(Numbers 1, Psalm 35; Optional Romans 12:1-8, Proverbs 20:15-19)
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NUMBERS 1 – This book gets its English name from the census that is commanded in this chapter and another one near the end of the book for the generation that’s preparing to enter the Promised Land. The Hebrew name (“in the wilderness / desert”) reminds us that Numbers records the 40 years Israel spent in the desert. It wouldn’t have been nearly that long but for the discontent and rebellion in Num 13-14.
Num 1:1 – After God led Israel out of slavery in Egypt (the first part of the book of Exodus), He led them to encamp around Mt Sinai for about a year. During that time God gave the 10 Commandments, gave Moses exact instructions on building the Tabernacle (the last part of Exodus) and instructions for the priests in order to instruct God’s people in living holy lives with Him at the center (that’s what the book of Leviticus was about). And then they built and dedicated the Tabernacle (end of Exodus), installed the priests and started living by God’s laws (Leviticus), and they’re getting ready to move out and move towards the Promised Land, with the Tabernacle and God’s Presence in the midst of them (Num 10).
Num 1:4, 44 – Note that God commanded that the “central government” get input and assistance from local leaders who knew their people well. And the whole count was organized around FAMILIES – the building blocks of any society.
Num 1:47-51 – God set aside the Levites to be responsible for and to serve in the Tabernacle. Some of the Levites would be priests, and others would care for the Tabernacle and for moving it properly. All this depended on what specific family within the Levites you were born in (more detail in Num 3-4). Note the very sober warning in Num 1:51!
Num 1:52-54 – Note the CENTRALITY of God and the HOLINESS of God. The Tabernacle was to be placed in the center of the camp as the focal point (that’s what Num 2 is all about, especially Num 2:2). But all around the Tabernacle were encamped the tribe of Levi, as human buffers between the Israelites and the holiness of God (compare Num 1:51, 53). How would God have you make sure your life reflects both the CENTRALITY of God and His HOLINESS??
Another point to reflect on… There’s so much discontent in this book (and destruction that comes from it). Knowing the sin nature, I’m sure some wished they could have been born Levites. The Levites were NOT counted as possible warriors for battle – see Num 1:49, they had certain privileges. And I’m sure some were rankled that THEY weren’t born that way. But they’d be missing the huge responsibilities that came with being born into this tribe. Every Biblical privilege comes with weighty responsibility. And God is sovereign over what family you’re born into and EVERY detail of who you are (compare Prov 20:12 and Ex 4:11 for more details that God’s in control of). If you let discontent and envy fester you’ll be miserable and there will be destruction. If you, by God’s grace and help, set yourself to honor and enjoy God AS HE MADE YOU, that leads to an unbeatable life like Jesus promised on His way to the cross in John 16:33.
PSALM 35 – Ps 35:1-10 – Enemies were wrongfully (see v 7, 11-16) attacking David, and he’s overwhelmed. So he wisely brings his case to GOD and asks God to encourage his fearful heart (see v 3, 9-10) and judge his enemies while delivering David.
Ps 35:5 – David is simply praying back to God exactly what God said in Ps 1:4. This is how we SHOULD pray – turning God’s Word into prayer requests!
Ps 35:10-18 – The Bible often lists laziness as ONE possible input to poverty (see repeated warnings in Proverbs), but ALSO recognizes how often oppression is involved. And God, in His wise timing (which MAY be at the final judgment one day) WILL respond and bring full justice and rescue to those who are His. Ps 35:18 is the right response – grateful praise.
Ps 35:18 – It’s vital to a believer to praise God TOGETHER with other believers! Jesus Himself looked forward to doing this when He left heaven to come in the flesh (see Heb 2:11-12, where Jesus quotes Ps 22:22). And believers today are still commanded to make the assembly of believers a priority (see Heb 10:24-25). Check out the classic hymn “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”.
Ps 35:17-28 – THIS part of the Psalm shows a believer in the painful MIDDLE of the story, where evil seems to be winning and the believer is wondering if God is hearing and seeing all the injustice and oppression. This is why we need the whole Bible – THIS is how to cry out to God in the MIDDLE of hard times. But remember also the END of the story from other parts of the Bible and be encouraged. God DOES see and hear and He WILL ACT in His own wise timing.
Optional Rom 12:1-8 – Rom 1-11 is the Gospel – what GOD has done so that we can reconciled to Him through Jesus. The only right response is a life that clearly belongs to HIM and stands out from the world around us. The rest of Romans applies the Gospel to daily life, so that we can be LIVING SACRIFICES to our great God!
Optional Proverbs 20:15-19 – Prov 20:17 – Sin is fun / exciting for a short while (also Heb 11:25 for sin’s fleeting pleasure), but afterwards… And remember James 1:15 – “…sin when it is fully grown brings forth DEATH.”