Margin Notes: Things I scribbled in the white spaces – April 21, 2008

1 – ““This is the law when someone dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean seven days. And every open vessel that has no cover fastened on it is unclean. Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel. Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.” (Numbers 19:14-19, ESV)

RAF: This ministry of cleansing one another from this defilement was not carried out by the Priests, but by anyone who was clean in the congregation. It was ministry one to another.

2 – “And it shall be a statute forever for them. The one who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.” (Numbers 19:21, ESV)

RAF: Such ministry one to another is costly. We will have to bear becoming unclean too – bearing the burden of the other in order that they might be cleansed. Ministry is often dirty business.

3 – ” Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.” (Numbers 20:10-13, ESV)

RAF: Who is “we”? Not Aaron & Moses. Neither of them has the power to do this. Is Moses adding himself, or himself and Aaron together with God? We cannot be sure – but either way it is dangerous work. In this act, a. Of either putting himself in the place of God, or he and Aaron, or simply joining himself to God as though they would act together, or b. Of acting angrily in striking the Rock instead of speaking to it – indicating that God was angry with them when God had indicated no such thing – either way, God was not “sanctified” (v12) – treated as Holy in His actions. For this Moses will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. WE, are never God, nor He us. It is dangerous business to represent God falsely in any way – whether we even believe God to have such an attitude or no. If He has not said, we ought not to infer it.

4 – “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”” (Numbers 21:5, ESV)

RAF: What a dual charge against God. a. Simply because the way is hard or takes longer than we desire – God has brought us here to die. In other words, He has plotted evil against us. And b. The provision He HAS made in His Word (the manna) is “worthless” – it is “light”, it doesn’t do the job. It isn’t sufficient to sustain us.

5 – ” But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him.” (Numbers 22:22, ESV)

RAF: Let no one be foolish about such things. Having heard from God once, Balaam knew the “spirit” of the Law, of God’s will, even though there was no actual precept that he was transgressing. We will play these games too. Thinking we can obey “technically” when all the while we know full well some things we pursue are against God’s heart and mind – contrary to His ontological holiness. Unless we move from technical precepts to living in accord with His nature – we will always be guilty, always in opposition and always in danger – though the letter of the Law be kept.

6 – Numbers 22:22-30 – the entire account of Balaam’s Donkey.

RAF: The Donkey, though real in this account, nevertheless is also a divinely crafted metaphor for our conscience. If you read the account in that light and see yourself as Balaam trying to go after what you already know is contrary to God’s holiness – all the while your conscience is fighting you and yet you will not relent – you will ultimately be found to be fighting against God Himself.

7 – “And the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.” (Numbers 22:35, ESV)

RAF: All along God is using the conscience to prevent him from doing what there is no Law against, yet in the end, Balaam will still sin in. For while he will only speak the blessings God tells him to speak when he is asked to curse Israel, nevertheless, unable to fight temptation – he will ultimately counsel Israel’s enemies how to bring them down. He cannot resist the rewards offered. And will still try to disobey while remaining technically from having transgressed God’s Law.


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