PURITY IN THE CAMP
Read Numbers 5:1-31
In the first part of this book we saw how the Lord organized the camp of Israel. As we move into chapter 5 we see that order is not enough. God also expected that the camp be pure and undefiled. It is one thing for local assemblies of believers to run smoothly with each person knowing his or her responsibility, but God also expects that those who serve him be right with him and live lives that are compatible with his holiness.
In verses 1-2, the Lord commanded Moses to send anyone with an infectious skin disease or discharge from their body away from the camp. The same was true for anyone who was ceremonially unclean because they had touched a dead body. These individuals were to live outside the camp as long as they were impure so that they did not defile the camp where God had chosen to dwell (verse 3).
Notice that while God is everywhere, his presence was particularly evident in the camp of Israel. He chose to reveal himself in a special way within the camp. God will make his presence known to us in special ways. Because Godâ€™s presence was evident in their midst, the people of God needed to exercise special care not to offend him.
They were to respect him and remove anything that was offensive to his character. The place where God dwelt was to be holy. Godâ€™s people were to walk in respect and honour of his name. No unclean or unholy thing was allowed in his presence. In a similar way, we who are now Godâ€™s children need to exercise great caution not to offend his Holy Spirit who is present in our lives and ministries. It is Godâ€™s desire to dwell with us, but we must walk in holiness and purity before him.
Purifying the camp required the removal of anyone who was ceremonially unclean but this was not the only thing that needed to be addressed in the camp if it was to remain pure. God also expected that any broken relation-ship between his children would be addressed. Notice what God says in verse 6:
Say to the Israelites: â€˜When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty.
It is particularly important that we see from this verse that when we hurt a brother or sister in any way we sin against God. He holds us accountable for any sin against our brother or sister.
Notice that God required two things from those who had wronged a brother or sister. The first requirement is found in verse 7. Those who wronged another were to confess the sin they had committed. This meant admitting to what they had done. In some cases this would require naming the sin before the person they had offended. You canâ€™t truly confess something and hide it at the same time. True confession requires honesty and understanding our sin. It is a recognition that we have wronged someone in a particular area and an admission of our guilt before that person.
Notice from verses 7-10 that confession was not enough. Something had to be done to make restitution. In other words, the person who had offended or wronged another needed to make things right again. Admittedly, there are times when it is impossible to repair the damage our sins have caused. The reality of the matter, however, is that the Lord required that steps be taken to this end. The guilty person needed to pay for what he or she had done. In this case, the guilty party was to calculate how much damage had been done, pay for that damage and add one-fifth more (verse 7). In the event that the person who was wronged died and had no relative to receive the restitution, the contribution was given to the Lord and would belong to the priest (verse 8). Notice that the individual who had wronged another was not only to pay for what he or she had done but also bring a ram to the Lord to cover their offence (verse 8). Restitution was not only to be made to the person offended but also to the Lord God.
If the camp was to be pure before the Lord then sins against brother and sister were to be confessed and relationships repaired. In doing this, Godâ€™s people would continue to walk in purity and Godâ€™s presence would not be offended.
The third area that needed to be addressed in the camp of Israel had to do with marriage relationships. Verses 12-13 speak of suspected unfaithfulness between a wife and another man. In the illustration given in these verses, a husband suspected that his wife has been unfaithful but had no witnesses to prove it. The tension in the marriage would be obvious and the problem needed to be resolved. Notice that the issue is not just about unfaithfulness, which was an obvious sin, but also about trust between the husband and the wife.
It was the desire of God that a man and his wife walk in harmony, trust and mutual respect. If the camp of Israel was to be pure, then husbands and wives needed to walk in faithfulness and live with confidence and trust in each other as God intended. This shows us not only how much God values marriage but also the importance he places on husbands and wives living in harmony with each other. For the camp to be pure, the relationship between husband and wife needed to be strong.
In verses 14-31 the Lord shows Moses what the priest was to do in the case of a husband suspecting his wife of unfaithfulness. The ceremony involved a number of steps. When a husband suspected his wife of unfaithfulness he was not to allow this to continue...