There is too much work to be done for me to be consumed by my grief.
This world is a crazy place, and a scary place. There are reports that claim that our nation is actually safer than it used to be, and that it only appears to be the opposite because of the onslaught of constant media coverage, but I am not so sure I believe that.
I’m sure that most people saw or heard about the jerk who killed the newscaster and cameraman and injured an interview subject in Virginia. I saw the entire video, and watched as he took his time to point his gun at the deceased woman, Alison Parker and started shooting, killing Parker and Adam Ward. Supposedly, the shooter, Bryce Williams, formerly worked for the same WDBJ network that the decedents worked for. He alleged that he had been treated badly there due to his race and sexual orientation (he was gay).
I had a ton of questions about this, but when I saw some of the things Williams had written I got my answers. I wondered how he knew where Alison Parker and Adam Ward were going to be at 6:45 a.m., but it is my humble opinion that his hatred for them had been burning for awhile, and he was probably stalking them. His focus was actually scary–in the video that he shot himself, as he was in the act, he can be seen pointing his gun right the victim. Not only did this guy film himself killing people, he posted the video and tweeted right after it.
It is truly sad that we walk the same streets as people like that everyday.
I cannot pretend to know whether or not this guy had a valid claim. Maybe he was mistreated at his job. Most adults I know have had at least one or two bad incidents at work, whether it was an insensitive boss, a bully of a human resources manager and boss who lied on their performance review, or a co-worker who does not pull his weight, sometimes people can make work unbearable. However, imagine what would have happened if this guy fully knew the Burden Bearer, if he had ever read the Scripture that tells us that vengeance belongs to God. Would his actions have been any different? Maybe. I don’t know.
What I do know is that people need to know who Jesus is, more than ever. My Dad knew Jesus; I am secure with that. He was concerned about some of our family members that were not saved. I am too, and even for those who are not my family members. People who reject Jesus have no idea in what they are in store for. It grieves God to know that some of his beloved creations will ultimately end up in Hell, so it grieves me too.
I know I stopped rather abruptly last night, so I am hoping to get through a few more chapters of Numbers before I get too tired. Unfortunately, I have been feeling ill again—I ended up sleeping most of the day yesterday. I was exhausted for no apparent reason. I have also been finding random bruises on my body where there should be none, and I have weird itchy bumps that seem like bug bites but aren’t. Well, maybe they are, but I think it odd that I am the only one in my family with bug bites all over the place.
Although I am feeling stronger every day, my Dad’s death is still heavy on my heart and mind. Today we cleaned some things out of the basement and seeing his laundry still folded neatly in one of the baskets, waiting to be put away, bothered me. As did dinner yesterday. At one point in time, while he was still hospitalized, Dad had requested as a welcome-home meal a thick, T-bone steak. In anticipation of him coming back home, Mom, ever the loving and devoted wife, had went out and bought steaks. Eating them without him yesterday was bittersweet. At times we talked about him and smiled, but it was also hard. I keep thinking that I’ll walk in the house and see him sitting at his spot at the head of the dinner table.
I hate to keep talking about it, but I must. It is my reality. Even as I attempt to move forward, I know I will never get over losing my Dad. I will learn to live with it, but never fully recover from such a loss. Whenever something good happened in my life, he was always the first person I wanted to tell. I knew he’d be so proud, and when he smiled, his whole face beamed with happiness and pride. When I was little I liked doing things that would bring that smile to his face, and my devotion continues up to this very day.
I still can’t believe he is gone.
But he is, and what would he want me to do? How would he want me to spend the rest of my life?
Serving the Lord.
I remember one of my most recent, proudest moments of Dad was when he was in the choir stands with the rest of our church’s Male Choir. They were singing, “It’s in my heart to serve the Lord…” My Dad was not really one to sing solo, but one of the other members happened to put a microphone to my Dad’s mouth and I was surprised to hear him singing, strong, clear, and GOOD! I’ll never forget that moment, to hear my Dad praising the Lord.
With that being said…
We are at chapter four in the book of Numbers. This chapter begins with the Lord requesting a census of all of the men between 30 and 50 years of age in the Kohathite branch of the Levites. There are 2,750. These are the men who will carry out the duties ascribed to them in the previous chapter (“They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use” (3:31)). As is his usual fashion, God has specific instructions as to how the Kohathites are to go about these duties, specifically as to what they are to do at the tent of meeting. They are charged with caring for the most holy things. Instructions are given as to what the Kohathites are to do when the camp moves. Special care must be taken when the Israelites are moving from one location to the next, and everything has to be covered–the ark of the covenant law, the table of Presence, the plates, dishes and bowls, the lampstand, the altar, etc. There is a catch–only Aaron and his sons can do those tasks. Only when everything has been properly secured and covered can the camp move, with the Kohathites doing the carrying. They cannot touch the holy things or they will die. Eleazar, son of Aaron, the priest, is placed in charge of the oil for the light, the incense, regular grain offering and the anointing oil, as well as the entire tabernacle and everything in it. A major responsibility indeed. I assume, knowing what happened to his two older brothers previously, that Eleazar had learned from their example and took his responsibility very seriously (I know I would).
