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. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.” (Numbers 15:39-41 ESV)
These tassels are to be put onto the corners of everyone’s garments to be a reminder to the people, kind of like tying a string on your finger so that you don’t forget. The tassels were to remind them of the commandments of God. The reason too is given for this, because we are inclined to whore after our own hearts and eyes. We see from this how untrustworthy our hearts are, and that without the plain commandments of the Lord we will find ways to twist his words and his works to justify these lusts. Jeremiah explains that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jer 17:9). For example, some look at the wonders of God and rightly conclude that God loves his people and wants what is best for them; that he wants them to be happy. From there they conclude then that he must approve of this or that because it will make them happy. Of course, the argument is usually more complex and compelling in their minds, but that is the gist of it. This has helped many to justify leaving their wives for other women, or sleeping with a girlfriend before marriage, or homosexual activity. Maybe you can think of a dozen more.
While we might be clever enough to argue philosophically and warp our theology around such things, the commands of God are not so easy to dismiss. And the tassels served to remind them of such. We need such reminders to counter the deceptive nature of our hearts!
Lord, thank you for Jesus who washes away our sin and guilt, and for the Holy Spirit who gives us new hearts of flesh, upon which you inscribe your law. Protect us from the lusts of our hearts and our eyes. Give us reminders to the gospel and the clarity of your law. Toward that, thank you for the gifts you have given to men and women who have out your teaching into song, into catechism, into chant to serve us as reminders. Amen.