27 March – 2 April 2016.
Many Christians think the Jews were incredibly strict when it came to following the law, that they carefully obeyed each word as it was written. Sadly, some Christians even want to introduce this type of strict legalism into the church!
But the situation was never that simple. The laws of Moses needed to be interpreted and applied, just as our laws today need wise judges to interpret and apply them. This means that some Old Testament laws were practically never carried out as written, others were reinterpreted to make them easier to follow, and some were made more flexible.
Numbers 9 gives us a nice example of the law’s flexibility, allowing for travelers and the unclean to celebrate the Passover a month later than everyone else. Instead of strictly forcing some to miss out, the law is reinterpreted with grace and compassion in order to include people rather than reject them. That’s an important lesson for us Christians to remember today.
Numbers 10 teaches us an even greater lesson about inclusion. In 10:29–32, Moses doesn’t want his father-in-law Hobab to leave. After all, it’s often sad to divide a family. But Hobab is a foreigner, a Midianite, and he wants to go back to his own country. To encourage Hobab to stay, Moses tries promising him riches. But Hobab is old and wise enough to know that money is not everything in life. So Moses tries again, and this time he is successful. That’s because what Hobab wants is not just riches, he wants to be useful, he wants to help. He wants to be needed. When he hears that Moses needs him, needs his wisdom, only then does he decide to stay.
We know how important cultural purity was to the ancient Jews – they didn’t always mix well with foreigners. Sadly, many countries today are the same, not willing to welcome strangers or include foreigners like Hobab. But Moses shows true wisdom by offering not only blessings to Hobab, but also partnership. Moses knows that we need different people, people with different skills and abilities. In this way Moses teaches us a good lesson about inclusion, not only in society but also in the church.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis