NUMBERS 16:41-18:32 | MARK 16:1-20 | PSALM 55:1-23 | PROVERBS 11:7
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You could file this under the “Mysterious and Strange” category—the account of the plague that struck the people the day after Korah and company were swallowed up in the earthquake. God’s wrath was apparently not satisfied and what follows is even worse the next day. Fourteen thousand and seven hundred people are dead in a matter of twenty-four hours—following the two hundred and fifty that had died with Korah yesterday.
Did even Moses or Aaron truly understand the mind of God? We don’t know, but it appears that they took it one day at a time.
Following this incident, God comes up with a plan to make it clear once and for all who the chosen ones among them are for the duties of the Tabernacle. It had, of course, already been established that the House of Levi was set apart for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, but Aaron and his sons were the appointed ones for various tasks within the innermost sanctuary and for the administration of the various atonement offerings. But because Korah and the others wanted more of a role in the Tabernacle tasks, they were seen as rebelling against the set order which then resulted in all this devastation.
And so, it appears that a reminder is in order, which is what the people get. Instructions are given to Moses to have the leaders of each of the twelve tribes bring forth a staff with their names inscribed on it, and to leave them all within the Tent of the Meeting.
The next day, Aaron’s staff shows signs of miraculous activity, having appeared to have sprung roots, shoots and even fruit. This, apparently was the sign to the people that the privilege of executing the duties of the altar and all the other rituals associated with the offerings brought to the altar were exclusively that of Aaron’s and his sons.
And although the Levites who were initially charged with duties related to the upkeep of the Tabernacle still retained those rights and privileges, the line was drawn clearly as to what they were to do, and what Aaron and his sons (and their descendants) were to do.
To Aaron, God says this: 7 But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary must be put to death.”
And to the Levites, this is the promise that is made by God: 21 “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. 23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’”
Turning next to our reading in Mark, the horrific events of the last three days that culminated with the sealing of the tomb and the placing of the guard outside it—so as to ensure no foul play—has now approached inconceivable heights. What is this that the women see when they come to the tomb? The tombstone appears to be rolled away, and outside it sits a man who tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead and has gone up to Galilee. Imagine their disbelief! But so it is.
Mark’s account of the post-resurrection story might be brief, but it is corroborated by the other Gospels in that Jesus was seen to have not only risen from the dead, but he stays among the people for several days, appearing to his disciples again, showing them proof of the atrocities committed to his body and thereafter charging them to go and proclaim this good news of salvation around the world before he rises up into the heavens before their very eyes.
And soon after this, the disciples begin to write down their stories—stories that become books that are then established as the canon of early Christian texts dating from possibly 10-20 A.D. (A.D., by the way, stands for the Latin words Anno Domini that translates to In the Year of Our Lord — because of the resurrected Lord, it is a new day, nay, a new year!) that comprise what is now commonly known as the New Testament.
New, because, everything that they knew and had held on to as truth so far was essentially an old covenant—the writings of Moses and all the other prophets that had documented this old covenant were to be henceforth referred to as the Old Testament.
But there was now a new covenant—one that had been made possible by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God, or God himself, and the books written after the series of these events were to be forever more known as the New Testament.
Turning next to our reading of the Psalm of the day, we see David, the Psalmist, offering a combination of a troubled and yet confident rendition of his thoughts. Despite all the ills that befall him, he is always assured of one thing, and he proclaims it time and again:
22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.
Finally, a verse from the Book of Proverbs that offers food for thought. Solomon, wise king of Israel, says:
7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes;
all he expected from his power comes to nothing.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.