Today’s reading is full of hope for the future. The warnings of destruction will be partnered with glimmers of hope. We can see that pattern playing out in our lives too. For every trial and valley of struggle, we can rejoice in the light at the end of the tunnel. We know there is an end in sight. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” We can put our hope in Jesus. He was sent to this earth to be our light in the darkness. He is a light so bright that darkness cannot and will not ever overtake it.
Here we see what many Christians believe is a prophetic reference to the Messiah, the light of the world. “But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” The restoration Isaiah is speaking of will be truly manifested in the coming of Jesus. Years later, Jeremiah speaks of this branch as well, “For the time is coming, says the Lord, when I will place a righteous Branch on King David’s throne. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this is his name: ‘The Lord is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” What a beautiful word from God to give people hope.
What a sharp contrast in today’s reading. Yesterday was doom and gloom, today is hope of salvation. We are witness to a festive scene in heaven once again! I thought it was interesting that one of the 24 asked John who all the people were. John’s response was priceless. “Sir, you are the one who knows.” It was almost as if it were a trick question. I know what it’s like to be asked a question I don’t know the answer to but what should be obvious to the one asking!
This abrupt shift is like putting a movie on pause. It had to happen. We needed to halt the momentum of the fiery judgments of God brought by the horsemen in our last reading. Time was needed to make sure the faithful on earth could be marked “safe” before the full unleashing of God’s wrath. It speaks to me that God is always looking out for our best interests and will make sure we have what we need to stand strong in times of adversity.
This was an interesting passage in terms of fighting battles. In general, the people of God, Israel was not a warlike nation; they were rather to avoid warfare and seek peace. We could easily take some of what was said here and apply it to non-combat type battles in life as well. God knew the people were going to face all sorts of battles and combat in overtaking and protecting the land promised to them. They needed to understand the who, the why, and the how. Did anything surprise you in today’s reading?
There were some interesting “outs” listed for those getting ready to fight. Fear was one of them. I had to wonder if there would be any people left willing to fight. But God’s promise was to be with them. Even the priests were to come and address the troops with encouragement, reminding them, “the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!”
When they say, “Moses gave the law,” it’s true. Here is another fine example of some of the specifics God chose to offer the people. A couple present day examples come to mind. Do you ever notice how the “terms of service” go on and on when you sign up for something? Think of the side effects of a prescription medication or the warnings that come with a new purchase. That’s because the company is covering their tush, or that such things have happened and it’s likely they will happen again. That is especially true with the warning labels on products. Someone has gotten hurt, sued the company, and now the company has to be clear on their packaging to be careful not to be stupid when using the product.
I apologize if I ruffled your feathers here with my bluntness. I suppose after years of being a paralegal I have seen it all. The crazy situations people get themselves into and then want to blame the other person never ceases to amaze me. A good lawyer will look at a situation and assess the negligence in an instant. If a person is wrongfully injured because of the negligence of another, then by all means, justice should be served. Moses is giving more examples of how justice can be served here in the new land.
In our last reading, we spoke of the Passover, also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The two festivals in today’s reading are also still celebrated today, although there are different names associated with them, too. I’m impressed that these traditions have stood the test of time and people are still serious about honoring God during the festival times. Jewish people take their religion very seriously and are careful to keep the ancient traditions alive.
As Christians, we will soon be celebrating the season of Pentecost in our churches. While this is another name for the Festival of Weeks, in Jewish circles it is now called Shauvot. You may recall, for us, this is when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples after Jesus had ascended. There were a lot of people filling the town of Jerusalem. They were all gathering and bringing their offerings, their “first fruits,” to God for the Festival of Weeks. Fun fact, of the thousands of people who came to the Lord that day were also the “first fruits” of the believers yet to come.