Numbers 23-24

“But Balaam replied to Balak, ‘Didn’t I tell you that I can only do what the Lord tells me?’ ” 23:26

These chapters are such a beautiful example of God’s sovereignty over his people. At first glance, it can seem like because God’s using a sorcerer, he’s condoning sorcery. But the way he uses Balaam just proves the control and power he has over evil.

Yet another example in the Bible of God using someone incredibly unlikely to accomplish work. Balaam was just in this all for the money, and was attempting to harm Israel. But instead, God uses him to predict the coming of the Messiah (24:15-19).

This is our God and I love how he works. He untwists evil intentions and threads them into his story, using them to accomplish his plans.

Our future is safe in God’s hands.

-Carly

Numbers 21-22

There are a few major events in these two chapters.

First, the return of complaining resulting in snake bites. This moment of punishment and sequential healing becomes a major foreshadow of Christ.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-16)

Next, war with the people beyond the Jordan, prompts Balak, king of Moab, to enlist the supernatural help of Balaam. Another significant story, which will be continued tomorrow.

Peter references Balaam in 2 Peter 2:15-16 when he warns against false prophets. Balaam wasn’t trying to demonstrate integrity or restraint when he refused to help the first time. He was being paid to curse Israel and intended to do so. But God is in control of all things, and in this case, used a donkey to bring him to his senses.

God is in control, all-powerful and merciful. He is bigger than our reactions and saves us from our own evil intentions. Something major happens every time Israel complains and they still don’t learn. They’re out there complaining about God and getting bitten by snakes. Meanwhile, He’s providing a way of salvation and protecting them from a powerful sorcerer.

If this doesn’t humble us, I don’t know what will. This is the God who gives the gift of eloquence to atheists. Even in our cursing, misuse of blessing and entitled complaining, He sustains us and plans the biggest rescue of all time.

Check your heart today. What do you find yourself prone to complain about? What are you mad at God for? What can you thank Him for? How has He provided or protected?

-Bethany

Numbers 19-20

“So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. “ 20:9-10

It’s taken me a long time to accept this piece of Scripture. It’s a sad part of Moses’ journey of leading the Israelites. He has put up with whiny, complaining people who turn on him the second he walks away. He’s advocated for them, sparing them from God’s deserved wrath towards their behavior. He loses his patience, whacks a rock a couple times and now he doesn’t get to go into the Promised Land?!

Moses was exercising power that didn’t belong to him, and lording the authority God granted him over the Israelites in anger. Also, he was disrupting a beautiful picture God was painting for his people that he started setting up in Exodus 17. So God created a new picture, using Moses’ mistake:

 

He rebuked Moses and forbid him to enter the Promised Land. This illustrates that we cannot be freed from our slavery and enter into salvation (the Promised Land) by works of the Law (aka, by Moses), but only by the work of Jesus (or, by Joshua, who ends up leading the people into the Promised Land. The name ‘Joshua’ can be Yeshua or Jesus).

I’m still sad about the way this ended for Moses. I desire happy endings, hate consequences and want to see fruit of hard work sooner than later. Following God and leading his people looks like this sometimes. You don’t always get to see the reward of your hard work, because you’re not suppose to be working for the reward. And we still answer to a holy and sovereign God, no matter who we are in leadership.

Do you get impatient towards God’s people?

If God has granted you authority over people, are you stewarding it well?

 

-Carly

 

 

 

Numbers 17-18

“But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.'” (17:10)

The LORD chooses leaders. Here, He makes it abundantly clear, His choice of Aaron among the others.

Yesterday, we read about the rebellion of Korah. They wanted someone else’s job and challenged Moses about it. Long story short, Moses didn’t have to speak for himself to defend his role.

God puts people in specific places. He makes us all different, gives us different gifts and roles and it’s up to Him. Just as Paul says in Romans 12.

We have seen Moses-like leaders in the church during our time. Like, perhaps, Billy Graham, Pope Francis, Loren Cunningham, etc. We should not all jockey for their positions, influence and authority. We can’t all be that guy. On smaller scales, we are not all the pastors of our churches. It’s easy to get position, roles, authority and gifting mixed up with value or equality. It is certainly not the same.

