Today we begin Numbers Chapter Seventeen.
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“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Tell Elazar the son of Aharon the Cohen to remove the fire pans from the fire, and scatter the smoldering coals at a distance, because they have become holy‘.”-Numbers 17:1-2
In our study of Numbers Chapter 17 today, we are going to begin to see the many foundational God-principles we spent so much time studying in the Book of Leviticus come to life.
When we finished up the last chapter (Numbers 16), we ended up with the charred remains of the 250 dead bodies of those rebels who made the fatal mistake of ignoring God’s command that only the priests are allowed to offer incense to Him.
Now there was still a big problem remaining that had to be dealt with.
I’m talking about the 250 copper pans that lay on top of the roasted and toasted human remains.
Why were these copper pans a problem?
Remember how we learned that it is forbidden to take HOLY items outside of the Sanctuary grounds because they could become defiled.
Well, the reverse is also true.
If a common thing not authorized is offered up to God, it will contract HOLINESS.
And since that common thing was not supposed to contract God’s HOLINESS, it has to be dealt with.
This is the problem the 250 copper pans presented.
Again, recall the principles governing the CLEAN and UNCLEAN that we spent many painstaking hours studying.
Just as UNCLEANNESS can be transmitted to one thing from another like a contagious infection, so can HOLINESS be transmitted to one thing from another.
And if God’s HOLINESS has been transmitted to some thing minus God’s permission, it usually has to be destroyed.
Well, in pretty much every Scriptural example I’ve ever come across, the object or person who contracts God’s HOLINESS in an unauthorized manner is destroyed.
So this is the problem Moses and Aaron were facing with copper fire pans.
Notice also in verse 2 that even the coals the rebels used to offer incense had to be removed from the Tabernacle Courtyard.
The reason is because the coals the rebels used did NOT come from the Altar of Burnt Offering which is a nonnegotiable requirement for offerings to God involving fire.
The rebels had taken COMMON coals from the campfires of their own dwellings.
This was a big no-no.
Therefore, the coals had to be taken and disposed outside the camp.
However, the Lord had the people deal with the fire pans that had contracted a degree of unauthorized holiness in a different way.
Let’s read verse 3.
“Also the fire pans of these men, whose sin cost them their lives, have become holy, because they were offered before Adonai. Therefore, have them hammered into plates to cover the altar. This will be a sign for the people of Israel.”
The Lord commanded the people to hammer the fire pans into a metal lid that would cover the Brazen Altar.
Now I find it fascinating that the Lord says this will be as a sign for Israel.
This is fascinating because right here another God Principle is established.
The Principle is that the Lord will institute new commands and rulings to serve as REMINDERS so His people will not fail to obey Him.
Remember, this is exactly what He did with the TZITZIT.
The command to wear TZITZIT followed immediately after the man was executed for gathering wood on the Shabbat.
In gathering wood, this man had failed to observe of the Lord’s appointed times.
Thus, as a result, the Lord instituted the command to wear the TZITZIT so no other Israelite would make the same fatal mistake.
The newly crafted lid for the Altar constructed out of the rebels’ fire pans was to serve the same purpose.
It was to be a sobering reminder to the people that to presume to declare what is HOLY outside of what God has declared is HOLY can have disastrous consequences.