The people complained again (ch 16), this time about Moses AND Aaron! So God has decided, yet again, to make it clear to the people who HE has chosen.
I really like this response. God gives the leaders a task. Take a rod from the leader of each tribe. Have them carve their name in the rod so it is clear who’s rod is whose. Then put them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony before YHWH overnight and see what happens. It’s a beautiful sign. The rod of Aaron… a dead piece of wood with no hope and no future but to be used, broken, and discarded is given something more. After one night in the presence of YHWH, with His blessing, it has new life.
It’s such a beautiful picture because it is a picture of us. How many of us have had no hope and no future. We have been used, broken, and discarded… sometimes even by ourselves. Sometimes the hopelessness is because we have everything. For the most part, we have what we want. We have what we need, but we have found that it just isn’t enough. In spite of everything we are. In spite of everything we have accomplished, we just feel like a dead stick. Yet one night in the presence of YHWH is all that we need to become alive once again.
That is the message, power, and work of God / YHWH. Faith, Hope, and Love!
YHWH takes a strong stance on defilement. He is Holy, and He cannot have sin in His presence. So when He puts His name on and makes His residence among the people of Israel, it is, must be, and must remain a big deal that the people remain pure. As much as God / YHWH is Love, even more so He is Holy.
So we come to chapter 5. God / YHWH makes it clear, that anyone who becomes defiled cannot be in the camp. They must reside outside of the camp. As such, anyone with leprosy, anyone with a discharge, anyone who has touched a dead person, anyone who was unclean had to be sent outside of the camp. So the Israelites did it. They sent them outside the camp. What’s amazing to me is that this is one of those things that the people of Israel continued to do. They didn’t just do this for a little while and stop. This separation of the defiled from the rest of the people of Israel extended up to the time of the downfall of the city of Jerusalem. We see in Jeremiah that when the Assyrian army was at Jerusalem’s doorstep, it was the leapers and outcasts that were outside of the city walls that went to the Assyrian camp and found that the army had been destroyed. Even when Israel had abandoned almost all of the other laws of YHWH, this is one that remained.
The second part (majority) of the chapter deals with a husband that suspects that his wife has had an affair. If a husband suspects that his wife (who is under his authority) has cheated on him, he has the ability to bring her to the tabernacle and have YHWH pass judgment on whether she has defiled herself. The priest offers a sacrifice and goes through a specific ritual including taking the dust from the floor of the temple and using it as part of a holy water for this woman to drink. The woman makes an oath that she has not been unfaithful and that if she has been, she will be cursed with her abdomen (stomach) growing big, her thigh (fertility) would waste away, and she would be a curse among her people. It was very shameful if she truly had disrespected her husband and marriage by coming out of her husband’s authority. If she had not, then she was truly justified in front of her husband, the priest, and all of Israel.
Well, we’re on to the book of Numbers. It’s easy, when you have some limited knowledge of the Bible (who really has unlimited knowledge) to see Numbers and think, “Oh man, not more of this genealogy stuff.” And that has been my reaction as well, but there is so much more to this book than just the genealogies and families ofIsrael. This is whereIsraelfinally leaves Sinai and goes to the land that has been promised to them. This is where all kinds of spiritual debate occurs, and where the people of Israel have to turn around and ask themselves the question “Am I really going to do what God / YHWH is calling me to do?” It’s a book of tough decisions, major successes, and major failures. It is a book of people responding to overwhelming challenges and finding out what they’re really made of. I know I don’t exactly come through with flying colors in those kinds of situations, and that’s what these men and women face day by day.
In one sense, if I could go back to Biblical times and experience and live what occurred in those times, this is one of those times I would love to be a part of. To see God / YHWH leading the people day-by-day. To be a part of the amazing wonders that were occurring all around. To have that chance and opportunity to be a daily part of what God / YHWH was doing. That is worth all the treasures and all the wonders in all the world. Not to be my own master, but to serve the only one worthy of serving. Do we have that attitude day after day? We have the chance to be a part of something so much greater than we are, and yet we would rather pursue our own miserable little lives doing what we want, the way we want to, even if it means we live our lives miserable and with no lifetime value. So much so that we lose out on what God / YHWH wants for us, and we have to pass that opportunity on to our kids, unfulfilled. Then they have to live what God / YHWH has planned for us rather than what He has for them that requires a foundation of what we were supposed to do.
Are we living our lives for Him, or for us?
I have a hard time writing about this section. I don’t know why. It is such a rich section of the scripture with beauty, majesty, & strength. I look at this section of scripture and it seems like time is slowing down and almost coming to a standstill. Like if you could be there, you could almost see every drop of blood and hear the cry of every vulture. It’s almost like every bit and piece of reality is slowed down and magnified. Like all of life and time itself has been preparing for this moment and is now holding its breath in anxious anticipation of this, the very moment that it exists for. Distantly, in the background, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” ringing through all of reality. The flutter of the wings of a bird; the racing heartbeat of a little boy; the sound of the laughter of the roman soldiers slowing down as a moment is extended into five. It is almost deep and primal, and then… it is done!
Jesus, the Christ, has died! The heaven’s mourn. The Father / YHWH tears His veil, as the priest had torn his robes only hours before. The very earth and rocks cry out. They expel the very bodies of the dead righteous, just as the blood of righteous Able called out to YHWH from the ground that had swallowed him up from the hands of Cain.
Nothing else matters in all of history and time, as what happens in that very moment when “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.“
… except maybe what happens on the third day
Well, I’m a few days further behind on my writing than on my copying. I’m actually in Matthew 27 today in my copy work, but I’m writing about the beginning of Matthew 26.
Time seems to be speeding up here. Final preparations are being made. Jesus is where He often seems to be. He is with His flock; at the home of Simon the leper. A woman comes and pours out over his head a vial of very costly perfume. This is so very significant in so many ways. This kind of vial of perfume is often used as a life savings. When a person has extra money that he / she wants to save long term (for when they are old / retired) they would invest it in perfumes and burying spices. It held it’s value well, and was less likely to be stolen than Roman coin. When this woman pours this perfume / burial incense & spices out on Jesus, she is giving up her best, her future for Him. She is preparing Him for burial, and trusting God to provide for her future. This is a huge sacrifice on her part, and everyone knows it. Thus what she has done is remembered.
Next we see Judas preparing as well. The Passover meal is coming, and he goes to the chief priests to sell out his master. He takes the silver, and provides the direction to allow the leaders to take out their wrath through the destruction of something beautiful.
Finally, we come to an extremely important event. One that is celebrated at least monthly in churches around the world. The last supper and communion. It’s funny that we use this official word “Communion” for this process. What is communion? Communion can be defined as: “The sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings”. It is two or more people coming together for a common purpose to share / celebrate together with one another. It is a process of celebration, joy, hope, sharing, and intimacy. When i think of taking part in communion at church, i do not think of celebration, joy, hope, sharing, or intimacy. It is more like seriousness, melancholy, monotony, dividing up, and self-focus. That’s not to say that it is those things, but that certainly is what it seems like at times.
This Last Supper is that final time that Jesus has to share and be in relationship with His disciples. He knows that this is His last chance to just be able to relax and spend time with them. Imagine what it would be like if you knew that your next meal would be the last meal you would spend with your family. The last chance you had to really BE with them, and enjoy their company. Would you want it to be remembered as a stuffy occasion in which everyone passes around little tiny crackers and little tiny cups of juice and they sit there holding their little tiny cups trying not to spill them and stain the carpet? There are a whole lot of things that the church does really well, but I really think that we miss the target on this one.
Celebrate communion with someone today.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
The time is coming near in which Jesus the Christ’s earthly ministry is to end. He has taught His disciples so much and has been preparing them for His being gone. Now, He needs to help them understand and prepare for what is to come in the much further future.
It’s interesting to me how CEO Jesus thinks and works. He starts His ministry, but he doesn’t do it alone. First He preps and plans, but it’s not just His plan. He takes on the plan of the Master Architect. He sees the need (the people’s need for a redemptive relationship with the Father / YHWH) and works toward providing for that need. He brings along a team of people to help Him do the work, and in the process He is also training them up (mentoring them) to take over the work when He leaves. He trains and prepares them to rise up, take the reigns, and make the work succeed. He brings in not just the front runners, like Peter, James and John, who are continually involved as part of the face of the work, but also those who are behind the scenes making things happen like Mary, Martha, Simon the Zealot, Judas, etc. He genuinely cares about what He is doing and the long, long-term of what He is building, even if it means stepping on some toes and going toe-to-toe with some powerful people. He sacrifices everything He has for this work, even to the point of giving up His own life to make it happen. Yet when He does this, He does not leave His followers unprepared or without the support that they need to make the work succeed. He knows what is going to happen and He is prepared to send “the helper” to them at the right time.
Yet what we see here in this chapter is Jesus forecasting. He is looking to the future. He understands what He is building and what His people need to prepare for future problems and trials. He is giving them insight into the long-term plans and goals, the overall vision of the work, and what kinds of problems and trials they can expect in the decades to come. He gives them an overall understanding of not only what the work is, but WHY the work needs to be done, and what they can expect to see and do. He needs His people to look to His return; to see the BIG picture and to Be Ready!
Are we looking at the BIG picture? Are you ready?
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
Things are starting to come together. The end is nigh and the countdown is beginning. This chapter begins with the triumphal entry. Jesus enters Jerusalem for His / the final passover. The disciples find the colt as He predicts. He rides the colt into Jerusalem with the bystanders worshiping YHWH and giving Him adoration calling for Him to fulfill His mission as Messiah to save them and desiring Him to free them from Roman tyranny. However, as is the case quite often, our expectations of what YHWH should do, and what He does, are two different things. Even when we have the same message / prediction.
Christ comes in and begins the process of redemption and rescue from tyranny… He drives the money changers and the seats of those who were selling in the temple. Those who were turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves.
The next morning he was hungry and came upon a barren fig tree. It should have had fruit, but it didn’t. He cursed it, and it began to wither and die. This is a great analogy of the pharisees. They too are not bearing fruit to righteousness. As a result, they begin to wither and die as Christ sacrifices Himself to build the church.
The rest of this chapter is focused on this dynamic action – reaction of Jesus and the Pharisees. They challenge His authority wanting to know what right He has to teach preach, and do these things. Christ in turn He puts their actions and those of sinners into perspective. He shows that knowing the law and being sinless are two very different things, and He criticizes them for it.
Jesus continues with another parable about a landowner who builds a vineyard, rents it out to vine-dressers, and sends his servants out to collect the fruits of the vineyard. The vine-dressers instead beat the representatives and eventually kill the owner’s son. This is the final truth of their relationship. The pharisees will kill the landowner’s son, but the landowner will destroy the vine-dressers and redeem His people.
The relationship between Jesus and the pharisees is such a contrast. Jesus cares for the fruit of the vine, while most of the Pharisees care more about what they can get from the fruit than they do about caring for the fruit. They are killing the vineyard from the inside out, and they just didn’t seem to care. This dynamic seems to define and explain all that follows. It is the reason and purpose for all that follows.
This is a key turning point in Jesus ministry and the pharisees focus when it comes to Jesus.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.