Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22: Numbers 33:40 – 35; Psalm 65; Proverbs 11:23; Luke 5:12-5:28



Overview

            Numbers: The recounting of Israel’s travels in the wilderness continues from Mount Hor until they camped east of the Jordon across from Jericho. They spread out from Beth-jeshimoth to Abel-shittim.
            The Lord instructs Israel to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan when they cross the Jordon. They are to destroy all the Canaanite’s objects and places of worship. When they divide the land among themselves, larger tribes will get more than smaller tribes. If they don’t drive out the inhabitants, they will cause problems and the Lord will treat the Israelites the same as the Canaanites.
            The Lord then gave the specific details where the borders of the land they were to take and divide in Canaan. Moses explained that this did not include the land on the eastside of the Jordon taken by Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The Lord then appointed the people who would divide the land, the chief leaders of each tribe. He named the specific people to do the job.
            The Lord commanded the inheritance of the Levites to be forty-eight cities throughout Israel where they would live. The inheritance included pastureland for two thousand cubits around the cities. From the cities, six would be cities of refuge where a manslayer could flee for protection until tried.
            Examples of motive and intent are provided as examples of the difference between murder and an accidental or unintentional death. If the person is a murder, then the “avenger of blood” has the right to kill the murder. If it was unintentional, then the manslayer must remain within the boundaries of the city of refuge until the high priest dies, then he can return home. If the avenger of blood finds him outside of the city before the death of the high priest and kills the manslayer, the avenger of blood is not guilty of murder.
            No one may be put to death for murder based on the testimony of only one witness. No one may pay a ransom to prevent the death of a murder. No one may pay a ransom for a manslayer so that he may return home before the death of the high priest.
            Because the blood of a murder pollutes the land, the only atonement for the land is the death of the murderer. The land must not be defiled because the Lord lives in it.
            Psalm: David says praises are due to God for he hears our prayer and he atones for our sins. He chooses whom he saves. God answers us with righteousness and is our hope. He is the one who rules over all nature. Everyone in the world sees this. He provides for the earth with rain and bountiful harvests. The wilderness provides grass and the meadows are filled with flocks. All shout for Joy.
            Proverbs: Righteous people have a good end but the wicked have wrath regardless of what they expect.
            Luke: Jesus heals a leper and tells him not to tell anyone but to show himself to the priests along with an offering as proof to the priests. The leper disobeys and tells everyone. Then great crowds come to Jesus and he had to withdraw to isolated places to pray.
            On another occasion, Jesus was teaching with Pharisees and teachers of the Law listening. Some men came to him with a paralytic on his bed. They lowered him down through the roof because they couldn’t get him in because of all the people. Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven. The scribes and Pharisees thought this was blasphemy because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew their thoughts and asked which was easier, to forgive sins or heal. He healed the paralytic to show that the Son of Man had authority to forgive sins. The people were amazed.
            After this, he saw Levi at a tax booth. He told Levi to follow him. Levi left everything and followed him.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it” (Num 35:33).
            Psalm: “You atone for our transgressions” (Ps 65:3).
            Proverbs: “The desire of the righteous ends only in good” (Prov 11:23).
            Luke: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24).

