Today, we read about a strange ceremony involving ‘cleansing water’ containing the ashes of a red heifer. We are cleansed today by Jesus’ blood, shed to atone for our sins.
Moses made a grave faux pas and is banned from ever entering the promised land (v.12). God had instructed him to speak to a rock to make it pour out water for the thirsty, grumbling Israelites. Instead, Moses hit it with Aaron’s miraculously flowering staff after claiming credit for the forthcoming miracle, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock?‘ (v.10). Rather than, ‘I will pray to God so that He will produce water for you from this rock.‘
Water gushed from the rock. Jesus established the church on Peter (the rock) and so we can go to the church (the bride of Christ) for spiritual refreshment and renewal for the glory of God.
The Israelites mourned for Aaron for 30 days (v.29) after he died. Even though the Israelites were constantly grumbling and rebelling, they did recognise that Aaron had done a lot for them and deserved their respect and gratitude. His son, Eleazer, must have felt a massive burden of responsibility in addition to grieving for his father.
The Canaanites proactively attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. The Israelites wisely made a vow to the Lord before they retaliated and are able to completely destroy them. One tribe destroyed, plenty more to go.
Jesus was asked why his disciples don’t fast. He says they will in the future once he has left. Fasting is a tremendously beneficial spiritual practice. We know that some evil spirits can only be exorcised through a combination of prayer and fasting. Whenever, you want God to do something special it is wise to make an effort to fast – don’t make a big song and dance about it – it should just be between you and the Lord.
I had my first even prophetic ‘picture’ in my mind in regards to the ‘new wineskins’ passage. Jesus said that new wine shouldn’t be poured into old wineskins or they will burst. I could clearly see in my mind an old wineskin. In fact, it was so old, rutted and encrusted it looked like a wrinkled, white and grey nut. However, cracks started to appear on the surface and the old brittle and hard surface shattered. From within the wineskin came a new fleshy wine skin, young, supple, health and flexible and the pink / purplish colour of fresh liver. It unfurled and expanded to be four to five times the size of the old skin. My wife and I are always praying for the conversion of our elderly relatives and I take this to signify that people are never too old to be saved. The power and glory of God will burst out in their lives and renew them, shattering their former old, hardened shell.
I love the beautiful ‘New Wine’ song from Hillsong Worship.
In verse 39 we read, ‘And no-one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.” I find this with my fellow Catholics particularly the older ones. They can be resistant to new teaching on the Holy Spirit. Catholics can pray for the Holy Spirit, who took up residence in them at the time of baptism and should have been fully activated at the time of their confirmation, to become fully active in their lives. Many never seem to bother. The Holy Spirit carries on as a small pilot light in their heart rather than igniting into an all-engulfing flame allowing the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit to flow through their lives, We should all pray:
‘Come Holy Spirit, and fill my faithful heart. Kindle in me the fire of your love and give me a full measure of all your precious gifts, pressed down, shaken and overflowing so that I can be the most effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Send forth your Spirit, O God, and let me be recreated. And You shall renew the face of the earth.’
Jesus disciples picked and ate corn on the Sabbath even though this is unlawful. They are under minute scrutiny from the Pharisees who spot this infringement. However, even the Pharisees seem to have given up on anyone totally complying with the Sabbath law, they just moan about it rather than trying to stone them. It is strange that so many Christians still want to ‘keep the Sabbath’ on a Saturday when Jesus has demonstrated it is impossible and it can be broken to do good / lessen hunger. We are no longer slaves to impossibly rigid laws after Jesus’ death on the cross. We must come together as a Christian community each week to give God communal praise and worship but for Christians, this is now on a Sunday to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection on ‘The Lord’s day’.
Wisdom and understanding are always calling out to us. We should continually ask God for them for a full measure of them to gain prudence and understanding.
Once we have wisdom we have ‘worthy things to say‘ and we ‘speak what is right’ (v.6). Our mouths ‘speak what is true‘ (v.7) and ‘just‘ (v.8).
Choose wisdom and knowledge more than money or precious stones. ‘Nothing you desire can compare can compare’ (v.11).
There is a vast distinction between ‘worldly wisdom’, which might help people success in business or politics and Christian wisdom – which comes from Jesus.
‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)”.’
Picture: Tamorlan, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons