John 3 – For God So Loved the World

Nicodemus was a Pharisee.  Verse one says that he was a “ruler of the Jews,” which would make him a member of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish governing council.  In fact, one of the other two places he is mentioned is in John 7:50, as there is division among them concerning arresting Jesus. Nicodemus states his belief that Jesus is sent from God because of the signs that he did, confirming that Jesus did many more miracles than were written in the gospel, as John states in John 20:30-31.  Nicodemus seems to be trying to understand what Jesus means by being born again in a physical manner.  But Jesus is speaking of being re-born by the Spirit by way of baptism (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12-13).  In verse 14, Jesus refers to Moses lifting up the Bronze Serpent in Numbers 21:5-9 to save the people when they had spoken against God; and gives Nicodemus a preview of His crucifixion, which likely he would also not understand – yet.  He will repeat this reference to being lifted up in John 8:28 and John 12:32-33.

The Bronze Serpent

Verse 16 is one of the most famous of the New Testament, and most Bibles that put the words of Jesus in red assign verses 16-21 as His words.  But many scholars believe that these verses are actually John’s inspired words, and the fact that he speaks of God having given His son in the past tense seems to bear that out.  In any case, these verses are joined with verse 15 in such a way that together they well represent the message of the gospel concerning salvation.  The phrase “God so loved the world” followed by the other references to the world are often overlooked in their significance – not only for salvation being open to all, but the declaration of God’s love for all the world, not just the people of Israel.

It is no coincidence that the text immediately jumps to the baptism being done by John the Baptist (who is not yet in prison in this part of the gospel) and now by Jesus and His disciples (verses 22-26). John’s disciples note that people are going to Jesus for baptism now, and John reminds them that he himself told them that he is not the Christ, but had been sent before him.  And in verse 30, says “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John had done what God had sent him to do.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

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Numbers 21:4-9 / Num 25 – Baal Worship at Peor

Mount Hor where it is believed that Aaron brot...

Image via Wikipedia

Much has happened in the wilderness as we come into this reading.  We have skipped over Aaron’s death in chapter 20; and Moses has descended Mount Hor with Aaron’s son Eleazar.  The first part of this reading is about the bronze serpent in chapter 21, on the heels of their first victory against the Canaanites (brought on by the attack by the king of Arad).    The people have been grumbling about the “miserable food” and God has begun dealing with them in a dramatic way – with fiery serpents.  At God’s instruction, Moses makes the bronze serpent, which saves the lives of those who look upon it.  Verse 5 suggests that their grumbling was more than just a little bit disrespectful.  After the close brush with self-destruction in the golden calf fiasco, it is almost surprising to see that any of them would dare to behave in that way.  But, as we will see in the second part of this reading, it gets worse.

So why make such note of the bronze serpent passage – just about 6 verses?  Great question, actually.  First, it begs some questions – what actually saved the people?  Was it just the fact that they looked at the bronze serpent?  Did they have to believe that it would save them?  Could that belief alone have saved them – without actually doing the act of looking at it?  Jesus refers to this event in John 3:14, where he tells Nicodemus (and us) how to achieve salvation.  This reference by and about our savior is “sandwiched” between Jesus telling Nicodemus he must be born again, and the baptisms and lessons in obedience to Christ in the verses all the way to the end of John 3.   Do yourself a favor and read this entire chapter of John (36 verses) after reading Numbers 21:4-9.  Jesus’ references to being lifted up has other meaning here, as it does in John 8:28 and John 12:32.

In chapter 25, Shittim is the last encampment before the people cross the Jordan, and apostasy again rears its ugly head in a horrible affront to God.  Some scholars think this may be Tell el-Hammam (about 16 kilometers east of Jericho).  The sins are numerous and include the worship of Baal with the Moabites.  we do not find out for sure until chapter 31, but it is Balaam who leads them to this.  We are not reading his story from the last few chapters in this schedule, but he is referred to again in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Eleazar’s son, Phineas gains favor with the Lord and keeps the ensuing plague from getting any worse (verses 7-9).  But this sin at Peor will not keep the Lord from sending His people to conquer the Canaanites.  It is not for their righteousness, as Moses will remind them – but for the evil of the Canaanites themselves.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Robert
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers 

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.