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March 17, Day #77 – Refuge from God, in God

We come today to Numbers 4:1-5:10. In Numbers 4, we see that God commanded Moses to assign specific tabernacle tasks and duties to the sons of Levi, and to count their members between the ages of 30 and 50 years of age – the Kohathite clans (verses 1-20); the Gershonite clans (verses 21-28); and the Merarite clans (verses 29-33). The Kohathite clans were supposed to care “for the most holy things” (verse 4). The Gershonites were assigned the responsibility “to carry burdens” (verse 24), including the curtains, the tabernacle tent, the ropes, and “all that needs to be done with these things” (verses 25-26). To the Merarites was given the work of carrying the frames, the crossbars, posts and bases, and tent pegs” (verses 31-32) – specifically – by each man. Leviticus 4:34-49 indicates the census and its numbers, all “counted as the LORD commanded Moses” (verse 49). In chapter 5:1-10, we read about the LORD’s command to maintain purity in the camp of Israelites – they were required to “send away … outside of the camp anyone who had an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind” because the LORD Himself would dwell there among them (verse 3). In verses 5-10, we read about the law of restitution. The restitution amount is an additional 20% of the value lost to a wrongful act. We notice that “when a man or woman wrongs another in any way,” that wrong is an act of “unfaithfulness to the LORD” (verse 6). The implications of this truth are important. If we harm, injure, or act wrongfully against another human being – for example, a “neighbor” – that is tantamount to a wrongful act against the Lord Himself. A sin against man is a sin against God.

Psalm 34:22 says, “Evil will slay the wicked,” and … “no one who takes refuge in [God] will be condemned.” I understand this to mean that workers of iniquity will ultimately die by their own evil works. As we are all sinners, we are all going to die one day because of our sins. However, God has provided in Himself a “refuge” (i.e., a shelter; a place of safety) from His condemnation - for those who “turn from evil” (i.e., who repent - verse 14); who “cry out” (verses 15-17); and who receive His salvation (verse 18). We must be willing to “seek peace” [with God] and “pursue it” (verse 14). In Matthew 10:28, Jesus warns us to fear God because He has the judgment authority to “destroy our souls in hell” or to save our souls from sin, eternal death, and hell. A. W. Tozer explains, “We must take refuge from God in God” (cf., The Knowledge of the Holy, 1961. Harper-Collins; p. 107). God created us, and as the sovereign, righteous Creator of all things, He alone has the authority, freedom, power, and the right to sustain or consume us. He desires that we live, but we must live on His terms by finding our refuge from Him - in Him.

In Luke 1:57-80, we come to the birth of John the Baptist. The naming of the forerunner of our Lord is an interesting – almost humorous – account by Luke. In verse 13, Gabriel instructed Zechariah to name the newborn “John,” contrary to custom. Here, we read that, after the birth, “neighbors and relatives” were surprised at Elizabeth’s intent to obey Gabriel and name the boy “John,” probably thinking that Elizabeth’s condition after the birth of the boy somehow had affected her thinking. Up until now, Zechariah has been mute, so the neighbors assume that he will follow the convention and name the boy after himself. To their surprise, Zechariah writes on the tablet, “His name is John” (verse 63) – now in full confidence, trust, and obedience to Gabriel’s word. We see that Zechariah’s ability to speak is also fully restored, for “he began to speak, praising God” (verse 64) – which “filled all the neighbors with awe” (verse 65). In verses 67-80, we read Zechariah’s Song – parallel to that of Mary's (verses 46-55) - in which Zechariah, by the Holy Spirit prophesies, “You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him” (verse 76). Zechariah and Elizabeth shared Mary’s great honor of praising and worshiping God.

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