Reading #1 – Numbers 18
Reading #2 – Psalms 78
Reading #3 – Proverbs 17
Reading #4 – Matthew 13
Reading #5 – Jude
Numbers 18 – Duties of the Priests and Levites. The Priesthood, although it appeared to be a “plumb” or “the cream of the crop” job, was in all reality a difficult job. As the Amplified Bible Study Notes points out, “The priests had a formidable responsibility, for if they did not do their job, the whole community suffered (1).” As I pointed out in the topic of the “Priestly Garments”, the ephod which contained one stone for each of the 12 tribes reminded the High Priest exactly who he served and who would suffer if he didn’t do his job. In that time, anybody other than the priests who came near the “Holy of Holies” was put to death, which is one of the many reasons I wouldn’t want the job (7). The Priesthood owed to themselves to be obedient because, as the people were obedient G_d would send down showers in the appropriate seasons and the appropriate amounts. The Priesthood would receive their allotted amount so if they were disobedient, the rewards would not come and they would starve. This portion of all the holiest offerings—including the grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings—will be most holy, and it belongs to you and your sons. 10 You must eat it as the holiest offering. All the males may eat of it, and you must treat it as most holy (9-10). To treat something as “Holy” is to treat it with care and thanksgiving. Everything that was offered cost somebody something whether it be the work that went into producing it or the person giving it had to sacrifice something else to give the best to the priest. This supply of food would come as long as the people had the food to offer. As John the Elder put it, “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit (3 John 1:2).
Psalms 78 – A Maskil of Asaph. The Psalmist, Asaph, brings together a few key elements to remind the audience “listener” Israel’s history, the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, and the deeply rooted sayings of the Lord for the next generation. In recounting Israel’s sad history of failure, it was to remind the next generation what the previous ones did that brought about the ire of G_d and the whirlwind of destruction (Proverbs11:28). The temple, although precious to mankind, was simply a building until the Spirit of G_d inhabited it. Shiloh was the first “semi-permanent” place the ark and the “one place the people were to bring their offerings” (Deuteronomy 4:27). The implication is that “if G_d’s High Place was not held up as a ‘venerable landmark’ when the listener was disobedient their High place would also be destroyed.” So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God (7-8). The implication is that the next generation could not rely upon what the previous one gave or did because that time has passed. The question is, “What will you do with the inheritance G_d has graciously provided”?
Proverbs 17 – The Volunteer Garden Mentality. Whatever plant, whether in small or large quantities, will always produce something. The question we always need to ask ourselves is, “what do you want to produce”? If you want edible food, you will need to plant that type of seed, water it, and tend the garden until the plant is harvested. Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children (6). There are two different types of seed packets in this segment: the morally depraved and the wise. Whatever packet is opened, whether in moments of great anger or in times of uplifted praise, the seeds are planted in our hearts. From the seeds come mighty plants with roots as deep as the quality of soil that we possess. If the quality of our soil is no good, weeds will grow up and take over our lives and make us unuseful for the Kingdom of G_d (2 Peter 1:5-9).
Matthew 13 – The Parable of the Sower. Farming was an important part of Israel’s culture both past and present. For this reason, Jesus chose to use the “Seed and the Sower” to teach about Kingdom principles. At the end of the teachings, Jesus always said “He who has ears to hear, listen …”. This saying is repeated throughout Proverbs to encourage the listener to open “their spiritual ears and attune them to the deeper meaning”. What Jesus was trying to do was to drive home the idea that G_d considers the condition of our heart as important as the quality of seeds we plant in our lives. If our ground is no good, the fruit will be mixed between “good and bad”. At issue is that we will not always be able to decipher between good seed and bad seed; so, sometimes we need to let the seed produce fruit. Many of the people in the audience did not fully understand what Jesus was saying but, “it sounded good” and “he spoke so passionately about it that it must be true”. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them (14-15, Isaiah 6:9-10).
Jude – The Dangers of False Teachers. The book of Jude was written about 90AD which coincided with the decimation of the temple. At that time, just like now, many false teachers arose to preach heresy. Heresy, like the bad seed it is, appears to be “correct” but one would never know until it produced fruit (Matthew 13). Jude was warning the listener to be on their guard at all times. This warning is still applicable today So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. 6 And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. 7 And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment (5-7). The essence of the warning was not to be “afraid” but to test the teachings by “Staying in my word so that you would know the truth and the truth would set you free” (John 8:31).