April 17, 2013

Today you should read: Numbers 36

So here we are at the end of the book of Numbers. We see an issue over land about which Moses gives direction from the Lord. Then the passage ends with this statement, “These are the commands and regulations that the Lord gave to the people of Israel through Moses…” So now God, through Moses his leader and servant, has given the law and all His regulations to the people and He is about to send them out. Here is what I want us to think on today:

God has given us a law as well, and we are a people sent out!

How are we doing?

Just as God gave His law to the people of Israel He has “written his law on our hearts” (Hebrews 10:16) and just as Israel will soon be sent out, so we too are sent out into the world (Matthew 10:16). If you are familiar with the history of Israel then you know that, even though God gave them warnings and regulations to keep them from falling they still chose to turn from God and worship idols. So what about us? What about you? As God’s people we are in a place surrounded by those who, as in Israel’s day, worship idols, and we are called to God’s standard and to worship Him only.

What will your story be? Will you be like the Israelites who turned from God to the things of this world or will you be one whose life is characterized with a loving obedience to Jesus? The boundaries are set, and the challenge that Joshua gives to Israel lies before us, “Choose this day who you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd

April 16, 2013

Today you should read: Numbers 35

In chapter 34, the boundaries of the Promised Land were defined, and the instructions on how to divvy out the land to the 12 tribes of Israel were given.  The land was to be divided proportionately according to the size of each tribe.  You might note that the Levites weren’t doled out a plot of land to settle and live.  Well, why not?  You might remember Numbers 18:20, which says,

“Then the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.”

Where were the Levites to live?  Numbers 35 gives us the answer.  Here in chapter 35, the Lord wanted each tribe to allot a certain amount of their inheritance for the Levites to live.  The Levites would have a place to live within each tribe, though they wouldn’t have their own inheritance like the 12 tribes of Israel.  In fact, they were to have 48 cities amongst the 12 tribes.

So, what’s the big deal?  I like the way David Guzik puts it in his commentary:

“This reflects God’s desire to evenly distribute the Levites – who were to be the most spiritually focused Israelites – the full-time ministers, so to speak – evenly throughout Israel, so their influence could be distributed throughout the whole nation

I.  This shows the wisdom of God in not making a Levitical state that others would have to go to. God intended that these ministers go out among the people, to influence them for the LORD.

II.  In the same way, God does not intend that there be a Christian country or state where all the Christians live together in spiritual bliss, and simply say to the world, “come and join us if you want.” Instead, God wants Christians to be sprinkled throughout the whole world, influencing people for Jesus Christ.”

I believe, as followers of Christ, we are all full-time ministers.  For some, ministry is a vocation, but for all it should be a lifestyle.  We should see ourselves as missionaries and influencers distributed throughout neighborhoods in Fayette and Madison County.  We are not to be a church building where we settle down and hope people come to join us on Sunday mornings.  We must remember that Matthew 28:18-20 does not say, “Settle and make disciples if people show up at your church building.”

I’m thankful to be part of a church that takes seriously the command to influence others, share the gospel, and disciple people.  I pray that we each see ourselves like the Levites, who were distributed in each tribe and neighborhood in order to do what they were made to do.

When’s the last time you thought about intentionally having a spiritual influence on a neighbor, co-worker, friend, classmate, etc?

Posted by: Rich Duffield

April 15, 2013

Today you should read: Numbers 34

I know what you’re thinking… “I’ve gotta get my taxes done. How on earth is studying Israel’s boundaries going to help me at all?” I thought the same thing. But we trust the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, don’t we?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)

So how does that apply to this passage? Here’s my short list of thoughts.

1.) While this may seem like a trivial passage to the rest of us, it was important for the people of Israel. They were taking hold of the land promised to them.

2.) I once heard a pastor say, “Things work better when you do them God’s way.” Ok — so it was more than once. But it’s true. The people of Israel will later suffer the consequences of not doing this God’s way. Especially the tribe of Dan.

