Fear is contagious — Numbers 19-21

I hope you’re keeping up your daily reading. Getting behind can become discouraging, if you have more than a day or two to make up. Today’s reading has a lot of challenging food for thought for our permissive culture about what’s fair and right.

Penalty for false witnessing. One part of this section of Scripture that I kind of liked was the provision for false witnessing (19:15-19). If, after the judges have investigated everything, it is determined that the accusation and witnessing was deliberately false, the false witnesses aren’t just charged with perjury and fined or locked up. They suffer the same consequences that would have befallen the victim of their crime, if their lie had been believed. It would make the malicious think twice about trying to frame someone. It’s appropriate justice.

I find this so typical of God and His law — real justice. Fair, even-handed, and spot-on. Perhaps you noticed back in Leviticus (19 and 23) God’s fair provision for the poor, God welfare program for the widows, orphans, and other poor. The provision required work on the part of the poor and was generous without enabling malingerers. The examples could go on.

Some might consider God’s law (in today’s reading) about rebellious children way too severe. Others might consider calling for the death penalty of sexual offenders way over the top, too. But it should be considered in both of these situations there is still leeway given. Bringing charges like this against one’s own child would clearly be a solution of last resort; such parents would surely be without any other options. And the penalty for sexual offenders was not apparently a consequence without discretion. Consider the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8; Jesus opted for mercy on the basis of her apparent repentance. Occasionally, you see the phrase in God’s law: “your eye shall not pity”. In places where this phrase is used it seems that God is granting no leeway, no discretion about the consequences. But in other situations, where there may be mitigating circumstances, discretion apparently could be allowed.

On a different topic, God gave Israel some rules of warfare. Among the many interesting details here were exemptions for their “draft”. Among the exemptions was one for the fearful. Why? Simply put, fear, cowardice, and discouragement are infectious. And incidentally, when this law is being given, Israel rarely had any casualties. Fear — really faithlessness — has always been contagious. It is today, too. It just takes one person to start saying, “We can’t,” and before long you’ve got a whole army, a whole congregation, and lots of good works at risk. Of course, it works the other way, too. Courage can also be infectious; that’s why a good pep talk by a leader (coach, general, preacher, elder) can really go a long way.

Lastly, 21:22,23 is referenced by Paul in Galatians 3:13 as He speaks of what Jesus did for us on the cross. You see, one hung on a tree is accursed; Jesus became a curse for us and our crimes against the LORD. What a Savior!

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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