Numbers 8

The lamp stands set up in the tabernacle are symbolic as well as practical. They hold the lights but are not the light. In revelation the church is described as lamp stands, the platform for God’s light.

Imagining the inside of the tent. All that smoke, 2 altars and incense. Almost no other light. 

The levites are dedicated to God’s service. This is the rest of practical help, the priests were dedicated back in Leviticus. 

Were reminded that they are the substitute for the first born sins of all Israel. They shave their bodies for purification. 

They retire at 50 and mentor the next generation, but don’t work.

There were 10s of thousands of them in the count, I don’t imagine it being that hard a life in some regards. 

The are elements of a model for full time Christian ministry. Even minor roles are to have that sense of dedication, being aware of representing the service and support of those who are giving.

Numbers 7

All the tribes’ offerings at the dedication of the temple. A long list chapter. The tribes’ offerings are much the same… It’s not the most freewheeling religion. 

At the end there are 12 Silver Bowls full of flour, 12 gold Bowls of incense, 12 goats, 12 lambs etc etc.

Moses enters the holy place and hears God’s voice. God is in the space between the two cherubim atop the ark of the covenant.

It’s a different dynamic than the many times Moses has heard​ God’s voice since the burning bush. Then he was a messenger, he was being personally commissioned to act and soak for God. Now he is representing the people. From God’s chosen man to God’s chosen people, the transition is complete.

Numbers 2

Gives us a picture of how the nation camped. In a big wheel around the tabernacle. The levites were in the middle, around the holy tent, the 11 tribes were in blobs around that, always in the same order.  God’s presence at the centre, like heaven.

Family is all. Within the tribes, you camp in your clan and in your family.

And when they moved on, they left in the same order each time, and set up camp the same as before.

Numbers 1

Ok the first number of numbers is 603550. The number of fighting fit Israelites they had after a year or so if leaving Egypt.

And that’s about it for this chapter.

The focus of the census telegraphs that the promised land is going to require a fight.

Commentator speculated that the whole number of the Israelites including aged, women, children and priests… None of whom are in the fighter list, would be 2 million or so.

They have their freedom from slavery (Exodus) they have their God’s presence (Leviticus). As do I.

Now what, Father?

Can’t have me wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, right? Right?

Exodus 6

Everyone is doubting God, but God tells Moses he is revealing more to him than the great patriarchs, Abraham, Jacob and all. They had the promise, the covenant. Moses will see the promise fulfilled by this great saving act, and know more of the law of God. 

The people remain negative. They have adopted the local gods and their life has only got worse for Moses’ meddling. Moses remains deeply unsure.

They run though his genealogy. Their Israelite pedigree. They are god’s Pele the right ones for the job.

This chapter is about god’s plans and power being bigger than all out weakness. 

It’s plague time!

Joshua 12

A list of the kings defeated (and people’s slaughtered, it seems) by Moses and Joshua to take the promised land.

I counted them, then it gave me the number at the end anyway.  33 in all, Moses 2, Joshua 31.

This is the only memorial they have. What a person Joshua must have been (there is some dispute he may not be literally one person but a hybrid, mind you).

But whoever it was, it’s something. Dispassionately doing this work of the lord, not from hatred or for gain (as in personal wealth anyway). The means of god’s judgement.

I’m not going anywhere with this. It’s a list. It’s done.

I don’t think I fully understand it, so I could apologise for it. OK with trusting tho.

Ezra 10

A disturbing and vivid chapter. The people respond to Ezra’s mourning over sin, culminating in a dramatic meeting in the rain where they promise to put away their foreign wives and the children by them. The rain seems to worry them more than the fate of the women and children involved. They appoint leaders by tribe to investigate and enforce the rules.

Israelites don’t have to leave their wives, but it’s a line in the sand: if not they forfeit property in Jerusalem and are expelled. It a “choose you this day who you will serve” moment that affects a lot of other people.

