|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #374, 375 and 376|
24 January, 1999
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
At the end of the year, it has become our custom to break from our ongoing series of Bible Studies for the insertion of some topic of more general scope, and this year I have tried, over the course of the last four studies, to give some idea of the structure of the whole logical sequence which went into God's Great Plan of Creation, as I believe it to have come about.
I began by pointing out the very compact nature of the whole broad design in regard to the inter-locking assembly and function of every detailed part of it within the experience of man. Beginning with the observation that there is such marvellous design throughout both time and space, I pointed towards a conscious designer in preference to a chaos of delirious dice of chance as the first cause. Moving to the picture of a great artist creating a magnificent and intricate assembly of parts, I expressed the view that such a designer, holding all power to make this universe in both its form and function, would enjoy, as do the created beings, the satisfaction of a producer, much as an artist or an inventor finds satisfaction when a painting or a mechanism nears completion.
To put it in brief, the producer must love that which He produces, and in the case of a living product like mankind, much in the same sense as a parent views his children, would desire reciprocal attitudes of love and appreciation on their part.
Love is a component of choice, and I explained that as any choice requires a meaningful means of projecting consequences, the environment within which the choice is made must function in a pattern which we term "cause and effect" and we call this all-pervading characteristic the Laws of Nature; Laws which had to extend throughout all aspects of the physical Creation. This is in order to ensure the repetitive experiences of our environment which are needed in order to assure stability of thought and activity and the development of understanding of how things "work."
This required rigidity of an un-ending chain of universal "cause and effect" would have a sort of domino effect radiating down through all of the unfolding concourse of time and space in the physical universe and would thus, of necessity, set into operation from the first instant of the creative process a pre-destination of all aspects of history as it unfolds. Where, then, is that free-will choice, with its "love" and "hate" aspects? It does exist, as an operative experience, within the pre-destined course of history, and that might beg a momentary diversion in our discussion.
I have, in attempting to resolve the matter, compared our lifetime to a walk down a strange beach, across which we will pass but once. If we are of an appreciative or inquiring disposition, we will, as we walk, divert our steps to take in a distant scene of beauty, perhaps, or adjust our course to pick up a particularly colourful stone. We might turn our attention to a wave worn stump of driftwood, cast ashore and half buried in the sand amid lapping waters, or to a small creature in a shallow pocket among some rocks. We might turn away from a muddy hollow which impinged upon our course. Such diversions we would accept as our interest dictated, and we would inspect, or diverge away from, each in turn as an act of free-will choice, not being conscious of the slightest rigidity imposed from without upon our course. However, as seen from the end of the walk, our footprints on the sands of time might, every one of them, have been plotted as on a map. As God, the owner and designer of that beach might view our own life, foreseeing its steps, guided as they would be, here and there as we passed through the distribution of the points which captivated our attention, the course, known from the beginning, could be termed pre-directed, even while we walked. If the attractiveness or repellent sense of those diversionary points were known to the owner of the entire property, He might view our course as an entirely predicted one, and hence, in a sense, manifest pre-destination. It is our not knowing ahead of time which gives us the sense that we are free to choose. Both free-will and pre-destiny, together, are descriptives of our life. It all depends on the vantage point from which the whole is viewed. Both describe the totality of history. It is not a mutually exclusive situation. We do not need to debate which is true. Both exist together. Both are true. We might simply suggest that you "enjoy your trip" through life.
I further explained that the mercy of a loving Creator must provide a guide book and map, so to speak, for the immature beings whom He created, and who are lacking in wisdom, knowledge, and resolution to yield obedience, yet are empowered with the ability to create havoc through a mis-application of choice, and that this guide book must be formed and packaged as a gift of His instructions through a Code of Laws, all of which, in appropriate time and manner are to be followed "for best results" in our encounters with life.
This Divine advice, The Law of God, must be presented and cultivated through assigned human recipients, for faithful transmission to the rest of humanity, and these mortal bearers of God's Words, being themselves but temporary lodgers in the course of history, a whole people must be developed, and corporately called to convey this precious gift down the generations of its progeny. There must be a governmental participation to preserve the teaching unrestricted by contrary human authority, and hence a people of a single race, culture and corporate sovereignty must be called out from the masses of humanity for the purpose. This was done from the seed-bed of early patriarchs from Adam, by the Call of Abram and Sarai, and the outworking, there begun, unfolded through the generations of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob (Israel) and his wives, and the Tribal constellation which arose therefrom, instructed in civilization through Egyptian bondage, and freed in The Exodus to encounter God Himself, at Sinai, and endure the hardship of Wilderness delay for their first corporate failures to comply. Lessons gained were examples for all of humanity, who would through time encounter the record of their experiences and respect their God as the Lord of all the earth.
