Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12: Numbers 16:41 – 18; Psalm 55; Proverbs 11:7; Mark 16


            Numbers: The next day after the Lord killed Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their followers, the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying they killed these people. The Lord appeared at the tent of meeting and Moses and Aaron were told that the Lord was going to kill everyone. Moses told Aaron to take his censer and offer incense between the people God had started killing with a plague and the ones who were still alive. When he did that, the plague stopped after 15,700 died.
            Then the Lord told Moses to collect a staff from the leaders of each tribe with Aaron’s staff for Levi and place them before the testimony (ark) in the tabernacle. The person’s staff that spouts will be the one he chooses to be priest. This was to stop the grumbling.
            The next day, Moses brought out the staffs. Aaron’s had spouted, put on buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds. The Lord has Moses put the staff back before the testimony as a sign for the rebels so they won’t grumble again.
            The people became afraid that they were all going to die thinking that all who come near the tabernacle will die.
            So the Lord delineated the duties of the priests and Levites to guard the tabernacle. The Levites must not go near the vessels of the tabernacle or the altar. They are to be guards so that no unauthorized person may go near and die. The part that isn’t burned of anything consecrated though various offerings to the Lord is given to the priests. It is for food for their household. The firstborn are given to the priests and if redeemed (such as firstborn people) the money is the theirs. The Lord reviews all these offerings and regulations for the firstborn.
            The Levites receive the tithe of all Israel for their service to the Lord. This is so the people don’t go near the tabernacle and because they don’t inherit any land in the Promise Land. However, the Levites must also pay a tithe on their tithe and that goes to the priests.
            Psalm: David makes it clear that when he is asking God to hear him, he is looking for answers. He also admits that he is impatient because of his enemies. In fact, he is downright fearful. If he could fly away like a bird to avoid his troubles, he would.
            Some of his enemies are right inside the city. They are people who deal fraudulently with others. He notes that one of them used to be his friend. Still, he wants God to destroy them.
            David trusts God to answer his prayers and deal with them. He laments that his friend was a conniver who harmed his own friends.
            David tells us that when we cast our burdens on the Lord, he will sustain us. He will cast the evil doers into destruction. David will trust in the Lord.
            Proverbs: When a wicked person dies, all that he hoped for and all his wealth is gone.
            Mark: After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to anoint Jesus. On Sunday morning they went to the tomb but found the stone rolled away. Inside the tomb a young man in a white robe was sitting there. He told them not to be alarmed; Jesus had risen. He told them to see where Jesus had been laid then to go tell the disciples and Peter he is going to Galilee and they will see him there. They were trembling, astonished, and fearful so they told no one.
            Alternate versions of the ending continue explaining that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she told the disciples. They didn’t believe her. Jesus also appeared in another form to two walking in the country and the disciples didn’t believe them either.
            Jesus then appeared to the eleven and rebuked them for not believing the others. He then commissioned them to proclaim the gospel. He told them whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. Signs would accompany those who believe. He was then taken up to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. The disciples went and did as they were told.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “The staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Num 17:8).
            Psalm: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Ps 55:6).
            Proverbs: “The wicked … rely on their own feeble strength” (Prov 11:7).
            Mark: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).


            Numbers: We really need to remember who is in charge. It is God. Since he created all things, everything belongs to him. We are created beings and we belong to him. He can do with us what he wants. He gave Israel all the rules and regulations, including who was to minister before him because he has a plan. When we trust that his plan is good, we’ll fall in line with it. When we distrust him and grumble, it will not go well with us. This is not just a formula for having a good life; it is the formula for eternal life.
            How did God prove his right to choose the person to represent him as high priest? He did it by taking a dead piece of wood and made it bring forth buds, blossoms, and completely ripe nuts. He did that overnight. What’s amazing about this is that it is scientifically impossible. We all know that the three stages of producing an almond nut can’t be done that fast. Yet God did it.
            The reason I’m pointing this out is that people who believe God took millions of years to create trees and other plants say that it would be misleading to produce a tree overnight that appeared to be hundreds of years old. Would it have rings like trees we see today? Or would it only have one ring. It really doesn’t matter. Just as God was able to make Aaron’s staff have ripe almonds as well as blossoms and buds, God can do what he wants. To me, this is just another proof that creation took only six literal days. Now we can grumble and say that isn’t scientific or we can admit to God’s omnipotence and get on with his plan.
            Psalm: Sometimes it seems that our troubles are so great that we would just like to flee away and start over. Some look at David’s comment and say he was so depressed that flying away like a dove was a euphemism for suicide. Certainly, David was depressed and it wasn’t like some of his Psalms where he was doing battle against enemies. This was because of the underhanded way one of his closest friends had turned against him and his other friends.
            What do we do when a friend has wronged us or we see that friend wrong others? David obviously calls on the Lord to set it straight. It seems a bit harsh to us that David would want the person destroyed, but the bigger principle is that we can cast our anxieties on the Lord. We do it just like David did. We pray and ask him to intervene. We may not get the exact answer we want but we will get relief from our troubled spirit when we trust in the Lord to do what is right.
            Proverbs: Everyone hopes for something. In this sense, hope is looking forward to something better. It may be more ease, wealth, power, or health. The wicked hope in things of this world but Christians should be hoping in eternity with Jesus. The proverb says that the wicked hope for the former things but all that is gone when they die. When we hope for eternity with Jesus, we are assured that we will have it.
            Mark: An angel announced Jesus’ conception to Mary and at his resurrection; an angel announces that Jesus is risen. Two things stand out in this last announcement. The first is not to be alarmed. It didn’t work. They were alarmed, terrified, and fled from the tomb. The second thing that stands out is that he told them to see where Jesus had been laid.
            Now I can understand that they were alarmed and that the angel did his best to comfort them, but most times when I read about angels talking to people they seem almost unemotional and detached. In Matthew, the angel finishes with “I have told you” (Matt 28:7). It seems very matter-of-fact. When it comes to being comforted, our comfort shouldn’t be coming from angels, it should be coming from our Lord, “God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3). Some people put too much stock in angels when they should be looking to the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
            I don’t remember reading about anyone saying anything about where Jesus had been laid. I’ve heard explanations about the way the grave cloths were laid out and the face napkin folded. These all were to explain that someone stealing the body would not have taken the time to unwrap the body and fold the napkin. Others explain that the wrapping wasn’t even unwrapped but Jesus was raised through it. So why look at the place Jesus was laid? It was proof that Jesus really died. While Jesus probably lost a lot of blood during his crucifixion, I’m quite sure blood would have still seeped out and through the grave wrappings and left a stain on the place where he was laid. It would be proof that he didn’t just swoon then revive in the tomb and free himself. I wonder if they really stopped and looked before running out.
            This I know for sure, Jesus was raised and he has given us a commission to tell others. It gives us great hope for our eternity.


            I need to be careful in our unsettled times of political stress to remember that God is still in control. If he can make a staff produce almonds, if he is raised from the dead, then I don’t need to tell him how to make things work in this country. I can and should be praying for salvation our leaders and that they follow in his will.

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