Insight

            Numbers: Yesterday I put forth the idea that the two and a half tribes who stayed on the east side of the Jordon were not within the Lord’s plan. In today’s reading, there is another subtle substantiation of this. In Numbers 34:1-12, the Lord prescribed the borders of Israel. When examining this border, it doesn’t include any land east of the Jordon.[1] Furthermore, Moses an not the Lord explains that the people on the eastside of the Jordon already had their inheritance. This confirms that this part of the land that Israel possessed was not part of God’s plan. It isn’t part of his future plan either. The borders of Israel for the millennium are described in Ezekiel 47:13-20. They do not include any land east of the Jordon.[2]
            The Lord made some very interesting points about how to deal with murder versus accidental deaths. Murder occurs with the intent to harm a person even if not necessarily to kill him. It also requires two or more witnesses to substantiate it. It was the custom for a death, whether murder or accidental, to be avenged by a relative. However, the Lord’s provisions for retribution and cities of refuge essentially stopped blood feuds.
            Today, we have drifted far away from the biblical mandate. Capital punishment is almost universally scorned and eliminated. Murder seldom results in the death penalty in the United States and many other countries. We allow circumstantial evidence to replace witnesses. We deem ourselves more civilized. However, we should really look at the reasons the Lord prescribed capital punishment before we count ourselves as having better morality than the Lord.
            The Lord gave a very important reason for capital punishment. He said that murder pollutes the land (Num 35:33). The land should not be defiled because the Lord is in the midst of the people (Num 35:34). He also explained that eliminating the murderers will make it go well with the people (Deut 19:13). The city of Chicago had 762 homicides in 2016.[3] How long would this rate of homicides continue if there were swift and sure trials and death penalty for murder, whether it was first degree, second degree, or manslaughter? I think we see the increase in murders because we don’t do what the Lord instructed by punishing those who are murderers. People argue that it is not a deterrent to crime. However, it is obvious that these people wouldn’t be able to commit another murder. It is also evident that the Lord believes that the death penalty is a deterrent as he states that it will purge the evil from Israel (Deut 13:5, 17:12, 19:19, 24:7).
            Psalm: In this Psalm of praise to the Lord for his bounty in harvests, there are two important theological points. The first is that the Lord provides atonement for our sins (Ps 65:3). We don’t atone for our sins by our efforts. No one else can atone for our sins. It is all because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as John says (1 John 2:2 NIV). The other point is that God chooses who to bring near to himself (Ps 65:4). We like to believe that we make the choice to be saved, but the truth of the Bible is that God makes the choice even before we were born (Eph 1:4). We should be thankful that he has chosen us and atoned for our sins.
            Proverbs: There is no way of getting around God’s declaration of what happens to people in eternity. It is repeated many times in the Bible. This short proverb is no exception. Righteous people have eternal life and the wicked have eternal death. We can’t forget that our righteousness comes only through Jesus Christ. It isn’t anything that we can achieve on our own. He atones for our sins and that is the only reason we are not counted with the wicked.
            Luke: Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man” in Luke 5:24 and Mark 2:28 for the first time before healing the paralytic. The Pharisees and the scribes are already thinking that Jesus is committing blasphemy by telling the man that his sins are forgiven. When he calls himself the Son of Man, they know exactly what Jesus is saying. He is calling himself the Messiah. He is telling them that he is the one announced in Daniel 7:13-14. In these verses, the Son of Man is brought before the Ancient of Days who is God and is described in Daniel 7:9-10. The Pharisees and scribes are well versed in this prophecy. They would immediately try to picture Jesus receiving everlasting dominion, glory, and kingdom. The would look at Jesus and try to understand how he would have all peoples, nations, and languages serve and worship him. I’m certain that they could envision the Messiah coming on a great white horse with an army of angels, but not as the carpenter from Nazareth.
            They probably heard that Jesus had healed the leper, but may have dismissed it because the priests hadn’t verified it. They probably heard about the other healings and the demons being cast out. That’s probably why they came to listen to Jesus. But now, Jesus declares he is the Messiah by forgiving the paralytic’s sins and then by calling himself the Son of Man. Their natural inclination is to believe he is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins and Jesus doesn’t fit their concept of the Messiah as the eternal king. However, they can’t deny what happens next. Jesus heals the paralytic. He has proven to them that he is who he says. This is a major crisis in the Pharisees’ and scribes’ lives.
            We have the same crisis in our lives when we learn who Jesus is. When we first hear that Jesus atoned for our sins and we must accept him as Lord and Savior if we want eternal life, we have a predicament. We must either submit to him or reject him. No longer can we sit on the fence, we must make a decision. The Pharisees ultimately made the decision to reject Jesus based on their own sinful lust for power. What will you do?

Application

            We have decisions to make every day. They may be short-term decisions that affect us during this life or they may be eternal decisions that affect our eternity. Some decisions like those of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh will affect or decedents. Whatever decisions I make today, I pray they will be in line with what the Lord’s will is for me.


[1] Emmanuelm, "File:Map Land of Israel.jpg," October 21, 2007, Wikimedia Commons, accessed March 22, 2017, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Land_of_Israel.jpg.
[2] Ibid.
[3] AP, "Chicago records 762 homicides in 2016, up 57 percent from previous year," Fox News, January 1, 2017, , accessed March 22, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/01/01/1-chicagos-bloodiest-years-ends-with-762-homicides.html.

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