Breaking of any detail of the code of Law thus bestowed incurs not only the resultant damage from an unforgiving environment of nature but also the further penalty for flouting and dismissing the authority of the giver of that Law, The Creator Himself. Such defiance cannot, of course, be tolerated by a supreme Law-Giver lest all subsequent authority be destroyed. It must be rebuked with the payment of an assessed penalty, which is, either immediately, exacted, or exacted after an interval which is timed to match prophecy, proving its source to be of divine judgment rather than blind chance. The latter circumstance yields proof of divine presence, authority, and supreme power operative throughout all time as well as space, and this acts as a statement of majesty which glorifies the Creator and reinforces the lesson upon the Creation. In brief, the penalty of law-breaking is Sin, and Sin's penalty must be death.
Mercy, the product of Divine Love, is also operative through all time and space, being the necessary healer of the breach. Only in providing of Himself a truly effective Kinsman-Redeemer, a penalty bearer and healer, can the calamity of Sin's consequence be countered, for it does not lie in the power of the Creation, tarnished by guilt before The Almighty, to generate such an escape, in and of itself. This Door of escape is the incarnate expression of God Himself, thrust as if God's Own Right Arm, clothed in flesh, into the concourse of time and space, which Revelation 13:8 terms the "Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world." It is Jesus, Whose name means "Saviour" who must alone at a place and at a time indelibly marked by prior prophecy, bear successfully all penalty for broken Law on behalf of everyone who voluntarily enrolls within His corporate body, from the whole concourse of that time and space. This, the Key event of all time, must take place with focal centrality for, in His headship alone, there exists a totally sinless personage which it is unlawful for death to destroy, and which, having entered death, must in consequent justice, have power to take up His Life again.
Having accomplished that supreme act of Love as an ever-present door of escape on Golgotha, which met every prophetic mark in time and space, a sequel must occur in the assumption of Kingly rulership, with a prophetic time and place of earthly establishment, in order to again validate the Divine Authorship of the whole Plan. This is prophetically to be established on David's throne by the words of the angel to Mary, recorded in Luke 1:32.
Central in the network of design is the manifest control of events by accordance with prophetic periods of time which outlast by generations the years of man. The Eternal thus places His seal of authority on the whole concourse of events. Examples too numerous to present here are available to the serious student of the matter. It must be studied with an attitude receptive to the concept, for best acquaintance with the display of destiny requires attention to its details. God has chosen to establish a system of Jubilee Cycles to thread history on the string of time. The beads on this necklace form many strands, each with varied hues and sparkles, but pattern bespeaks a mind-created design throughout. There are the times of endurance under Babylonian headship, and the legalities of cities of refuge, and other matters, all of which we shall attempt to detail in due course. Let me leave this with you for the present. God has Himself provided sufficient evidence. It is for mankind to observe and to bow in reverence before the Creator of all His works, in a reciprocal act of contrite Love.
31 January, 1999
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
At the end of the year, it has been our normal custom to break from our ongoing series of Bible Studies for the insertion of some topic of more general scope, and this year we have been giving, of late, some attention to the structure of the whole logical sequence which went into God's Great Plan of Creation, as I believe it to have come about.
Today, we return to the regular sequence of our on-going Bible Studies, which we left back in December last, with the study of those tithes listed in Numbers 18, which the Aaronic Priesthood were to receive of the people. Today, as we approach the next chapter in that Book, we shall find therein the provision of a certain physical sacrifice, representative in its symbolic foreview of God's Own provision in later time, of a means by which the children of Israel at this point in time living in the wilderness of Sinai, who were defiled by a dead body, could obtain the needed and desired ceremonial satisfaction before the Almighty to resolve their problem of spiritual and physical uncleanness.
Introducing the theme to be found in this next chapter under the sub-heading "Removal of the uncleanness resulting from the rebellion (xix. 1-22)", The New Bible Commentary states: "Since so many people had died as a result of Korah's rebellion, ordinary means were insufficient to deal with the pollution. God commanded that Eleazar the priest should take a red heifer outside the camp, slay it, and then burn it with appropriate ceremonies, to remove the uncleanness from the people. This was to be a permanent statute (10). Everyone who touched a dead body should be unclean seven days. On the third day he should be sprinkled with water containing the ashes of the burnt heifer, and on the seventh day he should wash and be clean. All this would impress upon the people the nature of death (cf. note on Nu. v. 1), would provide hygienic protection, and would picture to their minds the future provision through the sacrifice of Christ as the only possible means of release from the guilt and power of sin (Heb. ix. 11-14)."
