The Words as They Occur

On rare occasion, God gives a reason for His commandments. Usually, the gravity of a situation, with multiple mentions and frequent attention, is enough to convince any sincere follower of God that serious consequences are to be expected if His directives are not heeded. Many such examples are found in the pattern given for building the Tabernacle and its furniture.

In one such instance, Moses is given specific instructions as to how to manufacture Aaron’s priestly garments. The ceremonial vestment, for instance, had to have “pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around… And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die” (Exodus 28:33-35).

Commentators love to speculate as to why the bells of Aaron should tinkle to and from his ministrations of service in the Holy of Holies. On and on they go with ponderings on the pomegranates’ purpose, looking for clarity in the clanging of the bells on the borders of the cloak. But after all is said and done, famous scholars, Keil and Delitzsch, in their tome of speculative explanations, finally draw this obvious conclusion:

All that remains, therefore, is to take the words as they occur: Aaron was not to appear before the Lord without the sound of the bells upon his robe being heard, in order that he might not die…. (emp. JDS)[1]

Yes, indeed, it is the case that in every case, we should receive instruction from God as He reveals it; “take the words as they occur.” We may ponder His purpose and inquire as to His intention and still never fully grasp why God said something, but if we can understand what He said, we can obey it and please Him. Further, it should not come as a surprise that, having understood what God says, choosing not to comply comes with consequences.

It is simple, really. God communicates completely what He intends to convey, and He expects us to hear and heed. Why He has commanded something may or may not be understood (Deuteronomy 29:29) but what He reveals can be accepted and obeyed… if we will just take the words as they occur. If we do not, we will die.

Jeff Sweeten

  1. [1] e-Sword, Kiel & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary