Wednesday, 26 February 2014

(58) February 27: Numbers 18-20 & Mark 7:1-13

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider the principles behind the provision for priests and Levites.

To ponder:
(18) With the need for priesthood affirmed and the sinfulness of Israel evident, roles are outlined to keep the Israelites from going “near the Tent of Meeting” and so dying (18v22). Both priests and Levites will be held responsible if the sanctuary is wronged in this sort of way (also 18v23), and the priests if the priesthood is somehow conducted wrongly. They are all responsible to care for and do the work of the tent, with the priests supervising. But the Levites must “not go near” the furnishings or altar, no doubt because these were more holy and so reserved for the priests. All Christians are responsible that the church is not defiled (Heb 12v15).
From what Israel first give him, the LORD gives the priests a portion of Israel’s offerings, the firstfruits of the harvest, the money by which firstborn sons and male unclean animals must be redeemed, and the Levites themselves. The Levites will receive Israel’s tithes, from which they are to offer “the best” ten percent to the priests as “the LORD’s portion” (it seems this would be treated as if grain and wine). Not to do so would be sin, and so defile the offerings Israel bring (18v32). The point is that God is the priests’ inheritance, and so providing for them directly. And the tithes are the Levites inheritance. Both groups therefore receive no share of the land, but are freed up for their work.
            The NT doesn’t require tithes as such. However it affirms that “the worker deserves his wages.” So those with the priestly ministry of preaching the gospel have a right to be paid to do it (1 Tim 5v18). More challengingly, the NT commends giving “as much” as one is able to poor “saints,” ie. holy ones (2 Cor 8v3-4).
            (19) Uncleanness resulting from contact with a dead body is to be dealt with by the “water of cleansing.” A heifer’s blood is sprinkled towards the Tent, and its ashes used in the water “for purification for sin.” Not to be sprinkled with this when unclean means intentional disobedience of God’s requirements and so warrants being “cut off.” The various washings, transferral of uncleanness, and concern the sanctuary is not “defiled,” once more stress that nothing in any way unfitting can be in God’s holy presence. However, only Christ’s blood can cleanse the conscience (Heb 9v13-14). And not appropriating this means condemnation too.
            (20) Now entering their fortieth year in the desert (20v1, 33v36-38), Miriam dies fulfilling God’s word that the rebellious generation would not enter the land. However the next generation now grumble – over water. The pattern is familiar. What differs is Moses and Aaron’s sin. God tells Moses to “speak” to a rock for it to provide water. Instead he “strikes” it and with words that seem to credit him and his brother rather than God. God’s responds that this displayed a lack of faith, perhaps in not trusting him to give the water with just a word, or by relying on human effort to draw the water. Either way, he was not honoured. So the brothers are disqualified from bringing the people into the land. This is tragic after all they had done. But, it reflects the holiness of God, and perhaps the fact that those with more knowledge and responsibility are more culpable.
            Moses then requests passage through Edom (populated by the descendents of Esau, Jacob’s brother). Edom’s refusal will have repercussions later. Aaron’s death fulfils God’s word about not entering the land, and sees the priesthood passed to his son Eleazar.

Praying it home:
Thank God for the many material blessings he gives. Pray for wisdom and determination to generously give back to him by giving to gospel workers and impoverished Christians.

Thinking further:
We should not assume not entering Canaan meant Moses and Aaron weren’t saved. Moses appears on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and is included in the faithful of Hebrews 11. to see a map related to today’s reading, click here.

If you receive this post by email, visit and make a comment.


Post a Comment