Then follows a sad list of all those who had inter married.

I understand Jerusalem is a symbolic city and they are preserving a culture too, but you worry at the fate of the women and children left with no husband or father. There is no mention of any provision for them.

I suppose sin is serious and it’s real. In the age of grace we intertwine sinful lives with being seen pure by God and it’s hard to remember that the evil matters.

I don’t think the harshness was lost on them. The people came up with the plan, Ezra did not impose it. What he did was pray, just that, with great pain and sadness.

They knew the rule of Moses to stay separate from the polytheistic culture of the promised land, or Jehovah would soon be a meaningless trinket in a long list of household gods. They also knew the condemnation malachai had for divorce, who called it treachery that made god weep and refuse offerings. In the ancient world divorce could be a social and economic catastrophe for women, who had few other options.

That’s why everyone was so upset. They had got into a situation where whatever they did was immoral and had to choose one path or the other.  It applied to about 100 out of 30000 or so. It reminds me of corporate restructures, to keep the whole viable they are harsh to a few.

I recall from earlier, in Genesis for instance, god treated the slaves and mistresses of Moses’dumb attempts to fulfill the covenant by fornication with great grace, we followed their story and saw that they and their children prospered and were all part of the plan. We’re not told what happened here, and often in life we don’t know how faithfulness to God plan works out, but that is the god I believe in. He is love.

May I have faith to trust and obey God. He knows how many hairs are on every head, and how many grains of sand there are. I can’t plan the big picture better than he can, but I can follow the path he has set.

 

Ezra 8

Ezra lists the people who came with him. Then there is a description of the sacrificial system being re-established.

When he first assembled the people, there are no temple priests or attendants, so he puts out the call and gets about 40 of the priestly clan and 220 attendants. It takes a lot of people to run the temple. But it’s essentially a slaughter house, quite a bit of work I suppose.

He sees gods hand in bringing the people to him. Rather wonderfully they fast and ask God for protection on the journey, because in Ezra’s enthusiasm to depict to the king that it is a blessed project, he said he would not need protection of a horse guard, because God would be his protection. It’s rather sweet that he confesses to momentary second thoughts… he was ashamed to ask for it after that. God indeed protects them. I like that sort of “fake it till you make” it trust thing.

He trusts 12 leading priests with the gold articles to guard. I see it is a journey of some considerable danger from bandits, given the treasure they are carrying. They make it, after 3 days rest a sacrifice is given and the letters of kingly protection go out to the region.

It is a chapter full of grace and blessing, human fear and faith, and godly guidance.

May I trust you day by day father.

I met with the minister of our church to voice my concerns about things yesterday. It was good and made me feel heard. I don’t think he is a person who changes quickly, but it started a conversation, as they say.  Will it work out? Fake it til I make it, eh?

Ezra 2

All the 42000 people who were returned to Jerusalem. You have to feel for the 600 or so who made the trek but couldn’t establish their family records.

Though they have been exiles, some are obviously wealthy, not your average refugees. 7000 slaves come with the group. They give offerings for the rebuilding of the temple. I don’t know how much the sum is relatively, but they carry a reasonable amount for that job with them.

I love how musicians are a separate group. It’s so defining of a culture and a religion.

The picture is of a people who’s sense of being a people under God is very important to them. They don’t have to think twice when told they can return to Jerusalem, despite success where they were.

Nehemiah 12

Another list chapter largely. 11 and 12 are examples of practical ministry. Everyone is involved, all part of the team. We get the full time religious workers here, and the tin tacks of how they will be supported.

Interestingly the musicians are very important. They are recalled from surrounding lands to Jerusalem and build themselves villages (must have been the cool part of town).

The theatre of the wall dedication involved two huge choirs, starting standing on opposite parts of the wall and moving to meet at the house of God. That must have been something.

Everyone is mucking in and doing their bit. God is at the centre of the culture and everyone’s core life. It’s actually a gripping picture of Christian community.