Numbers 5, Psalm 39, Song of Songs 3, Hebrews 3

DateVersionReading Plan
@April 28, 2024ESV (2016)M’Cheyne Plan 2024

Numbers 5

Numbers 5:27–28 (ESV) 27 And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

A woman suspected of adultery was to come before the priest and drink of holy water with dust from the floor of the tabernacle as a test of her infidelity. If she was guilty, the water would cause physical malady and she would become a curse. If she was innocent, the test would have no effect she would be free to conceive children. It was the method the LORD gave to Moses to give to the people in revealing whether He had made the woman barren. However, as the FSB highlights, the suspicion of adultery did not have the same consequences as being caught in adultery:

While severe, the penalty for guilt in this case was not death (Num. 5:22), unlike when a couple was caught in the act of adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut. 22:22). The word normally used for adultery (na’aph)—used in connection with the death penalty in other passages—does not appear in this passage. In this instance, the woman is accused, but not caught in the act (see Num 5:13). The reason for the distinction is not provided. Trial by ordeal prevented the community and the jealous husband from taking matters into their own hands. As such, it served as a means of protecting women.

Psalm 39

Psalm 39:4–6 (ESV) 4 “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah 6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

David pleads with the LORD that He would show him the transience of his life. This attitude is shared by others in Scripture (eg. Job in Job 14:2 and Solomon in Ecc. 2:18) and could be taken to be woeful or despairing, but also to propel one to missional ministry. If, as David says, our days are but “a few handbreadths”, what better reason do we have to spend this short time living for Christ and the fearless proclamation of His gospel?

Song of Songs 3

Song of Solomon 3:5 (ESV) 5 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

I have heard this verse used in application of reserving physical intimacy for marriage, but Dr. Thomas Constable provides some more context:

Here the refrain marks the end of the section on the courtship (Song. 1:2-3:5) as well as the Shulammite’s nightmare (Song. 3:1-4). Solomon and the Shulammite’s patience were about to receive the desired reward. Their marriage was now at hand. Some interpreters take this verse as a strong warning against premarital sex.

Hebrews 3

Hebrews 3:12–13 (ESV) 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

True care for our brothers and sisters in Christ entails intentional efforts to keep them on the right path. This is a daily exhortation to confess and repent of sin in order that it may not fester in deceit and thereby lead to a hardening of the heart. It is as tough to give as it is to receive but it is our calling and utterly crucial for the upbuilding of the church.

Carson on Psalm 39

David learned a better way [than Stoic self-discipline]. He speaks — but in his speech he addresses God (Ps. 39:4ff.). He is aware of life’s fleeting passage, and concludes that, in the end, we have nothing to look for except to put our hope in the Lord (Ps. 39:7). God alone can save us from our transgressions and enable us to escape the snares of opponents (Ps. 39:8). Resolute silence in the face of the mystery of providence is no way forward (Ps. 39:9); it is a false self-discipline, an ugly defiance rather than a cheerful submission to God’s “discipline” (Ps. 39:11).

Similar to my note above, Carson speaks of the kind of constitution we should have in this fleeting life. There is no benefit to proceed through life with a discipline that reflects a sort of self-imposed solemnity. Rather, we should rejoice in the short time we have, living into the purposeful existence given to us by our gracious Creator, thankful for the opportunity to live in cheerful submission to Him.