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52 The Eternal One spoke to Moses.
God has promised the children of Abraham from the very beginning until this day that they will inherit this land. Now it is time.
Eternal One: 53 The land shall be divided up following the number of ancestral families—twelve. 54 If one clan has a lot of people in it, then it should receive a large amount of land; if the clan is small, then assign it a smaller plot. Every extended family will be allotted land in proportion to its size, and that particular land will be considered its inheritance. 55 Nevertheless, the assignments will be based on lots, and the assigned land will be inherited only within the clan. 56 Among the large and small clans, property will be divided by lots.
In this system, Levi is an exception. Because of their priestly status, they don’t serve in the military and don’t get a portion of land.
57 So the Levites were listed according to their clans of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 58 The clans of Levi include Libnites, Hebronites, Mahlites, Mushites, and Korahites. 59 For the record, when Levi was still in Egypt, he had a daughter, Jochebed. She married Amram, the son of Kohath. Jochebed bore Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam. 60 Aaron fathered Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 61 Nadab and Abihu died when they presumed to offer a strange fire to the Eternal One. 62 The total number of Levite men, one month and older, was 23,000. They were not counted along with the rest of the people of Israel since they did not have a land inheritance.
63 These are the people and their numbers that Moses and his nephew, Eleazar the priest, organized into armies when they stood on the plains of Moab, just across the Jordan River, east of Jericho. 64 Not a single one of the people organized this time by Moses and Priest Aaron were among those so many years ago, when they added up the Israelites in the Sinai Wilderness. 65 The Eternal One had declared that the previous generation had to die in the wilderness. No one was remaining from that generation except for Caleb (Jephunneh’s son) and Joshua (Nun’s son).
As God has said, an entire rebellious generation must die off before anyone can enter the long-awaited and much-anticipated land of milk and honey.
27 Now Zelophehad’s five daughters came forward. Zelophehad came from the Manasseh family (he was a son of Joseph’s). Zelophehad’s father was Hepher, his grandfather was Gilead, and his great-grandfather was Machir. The girls’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They approached the congregation tent and boldly stood in front of Moses, the priest Eleazar, the Israelite clan chiefs, and even before the whole congregation.
Zelophehad’s Daughters: 3 Our father died in the wilderness; he wasn’t part of Korah’s coup that tried to undermine the authority of the Eternal One. He just died having committed his own wickedness like everyone else in his generation, but he left no sons. 4 Why should his name disappear from his clan simply because no boys were born to him? We request that you give us land of our own, just as you are giving it to the descendants of our uncles.
Zelophehad didn’t have any sons, and their inheritance—claim to the land—will die with him and his place among the people for all generations.
5 Moses disappeared inside the tent to ask the Eternal One what should be done, 6 and He answered Moses.
Eternal One: 7 Zelophehad’s daughters make a good point. They’re right, so do as they ask. Give them an inheritance such as would be given to a son. They shall have land alongside their uncles’ families. 8 Moreover, tell the Israelites that in the future they should pass the inheritance to the daughter if there is no son. 9 If a man doesn’t have any daughters either, then after he dies, his property shall go to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then it should go to his uncles. 11 If no uncles, then whoever is his closest relative, give the property to him. This is the system you should apply as a permanent law for the Israelites, coming from Me through Moses.
12 (later God called to Moses) Hike up here, to the top of this mountain amidst the Abarim peaks. When you get to the top, you’ll be able to see the land I’ve already given to the Israelites. 13 After you’ve had that glance, you will join your ancestors, as your brother Aaron did not so long ago. 14 You will not set foot in the promised land, even after all you’ve done for Me and this people because you didn’t follow My instructions back in the Zin Wilderness when the people argued and rebelled. You failed to treat me as holy at the waters before the eyes of the people. This happened at the water called Meribah, in Kadesh of the Zin Wilderness.
15 Then Moses addressed the Eternal One.
Moses: 16-17 Please, take care of these people. Eternal One, God of the spirit in all human beings, see to it that an able leader is appointed to guide and direct Your people by going out and coming in before them so that they are not like sheep without a shepherd.
Eternal One (to Moses): 18-19 Single out Joshua (Nun’s son). In him is the breath of My Spirit. Before the whole congregation, bring him to stand before the priest, Eleazar. Put your hand on him, and commission him into leadership. 20 You should make clear that you are investing him with some of your authority, so that every Israelite accepts his leadership. 21 Joshua shall consult with Eleazar the priest, who will ask of Me (by consulting the Urim and Thummim) to show how they should proceed. In other words, Eleazar will consult the oracle and indicate when the people should go forward and when they should pull back, both he and the congregation of Israel.
Attention now shifts to their future in the land. Just as God has used Moses and Aaron to lead the congregation up until now, a new leader must be trained and in place for Israel to move forward. Remember that Moses and Aaron must be replaced because they are part of that unfaithful generation God won’t allow into the land; they, too, acted against Him and are being punished in spite of their consistent favor with God. The preparation to enter the land needed only a couple of years for God to provide the law, the plans for the congregation tent, and an orderly structuring of the tribes. But the time in the wilderness has stretched on for another 38 years because it took a generation for God to purge the lack of belief on the part of the people.
22-23 Moses did with Joshua and Eleazar exactly what the Eternal One instructed; he laid his hands on Joshua to indicate this transfer of authority. Just as the Eternal One commanded, Moses did.
28 The Eternal One said to Moses,
Eternal One: 2 Make clear to the Israelites that they should make their offerings for My food and fire offerings as a soothing aroma, when they bring their sacrifices at the appointed time. 3 Tell them that the gifts they present to Me each and every day by fire should include two spotless, male, yearling lambs— 4 one in the morning and the other between dusk and evening. 5 They should be sure to include a grain offering (about two quarts of the best flour mixed with about one quart of oil, from the first pressing). 6 I commanded at Sinai that this is to be done regularly, burned up to Me by fire in that soothing aroma as a food offering. 7 The drink offering to go with each lamb each time should be about one quart of the strong wine, poured out for Me in the sacred area. 8 Do the same for the second lamb and its grain and drink offerings between dusk and evening as a soothing aroma to Me.
9-10 Once a week, on the Sabbath, they shall add to the regular daily offering of meat and drink another two male yearling lambs (unmarred by injuries or deformities) and make the grain offering of about four quarts of the best flour mixed with oil and a drink offering.
11 At the beginning of each month, add to the regular, daily burnt and drink offering these things: two male calves, a ram, and seven male lambs, all perfect yearlings. 12-13 As for the grain offering to go along with each bull, mix about six quarts of that prime flour with oil; prepare another offering to go with the ram out of about four quarts of prime flour mixed with oil and an offering for each lamb out of about two quarts of prime flour mixed with oil. These should be burnt. It is a soothing aroma of a food offering to Me. 14 The drink part of the offering shall be figured like this each month: accompanying each bull-calf, offer about two quarts of wine; one and one-quarter quarts for the ram; and one quart for each lamb. With this particular monthly offering, 15 they should add a male goat and the corresponding burnt and drink offerings to serve as a gift in recognition of their sin offering.
3 Our story continues 15 years after Tiberius Caesar had begun his reign over the empire. Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod ruled Galilee, his brother Philip ruled Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruled Abilene.
More than any other Gospel writer, Luke wants to situate the story of Jesus in secular history. In particular, he gives details of the emperor, governor, and other client rulers. With a toxic mixture of cruelty and might, these authorities lord their power over the common people. Yet these high and mighty are—as Mary’s poem describes—destined to be brought down in the presence of a new kind of king and a new kind of kingdom. Jesus will exercise His authority in a radically different way—not through domination and violence, but through love, healing, compassion, and service.
John’s father Zacharias is a priest who serves in Jerusalem at the temple. Among their other duties, priests perform ritual cleansings necessary for Jewish worshipers who become ceremonially unclean—perhaps through contact with outsiders (non-Jewish people), perhaps through contact with blood or a dead body, perhaps through a physical illness. But when John appears on the scene, he hasn’t followed in his father’s footsteps. He’s not fulfilling the role of the priest, but rather of the prophet. He works far outside of Jerusalem, and he baptizes people in the Jordan River, not near the temple. It’s as if John is performing a symbolic drama: If you want to be in tune with God, the temple and its normal routines can’t help you anymore. Instead of being cleansed there, you should come out to this radical preacher and let him cleanse you in the river. And his message isn’t a polite, tame message. It’s fiery and intense! God isn’t interested in just routine religion. He wants changed lives!
