God’s Promise


Numbers 1-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He has promised victory to all who serve in His army

Numbers!  Math was my least favorite subject in school, and I must admit that I approach an entire book entitled Numbers with fear and trepidation.  While the book opens with the numbering, or census, of the Israelites, Numbers is really not so much about math at all but is more so a story about a group of people at the threshold of incredible promise, their response to that promise and God’s undeniable patience with them through it. 

@ Numbers 1
At the opening of Numbers, the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, traveled south to the area around Mt. Sinai and were camped there for almost eleven months. During that time, through His spokesman, God built a nation and established the nation’s purpose by renewing His Abrahamic covenant with Moses.  He set up the nation’s constitution by providing the laws needed to govern.  And most importantly, He gave the guidelines for the construction of the Tabernacle, providing the means He would use to fellowship with His people.  When we think about the time spent in Sinai in light of this agenda, a great deal was accomplished in a very short time.

Now at the beginning of Numbers, God is ready to advance His people to their new home.  He directed Moses to count the men, “A year after Israel’s departure from Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses in the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai. On the first day of the second month of that year he said, ‘From the whole community of Israel, record the names of all the warriors by their clans and families. List all the men twenty years old or older who are able to go to war.’” (1-3) This directive from the Lord alone must have served as an indication to the Israelites that war was ahead for them.  Moses needed to know how many troops he had for the battles that were ahead, and we should note that this directive did not ask for volunteers.  It was all men over 20, all hands on deck, stand up and be counted and be all that you can be! The army was formed and ready to possess the land!

Similarly, when we give our hearts to the Lord, we automatically become a part of His army, and there isn’t a separate sign-up sheet for active duty.  Just as the enemy of God’s chosen people fought them on every front even before they entered their land, our enemy will fight to keep us from entering the territory God has for us.  If this isn’t the case, why has God provided all our tools for battle in Ephesians 6:13-17?

The Israelite army totaled 603,550, a strong military by any standards, but by the time they reached the battleground, only 2 had survived the journey.  As we read their story over the next several weeks, we will learn how they became casualties on the way to the Promised Land.

We, however, need not be dismayed or discouraged by their outcome because we have reinforcements they did not have in the way that we do, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness… Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:26,35,37)  And my personal favorite is, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 KJV)

Numbers is more than a census, more than a page in Jewish history.  It paints a picture of God’s patience with us, and on occasion, it also portrays how not to serve in the army of the Lord.  Sometimes He just needs to draw a picture for us… 

Moving Forward:  Suited up according to Ephesians 6 and ready to rumble!

Tomorrow @ 1 Chronicles 5-9

Ezekiel 37-42 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to resurrect and restore all that is dry and dead.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord,” says the old spiritual taken from Ezekiel 37 that was used in the past to teach children about anatomy. “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the leg bone,” and on it goes. 

@Ezekiel 37
Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was spectacular and breath-taking as the Lord said to him, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!’… Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.” (4-7)  Can you imagine?  I envision a few sheep now and then, but this is way beyond my pay grade.

The Jewish exiles were discouraged about their predicament and rightly so.  They had lost their nation and their glorious temple of worship and found themselves living far from home in Babylon, but God sat poised and ready to restore them, “I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock.” (36:37)  After all that God had endured through their sinfulness and rejection of Him, He was waiting for them to pray, to call on Him once again, and then He would restore all that they had lost.

“The bones that covered the valley floor…were scattered everywhere across the ground.”(2) The bones were exposed, not buried, for all of heaven to see – He had not forgotten them. This is the nature of our God.  He waits for individuals, for churches, for nations to pray, to repent, and then He resurrects and restores that which seemed dry and dead and brings life once again.

The prophet joined God’s resurrection process when he spoke the prophetic message.  When we are focused on anything in our lives that resembles those old dry bones, whether it is our nation, our church or our loved ones and friends, we are challenged to participate in the resurrection.  We can pray!  And when we pray, should the Lord reveal a prophetic word to us, we can speak!

Israel has experienced a commotion and shaking ever since those days in exile.  Those bones have come together, the nation has returned to its homeland in part, and we pray and wait with them for that breath of the Spirit. “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again,” (9) and give new spiritual life to them as believers in Jesus Christ, their Messiah.

Likewise, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a commotion, a rattling if you will, when we pray because God may choose to shake things up a little to bring about resurrection in our situation.  If we are discouraged with the condition of our nation, with the dryness and lack of life in our church or with our loved ones who seem so dead to the things of God, remember that He sees those dry bones exposed before Him.  He will respond to our call for the Spirit to come and breathe life into them so they may live again.  This is the nature of our God.  “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!” 

