Day 64 (March 5): Purifying with water, Miriam dies, water from rock, Moses punished, King refuses Israel, Aaron dies, victories, manna woes, bronze snake, Moab

Credit: Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 19-21
(1426-1407 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 19:1-22): We have talked about how Israelites would be ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person and would need purification to become clean again.  We have said that the reason for this is a hygienic issue.   God did not want disease to enter the Tabernacle.  Is there anything more?

A. The hygiene is the underlying issue to consider when it comes to the purification, but ultimately, God is providing instructions for obedience, and part of it was not having the Tabernacle come in contact with things that were unclean because they had been in various forms of contact with the dead.  God WAS interested in helping the community not suffer from disease, especially among the priests, but the reason the people were required to obey didn’t just have to do with the spread of disease, but because God was teaching them to trust and follow His commands.  If God declared that contact with dead bodies (including animals, as this passage reminds us) caused people to be unclean, that was all they needed to know in order to obey.  We can see considerations of community hygiene, but they were simply expected to obey because that is what God told them.

Q. (20:1): Not much is made of Miriam’s death.

A. That is true.  Something that I read is that because of her proclamation of victory after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15), she became a figure associated with water.  Thus, the next section of the story, the provision of water in the wildnerness, even with the cost to Moses and Aaron, was a way of honoring her spirit.  Miriam remains an important figure to Jewish women, and one of the most well-known and commonly used Jewish names.  Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and what seems like a dozen other women in the New Testament, bear the same name, Mary.  Mary is the English version of the translation of the same name in Greek, the Hebrew name Miriam.  So while the story does not seem to honor her, she remains to this day a very revered Jewish figure.

Q. (20:2-5): In a reading a couple days ago, you mentioned that because of the disrespect and disbelief that this generation of Israelites had that God intentionally made them wander in the desert for 40 years, long enough for that rebellious generation to die off.  Here they are grumbling again.  Did God reveal to them why they keep wandering?

A. I think the previous texts made the matter pretty clear (Numbers 14 tells them that their time in the desert matches the time in days the spies were in the Promised Land: 40 years for 40 days.  But it appears they didn’t get the message, and rather then seeking to repent, they tried to force God’s hand by going into the land anyway, and continuing to complain about Moses and God’s provision.  Some people learn hard.

Q. (20:6-13): I know this story, so I know that God was upset with Moses because Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it.  But, if you don’t know this story and are just reading along, you may be confused because Moses got water for the people from the rock as God told him to.  It’s the specific instructions that Moses does not follow.  Do we know if this is intentional on Moses part, or just a misunderstanding?  I guess we take it that Moses did it intentionally, because God knows his heart and Moses did write this book, as best to our knowledge.  Maybe Moses is upset with God: His sister just died?  So, now Moses and Aaron will not see Canaan, just like the rest of that generation of Israelites.

A. Moses will see the Promised Land, just not enter it.  You’ll see how.  I’m sure the death of his sister had something to do with his frustration, but ultimately he directly disobeys God, and joins his generation in being kept out of the Promised Land.  There’s a lot of speculation about what Moses actually did, clearly it wasn’t just a misunderstanding, but rather willful intent on his part.  He is clearly angry with the people, and very likely at the end of his rope in frustration with their complaining.  Personally, I think that what God reacts to is Moses claiming credit for the provision of water (“must I provide it for you”), when God was the one who had made the provision.  It is never a good thing when we claim personal credit for things that we know are the will and provision of God alone.

Q. (20:14-21): The descendants of Esau comprise Edom, right?  Jacob and Esau parted on good terms years ago.  Why would the king of Edom not let the Israelites pass through?  Do we know how other nations view the Israelites at this time?  They are a huge traveling group.  There must have been talk.

A. Remember that Esau’s other name was Edom, related to his red hair and foolish desire for red stew (Genesis 25:30).  We do not know exactly what motivated the king’s decision, but the antagonism between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s is one of the things we noted back in Genesis was something we would follow throughout the narrative.  As you mention, the group was probably quite intimidating, so perhaps there is little surprise that various nations refused to let them enter their territory.

