Apr 19 2008

5- Q. & A. ON OLD & NEW TESTAMENTS, THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

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SHORT NOTES ON THE BIBLE (5)

Q. & A.

Q: In your response to a previous question (Short Notes …#4), you described how the Law prepared for the coming of Christ, and helped in the understanding of His salvation. Inasmuch as the Church considers the New Testament an inseparable part of the Holy Bible (which includes both Testaments), the question now is: Of the Law and the Books of the Prophets (Old Testament), what remained, and what was superseded in the New Testament?

A: In brief, the following remained:

+ The history of mankind and his story with God, these are facts that do not drop by time.

+ The promises of God, His care for mankind from the beginning, and the preparation of a salvation for mankind after his fall.

+ The heroes of faith: Beside the incidents of human weakness which the Old Testament mentions and does not conceal, it presents remarkable personalities, the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11) who believed in the promises, lived and died in hope of the resurrection of the dead, and became guides for us in faith, repentance, worship, and obedience to God.

+ The prophecies, future visions, and the witness of people of the old testament to Christ e.g. David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the minor prophets (John 5:39, “… and these are they which testify of Me”).

+ The spirituality and wisdom, e.g. the Books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job.

+ Its revelations regarding the perfectness of the New Testament, God’s love to mankind, and His generosity in the act of giving, even to incarnation and death.

What have been superseded:

+ The confinement of God’s covenant to certain people (Israel): After the fulfillment of redemption by the coming of the Savior, God’s covenant has included all people (Acts 1:8 “…. to the end of the earth.”, Mark 16:15 “… all the world, … to every creature”, Luke 24:47 and Matthew 28:19″… to all the nations.”

+ The symbols or types for future antitypes (e.g. the offerings, the tent and the temple, and circumcision): After Christ has redeemed us on the cross, and has risen from the dead , He became our new Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), His body became the true temple (John 3:13, Ephesians 1:22, 23), and His circumcision (”putting off the body of sin” by baptism) replaced the Old Testament’s circumcision (Colossians 2:11, 12).

+ The immediate deadly punishments (Luke 9:54-56): They are no longer enforced because the age of grace and forgiveness has come (Jeremiah 31:34) after Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Colossians 2:14, 15).

+ The commitment to the 7th day (Saturday, when creation of the material world was finished) as a day of rest (The Sabbath, spiritually): This has been replaced by the 1st day of the new week (Sunday) on which we entered the real rest through the resurrection of the Son of God and through Him conquering death, sin, the devil and the world (John 5:17, Hebrews 4:3-5, Hebrews 4:10).

+ The literalism of the law and its old limitations (Matthew 5:17-48): The law of the Old Testament is perfected by the commandment of love (Luke 10:25), love being the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10) and the new commandment that suites the era of grace (Romans 6:14), incarnation and redemption.

+ Uncleanness of objects: Uncleanness became the contamination of the soul with sin (Titus 1:15, Matthew 15:11, Acts 10:15)

+ Divorce for any reason except sexual immorality: This restored to marriage its original sacredness which was before the first sin (Matthew 19:3-8) and exalted it to its highest example i.e. the mystery of Christ and Church (Ephesians 5:28-32).

So, is God changeable?

Of course not. The Old Testament (the first covenant) is transient in nature, and prepares for the New Testament. And the prophecies about the New Testament are given in the Old Testament: “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord….. I will put My laws in their mind, and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:7-13).

Man needed this long preparation in order for him to receive the New Testament and Christ’s salvation. To supersede the Old Testament does not mean to abolish it, but it means that the New Testament extends beyond it (the second mile). Commitment to the Old Testament only is a recoil and a turn back to the incomplete. Exclusive commitment to the New Testament alone is unreasonable because it is simply a continuation of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of its prophecies and the conclusion of the first beginning. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself did not ignore the Old Testament but fulfilled it and referred to it: “It is written”. Also, He said that “these (the scriptures) are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Also, the writers of the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation quoted it. And in the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, Moses and Elijah (i.e. the Law and the Prophets) appeared with Christ, testifying of Him and revealing their fellowship in His Kingdom.

In brief, the Holy Bible is one unit because it is One that has inspired it, and because there is only one Savior and one Kingdom for all of the faithful people from Adam until the end of all ages.

The book of Numbers

This is the fourth book of Moses’ Torah (the Pentateuch). It was called “Numbers” in the Septuagint translation (285 BC) because it contains the “census” history of the Israeli people, as especially revealed in chapters one, six and twenty of this book (36 chapters). However, the book tells also the story of the Israelites’ pilgrimage: their wandering in Sinai and their arrival to the plains of Moab in preparation to the crossing of the Jordan River to their destination, Canaan.

Summary of the book:

It is the book of struggle in the wilderness with total dependence on the enormous grace of God. It uncovers the saving work of God in preparing man for the inheritance of the true promised land. The book consists of a combination of Divine Laws and the detailed events of the pilgrimage in the wilderness of Sinai. Thus, the Book is trying to emphasize the role of God’s laws in our life as we proceed in our way to heavenly Jerusalem.

