Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
French Countryside near Bannalec

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 19, Num 18-20

Today's readings are Num 18-20.

After Korah's rebellion and its consequences are described in Num 16-17, the priesthood is reaffirmed in Num 18. But, this time we see more detail in how it will be structured. The Levites will guard the outside of the tabernacle while Aaron and his descendants will guard the innermost places. This is to protect any outsiders from approaching and causing judgment to fall. There is an obvious structure with the high priests standing between God and the camp, in touch with both, and then the Levites serving the high priests and maintaining the purity and holiness of the house of God. Collectively, the Levites' and priests' jobs are to bear the burden of the sins of the people. In return, the entire nation honors them with their their tithes and offerings. Significantly, the holy offerings go to Aaron and his sons (Num 18:19). Those offerings will be sacrificed and will also sustain the priests. The tithe goes to the Levites who are more numerous than Aaron and his sons (Num 18:21). In this manner, the Levites and priests are supported by the community as they minister.  

Num 19 provides cautions against coming into contact with corpses. It also details the guidelines for cleansing those who do. These cautions and rituals emphasize the spiritual separation between life and death. Life has nothing to do with death. Death is the result of sin. It taints life. God intends to cleanse His people of death and the consequences of sin. He gives them a picture of what that cleansing looks like in the physical world. Death and life must remain separated. 

Num 20:1 begins with a notable death, Miriam’s. Astonishingly, Num 20:2 depicts the people complaining again. This time they grumble over a lack of water. God tells Moses to speak to the rock at Meribah (Num 20:8). God will provide water from the rock. Reading carefully, we see that Moses says he and Aaron will provide the water and strikes the rock instead (Num 20:11-12). Not only does Moses do more than God told him, he insinuates that he and Aaron, not God, will produce water from the rock. For his disobedience, Moses will not enter the Promised Land. Moses’s consequences are another indication that God's people can suffer real-time consequences for their sin without being eternally disenfranchised by God. 

Edom’s king refuses passage to the Hebrews (Num 20:14-21). This slight of God’s people will have its own consequences further down the road. God promised Abraham (Gen 12:3) that He will bless those who bless him and his descendants and curse those who curse them. 

God tells Moses to bring Aaron to the top of Mount Hor to ordain Aaron's son as his replacement (Num 20:22-29). Aaron will die there, just as God said he would. Notice that God frequently reveals to His prophets their time and place of dying. These moments are accompanied by exceptionally short narratives of the time of death. Even more startling is the fact that the participants seem to go willingly every time. It speaks well of the Jews, as flawed as they may be, that their trust is in God, even unto their death.

Their example should be an encouragement to us that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. It is appropriate to mourn and grieve over the dead—we miss them! But, our grief is for the loss of their fellowship, not for them. They are with the Lord! Likewise, we should face our own mortality, in God’s perfect timing, with an anticipation of being in His presence eternally with no tears, no sickness, no sin and pure joy.   

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