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14th February

Numbers 17-18; Psalm 45

Bible in a Year
3 minutes
In this article
14th February

Numbers 17-18; Psalm 45

Bible in a Year
3 minutes


So far in Numbers we've read as the Israelites made the final preparations to leave Sinai, the journey to the promised land, and stop in the wilderness of Paran.

We read through all the preparations and new instructions that seemed like random rules but were actually a retelling of Genesis 1-9. Israel was to be a like a new creation, learning from the mistakes of the first time round.

We then read as Israel set off, established and ordered by God, only to immediately complain. They weren't happy there was no meat. Now that they should know better, God punished them harshly for their rebellion. But it wasn't just the people who complained. Aaron and Miriam, Moses' own brother and sister, challenged whether Moses was really hearing from God.

The Israelites then arrived in the wilderness of Paran, just outside Canaan. Moses sent 12 spies to check out the land, and 10 of the 12 complain that the land was filled with descendants of the nephilim and they had no chance. Even after all this, the people still don't trust God to provide for them.

Then yesterday, we read through the rebellion of the Levites led by Korah. Every section of the Israelites society was rebelling against God. The Israelites, unfortunately, are rebellious all the way through.

Numbers 17-18

Carrying on from yesterday’s rebellion, God once again decides to prove his commitment to Aaron and Moses as leaders of Israel. He asks Aaron and each of the leaders of the twelve tribes to offer a staff, and the staffs are left in his presence. 

The next day when the staffs are collected, the wood of Aaron’s staff is brought back to life and begins to flower and bud. When the people saw this, they finally realised their mistake and were afraid of what God would do to them.

God’s previous signs, the opening of the ground and the falling of fire, were signs of death and destruction. This sign, the budding of flowers, is meant to be a sign of life. In short, rebellion leads to death and destruction, while faithfulness to God leads to life.

So the Levites have rebelled through Korah, and God has reaffirmed for everyone that he has chosen the priests through the line of Aaron. Now it’s time to remind the people exactly what the responsibilities of the priests and the Levites are again so they don’t continue to get confused and rebel.

First of all, they are responsible for protecting the tabernacle. The Levites are to make sure non-Levites don’t get too close to the tabernacle, and the priest are to make sure that non-priests don’t enter the tabernacle. 

Then secondly, the priests are reminded that they get a portion of the offerings people bring. Meanwhile, the Levites get everything that is brought in as a tithe from all of Israel. This is to support them in their work and to make up for the fact they have no land or inheritance.

Psalm 45

This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah and falls into the category of royal psalm. Royal psalms are psalms that are focused on either God as king or on a human king. This psalm was likely recited at a royal wedding.    

Psalm 45:1 - The psalmist introduces themselves

Psalm 45:2-9 - Praise directed at the royal groom

Psalm 45:10-15 - Praise directed at the royal bride

Psalm 45:16-17 - Final blessings over the royal groom

The psalm opens with the psalmist declaring their intentions to sing the king a poem to mark his wedding day.

They then launch into praise for the king, describing his beauty and eloquence of his words. As a king, the psalmist encourages him to step into the authority and victory that is rightfully his, strapping on his sword and going out to battle.

The psalmist points to God’s throne and majesty. Just as God has conquered evil and reigns in power, he has allowed the king to conquer his enemies and reign with authority over the lad. 

Because of this, God has, and will continue to, bless the king with great riches. He has rich oils and fragrances to enjoy, as well as a palace and musicians. His court is filled with many great and upright women, and the greatest of them all stands next to him, ready to be his wife.

At this, the psalmist changes focus to the bride. They acknowledge the homesickness she must feel being away from her people and family, in a foreign land ready to marry the king. But they encourage her not to dwell on it too long.

Instead, she should take pride in her new husband for, as queen, she is also blessed with great luxuries. Her bed chamber is great, and she has many different expensive clothes to enjoy. The psalmist is trying to show her that she is no longer a daughter in her father’s house, but a queen in her own house.

And so, the psalmist turns back to the king and speaks a blessing over him. He will leave a legacy as his sons will one day take over from him, as he took over from his father and fathers before him. His memory will be upheld and he will be praised among the nations.

Psalm 45 is at face value a hymn to be sung at a royal wedding, and it has value as such. But as well that this psalm would take on a messianic quality, and would come to reflect Jesus’ relationship with the church. We know this because the writer of Hebrews would quote it in reference to Jesus (Hebrews 1:8-9). 

Like the bride, we are called to leave our old life behind and take pleasure in our new king and groom

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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