Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Today we being the study of the Book of Judges. I found several commentaries on these passages. I didn't have time to read them all, but if you're interested you can read Why Study Judges (an introduction), Living with the Enemy (Ch 1-2:5), Say it Again Sam(uel): A Second Introduction to Judges (Ch 2:6-3:4) and Ehud's "Gut Reaction" or No Guts, No Gory (Ch3:5-31).
The book of Judges is the book that covers what happened between the Israelites being led by Moses & Joshua, to having their own king (1 Samuel). The pattern is that the Israelites sinned by worshiping idols, they were punished, then they cried out to God for help and were rescued by a judge sent from God, they obeyed God for awhile until the death of the judge, at which point they quickly fell back into idolatry.
There's a lot going on in these passages, but I'm just going to touch on a couple things.
The people seemed to only be able to follow God in the presence of a strong leader. Shoot, it took them less than 40 days to turn from God when Moses went up on Mount Sinai! This just impacts to me again, what a huge responsibility we have to train our children in the Lord. We need to make sure that we are passing on a legacy of faith.
In the absense of a strong, godly leader, the people faltered. We need to remind our children of the importance of surrounding ourselves with godly people, and we need to practice this ourselves. The Israelites were drawn into idol worship when they began to intermarry with the Canaanites (another great example of the huge dangers of being unequally yoked with unbelievers). It is absolutely ok to form friendships with non-Christians, (indeed, it's necessary in order to be an effective witness for the Lord) but we do then need to be very careful not to accept or adopt their patterns of behaviour or become entangled in ungodly practices.
We need to both maintain fellowship with strong believers in order to hold strong to our beliefs, as well as develop discernment for ourselves so that we will be able to remain strong in the absense of a strong leader. We can't rely on other people to show us the way, we need to study the Word for ourselves too, and we need to measure other people's opinion on the Word of God. But we also need to surround ourselves with godly mentors and friends. Both sides of that equation are necessary.
Back to our text - I think it's fantastic that Caleb's nephew is the first judge of Israel. It makes me wonder though - during the times of Israel's rebellion, were some still faithful to God, but the majority caused the minority to suffer along with them for their idolatry? It seems that Othniel would've remained faithful, though the text does not say whether this is the case. Israel was in captivity for 8 yrs before Othniel delivered the Israelites. I'm so curious about what exactly happened in these families during those times.
I think it's an amazing testament to the character of these men when the Bible says "For the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died." (2:11) and "The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived hin and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel" (2:7).
Wow! I want to be that person. I want to live my life in such a way as to inspire my children and grandchildren to follow the Lord. What a huge challenge, but what an incredible legacy to leave behind!
Tomorrow's passage: Judges 3:31-6:40
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
I was a little dismayed when I started reading chapter 22. Suddenly the Israelites on one side of the Jordan were going to go to war with the Israelites on the other side! It turned out to be a misunderstanding, which made me think of how quick we can be to jump to conclusions and pass judgement on others. The Reubenites and Gadites erected an altar and suddenly everyone else was up in arms, having no idea what the altar was meant to represent. Thankfully they sent a delegation over to talk about it first, or they would have been shedding each other's blood for nothing. It turns out the Reubenites and Gadites were not intending to use the altar for sacrifices, which would have gone against the laws of God, but only as a witness for their descendants that they shared the inheritance and blessings of the Lord God together with their brothers, even though they lived apart from them. I thought it was so great that the Israelites celebrated this news when the delegation came back and reported what they had found out. I can imagine that after years of war, routing the previous owners from the Promised Land, that they were not anxious to do any more fighting, particularly against the men who had been fighting WITH them for those years, leaving their own inheritance behind, to fulfill their promise to Moses and to God.
Following that, Joshua, realizing that he was near the end of his life, made the Israelites renew their vow to follow God and honour His laws. One of the most popular and well-known verses of Joshua appears in this passage. "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15b My parents had a plaque on the wall in our house with this verse on it.
What I found interesting was the FIRST half of this verse. "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living." Joshua 24:15a (emphasis mine) This is a reminder that we cannot serve two masters. Or, as it says in one of my favourite romantic comedies "You can't ride two horses with one ass." (Sweet Home Alabama) So often we think we can follow God and do His will on the one hand, but do this and that which pleases us on the other hand. It is completely appropriate, in my opinion, to take time for pleasure and enjoyment, relaxation, vacation, etc. The important thing is to remember that we've chosen whom we will serve and if we find ourselves doing our own pleasure more and more and neglecting our commitment, then it is important to renew our commitment when necessary.
Following the renewal of their commitment, Joshua set up a large stone, saying "See!" he said to all the people. "This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God." Joshua 24:27 The idea of a rock hearing the words the Lord had said and being a witness seems a little humorous, but I think it's a reminder that God is always listening. He sees and hears all. There is nothing we can do in secret from him. We may be able to "put something over" on a human being, but we can never deceive God. He knows our true motivations.
Tomorrow's reading is Judges 1 - 3.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45
God was faithful to fulfill every single promise He had given to Israel.
God is faithful. He will always fulfill every promise He makes to us.
His faithfulness is not dependant on our faithfulness. As we learned through watching people's mistakes in these past books of the Bible - our failures hurt ourselves and often those around us, but they do not thwart God's purposes. He will do what He has purposed to do - despite us or through us, depending on our choices. But He will do it.
However, we have also learned that He will do it according to His time, not ours. Abraham and Sarah couldn't wait for God's timing and tried to fulfill the promise on their own, with disastrous results. Yet God remained faithful. He fulfilled His promise to them in His time, not theirs.
Caleb, on the other hand, believed God and was willing to wait for God's promise to be fulfilled - he received his inheritance, and was an incredible testimony to faithfulness himself throughout his 45 years of patiently and expectantly waiting on God.
God has a plan, and we don't always know the details of the plan or how and when He's going to fulfill it. Even when we do know the plan we don't always understand it. We don't always understand why He fulfills it the ways He does. We don't always understand why it's taking so long. But we have to accept that. And we need to accept it joyfully, with hope and expectation.
God will do what He has said He will do. Every time. In His time. Do we believe it? Because if we believe it, we need to trust Him even when we can't see what He's doing, we need to cast our cares on Him, we need to wait patiently for the fulfillment of the promise.
We need to live the slogan "He said it, I believe it, that settles it."
Lord, we know that You alone are faithful. We know that You are truth. We have Your Word that you have graciously given us to study Your promises. We have Your Holy Spirit inside us, to guide us and convict us. Lord, give us a thirst for You. Give us a thirst for Your Word. Give us a thirst for Your promises. We know that You who have promised, are faithful. Lord, we believe, forgive our unbelief. Help to wait, joyfully and with expectant hope, for the fulfillment of all Your promises to us. Amen.
