Archive for July, 2009

Numbers 31

Numbers 31 is a chapter of war and destruction.  Moses is instructed to attack the Midianites as one of his last acts on earth.  God says “Afterward you will go to be with your dead ancestors”.  So Moses tells each tribe to select 1000 men to go to war, and sends these 12,000 into battle with strict instructions.  They killed all the kings and also Balaam, whom you may recall from previous chapters.  They took the women and children captive and brought back all the livestock and other plunder.  Total victory – they killed all the men – “every last man”.  Scripture tells us Moses met the army and was “was furious with the army officers”.  Wow.  They had just wiped out the enemy, captured the women and kids, and carried back the plunder.  Moses is on the doorstep to death, and he is still leading.  That is called finishing strong from my perspective.  He leads right to the very end.  The army had been told to get rid of the women who had been part of leading the Israelites astray previously when God sent the plague because of the “mess at Peor”.  So Moses instructs the army to finish their job and tells them how to bring back the plunder.  It was a whole lot.  The numbers of livestock are staggering and the wealth significant.

Of course there were some rules around that as well.  Moses got instruction from God on how to “tax the booty” that was gathered.  Sacrifices were required as a “God tax” for the individuals in the army who received plunder, as well as the tribes who got a half-share of what was captured.  Interestingly, the military officers counted their troops upon return and found that “not a man is missing” from their ranks.  Can you imagine?  They go to war against their enemy with 12,000 men and no one is killed while they completely wipe out the enemy.  Never doubt that God is able.  He not only can handle it, He can handle it completely.  God sent them into battle and not only defeated the enemy but protected the warriors as well.  God is so like that.  He never fails.  When we follow Him, we can be assured that His plan will be done.  It may not be the way we expect, but His will happens.  And it happens His way.  Always.  Moses never stops listening and following God.  Down to the end of life he is in tune and obedient.  How about you?  Are you walking where God leads?

Numbers 30

Numbers 30 is all about the taking of “vows and pledges”.  Scripture has a pretty strong view on those things – sometimes we tend to make a lot more lightly of it I think than we should.  The purpose of a vow or pledge is to let people know what you are going to do.  It is not an intention – it is a promise to perform.  When you make a vow it tells us you “must not break his word; he must do exactly what he has said”.  This is not optional stuff.  Too often we seem to think that vows, pledges, promises or just statements are not really all that binding.  I can change my mind or fail to do what I said and it doesn’t really matter.  That isn’t exactly how it goes, nor how we should look at it.  Marriage is certainly one area where we see that vows don’t seem to matter to many any more.  When we get married, we make a vow to our spouse.  That is not contingent on their performance or our happiness.  It is our commitment to stay in the relationship no matter what.  Forever.  It is serious business.  But we have moved long past that unfortunately and our society and especially kids are paying the price for our unwillingness to live up to our vows.  It happens in a lot of other areas as well.

 This chapter is filled with examples of the role a father or husband should play in keeping daughters and wives from making vows and pledges they should not.  “Her husband can cancel them and God will release her” or “her father holds her back…and God will release her”.  The responsibility for husbands and dads are pretty clear here.  We need to be paying attention to our leadership men.  The chapter is clear that “these are the rules that GOD gave Moses regarding conduct between a man and his wife and between a father and his young daughter who is still living at home”.  We have responsibility and we best find out what it is that God will be holding us accountable for.  Far too many men duck when it comes to leading at home.  They dump that on their wives and think they are immune from it.  Not so according to scripture.  It is our role to lead as husband and dad.  Period.  God has a plan for us, and we need to step up and take that very seriously.  Not only for the benefit of our wife and kids, but because someday we will give an account for how we have done what God has given us as a responsibility.  It may be one thing to fail in living up to your word or vow with someone here on this earth, but the stakes are a whole lot higher in failing to do what we are assigned when it comes to eternity and our relationship with God.  Wake up men.  We have a call that we are missing.  Lead your home well.  God expects and demands it.  Don’t miss the opportunity to make eternal deposits in those in your charge.  It is the most important work you will do!

