From Numbers 14-15
The Sabbath was put in place to get forgetful people to remember the LORD. The Sabbath rest is intended to enjoy the finished work of the LORD (creation,salvation) and live in it. No further work is required. In fact to work during this time implies more has to be done which rejects the work of the LORD. Jesus is the LORD of the Sabbath and he was with them! When you are with the Lord Jesus, you don’t need to do something to remember him. The bridegroom is with you and now he is risen, will always be through his Spirit.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
The LORD has brought Israel out of Egypt and given them the Law through Moses. He promised to bring them into Canaan. But when the spies returned, they became afraid and refused to go in. The LORD forgave and punished them. He did not wipe them out and he refused to allow this generation into the promised land.
There have been a number of times where they have disrespected the LORD and need reminding of who He is and how he wants them to live. Today’s passage is an example.
32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. (Nu 15.32-34)
The sabbath was given so they could remember the LORD’s acts of creation (Ex 20.8-11) and salvation (Dt 5.12-15). By gathering sticks on the Sabbath, the man broke the Sabbath. They are not sure how he should be punished for gathering sticks and forgetting to observe the Sabbath.
What do you think the punishment should be?
35 And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Nu 15.35-36)
He is to be stoned to death.
A very gruesome and painful death. Could you imagine the scene? A man screaming in pain, perhaps begging for mercy. Maybe the crowd struggling with anger, pride, revulsion, heartache, guilt and I think a lot of fear.
What would it take for you to throw a stone?
The punishment is severe in the extreme. What is the justification? If we remember the explanations given in Ex 20.8-11 and perhaps Dt 5.12-15. The sabbath was to remind them of the LORD’s mighty acts of creation and salvation. The man turned away from the LORD and refused to respect his acts of creation and salvation.
We should put this in perspective. Israel was commanded to go into Canaan and slaughter all the inhabitants. Men, women and children. It was a violent time in their history, much different from ours.
Afterward the LORD gives them another command.
37 The Lord said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. 39 And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. (Nu 15.37-39)
Strong language os associated with idolatry. Adultery and prostitution.
The LORD commanded Israel to wear the Law of Moses.
Why is it necessary they wear tassels on their clothes?
40 So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. 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.” (Nu 15.40-41)
They should wear the Law to remember to do it and to remember the LORD’s salvation. There are a few times when Israel sins that the LORD responds by giving them more burdensome laws. Some of the laws are in fact punishments.
Story of Israel
I say this because many years from this point Israel’s history is depicted in less than favorable terms.
18 “And I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourselves with their idols. I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.
But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths.
“Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness.
But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.
Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not obeyed my rules, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers’ idols.
25 Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life,
26 and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the Lord. (Eze 20.18-26)
It has got to the point where the LORD will send a foreign army to wipe them out and cart the remainder into exile. Will God’s people still have to observe all these laws?
Story of Jesus
When Jesus came people asked him similar questions about the law. In particular fasting and sabbath observance. They noticed Jesus’ followers behaved differently.
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. (Mk 2.18-20)
When people fast they deny themselves food. They don’t eat for a period and go hungry. They deny themselves to focus on the LORD. Its a spiritual exercise.
Jesus describes himself as the bridegroom and speaks about a future wedding with his followers as the guests. The wedding is the joining of Jesus with his church. Before that, Jesus will be taken away, he alludes to his own death on the cross. Jesus followers do not fast like the others because they are with him.
Then Jesus says something cryptic. We are meant to think about what he means.
21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mk 2.21-22)
New practices do not work with old practices. Jesus’ people will adopt new practices unlike the old ones because they are with him.
Jesus is saying his followers don’t have to observe the old law of Moses. Instead he replaces them.
We’ve been reading about the sabbath, what about that? This is where Peter (the author of this gospel) takes us.
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (Mk 2.23-24)
We’ve seen from Numbers they could stone him to death for this. They have been exiled for similar offenses. Now Jesus is encouraging everyone to neglect the sabbath. Or is he?
25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mk 2.25-28)
The Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of doing something unlawful. Jesus doesn’t deny what they say, rather he points to King David. Jesus says David and those with him did what was unlawful to do. Only priests can eat the bread of the presence. The common feature Jesus highlights in both is that the followers were absolved from guilt because they were with the Christ, the King of Israel.
Jesus is the Christ, come and follow him.
The Sabbath was put in place to get forgetful people to remember the LORD. The Sabbath rest is intended to enjoy the finished work of the LORD (creation,salvation) and live in it. No further work is required. In fact to work during this time implies more has to be done which rejects the work of the LORD.
Jesus is the LORD of the Sabbath and he was with them! When you are with the Lord Jesus, you don’t need to do something to remember him. The bridegroom is with you and now he is risen, will always be through his Spirit.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.