Oftentimes, as a pastor’s kid turned missionary, I feel the Levites pain. Chapter 18 defines the burden of the house of Levi:

“You and your sons and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood.” (18:1)

Yikes. No thanks. If I was from the tribe of Asher, I think I’d be okie dokie with it. Then again, maybe I’d envy the Levitical living off the sacrifices of others, status, and proximity to the tabernacle.

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” and it’s about time we all owned our side of the fence. Our God-ordained side.

-Bethany

Numbers 15-16

“One day while the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they discovered a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. The people who found him doing this took him before Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the community. They held him in custody because they did not know what to do with him. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must be put to death! The whole community must stone him outside the camp.’ So the whole community took the man outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” 15:32-36

A lot else is going on in this chapter, but this piece jumped out to me. I resonate with it, and parts of it make me uncomfortable. It’s important, in Bible reading, to sort through the verses of Scripture that rub you the wrong way. Although we might not answer every question we have, I’ve always benefitted from facing my discomfort head on. Reading the Bible should feel like spending time with God, and when I ignore or skip over weird parts, it puts distance between us. When I push back a little in my doubt or frustration with his Story, it strengthens my trust in him. It doesn’t necessarily tie everything up in a bow, but our relationship always grows.

The Sabbath comes up a lot in the Bible. Here we see someone punished for gathering wood when he should be completely “resting”. The people who found him do not let him get away with this. I wonder how they felt as he was being dragged out to be stoned. Justified? Regretful? We are called to confront fellow believers on their sin. But there’s something to be said about giving someone the opportunity to repent after you call them out. I wonder if they gave him the chance to confess before he was in custody? Would God have responded differently? The text doesn’t specify.

What’s wrong with gathering some firewood? A couple things. Everyone knows when and what the Sabbath is, so he was pretty blatantly disobeying God when he made that choice. Also, he didn’t plan ahead; he didn’t have enough firewood to carry him through until the Sabbath was over. Or, he was worried there wasn’t enough firewood around for everyone and was sneaking out to grab some before everyone else headed out in the morning. I think one of the main reasons Sabbath-ing is so important to God and so hard for us is because it’s hinged on trust. Bethany unfolded this well in this recent post.

What do you stock up on instead of trusting God? Money? Resources? Firewood is how people kept their families warm and how they cooked their food in the wilderness. The man in this story didn’t trust that God would carry him through and provide for him in his weakness (of not planning ahead or having enough).

Where are you weak? Do you trust that God will provide enough for you? 

 

-Carly

 

Numbers 13-14

“We went into the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are very strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover we saw the descendants of Anek living there.” (13:27-28)

“Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.” (14:1)

No matter the good news, scary/bad news always seems to hit us harder and it’s “hello darkness my old friend”.

I stopped, for a moment, as I was reading chapter 13 and thought, “they shouldn’t have spied it out, they should have just gone, knowing God had promised victory! Who’s dumb idea was it to send spies?! Oh, the LORD’s? Whoops.”

Of course I’d love to fancy myself a Joshua or Caleb, but the truth is, I have repeatedly been the other 10 guys. Whenever there’s mirky waters, or a glitch in the plan, I’m turning to the LORD with a strong, are you sure?! I’ve also been accused, on numerous occasions, of being a bit of a rebel rouser, so I’d really rather not think about who I actually would be in this story.

To which the LORD could respond,

“How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” (14:11)

I would need an advocate like Moses. Oh wait! I do!

Keep a record of God’s promises. I have a note in my phone of specific promises God has made me, and I go back to them regularly. I need to. They fuel my faith when the going gets tough and the dark place feels so easy to slip into. I cannot go there because I do know Him. I can attest to His love and faithfulness, even when things are confusing.

We have an advocate in Christ and His Holy Spirit.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

-Bethany

Numbers 11-12

If you’ve been reading with us for a while, you might recognize this narrative from Exodus. This time around, I was drawn to Moses’ response to the people’s complaining:

“And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people?’ ” 11:11

The first thing I noticed was Moses referring to himself as God’s servant. Do you consider yourself a servant to God? I way more often consider myself a recipient of his service. This was convicting to me.

