February 26, 2016

Numbers 24-26
By now Balaam realized that God wanted to bless Israel. So he didn’t work in any sorcery as he had done earlier. He turned and looked out over the wilderness. As Balaam looked, he saw Israel camped tribe by tribe. The Spirit of God came on him, and he spoke his oracle-message...
Balak lost his temper with Balaam....He said to Balaam: “I got you in here to curse my enemies and what have you done? ... Blessed them three times! Get out of here! Go home! I told you I would pay you well, but you’re getting nothing. You can blame God.”  Balaam said to Balak, “Didn’t I tell you up front when you sent your emissaries, ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace stuffed with silver and gold, I couldn’t do anything on my own, whether good or bad, that went against God’s command’? I’m leaving for home and my people, but I warn you of what this people will do to your people in the days to come.” 

Then he spoke his oracle-message:  Decree of Balaam son of Beor, decree of the man with 20/20 vision,  Decree of the man who hears godly speech, who knows what’s going on with the High God, who sees what The Strong God reveals, who bows in worship and sees what’s real. I see him, but not right now, I perceive him, but not right here;

A star rises from Jacob, a scepter from Israel, crushing the heads of Moab, the skulls of all the noisy windbags; I see Edom sold off at auction, enemy Seir marked down at the flea market, while Israel walks off with the trophies.  A ruler is coming from Jacob who’ll destroy what’s left in the city.

Then Balaam spotted Amalek and delivered an oracle-message. He said, Amalek, you’re in first place among nations right now, but you’re going to come in last, ruined.

He saw the Kenites and delivered his oracle-message to them: Your home is in a nice secure place, like a nest high on the face of a cliff. Still, you Kenites will look stupid when Asshur takes you prisoner.

Balaam spoke his final oracle-message:  Doom! Who stands a chance when God starts in? Sea-Peoples, raiders from across the sea, will harass Asshur and Eber, But they’ll also come to nothing, just like all the rest.

Balaam got up and went home. Balak also went on his way.

While Israel was camped at Shittim (Acacia Grove), the men began to have sex with the Moabite women. It started when the women invited the men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshiped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of the Baal of Peor. God was furious, his anger blazing out against Israel.

God said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of Israel and kill them by hanging, leaving them publicly exposed in order to turn God’s anger away from Israel.”  Moses issued orders to the judges of Israel: “Each of you must execute the men under your jurisdiction who joined in the worship of Baal Peor.”

Just then, while everyone was weeping in penitence at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, an Israelite man, flaunting his behavior in front of Moses and the whole assembly, paraded a Midianite woman into his family tent. Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw what he was doing, grabbed his spear, and followed them into the tent. With one thrust he drove the spear through the two of them, the man of Israel and the woman, right through their private parts. That stopped the plague from continuing among the People of Israel. But 24,000 had already died.

God spoke to Moses: “Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has stopped my anger against the People of Israel. Because he was as zealous for my honor as I myself am,... So tell him that I am making a Covenant-of-Peace with him. He and his descendants are joined in a covenant of eternal priesthood, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the People of Israel.”...

God spoke to Moses: “From here on make the Midianites your enemies. Fight them tooth and nail. They turned out to be your enemies when they seduced you in the business of Peor and that woman Cozbi, daughter of a Midianite leader, the woman who was killed at the time of the plague in the matter of Peor.

After the plague God said to Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, “Number the entire community of Israel by families—count every person who is twenty years and older who is able to serve in the army of Israel.”  

The People of Israel who came out of the land of Egypt:
Reuben, Israel’s firstborn. The sons of Reuben were: Hanoch...,Pallu...,Hezron..., Carmi....They numbered 43,730.
The sons of Simeon: Nemuel..., Jamin..., Jakin.., Zerah..., Shaul....They numbered 22,200 men.
The sons of Gad: Zephon..., Haggi..., Shuni..., Ozni..., Eri...,  Arodi..., Areli....  They numbered 40,500 men.
Er and Onan were sons of Judah who died early on in Canaan. The sons of Judah by clans: Shelah..., Zerah...,  Perez &   his son’s: Hezron and Hamul... These were the clans of Judah. They numbered 76,500.
The sons of Issachar: Tola..., Puah..., Jashub..., Shimron...They numbered 64,300.
The sons of Zebulun: Sered..., Elon..., Jahleel.... They numbered 60,500.
The sons of Joseph by clans through Manasseh and Ephraim. Through Manasseh: Makir.. They numbered 52,700.
  The sons of Ephraim: Shuthelah...Beker...,Tahan....They numbered 32,500.
The sons of Benjamin: Bela..., Ashbel..., Ahiram..., Shupham..., Hupham....They numbered 45,600.
The sons of Dan: Shuham.... They numbered 64,400.
The sons of Asher: Imnah..., Ishvi..., Beriah.... Asher also had a daughter, Serah.  They numbered 53,400.
The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel...,Guni , Jezer..., Shillem....They numbered 45,400.
The total number of the People of Israel: 601,730.

God spoke to Moses: “Divide up the inheritance of the land based on population. A larger group gets a larger inheritance; a smaller group gets a smaller inheritance—each gets its inheritance based on the population count.  Make sure that the land is assigned by lot.  Each group’s inheritance is based on population, the number of names listed in its ancestral tribe, divided among the many and the few by lot.

These are the numberings of the Levites: Gershon.., Kohath..., Merari.... The Levite clans also included:
the Libnite clan, the Hebronite clan, the Mahlite clan, the Mushite clan, the Korahite clan.
Kohath was the father of Amram. Amram’s wife was Jochebed, a descendant of Levi, born into the Levite family during the Egyptian years. Jochebed bore Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam to Amram...The numbering of Levite males one month and older came to 23,000.... 

...the People of Israel...Not one of them had been among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest in the census of the People of Israel taken in the Wilderness of Sinai. For God had said of them, “They’ll die, die in the wilderness—not one of them will be left except for Caleb son of Jephunneh, and Joshua son of Nun.”

Romans 6
So what do we do?  Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?  I should hope not!...  

When we went under the water (of baptism), we left the old country of sin behind;  when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace---a new life in a new land!  That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means.  When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus... 

If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection...Never again will death have the last word...You are dead to sin and alive to God.  That’s what Jesus did!  That means you must not give sin a vote  in the way you conduct your lives.  Don’t give it the time of day.  Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life...You are living in the freedom of God.  

So since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want?... Hardly.  You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroys freedom.  Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act.  But offer yourselves to the way of God and the freedom never quits... 

You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time, the more you did just what you felt like doing---not caring about others, not caring about God--the worse your life became and the less freedom you had?  And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness? ...A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way!  Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death.  But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus our master.