Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Numbers 18 - Work Appointed

Wouldn't life be so much easier if we could hear God in an audible voice call us by name and say, "this is what I want you to do"?  We grapple with life choices including our career choices questioning whether we are in the right place or doing the right thing. And let's face it, many of us are in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing. 

Aaron heard God directly placing him in the position of authority (and all his descendants) over the Tent of the Testimony. He alone was to care for the Holy things of God. His mission was clear and no one was to interfere with it at the penalty of death. 

His wages would be the bounty from the holy offerings and no permanent inheritance in the land because God was their inheritance. They received the tithes and offerings as provision from God. The holy work was theirs and they would be kept by God. 

In many ways we are like Aaron. We as Christians have been given God's Spirit to live in us and we are his holy abode. We are to guard against the unholy things in our lives and live in complete dependence and in fellowship with Him.  

We have that still small voice speaking to us and convicting us of wrong and guiding us I the right. We have God's word to speak directly to us and to give us direction and purpose for our days here. 

The only purpose we have on earth is to do the work of the Father and increase honor to our Lord Jesus Christ. Since we have this important work to do, no matter where we are assigned (in secular employment, working in Christian mission  or in humble service at home) God has a plan and a purpose for us. 

Our wages received for our work are established by God. He can always adjust as He sees fit, but when we live within the means God provides we express our affection and contentment in Him. When we live outside our means, we speak to God that His provision is insufficient and we need more than what He offers for our contentment. (By the way, that is a lie from Satan himself spoken in our minds to cause us to stray). 

We have no permanent inheritance here in earth. Our inheritance is in Heaven with God himself. We are kept in His care until God's days for us are fulfilled. Our lot is secure and we can know we are doing what God appoints for us of we look to the Bible for our assignments and be faithful in the duties of our day. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Numbers 17- Ordained by God

Whenever we have a leader we do not personally favor, we can allow ourselves to become disgruntled and bitter. We lose focus when we fail to realize that God is Soveriegn over every ruler and every event. God has allowed our authorities in our life for a purpose-His purpose. We may have bosses, police, teachers, presidents and even spouses in our life who wield authority in ways we don't agree with. God has placed them and allowed them to rule in their positions. God with one word could depose them.

In this chapter we continue the story of the insurrection against Aaron and Mosrs. God sets up a demonstration asking all the leaders if each clan to lay their staff with his name on it in front of the tent of meeting. God will cause the staff if the appointed leader to grow and bud. 

Overnight God caused Aaron's staff to not only sprout, but blossom and bear almonds. God had placed Aaron in position and when the people grumbled against their leaders they were grumbling against God himself. That is not to say that if our leaders are behaving wrongly that we do not correct them in love or if they should command us to sin against God that we do not stand against such commands. But our leaders are to be honoree in their positions having been ordained by God for such a time as this. When we honor our leaders, we also honor God. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Numbers 16 - Challenging Authority

No one likes to live under the domination of another. In fact, one of the common elements of our human nature is the desire to control our circumstances. In this chapter we will consider the dangers of allowing our desires to stand against God and His appointed leadership. 

The Rebellion
Korah was a Levite, in fact he was among the special line of Levites selected for service in the tabernacle. He was blessed with honorable work that would give him great personal respect among the nation. His drive for more led him to organize a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. He persuaded hundreds to stand against Moses. He had even established a council of 250 leaders to come as a group to speak for the people against Moses and Aaron. 

Korah says something amazing. In Num 16:3, he says, "the whole community is holy". This was not just a stand against Moses, but this was an outward challenge to God who had confronted their rebellion when the spies returned and there were murmurings among the people. Korah capitalized on this discontent and used the opportunity for his own power grab. He should have realized that he faced more than an aging Moses and Aaron, He was setting himself up for a showdown with God himself. 

Moses' Response
Moses wisely did not stand on his own authority, but prayed to God and left the resolution to God. Moses says that in the morning God will choose the Holy servant for His leadership of the people. Moses wasn't power hungry- in fact he would have chosen to relinquish his position, but He was faithful to God and God had appointed Him for the task. Moses would have the rebels bring incense before The Lord and have The Lord choose. 

Moses endures accusations from Dathan and Abriam contending that Moses lorded power over them so they would not comply with his request for a hearing with Moses. (Num 16:13-14). Moses' character was not to coerce submission to God through power, but to plead with the people and for the people. Moses went to God when he was falsely accused and asked for God to act. Moses rightly discerned that this was a battle between God and the rebel leaders and it would be best to stand back and let God address the insurrectionists. 

God's Response
God is a Holy God and cannot abide such insolence. In our time, God has withheld His righteous judgement and is storing it up for a judgment to come, but for our benefit He gives us a picture of this coming judgment here and it is horrifying. This is more raw than any action film and something I do not want even my worst enemy to experience. I wish Christians believed more in the judgement so that we could more passionately plead with those who may be eternally separated from God by their hardness toward Him here in earth. 

Korah, Dathan, Abraim and their families are swallowed up by the earth. (Num 16:31-34). Fire consumed the 250 council members bringing incense before The Lord (Num 16:35). 

This should have been traumatizing enough that the people would have repented of their rebellion and sought forgiveness of God, but the next day they accused Moses of killing the leaders and continued to oppose him. God came to even end the nation altogether, but Moses prays on behalf of the people and makes atonent for the people. 

God relents from killing everyone thogh he would have been justified if He had. Nevertheless, 14,700 people died as a result of this plague in addition to the leaders of the rebellion. 

We too are sinners worthy of death before a Holy God. We do not deserve His mercy toward us, but God has relented in His judgment against His people and has chosen to spare us from eternal damnation we deserve. It is not our doing but the work of God for His own glory he has given us this promise of eternal life. Anyone who will turn away from their rebellion and toward His son Jesus can have this same hope. 

Dear friend, if you are a Chrisitian, please warn your friends and family of the wrath to come. No one wants to see Gods wrath. Now is the time to turn from a life of rebellion to submission to God's authority. 

If you are under human authority and there is an abuse of power, pray to God who placed this person in power to convict their hearts and to intervene. We have a great God who cares for His people and who loves those who come to Him. We can trust God as Moses did to defend our honor and to being justices. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Numbers 15 - Choosing Sides

In every act, we make a statement about what we believe and our character before the world and before God. Our sin against God speaks volumes about where He stands in our lives. Hopefully as a Christian, our sins against God would be unintentional. Provision is made for such sin (Num 15:22-29). In all cases, whether defiant or unintentional, the result of sin is death. The bull was sacrifices for unintentional sin just as it was for the intentional sin. 

There is a distinction made when the sin is defiant or "presumptive" (Num 15:30 -32). That person is to have his protection from the camp severed and is to live apart from the nation never to influence their thinking. There is no provision of a sacrifice. Their guilt remains on them. A defiant sinner must pay the penalty for their own sin. That sinner chose sides against God. God doesn't tolerate such open rebellion. 

We have an example of a defiant sinner who breaks the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36). This man was brought before the camp to determine what should rightfully be done. The Lord gave an immediate judgment that this person should die. The camp would put him to death demonstrating God's defense of His law and His seriousness against sin. 

We like to discount our actions presuming upon God's forgiveness. We justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to the acts if unbelievers. Surely we are not so bad. When we compare ourselves with others we immediately have lowered God's standard for Holy conduct. Our reference point is not God, but some other person. 

God's holiness is not to be discounted. When we see our acts and our thoughts as God sees them we recognize that we are altogether undone before Him. We are deserving of the judgment, but graciously He offers us forgiveness not through the blood of animals - but forgiveness through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. A perfect man who died to save us. 

Finally the chapter ends with tassels on the garments of the people. Just like wearing a wedding ring identifies us as being in union with our spouse, the tassels signified their alliegiance to God. They were his people.  

If we are identified as God's people, we must honor Him through obedience. We give honor to our Creator by agreeing with Him about sin, keep short lists by confessing our sin and accepting God's provision to redeem us from our sinful nature. We must choose whose side we are on. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Numbers 14 - Fear and Rebellion

This chapter has way too many themes to unpack well in one post. The Israelites demonstrated their doubt of God's promise, their fear of the enemy nations, their discounting of God's mighty power, their presumption and their utter disregard for God's judgment. We also see God's anger rise up, his relationship to Moses, his defense of His own reputation in the nations, his longsuffering with this nation and His judgment against sin.  Any one of these topics could be a post in itself.  

There is so much in this chapter that applies to our stewardship. I would just like to sketch out some lessons for us:

1.  Fear can keep us paralyzed. This nation looked at the power of the enemy rather than the greatness of God. They wished to go back to slavery rather than stand in God's power against such a formidable enemy. Fear keeps us from witnessing, from exposing our beliefs, from stepping out of our comfort zone into God's calling in our lives. When we operate in fear, Satan gains the upper hand in our lives and we stand opposed to God. God called such fear, "treating Him with contempt". 

Our opponents know about the great things God has done and His reputation precedes Him. In all things God gets the glory and we his people join in the bounty of His victory.  

2.  Sin deserves judgment. God cannot just stand by while His name, His reputation and His power is degraded and mocked - not from His people and not from among the nations. 

The Israelites received the bad news that they would not enter the land they rejected in fear, but their children would enjoy the blessing of the promised land. All the spies to the land would be struck with a plague and die except Joshua and Caleb for inciting this fear and discounting the peers of God. 

When our sin comes before God it must be judged. It cannot be ignored.  Payment must be made. Jesus came to bear the penalty of sin on our behalf, but we must not recklessly continue in sin once we have received such a great promise of salvation. 

