February 18, 2018 Bible Study — Standing Up To the Crowd

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 14-15.

    When the people of Israel heard the report of 10 of the spies sent into the land of Canaan (at the end of yesterday’s passage), they plotted to rebel against Moses. When the other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, spoke up and tried to convince them that they could conquer the people of the land with God’s help, the people began talking about stoning Caleb and Joshua. I was going to go a different direction here, but I realized that this passage highlights the risks we sometimes need to take in order to be faithful. When Joshua and Caleb went against the sentiment of the majority, they were threatened. Nevertheless, they did not back down. We too will be called by God to take stands which go against the crowd. In this case, the threat against Joshua and Caleb never materialized, something we need to remember. Of course, sometimes we will pay a price for being faithful. Nevertheless, we must be faithful, even when we face threats for doing so.

February 17, 2018 Bible Study — Dealing With Frustration

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 11-13.

    Shortly after leaving Mt Sinai the people of Israel began lamenting the fact that they no longer had access to all of the good food which was available in Egypt. As I was reading today I realized that this event occurred as the result of a build up of unresolved complaints, most, if not all, of which were extremely minor, even to the people making them. Despite having set up people to judge in “legal” disputes among the people, Moses was still the go-to guy for spiritual counseling. That is not quite the right way to express that, because it makes it seem like something the priests could address, but it was not the sort of things you would go to a priest about. The people knew that these issues were too small to bring to Moses, but it left them with ever increasing frustration that finally blew up. As a result, God told Moses to select 70 men upon whom God would pour out His Spirit so that they could take some of this burden off of him.

    In addition to telling Moses to select 70 men, God told him that He would send them meat to provide variety to their diet, so much that they would become sick from it. When looked at the way I laid out in the previous paragraph, God’s response seems harsh. However, the frustrations the people of Israel were feeling were their own fault. They had failed to seek out someone to help them deal with their complaints, complaints which they knew were minor. There are really two sides to this. If we are the leaders of a group of people, we need to put into place systems to allow people to vent their discontent and frustration, systems which make them feel like their concerns have been heard and will be addressed (an important part of making people feel like their concerns will be addressed is for their concerns to actually be addressed). On the other hand, if we are members of a group (and we all are), we need to find people to whom we can present our discontent and frustration, people who can see that they get addressed.

February 16, 2018 Bible Study — Being Eager To Take Part In Worship

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 8-10.

    Following the dedication of Aaron and his sons as priests and the dedication of the Tabernacle, the Children of Israel dedicated all of the males of the tribe of Levi to the service of God (or possibly concurrently). This dedication strengthens the “twelve plus one” nature of the nation of Israel which foreshadows Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. In a manner similar to the way that the Levites were dedicated to God in place of the first born sons of the Children of Israel, Jesus was dedicated to God in place of all of us. There are severe limits to this comparison, but I am convinced that Jesus knowingly chose Twelve Disciples to make this connection.

    The account about those who were unable to celebrate the second Passover has lessons for us. There was a group of men who came to Moses because they were ceremonially unclean from touching a dead body and thus could not celebrate the Passover. They were not looking for a loophole to get out of doing so. Rather they were upset that they could not. So, they were eager to take part in the ritual of Passover. We should be similarly eager to take part in activities of worship. God gave Moses instructions that those who could not take part in the Passover, because they had touched a dead body (such as when someone had died and needed to be buried) or because they were traveling, should celebrate the Passover a month later. However, this only applied to those who had a reason why they could not take part at the normal time. It being inconvenient was not such a reason.

February 15, 2018 Bible Study — The Levites and the Twelve Tribes

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 7.

    After Moses set up the Tabernacle and anointed it, the leaders of the tribes other than the Levites made offerings for transporting the Tabernacle and its furnishings and to dedicate the Tabernacle. It is not clear from the passage if this happened before, during, or after the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. One thing I noticed this year reading through the Bible which comes out especially in this passage is that the Levites were not counted among the Twelve Tribes (most of the time). That instead Ephraim and Manasseh were each counted as one of the tribes. What I find interesting about this is that it matches up with Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. The other thing of note is that the leaders of each of the Twelve Tribes gave exactly the same offering, even though we know from the census counts a few chapters earlier that the tribes varied in size by a significant amount.

February 14, 2018 Bible Study — Rituals and Vows

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 5-6.

    There are two interesting rituals in today’s passage. The first discusses what a husband should do if he thinks his wife is unfaithful, but has no proof. This ritual bothers me because it places a burden on a wife to prove her faithfulness to a jealous husband but no similar burden is placed upon a husband of a jealous wife. However, that is a result of a culture that was very different from ours today. While I am about to make a partial defense of this ritual that does not mean that I think we should practice it today. This ritual eliminates a husband being able to excuse his abuse of his wife on the basis of claiming it was because she cheated on him. If he thinks his wife has cheated on him this passage gives him the only course of action open to him; take his wife to the priest and make an offering for God to pass judgment. The other aspect of this is that I firmly believe that God has the power and will to make it so that a woman who was guilty of no sin would suffer no consequence from undergoing this ritual.

    The second interesting ritual in today’s passage is the vow of a Nazirite. The passage does not make it clear why someone would take a vow of a Nazirite. Part of the reason would be to declare oneself dedicated to service to God. However, every time I read this passage it seems to me that there is more to such a vow than that. It seems to me that one would take a vow of a Nazirite as a way to emphasize the seriousness to which one held some ministry or activity that one was going to do in service to the Lord. As an example of what I mean by this: one might take a vow to read through the Bible in a certain amount of time (say a year). To add a bit more dedication and focus to that vow, one might make it as a vow of a Nazirite and follow the rules laid out in this passage. The vow of a Nazirite contains a private and a public element. On the private side, one would avoid wine and all of the products of the grape vine. The discipline of doing this would help the individual to focus on God. On the private side, one would not cut one’s hair for the duration of the vow. This would signal to those around them that they were dedicating themselves to serving God.

