Sunday, March 5, 2017

March 5: Numbers 4 – 5; Psalm 48; Proverbs 10:26; Mark 12:18-12:37


            Numbers: When moving the tabernacle, Aaron and his sons would take the veil and cover the ark with it. They would put goatskins and blue cloth over it also. In a similar manner, they would wrap up the articles in the tabernacle. They would also prepare the altar for burnt offerings by cleaning out the ashes, put all the utensils on it and covering it with goatskins. All these things were carried with poles. The sons of Kohath between 30 and 50 years old would then come and carry the objects. There were 2,750 men. If they looked inside the tabernacle, they would be destroyed.
            Eleazar had to take of the oil for the lamps, incense, grain offering, and anointing oil. He was also the supervisor over the whole tabernacle.
            The 2,630 sons of Gershon in like manner, had to carry the tabernacle’s tent and the curtains that surrounded the tabernacle. That included all the cords and accessories. They also had guard duty under the direction of Ithamar, Aaron’s son. The 3,200 sons of Merari were the ones to carry the frames, bars, bases, and other accessories of the tabernacle. They also had guard duty under Ithamar.
            The Lord then instructed the people to put all unclean people outside the camp.
            The Lord explained that restitution for a crime was to fully restore what was wrong and then add a fifth. If there was no next of kin to receive the restitution, then it goes to the priest along with the ram offering.
            If a man suspects his wife has been unfaithful but can’t prove it, it is a matter of jealousy. He is to take her to the priest and offer a tenth of an ephah of barley flour. The priest will take some holy water, put dust of the floor of the tabernacle in it. The priest shall loose her hair, put the offering in her hands and make her swear she has been faithful. But if she hasn’t, then the water of bitterness will cause a horrible disease. The woman is to agree saying amen twice. The priest then writes the oath on a scroll, washes them into the water. She then drinks the water and the priest offers the grain.
            If the woman is guilty then she gets the disease and if she is innocent nothing happens and she will be able to have children. If she is guilty the man is free from inequity.
            Psalm: The psalmist associates God’ greatness with the beauty of Jerusalem as well as his protection of the city against invasions by kings. The city is so majestic because of God’s presence that the kings run away. Israel has meditated on God’s love evidenced by his temple so that his praise is known throughout the earth. Looking at the city with its towers and defensive structures are all accredited to God for all generations.
            Proverbs: Sluggards are a real pain to those to depend on them.
            Mark: The Sadducees asked how the Law about a brother being required to marry his brother’s wife if the brother doesn’t have any heirs when he dies would apply in a specific case. They present a scenario where a woman is married to seven brothers and all die. They ask who she will be married to in the resurrection. Jesus tells them they don’t know Scripture or God’s power since there is no marriage in heaven. We will be like angels. Also they don’t know about resurrection because God is the God of the living, not dead, based on the present tense of the words from “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6).
            A scribe is more astute and sees that Jesus answered wisely. He asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment. Jesus replies that all the commandments can be summed up in loving God and neighbor. The scribe affirms that Jesus is right and expands on what Jesus said. Jesus see his wisdom and says he is not far from the kingdom of God.
            Then Jesus goes to the temple and teaches. He asks how the scribes can say that the Messiah is David’s son. Jesus quotes, Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand” (Mark 12:36). He asks them how David could call his son (the Messiah) Lord. The people gladly listened.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “But deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things” (Num 4:19).
            Psalm: “We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple” (Ps 48:9).
            Proverbs: “Like … smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard” (Prov 10:26).
            Mark: “And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher’” (Mark 12:32).


            Numbers: The holiness of the interior of the tabernacle is beyond what we can imagine. It was so strictly maintained that only the priest could enter it, even to prepare the articles inside for transport. They could only be transported by Levites and they had to use poles that were provided. They couldn’t touch or even look at these holy objects.
            It is interesting that only men from the ages of thirty to fifty were allowed to carry the objects. Perhaps the reason for this was that younger men were more careless and older might drop them. Whatever the reason, it still meant that it took an army to carry everything.
            I’ve heard people describe the trial by ordeal of a woman suspected of adultery. The explanation for the dust being put in the water was to gather germs that grew in the blood-contaminated dust of the tabernacle. The germs would cause the woman to become sick and die unless God intervened. However, if the interior of the tabernacle was so holy that only the priests could enter, then it makes sense that he dust was not likely to cause an illness. In this case, the Lord would only intervene to cause the illness of a guilty woman.
            According to Adam Clarke, Rabbis expected this trial to produce an immediate death, not an eventual illness. He further points out that there isn’t any mention of this trial being implemented in the Bible. He states the reason, “God had rendered himself so terrible by his judgments, that no person would dare to appeal to this mode of trial who was conscious of her guilt.”[1] They also believed that the woman’s adulterous partner would also immediately die wherever he was.[2]
            Regardless of the speculations that a passage like this brings, we must always remember who God is and that he is not only just but he is good. If there seems to be an unfair balance against the woman, then this law was given for a very good reason. One is that other ancient Near East cultures had trials by ordeal as well. However, their trials usually involved fire not drinking water. [3] This law prevented a jealous jerk from getting rid of his wife without cause.
            Psalm: Israel identified Jerusalem with God and his might. Under David and Solomon, it was unthinkable for another country to attack. They believed that the presence of God in the temple was permanent and would endure forever. There is something very special about Jerusalem. It is the only place in the world where God set up a permanent structure for his temple; where he would dwell. Sure, we have huge cathedrals today, but there isn’t a single one in which God’s shekinah glory has been manifested. The city is central to eschatology. The temple and sacrifices were central to salvation in the Jewish legal system. Jesus had to die there and the temple veil was torn to show that access to God was by a new way. In the end of this age, armies will march on Jerusalem. Jesus will return to Jerusalem to defeat them all. He will rule there for a thousand years. At the end, people will amass there to battle Jesus again but they will be defeated. Then the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven and God will truly guide us from Jerusalem forever (Ps 48:14). Can’t wait!
            Proverbs: It is really tough when someone has to depend on a sluggard, a lazy person, or someone who simply can’t get things done when he should. It certainly is something we should consider when looking for help and when we are being asked to help someone else. We need to be diligent and get things done on time.
            Mark: The scribe that asked Jesus about the greatest commandment appears to have been thoughtful and was affected by Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees. Matthew described the man’s question as being of dubious nature, only to test Jesus. I tend to agree with Matthew’s assessment since Mark doesn’t include his motivation. There is one thing in Mark’s account that I’ve noted with some concern. The scribe affirms that Jesus answered correctly and goes on to explain the reasoning. If it were not for Jesus saying he answered wisely, I would think he was setting himself up as an authority over Jesus essentially saying, “Yes, Jesus, I agree with you and so I approve of your message.” It is interesting that John the Baptist is the only person that Jesus accepted as verifying his authority other than the Father (John 5:32-36).
            Whether or not I’m right about this scribe, the bigger issue is Jesus’ authority over me. I don’t need to question his words because it is his words that judge me (John 12:48). That means his command to teach disciples to obey his commands (Matt 28:20) applies to me obeying his commands as well. The greatest is to love God and my neighbors. If I’m not doing that then what the scribe said is quite valid, all my other sacrifices and burnt offerings (works) are worthless.


            I’m a lot like that scribe in that I always need to be right and have the last word. I’m working on trying to do better at that.

[1] Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, (Seattle, Biblesoft, 2006), Numbers 5:31,Electronic Database .
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

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