Tuesday, 25 February 2014

(57) February 26: Numbers 16-17 & Mark 6:33-56

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider how you would describe God’s response to what takes place.

To ponder:
Our inability to learn lessons can be laughable. Not just notable Reubenites, but Levites, who were already set-apart, oppose Moses and Aaron. They are jealous, wanting equal status. Again Moses falls face down in grief, stating these people have in reality banded together “against the LORD.” Likewise, to reject Christ’s servants it to reject him and so the one who sent him (Lk 10v16).
When Moses summons Dathan and Abiram (the Reubenites), they refuse, once more rejecting his authority and harping back to Egypt, just as people had previously. Moses is “angry” and summons Korah and his followers (the Levites) to “appear before the LORD.” They are to present censers full of incense to God. This was a priestly role, and so a test of who was truly chosen to be priests (16v40). God’s glory appears and he threatens to destroy everyone. Again Moses intercedes. In mercy the rest are warned to distance themselves from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The ground then swallows these men, with their households and possessions, and with Korah’s servants. They are cut off from the community and so from God’s promises. Fire then consumes Korah’s followers offering the incense. This was proof “these men have treated the LORD with contempt.” And the censers were made into an overlay for the altar as a constant reminder that only priests could do this.
            The temptation to want the role God has assigned others is always present, whether the favour of someone else’s ministry, or career, or life. This is especially so in a day when it is presumed we have a right to choose what we do. But to grumble about such things is serious. It is to grumble against God’s governance of our life and so treat him with contempt. Consider James and John wanting to sit on Jesus’ right and left. Jesus’ response was that this was for God to decide (Mk 10v40). So we are called to contentment with our own abilities, role and circumstances, recognizing God does not promise to give us what we want or even feel we deserve (Phil 4v12-13, Jam 5v9). It is his right to do with us as he pleases. Indeed, like the potter he makes some “for noble purposes” and some “for common use” (Rom 9v21). 
            It should now be no surprise that grumbling continues: The assembly blame Moses and Aaron for “killing the LORD’s people.” God’s wrath this time is provoked with a plague, and only restrained when Aaron offers incense to make atonement. It’s a fitting lesson. Rather than envying them, the people should realise they need Aaron and his descendents. Their ministry was literally a matter of life and death (16v48) – as Christ’s is eternally.
            By having twelve staffs engraved with the name of the leader of each tribe placed before the LORD, Aaron’s ministry is vindicated a third time. His staff not only budded, but blossomed and bore fruit as a sign of the life the priesthood enables. Aaron’s staff was to be kept in front of the ark as yet another reminder, so that the people will not “grumble” and so “die.” Again, God’s appointed servants should be accepted, whether Hebrew priests or church elders.
            The chapter ends with the people realising their predicament before their holy God. “Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle will die.” And this is of course why they needed the priesthood, just as it is why all need Christ if they are to dwell with God in the new creation.

Praying it home:
Praise God for the High Priestly work of Christ which enables us to draw close to him. Pray for contentment with your lot in life, accepting it as given by the Lord according to his wise and faultless purposes.

Thinking further:
It is striking that the households of the rebels share their fate, and that God is ready to punish the whole assembly for the sin of the few. Certainly the assembly display the same attitude, and the households may have too. Nevertheless, implicit is the idea of corporate solidarity. This is the truth that God engages with people according to the social units in which those of responsibility represent others. So just as the decisions of parents affect their children in other spheres, they do spiritually too. Likewise with leaders and nations. Those in positions of responsibility therefore need to recognise their actions implicate not just themselves but others. We see this most clearly with the fact that all humanity are counted guilty in Adam’s sin, and so share its penalty by being inclined to sin and death from conception. But our hope lies in this concept too. People can only be saved because by being united to Christ, his righteous innocence is counted as theirs so that they can receive everlasting life (Rom 5v12-21). Of course this may seem unfair. But God is never unjust. Moreover, we should recognise that whereas children may have died with Korah, Dathan and Abiram, this doesn’t mean they didn’t pass to glory.

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