Numbers 5 & Psalm 39

Numbers 5

    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.

    And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.”

    And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, If any man's wife goes astray and breaks faith with him, if a man lies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, since she was not taken in the act, and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself, then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

    “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and unbind the hair of the woman's head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband's authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then’ (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) ‘the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’

    “Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand and shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

    “This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband's authority, goes astray and defiles herself, or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.”

(Numbers 5 ESV)


Psalm 39

To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

    I said, “I will guard my ways,
        that I may not sin with my tongue;
    I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
        so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
    I was mute and silent;
        I held my peace to no avail,
    and my distress grew worse.
        My heart became hot within me.
    As I mused, the fire burned;
        then I spoke with my tongue:
    
    “O LORD, make me know my end
        and what is the measure of my days;
        let me know how fleeting I am!
    Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
        and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
    Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
        Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
    Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
        man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
    
    “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
        My hope is in you.
    Deliver me from all my transgressions.
        Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
    I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
        for it is you who have done it.
    Remove your stroke from me;
        I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
    When you discipline a man
        with rebukes for sin,
    you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
        surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah
    
    “Hear my prayer, O LORD,
        and give ear to my cry;
        hold not your peace at my tears!
    For I am a sojourner with you,
        a guest, like all my fathers.
    Look away from me, that I may smile again,
        before I depart and am no more!”

(Psalm 39 ESV)


Something to Consider

Numbers 5: The congregation of Israel was to remain pure and clean before God, and therefore anyone who was unclean must be cast out on the outside of the camp. Those who were considered unclean were not allowed to participate in the corporate worship of the camp, and it was understood that their uncleanness would somehow defile the tabernacle, which would make it impossible for God to dwell there.

An understanding of the Old Testament rules regarding uncleanliness and the cleanliness of the camp gives us a greater understanding of why Jesus was so offensive to the religious establishment of Israel during His time on earth. Christ associated Himself with those who were considered unclean and seemed to completely disregard the laws of cleanliness throughout His ministry. He touched those with leprosy, He ate with Gentiles, and He even declared that now on His authority all foods are permissible and clean. 

So how could Christ make things that are detestable to God (uncleanliness) acceptable in His sight without necessarily condoning uncleanliness or compromising the perfect cleanliness of God?

Christ has the authority to bring those outside the camp back inside the camp because Christ was willing to be cast outside the camp in their place. Christ was crucified outside the city and took upon Himself all the uncleanliness of the world so that all people might be welcomed inside the congregation of God's people. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5)

Have you ever felt that your sin has made you unworthy of worshipping in the presence of God? Christ has made you worthy. Have you ever felt like you're an outsider unwelcomed by those on the inside? Christ has welcomed you in.