Friday, May 30, 2014

Numbers 25 - Seduced

Our news reports tell us their is a war between the sexes. Their is abuse and mistreatment based on gender. As we turn to Chapter 25 of Numbers we see another type of sexual war (one that likely is still being played out today). When Balaam wouldn't curse Israel, the Moabite women were sent in to engage in sexual immorality so that God hawlf might curse them. 

If you think that women don't have great power over men just look at what they were able to do. In addition to getting the men of Israel to engage in adultery with them, they also turned them from their God to the Baals of the land. These women were able to cause men to abandon their principles and follow them all for momentary passions and tasty treats. There was a war alright, but it was against the men; not against the women. They were brazen enough to walk right past Moses as if to flaunt their rebellion. 

God did indeed respond to this reckless rebellion by sending a plague which killed 24,000. Additionally, God commanded that the guilty men should be exposed and killed before the assembly of people so that there would be no doubt that God refuses to tolerate this open rebellion. The plague did not stop until Phinehas (Aaron's grandson) put a spear through the couple that walked past Moses. 

Phinehas received from God a covenant of a lasting priesthood because of his passion for the honor of God. As we consider our own times, sin abounds and open rebellion against God is prevalent. We are faced with the same conflict as Phinehas; will we stand for purity and defend God's honor or will we passively look the other way?  Will we encourage others to turn from sin and warn them of the judgment against sin or will we be bystanders as one by one, hundreds upon thousands are seduced by the promises of pleasure the world offers?

Unlike the times of Moses, God has not executed immediate judgment in our times. People are lulled into thinking that God doesn't see or care about their misconduct. They might even deceive themselves into either thinking they are forgiven or that God doesn't exist at all. What a perilous time we live in with so many lives at stake. 

We live in a world where seduction is rampant. It isn't labeled sin or we might run from it. It frequently comes to us named as pleasure, recreation, harmless folly; but make no mistake, we could be seduced - and judges just as these Israelites were. We however also have the opportunity to stand for right like Phinehas. The sides are clearer now for us; the world has gone so far astray, that standing for God is a distinct separation from the mainstream.  Like Joshia once said, choose you this day who you will serve; as for me, I will serve The Lord. 

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Numbers 24 - Speaking Unpopular Truth

In this chapter, Balaam has an epiphany. He realized that it pleased The Lord to bless Israel and he decided to stop resisting God's message. He didn't use sorcery but calls himself "one who sees clearly". He issues several oracles blessing Israel and cursing the nations set against them. 

Balak the king sends him home with no pay. But before Balaam leaves he issues more prophesies; some yet to be fulfilled. The prophesies foretell Jesus' coming in judgement and executing God's wrath on the nations. (Num 24:17-19). 

Balaam finally set his feet firmly on the side of God come what may. He saw that no one can stand against God and win. God chooses whom He will bless and whom He will curse. Shame on us if we allow the cursed to maintain a sense of security and shame on us if we side with the cursed. 

Really there are only two nations on this planet. Those who are born again into God's family by receiving the sacrifice for sin Christ offers and those who reject Christ's offer. Some can try to live in two camps without making a commitment, but in not making a commitment they have in fact made a choice. We Christians who operate from God's camp have truth to proclaim and it may not be welcomed.  We know God is Holy and condemns sin and we are all born sinners having no hope. But God in His great love sent His only son to pay our penalty so that we could have life and escape death. 

We need to be bold in sharing our witness to those who do not know this love. It means confronting sin and sharing its penalty. Those engaged in sin do not like to hear about the death penalty, but it must not stop us from sharing truth. Perhaps one will hear and turn from sin and embrace the free offe of salvation God offers. We once did; and we know that we were dead in our sins before God saved us. 

There is no room for compromise. If we do not speak out against sin and warn people, we have to question the validity if our own salvation. Are we truly in God's camp if we will not share the gospel with a dying friend?  There is room at the cross for any who will embrace it. 

Truth has consequences but so does sin. We must determine like Balaam that come what may we must share truth and warn people of he judgment to come. It could be soon that Jesus returns to settle the debts. Let's examine ourselves to be sure that we are wholly in God's camp and draw more into that camp by sharing the truth of salvation with someone. 

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Numbers 23 - Cursing What God has Blessed

Balaam is in deep. He has undertaken a path with his foot in two camps. On one side, God has given him clear messages that Israel is blessed and that he must not speak against them. On the other side, he is working for Balak the King as a contract prophet to curse the king's enemies. 

Balaam even helps the king build altars to Gid and offer sacrifices there. Once the sacrifices were made, Balaam meets with God and Gid places a blessing on Israel to the shock of the king. 

Foolishly, the king brings Balaam to another location to view Israel and asks again for Balaam to issue a curse. The second message not only blesses Israel, but also confronts Balak the king at the same time. Furthermore, God is not afraid of sorcery or divination; He is Almighty and no one stands against Him.   Even though God bluntly told the king the God doesn't change his mind, Balak says let's go to another location and perhaps God will change His stand from there. 

