Numbers 5 – Restitution
I am thoroughly enjoying our time in the book of Numbers. I should have suspected I would be blessed slowing down and digging a little deeper into this colorful narrative. I suppose it is a bit like digging for Gold. You’re hoping to find gold as you methodically and patiently dig, but you’re a little surprised and excited as each nugget is uncovered. This is exactly how I felt when I encountered the fifth chapter of Numbers. Chapter five is about keeping the camp undefiled as YHWH walks among them, but that summary statement doesn’t really do justice to the text. We must dig a little to uncover the precious nuggets.
Let’s break down three verses.
5 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
6 “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the LORD, and that person is guilty,
7 then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.
Verse five is not a complete sentence but the text most certainly deserves its own verse. It is so familiar to us that we are not moved as we read, but we should be awestruck! The covenant God whose personal name is Yahweh (YHWH) spoke to a mere man named Moses! Furthermore, it’s not the first time YHWH interacted with Moses, as signaled by the first word of the verse, then. How do you think you’d respond if YHWH were to open His mouth and speak audibly to you?
Verse six, speak to…, tells us God has a message for Moses to deliver to some audience. Who is this audience? The phrase children of Israel is such an interesting way for God to identify this fledgling Nation. YHWH identifies them as the progeny of a specific individual, a man named Israel.
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Could Genesis 32:28 be what Yahweh had in mind when He called the people, children of Israel? Is He telling them you are a people descended from a man who has prevailed with God and man and you are a people who are to do the same – It’s in your bloodline!
13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Maybe Genesis 32:28 was what God had in mind when He called them children of Israel, hard to know. But Deuteronomy 29:13 clearly explains God’s intention to fulfill His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He will establish you [them] today as a people for Himself. Why? Because He is a faithful God!
The remainder of verse six lays out some very interesting facts concerning sin. A sinning man or woman is guilty! The critical mind might ask, “isn’t that redundant”, I mean if we know they sinned doesn’t that automatically mean they are guilty? The answer is a resounding, yes! But if you think about it. Oftentimes when we sin our immediate response to the offense we committed is self-justification. “Sure I sinned against so and so, but you have no idea what they did to me! I was justified!” Nope, not according to this verse. Your sin makes you guilty, period.
Look at how verse six describes the sin. The offender committed the sin in unfaithfulness against the LORD. Every sin, private or public, whether it is eating an apple God says don’t eat or if it is murder, it is indeed committed in unfaithfulness. It is a breach of covenant with the God of the Universe. Every sin is a personal affront against God and His Word. Did you sin? No excuse will cover that sin, you are simply guilty.
Verse seven begins the steps the offender must follow after the offense has occurred. Step one, confess your sin. How many times have you or I recognized that we have sinned, but instead of confessing it we just sort of moved away from it? We may have felt bad about what we have done, but have we actually followed through with confessing it to God? Eh, God knows what I did. It’s in the past already. Why bring it up again? Well, because God expects you to confess your sin. “Ah, but Mark! Context, context, context! This is an Old Testament passage!”
Ok, then how about a New Testament verse?
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You knew I was going to go to 1 John 1:9 didn’t you? It’s beyond our scope here, but spend a few minutes in 1 John chapters one and two. You will be blessed.
The remaining part of verse seven talks about restitution, which we as modern-day Christians don’t often discuss. Rightfully so, we see the confessed sin as forgotten by God and blotted out by the blood of Jesus. Jesus forgives sin but He does not erase the consequences of that sin. Sin always costs somebody something. Think about it. Sin cost God His Son, and it cost Jesus His life. Even as believers in Jesus sin costs us fellowship with God. Sin hurts. The restitution in Numbers chapter five brings that out.
Think about this verse.
1 John 2:1
2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
All Scripture Quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.