Friday, June 4, 2010

Do Not Follow Your Heart

In the book of Numbers, there was an episode where the Israelites panicked in fear because of the report that there were strong and powerful occupants in the Promised Land. God got angry at their rebellious fear and wanted to kill them all, but Moses managed to talk God out of doing that. So instead, God decided that He would kill all of the culpable people slowly, over the course of forty years in the desert.

Then, God decides to provide some additional rules and regulations, as we see in this study.

Do Not Follow Your Heart
In your heart, you know it is true. You know Jesus loves you. The problem is that God does not want you to follow your heart. Enter Numbers 15, where we will find a tale of burnt sacrifices, blasphemy redefined, stoning, and a stern warning against self reliance and heart-felt emotions.

Numbers 15:1-21 starts the chapter off innocuously enough. Mostly, it tells how grain and drink offerings are required with any burnt sacrifice, and how God loves the aroma of a burnt sacrifice.

One exceptional verse in that section is Numbers 15:15, regarding how God thinks immigrants should be treated:
“The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the Lord.” NIV
God consistently displays one of the most liberal set of laws regarding immigration.

Numbers 15:22-29 is fairly harmless too. It covers (yet again) what offerings are to be made regarding unintentional sin. Unintentional sin is a sin which you did not mean to do, such as by giving birth. Again, these offerings explicitly yield God's forgiveness, without Jesus and with the blood of animals despite Hebrews 10:1-25.

Numbers 15:30-31 is where things really get interesting. It states that anyone who sins intentionally effectively blasphemes God, and that person must be “cut off from his people.” As we discussed before, to be “cut off” often means to be killed. In fact, in a previous study, we saw that a blasphemer was to be stoned to death by the entire community, so that interpretation seems to hold here. This makes any intentional transgression of the Law carry a death sentence, but this contradicts the chapters upon chapters of other punishments already described, such as in Exodus 32.

To drive the point home, what follows in Numbers 15:32-36 is the tale of how a man went out gathering sticks on the Sabbath, a day when work was forbidden. God decrees that the man must be killed; stoned to death by the community. Killed for picking up sticks on the wrong day. It does not actually say that this man intentionally broke the Sabbath law. He could have forgotten what day it was, but let us give God the benefit of the doubt and say the man was defiantly picking up sticks. Ya. That makes God's death sentence seem that much more reasonable.

Closing out the chapter, God decided that the Israelites needed reminders to follow His Law. In Numbers 15:37-41, God tells the Israelites to sew blue tassels onto the corners of their clothes. Why? As God puts it in Numbers 15:39:
“You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.” NIV
The lusts of the eyes is fairly obvious to interpret. That involves sinful things which you desire upon looking at, such as your neighbor's wife, or your neighbor's ass, or your neighbor's slave (Exodus 20:17).

The lusts of your heart is not as clear, and takes some consideration. Heart can mean a lot of things, such as your own sense of right and wrong (desire to do what feels right in your heart), or your compassion towards the struggles of your fellow man.

So basically, if you feel like it is not right to kill a man for picking up sticks on a Sabbath, or if your compassion for this man's family would lead you to have mercy and enact some less-permanent punishment to that man as a warning to correct his behavior, God does not want you to follow your heart. Instead, God wants total, absolute, and mindless obedience. Look at your tassels, and kill the man per God's Law.


  1. These punishments are meant as the highest degree allowed. "I desire mercy not sacrifice." is found in Hosea 6:6 1 Sam 15:22 matt 9:13 12:7 Mark 12:33. You are right not to follow your heart for Jeremiah 17:9 says "the heart is deceitful above all things"
    Stop mocking

  2. Thanks for your comment Anonymous. I don't think you fully understand the nature of God taught by the Bible. You've listed 4 verses that say God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Are you aware that those are the only four verses to do so, and that the Bible mentions sacrifices 357 times? Did you also no that God specifically instructed or demonstrated no mercy/pity eighteen times, such as Deuteronomy 19:21?

    If God really does not want sacrifices, then His laws make Him a hypocrite. If God really does want mercy, then, again, His laws make Him a hypocrite.

    In the words of James 1:8:

    "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." NIV

    You can call this mocking if you want. All I am really trying to do is hold the mirror up to show you the truth about what is in the Bible.