Balak was both foolish and strong willed. He would not accept the word of God when it went against His thinking. He would not change his course and he ran up against a God who would not change His. Balaam was caught in the cross-hairs of the battle with no opportunity to escape. 

We are foolish if we think as Christians we can live like the world and avoid the judgement of God. We are sent to the world to give them God's message for the people, that there is a hope for redemption if they will just accept it. Many headstrong people living for themselves will not accept that offer because it is a paradigm shift that would alter their course. Many are just like Balak, but for the grace of God we were also once caught in sin and did not seek righteousness. For those that God has softened their hearts, they will hear and believe if we will be faithful. 

Balaam will forever be remembered as the compromiser who would not stand solidly for God and Balak will be forever documented in scripture for his hard-headed refusal to accept God's warning. I pray you, dear Christian will stand firm in your faith and boldly proclaim truth to those who do not know. 

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Numbers 22 - Compromise

What would it take for you to compromise your faith?  Martyrs have through the ages and their faith did not waiver. We would all like to believe that our faith would remain steadfast in the face of a test, but how many before us have fallen when faced with offers if compromise?  

In this chapter we are introduced to Balaam who was known for his powers. The King of Moab summoned him to place a curse on Israel after they had defeated several people groups in the land.  Moabites were nervous and summoned supernatural powers to help them stand against this nation in battle. 

Balaam lived near the Euphrates River. He wasn't an Israelite, but when he prayed to God upon receiving the request from the King, God speaks to him giving him clear direction that these messengers who came from the King to make this offer were on the wrong side of the battle. God had blessed the nation of Israel. Balaam sends the messengers away, but doesn't give them the prophesy he received from God. The King of course thought his offer was insufficient to stir him to action, so he sends new men and bigger payments. 

Though Balaam had received clear word from God this new offer caused him to go back and ask for permission again. Balaam was hoping God would see the prosperity he was being offered and change His mind for the sake of prospering Balaam. Seeing that Balaam's heart was so easily swayed God did not stop him from going. 

When we harden our hearts for the sake of any sin God will allow us our way even if it leads to destruction. We must be diligent in guarding our hearts. Sin can entangle us so easily. Balaam took God's release to be an endorsement of the crime he wanted to commit. He was swayed by money and the honors the King would bestow. He really didn't care which side the honors came from. While God was clear that Israel was blessed, God didn't offer immediate fame and fortune. 

His donkey could see the danger muchore clearly than Balaam who had closed his eyes. To God, making a donkey talk was a small thing. In God's economy the impossible is possible.  The Angel of God was prepared to stop Balaam in his tracks to keep him from his wrecklessness. Once Balaam repented the angel sent him on his way to the king, but not with the intent of cursing. Balaam was to speak God's message over the nation Israel. 

How many times have we pursued wrecklessness and found ourselves thwarted not knowing that God had erected a barrier to keep us from executing our plans. Thank God He keeps His children. Let us be very careful to pursue righteousness and be quick to repentance if we should be swayed off that path. 

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Numbers 21 - The Power of Faith

Fear and doubts can keep us perpetually in a rut of our own making. We live in a world alongside evil and danger for sure, but if we allow our fears to overcome us and only do the safe thing we may be just like the Israelites in Numbers 21. I think in applying this chapter to our lives, we will see God is able to supply us with suoernatural strength to overcome the obstacles we face if we will look to Him for our salvation. 

In the beginning of the chapter the Israelites are attacked by Canannites. They do something most unusual for them, they turn to God and ask for victory promising to utterly destroy the cities of the land if they can have victory. God gives them victory, but in the next few days you find them grumbling against God and against Moses. You would think they could take pleasure in their victory just a moment longer. 

I don't know if you have ever had an authority in your life who just seemed to make you frustrated. Perhaps it was your parents when you were under their leadership. Perhaps it was a strict teacher or a boss at work. No matter who the authority was you understand that you needed their leadership and the resources they could offer, but there was an element of bitterness when you were in their presence. They just seemed to make life hard for you. This is how things are for Israel. They are bitter against God and critical of His provision. 

God responds to Israel by sending venomous snakes killing many of His own people who were so hateful to Him. The people recognize the chastisement as being from God and they ask Moses to plead with God for their lives. Moses, at God's command, places a bronze snake on a pole (a picture of Christ's death on the cross) and tells them if they will look to the bronze image they will live.   It is a picture of our state of soul. Without Christ's death on the cross we will surely die ourselves in sin and be separated forever. But all we need to do is look to that cross and place our faith in the finished work of Jesus and we can know life. We could spend more time on this and will in future postings but we must move on to the second section. 

In the second part we Israel going around Edom because their king refused passage through the land. I think the Israelites are getting the message that they are not welcomed in the land. Taking the long way around they return to some of their prior stopping points and sang songs of God's provision. 

They again ask for passage through the land and again are refused by another king, the king of Sihon. The king comes with a show of force and God gives Israel victory. They then went to Bashan and defeated that army as well. (See where the census of fighting men in the beginning of Numbers is now coming in handy?). No doubt it was God who gave the victory, but He is also growing the people in their faith as they go. 

