Numbers


Numbers 21-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He has provided salvation through His Son

After seeing hundreds of young lives receive salvation and a touch by His Spirit at camp one summer, we drove the 45 minutes home over the weekend to get refreshed, wash clothes and buy supplies for the next week of camp. This particular weekend my husband Tom was out ministering, but I stayed home with our children.  I got up one night to visit the bathroom, and when just about finished, I looked down at the floor and saw movement.  It was a snake.

The snake in my bathroom had to be reckoned with because this worn out body would not get needed rest for the week ahead with a snake in the house.  I prayed for His strength, woke up my 9-year-old son and loaded us up with shovels and hoes. We went after that 14-inch snake as though our lives depended on it, and got it!  Unfortunately, the Israelites’ snake encounter did not go as well for them. 

@ Numbers 21
The Israelites had just won a huge battle and defeated the Canaanites.  The Promised Land was within a few days reach after 40 years in the desert, but they became impatient.  They knew the journey ahead through Moab would be long, they were tired of manna, and they wanted to possess the land now.  They complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’ So the Lord sent poisonous [fiery] snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died.” (5-6)  Oh…

“Then the people came to Moses and cried out, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.’   So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!’ So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!” (7-9)  In a vulnerable moment after a great victory, the Israelites sinned, but a replica of the very thing that had caused them pain became their salvation.  In just a short time they went on to possess their land.

I don’t remember complaining about anything that summer weekend invoking a snake encounter to bring about correction from the Lord like the Israelites experienced.  I do know that I was worn out, somewhat depleted and a perfect target for the enemy who sends His fiery darts in weak moments.  It’s often after a great victory for the Lord, like the powerful camps we had experienced or the Israelites’ mighty victory, that the enemy brings his attack.  However, Jesus has already provided the remedy for us.

“And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)  Jesus became sin (2 Cor 5:21), became the very thing that was killing us so that we may be saved and have eternal life with Him.

And we may also look to Him for salvation from the enemy’s fiery attacks against the body, soul, and spirit.  The enemy did not win in my life that weekend, and we went on for yet another great week at youth camp, lives changed by the power of God.  When we turn our focus to Jesus, high and lifted up, whatever our fiery trial may be, He will bring victory. 

Moving Forward:  Jesus lifted up! I look to Him today for salvation and deliverance because He paid the price for me on the cross. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 1-5

Numbers 17-20 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides direction through our challenges.

Many great men in history whose exploits affected the destiny of millions found themselves at one time or another in dismal circumstances – George Washington experienced his Valley Forge, Napoleon met his Waterloo and Custer faced his last stand.  Without a doubt, the decisions we make when faced with a challenging situation will affect our future.  Just assuredly, discouragement, pride or anger will alter our desired response to our challenges.  In today’s reading, we find Moses at his Meribah. 

@Numbers 20
Moses had led the Israelites for almost 38 years after the scouts returned with their faithless report from their venture into Canaan. God had promised that those faithless Israelites would not enter the Canaan because of their doubt and only a few remained. Unfortunately, their offspring had inherited and mastered the art of grumbling and complaining.  Poised once again outside of Canaan in Kadesh at a place called Meribah, they complained to Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!” (5)  Moses met his Meribah.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water.’” So Moses responded, “‘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.” (7-11)  Moses spoke to the people instead of to the rock and struck the rock instead of speaking to it! Oh, Moses.

After 40 years, I’m fairly certain that an angry, disgusted Moses wanted to strike the grumbling people, but instead, he took it out on the rock.  God’s response was, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” (12) So sad.

Why do we sometimes feel the need to help the Lord out or assist the Holy Spirit with our own input, going beyond what He has directed us to do?  As with Moses, it always ends badly for me too.   When a situation angers us, it’s easy to go running at the mouth about it, shouting at others, “Listen, you rebels!” but God wants us to speak His Word in faith to the problem.

Sometimes we are tempted to draw attention to the small part we play in a solution that really only God can solve, “Must we bring you water?”  Moses and Aaron were tools in the hand of God to bring about the miracle of water coming from a cold, hard rock. They, of course, didn’t bring water out of anything.  May we never be so bold to take credit for what God has done.

God’s punishment to such a faithful and humble servant as Moses seems harsh, but this simple act of disobedience was far-reaching, even to us today.  We read in I Corinthians 10:4 that Paul considered that rock to be a representation of Christ.  Moses had already struck the rock to bring forth water at Rephidim, so to strike the rock again would imply that Christ’s death at Calvary, once crucified, was not enough.  Not good.  Our responses to the challenges we face may influence others in ways we can’t imagine.

Paul challenges us in verses 12-13 in that same chapter with these words of caution, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  We would think Moses, of all people, would have been one with sure footing, standing strong.  If someone like Moses can fail, it’s possible for us to fail as well.

God has offered us a way out of our challenging situations if we turn to Him for guidance and follow both His example in the Word and His leading in our hearts.  And of course, He really doesn’t need our two cents worth. 

Moving Forward:  Lord, may I follow your dictates today through any challenges I face, always certain that You receive all the glory for the victory. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 25-29

Numbers 13-16 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will provide all we need to step into our destiny

I remember when my granddaughter learned the word humongous while watching Sesame Street and used it with great excitement whenever she saw something she considered really large.  I thought of her this week as I read the story of the twelve spies.  The spies returned to the Israelite camp with a humongous cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it; but, unfortunately, all they remembered were the humongous giants in the land.

@ Numbers 13
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But…” (27-28)  The children of Israel stood at the threshold of their destiny to occupy their promised land and allowed the little three letter word but to keep them from it.  “‘…the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!…We can’t go up there against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.” (28,31-32)

The names of all twelve men are listed in Chapter 13, but of those names, we only remember two of them.  The others are all very forgettable.  When we are positioned by God to step into His destiny for us, we can easily lose sight of it if we focus on the humongous obstacles that may be present instead of the humongous promise He has given to us.  Those grapes were huge and represented God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, rich and abundant.

Joshua and Caleb were impressed by the grapes, not by the giants.  “They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’” (14:7-9)

When we are on the edge of something wonderful that God has planned for us, we want to have the faith of Joshua and Caleb, not the fear and doubt of…of…whatever their names are.  God will never promise something to us that is impossible to attain.  Of all the Israelites standing in the camp on that day, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land to receive God’s humongous blessing. 

Moving Forward: I don’t want to miss all that God has for me because of obstacles that I perceive to be bigger than they really are.  I want to be Joshua and Caleb who saw the huge blessing God had waiting for them. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 20-24

Numbers 9-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is with us even when our life is on hold

Waiting for the big move, waiting for the next step, waiting for the ship to come in … waiting, waiting, waiting.  When an airport gets backed up with planes ready to land, we find ourselves circling the airport in a holding pattern for what seems like an eternity.  The inconvenience of a late arrival is insignificant, however, compared to the possibility of running out of fuel while waiting for our opportunity to land.  In these moments, tempers often flare, and the stress factor is huge.  Sometimes life hands us a similar scenario – waiting to get to our destination but concerned that we’ll run out of gas, so to speak, before we arrive. Stressful.

“Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days, as the Lord commanded…Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and lifted the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and moved on. Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on.” (9:20-22)  I can’t cut the Israelites much slack concerning their constant grumbling about their nomadic lifestyle.  I mean really, a tangible cloud to follow and know exactly where to go and when to go?  But I guess that holding pattern got to them at times, and waiting can add significant stress to our lives as well.

A few years ago I had my finger on the Delete key, ready to delete this blog.  My life was in a holding pattern, I felt I had little to say of importance, and I was running out of gas.  The Lord stopped me mid-strike on the key and directed me to blog each day about my daily Bible reading.  Even during the holding patterns of life, God has a purpose for us.  We can grumble and complain about our situation, but we are better served by focusing on Him and His intentions.  Perhaps the Israelites would not have spent the next 40 years on the road had they used their downtime to worship their God who guided them so clearly and desired fellowship with them instead of whining about almost everything.

“While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t He spoken through us, too?’ But the Lord heard them. (Now Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.)” (12:1-3)  During one of their stops, the siblings of Moses got a little irritable and developed a critical spirit about their brother – not the right response to their holding pattern.  When we lose our focus on Him during these periods of waiting, it’s very easy to become self-absorbed, and what a price was paid by Miriam!

