Saturday, March 11, 2017

March 11: Numbers 15:17 – 16:40; Psalm 54; Proverbs 11:5-6; Mark 15



Overview

            Numbers: The Lord reiterates some of the laws for Moses. The first time they eat bread from the land they are entering, they are to make an offer of bread from it. The offerings for unintentional sins are described. These are mistakes or errors and they will be forgiven when the offering is provided. These are for the congregation and for individuals. However if a person sins defiantly, he is to be cut off and bear his inequity.
            A man was caught gathering firewood on the Sabbath. The Lord instructed Moses to execute him. The congregation took him outside the camp and stoned him.
            The Lord instructs Moses to have everyone put a tassel of blue on the corners of their garments. This is to remind them of the commandments and not follow their own hearts.
            250 chief of the congregation rebelled against Moses saying all in the congregation were holy. The leaders, Korah was a Levite, Dathan and Abiram were Reubenites. They claimed that Moses had exalted himself. Moses fell face down then told them that the Lord would show who was holy the next morning. The 250 were to bring censers to burn incense before the Lord. Moses rebuked the Levites for wanting the priesthood even though God had honored them by calling them to the service of the tabernacle as Levites. He said they went too far. He said their grumbling was against the Lord and Aaron.
            The Dathan and Abiram would not come up to the tabernacle but stayed in the camp complaining that Moses made himself prince among the people to take them out into the wilderness and kill them. They blamed Moses for not bringing them into the Promised Land.
            When the men came before the tent of meeting they brought the whole congregation. The glory of the Lord appeared to the congregation. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to get away from the congregation, but they pleaded with God not to destroy the congregation for the sins of the few men.
            So the Lord told Moses and Aaron to warn the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Moses told the people that if they died by having the ground open up and swallow them and their tents, then they would know it was the Lord that did it. The people backed away and the ground swallowed up the rebel’s tents and fire came from the Lord and consumed the 250 men with censers.
            Aaron was told to make the censers into plates for the altar, because they were holy now that they had been used to present incense to the Lord. The plates would be a sign to Israel that only the priest may burn incense before the Lord.
            Psalm: David asks God to save him by his name and might. He asks that God hear his prayer. He explains that strangers and ruthless men are against him. He affirms that God is his helper and that he is faithful to turn their wickedness back on them. He will make a freewill sacrifice and offering because God’s name is good and God has rescued him.
            Proverbs: People who are righteous go straight and are delivered. The wicked’s deeds ruin them because they are captive to their lusts.
            Mark: When morning arrived, the council finalized the verdict and turned Jesus over to Pilate the governor. Pilate asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus says he is. But Jesus does not answer any of the accusations made by the chief priests and elders. That amazes Pilate.
            The people ask Pilate to release a prisoner, as is the custom at the feast. Pilate knows that Jesus has been turned over because of the chief priests’ jealousy. He offers to release Jesus, the King of the Jews. The chief priests incite the crowd to ask for Barabbas. He asks what wrong Jesus has done but they all yell to have him crucified. Because he fears a riot, Pilate yields. He releases Barabbas and has Jesus flogged then turned over to be crucified.
            The soldiers mock Jesus with a robe and crown of thorns. They abuse him then put his own clothes back on him and take him away to be crucified.
            On the way to Jesus’ crucifixion, the Romans force Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross. The details of the crucifixion are all laid out with emphasis on how the people mock him say that if he is the Christ to come down off the cross so that they would see and believe. Darkness covers the land for three hours and Jesus asks God why he has forsaken him. When Jesus yields his spirit, there is an earthquake, the temple curtain is torn in two, and the centurion in charge exclaims that this really was the Son of God.
            Women who followed Jesus watched the whole thing. They, along with many other women, ministered to Jesus in Galilee and followed him to Jerusalem. Joseph of Arimathea asks for Jesus’ body and Pilate is surprised that he is already dead. The centurion confirms Jesus is dead and Pilate gives the body to Joseph who buries Jesus in a tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses watched where Jesus is laid.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Num 15:39 NIV 1084).
            Psalm: “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Ps 54:2).
            Proverbs: “But the treacherous are taken captive by their lust” (Prov 11:6).
            Mark: “There were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:41).

