OT: Numbers 2:1-3:51
First things first: What happened to the Levite clan??? When you take out Ephraim and Manasseh, who were essentially half-tribes, the number of men over the age of twenty in the other tribes ranges from 35,400 to 74,600. I would say that the average number of men over the age of twenty, per tribe, is about 50,000. Okay, now the full total of males a month old or older in the Levite tribe is...wait for it...22,000. 22,000! They counted a wider range of males than the others and still ended up with less than half of the others' average. Wow!
Other than speculating on the barrenness and diseases that might have struck the Levites, I mainly just wanted more details about the domestic history of the tribes. Moses is a numbers guy, which is great. At the same time, I need a more vivid picture of the day-to-day life here. For instance, how were they able to move 1,000,000 people and camp them in all the right spots? What kind of communication network did they have there? And I read about the different jobs of the different Levite clans, but what did those jobs look like? How often did the Gershonites care for the curtains? What did they do for that upkeep? And could the Kohathites just stroll into the sanctuary whenever they thought the lampstand needed polishing? What was the protocol there? I wonder if the Merarites felt gypped that they had to take care of the poles. Or maybe they were happy b/c that seems like a relatively easy job. Regardless, it honestly doesn't seem like any of these jobs would take that long. I wonder what the Levites did with the rest of their lives, or if their lives looked much different from the lives of those in the other tribes.
So many questions from today's reading. I need better mental pictures!
NT: Mark 11:27-12:17
We have already read this passage in very similar detail in Matthew, but I still appreciated the display of Jesus' formidable intellect. His little trick regarding John the Baptist, his "Nathan" parable regarding the vineyard, and his "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" declaration were all equally impressive the second time. I especially love how it says that the people were "amazed" (12:17).
Because I had read it all so recently before, my mind chose to dwell on small details this time and to...well, to meditate on them, I guess. I was especially drawn to the interchange regarding the denarius. I picture the coin so vividly, and that made me picture our own coins in my head. And I saw so clearly the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men. As advanced as ancient Rome was, with its elaborate governmental structures, it's relatively sophisticated level of civilization, and its military might, it still had so little in common with the kingdom of God that Jesus was able to quickly dismiss any connection between the two. I picture him saying the "Give to Caesar" line almost flippantly, perhaps as he flipped the coin back to the person who lent it to him. It was a stark reminder to me that our government, as wonderful as we might think it is, is in no way representative of the kingdom of God on earth. And I am so glad our founding fathers seemed to understand that, and so glad that they instituted the policy of separation of church and state. The two are separate, even though they have been attempted to be joined together by other earthly kingdoms. And yes, God does work through earthly kingdoms. After all, He works through everything; not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His will. But just because God wills and works in something, does not mean it is part of His kingdom.
Oh well. I didn't do a great job conveying my thoughts on this matter. Trust me when I say they were much better in my head:).
This was another non-David psalm, and again, I'm not as impressed. However, I don't think the psalm is going for any new revelations or deep thoughts. It is just a simple praise psalm. And I was struck by the simplicity of some of the lyrics. Verse 6 reads, "Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises." When I was in college, F. Lagard Smith was a "scholar in residence." He once gave a scathing critique of modern praise songs as simple-minded and dull. He told us how he longed for the days of thoughtful, theologically deep hymns that made you really have to think to understand them. His sentiment was nothing I hadn't heard before, but it was probably the most thoroughly considered and thoughtfully expressed version. And, well, I kind of hated it (I was an arrogant college kid at the time, keep in mind). I actually sent him an email, which (respectfully) pointed out, among other things, that the angels around the throne of God repeatedly sing simplistic things like, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory"(Is. 6:3). Unfortunately, I can't remember his response (besides the fact that it was very gracious). Suffice it to say, it didn't convince me. And I still just don't quite buy it when I hear people complain that songs aren't intellectually stimulating enough for them. The point is to praise God, not recite a thesis! It's okay to have deep songs, but it's also okay to sing, "Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises." And in fact, I would say that there is more biblical precedence for the latter type of song. Even David's best psalms use really simple ideas and words, even when they are conveying deep truths.
Okay, end rant.
The two images in these verses are very powerful. They are linked by the picture of forces bigger than the righteous and the wicked. I picture the righteous and the wicked residing on earth while all of these big things swirl around them. In the first verse, the wicked is "overtaken" by what he dreads. I picture calamity crashing over him like a wave. In the second verse, a storm sweeps by, and sweeps the wicked away. What is interesting is that the verse doesn't say that the righteous are spared the storm, but just that they will stand firm through it.