No smoke without fire….(journeys and baptisms)

21 03 2011

DAY SEVENTY-NINE : Numbers 9 v. 15 – 11 v. 3; Luke 3 v. 1 – 22; Psalm 35 v. 19 – 28

NUMBERS
The Cloud – we remember how the cloud of God’s presence (the very same that had directed and protected the Israelites as they left Egypt) moved over the tabernacle on the day it was set up. Cloud by day, fire by night; the Israelites stayed in a place as long as the cloud rested (overnight, a few days or even a year), but when the cloud lifted they set off. In this way, the Lord commanded when they moved and when they stayed.

The Trumpets – two silver trumpets are made for calling people together, and for sounding the signal to ‘set off’. Two trumpets sound for all the people to gather; one trumpet signals the leaders of each clan to gather; one blast signals the ‘east’ to set off; the second blast signals the ‘south’ sets off; (what about the west and north ? Do they just set off on the next blasts ?). 
It’s the priests (Aaron and sons) who blow the trumpets
(i) then going into battle
(ii) to alert God, rousing His faithful support
(iii) at the appointed feast times (at the beginning of months, hence the ‘new moon’ reference)
(iv) a memorial for the people, over their sacrifices.

Time to go – the next stage of the journey is from Sinai to Paran Desert, during the second year of the exodus, following the cloud; Judah clan go first, followed by the Issachar clan and the Zebulun clan; then the tabernacle carried by some of the Levites; then the Reuben clan, then the Simeon and Gad clans; then the holy things are carried by some more of the Levites (so that the Tabernacle could be set up first, before the holy things arrived).
Then the Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin clans.
Finally the Dan clan (like that) brought up the rear, with the Asher and Naphtali clans.

Moses almost loses Hobab, son of His father-in-law (brother-in-law) who threatens to go back to Midian. Moses persuades him to stay, saying he’s depending upon Hobab to help find the right places to settle. The cloud of God’s presence faithfully leads them, with the ark of the covenant right out in front.

I like the prayer/poem Moses recites when setting out
‘Stir Yourself, O Lord God. Scatter the enemies we encounter, send them flying, fleeing for their lives.’
and when they settle
‘Settle with us, O Lord God. Gather the thousands and thousands of Israelites to Yourself.’Fire from the Lord –

LUKE
John the Baptist –
the arrival of John the Baptist on the scene is located in history, as around AD28 (fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign). Pilate is the local governor of Judea. Herod is tetrarch (‘ruler of a ‘fourth”) over Galilee.
Annas and Caiaphas are High Priests (strictly speaking Caiaphas is the current High Priest, as his father-in-law, Annas, held the post before him).
Just as OT prophets before him, John receives the word of God, and goes around Jordan preaching baptism for repentance of sins. He is fulfilling OT prophecy (Isaiah 40 v. 3 – 5) – calling people to repentance, to turn their lives around, and in so doing make straight paths for the Lord (filling in valleys and leveling mountains).
Verse 6 – “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” is a reminder that this gift of salvation is for all people.


John’s message is that it’s no use simply claiming our ancestry or heritage (‘we have Abraham as our father’), but rather it’s about here and now, and repentance and bearing fruit. What will fruitfulness look like ?
For the crowd, Jesus encourages them to be generous and to give for the needs of the poor.
For the tax-collectors, there’s the challenge to be honest in their dealings (‘don’t take more than you need’).
For the soldiers, Jesus urged contentment, not wanting more and more money, and speaking falsely.

So, lives marked by repentance and fruitfulness will be generous, honest and content, for a start….

John knew that people were asking if he, himself, was the Christ, and is quick to tell people that he is preparing the way, preparing the people for the One who ‘will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (once again, God’s presence described as fire).

Luke also sets the context of John’s arrest by Herod, who had divorced his first wife and married his brother’s wife; John had spoken out about this and other ‘evils’ Herod was responsible for. Herod determines to lock John up. Undoubtedly, Herod is threatened by not only John’s words, but his actions – that many, many people are going out to the Jordan for baptism, and are influenced by John’s teaching.

Baptism of Jesus –
a reminder of that peaceful and powerful moment when Jesus is baptised. As He prays, the Holy Spirit descends as a dove, and God’s voice is heard.
“You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”What assurance for Jesus, experiencing the presence of the Spirit, and hearing the voice of the Father – the Trinity as One in that moment of baptism – a signal for the start of Jesus’ ministry, and how the assurance and memory of that moment would undoubtedly sustain Jesus through all that would follow.

PSALM
the final lament of ps.35 is about those who gloat over, hate, accuse falsely, exalt themselves over the writer. Yet he is confident in God’s righteousness, faithfulness and justice – they can be turned around….

“May (they)…be put to shame and confusion….be clothed with same and disgrace….
may they shout for joy and gladness,
and say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of His servant.”
My tongue will speak of Your righteousness
and of Your praises all day long.”

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One response

1 04 2011
judy

Numbers 7:24 ” The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.. I have heard these words many times at the end of a service but never knew they could be found in numbers when God said to Moses .. ” Tell Aaron and his sons ” This is how you are to bless the Israelites.

Also Numbers 12.. miriam and Aaron start to talk against Moses.. the punishment Miriam gets . she is confined outsice the camp for 7 days… everything stopped till she returned,
One cannot imagine the numbers of people in the census.
Its all coming back to me now but in a totally different way.

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