Where We Are In The Story - Week 17Ashley Chesnut
To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.
Readings for This Week
Leviticus 25-Numbers 4 & Psalms 32-38
Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Leviticus, Numbers, & Psalms)
Background of Leviticus: Everything in Leviticus points to the holiness of God. His perfection and man’s sinfulness stands as the reason for all of the sacrifices, laws, and regulations included in this book, for Leviticus explains how a covenant between a righteous God and a sinful people practically plays out in everyday life in the era before Christ’s resurrection. Written by Moses as Israel wandered in the wilderness, it contains divine speeches that Moses delivered to the people of Israel about how to worship God and how they should live. Modern readers of Leviticus may tire of reading the many laws and regulations, but for Israelites in the Old Testament era, Leviticus provided relevant information for how they were to go about their day-to-day lives.
Structure of Leviticus:
- Leviticus 1-7 explains the rituals of the different sacrifices.
- Leviticus 8-10 gives instructions for the priests of Israel.
- Leviticus 11-15 instructs the people on cleansing and purification.
- Leviticus 16 details the sacrifice and instructions for the Day of Atonement.
- Leviticus 17-27 provides directions regarding the festivals, the holy days, and how the people should live.
This Week in Leviticus: In addition to the weekly Sabbath, Leviticus 25 instructs the people of Israel to uphold a Sabbath year (every seventh year) and a Year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year). During this time, they were not supposed to work the land, and during the Year of Jubilee, all property was returned to its original owner. These celebrations reminded the people of God’s provision, pointing back to God’s design for Eden and pointing ahead to what we will experience in eternity, and the Year of Jubilee brought a new beginning to those in debt and to those who had been enslaved. God’s instructions about this Year emphasized the temporariness of finances and business, created a system of social justice, and curbed the formulation of an oppressive wealthy class. However, there is little evidence within Scripture that the people upheld Leviticus 25 except in the time of King Hezekiah (2 King. 19:29), for this is one of the reasons why the Israelites were later exiled to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:21). God had instructed them to stake their lives on His promises and to live by faith, but they disobeyed.
The blessings for obedience and the punishment for disobedience in Leviticus 26 were strictly for the Israelites in the Promised Land. These same blessings do not necessarily apply to believers today as some prosperity gospel preachers would claim, for these were given to a specific group of people under the Mosaic Covenant while believers today are under the new covenant. While God does bless the obedience of His people, His blessings are not always material or physical, and our motivation for obedience should not be what we physically get out of it.
Leviticus 27 teaches the people about making vows or promises to God that are contingent upon certain things happening in their lives. For example, psalms such as Psalm 22 vow to praise God in the sanctuary after He answers the person’s plea. But what happens when a person fails to keep their vow? Leviticus 27 provides instruction on how to redeem a vow that was not upheld for whatever reason, and it both warns people against rashly making promises they cannot keep and emphasizes how seriously God takes people keeping their word. Because God is faithful in following through with what He says, He has that same expectation for His people.
Background of Numbers: Within two years of leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrive on the fringes of the Promised Land and enthusiastically send in twelve spies to scout the land, but instead of trusting in God’s promises to give them the land, the people fearfully rebelled and made plans to return to Egypt (Num. 14:1-4). Written by Moses, this book contains the record of what happened to the Israelites during the forty years of wilderness wanderings that occurred because of their disobedience and doubt. The English title of Numbers refers to the prominent census accounts in the book that reflect the fulfillment of God’s promise that none of the people who had experienced God’s deliverance from Egypt would enter into the Promised Land, except for Caleb and Joshua (Num. 14:20-35).
Structure of Numbers:
- Numbers 1:1-10:10 occurs while Israel is still at Mt. Sinai, and it picks up where Exodus leaves off.
- Numbers 10:11-12:16 describes the Israelites’ journey from Mt. Sinai to the outskirts of the Promised Land.
- Numbers 13:1-20:13 contains significant accounts of disobedience by the nation, a Sabbath-breaker, Korah, and Moses, and it includes God’s response and instruction in light of those events.
- Numbers 20:14-22:1 tell of Israel’s military victories against several hostile nations and emphasizes God’s preservation of His people.
- Numbers 22:2-36:13 concludes the book with a census of the people, a reiteration of the laws and feasts given by God, and a transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua as the people prepare to enter the Promised Land after their wilderness wanderings.
