Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Numbers, chapter 15, let's turn there, one chapter tonight as we take the Lord's Supper.
Father, with the opening of the Book comes the opening of our hearts. We are tuned in. We do that with intentionality, focusing on the text of Scripture. We know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. It is theopneustos, it is God-breathed, it is ordained. And even the very things that we have been reading and are reading are, according to the apostle Paul, for our edification, our learning. These are lessons, Lord that have been told and retold for generations by parents to children that they would be encouraged not to follow bad examples, but to only follow the good. So help us, Lord, in Jesus' name, amen.
I had a friend one time who gave me a description of repentance that I thought was one of the best descriptions ever. He said, "Repentance is like brushing your teeth." You know how good it feels when you put a toothbrush and that minty-fresh feeling on your breath after you brush your teeth, and all the gunk's away, and all the foul odor is away? And it's like, ah! Fresh! Repentance feels like that, a brand-new start, and chapter 15 is all about a new start. And I think it's appropriate that we come to chapter 15 as we take the elements for the Lord's Supper together as a body.
For you see and you remember in chapters 13 and 14, those were chapters of failure. The people of Israel came up to the border, Kadesh Barnea, the El Paso of the ancient Middle East, the border town crossing over from El Paso up through Kadesh Barnea into the Promised Land to spy it out, to check it out, and to bring back fruit. They brought back the fruit. They had a report. Ten of the spies said, "It's really a great place, but there's big dudes in that great place, and there's fortified cities in that great place, and we can't take it over."
The minority report, Joshua and Caleb, said, "Man, those giants are so big, it's hard to miss. They're such easy targets. And besides that, the Lord has given us his promise. Let's take the land." But fear spread throughout the land. People were discouraged and they decided to believe the majority rather than the minority report. In chapter 15 we have a plot twist. Let me explain. Because of the wholesale fear that swept over the children of Israel, God said, "Okay, you're griping and you're complaining and you're so fearful, so you either want to go back to Egypt or stay in the land, so you can have that.
"You'll die here. And your carcasses will be buried in this wilderness. But your children whom you are so worried about, they're the ones who are going to inherit the land." So in that chapter, as you remember, there was a plague that happened, and the ten spies that brought the bad report were killed before the Lord. That got everybody's attention. On top of that, a group called the Amalekites and the Canaanites attacked the children of Israel. So things are unsettled, but now there's a plot twist. God makes a promise, essentially, in chapter 15 to a new generation.
Now I'm telling you all this for this reason. If you were just to read through the book of Numbers, it's narrative up till now: this happened, then that happened, they went into the land, and then they came back, and they said this, and they did that; then all of a sudden we come to chapter 15 and there's a set of laws. It seems disconnected from the previous chapters. Now, I'm assuming you've read ahead, so you already know this, that in chapter 15 there's a set of ceremonial laws, sacrificial laws that the children of Israel are told to practice once they get into the new land.
Now, I hope by now you're going, "What? What? What? Wait, wait, wait; wait a minute. What do you mean, 'Get into the new land?' God just said, 'You won't get into the new land. You're going to die in the wilderness.' "And all of a sudden, chapter 15, the Lord speaks to Moses and said, "Now, when they get into the land, here's what they have to practice." And you scratch your head and you go, "I don't quite get it. God just said, 'You failed to have faith. You're going to die here.' but then he says, 'When you get into the land.' "
There's a great principle here. Yes, we fail, and, yes, there are consequences to our sin, but James, chapter 2, says that, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." Romans, chapter 5, says that "Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more," or when sin reaches the high-water mark, literally, grace overflows. That's the principle here. Yes, a whole generation will fail to enter that land. They're going to die out in the wilderness. But God is bent on fulfilling his promise to the next generation. They're going to make it in the land. He's going to be merciful to their kids and to their grandkids.
And so let's look at it. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you" ' "---I'll tell you what, at this point all the eighteen-year-olds and nineteen-year-olds and twelve-year-olds perked up. Because they heard the promise that mom and dad, they're going to die out here, but now we have these new instructions, this new law for a new generation. Everybody twenty years old and above will die, but everybody twenty and below or nineteen and below, they're going to live and inherit the land.