God was displeased by her critical spirit, and Miriam was stricken with leprosy and forced to live alone outside of the camp.  “So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.” (15)  Can you imagine Miriam’s humiliation?  As one of Israel’s leaders, she was the reason Israel continued in a holding pattern.  Often, our attitudes and responses are what keep us on hold.

No matter how we look at it, waiting, waiting, waiting is difficult, but our response to it is what makes all the difference.  Focusing on God and finding our purpose while we are in our holding pattern will ensure that we are ready when that cloud begins to move.

Moving Forward:  So thankful today that He is with me in my holding pattern and that He has given me purpose.

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 15-19

Numbers 5-8 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires to grant His blessing at our request

God bless you! Blessings to you! May the Lord richly bless you!  These are phrases that we say or write for many different reasons, from a sneeze to a wedding wish.  For many of us, they have become a part of our every day vernacular, and that certainly is not a bad thing.  But I wonder if we really understand the solicitation we are requesting from God on behalf of the dear one we are addressing.  In light of our scripture today, all I can say is “Bring it on!” 

@ Numbers 6:22-26

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:’ 

“May the Lord bless you [impart His holiness to you] and protect you [keep you safe every moment of the day and night because He never sleeps, Psalm 121:4].  May the Lord smile on you [place on you His radiant shine so you may reflect His love to you everywhere you go] and be gracious to you [provide compassionate forgiveness for your sin and eternal life with Him even through you may not deserve it].  May the Lord show you His favor [His kindness, support and approval and preferential treatment] and give you peace [a calm, serene state of being regardless of your surroundings that surpasses all understanding].”  Amen!

When we ask the Lord to bless others, we are asking Him to flood their lives with His holiness, protection, smile, grace, favor and peace.  One simple word reflects such great goodness from God when said in His name.  “Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” (27)  Evidently, He’s listening and waiting on our call for Him to bless.  How could we disappoint Him!

Moving Forward: I ask the Lord’s special blessing on His dear ones who are reading these words today.  I understand what that blessing really means, and I know He will respond. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 10-14

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

Numbers 33-36 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  His instructions will provide a blessed future for us

I really don’t like going to the doctor, but sometimes I just have to do it.  A while back a doctor diagnosed me with pharyngitis, sinusitis and some other itis and then ordered a prescription of antibiotic to kill all the infection.  His most important instruction was that I be certain to take all the medicine even when I started feeling better because we want to kill all the infection or it could return.  And really, when those of experience and authority give instructions to us, it’s wise to follow them.  Sadly, the Israelites just didn’t see it that way. 

@ Numbers 33
The Israelites had finally finished their 40-year trek in the desert and sat poised to enter Canaan, God’s Promised Land.  Through Moses, God gave a prescription of sorts to the Israelites in order for them to enjoy a healthy and productive life in Canaan.  “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: When you cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must drive out all the people living there. You must destroy all their carved and molten images and demolish all their pagan shrines. Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy.” (51-53)  The instructions seem clear enough, take all the medicine, drive out all the people and destroy all their idols.

Like my doctor explained to me, God let the Israelites know what would happen should they fail to drive out all the people, “But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live.  And I will do to you what I had planned to do to them.” (55-56)  And as we know, that is exactly what happened to Israel.

Because they failed to drive out all the Canaanites and destroy all the idols, the Israelites’ everyday lives were slowly infiltrated by them and this brought about their downfall.  Eventually, the Assyrians and Babylonians swept in and drove them out of their land.  What part of all do we not understand?

I’m happy to report that I have taken all my medicine so that not even a little trace of infection is left to grow and infect my body again. What we don’t destroy could destroy us. And so it is with sin.  How foolish it is to preserve something that we know to be sin simply because it seems so harmless, because it is too beautiful to let go of or because it makes us feel good.  There’s no such thing as a little bit of pornography, a little bit of stealing or a little bit of lying because eventually it will grow, spread and easily affect our entire lives.

The lesson we learn from the Israelites today is to follow all of God’s instructions and then we can be assured that we will live happily and healthily in the land He has given us.

Moving Forward: Lesson learned! Taking all my medicine and following all of God’s instructions. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 16-20

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