Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13

OT: Numbers 19:1-20:29

When I let my wave of confusion roll onto my blog yesterday, I missed some cool points about about the reading. Even though God was way, way harsh with the "regular" Israelites, He had some tender moments with the priests. For one, He did that cool, "make Aaron's rod sprout" thing in order to "rid" Himself "of this constant grumbling against you" (17:5). He made it clear that when the people grumbled against the priesthood, they grumbled against Him. Also, in 17:9-20, God gives the priests all manner of goodies from the offerings. He gives them "all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain" (12) and "all the land's firstfruits" (13) and "everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord" (14). This seems a bit lavish to me. God does clarify that they will not receive the typical inheritance that the others receive, but that is because God says, "I am your share and your inheritance" (20). That's cool. What wonderful imagery.

I loved all that. I loved it because if (IF) the Israelite society represents one big analogy about man's relationship with God, then my part would correspond more to the priests. After all, the NT makes clear that we are all "priests" now. We are all holy; we are all God's people. That's what the Israelites back then wanted to be true; that's what was true of the priests; and that's what is true of Christians today. But, lest I get overwhelmed with warm fuzzies (can you get overwhelmed with warm fuzzies while reading Numbers?), today's reading reminds me that priests don't get a free pass, either!

Though, before I get to that, I have got to note that I am seriously impressed with the stubbornness of these people. God swallows up three families, burns alive 250 men, and slaughters 14,700 people with a plague, and are they humbled? Are they fearful and trembling? No! If anything, they are p.o.'d! I can't believe it! They still complain and grumble! They have the nerve to say, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord!" Um, I wouldn't have brought that up! If anything, I would still be curled into a fetal position in my tent after witnessing all that they have witnessed. But these Israelites are a feisty bunch. Wow. Slow to anger, abounding in love...I really can see how all that applies to God here in Numbers, and that's saying something! After all, God does give them water, and He doesn't even send a little plague to teach them a lesson about gratitude!

But. Not everyone gets off so easily. Apparently, after all God's intervention and provision for Aaron and Moses in the last couple chapters, they got a bit full of themselves. They got themselves kind of confused with God. And we have seen (oh, how we have seen) that God does not like that. So, because they spoke to the rock and seemed to take credit for the water, they were denied entrance into the Promised Land. Wow! That's harsh! God definitely has better follow-through than I do as a parent. After all, if we were on our way to Disney World, there is no way that I would turn the car around and head home if my kids made one little slip-up! On the contrary, they would go to Disney World even if they were being brats! God, on the other hand, did not let Moses and Aaron into Disney World (random analogy, I know). They made a mistake, and so they had to die on a mountain instead (like Aaron did today). Like I said, "wow."

Luke 1:1-25

Ah, Luke. I love Luke. Luke is a historian, which I love. As a physician, he has a more scientific mind than I do, which is not saying much, and which I also love. Plus, he has a soft spot for women (and the poor), which I love even more. Wonderful Luke. I am so glad I named my son after you.

I will give you a much better intro to Luke in the comments section, but for now, let's get to Zechariah and Elizabeth. It is interesting to me that Z and E have been so righteous, and yet they are barren. That's kind of weird, but as we know, God had big plans for them, and He did reward them for their righteousness. And they were very righteous. The text says that, "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly" (6). Let me tell you, after reading all the Lord's commandments and regulations, that is seriously impressive to me! I have been thoroughly overwhelmed just reading them; imagine practicing them your whole life!

I have to laugh at Zechariah's questioning of Gabriel, though. I mean, I probably would have done the same thing, but Gabriel's answer highlights how stupid it is to question an archangel who appears to you in God's temple. Gabriel's indignation is captivating to me: "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news" (19). I get the feeling that Gabriel is thinking, "Who is this clown?! Seriously, I don't have time for this!" That's probably not what he was thinking, but he does seem seriously put out, as evidenced by him muting poor Zechariah.

I also think it is cool that John the Baptist "will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth," or "from his mother's womb" (15, footnote). That will come into play in tomorrow's reading.

Psalm 56:1-13

For a man after God's own heart, David spends a lot of time in trouble. I feel like I should remember about the Philistines seizing David in Gath. Was this when he pretended to be a crazy person? I can't quite remember the details. Regardless, as a writer, David is at his most prolific when his life is in danger, apparently.

Proverbs 11:8

"The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead." Maybe Solomon learned this from his dad's stories. God always did come through for David.


  1. Intro to Luke, from The Writings of the New Testament, by Luke Timothy Johnson. (I am basically just going to type out the parts I highlighted in the book. Yes, I am a nerd, and I am burning through the kids’ naptime by doing this. But oh, how I love reading about the history of a history book! Typing it just helps secure the info in my mind even more! Oh, and Johnson talks about “Luke-Acts,” but I tried to pick out the parts that applied most to Luke)

    Theophilus means “God lover,” and, “The identity of this “God lover” is unknown to us; we are not even sure whether he was an individual or the symbol for Luke’s readers” (214).

