Spiritual Rants: March 3 “An Old-Fashioned Ticker-Tape Parade” Readings to read through the Bible in a year: Leviticus 27:14-Numbers 1:54 Mark 11:1-26 Psalm 46:1-11 Proverbs 10:23

Old Testament: Leviticus 27:14-Numbers 1:54

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Leviticus 27:14-34  “Indian-Giving”

We’re back to redemption laws.  Unclean animals could be bought back if the owner insisted on keeping them.  He had to add 20% to their value.  Same for houses.  Fields could be bought back the same way but if the dealings were crooked, the fields went to the priests at the time of the Year of Jubilee.  Firstborn animals were already the Lord’s property and couldn’t be redeemed.  One tenth of the increase of land, trees, herds, and flocks were given to the Lord as a “tithe.”  What’s interesting is that the best was to be given to the Lord as a tithe.  Do you know who benefited most from this on earth?   The Levites!  They were the ones who slaughtered the sacrifice and ate what wasn’t used!  And they got the best!  How does that work nowadays?  How do you take care of your pastor?  Does he get the best?  I recently heard a pastor tell of many times he received gifts of the things people were updating.  What a shame.  Is it an indication of how much we appreciate the spiritual input that our ministers give us?

Numbers 1:1-54  Adding Things Up

We’ve finally made it to the book of Numbers!  It’s the third book in what is called the Pentateuch which are the five books written by Moses.  Why is it called Numbers?  It was titled that in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (technically called the Septuagint).  The reason Numbers was titled Numbers in the Septuagint was because it contained so many statistics and numbers.  It has the tribal population numbers, the numbers of priests and Levites and other integers.  Actually, Numbers is  a polite name.  The Hebrew name comes from the fifth word in the first verse: “in the Wilderness of.”  This was spiritually fitting since the Israelites were not only in a physical desert but also a spiritual desert or wilderness.  As you’ll see they whined a lot and did some stuff that would make you think they were intellectually-challenged.

A census was taken of males twenty years-old and older.  It was for military purposes.  The Levites were exempt because they were involved in the work of the worship and were not eligible for the military. The final tally was 603, 550 (Num. 1:46, cf. Exod. 38:26).  This was a fulfillment of God’s promise to multiply the Israelites who had started with just seventy people before entering Egypt (Ex. 1: 12).  The Levites had no allotment of land but camped around the Tabernacle to protect it (Num. 1: 47, 53, 3:10, 38).

New Testament:  Mark 11:1-26

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Mark 11:1-14  An Old-Fashioned Ticker-Tape Parade

We saw “Indian Giving” in the Old Testament portion.  (Please forgive me Native Americans, it was an innocent phrase in my childhood.)  Here we have another instance of what could be deemed the same.  Jesus came riding into town on a colt, a sign of peace.  How did the disciples get the colt?  Jesus told them to tell the owner that the Lord needs it.  Hey, that always works for me!  Whenever I need anything as a minister, I just tell the grocery store or car dealership or whatever, “The Lord has need of it.”  Well, anyway, it worked on this occasion.

People spread the coats and palms on the road (John 12:13.) for Jesus to ride over.  Others yelled, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!”  They were quoting Psalm 118:25-26.  “Hosanna” literally meant, “Lord, save us!” but was much like our Hallelujah, “Praise the Lord!”

Jesus took a quick glance into the Temple and then left.  Afterward, on the way to Bethany He saw a fig tree and cursed it.  He was hungry and the fig tree didn’t have any figs on it, though it was not actually the season for figs.   He said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” (v. 14).  The disciples heard him.  Here’s the deal.  The figs were not in season but it was spring and the fig tree should have had edible buds on it especially since it had green leaves at that point indicating that the figs were forthcoming (v. 13).  The fig tree symbolized the nation of Israel.  Though Israel had been greatly blessed by Yahweh, they had not produced much fruit.  In fact, they were about to complete their rejection of their Messiah.  Yahweh would complete His rejection of Israel in the not distant future with the burning of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D.  Judaism would be dead during the Church Age until Jesus comes back at the end of the age.

Mark 11:15-19  A Very Bad ATM

The outer court of the Temple was supposed to be for Gentiles to come in and pray.  Unfortunately, some peddlers had set up in that area.  They took advantage of out-of-towners coming to worship but not wanting to travel with their herds.  They were allowed to give money instead but since they had regular money, they had to exchange it for “official” Temple coinage.  The businessmen took advantage of them by doctoring the exchange rate and cheating the visitors.

Jesus was super-torqued.  He quoted Isaiah 56:7 (NIV), “these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”   Mark is the only gospel writer to include the last part of the verse, “for all nations ” (“peoples,” NASB).  Mark was writing to Romans and Gentiles, remember?

Mark 11:20-26  Need To Move A Mountain Into The Sea?  No prob!

The disciples saw that the fig tree had shriveled from the roots up (indicating the curse had taken effect, it was not going to yield fruit again, the roots were dried up).  Next is one of the most practical verses in the Bible (v. 24), “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”  The verb “received” has the sense of something that has already happened.  A good translation would be, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have already received it, and it will be yours” (NIV modified).  If you have faith that strong, you will have a lot of answers to prayer.  But wait.  There’s more.  You also have to forgive everyone you know you should forgive.  If you don’t, your Father won’t forgive you and your prayers won’t be answered Mark 11: 25, 26).  The Psalmist said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer (Psa. 66:18, 19).

