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."
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.
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.
"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.