    “We notice first [Luke-Acts’] length. Though by classical standards not a writing of great proportions, it is by far the longest in the NT collection, with its fifty-two chapters occupying a full quarter of the canon. The length is not due to verbosity; Luke’s Greek style is spare and effective. He has aroused deserved admiration as a teller of short stories who in a few words can evoke a whole world.” (215)

    “Traditionally, it was held that Luke was a historian and intended to be one; the discussion would then move to the issue of whether he was a good or bad historian...If Luke is a historian, what kind is he, and how good?...We can check his use of a source in the case of Mark with the most assurance. Luke uses Mark differently from the way Matthew does. When he follows Mark’s order, he does so more closely, although he tends to eliminate blatant doublets, such as the feeding stories—unlike Matthew, who multiplies them...So far as we can tell, then, he is faithful to his Gospel source” (216).

    “How reliable is Luke as a historian? Taking into account his fidelity to the one source we can check, his general accuracy in matters we know about from archaeological or documentary sources, and the overall agreement between his descriptions of Paul’s movements and the descriptions in the Pauline letters, we conclude that Luke is accurate in what he tells us” (217). Johnson goes on to say that ‘what he tells us’ is important b/c Luke writes selectively (as I have noted, all historians do). Johnson’s examples concern Acts, so we won’t dwell on them here.

    But Johnson goes on regarding Luke’s purpose: “This pushes us closer to a consideration of what kind of historian Luke might be. He was obviously not a disinterested observer, and he was not attempting to set down a comprehensive record of the Christian past. The possibility of open publication suggested by the prologue, however, may indicate some interest in influencing the outside, non-Christian world. Perhaps Luke-Acts is the first example of Christian apologetics.
    Noting Luke’s positive view of Gentiles generally—he entirely lacks Matthew’s xenophobia—and of Roman officials in particular, so have concluded that Luke was writing an apology for the Christian movement” (217-8).

    “Luke is therefore a historian, but of a special kind. He is required to write the continuation of the biblical narrative. By showing the story of Jesus to be rooted in that of Israel and by demonstrating how God’s promises were realized in a restored Israel, Luke assures gentile Christians that they can trust the ‘good news’ that has reached them. Luke’s purposes are not determined by a momentary crisis or a fleeting misunderstanding. They are generated by the fundamental mystery posed by a messianic sect’s existence among gentile peoples” (218).

  2. Numbers: What a journey! I used to think that God was angry with Moses b/c he didn't "speak" to the rock instead he struck it. But now I think maybe it was that he and Aaron said "must WE (he and Aaron) bring you water out of this rock?" and seemed to take the credit for supplying them with water instead of giving God the glory for it. And the "listen, you rebels" part indicates that Moses was angry...and in anger, we often do and say the wrong thing.

    Luke: vs. 25 I really love Elizabeth's faith here. And I love the concept of God showing her "favor". I want God's favor in my life.

    Psalm: David is amazing to me. I admire his faith. Though, as you pointed out, he stays in trouble a lot, he constantly praises God and trusts in God to deliver him. And I love that verse 8 "list my tears on your scroll". The note at the bottom of the chapter says "put my tears in your wineskin". That is beautiful.

  3. It's late and I'm tired, but here are my random thoughts:

    I wonder if it was a relief in a way for Moses and Aaron to get out of having to take the Israelites all the way there.

    I think it was good (from yesterday's reading) that the wives and children of the rebellious men got swallowed up too. They didn't have to go on without their husbands/fathers, and there was no mess for the survivors to clean up (and no dead bodies to make them ceremonially unclean).

    I'm not sure if I noticed before that John the Baptist's parents were both from the line of Aaron. That would make John a priest, right? I wonder how that worked.

    I also liked verse 8 of the Psalm: "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." (NLT) I was intrigued by the idea of God recording the things that happen to us in His book. I have read (can't remember the verses) that all of our days are written in His book, but I always thought of it as though the writing were in the past, not the present or future. Now I think maybe the writing happens simultaneously in the past and the future, like a big loop. (Okay, my limited brain can't explain it very well, but that is sorta close to the idea that came into my head.)

    I wonder sometimes why Luke and Acts are split up in the Bible. One leads right into the other. I always think it's neat when, in Acts, we can tell that Luke has joined Paul's group because the pronouns change.

  4. Real quick and short ..

    I remember always being baffled by the whole Moses not being able to go the promised land thing seemed like no one really understood why God expelled him? I dont know why, because the context of God and his push to establish his holiness and it kinna makes sense ...I am HOLY, NOT you. Not WE.

    It is harsh, still. But, it kinna fits how he is punishing his toddler-like people. Hmm.

    Luke...I love Luke too. I love his intro - it is so practical and real-life. It makes perfect sense and his writing is so that way. Its great.