Archive for October, 2011

Psalm 90

Psalm 90 falls right in the middle of our chronological walk through scripture.  It is “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God”.  That is a very powerful title that Moses carries – not ‘a man of God’  but “the man of God”.  So what describes you?  Are you a man or woman of God – that is a great starting place?  Becoming THE man or woman can’t happen until we at least become A man or woman of God.  What does that even mean?  Part of the answer comes from the words just prior to that announcement – Moses was a pray-er.  He had a direct and open communication line with God.  Face to face when needed, but continual all the time.  He was in touch and tuned in.  That is foundational to becoming a man or woman of God – we have to be plugged in to the source of all knowledge and power and love and everything.

Moses teaches us through this prayer a few things.  He begins with worship and adoration.  Not an immediate jump into the list of things He wants God to do.  He recalls God’s blessing and goodness and provision.  He  gives God credit for all He has done in the past, present and future.  “Before the mountains….or….you had formed the earth….from everlasting to everlasting you are God”.  Moses puts God where He belongs – on the throne of the universe.  He calls out the reality that man is dust and that God sees the past but knows the future.

Moses acknowledges that God is holy and that there are standards we must follow.  He brings up the reality of sin and our iniquities and that the end of those things is anger and wrath.  He calls out God’s role as the judge and punisher of evil.  We need to have confession as part of our prayer life. We sin, each and every one of us, and prayer is an important part of getting that straightened out with God.  We need to come humbly before the Father and admit where we have missed the mark, confess, and repent.  That is how we are forgiven – when we confess and believe that Jesus has taken our sin on Himself and set us free.

Moses continues with some asks.  I love the things he asks for – not little things that are not life changing – but big requests believing in God’s power:

–      “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom

–      Have pity on your servants

–      Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days

–      Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us

–      Let your work be shown to your servants

–      your glorious power to their children

–      Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us

–      establish the work of our hands upon us

That is praying for the home run.  o small requests about the pressing issues of the day.  Moses is asking for the fences – his supplication is not only for himself but for his people.  He is seeking God’s favor and response for the ages.  Oh that we would learn to pray this way, and become a man or woman of God.  Prayer is a key element – we need to get before our God and spend the time to connect!

Numbers 15

Numbers 15 has God speaking to Moses about “When you come into the land you  are to inhabit”.  Seems like a  pretty early set of instructions given the fact they were just told it would be  40 years before they would arrive and be allowed in.  But preparation and planning are good things  – and Moses has time to get everyone ready for what God expects.  They are told to do a couple things – to  sacrifice and “make a pleasing aroma to the Lord” is the first one.  God truly does want us to worship Him and  give Him honor and glory for all He has done.  In fact, He tells Moses that this should be a “statute forever throughout your  generations”.  Worship is  something we need to focus on much more than we do.

The second thing God tells Moses is “when you come into the land to  which I bring you….when you eat of the bread of the land….you shall present a  contribution to the Lord….of the first of your dough”.  Not only were the people to offer a sacrifice  “to  fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering”, but they were also to give  thanks with an offering as well.  God  desires that we recognize His blessing on us and that we give back from that  abundance.  In this nation, we do live in  abundance.  We struggle at times to give  any of what we accumulate away.  We get  stuck on the ‘it’s mine’ attitude.  It is  in fact all God’s and when we give it away we are merely giving back what God  already owns.  We are stewards of His  stuff – not owners of our own.

The chapter goes on to talk about two types of sin.  “If one person sins unintentionally”  – so there is sin that is accidental or not committed with any intent.  Sometimes sin happens when we fail to do  something we are supposed to – a sin of omission.  Sometimes sin happens when we unknowingly do  something.  Sometimes sin happens purely as  a result of circumstances.  Lots of ways  that sin can occur in life unintentionally.  But the reality is a tough one – sin is sin.  It has to be dealt with as God cannot just   ignore any sin.  So the instruction here  is to make an offering to atone for it.  Jesus went to the cross to atone for our sin.  We just need to be seeking God’s forgiveness  through Him.

