NUMBERS 4:1-5:31 | MARK 12:18-37 | PSALM 48:1-14 | PROVERBS 10:26
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This was a capital enterprise: the care and upkeep of the Tabernacle that had been assigned to the House of Levi. Among this tribe, there were further distinctions made of certain groups who would maintain specific parts of the furnishings and sacraments of the ark of the covenant. The total number of men chosen for this work numbered 8,580. That is a huge number of people devoted exclusively to one project.
And these were not old and frail men pottering around the temple; they were able-bodied men between the ages of 30-50 years old. There is something to be learned from this, I think; something deeper than the surface detail of the tasks and such. Something more along the lines of the importance of setting aside one’s resources, i.e., one’s time, talent, energies and wealth for the goal of corporate worship that is ongoing and well-sustained.
Continuing in this passage there is quite a fascinating account of the prescribed form of attending to the offenses of an unfaithful wife and/or the ungrounded fears of unfaithfulness that a man may have for his wife. I call it fascinating simply because the law appears to be biased to the man who has the prerogative to take matters into his own hand in resolving the guilt of his wife or the guilt of his unsubstantiated jealousies, and yet the woman does not appear to have these options available to her if it is her husband who is the unfaithful one. Regardless, this was the law.
And in my view, woe was unto the poor woman subjected to the ignominy of having a priest instruct her in making amends and such. Woe was unto the man as well who must have had a heart of stone to subject his wife to this form of debasement and public chastisement (would it not have been better to petition for a divorce instead?). And woe was also unto the priest who was to administer such a harsh law to the woman that condemned her to a life of barrenness. This would have had to have been a set of most woeful circumstances, all things considered, but it was what it was, and the weight of the law must surely have been a stifling one in times like these.
But several thousand years later, a man who knew everything about the Law, and was the Law himself, appeared on the scene, and with the one sentence that he uttered, dismantled this very law once and forever.
The man’s name was Jesus, who said to the accusers of a woman on the verge of being stoned to death, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.
And who do you think among that crowd possessed that privilege? No one. Not then. And not now. Because it is not for man to judge and condemn. That right belongs to God alone.
And the God of Heaven and Earth says to you as he did to that woman: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Turning to our reading in the Gospel according to Mark, we see the insufferable elders of the Temple trying yet again to be upholders of Moses’ Law in asking Jesus about something or the other that would presumably show him to be lacking in his knowledge of the law.
If only the scales from their eyes would have fallen in time… if only they realized who they were addressing…
But Jesus indulges all their questions, and here once again we see the unequivocal proclamation of the Greatest Commandment. Hear one, hear all! 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
And when one of the teachers of the temple repeats all this to Jesus by way of agreement and adds to it by saying that this is indeed the greatest commandment—greater and more desirable than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices, Jesus says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Take note, gentle reader—may it be that you and I are also not far from the Kingdom of God.
Turning next to our reading of the Psalms, we find Psalm 48 to be yet another glorious one of praise. In fact, the first two verses of this psalm have been made into a popular chorus that I learned in my childhood. It goes like this, in the words from the King James Version (KJV):
1Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
2Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
Taken in a wider interpretation, the most beautiful part of the situation is that in this new covenant, we are situated in Him, and He in us. This is a one-on-one situation. It is personal. And it is altogether beautiful!
And finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks to the unpleasant nature of slothfulness:
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggards to those who send them.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.