God is not “permissive”, but neither is he unreasonable. Reasonable exceptions to general rules are peppered all across the pages of Holy Scripture. In Numbers 9 verses 1-3 for example, we read:
And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” (Numbers 9:1–3 ESV)
That sounds pretty straightforward. In fact, it sounds like an airtight command. Celebrate this day of worship at this particular time. Done.
But, it turns out, there were some folks who felt caught between TWO fairly airtight commands – what should they do? These people had come into contact with a dead body and would not have completed the purification rituals in time for the start of the celebration.
Which command should they ignore?
If they kept the command to worship they would be breaking the rules regarding purification. If they kept the rules regarding purification, they would fail to appear for worship at the appointed time. How should they hold these commands in tension?
Moses consulted with the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses:
“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. 11 In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. (Numbers 9:10–11 ESV)
The solution was to defer. They would complete the process of purification and celebrate the Passover a month late. That sounds entirely reasonable.
God is not rigid. He looks at the heart. These people were not neglecting gathered worship, they were legitimately concerned with how to balance a variety of important principles and commands. They went to the Lord and the Lord came back with a remarkably wise and fair-minded plan.
I’ll leave the application of this story to our current situation as a culture up to the reader.
Real life requires a little thought, a lot of prayer and occasional accommodation – thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to the most recent episodes of Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes. To access the entire library of available episodes see here.