We may think that it is strange that the story of the Israelites journey through the wilderness is now interrupted with yet another list of rules. The question may be what has happened that they need more law to govern them.
We remind ourselves here that God had promised the land of Canaan to the Israelite’s children. So the laws are restated that the parents can teach their children that were to live in the Promised Land. They had to know the Law of God so that they could teach it to their children. God was punishing His people but He was also promising that their children would live in the land of Canaan.
The Israelites were the chosen people of God and they would have to live as His chosen. The rules and laws showed that the Israelites had to live under God’s Law in the Promised Land. If they sinned against God then they would have to know how to make sacrifices to have their sin atoned for. For these sacrifices God would forgive them of their sins and bless them.
Along with the animal sacrifice the people also had to offer grain, olive oil and wine. Only a portion of the gran offering was burned and the balance was given to the priest for their welfare. The wine was poured out over the altar. The smell of these offerings was pleasing to the Lord. (Verses 3, 6-7) The people willingly gave their sacrifices because the wanted to show God that they loved Him and were thankful for the blessings that He gave them. This also confirmed that they were His people.
The Israelites would be going into a good land, a land of milk and honey, and they were to give to God the first fruits. They were to give God the first of their dough, a mixture of flour, oil and water. They were to give unto God the first of each harvest.
God was their provider and they had to return a portion back to Him to show their thankfulness. We must never forget that it is God who provides us with our food and we should always remember to thank Him for His provision.
There were many laws that the Israelites had to obey. It is easy for man to be forgetful and break a law of God by accident. If the people or just one of them broke a law by accident they had to offer a sacrifice.
There were those among the Israelites that remained rebellious towards God’s Law. In their self-pride they became wicked and refused to obey the laws of God. They did as they wanted to do and this was a serious problem for all of the Israelite people. These people were not repentant and without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Since they had rejected God they were not under His protection. These people could not receive the benefits of God’s promises to His people. Because of their refusal to become a part of His chosen people they would be separated for all time.
In these verse we see an example of a person who was sinning defiantly to the Law of God. The Sabbath day is a day of rest and to be kept holy unto God. This was a special day for the Jewish people. On this day the people did not work because God told them it was to be a day of rest.
One of the Ten Commandments that was given to Moses spoke of the importance of the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:12) God told the Israelite people to always remember that the Sabbath was a holy day. God did not want His people to work on the Sabbath as it was a day of rest.
For one to work on the Sabbath was a serious crime to the Jew. To work on the Sabbath, was a crime that was punished by death. (Exodus 31:15; Exodus 35:2-3) When the people discovered this man gathering wood on the Sabbath no one knew what to do with this man. Maybe he had made a mistake and did not know that it was the Sabbath. Maybe his sin was not done defiantly. He was guilty but only God would know if he broke the law on purpose. Only God would know if he committed blasphemy.
God told Moses that this man had to be punished according to the law. The man knew the rules and yet he disobeyed. For this reason the man was rebelling against God on purpose. This would be blasphemy against God and that was punished by death. (Leviticus 24:10-23) By His nature God wants to forgive but He is only able to forgive if we confess our sins and repent from them.
God told the Israelite people to sow tassels on the hems of their clothes. The tassels were to have a cord of blue thread on them. These tassels where to be used to remind the people of God’s Laws that they were to obey. Their obedience to His law would remind them that they were His people. As God’s people that would be in remembrance of the special promises that God had made to them.
The color blue was special. It was blue cloth that covered the Ark. (Numbers 4:6) The curtains in God’s tent we the color blue. Often the kings of the day wore blue clothes. The blue reminded the people that they belonged to God the King of kings.