March 27: Numbers 8-9 | Proverbs 5 | Luke 19
Reading 1 - Numbers 9:15
"On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire" (Num 9:15).
THE CLOUD COVERED IT: This cloud intervened to shroud Yahweh's glory: "He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night" (Psa 105:39). In this way the cloud would give protection from the fierce sun that burns with great intensity in Sinai. This suggests that while the pillar of the cloud ascended from the area of the Most Holy Place, it acted like a canopy to protect the whole camp of Israel: compare Rev 7:16, where the truth is symbolically stated: "The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat." Figuratively, the heat of the sun represents persecution or anger, so that this suggests divine protection from such.
FROM EVENING TO MORNING: At all times of the day or night the divine protection was present: "The LORD watches over you -- the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm -- he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" (Psa 121:5-8).
THE CLOUD ABOVE THE TABERNACLE LOOKED LIKE FIRE: As the sun sank in the west, the cloud gradually changed, taking on the appearance of fire. The fire by night was an emblem of the protecting presence of Yahweh during the dark "night" of evil in which saints must live, as well as the "light" of truth which guides believers through the surrounding "darkness" of this world (Psa 119:105,130).
Reading 2 - Proverbs 5:15-18
"Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth" (Pro 5:15-18).
In slightly veiled and euphemistic language, these verses teach that a man should take sexual fulfillment from his wife only ("Drink waters from your own cistern"); otherwise, his "waters" (the sexuality of his own wife) will overflow into the streets for all and sundry. She will turn to other men ("sharing" the "waters" with "strangers"!) due to his unfaithfulness or neglect.
Thus, in v 15, the "waters" of one's own "cistern" signify the legitimate joys of pure marital relations; but in v 16, the "waters" that "overflow in the streets" and "the public squares" signify illicit sexual pleasures sought outside of marriage.
The other side of the picture -- with the same figure of speech -- appears in Pro 9:17,18: "Stolen water is sweet... But little do they know"... those who 'steal' such 'waters'... "that the dead are there" -- that is, that the adulterous man is drinking from a 'poisoned well'! What smell so "sweet" are in the fact the bloated and putrefying corpses of its previous victims, scattered all around him. And in the end such 'waters' will kill him too.
Reading 3 - Luke 19:20
"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth" (Luk 19:20).
This servant no doubt had the cleanest pound of all, but it had not grown! He had not been totally indifferent to his lord's gift, but his fear of failure had compelled him carefully to "protect" his pound. So he had wrapped it in a cloth and laid it up in some safe place, perhaps checking it from time to time, maybe even bringing it out, like some housewives do with fine silver, to polish and admire it. Our attitude toward the Gospel truth we have received can be similar to the attitude of this man. If we are fearful that we may "lose the Truth" and conscious only of "keeping the Truth pure", then we are in danger of forgetting what we are told to DO with it! The gospel is not a frail greenhouse flower that must have just the right temperature and humidity, and just the correct amount of light and water in order to survive. The gospel is very hardy; it is meant like the pound to be carried into the "market" of life, to the highways and byways, and to make gain for its user. We need have no fear for the Truth itself -- it springs from God and is impervious to corruption. We must only be careful that we put it to the use for which it is intended.
This same point is subtly made in other parables of Christ -- for example, the parables of the sower and the wheat and tares (Mat 13). Is it enough that we as husbandmen of the Lord's "field" be concerned with the uprooting of "weeds" or "tares"? Is it enough that we keep the field "pure"? There must be at least as much effort -- and more, much more -- directed toward the positive endeavor of sowing the seed. The farmer expects some imperfection in his field, and he puts up with it, knowing that his paramount interest must be in the production of grain. The harvest is soon enough for the last weeds or tares to be separated from the good grain.
It is so simple when we see it this way. But how many frustrated "sowers" have consumed their lives in the Truth in worry and agitation about the "purity" of the "field", so to speak, and never gotten around to their real duty? Let us strive for a proper balance in our service in the Truth, lest our intolerable and unbalanced attitude condemn us outright before our Judge (Luk 19:22).