Numbers 29

Numbers 29 talks about the activities of the seventh month.  It is party time, or at least a different time.  God instructs Moses to have the people take off day one, ten and then starting on day 15 – 8 days more.  Not much going to happen during this month.  The chapter is filled with instructions on how to “gather in worship and do no regular work”.  There were sacrifices and offerings that were to be done.  The center of it all is God and putting Him in His rightful place.  I was struck by the number of times it says to “do no regular work”.  Have I ever had a day when I didn’t do at least some regular work?  That is a pretty tall order, at least for me.  This week I was struck by a friends comments that he had recently spent four days in prayer and fasting with his Bible and a couple other books.  Sort of got my attention…..I haven’t ever done anything like that.  But God does want us to get away from the daily grind and spend quality time in worship and focus on Him.  It is important and something we all need to find an effective way to make part of our lives. 

 The other thing that jumps out at me happens as the instruction winds down.  God is speaking about the offerings that were to be part of the feasts: “your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, Grain-Offerings, Drink-Offerings, and Peace-Offerings. These are all over and above your personal Vow-Offerings and Freewill-Offerings”.  Did you catch that – over and above?  Giving is not just about making a 10% tithe.  That is the foundation from which true giving begins.  God desires us to really grasp the fact that all we have is His.  We are stewards and He entrusts us, for some reason, to take care of some of His stuff.  Actually He does that so we can learn the principles of giving.  That it is more blessed to give than receive, that when we give He blesses, that joy comes as we give, and the list goes on and one.  But giving is never really about hitting the minimum.  It is about the ability to go beyond – the over and above stuff – where we really find the greatest joy.  How are you doing with that?  Are you just working to try and get to the bare minimum, or are you focused on trying to grow that giving to the point of not only hitting the mark but exceeding it?  Are you going to be an over and above kind of giver?  That is God’s desire for our lives.  He doesn’t just give us the minimum, He has given each of us exceedingly more than we deserve or need.  Out of that abundance, we need to share freely by giving to others.  Are you finding the blessing and joy in that?  It doesn’t come by thinking about it, or talking about it.  It only happens we you actually give it away.  Do it.  Give God’s truth a try!

Numbers 28

Numbers 28 contains God’s instructions to the people through Moses about how to sacrifice again.  This was started back at Mount Sinai a long time ago, and now is being updated and refocused.  The details are deep, the times very specific, and the way it was to be done exact.  God has a very straightforward plan for how His people were to connect through sacrifice.  There are many different types of offerings described here.  They all serve a different purpose, but bottom line they are about getting right with the Father.  And the chapter ends with this: “remember, the animals must be healthy”.  How sad that even then God had to remind the people that this was not the place to give the leftovers or the unhealthy things. 

 But as I look at the lives of many today, that is exactly what God gets.  He gets the leftovers.  He gets our left over time – which frankly doesn’t amount to much.  We struggle to take time to spend with Him one on one because we are too busy.  We miss a daily quiet time because of the chaos we allow to rule our lives.  He gets little or any of our time in loving and serving others because the schedule just doesn’t allow it.  Our calendars are filled with activities that are usually focused on me, myself and I and seldom leave margin to allow us to love people, which is what God cares about.  Sure He loves me, but not only me!  And His command to me is to love Him and love others.  The focus there is not about me.  God also seems to get the leftover money, rather than the first 10% of our income.  Isn’t that how it goes.  If we are short, the easy place to take it back is from our church giving.  No one will send us an overdue bill for that.  God’s desire is for our finances to be under control as well so He not only receives His tithe, but we are able to use the margin in our money to give offerings over and above that as well as He leads.  That doesn’t happen when my focus is on me, myself and I either.  I spend every last cent on stuff that doesn’t matter that takes up space and collects dust and will burn up someday.  God desires our hearts to be focused on the right things here – putting Him first in our lives and realizing that all we have – time, money, relationships – it all belongs to Him.  We need to get it right.  How are you doing in making sure your relationship with God is “healthy”?

