Week of 6/16/19 - Pages 255-269

As I read about the intricate sacrifices that were required to receive forgiveness from God.  I came to realize why Jesus was the only one who could ultimately redeem us. 

The animals that were used for offerings were all pure and without blemish. We are not without sin,  not pure on our own.  Without the sacrifice of someone who is pure and without blemish (sin).  I could not spend eternity with God.  He made a way for me,  because he loves me that much. What a humbling thought.

Week of 6/9/19 - Pages 241-254

At the risk of sounding irreverent, this story reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, “Green Eggs and Ham”.  Balak wanted Balaam to speak a curse over the Israelites and he contrived many different ways to make this happen, all to no result.  

Could you, would you, in a box?  How about with a fox?  Here or there?  How about anywhere?  Of course, in “Green Eggs and Ham”, the outcome was very different as the guy ended up actually liking green eggs and ham and it ended on a high note.

In this story, Balaam is known as a man to whom “blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.” (top of p 243)  The problem was that Balak, king of Moab, was trying to get Balaam to curse the Israelites, God’s chosen and protected people. God clearly told Balaam not to curse the Israelites.  Balaam starts out great, seeming to be a valiant force for God, but it all falls apart when he lays out the surrender flag by saying “But stay here one more night, and I will see if the Lord has anything else to say to me.”

What is this “anything else” of which he speaks?  What’s going on in Balaam’s mind?  Why is he playing dumb, as if God might change his mind and decide to curse His own people?  Was he indulging in a sense of self-importance, wanting to stretch it out and make it last longer?    

I think about myself.  What do I do when I have clearly heard what God wants of me?  Do I seek new and clever ways to get out of doing what He has already told me?  Do I go back to God “one more time” just to be sure and pretend that this makes me a careful Christian?  Do I even want to be a “careful Christian”?  What would life this side of heaven be like if I more immediately obeyed God’s voice, certainly His rhema words?  

What I know for sure is that every single time I have obeyed… something big and amazing and life-changing and soul-satisfying happens – every time.  All it takes is getting over all of my protestations and pleadings with Him that I might just check “one more time” if I heard him correctly.  The older I get, the less I’m willing to settle for this watered-down version of the vibrant Christian life.  How about you?        

Week of 6/2/19 - Pages 227-240

Sometimes when I read the OT I find myself wondering how people could act like that and how could they make the decisions they do? I mean I never would. Or would I?

 The chapters in this section of Numbers are like a tug of war of emotions with truth and fiction warring against one another as the people repeatedly rebel and Moses and Aaron repeatedly advocate for the people and negotiate with God over their outcome. The two words that kept coming to me as I read through their trial and tribulations were “Faith and Fear.” There is one aspect of this story in this section of Numbers that really captures my attention.

Just look at this section in Numbers where Moses had been leading the Israelites. The Lord told him to send out men to explore Canaan. He sent one leader from each of the twelve tribes to do just that. He gave them very detailed instructions on what to look for. The men returned and gave the report on what they had seen.  The report was a mixed bag with descriptions that ranged from a land flowing with milk and honey to scary looking giants and towns that were impossibly fortified.  

Caleb excitedly interrupts their report and is filled with faith to marshal the people forward to conquer the land! He challenges the people to do just that. The Tribe leaders on the other hand, the ones who actually saw the land first-hand, were filled with fear. They let their imaginations run wild and painted all kinds of horrible pictures of what could happen to them if they were to try to go and conquer the land. They struck fear in their hearts as they described how their families would be devoured and that they would be helpless against such giants. Their fear was like a disease and it spread like wildfire amongst the people and soon the people were weeping. Just imagine how you might feel to see your loved ones and neighbors distraught and worried beyond belief! It would be hard to stand up against such a crowd and not join forces with them. Their emotions had gotten the best of them and the next thing you know they were protesting against Moses and Aaron, two Godly men that had loved them and led them through so much. Next thing you know they are railing against God, basically blaming Him for their predicament. How could God possibly do this to them? They got so worked up that they began to think it would even be better to return to Egypt. Outrageous! I thought. They would go back to a time where they were enslaved rather than stay in a place of deliverance and a future with hope?  Not a good scene! How could this situation get any worse? Was there any way for it to turn around? – read on in Numbers to find out.

 But for now I want to pause with you here for a moment to dig a little deeper into what caught my attention. Why we are not so different than the people of the Old Testament when it comes to our reactions to life’s circumstances.

