OT: Lev. 27:14-Numbers 1:54
Okay, so I don't understand all the ins and outs of the dedication of possessions and property to God. Mainly, I don't really get the motivation behind the practice. What, specifically, would make someone dedicate something to God? What I did understand was that there was a difference between dedicating (27: 14-25) something to God, and devoting something to God (28). Something dedicated to God was redeemable for a steep price; something devoted to God was irrevocably given to Him (the footnote on 28 helped inform my interpretation). It is interesting to me that the Israelites make a formal distinction between the two types of gifts to God.
In my life, I tend to want to just dedicate things to God and not devote them. I will turn parts of my life over to God, but I reserve the right to "buy" them back. What I think God ultimately wants from me, though, is to devote my life to Him, to put it into his hands and not try to yank it back. That is hard.
Moving on. I was actually interested in the census today, just because I wanted to see how big Israel had gotten. Also, because I'm a competitive person, I mentally pitted the tribes against each other in seeing who was the biggest. I pictured them all standing around, waiting for the census to be read, and then cheering when they heard their number. It was all very dramatic to me:). So, in case you didn't notice, the winner was....JUDAH!! Woo-hoo! And second place goes to....JOSEPH!! Okay, I know Joseph wasn't a tribe, but the count of his two sons puts him in second:). The total number of men over the age of twenty who were eligible for the military was 603,550. I bet, then, that their total number of people was over one million. Wow. That is a lot of people traveling through the desert!
NT: Mark 11:1-25
The triumphal entry is a very familiar story that I don't entirely "get." I mean, I get what is happening, but I don't get any insight into Jesus through it. So if anyone else got anything, feel free to share!
And now, we have the clearing of the temple. When I was a child, I always had the impression that Jesus flew into a rage when he saw the vendors. It was kind of an "out of control" picture of Jesus in my mind. But that's not what happened at all. This was first brought to my attention with my brother's hilarious impression of Jesus in John. He noticed that in John, Jesus sees the people in the temple, and then makes a whip out of cords before driving the people out (John 2:15). Thus, Mike had a silly impression of Jesus meticulously making an intricate whip while in a total rage. In Mark, the picture is even more incongruous: Jesus surveys the temple in the evening and does not "clear" it until the next day. Clearly, this is a planned event, and not a display of spontaneous emotion.
So, next time you get really angry and summon a spontaneous, "righteous" display of wrath, you can't point to this passage and say, "Hey, Jesus cleared the temple. So anger isn't wrong." :) It's amazing to me that even Jesus' anger seems very much under control the whole time, even if it is expressing itself passionately.
At the same time, apparently Jesus was a little cranky b/c he cursed a fig tree for not producing figs, even though figs weren't in season. I wonder if that has a deeper symbolic meaning....
When my preacher's daughter died suddenly when she was thirteen and I was seventeen, an elder read verses 1-2 over our two families while we were in the hospital room. It was as close as I had ever been to death and to fresh, unfettered grief, and so I have a clear picture of the elder standing in the doorway reading aloud, while the words flowed over a broken family. Since then, those verses have been my go-to verses in catastrophe. 9/11, for example, had me flipping furiously for "my" verses, as did many other unplanned sadnesses.
So it was fitting to me that I would read these verses on the anniversary of my brother's death (I read a day in advance, remember). It made me smile. God always knows what I need to hear.
Hmm...I don't know how to say this without tooting my own horn. I have noticed in my life that certain people are just drawn to what we typically consider "evil conduct." They enjoy it, and it is a real temptation for them, like this verse suggests. I, on the other hand, as a natural rule-follower, have always been repulsed by such things. I would much rather walk the "straight and narrow." My brand of foolishness, I guess, is much worse, in that I tend to be prideful and judgmental. God is working with me on that, but I can't help but always be thankful that overt immoral living has never appealed to me. Like any sin, the consequences are way too steep to want to mess with....