Deuteronomy, chapters 1-3

“‘And you saw in the wilderness how Jehovah your God carried you just as a man carries his son, everywhere you went until you came to this place.’ […] Who was going ahead of you on the way, to spy out a place for you to camp. He appeared by fire at night and by a cloud in the daytime to show you the way you should walk.”
~Deuteronomy 1:31,33

During trying times, the future may appear to us like a dark, unknown wilderness.

It becomes much more difficult to discern what direction our life should take.

We need strong faith to trust that God will somehow provide us with all we need to sustain ourselves and our families (Ps. 37:25; Matt. 6:31).

A step in the wrong direction may set us back years financially or psychologically, or may even ruin our most intimate relationships.

Faith helps keep us cool-headed so that we do not rush toward the first available option or needlessly argue with our family, only to later regret it.

During their 40-year wandering, the Israelites lacked nothing (De. 2:7; 8:4).

Jehovah God visibly advised them of when to set up camp or when to move and in what direction.

Their leaders knew that they would some day arrive to the Promised Land if they kept following God’s guidance.

Nowadays, instead of fire or a cloud, we have God’s visible organization funneling spiritual food at the proper time’ to his people all over the earth (Matt. 24:45).

This spiritual food that nurtures our faith now comes in a new video and audio platform: Tv.jw.org.

There, we can find sound entertainment to help develop our ‘power to distinguish right and wrong’ (Heb. 5:14).

A mature faith will help us recognize what direction God wants us to head next and act accordingly.

Thus we will not wander around so much and the time it takes to arrive at the “Promised Land” will seem shorter (Rev. 21:4).

Numbers, chapters 30-32

Regarding any vow or any oath involving an abstinence vow to practice self-denial, her husband should establish it or her husband should annul it.
~Numbers 30:13

Under Mosaic Law, if a married Israelite woman made a vow to God, she had to communicate that vow to her husband that same day.

As head of the household, her husband had authority to either establish or annul the vow.

At first view, it seems God did not trust married women to make their own decisions, which could offend some of us.

However seeing it from a financial perspective it makes sense, because it was the husband’s responsibility to make ends meet and so any vow incurred by his wife might affect the family as a whole.

Let’s say for example that the wife vowed to donate 20% of the harvest instead of just the 10% the tithe required.

Now let’s imagine that in that year it did not really rain so there was not much grain to harvest and now they have more than five starving kids to feed.

It would make sense that the husband had the authority to annul his wife’s vow, ‘bearing the consequences of her guilt,’ (Nu. 30:15).

By requiring the vow to be communicated to her husband, the wife was also pressed to think twice before saying compromising things out of sentimentalism that were not thoroughly calculated.

Christian women are not obligated to have their husband’s approval before they enter spiritual compromises.

Many women in the first century converted to Christianity even when their husbands were unbelievers (1 Pet. 3:1).

However, the husband is still considered head of the household, so it is still wise on the part of a wife to communicate her decisions to him either before or soon after taking them, yielding to his advice whenever reasonable (Prov. 13:10; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor. 11:3).

She would thereby demonstrate respect for both Jehovah and her spouse and contribute to the whole family’s success.

Numbers, chapters 26-29

These were the ones registered by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they registered the Israelites in the desert plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among them there was no one who had been registered by Moses and Aaron the priest in the census of the Israelites taken in the wilderness of Sinai.
~Numbers 26:63,64

After 40 years of roaming the desert, the amount of male Israelites had actually decreased instead of increased.

The previous generation of males had been kept out of the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, and they had all died out except for Joshua and Caleb (Nu. 14:30; 26:65).

Upon once again reaching the verge of entering the Promised Land, Jehovah commanded Moses and the new High Priest, Eleazar to take a second census.

So we are able to clearly see the effect the trials in the desert had on Israelite families.

