Friday, April 16, 2010

Celebrate or Die?

In Numbers, after God described how you could become a Nazirite by making a special vow to Him, the Tabernacle and the Levites get consecrated. Now, in the first month of the second year since the Israelites left Egypt, it is time to party!

Passover is an annual celebration commemorating when God killed every firstborn male in Egypt, native Egyptians and foreign slaves alike, men and cattle. This death “passed over” the Israelite households because they painted their door frames with the blood of sheep or goats. Read Exodus 11 and 12 for all of the details of the event being celebrated. Reference Exodus 12, 13, and 34, and Leviticus 23 for regulations involving the celebration.

Celebrate or Die?
God loves a celebration. He must, given the number of festivals which He prescribes in the Old Testament. Like any party host, God does not appreciate it when His invited guests do not come to the party. But instead of simply being annoyed or disappointed by an ungracious invitee, God takes it to another level, as we find in our study of Numbers 9:1-14.

In Numbers 9:1-5, we see that God told the Israelites to celebrate Passover per the prescribed regulations. So Moses and the Israelites do just that.

However, some Israelites did not celebrate the Passover because they were unclean, due to having been near a dead body. Moses consults with God on what to do about this situation. God tells Moses that the unclean are allowed to celebrate Passover per all of its regulations if they want to do so, as are those who are traveling (Numbers 9:6-12). God even goes on to extend the same invitation to celebrate Passover to the aliens living among the Israelites (Numbers 9:14).

So God is understanding of Israelites with good excuses, such as being unclean or away from home. He says that they may celebrate Passover, but that it is not mandatory. That is good, but what about those Israelites who simply opt out of the celebration?

In Numbers 9:13, we read:
“But if a man who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, that person must be cut off from his people because he did not present the Lord's offering at the appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin.” NIV
As previously discussed, to be “cut off” is often a Biblical euphemism for being killed. Not celebrating Passover is quite possibly a sin worthy of terminating your life. Celebrate or die.

What does this say about God? That you must worship God exactly when and how He instructs or risk being killed? Put aside your thoughts of whether or not this is truly righteous justice and consider something else; love. How does this demonstrate God's love? How does this encourage you to seek God out of love versus running to God out of fear?

It is interesting to note that there is a parallel in the New Testament here. In Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:16-23, Jesus gives a parable of a wedding banquet and a great banquet respectively. Both of these parables have a banquet host and guests who refuse his invitation, and in both stories the host invites other people, perhaps like the aliens, the unclean, and the travelers in the Passover account. In Matthew 22:7, the banquet host sends his army to kill those who refused the invitation and to burn down their entire towns!

Just remember, God is love and your freewill submission of love to Him is the entire point of your existence. Right? So love God and celebrate, or die! That is God's true love.

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