So as this is going on all those young kids are going, "Whoa, that's a Bible study for us." And I love that because it's all about the next generation, investing in the next generation. Oh, how my heart yearns and some of our hearts on staff, like a Joshua and a Caleb, yearn for the Lord to do exceedingly abundantly above all you twenty-year-olds, nineteen-year-olds, eighteen-year-olds could and ask or think. The future belongs to you. We want to invest in you. We want to see you have the faith to take the land that God wants you to have in your generation to preach the gospel and to take to the ends of the earth.
So "when," not "if"; "when," not "perhaps"; "When you have come into the land." In Psalm 103 the psalmists says, one of my favorite verses of Scripture: "The Lord knows our frame; and he remembers that we are dust." You say, "Well, that doesn't sound like a very encouraging self-help kind of a text. That's not a real human-centered kind of a text." No. God knows the truth about us. He knows what we're made out of---dirt, dust. What do you expect out of dirt? What do you expect out of dust? Dust can't help itself. Dirt can't manage to conquer anything.
"The Lord knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." And so here is almighty God taking the ashes and the dust of their failure, but making his promise clear through it all that God is giving them a land and they are going to inhabit it. Verse 3, now we come to several laws. Some of them will be familiar, but we're going to brush through them because we want to end on this chapter and take the Lord's Supper. But there are several laws. The first is a law of the burnt offering and the peace offering.
Now, some of you are scratching your heads going, "I think I remember going through that before." Yes, but this is for a new generation. And there are a couple things added to this that they are to accompany with that sacrifice when they bring it to the Lord in the land where they go. All of that to say that God not only is promising that they're going to make it to the land, the new generation, but they're going to be blessed so well that they're going to be able to make abundant sacrifices to give back to the Lord.
Because it's interesting, the sacrifices that are mentioned aren't like the sin offering and the trespass offering, but the kind of offerings that one would give voluntarily because they want to, not because they have to; inferring that they're going to a land, God is going to bless them in the land, and they are going to want to give these offerings to the Lord who has abundantly blessed them so much. Verse 3, "'"And you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering." '" Now the word in Hebrew, "burnt offering," is the Hebrew word olah. If you were to write it down, O-L-A-H, olah.
It literally means "what goes up." You know why? Because the whole thing went up in smoke. They totally consumed it. It was absolutely, completely burned, olah, "what goes up in smoke." They were going to offer a burnt offering to the Lord, a testimony to his goodness and faithfulness. " ' "Then he who presents his offering to the Lord shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah," ' " which is two dry quarts of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin, not Benny Hinn, but a measurement of oil which is one quart. " '"And one-fourth of a hin of wine, " ' " or a quart of wine, " ' "as a drink offering and you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb.
" ' "Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah," ' " four-quarts, dry quarts, " ' "of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin," ' " that is, one and one-quarter quarts, " ' "of oil; and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin" ' " or one and one-quarter quarts of wine, " ' "as a sweet aroma to the Lord. And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or sacrifice to fulfill a vow," ' " see, this is all voluntarily. This is all worship and sacrifice, not because you have to, but because you want to.
"'"Or as a peace offering to the Lord." '" Peace offering in Hebrew: Zevach Shelamim [shelem]. Say that with me---no, I'm just kidding. [Laughter] Zevach Shelamim, it is something that is burned or consumed or brought or killed or slaughtered to bring peace between two parties is the idea. It's the slaughter that brings well-being. And it's something that---"Oh, Lord, you've just been so good to me. I just feel so intimate with you. I desire this as a testimony, this animal that's being slaughtered, because there's peace between us."
Then, verse 9, " ' "Shall be offered with the young bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour," ' " or six dry quarts, " ' "mixed with a half a hin of oil," ' " two-quarts, " ' "you shall bring as a drink offering half a hin," ' " two-quarts, " ' "of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord. Thus it shall be done for each young bull, for each ram, for each lamb or young goat. According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do with everyone according to their number. All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord." ' "
So, in short, what we just read is that: "When you guys, you nineteen-year-olds, you eighteen-year-olds, you twelve-year-olds, you next generation, you're going to come into the land that God promised your forefathers. They won't make it, you will. You're going to have your own relationship with me, your own relationship of trust. I'm going to bless you. You're going to bring offering, and when you do, you will bring with those offerings, those free will offerings: the peace offering, the burnt offering."
