THE PRIESTS ASSIGNMENTS & JESUS QUESTIONED: WHAT IS THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT?
MAR 5: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 4:1-5:31 | Mark 12:18-37 | Psalm 48:1-14 | Proverbs 10:26
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 4-5:31
Numbers 4 teaches us that God cares for every detail of our life and our worship, both individually and as a community of those with whom He has called to walk in the wilderness of this world.
When the people of God are on the move it is imperative that the Lord's presence be among them. The Lord agreed to dwell among them on the terms of His covenant. His testimony in the tabernacle, which is the testimony of Jesus, the gospel, spells out what is required in order for God's presence to be among them.
The thoughts of God must be given careful attention in all that we do.
There is a divine order. Every member of the community counts (and is numbered). Every member is given an assignment as a sacred trust.
There are clear lines of accountability within the ranks.
We are to walk and work together according to the assignments we have been given as the people of God.
The success of the people of God bearing witness to God's purpose and plan depends upon their overall submission to His directives.
This reminds us that God has a plan for His called out ones, the church, to walk together in local assemblies. Each member of that community has an assignment that is vital to the purpose of the whole - to bear witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The mission of the local church is clear:
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
His presence goes with us as we follow His directives.
The Kohathites were given the responsibility to transport the ark, the table of showbread, the lampstand, golden altar of incense, the articles for ministry and the bronze altar. They were assigned to carry the holy furnishings of the Tabernacle, but were forbidden to look upon or touch them. First Aaron and his sons had to pack and cover them with coverings of cloth and waterproof hides of sea cows. Each item of furniture was to be covered with a particular color of cloth, with the sea cow cover put on in a certain order. Some ark of the covenant had the sea cow cover underneath and the blue cover visible outside. The table had both blue and scarlet cloth covers with the sea cow cover visible to the people. All the other items transported by the Kohathites had the sea cow cover. There was no outward beauty in these, as they prophetically picture Jesus in his earthly humanity.
Isaiah 53:2 (NASB) 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
What people noticed about Jesus in his earthly ministry was the 'heavenly blue', his 'otherly qualities', which demonstrated He was communicating a life from heaven. The ark of the testimony, covered with blue cloth, bore the tables of stone upon which were written the commandments. This represents Jesus' testimony of love that fulfills the law. People also saw the miracles. This is reflected in the resurrection life of Aaron's rod that budded after it had been cut down. People were attracted as Jesus fed them spiritual nourishment in his teaching, bread from heaven. But the glory of God's full testimony is only revealed when we see Christ Jesus crucified, risen and ascended, His blood on the mercyseat. Until we see God's glory in the gospel of the finished work of Christ, the coverings continue to veil Who He truly is from our eyes.
The Kohathites, who carried the sacred furniture, were under the supervision of Aaron's son, Eleazar, who carried the anointing oil and sweet incense (Numbers 4:16).
The Gershonites, who carried the curtains (the outer court curtains and entrance curtain) and the ropes and equipment for the Tabernacle curtains were under the charge of Aaron's son, Ithamar (Numbers 4:28).
The Merarites, who were assigned to carry the frame, the crossbars, posts and bases for the Tabernacle and the outer curtain, were also under the oversight of Ithamar (Numbers 4:33).
This reminds us to appreciate every member of the local church. Each one has an assignment that contributes to the maintenance of the life of the whole. Each one walks in a loving relationship with the others and humbly submits to the directions that God has given through those who have been appointed as overseers.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NASB) 12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
Hebrews 13:17 (NASB) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Numbers 6 teaches us that it was imperative that purity be maintained in the camp. All that were unclean in any way were to be put outside the camp. This does not mean that they were banished or left to perish, but that they were not permitted to maintain their proper place and service within the tribes of their people. Those who were ceremonially unclean according to the Law (suffering an infectious skin disease, suffering a discharge or having touched a dead body) were sent outside the camp.
There was a law demanding full restitution for wrongs. (5:5-10).
