Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 18 Mar 18:
1. Numbers 35:2, 3 – “And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities. The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts.” The Levites were provided with enough cattle, flocks, livestock, land, and crops to be self-reliant. They had priestly duties, but they still had to work their land and cattle.
2. Numbers 35:12 – “The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.” God was concerned about protecting the accused from revenge and ensuring that they received a fair trial. Cities of refuge were not intended to protect people from justice but rather to ensure justice. Those who went to cities of refuge were still held accountable.
3. Numbers 35:16 — “But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death.” Murderers could not flee to cities of refuge.
4. Numbers 35:17 – “And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death.” God does not treat one murder different from another. Murder is murder and the same capital punishment applies.
5. Numbers 35:18 – “The murderer shall be put to death.” In God’s eyes, there is just and unjust killing. Murderers are to be held accountable with the penalty of death.
6. Numbers 35:20, 21 – “And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer.” God forbids someone punishing someone else out of emotion or for selfish purposes. The goal must be godly justice, not revenge. God used avengers of blood to represent the interests of the victim in order to protect the victim from acting out of vengeance. The avenger of blood was protected by the law and had the authority to put the criminal to death.
7. Numbers 35:28 — “…after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.” The death of the Priest brought restoration and freedom to the accused. The high priest was a model of Christ: and so this release was a shadow of our freedom and redemption by the death of Christ.
8. Numbers 36:7 – “The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.” God’s laws protected the property and production capacity of families for generations.
9. Numbers 36:10 – “The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord commanded.” The daughters of Zelophehad were strong women, but most importantly, they were faithful and obedient.
10. Proverbs 18:1 – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” God intended you for community and for strong, mutually supportive relationships.
11. Proverbs 18:4 – “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Everyone has an opinion, but very few are worth hearing. People are talking all the time, without much genuine thought behind their words. Words of wisdom are very rare. And now, technology has given everyone a global voice. In two days, we put out more information than the rest of human history combined. Technology has also enabled advanced techniques for information manipulation, weaponized information. So, in these deep waters of words, it is even more important for you to go to the bubbling brook of God’s word.
12. Proverbs 18:9 – “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” When people don’t do their jobs well, it makes everything harder for everyone else. In how many different ways have you seen this play out? Christians should be diligent in all that they do.
13. Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Our greatest commandment is love. One of the primary ways we show our love for others is in how we communicate with them. God gives very specific instructions on how we should communicate with others, and He says He will hold us all accountable for how we communicate. This verse is one such example. God is telling you, that not only is it shameful for you to ever interrupt someone, it is shameful to really not listen empathetically before responding. If you find yourself already crafting your response before the other person is done talking, you are not really listening and are being foolish. One helpful technique is to summarize back to the person what you heard them say and to ask them to clarify their feelings behind their statement before you respond with your viewpoint. Try doing this every time and see what happens. Also, remember that if you an Ambassador for Christ, you have no personal opinion, you only represent the position of Jesus. Take self out of the equation.
14. Proverbs 18:18 – “The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.” See Numbers 33:54 – The lot eliminates perceptions of unfairness or biases by removing the human element from the decision-making process. In this “game of chance,” God remains in complete control.
15. Psalm 32:1-5 – “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Christians should never live with the burden of guilt. You can never “cover” your “iniquity,” but through Jesus, your “sin is covered.” 1 John 1:9 tells you, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no higher authority than God. When He has forgiven you, there is no condemnation.
16. Psalm 32:6, 7 – “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” These verses come after the ones on the importance of confession (and repentance). Offer prayer “at a time when (God) may be found.” Often people prayer to God for salvation from the consequences of their sin, without a contrite, repentant heart and confession of the sin that caused their crisis. God will not be found bailing out the unrepentant sinner. Many times God does not seem to answer prayers because we ask with the wrong heart and motive. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6, 7)
17. Psalm 32:8-11 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” God made man in His image – a spiritual image. He gave man spirituality that He didn’t give animals, and ability to understand the will of God. When you are led by the Spirit, you will obey God with joy. When you disobey God, you not only betray God, you also deny your human endowment and become like an animal. God will use a bit, a bridal, a spur, and a whip to keep you moving on course. Why not obey and avoid all that needless pain?
18. Psalm 33:5-8 — “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” God’s spiritual laws are as real and relevant as God’s natural laws (even more real and relevant). An attempt to operate outside God’s natural laws will have obvious and predictable consequences; attempts to operate outside of God’s spiritual laws also has obvious and predictable consequences. Conversely, just as people can harness the power of nature to accomplish amazing things, so can people thrive under God’s spiritual laws. Perhaps through scrapes and bruises you have learned to respect the Law of Gravity. Perhaps through emotional scrapes and bruises God has taught you to respect His spiritual laws too. Today’s readings in Proverbs and Psalm speaks repeatedly on the consequences of sinning against God who establishes the order of things as well as on the blessings the come from living in harmony with God’s word. The Bible really wants us to get the point.
19. Psalm 33:10-22 — The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Personal security and national security depends on fear of the Lord. God will hold all nations and all people accountable to His word.
20. Psalm 33:17, 18 – “The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Be very careful not to place your hope in anything but God. Everything and everyone on this earth is perishable, unpredictable, questionable, movable, unreliable, etc. Only God is steadfast and wholly (Holy) reliable.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day): 18 Mar — Listen, listen intently to others before speaking. Listen not just to collect the facts or information being imparted but to seek to understand the underlying feelings and needs behind what is being said. Listen empathetically with a genuine desire to bring peace and reconciliation, all before you begin organizing in your mind how you will respond. Just listen in love. References from today’s readings: Proverbs 18:13 — “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”