2 In Jerusalem Annas and Caiaphas were high priests in the temple. And in those days, out in the wilderness, John (son of Zacharias) received a message from God.
3 John brought this divine message to all those who came to the Jordan River. He preached that people should be ritually cleansed through baptism as an expression of changed lives for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As Isaiah the prophet had said,
A solitary voice is calling:
“Go into the wilderness;
prepare the road for the Eternal One’s journey.
In the desert, repair and straighten
every mile of our True God’s highway.
5 Every low place will be lifted
and every high mountain,
every hill will be humbled;
The crooked road will be straightened out
and rough places ironed out smooth;
6 Then the radiant glory of the Eternal One will be revealed.
All flesh together will take it in.”[a]
7 In fulfillment of those words, crowds streamed out from the villages and towns to be baptized[b] by John at the Jordan.
John the Baptist: You bunch of venomous snakes! Who told you that you could escape God’s coming wrath? 8 Don’t just talk of turning to God; you’d better bear the authentic fruit of a changed life. Don’t take pride in your religious heritage, saying, “We have Abraham for our father!” Listen—God could turn these rocks into children of Abraham!
9 God wants you to bear fruit! If you don’t produce good fruit, then you’ll be chopped down like a fruitless tree and made into firewood. God’s ax is taking aim and ready to swing!
People: 10 What shall we do to perform works from changed lives?
John the Baptist: 11 The person who has two shirts must share with the person who has none. And the person with food must share with the one in need.
12 Some tax collectors were among those in the crowd seeking baptism.[c]
Tax Collectors: Teacher, what kind of fruit is God looking for from us?
John the Baptist: 13 Stop overcharging people. Only collect what you must turn over to the Romans.
Soldiers: 14 What about us? What should we do to show true change?
John the Baptist: Don’t extort money from people by throwing around your power or making false accusations, and be content with your pay.
15 John’s bold message seized public attention, and many began wondering if John might himself be the Anointed One promised by God.
John the Baptist: 16 I baptize[d] you with water, but One is coming—One far more powerful than I, One whose sandals I am not worthy to untie—who will baptize[e] you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is coming like a farmer at harvesttime, tools in hand to separate the wheat from the chaff. He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire, and He will gather the genuine wheat into His barn.
18 He preached with many other provocative figures of speech and so conveyed God’s message to the people—the time had come to rethink everything. 19 But John’s public preaching ended when he confronted Herod, the ruler of Galilee, for his many corrupt deeds, including taking Herodias, the ruler’s sister-in-law, as his own wife. 20 Herod responded by throwing John into prison.
21 But before John’s imprisonment, when he was still preaching and ritually cleansing through baptism[f] the people in the Jordan River, Jesus also came to him to be baptized. As Jesus prayed, the heavens opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit came upon Him in a physical manifestation that resembled a dove. A voice echoed out from heaven.
Voice from Heaven: You are My Son,[g] the Son I love, and in You I take great pleasure.
1 Hear me, O God, when I cry;
listen to my prayer.
2 You are the One I will call when pushed to the edge,
when my heart is faint.
Shoulder me to the rock above me.
3 For You are my protection,
an impenetrable fortress from my enemies.
4 Let me live in Your sanctuary forever;
let me find safety in the shadow of Your wings.
5 You have heard the promises I made, O God.
You have laid upon me the legacy due to those who fear Your name.
6 Extend the king’s life, day after day;
increase his years for many generations.
7 May he be ever present before God,
attended and guarded by Your loyal love and truth.
8 So I will never stop singing Your praise;
as long as I live, I will fulfill my promise.
16 A gracious woman acquires honor,
but cruel people are only interested in acquiring money.
17 Kindness is its own reward,
but cruelty is a self-inflicted wound.