One of Fanny Crosby’s lesser-known hymns was intended to be sung by children in Sunday school: “We must not break God’s holy law, by wicked words profane, / For He will punish every one that takes His name in vain. / Remember, remember, it is the Lord’s command; / Remember, remember, it is the Lord’s command.”
When it is “the Lord’s command,” obedience can never be casual. Our reading is an encouraging reminder that—despite Israel’s disobedience— God’s promises remained true and He provided forgiveness for sin. They had blown it, but God remained faithful. A day would come when the people would enter the land.
This chapter is divided into three words of the Lord to Moses. First, God reminded the people that sacrifices were an “aroma pleasing to the Lord” because they signified genuine worship (vv. 1–16). He also noted that both Israelites and believing foreigners had the same rights and responsibilities in His eyes.
Second, God reminded the people to offer the firstfruits, not the leftovers, of their harvests (vv. 17–31). Offering the firstfruits was proper gratitude and an expression of faith in God’s continued provision. He also reminded them that unintentional sins were still sins and needed atoning sacrifices, including some cases in which the entire community was to be held responsible. Defiant sins, on the other hand, merited immediate punishment (vv. 32–36).
Finally, God reminded the people to wear tassels on their garments as a sign of being set apart to the Lord (vv. 37–41; see Deut. 22:12). This was both costly obedience, for blue dye was expensive, and a tangible reminder of their special identity as the people of God and the imperative of obedience to Him.