Tribe 1st Census 2nd Census
Reuben 46,500 43,730
Simeon 59,300 22,200
Gad 45,650 40,500
Judah 74,600 76,500
Isachar 54,400 64,300
Zebulun 57,400 60,500
Manasseh 32,200 52,700
Ephraim 40,500 32,500
Benjamin 35,400 45,600
Dan 62,700 64,400
Asher 41,500 53,400
Naphtali 53,400 45,400
Total 603,550 601,730

Those trials included:

  • Israel being defeated by the Amalekites when they tried to conquer the Promised Land against God’s orders (Nu. 14:39-45)
  • Some Israelites rebelling alongside Korah against Moses’s leadership and then being miraculously executed by God (Nu. 16:20-50)
  • Many Israelites growing weary and complaining about being liberated, and then being punished with venomous snakes (Nu. 21:4-9)
  • Fornicating and tainting true worship through the young men’s association with Moabite women (Nu. 25:9)

One can only wonder what habits led some families such as the ones composing the tribe of Simeon to drastically drop to less than half of its original members while other families, such as the ones belonging to the tribe of Manasseh, increased its members by 64%.

Was it their predominant attitude? Were their household heads more inclined to support and collaborate with Moses? Did they value the privilege of forming a people to represent God more than the other tribes? Did the males organize worship in a constant, regular way? Did the knowledge that the older generation had that it was not going to enter the Promised Land not deter it from doing all it could to support its children’s future?

Today, we are living in the last days (Matt. 24:3-14; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Still, many grandmothers and grandfathers who have spent their lives working in favor of Jehovah’s interests may not make it alive into the promised New World (2 Pet. 3:13).

It is inspiring to see their self-sacrificing, restless effort which greatly benefits the spiritual well-being of their families and congregations.

Numbers, chapters 22-25

But God said to Baʹlaam: “You must not go with them. You must not curse the people, for they are blessed,”
~Numbers 22:12

Balaam, to an extent, had knowledge of the true God, at one point calling Jehovah  ‘his God,’ (Nu. 22:18).

Still, he persisted in collaborating with the Midianites and the Moabites in their endeavor to curse Israel.

These people had a pagan form of worship involving sexual promiscuity in the sacrifices they offered to Ba’al of Pe’or (Nu. 25:1-3).

The chieftains had promised Balaam riches in exchange for a curse, for they acknowledged that ‘the one whom he blessed was blessed and the one whom he cursed was cursed,’ (Nu. 22:6).

What they did not take into account is that Jehovah cannot be bought out nor does he follow the orders of man.

In their practices of divination, these people implored favor of their gods without making personal sacrifices in the way of kindness, repentance or moral conduct.

Because of this and God’s promises to the patriarchs, he would never favor them over Israel.

Today, it would be wrong of us to pray for or persist in pursuing something that goes against God’s expressed will.

This is especially true if we are motivated by purely selfish reasons as in the case of Balaam, whose greed led him to lose all of God’s favor and be executed (Nu. 31:8).

Numbers, chapters 10-13

So all that day and all night and all the next day, the people stayed up and gathered the quail.
No one gathered less than ten ho′mers [2200 L, or 581 gall.], and they kept spreading them all around the camp for themselves.
But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it could be chewed, Jehovah’s anger blazed against the people, and Jehovah began striking the people with a very great slaughter.
~Nu. 11:32,33

Israel had traveled roughly 425 km (264 mi) when they started complaining about eating manna.

The “mixed-crowd,” or non-Israelites,who were in their midst then expressed selfish longing, and the Israelites too began to weep again and say: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?'” (Nu. 11:4).

Moses, brought to the brink of desperation, complained to Jehovah.

“From where will I get meat to give to all this people?
For they keep weeping before me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ […]
If this is how you are going to treat me, please kill me right now.
If I have found favor in your eyes, do not make me see any more calamity,” (Nu. 11:13,15).

Yes, even Moses, who had confronted Pharaoh, crossed the Red Sea on dry land, spoken with God on several occasions, laid down the foundations of law and religion for millions of people, even he had limitations and came to feel suicidal.

Jehovah heard Moses out and promised to bring meat to the people (Nu. 11:18).

Moses doubted this but Jehovah reassured him that he was perfectly capable of accomplishing the task, also noting that the people of Israel had hurt God’s own feelings with their ungrateful complaining (Nu. 11:20-23).

