Numbers 15:14-16,30-36,41 "And if any foreigners visit you or live among you and want to present a special gift as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, they must follow these same procedures. Native-born Israelites and foreigners are equal before the Lord and are subject to the same decrees. This is a permanent law for you, to be observed from generation to generation. The same instructions and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigners living among you”... “But those who brazenly violate the Lord’s will, whether native-born Israelites or foreigners, have blasphemed the Lord, and they must be cut off from the community. Since they have treated the Lord’s word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his command, they must be completely cut off and suffer the punishment for their guilt”. One day while the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they discovered a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. The people who found him doing this took him before Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the community. They held him in custody because they did not know what to do with him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must be put to death! The whole community must stone him outside the camp.” So the whole community took the man outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses... I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!”
It is not hard to pick up how harsh God is to man as in today's chapter and it leaves us wondering how the Israelites would have any hope if at all they were to live in peace with God?
In chapter 14, we see the hardness of the Israelites hearts who even after being warned by Moses, Caleb and Joshua did not heed and suffered the consequence of their selfish actions.
These people it seems were a stiff-necked people who lived by their own rules even after witnessing God work in such a powerful manner in their lives.
Their desire to satisfy themselves with what they could control subdued their willingness to submit to God who was all-powerful but not visible and therefore hard to trust.
Also, following God came with a great cost - the sacrifice of one's will and complete submission to God's ways which are way higher than man's and therefore seemingly unreachable.
To such a difficult people, God had provided them a way for reconciliation and there was no room for faltering because God was being gracious simply by continuing to lead these wicked people to their own land.
It would've been easy for God to leave them in the wilderness and let them die at the hands of the elements or their enemies but instead God chose to keep His promise to Abraham of bringing the children of Abraham into their own land after 430 years of slavery.
Now we realize that this same God we blamed for the death of one man was in fact being gracious and loving towards a people who deserved nothing but painful death as a nation.
God's instructions were explicit about what was acceptable and not and the man who collected firewood was not just being normal but was obviously defying God.
God provided the Israelites food from heaven and gave them instructions about how to celebrate Him on the sabbath and avoid doing any work that would take away from God's glory. However the man defied God and chose to serve himself before God.
This is the reason he was put to death and a painful death nonetheless. God does not appreciate us defying Him when we are under His covering and this is something believers today need to take note of.
Rather than considering the Israelites as a stiff-necked people and judging them, we need to open our eyes and realize they were no different from us today.
Rebellion, defiance, self-reliance, etc. are characters that mark all living beings regardless of race, caste or creed and what we see in this story is a reflection of us.
God's grace was evident then as is Christ's graciousness today and I pray that those of us who know His grace and have been saved by it will re-examine our hearts before the cross and resubmit to Jesus' leading.
If you do not know that gracious love of this God, I invite you to click here to know more about Jesus Christ, the son of God who made a way for you and me to live in hope and die in joy.
In His Loving Service,
If you would like to know about Jesus, then please click here.