More Satisfying Than Cotton Candy

Have you ever tried to stuff your mouth full of cotton candy? For some reason, I can stuff a big wad in my mouth, and by the time I stick a second wad in my admittedly large mouth, the first wad is already gone.

In today’s reading, we’re going to look at something that satisfies much more than cotton candy.

TODAY’S READING

Numbers 2:1-3:51
Mark 11:27-12:17
Psalm 47:1-9
Proverbs 10:24-25

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Numbers 3. The account of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, is recounted at the beginning of the chapter. Obviously, their demise was significant. If you don’t remember, God struck them dead for offering him “strange” or “unauthorized” fire (reread Leviticus 10:1). This brings to mind the responsibility of ministering to people on behalf of God. While God commissions all of us into his priesthood of believers (see 1 Peter 2:9), those of us in Christian leadership bear added responsibility to model lives of authentic integrity. For this reason, James tells us “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

Mark 12:1-12. Jesus’ parable about the wealthy landowner and the vineyard is clearly an allusion to Isaiah 5:1-2. In the Old Testament passage, the vineyard is compared to Israel.

In verses 3-5, the tenants—who in everyday life held few rights—treat the landowner mercilessly. In a complete reversal of cultural norms, the tenants act as if they have the power.

In verses 6-8, the landowner sends his own son, but the tenants believe that if they kill the son, they will inherit the land. But everyone in Jesus’ day knew this wouldn’t happen. The landowner could choose someone else to inherit the land. So, Jesus portrays the tenants as wicked and stupid. The religious leaders knew Jesus was referring to them.

Mark 12:13-17. The Pharisees and Herodians set up a trick question for Jesus. When they asked him if they should pay taxes to Caesar, they knew if he said “yes,” he would be viewed as a conspirator with the Roman government. Patriotic Jews would then have reason to reject him. If he answered “no,” the Romans could arrest him.

Instead, Jesus asked for a Roman coin and asked whose portrait was on it. By showing him one of their coins, they proved they were conspirators—because they carried Roman currency rather than Jewish currency which lacked the image of the emperor. But also, by carrying coinage with Caesar’s portrait, they were breaking the second commandment which says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath” (Exodus 20:4).

Psalm 47. The translation in verse 2 is incorrect. Here’s how the first verses of this psalm currently read:

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!

Instead, it should read:

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!

We can clap our hands and shout to God in praise because he is awesome. The word “awesome” can be also translated “feared” or “revered.” It’s the same basic word used in Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” He’s someone to be taken seriously.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

On the surface, Numbers 2 seems like pretty dry reading. I mean, what relevance can we distill from Israel’s camp set-up?

A great deal!

Situated at the center of their encampment was the tabernacle. God wanted to be at the center of the lives of his people. He promised to be with them—but he also wanted them to be with him.

I confess that as a pastor, I so easily construct my day without Jesus at the center of my plans.

And, I must also confess that at times, I don’t want him at the center of my life. I’d much prefer to be at the center of MY life.

Placing Jesus at the center means keeping my heart attuned to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It means obeying him when everything within me cries for self-gratification. It means forgetting about myself.

Yet trying to fill myself up with more of me is about as satisfying as that cotton candy. I can never get enough to fill that ravenous appetite within.

Only Jesus satisfies.

My favorite worship song right now is called Center—written by Charlie Hall. I invite you to listen to the video and spend a little time meditating on the words. Please join me…

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you make a place for God at the center of your life?
  3. What prevents you from placing God at the center?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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