“Then a wind from Jehovah sprang up and began driving quail from the sea and causing them to fall around the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and they were about two cubits [89 cm, or 2.9 ft.] deep on the ground,” (Nu. 11:31).

The Awake! magazine from December of 2007 draws the following lesson:

When the Israelites desired meat to eat in the wilderness, Jehovah provided an abundance of quail.
Greed caused them selfishly to abuse that gift, greatly angering Jehovah God.
God has not changed since then.
Accordingly, responsible Christians avoid needless waste, which could be a sign of greed.
Some may view the unlimited consumption of energy or other resources as their right.
But natural resources should not be squandered simply because we can afford them or there is an abundance.
After Jesus miraculously fed a large crowd, he directed that the remaining fish and bread be gathered (John 6:12).
He was careful not to waste what his Father had provided.

And just as God exterminated those who made immoderate use of resources then, God warns us of our own future through a prophecy in the book of Revelation:

“[…] Your own wrath came, and the appointed time came […] to bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” (Re. 11:18).

Food for thought. 🙂

Numbers, chapters 7-9

You must separate the Levites from among the Israelites, and the Levites will become mine.
~Nu. 8:14

All the families in Israel received a type of inheritance.
In most cases, the inheritance constituted of land, but in the Levites’ case, it was a spiritual inheritance.
The Levites had the privilege of carrying out Jehovah’s service in matters of worship.

God said to them, “In their land you will not have an inheritance, and no portion of land among them will become yours. I am your portion and your inheritance in the midst of the Israelites,” (Nu. 18:20).

Today, Christian ministers are not born into their service.
It is a conscientious choice each one of us makes.

However, being a dedicated servant of God still calls for a modest lifestyle which involves economical sacrifices.
It is a vow we take that requires a lifelong commitment.
A dedicated Christian no longer belongs to him or herself, as in the case of the Levites.
We belong to God and his higher purpose (Matt. 16:24; 1 Pet. 2:21).

Although we are not born into our ministry, each one of us has innate gifts that we can use to serve Jehovah.
Within the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ministers may use their talents in various fields.

For example the Kingdom Hall or Bethel construction work calls for a wide range of abilities, including demolition, cooking, interior design, landscaping, carpentry, electrical work, and technical support, as well as more administrative roles.

Our website JW.org is the most translated website on earth and is maintained by volunteers who have a technical inclination.
At a branch level, there are translators, musicians, fashion designers, housekeepers and logistic experts, among others.

Then there are also the disaster relief groups which are composed of brothers and sisters with their own unique set of talents.

At a more localized level, we have our Christian elders and ministerial servants who sacrifice their after-work hours to prepare public talks and individual counsel, carry out administrative duties and organize our conventions.

All of us come from different walks of life but we strive to collaborate as the Levites would, as one family.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the field ministry aspect of our service since I started participating in it at the age of 12.

In the field ministry, one has to be able to hold a meaningful conversation with any type of person, from professors and church leaders to felons, foreign language speakers and the mentally ill.

I turn 32 today. I began serving as a full-time Pioneer exactly 16 years ago (volunteering an average of 70 hrs./month).
When compared to others, I am not particularly knowledgeable in any one field.
I do not have good physical nor emotional health.
I am not an energetic people-person, nor am I detail-oriented and goal-driven.

But what I am today, God has made me.
To the extent to which I have allowed him, he has made me his.
He has made ‘his joy my stronghold,’ (Ne. 8:10).
Serving Jehovah in the field ministry is my spiritual inheritance.

What is yours?

 

 

Numbers, chapters 4-6

[…] In the case of a man who becomes jealous and suspects his wife of unfaithfulness; he should make his wife stand before Jehovah, and the priest must carry out toward her all this law.

~Numbers 5:30

This passage stirs up negative feelings in me, so this post might come off as more subjective than others.

When an Israelite man suspected that his wife had been unfaithful to him but there were not enough witnesses, he had to bring her to trial before the priests and Jehovah.

There he was to offer “a grain offering of jealousy,” his wife had to publicly swear that she had been faithful to him, calling a curse upon herself in the case that she was lying, and then the priest would pick up dust from the tabernacle floor, put it in clean water and have her drink the water (Nu. 5:14-26).

