The Israelites had just received the devastating news that they are not going to enter the Promised Land after all, but are going to spend the remainder of their years wandering in the wilderness eating manna, until every last one of them has died, but Joshua and Caleb. But notice how good the LORD is in the middle of that devastation: chapter 15 opens with, “When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you …” In other words, “Yes, you really messed up big this time, but I am not going back on My word, and you are still going to inherit the land (even if it will be through your children)!”
The focus of chapter 15 is not just a repeat of previously given commandments, but,
“All who are native born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever is among you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations: as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.” Num 15:13-16
“It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally.” Num 15:26
“You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.” Num 15:29
“But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people.” Num 15:30
Now, remember the LORD’s purpose in making one nation from Abraham who would serve and worship Him? All the nations rebelled against Him at Babel, and there was no one left in the earth who would have the true God, YHVH Creator of heaven and earth, for his God. But when Abraham was born, he took the LORD for his God – he is the father of all who believe.
So God brought His one nation out of Egypt and made covenant with them, to be their God, to bring them into the land He promised to Abraham. He taught them His ways of walking, given as commandments, which are all righteousness and truth, and all opposed to the ways the nations walk in who serve their false gods. Even when Israel came up out of Egypt, a mixed multitude came up with them – many who were not biological descendants of Jacob.
But this is the LORD’s plan all along! That Israel, walking in God’s ways of righteousness and truth, would shine as a beacon on a hill, so that the nations would be drawn to her light (His light) and come join themselves to the God of Israel – to return to the true God. As that happens, and as those who are not native born come to dwell among them, God’s ways of righteousness and truth expressed in Israel’s law is to apply equally to all. Israel is to walk in Torah, and the Gentiles who join themselves to Israel are also to walk in Torah. The Gentiles who come to faith in the God of Abraham are not to have a different law because they are not biological descendants of Abraham.
This is another way of saying, that it is the children of the faith who are the children of God and full citizens and not the children of the flesh only – although He kept His promise and worked out salvation for the world through the children of the flesh. And all the children of the flesh who have faith in God – they are of course in too, being the cultivated olive tree (Rom 11:24)!
And if someone of the flesh, like the man who ignored the Sabbath commandment presumptuously, decides they are not going to have faith in YHVH any longer and chooses to ignore His ways of righteousness and truth expressed in His commandments, then he dies in his rebellion and sin, just as the son of the Egyptian died in his rebellion and sin (Lev 24:10-23 – the passage of the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath is thematically connected to the passage of the son of the Egyptian who blasphemed the LORD – Scripture wants us to see that this incident in Numbers is a near repeat of that incident in Leviticus).
For further study: There are many passages in today’s and yesterday’s reading, that are near repeats, as the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath is. You have probably noticed how familiar the details sound as you have been reading the past few days. Can you find the original passages that these passages in Numbers are repeating? Make a list or chart of them. Where have we seen repeats like this before? We discovered in Genesis that the lives of the patriarchs repeated each other! What is Scripture teaching by repetition?
Finding Messiah: Find all the instances of intercession that Moses engages in on rebellious Israel’s behalf, from yesterday’s reading and today’s. He seeks to atone for their sin before the LORD even as they are trying to replace him as leader over them, and stone him to death with stones! (Hmmm … these same details are near repeats in the life of Jesus also!) This self- sacrificial intercession and turning away the just wrath of God from the willful rebellion and sin of the people, is a prophetic picture of Messiah who is to come.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25