Q. (20:29): I wonder here if mourning means observance of death or actual mourning.  The reason I bring this up is that the Israelites yo-yo between respecting Moses and Aaron and rebelling against them.  To mourn for 30 days must mean they respected him at this time?  They also seem to be following in the next passage, Numbers 21:1-3.

A. Most ancient societies had standard operating procedures for honoring the dead, which appears to be what the text is describing.  I do think that it is a powerful tribute to the respect they had for Aaron, even as they refused to listen to him.  Aaron, along with Moses, certainly did a lot for the people in terms of, you know, keeping the people alive and out of God’s wrath, and I think the people knew it.

Q. (21:4-9): I must say, I would think that if I had the same thing to eat over and over again that I would complain about it.  Is the lesson that the Israelites are not getting that they have made bad choices (complaining, doubting, being envious) and thus have brought this long journey in the desert on themselves?  If they would have trusted in God, they may have already been enjoying the Promised Land?

A. I think you’ve put it well.  Note the tone of the complaint: we hate this horrible manna, the very provision God made for His people day after day.  No wonder God was angered!  This isn’t, “Moses can we have quail or something else”, this is, “I hate what you are providing for me God,”  That’s very dangerous territory for any of us!

Q. (21:35): So after the Israelites destroyed these cities (God was with them), they could settle in those houses instead of using their tents?

A. I honestly don’t know if they used the territory; the text doesn’t tell us.  I would say it is a fair assumption that they (temporarily- they would be moving soon) used some of the buildings they conquered.

For further reading
— All about manna https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-is-manna.html 
— See a map of the Israelites 40-year journey in the desert. https://bible-history.com/maps/route-exodus

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Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 22-24

Israelites settle: So at the Lord's bidding, the Israelites made camp at a broad plain at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Day 37 (Feb. 6): Food from God, rock water, teamwork defeats Amalekites, Jethro shares wisdom with Moses, Lord prepares Moses for giving laws

Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Exodus 16-19
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 16:19-20): In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites to “obey his commands.”  But, in 16:19-20, they are breaking God’s rules already.  God must be frustrated!  This is just a start of a long, long journey, right?  And they are complaining already?

A. I once gave a message where I talked about the only sure thing when it came to the relationship between God and humanity is that we break our promises.  Only God is faithful; it is simply beyond us.  Which is why we need His grace and mercy so badly.  Wait until you see what they will do while Moses is away…

Q. (16:25): Is keeping the Sabbath the Lord’s Day still a law or is it one that has been replaced by the new covenant?  Also, can you explain in a nutshell what the “new covenant” is?

A. Like Passover, we are not required to keep the Law to have good standing with God (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides that).  This does not mean, however, the keeping a Sabbath is a bad idea.  Part of the understanding of the wisdom of Sabbath is that it is the gift of rest: we were not designed to be people who worked endlessly without rest (though we in the modern West frequently think we know better!)  This applies to each of the Ten Commandments (coming soon to a daily reading near you): there is wisdom in following them even today, despite our lack of obligation to do so.

Jesus described the New Covenant as the relationship between God and human beings who put their faith in His sacrifice (death and resurrection) to overcome their sin.  You hear about the New Covenant every time you take Communion or Eucharist: The body and blood of Christ broken and shed for the forgiveness of sins.  So rather than using the blood of animals to merely cover up sin (as the Law did, and frankly, still does), the power of the sacrifice of Jesus, our own spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19), removes the stain and power of sin from our lives in order to establish a new, better relationship with God.

Q. (17:9,10): Joshua comes into the picture?  I don’t remember reading about Hur?  Who is he?

A. Joshua does appear to drop out of the sky, doesn’t he?  It appears from this story (and the subsequent stories) that Joshua was already an established commander and representative of his tribe (Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons).  The writer appears to have no interest in introducing him to the reader.