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 22-24.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Today's reading was a good lesson in tribal geography. I'm sure my husband, who studied a semester in Israel would enjoy writing to you more on that subject but unfortunately for me it was a lot of fact reading. Someday I'd love to have more of a real mental picture of all of these places and boundaries or at least a more dramatic idea. Since I don't I'm going to focus on one aspect of the reading today.
Key Verse: 18:10 "Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the LORD, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions."
I've always found the concept of casting lots interesting in the bible. Here are just some facts: Casting lots is quite Biblical. The word "lots" appears 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament.
It was used by priests to separate the scapegoat from the one being sacrificed: Lev 16:8 "He is to cast lots for the two goats--one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat." NIV
It was used to divide the promised land among the Israelites: Num 26:55 "Be sure that the land is distributed by lot." NIV
Several functions in the Temple were determined by lots: 1 Chron 24:5 "They divided them impartially by drawing lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar." NIV
The sailors on Jonah's boat determined who was responsible for that terrible storm by casting lots (notice that the guilty party was discovered that way!): Jonah 1:7 "Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah." NIV
When the apostles met after Jesus ascended to heaven they determined who would replace Judas by casting lots: Acts 1:26 "Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles." NIV
None of the Biblical illustrations of casting lots had to do with games of chance. Every time it was used, the Israelites depended on the Lord 100% to reveal to them His will. It was an impartial way to find God's will when choices had to occur. This concept is still applicable today. In all our decisions we should impartially depend on God and search for His decisions.
However, the book of Proverbs indicate some neat things about casting lots:
Prov 18:18 "Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart." NIV
Prov 16:33 "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." NIV
(all of the above is from this source)
"I think it's a bad idea, almost always.
It's a bad idea because, when you read the whole New Testament, the normal way over and over and over again for discerning the will of God is not casting lots but "being transformed in the renewal of your mind that you may be able to prove what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2). And you have Ephesians 5:17: "Strive to know what the will of the Lord is."
If it's as easy as just rolling a dice every time you've got a decision, then you've just got to get it down to two and roll the dice, or get it down to three and say, "Top three numbers!" But if it was that simple Paul just wouldn't have talked like that.
So the New Testament portrays discovering the will of God in other ways than lot casting."
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The passage that jumped out at me today was when the people of Joseph ask Joshua for more land, when they hadn't even completed the task they were given in the land they already had. (Joshua 17:14-18, 16:10, 17:12-13).
It's true that the number of their tribe was large, but that was simply an excuse. They wanted easy land. They wanted their inheritance handed to them on a silver platter. Well, maybe that's being a bit harsh - after all, they had been fighting for 7 years already. But they were not willing to put in the work required to complete the task.
What a huge contrast to Caleb's response. He wanted the land of the giants, and he knew God would be with him to conquer it.
Not these people. When they grew strong enough they put the Canaanites to forced labour, but they didn't drive them out. See what's wrong with that picture? How can you be strong enough to makes slaves of a nation, without being strong enough to drive them out? They were strong enough. But it was easier to keep them as slaves. Maybe even convenient to have some slave labourers. Either way, they failed to complete the task they were given. Incomplete obedience is disobedience.
They also showed that they did not have faith in God's ability to help them drive out the Canaanites with their "chariots of iron". Joshua sets them straight, but they fail to drive out the Canaanites despite God's command to do so.
Unfortunately the descendants of Joseph did not show nearly the faithfulness that he did.
And they wanted more before they were even faithful with what they had been given! Let us make sure not to make the same mistake. We need to be faithful with what we have already been given.
Don't ask God for more of anything if you aren't doing right by what He's already given you. Some want more understanding of the Bible but they don't obey what parts they do understand. Some want more money but aren't faithful in little. And they wouldn't be if they had a million dollars. They say if they won the lottery they'd tithe....Some want to know God's will for the future but they haven't sought to obey what God has showed them thus far. So why should He give us more? (those convicting words are from here, emphasis mine)
Is our faith like that of Ephraim/Manasseh or like Caleb? How's that for some conscience pricking.
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 18:1-19:48.
Friday, March 26, 2010
The part that stands out most for me among these long lists of words I struggle to pronounce and places whose location I don't know, is chapter 14:5-16 ~ the part about Caleb's inheritance. The more I look at it, the more incredible it becomes.
Caleb is 85 years old; it's 45 years after he and Joshua and the ten other spies were sent into Canaan. His comments about his age give us a good timeline, helping us calculate how long the Israelite army under Joshua had been fighting in the Promised Land. Caleb says he was 40 when he and Joshua spied out the land. Add to that the 38 years Israel wandered in the wilderness after that due to their lack of faith, and you arrive at the age of 78. For Caleb to say he's now 85 means that Israel had been fighting steadily for seven years in Canaan before there was any talk of division of land.
I wonder if Caleb's faith ever wavered? It sounds like it didn't, not even once. He remained steadfast and faithful all those years. God had promised him a special inheritance in the Promised Land after the demonstration of his faith in the famous reconnaissance mission, but that inheritance didn't happen for another 45 years! Wow, and I think waiting for a few weeks or months for an answer to prayer is too long!!
Not only did Caleb have to wait 45 years for his inheritance, he still had to conquer the giants!! I think it wraps up Caleb's story so beautifully and poetically that he requests the land of the giants for himself and his descendents. Exactly the land he spied out, exactly the race of tall, strong people, exactly the reason the Israelites trembled in fear and doubt and as a result were punished by 38 more years of wandering, THIS is the stuff Caleb wants!
Joshua had already driven the Anakites out of the city of Hebron, but v. 12 clearly indicates the hill country surrounding the city had still not been taken from the Anakites. Caleb still had work to do! But thanks to his dedication to serving God, God has not only allowed him to reach the Promised Land, but the strength of his youth has been preserved. He's still more than ready to meet this challenge. What he knew he could accomplish with God's help 45 years earlier, he knows he can STILL accomplish with God's help. He's never seen these Anakites in relation to Israel's strength; he's been looking at them in relation to the power of God.