The people received God's judgment that they would not go into the promised land, they saw the death of the spies and yet they decided to take action on their own to go into the land. There because of their utter disregard, God allowed them to be defeated. 

3.  God's relationship to Moses. God was prepared to bring complete destruction to the nation and raise up for himself a remnant from Moses that would receive the promise. 

Moses pleads with God to spare the people and His own reputation. Moses could have accepted God's offer and turned his back on the nation, but his love for the people and his concern for God's reputation would not allow him to accept the offer. 

God listened to Moses' reasoning and honored Moses' request to spare the nation. God longs for our fellowship and looks for the man or woman who will look to Him and find His provision and His direction all sufficient. 

Moses had an abiding faith in The Lord, will you be the next Moses and trust God for the results?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Numbers 13 - Giants In the Promised Land

God organizes a scouting team, one representative from every tribe to go into the land of promise and see what it is like. Is it really as God promised; rich and fruitful?  Are the people of the land friendly? Do they live in settled towns?  Are the towns fortified against enemies?

These scouts are to bring back a report to the people. They see huge grape clusters unlike anything they had ever seen; requiring two men to carry one cluster. This land was indeed plentiful, just as God promised. 

Just like me sometimes, they saw their end goal but the opposition to reaching it seemed insurmountable and so they came back fearful. All the scouts but Caleb and Joshua saw the strength of their enemy. But Caleb and Joshua saw the strength of their God. Their recommendation was to press forward and take the land. 

We like the path of least resistance. We want peace and tranquility all our days, but God sometimes calls us out of our comfort zones because what He has planned for us is much greater than we would venture out for ourselves. What if God calls you to face your fears and see Him supply all your need with His great power? 

It is easy to look at the scouts with disdain since they had already received the promise of God that He would go before them and overcome their enemies. We too have been challenged to boldly witness, to confront injustice, to stand for the weak as God's ambassadors here. I wish I could take back all the opportunities God has given me and yet I squandered because of fear or tiredness, unwilling to go the less traveled thorny path. 

God does not always give us smooth sailing. He brings us right up to the edge of the waterfall and says, "will you trust me even now?"  Our rational thinking can justify turning away but oh how much of God's supply we miss out on. 

I am not advocating for foolish behavior, but if you have sensed the prompting of God to exerted yourself, your only responsibility before God is obedience. You can join with Him and see victory  or remain safe and live out your days on earth not knowing the joy on the other side of victory. 

Caleb and Hoshua were in the minority, yet they spoke up and said this is our promised land and we should take it. Will you too be bold in standing on God's promises?  Will you fight for the salvation of loved ones on your knees?  Will you be the one to tell them they are loved with an everlasting love and that God's promises are for them if they will only believe?  

We live a great adventure led by God. We have been appointed for these days to see God change lives and supply all our needs according to our riches in glory. Are you up for the journey? 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Numbers 12 - Jealousy and Racism not Becoming

As we open Chapter 12 of Numbers we find Miram and Aaron standing up against Moses. Their reasoning?  Moses married an Ethiopian woman (Num 12:1). I honestly think that Miriam had a falling out with this woman and elicited Aaron's support that is why her name is mentioned first. According to tradition the older male would be first in line. 

Their reasoning was clearly malfunctioning, because the next statement they make is that The Lord has spoken to them as well.  Citing that they were just as worthy and capable of leadership of the people as Moses was.  The two charges don't even go together. 

Again, I think that Miriam instigated this confrontation. Until now we see nothing of her problems with Moses wife, and her issues with this other woman probably had no basis, so Miriam could do no better than to pull out the race card. She contended that Moses should be disqualified from leadership because he has married outside the Israelite people. He did not maintain the purity of the lineage. 

Her second charge that they also had direct access to God so she and her brother Aaron are more than qualified. She was jealous for power. More than any female in scripture so far, she appears to be quite the women's libber. She wants power and authority and wants to take Moses down a notch at the same time. 

What she didn't consider is that it was God who chose Moses and not Moses asserting his leadership. This passage even reminds us that Moses was a very humble man (Num 12:3). Moses had been selected for this mission so it was not Moses she really had issue with, it was God. She was directly challenging God himself and God directly confronted her with leprosy. Though Aaron pleaded for her she was separated from the camp so the entire nation knew of her punishment. 

Notice that Moses doesn't engage in this battle with Miriam. He remains quiet while The Lord addresses the issue. I personally am too quick to defend myself. I can gain much more by being quiet and leaving my conflict at God's feet. 

The racism Miriam displayed was just a cover for her underlying desire for power and she was using whatever charge she could bring against Moses. You too have been placed in your position by God and he can redirect you or keep you where He placed you. We don't have to fear when we are God's chosen. Be faithful where you are places and God will honor you if not here on earth, with crowns in Heaven.