February 13, 2018 Bible Study — Dedicating the Levites

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 3-4.

    Yesterday, I suggested two reasons why the Levites were not included in the census of those available to go to war for the Israelite nation. The first was that if they went to war they would be ceremonially unclean for handling the Tabernacle. The second was that they were reserved for the defense of the Tabernacle and its fittings. Today’s passage seems to confirm that my guess that it was the first rather than the second. The reason I reach that conclusion is that today’s passage contains a census of the males of the tribe of Levi. Unlike the census of those able to go to war, this census was of all males one month and older. These were dedicated to the Lord in place of the first born sons of the rest of the people of Israel.

February 12, 2018 Bible Study — Census of the Fighting Men of Israel

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 1-2.

    One year after leaving Egypt, Moses conducted a census of those considered able to go to war. I have read this passage many times, but have never thought about the fact that the age when someone was considered ready to go to war. They only counted men who were twenty years or older. Which basically tells us that they considered 20 years old to be the onset of adulthood. In order to conduct this census, Moses received the assistance of the leader of each of the tribes. The passage seems to imply that this census was conducted in a single day, although I am not sure if that is intentional. As a result of this census we learn that, one year after leaving Egypt, the fighting force of the Children of Israel was over 600,000 men. This count did not include the descendants of Levi. There are two possible readings of why the Levites were left out of the census. The first is that they were not part of the army of the Children of Israel because it was their duty to care for the Tabernacle and taking part in war would make them ritually unclean. The second is that they were not part of the army of the Children of Israel because their duty during battle was to defend the Tabernacle and its furnishings. I suspect that it was the former, but reading this today makes me wonder.

February 11, 2018 Bible Study — Blessings and Punishments

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Leviticus 26-27.

    Today’s passage begins with the blessings for obedience to God’s commands followed by the punishments for disobedience. The blessings are the results of obeying God’s commands. They are not rewards God bestows on us for being good (or, at least, not primarily), they are just how things work. The same is more or less true of the punishments. I do believe that God will sometimes accelerate the minor results for disobedience in order to give us the opportunity to correct our behavior before something truly terrible results. The closer a society adheres to God’s commands, the more prosperous and secure its people will be. The further they are from God’s commands, the more impoverished and ravaged the people will be. There have been a few exceptions throughout history, but they have all been short-lived and served God’s purposes in other ways.

February 10, 2018 Bible Study — The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Leviticus 24-25.

    Today’s passage contains a commandment for something called the Sabbath Year, which is the basis for the modern sabbaticals that many academics and others take. While the idea for a sabbatical (usually year) is based on this passage, it is not really connected with the idea presented here. The Sabbath Year presented here is to allow the land to lay fallow every seventh year. The purpose it serves is similar to what modern agriculture accomplishes with crop rotation. The Sabbath Year allows for the restoration of nutrients in the soil which are used by the crops grown. Modern agriculture is much more intense than the agriculture practiced by the ancient Israelites so that a Sabbath Year would be insufficient to renew the nutrients.

    Every seventh year, the people of Israel were to practice a Sabbath Year. And every seventh Sabbath Year they were to practice a Year of Jubilee. I have my questions about how a Year of Jubilee as described in this passage could be made to work, but the concept has merit. The Year of Jubilee was designed to prevent the poor from becoming a permanent underclass. Every 49 years the economic deck got reshuffled and the “cards” redistributed equitably. Since real estate was the primary basis of wealth in ancient Israel, the Year of Jubilee prevented a limited number of people from locking everyone else out by gaining control of all of the land over time. The result of the Year of Jubilee would have been that my children would not have been stuck in a poor economic position just because I had made some bad decisions. The Year of Jubilee could be seen as intended to minimize income inequality. However, its main purposes appears to be to keep the poor from being stuck as poor, rather than to limit the wealth of the rich.

February 9, 2018 Bible Study — Acceptable, and Unacceptable, Offerings To the Lord

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Leviticus 22-23.

    Today’s passage has instructions about things which would disqualify one of Aaron’s descendants from serving as a priest and instructions concerning the yearly festivals of worship the people of Israel were to conduct. In between, there is a discussion of what was acceptable and unacceptable as an offering to the Lord. They were not to attempt to offer an animal with any defects as a burnt offering or as a peace offering to fulfill a vow. If the animal was for a purely voluntary peace offering it could be one that had one or more legs that were too long, but that was otherwise without defect.

    These instructions should inform us when we make gifts to God today. When we give to God we should give of our best, not our cast offs or half-hearted efforts. It is OK to give our used clothing, or furniture which we will no longer use to those in need, or to charitable organizations which can make use of them (even if that use is to sell them to someone else), but let us not ever think that doing so is making an offering to God. If we are giving something as an offering to God, it should be the best we can afford (note “best” is a subjective term, but “most expensive” should never be confused with “best”). In a way, the same thing applies to monetary offerings. “What I can spare” is not an offering. There is a time and place for giving “what I can spare” to God, but it is not to my credit when I do so. Our offerings to God should be out of the joy of having received His blessings. I do this less than I should…which is how I know that giving “what I can spare” is not a bad thing. When I have felt financially strapped enough that I only gave what I could spare after I have paid my bills has led me to realize that I need better financial discipline so that I can give to the Lord first and pay my bills and expenses with what is left over.

A place for my opinions, devotions and stories

%d bloggers like this: