Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Numbers Chapters 34-36

Chapter 34 - I find it pretty interesting and unique that God gives His people very limited space for the Promised Land. They have been waiting for this land for a long time, yet God does not give them the land as a starting point for great conquest...He gives them the land as a home. In ancient times, civilizations were bent on conquest and acquiring as much land and wealth as possible, yet God expects His people to be satisfied with what they have been given. God sets healthy limitations on His people and expects them to find joy in His blessings...there are some good lessons there for you and me.

35:12 - Again we see the heart of justice that God has. He sets up a system for his people where they have a right to a fair trial. Symbolically we have Jesus as our city of refuge. With a well deserved death pursuing at our heals, we come to Christ, yet he gives us an unfair trial. He does not give us the sentence we deserve...instead he takes our place and offers his life for ours. Beautiful.

35:33 - Again we see that God places great value in the lives of His created. Blood is a symbol of life. Life is a gift from God. Life is sacred. In fact one of the characteristics of God that we reflect as beings made in His life. He is the living God and when as living beings we reflect the creative power of God to the world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Numbers Chapters 31-33

31:8 - Yes, that Balaam! He is back after six chapters and we see a pretty anticlimactic ending to his life. He has every opportunity to live for God. God spoke to him...God made a donkey speak truth to him...God used Balaam to prophesy blessing over the people of Israel. But after all of that, Balaam returned to his sinful ways. He returned to the Midianites and help lead the Israelites astray in the worshipping of Baal. He chose to reject God and paid for it with his life. I hope that when you and I see God at work in our lives, we allow that to draw us closer to Him instead of running back to things that only bring destruction in our lives.

31:15-17 - Here we are...the ultimate question that comes from reading through Old Testament accounts of God and His people, "How can a God of love order the execution of women and children?" Isn't this genocide that God is ordering? How is this the same God of love and mercy we are introduced to by Jesus Christ and the New Testament? How do we deal with this as Christians? Well, the first thing you have to have is faith. If you believe that God is just and righteous...then you can understand that God is using the Israelites as an instrument of His judgement. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness (And there were women and children in those towns) using this passage He uses the Israelites as His instrument of judgement. To accept this, you have to believe that God is chapter 25 God promises that the Midianites will pay for leading the Israelites astray and in chapter 31 they do. You have to understand that the women of Midian were the main cause of what happened at Peor. They were like Trojan horses...they were sent in as beautiful women who tempted the Isrealites and led them into Baal worship. They could not be allowed to remain within the people of Israel. If the fighting men were left alive, they would remain a thorn in the side of Israel forever, jeopardizing God's plan to bring salvation to the whole world through Israel. This judgement is not about ethnic genocide, it is about the judgement of wickedness. When the Israelites stray from God and turn to wickedness...they are judged throughout the OT. God saw that the people of Midian were wicked beyond redemption and He judged them. He is just and His justice must be met out.

32:6ff - One of the pitfalls of leadership is people getting what they wanted before the job is finished. I don't give my kids a chance to play Wii before they have cleaned up their game room, because if I did, the room would never get cleaned. Moses knows that if the Reubenites and Gadites settle before they get to the Promised Land, that they won't fight with the rest of the army. And when they drop out, the other Israelites will be disheartened. So Moses does what a good leader has to do and calls them on it.

32:16-17 - Because Moses has the guts to bring up a tough subject and confront the tribes of Reuben and Gad, they are able to find a sensible compromise. This just goes to show you how important it is to speak up when things are not right. Moses confronted them early and they found a solution...if he had let it go and tried to talk them into fighting later, they probably would have never come.

Here is a map of the journey of the Israelites after leaving Egypt...

33:52 - When i comes to the inhabitants of the Promised Land, the Israelites have to utterly clean house. They have to drive the people out...they have to destroy every idol and every image that could lead the people away from God. For us, the "Promised Land" is more like a promised life. God promises us a life connected to Him...a life that offers joy and peace and purpose and fulfillment. If we want to grab hold of this life we also have to clean house. If we believe in Jesus and the promises of God, then we are going to go into our lives and clean out any of the things that have drawn us away from God in the past.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Numbers Chapters 28-30

Chapters 28 and 29 - All those sacrifices...all that religion, and human beings still cannot save themselves. No matter how many sacrifices the people of God made, they were insufficient to cover the sinful rebellion that reared its ugly head in their lives every day. Our corruption was so complete that the only possible hope of salvation was the ultimate sacrifice - God offering Himself. Thank you Father.

30:2 - Honesty and integrity are hugely important to God. God is always faithful to His word and He expects His followers to be faithful as well. I was reading a book last night that talked about how pre-modern thinkers put their trust in religious authority and knew there was truth...modern thinkers put their trust in scientific authority and knew there was thinkers (people born in the past 30 or 40 years) don't believe in any for of absolute truth and this has led to the destruction of honesty. If there is no truth, why should it matter if people hold to their word or tell outright lies? Post-modern Christians must be careful not to buy in with the beliefs that there is no absolute truth, because as followers of the Most High God we are plugged into fact. View your integrity and faithfulness as a reflection of your awesome God and be men and women of your word.

30:5 - This passage about the women who could be overruled by their fathers reminded me a little of the plight of Christian teens who live in non-Christian households. I have met kids who are mocked at home for their faith...I have met kids who are kept from going to church by their parents...I have met kids who are encouraged to go against what they know is right to follow the norms of our culture. I take great comfort in the merciful heart of God that I see in this passage...God understands when students like these cannot be plugged into a Christian community like they want to and He expects children to honor Him by honoring their parents - even if their parents are unbelievers. What better way to show the love of God to non-Christian parents, then for their kids to live God-honoring lives?

* Of course honoring God always comes first, so He doesn't expect you to follow your parents into any sinful behaviors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Numbers Chapters 25-27

25:1-2 - The people have absolutely sold themselves away from God for things like sex and acceptance among the people they come in contact with. They prostitute their souls...selling the relationship with God they have for empty promises and destructive behavior. That doesn't sound familiar at all does it?

25:7-8 - Phinehas could not stand the sight of seeing God's name and reputation run through the mud. Numbers 25 tells us that God is pleased with Phinehas because he is jealous for God's name. He is willing to stand up for the reputation of God no matter what. How about you? Do you defend the honor of God in your life? Do you stand up for His name?

25:17-18 - This sounds really harsh...God instructs the people of Israel to strike the Midianites down because of their evil influence over His people. This drives home the fact that you and I need to be able to make drastic choices to cleanse our own lives of evil influences. While killing is not an option for us under the blood of Jesus Christ, we have to be willing to get crazy about sin removal. Are there any tough choices you need to make to get sinful influences out of your life?

26:64-65 - Every member of the doubting generation of Israelites is now dead except for Caleb and Joshua, the only men who remained faithful. The penalty is always high when we refuse to trust God.

27:7 - This gives us a glimpse at the incredibly compassionate and revolutionary heart of God. In a time period on earth where women were considered possessions to be owned and controlled by men, God commands that they be treated with respect and dignity.

27:14 - God still loves Moses, but we all have to understand that there are consequences for our actions. Just because you are forgiven, does not mean that you will not have to face the fallout of sinful choices you have made. That's why God wants us to stay away from sin - not so that we can save ourselves, but so that we will not have to go through the destruction that is inherent through sin.

27:16-17 - Did you notice that when God says Moses is not going to get to go to the Promised Land, that Moses does not whine or complain! He is an incredible man. He has lives for years to bring the people of Israel to the Promised Land and he is told when they are on the doorstep that he doesn't get to go in...and he accepts God's judgement humbly! In fact, the only thing that he can think about is the people of Israel. His only concern is that they are taken care of and led well. Moses is an incredible leader. He checks his ego at the door...refuses to make leadership about him...and selflessly seeks only to see a better life lived out by the people he leads. Man, I want that kind of focus.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Numbers Chapters 22-24

300th post - YAY! We have gotten through quite a big chunk of the Bible...keep up the good work.

Who is this Balaam guy? We don't know a whole lot about him, but we know that he is a world famous diviner (Joshua 13:22), meaning that people come from far and wide to have Balaam bless them and curse their enemies. He was also most likely a polytheist, meaning that he would deal with any god that his clients wanted him to (And since we know there is only one God, that probably means he was delving into some pretty freaky demonic stuff or he was a big faker). He was a sorcerer for higher if you will. Pay him enough money and he will do whatever you want.

22:13ff - I think it is pretty interesting that Balaam turns them down the first time. He actually stays strong. God tells him not to work for Balak and he tells them that he will not work for Balak - if the story ended there, we would have a pretty kind view of Balaam as a guy that listens to God...but it doesn't end there does it? And we get a way cooler story, because he gets stupid. I say all this because, Balaam had a chance to get the temptation out of his life. The guys come back again to offer him more money and instead of sending them on their way - he lets them spend the night. There are times in our lives when we know what is right and we choose to do it...we win out over temptation, but when it comes back stronger we let it hang around. We start to question...we start to think up excuses for doing whatever we want. If you let temptation in...if you let it fill your mind and stick around, you are gonna fall eventually just like Balaam.

22:20 and 22 - What happened there? First God tells Balaam he can go...then He instantly gets angry with Balaam - what up with that? Well I have to believe it is about motivation of the heart. God decides He is going to use Balaam to bless the Israelites like we see later on in chapter 24, so He tells Balaam to go with them and say only what He wants him to say. If Balaam goes with that attitude, I think there is no problem. But instead, I think Balaam starts to think through his situation. He is going into the kings territory, surrounded by soldiers who would kill him at a word from the king. How can he go in there and not do what the king wants? And besides, the king is willing to give him enough money to retire...I think Balaam starts figuring out how to give Balak what he wants and God gets a little peeved.

23:8 - Great reminder for us that Balaam throws down. God control everything. There is no curse without God, because He is the one and only God...He is the one holding everything together! There is no blessing without God...God is in control and Balaam just gives us a little reminder of that.

24:12 - I feel like I understand a little of what Balaam is going through here. You know he doesn't want to be saying these things in front of this king who is getting madder and madder by the minute, but when God's word comes down, it has got to be spoken! There are times when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is really hard. There are times when there are no easy answers to why things happen and why there is so much craziness in the world. I deal with high school kids who routinely wonder what God has to say about suicide because they know people who have killed themselves...I talk to kids who have friends who are dealing with homosexuality and they want to know what God has to say about it. Those are hard conversations to have! There are no easy answers...but you have to speak the truth that God has put before us through His word. You speak it in love...but you speak it...God's word demands that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Numbers Chapters 19-21

Just an FYI - in Numbers chapter 20, 38 years of time pass by and the author doesn't even mention it or say much happened. This is mainly because those 38 years are filled with wandering and dying as the unfaithful generation passes away.

19:16 - If touching a dead body made somebody unclean and unable to bring sacrifices before God for seven days, that was a pretty big deal. What about the people that tended to the bodies of the dead Israelite soldiers after they fought wars? There had to be people that were willing to become unclean to honor the dead. They were willing to do the dirty work and become unclean before God. Jesus Christ was also willing to do the dirty work for us...he became unclean and took on our sins, separating himself from God the that he could bring us out of death. What kind of "dirty work" is God asking you to do for His kingdom?

20:8/10ff - If you notice in verse 8, God tells Moses to SPEAK to the rock. The miracle God has planned is going to be huge! Earlier in the bible, Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came out, but people could have thought that Moses simply cracked open a aquifer of water within the rock. This time, Moses is supposed to merely speak to the rock and water will flow out...God will be greatly glorified and hopefully the whiny, doubtful people will be shut up! But in verse 10 we see Moses lets his temper get the best of him. He yells angrily at the people, raises, up his staff and strikes the rock twice. He goes against what God told him to do, he set a bad example in front of all the people, and he brings attention to himself instead of God. The way the phrase is written in Hebrew actually says he "raised his hand/staff" which is a reference we talked about in previous chapters that represents rebellion against God. Because of this sin, Moses and Aaron will not be able to enter into the Promised Land. This brings up an interesting point about leadership...there is a huge price to pay when leaders fail - that is one of the aspects of leadership that must be taken into account before anybody willing accepts a position of responsibility. To whom much is given...much is expected.

21:9 - The snakes are bringers of death...Moses makes an image of the snake and raises it up...when the people look at it they are given life. The cross that Jesus was crucified upon was also a bringer of death...Jesus was raised up to die on the cross, and we must look to the cross if we hope to find life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Numbers Chapters 16-18

Wow - there are some long chapters in Numbers!

16:22 and 45 - Have you noticed that Moses is constantly standing up for people who reject him and rebel against him? He is confronting God and questioning God for people that hate him! It is incredible. I don't think I would be able to have the same kind of "others-minded" attitude...I'd just say, "Cool God, but try not to get any of their charred remains on my new robe." Moses is one of the Christ-like figures in the OT (Of course not Christ himself, but figures that give a bit of a preview about what Jesus was going to be like - a really tiny, pale preview) and we can see how he lives it out in stories like this. Moses fits in perfectly with the words of Jesus when he says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." You and I should be doing our best Jesus impersonation by acting the same way.

16:48 - Another great picture of the future sacrifice of Jesus. As Moses stands between the people and God atoning for their sins...Jesus came and stood between all men and God and atoned for our sins with his flesh and blood. I love it - "And he stood between the dead and the living..." Jesus stood between the living God and the walking dead of humanity and offered us a chance at life and's so beautiful.

18:20 - "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nether shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance..." I think we should keep this in mind, along with the fact that we are a part of the priesthood of all believers. God tells the priests that they don't need a portion or land because He is their portion and land. We are the priests of God, made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ...we should not get caught up in the quest for materials and the obsession with imaginary lines that human beings have created to divide one man from another and one country from another...God is our land...God is our portion. Never forget that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Numbers Chapters 13-15

13:17 - True the Lord ordered Moses to send people into the Promised Land to do some research, but it seems to me that Moses changes the tone of what God wanted from the mission in verse 17. Instead of going into the land to figure out the best way to attack, they went in to see if the land was good and to see if the people were strong. Do you see the difference there? Moses seems to have a doubtful attitude about the Promised Land - is it really as good as God said it would be? Can we really defeat the people in this land? The spies might have taken Moses doubts to heart, because they come back scared and doubtful of the power of God to bring them victory. Do you ever over think things that God has called you too? Do you ever fail to move because you have thought of every reason why you will fail instead of the power of God working through you?

13:30 - Caleb is a faithful voice crying out for the people to trust God and act, yet he is completely ignored.

14:11 - This question that God asks is so heartbreaking to me. How long will these people hate me? I wonder how many times He's asked that in conjunction with my heart and actions? Again, the people choose to ignore the power of God and everything He has done for them and they turn their backs on Him. They allow their fears to become more crucial to their decisions than their faith in God. We must fight with everything we have to be constantly aware of the power of goodness of God...of His faithfulness to us, so that we will be able to act when called upon.

14:31 - Just another example of God using the weak to shame the strong. The people say that they don't want to go into the Promised Land because they think their children will be enslaved by the powerful people there (Hiding their lack of faith behind, "But, it's for the children..." - lame!), but the reality is that the adult Israelites are all enslaved to their fears and faithlessness. The irony is that their children are going to be the generation that has the faith to break free of those bonds of fear and take over the Promised Land.

14:44 - They rejected He says they are never going to get into the Promised Land. Now they reject Him again and try to go into the Promised Land anyway without God's help...and they pay a very steep price in blood and life. How many times do we have to see how much more simply and peacefully life goes by when we trust God from the beginning?

15:32ff - Why is this man punished so harshly? Let me try to explain. They are in a is very warm. They have food called manna which does not need to be cooked. They have been told explicitly - numerous times - that they are not to work on the Sabbath as part of their worship of God. Knowing all this, the man goes out anyway to gather firewood. This man goes out of his way to rebel against God and he does it for something that is totally unnecessary. He has acted in a "high-handed" manner as described in verses 30 and 31...he has utterly turned against God.

15:38 - God made us, so He knows that visual reminders help us. The Israelites will be reminded to follow the commands by the man who was killed for working on the Sabbath and because they will always be wearing tassels that remind them of their covenant with God. What do you have in your life to constantly remind you to connect with God and honor Him?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Numbers Chapter 10-12

10:3 - In the book of Revelation, angels blow trumpets that bring about the end times (These may be metaphorical, but that's what is described). The angels blow the trumpets to usher in the coming judgement and to gather the people of God to Him. I thought it was interesting in Numbers, they also blew the trumpets to gather the faithful together.

11:4-5 - How often do we forget the pain and suffering that sins in our past caused, and instead think about how tempting and pleasing that sin was? We do this all the time. The Israelites got free fish back in Egypt, sure...but they were slaves that were worked to death constructing whatever the Egyptians wanted them to construct. Talk about viewing the glass as half full! Hey we had free fish! Don't ever forget the slavery that God has brought you out of...don't ever forget the depth of your brokenness...our past has a way of sneaking up on us and convincing us it wasn't as bad as we thought it was. Guess what? It was way worse than you remember...thank God for His love and salvation.

11:17 - God teaches Moses a little something about delegation. Moses is taught that as a leader, you must cast your vision and raise people up who can lead alongside you. No leader can do everything by himself! That's is poor ineffective leadership.

11:28ff - How many times have we seen this? How many times have I been this guy? Joshua gets jealous of the prophecies going on in camp, because those guys are doing ministry outside the "official" leadership structure! God gives different people different gifts and as mature believers we need to be able to celebrate victories with people who are gifted differently than us. Following God is not a competition...we are all in this together.

12:3 - It makes me feel a little better about all my imperfections when I read that Moses still has them too (I know that's terrible, I'm sorry). After all this time as the leader of the Israelites...after countless situations where Moses has seen God work miraculously through him...he is still insecure. He doesn't like the confrontation that comes as part of the leadership job. I fell you Moses...I don't like that either.

12:13 - It blows my mind that even after he finds out his sister was trying to take away his leadership behind his back...Moses stands up for her and begs God to heal her leprosy. Even though he hates confrontation...he will stand before God and beg Him to heal his sister, because he loves her so much. Unconditional love is a great leadership quality!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Numbers Chapters 7-9

Chapter 8 - I am intrigued by the cleansing that is required of the Levites before they can serve God. They must be purged to effectively serve as priests. What needs to be purged from your life so that you can serve God more effectively?

8:18-19 - It is interesting that the Levites are taken as the firstborn for the rest of Israel and that they make atonement for all the people through their service to God. Jesus in, Colossians one is called the firstborn over all creation and he made atonement for the sins of all creation through his death on the cross. Just more OT allusions to the priesthood of Jesus, the ultimate high priest.

9:22-23 - The Israelites followed God literally...a cloud during the day, and fire at night. It was pretty easy for them...wherever God moved, that is where they went. I constantly run into students and adults who want to know what God's will for their life is...they want to know how to follow God. What do you think? How do believers follow God today? Instead of following a cloud, we have the very Spirit of God living within us. We are be influenced and directed from is out choice whether to follow or to rebel.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Numbers Chapters 1-6

Sorry it has been so long...I was gone for five days with no Internet access or cell phone coverage. If you thought Leviticus was brutal, get ready for some of the longest chapters in the bible with a lot of mundane instructions and recitation of lineages! Remember, read through the chapters and try to mine the nuggets of truth...look for how God can speak to you even through lists of names and rules. Comment on how God spoke to you...I'm looking forward to what you find.

1:46 - There were 600,000 people only counting men over 20! You have to figure there were at least as many women, so you can throw in another 600,000 and what about boys and girls under the age of 20? Conservatively you could estimate another 2 million. So we could be talking about 3.2 million Israelites conservatively! That's a lot of people wandering in a desert looking for food and shelter. God had to be moving in their lives for them to even is a miracle that they could continue existing.

Chapter 2 - Why do you think the Israelites were spread out around the tabernacle and each tribe given different duties? I believe it was so that everyone would take part in protecting the honor of the almighty God. All the people participated, so all of them felt useful...they had buy-in as the people of God. This is a great church leadership strategy.

3:44ff - Why were the Levites all taken in place of the other firstborns from other tribes? Probably because the Levites were to be set aside as a holy priestly tribe - they became the sacrifice for everyone just as Jesus the high priest sacrificed himself for all of us.

4:15, 20 - To serve the most high God is a huge responsibility with serious implications. As part of the priesthood of all believers, we should never forget this!

5:27 - Though we no longer use this method of finding out if someone has been adulterous or not - the inner destruction of someone who has committed adultery is just as bad or worse. The guilt, the pain, the broken emptiness destroy a life from the inside out.

6:2ff - Why would someone choose to make a Nazerite vow? What was their motivation? Well, as we can see the text is fairly vague and unclear about it. What we do know is that anyone could choose to set themselves apart and make a special vow to God. Men and women of any age could choose to set themselves apart in God's service. I think this is yet another picture of the unique relationship God has with His people. It is not about who is the best...who is the most talented...who has been born into the right family with God. Anyone ca choose to offer themselves to God completely for special service. I hope you never forget that you have the God-given ability to serve God in ways that only you in all the earth could perform. You are different than anyone who has ever lived and God has a role for you in service to His kingdom if you choose to accept it. I hope you will.