In making ready His new generation to walk in obedience, to enter His Presence and take the Promised Land, the LORD recounts the laws of the offerings. The old generation has passed and Aaron’s son, Eleazar, is now high priest. “Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on his son Eleazar… 27 So Moses did just as the Lord had commanded…” (Numbers 20:25, 27).
I found myself, once again, confused. All the preparations, all the sacrifices, the burnt, grain and drink offerings, the Sabbath, the feasts, the holy convocations… How would the people and priests have time to do anything but work to prepare the offerings?
It all seemed to me, well… completely laborious. Yet three times the LORD repeats: “you shall do no laborious work,” (28:18, 25, 26).
And this one word flooded my thoughts…dichotomy.
Dichotomy: division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups; a contrast between two things; being twofold; a classification into two opposed parts or subclasses.
Consider His Dichotomy
- His Dichotomy is a call to exertion and careful preparation in following His regulations in presenting His acceptable offerings.
- “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 ‘Command the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be careful to present My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me, at their appointed time,”‘” (28:1-2).
- His Dichotomy is a call to absolute abstinence from any laborious work.
- “On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work… 25 On the seventh day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work…26 Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the Lord in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work,” (28:18, 25, 26).
How do we respond to His Dichotomy?
How do we reconcile these two, seemingly diametrically opposed commands: to carefully prepare His acceptable offerings, and do no laborious work?
This seeming contradiction also appears in the New Testament.
- On the one hand, James says there must be works to demonstrate saving faith:
- “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself… 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead,” (James 2:14-16, 26).
- On the one other hand, Paul emphatically states saving faith is only by God’s gift of grace and nothing whatsoever to do with our works:
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
We must remember the law was never a means to salvation but a means to point to our total inability to save ourselves and our desperate need for what only He could do; His salvation that could only be accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,” (Romans 8:3-4).
“Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions… 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:19, 21-24).
Salvation has always been by faith. From the Patriarchs, to the Prophets, to the New Testament believers, it is only by faith we are granted the privilege of eternal life and His Presence.
I am not a theologian, but I see His Dichotomy as an explicit expression of His perfect holiness, power and might. Anything we do for Him is because of Him; not to earn His favor but in gratitude for His miraculous grace and mercy.
When we have tasted so great a salvation, how can we not desire to please and obey Him with every ounce of effort we possess? This exertion will not be laborious work; it will be counted a privilege.
We know we cannot save ourselves; we cannot make ourselves salt or light. Our work is to do what we can, what we must; trust Him to do what only He will. Our work is to live as a testimony of His miraculous transforming power, to live by faith as representatives of His grace and glorify our Heavenly Father.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:13-16).
Gratitude places us in the very midst of His Dichotomy; saved by His grace through faith to perform His works by faith. Gratitude will eradicate any notion of laborious work. What a privilege and joy we have to live by faith in His Dichotomy. May all our works express thanksgiving for so great a salvation, that others would see His light and bring Him glory.