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Numbers 19-20

The Ceremony To Wash Away Sin

19 1-2 The Lord gave Moses and Aaron the following law:

The people of Israel must bring Moses a reddish-brown cow that has nothing wrong with it and that has never been used for plowing. Moses will give it to Eleazar the priest, then it will be led outside the camp and killed while Eleazar watches. He will dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it seven times in the direction of the sacred tent. Then the whole cow, including its skin, meat, blood, and insides must be burned. A priest[a] is to throw a stick of cedar wood, a hyssop[b] branch, and a piece of red yarn into the fire.

After the ceremony, the priest is to take a bath and wash his clothes. Only then can he go back into the camp, but he remains unclean and unfit for worship until evening. The man who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and take a bath, but he is also unclean until evening.

A man who isn’t unclean must collect the ashes of the burnt cow and store them outside the camp in a clean place. The people of Israel can mix these ashes with the water used in the ceremony to wash away sin. 10 The man who collects the ashes must wash his clothes, but will remain unclean until evening. This law must always be obeyed by the people of Israel and the foreigners living among them.

What Must Be Done after Touching a Dead Body

The Lord said:

11 If you touch a dead body, you will be unclean for seven days. 12 But if you wash with the water mixed with the cow’s ashes on the third day and again on the seventh day, you will be clean and acceptable for worship. You must wash yourself on those days; if you don’t, you will remain unclean. 13 Suppose you touch a dead body, but refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes. You will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean and will no longer belong to the people of Israel.

14 If someone dies in a tent while you are there, you will be unclean for seven days. And anyone who later enters the tent will also be unclean. 15 Any open jar in the tent is unclean.

16 If you touch the body of someone who was killed or who died of old age, or if you touch a human bone or a grave, you will be unclean for seven days.

17-18 Before you can be made clean, someone who is clean must take some of the ashes from the burnt cow and stir them into a pot of spring water. That same person must dip a hyssop branch in the water and ashes, then sprinkle it on the tent and everything in it, including everyone who was inside. If you have touched a human bone, a grave, or a dead body, you must be sprinkled with that water. 19 If this is done on the third day and on the seventh day, you will be clean. Then after you take a bath and wash your clothes, you can worship that evening.

20 If you are unclean and refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes, you will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean, and you will no longer belong to the people of Israel. 21 These laws will never change.

The man who sprinkled the water and the ashes on you when you were unclean must also wash his clothes. And whoever touches this water is unclean until evening. 22 When you are unclean, everything you touch becomes unclean, and anyone who touches you will be unclean until evening.

Water from a Rock

20 The people of Israel arrived at the Zin Desert during the first month[c] and set up camp near the town of Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.

The Israelites had no water, so they went to Moses and Aaron and complained, “Moses, we’d be better off if we had died along with the others in front of the Lord’s sacred tent.[d] You brought us into this desert, and now we and our livestock are going to die! Egypt was better than this horrible place. At least there we had grain and figs and grapevines and pomegranates.[e] But now we don’t even have any water.”

Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the sacred tent, where they bowed down. The Lord appeared to them in all of his glory 7-8 and said, “Moses, get your walking stick.[f] Then you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water. That’s how you will provide water for the people of Israel and their livestock.”

Moses obeyed and took his stick from the sacred tent. 10 After he and Aaron had gathered the people around the rock, he said, “Look, you rebellious people, and you will see water flow from this rock!” 11 He raised his stick in the air and struck the rock two times. At once, water gushed from the rock, and the people and their livestock had water to drink.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you refused to believe in my power, these people did not respect me. And so, you will not be the ones to lead them into the land I have promised.”

13 The Israelites had complained against the Lord, and he had shown them his holy power by giving them water to drink. So they named the place Meribah, which means “Complaining.”

Israel Isn’t Allowed To Go through Edom

14 Moses sent messengers from Israel’s camp near Kadesh with this message for the king of Edom:

We are Israelites, your own relatives, and we’re sure you have heard the terrible things that have happened to us. 15 Our ancestors settled in Egypt and lived there a long time. But later the Egyptians were cruel to us, 16 and when we begged our Lord for help, he answered our prayer and brought us out of that land.

Now we are camped at the border of your territory, near the town of Kadesh. 17 Please let us go through your country. We won’t go near your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the main road[g] until we leave your territory.

