Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday 8 May 2015 Numbers 29-31; Matthew 3 ~ Elizabeth

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 29-31; Matthew 3

In our Numbers reading the provisions for the celebration of this eight-day holiday are expanded. Added here are the numbers and kinds of animals to be sacrificed, together with the required grain and drink offerings. A total of 70 bulls are offered. The decreasing number of bulls offered (from 13-7) probably symbolized the gradual unwinding of the festival from its high point, though it still ended with the sacred number seven. With the older generation buried in the wilderness, God begins grooming the younger generation as faithful stewards of His Law. As sacrificial some wends heavenward, we glimpse the worshiper’s total dedication to God. Present as well is the underlying theme ultimately fulfilled in the death of Jesus Christ: blood is necessary for atonement.

Vows made to God-made in His name- are to be carried out faithfully. When these vows are not fulfilled, they reflect poorly on God’s good name and shame His people. Our word must be our bond, including our word of repentance when we do not live up to our words. God’s Word does not fail us. All His promises are yes to us in Christ Jesus. This also highlights relationships between fathers/daughters and husbands/wives. An Israelite woman was typically in a dependent relationship with a male family member. This reality has offended some advocates of women’s rights, who view such a situation as “patriarchal” or unfair. Such assessments fail to appreciate the realities of life in a tribal culture, where raids on villages were common. Women who did not have a protector were extremely vulnerable. Women in Israel sought a dependent relationship; interdependency was regarded as a matter of survival. The modern battle between the sexes was completely unknown to ancient Israelites and is foreign to God’s design for families. Dependents need the approval of their father or husband to make a binding vow. Our decisions are often not simply our own; they certainly affect other people-especially in a family. As we pray about the paths of life ahead, we must consider how our choices will affect others.

Moses is given a final assignment. He is to oversee the destruction of a group of Midianites who have tempted Israel to idolatry and falling away. Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, coordinates the attack. The victory secures the east bank of the Jordan, from which the Israelites will conquer Canaan. Moses was concerned about the assimilation of the women and the boys because the Midianites had specifically sought to corrupt Israel before. However, because adultery was punishable by death under the Law, Moses might have regarded the Midianites here as adulterous and deserving the full punishment. Though Moses’ decisions accord with God’s original command to avenge the people of Israel, the specific orders about treatment of prisoners do not have God’s explicit command or approval. The plague refers to a disease that had earlier taken the lives of 24,000 Israelites. It’s the same term used in 1 Samuel 6:5, where the men break out with tumors. The character of the plague is not explained. It is possible that it spread by sexual contact, which could have informed Moses’ decisions about handling the Midianite prisoners. The tactics described here were meant for this specific situation and cannot be used by people today as a guide to “holy war.” Vengeance belongs to god and is enacted through His chosen authorities, not by individuals. We must pray for the safety and peace of soldiers, police, and all in such callings.

In our Matthew reading for today we find John was a preacher of repentance, as was Martin Luther, who often emphasized that we believers must not only sincerely confess out sins but also be certain of forgiveness. He is surprised by Jesus’ wanting to be baptized by him. The fact that all four Gospels report the Baptism of Jesus points to its importance. Luther captured the primary meaning for His Baptism: “Christ accepted it from John for the reason that he was entering into our stead, indeed, our person, that is becoming a sinner for us, taking upon himself the sins which he had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in his holy baptism.” (AE 51:315)

What happened after the Baptism of Jesus was startling and completely unexpected. The entire Trinity was revealed when the Father’s voice declared Jesus to be His beloved Son and the Spirit descended on Him. Melancthon wrote: In the New Testament the three persons are most clearly revealed in the baptism of Christ, where the Father says, ‘This is My beloved Son’ and the Son is seen standing publicly in the river, and the Holy Spirit sits in visible form upon the Son”.

Because Jesus is our substitute, we need not fear God’s wrath and punishment for our sins. We are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, who prepared the waters of Baptism for us.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 32-34; Matthew 4


Conrad said...

Quite often in today's society it's all about who you know. If you want to get a job, you drop someone's name and your chances of being hired has been greatly increased.

John made it very clear to the Pharisees and Sadduces that their physical ancestry was not sufficient for their salvation - "Abraham as our father." Contrary to what's common in society.

Instead, John says we must "produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (vs 8)

Pamela said...

My word for 2015 is "stand" and these passages stood out for me:

“This is the statute of the law that the Lord has commanded Moses: 22 only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless, it shall also be purified with the water for impurity. And whatever cannot stand the fire, you shall pass through the water.

"Everything that can STAND the fire" and "And whatever cannot STAND the fire, you shall pass through the water" ...even the plunder that God allowed them to take needed to be handled in a specific way.

TammyIsBlessed said...

Thanks for this post Elizabeth - very well thought out. I appreciated your thoughts on the chapter concerning the vows.

I love the story of Jesus' baptism - it would have been incredible to be able to witness the unveiling of the Trinity in this way, and to hear the very voice of God!