At the center and at the fringes of my life
God cares. When we find ourselves in time of need, we find great comfort in that attribute of God. We know He is paying attention, He is a God of order and details.
But at other times we like to lie to ourselves and believe that “God won’t care.” When we purposefully take the path of sin, that is what we are saying. When we lie, cheat, or steal we deceive ourselves into believing no one is watching while knowing that God sees and knows all. When we push the edges, convincing ourselves it is just little sin, we defile ourselves, something God has chosen as set apart for Him.
Let’s take the example in our lesson today. While the Hebrews were in the wilderness a man was caught collecting firewood on the Sabbath. He was taken outside of the camp and stoned.
We look at that and see a harsh penalty for what we may consider a small infraction, a misdemeanor. But instead of focusing on what the hands were doing let’s look at, to the best of our abilities, the heart of this man.
1. Did he know he wasn’t supposed to work on the Sabbath? Well, we have record that he was told in Exodus 16:23, 16:25, 16:26, 16:29, 20:8, 20:10, 20:11, 31:13, 31:14, 31:15, 31:16, 35:2.
2. Did he know why? In the above verses: a day of sabbath rest holy to the Lord, These are the things the Lord has commanded, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord, This is a sign between Me and you for the generations to come, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
3. Did he know the penalty? Ex 31:14 Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death, Exodus 35:2 Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.
4. Maybe he was an exception? Ex 20:10 neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
5. Maybe he really needed firewood? Ex 35:3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.
I don’t think there is any way to view this “misdemeanor” as anything other than a total act of defiance and rebellion against God. A willful, premeditated, direct assault on God by attacking something God had designated as holy. He was living with his tribe in a community of family. He was being provided food daily and God dwelled in the community. He wasn’t just saying that he hoped God wouldn’t care – he was saying the he didn’t care about God. Every need was being provided for him by God and he openly and publicly rejected God.
Instead of seeing this story and being concerned in our own life that if we “step out of line, God will whack us”, we need to see the deeper story. If we knowingly and purposefully reject God and defile His holy things, God cares enough that He will give us exactly what we are asking for – eternal separation from Him.
God wants to be in every part of your and my lives. He wants to be in the Holy days and in the every day. He wants to be in your heart and in the work of your hands. He wants to be not only at the center of your life but at the very edges.
We see these visual reminders. When God grew angry with the defiance of the Israelites, the fire burned at the outskirts. When the man was to be stoned, it didn’t happen inside the camp, he was taken completely outside, not to the edge, but outside. The tassles the Israelites were to wear were strong visual reminders.
Sin and temptation seldom strikes at the core of our love for God, at our heart and soul. Instead it starts at the fringes, the edges. God says, I’m there too. God says, I care about those parts of your life, too. Be holy.
2. After you enter the land I am giving you as a home. 18. When you enter the land to which I am taking you
A man found gathering wood on the Sabbath day, it was purposeful and in direct opposition to God’s commands and laws
To help themselves remember and obey God’s commands, so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes
God instructs me to have him present at the center and at all the edges of my life so that I remember Him in all