18 But the Edomite king answered, “No, I won’t let you go through our country! And if you try, we will attack you.”

19 Moses sent back this message: “We promise to stay on the main road, and if any of us or our livestock drink your water, we will pay for it. We just want to pass through.”

20 But the Edomite king insisted, “You can’t go through our land!”

Then Edom sent out its strongest troops 21 to keep Israel from passing through its territory. So the Israelites had to go in another direction.

Aaron Dies

22 After the Israelites had left Kadesh and had gone as far as Mount Hor 23 on the Edomite border, the Lord said, 24 “Aaron, this is where you will die. You and Moses disobeyed me at Meribah, and so you will not enter the land I promised the Israelites. 25 Moses, go with Aaron and his son Eleazar to the top of the mountain. 26 Then take Aaron’s priestly robe from him and place it on Eleazar. Aaron will die there.”

27 Moses obeyed, and everyone watched as he and Aaron and Eleazar walked to the top of Mount Hor. 28 Moses then took the priestly robe from Aaron and placed it on Eleazar. Aaron died there.

When Moses and Eleazar came down, 29 the people knew that Aaron had died, and they mourned his death for thirty days.

Footnotes:

  1. 19.6 A priest: Or “Eleazar.”
  2. 19.6 hyssop: A plant with small clusters of blue flowers and sweet-smelling leaves.
  3. 20.1 first month: See the note at 9.3.
  4. 20.3 if we had died. . . sacred tent: See 16.41-49.
  5. 20.5 pomegranates: See the note at 13.23,24.
  6. 20.7,8 walking stick: A symbol of his authority.
  7. 20.17 the main road: The Hebrew text has “the King’s Highway,” which was an important trade route through what is today the country of Jordan. It connected the city of Damascus in Syria with the Gulf of Aqaba in southern Jordan.
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Luke 1:1-25

Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. So I made a careful study[a] of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus, I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard.

An Angel Tells about the Birth of John

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron.[b] Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.

One day Zechariah’s group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord’s temple that day and to burn incense,[c] 10 while the people stood outside praying.

11 All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12 Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13 But the angel told him:

Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14 His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15 Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.

16 John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah[d] had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.

18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this is going to happen? My wife and I are both very old.”

19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel, God’s servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. 20 You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to.”

21 The crowd was waiting for Zechariah and kept wondering why he was staying so long in the temple. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak, and they knew he had seen a vision. He motioned to them with his hands, but did not say a thing.

23 When Zechariah’s time of service in the temple was over, he went home. 24 Soon after that, his wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself, 25 “What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me.”[e]

Footnotes:

  1. 1.3 a careful study: Or “a study from the beginning.”
  2. 1.5 Aaron: The brother of Moses and the first priest.
  3. 1.9 burn incense: This was done twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
  4. 1.17 Elijah: The prophet Elijah was known for his power to work miracles.
  5. 1.25 keep people from looking down on me: When a married woman could not have children, it was thought that the Lord was punishing her.
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Psalm 56

(For the music leader. To the tune “A Silent Dove in the Distance.”[a] A special psalm by David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.)

A Prayer of Trust in God

56 Have pity, God Most High!
    My enemies chase me all day.
Many of them are pursuing
    and attacking me,
    but even when I am afraid,
    I keep on trusting you.
I praise your promises!
I trust you and am not afraid.
    No one can harm me.

Enemies spend the whole day
    finding fault with me;
    all they think about
    is how to do me harm.
They attack from ambush,
    watching my every step
    and hoping to kill me.
They won’t get away[b]
    with these crimes, God,
    because when you get angry,
    you destroy people.

You have kept record
    of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears
in your bottle
    and counted each of them.

When I pray, Lord God,
    my enemies will retreat,
    because I know for certain
    that you are with me.
10 I praise your promises!
11 I trust you and am not afraid.
    No one can harm me.

12 I will keep my promises
to you, my God,
    and bring you gifts.
13 You protected me from death
    and kept me from stumbling,
so that I would please you
    and follow the light
    that leads to life.

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 56 A Silent. . . Distance: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 56.7 They. . . away: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
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Proverbs 11:8

Trouble goes right past
the Lord’s people
    and strikes the wicked.

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