Cleansing, refreshing water….and new wine

26 03 2011

DAY EIGHTY-FOUR : Numbers 19 v. 1 – 21 v. 3; Luke 5 v. 33 – 6 v. 11 ; Proverbs 8 v. 1 – 11

NUMBERS
Water of Cleansing – a rather bizarre ritual of slaughtering a red heifer outside the camp, sprinkling some of the blood at the Tent of Meeting, and then burning it, along with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool. Then the priest must be cleansed. The one who gathers the ashes and puts them outside the camp, must also be cleansed. The ashes are to be kept for use in the water of cleansing – ‘it is for purification from sin.’
Those who are unclean for seven days from having touched a dead body must use the water of cleansing on the third and seventh day. Failure to do this will lead to being cut off from the community.
If someone dies in a tent, anyone who enters that tent is unclean for seven days.
If someone touches a dead body (killed or naturally deceased) or even a grave,  they will be unclean for seven days.
To become clean again – sprinkle some of the aforementioned ashes in a jar and pour fresh water over them – then this water of cleansing is to be used, along with hyssop, to sprinkle to tent, furnishings and people who are unclean.
Even the clean person who cleanses the unclean person with the water of cleansing becomes unclean till evening!!!

The mention of hyssop in this ritual cleansing reminded me of the presence of hyssop when Jesus is on the cross of crucifixion, symbolising the purification and cleansing made possible through His blood on the cross.

Water from the Rock – Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh, one month from them setting out from Sinai. The people grumble about the lack of water. They lay into Moses and Aaron yet again. ‘It was better where we came from – why did you bring us out here to die?’
Moses and Aaron……fell face down (again), and God’s glory surrounded them.
With staff in hand, Moses is to gather the people, and speak to the rock in front of them, and water will flow from the rock. When Moses strikes the rock twice (NOT what God told him to do), and water gushed out.
God is not happy with Moses and Aaron.
‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’

Harsh ? But, God is determined to build a nation which will be obedient to His Word, doing things His way, not theirs. Moses’ sin was not only in striking the rock, but in not ‘honouring God’ in the miracle – it risked leaving the people worshiping and honouring Moses, himself. As leaders, Moses and Aaron should have known better, and followed God’s instructions to the letter. Easy to feel a bit sorry for Moses at this point, though. He’s had a lot on his plate!

Edom in the Way – so, the Israelites are obstructed. Moses requests safe passage through Edom, offering to pay for any water they drink, but seeking only to pass through. The king of Edom refuses, and sends the army out to force Israel to turn away.

Aaron Dies – the Israelites journey to Mount Hor, where Aaron dies. The phrase, “Aaron will be gathered to his people”, is the Hebraic way of saying ‘Aaron will pass away / snuff it’. Maybe it signifies some belief in an after-life. Aaron’s robes are passed to Eleazor, his son, and Aaron dies on top of the mountain. All Israel mourns Aaron’s death for thirty days.

Arad Destroyed –
a clash with the King of Arad and his army in Canaan. He captures some of the Israelites, but when Israel pleads with the Lord and makes a vow, God hands Arad to the Israelites, with whole towns wiped out.

LUKE
Jesus questioned about Fasting – Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees and law-teachers, that His disciples eat and drink when others’ disciples fast and pray. Jesus suggests that it is the season of feasting, as if He were the bridegroom at a wedding feast. There will be a time of fasting to come.
The parable of the new wineskins for new wine has always spoken to me of the new life Jesus brings. It tastes better than the old life. It needs to be held in new wineskins. A new patch of cloth cannot be successfully sewn into an old, torn garment. It’s time for the new, and the old just wont be able to receive it.


 
Lord of the Sabbath – some time later, the Pharisees challenge Jesus on their picking of corn to eat on the Sabbath. Jesus uses the OT example of David endorsing the taking of consecrated bread to feed his hungry companions. ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’. Ooh, I bet that annoyed them!
On another occasion, Jesus heals on the Sabbath (in these verses Jesus deliberately makes this healing visible to confront the thoughts and attitudes of the hardline Pharisees), and the Pharisees and law-teachers are furious. Jesus’ question is clever and catches them in their own trap. ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath : to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’
The angry Pharisees begin to plot ‘what they might do to Jesus’. That’s not taken long has it !!

PROVERBS
Wisdom is calling out – she is there, high up, along the path, at the gates in and out of the city.
‘Come, all humanity; simple souls – gain wisdom; fools – receive understanding.
Listen to me – I speak truth.
My words are just and right.
Choose me, over silver and gold.’
Wisdom is more precious than rubies – nothing compares to her.

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