"Caleb is the picture of a man who had the chance to settle down into an easy, comfortable life, but who chose instead the challenge of a hard situation. "Give me this mountain," he said. "Give me the giants to wrestle with." Caleb is the rebuker of everyone who wants to slide through life as easily as possible and the inspirer of those who are thrilled by the challenge of difficulty. The Calebs continue to this day to make a glorious name for themselves in the Kingdom of God. The physical challenges that faced Israel are types of the spiritual challenges facing the church. As faith and obedience were necessary to Caleb's success, so are they necessary to our spiritual success. God has a work for each of us. Much depends upon our faithful doing of it." (from here, emphasis mine)I think this is just an incredible story! And a great examination of a man whose life we don't often look at beyond his adventures as a spy early on in Exodus, but who so clearly demonstrates a life of total commitment to God.
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 15:20 - 17:18.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I have found it hard to read about all this murder and plundering. I have just wondered why children had to die? Why women in a family where it may have only been the husband who sinned?
The verse that really had me puzzled and I guess a little upset today admist all the murder and plunder and what not was 11:20 when it says God hardened the hearts of the people in these places. To me that isn't free will, is it?
Does anyone have a good explanation for this?
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 12:7-15:19
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Today's passage contains a few failures by the Israelites that came right on the heels of their spectacular victory over Jericho.
Achan's direct disobedience, combined with Joshua failing to inquire of God regarding the city of Ai, resulted in the army being routed and lives lost.
Joshua was surely on a high after their victory over Jericho, and since he knew God's plan was for them to destroy all the Canaanites, he failed to inquire of God how they were to go about attacking the city (he assumed they only needed a few soldiers, not the whole army). If he had inquired of the Lord, God would have revealed Achan's sin at that time, and the lives of the men in the army would've been spared.
How often do we just proceed because we assume we know God's will and plan for our lives without even asking Him? Of course, we can't go to the other extreme of never doing anything because we haven't received a divine revelation confirming what we're supposed to do. If our decision lines up with the Word of God, and we have prayed for direction, I think we can go ahead and pray that we are planning to proceed this way and ask God to slam shut the door if the timing/decision is wrong.
Notice too the reaction of the Israelites to the failed attack on Ai. They begin to doubt God and
His promises, not even considering that they could be to blame. Being willing to take personal responsibility is not in vogue these days either, but is a huge sign of maturity and something we need to strive to do.
Though doubts about God are included in Joshua's prayer, he humbles himself and pours out his true feelings and thoughts to God. An excellent example of what we should do when circumstances confuse us.
God's response is something we need to keep in mind as well. He doesn't want us to wallow in our despair, confusion and self-pity. From this commentary.....
While the Lord understands and sympathizes with our problems and fears, and while humbling ourselves before the Lord is always needed, He nevertheless never condones our being prostrate in despair nor excuses us from appropriating His grace and moving out in obedience. His word to us is get up off our face, get our eyes on Him and deal with our problems according to the principles and promises of Scripture. This is a call for decisive action that is willing to make tough decisions to deal with our sin. Feeling sorry and sad about our condition is not enough. We must be willing to deal decisively with our sins. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” Proverbs 38:13
When the sin of Achan is revealed, God commands the Israelites to deal with it completely. His sin probably seemed like a small thing to him, but the consequences affected the entire nation and especially his family. We need to remember that our actions too affect more people than just ourselves, and not rationalize ours sins.
From the Life Application Study Bible
Why did Achan's entire family pay for his sin? The biblical record does not tell us if they were accomplices to his crime, but in the ancient world, the family was treated as a whole. Achan, as the head of hsi family, was likea tribal chief. If he prospered, the family prospered with him. If he suffered, so did they. Many Israelites had already died in battle because of Achan's sin. Now he was to be completely cut off from Israel..... In our permissive and individualistic culture we have a hard time understanding such a decree, but in ancient cultures this punishment was common. The punishment fit the crime: Achan had disobeyed God's command to destroy everything in Jericho; thus everything that belonged to Achan had to be destroyed. Sin has drastic consequences, so we should take drastic measure to avoid it.
Once the sin was dealt with, God instructed Joshua to attack Ai and they were completely successful.
However, this success was followed by another failure. The Gibeonites tricked the leaders of Israel into signing a peace treaty with them - again they made a decision based on their knowledge, instead of inquiring of the Lord. But they took an oath, and God had commanded that oaths be kept. We also need to remember not to take our promised lightly or make them hastily.
More commentaries on this passage are Victory at Ai and The Peril of Walking by Sight.
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 10:1-12:6
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
There is a lot of great stuff in these chapters. Much of it is things we've heard before in Sunday School, especially the story of Jericho, where the walls come tumbling down.
To start out, Joshua has taken over as leader in Moses' place and God wants Israel to know that He is with Joshua just as he was with Moses. He wants to establish Joshua's reputation as a strong, godly leader for the people. They set out to cross the Jordan river, which was swollen with flood waters. Everything happens just as God told Joshua. The waters stop flowing and "piled up in a heap". I wonder if the water stopped still, or if it moved and undulated as though it might come crashing forward at any second? Might be a little nerve-wracking, especially for those priests carrying the ark of the covenant. They must have stood there a long time. I wonder if they were allowed to swap out? I'm sure they didn't put the ark down on the ground in the middle of the Jordan. They would have had to stand there while the twelve representatives each picked up a stone for the marker of their camp, and then while the WHOLE NATION crossed over. That must have taken hours! It would seem obvious that God wanted to remind the people of the crossing of the Red Sea when He led their fathers out of Egypt. It brings things nicely full circle, doesn't it? Cross a body of water on dry land to leave the country of their slavery and oppression, and cross a river on dry land to enter the land promised to their forefathers by God. It also served nicely to terrify the people of the land they were moving into!
Anyway, following that we have the re-circumcision of the nation of Israel. This was adequately explained in the text, I believe. What I found interesting is that THE DAY after Passover was the day they first ate from the Promised Land and the following day the manna stopped. God doesn't do anything half-way. The people left Egypt following Passover, and ate the first fruits of their new home following Passover. He paid such attention to detail with the timing of their journey and their arrival in Canaan -- he knows the right time for each and every thing that happens in our lives as well.
I love the story of Jericho. In fact, I can't think why anyone wouldn't love it. Well, besides the killing of all the living things and burning of the city that followed. I have to admit, I get a kick out of action movies. I like explosions and car chases. I think it would be totally cool to see those walls crash to the ground without the aid of any dynamite or C4. But maybe that's just me.
Imagine what it would be like to see a couple million people calmly and quietly marching around the city behind the guard and the golden ark of the covenant every day for six days with nothing happening. I'm sure by the seventh day the people of Jericho were thoroughly mystified... maybe even rolling their eyes a bit. "What are those nut jobs doing? They've marched around six days in a row already - haven't they realized yet that they aren't accomplishing anything?" They must have wondered what was up with the priests blowing the horns on the seventh day, though, and then been horrified to hear all those people shout in unison and see their city walls come crashing down. But how cool for the Israelites to see that! I'm sure the story spread like wildfire. I'm also sure I wouldn't have wanted to go up against the Israelites or their God after hearing about it.
