Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 2-3:51; Mark 11:27-12:17; Psalm 47:1-9; Proverbs 10:24-25
Numbers 2 (and most of the entire book) may seem a bit dry. We may wonder why it is in the Bible and if we can learn anything from it. We certainly can.
When we read this chapter we see that God is a God of order. Everything God created is orderly. The universe. The human body.
Up until now the Israelites had evidently been arranging their camp however the chose. But soon they will be moving on to take the Promised Land and God needs them to be organized, just like military troops. In the military everyone can’t do whatever they want to do in battle. There has to be some order to it all.
By giving the Israelites specific instructions about how they were to camp around the Tabernacle God is trying to change them from being a random mob, to being a disciplined unit that works as a team. My local high school football team is one of the best in the state. They have won 3 of the past 4 state championships. Prior to each game the team lines up in rows on the field to stretch. The stretch for 20 minutes following the vocal instructions of one of the team captains. On more than one occasion I have noticed that their opposition is not so orderly and disciplined. I’ve also noticed the opposition, instead of prepping for the game, standing around watching them go through this pre-game exercise. I’m sure that their order and discipline instills some sense of doubt in the opposition as these qualities give the impression of strength and cohesiveness. This is exactly the image God wanted His people to project as they entered the Promised Land. God wanted Israel not only to appear confident to those who already occupied the land… God wanted them to be confident. And working as team under a competent leader creates confidence.
Notice that all of Israel camps around the Tabernacle, which was the presence of God. God wants our lives to be centered around Him. He is to be the main aspect of our lives.
Notice also how all the tribes positions are given in relation to God (the Tabernacle) not in relation to each other. We shouldn’t run our lives in comparison to other people. We should position our lives next to God and measure our lives by His standard and no one else’s.
In Numbers 3 God gives instructions to the tribe of Levi who were to support the priests in the Tabernacle. The priests came from the tribe of Levi, but only those directly descended from Aaron. The rest of the Levites supported the priests and their work. Even though most of the Levites worked “behind the scenes” while the priest himself had a very visible role, their work was no less important.
When I read Mark 11:27 this morning I had to smile a bit. Just the day before Jesus has demolished the price-gouging market set up by the religious leaders. Yet He returns to the “scene of the crime” the very next day. Jesus was afraid of nothing. And why should He be? He was God. He was in control of the situation the entire time. That same principle is true today. Even though the world seems to be out of control God isn’t. He knows what He is doing. He has a plan. That plan is very clearly spelled out in the Bible and it is coming true right before our eyes.
The question the Pharisees have for Jesus in Mark 11:28 is pretty much the same one we need to ask ourselves today. Does Jesus have authority? In today’s world no one wants to be under authority. And, when I think of the authority figures on our planet, I can’t blame them. I don’t want to be under the authority of egotistical and incompetent leaders either. They (ab)use their power for themselves. But Jesus is not a man like these. He is God. God doesn’t use His authority the way man does. His authority has only one goal – to provide abundant life for His children.
Jesus tells the parable of the landowner in Mark 12 today. The tenant farmers do not recognize the authority of the landowner and bully and kill his messengers, including his own son. God is obviously the landowner in this parable. The messengers are God’s prophets from the Old Testament and even those living today who try to teach others about Christ, who is the son in the parable. This parable can certainly be applied our modern world. So many people think that since they can’t see God that He doesn’t exist or that His power is weak. But that is not true. God is very patient. His patience is driven by His love for us, wanting all people to repent and believe in Him. But someday His power will be shown. I have no doubt that given the track record of the United States over the past 50 years or so that we will be seeing God’s power in the near future. And will not be a good thing.
Isn’t it interesting that the religious leaders recognized themselves in the parable (Mark 12:12) but instead of changing their ways they dug in their heels. As a former atheist I can tell you that there is really no such thing as a true, 100% atheist. We all know God exists. We just don’t want to admit it. We’d rather hang onto a false conclusion for the sake of pride than to admit we are wrong and live in truth and freedom. We’d rather give up something eternal to gain something false and temporal. Human beings are not the brightest creatures.
The Pharisees team up with their arch-enemies the Romans in Mark 12:13. Both groups hated Jesus and wanted to destroy His reputation to keep their status-quo going. They were tired and jealous of Jesus’s massive appeal among the people. So they present a question to Him. They are sure that no matter how He answers He will be finished. If Jesus says the Jews should not pay taxes to Rome then the Romans will arrest Him. If Jesus says that the Jews should pay taxes to Rome His reputation with the Jews will be ruined as He will be siding with their oppressor — the Jews will no longer believe that He is the Messiah. It appears to be a win-win situation for the Pharisees and Rome. But Jesus (who is God, remember) gives the perfect answer that doesn’t offend either group. No wonder the people were amazed (Mark 12:17).
Psalm 47 is a call to everyone to praise God. God is awesome (Psalm 47:2). He is King over all the earth (verse 7). He has nothing but good in mind for us (verse 4).
Our reading in Proverbs today reminds us that people do wicked things out of fear. Anytime we sin it is because we are afraid of the truth. By sinning we actually give in to our fears, making them come true (Proverbs 10;24). But fear doesn’t create any stability. There is always something to be afraid of. But God, who is our truth, is a solid foundation that will keep us safe in the storms of life (verse 25).
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