Our God is so gracious to take our weak faith and to strengthen it. The strength comes from the provision we receive in the midst of trials. Dear friend, if you are in the midst of conflict and trial, God can grow your faith if you will look to Him for your salvation and be obedient to His commands. I believe you too can see a mighty victory and I hope you will write and tell us about it. 

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Numbers 20 - The Measure of Our Trust

When you are in need - real need, where do you turn?  Do you turn toward God or against Him?  Do you try to provide your own solution or do you trust in God enough to apply His commands?  Every challenge is an opportunity to execise our faith and to find God once again faithful. 

In Chapter 20 of Numbers after the death of Miriam we find the Israelites in need - real need. They were in a desert without water, we are not told, but perhaps that is even the cause of Miriam's passing. The need in any case was real. 

Having seen God supply their desires in the past for food and meat you would think they would get down on their knees and plead with God for their provision reminding Him that they were His people and they depended on Him. You would think that they would do anything but whine and complain after seeing God's wrath in prior events,  but that is not the case. They whine and complain because they really don't trust God to give them their request. They are really taking issue with God, but instead gather in opposition to Moses. They would rather have died at the hand if God than to suffer want as they do. They turn on both God and Moses. 

Moses and Aaron go to the Tent of Meeting and prostrate themselves looking to God for their need recognizing that the spirit of the people was surely a great offense to God and He might likely execute judgement rather than mercy. Yet God in His mercy does offer a solution - a miracle that will yet again demonstrate to the people that God can do anything. He can change reality with just a word. The people had seen God miraculously provide for them time and time again. The truth is that a heart hardened against The Lord will not accept any proof to change its beliefs. 

Moses goes before the people, but out of character for Moses, he strikes the rock rather than speaking to it as The Lord commanded. (Num 20:8,11). Somehow Moses chose to do his own thing after receiving counsel from The Lord. In doing this thing, he banished himself from leadership of the people into the Promised Land. God is Holy and we his people should revere Him with our trust and obedience. 

The story gets even sadder. Directly after learning that he would not lead the people to their land he sends messengers to Edom to request passage through. Did Moses think that God would not notice?  Moses behavior is altogether strange. 

Aaron learns that his time has come and that he will die. Aaron seems to accept his fate and obeys God's command. The whole community watched Aaron for the last time. Aaron's days were ended because of his disobedience. God said both Aarin and Moses rebelled against His command at Meribah (Num 20:24). 

Dear child of God, we are prone to finding our own solutions and to listening to the world speak into our ear when we are faced with difficulty, but we must train ourselves to look to God and to use times if difficulty to strengthen our resolve to trust God even when we don't see Him at work and when we feel our situation is impossible. It is in these times of great difficulty that we see God demonstrate His power in amazing ways. No matter what comes, trust God. He created you and He knows your story because He ordained it. 

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Numbers 19 - Make Me Pure Again

There is no doubt that I am a sinner. I have sinned gravely before The Lord. In Old Testament language, I have become unclean. There are all manner of ways we can become unclean. Some come from worldly associations and some are the result of Adam's nature being passed down through the generations. 

I can identify with the hymn that says "prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love". Within the Christian there are two natures. One we inherited when we were born-the sin nature and the other we received when we were born again -Christ's Spirit. These two natures battle for control of our minds, of our speech and our actions. It is pretty easy to become unclean without even trying. 

In Numbers 19, God offers a pattern for becoming pure again. He gives the visual of the Red Heifer pointing to Jesus who would become the sacrifice for sin and the means for purification of our sinful state. God is the only one who can purify sin. 

In the example of becoming unclean by touching a dead person, (Num 19:13) we learn that a person must purify himself before approaching the tabernacle. These two ideas are the basis for many divisions in Christendom. Does God do the purification or do we?  

Make mistake, God is the only one who can take away sin. We are utterly helpless to make ourselves pure, but God does not purify all sinners as some may suppose, we must pursue this cleansing and obey God's direction for our lives. We cannot live any way we please and find favor. 

There is another illustration of the working of God in this chapter. Num 19:9 indicates the ashes from the Red Heifer combine with the water of cleansing for purification of sin. here we have a visual of the water (word of God) and the sacrifice (Jesus Christ) working together for the purificaton of the people. Likewise, having been born again we are not yet complete in Christ. We have been forgiven, but the transformation into Christ's likeness comes with the application of the word to our lives. Far too many of us neglect the sincere study of scripture to learn more of this wonderful inheritance we have received. We starve our souls and feed on the food of the world instead and don't understand why Gid seems so distant.

My dear reader, it is not enough to learn from Bible teachers and attend a worship service. We must apply for ourselves the word to our hearts if we are to be confirmed to the image of our Lord Jesus. We must actively pursue righteousness for it won't chase us; we must chase it. Consider how you may order your time and attention to feed the Christ nature within you and to put to death that sin nature. You will be glad you did. 

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