A couple of other offerings with it, and we'll describe a little of what that is in just a moment. One is a grain offering, and the other is a drink offering that is poured out. A drink offering or a libation was liquid that was poured out sometimes on the sacrifice, sometimes on the ground. It signified complete devotion. "I'm all-in, all of me is going in this direction." If you remember your Bibles well enough, it was a metaphor that Paul the apostle uses of his own life when he's about to die.
In Second Timothy, chapter 4, he says, "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, our righteous Judge, shall give to me on that Day, but not only to me but to all those who love his appearing." A drink offering: "I'm all-in. I know that my life is being poured out. I'm going to die. The Lord has used me, I've poured it all out for him, and now I'm going the way of sacrifice of death."
" ' "And if a stranger" ' ' verse 14, " ' "dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you." '" The stranger was a foreigner, a non-Jew, not a real Israelite, but somebody who said, "Hey, I want to be part of this as well."
Well, for a foreigner to participate in any of these sacrifices, it took a process called proselytization, conversion. If it was a male, he had to get circumcised. He had to make certain sacrifices. He had to, in effect, convert, according to the rest of Old Testament texts, to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There had to be faith in his heart. And he too then as a proselyte was allowed access to God through worship of these sacrifices. And so there was one ordinance for Jew and for Gentile. And I think it's a beautiful picture of the work of Jesus Christ, and how "there's neither Jew nor Greek; male nor female; bond or free; we are all one in Christ."
It's a picture of the future from this day onward, a picture of the church when Jew and non-Jew would stand before God as one people called the church; where God would blend Jew and Gentile together and we would all stand before him on the same basis of the blood, the sacrifice of his Son. "Again the Lord spoke to Moses saying," here's the second law. I'm going to call this the law of the cupcake [laughter], because essentially they would bake a little cake, like a little holy cupcake as an offering.
Get this, " 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land [the grain] you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so you shall offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations." ' "
It's a token of gratitude: "God has brought us into the land. He's blessed us abundantly. Our fields have produced. We make this little cupcake and we give it as a heave offering." Now, what is a heave offering? Well, we have been through this already, but, if you remember, there were two things that were sort of put together: a wave offering and a heave offering. According to Jewish tradition, a wave offering is where you would take the item, hold it up, and move it this way, horizontally. You're waving it before the Lord. A heave offering was you go vertical, up, bring it back down; up, bring it back down; up.
So the idea is that "I have received from the Lord, I give to the Lord of my firstfruits." It's what tithing is all about. It's why the first check that I want to write is to the Lord's work. It is the first of my dough, my grain, my bread. And it's interesting how in English, at least a long time ago, that was sort of the metaphor for money. "Hey, dude, you got any dough, got any bread?" Not literal dough that is fermented or unfermented or bread, but money. So, a heave offering---"Lord you've given it, I give it back to you. I received, I now worship you with the firstfruits of my increase."
Someone even suggested that this is a picture of Jesus Christ and our relationship to him. Jesus the Bread of Life, he came from heaven to the earth, he did his sacrificial work, he ascended back into heaven to the right hand of the Father. One day he is coming back again to meet us in the air and take us back with him, and then come to the earth to rule and reign and bring heaven on earth---a beautiful picture of the fulfillment of the heave offering. Verse 22 is the third law. It's the law of the sin of omission. This is when you commit something unintentionally. You blew it, you didn't mean to do it, but you did it.
There's a law for that. " ' "If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all of these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses---all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations---then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering." ' "
Sins were committed, sins are committed. Sometimes we mean to do them. Sometimes we do them just because that's our nature as sinners. Now "sin" is a word that's a very Bible word. It's not a popular word, but it's a very biblical word. It's a three-letter word. Most people treat it as a four-letter word. You mention sin to them and it's like, "Gasp! How can you dare infer that I am a sinner? I try my best!" Okay, I know, but that's not the point. Ignorance of the law is no excuse in breaking the law. Ask the police officer that when we pulls you over for a ticket, and you say, "But, Officer, I didn't know that was the speed limit."