Psalm 46:1-11    A Hymn About Jerusalem by The Sons Of Korah

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Psalm 46:1-11    Be Still

When I was in college, I worked at the campus radio station.  We had to “sign on” the station every day at sunrise.  We used to play a record as soon as we hit the airwaves called, “Be Still And Know.”  It was a daily devotional that was supplied to us.  I don’t remember a thing that was ever said but I do remember the title.  It comes from the King James version of verse 10 of this psalm.

A number of verses promise God’s presence with believers.  One of my favorites is “Fear not for I am with you, be not afraid for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isa. 41:10 RSV, also Zeph. 3:17; John 14:21).  But verse 1 here is a great one.  Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God” from this verse.

Would you fear if the mountains fell into the sea?  I might.  Revelation 8:8 says that one day something like that will happen.  It will be called “the end of the world,” pretty much. Though a few other really horrible things will happen after that.

There is a heavy rock song with the lyrics, “When the mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”   That is the story of believers with God.  He’ll be with us no matter what.  Hopefully, we won’t be there when the mountains crumble into the sea but if we are, He’ll be there with us.

I know what you’re saying, “Yeah, if the mountains fall into the ocean we’re OK but what if there’s a tsunami?”  Verse 3 covers that possibility which may be predicted in Luke 21:25.

Verse 4 speaks of a river that runs through Jerusalem.  There may have been an actual water source built by King Hezekiah that linked the Spring of Gihon in Kidron with the Pool of Siloam within the city (cf. 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30). The background of this psalm may have been the attack against the city by the Assyrians (cf. 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32; Isa. 36-37).

Do you want to be happy?  The river God provides us for refreshment is the Word of God (v. 4, cf. Eph. 5:26).  Do you drink water every day?  Do you read the Word every day?  Are you glad?

Yahweh was in the middle of Jerusalem protecting the city (vv. 5-7) and was powerful enough to secure it.  He still is.

Believe it or not, the Lord will cause all wars to end (vv. 8-9).  You might think you are going to elect someone who will do that but, actually, it won’t happen until the Lord brings peace (Hosea 2:18; Mic. 4:3-4).

Most translations render the beginning of verse 10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  One of my all-time, favorite sermons is called, “Quietness,” by Charles Stanley.  In it, he talks about the need to get alone with God and just be quiet.  It struck me like lightning at the time.  It seemed that I, and almost everybody else, had to fill up silence all the time.

The Holman Christian Standard renders verse 10 as, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God!”  That is pretty straight forward.  But how about the NET, “Stop your fighting—and know that I am God”?  That seems to imply that the nations are at war.  They will be at the end of the age but Jesus will come riding on a white horse and will break it all up (cf. Rev. 19:11-16).  He will touch down on the Mount of Olives and that will be the end of the nations striving (cf. Zech. 14:4).

He will be exalted at that time (v. 10b, cf. Phil. 2:10).  Until then, He is with us, the leader of armies, aka, hosts (v. 11a).  Jacob in verse 11b represents the nation of Israel but He is also our strength and protector.

Can you be still and recognize that today?

Proverbs 10:23   Being A Good Sport

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You may not be old enough to remember the picture of President Lyndon B. Johnson on the front page of most of the papers in the country, holding up his poor cocker spaniel by the ears.  I do.  And I’ll bet if that poor pet is still alive, he remembers it, too.  

Later we’ll learn that, “A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that’s not his is like one who grabs a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17).  Some wicked people just enjoy being wicked and hurting people.  Have you ever wondered, why did that person do that?  That was just crazy and mean.  They were Proverbs 10:23 people.  They are biblical fools which as you know by know are unbelievers.

On the other hand . . .  as we like to say in Proverbs . . .  a believer deems accumulating wisdom to be a sport (v. 23b).

Choose Life: Scripture:  Mark 11:24  NASB    “Are You Feeling Powerless?”

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Mark 11:24 NIV

This is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible.  It can be used to obtain all God has for you and I used it one time to fight demons.  Every Christian needs to know this verse.

This verse comes in a comment to the disciples who noticed that a fig tree Jesus had cursed was now shriveled and dead.  Jesus responded that if the disciples had faith that they could move mountains into the sea.  That would be a pretty cool trick but there are several things we should keep in mind.

One thing we should consider is that Jesus, Himself, the Son of God, one time asked His Father for something and was refused.  In Mark 14:34, Jesus asks that He be able to to bypass the crucifixion if there is a way out of it.  Of course, there Jesus prays that whatever might be God’s will, He is willing to do it (cf. Mark 14:36).

This is the same advice the apostle John gives us regarding prayer.  “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us [in] whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15).

How can we know if what we are requesting of God is His will?  Anything Scriptural would probably qualify.  It is fine to ask things for ourselves but our main concern should be doing God’s will.  We should ask how our requests line up with God’s purposes on earth.  It is always safe to assume that God wants us to have things to keep us alive if we are doing what He wants (cf. Matt. 6:33).

I think there is something else really interesting in this verse.  I think it is a promise that if God gives us some kind of subjective witness to a positive answer that He is going to do what He says (v. 1 Thes. 5:24).  On the other hand, if we have doubt about anything we might ask God, our request is probably not God’s will (cf. Rom. 14: 23; James 1:6-8).

The gist of the original Greek language is “whatever you ask for . . .  believe that you have already received it.”  So like if you order a pizza, you don’t worry about whether it will come or not.  You pretty much know it is going to arrive.  The same is true here.  Trust God in faith when you ask for something without doubt.

If you do, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!

Fun Application:   Ask for something you need today that you know is God’s will for you.  Ask for it in faith, without doubting and see what happens.

The purpose of the “Choose Life” is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog:  An Old-Fashioned Ticker Tape Parade

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