So That They Will Not Die

or just stop living.

Exodus 30:17-21 (NIV)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

Imagine this sign in a restaurant bathroom.

Employees must wash their hands before returning to work – so that they will not die.

Signs like this are common (without the death clause, of course). They sometimes include a reference to a state law at the bottom. I’d love to see one with the full text above. They could put the reference, “— Exodus 30:21” at the bottom. At least it would get folks to look up the verse.

So, God’s wants His priests to wash up. You got a problem with that? Restaurants want the same thing. The capital punishment bit is extreme, but it’s His tabernacle and His rules. Is that really too much to ask?

But there’s an interesting aspect to this that most folks don’t think about. It’s not really capital punishment because it’s not really killing. All life is from God. God taking away life isn’t killing; it’s ceasing giving. As soon as God stops sustaining a life, that life ends.

It’s like they die of natural causes.

This “God as the sustainer of life” perspective is relevant to us in many ways. For example, we pray a lot for healing. Variations on this theme dominate most prayer request emails. There’s nothing wrong with that. God is the great healer.

But I wonder if we’re not coming at this the wrong way. We think of God fixing us like the way we think of a surgeon fixing us.

But a surgeon isn’t the original life giving force. He/she is just an outside agent. Conversely, God doesn’t “fix.” He restores. He creates. He blesses. He’s not external to the situation; He’s the creator, owner, and Lord of everything.

None of this necessarily changes the wording of a prayer request. We normally plead for a particular outcome; we don’t tell God how He should do it. This concept just changes how we view God’s relationship to the thing we want to see fixed.

The difference is that we’re asking God to change His “pride and joy.” He’s a stakeholder. He doesn’t care about you the way a surgeon cares about you.

His love goes much deeper than that.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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