I have read this passage a few times but have a hard time reconciling why God would put a woman through what seems to me an abuse of power and public humiliation when it was just as likely that she was innocent.

I therefor decided to investigate this law in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of it.

The law called on God to act as ultimate judge. The water she drank did not have special powers; it simply symbolized that the oath had been taken before Jehovah in a sacred place.

It was normal back then, even more so than it is today, for a sexually active woman to bear children.

But the curse the woman called down upon herself asked God to intercept this natural process by making her barren.

If the woman’s ‘abdomen swelled and thigh fell away,’ she would henceforth be incapable of having children, meaning God had found her guilty and he had punished her himself (Nu. 5:27).

This act of divine intervention would be the equivalent of a miracle- a negative miracle, seeing it from the woman’s perspective.

Now, obviously for this curse to be tested out, the husband had to have sexual relations with his wife. If she did not swell up and eventually ‘conceived and produced offspring,’ that would be testament of her innocence (Nu. 5:28).

I still have trouble assimilating the trauma and social stigma this exposed a woman to, the frustration she must have felt if she suspected him of being unfaithful, not having a law to process that, plus the lack of a way to identify the male adulterer in cases where the woman was in fact an adulteress.

However I have to note that there is a great deal of wisdom behind the law which basically required the man to lie down again with his wife.

From a marriage perspective, when a couple lies down together after a serious argument, it triggers something in one’s psychology that presses one to forgive the spouse and move past that obstacle in the relationship. It is what is colloquially called “make-up sex.”

Also the time that passed while trying to conceive allowed the couple to try to work their problems out over several months, instead of just recurring to divorce or stoning.

At this point I would like  to note that jealousy in itself is and always has been a sin, so if the accused woman bore a child, her husband was publicly regarded as having been wrong (Gal. 5:19,20).

And that can be pretty hard on a guy’s ego.

There are a lot of ‘what-if’ scenarios that must have arisen when this law was enforced, questions that modern fertility tests would answer for us impartially and without the need for divine intervention.

Certainly Mosaic Law did have its limitations, and where these laws fell short, justice became a matter of faith (Rom. 8:3).

For “there is only one who is Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy. But you, who are you to be judging […]?” (Jam. 4:12).

 

 

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 25-27

Furthermore, no condemned person who is set apart for destruction may be redeemed. He should be put to death without fail.
~Leviticus 27:29

When a person devoted to doing God’s will decides to deliberately disobey his concrete instructions, that person is committing spiritual suicide.

In ancient Israel, certain crimes carried the death penalty.

These crimes included: apostasy, idolatry, adultery, eating blood, and murder (De 13:12-18; Le 20:10; 17:14; Nu 35:31).

The law required for at least two witnesses to testify against the defendants and these same two witnesses had to be the ones to initiate the stoning process (De. 17:7).

Later, in first century Roman-ruled Judea, Jews were not at liberty to execute the criminals they convicted.

Instead, they had the practice of expelling someone, that is, shunning them from their community (John 9:22; 12:42).

Jesus passed this practice along to his disciples when he told them: ‘If your brother commits a sin and does not listen to the congregation, he should be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector,’ (Matt. 18:15-17).

Jews did not commingle with other races or tax collectors for they considered them unclean.

Three years after Jesus’ death, Christians went out to preach to all the nations, but the shunning-rule remained the same in regards to a person who did not repent of their serious sins (Acts 10:28; 1 Co. 5:11,13).

When someone very close to us turns their back on God, it is like a constant sting in our heart.

One wishes we could trade faiths with them, somehow warranting their salvation in exchange for our own.

This is impossible, for Psalm 49, verses 7 and 8 read:

None of them can ever redeem a brother
Or give to God a ransom for him,
(The ransom price for their life is so precious
That it is always beyond their reach)[…]”

The decision whether or not to serve God is strictly between the person, God and the ransom price he provided, Christ (1 Tim. 2:5,6; Rom. 5:8).

The only thing we can do for these loved ones is to set an example of integrity so that they may be moved to repent and come back to the congregation (2 Cor. 2:6-8).

