Sheep and shepherds are a big deal in Scripture. Like in other passages, today’s Numbers reading refers to the Israelites as “sheep without a shepherd.” Sheep without a shepherd are pretty hopeless. They can’t protect themselves or take care of themselves. The shepherd is crucial. When we get to John, Jesus refers to himself as “the good shepherd.” I wonder if there’s any correlation?
1-11 – All inheritance was passed down through male offspring until this story. This was probably shocking to the Israelites because women were seen as property, not landowners.
17 – In Matthew, Jesus looks at the people of Israel and has compassion on them describing them then too as “sheep without a shepherd.”
Joshua becomes Moses successor. He also becomes the first official judge of Israel.
John the Baptist was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that there would be one to prepare the way for the Lord.
7-9 – John is speaking to Jews who relied on their heritage as their means to righteousness and connection with God. John is explaining that their lives should reflect repentance and living for God.
10-14 – John’s teaching sounds a lot like things Jesus would say. He is teaching how to be honorable, generous, and humble.
22 – God’s confirmation of Christ’s identity.
Beautiful imagery of God’s protection. David describes him as a “rock higher than I”, “refuge”, “strong tower”, “shelter of your wings”.
This verse is problematic in that the Proverbs usually teach that unrighteous behavior leads to our downfall, but here it follows that suit except when speaking of violent men.
We all had an awkward adolescence…even George Clooney. Yikes! In today’s reading, we find the only story in the Bible about Jesus’ adolescence. Don’t get too nervous about the ending. No surprise, he finds himself in church.
The Israelites were meticulous with their record keeping.
41-45 – The pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover would have been a journey of several days and whole extended families and friends would travel together. It is not unusual that Mary and Joseph would assume that Jesus was somewhere in the group. But can you imagine the panic they must have felt when they thought they had lost the Son of God?
51 – This verse is placed here to assure the reader/hearer that Jesus wasn’t unkind or disrespectful of his parents. He was simply engaged in his long-term call.
This passage is the only canonical recording of Jesus’ childhood or adolescence.
This is warning not to make promises you can’t keep and specifically not to promise something that someone else is intended to keep because you can never guarantee it.
Suffering is terrible. It is particularly hard when it comes by no fault of your own. Today’s Psalm is a good one to turn to when your suffering blind sides you and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Turns to God, not to despair.
3-9 – Through Balaam’s obedience to God, he is blessed with a greater understanding and insight to God’s plan, provision, and protection for the Israelites. He expresses this in this oracle.
1-5 – God takes idolatry and worship of other gods very seriously.
9 – A plague killing 24,000 people seems harsh, but God’s plan was to set the Israelites apart. When they intermixed with other nations, they often fell to the temptation of worshipping other gods. Clearly this Israelite who took the Midianite woman did so without regard to the congregation and interfered with worship in doing so.
8-15 – The first people to find out about Jesus’ birth are shepherds, one of the lowliest jobs in their society.
Simeon offers a special blessing for Jesus because it had been revealed to him who Jesus was. Notice that he also is described as having the Holy Spirit upon him. The Holy Spirit was active and working in people well before Jesus officially sent him to the disciples after his resurrection and ascension.
This Psalm is good for times when we suffer through no fault of our own. David calls out to God and trusts him to take care of him.
Today’s Proverb reminds us that flapping our gums is hurtful and unwise. It is too easy to break trust, tell secrets, and speak ill of others for our own gain. Unfortunately, these things have been problems for humanity for centuries, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop these tempting habits.
22 – It is confusing why God gets angry about Balaam going with the princes of Balak because God gave him permission. God’s permission, however, was to only do what God told him to do. Balaam may have acted in a way at some point that was not pleasing to God.
23-35 – Did you know this was in the Bible? Yep, a talking donkey. God truly can do all things! Note that God gave special sight to the donkey to see the angel and protect Balaam.
Balak continues to push Balaam to bend to his will instead of God’s. Balaam’s response is continually, “All that the Lord says, that I must do.”
68-79 – Zechariah’s song serves as both a praise song to God and a blessing for John.
It seems that we still have the same problems that ancient Jews did. They struggled with slander and trustworthiness and we do as well. The Proverbs are helpful for us even today.
As special as Buddy the Elf’s song for his dad is…there are some really cool songs people in the Bible sing for God based on a specific experience. Today, we read Mary’s Magnificat, or her song of praise to God for choosing her to be the mother of Jesus. What would you write your song to God about?
4-9 – One of the stranger stories in Scripture. Though it does fall in line with the overall themes of the Israelites relationship with God. The Israelites complain, God gets angry and punishes them, they cry out for mercy, and God offers mercy.
Balaam consistently goes to the Lord for guidance before taking any action. He makes a powerful statement in vs. 18, “Though Balak were to give me his house of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more.”
Luke’s birth narrative is more from Mary’s perspective.
30 – “Do not be afraid” is a common greeting when people encounter God, God’s presence, or angels.
37 – Elizabeth’s pregnancy was used as a testament for Mary that nothing was impossible. Pregnancy in old age. Pregnancy in virginity. God is not bound by our human constraints.
38 – A powerful statement of submission to God’s will no matter what.
39-45 – Elizabeth and her unborn baby, John, both recognize the identity of Christ even before his birth.
46-55 – Like Hannah in the Old Testament and Zechariah, Mary praises God for her pregnancy through a song or poem-like piece. It is often referred to as “Mary’s Magnificat”.
Though David is constantly up against major enemies, he continually finds ways to praise and rely on God in the midst of it.
Remember these from Exodus? These were the priestly garments. They were worn by the Levites. The Levites were a tribe set apart to be the priests who handled sacrifices, atonement, and all sorts of other special tasks. Today’s Numbers reading gives us a helpful rundown of the Levites.
48 – God spared the rest of the people because Aaron guarded them.
8-11 – Aaron and his family are given everything that is offered to the Lord. They receive this instead of an inheritance because the Lord is to be their portion.
The Levites also got no inheritance of the people of Israel. Instead, they got the tithes offered to God.
26 – The Levites were supposed to tithe off of the tithes they received. This is kind of like pastors tithing since they are paid by the tithes of the church members.
It is significant that the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection are women. Women’s testimony in court or otherwise did not count.
16-18 – These verses have been used to justify some of the more extreme versions of Christianity.
David feels particularly tortured because he is being betrayed by someone he once felt close to.
22 – A great reminder that we can cast our worries, burdens, difficulties, etc. on God and he will carry them for us.