"Well, you do now, and you will from here on out." [Laughter] See, ignorance of the law is no excuse. You've transgressed, or if you want to use the Bible word, you've "sinned." You say, "But isn't a sinner somebody who's just rotten and miserable and wicked and . . . ?" No, not necessarily. The word is Greek, harmartia, means to miss the mark. You want to make the mark, but you just can't make it. You want to shoot the arrow, but it falls short of its target. You miss the mark. Some may shoot their arrow and it falls twenty feet from the mark; others shoot the arrow and it falls two inches from the mark---you've all missed the mark.
It doesn't matter how close you got, you've all blown it, and a sacrifice has to be made because of it. You know this: the world that we live in does not buy into this. Because the world in which you live has a different worldview than you and I have. We have a spiritualistic worldview. The world around you has a mechanistic worldview. They don't believe in the idea of a sinner standing before God as somebody guilty that needs atonement. No, no. You're simply a mechanism, you're an animal, you're a biological entity, but that's it.
There's no different component or deeper component than that. It's a mechanistic worldview. Ours is a spiritualistic worldview. It seems that the world is trying to get rid of one thing, and that is, guilt. You go to a counselor and he says, "Now, now, don't be overridden with guilt. You may have blown it, but so has everybody else. Don't get down on yourself. Don't say you did this or that, look above that." The whole purpose of the cross of Jesus Christ and reason we take communion is because of the guilt complex of mankind is never fully dealt with until we come to the cross of Jesus Christ.
I had a friend, you know of the case, it happened here in Albuquerque, of a woman who bought some coffee from McDonald's a few years ago. She had it on her lap. It said it was hot on the cup, but apparently the words weren't big enough. She spilled the coffee, it burned her leg, a lawsuit developed. It was nationally and internationally known, and she walked away with 2.86 million dollars from that lawsuit. Now, that was a landmark case, but that is a case that is indicative of lots of other cases. In fact, the mentality of the modern age in our country is a victim mentality: "I'm a victim of something."
Everybody's the adult child of something. "I'm the adult child of alcoholic, or a work alcoholic, or a preacher, or whatever. So it's not my fault, it's because of someone else. I'm just the victim." "Yeah, but you spilled the coffee on you." "Yeah, I know, but it was hot." "Well, I think that's probably why you bought it, because you wanted hot coffee." "Yeah, but I didn't want it on my leg." "Exactly, so probably you shouldn't have put it there." "But it's not my fault, I'm the victim." It seems that the national anthem has become the whine. We get really, really good at it.
For unintentional sins atonement had to be made and confession had to be made. The congregation may not know about it, when it comes to terms that you were aware of it, then restitution has to be made, confession has to be made, sacrifice has to be made. So what do you do with sin? What do you do with guilt? Well, you can, number one, deny it, conceal it: "Never happened," "Not my fault," "Somebody else's fault." David sinned and tried to just cover up. He committed adultery. He tried to cover it up by lying about it, by killing somebody over it.
The book of Proverbs says, "If you try to cover your sin, you will not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes it will find mercy." Others will admit that they have a sin problem, but they're going to fix it themselves. "I'm going to get better. I'm going to improve my character and my nature. I admit I have some issues, and I'm going to take charge, and I'm going to fix myself." And some of that is helpful, but you don't have the power to do it alone. The best thing to do is to accept it, and to admit it, to confess it, and then to ask God to change you.
Cooperate with him, obey with him, but admit it and ask God for the remedy. Accept the remedy, which is forgiveness. So they had to accept that remedy. "'"You shall have one law," ' " verse 29, " ' "for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel, for the stranger who dwells among them. But the person" ' "---now here's another law. The fourth law is the law---the sin of commission: you do something deliberately wrong, the person who does anything presumptuously. The Living Bible says "deliberately."
If I say, don't cross this line." And you go like this, and you got that look on your face like, "Now what are you going to do about it?" Well, that's intentional. If you're not to cross this line, but you run so fast and you didn't see the sign and you go a couple inches over, okay, that's unintentional. This is now different. The Hebrew word is "with a high hand," whoever sins with a high hand. So your hand is raised in defiance toward God. It's the sin of a high hand. You know it's wrong. It's deliberate. It's like, "What are you going to do about it?"
