Numbers 5-6, Luke 18

All Things Are Possible With God.

Numbers 5-6, Luke 18

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27 ESV

It was literally impossible for the Israelites to maintain their holiness and purity before God. Sin and sickness, both inevitable outcomes of living in a fallen world, were going to be a constant part of their lives. And because God dwelt in their midst, the ramifications of their sinfulness and sickness were serious. Disease and disobedience both separated the people from God. The very existence of disease was a direct result of the entrance of sin into the world. Ultimately, disease and decay would lead to death. God gave Moses strict instructions about what to do with those who found themselves suffering from sickness or disease. They had to be removed from the camp. This was not an indication that their sickness was due to a specific sin they had committed, but a recognition that sickness was the inevitable byproduct of sin’s presence in the world. God expected His people to remain pure, both spiritually and physically, if they wanted to enter into His presence. But as always, God provided a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, in spite of sickness or sin.

God even expected the marriages of His people to be pure and above reproach. He provided Moses with detailed instructions regarding how to determine whether a woman was guilty of adultery. It is interesting that in the “test” God provided, the hidden sin of the woman, when revealed, would result in sickness. In this case, her sickness would be proof of her sin. It is also interesting to note that the resulting sickness attacked the very organs that had been used to commit the sin in the first place. There is much about this passage that is inexplicable, but it is clear that God was dealing with sin among His people in a powerful and pronounced way. This “test”, when witnessed by others, would more than likely prove to be an effective deterrent to further adultery in the camp.

In the closing part of chapter 6, God gives Moses a blessing to pronounce over the people. “The Lord bless you and keep you;the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 ESV). This simple, yet profound blessing reminds us that, ultimately, it was up to God to bless the people. It was up to God to maintain His presence among them by dealing justly with the sins committed by them. It was up to God to provide them with peace, when their repeated sins and inevitable exposures to sickness would leave them alienated from God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God alone is the instigator, arbiter and maintainer of the relationship He has with mankind. It is He who seeks us and not the other way around. Left to our own devices, man will always seek a god of his own choosing. Man will tend to make his relationship with his god based on his own performance and acts of self-righteousness. In His dealings with the rich young ruler, Jesus clarifies that obedience to a set of rules is not enough. God is more interested in the heart than any human efforts aimed at good behavior. The rich ruler was convinced that he could somehow earn favor with God (i.e. eternal life) through some form of works. Of his own admission, he was a rule-follower and a commandment-keeper. But Jesus knew that he had a love affair with wealth. His money had become his god. So when Jesus challenged him to see all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor, the man walked away sad and dejected. Luke clarifies that the “was extremely rich.” Then Jesus drops the bomb shell that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25 ESV). This went against everything the disciples believed. In their society, wealth was thought to be a sign of God’s blessing. So the disciples were shocked to hear Jesus’ words and asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:26 ESV). Jesus gives them an answer they would have never expected. “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 ESV).

It is God who saves, not man. It is God who does for man what man could never do for himself. Jesus was the solution to man’s persistent problem regarding sin, sickness and death. Jesus came to deal with the ramifications of sin, replacing the punishment for sin with peace with God, turning the inevitable outcome of death into the unbelievable reality of eternal life. God would do the impossible.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has always lived with the delusion that life can be lived apart from God. Even those who long for God, believe that He is little more than an objective to be pursued, a giver of gifts whose favor must be earned. They make God the means rather than the end. He becomes the resource to get what they really want: peace, prosperity, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, and significance. It is why man can make a god out of anything that even remotely seems to promise those things. But we can’t earn favor with God. And we can’t turn God into some kind of divine lottery ticket that we hope will grant us our heart’s wildest desires. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus paints a picture of two individuals who represent much of mankind. One is the self-righteous Pharisee who views himself as above reproach and head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries in terms of his spirituality. The other is the humble tax collector who, painfully aware of his sin, calls on God to show him mercy.

It was impossible for the people of Israel to live up to God’s exacting standards. They would and did continually fail. But God had provided a means of atoning for their inevitable sins and dealing with the inescapable reality of sickness. It is interesting to think about the fact that sickness was hard to hide. Skin disorders and diseases would inevitably reveal themselves to the rest of the faith community. And as soon as the sickness became apparent, it had to be dealt with. But sin can remain hidden for a long time, unobserved and not obvious to the faith community. Sin was like a cancer that was hidden, undetected among the people of God, slowly spreading and infecting the body over time.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God’s call to holiness is impossible – without His help. I cannot save myself. But not only that, I can’t sanctify myself. I can’t live up to God’s exacting standards and high expectations – if I try to do it in my own strength or if I attempt to rely on my own self-manufactured righteousness. Reading through the book of Numbers simply reminds just how holy our God really is. It reminds me just how far each of us falls short of His goal of holiness and righteousness. But with God, all things are possible. He can do for us what we could never have done on our own. He provided a Savior when I couldn’t save myself. He provided the Holy Spirit to empower and guide me, when my strength was inadequate and my sense of direction was nowhere to be found. I was blind and He opened my eyes. I was sick and He healed me. I was sin-ridden and He cleansed me. I was condemned to death and He has given me eternal life. All things are possible with Him.

Father, thank You for being a God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for You. My life is a testament to Your goodness and grace. Any good that I do and any righteousness I display are Your doing, not mine. Like Paul, I say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men