This Week in Numbers: In light of trusting that all Scripture is given by God and profitable for instruction and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17), how are we to approach passages such as the military census in Numbers 1? First of all, ask why this census is included in Scripture. What purpose does it serve? These questions can shed light on why it is important and what we can learn from it. Before leaving Mt. Sinai, God orders a census of all men twenty years of age and older, for as they ventured towards the Promised Land, they would face conflict that would require a military response. With an army of 603,550 men (Num. 1:46), the people themselves were a concrete reminder of how God was upholding His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them a multitude of descendants (Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 16:10), and the God who had kept His promises thus far could be trusted to give them the Land. The census in Numbers 1 also provides a contrast to the census in Numbers 26. In Numbers 1, the people were quick to obey God (Num. 1:1-2, 16-17), but the second military census occurs because the people disobeyed God, which resulted in judgment and a shift in the nation’s population that necessitated an updated census (Num. 26).
Numbers 2-4 relate to the Levites and to the sanctuary. As the people prepared to take the Promised Land, God organized their encampment with the Tabernacle in the middle in order to protect His sanctuary. This arrangement enabled efficient travel, and it reminded the people that God is their source and their priority. Exempt from military service, the Levites performed the priestly duties and guarded the sanctuary (Lev. 3), and because God set aside a whole tribe for His service instead of the firstborn of each family, each family would redeem their firstborn (Lev. 3:40-51). Numbers 4 contains instructions for the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites. These were groups within the tribe of Levi whom God tasked with specific responsibilities related to the emptying, packing, and carrying of the Tabernacle’s components as the people traveled.
Background & Structure of Psalms: God used many different writers to write Psalms: David, Moses, the sons of Korah, Asaph, etc. The book is arranged in five parts, and this arrangement occurred after the people of Israel returned to the land after the Babylonian exile. A doxology concludes each book or arrangement of psalms (Psalm 41:13 for Book 1, Psalm 72:18-19 for Book 2, Psalm 89:52 for Book 3, Psalm 106:48 for Book 4, and Psalm 150:6 for Book 5), and the entire book of Psalms climactically ends with a grand doxology of several psalms (Ps. 146-150).
- Book 1: Psalms 1-41
- Book 2: Psalms 42-72
- Book 3: Psalms 73-89
- Book 4: Psalms 90-106
- Book 5: Psalms 107-150
This Week in Psalms:
- Psalm 32 is a penitential psalm (Ps. 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). In it, King David expresses relief and praise about God’s forgiveness, and he urges others to avoid his mistakes and to learn from his negative example.
- As a thanksgiving or declarative praise psalm, Psalm 33 begins with commands to praise (vv. 1-3), a report of why He should be praised (vv. 4-17), and the conclusion (vv. 20-22). Psalm 33 gives four reasons for why God should be praised: His true word, his faithful works, His character, and His role as Creator.
- The context for Psalm 34 is found in 1 Samuel 21:12-15 (the king’s name is both Achish and Abimelech) when David changed his appearance and pretended to be insane in order for the king to release him, and all of this occurred while he was fleeing from King Saul who was trying to kill him. Psalm 34 contains his praise to God for protecting Him. The composition of the psalm is divided into two parts: declarative praise when David calls the people to praise God and declares what the Lord has done (vv. 1-10) and descriptive praise when he exhorts others to trust the Lord (vv. 11-22).
- While we do not know what event in David’s life prompted the composition of Psalm 35, he often found himself in dangerous situations with enemies who wanted to destroy him. This particular psalm contains three laments. The first focuses on deliverance from his enemies and a plea for their destruction (vv. 1-10), the second involves a description of David’s suffering at their hands (vv. 11-18), and the third contains David’s petition for vindication (vv. 19-28). Psalms such as Psalm 35 remind us that we can and should pray for God to protect us and to vindicate us when others persecute and falsely accuse us.
- Psalm 36 contrasts the wickedness of humanity (vv. 1-4) with the faithfulness and righteousness of God (vv. 5-9), and it concludes with a prayer for God to continue to demonstrate steadfast love to His people and to preserve His people from the wicked (vv. 10-12).
- While Psalm 37 is most known for verse four’s instruction to “delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart,” this psalm is actually a wisdom psalm that instructs God’s people how to live in a world that is full of evildoers. They are to trust the Lord (v. 3), do good (v. 3), delight in God (v. 4), commit their way to God (v. 4), wait for Him (v. 7), and refrain from anger, wrath, and anxiety (v. 8). God’s people can comport themselves in this manner because they trust in God and in the future He has planned, a future in which the wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will live in peace.
- In Psalm 38, King David is ill (v. 3), his friends and family are avoiding him because of his illness (v. 11), and his enemies are using David’s illness as an opportunity to subvert his authority (v. 12). At such a time, David recognizes that his only recourse is to plead and hope in the Lord (vv. 13-22). The superscription of the psalm states that it is “for the memorial offering.” This likely means that the psalm would have been quoted or sung in the Temple when the worshipper offered a portion of the offering as the memorial (see Lev. 2).