Leviticus, chapters 17-20

If a foreigner resides with you in your land, you must not mistreat him. The foreigner who resides with you should become to you like a native among you; and you must love him as yourself […]
~Leviticus 19:33

The commandment here given stands in stark contrast to the violence going on in and around present-day Israel.

History books and modern politics would lead us to believe religion and war go hand in hand.

Both political and religious leaders have used God’s word as a disguise to dress themselves “in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves,” (Matt. 7:15).

Jesus applied the aforementioned law in his parable of the good Samaritan.

He made the parable more remarkable using irony in that it was the foreigner who was kind toward the Jew, and not his own religious leaders as one would expect (Luke 10:30-37).

Jesus was essentially restating Leviticus 19:18 when he instituted the following principle as the basis of conduct for his new followers: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean,” (Matt. 7:12).

Acknowledging the hypocritical breach of integrity characteristic of many leaders, Jesus also instructed his followers: “[…] All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say,” (Matt. 23:3).

It is important, then, to not blame God’s Word for religious or political conflict, because unlike men, God does not contradict himself.


Leviticus chapter 19 holds many interesting points relating to what it means to be a just person.
If you would like to build character, I invite you to meditate on the following:

Showing compassion toward the less materially fortunate- Lev. 19:9,10
Avoiding white collar crimes- Lev.19:11-13
Avoiding cruelty toward the disabled- Lev. 19:14
Keeping the criminal justice system fair- Lev. 19:15
Avoiding gossip- Lev. 19:16
Cultivate forgiveness- Lev. 19:18
Organic is better- Lev. 19:19
People who do not have equal rights should not be held equally accountable for their actions- Lev. 19:20
Superstitious behavior is unholy- Lev. 19:26
God’s view on self-harm/self-mutilation- Lev. 19:28
Pimping women is an abuse of power- Lev. 19:29
Honor the elderly- Lev. 19:32
Keep commercial transactions honest- Lev. 19:35,36

Leviticus, chapters 10-13

If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a male, she will be unclean for seven days […] If she should give birth to a female, she will then be unclean for 14 days […]
~Leviticus 12:2,5

Why this discrepancy in the length of time an Israelite woman would be considered unclean?

At first read it seems rather sexist.

What did being unclean imply?

During the time she was physically unclean, the woman was not to have sexual relations with her husband. This promoted self-discipline and hygiene in the Israelite culture. During the next 33 days, in the case of a baby boy, or 66 days, in the case of a baby girl, the mother was ceremonially unclean, which meant she was not to come into contact with holy objects (Lev. 12:4,5; Insight on the Scriptures, vol. ii, “Mother,” par. 3).

Why was the new mother “unclean” to begin with?

The research explains that because of the imperfect state of humanity, the reproductive organs which were once meant to pass perfect life, now actually pass the “inherited effects of sin,” that is, illness and death (Watchtower, 5/15/2004, p. 23; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12).

This ‘passing on of sin’ required some atonement, which is why God asked for a burnt offering and a sin offering, (Lev. 12:6).

These sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice which would atone for all of repentant humanity’s sins (Gal. 3:24; Heb. 9:13,14; 10:3,4).

To put this into a more familiar context, let us remember that even Mary recognized her own sinful state when she and Joseph presented baby Jesus at the temple and offered a humble sacrifice (Luke 2:22-24).

Israelite birth customs drew attention to our lamentable condition of being born in sin as opposed to perfection, and therefor highlighted the need for a savior from this state, the need for the expected Messiah.

So why the discrepancy in the length of “unclean” time between the sexes?

In the Bible, ‘the woman was created for the sake of the man,’ and not the other way around, (1 Cor. 11:9).

In family life, a woman is to subject to her husband’s role as head of the household (Eph. 5:22,23).

“Thus, from birth, the Law distinguished between male and female, assigning to the latter a subordinate position,” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. i, “Clean,” par. 11).

From this we can conclude that the time needed for a mother to become physically and ceremonially clean after giving birth to a girl served to remind society that not only were they all sinners, but females should subject to their husbands/fathers within family life.