Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13: Numbers 19 – 20; Psalm 56; Proverbs 11:5-8; Luke 1:1-25



Overview

            Numbers: When a person becomes unclean because he had contact with a dead person or even a bone or a grave, he must be ceremonially cleansed. This was done by sprinkling them with “water for impurity.” If a person dies in a tent then the tent, everyone in it and all open vessels become unclean and must be cleansed with the water for impurity.
            The water for impurity is made by killing a red heifer that has never been yoked. The priest kills it outside of the camp and sprinkles some of its blood toward the tabernacle seven times. The animal is completely burned then the ashes are kept to make the water for impurity.
            If a person is unclean and is not sprinkled with the water on the third and seventh day, he will not become clean. If that happens, he will be cut off from his people because he has defiled the sanctuary.
            Miriam dies and is buried in Kadesh.
            There is no water so the people complain saying it would have been better to perish before the Lord because there is no water, figs, or pomegranates. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to assemble the people before a rock and tell the rock to give them water. Moses tells the people they are rebels and asks if they must bring water from the rock. He strikes the rock with his staff twice and water comes out. The Lord tells Moses that because he didn’t show God’s holiness by his disobedience, he will not lead the people into the Promised Land.
            Moses asked the nation of Edom if they could pass through, promising to not drink their water or eat their food and only go on the king’s highway. The king didn’t give them permission. Moses asks again to go through and pay for anything they eat or drink. Edom again refuses and leads a large army out to make sure they don’t pass through. Israel goes another way.
            When they arrive at Mount Hor, the Lord told Moses and Aaron that Aaron was going to die there. Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar go up the mountain where they take off Aarons garments and put them on Eleazar. Aaron then dies on the mountain and the people mourn for thirty days.
            Psalm: David is writing from his troubles again. He again asks the Lord to be gracious to him because his enemies are causing problems. He is afraid but he trusts in God so what can man do to him if God is for him? However, they continue to watch him and wait for opportunity to kill him. He asks God to take them down. God knows his sleepless nights and his tears. He knows that when he asks God, his enemies will turn back. He reiterates that he trusts in God whom he praises and asks what can man, who has no comparison to God, do to him. He will be able to make his vows because of God’s rescue. He will give thanks and walk in God’s light.
            Proverbs: Righteous people are spared many troubles but wicked people are always getting into it.
            Luke: Luke sets out to write an orderly account of the things Theophilus had been taught. He starts with the account of Zechariah, a priest who was in the temple burning incense. He and his wife Elizabeth didn’t have any children and they were old.
            An angel appears to him by the altar of incense and tells him that they will have a child. The child will be filled with the Holy Spirit and turn Israel to the Lord. He is to be named John. He will go in the power and spirit of Elijah to make ready the people.
            Zechariah is at first frightened then after hearing the angel, he ask for a sign that it would come true because of his and Elizabeth’s advanced age. The angel says he is Gabriel and he stands in the presence of God. As a sign, Zechariah will become mute until the day the child is born.
            The people were getting anxious outside the temple because Zechariah was taking so long. When he came out, he made signs to them but couldn’t speak. They realized he had seen a vision. Then Elizabeth became pregnant and hid for five months.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Num 20:10).
            Psalm: “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Ps 56:4).
            Proverbs: “The righteous is delivered from trouble” (Prov 11:8).
            Luke: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18).

Insight

            Numbers: We often find sin in other people that is the same as our own weakness. When Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock to bring out water instead of speaking to it, he called the people rebels. His own act of rebellion was very costly. Until that time, he was the person designated to take the people into the Promised Land. Because of this grievous sin, he lost that privilege. Aaron also lost the privilege of being the priest in the Promised Land because he gave implicit approval to Moses rather than stopping him.
            The sin was grievous not simply because Moses disobeyed. It was grievous because Moses was taking credit for bringing water out of the rock. He also acted in anger. It’s hard not to blame Moses for being angry. Multiple times, he’s seen complaints against him, Aaron, and the Lord. But he took it personally and didn’t consider that the real sin was against the Lord. Perhaps he was angry because the Lord was gracious this time. The Lord didn’t find fault with the people as he did at other times the people complained. Therefore, Moses took it upon himself to call them rebels. It didn’t show God’s compassion or his holiness because Moses wasn’t being compassionate or holy in his anger.
            When rebuking or correcting another, Paul warned us that this is a job for a spiritual person. Otherwise, we also can be tempted. See Galatians 6:1.
            Psalm: This is a lot about learning to trust that God has our best interests in mind. People or other things may cause our problems, but when we trust in God, those problems pale in comparison to our mighty God. People may go so far as to kill us, but Jesus made it clear we don’t need to fear them. We need to fear God because he is the one who holds our eternal life. That fear of God is not the same as the fear of death but a life-saving fear that brings us into submission to the Lord. See Matthew 10:28. All praise belongs to God because Jesus also said that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). Our fear of men or circumstances happens only when we are focusing on temporal things instead of eternal things.
            Proverbs: When we live for the Lord, we will not experience the same kinds of trouble that wicked people do. This isn’t a guarantee of a trouble free life unless we are thinking about our relationship with God. When we are doing right, we are delivered from the problems that come with lying, cheating, and other sins. When we are doing those things, and more, we will find trouble; that is a guarantee.
            Luke: Luke is writing to a person of some high stature as is indicated by the use of “most excellent” before his name. Tradition and the Clementine Recognitions (10 .71) indicate that Theophilus was a significant leader in Antioch. His name means friend of God.[1] That’s an appropriate name for someone who inspired Luke to write Scripture.
            How would we react if an angel addressed us? I’m sure most of us would be dubious because God has said that in the past he has spoken to us in various ways but now by Jesus (Heb 1;1-2). Certainly, if the angel starts telling us a prophecy about what will happen, we should be concerned. We would definitely want to check out whatever he said against Scripture. However, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah long before Jesus’ ministry and the written New Testament completed the Bible.
            Is there any reason for Zechariah to doubt Gabriel? Certainly, his age beyond childbearing would be one reason. In fact, that is the only legitimate reason. Think about his. He is a priest, which means he should be able to teach others from Scripture. That means he is well acquainted with Abraham and Sarah giving birth in their old age. Zechariah should not have doubted God’s abilities. He was aware of Gideon, who had little spiritual education and was hiding in a winepress when an angel of the Lord told him to fight Midian. Gideon asked for a sign and it was granted. Zechariah was not like Mary when Gabriel appeared to her. She was barely more than a child and not in the temple. Her response was not doubt but an honest question.
            But Zechariah was a priest and he was offering incense to the Lord in the temple. No one should have been in there. He had no reason to doubt that this angel was from the Lord since it was a holy place. Therefore, he should not have questioned if it would come true. He should have known better. I see this as more of a pride issue in thinking that it was his duty as a priest to ask for a sign. His sign was a rebuke for his doubt and arrogance.
            How often do we let spiritual pride get in the way of not listening to God or doubting him?

Application

            I need to be more careful about my own sin when I point out others’ sins (like Zechariah’s). There is a way to help people who need a way out of sin, but there is always a danger of falling into the same sin or reacting inappropriately to the sins that I also have. I need to look at myself first.


[1] Merrill Frederick Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Theophilus,” (Chicago: Moody, 1988), Biblesoft

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