And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?” – Numbers 17:12-13
Finally, the Israelites seem to get it. They show respect for the holiness of God. This is pleasing to the LORD. We know this from Deuteronomy 5:22-33. At the time the LORD had spoken to them from Sinai they had shown similar awe. The LORD’s response was wonderful, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always.” Our God is a consuming fire, and therefore we have to worship Him with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29). Let’s keep this in mind as we prepare for worship. Does our worship reflect this respect for the holiness of our God?
“Are we all to perish?” The LORD answers the question of His people. He makes the priests responsible for guarding the holiness of the LORD. When they do their work faithfully, Israel will be able to come near to God and not be consumed. If they do not serve faithfully, then the LORD will punish the priests; they will bear the iniquity. The priests receive a clear mandate to guard the holiness of the sanctuary and they are accountable to the LORD. This chapter has implications for the task of the elders to exercise discipline over the congregation. If they do this faithfully, it will be a blessing to the church.
How can we come near to God? It is an important question for us as well. The answer is even more wonderful than the one Israel received. We can come near in confidence through the atoning work of our Priest, Jesus Christ.
Suggestions for prayer
Thank the Lord for the perfect work of our High Priest. Thank Him also for elders who are charged to supervise us. Pray that we prepare ourselves for worship in the proper way. Pray that the elders may receive wisdom and courage.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College.