Don’t discount “Numbers”

I admit it.  There are some books of the Bible I enjoy reading and studying more than others.  Yes, I play favorites with God’s Word.

In a general sense, I enjoy the books that read like a story more than their “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” relatives.  That goes for both the Old and New Testaments.

The Book of Numbers is no exception.  To the uninitiated, the title seems foreboding – a warning that dusty census records, cumbersome rules and step-by-step job descriptions await – certainly that is true to some point.  But those who patiently wade into the text and persevere through 36 chapters will find memorable treasures and interesting tidbits that make it one of my favorites.

Here are some highlights:

  • Chapters 2&3 recount how God arranged the tribes of Israel when camping and traveling.  This was not some unorganized mob!
  • Chapter 5 includes the test for an adulterous wife.
  • In chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron conspire against their brother, Moses.
  • Chapters 13 & 14 include the well-known story of the 12 spies in the Promised Land and how Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who remained faithful.  This is also where God declares 40 years of wandering in the desert as punishment.
  • In 15:32-36 we learn just how serious God is about keeping the Sabbath.
  • Could the earth actually swallow people or fire consume them?  Check-out chapter 16.
  • Chapter 17: God doesn’t just chooses a leader.  He does it with style!
  • Why couldn’t Moses enter the Promised Land?  Find out in chapter 20.
  • Medical personnel and hospitals are often adorned with an image of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff.  This is called a “caduceus,” introduced in chapter 21.
  • A talking donkey is featured in chapter 22.
  • Chapter 27: God appoints Joshua to succeed Moses.
  • God establishes the rules around vows and the circumstances under which they can be broken in chapter 30.
  • Chapter 32: Some of the Israelites settled on the east side of the Jordan River.
  • Have you ever tried to track progress on a long car trip using a map?  Chapter 33 traces each step of the Israelites’ 40 year journey to the Promised Land!
  • The Promised Land’s boundary lines are established in chapter 34.
  • Chapter 35 establishes cities of refuge where someone who kills another person accidentally can expect a fair trial and protection from revenge.

Make it a point to study this gem – the Book of Numbers!

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Best Biblical argument against homosexuality? Christ’s silence…

Raise your hand if you’ve been confronted with this question: If homosexuality is so bad, how come Jesus never said anything about it?

It’s true! A quick stroll through the Sermon on the Mount, reveals that Our Savior had a lot to say about murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, revenge, giving, prayer, worry and judgment. There are multiple instances where He put the Sabbath in proper perspective and calmly debated the best minds of the day. He healed, fed and forgave; spoke of end times; restored a dead man’s life and instituted the New Covenant. But not a word about homosexuality.

So is it reasonable to conclude that Jesus implicitly approved of this lifestyle because he never mentioned it explicitly? Hardly.

In Jesus’ time, Israel was a society governed by Old Testament law. Jewish citizens were fully aware of the rules set-down by Moses – they had lived them everyday for many centuries. So it was well understood that homosexuality was forbidden by God in Leviticus 18:22 and punishable by death according to Leviticus 20:13. And Jesus broadcast His general agreement when He stated that He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17).

However, the Gospels are replete with instances where Jesus made it a point to modify prevailing legalistic viewpoints to bring them in-line with God’s true intent. Refer again to the Sermon on the Mount – anger equates to murder, lustful looks constitute adultery, judges are advised to seek self-introspection and prayer is a private conversation to name only a few examples.

He also completely set-aside some Old Testament laws, like those forbidding certain foods. “‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” (Mk 7:18-19).

Where appropriate, Christ even solidified some long-standing principles. When asked to name the greatest commandment, He replied by quoting Old Testament law:”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40).

The fact is, Jesus had ample opportunity to alter or strike down Mosaic law condemning homosexuality, but He never did. Instead His silence communicated full agreement with the law as it had stood for many centuries. And if it was good enough for Christ in first century Israel, then it still stands today.