Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3: Leviticus 27:14 – Numbers 1; Psalm 46; Proverbs 10:23; Mark 11:1-11:26


            Leviticus: The Lord continues to explain the process of dedicating things to him. People may dedicate houses, fields, and they may be redeemed by adding a fifth to the value. A field is valued based on the amount of seed required to plant it and the number of years until the year of jubilee. A field is returned to the owner on the year of jubilee. However, if a person dedicates a field after selling it, it cannot be redeemed and it is not retuned on the year of jubilee but belongs to the priest. It is holy. If a person buys a field then dedicates it, it is like any other field that is dedicated.
            They may not dedicate a firstborn animal because it already belongs to the Lord. An unclean animal may be redeemed by adding a fifth to the value.
            Devoted things, man, beast, or field, may not be sold or redeemed. It is holy to the Lord. A devoted person may not be ransomed, but must be put to death.
            Tithed things are holy to the Lord. They may be redeemed by adding a fifth of the value. A tenth of the animals are counted off and given to the Lord whether it is good or bad. If someone attempts to make a substitute, both become holy and can’t be redeemed.
            Numbers: In the second month of the second year after leaving Egypt, the Lord calls for a census. Every male twenty years old or more who is able to go to war is counted. The Lord specifies who is to help in the census. Each tribe is numbered and the total was 603,505. This did not include the Levites. They were appointed to take care of the tabernacle. They were to pack it up and move it and put it back up when stopped. They were to camp around it so that no wrath would come upon the people. They were the guard around the tabernacle.
            Psalm: God is our help regardless of the problems we face, even in natural disasters. We don’t need to be afraid. Nations threaten peace but God is with us. He will put an end to all war someday and he will be exalted in all nations. Right now, he is with us.
            Proverbs: Fools delight in doing wrong but an understanding person delights in wisdom.
            Mark: Jesus approaches Jerusalem from Bethphage and Bethany, and then stops at the Mount of Olives. He tells his disciples to go and bring a donkey colt from the village. They find it, are questioned, and answer just as he said. They are allowed to take the colt. When they get back, Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem and people spread coats and branches on the road for him. The people were shouting, “Hosanna,” and essentially declaring Jesus as king.
            He arrives at the temple, looks around, and goes back to Bethany with the twelve.
            The next day, Jesus sees a fig tree with no leaves on it. He expected to find figs but there were none because it isn’t the season for them, so he placed a curse on it.
            He then went to the temple and chased out those who were making money in the temple. He said they were turning his house of prayer into a den of robbers. The chief priest were upset and wanted to kill him. The people were astonished at his teaching.
            The next day, the tree Jesus cursed had withered to its roots. Peter is astonished. But Jesus says to have faith and you can move mountains as long as you don’t doubt. Ask in prayer, believe, and it will be yours. But when you pray, also forgive so that the Father will forgive you.

What Stood Out

            Leviticus / Numbers: “No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death” (Lev 27:29).
            Psalm: “He makes wars cease to the end of the earth” (Ps 46:9).
            Proverbs: “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool” (Prov 10:23).
            Mark: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).


            Leviticus / Numbers: The rules for dedicating things to the Lord seem straight forward and easy to understand. However, when it comes to devoted things, there is a huge problem. That is the idea of devoting a person to the Lord and that the person who is devoted must be put to death. Is God inconsistent in his Word? He specifically prohibited sacrifices that the pagan nations made, of people and especially of sons and daughters (Deut 12:30-31). Whether those sons and daughters are children or not, isn’t mentioned. But it should be clear that the Lord never enjoined Israel to make human sacrifices.
            However, he did pronounce judgment upon the people of the nations because of their odious sins and their potential to lead Israel astray after their own gods (Deut 7:1-5). In this sense, a person devoted to destruction was not a sacrifice but a person who had been judged and sentenced to death.[1] This would also apply to Israelite cities where they rejected the Lord and followed after other gods (Deut 13:12-17).[2]
            Another explanation has been given that a person devoted to the Lord would be like Samuel. His mother gave him to the Lord to serve him all his life (1 Sam 1:11).[3] While this makes sense, it doesn’t consider that clear phrase that the person is to be put to death.
            One thing is perfectly clear in all of the concerns with dedicated versus devoted. There was always a penalty for making rash vows. It the person wanted his vow back, he had to redeem it and add a fifth. If he sold a field and then dedicated it, he would never get it back. If a person tried to substitute an animal for one that was taken for a tithe, he would end up giving both.
            One of Solomon’s better points in Ecclesiastics 5:4-7 is his explanation of vows. He says that when you vow, it is serious. God doesn’t appreciate a fool who makes a rash vow then later tries to back out on it. People who make deals with the Lord, “I’ll do this (go to church, give to the poor, etc.) if you will do some particular thing for me,” don’t realize the danger they are facing if they don’t follow through.  
            Psalm: Can you say that you will not fear though everything around you crumbles, physically, emotionally, or politically? This is what the Psalmist is saying. This is written by the “Sons of Korah,” the same as Psalm 44 where the psalmist was dismayed because God was disciplining Israel. Since there were several sons, I imagine either this one learned his lesson or this is one of his brothers. His attitude is 100% different. He recognizes God’s sovereignty over natural disasters or political turmoil and war. The beautiful thing about this is that he isn’t demanding God take care of all the problems now and for him. He is looking to the time when God will bring justice and peace to the whole earth. He is looking for God’s glory, not his own comfort. This is the kind of psalmist I want to be.
            Proverbs: Some people simply delight in doing wrong. There is something haywire in them. It seems that sin isn’t just in them but it is a horrendous evil that gives them delight in opposing God. That’s sad. However, there is always hope for them thought Jesus and his shed blood for our sins. When we turn to him in repentance and obedience, we cross over from that foolishness to become a person with understanding. It is then that we begin to delight in true wisdom, knowing God.
            Mark: On the heels of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he does an amazing thing. He curses a fig tree that doesn’t have any fruit on it. However, it was not the season for figs. Jesus is omniscient because he is God. So you may ask, why he even looked for figs if it wasn’t the season. No one else would have. Why would he place a curse the tree? The only explanation is that he is going to use it as an object lesson.
            One explanation is that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. It had lots of show (leaves) but no fruit. The religious system had all the trappings of the way to come to God but their traditions diverted the way. When Jesus enters the temple and finds all the people making money off the system instead of praying to God, it is an indication of the depth of the problem. So cursing the tree is a representation of what is going to happen to the religious system that is not producing fruit when Jesus came. It will be destroyed and that is what happened in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. The system could no longer work because the most important part was gone. While that may be an explanation, it requires an allegorical explanation, which is quite a stretch. Nothing in the context reveals this.
            Jesus used the tree to explain the power of prayer and the necessity of faith and forgiveness. Some things are certain. If we don’t ask we won’t receive. If we don’t believe, we won’t receive. If we don’t forgive, we are in trouble with the Lord. I’ll have to admit, though, I’m not at the point of moving literal mountains. On the other hand, I’m not in the need of moving them either.


            My faith in the Lord isn’t dependent upon him moving mountains. Even though they may fall into the heart of the sea, my faith is knowing he is good and that his glory is revealed when he responds to prayer in the way that is best for me and others. That is when he is glorified.

[1] Adam Clark, Clark’s Commentary, (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2005), Leviticus 27:29.
[2] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1996), Leviticus 27:28-29, Electronic Database, Biblesoft.
[3] Clark, Leviticus 27:29..

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