Getting in Sync with God

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:11

My selection: Deuteronomy 1:41-46

41 “Then you answered me,  ‘We have sinned against the Lord. We ourselves will go up and fight, just as the Lord our God commanded us.’ And every one of you fastened on his weapons of war and thought it easy to go up into the hill country. 42 And the Lord said to me,  ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country. 44 Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah. 45 And you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear to you. 46 So you remained at Kadesh many days, the days that you remained there.

My reflections: There were two ways that Israel got out of sync with God. First, they caved in to fear and refused to go into the land. Second, they refused to accept the consequent punishment and defiantly attempted to go into the land in their own strength and without God’s blessing.

Christians need to understand that disobedience has consequences. God’s will includes not only a what but also a when. We need to obey not only what He tells us to do but also when. To fail to do this may mean a door closes and does not reopen even though we come to our senses and repent.

My challenge: What is God leading you to do? When does He want you to do it? Are you seeking to be in sync with Him? Sometimes we need patience to wait for His go ahead. Other times, we need faith and bold courage to go ahead in spite of our sense of weakness.

Get in sync with God.

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 3:12-5:33

The Importance of a Reputation for Peacefulness

Today’s reading: Numbers 34:1-36:13

My selection: Numbers 35:22-24

22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules.

My reflections:

A key factor in determining the guilt of a manslayer was the history of his relationship with the victim. If they were not enemies in the past this would weigh in favor of the manslayer. If there had been a history of enmity between them, this would indicate possible guilt in the case.

Two observations here:

1. It pays to do everything possible to maintain peace with others. Paul wrote in Romans 12:16, 18

16 Live in harmony with one another… 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

2. It is important to exercise extreme care when involved with others in any kind of dangerous activity. We are called to preserve life and that includes keeping the rule “safety first”. This should include driving within the speed limit as well as sports and work situations where others can be harmed.

My challenge: To cause the death of another is a horrible thing. Beware of setting up any situation that would bring a lifetime of regret. Try to resolve conflicts promptly.  Be known for peacefulness.

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:11

Seize the Day

Today’s reading: Numbers 32:1-33:56

My selection: Numbers 33:1-2

These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the Lord, and these are their stages according to their starting places.

My reflections: If this list of stages in Israel’s journey seems long and tedious, imagine how it was to have lived through the forty years of moving and camping, moving and camping, moving and camping! The nation paid a severe price for their disbelief. But the journey was about to finally end and the new generation was on the brink of entering the land.

My father, on his death bed, said he was stunned by the brevity of life although he had lived nearly 81 years. Life can seem long in youth and middle age but in the end it is a mere vapor. As Israel stood on the border of Canaan, there were only two adults, Joshua and Caleb, who were alive at the time of the spy mission at Kadesh Barnea. It was a young nation whose elders had all died in the wilderness.

My challenge: Life is brief but not insignificant. We are here for a time and called to believe God, obey God, trust God, glorify God and love God. Now is the time. Use it well.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 34:1-36:13

Special Protection for Women

Today’s reading: Numbers 30:1-31:54

My selection: Numbers 30:15

15 But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.”

My reflections: I am sure some of my feminist friends will bristle at this passage, but wait. The law actually protected women both married and single from shady deals, as well as rash commitments. They had a safety net in case they made a vow or contract that was unwise or ungodly. There has been much made in our times of the inequality of pay scales for women in comparison to men, but here the women had protection even when they freely made a bad deal. Men had no such advantage but were required to keep their word without an escape hatch (vs. 1-2).

Furthermore, when a woman made a vow and her husband disavowed it, “he [would] bear her iniquity”. She would be free from the vow, but any repercussions for the disavowing would fall to the husband.

Finally, while some will see this law as holding women in disdain, as if they were more prone to make rash vows than men, there is also a built in (and valid) assumption that men tend to procrastinate in decision making. Men whose wives or unmarried daughters make vows had until sundown to make a decision about sustaining or voiding the vow. If nothing was said by the end of the day, the vow would stand.

God wisely gave this law not as an insult to women or to unfairly empower men, but in recognition of tendencies and weaknesses of the flesh of both. I, for one, long for a society in which men loved and protected their wives, sisters, and daughters instead of abusing and competing with them. When will we see a time in which women cannot be tricked and cheated in business dealings and contracts? If the law of Numbers 30 held true, anyone dealing with a woman would have to beware lest the deal be voided and exposed for what it is.

My challenge: Pray as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come…”

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 32:1-33:56

Daily Offerings: then and now

Today’s reading: Numbers 27:1-29:40

My selection: Numbers 28:1-2

28 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’

My reflections: The Lord gave Moses very specific instructions for daily, weekly and annual sacrifices, all of which are a foreshadowing of the ultimate, once-for-all offering of our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians are called to be no less devoted to daily worship than our Old Testament brothers and sisters. In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul, after carefully laying out the gospel and the basis for our standing with God by grace through faith, gives this call to the New Testament version of sacrifice.

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

By the mercies of God, we are justified before Him. We are able to present ourselves as a holy and acceptable offering to God because, by grace through faith, Christ has purified us. It is a privilege and a responsibility to offer ourselves daily to Him as a living sacrifice.

My challenge: Does your daily devotional time include a presentation of yourself to God as a living sacrifice? Keep in mind that your sacrifice of yourself is holy and acceptable through Christ.  Your offering pleases God.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 30:1-31:54

Temptation, Sin, and Judgment

Today’s reading: Numbers 24:15-26:65

My selection: Numbers 25:16-18

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor.”

My reflections: The Midianites and Moabites had invited the Israelites to the sacrifices to their gods. Soon there was sexual involvement as well as false worship. The Midianites could not persuade Baalam to call down the curses of God on Israel, but they could defeat them by attracting them through prostitution and pagan feasts. The Midian nation knew exactly what they were doing. They had harassed Israel “with their wiles.” God judged Israel but ultimately spared them and commissioned them to bring judgment on Midian. Later Balaam would die in battle at the hands of the people he had been hired to curse. Numbers 31:8, 15-16

My challenge: How are you being tempted by evil forces through the appetites of the flesh? Are you aware of the “wiles” of our enemy, Satan? Do not be duped. There are godly and ungodly ways to satisfy our physical and social needs. Seek godly and God-glorifying ways to be satisfied.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 27:1-29:40

God Unchanging/Unchangeable

Today’s reading: Numbers 22:1-24:14

My selection: Numbers 23:19

19 God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

My reflections:

It is foolish to think of God as one who can be pressured or manipulated into changing what He has said. His Word is established. He is the only unchanging one. It is a good thing, too, because if He were not unchanging and unchangeable we would live in total uncertainty. He is not arbitrary nor fickle.  As the 19th Century Scottish poet, William Smith, wrote in the third stanza of “Immortal, Invisible”:

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

My challenge: Worship Him. Obey Him. Glorify Him. Trust Him. He is worthy of worship, obedience, glorification, and trust. Always has been. Always will be.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 24:15-26:65

Contaminating Purification: a contradiction?

Today’s reading: Numbers 19:1-21:35

My selection: Numbers 19:7

7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. But the priest shall be unclean until evening.

My reflections: The priest became “unclean” as he offered a sacrifice for purification.  Here we have either a great contradiction or the indication of the need for a better sacrifice.  It is not a contradiction but one more indication that the Old Testament sacrifices were not adequate to remove sin.  God was establishing the fact that man is sinful and is not able to make an offering which is sufficient to remove his sins and leave him clean and acceptable before the Holy One.

My challenge: Jesus Himself was made sin for us that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21). His was the only sacrifice that did not contaminate the priest. Praise God today for His great salvation through the sacrifice that cleanses us of our sin.

NOTE:  For further reading on this see Hebrews 4:14-10:18 which discusses in detail the superiority of Christ to Aaron (4:14-7:28)  and the superior priesthood of Christ (8:1-10:18).

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 22:1-24:14

The Dangers of Role Discontentment

Today’s reading: Numbers 16:1-18:32

My selection: Numbers 16:8-11

8 And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”

My reflections: Here rebellion breaks out again, this time led by a Levite who, though a worker in the tabernacle, was not a priest, and two members of the tribe of Ephraim. The former wants promotion to the priesthood and the latter want political power. They have joined together in a common cause to bring down Moses.

Once again the theme of contentment (or the lack thereof) arises. Moses specifically confronts the Levite, Korah, on the issue with the words above. Lack of contentment includes the unwillingness to accept the role God has given him to play while at the same time focusing on, what he considers, a greater role in the spiritual life of Israel.

As a consequence of this evil craving, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram not only did not gain more power and prestige, but they lost all that they had including their lives and the lives of their families and associates.

My challenge: What are your God-given roles? Are you fulfilling them to the best of your ability? Are you distracted with an unholy desire for some other role? How can re-focusing on your place in God’s kingdom help to reduce the coveting of some other place? How can coveting a role not given to you endanger your place in your family, the church, your job, and your community?

Beware of coveting good things not meant for you.  Be content. Be faithful to the roles and tasks to which God has called you.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 19:1-21:35

The Place of the Law

Today’s reading: Numbers 14:1-15:41

My selection: Numbers 15:32

32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.

My reflections:

The law could not save but it could and did condemn. Furthermore, the commandments were not prioritized as if some were more important than others. Breaking the Sabbath, knowingly and openly, was an act of direct rebellion against God. It was no less of a sin before God than making a graven image, blaspheming His name, or adultery.

We err when we think the law can save (Romans 3:19-20). We err when we think the law is irrelevant (Matthew 5:17-20) . We, as Christians, trust in Christ for forgiveness, but we seek to obey the law for His glory and our own good. We fail to keep it perfectly, but we must not take lightly what He has commanded. Curiously, I recently had a conversation with a businessman who says he seeks to keep the ten commandments but, apparently, sees no problem opening his business and working every Sunday.

Certainly, Jesus shed light on the fourth commandment in His teaching, which we will see when we get to the gospels. He declared Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” and said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. He confirmed exceptions for emergencies, like an ox in a ditch, for works of service, like healing, and works of necessity, like picking grain for immediate consumption.

My challenge: Take seriously God’s law, not as a basis for salvation and acceptance before God, but as a basis for guidance in doing His will. Be thankful that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law perfectly and has taken upon Himself the punishment for our failures to keep God’s law. Let your law keeping be done as an act of gratitude to God.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 16:1-18:32