Wednesday, 5 March 2014

(65) March 6: Numbers 34-36 & Mark 10:32-52

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 these final instructions prepare the people to enter the land.

To ponder:
God is exact in determining the “boundaries” of Israel’s new land, stressing it is exactly the area he promised (Gen 15v18-21). Now the two and a half tribes are settling east of the Jordon, it is to be parcelled out by lot to the nine and a half tribes left. The men put in charge of the lot are trustworthy and faithful leaders (34v16, 19), protecting against disputes. These qualifications are required of those governing churches too (Acts 6v3, Tit 1v6-9). Due to subsequent sin the land was never fully possessed. That will come when Christ and his people inherit the whole world.
            Although the Levites (of which the priests are a part) are not assigned a specific area, they are to be given forty eight towns by the tribes, each giving a number reflecting their size. A square of land measuring 3000 feet on each side is to be provided around each town for the livestock the Levites are given as tithes. So they were to live amongst the tribes throughout the land, enabling everyone to be taught God’s law and reminded of his presence. Likewise, every church needs preachers. So Paul commanded Titus to appoint elders in “every town” (Tit 1v5).
            Six of the Levites’ towns are to be cities of refuge, with three on the east of the Jordon for those living there. These were to protect those who commit manslaughter from “the avenger of blood” – a relative who was expected to avenge the death, potentially causing family feuds. The accused can flee to one of these towns for safety until their trial. And if found innocent, they must live there until the high priest dies. Only then can they return to their property. If they venture out before then, the avenger is allowed to kill them. This is because all taking of life warrants a life in return (35v33, Gen 6v9). So no ransoms are allowed (35v31-32). If it is murder, the murderer must die. If it is manslaughter, the killer is not free until the high priest dies. This looks to Christ giving his life for us. The “polluting” and requirement of atonement for “the land” because of bloodshed, speaks of the need of the land to be clean if God is to remain present there as promised. This is one reason why no sin can be allowed in the new creation, which will be filled with God’s glory.
            Once again the penalty depends on whether the sin is intentional or unintentional: Striking, pushing or throwing something that kills means murder if done in “malice,” ie. with hostility. The avenger is then actually required to put the murderer to death “when he meets” them. However, reflecting God’s concern for justice, guilt must be established by “the assembly” (probably of elders), and by more than one witness. If it is judged there was no malice, the assembly “must protect” the accused by sending him back to the city of refuge. God is concerned not just with outer behaviour. The final judgement will also “expose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Cor 4v5).
            Zelophehad’s daughters bracket chapters 27-36 as dealing with the inheritance. They inherited their father’s property because they had no brothers. To ensure in such circumstances that it is not transferred to another tribe if they marry, they may marry “anyone,” provided they are within the clan their father was part of. God ensures our inheritance will not be taken away either (1 Pet 1v3-4). He also sets limits on relationships. Despite the assumptions of our culture, we are not at liberty to just marry anyone (1 Cor 7v39).

Praying it home:
Thank God for his concern with fairness and justice. Pray that you and those you know would conduct your relationships according to his word and not just as you please.

Thinking further:
To see the boundaries of the land as promised to Israel, click here. Another book is now finished, and Israel borders her long awaited land. Numbers is about her wanderings (33v1-49), and the lessons she should have learnt. God’s people are prone to grumbling and faithlessness; but God, to grace and faithfulness. Despite his necessary anger and justice when Israel sinned, again and again he patiently remained present, providing her with food, water and protection, fulfilling all he promised. It is a book about pilgrimage, with many lessons about our call to obedience and God’s provision as we journey through the trials and tests of this life towards our everlasting rest.

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