I also felt for Moses, as a leader. I maybe prayed this exact prayer this morning, in the chaos of young children. I’ve mumbled something similar in the drama of youth ministry. It’s hard to lead ungrateful people. Complainers. It wears you down, clouds up your joy and tempts you to doubt your worth and impact on God’s plan.

Worn down leaders: take heart. Whether you lead a team of people or a pack of preschoolers, remember who you’re ultimately working for. The Lord! This verse has always encouraged me, no matter what I’m over-seeing:

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Followers: listen up. It doesn’t matter how valid we think our complaining is, there is no room for it. Humans are endlessly capable of finding something to whine about; the Israelites begged to go back to slavery in the middle of being rescued from it, over FOOD! Check your heart and your attitude. Repent to God when discontentment rears its head.

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Are you leading well?

Who do you follow? Are you following well? Are you quick to complain?

 

-Carly

Numbers 9-10

“When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, on the first days of your month, you should blow the trumpet over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder to you before your God. I am LORD your God.” (10:9-10)

REMINDERS! God is all about setting reminders for us about Who He is, What He’s done and What He’s promised to do. Isn’t that what Passover is all about? Remembering the Exodus, keeping that incredible salvation moment in history at the forefront of their corporate minds.

Another beautiful reminder is the pilar of cloud and fire which represented the Presence of the LORD. Of course it wasn’t all His fullness, but it was a demonstration that He was near and with them. What an awesome, terrifying visual display. God is with us! See there? When He moves we move and when He stays we stay. A guide in the day and a light by the night.

I bet that pillar of fire by night kept many dangers at bay as well. Who, or what, is going to attack a group of people led by fire coming from the sky??

The LORD still leads. He is still with us. Maybe it doesn’t look the same, but we have reminders of this fact as well. We have communion, which reminds us that Christ’s body was broken for us to be near Him, His blood which inaugurated a New Covenant. We have baptism to remind us of our incredible salvation moment, dying to sin and being made alive in Christ.

He is our God and we are His people. Reading His word and keeping a record of answered prayers and our journey with Him also serve as excellent reminders. We must pray, and listen for Him to speak, so when He moves we move and when He stays we stay.

-Bethany

Numbers 7-8

This part stuck out to me:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give Aaron the following instructions: When you set up the seven lamps in the lampstand, place them so their light shines forward in front of the lampstand.’ So Aaron did this. He set up the seven lamps so they reflected their light forward, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” 8:1-3

Light is used as a metaphor for God’s presence all over the Bible. The lamps mentioned in the verse above are assumed to be the only source of light in the tabernacle. I love the similarity between these lamps lighting up a dark place the way God lights up our darkness.

This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:20

This verse in Revelation came to mind as well. As the church, we are vessels to shine Christ’s light as well. 

“We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:18-19

How do you think your peers, coworkers or neighbors would describe you? 

We can only extend to other people what we’ve received ourselves. What dark, lonely spots in your life do you need to surrender to God and allow him to light up? 

 

-Carly

Numbers 5-6

As strange as a supernatural adultery test that makes you fat if you’re guilty is, it does protect women from men who are jealous without reason. This places God back in the judgement seat where He belongs.

I love this option to become a Nazirite.

“When a man or woman makes a special vow… to dedicate themselves to the LORD…” (6:2)

It’s voluntary, it’s a love response, it’s for men and women.

We are familiar with at least one Nazirite: Samson (Judges 13-16). You can see here, that Samson’s attachment to his hair wasn’t random, although he wasn’t as strict about the other rules.

What I love about this is how God gives us positive directions to go with our free will. In our Christian freedom, there is still room to give something up, to fast, or voluntarily abstain. We have a relationship with the Creator and there will always be more to pursue in Him. Often times fasting, or dedicating something to God, allows us to discover His ability to fulfill us in new ways. The more vices I remove from my life, the more readily I return to Him and find true relief.

Is there something you’d like to give up or dedicate to the LORD? Consider how you can intentionally make steps toward deeper intimacy with Him.

-Bethany