Reading #1 – Numbers 21
Reading #2 – Psalms 80
Reading #3 – Proverbs 20
Reading #4 – Matthew 16
Reading #5 – Revelations 3
Numbers 21 – Victory of the Ammonites. Once again, the nation complained about their pitiful circumstances. The “manna” (what is it) became intolerable because it never changed. G_d had graciously provided for their needs and now they wanted something else. So, G_d sent poisonous snakes into the midst of the people and began biting them which led to several deaths. Now presented with a “bigger problem” the people turned in faith to Moses for some kind of action that would heal the snake bites. Then the LORD told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” 9 So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed (8-9). Sihon’s defeat was a turning point for the nation as they prepared to cross the river into the new land. Og king of Bashan and his entire family were killed at the hands of Israel (33-35). There is no explanation as to why Og and his family were killed possibly to protect their rear-flank.
Psalms 80 – The Broken Vine and Lillies of the Covenant. This vine, Israel, had been decimated and all that remained were simply chards of a nation that once was. The nation insisted on going its way, march to its tune, and live any which way that pleased them. In the end, they received what they did not expect and that was “being in bondage to sin”. From this brokenness, a prayer was uttered to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness from the G_d of Heaven and Earth. Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine that you have planted, this son you have raised for yourself. For we are chopped up and burned by our enemies. May they perish at the sight of your frown. Strengthen the man you love,
the son of your choice. Then we will never abandon you again. Revive us so we can call on your name once more (14-18). The covenant between G_d and Israel, the vine, appeared to be dead and nothing that mankind could or would do would bring this vine back to life. This “Lillie of the Covenant” combines the tunes of repentance and restoration. As the ground heals, the nutrients that lilies feed on brings about new life. In the same way, when we sin the vine that G_d planted in our life appears to be dead and nothing we do will bring it back. Yet, as we repent and show our actions by faithfulness, the seed comes alive by the water of the Spirit of G_d.
Proverbs 20 – Proverbs of Solomon. Solomon uttered several thousand pearls of wisdom. Hearing wisdom is not the same as “acting under the wisdom”. When we refuse to act on the words of wisdom by proxy, we must accept the alternate outcome. Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest (4). It is true that “no one is perfect and we all make mistakes”, yet it does not stop the consequences of sin from infiltrating our lives. Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies (15). Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you. She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown (Proverbs 4:7-9).” If we do not plant the seeds of wisdom in our hearts and develop them into the plant that G_d has in mind, we will be like the people who listened to Jesus, “though seeing they do not see and though hearing they do not hear” (Matthew 13:13); in other words, the people walked away thinking, “that was beautiful “ and “He’s a nice boy”.
Matthew 16 – “Who do You Say I Am”? The Jewish leadership, the Sanhedrin, were the holders of all spiritual matters. When Jesus came along, many followed Jesus despite the possibility of being kicked out of the synagog. When they asked Jesus for a sign to prove his claim to being “The son of G_d”. “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; 3 red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah (2-4). The leadership, just like all of the nation of the time, knew the story of Jonah because it was in the Neviim. Jonah did not want the mission to Ninevah but repented and went to the wicked city by way of a “giant fish”. When the people of Nineveh heard the prophet’s warning, they repented and so the city was not destroyed at that time. Three or so days later, the people upon seeing the destruction did not occur turned back to their wicked ways and were destroyed. For a little while, the people of Judea listened to Jesus until G_d’s kingdom was not immediately installed then they turned back to their old ways which led to the destruction in 70 AD. Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees (5-6).” The timing of the message might imply “If the Pharisees and Sadduccees bring you bread don’t eat it, it might be poisonous.” Yet, just like everything Jesus said, there were deeper meanings. The teachings of the spiritual leaders were like seeds that grow poisonous plants in the heart of the listener. Jesus was thought to be Elijah or John the Baptist but, the question “who do you say I am”? The question might appear to be “utter nonsense” after all he had the name “Jesus”. The implication is, “Who is Jesus to you”? Is he just another “preacher/teacher” or is he G_d’s Messiah?
Revelations 3 – The Messages to the churches at Sardis, Phillipi, and Laodicea. Sardis, according to commentary, was the remnant from the ancient city of Lydia which was destroyed by Cyrus in 546 BC. The city had been destroyed by an earthquake in 17AD. The church at Sardis was the “Church of Jesus Christ” in name only and it compromised its relationship with Jesus and was about ready to see its candle (Spirit of G_d) removed. Philadelphia, which also was part of Lydia rose above the call for “Compromise” and paid a tremendous price for it. Laodicea became polluted to the point of being “useless”. The term “NIcolatians” refers to Nicolas who was a “recent convert to Christianity” and been put in a place of leadership against counsel. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches (20-22).”