Can’t get the staff these days…..

25 03 2011

DAY EIGHTY-THREE : Numbers 16 v. 36 – 18 v. 32; Luke 5 v. 17 – 32; Psalm 37 v. 10 – 20

NUMBERS
Carrying on from yesterday, when the rebels were swallowed up, Aaron’s son, Eleazor, clears up the mess. The censers are cleaned out and hammered into sheets to overlay the altar. A permanent warning sign to obey God’s commands.
The Israelites grumble that was Moses and Aaron who killed the rebels. Again, really they are grumbling about God’s actions.
God’s glory appears at the Tent, and His anger towards the Israelites is burning. It appears God is ready to finish them all off, once and for all (‘I will put an end to them at once’).
Moses and Aaron fall face down.
Aaron makes atonement for the whole community. ‘He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped’.
Nevertheless, 14,700 died of the plague.

Aaron’s Blooming Staff – each of the clan leaders brings a staff (twelve in all) to the Tent of Meeting, as God instructs. Each staff has the name of its clan leader on it. God announces that He will choose one staff, representing the man He chooses, to sprout, and that this will put and end to the constant grumblings….mmm, let’s see.
The following day, Aaron’s staff (representing the Levites), had sprouted, budded, blossomed and produced almonds (all in one night).
Aaron’s staff remained in the Tent as a sign to the rebellious people.
This seems to be a dramatic sign for the Israelites, as they cry out in fear of their own death.

Priestly Duties – again, God explains how He has chosen the Levites to care for the tabernacle, but only Aaron and sons have the responsibility for ‘offences against the sanctuary and against the priesthood’; only Aaron and sons care for the sanctuary and the altar. ‘I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift.’

After the rebellion and complaining in previous chapters, God has to remind the people that the Levites are His chosen people, but also, that the high priestly family (Aaron and sons) could not be displaced.

Priestly Offeringsagain, God explains how He has chosen Aaron and sons to be responsible for the offerings, taking a priestly share of what is presented. ‘Eat it as something holy’.
Also, the set-aside portion of the wave offerings is for the priests’ families.
Also, the firstfruit olive oil, wine and grain offerings are for the priests’ families.
Also, every offspring dedicated to the Lord is for the priest (who will ‘redeem’ all the sons and firstborn males of unclean animals).
Also, the meat from the firstborn males of clean animals is for the priest’s families.

‘It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring’.
(I have a note that the ‘covenant of salt’ may have been a special pledge between two parties involving the exchange of salt, which was a very precious commodity – here, likened to the divine provision for the Levites in return for their devotion and service in the Tent).

Aaron and sons won’t inherit in the promised land, because God Himself is their inheritance and share.
Also, all the tithes are given to the priests in return for the work they do.
Only the Levites are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting, and they will receive the tithes as their inheritance from the Lord.
The Levites, themselves, are to present a tithe from all they receive through their work – the best first tenth.
‘You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.”
This will be equivalent to the tithe offered by those who work in the fields or in the vineyards.
The giving of a tithe prevents all manner of guilt and defilement, keeps us on the path of holiness, integrity, purity, at least in regard to what we receive materially, economically.

LUKE
Jesus Heals the Paralysed Man – one of my favourite gospel stories : the determination of the four friends to bring their paralysed pal to Jesus, breaking through the roof and lowering him down before Jesus, to the consternation of the ‘holy huddle’ crowded below. It has always been a prompt for me to pray, pray, pray for those God lays on our hearts, urgently and with determination to ‘bring them to Jesus’, to lay them at His feet.
For Jesus responds first to the friends, ‘When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”. It is a response to the faith of the determined friends. God sees the heart behind our praying, interceding.
The Pharisees and law-teachers are shocked that Jesus would proclaim forgiveness for sin over this man. For them, this is blasphemy, and here in ch.5 we see the first formal opposition to Jesus’ teaching and ministry.

Is that why Jesus chose to speak ‘forgiveness’ rather than ‘healing’ at this point – to stir them up? – or maybe, Jesus knew that the paralysed man needed to hear a word of forgiveness much more deeply than a word of healing. In the end, Jesus offers the man both – forgiveness and healing – double whammy!

The man goes home, with his bed-mat, praising God. Everyone is filled with awe and amazement. Some, undoubtedly, were staggered at Jesus’ claim, ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….
(‘Son of Man’ is Jesus’ preferred name for Himself, picking up the prophecy in Daniel (7 v. 13, 14), and maybe revealing his identification with all humanity, the ‘second Adam’, his pre-existence. This ‘Son of Man’ can forgive sins and heal).

Jesus Calls Levi (aka Matthew) – now Jesus targets a tax-collector (whatever next) – despised and hated by the Jews, seen as traitors, doing the dirty work of the occupying Roman force. With two simple words, “Follow me”, Jesus has tapped into Levi’s need for acceptance, a new start, meaning and purpose in his life. Levi leaves everything and follows Jesus.
Levi’s response is to throw a great party, and invite lots of ‘undesirables’ – his circle of influence.
The grumbling posse of ‘holier that thou’s gather and question Jesus on His choice of dinner companions.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick….I have come to call sinners to repentance.”
Jesus’ mission is becoming clearer – to the needy, the lost, the broken, the poor (just as He preached in His first sermon in His home town) – and the religious elite feel excluded and threatened.

PSALM
“The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace….
The swords (of the wicked) will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure for ever.”

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