TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 5-6
In these two chapters, there are essentially four sections or topics covered.
Numbers 5:5-10 says that when anyone realizes their sin they should confess that sin and make restitution.
Numbers 5:11-31 describes a test of adultery that a husband may put his wife through when a spirit of jealousy comes over him, whether she has defiled herself or not. The picture of a husband and wife should immediately turn our minds to Christ and the church, according to Ephesians 5:31-32. Clearly, there is much to be learned about Jesus in this portion of scripture. Perhaps we might learn what Jesus doesn’t do this to his bride. I think there are clues to that reading here, including the repeated use of the words bitter/bitterness and curse as well as the closing sentence of the section, which says, “The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.” That doesn’t sound like Jesus to me.
Numbers 6:1-21 details the vow of a Nazirite. As Jesus was from Nazareth and the passage is so obscure and seemingly out of nowhere, I believe there is much to be learned about Jesus here. This section includes separation of the Nazirite, the eighth day, not drinking wine or even vinegar (remember what Jesus refused to drink on the cross in Matthew 27:34), and, after the vow was completed, the drinking of wine (remember what Jesus told his disciples he would drink with them in his Father’s kingdom in Matthew 26:29).
But, I want to focus today’s post on just the first paragraph of Numbers 5.
MOSES PUTS THE UNCLEAN OUT OF THE CAMP
Numbers 5:1-4 says, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.’ And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.”
If we take this text for strictly for what it says, then we would have to believe that the Lord, God, drives out of the camp everyone who is diseased, sick, broken, and otherwise unclean. We would have to believe that God will not at all tolerate sin. Therefore, since God dwells in the midst of the camp, he puts out of the camp everyone that is unclean, everyone that has sin in them.
Clearly, Israel believed exactly this because verse four tells us that Israel put all the unclean outside the camp.
But, was it really God that told Moses to do this? Did Moses see God clearly? Or was Moses’ revelation of God veiled?
In Exodus 33:18, Moses asked God to show him his glory. God’s response to Moses is very telling. Verses 19-23 say, “And he [God] said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name “The Lord.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.'”
This is fascinating! Moses asked to see God’s glory. God said he would make all his goodness pass in front of Moses. But, Moses only saw God’s back. Moses didn’t, or couldn’t, see God face to face. I think many of us assume that God hid himself from Moses, that God didn’t want to fully reveal himself to Moses. But, perhaps the reason Moses did not see all the goodness of God that passed before him had more to do with Moses than with God. Moses’ view of God was veiled, distorted, only seen from the back, and not full on, face to face.
And, it’s very interesting that after Moses sees God only from the back, with his veiled view of God, that Moses goes up the mountain alone and makes two tablets of stone on which to record the law a second time.
JESUS SAYS “COME TO ME”
The last two days I wrote about the The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War (see part one and part two). We see Jesus as the tabernacle with the priests, the spiritual believers, and Israel, the carnal believers, camped around Jesus.
In the beginning of Numbers 5, not only does Moses prevent the unclean from coming into the tabernacle, he drives them completely out of the camp. In effect, Moses cut off all that were unclean from God’s people.
In God’s perfect timing, a friend posted 2 Samuel 14:14 to Facebook just before I started writing this post. The verse says, “We must die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”
To be put out of from the camp and cut off from the tabernacle would be to have life taken away. But, “God will not take away life.” While Moses makes the unclean outcasts, God devises all sorts of means so that those banished from his presence (by Moses and Israel not by God) will not remain outcasts but will be able to return to his presence. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That sort of sounds like good devising means to get people back to him.
So, does Moses’ command to put all the unlcean out of the camp sound anything like Jesus? Is this at all what Jesus said? Is this at all what Jesus did?
It’s definitely not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t put people out, drive them away, cast them off.
This first time the word come appears in the New Testament is in relation to the wise men that come from the east to find the one who had been born king of the Jews. East is the direction away from God’s presence. These wise men likely traveled from Babylon west towards God presence. There’s a good chance these wise men were “unclean.” But, Matthew 2:2 says, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Even the mere birth of Jesus bid men to come to him to worship.
