Saturday, February 2, 2019

Daily Bread for Feb 18, Num 16-17

Today's readings are Num 16-18.

Korah, a Levite serving in the tabernacle but not a priest, challenges Aaron's position as high priest and mediator (Num 16:1-3). God has placed Aaron and the Levites between the Tabernacle and the people for a reason. The people can only approach God through their appointed and ordained priest and mediator. The Levites’ job is to guard the tabernacle and the priests. The priests’ job is to go before the Lord on behalf of the people, including the Levites. Korah and his followers want to take a shortcut and go directly before God themselves claiming to be just as holy as the priests. God takes the lives of Korah and those who follow him showing that rejection of God's High Priest comes with a terrible price (Num 16:4-35).

Notice what happens with the censers the rebellious people carry in Num 16:36-40. These utensils are retrieved from the debris and made into something sacred. While many would look at them as tainted, we see in their refashioning that it is God who determines what is holy. They are transformed and made holy when He declares them suitable for His purposes. His purpose for the censers is that they be a reminder of the sacred position of the high priest and the penalty that accompanies rebellion against the authority he represents.

The declaration of holiness regarding the censers is an image of the doctrine of justification wherein God pronounces His children holy and righteous, fit for entering His presence. The censers, which were used by evil people, are fashioned into something holy. Isn’t this what God does to those who believe in His only Son? Doesn’t He transform us into people who can enter His presence? In other words, if God can redeem censers and declare them to be holy, He can do the same for us by pulling us out of the debris of our lives and making us fit for His purposes, making us a reminder of His redemption through the true High Priest, Jesus Christ.

Incredibly, in Num 16:41, the people continue to grumble about the leaders God has placed over them. Moses intervenes again. Time and again, we see the importance of a mediator and advocate between man and God (Num 16:43-47). Yet, as we have also seen, there is a price to pay for open rebellion. God sends a plague among the people. Aaron, another mediator, stands between the dead and the living and the plague ceases (Num 16:48). This intervention is another lesson in how God’s plan of redemption, only God’s appointed priests can save His people!

The people clearly need a sign that Moses and Aaron are God’s chosen leaders for this congregation. Unsubstantiated rumors and false accusation from Korah and his followers have shaken the confidence of the tribes, and they don’t know if Moses and Aaron have acted correctly. Apparently, the ground opening and swallowing Korah and his family and fire coming down from heaven on everyone else who rebelled was not convincing enough for some.

In Num 17:1-11, God miraculously and graciously shows that Aaron is His chosen priest by bringing life out of a dead piece of wood. As Aaron’s staff buds and the others’ do not, we see that God not only chooses but resurrects. God can bring life out of a dead piece of wood. If He can do that, He can bring life to His children as well.

As Aaron is vindicated, the priestly line is established once and for all (Num 17:12-13).

The people respond appropriately to the sign. But, why was the sign necessary? Many years later, a disciple named Thomas will doubt until he personally sees and touches the wounds of Christ. Christ tells him, “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28).

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