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Week 20 August 12, 2020

What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, August 12, 2020):

• Numbers 17-23

• Ezekiel 11-17

• 1 Corinthians 1-7

• Psalms 134-140

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Week 20. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? We are nearly 40% of the way through already. Hope you are keeping up and enjoying the ride!

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Notes on Numbers

At the end of last week’s reading in chapter 16, Korah, his followers and their families perished through their direct challenge to Moses’ authority. Even so, with the earth opening up and swallowing them all, the people complained that Moses had “killed the Lord’s people” (16.41).

In chapter 17, God decides to show them yet again his power and their ignorance. The staffs of the twelve leaders are brought forth, and Aaron’s staff—a mere stick—budded, blossomed, and produced almonds. This apparently got their attention the way God intended, for their response says is all (see 17.12-13).

This event was so significant, the budding rod was placed inside the Ark of the Covenant, along with the Ten Commandments and a jar of manna (see Hebrews 9.4).

An abrupt change back to regulations in chapter 18. The duties of the priests, along with their required offerings, are given. The process of tithing is introduced.

Chapter 19 describes the water of cleansing. As you read this, bear in mind that the idea of germs and washing was not a thing yet.

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In the next chapter, 20, Moses makes the mistake that will cost him entry to the Promised Land. Compared to what the rest of the people had done for the last four decades, it seems almost ridiculously trivial. But God holds leaders to a much higher standard than others.

Though not yet in the Promised Land, Israel almost fights their first battle against Edom. But they turn away. Not time yet.

Aaron dies at the end of the chapter. He must have been in ill health. Moses, Aaron, and Aaorn’s son Eleazar go to the top of the mountain for a passing of the torch, so to speak. Aaron puts the clothing of the high priest on his son, and dies.

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The Israelites, still shy of the Promised Land, face and fight a number of battles in chapter 21, winning them all handily. But grumbling still persists among them. The Bronze Snake is constructed and employed.

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We meet Balak and Balaam in chapter 22. Balaam, though a wicked man in his heart, through the end of chapter 23 delivers seven messages from God to Balak. Balak becomes more and more infuriated with each one, particularly since he had been offering to pay for all of this bad news.

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Notes on Ezekiel

In chapter 11, we find God acting the way I think any loving, caring parent would act with a child totally out of control. He continues to promise strong judgement upon their vile acts and their ignoring his voice and his laws. But then he is quick to remind them that there will indeed be restoration and a return to the land. However, seventy years is a long, long time. But nothing could change either of these prophetic words.

More drama ministry in chapter 12. This time, the prophet takes a backpack and digs a hole through a wall. It is a picture of the coming exile. At the end of the chapter, God assures them that this is coming at once, no more delay.

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Just as with Jeremiah, there were false prophets contradicting Ezekiel with their own fake news. I don’t know why anyone would do this, when God’s ordained prophets were 100% right all the time (through a long history), they themselves were prophesying without any authority or voice from heaven, and there were harsh penalties that God rained down on those false prophets who were wrong.

I guess there is a short-term benefit of seeing people happy and being popular for a brief time, but weighing it against the terrible outcomes makes it seem a rather foolish task to me. See chapter 13.

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In chapter 14, some of the elders came to Ezekiel to meet face to face, presumably to hear what God had to say to them. And indeed he had a message for them! God confronted them on their blatant idolatry. He urged them to repent.

But then God lowers the boom and says that their condition is so far gone that even the presence of Noah, Daniel, and Job would not help the rest of them—only the righteous man himself would be saved via his own righteousness.

The Daniel mentioned here, by the way, is probably not the prophet that we know and love, since he was a contemporary of Ezekiel and his amazing story may not have even transpired at this point. He may not have even been taken away from home yet.

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Next, in a very chapter 15, Ezekiel is given the illustration of a useless vine to compare to his people.

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A very long allegory of Israel’s history, in terms of the nation as the adulterous wife of her husband Yahweh is given in chapter 16.

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Ezekiel is given another parable in chapter 17 along with a detailed explanation which involved Israel, Babylon, and Egypt.

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Notes on 1 Corinthians

This book was written in response to a number of questions that popped up over time in this church that Paul had established.

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In chapter one, after opening salutations, he pleads with them for unity, then offers a discourse on the power and wisdom of God, compared with that of humanity.

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In chapter two Paul continues on about God’s power, then explaining how God’s wisdom is revealed through the Spirit.

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The issue of division is addressed again in chapter three, along with a very vivid illustration of how all of our works will be subjected to fire on the Day of the Lord.

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Paul establishes his credentials with the Corinthian church in chapter four, appealing to them to listen to what he has to say.

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The first major topic is covered in chapter five, incest. This most likely involved a man with his stepmother. The church was obligated to confront the problem, and Paul gave them guidelines on what to do.

A list of sins is given in 6.9-10. This is an important list. Though God is willing to forgive every sin, and all of us sin regularly, this list comprises those things that a person cannot willfully participate in and remain in good standing with God. In other words, if you die with these sins going on, you are doomed.

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In chapter six, Paul covers lawsuits between believers, and then sexual immorality is addressed. Our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Understanding how incredibly significant this is in terms of what the Temple was and what it represented makes it hard to overestimate the importance of this concept.

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Marriage is the central topic of chapter seven.

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Notes on Psalms

The first three psalms this week are anonymous. Psalm 136 ends each line with “his love endures forever.” This is a retelling of the Red Sea account, and is used as a central text in the Passover Seder.

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Psalm 137 is untitled, but is clearly written by someone during the exile.

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And the most intense, wonderful, Top Ten psalm is 139. Written by David, not only is there amazing poetic beauty, but it contains some very important theology regarding the sanctity of life.

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David will take us most of the way home from here. He writes 138-145. We are very near the end of this most blessed hymnbook.

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