Numbers 27

Numbers 27 is the wrap up for Moses.  This chapter begins with the daughters of Zelophehad showing up to ask for their inheritance.  There were no brothers in their family, so the line was going to die out in terms of ownership.  So they go to Moses and ask for their land and he immediately seeks God for direction.  “God ruled…..give them land as an inheritance” and then goes on to set the standard for how it should be handled going forward.  It had not been the tradition for property to be owned by anyone other than the sons in a family.  But that changes here as a series of instructions are given on how to divide inheritance.  Moses continues to show us how to live – when questions come – he seeks God.  He does it quickly – not after trying to figure it out on his own.  Request comes – he seeks – God answers.  It really is a pretty simple formula.  When we are faced with a decision, we need to ask God to give us direction.  It is His desire to do just that.  But we need to listen so when He responds we are paying attention.  Sometimes my tendency is to ask and then do what I think I should without ever giving God the opportunity to respond.  How about you?

 God instructs Moses to climb up the mountains and look over the Promised Land.  Then the reality of the past sinks in when God says “when you have had a good look you will be joined to your ancestors in the grave”.  In other words – Moses isn’t going to enter the Promised Land.  It all goes back to the way he obeyed at Kadesh when he failed to obey God’s command.  Back in chapter 20 God had told Moses to speak to the rock and bring forth water but Moses struck the rock instead.  That failure to obey is now coming home to roost.  Moses is not going to enter the land he has led the people to for the last 40+ years beginning back in Egypt.  That would tend to make one bitter, wouldn’t it?  Not Moses.  He immediately asks God who he should pass leadership on to.  Did you catch that?  God tells him that he is not entering the Promised Land and his response – who should take over in my place.  No pouting, whining, complaining, scheming, tantrums – just continued leadership and concern for the people.  What an example of staying focused on the mission.  He certainly didn’t want to be this close and have his people fail to cross the finish line.  God instructs him to pass the torch to Joshua, and to “stand him in front of the entire community….lay hands on and commission him”.  Can you imagine the bitter sweet feeling.  Moses let the people to the edge of greatness and then has to hand off.  It was like running 99.9 yards but handing the ball to someone else to cross the goal line.  What a struggle he has led the people through and yet he humbly obeys God and passes things to Joshua to bring it home.  We need to learn much from the leadership of Moses.  He is a pillar of consistent leadership and an example of how we need to lead.  Lord help me be focused on the end like he was.

Numbers 26

Numbers 26 is exactly that – God has Moses count the people again. This time there are 601,730 in the count. Why count again? This is how the land is to be divided up. God tells Moses to “divide up the inheritance of the land based on population”. So the count is pretty important as it determined who got how much. There were an additional 23,000 that aren’t in the count which was the number of Levites. Since they were not eligible to have land, their total is not included. But Moses and Eleazar the priest did exactly what God had told them and they prepared to give the people their Promised Land. Check out this reality: “not one of them had been among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest in the census of the people of Israel taken in the Wilderness of Sinai”. It has completely changed, all those who were part of the original group were dead now except for Moses, Caleb and Joshua.

Quite a turnover in the past years. Can you imagine the excitement as the people begin to understand what is about to happen. For many years they have been waiting to enter the new land, one filled with the promise of milk and honey. They have struggled with their rations, water, and lifestyle. They have endured plagues and death because of their grumbling and complaining. Moses has had to intercede numerous times to save them from sure death. And now they are being counted for the final approach to their new land. The excitement had to be very high. They had to be extremely ready to go. I can feel it. Are you excited about what God has planned for your life? Scripture tells us He has “a future and a hope” for each of us. That should excite and motivate us to really get after it. God is so very good. He has and continues to bless us all indeed. We need to recognize it, thank Him for it, and share the reality of it with others. Are you living in His blessing? Are you entering your promised land?