Tomorrow's reading is Joshua 7-9 and 1 Chronicles 2:7.
Monday, March 22, 2010
There is a lot going on in today's passage as the torch is now passed from Moses to Joshua.
This is what the Life Application study bible has to say about the blessings God gave each tribe in Chapter 33, Moses' final words to the Israelites before his death...
Note the difference in blessings God gave each tribe. To on he gave the best land, to another strength, to another safety. Too often we see someone with a particular blessing and think that God must love that person more than others. Think rather that God draws out in all people their unique talents. All these gifts are needed to complete his plan. Don't be envious of the gifts others have. Instead, look for the gifts God has given you, and resolve to do the tasks he has uniquely qualified you to do.
I find the story of Moses and the growth in his relationship with God to be fascinating. From a man who did not want to be sent to Egypt because he was "slow of speech" (Ex 4:10), he becomes an incredibly strong and vocal leader of over 2 million people, giving passionate speeches and songs. He was courageous and wise, and yet humble. He was the only person who ever spoke with God face to face (Ex 33:11, Numb 12:8). He was called Israel's greatest prophet.
And yet, despite being this great man of God, this close friend of God, he was not allowed to enter the promised land due to disobedience to God. What a great reminder that we have never "arrived" in our relationship with God. We are alway vulnerable to sin. Even this great man of God sinned and received discipline from God. But he didn't turn away from God in anger, embarrassment or resentment. Instead he turned toward God with love, openness and a desire to do better. Not only can we learn from Moses by observing all his postivie traits, we can also learn from his responses to his own sin.
This is one person I definitely am looking forward to meeting in heaven!
Another thing that I find very interesting is that Moses died alone with God, and that God himself buried him. What a close, intimate relationship he had with the Lord!
And then we come to the book of Joshua and the beginnings of what must have been an intimidating job to say the least! Talk about having big shoes to fill with a monumental task - conquering the promised land - right off the hop. No wonder God encouraged him several times to be strong and courageous. I love those verses.
Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth: meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:6-9
God encourages Joshua and tells him that in order to succeed he would need to be strong and courageous (for it would not be easy), to obey God's law, and to constantly read and study it. We need to follow God's words for Joshua in order to find success in our lives as well.
Joshua lived a life of obedience to God and he found success. He had learned well from Moses and he was a great leader - during his lifetime Israel would remain faithful to God. What a huge testimony to his character.
A great quote in the Life Application Study Bible....
Who is your Moses? Who is your Joshua? Youa re part of teh chain of God's ongoing work in the world. You are modeling yourself after others, and others are patterning their lives after you. How important is God to those you want to be like? Do those who are watching you see God reflected in every area of your life? Ask God to lead you to a trustworthy Moses. Ask him to make you a good Joshua.
Chapter 2 begins the story of Rahab. Her faith in a God she knew little about is inspiring. We know so much more than she, shouldn't we be that much more faithful?
What are your thoughts about the lie Rahab told on behalf of the spies? Lying is a sin, and yet Hebrews 11:31 commends Rahab for her faith in God. Was God forgiving her lie because of her faith? Was she justified in lying because she was simply deceiving her enemy, an acceptable practice in time of war? Was she not held responsible for upholding God's law because she was not a Jew and therefore didn't know? Did she break a lesser principle (by telling a lie) in order to uphold a higher principle (protecting God's chosen people)?
Tomorrow's passage: Joshua 3-6
Sunday, March 21, 2010
In Chapter 31 we read the song given to Moses from God for the people to learn and sing to their children. It's an amazing set of prophetic circumstances here. Moses has been told by God that these people will indeed turn from Him again once they feel secure in the temporal things. Once they have been fed, stored up for themselves, prospered and felt satisfied. What an amazing thing to realize how dangerous prosperity can be, even a little. It makes me think again on something I've been pondering a great deal lately. If you are afflicted, if you have trials, if you are troubled, if you are in need, you are blessed! The Lord is holding you near to Him and you are leaning on Him like never before. That is a blessing, a spiritual gift from the Lord. How more careful we must be in times of plenty and when things are going well! How easy it is to forget the Lord.
Key verse of the song:
"28 They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!"
Oh, to think of the end at all times! What a great wise thing this is! To think about where our lack of sense may lead us in the end, to think on our end itself! Only by thinking daily on our endings do we master the essentials of the journey. "They are not just idle words for you—they are your life." (vs.47)
Chapter 90 of Psalm is echoing these thoughts: "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. "
It's amazing to think that the people were given this foreshadowing warning and yet they still did what God knew they would do and fall away from Him. They lost focus, they stopped paying attention, and more than anything I think they stopped feeling heart gratitude unto the Lord for all he had done, given, and continued to provide for them. Sadly, it's in time of want, need, and total dependence that these things are remembered. It is our nature to grow comfortable and self secure when things are good. That is why I say that these passages remind me of the loving gifts of trial in our lives. They make us hold tight to the hand of God. We cannot dare loose focus or we know we will not make it through. The cycle repeats itself over and over in our lives and over and over in the stories of these people. I feel sad for these people missing out on their blessings for such lack of focus and then I remember myself, so easily comforted by a sense of well being outside of Christ. So easily distracted, and so easily loosing track of the time I have been given.
Lord, help us to truly see what a blessing it is to feel a great intense need for you. To see things come one by one from your hand so that we know we have no other or no strength of our own to thank for these blessings. Thank you that your ways are our life. Help us to see the end always and consider it; to consider our days. To keep focused and not get drawn into the deception of worldly comforts. May we enjoy them while we hold them all with open hands to you. When we are afflicted, may we enjoy that it brings us to your feet more as that is where our true contentment lies.
Tomorrow's readings are Deuteronomy 33-34:12; Joshua 1-2:24
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8
6"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
8"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Don't worry about tomorrow, God is already there.