In Matthew 8:5, “a centurion came forward to him [Jesus].” No doubt the centurion was unclean. He was a Gentile after all. Yet, he came to Jesus, the tabernacle. And, Jesus did not drive him away. Indeed, when Jesus saw the man’s faith, he said, “Truly, I tell you, with no in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)
In Matthew 11:27-28, Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” No one knows the Father except the Son, Jesus, and whom Jesus chooses to reveal the Father. Immediately, Jesus tells all those that labor and are wearied by their burdens – the unclean, the broken, the diseased, the forgotten, the outcast, the put out, the shamed – to come to him. Jesus doesn’t drive people away like Moses. No, he bids them to come to him, he who is the tabernacle dwelling among us.
Matthew 14:28-29 says, “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.'” Jesus didn’t tell Peter he had not been purified yet. Or, that he didn’t have his faith perfect yet. Jesus said “Come.”
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus gives the requirement for coming to him. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Being clean wasn’t the requirement. But, denying yourself, losing your own life, was.
Children were brought to Jesus so that he could lay hands on them and pray. But, the disciples rebuked the people. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
In Matthew 19:21, Jesus bid the rich young ruler, “Come, follow me.” The rich young ruler didn’t need to be fully cleansed to come to Jesus, the tabernacle. He merely needed to deny himself.
In John 5:39-40, Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” Moses wrote a good portion of the Scriptures. The Jews thought they had life in what Moses wrote. But, those scriptures of Moses repeatedly put out from the camp those that were unclean. However, Jesus, the tabernacle, says if you want life you have to come to him, not find it in what was written. What was written only points to Jesus.
In John 6:35-37, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” If you are truly hungry you will come to Jesus. Anyone that comes to Jesus, Jesus will never cast out!
To be clear – Anyone that comes to Jesus, Jesus will never cast out.
Jesus put no conditions on whoever comes. There is no requirement for cleanliness. The question is do you hunger and thirst for Jesus? If so, then come. He will receive you!
In John 6:44-45, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” The Father doesn’t cast people out, drive them out of the camp. The Father draws people to Jesus. In fact, the Father’s drawing is the only way we can come to Jesus. Without the Father drawing, no one, not one single person, would ever come to Jesus. But, all that have heard the Father’s voice will come to Jesus, the tabernacle.
JESUS CLEANSES YOU AFTER YOU COME TO HIM
I could go on and one about how Jesus says, “Come to me.” I have yet to find a passage where Jesus bids someone to come but he first requires the person to cleanse himself. Perhaps I’ve overlooked it.
In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
We don’t wash and cleanse ourselves and then come to Jesus ready to be his bride. No, we come to Jesus dirty, unclean, and broken. Then, he cleanses and washes us to present us spotless and without wrinkle, clean.
The tabernacle that God showed Moses was patterned after the heavenly reality of Jesus. All the furniture of the tabernacle was on the inside. The altar was inside the tabernacle. The wash basin was inside the tabernacle. The table of bread was inside the tabernacle. The lamp stand was inside the tabernacle. We have to come to the tabernacle to be under the blood of Jesus, to be washed by Jesus, the Word of God, to be feed on Jesus, the true bread from heaven, and to see Jesus, the light of the world that shines from the lamp stand. God does not put us out of the camp, cast us away from the tabernacle. Instead, God draws us to the tabernacle, to Jesus.
MOSES BROUGHT THE LAW, JESUS BROUGHT GRACE AND TRUTH
John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” It was the law that Moses and Israel used to put people out of the camp. They used the law to drive the unclean, particularly the Gentiles, away from God. The law was hostility between the Jews, who believed they were clean, and the Gentiles, who the Jews believed were unclean.
Jesus revealed grace and truth though. Ephesians 2:13-16 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were far have been brought near [we’ve come to Jesus] by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” The Father has drawn those that the law of Moses put out to come near by the blood of Jesus. In his flesh, Jesus abolished the law that was used to put people out of the camp, to drive them away from the tabernacle.
Therefore, let us clearly distinguish between the voice of Moses, which casts us out of the presence of the tabernacle, outside the camp, and the voice of Jesus, which over and over and over, bids us “Come to me.”