We have been tainted by a very small group of people who take advantage of peoples’ faith, asking them to give money in order to prove their faith. These faithful folks are promised more financial blessings if they go ahead and give from what they have. Though today’s Proverb may sound like it’s saying the same thing, our blessings can come in a variety of forms and many blessings we receive are far more valuable than money.
Numbers 36:1/Deuteronomy 1:46:
- The Book of Numbers was about counting the tribes, establishing rules to live and function by, and getting the Israelites to the Promised Land.
- 9-18 – Until now, Moses was the Israelites leader, judge, and connection to God. In this statement he spreads the power amongst leaders and judges of the individual tribes.
- 30-31 – It’s helpful to look back at God’s faithfulness in our past so we can be assured that he will continue to be faithful.
- 39 – God kept his promise to give the Promised Land to the Israelites. He did not give it to the older generation because they were unfaithful, but saved it for the younger generation.
- 29 – Tax collectors were some of the most despised people in this society. They were known for charging way too much for taxes and gaining wealth at the expense of others.
- 29-32 – This is true of us today as well. Jesus wants people who are willing to admit their failures and recognize their need for a Savior. He grants the wishes of those who believe they can handle things on their own and don’t need help.
- 36-39 – Jesus’ new ideas and ways of practicing faith did not fit into the Pharisees’ older ways of thinking. Old practices were cherished and had value in that society, so bringing in a new way of acting/thinking was threatening.
- 1-5 – Jesus uses David as an example because he was such a well-respected figure.
- 1-11 – Jesus’ point was not to dishonor the Sabbath. He realized God’s desire for us to rest on the Sabbath was for our good. If some action was necessary for someone’s wellbeing, that trumped the need to rest.
- It is important to celebrate the good things God has done in order to share his goodness and faithfulness with others.
- This should not be mistaken for “the prosperity gospel” that God wants to make all the faithful people rich. Vs. 24 might sound like this, but often we go richer and things far more important than money when we choose to trust God with our finances.
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.
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.
This obviously isn’t Jesus. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t wear sweaters and sit on folding chairs, but Jesus was a little Jewish boy who learned the same Scriptures of the Old Testament we learn today. He even memorized the Torah as all Jewish children are required to do. Often it’s hard to view Jesus as a human, but when he quotes Psalm 22 while on the cross in today’s reading from Mark, it reminds us that he learned Scripture and turned to it when in agony.
- 22-26 – It might be weird for us to think about unintentionally sinning because we normally know when we’re making choices that probably aren’t pleasing to God. They truly might have worn something with mixed fabrics unintentionally or broken some other law that they made a mistake on. God made atonement for these sins fairly easy and universal.
- 15 – Normally Moses is defending the Israelites to God and asking for mercy. This time, Moses seems to have had enough of their complaining and asks God not to respect their offerings.
- 23-32 – Korah, Dathan, and Abiram got swallowed up by the earth as a sign that they truly didn’t follow the Lord.
- 15 – Key phrase – “wishing to satisfy the crowd.” We often do things to satisfy a crowd that hurts our relationship with Christ.
- 19 – Striking his head with the reed was intended to force the thorns deeper into Jesus’ head.
- 23 – At the last supper Jesus explained that he wouldn’t drink wine again until he drinks it with his disciples in his father’s kingdom.
- 35 – Jesus quotes Psalm 22 here.
- 38 – The temple curtain separated the holy of holies, where one could encounter God, from the areas where sinful people could be. Jesus’ death literally broke down that barrier.
- 39 – Not insignificant that it is a gentile who recognizes Jesus’ identity.
- David was in actual physical danger when he cried out to God with this Psalm.
We all fall short and choose sin at times. David did too. In today’s psalm, David has been confronted with his sin by Nathan. David is truly and fully repentant and cries out to God for forgiveness. Star this psalm for the times when you need to repent and ask for forgiveness. We’ll all need it at some point.
- 1-3 – You can imagine that God would grow tired and frustrated of hearing complaints from the people he was continually caring for and protecting.
- The Israelites continue to think they have better ideas than the Lord. They continue to doubt his provision for them.