Did you ever have a time when God just knows exactly what you needed to hear? Well, these two verses reached out and grabbed me. As I mentioned in my testimony, I am a brand new teacher and working at a fantastic Christian school and I honestly feel like it is a dream job. I love my students, my colleagues, the administration, the families, my classroom...everything! One of the things about a private school, well, actually any school, is that the number of staff is dependent on the number of students. Even in September, I realized that the number of students and classes for this year would not be the same next year (I can count-I do teach grade 1!!) and so I knew that I would likely not have a job at that school next year. The enrollment is going down and with 2 classes graduating this year and only 1 coming in, there is just no classroom for me. In February, I got official confirmation of this fact from the principal and it hit me hard. I began to ride these huge waves of emotions and this was a terrible low. Then enrollment for kindergarten next year started encouraging me because the class filled up by the end of February and has 23 students, the "magic" number is 30 and then they might have 2 classes (this might let me stay). I was lifted up...for awhile. On Thursday, we had our monthly staff meeting and I was sent crashing down again. The plans are already underway for the coming year and much of the meeting centered around the calendar for next year, what events will be a part of the year, and classroom projections. There it was... in black and white... on the agenda...12 classrooms and their numbers...1 less classroom than this year. Then it hit me again, this time even harder than the last time. Right now, at this moment...I will not be at this school next year. I won't be working with these amazing people, I won't be watching my wonderful Grade One students grow up, I won't be going to that conference in November, I won't see the new windows in the library, and it doesn't really matter if I don't be use the student handbooks of the Christian Ed curriculum because we are going to order them anyway because I won't be here next year. It made my heart sad to think of leaving this school. It was another low and I was discouraged. Then I think of the financial end of it and I have student loan payments and kid's programs and camp and I know that good full-time teaching jobs are not easy to find and I was even more discouraged. These verses jumped out and slapped me in the face. I was reminded to not worry about the future, where I will be working, how we will paying for student loans because God already knows.
Dear Lord, Thank you for this reminder that You will never leave or forsake us. Thank you for Tammy and her desire to start and continue this blog. I have let the pressures of life interfere with my daily readings and have fallen behind but I am thankful for the accountability of being responsible for a few studies. You used my turn to speak clearly to me and I am so thankful for that. You are an awesome God. I pray for all of the people who are reading along with this blog. Let them be encouraged through their readings and draw them closer to You. Amen.
Tomorrow's Readings are Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52 and Psalm 90
Friday, March 19, 2010
The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. Deuteronomy 26:16-17
Now that the Israelites had been reminded of God's laws, they were instructed to keep them. Israel was to claim that the Lord was their God, and to obey him fully.
Sometimes we need to be told what the right thing is to do, sometimes we need to be reminded what the right thing is to do, and sometimes we simply need to encouraged to JUST DO IT! Just knowing isn't enough. Obviously we can't do if we don't know. But once we know, we need to follow through with that knowledge and do what we know is right. We also need to claim that the Lord is our God. And that commitment, if it is genuine, will be followed by obedience! Our actions simply reflect our hearts. Are our hearts committed to God or to ourselves?
Lord, thank you for your Word which instructs us in Your ways. We are truly without excuse. You have made it clear in your Word what you require of us. Help us to take our knowledge and turn it into action. We know that how we act is the true test of what we believe. We claim you as our God - as not only our Saviour, but Lord of every part of our lives. Take our lives and use them to glorify Your name. Give us the strength and courage we need to live out our faith authentically and consistently. Amen!
Tomorrow's passage: Deuteronomy 29:2-31:29
Thursday, March 18, 2010
According to Nicole's facebook status, she wasn't feeling well yesterday and likely forgot about getting someone else for today's post. So, here I am.
Do not have two differing weights in your bag - one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house - one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly. Deuteronomy 25:13-16.
We must be honest and fair in all our dealings with others.
The literal appliation of this verse is pretty obvious and basic, which doesn't mean it's always easy. We are to honest, truthful and fair. However, this is also a good reminder when dealing with people relationally. Have you ever noticed that you get irritated easily by people you either have a bit of a grudge against, or who have previously done something to "get on your bad side", etc? Two different people could do or say the exact same thing to you, but your reaction may be totally different. Is this being honest? Is this using the same weights or measures? No, it's not. I am definitely guilty of this. I think we all are, as it's definitely natural to give someone we really like/respect the benefit of the doubt, or to go easier on them, or not to jump to conclusions. However, we're not so quick so give that same benefit to those we don't really click with. I am not referring to being cautious or less trusting around people who have hurt you before - forgiveness doesn't mean that you have to trust that person again (often that would be unwise) or that you have to be best friends. But we do need to be careful not to use different weights in our relationships.
Lord, help us to be fair and honest in regards to lending and borrowing, and judging guilt or innocence. Help us also to be fair and honest in our relationships with those around us. Lord, we thank you that you do not use differing weights or measures in Your relationship with us, and that we always know what Your expectations of us are, what You have defined as right and wrong. Help us to be that dependable, that fair, that honest, that unchanging with all the people in our lives.
Tomorrow's passage: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:1
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
If you have the time, there is an excellent commentary on Deuteronomy 18 about false prophets here.
One quote jumped out at me in particular...
He has come down from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ. He has mediated a new covenant. He does command us to draw near. But we are always to do so with a sense of His awesome holiness, and thus draw near with fear. And this fear should prompt us to hear and to obey Him.
That is one thing that has struck me over and over while reading these few OT chapters so far this year - that nowadays we seem to have minimilized the holiness of our God, perhaps because to focus only on a loving God makes it so much more comfortable for us, and a little easier to talk about with unsaved friends or family. The hell and brimstone of prior generations was on the opposite end of the spectrum. But I think we`ve swung the pendulum too far the other way. We need to remember that God is both holy and merciful. He is just and loving. We can`t focus on one to the neglect of the other. We can`t be so fearful of God that we shy away from intimacy with Him. But we also can`t speak or act irreverently in His presence.
This passage of scripture (ch 18) deals with sorcery and divination in particular. This is something that is very relevant to life today. Society has tried to make dabbling in the supernatural seem like no big deal. But it is a big deal to God. Fortune telling, ouiga boards, contacting the dead, anything like that - it is an abomination to the Lord and should not be trifled with.
From the same commentary...
In effect, these forbidden pagan practices seek to “use” the supernatural forces in a way that appears to keep them at arm’s reach, and thus under man’s control. This is a very important point. These forbidden practices seek to interface with “the supernatural” in a way that uses the “higher powers” for a price. The appearance is that supernatural beings are serving those who seek to employ them; the reality is that those who suppose they are using the evil supernatural powers are really enslaved to them. They are enslaved to Satan himself, through contact with demonic forces (1 Corinthians 10:14-22). There is a certain thrill to the thought that one might be able to “tap into” supernatural powers and make use of them for one’s benefit. The sense of being “in control” is an illusion.
Another excellent commentary on these verses is Jesus vs the Occult by John Piper.
