At the end of Numbers 15, God commanded Moses to have the people attach tassels on the corner of their garments. These were accessories with a purpose:
And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. (Numbers 15:39-40)
These accessories were not intended to beautify the wearer. They were intended to remind the beholder that they had whoring hearts and eyes and they were not to follow their inclinations, but to follow God’s commands.
When I read this during some recent devotions, I groaned. It was a Romans 8:23 groan:
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
So much of our groaning comes from living with a war waging inside of us. We love the law of God in our inner being, and yet have a cursed inclination to whore after the desires of our hearts and our eyes (Romans 7:21-23). We keenly feel our wretchedness and long to be set free from the body of this death (Romans 7:24)!
Which is what Jesus Christ our Lord came to do (Romans 7:25).
Now, instead of tassels we wear a cross. This cross reminds us not only of God’s holy commandments, but also how he perfectly fulfilled them all on our behalf. This cross reminds us that God’s justice was perfectly fulfilled, God’s wrath fully propitiated, and God’s mercy and love lavishly extended. Because of the cross, our groaning is full of hope.
We will not be free from this whoring inclination until death. (Groan.) It's one of the reasons death is necessary in this age, except for those who are alive when Jesus returns. While we live, we must die daily to sin (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:31). And then there will be one last great dying. For the Christian, death is the final dying to sin.
After that, no more warring and no more whoring. O, what will that be like? We will be able to retire our battle armor. The fiery darts will cease. The pathological selfishness that has been our familiar enemy all life long, and such a source of grief, will be dead. We will be free! It will be finished.