Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 8-9:23; Mark 13:14-37; Psalm 50:1-23; Proverbs 10:29-30
In Numbers 8 Aaron is instructed with regard to the lampstand. The lampstand itself gave off no light. It had to have lamps in it. The lamps were fueled by oil. In Revelation the lampstand is analogous to the church. Just as the lampstand itself didn’t provide light – it only provides a place from which light is provided – the church itself doesn’t light the world. The light of the world are the believers in the church. Jesus explained this in Matthew 5:14.
Not all the Levites were priests but even those who were not still had to be dedicated to God before they could do His work. Notice how we work for God. Having an existence is not about lazily lying around on clouds playing harps. God built us to do things. Work is a recurring theme in the Bible.
In Numbers 8:7 we read that “Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel” carefully followed all the Lord’s instructions. At this point in their history Israel is still really committed to God. They are careful about everything they do. They aren’t trying to do things their own way. We have seen a couple of cases where individuals disobeyed God but for the most part, Israel as a whole was still on the right track.
The Levites had to begin serving in the Tabernacle at the age of 25. Their days of youth were over and they were expected to serve. The first five years were spent “learning the ropes” as we read the other day. They weren’t allowed to carry the Tabernacle until they were 30 years old. Just like any job we would have today there was a learning curve. The Levites had to come up to speed before they were given more important responsibilities.
Notice too that the Levites had to retire at age 50. The work the Levites were assigned was physically demanding. By setting minimum and maximum ages for this work God was ensuring the strongest and most mature men carried out these tasks. After retirement, though, a Levite could continue to assist in a less physically demanding capacity if he desired (Numbers 8:25-26)
Israel was lead in the desert by God in the form of a cloud (Numbers 9:15). When the cloud moved they packed up and followed it. When it stopped they stopped. Sometimes they stayed for only a night. Sometimes they stayed in a place for a year. But the point is they followed God. God was teaching them to be dependent on Him to guide them. This same principle holds true today. God is our leader. He will guide us through life. It is in our best interests to let Him do so. He isn’t trying to turn us into robots. But He is trying to demonstrate to us that He knows what is best for us and wants to lead us to it. Sadly we all want to do our own thing. We want to be in control of our lives. God will let us do that – again he isn’t trying to create robots out of us. But the results of doing life our own way can’t compare to the abundant life that God will provide if we follow Him instead.
In Mark 13 today Jesus continues what is known at the Olivet Discourse because this conversation took place on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. By the way the Mount of Olives is the point from which Jesus ascended into heaven and the to place where He will return when He comes back.
In this passage Jesus continues to tell His disciples the signs of the end of the age. This topic, known as eschatology (the study of the end times), is my favorite Bible topic. I can’t read enough about it. If you are interested in reading about the return of Christ and the other things that will happen in the future I high recommend any book by Mark Hitchcock.
One sign that Jesus will be returning soon is the “abomination that causes desolation” in the Temple. Something happens there that is so horrible that the Temple is left desolate – no one goes into it anymore because it is defiled. As we have been learning so far this year in our Old Testament studies, there was a most holy room in the Tabernacle (later the Temple) where the Ark of the Covenant was. God would meet with the high priest in this room once a year. He (God) would appear above the Ark where the wings of the two cherubim touched. This was God’s place. What most likely will happen in the future is the Antichrist will himself sit in God’s place in the Temple and will proclaim himself to be God. This will be an abomination that will render the Temple defiled and useless.
However this event unfolds, it will usher in the most unbelievably frightening years in human history. Things on earth will rapidly deteriorate. We’ll read all the specifics as we go through the Bible. Jesus tells us in Mark 13:14-25 just how bad it will be. But when these things happens He will soon return. Just as leaves budding on a tree signal summer is coming, these events will signal that Jesus is returning soon (verses 28-29).
This earth, and even heaven, are temporary (Mark 13:31) but God’s word will last forever. I believe that even in hell people will be aware of God’s word. No one will forget the Bible. Those people who end up in hell will be regretting their dismissal of God’s word for all of eternity. How sad.
No one knows when these things will begin to happen (Mark 13:32). Even Jesus Himself, when He was in a human body, did not know. Therefore we should not believe anyone who predicts the end of the world. In 2011 Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would take place in May of that year. When that failed to happen he revised his timeline and predicted that the entire world would end in October 2011. Of course, that failed to happen too. The only thing this did, besides making Mr. Camping look like a fool, was to draw atheists and skeptics further away from God which is exactly the opposite of what God calls us to (we are to draw people closer to Him). So whenever you hear someone predicting a date for the end of the world you can be sure they are not true followers of Jesus. Have nothing to do with them.
Psalm 50 reminds us that everything on this earth belongs to God. He does not need us to give Him our material possessions and money. They belong to Him anyway. What we need is to be thankful (Psalm 50:14). We give to God not because He needs us to but because we need us to. Giving away what God has given us reminds us that nothing on this earth is ours and that we are dependent on Him for all aspects of our life. We came into this world with nothing. We will leave with nothing.
When we call on God when we are in trouble He will rescue us for His glory (verse 15). I heard someone liken God to a fire truck that is dispatched after a 911 call. The owners of the home on fire can’t see or even hear the fire truck when it leaves the fire house. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t on its way. When we call, God will answer. We are His children and He is all about taking care of us.
Those who don’t recognize God think that the fact that they can’t see or hear God means He doesn’t exist (Psalm 50:16-21). But God is just giving everyone time. He is patient. He puts up with a lot. He is not like us who retaliate at the slightest insult.
I really like Proverbs 10:29. God’s way is protection for those who walk with Him. But to those who dismiss God from their life, His direction is a guilty verdict. We will be judged by the way we keep God’s commandments. For those who are born-again in this life we are declared “not guilty” at that moment. For those who reject God, they will have to face the consequences for that decision. The consequences are that they get what they want for all eternity — separation from God (aka hell).
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