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5. Various Laws, the Sabbath-Breaker, and the Tassels on the Garments
1. Concerning offerings in the land (Numbers 15:1-16 )
2. The second communication concerning offerings (Numbers 15:17-31 )
3. The Sabbath-breaker (Numbers 15:32-36 )
4. The tassels on the garments (Numbers 15:37-41 )
The historical account is here interrupted. What the critics have to say about this chapter speaking of it as an evidence of the patchwork of different persons, we care not to follow. Our space is too valuable for that. The chapter is beautifully in order at this point. God gave two communications to Moses (verses 1 and 17). In the foreground of these communications stand the comforting assurance, “When ye come into the land.” Jehovah assured them that in spite of all their failure He would give them the land and that He would bring them there. While the great mass died in the wilderness they received nevertheless the assurance that the rest would reach that land. And then they would bring the sacrifices and offerings. God’s faithfulness stands here in contrast with man’s failure. We cannot enter into the details of this chapter. The offerings speak of Christ as they always do. The stranger is also mentioned (verses 14-16). There was to be one law and one custom for Israel and for the stranger among them. The stranger is placed upon the same level with the Jew. While in Exodus 12:48 the circumcision of the stranger who would keep Passover is commanded, nothing is said here of this rite as touching the stranger. And this is not without meaning.
“Israel had forfeited everything. The rebellious generation was to be set aside and cut off; but God’s eternal purpose of grace must stand, and all His promises be fulfilled. All Israel shall be saved; they shall possess the land; they shall offer pure offerings, pay their vows, and taste the joy of the kingdom. On what ground? On the ground of sovereign mercy. Well, it is on the self same ground that ‘the stranger’ shall be brought in; and not only brought in, but ‘as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord’“ (C.H. Mackintosh).
All will find its final great fulfillment in the day when wandering Israel is restored to the land. And that day seems no longer far off. God will keep His promises, for His gifts and calling are without repentance. The annotations in Leviticus will help in understanding verses 22-31. The burnt offering and the sin offering typify the atoning death of our Lord. The presumptuous sin mentioned in verses 30-31 is illustrated by the case of the Sabbath-breaker. And there is a deeper lesson connected with it. Rest is procured through the finished work of Christ. The sinner who refuses this offered rest and passes it by, substituting for it his own works, acts presumptuously and will be cut off. He has despised the word and the work of Jehovah. It is the “anathema” of the Epistle to the Galatians.
The tassels of blue, the heavenly color, (in Hebrew ‘Tsitsith’; still worn by orthodox Jews in literal fulfillment of the command) were to remind them of the commandments so that they would do them and not go after strange things. It was a help to a separated, a holy life. May we be constantly reminded by the Word of God of an holy and heavenly calling and be delivered from worldliness.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Numbers 15". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16