Now what does Moses say about such activities? First, in verse 9, he calls them "abominations." This means that God regards them as detestable, abhorrent, loathsome. It is a very strong word. We will do well to ask ourselves whether some seemingly innocent activity we are engaged in may be an abomination in the eyes of God. Second, according to verse 12, the persons who do such things are an abomination to the Lord. Not merely the activity but also the persons become abominable in God's eyes. It is an unbiblical sentiment which says, "God only hates the sin, never the sinner." When a person gives himself over to will, to delight in, and to follow abominable practices, he makes himself abominable in the eyes of God. Of course, this does not put a person beyond the reach of God's love. The glory of divine love is that it reaches out to justify and to sanctify precisely those whom God abominates because of their sin.....
Another way of revealing the evil of involvement in the occult is to say that man in the occult is man in harlotry. Leviticus 20:6 says, "If a person turns to mediums and wizards, playing the harlot after them, I will set my face against that person." Consulting mediums is like committing adultery against God. Jesus Christ is the husband of the church. He is God's fullest revelation. All that we need to know and all the power which it is good for us to have comes through him and his Word. When we go after other secret oracles and psychic powers, we say in effect that our husband is unsatisfactory and we must seek for lovers elsewhere. When a Christian peeks at his horoscope, he is treating Jesus the same way a husband treats a wife when he peeks at Playboy to provide the titillation he no longer gets from her. Involvement in the occult is wrong because it is spiritual adultery, it is rebellion against the sovereignty of God, and it belittles his revelation while exalting human pride.
The chapter began with how the Levites were to be treated, which is relevant to the following discussion on false prophets because it is the Levites who were to be teaching the people about God and about the law. There was no need for the people to purposefully look elsewhere for knowledge of, or direction from, God.
Tomorrow`s passage: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I'll be following the SOAP format today, as this passage is an overview of things already covered previously. This is the verse that stuck out loud and clear for me as I read.
It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 13:4
We must keep our focus on God. I don't know if I've ever seen it put so succinctly before. This verse is very clear and simple to understand.
There are so many things that can become "false gods" to us. We are easily distracted, changeable, faltering humans and it's sometimes so gradual for most of us that we hardly notice we're going astray. We must take care to keep the Lord and his Word as our compass - to check our direction against it regularly so that we're not going in circles. I believe that if we can spend time with him and with other believers and seek to follow his will in everything, we will find that we're less readily led off course by other distractions. Hold fast to him.
Heavenly Father, bless our time as we study your Word. Give us wisdom and insight as we read. Help us to determine the truth and measure everything else against it so that we can learn how to follow only you and to revere you. Teach us your commands, so that we may keep them and obey. Help us to see where, when and how we can use the abilities and strengths you've given us to serve you. Teach us to hold fast to you, to trust you never to let us down and to care about us when we feel no one else does. Help us to remember that it is not ours to understand why but to trust that you are God. In Jesus' name I pray; Amen.
Tomorrow`s passage: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Monday, March 15, 2010
I`m really enjoying the book of Deuteronomy so far - other than Genesis, this is probably my favourite of the Pentateuch.
A few different passages stood out to me today.
Deut 10:12-13 And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lords commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good
What a clear and straitforward answer! Fear God (respect Him), follow Him, love Him, serve Him, obey Him. Easier said than done sometimes, true, but sometimes I think we make it more complicated than it needs to be. It comes down to love. Because if we TRULY LOVE God - the fearing, following, serving and obeying should come fairly naturally - not that we don`t have to work at it, but we will want to work at it - so it doesn`t seem so much like work, but effort.
This passage and others repeats over and over again the same message that if the Israelites simply obey God, they will be blessed abundantly (receive the land, fruitful crops, victory over enemies), but if they choose to disobey they would forfeit that blessing. After being witness to some of the most amazing miracles, it seems incredible to us that they would have trouble being faithful.
And yet, we have two huge benefits now that they did not have then. We have the Word, we have access to God`s instructions and God`s very words at all times! And we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
The same choice the Israelites had (to obey and enjoy God`s blessing, or to disobey and fall under His curse) is our choice today. We can accept Jesus as our personal Saviour and live for Him, receiving eternal life and blessings unimaginable (if not here on earth, absolutely in heaven). Or we can choose to live for ourselves, travelling on a dead-end road.
Chapter 12 again discusses the Israelites completely wiping out their enemies and their evil practices. Again a reminder for us to wipe out the sin in our lives, to not treat it casually, or think that we are invicible to it`s allure, to deceive ourselves into thinking we are strong enough to not be tempted. God is not casual about sin, and we cannot afford to be either!
Another verse - Deut 12:18 Instead you are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place the Lord your God will choose - you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns - and you are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to. (verse 12 is similar)
Though each person has to make an invidual, personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, family worship is important. I personally think this is a major drawback to the mega churches that separate people by ages, especially if they are separate for the entire service. Absolutely there are benefits to making things age specific and targeted for learning at their own level - but to miss out on corporate worship entirely comes at a price. Our children need to see us worshiping the Lord - both in the privacy of our homes, and publicly at church. It gives extra meaning when it`s done as a family, together in unity. Watching each other confess our sins, repent, worship and pray is just so meaningful.
Tomorrow`s passage: Deuteronomy 13:1-16:17.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I greatly apologize. I went to the ER yesterday with complications from laprascopic surgery I had three and a half weeks ago. I won't be able to post and did not know in time to give Tammy an email heads up.
Perhaps you all could share in comments what was significant to you in the reading? Thank you for your patience.
Tomorrow's reading is Deuteronomy 10-12:32
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39
The Lord is the one true God, He rules over the entire universe. We need to acknowledge this in our minds and hearts - and live our lives in light of this truth.
This is such a basic statement, and yet it encompasses so much. All the attributes of God belong to God and God alone. He is omnipresent (everywhere) which should make us very aware of our attitudes, actions and words, and at the same time it should comfort us to know He is always there for us. He is omniscient (all-knowing) which again is rather frightening that He knows our every thought, but also comforting that Someone so wise is in control. His absolute holiness blends perfectly with His mercy and grace. His love for each and every one of us is incredible. Absolute power mixed with tenderness and compassion. Immeasurable creativity, infinite wisdom, He is awesome in every sense of the word. And we need to live in light of such truths - He alone is worthy of our praises, our honour, our obedience, our devotion, our highest priority. Does the way we live reflect the reality of this verse? Have we acknowledged His Lordship, in both our minds and hearts?
Lord, we acknowledge that you alone are God. You are the ruler of the universe, the King of all kings. You sit on your throne in majesty. Your power and wisdom have no end. You are holy, you are just, you are merciful. And we are humbled by your lordship and amazed by your intimate love for us. Help us to put you on the throne of our hearts and lives. Help us to give you lordship over every area of our lives, to hold nothing back from you. We are so thankful for the sacrifice of your one and only Son, that we may have a personal relationship with you for eternity. We want to live our lives to give You glory to a watching world. Amen.