Numbers 25

Numbers 25 is a rather sad day in the lives of the Israelites. They are on their journey to the Promised Land and put up camp at Shittim. The verse that starts all the problems goes like this: “the men began to have sex with the Moabite women”. You knew that sex had to be part of it didn’t you. It was part of their worship – how convenient is that. So God was angry and again decides to wipe out the leaders who were participating or letting this go on. This sex and worship scheme led them to worship Baal of Peor, and God responds by telling Moses to wipe out “all the leaders….hanging them….leaving them publicly exposed”. Moses gave God’s order to the judges and the work began. Phineas, who was the grandson of Aaron, saw one of the guys – Zimri – take a Midianite woman – Cozbi – who was daughter of one of the tribal chiefs of the Midianites into his tent. This was a blatant thing and he did it intentionally in front of all to send the message that no one could tell them how to live.

But Phineas follows them into the tent and scripture tells us that with “one thrust he drove the spear through the two of them” and killed them both. Seems a little intense doesn’t it? Yet God saw his passion for truth and obedience, and at that point halted the execution of the people, which had already reached 24,000 dead. God saw what Phineas had done, and said “Because he was as zealous for my honor as I myself am, I didn’t kill all the People of Israel in my zeal”. God was pleased that one of his priests would stand strong for the truth and take action to protect God’s ways. So he spares the rest that were on the death list. The enemy knew the weakness of man, and worked to destroy God’s people by pursuing them there. We need to be very aware that it exactly how Satan attacks today. He knows all too well what our areas of weakness are, and will come after us incessantly. We need to be on our guard and stand firm so we can deal with those attacks. Scripture tells us that no temptation is too much for us to resist, but we do have to choose to resist. It isn’t just a complete pass. Are you zealous for God’s truth and His ways? Do you protect it at every turn? We need to do that. There is much power in being completely aligned with God and His Word. Are you living like that?

Numbers 24

Numbers 24 continues the story of Balaam and the attempt by Balak to get him to curse the people of Israel. Of course, that can’t happen as Balaam must speak God’s truth as a prophet.  So Balaam tells Balak of his relationship with God.  Check out the attributes that Balaam has:

“1. Spirit of God came upon him

2. Man with 20/20 vision

3. Man who hears God speak

4. Sees what the Strong God shows him

5. Falls on his face in worship

6. Sees what is really going on

What a description of a relationship with God.  Balaam is tuned in and hears clearly God’s voice. And the result is not to curse Israel, but rather to bless the people which he does. 

 Balak gets irritated and decides to go back on his word to pay Balaam whatever he wanted.  Since it didn’t go his way, Balak sends Balaam away with no payment of any kind.  “I told you I would pay you well, but you’re getting nothing”.  That seems pretty predictable.  You don’t do what I expect so I change all the rules.  Sounds a lot like people in general.  Balaam again tells Balak that he cannot be bought with money.  He is a principled man who lives in relationship with God and is not for sale.  We can learn from that.  Balaam goes on to prophecy about a number of peoples who will be defeated and speaks truth without fear.  He wasn’t swayed by the potential for reaction to his truth speaking.  He ends his oracles with this truth: “Who stands a chance when God starts in”?  The answer is clear – no one does.  God alone is in control.  He is able, more than able.  We need to walk with him like Balaam did – speak God’s truth – not what man wants to hear.  Too often we get worried about the results.  When we speak truth the results are not our concern.  God will take care of that.  Balaam tells it like God told him and left the rest to God.  Are you a truth speaker?  Are you talking to others with the truth God has given you, or avoiding the hard stuff in life.  God is still in control.  No one stands a chance if God has spoken it as so.  We should not be afraid, we should boldly proclaim his truth!

