In Numbers 15, at the end of the chapter, God gives further commands to Moses:
37 The Lord said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”(Numbers 15:37-41)
A few observations from this passage:
We need to be reminded of who we are, and WHOSE we are. For the Israelites, this took the physical form of tassels, so that when they saw them they would be reminded of their duty of obedience to their creator and liberator.
We are able to “prostitute” ourselves by going after the lusts of our own hearts and eyes. As I pondered this, this morning, I realized what an incredibly counter-cultural message this is. Have many times have we been encouraged to be true to OURselves, to go after OUR dreams, to pursue OUR own vision of what our life should be, as a matter of integrity. I’m sure that would work perfectly well if our eyes and heart had not been infected with the disease of sin. But I know for myself that I am perfectly capable of desiring that which is not at all good for me. One of the definitions of the verb “to prostitute” means “to put to any base or unworthy use.” When we consider our lives, is our focus on ourselves, our desires, our wants, our “lusts”… or is it on what God wants, becoming consecrated, “set apart” for his purposes.
Psalm 37:4 says this: Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desire of your hearts. The second part is contingent on the first part. If we really delight ourselves in the Lord, then His desires will become our desires, and so they will be satisfied.
Back to Numbers for a moment. This whole section has a premise underlying it, that human beings have the capacity for choice. Though we may, by our own natural desires (internal) or through temptation (external) be led in the wrong direction, we have the ability to be reminded and choose a different path. Cynics may say that a person cannot really change, that a leopard cannot change its spots, but for the Christian, we must disagree. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.
To be sure, the “old life” will rear up its ugly head from time to time and call us back, but now, with the Spirit of the living God inside of us, moving us to obedience, we can resist. Resistance is NOT futile.
It may take some time to leave the old life behind, but it can be done. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who had formerly struggled with pornography. He told me that it took about a year of abstaining before he really felt the “pull” of pornography weaken. And now, when the temptation did come, it was much easier to resist.
So here is what I believe:
We do have a choice.
Change is possible.
It may take time.
And as the end of that Numbers passage reminds us, in God we have a liberator – one who delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and one who is able to save us from ourselves.