READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT: Numbers 16:41-18:32
“But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Numbers 16:41).
As powerful a demonstration of God’s judgment upon the sons of Korah had been, the Israelites failed to see the deaths of the conspirators as actually being caused by God. They held Moses and Aaron to blame.
This continued rebellion against Moses incurred God’s wrath and a judgment worthy of death.
The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to stand aside so that He might consume the rebels instantly.
The possibility of imminent judgment falling upon the Israelites for their rebellion causes Moses and Aaron to practice what they have learned about intercession. They recognize that God’s wrath against sin would incur a plague that could only be removed through the intercession of Aaron, the High Priest. He was to take the fire from the altar and put it in his censer with the offering of incense upon it as a memorial of the perfect intercession of the greater High Priest, Jesus Christ. Aaron’s actions symbolized atonement being made on behalf of the people.
In this instance, the wrath of God against sin is seen in the punishment of a plague. 14,700 are killed. Aaron runs into the midst of the assembly, offers incense, and makes atonement for them. He stands between the living and the dead as God’s appointed mediator. The plague is stopped, but much damage has been done (Numbers 16:47-50).
To validate God’s appointment of Aaron and his descendants as priests, a second sign was given. The previous sign was that the brazen censers of the sons of Korah were hammered into a covering for the altar as a reminder that none but the sons of Aaron were to burn incense to the Lord (Numbers 16:40).
The second sign was the miraculous budding of Aaron’s rod. The staffs from the twelve tribes were put before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. God would vindicate the rightful appointment of Aaron as the High Priest by causing his staff to bud afresh with resurrection life.
On the following day, the staff of Aaron, representing the house of Levi, had miraculously budded and produced almonds. No longer were the children of Israel to question the appointment of Aaron as high priest and his unique, God-given, High Priestly authority. Aaron’s rod was kept in the sanctuary and ultimately in the ark of the covenant as a symbol of God’s authority demonstrated by the resurrection and the life (Hebrews 9:4; John 11:25).
God’s appointment of His High priest is manifested with the gracious gifts of resurrection life and fruitfulness. This reminds us how the resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicates His appointment as the rightful judge of all human beings:
Acts 17:30-31 30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
In Numbers 18, Aaron and his sons are to “bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary.” This means that they were being held responsible for any neglect or failure to uphold the laws of the sanctuary and enact their sacred duties.
They made a covenant of salt (v.19) which was inviolable and permanent. Salt is a preservative and this covenant was to be preserved.
The previous judgments of God upon violations of the sanctuary laws demonstrated the importance of divinely appointed mediation between God and Israel- foreshadowing the only divinely appointed mediator, Jesus Christ.
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
Numbers 18 summarizes the duties and privileges of the priesthood.
This verse reminds us that the intercession of Christ is a gift and that it is a gift to serve the Lord.
Numbers 18:7 (NIV) 7 I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift.
And the ministries of our brothers and sisters, members of the new royal priesthood in Christ are a gift to us today (1 Peter 2:9).
Numbers 18:6 (NASB) 6 “Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the Tent of Meeting.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MARK 16:1-20
The angel, a messenger from God, reminds Mary Magdalen, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, as they discover that the tomb in which Jesus had been buried is now empty, that every word of Jesus is reliable. He will do all He has said. He previously told his disciples that He would be killed and rise on the third day (Mark 9:9-10, 31; 10:34). And now He has risen!
In spite of Jesus telling them, He would rise on the third day, no one believed Him. The angel notes this and when the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples, He lovingly rebukes them for “their unbelief and hardness of heart” (v.14).
Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; Matthew 28:9; John 20:14-17). She tells the disciples that Jesus is alive but they refuse to believe her. Eventually, Jesus appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-35), and then to the Eleven (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-48; John 20:19-23).
Jesus gives both the Great Commission and predictions of what will happen as the gospel is preached throughout the entire world (Mark 16:15-18).
Tim Keller writes in “King’s Cross”:
“Jesus had risen, just as he told them he would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but he must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday he walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.” (p. 219, King’s Cross, The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Keller, Tim, c. 2011, Penguin Group)
READING FROM THE PSALMS: Psalm 55:1-23;
Psalm 55:22 (NIV) 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
The Psalmist expresses that he is carrying the heavy burden of having been betrayed by a close friend.
Psalm 55:12-14 (NIV) 12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
God hears our prayer when we call out to Him. He is on the throne. He has suffered betrayal and therefore understands our hurt.
Hurts are inevitable in life. God promises to sustain us as we suffer them
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV) 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV) 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
READING FROM PROVERBS: PROVERBS 11:7
Proverbs 11:7 (NIV) 7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing.
Where do you place your hope for the future? In riches that you cannot take with you when you die? All other hopes will eventually be revealed for what they are- hopes that perish. Christ alone is our living hope.
1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you,
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS
Centuries of entrenched paganism continues its hold. Pray that the church will recognize its deep-seated influence.
Low literacy levels, lack of biblical knowledge and limited discipleship opportunities give rise to theological error and moral failure.
Leadership training is a desperate need recognized by all- precipitated by rapid church growth in past decades. Only a small fraction of pastors have formal theological training. There are over 30 Protestant seminaries and Bible schools as well as a variety of TEE institutes and training programs; all of which will not suffice to meet the need unless the Spirit actively calls, raises up and sanctifies thousands of new leaders.
PRAYER: Gracious God, Your ways are higher than ours. We pray that we will contemplate Your Sovereign Goodness. You know all things and do all things well. May we never second guess Your wise provision of a Perfect High Priest who offered a Perfect Once-and-for-all-sacrifice to atone for our sin. May we never grumble about Your appointments. You have given us a sure sign of the supremacy of Your ways when You raised Jesus from the dead. What a rebuke to unbelieving hearts! In the finished work victory of Christ, sin has been paid for, Satan defeated, death has been conquered, the guilty have been acquitted and pronounced righteous, with the righteousness of our Savior imputed to our account. Hallelujah! Help us see the big picture, especially as we encounter trials and betrayals. We want to keep our eyes on our All-Sufficient Savior! In His Name, we ask this. Amen!