Numbers 23

Balak now asks Balaam to seek God and hopefully curse Moses and his people.  So altars are built, sacrifices made and Balaam goes and gets alone with God.  God met him and gave him His words.  Balaam comes back and gives God’s message – that these people are blessed of God.  In fact Balaam says “I want to die like these right living people.  I want an end just like theirs”.  God had revealed how blessed the people of Israel were, and Balaam wants that blessing too.  He cannot curse what God has blessed.  So Balak is irritated and decides to take Balaam to another location to look over less of the people and hopefully curse the fringes.  He isn’t getting the answer he wanted so he is asking for another opinion or attempt.  Isn’t that human nature?  God gives an answer and if it isn’t what we wanted to hear, we ask again or more likely ask somewhere else.  That is not the way it should work.  If God says it, it isn’t going to change because we ask again.  Sure we can go find a different answer from another source, but it won’t be God’s answer and it won’t come true.  Only God’s truth is going to happen.

 Balaam goes along with Balak’s second ask and they look over the outskirts of the camps and then Balaam goes off to get God’s message again.  This time it is a bit stronger response: “God is not man, one given to lies, and not a son of man changing his mind. Does he speak and not do what he says? Does he promise and not come through? I was brought here to bless; and now he’s blessed–how can I change that”?  Balak wanted to have Balaam curse Israel, but Balaam finds out that God’s plan for his long trip to see the people of Israel was to bless them.  Now that is a pretty big turn of events.  God makes it clear through Balaam that He isn’t swayed by man, and His mind doesn’t change like the wind.  His Word is truth and it comes through.  He does what He says and it never fails.  Balak still is not content and asks Balaam to take another look and seek God again.  He just isn’t giving up.  He knows if the people are blessed by God he and his army will be no match.  He will be toast.  So he persists again to get Balaam to take a third look.  His ask now is not that Balaam curse them but at least that he doesn’t bless them.  What a revolting development.  He brought this prophet all this way to get a curse and now it is on the verge of a blessing to the threat.  We will find out in the next chapter how try three goes down.  But the key is to realize that God is consistent, His truth happens, and we need to embrace it because it isn’t changing to fit our situation or desires.  God is not man, and He does what He says!

Numbers 22

Numbers 22 is a great story about the importance of listening. Balak, who was the king of Moab, is freaking out that Moses and the people of Israel are getting close to his country. He has heard about the fact that the Israelites are wiping up as they move and Balak is very concerned that he will be next. So he sends folks to get Balaam, a prophet of God, to come and bless him and curse Moses. Of course Balaam seeks God and is told not to return with these folks to Balak. “Don’t go with them…and don’t curse the others – they are a blessed people”. So Balak, being the fine leader he is, sends some higher ranking people to Balaam. They come with a promise to “honor and reward you lavishly” but Balaam still isn’t buying in. He doesn’t just refuse, he again goes to God to get direction. There is a principle here. Each time there is a question, even if it is the same one, Balaam goes to God. We need to do a whole lot more of that. When decisions come up, if we don’t have a clear answer from God’s Word, we need to be asking.

God does change things a little bit and tells Balaam to go but not say a word. Balaam is definitely tuned in to God as he says “I wouldn’t be able to defy the orders of my God to do anything, whether big or little”. Oh that we had that kind of attitude and desire – to serve God completely whether large or small. So Balaam heads off with these guys to go back to Moab. And suddenly his donkey goes in the ditch. Balaam beats him. Then it happens again, and again Balaam beats the donkey. The third time the donkey comes upon a narrow passage and just sits down. Balaam “lost his temper and beat the donkey with a stick”. But the rest of the story is that there was “an angel of God standing in the road to block his way” three times. Twice he was able to go around, but this third time there was no other way. And this time, “God gave speech to the donkey” and tells Balaam what is going on. Check out the reason: “I have come here to block your way because you’re getting way ahead of yourself”. It wasn’t necessarily that Balaam was doing the wrong thing, but it was the wrong time. The donkey had saved Balaam from the sword of death that the angel was carrying. Balaam immediately confesses to the angel “I have sinned. I had no idea you were standing in the road blocking my way”. How come? Was it just that Balaam was so focused on the end that he missed the path to get there and ultimately missed God? Sometimes we go so fast and go our own path and we may miss God’s instruction along the way. We need to be alert, tuned in, and listening. God will speak to us even if it takes a donkey!

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