Regarding Hur, it appears (according to 1 Chr. 2) that Hur is a son of Caleb (though the language is ambiguous — he might actually be Caleb’s FATHER!), who will be one of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land who is faithful (the other being Joshua).  Other than that, we have no information about who this person from the Bible.  There are apparently Jewish traditions that can provide some insight into who he is, and you can read about them on Hur’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hur_(Bible)).

Q.  (17:14): Joshua is gaining power.  God gives him a leadership role.  What does “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven” mean?

A. It appears to mean that Amalek’s race (the Amalekites) will not survive.  (Note that Amalek is the grandson of Esau — the rivalry continues!)  They will, however, continue to be thorn in the side of Israel even after the monarchy is established under Saul and David.

O & Q. (18:1): I can imagine what Jethro thought.  Moses told him that he had to go rescue his people from Egypt — all 2 million of them.  Now they are camped by a mountain.  I can’t imagine a picture of that many tents.  Any idea why Moses didn’t keep his wife and sons with him through the deliverance?

A. Perhaps he thought it was safer that way.

Q. (18:10-12): It’s wonderful to see two families coming together supporting one another and praising the Lord for all of their blessings.  Can you tell us from whom Jethro was a descendant?  They were obviously blessed.

A. He does not appear to be descended from any party we have established.  He was not an Israelite, but was a priest, and it appears he believed in his son-in-law’s God.

Q. Just a background question.  Does the Bible say anything about the relationship of Moses with Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him?  They had spent years together and then, poof, Moses fled.  I guess it’s not important to God’s message?

A. Nope.  She is not mentioned again.

O. (18:21): This verse made me chuckle.  Jethro tells Moses to select leaders who are “capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.”  Fast forward to today …

Q. (19:1): So this is the second time the Israelites have been in the Sinai wilderness?

A. No.  The story implies that Moses was called from Sinai, but only he was there.  The narration is telling us how long after they left Egypt that all those people you spoke of arrived at Sinai.

Q. (19:15): Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Bible times seem to be a lot less modest.  I guess if they are living in tents, things might be a little less private.  Today, many may be offended by pastors talking so freely of sexual intercourse, circumcision, etc.  Is there any Biblical reason why we are a bit more modest today?  I guess I’m just thinking of Christians, the media seem to talk about it.  Comments, Rob?

A. The request to abstain from sex was part of the purification ritual (that will be something like a marriage ceremony — you’ll see).  Other than that, I have no comment.

Q. Is there any reason God choose Mount Sinai to speak to the Israelites?  Is Mount Sinai known today?  If so, how tall was it?  I’m just trying to get a picture of how long it took Moses to climb the mountain.

A. Sinai (or Horeb as it will be called later) appears to be a particular place where God chooses to make His presence especially known (Elijah will come for a visit in a few hundred years).  As with a lot of matters like this one, there is what is known as a “traditional” site for the mountain in what is now Saudi Arabia, and (as you can imagine) it draws people of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths (there’s a Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top).  You can read about it here and see some pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Sinai

A. Look it up on youtube too.  There are different ideas of where Mount Sinai is.

For further reading
All things manna: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-manna-and-its-significance-in-scripture.html
— All about Mount Sinai: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-is-the-significance-of-mount-sinai-in-the-bible.html

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Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 20-22:15

Give yourself a Solid Foundation

This morning, after watching TV footage of Tropical Storm Nicole, the children’s song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock” was streaming through my mind.  Off of Florida’s eastern coast, reporters were showing the ocean biting off chunks of houses and throwing them out to the turbulent waves.  Seeing the homes built on the beach prompted the song which comes from Jesus’s parable recorded in Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:46-49.  

The parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders goes like this: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)  

Just reading that Passage over and over, I feel the intensity of the situation.  Then as I read, “it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock,” my body relaxes.  I feel less anxious and more confident — all from those nine words.  Then, as I finish the parable, I tense up again at “collapse with a mighty crash.”

