Friday, March 17, 2017

March 17: Numbers 26; Psalm 60; Proverbs 11:15; Luke 2:36-52



Overview

            Numbers: Israel is still camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordon River from Jericho. The Lord tells Moses to take a census of the tribes of Israel from twenty years old and up who were able to go to war. The clans within each tribe are listed. The tribe of Joseph is listed with the numbers of both Manasseh and Ephraim listed individually. The total for all the tribes, excluding Levi is 601,730.
            The land will be divided by giving a larger portion to the tribes with more people and smaller portions to the smaller tribes. The land divisions will also be determined by lot.
            The tribe of Levi was also numbered but every male one month old and older were listed. Their number was 23,000. The Levites do not receive land allotments.
            Forty years before, all the people were listed in the wilderness of Sinai and are now dead. They had died in the wilderness as God had said. Caleb and Joshua are the only two exceptions.
            Psalm: David is bemoaning a time when Israel was delivered over to her enemies. However, the Lord is a banner of protection for those who fear him. Israel is beloved by God and he has declared that Israel is his while Shechem, Moab, Edom, and Philistia are not. David asks for help against Edom and says that God has not gone out with his armies. Man’s work for victory is vain but with God, he will defeat his foes.
            Proverbs: Cosigning a loan for another person is risky but refusing to do so is safe.
            Luke: Right after Simeon speaks, the prophetess, Anna, speaks giving thanks to God and talks about Jesus to people who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. When Mary and Joseph finished what the Law required, they returned to Galilee. Jesus grew, became wise, and God was with him.
            When Jesus was twelve, the family went to the Passover as they usually did. He stayed behind when his parents went home. When they discovered he was missing they returned to search for him. After three days, they found him in the temple sitting with the teachers, listening, and asking questions. Those who heard were astounded at his understanding.
            Mary asked him why he had treated them like this as it distressed her and his father. But Jesus said she should have known that he had to be in his Father’s house. They didn’t understand his reference to his Father’s house versus his father being distressed. But Mary remembered all these things. Jesus increased in wisdom and favor among men and God.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Num 26:65).
            Psalm: “For vain is the salvation of man!” (Ps 60:11).
            Proverbs: “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm” (Prov 11:15).
            Luke: “And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

Insight

            Numbers: When God makes a promise, he keeps it. In forty years, the population of Israel was almost the same as when they left Egypt. What is remarkable about this is that the same number had died in only forty years. Had the people not rebelled and constantly caused problems for themselves, the population would have probably doubled.
            When our sins come to a certain point, as they did with Israel, God keeps his promises to discipline us. God is gracious and most often we don’t really see his disciple unless the sins are serious. Marriages often fail when adultery is involved. Jobs are lost when lies, thefts, cheating, or abusive behavior occur. We should all recognize sin in our lives and avoid them before they mount up to a breaking point. We don’t want to be like Israel and have the Lord take our lives because of our sin.
            Psalm: The title of the Psalm doesn’t seem to match the tone of the Psalm. The title specifies victories over David’s enemies while the Psalm depicts defeat. I’ve heard that the titles were added much later and not part of the inspired text. The Masoretic text contains only 116 psalms with titles while the Septuagint (Greek translation) contains titles for 148 psalms.[1] This indicates changes over time that could explain why the title doesn’t match.
            On the other hand, we may not have all the details of the battle as described in 2 Samuel 8 and 10. Since these two battles were at two different times, one lead by Joab and the other by David, I can only surmise that there were times during these battles or others where David was losing and thought he had been abandoned.
            There are two significant points in this Psalm that require attention. The first is David’s affirmation that Israel has a special place in God’s plan. While Israel is God’s people, the other countries are but God’s utensils. They are not special. The other point is that when we try to overcome our battles by our own efforts, we are bound to lose. It is only with God’s help that we can overcome.
            Christians can rest assured that we are also special, we were chosen by God before the earth was formed (Eph 1:4) and we are his people, a royal priesthood and a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). We also have to admit and live in dependence on God. Paul said we are not competent in ourselves but our competent comes from God (2 Cor 3:5).
            Proverbs: There is a reason someone wants another to cosign a loan for them. The reason is that there is a high possibility the person will default on the loan. The loan company is smart and they don’t want to take that risk. So what do you think will happen when they default? You are stuck with paying it off. I’m thankful for this verse. I’ve used it to explain to people why I wouldn’t cosign for their vehicle loan. It takes the pressure off me for being a bad guy. It glorifies God because I’m following biblical advice. The person requesting the loan has also learned a lesson about waiting instead of having instant gratification.
            Luke: Jesus’ parents made sure that everything was done for Jesus to fulfill the Law. In addition, Jesus’ appearance to the teachers in the temple fulfilled tradition in essentially what is now a bar mitzvah. This is important if we are to recognize that Jesus was sinless. Without fulfilling the law, he could not have found favor with God. Without his appearance in the temple, he would not have the favor of man (Luke 2:52).
            This is the second time that Luke tells us that Mary didn’t quite understand what was going on. The first time was when the shepherds visited after Jesus’ birth. They told her everything that happened to them. Neither Mary nor Joseph really understood what was happening when Simeon prophesied about Jesus. Then the last time was Jesus response to her in the temple. She had said his father was concerned for him, meaning Joseph, but Jesus clearly identified God as his actual Father. In addition to Mary treasuring these things, the people who heard about John also “laid them up in their hearts” (Luke 1:66).
            These are important points for a historian like Luke. He’s telling us that these events of John and Jesus’ early life are not just fables but fact that he discovered by interviewing people who were alive and remembered them. Anna and Simeon were most likely dead when Luke started writing so he had to get this information from those who were still alive, most likely Mary herself. If this is right, then Mary had to admit to Luke that when all this happened, she didn’t really understand.
            When I look back on my religious upbringing, it is easy for me to say I didn’t understand. Yes, I knew the fact of the Gospel, that Jesus is God in the flesh, he died on the cross, he was raised from the dead, he appeared to the apostles, and that he is now in heaven. However, one important thing is missing from that. Paul says almost the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 but he explains that Jesus died for our sins. He died for my sins as well as everyone else’s sins. That makes it personal. It is the reason he died. I had to know Jesus personally before my knowledge about him was turned in to knowing him. I couldn’t do that without acknowledging that Jesus died for my sins. Even Mary had to make that transition.

Application

            When things are not going as smoothly as I want, I need to remember that I’ve been chosen by God and adopted as his son through Jesus (Eph 1:4-5). If I’m competent in anything it is only because of God’s grace working in me. If I don’t remember these things, I’ll have sinful pride instead of favor with God.


[1] Mark D. Futato, Interpreting the Psalms: an Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2007), 119-122) as quoted by Shane Lem, "The Titles of the Psalms: Original?," The Reformed Reader, November 09, 2009, accessed March 16, 2017, https://reformedreader.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/the-titles-of-the-psalms-original/.

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