Tomorrow's readings: Deuteronomy 6:1-9:29.
Friday, March 12, 2010
So today we begin Deuteronomy. I'll admit I'm not excited about it. Deuteronomy is basically a 34-chapter "summary" of Exodus and Numbers. It's written from a different perspective than the aforementioned books ~ they were Moses passing along instructions from God to the Israelites for the first time and now he's remembering and recounting for them in his own words ~ but it still feels a lot like we're covering the same ground we just covered.
Now, we have the benefit of knowing the historical record of the Israelites up to this point, but what I'd never considered is that this book is believed to have been written within the last month or so before Moses died, just before they crossed the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land.
This means that the vast majority of the people Moses was speaking and writing to did not remember the first Passover, the miraculous escape from Egypt, walking through the Red Sea on dry ground, or water from the rocks. They didn't remember because they weren't there ~ or had only been very young children. This was the second generation of freed Israelites. They were about to enter a land they would have to fight to possess. They had God on their side, yes, but they needed to be reminded of all the amazing things He'd done for their parents in the past to prove He was indeed on their side.
How many times do we hesitate to move forward because we have not reminded ourselves of God's goodness to us in the past? How many times do we look at an uncertain future with fear and dread instead of joy and anticipation because we don't think to remind ourselves of all the times in the past we've been in similar situations and God has seen us through? How many times do we repeat mistakes unnecessarily because we have not reviewed our past ~ and seen that we've already learned this particular lesson?! (and of course, I'm not speaking from experience here or anything... ;)
While Deuteronomy might feel a little pointless since we just read about all these events and rules in the previous two books, there IS a good lesson here! It's also maybe a suggestion to record the events in our lives.
Because it is in looking back that we remember and learn from our mistakes, and learn to anticipate the loving guidance of God's hand that will hold and protect us through anything the future has in store.
We may not see the name of Jesus on these pages, but the Good Shepherd is still there!
Tomorrow's passage: Deut. 3:21-5:33.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Chapter 34 describes the boundaries of the Promised Land, the Israelites inheritance. The boundaries were larger than the actual area occupied by the Hebrews - God gives generously, always giving more than we could ask or think, which reminds me of one of my favourite verses...
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Another of the many examples of God's orderliness - He explained to Moses exactly what to do, communicating clearly, assigning specific people to oversee things - showing us how our jobs are to be completed. I've got stuff to learn in this area - no job is complete until every part of it is done. I have no problem starting projects, it's the finishing of them that's the problem!
Chapter 35 shows both God's justice and mercy - for killings that were judged to be acciental, the person could stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest at which time he would be free to move back home. If it was not accidental, the person would be executed. It is unjust to overlook wrongdoing, and it is unjust to jump to conclusions about guilt - both extremes are to be avoided. We need to keep an open mind about people's guilt/innocence until we have heard all sides of the story.
Chapter 36 starts off with a little add-on to the daughters of Zelophehad. In order to ensure that the property they inherited stayed with the tribe, they were commanded to marry within their own tribe so that each tribe would be able to keep it's original inheritance.
From the Life Application Study Bible...
The book of Numbers covers 39 years and closes with the Israelites poised near the banks of the Jordan River with the promised land in sight. The wanderings in the desert have come to an end, and the people are preparing for their next big move - the conquest of the land. The apostle Paul says that the events described in Numbers are examples that warn us and help us avoide the Israelites' mistakes (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). From their experiences we learn that unbelief is disastrous. We also learn not to long for the sinful pleasures of the past, to avoid complaining, and to stay away from all forms of sexual sin. We must not weaken our biblical beliefs by compromising them with our culture's values. If we choose to let God lead our lives, we should not ignore his message in the book of Numbers.
1 Corinthians 10: 1-12
Warnings From Israel's HistoryFor I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
There are a few different takes on Chapter 32.
Some say that the Reubenites and Gadites were willing to settle for the land outside the Promised Land (since it was excellent for cattle grazing), especially if it meant no fighting, and therefore originally intending to shirk their duties of war alongside their fellow Israelites but later agreed to go to war when Moses insisted on it.
Others say that they were planning to help their brothers all along but were still willing to settle for the land not in the Promised Land, maybe assuming the land couldn't get any better for cattle grazing, despite the fact that they hadn't seen it for themselves.
Either way, whether they had good or bad intentions, I personally find it sad. They are finally on the verge of receiving the Lord's promise - the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey - and they don't want it. Do they not have faith that the Promised Land would be the best land? Are they simply complacent? Are they worried the other land might be worse for cattle grazing and so they're determined to get the first scoop? I don't know, but to me, it's just sad. God intended for them to inhabit the Promised Land, and it seems to me like they're settling for second best.
But, isn't that just like us sometimes? Don't we often settle for second best? Either we assume this is as good as it's going to get, or we feel like it won't be worth the extra effort, or maybe that we even know better than God what the best plan is for our lives? To me, this is a reminder to never be willing to settle for anything other than God's best, God's plan, for our lives.
Another interesting note - verse 23 says "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." And what would the sin have been? Not doing what they had promised - which basically means, doing nothing. Sins of ommission are just as sinful as sins of commission.
Chapter 33 starts off with Moses recounting the journey they'd taken since leaving Egypt. Talk about a lot of times taking down and setting up camp! That would've taken a lot of work, especially after the tabernacle was built. I think it's worth it for us to do the same - when you take stock of your spiritual life you can see how far you've come, you can be reminded of how God has worked in our lives, and we can hopefully learn from our past mistakes!
The chapter ends with the instructions to utterly destroy the Canaanites because to allow any of the wicked practices of the Canaanites to remain and for the Israelites to live alongside that type of environment, would eventually lead to their ruin. Unfortunately the Israelites do not obey God (once again!) and they are eventually carried off into exile.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
From the Life Application Study Bible...
Just as the Israelites were hesitant to clear out all the wicked people, we are sometimes hesitant to clear out all the sin in our lives, either because we are afraid of it (as the Israelites feared the giants), or because it seems harmless and attractive (as sexual sin seemed). But Hebrews 12:1,2 tell us to throw off "the sin that so easily entangles" us. We all have "idols" we don't want to let go of (a bad habit, an unhealthy relationship, a certain lifestyle). If we allow these idols to dominate us, they will cause serious problems later.
