God tells Moses that when the people offer up an animal, it must be visibly perfect. There are to be no blemishes, no broken bones, and no deformities. God is absolutely worthy of our very best. Cain’s sin was that he did not offer his best to the Lord, and it mattered. What we offer is a product of our heart, our disposition toward God. Jesus Christ was a perfect lamb, completely sinless and unblemished. None of his bones were broken, which John points out explicitly (19:36).
This also directly impacts the Christian in worship. We do not offer the blood of bulls and goats, but we offer a living sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Do you treat worship as less important than your job? Do you show up late every single week? Do you “take off” some weeks to watch online when you are otherwise healthy? If anything else comes up, do you let it take the place of Sunday morning worship, no matter how trivial?
If the law was worth the blood of the very best from your bulls and goats, what is grace and truth worth?
The feasts served as regular reminders throughout the year of God’s provision. There were seven feasts every year. The Sabbath is taught in the context of the feasts, so there was even a weekly feast.
The Passover looked back to the exodus from Egypt and God saving his people from the angel of death. It took place at the beginning of the Jewish calendar. The feast of firstfruits took place after the harvest. The feast of weeks takes place seven weeks and fifty days after the feast of firstfruits. The feast of trumpets took place in the seventh month, and the day of atonement immediately followed, followed by the feast of booths. Most of these festivals are celebrations. The only fast for the Jews was the day of atonement.
The year of jubilee was not a feast per se, but almost a reset for the land and the people. It happened every fiftieth year, which was like a Sabbath of Sabbaths (seven years x seven years, followed by a fiftieth Sabbath year). Prisoners and servants were released, the land could rest from agriculture, and debts were forgiven. This is a beautiful picture of the gospel. Jesus begins his ministry in Luke 4 quoting Isaiah and preaching about the release of the captives because of his arrival. Jesus is the Christian’s Sabbath, of which the year of jubilee was a foreshadow.
There were many provisions for releasing debts and property. If a man had to sell some land to make ends meet, he knew that at a point in the future his debt would be forgiven and his land returned to him. The buyer also knew that eventually he would have to sell the land back. This protected the seller and his family from poverty, and it protected the buyer from losing all of his income. The poor man could sell his labor to another Israelite for a period of time up until the year of jubilee. The poor man was not a slave but an employee. The law protected the exploitation of those in poverty and the property of those who held it. Scripture teaches both the dignity of rich and poor, as well as the right of private property. They are not mutually exclusive.
Because the law is a part of the covenant, it carries with it blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. God made promises to guard and protect his people when they obeyed. He also promised that neighboring nations would attack them as an act of judgment when they disobeyed. Horrible atrocities would follow naturally from a breaking of the covenant. The Mosaic covenant was not unilateral, as was the Abrahamic covenant. The new covenant is unilateral, like the Abrahamic covenant is. God carries all of the obligations in salvation, paid for by the blood of Christ. Christ received all of the curses, and we received all of the blessings.
Numbers begins by taking a census of the people to find out how many soldiers the nation has. The people are getting close to coming into the promised land. That is going to mean a lot of combat. It’s not as if the Canaanites are going to leave peacefully. The Israelites need an army.
But the nation will not only need soldiers. It will also need priests. So God has Moses count the number the Levites (Aaron was a Levite and go the whole priest-ball rolling). And instead of taking the first son born to every family to be a priest, God had set aside one tribe to take on the entirety of the priesthood. With the sacrificial system focused in the tabernacle, it was better for one tribe to send men throughout the year to manage it (which chapter 4 will outline). It also imaged the redemption of sinners. Instead of all the elect dying for their own sins, Christ would redeem us by taking our sins on himself, paying for them all at once.
Jesus begins his teaching ministry in Nazareth. As people are wont to do, they resent Jesus for not tickling their ears. This changes over time. Many want to hear more of what he has to say about the kingdom of God, but those whom Jesus warns of being left out do not receive his teaching enthusiastically. Jesus then sends out the disciples (of which he had many) who would be the twelve apostles calling for repentance and performing many signs. This was a taste of what they would become after Christ’s ascension and the Spirit falls at Pentecost.
King Herod (a different one than the king who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby) is conned in to having John the Baptist murdered. Herod had been an adulterer, and John called him to repentance. Herodias, the other woman, resented John and came up with a scheme to have him killed. Herod seemed upset enough to regret going through with it, but not upset enough to be a man and stop his mistress from having a man killed.
Jesus performs many miracles. He feeds thousands, walks on water, and continues to heal the sick. These are all recorded in other gospels, as well. Details may vary, but they do not contradict themselves. This actually testifies to Scripture’s authenticity. A manufactured story would line up neatly and not need any reconciliation. Eyewitnesses and those who studied the events would necessarily arrange the events in a manner that suits their intent.
He spends the majority of his ministry teaching. He will correct the Pharisaical misreadings of Scripture, correctly define what ritual purity is, and warn the people about following the expansive and wooden demands of the priests. Jesus does not change the law on any point. He only shows the fallacious interpretations of those who would use it to their advantage.
When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, he first says that the people are thinking that either John or Elijah has come back to life. The prophet Malachi says that Elijah will return (4:5), and many were looking for a resurrection. But Elijah had returned in John, not in a weird kind of possession, but in spirit. It is only after a good confession of faith does Jesus begin teaching about the resurrection.
The transfiguration of Jesus is presented just like it was by Matthew in chapter 17 (to read that commentary, click here). What stands out about this telling is that Jesus charged Peter, James, and John not to say anything about what they experienced until after his resurrection. This has been referred to “the Marcan secret.” Jesus is ensuring that the truth of who is is not overshadowed by a show of miracles and the extravagant. Only after his death, burial, and resurrection do the people truly understand who he is.
Psalm 41: We know God loves us by his provision and protection.
Psalm 42: In our days of doubt, we can still hope in God alone.
Psalm 43: Lord, guide me by your truth during my days of doubt.
Psalm 44: Only God can help in the most difficult days.
Psalm 45: God sits on an eternal throne.