In today’s world, mankind is obsessed with a “live and let live” philosophy: if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you. Gone are the times when living in sin produced a reprimand, because, after all, you “don’t know the circumstances” or “you don’t have a right to tell me what to do.” Instead of taking responsibility for our actions, many of us simply shrug them off and blame someone, or something, else.
Perhaps this is a commentary on the times, but I tend to believe this type of thing has happened for centuries. Mankind has always looked for a scapegoat, and they have always wanted to operate by their own rules instead of someone else’s – even if that “someone else” is God. We make our own paths, set our own standards, and live by them, and nobody has a right to tell us otherwise.
It jolts many people to learn how just God is in His dealings with mankind. “Minor” infractions receive severe reprimands, as one who simply reached out to stabilize a tumbling Ark was struck dead on the spot. “God is harsh,” they cry out, “and hateful to His own creation.” But is it God that is overly aggressive, or us that are too lax concerning His law?
Two instances come to mind pertaining to this thought: the man stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath in Numbers 15, and Ananias and Sapphira who died instantly for lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5. Both events happened without a personal warning previously delivered to the offender, and both received the ultimate penalty for their transgressions. Both also serve as excellent examples of just how seriously God takes His commandments.
The text leading up to the story in Numbers 15 teaches how God’s people are to respond when sins are done intentionally and unintentionally. If someone unaware of God’s law transgresses His commandment, He and the priest were to make sacrifices in atonement. If someone was aware of what God’s law was, however, and chose to act contrary to it anyways, the punishment was death “because he has despised the Word of the Lord and His commandment.” That may not have been the intent, but at its root, transgressions of God’s commandments are an affront to God Himself (Heb. 10:29).
Notice also that both of these incidents were recorded very soon after God’s law went into effect. The man picking up sticks on the Sabbath died immediately after the Mosaical law was given; Ananias and Sapphira were executed three chapters after the church was established. Their immediate judgments symbolized to the rest of God’s people just how seriously God considers His commandments to be kept. Had he given them to His people, then sat back and watched as mankind trampled over them without punishment, we would say that whether we obey them or not matters very little to God.
None of this is to claim that God sits and waits for people to transgress His commandments so that He can strike people down. God is a loving and patient God, but He is also a just God. We may not be struck down immediately for our sins today, but know that whenever we do transgress His laws, He considers that an affront to Himself and the Sacrifice His Son gave. We would do well to look at it the same way.Last modified: February 14, 2019