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March 26, Day #86 – Like Fathers, Like Sons

Today we come in our readings to Numbers 19:1-21:3. In chapter 19, we read about the water of cleansing. This particular law was given and obtained because the Israelites – who were confined to their wandering around in the desert – came often into contact with death, the dead, and dead bodies. Keep in mind the number of Israelites who perished during their forty-year period of wilderness wanderings. Of those who came up out of Egypt, all of them – except Joshua, Caleb, and those 20 years-old or younger – died in the desert. This “lasting ordinance” (verse 10), which relates to the “red heifer” (verse 2), appears only here in the book of Numbers. In the ancient world, the use of ashes and water for purification purposes was commonly recognized, but here, God places His special, sanctified approval on this practice for cleansing the Israelites. We note in this chapter its several references to death (verses 11, 13, 14, 16, and 18). The red heifer typically points to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the basis for our cleansing from sin and its defilement as we walk on our pilgrimage through a filthy world (cf., 1 John 1:7–2:2). The color red typically points to the nature of our sin; the animal’s spotlessness refers to the purity of Christ; and the lack of a previous yoke on the animal indicates that the animal has never been restrained – indicating Christ’s willingness to be our sacrifice for sin – He was not coerced – He died freely for us. In chapter 20, we see the death of Miriam, and again, the people quarreling with Moses about the lack of water. Here, God tells Moses to “speak to the rock” (verse 8), but instead, in anger, he “struck the rock twice” (verse 11). For this infraction, God rebuked Moses and would not allow him to go into the promised land (verse 12). To us, this punishment may seem excessive, but we must understand that Moses’ anger led him into two sins – [1] disobedience and [2] inappropriate use of authority. Moses was told to “speak to the rock,” and he assumed God’s authority by saying, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” (verse 10). We must be careful to obey God implicitly.

Because God is omniscient and all-wise, He wants His children to learn wisdom and to act wisely. Proverbs is the book of wisdom, mostly written from the wisest man who ever lived, and God desires that we pay attention to it. Here in Proverbs 8:1-11, we see that wisdom makes herself available to us from “the highest point along the way” (Proverbs 8:2), but she is costly and “precious” - more so than “silver, gold, or rubies” (verses 10-11). Foolishness, which is associated with crookedness and perversity (verse 8), sells herself cheaply down in the streets, and it may be found everywhere. Instruction, knowledge, and discernment - all expensive and arduously obtained commodities - lead us to wisdom, but they all require us to work hard for a lifetime to obtain them. The writer of Proverbs tells us that “nothing” we desire “can compare with” wisdom (verse 11).

In Luke 5:33-6:11, we see, again, the foolishness of the Pharisees, who, though wise in their own eyes, were fools. Rather than accept the wisdom of Jesus’ new teaching, they followed the foolishness of those in Numbers and just wanted to “patch up” the wineskins of their Old Testament religious system by retaining it and removing and killing Jesus. The parable of the wineskins shows us that the old system simply will not work – “the new wine will burst the skins” and both “the wine and the skins will be ruined” (verse 37). In chapter 6, Jesus demonstrates that He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (verse 5). He created the Sabbath for man’s benefit; therefore He has authority over it. It is “lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (verse 9). Here, however, the Pharisees were “furious” about Jesus’ Words and works. They were no different than their Israelite ancestors who opposed Moses and about whom we have been reading. Like fathers, like sons.

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Thank you so much for your comment, Nathan. I appreciated it very much! I am convinced that the Pharisees opposed Christ because they held the greatest influence (i.e., the power dynamic) among the Jews until Jesus appeared. The Pharisees added their own laws to God's existing laws in an effort to attain righteousness before God. Indeed, Jesus' teachings - which were marked by God the Father's stamp of approval - elevated the existing law to the status of grace. No one, not even the Pharisees could keep the laws of God, so adding their laws to His laws rendered their attempts to attain righteousness even more futile. Jesus came to bring in the [new] principle of grace (although gr…


Insightful and interesting.

Do you think the Pharisees wanted more than just to keep the status quo from the “old ways”?

Wasn’t their whole power dynamic at the time was wrapped up in the litany of laws they’d come up with to elaborate and extend on the original commandments God gave them in the desert? Jesus’ teachings throughout his life were a direct threat to their continued authority.

I also wonder if there is a corollary to the power structures in some of today’s centrally-governed church structures…

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