Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 4: Numbers 2 – 3; Psalm 47; Proverbs 10:24-25; Mark 11:27-12:17


            Numbers: The Lord specified the way the Israelites would camp around the tabernacle in the wilderness. Three tribes would camp in specific order under command of the specific heads of each tribe. Three tribes camped to the east, north, west and south. The Levites would be around the tabernacle in the center of the whole encampment.
            The Lord explained the service and roles of the families of Moses and Aaron. Aaron and his sons were to be priest. The rest of the Levites were given to the priest to assist them. They are to do the work of the tabernacle. Only the priest can approach the tabernacle.
            The Lord took the Levites in place of the firstborn of the rest of the tribes. So the Levites were counted, males a month old or older. The Levites were divided into three groups by the three sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Each division had specific jobs with regard to the tabernacle, setting it up, taking it down, and transporting it.
            Moses, Aaron, and his sons were to camp directly in front of the tabernacle to the east.
            There were 22,000 Levites. The Lord than told Moses to count all the firstborn males a month old or more in Israel and make a list of their names. The total was 22,273. Since there were more firstborn than Levites, Moses collected five shekels for the 273 as a redemption for them. The money was given to Aaron and his sons.
            Psalm: God is king over all the earth so it is right to praise him. He put nations under the control of Israel. So his praise is declared with shouts, songs, and psalms. He reigns over all nations and they gather to exalt him.
            Proverbs: Evil people fear things and it often happens to them. But the righteous have desires that also happen to them. When it is all over, the wicked are gone, but the righteous will always be here.
            Mark: The high Jewish officials challenged Jesus asking who gave him authority. He responded asking where John received his baptism. They realize they will have a problem if they answer from heaven or man so they plead ignorance. Jesus doesn’t answer their questions.
            Jesus then responds with a parable about a vineyard. The owner plants it, provides for its needs and then rents it out while he goes away. He sends servants to get fruit but the tenants reject or kill the servants. He sends his son and they kill him too. He says the man will come, kill the tenants and give it to others.
            The Jewish leaders understand Jesus was telling the parable about them. They wanted to arrest Jesus but feared the people.
            The Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus to test him by asking if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus knows their hypocrisy so he asks for a denarius. When he gets it, he asks whose inscription is on it. It is Caesars, so he replies that they are to give to Caesar what is his and to God what is his. They marveled.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine” (Num 3:12-13).
            Psalm: “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth” (Ps 47:2).
            Proverbs: “What the wicked dreads will come upon him” (Prov 10:24).
            Mark: “And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk” (Mark 12:13).


            Numbers: Many people explain the encampment of Israel around the tabernacle as being in the form of a cross with three tribes spreading out in each direction. You can find illustrations of this on the web. The numbers on each side show the eastern grouping having 186,400 men, south 151,400, north 157,600, and west 108,100. That is hardly a balanced cross. These diagrams also leave out Levi who was to camp around the tabernacle with Moses and Aaron right in front of it. While this makes for a very nice analogy, however I don’t think this was the purpose for the order of the encampment.
            These diagrams all assume that the camps were rectangular but the Bible is not specific about how the different groups were to be next to each other or by each other. The description could just as easily describe two circles that surrounded the tabernacle. The first circle is the Levites, the second circle starts with Judah to the east and next or by meaning to one side not necessarily further away would be Issachar and then Zebulun. This quarter of the circle extends to the south where Reuben is to camp.
            The purpose of the Levites surrounding the tabernacle was for protection (Num 1:53, 3:7). These people were in hostile territory. Encircling the tabernacle would provide better protection than camps strung out in each direction and leaving a direct path between them to the tabernacle. Remember this tabernacle was laden with gold overlaying everything. It would be a prime target for enemies.
            Other than that, the circular arrangement also placed God at an equal distance from each tribe other than the Levites. If we are looking for symbology or analogies to the encampment then Revelation reveals that people, creatures, and angels surround God’s throne (Rev 4:4, 6; 5:11). What a better representation of the eternal glory of God than the saints in heaven surrounding his throne and bringing praise and glory to him. This is what God did when he took Israel to be a nation. His goal was to dwell among the people. “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Ex 29:45). It makes sense that each tribe would have equal closeness than having some further off than others.
            Psalm: It is fitting to praise God in many different ways. We don’t have to stick to one liturgy or one type of song. We may shout, clap, or sing. These are only three ways to give him praise and exalt him. We are to praise him because he is king over all the earth. He isn’t just over one nation or people. We don’t see this happening now because the end hasn’t arrived yet. But there will be a time when princes of all people will come to him and give him glory.
            Proverbs: Wicked people have fears. Most fear death and guess what? They all die. There are no exceptions. The other side of the coin is the righteous. Rather than having fear, they have a desire to be with God and guess what? They all will get what they desire. Of course, the definition of wicked and righteous must be explained by their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. John told us that God has given us eternal life and it is in Jesus. People who have Jesus, have eternal life but those who don’t do not have life (1 John 5:11-12). When it’s all over, we will have our desire but the wicked will have exactly what they fear.
            Mark: The Jewish leaders tried on various occasions to trap Jesus so they could have some reason to discredit his teachings or get him in trouble with the Roman Government. The issue of paying taxes was a good one because any answer to the question of paying taxes to Caesar would give them fuel for one or the other. If he said paying taxes was lawful, the people would consider him no better than a Roman sympathizer and a tax collector. If he answered that it was not lawful, then he would obviously be in opposition to the Roman government and teaching rebellion. They would have achieved their purpose and have rejected the Son of God who had come to the Father’s vineyard to find fruit.
             People, including Christians, are often too much like the Jewish leaders. They don’t like what they heard Jesus say, so they are look for ways to get around what Jesus has taught. When Jesus says he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), people will say that he didn’t really mean that or that our interpretation is intolerant. They will point to the billions of people in the world who don’t know Jesus and many who have never heard of him. They will argue that Jesus’ intolerance goes against everything that they believe, so what he said must have been wrong.
            Just like the Jewish leaders, they don’t like the implication that we have rejected the vineyard owner’s son so they try to do whatever they can to avoid any guilt. The truth is that God has given us everything we need on this earth. He is sovereign and as the Psalm says, he is the king. He has the right to rule over us in any way he wants, yet he has sent his son to bring to him those whose desire it to know him. There will be a day when Jesus will come again and those who fear God taking over will see it happen. When we look for them, they will be destroyed but the new tenants of the earth will be living with the Lord forever.


            I need to make my desires line up with what God wants, not the other way around. When I desire God above all else, then I know that he will grant that desire and I will have nothing to fear.

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