Now, that's different from unintentional sin. One is sin, you miss the mark; the other is transgression, you definitely crossed the line and you sin with a high hand. "'"Whether he is a native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord." '" Again, the Living Bible says "that one is blaspheming the Lord." So it's deliberate sin. It's blasphemy against the Lord. It's that recalcitrant, hardhearted, hand up, fist clenched, deliberate sin against God. "'"He shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken his commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him." ' "
In other words, you have a person who is challenging the authority and the leadership and the sovereignty of almighty God. Well, in giving these laws these nineteen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds and twelve-year-olds who are listening, because this is a Bible study for them, they're the next generation, could be wondering, "I don't quite know exactly what you mean by that." So an example is given. So we know what it means to sin presumptuously, and we know what it means to be cut off from your people, because there's going to be an example.
Verse 32, "'now when the children 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 the congregation. They put him under guard,' "or they sequestered him away till they could figure out what to do, "'because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, "The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." So the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.' "
So you got a guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath. You go, "What's the big deal? I played Pick-Up Sticks as a kid, and my brother tried to kill me, but that's because they were his sticks." So what is the big deal? Here's a guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath, he's transgressed the commandment, and he gets stoned for it? If you, by any chance, want to see this enacted in real life today, go to Jerusalem sometime and go to a neighborhood known as Mea Shearim. In Mea Shearim---oh, they found a shot of it. It's an ultra-orthodox neighborhood of modern-day Jerusalem that takes Sabbath law very seriously.
Just recently a soldier from the area was inside guarding the people, and they all attacked him because they thought he was breaking some Sabbath law. They attacked a soldier. They had to bring the army in to get him out. If you try to drive a car through the neighborhood on the Sabbath, they will stone your car. They'll break out the windows. You will make it out at least scathed and broken up a bit. You say, "Why driving a car?" Because the Bible says you will not kindle a fire on the Sabbath day.
And as soon as you put the key in the ignition, and you turn the ignition, then the gas from the carburetor and the air goes into the cylinder, and the spark goes, the little coil gives the spark to the gas and an explosion takes place in the cylinder, and the piston goes up and down---you've started several fires over and over again on the Sabbath day. And you're driving your fire-ridden vehicle through their streets, so they'll stone you. Now, that's to the extreme, and it seems like this is to the extreme, but keep in mind that during this time in their history what the Sabbath law was all about.
The Sabbath law, according to the Ten Commandments in Exodus, was a sign of the covenant between God and man, God and his people Israel. To deliberately pickup sticks on the Sabbath is to deliberately violate the authority of God and saying, "Don't do it." "Well, I want to do it." The only reason a person would do it is to defy the authority of God, and in so doing he was executed. "'And so, the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.' "So it wasn't, like, "Oops! I blew it. I forgot it was the Sabbath."
This is a sin of presumption. This is the sin of the high hand. This is a deliberate sin. And this is what it means to commit that, and this is what it means to be cut off from your people. I see this as sort of the Old Testament equivalent of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus said, "All manner of sins will be forgiven, one won't; that is, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit"? Because it implies an over-rejection of God's solution, God's covenant solution in his Son, and to die in that, there's no forgiveness for that.
So this is pre-New Testament, but this is sort of like the best equivalent you could have of that in the Old Testament. "Again, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corner of their garments throughout their generations.' "So God's getting into the fashion industry now." 'And to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. That you may look upon it.' "Okay, so you've got these tassels on the border of your garment so that you could look at them; a visual reminder of what?
" 'You shall look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember to do all my commandments, and be holy for your God.' "The tassels were on the hem or the edge of the garment. And history tells us that there was the Israelites who you could tell their social distinction by what kind of embroidery was at the bottom of their garment. So, if you were an important person, you had a different kind of embroidery than somebody who wasn't that important, because you would have the money to be able to spend on that kind of fashion.
So the hem, the border, the edge of the garment was very, very significant. If you remember in the book of Samuel when Saul was hunting David and they went into a cave down by the Dead Sea, and Saul was in there doing his business, and David came in and he cut the border of his garment off. And then he showed him later on, "Look, I cut the edge, the border, the embroidered edge of your garment, King Saul. I was that close to you. And here is a symbol of your importance as the king. I could have done you in, but I didn't."
