“Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do. For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you” (Numbers 15:13-16, ESV).
Will Rogers is a folk-hero of mine and of many of my fellow “Okies.” One of his most well-known sayings is this: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Will Rogers endeavored to affirm the humanity of people–even those he didn’t know–by treating them with respect and good will.
In these verses from Numbers God seems to have a similar perspective about human beings–God never met a person He didn’t love!
Numbers 15, which describes laws for offering and sacrifice, is inserted between the stories of two rebellions: Israel’s refusal to enter the promised land in Chapter 14 and the rebellion led by Korah against Moses’ leadership in Chapter 16. After the Israelites’ rebellion in Chapter 14 God had determined to destroy the Hebrew nation. Upon Moses’ intercession God sentenced the Exodus generation of Israelites to perish in the wilderness.
So, Chapter 15 marks the point where the plan for entering the promised land became the punishment of wandering in the wilderness for the next 40 years. It indicates the beginning of the end of the Exodus generation who rebelled against Moses’ leadership to enter the promised land. Perhaps the Chapter 15 worship statutes are an appeal by God for the next generation to be reconciled to Him despite the severe punishment He had imposed.
What’s interesting in this proclamation of laws on offerings and sacrifices is the inclusion of “strangers,” non-Israelites or Gentiles, in the pronouncement. While in civil matters there was a difference between strangers and true-born Israelites, there was no such distinction in the sacred duties of Jews and Gentiles under God’s law. As the Israelites did, so were the strangers among them to do before the Lord–a lesson the Apostle Peter was to learn centuries later: “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him'” (Acts 10:34-35, ESV).
The proper worship of God (through offerings and sacrifices) encouraged the Israelites to be kind to other human beings and not to oppress them because they also were accepted by God. The stranger statute was possibly intended to diffuse the pride of the Jews who were apt to being puffed up with their birthright privileges. But, it also anticipated the calling of the Gentiles and the ministration of God’s grace by His chosen people to all people.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
“I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8, ESV)
God’s plan for His chosen people has always been to receive His blessing and to share His blessing with all people. God’s chosen people have an obligation not only to believe and obey but to demonstrate their faith so all people might believe and worship God.
In the Bible in every epoch, era and generation since the Garden of Eden the dispensation of God’s grace has always been intended for all people! “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6, ESV).
God’s chosen people are the instruments for notifying all people of His grace. God assigns His chosen ones to show the way of salvation to all people. Since God never met a man He didn’t love, God’s chosen people should hold all human beings in high regard as having potential for receiving God’s salvation.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-10, ESV)