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.
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.
Verse 5 of today’s Psalm is powerful. “There they are, in great terror where there is no terror!” We fear so many things that have absolutely no power over us. We fear that people will not accept us, or that our children will not get into the right kindergarten, or that we won’t be able to maintain the standard of living we hope for. We create terror where there is no terror. God is good and is in control. Fear not.
- 1-4 – When things get scary, we often revert to whatever was comfortable even if it was bad for us. For the Israelites it was Egypt.
- 18 – As Moses appeals to the Lord to forgive the Israelites for their continued unfaithfulness, he uses a phrase that people will repeat throughout the Bible, “the Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…”.
- The Israelites’ unfaithfulness results in them not getting to enter the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua get to and later generations get to, but those who have continually been unfaithful despite God’s provision, are punished.
- 61-63 – This is the first time Jesus openly calls himself the Son of God. He normally followed people’s questions about his identity with a question. The chief priests believed this gave them grounds to charge him with blasphemy.
- 66-72 – Peter was convinced he would never deny Jesus. His denial and the fulfillment of what Jesus said gives Peter great grief.
- We allow ourselves to fear so much in the world that truly can’t harm us. God is in control and takes care of us.
A lot of times we get caught up in how many times the people in the Bible screw up. We’re appalled! How can these people not GET IT! Today, in Numbers, we get to read about a handful of people who make faithful decisions. Pay attention to Eldad, Medad, Joshua, and Caleb today. Let them give you a little hope that faithfulness is possible.
- 26-30 – Eldad and Medad are examples of God using ordinary people who haven’t necessarily gone through all the expected requirements to be holy people.
- 12 – Clearly Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings, were in the wrong for speaking against Moses, God’s chosen servant. It does seem odd, though, that only Miriam was punished.
- 25-33 – Of all the spies, only Joshua and Caleb believed they could overcome the inhabitants of their promised land. The others did not trust that God would give them what he promised because it looked impossible to them.
- 36 – A great example of how we should pray. We present all our requests to God, but always have an attitude of submitting to His will.
- 38 – Jesus’ words, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” is true of us in a number of temptations we face. We intend to do God’s will and honor him, but often our ability to withstand it is too weak.
- 51-52 – The mention of this young man is found nowhere else in the Bible and has very little explanation.
- Those who seek salvation and/or security in anything but God will falter.
- God cares about the way we conduct business. He cares about the morals and ethics we show to the world.
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.
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.
Numbers 6:24-26 is a beautiful blessing Aaron told the priests to pray over the Israelites. It is a great one for us to pray over those whom we love.
- 1-21 – Nazirites, by taking a vow into the priesthood were set apart with specific regulations. They couldn’t drink alcohol, cut their hair, or be near a dead person. Levites were priests who were born into it. Nazirites were priests who chose to be.
- 24-26 – This is often used as a blessing or benediction at the end of church gatherings. Many youth groups use it.
- 38-40 – Jesus puts the scribes’ desire to be in places of honor and noticed for their holy actions in contrast with what he has instructed his followers to do – humble themselves and let the last be first.
- 41-44 – It’s not the amount but the sacrifice that God values.
- 11 – An example of how God provides exactly what we need.
Today’s psalm encourages us to teach our faith to our children. The ancient Israelites were very good at this. They passed the stories of God’s faithfulness down from generation to generation even before they were written down. They also built monuments in places where God had done something particularly wonderful. We could learn a lot from them on how to do this.
- Each family group had a specific purpose they were tasked with that helped the whole group succeed.
- 11-31 – The test for an unfaithful wife is clearly disturbing to us partially because she has to go through this whether she’s been unfaithful or not and partially because there is no equivalent test for a husband who may have been unfaithful.
- 22 – “Thigh fall away” is also translated as “uterus drop”. In other words, the woman would become unable to have children.
- 31 – Women were considered property in this culture and age.
- Religious leaders consistently tried to trap Jesus into saying something they could arrest him for.
- 28-34 – Finally a religious leader appreciates Jesus’ answer and answers wisely as well. Jesus does not hold a grudge because of the other religious leaders’ manipulation and trickery. He instead encourages him.
- Ancient Jews were committed to passing down their faith. This Psalm encourages the listener to take it all in so they can report it down to their children and grandchildren.
I’m not going to lie to you, this week’s Numbers readings are filled with God giving the Israelites a chance, the Israelites complaining about what they’ve been given or what they think they should have been given, and the Israelites longing to return to their slavery in Egypt. Two mistakes we make when reading about the Israelites are to:
- Judge them too harshly – What idiots these folks are! They have access to the living God and yet they fail, complain, and lack trust. Get it together, Israel. Now that I have that out there…don’t we do the exact same thing? Don’t we also make the same mistakes over and over? Don’t we fall into the same sin traps?
- Assume God is mean – God gives the Israelites laws and covenants to protect them from the things that might harm them. The Israelites break the laws and forget their covenants and thus opening themselves up for consequences and attack. God does not desire for them to have these consequences. He set them up to never have to face them.
This week, the first full week of Lent, we also read another account of Jesus’ last week of life. It is a familiar story and yet should never become old hat. Let yourself imagine what he felt, what you would have thought and felt if you were a believer at that time, and how the sequence of events would have effected your faith.
One of our psalms this week is also particularly appropriate for this season. On Wednesday, note that Psalm 51 was written when David had been confronted by Nathan with his sin. It is filled with heartfelt repentance and can help us repent of our sins.
Happy reading! Let God’s Word bless your week!
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.