So the hem of the garment, the border of the garment becomes very, very important. Now according to Jewish tradition, according to Jewish tradition the threads on the garment there would be eight strands to a thread, and each tassel would be sewn with five knots; eight and five, thirteen. Follow? The number thirteen---eight threads, five knots. Okay, now, this is all according to Jewish tradition. The name of this tassel in Hebrew is the word tsit tsit [tsitsith]. I know that's a hard word to say, but if you were to spell it, it's T-S-I-T, T-S-I-T, tsit tsit. That's the Hebrew word.
You may or may not know that Hebrew letters have a numeric equivalent to them. The numeric equivalent to the Hebrew word tsit tsit is 600. So you have 613. Follow me? Why is that important? Because the Jews to this day will say God has given to the earth 613 commandments; 248 are positive, 365 are negative. They comprise the 613 commandments. So when you look down at the tassel, at the edge, at the hem, you remember you're in covenant with God who has given you his commandments, and as a follower you keep his commandments as best you can---all 613 them.
Boy, am I glad for the New Testament that says the commandments are summed up in, "Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself." I can't remember 613 commandments, but I can remember two. [Laughter] And in my Bible I have an Old Testament and a New Testament, two books in one. And I can remember the two commandments by the two testaments, but I couldn't remember 613. But they would look down and remember there are 613, some positive, mostly negative commandments that are to govern my life.
"'And that you remember and do all my commandments, and be holy for your God.' "Do you remember in the New Testament when Jesus was on the way to the house of Jairus because his child was sick and dying and actually died? And so as Jesus was on the way there was a woman who had an issue of blood. And she thought in her mind, "If I could just touch the . . . ---the hem of his garment," that tsit tsit, the tassels. As a Jewish man he wore the tallit/talit, the shawl with the tassels. "If I could just touch those, I know that I'll be healed."
As soon as she touched the hem of his garment, Jesus stop and said, "Who touched me?" And his disciples said, "Uh, who touched you? You're, like, in a crowd, everybody just touched you." "No. I perceive power has gone out of me. Somebody has set the tsit tsit, the tassels, the edge of my garment as a point of contact to release their faith and I felt it. Power has gone out of me." And that woman was healed, the issue of blood dried up. So it's a tangible reminder of the commandment.
Why would God give such an edict? You have to have these tassels so you look down and you go, "Oh, that's right. I gotta obey God." Well, he said in the text, "Because you will be inclined not to." So, when you wear these things, it's a reminder that you're Jewish. And if you've ever been around Jewish people, there are certain reminders. And males, orthodox males will have and show at their waist these little tassels. And you'll say, "Ah, there's a Jewish male. He's a Jewish person." The Amish wear certain types of clothing that distinguish them as being part of that religious community.
I do think, though you and I don't wear---I don't wear a little collar, and we don't wear certain clothes that say you're a Christian. You might wear a big T-shirt that says, "Hi, I love Jesus." That's cool. But when you advertise like that, there's something good about that. You might go, "Oh, no. That's not cool, man, to wear something with Jesus on it." Okay, but now you're held accountable because you wear something publicly. That's why often times I like to carry a Bible around. There's no mistaking what this is.
And I can go into a Starbucks with a Bible and people look at me like, "What are you doing with that in here? Don't you know this is a Starbucks?" [Laughter] But now I am held publicly accountable as I hold this Bible. What am I going to say? "What is he going act like?" "How's he going to treat the cashier?" And it's a good reminder to me that I belong to the Lord. I'm a man of this Book. You're a woman and a man of this Book. Don't be ashamed to carry your Bible around. "Oh, no. It's on my phone, man. It's cool." Okay, that's cool.
Verse 41, " 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.' "This new generation, the kids, were getting this sermon:" 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God.' "Can you say that personally, he is the Lord your God, he brought you out of the bondage of your past to be your God? It's not my father's God, my aunt's God, my grandma's God---he's my personal Savior. I walk with him. I love him. I know him. So there's chapter 15, very different from the narrative that is before and it will be very different from the narrative that follows afterwards.
We get the sin of Korah and the narrative will continue. But right in the middle it's really a message of hope. God is going to bring the generation, the next generation into land. But the severity of the law, breaking the law, as we see here, brings death. Death is the penalty for breaking the law. Committing one sin, just one sin, makes you a sinner, one sin. When you ask a person---ask somebody tomorrow, "Hey, you're a sinner. Do you know that?" Now, they're probably not going to go, "Oh, thank you very much," or," 'Have a nice day' to you too."