 If I am honest, when I think about it, I have to admit that both faith and fear permeate my Christian life. I would like to think that I am filled with faith like Caleb was. That I am ready to conquer any and all situations with courage and determination, but the truth is that I have varying degrees of faith and varying degrees of fear that come into play in my daily life. Over the years, with some practice and a lot of help, I have most certainly discovered that there are things that help me lean more strongly into a life of faith over a life of fear: Actions, that if I practice, help me to increase the “Faith Meter” in my life.

1)    The promises of God – Psalm 119:105 (In addition to the reading of God’s Word, if He has given me a specific Word or Words, these are also great reminders to help me in trailblazing a life of faith)

2)    Christian Friends – Community of Faith - Proverbs 15:22  (wisdom is found in many Godly Counselors, the Israelites chose to listen to trouble-makers, those who were stirring up trouble and living in fear. We have a choice in the kind of friends that we seek advice and counsel from)

3)    Prayer – Jeremiah 33:3 (Turning to God, not away from Him as the Israelites did when they were blaming God for their present circumstances)

4)    Reviewing the many ways He has delivered me in the past - Lamentations 3:22-23, Reviewing His mercies ( The Israelites let their fear blot out the amazing miracles, signs and wonders that they had experienced and had lived through)
So next time you are faced with a decision or a difficult life circumstance, consider how you might increase your “Faith Meter.”

Week of 5/26/19 - Pages 213-226

One of the most beautiful blessings in the Bible is on page 214, (Numbers 6:24-26) given to Moses to give to Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel.

 “May the Lord bless you and protect you

 May the Lord smile on you

 And be gracious to you.

 May the Lord show you his favor

 And give you peace.”

Whenever I hear this passage I imagine God lavishing His blessing on me, as my protector, my friend and partner and generous provider.  I have read this verse many times but as I began to write this blog the context of this verse in the story of Moses and the Israelites is what struck me.

Before this blessing is given, the children of Israel are assembled, getting ready to leave on a dangerous journey across the desert. Many of them were going to die in the wilderness. They were going to be assaulted by enemies. They were going to face thirst and starvation. They were going to face division and disention, and before they begin this arduous, dangerous, adventurous journey, God goes before them with a blessing, and one would think nothing would have been more comforting to them than the guarantee of God's sovereign blessing. That in and of itself plays into the whole story of Numbers, because over and over what will the people of God doubt in the wilderness? They will doubt God's purpose to bless them. Isn't it ironic? Before they ever set out, God says to them through Aaron ‘Let Me just make one thing perfectly clear’…. And He pronounces this blessing, and if they could have just believed that, how different the story of Numbers would have been. It would have been an entirely different book if they had believed what God said in this passage. 

These pages go on to chronicle the journey and the many complaints the Israelites had about the hardships they endured and the food provided them.  If they had only trusted God and His blessing and provision.

 Sound at all familiar??  Perhaps we are not too different than the people in this story.   If we truly believed that the Lord loves to bless us then how dramatically different our lives would be.  We go through life so often thinking that our satisfaction will come from this pleasure, that job, these possessions or people liking us.  We run around trying to stuff our hearts full of life and satisfy our longings somewhere else other than the blessing of Almighty God.  If we could simply understand that God is the giver, He is the source, He is the author of the only blessing worth having and so only God can fill us up, it would dramatically change our lives. 

I am convicted by these passages to show more trust in the Lord’s provision than the people of Israel in this story. To lean on, trust, and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind.  I hope you be blessed as well.

Week of 5/19/19 - Pages 201-212

The book is called “Numbers” for a reason – lots of numbers and lots of names, many of which I have difficulty pronouncing.  But, what’s in a name?  A name provides identity and a sense of belonging.  Imagine growing up in ancient Israel and reading the name of your great, great, great grandfather in the Bible.  What a sense of pride and connection that would bring.

Growing up, I didn’t like my name; I wanted one that was more common.  I guess I could be glad that I didn’t have a name like Zurishaddai (Numbers 1:6).  But, names have meaning, and Zurishaddai means “The Almighty is a rock”.  The name would be a continual reminder of God’s strength, stability, and protection.

Jesus, the cornerstone (i.e., the rock) on whom we can build our lives, also referred to himself as the good shepherd (John 10:11), and to us as sheep.  He said in John 10:3, “the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  He knows us individually and cares deeply about us.  In fact, Jesus said in Luke 12:7 that, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered”, which brings us back to Numbers.

The bottom line: People are important to God.  He calls us not simply to be a number in His kingdom, but to belong in His family as His dearly loved children and have an intimate relationship with Him and with others.