But the chapter goes on to address the second type of sin.  “But the person who does anything with a high  hand” – sin that is intentional and done knowingly.  God’s instruction here is strong and swift: “that  person shall be cut off from among his people….his iniquity shall be on him”.  Sin is a real issue that so many just think  God will let slide.  That isn’t how it  works.  In fact, in this chapter we see  what many would consider a minor infraction leading to a severe result.  “They found a man gathering sticks on the  Sabbath day….and the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to  death….the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death  with stones”.  Still think God  doesn’t take sin seriously.

This guy was simply gathering sticks – sure it violated the law of  the Sabbath – but it was just a few sticks.  Sin is sin and God cannot tolerate it.  We need to ponder that impact in each of our own lives.  If we have sin (and every last one of us  does), we face a similar problem.  Sin  will separate us from God if it is not dealt with.  Jesus is the way to address it.  God told Moses to “put a cord of blue on the tassel  of each corner….to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do  them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes”.  We can’t trust our own intuition and  thoughts.  We need to know God’s  commandments and live that way.  All day  every day.  And when we fail, we need to  confess, repent and get right through Christ.  Are you walking that way?

Numbers 14

Numbers 14 is full of lessons for us.  In the last chapter the 12 spies had returned – all but Caleb said that the land was filled with obstacles that would prevent them from taking it.  Only one, and in this chapter a second – Joshua son of Nun – said they should proceed to take what God had promised them.  Not because of their might, but because of God.  The people “wept that night….all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron”.  The nature of humankind – weep and grumble when things are not going the way we want them to.  They take it further and begin to ask questions like this: “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt”?  And then the real stupid thought: “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt”.

Things aren’t going as they like, and bad attitudes sweep the camp.  People second guess their leaders and want to replace them and head back to slavery where at least they lived in safety.  Oh how short memories are.  Joshua and Caleb go before the people and remind them of the facts: “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them”.  It is a great land, and they have a great God who has led them faithfully and cared for them completely.  But the people respond by wanting to stone them.  God is not humored.

How long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them”?  God has had it.  He is ready to send a plague and wipe out the entire bunch.  Then we see one of the traits of a great leader – Moses intercedes.  He pleads with God: “pardon the iniquity of this people”.  Not because they deserved it – they didn’t.  Not because they were supporting him – they weren’t.  But Moses intercedes because he loves his people and knows they need him to step up.  And God listened.  God responded: “I have pardoned, according to your word”.  That is a picture of effective intercession – when we stand between God and another and plead for them.  God honors that kind of prayer.  The results are not without impact.  God is still very disappointed and says “none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers”.  There is a price for disobedience and a failure to have faith.  Only Joshua and Caleb and those under the age of 20 will ever enter the promised land, but Moses has averted destruction for his people through his leadership and intercession.

God’s punishment is to “be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness”.  Long price to pay for failing to believe.  Remember it was 11 who went and returned with a bad report.  The issue for all the rest was they believed the bad information.  Never think you can point a finger and get off the hook.  We are responsible for what we choose to believe.  Those who caused this to happen had a more immediate result. “And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land – the men who brought up a bad report of the land – died by plague before the Lord”.  They were dead very quickly for their disbelief.  Once God had spoken directly and told them they were still going to take the Promised Land – albeit 40 years from now – the people decided they should just go ahead and move on in now.  Moses warned them they would not succeed.  But of course they hadn’t listened before, so why start now.  So they went in and were defeated and pursued.  Another example of not following leadership and reaping very bad results.  God uses people to lead.  We need to learn to discern where His hand is resting and follow there!

Numbers 13

Numbers 13 is the story of Moses who obeys God’s direction to “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel”.  God has promised the people their land.  He called led them out of captivity in Egypt to go there, and now Moses has “men who were heads of the people of Israel” head out and spy on this place they were heading.  All of a sudden they are now going to get their first look at the home they were called to.  Moses picks these guys to take on the task:

Tribe                            Leader

Reuben                         Shammua the son of Zaccur

Simeon                         Shaphat the son of Hori

Judah                           Caleb the son of Jephunneh

Issachar                        Igal the son of Joseph

Ephraim                        Hoshea the son of Nun

Benjamin                       Palti the son of Raphu

Zebulun                        Gaddiel the son of Sodi

Joseph (Manasseh)       Gaddi the son of Susi

Dan                              Ammiel the son of Gemalli

Asher                            Sethur the son of Michael

Naphtali                        Nahbi the son of Vophsi

Gad                                 Geuel the son of Machi

Twelve men send on a mission.  Here is what Moses asks them to do: “sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, “Go up into the Negeb and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is”.  Specifically…..

