Some of my least favorite conversations start like this.
“What’s the matter?”
“I can tell something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”
Like a ping pong match, this exchange can go for a while until one or the other person breaks down and tells why they are angry/hurt/upset/worried/sad etc. Most of the time it is pretty easy to “read” the people we are close to and we know when to start this conversation.
But we know how to hide, how to pretend, how to dissemble, and how to divert attention from what is really going on with us to some other meaningless thing. God knows we do this and that we like to think we are pretty good at it. When Adam and Eve were hiding in that garden He knew where they were and why they were hiding but He asked, “Where are you?” It was similar to asking them, “What’s the matter?”
We may be able to hide from one another but we cannot hide from God. In chapter 5 of the book of Numbers God has some interesting instructions about revealing some things that could easily be kept hidden.
Leprosy – cannot be in the camp where God is; a person having leprosy must be put out of the camp. Leprosy often begins with a visible sore or white patch on the skin and it would it be easy to keep it hidden for a while.
Wrong another person – the offender must confess their sin and make proper restitution. But what if the wrong is not such a big deal or the person offended cannot be found? “No one will ever know” This is not an acceptable excuse, we know we did it and so does God. No procrastination either, do it right away before you “forget”.
Suspected adultery – a husband suspects his wife may have committed adultery but has no proof. (And yes, sorry ladies, a woman suspecting her husband did not have this same recourse and yes, this does not seem fair.) The husband must take her to the priest, he is not to nag her with accusations and because there are no witnesses she cannot be stoned to death. (The penalty for adultery Leviticus 20:10). Now it gets really interesting, the priest prepares bitter water for her to drink (water with dust from the ground mixed in) and the priest makes this pronouncement,
“the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”
There was really nothing special or “magical” in the water, the priest and woman were agreeing that God would judge her. If she had committed adultery, she would become barren – unable to bear children, her sin would be exposed.
This is one of those parts of the Bible that makes me look up to God and say, “Huh? I don’t think I really get all this, God.” And I “hear” God say, “That’s ok, I am glad you are working on it, you don’t have to understand every word of my Word but what do you get?”
And here are two things that seem very clear:
- Sin spreads, like leprosy, it will not go away and must be dealt with or it may “infect” others. Once I have taken one apple from my neighbors orchard it becomes much easier to take two or three the next time, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
- God expects His people to be holy as He is holy. To be honest in all our dealings with one another. To be honest with Him, to confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, to make restitution if necessary, to honor our marriage vows with our faithfulness. To be pure and holy is a process, it begins on the outside with cleaning up the obvious sin in our lives, whatever that is, drinking, bad language, etc. Then we are to move on the deeper levels, being honest in all of our dealings with each other and finally to honesty in our closest, most intimate relationship – our marriages.
Jon Courson (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1) writing on the woman accused of adultery in this passage says that her swollen belly indicates her inner turmoil and her rotten (wasted) thigh represents an inability to walk spiritually. A swollen belly and a painful leg make it difficult to walk (ask anyone who is 8 – 9 months pregnant!) A pure life brings inner peace and a strong walk with the Lord. How do you get that? Admit your sin to God, ask Him to forgive you, believe that Jesus died for you, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. So, keep your belly flat and your legs strong!