Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 28:16-29:40; Luke 3:23-38; Psalm 62:1-12; Proverbs 11:18-19
Today’s passage in Numbers 19 might not seem to be the most interesting or useful at first glance. But notice all the symbolism. Remember God was trying to teach Israel that they were sinful and needed someone to cleanse them of their sin. All of this pointed forward to a coming Savior (that would be Jesus).
A person could become unclean by touching a dead body. Death entered the world because of sin. Without sin there would be no death so death itself (i.e. a dead body) was a reminder of sin. Such an unclean person would need to be made clean by being sprinkled with ashes mixed with water. The ashes were the remnants of a sacrifice. Notice that all the ingredients for the ashes point to Jesus in their own way. A heifer was a virgin cow. It was to be defect-free. Cedar represented the cross (the wood used for crucifixion may have even been cedar). Jesus was offered a drink from a hyssop branch while on the cross. The scarlet yarn symbolized flowing blood. It was all these things that would make a person clean again back in the time of Numbers and also in the New Testament when they were fulfilled in Jesus.
Notice that someone who came in contact with a dead animal was unclean for one day (Leviticus 11:24, 27, 39) but someone who touched an dead person was unclean for 7 days (Numbers 19:11). The sin of man is much more severe than that of animals so a dead human body created more “uncleanness”.
Uncleanness was a state of being but it was not sinful to be unclean. The red heifer mixture did not absolve anyone from sin. There was a different sacrifice and ritual for that. The red heifer sacrifice just cleaned someone up after they became unclean. The same concept exists today. Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of believers. But that doesn’t mean that we stop sinning. We may (and should) sin less, but as long as we are in a human body on this earth we will still sin. We need to be “cleansed” from those ongoing sins by confessing them and repenting from them. See how the Bible is so consistent? Everything in it declares our sin and need for God to rescue us.
Notice too that there was only one way to become clean – God’s way. A person could not come up with their own recipe for becoming clean. Just the same, there is only one way to heaven – God’s way.
Miriam dies in Numbers 20. Although she later rebelled against her brother Moses she was a leader of Israel. But even so, her death shows that God kept His promise that only Joshua and Caleb will enter Canaan. Neither Miriam or her two brothers, Moses and Aaron, will enter. Notice that there were no “exemptions” for serving God. If any 3 people could make the case for entering Canaan it would be these three who served God so well (Miriam served God way back in Egypt too by floating Moses down the river). There are many people today who think that God will give them a “Get out of hell free” card because of their good behavior. But that will not be the case.
Our story is now in the 40th year of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. God doesn’t record anything between years 2 and 40. Probably not much happened. Israel just wasted time wandering around waiting for the unbelieving older generation to die out. But notice how their children are complaining just as they did! (Numbers 20:5). Children take on the characteristics of their parents for the most part. Whiny, immature parents will raise children who become whiny, immature adults.
It is completely understandable that Moses was frustrated. He had put up with these people for over 40 years. As such he disobeys God. God had told him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8) and He (God) would bring forth water from the rock. Instead Moses speaks to the people (Numbers 20:10) and not in a nice way. He also seems to claim that miracles come from God and him (“must we bring forth water…”). Finally Moses strikes the rock not once but twice. Its is safe to say that Moses’s frustration had gotten the better of him and his attitude was not right. Even so, a reason is not an excuse.
Nevertheless, God brings water from the rock. After all Israel needed water. God wasn’t going to let them go thirsty because of Moses. But Moses will pay a price for his disobedience. He will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. (Neither will Aaron who apparently also sinned during this incident.) No one, not even Moses is above God’s law. This must have been very difficult for Moses since he had envisioned himself as a deliverer of his people since he killed a slave driver back in Egypt more than 80 years before.
We start the book of Luke today in the New Testament! Luke was a doctor and was highly educated and, therefore, highly respected by his contemporaries. His book is really a letter to a friend, Theophilus (in Greek: “lover of God”), in which Luke states that he did a lot of careful research on the events surrounding Jesus’s life. Perhaps Luke was not a follower of Christ while Jesus was alive or maybe was even a doubter. I doubt that people who dismiss the Bible even know that these types of statements are in it. I know I didn’t when I was an atheist. But the fact that he did so much research and may have been a skeptic I think adds to his credibility.
In fact we know that Luke was not even Jewish. He is the only Gentile New Testament writer. He not only wrote this book but also the book of Acts which recounts the beginnings of the early church. With these two books, Luke wrote more of the New Testament than any other author.
Every time an angel appears in the Bible people are afraid (Luke 1:13). I’m sure I’ll see a bunch in heaven but I think it would be cool to see one before I die.
The angel tells Zechariah that he and his wife, despite being very old, will have a son. And this son will grow up to be an important part of God’s plan. He (the son, John the Baptist) will be the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Malachi. I really think God loves to give us things after we’ve given up believing they will happen. Whether it be a spouse. Or a child. He doesn’t always wait that long. But when He does it is extra special.
What should we do when we are afraid? Maybe when we lose a job. Or a spouse dies. Or we have financial trouble. We should put our trust in God (Psalm 56:3). When we trust in God there is no reason to be afraid of life or people (verse 4).
I was really blown away by Psalm 56:4 when I read it this morning. Its easy to praise God for what He has already done. I do that all the time. But how often do I praise God for what He has promised but has yet to do? Honestly, never. That will start changing today.
God knows all our hurts. He keeps track of them. He knows them better than we do (Psalm 56:8). Isn’t that cool? God is more concerned with your life than you probably think.
When I read Proverbs 11:8 today I realized that people who cause trouble for others create trouble for themselves. Trouble breeds trouble. We reap what we sow. If you want to have a trouble-free life, do what you can to bring joy to other people.
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