What do you think “scope creep” means? Scope creep is something I learned about pretty soon into my undergraduate career, pursuing a degree in Computer Science. It’s used when you, the software developer or programmer, are writing code or creating something for some client who keeps changing their mind. Every time they speak to you they have something new they want to add to the project. It’s actually the worst, and I know it’s not just computer scientists who have experienced this. People do this all the time: refusing to commit, wanting more and more, wasting everyone’s time.
Kind of like the Israelites. In this chapter of the Bible there are more rules and more laws, only this time they feel a little…familiar. God tells the Israelites that they should only kill animals for food or for sacrifices. If animals are killed for food, they can’t be eaten with the blood still in them, because the blood had a special symbolic meaning for the Israelites as part of their regular sacrifices. Speaking of regular sacrifices, God talks about those a little bit, too. It seems as if we’ve heard this all before? Am I the only one?
The Treasures Within:
There are two reasons people repeat themselves. Either because what they’re saying is very important, or because you didn’t hear them the first time. Knowing the Israelites, in this case it’s probably a little bit of both. Sure enough, in verse 7, after reminding the Israelites to bring their sacrifices to the tabernacle to make an offering to God, God says that His people “must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves”. Hold up. Goat idols?! Since when?
The Israelites have strayed. This is not too surprising to those who know the track record of the Israelites, but really? So soon? Already offering to other gods? What happened? Was it all the laws and commandments? Almost all of this book of the Bible has consisted of ceremonial law, so maybe the Israelites were getting tired of being told what to do. Maybe the fear and awe for God they felt after first constructing the tabernacle has worn off. Maybe the Israelites were getting too comfortable where they were, letting the nations around them rub off on them. So now God is reminding them of who they serve and whose they are – but will they listen?
Toeing The Line
What about us? Do we listen? I remember when I was really little and the only music I listened to was the music my mother played in the car. All her music was gospel, but she used to skip certain songs because they sounded just a little too secular. Eventually we started to call those songs “on the fence” music, because it was like the musician couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be a secular artist or a gospel artist. Little me used to scoff at such flakiness, but now that I’m older…I get it. It’s so easy to become an on the fence Christian. It’s so easy to creep back into bad habits, to slide into the DMs of things that seem just a little wrong or a little dangerous. I mean, the Bible doesn’t explicitly say this is a sin! Or doing this just one time won’t really do much harm. And is this really all that bad?
It all feels so harmless in the moment, but if we pull back the lens – we’re making sacrifices to goat idols. We’re claiming to be God’s people, but we’re disobeying Him. We’re pretending to be Christians while we spend all our time with the nations around us. Why do we do this? Why don’t we just get off the fence on one side or the other and stay there? The fence is fun and comfortable and has a convincing facade of safety, but in truth, we’re lying to ourselves. The words we say about how much we love God or how sure we are that He’s coming back don’t change our actions. We might as well be on the other side of the fence – the wrong side of the fence. So why don’t we get down? Why do we insist on having our fun? What’s it going to take to keep us on the right side of the fence?
God’s Message To Us:
“Decide whether or not you are going to serve Me.” If we’re still here, it’s because deep down we know which side of the fence we’re supposed to be on – we just can’t free ourselves from the seductive, tempting tentacles of the wrong side. It’s a story as old as time – clearly. How do we change the plot line? We have to make a decision. God here puts the situation into plain words: “Don’t do this anymore.” He wanted the Israelites to come back down onto His side of the fence. But what about you and me? We know we need Jesus. Is that enough to get us on the right side? What is it that we see in Jesus? Is it the incomparable love of Him dying on the cross? Is it the sweet and comforting poetry of His in the Bible, reminding us that He’s crazy about us? Is it the firmness of His law, His knowledge of what is truly best for us? Is it all of those things? Or is it none of those things? God wants us to plant our feet firmly on His solid ground and stay there. And when we make that decision and truly fall in love with Jesus Christ, the insidious lure of sin creep will threaten us no more.
What do you think? What do you think about the Israelites’ behavior in this chapter? What message did God put in this chapter of the Bible for you?