Next, we move on to the Gershonites. Their charge, from 3:25, was as follows: “At the tent of meeting, the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tend, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes–and everything related to their use”. Moses is commanded to conduct a census of Gershonite men in the same manner as that of the Kohathites. The 2,630 Gershonite men are told the carry the coverings, curtains, ropes and all their equipment. Ithamar, Aaron’s other surviving son, are to direct them in their duties.
Lastly, we get to the Merarites. Again, a census is to be taken. Three thousand two hundred men between the ages of 30 and 50 will share responsibility (under the direction of Aaron) in taking care of “the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes” (3:36-37).
In each case, these 8,580 men were to be assigned their specific duty by the priest who has been placed in charge of their clan (Eleazar, Ithamar, or Aaron).
Wow. When I look at these numbers I am amazed. Remember, there were millions of Israelites. Only a small fraction of them were serving in this capacity. An even smaller number (only three-Aaron and his sons) were the managers, if you will, of the most important, central aspect of Israelite life. Then I remind myself that just like in the case of Aaron and his sons, if we are doing the will of God and seeking his guidance in all things, there is nothing that we cannot do, even if it means managing thousands of people. I also imagine how tedious these censuses had to be. But here is what I like about Moses: “Thus they were counted, as the Lord commanded Moses” (v. 49b). The Bible does not say that Moses complained, grumbled or got overwhelmed. It just says he did it. Imagine if all of us (myself included) completely yielded to the will of God in this manner? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we earnestly sought to daily please God and not other people, to satisfy God and not ourselves?
Chapter five begins with a discussion about the purity of the camp. We saw these regulations in Leviticus. Israelites with defiling skin disease or discharge are to be sent from the camp, as are people who are ceremonially unclean because they have had contact with a dead body. The next passage of Scripture deals with Israelites who have wronged another Israelite. I like the way it is phrased so I’m just going to post it in its entirety:
“Say to the Israelites: Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed” (vv. 6-7, italics added by me). Once again, this shows that sin is first against God, secondly against the person we have offended. God tells us how to live good lives, and when we make bad decisions, our first rebellion is against him. I also like that the offender is to confess their sin. That part interests me because I think we all know people who, even when faced with clear evidence, refuse to admit when they are wrong. Who are they really hurting? Themselves. When we sin, we have to talk with God about it, and be honest. He already knows when we sin; it’s not like we can hide it. But he is the only one who can help us overcome our sin. If we’re not honest about it, and don’t have an honest conversation with God about it, sin–whatever our vice is–can easily consume us.
A person who has sinned against another Israelite, after confessing, has to make full restitution to the person they have victimized, and add a full fifth of the value to it. The restitution belongs to the Lord and can be given to Aaron, along with a ram for atonement, if the offended person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong. Interesting that God tells Israelites not to charge interest when they loan someone money, but interest of sorts is expected when they wrong someone.
The Lord then gives Moses a test for an unfaithful wife. Looking at it with modern eyes, it appears to be a strange ritual. Basically, if a woman has a sexual affair and her husband does not know but has a suspicion, or if he just becomes jealous or suspicious and she has not been impure, he is to take her to the priest along with a grain offering. This grain offering is “for jealousy, a reminder-offering, to draw attention to wrongdoing” (v. 15). The priest will then have her stand before the Lord and make a substance made of water and dust from the tabernacle floor, put into a clay pot. The woman’s hair will be loosened, her hands placed in the reminder-offering, while the priest holds the water that “brings a curse” (v. 18). The priest then puts the wife under oath, and tells her that if she has not done her husband wrong, the water will do her no harm. But if she has, when she drinks the water she will be unable to have children, and if she is currently pregnant the baby will die. The woman is expected to agree to these consequences if she lies. (Interjection: I would think that at this point, a woman might be convinced to tell the truth if she had been unfaithful, rather than suffer the consequences, but maybe not). The priest is to write the words on a scroll and wash them off into the water. Then the grain offering is raised to the Lord and the woman is instructed to drink the water.
Soooo… I must admit my 20th-21st century mindset immediately kicked in here. Umm, so what standards were the husband held to if he was unfaithful? Why was so much focus on the woman? And what right did a husband have to subject his wife to all of this humiliation just because was suspicious? There were only two possible results to this test–the wife was proved to be innocent, and the husband would have to acknowledge his trust issues; or the wife was proven to be guilty and now the couple would have no children. Sounds like a no-win situation to me.
I had to consider other Biblical examples and Scriptures to kind of understand this. God has ordained the man the head of the household, and Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. Again–that is not saying that man is superior to woman. Just that there is an order. Also, there are many Scriptures that compare God’s relationship with his people to that of a husband and wife. One of my favorite Scriptures comes from Jeremiah 31:32, where we can see the sting of the rejection Israel leveled against their loving God:
‘It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD”.
The relationship between husband and wife is supposed to be one of order, communication, mutual trust and respect, and of course love. I’m not sure I’ve explained it well, but this and other passages in the Bible seem symbolic to me of how God relates to his people. Look at the joy a good wife brings to her husband–consider the passages about the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31. A woman who delights in her husband is blessed. Those who delight in the Lord will be blessed as well.
My asthmatic son is coughing a bit so I must go. (He had a doctor’s appointment today and took four shots like a little champ!).