Most unusual is the Test for the Unfaithful Wife. We learn that if a husband was suspicious, but could not prove, that his wife was guilty of having an extra-marital affair, there was a recourse provided in the law. The husband could prepare a jealousy offering consisting of grain, without oil or incense upon it, and bring his wife and the offering to the priest. The priest would take holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor in it. The priest is to write upon a scroll the curses that are to come upon those who transgress and then wash them clean off the scroll into the bitter water. The priest then takes the grain offering from her hands and wave it before the Lord bringing a handful of it upon the altar as a memorial. She then drinks the bitter water. If she is innocent of the adultery her husband suspects, no harm will come to her, she will be acquitted of all charges and will be able to have children.
The passage highlights the perils of jealousy between a husband and a wife and the importance, in the interests of national strength, of a strong and pure family. The drinking of this water was harmless in itself. Only an act of God would bring proof of guilt.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 12:18-37
Jesus answers the Sadducees and demonstrates that He is an authority on both the Scriptures and the power of God. The Sadducees deny the resurrection. Jesus affirms that those who died are counted as alive with the Scriptural evidence, citing God's self-revelation in the Torah – "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", not the God of the dead, but the living. He also knows what life is like in the resurrection. He has been there. He informs them that when the dead rise they will neither marry or be given in marriage.
Jesus is asked by a teacher of the law, "What is the greatest commandment?" Jesus replies with the Shema (Deut 6:4-5) and the exhortation to love God with all one's heart with all one's soul, mind and strength and then to love one's neighbor as one's self (Leviticus 19:18,34).
The teacher of the law agreed that these commands were more important than ceremonial rectitude.
What is most astonishing is that Jesus has the authority to tell the teacher of the law where he stands with God.
Mark 12:34 (NASB) 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Jesus asks a question while teaching in the temple courts. He then explains from Psalm 110:1 that the Messiah, the Son of David, is in fact, greater than David, in that he is the Son of God.
Psalm 110:1 (NASB) 1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
Those who trust in the Lord find complete resource in Him. The city of our God speaks not only of Jerusalem, but prophetically of the people of God under the rule of God; ultimately what we see in the New Jerusalem.
There is symbolic imagery here: "His holy mountain" speaking of God's government; "in the far north"- an idiom for the place of God's throne.
When Jesus refers to Jerusalem in Matthew 5:35 he gives it the name the Psalmist ascribes to it in Ps 48:2
Matthew 5:34-35 (NASB) 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
Jerusalem is the place to which Christ will return and therefore we can think of the benefits of His righteous rule as we read this psalm. One great benefit is found in verse 14.
Psalm 48:14 (NASB) 14 For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.
"Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy one to those who send him.
Let's not be a bother that people want to get rid of. Let us be diligent to do what we have been sent to do!"
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS: Belarus
Area: 207,600 sq km
Landlocked; fertile agricultural land with extensive forests on the North European plains. Surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Smallest of the three Slavic nations of the former USSR.
Population: 9,587,940 Annual Growth: -0.47%
Answer to Prayer
The believing Church in Belarus is growing, even as Belarus's overall population slides downward. Much of the growth occurs in the context of persecution and state hostility, and often believers must meet in difficult circumstances. But the Church is definitely increasing in numbers, in maturity and in confidence.
Challenge for Prayer
The cultural and political dominance by Russia and Poland lasted for many centuries. Belarus itself lacks, to some degree, its own identity. Pray for a truly indigenous expression of Belarusian Christianity to develop and then spread using all methods: church services, theological education, literature, broadcasting.
The Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 occurred in the Ukraine, but affected Belarus most severely. Subsequent environmental and human devastation is significant with 20% of the nation's land affected, two million people uprooted and several thousand dead or dying from radiation-induced cancer.
Religious groups face increasing pressure from government officials. These include Orthodox expressions that do not submit to the state approved Moscow patriarchate.
Evangelical Christians are increasing despite concerted opposition and intensifying persecution. The state steadfastly maintains laws that forbid meeting in homes for worship, forming congregations of less than 20 people, opening religious schools, ministering outside of the home city, and importing and distributing non-state approved literature. The inability to buy or rent property for worship is the biggest problem for evangelicals.
Pray for the training of new leaders. As the Church grows, the new port-communist generation needs to be disciple and shaped according to Biblical values. This must be done amid repressive laws that restrict meeting, training and education.
- Pastor David