The Book also emphasizes that the Lord is the mystical source of our life and our peace. He is the Cloud that shades us, the Light that guides us, the heavenly food (communion) that nourishes us, and our victory over those who oppose us. But man, in his sinful nature (represented by the Israeli people), complains, murmurs and rebels repeatedly in return for God’s love. These actions revealed the lack of faith (i.e. unbelief, Hebrews 3:19) in the Israeli people and led God to prevent them from entering the promised land.

The Book also reveals the disastrous effects of sin, for which man is disciplined, whether he is a high priest (chapter 20), a prophet (chapter 12), a single individual or an entire group (chapter 21).

Also, in its beginning, the book points to the establishment of Priesthood, and later, in chapter 16, it shows the punishment of those revolting against Priesthood by excision from the group. This emphasizes our need for the Priestly work of Christ in heaven, and for His work through his priests for the sanctification of God’s people.

Subjects of the Book:

1) Preparation for Departure, (chapters 1-10):

After the release of the Israelites from Pharaoh’s dominance and their crossing of the Red Sea on their way towards the promised land, it was necessary to prepare the people for life in the wilderness. The census taken was a sign of God’s concern for each person. The arrangement of the camp in the form of a cross reveals to us that there is no passage to heavenly Jerusalem without the cross of Jesus Christ. Also, the organization of priesthood work indicates that our passage occurs only through our unity with the Highest Priest.

First census (chapter 1), Organization of the camp (chapter 2), The Levites as a ransom for the firstborn Israelites (chapter 3), Organization of the Levites service (chapter 4), Sanctification of the camp (chapter 5), The Law of the nazirite to the Lord (chapter 6), Offerings of the people (chapter 7), Ordaining of the Levites (chapter 8), The Lord’s guidance and leadership (chapter 9), The signals (sounds and calls) of the trumpets (chapter 10).

2) From Sinai to Moab, (chapters 10: 11-20)

The incidents at Kadesh-Barnea (chapters 13, 14) are of chief importance in this Book, and they are referenced again in the New Testament (Heb 3:7-19) and the Old Testament (Deut 1:21-46, Ps 95:7-11). In less than a year and half, the Israelites have crossed Sinai and arrived at the borders of the promised land (Kadesh-Barnea), but their unbelief in the presence of the Lord in their midst, and in His supreme power, despite their numerous past experiences of this power, provoked the wrath of God towards them, that He swore in His wrath that they should not enter into the promised land, and sent them wandering in the desert for 40 years. During this period, however, God protected His people and cared for them in an extraordinary way. The Israelites met this love with dissent and continuous complaining, and their hearts always went back to the land of slavery instead of looking forwards to Jerusalem. Not only that, but they also rebelled against the Leadership of Moses and the Priesthood of Aaron.

Departure from Sinai (chapter 10), Complaints of the Israelites and sending the quail (chapter

11), Moses marriage to the Ethiopian woman (an early indication that God accepts the gentiles as a bride for Himself), and Miriam’s punishment with leprosy (chapter 12), Spying on Canaan (chapter 13), Desire to return to slavery (chapter 14), The rebellion of Korah and his group against the priesthood of Aaron, and the flourishing of Aaron’s cane (chapters 16-17), Duties of the priests and their share (chapter 18), The Law of the red heifer (chapter 19), Water from the rock, punishment of Moses and Aaron, and death of Aaron (chapter 20), The way of victory – the Bronze Serpent (chapter 21).

3) Balaam’s Incident, (chapters 22-27)

Balak the king of Moab requested from Balaam (who was like a prophet among the gentiles) to curse God’s people. He was lured a lot. When he yielded to Balak’s enticement, the Lord opened the mouth of Blaam’s donkey to speak rebuking him. And Balaam could not curse the people that God did not curse (23:8), but he was ordered by God to bless them (23:20), and he was given a prophecy concerning the glorious era of David’s kingdom which is also a prototype of the Messiah’s Kingdom (24:17: A star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the head of Moab…).

The story of Balaam (chapter 22), Balaam’s five prophecies (chapters 23,24), Israel’s adultery by the counsel of Balaam (see 31:16) and the zeal of Phinehas the priest (chapter 25).

4) Preparations for the Crossing of Jordan, (chapters 26-36)

Second Census (chapter 26), The laws of inheritance and Joshua’s ordination to become Moses’ successor (chapter 27), Offerings and feasts (chapters 28, 29), The law concerning vows (chapter 30), The killing of the Midianities (chapter 31), Reuben and Gad settle in Gilead (chapter 32), Summary of the journey from Egypt through Sinai (chapter 33), The boundaries of the promised land (chapter 34), Cities of the Levites and cities of Refuge (chapter 35), The law of inheritance for woman (chapter 36).

Messianic Types:

1- The Smitten Rock, ch. 20:7-11, see 1Co. 10:4.

2- The Brass Serpent. ch. 21:6-9, see Jn. 3:14.

3- The Cities of Refuge, ch. 35, see Heb. 6:18.

4- The Daily Manna from Heaven, ch. 11:6-9, see Jn. 6:31-35, De. 8:2,3.

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Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make any copies from these notes and distribute them to your relatives and friends. The fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspondence.

Write to us: PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045.

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