What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, July 29, 2022):
• Numbers 3-9
• Lamentations 2-5 ~ Ezekiel 1-3
• Romans 3-9
• Psalms 120-126
Notes on Numbers
More instructions are given regarding the Levites in chapter three. They would be responsible to set up, and then take down and carry all of the pieces of the tabernacle, ready to reassemble it again at each stop along the way to the Promised Land. Aaron’s sons Gershon, Kohath and would each receive a sector of this elaborate puzzle to take apart and rebuild over and over and over again. The Gershonites would be responsible for the most holy objects, including the ark of the covenant. They would use the curtain in front of it to cover it over, and then cover the curtain with “durable leather” (4.6). This way they could disassemble the holy of holies without actually entering it, or even seeing inside of it. The Kohathites were to carry the many curtains that not only made up the walls of the tabernacle itself, but those used to create the large courtyard surrounding everything. The Merarites were to carry the frames, bases, tent pegs, ropes and all else like that. More laws on the purity of the camp are found in chapter five, including the test for the unfaithful wife, one whose process still eludes my understanding. Chapter six gives instructions on the Nazarite vow, one that could be taken for a given time, or for life. John the Baptist appears to have taken up (or was given) the life-long version. The wonderful Aaronic blessing is given in 6.24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace
You may wonder why the offerings presented in chapter seven are repeated, word for word, twelve times as each of the tribes brought them to the altar. I don’t really have an answer for that one.
We see the LORD Yahweh speaking to Moses from between the wings of the cherubim in 7.89.
The principle of the tithe carried over into the people element. The Levites were chosen to be the tithe of people out of all of the tribes. There is a place, and I’m not sure where it is, that there is an actual head count of the tribes, and for every person that the tribe of Levi fell short of ten percent, an amount of money was paid.
The family of Aaron, as we have seen, are Levites. But this subset of the particular family was chosen out of the Levite clan to be the priests, and the other Levites (all of those outside of Aaron’s family) were to assist them in the work of the tent of meeting, and eventually the Temple worship (8.18-19).
Notes on Lamentations
This book can be quite depressing, but quite instructive nonetheless. Imagine the horror and the sadness in the young prophet at seeing his nation destroyed and the people dispersed. The rest of his life will be spent in Babylon, where he and his people would face who knows what? There is a spark of hope, however, in the middle of the third chapter (3.19-26); there is a call to repentance in 3.40-42, and then a plea and appeal to God at the very end of the last chapter that the Lord not forget his people (4.19-22).
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3.19-23)
No one thought Jerusalem could fall, not even the other kings of the earth. No one outside of the prophets really could comprehend this until it happened (4.12).
Wherever we find the term Yahweh in the Hebrew, virtually all translations will give us the word LORD, in all caps. You will notice in this book that out of the 45 times we find “Lord” in this book, about a third of them are in the lower case “Lord”. This is the translation of the other name for Lord, Adonai. Adonai literally means master or ruler. Yahweh is more personal, and indicative of the covenant-keeping God of Israel.
Notes on Ezekiel
Ezekiel, along with Jeremiah, was exiled with the people to Babylon. Unlike Jeremiah, he sees stunning and astonishing views of the glory of God. The Lord refers to him as “the son of man” over ninety times, Jesus’ favorite choice for his own self-description; though Jesus was referring the vision of Daniel 7.13-14.
This prophet sees thing on par with the visions of John in the book of Revelation (e.g. see 1.5-14).
After the incredible vision of chapter one, Ezekiel is given his commission in chapter two. He will be called to a drama ministry as Jeremiah was; but he will be asked by God to present and experience the unimaginable.
Ezekiel is called to be the “watchman on the wall” (3.17). There is a lesson in there for us that it is our responsibility to present God’s word to others, regardless of whether or not our warnings are listened to or obeyed.
The first of his many hardships is outlined and foretold to him in 3.25.
Notes on Romans
Romans 3.22: One of most famous verses in the Bible is verse 23; but right before this, Paul again affirms the legitimacy of the gospel applying equally to Jew and Gentile; and then, he declares that we all (both Jew and Gentile) fall short.
Paul lays out the process of salvation very clearly in chapter three. His entire treatise of the Book of Romans is to show the way that the Law only leads us to realize our need of a Savior, but is not capable of saving us—for we all will fall short of its expectations and rules. Paul makes a lot of emphasis in this book of the inclusion of the Gentiles along with the Jews in God’s salvation plan. The Romans—as Gentiles—must have been very happy to hear this, especially in light of the way they were viewed and treated by the Jews. We see in the book of Acts how the Jews could for the most part hear Paul out whenever he spoke—until he mentioned the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan. That was generally where the riot would break out. Faith has always been the key to salvation, even in the Old Testament. Abraham is used as the case example, where his faith was credited to him as righteousness. It’s still the key for us today. The love of God is amply demonstrated in chapter five, where we find that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us (5.8). While we were God’s enemies, he died for us! (5.10).
A lesson here is to remember that Paul tells us also that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5.25). So when guys tell me how badly their wives treat them (looking for an excuse to get out the marriage), I point out this verse. One of the issues I have with the “old earth” creation view comes out of 5.12. Before sin, there was no death. Before Adam, there was no sin. So if the world is millions of years old, there could not have been any life whatsoever during all that time… unless there were things that lived for thousands or millions of years up until the time of Adam. Just a thought. The mix of law, sin, death, and grace is unfolded masterfully by Paul throughout this book. Chapter six is beginning to bring it all together. The close of this chapter is a wonderful summary: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (6.23). The struggle to understand and deal with the law in light of grace in overcoming sin is not a simple thing. See chapter seven. The Big Hope begins to unfold in chapter 8: our life is in the Spirit. Not just “we the people”, but all of creation is groaning under the strain of sin upon the earth. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (8.18). The analogy of “creation… groaning as in the pains of childbirth” tells us that we are simply on the front-end of something awesome. The best is yet to come, and we haven’t even started yet! It’s not yet born! There are wonderful verses to memorize in this chapter including: 8.28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 8.38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In chapter nine, Paul struggles with the rebellion of his own people, showing how God indeed chosen Israel, but they had fought back hard and continually rebelled against his plan. They have tried to earn their way in by obeying the law sans faith, while missing the immense blessing of God’s grace offered freely. We are extremely vulnerable to the same malady.
Notes on Psalms
If you have fallen behind due to the reading marathon called Psalm 119, it is easy to catch up, because fifteen of the next sixteen Psalms are very, very short. However, make sure you read for meaning, and not just to get back on track!
Beginning in 120 through 134, there are fifteen psalms labeled “Song of ascents.” These are believed to be written to be recited or sung on the way to Jerusalem for the festivals. Jerusalem, I am told, is an upward journey from any direction.