Solid foundation

Many of Jesus’s parables are allegories.  The purpose of the builders’ story is not to advise you when constructing your home’s foundation.  Those folks who have houses on the beach probably checked them structurally for withstanding a hurricane.  They, including inspectors and engineers, probably could not have foreseen homes getting washed from underneath them, or they wouldn’t have built them there.  

The story is getting at the material that you build your life on.  What is important?  What should be your platform, your roots, your engine?  We have a small pond in our backyard and a creek that runs the back property line.  Our house sits on a hill and is not in a flood zone, thus we didn’t consider buying flood insurance.  However, when the 500-year storm named Hurricane Ian passed through over a month ago, our storage areas under the house flooded where some of our belongings were ruined.  Also, our deck and bridge gave way, but they had been showing their age since we moved in a couple years ago.  When we were chopping up the mangled structures for disposal, their weak foundation was exposed: the footers were unbelievably wimpy.  The concrete holding the post in place was about 6 to 8 inches deep and probably about the same amount wide.  And, there was only about 12-18 inches of post in the ground past the concrete — not nearly substantial enough.  However, the structure lasted about 40 years, through numerous hurricanes.  It goes to show that your luck can last a long time, but if your foundation isn’t solid, you will eventually collapse.  

Holy whispering

Last night when I was reading my Bible late, I just asked God to help me fill my being with His Spirit.  The Spirit is in me, but has not overtaken my whole entity.  The Spirit nudges me into doing things and I often don’t do them.  My will puts the Spirit on the sidelines.  When I do my own will, I feel unsettled, unsatisfied.  

I was pondering what makes me feel complete.  It is when I do something wholeheartedly, something that the Spirit has charged me to do.  When I obey the Spirit, telling me to go talk to or help someone, I leave feeling good.  The Spirit nudges you to do good.  You just have to listen and act.  

Don’t collapse!

This is all in line with the builders’ parable.  If we hold to Jesus’s teaching, He is our foundation, our ROCK!  And, as the Passage says, although the rains pour down, floodwaters rise and winds beat against us, we will remain standing.  Those who choose to do otherwise, building their life on shifting sands — money, fame, perfection, lies, ego, superiority, political agenda, swindling, anything that void of righteousness — collapse.  

The parable has to do with the foundation of your being … your soul.  “What do you stand for?” is really not the question.  That would be self-serving.  It is living for Jesus and what He stands for.  Jesus tells us what He stands for in Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT): “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love God

How do you love God? Read the Bible.  Yes, It’s a big book.  You can skim it to pick up some ideas.  Look in Psalms to quiet your soul. Read some Proverbs for good advice.  The four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — and Acts — tell about Jesus.  Actually, the whole Bible is about Jesus.  Reading it, you will undoubtedly have lots of questions.  Find the answers in a study Bible, a concordance, internet searches or asking a Believer.  A book that I read to understand the framework of the Bible is “30 Days to Understanding the Bible” by Max Anders.  There are also books that provide historical background to help readers understand the cultural climate of Biblical times.  If something doesn’t make sense in Scripture, then look for the answers.  There is an explanation. 

Love others

As far as loving others, Jesus put it perfectly when He said love others as much as you love yourself.  Did you grab all the sale items at the grocery store and leave none for others?  Did you say something to a friend that may have upset them, but felt it was not a big enough deal to apologize?  Does your sarcasm go too far?  Are you in a hurry and beep your horn and scare an elderly driver who is doing their best?  Maybe you snap at home because you are stressed and feel that at home, you can let it go.  Do you leave others to do a project because you have too much to do?  Do you check up on those who have no family?  Do you judge, not knowing a person’s full story?  Do I say these from experience, YES!  I’m working on all of that : )

How do you get inspired to love others?  You read the Bible and understand that Jesus is real and our Savior.  You follow His example.  Then as a gift for believing in Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit who guides you along to loving God and others.  Is just going to church once a week enough?  No, you need to read and understand the Word to understand what God is about.  His way to live will become much clearer with every verse you read.

Jesus told us that if we build our life on Him, we will not fall!  So, why not build your foundation deeper and stronger with Jesus Christ, so you can withstand ANY situation that comes your way?