Numbers

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“Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel” (Numbers 35:34 NKJV).

March 22, 2017

What would “defile the land?”

The blood of unatoned murder is a defilement of any land. Not just the murder itself, but the murder that isn’t justly punished. As the Lord told Cain after he murdered his brother, “Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10).

The Lord gave authority to human government to both limit and punish sin. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, The ruler “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” The Lord will not long dwell with a nation that does not execute justice.

“So Moses told the children of Israel everything, just as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 29:40 NKJV).

March 19, 2017

Moses was a faithful servant to the Lord. He passed along “everything” that the Lord had commanded him to say to the children of Israel. He did not add to, nor subtract from, nor water down the Word of the Lord. He told them all, just as the Lord had said to him. The Lord commended him for this.

Where is the witness for Christ today that would say all that the Lord has told them? Where is the expositor that would preach the whole Word of God? Where is one that would be faithful like Moses in communicating everything that God has commanded?

‘Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people’ (Numbers 21:7 NKJV).

March 14, 2017

Have you been snake bit?

There are three types of snake venom: Hemotoxic, which acts on the heart and cardiovascular system; Neurotoxic, which acts on the nervous system and brain; and Cytotoxic, which has a localized action at the site of the bite.

There’s another kind of venom that works on the spirit. It comes not from snakes, but from other people. It’s the venom of ingratitude. It’s the poison of grumbling. And it is more dangerous than most people realize.I think that the venomous nature of complaining must’ve been the reason the Lord sent serpents among the Israelites. He wanted to show them the dangers of ingratitude.

What is the anatomy of ingratitude?
– A heart that won’t wait on God.
– A mouth that speaks against God.

Why is grumbling against God?
– It questions God’s sovereignty (“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” v.5)
– It denies God’s provision (“For there is no food and no water” v.5)
– It rejects God’s grace (“Our soul loathes this worthless bread” v.5)

What is the cure for ingratitude?
1) Confess it as sin. (“We have sinned” v.7)
2) Pray that God would remove the venom of ingratitude. (“pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents” v.7)
3) Focus on God’s provision and be thankful. (“if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” v.9).

“Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals” (Numbers 20:8 NKJV).

March 13, 2017

To speak or strike?

There were two “water from the rock” miracles under Moses’ wilderness ministry. The first was at Horeb, early in the Israelites 40 year trek. In this, Moses was instructed by God to “strike the rock,” and water would come out of it for the people to drink (Ex.17:1-7). And Moses obeyed. Some 38 years later, the children of the generation who had complained against Moses, complained of no water again. The sins of the fathers are passed on to the sons. Complaining is catching.

The second time, God told Moses to “speak to the rock” and it would yield water. But Moses disobeyed. Nearly 40 years of the Israelites’ complaining had no doubt taken a toll on him. So Moses, took his rod and struck the rock twice, yelling, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Num. 20:10). Moses acted out of frustration and anger. He not only struck the rock rather than speaking to it, he took credit for the miracle: “Must we fetch water for you?”

The Lord still honored Moses before the people, allowing water to gush forth from the rock in spite of his disobedience. But Moses and Aaron would pay the price for not considering the Lord’s holiness before the people. Neither of them would enter the Promised Land.

The issue is not whether to “speak or strike.” The issue is about obeying God’s Word and giving Him all the credit for what that obedience brings forth.

“Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8 NKJV).

March 12, 2017

The Lord had the heads of house from each of the twelve tribes carve their names into their staffs and Moses placed them in the tabernacle. The next day, all the rods were brought out, “and behold,” only Aaron’s staff had bloomed and brought forth almonds. This was done to put to rest the complaints of those who rebelled against Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership, and therefore God’s leadership as well. Only God could cause a dead stick to bud, blossom and bring forth fruit.

The Hebrew word for an almond tree literally might be translated, “waking” or “watching tree,” for the almond tree was the first to bloom in late winter, in anticipation of spring. The Greeks used to put a cutting of almond blossoms in their homes in celebration of the coming spring season and the end of winter. With the appearance of almond blossoms, it was time to “watch” for spring.

Jeremiah saw a vision of an almond branch and the Lord told him it signified His intent to “watch” over His Word and to make it come to pass (Jer. 1:11-12). Isaiah saw a living rod sprout from the dead stump of Jesse, whose name was also called Israel. He wrote, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1).

The fruitful rod of Aaron points to its fulfillment in the Great High Priest, Jesus. For He is the Rod of Jesse, the Branch of Israel. He is the fulfillment of the Word. He is the almond blossom announcing the end of winter.

