Wednesday, April 18, 2012

120418 - Numbers 03 - Substitute Teacher

Wednesday SOAP: In the book of Numbers, God re-states His claim on Israel's firstborn. This is because of His deliverance of them from the final plague on Israel - the death of the firstborn. The Levites were substituted for the firstborn in sort of a substitutionary redemption. This makes me wrestle once again with the question of who were really saved in the Old Testament, and what exactly did they understand about it? I think this makes a significant analogy for our day - we ought to resist the over-simplification of "say this prayer and you're in," because the Jewish culture had their own over-simplifications - and we're taught they fell short.

(Why "SOAP?" See http://www.enewhope.org/firststeps/journaling)

S: And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:11-13)

O: There are numerous overtones of substitution in the Old Testament scriptures. Job is aware of His Redeemer, and Jacob understood that the being with whom he wrestled had "redeemed" him from all evil. This term is connected with the legal concept of a substitute who could pay you out of an obligation. Sacrifices were made with one hand on the head of the animal to be slain (Leviticus 1:4), or with one animal being set free while the other died. (Lev. 14:1-9, 16:7-10) Firstborn children were to be redeemed (a different word - Ex. 13) while animals could either be redeemed or sacrificed.

A: This may imply that the informational content of faith at this time was a bit closer to what we understand today than we usually assume. By the time of Christ, it seemed to some that being a "son of Abraham" was thought to equate to salvation (Matthew 3:9) and to others that good works earned it. (Matthew 19:16) But the message always was that God's deliverance requires a substitute because His righteousness demands a price too high for a person to pay for himself.

More than this, the deliverance of Israel's firstborn in the Passover event included His designation of them as His own in perpetuity. In our care to stress the need for individual exercise of faith apart from works, we have often discounted God's soveriegn ownership of the process and the "work of faith" (1 Th. 1:3, 2 Th. 1:11) as well as God's continued Lordship over the redeemed Christian. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Who then were saved? Only those who wrestled with this and perceived that true redemption could only have come from outside the Mosaic Covenant? (Acts 13:39) Then, as now, a message of true righteousness would have been extremely difficult to communicate simply. Or was there then a "broad way" that led to life? (Matthew 7:13-14)

I have a hard time believing that, in light of Romans 9. Not all Israel was ever Israel, and Israel, though following the Law of righteousness, had not attained to it.

P: Lord, this is a great mystery to me - and I suspect that it applies in a significant way to my own dispensation. Please help me to be faithful to convey that which is essential for sinners to understand.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

Mysteries keep God in His place and us in our place. It is not a prayer that makes you a Christian but a trust and faith that is placed in Jesus Christ along with repentance from sin. I like to spend more pondering that than wondering about the salvation of the Old Testament people. The doctrine of God's sovereignty makes me comfortable in leaving that in His hands.

Nice article

2:23 PM  
Blogger Mike Skinner said...

Thanks, Jim! I agree with you about repenting and trusting Christ. My blog just follows my devotions. I'm in Numbers now, so as I go through the Bible I'm often reminded to marvel at the insight of faith God granted to certain Old Testament believers and look for what inspired it. If I look hard enough, Jesus is on every page! (Ps. 40:7/Heb. 10:7, John 5:39)

6:02 PM  

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