–      “whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak

–      whether they are few or many

–      whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad

–      whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds

–      whether the land is rich or poor

–      whether there are trees in it or not

Some pretty specific requests.  Moses wants to know what they are facing.  The men head off and exam the land.  They cut down a single cluster of grapes and have to carry it on a pole between two of them so it was pretty good fruit.  They spend 40 days out there spying, and then return with their findings which they gave to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation.

It was show and tell time.  The dozen spies gave this report on the land they had just checked out, and showed off the fruit they had brought back.

–      “flows with milk and honey

–      this is its fruit

–      people who dwell in the land are strong

–      cities are fortified and very large

–      descendants of Anak

–      Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb

–      Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country

–      Canaanites dwell by the sea

The report is going down the path of ‘we can’t really do much as the people there are strong and protected’.

But then “Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it”.  One man steps up and believes.  The other 11 say no – that it cannot be done.  But Caleb saw the potential and knew God’s power.  He was ready to go and take the land even though “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them”.  What is the difference between Caleb and the rest?  Perspective, and faith.  He knew God was leading.  He knew God was able.  He knew God had already given them the land.  He was ready to be obedient and go take it.  So he looked at things through God’s eyes – that is called vision.  The rest were only looking through their own.  What a difference perspective makes in how we respond to the same set of circumstances and experiences.  Through what eyes do you look? Your limited vision, or God’s unlimited perspective?  He is able, which means we are able, to do great and mighty things when He leads!

Numbers 12

Numbers 12 brings us to another leadership challenge – turmoil from within.  “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married”.  The challenge for any leader is not only detractors from outside who continually throw rocks, but also the occasional internal uprising which happens on the inside.  Those can be most frustrating.  In this case, all of a sudden Miriam and Aaron take on the complaining role and begin to complain about Moses and the bride he chose.  They don’t just question his choice – they question his ability to be the leader.

That is often how these things manifest themselves – a personal attack on the leader.  “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also”?  This appears to be a power grab and the method is to tear down the leader to get a piece of the action.  So what normally happens?  The leader responds and gets defensive and things begin to deteriorate.  Not so with Moses.  He doesn’t say or do anything.  But God does.  Why doesn’t Moses get all bristled up and take offense.  God tells us these very important words that define the core of Moses and a great leader: “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth”.  Humility is one of the most important traits of a servant leader.  And Moses is a great example of that.

So how does God handle this?  The way all of us need to handle conflict – head on.  He calls the three of them to the entrance of the tent and lets Aaron and Miriam know He is not humored with their attempt to discredit and take power from Moses.  “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses”?  The basic message is that while there may be plenty of prophets among the people, Moses is in a different class.  He is the only one who speaks face to face with God.  He is the only one whom God speaks with directly.  Bottom line for Aaron and Miriam – they made a bad mistake in judgment and should not be questioning Moses.

Moses doesn’t punish them.  God does – He strikes Miriam with leprosy as He leaves the meeting.  Of course the response of Aaron and Miriam is to cry to Moses to fix things.  That is often how things happen – in the midst of these challenges – things go awry and then the leader is called on to fix them.  To be honest, it had to be tempting to just say ‘it’s your problem’ but Moses doesn’t do that.  He pleads to God for healing.  God hears and offers to heal but only after 7 days being “shut outside the camp”.  There was a lesson that needed to be learned here and God wasn’t going to miss that opportunity to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Leadership always comes with challenges.  People will look for ways to chip away.  The key is to remain humble and walk with God.  He will lead us through those challenges when we keep our eyes on Him and our focus on obedience!