Insight

            Numbers: Right after the Lord told the people to put tassels on their robes to remind them of the commands of the Lord and not to go after the lusts of their hearts, 250 men rebelled. How ironic that these men went after their own desires to be something greater than God’s appointed servants after they were warned about the lust of their hearts.
            It seems that the evil among Israel suddenly increased once they rejected God’s plan to take them into the Promised Land. We need to watch out for increasing evil in our own heats when we disobey God. God has a way of letting our sins multiply when we reject or disobey him. Romans 1:18-31 is very descriptive of what happens. It is a downward spiral into worse and worse sin. While this is unsually descriptive of people who have rejected God, there are also times when Christians are seeking their own desires and try to find loopholes in the Bible. They look for teachers that will endorse their sin as good or excuse it and say that grace covers all so that they don’t need to repent (2 Tim 4:3).
            Even though we have been forgiven and have eternal life doesn’t mean that we’ve eliminated the sin in our lives. It all comes because we don’t let the Holy Spirit lead us but we follow the lusts in our hearts that are at war against the Spirit (Gal 5:16:17). We need to be alert and responsive to the Spirit so that we can overcome those idols of the heart.
            Psalm: As with many places in the Bible, people ask God to hear their prayers. Since God is omniscient, it seems redundant to ask him to hear prayers. I’ve heard people say that God doesn’t hear the prayers of a sinner. They quote Isaiah 59:2 to prove it. If that’s the case, then how can anyone be saved? So it becomes obvious that what we really mean is that we want God to answer our prayers. When God says he does not hear, The New Living Translation says, “ [He] will not listen anymore” (TLB). It isn’t that he can’t hear but that he won’t respond. That is a sad place for us to be.
            Proverbs: The 250 men that rebelled against God demonstrate what these proverbs say about wicked and treacherous people. Their wickedness is their downfall because their lusts lead them into sin.
            Mark: On Wednesday, March 8th, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. When I read about the ministry that women had to Jesus, it reminds me that women in the Bible have had a significant impact on history. These women didn’t just observe what was going on, they were active in Jesus’ ministry. According to Luke, their support was out of their own funds (Luke 8:3) meaning that this was something they were doing on their own. They didn’t need to get their husband’s support or permission.
            The Bible has always recorded women in a positive light. Some may disagree because there are plenty of instances where the rules and regulations seem unfair. However, we can look back and see that Rahab was one woman who made a difference because she feared God. She became one of Jesus’ ancestors. Deborah was a prophetess and judged Israel (Judg 4:4). Huldah was a prophetess who spoke the words of the Lord to those who came to inquire of God (2 Kings 22:14). The compassion and hard work of Ruth is always an inspiration. Esther had to put up with the evils outside of Judaism in the Persian court. Mary didn’t run back to her father and ask his permission to become the mother of Jesus.
            Not all the women in the Bible were noble, Athaliah was a wicked queen over Israel who almost wiped out the line of David (2 Kings 11:1-3). Noadiah was a prophetess who opposed Nehemiah (Neh 6:14).
            Other women during the intertestamental times were also influential on the nation of Judah. Many were involved in protests against the Greek rule and were martyred.[1] Salome Alexandra had the power to appoint the high priest and later became queen and reigned from 76 to 67 BC. [2] Women in the court of Pheroras, Herod’s brother, were actively engaged in politics, most likely encouraged by Pharisees. Pheroras’ wife paid the fine for over 6,000 Pharisees who refused to affirm loyalty to Caesar. There is also record of Pheroras’ wife, her mother and sister, and Antipater’s mother, Doris, who were Pharisee supporters.[3] While there was much intrigue in Herod’s court, women were active in stirring the pot.
            As evidenced by Paul’s frequent mention of women coworkers for the Gospel (Acts 16:14; Rom 16:2-3, 12; Phil 4:2), women didn’t stop being influential after Christ’s departure.

Application

            It doesn’t matter who we are, men, women, Greeks or Jews, we all need Jesus to rid ourselves of the lusts of our hearts. I’m thankful that women have always been there working in God’s plan.


[1] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (New York: Routledge, 2000), 81, Adobe eReader. Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), 2305, Kindle.

[2] Köstenberger, 2352-2355. International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, electronic database, s.v. “Pharisees,” ed. James Orr (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006).

[3] Tal Ilan, “The Attraction of Aristocratic Women to Pharisaism During the Second Temple Period,” The Harvard Theological Review 88, no. 1 (January 1995): 5-7, accessed October 31, 2014, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1509816.

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