Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
In the classic chorus, “Sanctuary,” by
John Thompson and Randy Scruggs,
the lyrics are a prayer: “Lord, prepare
me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy,
tried and true; / With thanksgiving, I’ll be
a living sanctuary for you.”
For the people of Israel, purity and
holiness had both internal and external
dimensions. The topics in today’s
reading are thus connected by an
emphasis on physical, moral, and
spiritual purity. The first topic was skin
disease and contact with corpses
(vv. 1–4). Both made people unclean,
meaning that they were disqualified
from being with the community where
God was dwelling with them so as not
to bring death into God’s presence.
The second topic was restitution
(vv. 5–10). Wronging one’s neighbor
was a grave sin that also defiled the
community’s worship. To make restitution,
the sinner not only had to make up for the
loss but also add a 20 percent penalty
along with a confession of their sin.
The third, longest, and most difficult
topic was marital purity or sexual
unfaithfulness (vv. 11–31). This procedure
applied only in the case of a husband’s
jealousy without evidence, since when
adultery was proved both the man and
woman were to be put to death (see
Deut. 22:22). But a husband could not
act on mere suspicions. Instead, the
priest would perform a ceremony to test
the wife through a kind of trial-by-ordeal.
She would either be cleared or found
guilty, but in any case the matter would
be settled, so in a sense this process
gave the wife some protection against
her husband’s jealousy. If she failed the
test, her punishment was barrenness, a
serious disgrace in that day.
God cared about the purity of His
people, and He could not tolerate sin in
their midst or death in His presence.
Apply the Word
If you’d like to dig deeper into the book of
Numbers, consider useful tools such as a
study Bible or commentary. One volume with
a wealth of helpful cultural and historical
background information is The IVP Bible
Background Commentary: Genesis–Deuteronomy,
by John H. Walton and Victor H. Matthews.
Pray with Us
Today, we pray again for the Academic Records department. Pray that God gives Julianne Van Peursem, Julie Bialas, Troy Dueck, and Tyrome Turner attention to all the details and organization of students’ records and bless their hard work and dedication.