Today our passages are Numbers 19:1–20:29; Luke 1:1-25; Psalm 56:1-13; and Proverbs 11:8. The readings are the Contemporary English Version. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal by using the link below.
Numbers 19-20:29 (Contemporary English Version)
The Ceremony To Wash Away Sin1-2The LORD gave Moses and Aaron the following law:
The people of Israel must bring Moses a reddish-brown cow that has nothing wrong with it and that has never been used for plowing. 3Moses will give it to Eleazar the priest, then it will be led outside the camp and killed while Eleazar watches. 4He will dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it seven times in the direction of the sacred tent. 5Then the whole cow, including its skin, meat, blood, and insides must be burned. 6A priest ] is to throw a stick of cedar wood, a hyssop ] branch, and a piece of red yarn into the fire. 7After the ceremony, the priest is to take a bath and wash his clothes. Only then can he go back into the camp, but he remains unclean and unfit for worship until evening. 8The man who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and take a bath, but he is also unclean until evening.
9A man who isn't unclean must collect the ashes of the burnt cow and store them outside the camp in a clean place. The people of Israel can mix these ashes with the water used in the ceremony to wash away sin. 10The man who collects the ashes must wash his clothes, but will remain unclean until evening. This law must always be obeyed by the people of Israel and the foreigners living among them.
What Must Be Done after Touching a Dead Body
The LORD said:11If you touch a dead body, you will be unclean for seven days. 12But if you wash with the water mixed with the cow's ashes on the third day and again on the seventh day, you will be clean and acceptable for worship. You must wash yourself on those days; if you don't, you will remain unclean. 13Suppose you touch a dead body, but refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes. You will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean and will no longer belong to the people of Israel.
14If someone dies in a tent while you are there, you will be unclean for seven days. And anyone who later enters the tent will also be unclean. 15Any open jar in the tent is unclean.
16If you touch the body of someone who was killed or who died of old age, or if you touch a human bone or a grave, you will be unclean for seven days.
17-18Before you can be made clean, someone who is clean must take some of the ashes from the burnt cow and stir them into a pot of spring water. That same person must dip a hyssop branch in the water and ashes, then sprinkle it on the tent and everything in it, including everyone who was inside. If you have touched a human bone, a grave, or a dead body, you must be sprinkled with that water. 19If this is done on the third day and on the seventh day, you will be clean. Then after you take a bath and wash your clothes, you can worship that evening.
20If you are unclean and refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes, you will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean, and you will no longer belong to the people of Israel. 21These laws will never change.
The man who sprinkled the water and the ashes on you when you were unclean must also wash his clothes. And whoever touches this water is unclean until evening. 22When you are unclean, everything you touch becomes unclean, and anyone who touches you will be unclean until evening.
Water from a Rock
(Exodus 17.1-7)1The people of Israel arrived at the Zin Desert during the first month ] and set up camp near the town of Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried. 2The Israelites had no water, so they went to Moses and Aaron 3and complained, " Moses, we'd be better off if we had died along with the others in front of the LORD's sacred tent. ] 4You brought us into this desert, and now we and our livestock are going to die! 5Egypt was better than this horrible place. At least there we had grain and figs and grapevines and pomegranates. ] But now we don't even have any water." 6Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the sacred tent, where they bowed down. The LORD appeared to them in all of his glory 7-8and said, " Moses, get your walking stick. ] Then you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water. That's how you will provide water for the people of Israel and their livestock." 9Moses obeyed and took his stick from the sacred tent. 10After he and Aaron had gathered the people around the rock, he said, " Look, you rebellious people, and you will see water flow from this rock!" 11He raised his stick in the air and struck the rock two times. At once, water gushed from the rock, and the people and their livestock had water to drink.
12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, " Because you refused to believe in my power, these people did not respect me. And so, you will not be the ones to lead them into the land I have promised."
13The Israelites had complained against the LORD, and he had shown them his holy power by giving them water to drink. So they named the place Meribah, which means " Complaining."
Israel Isn't Allowed To Go through Edom14Moses sent messengers from Israel's camp near Kadesh with this message for the king of Edom:
We are Israelites, your own relatives, and we're sure you have heard the terrible things that have happened to us. 15Our ancestors settled in Egypt and lived there a long time. But later the Egyptians were cruel to us, 16and when we begged our LORD for help, he answered our prayer and brought us out of that land.
Now we are camped at the border of your territory, near the town of Kadesh. 17Please let us go through your country. We won't go near your fields and vineyards, and we won't drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the main road ] until we leave your territory. 18But the Edomite king answered, " No, I won't let you go through our country! And if you try, we will attack you."
