Disciples are teachable….and need to be!

7 04 2011

DAY NINETY-THREE : Numbers 35 v. 1 – 36 v. 13; Luke 9 v. 28 – 56; Psalm 40 v. 9 – 17

The final day of readings from the book of Numbers. It has been so interesting to be reading this as the 2011 Census has been carried out across the UK. Fascinating to see God prepare His people to inherit the land.

The Levite Towns – the Levites are to be provided with towns to live in, with pasture land around them for their livestock. The pasture  land is measured out precisely as God instructs. Rather than having ‘a territory’, the Levites are scattered throughout the region / the tribes, in designated towns with land.

Cities of Refuge – six towns are designated ‘cities of refuge’; these are places of refuge for those who may have killed someone accidentally, who need to flee an avenger. Three cities of refuge are to be east of the Jordan, and three in the west.
Deliberate killing (by striking someone with iron, stone, wood, by pushing someone or throwing something intentionally) is to be punished with the death penalty, at the hands of the avenger.
Accidental killing (manslaughter, unintentional murder) requires the assembly to judge on the outcome. The avenger cannot harm the ‘accidental murderer’ if he is sent to a city of refuge and stays within it ‘until the High Priest dies’.
More than one witness is required to find someone guilty of murder (protection for individuals)
There is no exception, no ransom, which can prevent the death penalty, or free someone from the ‘city of refuge’.
God clearly desires to limit bloodshed, which pollutes the land.

Zelophehad’s Daughters – as in chapter 27 we have the final chapter of Numbers referring to Zelophehad’s daughters who inherited the land from their father, there being no male children in the family. The point is made that if these daughters marry into another clan of Israel, the husband’s family (clan) would inherit that portion of land, and it would be lost to Zelophehad’s clan (Joseph’s line through Manasseh). 
The Lord speaks to Moses and Moses passes the message on. God says, “Good point ! For that reason, Zelophehad’s daughters may only marry within their clan, and in that way the land will remain the inheritance of the Manasseh tribe.
This is about protecting the portion of land being passed down from one generation to another. The daughters marry their cousins.

The book of Numbers closes with a reminder that it contains the commands and regulations the Lord passed to Moses, to pass to the people on the plains of Moab, by the Jordan, across from Jericho….preparing to enter the promised land.

The Transfiguration – interesting that Luke notes it’s about eight days later (following Peter’s confession and the heavy talk about the cost of discipleship and carrying the cross) – did they just have a quiet week, a week off, after all the busy-ness ?
Jesus takes His closest disciples (Peter, James and John) off to pray up a mountain (reminds me of Jesus taking these three into the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer just before His arrest).
In the transfiguration, Jesus’s face changes (like the glory shining on Moses’ face having been in God’s presence), His clothes shine like lightning, and Moses and Elijah appear ‘in glorious splendour’, to talk with Jesus. We assume the disciples could hear the conversation, as it’s recorded as containing details about Jesus’ death in the days ahead in Jerusalem.

Behind the word translated ‘departure’ in the NIV, is the meaning / idea of Exodus. As Moses represents the first Exodus, bringing the Israelites to freedom from slavery in Egypt, so Jesus represents a second Exodus, delivering God’s people from sin and death.

As in the Gethsemane encounter, the disciples are sleepy, but battle through their tiredness – Peter suggests camping there for the night and making three shelters, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Kindly, Luke adds ‘He didn’t know what he was saying’.
The cloud of God’s presence descends and envelops them, and they hear God’s voice
“This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”
Then, when the cloud cleared, they found only Jesus alongside them.

What an exhilarating and profound experience this must have been for the disciples. They would never have forgotten the power of that moment of Transfiguration, confirming all that Peter had confessed about Jesus, as the ‘Christ of God’.
If they had chosen to talk about it, their experience might have become a problem amongst the wider group of disciples, I guess. Hence, they keep it to themselves, for now.

Healing a Boy – from the mountain-top experience to some nitty-gritty stuff. Healing the son of a man who is desperate for help. The boy has been having seizures, convulsions, which have threatened his very life. The father has already begged the disciples, but they had been unable to bring the boy any healing.
As they boy comes to Jesus, he is convulsing, and Jesus rebukes the evil spirit behind it all, brings the boy his healing, and gives the child back to his father, healed and restored. God is glorified!
Jesus whispers to His disciples again that He is soon to be betrayed, and handed over. They are slow to understand, but all will be revealed…..

‘The Greatest’ – instead of humbly asking Jesus to explain further what He had meant by the last comment (Luke says they were afraid to ask Him about it – surely this fear was more to do with how they would appear if they asked, rather than any fear of the response they might get from Jesus (although Jesus had already rebuked them as an unbelieving and perverse generation…)), the disciples argue about which of them is the greatest (honestly, people !!).
The example of a little child (considered the least and lowest) is profound. Firstly, Jesus identifies a link between how people welcome a small child, and how they welcome God, Himself. Secondly, Jesus is teaching about looking for true greatness amongst the least and lowest.
The disciples also seem worried about what ‘outsiders’ are doing in Jesus’ name – shouldn’t they be controlling what’s happening a bit better, and getting people to stop. Jesus teaches them not to stop what’s happening elsewhere in His name, and learning to see that others can be ‘for us’, not ‘against us’.

Is is constantly encouraging to me that Jesus has to invest such time and patience in shaping these men as His disciples. They are raw material as they begin with Him, and He is patiently, diligently discipling them.

Samaritan Opposition – verse 51 marks a change in direction, leaving Galilee and heading for Jerusalem, and the next ten chapters focus more on Jesus’ teachings along the route to Jerusalem, than His healing, miraculous deeds.
Jesus and His disciples encounter a village which will not accept them to stay on their journey to Jerusalem. When James and John suggest calling fire from heaven to devour the village (these brothers, elsewhere, are called the ‘sons of thunder’ – there must be a temper not too far from the surface in their lives).
The King James version has a longer v. 55, quoting Jesus’ words of rebuke (words which are not recorded in all manuscripts, and hence dropped from the NIV and other translations). Jesus teaches them to become more deeply aware of the ‘spirit’ within them – a spirit of anger and destruction – and seeking to replace it with His own Spirit, which is of salvation and not destruction.

‘May Your love and Your truth always protect me….
May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
May those who love Your salvation always say “The Lord be exalted.”
You are my helper and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.’




2 responses

7 04 2011

Well done, everyone who has stuck it out this far with the daily readings !!
We’re just over a quarter of the way through the year now – AMAZING !
Keep it up – and thanks for all the comments and thoughts – they keep me going with it all, too.
How are you finding it ?

7 04 2011
Jenny Berrill

I am really enjoying this method of reading. It is in manageable chunks which also often link together which really helps (for me anyway). I am seeing the Bible through new eyes and having all of the group out there keeps me going – especially the blog Phil. Many thanks for your hard work.

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