That note in reference to Numbers 5:1 states "This section has three parts, each of which is concerned with a specific type of evil which must be eradicated from the camp, if God's blessing is to remain upon it. The first of these involves people who are hygienically or ceremonially defiled." Further details in the note which follows this carry forward the idea of placing defiled people outside the camp, apparently as a form of quarantine.
The reference in Hebrews 9:11-14 states the familiar words:
"11. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
13. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
Keil and Delitzsch note that this law concerning purification was given "In order that a consciousness of the continuance of the covenant relation might be kept alive during the dying out of the race that had fallen under the judgment of God, after the severe stroke with which the Lord had visited the whole nation in consequence of the rebellion of the company of Korah... ." They further explain the necessity of this provision with regard to the large numbers of the dead at this particular time when a sentence of death had been executed upon so many for rebellion. As the need was to cleanse those touching so much death, water alone was not sufficient, and the ashes of a sin offering of a red heifer were infused, forming a sort of "holy alkali", but this was not to wipe away sin on this occasion, they explain, but to relieve the people of the defilement connected with death. Keil and Delitzsch consider that a female animal was used as the female is the bearer of life. However, I would submit the thought that whereas a male was the offering for priests and rulers, representative of Yahweh, Israel's husband, a female was used for the ordinary members of the people, and might then be appropriate to represent Israel, the national "wife" of Yahweh.
Let us move directly to the reading of the passage of Scripture found in Numbers 19, starting at verse 1. I shall insert, as is our custom, further relevant comments where these are deemed to be helpful.
1. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
2. This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
Here, The Companion Bible, in concert with those notes taken from The New Bible Commentary, makes the comment that Christ is the Antitype to the Red Heifer, and of the point that it is to be without spot, it explains "without defect", and likewise makes reference to the verse at Hebrews 9:14.
3. And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:
4. And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
Here again, The Companion Bible draws the parallel to the Antitype, Christ, killed outside of the camp.
5. And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
6. And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
Keil and Delitzsch indicate the symbolism of cedar as the symbol of the incorruptible continuance of life, of hyssop as the symbol of purification from the corruption of death, and of scarlet wool, the deep red of which shadowed forth the strongest vital energy. I find it interesting that the wood of the cross of Calvary, the purity of Christ and His shed blood might also possibly correspond to the symbols used.
7. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
8. And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
9. And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.
Here, once again, regarding the man that is clean, who gathers up the ashes, The Companion Bible note draws attention to the act of Joseph of Arimathea in Matthew 27:57-60, and parallel Gospel references wherein Joseph of Arimathea placed the body of Christ in his own new tomb.
10. And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
11. He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
12. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
13. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
14. This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
15. And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
16. And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
17. And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
18. And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
19. And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
20. But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
21. And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.
22. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
Neglect of the ceremonial washing on the appointed times would render the person unclean and a man in such a condition would, if he approached the holy areas, contaminate all about him. Keil and Delitzsch indicate that the selection of the number three and seven as the days upon which the sprinkling was to be carried out was simply connected to the significance of the numbers themselves.
More could be added if time permitted. Perhaps we may make some additional comment during the next Bible Study in the series.
7 February, 1999
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call of Abram in Genesis 12, has covered the Scriptural passages down to the passage found in Numbers 19.
It may be useful to repeat the thrust of that last study. Introducing the theme to be found in this chapter under the sub-heading "Removal of the uncleanness resulting from the rebellion (xix. 1-22)", The New Bible Commentary states: "Since so many people had died as a result of Korah's rebellion, ordinary means were insufficient to deal with the pollution. God commanded that Eleazar the priest should take a red heifer outside the camp, slay it, and then burn it with appropriate ceremonies, to remove the uncleanness from the people. This was to be a permanent statute (10). Everyone who touched a dead body should be unclean seven days. On the third day he should be sprinkled with water containing the ashes of the burnt heifer, and on the seventh day he should wash and be clean. All this would impress upon the people the nature of death (cf. note on Nu. v. 1), would provide hygienic protection, and would picture to their minds the future provision through the sacrifice of Christ as the only possible means of release from the guilt and power of sin (Heb. ix. 11-14)."
We now approach the next chapter, Numbers 20. As we read this Scripture, we will insert some appropriate comments to assist our understanding of the events which are herein recorded. Perhaps it will be convenient to read an introductory comment from The New Bible Commentary as we begin. Under the heading "XIII. Incidents on the way to the Plains of Moab. xx. 1 - xxii. 1, a. The death of Miriam (xx. 1)", a preliminary note indicates the existence of diverse opinions as to the time when these events which we will read actually happened. However, Keil and Delitzsch leave us in no doubt that their opinion is that it occurred in the fortieth year of the wandering in the wilderness. They explain that the events in Numbers 20 and 21 are grouped together rather in a classified order than in one that is strictly chronological. The New Bible Commentary continues: "The people abode in Kadesh (1). Kadesh seems to designate an entire region, rather than a small area. During the thirty-eight years of wandering the people doubtless roamed through the desert, staying at one place until the forage gave out, and then moving to another section. Perhaps they passed through Kadesh several times. The long period of wandering began and ended in this neighbourhood. Reading at verse 1:
1. Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.
