Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 9/21/2017
(edited June 2021)
(Note: This meeting was cancelled at the last minute by the facility. I was sort of relieved because this was a difficult message for me to prepare and I was hesitant to share it in person back in 2017. But I’ll gladly share the message notes with you now.)
This passage occurs during the time when Ancient Israel was on their “Wilderness” march with Moses leading them. They had already received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai but were yet to enter the Promised Land. God wanted to make sure those ten commandments were being applied specifically to daily life, situation by situation.
Verses 1-2: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead:”
There would be a medical side to these instructions. To prevent diseases from spreading and harming others, would you agree? It always amazes me how much of the Bible is just straight-up common sense!
Verses 3-4: “Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: as the Lord spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.”
Was this harsh? Maybe, but allowing disease and germs to infect the whole camp would not help anybody either. They were quite crowded together. If things got really out of hand in those conditions, who would be left with enough strength to help those who had taken ill?
Besides the practical aspects of these instructions, I think that this situation was also presenting a “picture” or a lesson for us about the spiritual health of the Church which is sort of like our “camp” out in the spiritual wilderness we live in today.
Remember when Jesus said to His Disciples (see Matthew 16:5-12) not to mix in the “leaven” or spiritual doctrine of the Pharisees with their own beliefs. Well, leaders and individuals in the Church today need to guard against “infection” from harmful doctrines and practices. Christ said it - wrong thinking about God can be as deadly as any leprosy.
Verses 5-7: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; Then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.”
God wanted them (as He wants us, I think) to “set right” our trespasses and to confess them. The harder of the two for me, in my Christian life, has often been confession. To admit that I am wrong or in the wrong. Sometimes I can’t even admit it to myself! I need to get better at that.
Verses 8-10: “But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him. And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.”
Why would the priests of the Tabernacle be compensated if the victim or their family could not be found? Well, I would say, because sin, even a so-called “victimless” crime, is still an offense against the Lord. Even something like mistreating yourself is a sin against God. After all, He created us to live an abundant life!
How generous of God to command that the priests of Ancient Israel have His share of the material compensation for these trespasses. His compensation for our sin today is our confession of sin and our returning to Him through His Grace.
Verses 11-18: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, 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 earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: And the priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:”
Is this really in the Bible? Adultery seems to be treated like a private matter in our current world, right? In most of the media I see and hear, adultery is no longer a sin, it’s just a choice. One of a wide range of choices when it comes to sex. But the Lord says differently. Adultery is still a sin. A sin against an individual, a family, and in some cases a Church, and a society, too. And against the Lord. We can fool neighbors, spouses, children and friends, at least for a time. But, when it comes to adultery today, nobody is fooling God!
Verses 19-23: “And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:”
About the time this woman had to say “Amen, amen” I’ll bet many in attendance would be trembling. I would have. I think I would have seen my entire sex life, and thought life, flash before my eyes at that moment. In general, our society has lost a healthy fear of God when it comes to sexual matters. But that wasn’t the case at this little ceremony. Listen:
Verses 24-27: “And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar: And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.”
Was this a fair, even for their ancient culture? What about the men, for instance? For every woman guilty of adultery there would be a man, too. But just watching this ceremony would bring some sobriety to EVERYONE, wouldn’t you think. Plus, we are told elsewhere in the Law of Moses, that a man caught in the act of adultery was to be executed on the spot along with the woman. You can read that for yourself in Deuteronomy 22:22. Now, the point tonight is not to start a campaign to bring the Law of Moses back into effect! Not at all. But we can still learn from it. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that adultery is no longer a capital offense in the New Testament Church. If you doubt that at all, just look at this
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Christ offers us full forgiveness for all our sexual and moral failures today. Yes, He’s that powerful! His anti-adultery campaign is not execution, it is encouragement to “love” our neighbor as ourselves. Christ can change us so that we don’t need to steal someone’s spouse, or ruin someone’s reputation or destroy some child’s family life. That ain’t love. That’s not the Lord’s way, then or now.
Verses 28-30: “And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.”
This method may have actually protected an innocent woman at a time when women had fewer legal rights. Also, it’s not recorded here that women were allowed to accuse their husbands in this way. Maybe that’s because polygamy was still being tolerated in that culture. I’m not sure.
Also consider this, an innocent man accused of taking part in adultery could have possibly been cleared and had his reputation saved by this ceremony. Even though it seems so odd to us now, this also may have provided a more socially acceptable outlet to a jealous husband. So, rather than him just verbally or physically lashing out, he could seek to find the truth. It was a very pagan culture in that area of the world at that time. People were superstitious by habit. Should God have sent them a modern constitution and divorce court system? How would that have worked for them? It doesn’t always work perfectly for us, even today.
Did God lower Himself to communicate with them through a strange ritual? Sure, I imagine He did. I think, and I don’t mean to be a smart mouth, but I think that He has to lower Himself ANY TIME He communicates with ANY of us!
Verse 31: “Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.”
The Old Testament ways described here show us that sin mattered back then. That may be more than we can say about our society, with all its sophistication. How ’bout us in the Church, right now? Whether it’s sowing bad doctrine or putting lust ahead of love with your neighbor, thinking evil thoughts -does it still matter? Sin NEVER was just an offense against other people. It ALWAYS involves God. It offends God and it hurts Him. It has since the Garden of Eden and that should matter to ALL of us.