Moving Forward: Thinking about our nation today, I will put aside discouragement and continue to pray for the Spirit to breathe life into us once again! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 23-24

Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon, and now judgment was about to fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine. “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries, and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry, we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take my solemn vows lightly to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

Psalms 75-77 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He hears our distress call and answers with glorious deeds 

@ Psalm 77
Asaph, who was the temple choir director and worship leader, was in a bad way.  When God’s instrument for worship is distressed, the entire body can easily be affected.  According to history, many of the Psalms of Asaph and his descendants were written during enemy invasions of Israel; but whether his distress was personal or about his nation, he was troubled.  Thankfully, he knew where to go for help.

“When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.” (2)  Asaph did not seek distractions to help him get through his distress, no comic relief or sleep meds for him.  He searched for the Lord and prayed all night earnestly; however, peace did not come. If we’ve been there, we understand his struggle – doing all that we know to do, but seemingly to no avail.  He got to the point where he cried out, “I am too distressed even to pray!” (4)  I’ve been there also…not fun.

Asaph reflected on the way things used to be and on what he had lost, and this brought no comfort at all.  In fact, it caused him to question God’s integrity.  Over verses 7-9, Asaph asks several questions, “Has the Lord rejected me forever?”  God would never reject anyone who is searching for Him.  “Will He never again be kind to me?”  God is mercy and kindness.  “Is His unfailing love gone forever?”  A dichotomy at best, how can unfailing love be gone forever?

Asaph continued his questions, “Have His promises permanently failed?” One might expect lightning to strike for a question like this, but God was full of mercy and kindness to Asaph. God is faithful to His promises. David answered this question when he wrote, “I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.”(Psalm 138:2)  “Has God forgotten to be gracious?”  How could God forget anything!  “Has He slammed the door on His compassion?”  God is love and compassion.

Peace finally came to Asaph when he turned his focus to all the great things that God had done. “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.” (11-12)  I have been here as well, and I feel the faith rising in Asaph!  Then he recounted the great miracle in Israel’s history, “When the Red Sea saw you, O God, it waters looked and trembled!… Your road led through the seas…a pathway no one knew was there!” (16,19)  Victory! He will do the miraculous on our behalf. It doesn’t matter the cause of our distress as much as does our response to it.

Remembering what we have lost and wallowing in self-pity will never bring us peace.  But recognizing His faithfulness in times past, and how our troubles trembled at the sight of Almighty God will encourage us. Remembering how He provided the victory that no one else could have seen will bring peace to our hearts and the faith to believe that victory is in sight.  God has an unlimited number of ways to answer our heart’s cry – we need to trust Him for just one.

Moving Forward:  Regardless of what I may face today, I will focus not on what was but on Who is my answer, “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me.” (Psalm 118:5) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 7

Luke 11-12 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: In response to our seeking Him, He provides all that we need. 

@ Luke 12
The rich man in the parable of Luke 12 had worked hard to store away more crops than he would ever need, so much so that new barns had to be built to house all of it.  This had been his focus in life, and now he could sit back and reap the rewards…take a cruise, buy the oceanfront condo and drive that new Mercedes. Except, he died before he could realize his reward.

God called him a fool, “You fool!  You will die this very night.  Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.’” (20-21)  Ouch!  I don’t want to be in line for that speech.

We seldom connect the next group of scriptures about worry and God’s abundant provision with the previous parable, but Jesus did just that, “Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.  For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.’”(22-23)

God isn’t asking us to avoid worrying about everyday life because He is the big Genie in the sky who will provide all the earthly wealth we want and need.  No, He doesn’t want us to worry about everyday life because in comparison to our relationship with Him and eternal wealth, these things are less than important, and He already has it all covered anyway.  Sometimes we forget that He can’t be fooled.  He knows when we are worried, and He knows what we are worried about.

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink.  Don’t worry about such things.  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.  Seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” (29-31)  I’ve discovered something interesting about this promise—the more I know Him and His righteousness, the less I seem to need. But whatever amount that is, I am confident He will provide it.

This is why the little family that loves the Lord with everything that is in them, living in some remote village in the world with very little to call their own can consider themselves rich.  The truth in His word is universal.  We may be blessed with material wealth as well as spiritual wealth, but even if we lose all of our possessions like so many experienced today, we are still rich! 

Moving Forward: I will seek the Lord first today and find the richness of His presence.  No worries. 