Miriam, a prophetess, as we learned back in Exodus 15:20, and the slightly older sister to Moses, would be of a great age at this time, for Moses himself had been some eighty years of age at the time of the Exodus, an event which was itself now many years past. The years are probably approaching one hundred and twenty for each of Miriam, Aaron and Moses. Kadesh, we have learned, may not be so specific as to permit a more precise location for her grave to be recorded.
2. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
4. And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
5. And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
This account seems so very familiar. Such angry protest had occurred on a number of previous occasions when the restless and rebellious elements among the tribes had complained that Moses and Aaron were incompetent leaders because they had not made provision for any supply of water. That was, of course, a very human reaction to a setting in which, in their own unbelief, they failed to foresee miraculous oversight by The LORD. Here, the people of Israel have encountered a most stress-filled moment, and once again, as before, they have failed the test of faith. Are we, today, with so much of recorded history of miracle in Scripture to assist our understanding, much different? They looked back at the Egyptian experience through a golden haze of partial forgetfulness. Their sons had been condemned to death by that Pharaoh who "knew not Joseph", you may remember, in the generation which had endured such treatment up to the mighty signs and wonders of The Exodus. Yet they still persisted in the attitudes which had brought upon them the forty-years of wilderness existence about which they were now complaining. What was their God-appointed leader, Moses, now nearing 120 years of age, to do? We find the answer, as we might have expected, as we read from verse 6:
6. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
7. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
8. Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
First, I note that the symbolic act is to take place in one specific location where the assembly of the tribes is to gather. It is to "the rock", not to just any nearby convenient rock that Moses is to address the message he is given. A specific "rock" is the object to which Moses is pointed, in order to perform this ceremony. It won't do to select just any outcrop of local rock in the vicinity. It is, I am certain, to be a prophetic enactment, performed before that anointed rock called "Jacob's Pillow" which has been carried along with the tribes in their journeying from place to place, because this act will otherwise lose all the symbolic prophetic impact which is intended. It must be the same rock which Moses struck at Horeb (called also Mount Sinai), which is on this second occasion to simply be addressed, not struck.
Second, we see that God's answer to the prayer of Moses and Aaron was a definite promise, but this was a promise which required strict adherence to its details on the part of Moses and Aaron. God had specifically used the word "smite", when ordering the procedure using this same stone to provide water at Horeb, back in Exodus 17:6, and The Rod of Moses had previously also been used to smite the water of the Nile in Exodus 7:20, and on both those occasions Moses had also a message to speak to those within hearing distance, so the natural human tendency would perhaps understandably be to repeat the use of the rod in again smiting the stone as he spoke, neglecting the seemingly minor point that the word of God on this occasion had said "speak" but had not ordered him to also "smite." The tiny excess of additional force, however, was to result in a disastrous symbolic mis-step and transgression.
9. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
10. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
I believe the translation at this point might better have been "a second time" rather than "twice", for although the two terms might appear to have the same meaning, in fact, the two occasions were many miles apart from one another. At Horeb, where the people of Israel had received God's Commandments, the need was for water for God's people, and that need had been met using the Rod which is, in Exodus 17:5, stated to be the one used at the Nile, when the waters of Egypt had been cursed by the smiting.. In prophetic symbol, smiting the anointed rock on the occasion at Horeb, as Yahweh The LORD, (the pre-incarnate Christ, as we understand), stood upon it, had symbolised Christ being smitten for our transgressions of that Law given at Sinai, and Crucified at Calvary (Isaiah 53:4-5).
At this time of severe testing, Moses and Aaron have also, themselves, failed the testing of their faith in the stress of the occasion. We will not have time sufficient to conclude all that ought to be learned from these events on this present study. Those further comments will have to be left for the next study in this series.
As we draw today's study to its conclusion, may I leave with you the thought that a careless approach to God's directions can land us in deeper troubles than we expect, and we can lose much valuable understanding through wilful excess by leaping to conclusions without granting sufficient time to ponder carefully the directions that we are actually receiving in answer to our prayerful approach to Our Lord, and to His words in Holy Writ. Not only is this true of the average believer, but indeed many pastors of God's flock might well benefit both themselves and their charges by a more determined effort to listen with attention to what is said and what is not said, rather than to assume the meaning which is to be derived from God's Holy Word.
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