Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A new book; A new look

I've finished Luke's Gospel account, and though perhaps I should blog on the resurrection, I'm going to pass -- except for a few comments. Here goes... In Luke 24 Jesus is seen alive (after his crucifiction) by no less than fourteen different people. Now considering the importance of the resurrecion -- Jesus' overcoming the grave proved his claim to be God -- it impresses me that this many people saw him alive after his death. Other gospel accounts mention even more first hand witnesses. So, my question comes down to this; If I wanted to completely debunk Jesus, I'd only have to come up with his dead body. Why didn't anyone do that? It should have been easy. There should have been hundreds of volunteers, eager to track him down. Why not? Perhaps because there was no body to be found?

I started the book of Numbers last night, finishing in chapter 3. (I typically read the Bible before bed). Most folks feel like the book of Numbers (the fourth book of the Old Testament) is right up there with the top three boring books of the Bible. I probably wouldn't disagree. But last night, I discovered something new. Naturally, God's accounting (numbering) of the people serves several purposes.

1. It stresses the importance of Geneology. These family records were kept with remarkable accuracy up to the time of Jesus' birth. Luke's gospel gave us a detailed record of Jesus' family history from Joseph (his adoptive father) all the way to Adam. They confirm Jesus' roots in the tribe of Judah -- a prediction from the Old Testament. In Numbers, we see the beginning of this kind of accurate record keeping. God is preparing a way to confirm his Old Testament prophecies.

2. The instructions in Numbers gave order to the movement of what some authorities say may have been more than 3 million people. By placing the people in clans and giving them the same camping positions -- day after day -- around the Tabernacle, the ordeal of breaking camp and moving out was changed from total chaos to organized mobilization -- not unlike a modern army. Numbers gives us a picture of the practical nature of God's instructions.

3. Numbers provides an introduction of a critically important Biblical principle. REDEMPTION. In Numbers 3:40, the Lord tells Moses to count the firstborn sons in Israel, older than one month. (Firstborns, remember, belong to the LORD) Then, he makes this statement. "The Levites will be reserved for me as substitutes for the firstborn sons of Israel; I am the LORD... (45) The Levites will be mine; I am the LORD. To redeem the 273 firstborn sons of Israel who are in excess of the number of Levites, collect fifve pieces of silver for each person... So, Moses collected redemption money for the firstborn sons of Israel."

Even in this boring Old Testament book, we begin to get a picture of redemption -- that is God's willingness to trade item A for item B in order to BUY BACK. Because all the firstborn of everything belong to God, he offers a way for the people to buy back their firstborns -- that is by trading them for the Levites, and by paying for each firstborn OVER the number of Levites. The Levites (who spend their lives in priestly service) then belong to God (who is satisfied by the redemption) and the firstborn of other tribes are able to continue their lives -- with wives and children and obligations.

It is one of many early pictures of substitution -- in this case Levites for Firstborns. And it is an important principle preparing God's peopel to understand the death of an animal as a substitute payment for sin.This sin payment (also an Old Testament picture) prepares us to understand Jesus' Death in payment for our own sin.

So, even in the first three chapters of Numbers, we see God reaching out to his people, trying to help them understand who he is, what he demands of them, and most important of all, to understand his remarkable provision for their eternal life.

Whodathunkit? All of that in Numbers? What did you see?


Sherrie Ashcraft said...

In all the times I've read through the Bible, I've never caught the concept of God preparing the people (in the book of Numbers) for the substitution He would be doing through Jesus. Thanks for that insight!

Anonymous said...

As I was reading the first three books of Numbers, I thought about what you said. I also got that our God is a God of order. This tribe goes here that tribe goes next to them. God really cares where we are and who we are next to. When you think about 600,000+ men not to count the women and children that is alot of people to account for but our God is a big God. Thanks Karen Motley

Bette Nordberg said...

This is fun. I never thought anyone would care about Numbers. I even had an "oh no" email from a friend -- who was going to pass on reading with us until we got back to the New Testament. Ah well. Sherrie and Karen both show how much you can gain from reading the text and then asking yourself... What does it say (notice Karen's careful observation of who goes where), what it means (to the original readers of the text) and what it means to us -- in this case that God is big enough to care about where each of us are! As Sherrie says, no matter how often we read the Bible, these discoveries are never ending. And for me THAT is one of the most delightful parts of re-reading the Word. I've been doing it since 1979 -- and it's always new! Bette

Jennifer from Sumner, WA said...

Bette, Sherrie and Karen --
Thank you so much for your comments. The Lord is putting them all together for me this morning: The foreshadowing of substitution in the Old Testament helps us see Jesus as our substitute... I should personalize that and say MY substitute. When I sin - even "just" grumbling which is still a disobedient heart - I need to get back into the order of God's plan for me and acknowledge once again with a humble spirit that I stunk it up again and I need my Jesus as my substitute to get back in order. I can't just "slide" back into order on my own, going along my merry way. I need forgiveness to clean my heart and be right with the God of order, and the experience is valuable (much like the account of Numbers) to remind me that I am not a good manager of the order in my life. Here here to the Manager of us all!! And to Jesus who allows and encourages us to keep on keeping on in Him.
Until next time - Be blessed & keep blogging,