John 3:30 is John the Baptist speaking. He says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What if that was our goal for the way we lived our lives? What if everything we did and every decision we made was with the goal of becoming more like Christ? What if we were more concerned with God being glorified than with our own recognition and success? Let’s take a verse from John the Baptist on this one.
- 1 – Stories continue to be started with the phrase, “when there was no king in Israel”. This should not be read as a negative. God did not intend for Israel to have a human king, but to be their king himself.
- 22-26 – This is almost identical to the story in Genesis 19 about Sodom and Gomorrah and the townsmen trying to have sex with the visiting angels. Clearly sexually assaulting a woman was seen as a far lesser crime than sexually assaulting a man.
- 27-30 – Obviously a very disturbing story, the Levite dismembers his dead concubine and sends pieces to every tribe. It seems his intention is to remind them of their sin and encourage them to speak out against one another when they commit such egregious sins.
- 23 – The first time in the whole ordeal when someone calls on God for direction.
- 43 – “Nohah” has a superscript 2 attached. When you look at the footnote it mentions the “Septuagint.” The Septuagint was a translation of the Old Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, into Koine Greek, which is what the majority of the New Testament was originally written in.
- 25-30 – While John’s disciples viewed Jesus as competition, John recognized that he had simply paved the way for Jesus. His explanation in verse 30 of his relationship with Jesus is one that we should all model after.
- 34 – When God sends people they have his words because he fills them with the Spirit. Often we worry about “what to say”, but we need not worry because if we’re sent by God he will give us the words.
- The works and control of God are amazing. This Psalm chronicles some of the specifics.
- 22- 23 – The book of James tells us not simply to hear the word but also to do what it says. These verses are similar. We are not simply to talk, but also to do.
Today we see Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ “inner circle” (which is apparently also the name of a popular Jamaican reggae group – thus the picture) in action. These were the three disciples invited most closely into Jesus’ life and ministry. Today they experience the transfiguration, a powerful experience where they saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus up on a mountain. It must have been incredible to be in Jesus’ inner circle.
- 1-5 – What a great amount of trust this must have taken for this tribe. They were not allowed to try to provide for themselves or store up for themselves. Instead, they had to rely on the peoples’ devotion to God.
- 21-22 – This definition of whether a prophet was false or not was certainly fairly tricky considering much of what prophets said didn’t happen until long after they were dead.
- 21 – This verse represents justice.
- 1-4 – Yet again, the Lord asks the Israelites to trust him completely. It’s important to remember all the ways he had been faithful to them beforehand in order for them to trust him in these large ways.
- Peter, James, and John were the inner circle of the disciples. They were most often included and more seemed to be expected from them.
- 28-36 – This event is known as the Transfiguration. Jesus’ form was transformed in the presence of God. He shown with the glory of God.
- 46-48 – There is great irony that this conversation comes just after they are unable to cast out a demon and unable to understand what Jesus is telling them.
- 49-50 – Sometimes doing the work of God comes before having love for God.
- 25-26 – Beautiful verses about the importance of full reliance on God.
- 27-28 – The rewards or consequences based on what you choose.
Today’s Psalm reminds us how vast, great, and capable our God is. Is the God who set the earth in motion, raised the mountains to their heights, and created boundaries for the oceans overwhelmed by our problems? Of course not! He is able to care for you no matter what is going on.
- 50-56 – God actually gives an explanation here for why he’s asking the Israelites to drive other people out of their land. If people are left, they will hinder the Israelites.
- 2 – Earlier in Numbers God explained that the Levites would not receive an inheritance, but instead would receive what was offered to God. This command is another way God provided for the Levites.
- 11 – They had specific cities of refuge for people who accidentally killed people, but God makes it clear what defines an accidental death and who should not have access to the cities of refuge.
- 16 – We often think we’re too busy to pray or spend time with God. This is clearly an indictment on that because Jesus needed to teach and heal crowds of people and yet he made a point to get away and pray.
- 22 – The scribes and Pharisees had not audibly expressed their concerns, but Jesus knew them anyway. They must have been a little thrown off when Jesus addressed their unspoken criticisms.
- 26 – When we see God move, whether in our lives or someone else’s, we are moved and amazed.
- Seeing God’s power, creativity, and control in nature can remind us of what he can do in our lives. What can be so big in your life that the God who built the mountains and controls roaring seas can’t handle?
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.
Do you ever long for something you used to complain about? Like naps as little kids, now we would die for one in the middle of a long afternoon! In this week’s Numbers readings, the Israelites continue to long for what they begged to get out of. Their wanderings in the desert prove difficult and they think they’d rather be back in Egypt. You’ll also hear a talking donkey, learn the purpose of the Levites, and much more!
This week we also start a new gospel! Luke begins his gospel by explaining that he will provide an orderly, organized account of Jesus’ life and ministry. You’ll recognize his birth narrative from every Christmas Eve service you’ve ever been to. But you may never have noticed that there’s something different from the birth narrative in Matthew. Matthew focuses more on Joseph’s perspective while Luke focuses more on Mary’s.
Some other cool fun facts about Luke:
- Luke also wrote Acts, which we’ll read after John.
- Luke is known for its wide array of Jesus’ parables. Parables are found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but Luke has the most.
- In Luke, women play a larger role than in any other gospel.
- Luke contains both Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s song – both beautiful praise pieces.
Enjoy this week! We’re making great progress! This is the 9th book we’ve started, so we’re doing great!!
Mark warns us that in the end times there will be false prophets claiming that they are the Messiah. This has happened many times in history, but Scripture says that we’ll all know when Christ comes back.
- 14-19 – God proves himself willing to take a substitute for what he originally required. Originally he claimed all first borns as his own. Now he will accept the Levites as a substitute for all first borns. This is reminiscent of how he accepted the death of Jesus for all of our sins.
- 15-23 – The cloud was a very clear sign of what the Lord wanted of the Israelites. We often would like something as obvious and tangible as a cloud telling us where and when to go.
- 22-23 – False prophets’ job is to lead believers astray.
- 32 – Many people and groups try to predict when Jesus will come back, but none should be trusted because no one knows.
- Those who do evil often get away with it for a while, but God sees the evil and will deal with it in time.
As he did so often, in today’s Mark reading, Jesus takes one of the religious leaders’ questions and flips it on its head. The religious leader asks about whether or not he should have to pay taxes. Jesus responds brilliantly! If the image of Caesar is on the coin, sure, give it to him, but where is the image of God?
- Just like the homes were supposed to face the Tent of Meeting, certain Jewish prayers are supposed to be said in the direction of the place the temple was.
- 38 – Interesting that part of the priestly duty was to guard the temple. This seems like a strange task for priests.
- 44-51 – The Levites weren’t killed in exchange for the first born of each Israelite family, they were simply set apart for service to God and the Lord allowed that commitment to redeem the lives of all the first born.
- 27-33 – Jesus was adept at sidestepping the religious leaders’ attempts to incriminate him.
- 1-12 – This parable describes God sending prophet after prophet to the Israelites trying to get them to repent and follow him. Over and over the prophets were rejected. Finally God sends Jesus and Jesus too is rejected and killed.
- 13-17 – The image of Caesar is on the coin but the image of God is on us. We can pay our taxes as designed but give our lives to God.
- A reminder that we serve a God who can overcome anything and thus deserves praise.