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March 26: Numbers 7 | Proverbs 4 | Luke 18

Reading 1 - Numbers 7

"When the tabernacle had been constructed and fully set up according to the pattern shown to Moses in the Mount, and when it had been anointed and sanctified with all its instruments and vessels for the service, a circumstance happened that added much grace to the dedication ceremonies of the day.

"The twelve princes of the tribes -- heads of the congregation -- brought to Moses a present of six covered wagons and twelve strong oxen, to be used in the service of the tabernacle. A more useful present could not in the circumstances be imagined.

"The tabernacle had to be shifted from place to place with the changes of camp while the host was on the march. Though it was a portable structure -- capable of being taken to pieces -- many of its parts were heavy, such as the sockets for the pillars of the courts, which would weigh about a hundredweight each. The pillars themselves would be heavy pieces of timber, and so also would be the boards of the tabernacle. The golden candlestick also would be heavy, and the table of shewbread with its golden crown and cherubim. The business of carrying them on the journeys would be very laborious.

"The princes had evidently consulted together on the matter, and had agreed jointly to make a present of the wagons to lighten the work.

"But would the present be accepted in connection with a work wholly divine? The princes may have had their doubts on this, and Moses himself may not have been clear. Whatever uncertainty may have existed was dispelled by the direction that Moses received when the princes brought their offering before the tabernacle. We read (v 89) that 'when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation, he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of the testimony from between the two cherubim.' The message as to the wagons was this: 'Take the offering of the princes, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.' [Num 7:5] Not only so, but Moses was told exactly what disposal to make of them. 'Give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.' It will be remembered that to the Levites, under the superintendence of Aaron, was assigned the work of packing up and carrying the various parts of the tabernacle while on the march and to each particular family was allotted particular parts: to the sons of Kohath, the holy vessels and furniture of the tabernacle; to the sons of Gershon, all the curtains and hangings and pins and cords; to the sons of Merari, all the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets. The distribution of the wagons was according to these services: four wagons and eight oxen were given to the sons of Merari, who had to see after all the heavy parts: two wagons and four oxen were given to the sons of Gershon, who had to carry the curtains and hangings, which must have been of some bulk to enclose a court 150 feet by 75. To the sons of Kohath, none were given, 'because the service of the sanctuary belonging to them was that they should bear on their shoulders' -- that is, the ark, the incense altar, the table of shewbread, etc.

"Two things strike us in connection with the whole episode. God accepts co-operation in forms He has not prescribed if they are in subservient harmony with His requirements. The twelve princes were in submission to Moses and in subjection to the tabernacle and the whole law connected with it. The object of their voluntary gift was to help and further a divine work appointed. Had they brought the materials for a second tabernacle, or a second camp, we cannot but suppose that the offering would not only not have been accepted, but would have been spurned as an act of presumption, like Nadab's and Abihu's offering of strange fire. But being in no rivalry to the divine work, but conceived in the spirit of helpfulness and being a wise measure, God approved and accepted it.

"We see the same feature in the case of Jethro's recommendation to Moses that he should delegate his authority in small matters to subordinate officers. God approved of the suggestion of Jethro, and it became a commandment to Moses to do as Jethro had suggested (Exo 18:13-26; Deu 1:9-18). From this we may draw the useful conclusion that the arrangements we are obliged to make in this latter day in the absence of divine direction, will receive the divine sanction and favour provided they are made in the sincere spirit of desiring to help the Lord's work, and are in harmony with the requirements of that work as specified in the word of Jesus and the apostles. The use of the printing press and the holding of meetings for lectures are of this nature. We may hope presently to hear that the Lord approves of them as a doing of our best in an age when His purpose requires that He should be silent" (Robert Roberts, "Law of Moses" 307-309).

Reading 2 - Proverbs 4:23

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Pro 4:23).

Or, as AV, "out of it are the issues of life".

"We can control deeds and words and in large measure we can control thought. We know perfectly well that in the myriad thoughts which flash through the mind there is the usual admixture of good and evil associated with all things human. Some thoughts are noble and elevating carrying with them an influence for good. Some thoughts are evil and if encouraged will lead to sin and death. Some thoughts are definitely good and helpful even if not noble and elevating. Some thoughts are mean and petty and will degrade the character even if they are not sinful.

"No normal being can prevent unworthy thoughts from flitting through the mind as they are presented from outside or thrown up from the subconscious, but every normal being can decide which thoughts to encourage and which to reject. We have that which has been described as a spot light of attention which we can turn on to any line of thought we care to choose. We have a power which has been described as 'awareness', and we are not merely the creatures of mood and feeling. If a thought takes shape in the mind we are usually quite aware of its quality. Is it noble, good, useful, legitimately interesting or amusing, weak, foolish, or definitely evil? We could place most thoughts in one of these categories.

"Even if feeling is aroused, we are aware of the feeling and its tendencies. We can choose whether we encourage the feeling or thrust it from the mind by something more worthy. Sometimes men say with Jonah, 'I do well to be angry', [Jon 4:9] when they are aware that they are not doing well at all. Often they exaggerate a grievance knowing that they are exaggerating. They can control such matters if they will.

"Even thoughts which are soon forgotten may leave a permanent effect on the tablets of the heart, so that there is need for constant vigilance. A man who is wise enough to give heed to the words of greater wisdom will soon learn how to make use of his awareness and his powers of self control. He will not merely aim to control his actions in the hour of supreme trial, when yielding to impulse might lead to disaster; he will encourage the right kind of thought every day, making the right choice in little matters where the task is easy, and so building up stores of strength and character for the hour of trial when the right choice is difficult. All this and much more is suggested by the words, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life' " (Islip Collyer, "Principles and Proverbs").

Reading 3 - Luke 18:1

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luk 18:1).

The AV has: "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

"[What is the context? In Luk 17...] Then there follow solemn words about the hardship and difficulties which they will have to face in seeking to keep true to their calling. He says that if they would keep their life they will have to lose it. He enforces his warning by reminding them of the days of Noah and the days of Lot, and tells them in effect that their experience will be similar. They will have to face stress and strain in holding fast to the faith. Indeed, later on he will tell them of a day when men's hearts will faint for fear when they see awful things coming upon Jerusalem. And therefore he spake a parable unto them, to this end, that they ought always to pray and not to faint.

"Think what fainting means. The dictionary says that to faint is to become weak, to be feeble, without strength -- to lose courage, to give way. In the Bible it has to do with weariness, for Paul says, 'Be not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not' (Gal 6:9). It look as though not to be weary is not to faint. We must understand what weariness is. It is not tiredness. Tiredness is a blessed thing which comes from working and which makes us rest so that we are restored and ready to work again.

"But weariness is different -- it is not a blessing but a curse. It is losing heart. It is a feeling that things are not worth doing. It means beginning each task with a sigh instead of a smile. It is being dispirited, without motivation. It is losing hope. The words of Isaiah can help us to understand fainting: 'Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall" (Isa 40:30). The young men represent the strongest and most virile force in the nation -- those most likely to keep the city, to hold fast and remain true. Even these shall fail and their awful failure is described in these words: fainting and weariness.

"On the other hand, mark those who triumph, for the contrast is a revelation: 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa 40:31). Here is a definition by contrast: to faint is to be without eagle wings; not to run, not even to walk. In Bible terms it is an awful disability; a paralysis leading to impotence; withered by weakness and wasted by weariness.

"Jesus says that if disciples desire to avoid fainting they must pray. He does not seem to admit of any middle position. It is one thing or the other. If men pray they will not faint and if they do faint it will be because they have ceased to pray" (Dennis Gillett, "Genius of Discipleship").