Tomorrow @ Ephesians 4-6

Proverbs 2-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires to give wisdom to all those who follow after Him

Everyone wants to be wise.  No one has ever said to me, “I can’t wait to be foolish today!”  Most of us have a natural curiosity about how things are made, where they come from and how they affect us.  When I was a teenager, I was asked what my favorite book was, and without hesitation, I replied, “The Encyclopedia.”  I know this sounds strange coming from a young person, and of course, my answer should have been the Bible, but I’ve always loved moments of random learning.

We couldn’t afford the coveted set of World Book Encyclopedia, and the internet was not available back in the dark ages; but every chance I got, I paged through the volume of knowledge held between the pages of the encyclopedia at the library. However, possessing all this knowledge does not a wise person make.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge we have, and this is what Solomon was addressing in our reading today. 

@ Proverbs 2
Proverbs 2 is a tutorial on how to find wisdom, where to find it, who it is for and what we receive once we obtain it.  All this in 22 little verses!  Only a very wise man could accomplish this in so few words. 

How:  Listen for wisdom, concentrate on it, ask for it with fervor and search for it like one who is digging deep in a mine for silver.  This proves to the Lord that we respect Him and what He has to say. (2-5)

Where:  Wisdom comes from the Lord. “For the Lord grants wisdom!” (6) 

Who:  God responds with wisdom (knowledge, understanding, common sense, protection) to those who are honest, walk with integrity, are just and faithful. (6-8) 

What:  We will understand what is right, just and fair; we find the right path to walk; we are filled with joy; we are kept safe; we are protected from evil people, including immoral woman and men; and we make right choices. (9-16)

The process is like a chain reaction.  We ask for wisdom and diligently search for it > through His Word we learn how to live a life of integrity and righteousness > He grants wisdom in response to our life of integrity > we are blessed with understanding, guidance, joy and protection.  What a deal!  All of this is ours today for the low, low start-up cost of asking. 

@ Proverbs 3
The mark of a truly wise person is one who follows this advice from Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”(5-7) It’s difficult to trust with all my heart in someone I don’t know very well, risky at best.  Trust develops through relationship and time spent together – enough said.

We may say that we have faith in God, but it is trust that applies the action to our faith.  Faith is the noun, and trust is the verb that demonstrates our faith.  Faith without trust is like knowledge without wisdom – great to possess but not always useful.  When I depend on my own understanding, there’s really only one person to trust in, and that’s me – not very wise when the wisdom of heaven is mine for the asking.

Moving Forward: “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her.” (18)  Today I seek His wisdom in what I do and say.  And I trust His wisdom to guide and direct my steps. 

Tomorrow @ Lamentations

2 Samuel 20-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His nature is forgiving and endlessly good

David may have been the original Renaissance Man – multitalented to say the least.  I’m hard-pressed to think of another man who has carried the titles of shepherd, king, giant slayer, harp player, warrior, songwriter and God lover.  Really. Who does all that? 

@ 2 Samuel 22
In the later years of his life, David fought a few more battles, killed a few more giants and wrote a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving to God, almost identical to Psalm 18.  In this chapter, he listed many of the characteristics of God he had observed throughout his lifetime of intimacy with Him. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior.” (2-3)

In His writing, David described a God who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, rewards, sees, shows faithfulness, reveals, enables, trains, helps, strengthens, preserves, avenges and loves.  Is this the God that I know?  Yes, yes and yes!  Because He lives with us, as we read in Exodus yesterday, we have the opportunity to observe many sides of His nature, and this is Who He is!

After reviewing David’s life for the past few weeks in our reading, including the Bathsheba incident, we may question David’s declaration of innocence in verses 21-25, “The Lord rewarded me for doing right.  He has seen my innocence.”  But this is the one characteristic of God that is the most amazing.  When we repent, and David was one who repented, He forgives and forgets.  He really does!

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (Ps103:12) God doesn’t throw our repented sins in our faces to prove a point or rehearse them to make us feel bad. We live with the consequences of sin and often have trouble forgiving and forgetting ourselves, but He moves on. He wants our relationship with Him to continue, unfettered and unblemished. David said with confidence, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”(Ps51:7)

When I’m facing a difficult challenge or when life has thrown a few blows my way, I read the Psalms of David because of this expressive man’s ability to communicate the characteristics of God – He is the One who forgives, listens, defends, rescues, and the list goes on and on… 

Moving Forward: Because of God’s character, I move on with Him today as one of His forgiven, unfettered and unblemished, ever encouraged by the amazing nature of my God. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 60-62

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