But ask them, "Hey, do you think you're a sinner?" Somewhere in their response they're going to say, "Well, I'm not perfect, but I'm not as bad as. . ." in a comparative sense. That's what---they live in a comparative world. It takes just one sin to make you a sinner. "And the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." This is why this is a perfect text to bring to the communion table, because we see the difference between law and grace. The law requires death. God even in the Old Testament allowed a substitute to be put in your place or in their place, and he has given to the world the greatest substitute, Jesus Christ.
"He was wounded for our transgressions . . . The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." So, the difference between the law and grace---613 commandments, or love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength; love your neighbor as yourself. If you do those two, you will fulfill the entire law. I love how John puts it in chapter 1 of his book, "For the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." And how Paul puts it in Second Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be the righteousness of God in him."
There's been a substitution, and with that substitution a transaction is made in heaven where God says, "My Son's life and my Son's death is all that is required for me to pour out my grace into your life, make you my child, and establish a covenant with you. Now just love me with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself." So, you see the difference between the law and grace? In the law God demands righteousness from you; in grace God gives righteousness to you. It's not your righteousness, it's a righteousness of his Son put to your account.
So when God looks at your account, he doesn't go, "Oh, you're bankrupt"; no, "You were bankrupt, but I see a full account here because I have put my Son's righteousness to your account." Under the law your righteousness was based on your good works. Under grace your righteousness is based on his good work and his finished work. So you're going to take these elements, and you're not going to go, "I'm not worthy. I'm not worthy." Join the club of "not worthy." We're it. We're the biggest "not worthy" club going in town. That's why we're taking these elements, to say, "We are not worthy, but he has made us worthy."
He doesn't demand righteousness, he gives it. Because of that we have covenant with him. And I look down at this Bible and I am reminded I belong to him. We're people of the Book. Father, we thank you for the reminders that fill this chapter, not "if," but "when"; not "maybe you'll make it into the new land, and maybe one day you'll get to where I've always wanted to bring you," but "when that happens, when you are in the land and you are under my blessing, then you will be a participant in these sacrifices and you will live life this way. And you will live with these reminders that you belong to me, because your heart is not inclined to remember those things."
And, so, we come to the meal that provokes our remembrance. And Jesus said, "Do this in remembrances of me." And just as the ancient and even the modern Jew looks to those tassels, the edge, the hem, we look to these elements, Lord, the bread and the wine, that we are also a covenant people. We look to the bread that reminds us of the broken body. And to the juice, the fruit of the vine or the wine from the Passover supper that sparks in our memory that blood was shed so that sins could be taken away. We're covenant people. The world drinks to forget, we drink to remember what you've done for us; not what we've done for you, what you've done for us.
So, Lord, we come to you as sinners, forgiven sinners, calling on you, Father, to forgive us for our latest transgressions, struggles that we have, asking you to raise up a whole new generation empowered by your Spirit, grateful, Lord, that we are in Christ and for that completed work that he has done. Would you take the elements that you have near you and peel the very top and take out the bread? Jesus took the bread at the Passover. It was familiar to them. It was much bigger than this little portion. And he broke it and he said to them, "This is my body that is broken for you."
In a few hours' time his body would be broken, spikes would be placed through his wrists, his feet, a spear through his side, a crown of thorns marking his brow, blood would be poured out. His body broken as Isaiah the prophet predicted, "He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities." So you hold in your hand a reminder, like the tassels, a token, and as you look upon it you remember that you have a covenant with the living God, because you allowed Jesus Christ to stand in your place, and to take the punishment upon his body, his broken body. As you take this, it's an affirmation that you believe that.
So, if you believe that, then as an affirmation let's take the bread. That night at Passover the fourth glass of wine, the cup of redemption in the Passover meal was held up. But Jesus said, "This is the cup of the new covenant, and my blood shed for the remission of sin. Do this in remembrances of me." So in obedience to our Christ we take this emblem, again, like looking down at the edge of garment remember we have a covenant with God, because though blood is required to take away sin, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin."
First John tells us that we have been cleansed by the blood of God's only Son, and that "if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." So if you believe that Jesus' blood is sufficient, is enough, and he is your Lord and your Savior, you've taken him, then you take this cup in remembrance of him. Let's take together.