Holiness and Fairness

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Numbers 19:1-20:29; Proverbs 66:1-20

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Numbers 20:12 “And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

Whenever I read about the punishment for Moses and Aaron, my heart aches. These two leaders had been slogging hard for the people and yet because of their act of disobedience, they were forbidden to enter into the Promised Land which they had been pining for (40 years!).

I used to question if God was “fair” in this episode. Couldn’t He make an exception? Couldn’t He provide a way at least for Moses for the good he had done? After all, it was the people who made him frustrated with their endless sense of ungratefulness and rebellion.

Yet, what the Lord said to Moses and Aaron that they had failed to “uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people in Israel” shed some light into what was truly the problem. The problem was not whether God can be merciful for He had already shown much grace even to Moses. The problem was that as appointed leaders among the children of God, Moses and Aaron had shown themselves to have failed to uphold all that God stood for i.e. His holiness. If Moses and Aaron went unpunished; the whole of Israel will just grow in their rebellion. For they will come to regard God’s holiness as something laughable.

We often try to interpret God’s holiness using our own sense of “fairness”. Yet, God’s holiness operates not within the framework of the conscience of this world; but within His character and covenant with His people. The true “fairness” is this: we are a doomed people right from the start; it is only by His grace that we can ever live a new life in Jesus. Furthermore, what might seem “unfair” is perfectly justified where God’s holiness is concerned. Hence, it was totally justified for Moses to be punished and forbidden to enter the Promised Land. Even then, God’s holy love was also shown to Moses, for he was given a view of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34) just before his death at the age of 120.

I should stop asking God if things are “fair” in my life; I must learn that they never will be, not in the sense of the rules and conscience of this fallen world. Not until God comes back again where the fullness of His glory will be shown on earth and in the heavens. For now, I can only look in hope and true justice through the lens of His kingdom here and is to come; where His holiness is all that matters and where His love is already won at Calvary. He knows best. Taking a serious look at Moses’ life and reflecting on how I can grow in spiritual leadership, I believe this is where I should be heading.

Lord, may my heart be stricken by the urgency of wanting to please a holy God; instead of being lured into the never ending story of humanistic “fairness”. May He who holds all answers hold me in peace and faithfulness towards Your calling for my life. Amen.

Day 337

by Rev Joel Yong

Philemon 8-21
Christ makes me bold enough to order you to do the right thing. However, I would prefer to make an appeal on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an old man and now a prisoner for Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my child Onesimus Useful. I became his spiritual father here in prison. Once he was useless to you, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you. This is like sending you a part of myself. I wanted to keep him here with me. Then he could have served me in your place while I am in prison for spreading the Good News. Yet, I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I want you to do this favor for me out of your own free will without feeling forced to do it. Maybe Onesimus was gone for a while so that you could have him back forever– no longer as a slave but better than a slave–as a dear brother. He is especially dear to me, but even more so to you, both as a person and as a Christian. If you think of me as your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, promise to pay it back. I’m writing this with my own hand. I won’t even mention that you owe me your life. So, because we’re brothers in the Lord, do something for me. Give me some comfort because of Christ. I am confident as I write to you that you will do this. And I know that you will do even more than I ask.

Paul could order the people to receive Onesimus but he wanted them to choose to. He was a slave who fled but now returns back home to the community as a believer in Christ.
Accepting Onesimus back, was the right thing to do. It is Christ -like to forgive and forget, receive without prejudice.

If they would choose willingly to do so, it helps them grow in character and in spirit.
We too, could order our kids to obey us. But we often prefer it if they would choose willingly to do the right thing. Because when they do, we know that the right thing is no longer something they are forced to do, but something they want to do.

The lesson has thus gone deeper and we know our kids have begun to internalize these truths and habits.
It’s becoming a part of them.

What about you and me? Who is your Onesimus in life? He left you and hurt you.
The same invitation applies to us- can we receive such ‘aggressors’ back to us?
Good question to consider for today