“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman” (Numbers 12:1 NKJV).

March 9, 2017

Moses often had to endure the grumbling of the people, but it must have been even more painful when they spoke against his new wife. Even his own sister and brother, Miriam and Aaron, spoke behind his back concerning the Ethiopian woman. Yet, the Lord heard them.

Miriam seems to have been the leader in the backbiting. Aaron just followed along as usual, as he had with the golden calf incident. Miriam was, after all, the older sister. The one who had watched over baby Moses as he floated down the Nile and saw him taken up by the princess of Egypt. She was a prophetess in Israel. Perhaps she had risen to a position of influence with Moses after the apparent death of his first wife. And now, with this Ethiopian woman in his life, she felt a loss of influence with Moses.

Or perhaps she was upset that he had chosen an Ethiopian to marry. The word “Ethiopian” was actually “Couchette” in the Hebrew. The land of Cush might point to the lands South of Egypt or lands in Arabia. If Miriam and Aaron were against his marrying her because of her nationality or skin color, then God’s response to their racism was soon made clear. They were against Moses because of his wife, “so the anger of the Lord was aroused against them” (Num. 12:9).

A couple of takeaways: 1) Don’t speak against God’s man. God is listening. 2) Don’t speak against someone’s marriage because of skin color. You might get leprosy and lose your skin. Miriam did.

“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused” (Numbers 11:1 NKJV).

March 8, 2017

Grumbling or gratitude?

The Lord hates grumbling. The people of Israel complained about the menu selection in the wilderness. The Lord had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. He had given them water to drink from the rock. He had given them bread to eat, called manna, that appeared daily with the morning dew. Yet, they complained. They wanted meat. They remembered the fish and vegetables of Egypt, and longed to return to their former diet. Their complaining about the Lord’s provision displeased and angered the Lord.

Grumbling is against God. They may have thought they were grumbling against Moses. But God saw their complaining as being against Him. Grumbling is the opposite of gratitude. It is a toxic attitude of the heart that virulently spreads through a family or a church if left unchecked. Grumbling not only questions God’s provision, it also questions His sovereignty and goodness. Grumbling is a sin!

What can we do when we are infected with the venom of grumbling? Confess your sinful attitude of ingratitude. And be thankful. Thankfulness is the antidote to a grumbling heart. It expresses an attitude of trust in God’s sovereignty and satisfaction with God’s provision. It is an honest recognition of the Lord’s goodness in your life. Remember the instruction of the apostle Paul, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV).

March 6, 2017

God gave this benediction to Moses for Aaron, the high priest, to speak over the children of Israel as a blessing. It is made up of three double clauses, each beginning with an invocation to the LORD. The all caps “LORD,” indicates that the Hebrew name, “יְהוָ֤ה, Yahweh,” was being used. God wanted His NAME “put on” (Num.6:27) the Israelites.

In this three part blessing, an early revelation of the Trinity might be seen:
– The Father: “The LORD bless you and keep you.” The Father chooses to bless and keep us.
– The Son: “The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you.” The Son reveals the “face” of God through the incarnation and shows His grace by dying for our sins.
– The Spirit: “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” The Holy Spirit comes “upon” us to abide within us and give us peace.

Has this Trinitarian blessing been spoken over you?

“So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him” (Numbers 27:18 ESV)

March 18, 2016

The continuity of leadership is an often overlooked step by a senior leader. But Moses prayed that the Lord would not leave the Israelites without a shepherd after his passing. The Lord answered Moses’ prayer and instructed him to lay hands on “Joshua the son of Nun,” setting him apart and investing him with authority. God’s answer to Moses’ prayer that his people not be left “like sheep without a shepherd,” foreshadows its true fulfillment in Jesus (Hebrew: “Yeshua” or “Joshua”), the Son of God.

“Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey…” (Numbers 22:28 ESV)

March 15, 2016

Balaam’s donkey was given the gift of speech to warn him of impending danger. Such stories in the Bible cause some to laugh and discount them as fairy tales. Yet, just as God questioned Moses, “Who gave man his mouth?” (Ex.4:11), so the God of the Word can give speech to whom He will. Ironically, in today’s OYB reading, God gave a normally mute donkey speech, while He kept a doubting priest (“Zechariah” in Luke 1:64) mute, until he finally demonstrated faith. Has the Lord of language opened your mouth to give Him praise? Or do you still sit silently?