Keeping The Way of Jesus pure is very important. We have a responsibility not to pollute it. It can be desecrated in so many ways. Moses reminded the Israelites of various laws in order to keep The Promised Land undefiled.
The first part of the chapter addresses unwitnessed murders, murders discovered but the assailant remains unknown. There is guilt but when no one knows who the guilty party is, everyone must accept the guilt. A death requires action, sin require atonement. We are responsible for one another. Had someone paid attention, perhaps a death could have been avoided. Verses 1-9 read,
If in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. 3 And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. 8 Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.
God cannot ignore such a grievous act. He requires atonement. Though we do not know who did it God does, but we are responsible for one another. If we ignore sin, if someone does not take responsibility to purge it, it ferments and grows, like yeast in dough.
There are a few ways we can let worship be tainted. One such way is new converts not being taught properly or not letting go of past beliefs. If we are not answerable to keeping our lives pure, who will be? We are the Body of Christ. Bringing people into the fold is a goal, but we do not bring them in against their wills and we do not allow them to bring paganism in either. Verses 10-14 read,
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.”
How often have I seen the church change to mollify those they hope to attract? How often have I seen practices included so that sinners could keep sinning and join the church? Instead of being proselytized and discipled they are being invited to “worship” in a bar while they get drunk, accepting sexual immorality as natural, and being taught that Jesus looks like the world.
The woman was purified of the vanities of her old life by shaving her head and paring her nails, she was given time to mourn her old life. She was not forced to become an Israelite against her wishes. We may long for someone to know Jesus, but forcing them or allowing their false beliefs to sully the truth to appease them is not the way. Church membership does not make someone Christian, confessing Jesus as Lord and believing He is Christ does.
Another way we let the purity of Christianity be defiled is disunity and partiality within the church. Moses warned Israel about this by describing the inheritance in a delicate situation. Verse 15-17 reads,
If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, 16 then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, 17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
If Peter, Paul, John, and James had not fought the Judaizers and defended gentiles’ right to accept Jesus as Savior, most of us would not have known Jesus as Lord. The church would be a sad copy of the laws and rituals of Judasim. We would not know grace; we would be seeking salvation through circumcision and whitewashing the flesh.
Some disunity comes from our own rebelliousness or the recalcitrant attitude of some members. A refusal to submit to the elders God has placed over us, to bend to the teachings of the Apostles, and continue to act licentiously. Verses 18-21 read,
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Some people will not let discipline shape them. They continue to fight against it at all costs. They continue to sin regardless. We are not supposed to tolerate it, not out of hate or superiority but out of love for Christ and love for the person who is defiling the Body. We want them to be saved from the destruction they are headed to and we want the church to be saved from the practices they introduce. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this very problem. 1 Corinthians 5:4-8 reads,
When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul also wrote to Timothy about the benefit of handing those who refuse to learn by God’s discipline over to Satan to be taught in a less gentle manner. We either make good spiritual warfare through the trials and discipline or we demolish what faith we have through rebellion. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 says,
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
We have to learn faith, learn who God is and who we are in Him. We don’t call Him Lord because we exalt ourselves into some imagined high position. We call Him Lord because we submit to His good and perfect will. We learn not to sin, to live like our old selves, and have become like Jesus.
Sin must be paid for and the wages is death. The Israelites killed a heifer, a lamb or an ox for some cases, for others the perpetrator of the sin was put to death. He wasn’t put to death to send him to hell, he was put to death to save him from sin and save Israel from the contamination of his actions. There were death sentences and there were worse death sentences. Verses 22-23 reads,
And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
When Jesus came, He chose to pay the price of sin for us. He could do that because He is God and He never sinned. He is the fulfillment of the law, the propitiation for our sins. He was hung on a tree, cursed by God, the worst death imaginable. But through His horrific death, he purified all of us who are willing to accept His beautiful gift. He rose from the dead and gave us life. Through that death our sins are forgiven but more than that, we are justified, approved of by God’s measure of righteousness, given His righteousness. Galatians 3:10-14 reads,
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
What a great gift! But we cannot sully that beautiful sacrifice with lies, blasphemy, or false religion. Keep the relationship with The Lord pure.