An Entry-Level King

Author Jeannine Seery

Entry-Level King

Do you remember your first job? Chances are, it was low paying, low prestige, and if anything like mine, you counted the minutes until quitting time. The best thing about my first job was that I knew it was temporary—I had no doubt that it was not part of my career path and I’d move on to bigger and better things.

David was a young man with what was viewed by some as a low-level first job—a shepherd. There was no career advancement for a shepherd, no “golden staff” after 20 years of service. But this does not mean he didn’t enjoy it, or at least grow through his experience.

David’s labor was not in vain. God used it to refine him and draw him close. In the silence, David became intimately acquainted with God. His life circumstances transformed him into “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22 NLT). They prepared him to fear nothing, not even Goliath. As a boy, David said to King Saul, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear [while tending my father’s sheep] will rescue me from this Philistine [Goliath]!” (1 Sam 17:37 NLT)

David’s occupation gave him a window into God’s nature. As he cared for his sheep, he came to recognize God’s providence. Later, when facing a different wilderness experience, David drew on his knowledge that his Good Shepherd would “let him rest in green meadows and lead him beside peaceful streams” (Psa 23:2 NLT). (God’s role as shepherd shows that He views no occupation as low-level.) When Saul pursued David in an effort to kill him, David recalled that the “rod and staff” of the Almighty would “comfort and protect him” (Psa 23:4 NLT).

As he emerged victorious, he marveled in the knowledge that “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever” (Psa 23:6 NLT). Finally, when almost done in by his own sin, David recalled the vision of a lost sheep being led back to the flock by a merciful Shepherd, allowing God to “renew his strength” (Psa 23:3 NLT). Invaluable life lessons learned by a mere boy watching over his father’s flock.

Many of us are called to vocations that some would deem insignificant. Could it be that in this monotony, God is trying to refine our character and teach us more about His own? None of our jobs are trivial in God’s eyes—everything has a purpose. Perhaps the experiences that seem the most futile give us opportunities to bear the most valuable fruit, “fruit that will last” (John 15:16 NLT).

When we refrain from filling silence in our day with empty noise, we more clearly hear the voice of God. In stillness, standing before Almighty God, our defenses are stripped away; suddenly there is nothing to hide behind. Exposed and vulnerable before our own Good Shepherd, we are rightfully humbled and have the chance to meet Him heart to heart.

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Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

Love Potion: Numbers 5

Author Michael S. Heiser

When’s the last time you heard a sermon on Numbers 5:11–31?

One of the things I enjoy telling people in conversations about Bible study is that “if it’s weird, it’s important.” This passage certainly qualifies in both respects. The strangeness of the passage is easily detectable, but only careful Bible study makes its importance apparent.

LovePotion#5

Numbers 5:11–31 describes a water ritual to determine the guilt or innocence of a woman suspected of adultery. A husband is to bring the wife under suspicion to the priest, along with a required grain offering that will “bring iniquity to remembrance.” The priest in turn prepares a jar of water mixed with dust from the tabernacle (5:16–17). To this mixture is added the curses against her written “in a book” (5:23). Either the curses were written and erased, so that the erasures are swept into the water mixture, or the ink is washed off into the water mixture. The woman is compelled to drink the concoction after saying “Amen, Amen” in response to the priest’s invocation of blessing or cursing upon her, depending on her innocence or guilt. If she is guilty, the ingested mixture will cause pain and sterility; if there is no such reaction, she is deemed innocent (5:27–31).¹

Since the instructions in Num 5 were given by God (5:11), the water ordeal is a means of divination, whereby it is expected that God will use the ritual to answer a question human beings cannot. That the Israelites could use such divination comes as no surprise, as the high priest had the Urim and Thummim at his disposal, and various biblical characters utilize the casting of lots for discerning the mind of God on a matter (Josh 18:6-8; Prov 16:33; Acts 1:26).²

This passage provides a useful starting point for discussing why biblical characters were permitted to practice divination at all, when elsewhere such methods are condemned (e.g., Deut 18:9–14).³ But let’s instead focus on one practical implication of this passage.

Students of the Bible know that adultery was punishable by death in ancient Israel (Lev 20:10–11). Surprisingly, death is not the penalty for the guilty woman in Num 5:11-31. The normal word for adultery (na’af, נאף)—the word used in connection with the death penalty—does not occur in this passage, further distancing it from being a capital crime. Why these discrepancies?

The answer lies in the fact that the guilty woman was not discovered in the act of adultery (5:13). Since this is the case, the community and, particularly, the angry husband, is effectively prohibited by the law of the water ordeal from taking matters into their own hands. This would serve as a protection for women suspected of adultery, or who might be the target of someone’s animosity or jealousy. The point is that secret adultery can and will be punished only by God.

Notes:

¹There are explicit parallels to this procedure in the literature of the ancient Near Eastern world of biblical times. For example, one of the laws in Hammurabi’s code (COS 2.31) concerns a river ordeal for a woman accused of adultery.

²Urim and Thummim: The exact nature of the Urim and Thummim and how they were used is unknown. A literalized translation of the terms would be “lights and perfections.” The Urim and Thummim are distinguished from the casting of lots as a method of divination in the traditional Hebrew text (the Masoretic Text) of 1 Sam 14:36–42, though this is often obscured by English translations that follow the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (e.g., ESV).

³See Michael S. Heiser, “The Old Testament Response to Ancient Near Eastern Pagan Divination Practices.”

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 2.