Thursday, March 11, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - March 11 - The Rock of Quarreling

Today's reading includes one of the saddest stories in the Bible - Moses' failure at the Rock of Meribah (Numbers 20). Once more the people were grumbling because of the rigors of their journey (which they earned by believing the unfaithful spies). And once more God graciously provided the people with water. But something went horribly wrong-

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." (Num. 20:10-12)
Just exactly what did Moses do wrong? The text indicates a couple of things-

1) Moses spoke harshly to the people. When the Lord told Moses to speak in 20:8, He told him to speak to the rock, not the people. Not only did Moses speak to the people, but he spoke harshly to them. I can certainly understand why he lost his cool with them. As the psalmist wrote later:

They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips. (Ps. 106:32-33)

2) Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it. Nowhere in God's instructions did He tell Moses to use his staff (unlike His instructions in Ex. 17:6). Moses was to tell the rock to yield its water, rather than to strike it, which would be an even greater display of God's power. But Moses acted in a way that obscured the power of God.

3) Moses acted with a "high hand." In 20:11 the text says "Moses lifted up his hand." This is the same language that is used in 15:30 to describe those who sin with a "high hand." The text may be implying that Moses acted with a presumptuous spirit in striking the rock twice rather than doing what God said.

As a result of this, Moses could not enter the Promised Land after leading the people so long and through so much tribulation. God takes His holiness seriously, and since Moses did not uphold God as holy before the people (20:12), he paid a heavy price.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - March 10 - The Law Stated and Applied

The Book of Numbers is quite a mixture of forms of writing. It contains both legal texts as well as narratives. Today's reading (Numbers 15-18) is a good illustration of this diversity. Numbers 15:1-31 describes the sacrifice for unintentional sins; Numbers 15:32-36 narrates the story of the man gathering wood on the Sabbath; and Numbers 15:37-41 details the law about tassels on garments.

I don't know that you can always make a clear link between the legal sections and the narrative sections, but I think you can do so here in Numbers 15-16. The law for unintentional sins precluded an offering for presumptuous sin. That is followed by a story about intentional sin - the gathering of wood on the Sabbath, and the severe punishment that followed. Next comes the law about tassels, which of course were to remind the people to remember God's commandments and not follow their own vision of what is right - which sets the stage for the story of the rebellion of Korah and his cronies.

This pattern afforded Moses the opportunity not only to state the Law, but also to show the application of the Law. Further, it shows the extent to which God went to help the people to remember His Law. Objects like the tassels, or Aaron's rod that budded (Num. 17) were visual aids to remind the people to be obedient to His Law. Such clear commandments combined with visual reminders left the people with no excuse.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Daily Bible Reading - March 9 - Moses and Christ

Today's OT reading (Numbers 12-14) recounts the sad failure of the ten spies and the sentence of the wilderness wandering. These chapters are also about Moses' relationship with the people in general and his own family in particular. In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam (perhaps at her instigation?) complain against Moses, apparently driven by jealousy over Moses' unique status as God's special prophet. And in Numbers 14, the people railed against Moses and Aaron at the report of the unfaithful spies, and threatened to replace Moses with a new leader (by killing him! - 14:10) and return to Egypt.

To reject God's representatives is of course to reject God Himself, and the Lord was furious with Israel's disbelief and rebellion. So angry, in fact, that He threatened to wipe them out with pestilence and start over with Moses and the head of a new nation (14:11-12). But Moses interceded for the people, despite the way they treated him, and pleaded with God to spare the nation for the sake of His own name (14:13-19). God relented.

These chapters highlight the most Christ-like aspects of Moses' character. Consider these parallels-
  • Jesus was rejected by His own earthly family like Moses (Mark 3:21, 31-35).
  • Jesus was silent in the face of His accusers, like Moses (see Num. 12:3; Mark 14:61).
  • Jesus interceded for those who rejected Him (Luke 23:34).
No wonder Stephen highlighted Moses as an example of Israel's tragic legacy of rejecting its leaders (Acts 7:35-42).

Like Moses and Jesus, we must remain faithful to the Lord, even when those of our own family oppose us. And like Moses and Jesus, we should work toward the redemption of those who don't deserve it.

Daily Bible Reading - March 9 - The Trumpets of the Lord

While many kinds of musical instruments are mentioned in the Old Testament, from the time of Moses (1400 BC) until the time of David (1000 BC), the only instruments ordained by God for Israel's use in worship were the two silver trumpets described in today's reading (Numbers 10). According to the text, the trumpets had several uses:
  • To gather the camp together to move out (10:2-6)
  • To summon the camp for an assembly (10:7)
  • To sound the alarm for battle (10:8-9)
  • To announce the beginning of worship (10:10)
The New Testament refers to the trumpet of the Lord in connection with the coming of Jesus.

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:15-18)

And if you think about it, the last trumpet of God has the same purposes as those two silver trumpets. It will announce Jesus' coming - a time when God's people will assemble and "move out" to a new heavens and earth; when Jesus will defeat His enemies, especially the last enemy of death in the resurrection; and God's people will enter an eternal season of worship.