in such a way that others see God’s blessing on me and want to follow the God I love. While material blessings are wonderful and totally legitimate — the patriarchs were all wealthy men —these are not the blessings that I think will attract most Westernized people. Our society is so agitated and malcontent, that contentment given by God is tremendously attractive. So many people are on anti-depressants that joy is attractive. So many struggle with anger issues that the peace that passes all understanding must blow their minds. Westernized society is so focused on the self that true selflessness would stand apart without even trying. The list just keeps going. All of these (and more) are blessings from God which the church in Westernized society is sometimes too quick to dismiss. These blessings in my life — if I live my life openly and honestly — will draw others to the God I love and Who has blessed me with riches that cannot be earned by working more or getting “the right job” or finding “the right person” or any of the things with which Westernized society tries to replace God.

Father, please cause me to live in such a way as brings You glory and puts Your greatest blessings on display. Please make me mindful that there is One and only One Way to You and that all of us must enter by that Door or not at all.

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