- 3-9 – This story is also found in Matthew. One significant addition to Mark’s version is in Jesus’ response to the naysayers. He says, “whenever you want, you can do good for them.” It seems to suggest that they denounce this woman for not tending to the poor and yet they don’t either.
- Note that this is a Psalm written by David in response to Nathan rebuking him when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then sent her husband to the front lines of battle to cover up his sins.
- This is a Psalm to read and pray when you are ready to fully repent of a sin you’ve committed.
- Note that David recognizes that God is not looking for a sacrifice or offering, but true brokenness and repentance from the sinner.
Now that we’re a week into Mark, you’ve probably noticed that some stories are repeated in multiple gospels while others are only in one. The reason something is or isn’t included in a gospel is based on whether the writer felt it was significant in explaining to people the identity and importance of Jesus.
- 9 – What it meant to be “cut off from your people” is uncertain. Some thoughts are that it entailed the death penalty, or a curse to die young and childless, or to be excommunicated from your people.
- 4-5 – The reason we should follow God’s laws is simple – because he is the Lord our God.
- 26-30 – The Syrophenician woman was a gentile. While Jesus’ statement sounds harsh, Jesus makes it very clear he came first for the Jews. Note that he still heals the woman’s daughter.
- Both Matthew and Mark record two large feeding stories, one of 4,000 and one of 5,000, which makes it more likely that it was not simply one event they were trying to emphasize.
- 4 – Was David’s sin not considering the poor? This makes sense considering the first few verses.
When Jesus died the temple curtain tore down the middle. The temple curtain separated the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, which represented God’s presence, from the rest of the temple, where people were allowed. Jesus’ death took away any need for separation between God and humanity. Jesus’ sinless life and unfair death bridged the gap.
- 1 – God gave Bezalel and Oholiab the skills they needed for the task at hand. He does this for us as well.
- 3-7 – The Israelites worked together to provide all that was needed and more. No one held back or assumed their contribution wasn’t significant enough. This is a beautiful picture of how God’s people can come together to do great things.
- 39-43 – Jesus most likely had similar thoughts. He had saved so many others and definitely had the power to save himself.
- 48 – Sour wine was used similarly to an anesthetic.
- 51 – The temple curtain was the separation between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. This is how these were symbolically separated. Jesus’ death broke down any separation between man and God.
- 54 – It is significant that the centurion was not a Jew and was one of the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
- When Psalms are attributed to a certain experience in David’s life it can remind us that we too can praise, lament, or call on God in specific moments of our lives.
- 8 – “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” We are to experience God fully with all our senses and abilities.
- Good advice is wasted on those who insist on folly, but folks who want to learn and grow wiser are willing to listen to criticism and rebuke.
Generally speaking, here are some things to expect this week:
- The highs and lows of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph (and get ready because they are extreme)
- Parables from Jesus and his run-ins with the religious authorities (spoiler alert: they still don’t like him)
- Psalms of David – he doesn’t write all the psalms, but he’s got some great ones!
- The Parables continue to try to separate wisdom from folly.
One theme you might want to pay attention to that runs throughout all of our readings this week– some more subtly than others – is what it looks like to trust God in the face of adversity or opposition.
In the Psalms, you’ll hear David beautifully and poetically describe God as a shelter and refuge. David was constantly facing actual deadly attacks and yet he trusted in the Lord for his protection throughout it all.
Joseph is sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted sexual assault, and has his kindness forgotten. In the midst of all that, he recognizes God’s presence with him and continues to give God the glory and credit for all his blessings. On Thursday you’ll even read a quote from him that says, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
And Jesus, in Matthew, as he addresses his disciples regarding the persecution they will surely face because of him, reminds them that the persecutors are not to be feared. He assures them by reminding them how greatly the Father cares for a simple sparrow so how much more will he watch over them?
So take comfort in that today as you prepare for a long workweek, face a tough decision, or dread an interaction with a difficult person. Your trust in God will lead you to more faithfulness, more blessings, and more reminders that nothing can separate you from the love of God.