19Moses sent back this message: " We promise to stay on the main road, and if any of us or our livestock drink your water, we will pay for it. We just want to pass through."
20But the Edomite king insisted, " You can't go through our land!"
Then Edom sent out its strongest troops 21to keep Israel from passing through its territory. So the Israelites had to go in another direction.
Aaron Dies22After the Israelites had left Kadesh and had gone as far as Mount Hor 23on the Edomite border, the LORD said, 24" Aaron, this is where you will die. You and Moses disobeyed me at Meribah, and so you will not enter the land I promised the Israelites. 25Moses, go with Aaron and his son Eleazar to the top of the mountain. 26Then take Aaron's priestly robe from him and place it on Eleazar. Aaron will die there."
27Moses obeyed, and everyone watched as he and Aaron and Eleazar walked to the top of Mount Hor. 28Moses then took the priestly robe from Aaron and placed it on Eleazar. Aaron died there.
When Moses and Eleazar came down, 29the people knew that Aaron had died, and they mourned his death for thirty days.
- Numbers 19:6 A priest: Or " Eleazar."
- Numbers 19:6 hyssop: A plant with small clusters of blue flowers and sweet-smelling leaves.
- Numbers 20:1 first month: See the note at 9.3.
- Numbers 20:3 if we had died. . . sacred tent: See 16.41-49.
- Numbers 20:5 pomegranates: See the note at 13.23,24.
- Numbers 20:7 walking stick: A symbol of his authority.
- Numbers 20:17 the main road: The Hebrew text has " the King's Highway," which was an important trade route through what is today the country of Jordan. It connected the city of Damascus in Syria with the Gulf of Aqaba in southern Jordan.
Luke 1:1-25 (Contemporary English Version)
Luke 11Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. 2They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. 3So I made a careful study ] of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus, 4I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard.
An Angel Tells about the Birth of John5When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron. ] 6Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded. 7But they did not have children. Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old. 8One day Zechariah's group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest. 9According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord's temple that day and to burn incense, ] 10while the people stood outside praying. 11All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar. 12Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel. 13But the angel told him:
Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayers. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John. 14His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad. 15Your son will be a great servant of the Lord. He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.
16John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God. 17He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah ] had. And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children. And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to. That is how John will get people ready for the Lord. 18Zechariah said to the angel, "How will I know this is going to happen? My wife and I are both very old."
19The angel answered, "I am Gabriel, God's servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. 20You have not believed what I have said. So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens. But everything will take place when it is supposed to."
21The crowd was waiting for Zechariah and kept wondering why he was staying so long in the temple. 22When he did come out, he could not speak, and they knew he had seen a vision. He motioned to them with his hands, but did not say a thing.
23When Zechariah's time of service in the temple was over, he went home. 24Soon after that, his wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house. She said to herself, 25"What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me." ]
- Luke 1:3 a careful study: Or " a study from the beginning."
- Luke 1:5 Aaron: The brother of Moses and the first priest.
- Luke 1:9 burn incense: This was done twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon.
- Luke 1:17 Elijah: The prophet Elijah was known for his power to work miracles.
- Luke 1:25 keep people from looking down on me: When a married woman could not have children, it was thought that the Lord was punishing her.
Psalm 56:1-13 (Contemporary English Version)
(For the music leader. To the tune "A Silent Dove in the Distance." (Psalm 56 A Silent. . . Distance: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.) A special psalm by David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.)
A Prayer of Trust in God1Have pity, God Most High!
My enemies chase me all day.
2Many of them are pursuing
and attacking me,
3but even when I am afraid,
I keep on trusting you.
4I praise your promises!
I trust you and am not afraid.
No one can harm me.
5Enemies spend the whole day
finding fault with me;
all they think about
is how to do me harm.
6They attack from ambush,
watching my every step
and hoping to kill me.
7They won't get away ] with these crimes, God,
because when you get angry,
you destroy people.
8You have kept record
of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears
in your bottle
and counted each of them.
9When I pray, LORD God,
my enemies will retreat,
because I know for certain
that you are with me.
10I praise your promises!
11I trust you and am not afraid.
No one can harm me.
12I will keep my promises
to you, my God,
and bring you gifts.
13You protected me from death
and kept me from stumbling,
so that I would please you
and follow the light
that leads to life.
- Psalm 56:7 They. . . away: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
Proverbs 11:8 (Contemporary English Version)
German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter, Hermann Hesse wrote, “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”