Numbers 11

Numbers 11 is a chapter that captures the reality of mankind.  “The people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes”.  We are a whiny bunch as humans.  Things are never good enough.  God has rescued these people from years of slavery and now they are complaining because things are not their way.  Does this sound at all familiar?  If not, you might want to look in the mirror.  It likely describes you.  Is God amused?  “When the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp”.  Not exactly.  He was irritated at their response.  He responded forcefully to let them know it was not ok.

So what do they do?  “Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down”.  They cried about their situation and asked the leader to fix it.  The complaint was that they had no meat to eat.  They weren’t starving to death.  God has provided manna faithfully to keep them alive.  But they were not satisfied with God’s provision.  They wanted more – they wanted it their way.  “Moses heard the people weeping….the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased”.  The people were consumed with self.  They wanted things their way and the tribe mentality has set in.  Whining spreads like wildfire.  Grumbling takes root and becomes the way everyone thinks.

Moses questions why this is his problem.  After all, there are “six hundred thousand on foot” – how is he supposed to find meat for all of them.  Moses misses the point here.  God’s disgust was not that He couldn’t give them meat.  It was the way they came and asked and then continued to be caught up in their desires.  Moses feels like God has put this on his shoulders.  “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me”?  He knows there is no possible way for him to meet their desires.  “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people?….I am not able to carry all this people alone”.  That is the point Moses.  God will meet the need but the issue is how it is brought to Him.

God sets up an expanded leadership structure based on Moses request.  “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel….bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you….I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone”.  Moses and Aaron had been the sole leaders of the people to this point.  Now God is spreading the burden and sharing the load.  70 men who will be touched and empowered with God’s spirit so they can help lead.  Joshua, who was Moses assistant, gets excited when he sees a couple of these guys demonstrate God’s power.  He asks Moses to stop them.  But Moses understands that for leadership to happen, he has to be willing to let go.  “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets”.  It is a significant part of the process of leadership – sharing that with others who can be part of the process.

God does answer the prayer for meat.  In fact He sent “quail from the sea….two cubits above the ground”.  There was literally a sea of quail around the camp.  So “the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail”.  Didn’t take long for folks to put their desires into action.  They gathered and stored and saved and were focused on self.  It was all about them.  God’s response was to send “a very great plague” which killed many of the gluttons and so they literally “buried the people who had the craving”.  Their selfish desires caused them to die at God’s hand.  Oh that we learn to listen and trust God rather than self.

Numbers 10

Numbers 10 introduces us to one of the ways Moses is going to lead – two silver trumpets.  The Lord spoke to Moses and had him make these “for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp”.  Remember there are a whole lot of people to manage here, and God tells Moses what to do. There were a number of ways these trumpets were to indicate action:

  1.  “Both are blown                 everyone gathers at the entrance to the tent of meeting
  2. One is blown                          chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather
  3. Alarm is blown                      east side shall set out
  4. Second alarm blown           camps on the south side shall set out
  5. Long blast                                assembly is to be gathered

The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets”.  This was a serious job as it was the main way to notify people that they needed to do something.  So the task carries a high priority and is assigned to the priests.  God also tells them that the trumpets were to be “a perpetual statute throughout your generations”.  This is not some short term stop gap measure.  God is setting up the foundation for how the people are to be led for generations to come.

There are some other times that God gives to use the trumpets:

–      “go to war

–      day of your gladness

–      appointed feasts

–      beginnings of your months

Very important part of not only communication, but warning and worship as well.  Remember that this is a huge number of people to try and herd through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.  Moses has quite a task on his hands.

Didn’t take long to put it to the test.  “They set out for the first time at the command of the Lord by Moses”.  Time to get on with the journey.  The chapter describes the “order of march of the people”.   That matters too.  Moses doesn’t just turn them loose and encourage them to head on out and hopefully find the place.  No GPS in those days.  No street signs or direction.  This is a big march.  Discipline and order was the only hope.  Moses’ father-in-law talks about heading home and not coming along.  For many, that is when a sigh of relief happens.  Not in this case.  Moses says “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us”.  Moses wants him along and convinces him to join the journey.  “The cloud of the Lord was over them by day”.  They followed God’s leading.  When God moved, so did they, and when He stopped they set up camp.  The journey has begun!

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