3.) God keeps His promises… and then some. The prophecy that Ezekiel gave concerning the land in the future is MUCH bigger than this piece of real estate. The “what” and “when” of Ezekiel’s vision is beyond our knowledge, but the gist of it is simple: God lavishes His grace on those whom He loves. Isn’t that just like our God? Verses like 1 Corinthians 2:9 blow my mind.

Hopefully these thoughts get you through tax season 🙂 For those of you that want a visual, see below.

Check out this map and ESV note on their land boundaries: 

Boundaries - Numbers 34

“The original boundaries of the Promised Land as defined in Numbers 34 are somewhat different from the boundaries of the land that the Israelites eventually occupied. The original boundaries included the mountainous area north of Sidon and Damascus, but the Israelites never occupied this area during the settlement period. Conversely, the original boundaries did not include land east of the Jordan River, but the Israelites occupied this land after capturing it from Og and Sihon.”

Posted by: Todd Thomas

April 13, 2013

Today you should read: Numbers 33

“I thought I was never going to make it.” This was the thought running through my mind as I stood upon a bald in the Smokey Mountains. A couple of years ago my wife and I took a back packing trip with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. If you have never been back packing let me fill you in. You hike up a mountain with all of your supplies on your back and you stop at different points to set up camp for the night. We did a three-day trip that was about 26 miles round trip. It was a lot of fun, but there are points along the journey where you have to battle the urge to stop. For example, when you get to a point of the trail when it looks like it goes straight up for about three miles and you have 50 pounds of gear strapped to your back. That was the situation I found myself in right before we reached the bald. A bald, for those who don’t know, is the very top of the mountain where you are above the trees and a lot of cool flowery vegetation grows. There is nothing more beautiful then standing on top of a mountain and looking across at ridge after ridge of mountains. It really gives you an understanding of how big God is. In our passage today, Moses is giving the people of Israel the “mountain view” of their journey.

This part of the passage is one that we know to be explicitly written by Moses and from Moses’ perspective. The rest of Moses’ writing is said to be from God to Moses directly. I am not saying that this passage is not God-breathed; I just mean that it is a different perspective. Moses is showing the reader a summary of God’s work and more importantly God’s faithfulness to his promise. There were definitely times through the journey (i.e. Egypt, parting of the red sea, etc.) when the fulfillment of God’s promises looked bleak, but God always came through. Also, Israel was about to enter the Promised Land for the second time, and Moses is showing them how they can take courage and trust in the Lord.

If you didn’t know more of the story, you might think, “Israel will never question the promises of God ever again. Look at how many times God has proven himself to his people and he didn’t even have to.” Of course that is not the case, and Israel continually fails to listen to God’s instruction and trust in his promises. One particular way is illustrated in this chapter in verses 50-56 when God tells the people of Israel to wipe out every last tribe and people that inhabit the Promise Land. Why?

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” (v.55-56). 

Did Israel listen? Nope

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” As soon as the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the Lord.  Judges 2:1-5

Israel did not listen and it led me to make an observation:

We will not be faithful to the Lord based on what he has done for us. We will only be faithful when we trust in his word. We must trust in him as God of our lives.

It is a great exercise to look back and see how God has provided through different times of your life. In fact, we should do this because it will strengthen our faith. However, mere circumstance will not be enough to help us continue forward faithfully. The reason is because circumstances change continually and the trial you are about to face may be unlike anything that you have trusted in before. Also, focusing on our circumstances makes us lean on our own understanding. Israel fell into this temptation because they defeated the enemies in the land, but they did not drive them all of the way out and cleanse the land. Why? Because they thought that it would be okay to have them as slaves. That is kind of like following God’s command right? The problem is only God knows the outcome, and he had a purpose for telling them to drive out the inhabitants. Israel did not trust in God’s word!

Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you read the Word of God and act on it no matter what the circumstances look like?
  • Is his Word good enough? Or do you only act when you see how God is going to work it out?
  • Is that faith?

Posted by: Chad Wiles