We often think those little bad habits are harmless. But sin is never harmless, no matter how "big" or "little" we may think it is.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 34:1-36:13 (concluding the book of Numbers!)
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Chapter 30 discusses vows voluntarily made to the Lord. It is a good reminder that even though society today often thinks it's no big deal to break our vows - promises made to each other, business contracts (bankruptcy), marriage contracts (divorce for unbiblical reasons) - to God it is a big deal, it is sin. Therefore, we must be very careful what promises we make - we should not be hasty and we should be people of our word.
Chapter 31 talks about the Israelites wiping out the Midianites, including Balaam who, instead of cursing the Israelites, had tried to cause their demise by tempting them into sexual sin and idolatry. Normally women and children were spared from death in times of war, but the boys had to be killed in order to eradicate the Midianites, and the women (who were not virgins) had to be killed to prevent a return to the sexual immorality that caused the last plague. This seems so harsh to us, especially since we're so distanced from the reality of war (especially as it existed back then). But it serves to remind us of God's holiness, and the fact that sin needs to be dealt with entirely.
Another reminder from this story is the importance of giving our money to God, and to those in need. This was not optional in Biblical times, and it shouldn't be optional now either. God will bless us for giving to Him.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 32:1-33:56.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Today I will focus on Chapter 27. The short story of the daughters of Zelophehad is very interesting (and explains why they were included in the census in Chapter 26). Their father had no sons and they wanted to ensure that they had an inheritance so that their father's name would not disappear from his clan.
This was a new situation that hadn't been brought up before. And Moses handled this new situation the same way we should when faced with a new situation that we're unsure of what to do - he sought the Lord. He didn't just make a decision based on his knowledge or what he thought would be the right thing to do, he took it to God.
This is a good reminder for me. I think often we just rely on our knowledge, our common sense, our past experience, our intelligence, to be able to come up with the right decision when faced with something new. But we need to remember to take it to God - in Him alone is wisdom.
Secondly - this request of these 5 women shows that they are women of faith. They hadn't even stepped foot into the promised land yet, nevermind conquered it. But these women show that they had complete faith that what God promised would come to pass, and they were making plans based on that faith.
What a great reminder for us - to make plans based on our faith in God. What He has promised He will do.
The story of Moses "passing the torch" (Olympics are just finished after all!) to Joshua is a great one. When God let Moses know that he would be able to see the land from the mountain and that he would soon die, Moses did not argue with God or try to change his mind. Instead, Moses' concern was, as always, for the people and finding a suitable leader for them. He relied on God to pick his successor, instead of picking one himself. My guess is that had it been up to Moses, he would've picked Joshua too. But he didn't assume that what he wanted was what God wanted. He went to Him in prayer and waited for His direction - and then he acted on it!
This all happened a couple months before Moses' death. He took the time to prepare the next leader, so he would be ready to fulfill his new responsibilities. Joshua wouldn't commune with God directly like Moses had, but he would work with Eleazer the priest who would use the Urim and Thummim to determine God's will.
And he commissioned him in front of all the Israelites so that they would know that Joshua had God's blessing as the new leader, and that Moses also fully supported this decision.
One thing that definitely helped prepare Joshua to take over Moses role of leader of the people of Israel was his role as Moses' humble helper for many years. It doesn't sound like he had any prior ambitions to take over any leadership role. He was content in his role as Moses' helper, and when called on to spy out Canaan and report on it, he demonstrated his faithfulness in God that God would conquer the giants and they would have the victory as God promised. He was faithful in what he was given, and God rewarded him with greater responsibility.
Tomorrow's readings: Numbers 30:1-31:54.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Using SOAP format today:)
Scripture: "The LORD said to Moses, 'Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.'"
Observation: God desires justice for rebellion against him. He will bring it about or will be content with his servants bringing it about. Although Phinehas was well within his rights we must add to do this, he was a leader and the decision had all ready been made and given to do this. He was not acting out of his bounds. As Mathew Henry says in his commentary:
"Phinehas, in the courage of zeal and faith, executed vengeance on Zimri and Cozbi. This act can never be an example for private revenge, or religious persecution, or for irregular public vengeance. "
Application: It is a lesson to us to be passionate about God's ways being respected. In our culture it is so easy to go along with tolerant conversation about sin and the righteous falling into it. This recently happened in our community when a Christian leader left his wife of 30 years for an 18 year old. It saddened me greatly but it also has challenged me to be kind and yet call sin what it is, sin. God blessed Phinehas for being zealous for Him and I'm absolutely sure he will bless us if we do the same. Though this is a OT story with a Godly vengeance and a spear, and I'm not saying that is at all the drama we need to replicate, it is a lesson in passion for respecting the Lords statutes.
Prayer: Lord, help us to recall Phinehas and how he had just no tolerance for you being disrespected. Help us to pray for those who fall and have grace and yet truth for them and about them as we converse with others in our culture of tolerance and excuses. We have Christ now, the author and perfecter of our faith who desires that we be like Him being full of grace AND truth. May we take the logs out of our own eyes in repentance to you always Lord for the sins that we let nest in our hearts and distance us from you. May we live both with zeal and humility for what you desire of us and what you have completed for us. May we point all men to you. Amen.
Tomorrow's readings are in Numbers 27-29:40
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Scripture - The passage that stood out for me today was Numbers 22:32: "The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me."
Observation - Balaam had his mind made up to go down that path and he wasn't going to let anything stand in his way. When things didn't go his way, and the donkey prevented him from going down that path, he freaked and beat the donkey. It was only after the Lord revealed himself to Balaam that he understood.
Application - How often do we have our own ideas and we aren't going to let anything stand in our way. In fact, we might even be so focused on our plan that we won't even listen to anyone who wants to tell us anything different. It makes me think of that saying, "don't shoot the messager" because when someone tells us something we don't want to hear, we immediately blame the messager. When Balaam's donkey sends the message to Balaam that he should not continue on that bath, Balaam beats the messager! Balaam doesn't realize that the messager is sending him a mesaage for his own good. God works in mysterious ways to point us on the path He has chosen for us. We just have to be receptive to His leading and especially to His messangers. The messager may not always be what we want to hear but it is good for us in the long run.
Prayer - Dear Lord, thank you for being an amazing and patient God. We are blessed to have You in our lives and guiding our path. Lord, we often put our desires ahead of what you want for us and we don't often consider the big picture like You do. You know what the future holds and You know the path that will take us there. Help us to listen to the messangers You put into our lives and pay careful attention to their direction. Be with us as we wait patiently for You to unfold the plan in Your timing. Amen.
Tomorrow's Readings are from Numbers 25:1-26:65