Numbers 27-28, Luke 4

As the book of Numbers draws to a close, Moses begins to make preparation for his death. God tells him he will not enter the Promised Land with the Israelites, but he will be able to see it before the Israelites enter in. Moses is (very understandably) concerned for the Israelite people. He has had to intercede for them and guide them away from idolatrous actions again and again. In Numbers 27, Moses passes on the leadership torch to Joshua so that the Israelites will not be like a “sheep without a shepherd” (Numb. 27:17). Joshua would become the next leader who would guide, command, and take care of the Israelite people as they enter into the land of Canaan. 

Luke 4 describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Moses had spent years building up trust and confidence from the Israelite people, and Joshua benefited from that. He was able to build on the legacy of leadership that Moses left behind. Unlike Joshua, Jesus had to start from square one when building confidence and trust with the Jewish people. We see him begin this process in Luke 4. After the temptations in the wilderness, he begins preaching in the synagogues. At one point, he reads a passage from Isaiah that begins with “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed me to…” and then lists out all the actions the God has sent him to do (Luke 4:18). Jesus did not have a Moses that told all the Jewish people to listen and follow after him. But, Jesus had something better to establish his authority. Not only did God speak over him after he was baptized, “This is my beloved Son. I take delight in him!” (Luke 3:22). He also had all of the Old Testament scriptures that spoke about him! 

Even so, the Jewish people did not accept him as a leader, because he challenged the way that he led and thought about the world. Just like the leadership example set by Moses, Jesus knew that the Jewish people needed someone to guide them, protect them, and care for them. They needed a shepherd. But, being led by a shepherd sometimes includes being corrected by a shepherd. The Jewish people, especially those in positions of power, were resistant to this. In fact, this section of Luke ends with the Jewish people doing this: “They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill, intending to hurl Him over a cliff” (Luke 4:29). 

Jesus is the “good shepherd” (John 10:14). His sheep “follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4). When Jesus is leading us, do we follow? Are we resistant and stubborn to correction, choosing to go our own way? Or do we trust that our good shepherd will guide us on the right paths? How do we view Jesus’ leadership? 

My prayer is that we will trust in Jesus as our good shepherd. That his leading, both in guiding and correcting, will be a “comfort” to us as he lets us “lie down in green pastures,” leads us “beside quiet waters,” and “renews our life” (Ps. 23:1-4). 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Numbers 27-28 and Luke 4.

Numbers 25-26, Luke 3

Almost 40 years had passed, and the Israelites were nearing the time when they would enter into the Promised Land. A generation had died in the wilderness because they failed to trust that God would guide them, protect them, and give them the good things he had promised. God had used the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings to teach them about his holiness and to teach them to trust in him more. However, not all of the Israelites were sanctified through this time. 

In Numbers 25, the Israelites are staying in the country of Moab. Because of intermarriage and lack of loyalty, they turn away from God and begin to worship Baal, a pagan god. Leading the way in this idolatry are several leaders of the people. God sends a terrible plague among the people that eventually killed 24,000 people and orders Moses to strike the idolatrous leaders down. So, Moses and Aaron’s great-grandson, Phinehas, gather the people together. The people are in mourning for the loved ones they lost in the plague, and all gathered together at the tabernacle, they are mourning in supposed repentance. However, Phinehas sees one of the Israelites blatantly bring a Moab woman into the tent of meeting! While the people are weeping in repentance, this person acts in a way that would indicate that he was not repentant at all. He was going to continue in his sin. The repentance was only caused by the negative experiences the Israelites faced, but it wasn’t true, heart-changing repentance that would cause them to change their actions. 

Phinehas, in a zealous passion, takes a spear and kills both the man and the woman who are doing this. Because of that harsh measure, the plague stops and God promises the priesthood would continue with Phinehas for generations. This seems like a brutal action. But, the reason why God praised Phinehas for doing it was because this action shows (1) Phinehas understood the concept of the holiness of God and his tabernacle and (2) Phinehas recognized how sin has to be stopped so it won’t continue to do its damage. Sin spreads like a plague, which, once it gets started, is very difficult to eradicate. If we recognize the importance of holiness and trying ourselves to live a lifestyle of holiness, we cannot continue to allow sin to spread in our lives. We have to be willing to act zealously to snuff it out. 

In Luke 3, we read about the ministry of John the Baptist in his own wilderness. He cries out to the people to ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’ He urges those who come out to see him to “produce fruits consistent with repentance” because “every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). Recognition of the severity of sin and true repentance from that sin are crucial to producing good fruit. If we do not recognize and repent from sin, we will not produce good fruit. We will not live lives that glorify God. 

Evaluate your life. Is it characterized by a right understanding of sin? Of an understanding of the importance of holiness? What about true repentance and good fruit? As John and Jesus said, “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Numbers 27-28 and Luke 4.

Numbers 23-24, Luke 2

We’ve seen Israel’s unfaithfulness to God because of their lack of ability to trust God over the previous chapters. Even so, God still provides for the Israelites. He still shows up for them and helps them to overcome their obstacles, the battles that they face. In Numbers 21, Israel faces the Amorites, one of the desert peoples who tried to stand up against them. They defeated them and the surrounding peoples and dwelt in their cities with the help of God. 

After living in the land of the Amorites, they left that area and traveled to Moab, whose king was Balak. Balak was terrified of the Israelites, because of their previous victories and phoned help in the form of Balaam, a diviner from a land 400 miles away from Moab. Balak the Moabite wanted Balaam the diviner to put a curse on the Israelite people, and so Balaam traveled to meet Balak (despite God’s repeated warnings). Numbers 23-24 details the oracles that Balaam gives about the Israelite people. In each oracle, Balaam speaks exactly what God wants him to. Even though Balak asked for a curse, Balaam is not able to give one. Instead, he speaks truth, blessings, and good promises about the Israelites based on God’s faithfulness to them.  In fact, Balak gets so fed up with Balaam’s oracles that he summons him in Numbers 24:10-11 and tells him to go home without a reward! Balaam responds by saying, “Didn’t I tell you? If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the Lord’s command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say what the Lord says” (Numb. 24:13). The Spirit of God allowed Balaam to proclaim God’s truth. He proclaimed the good deeds God had done for the Israelites, and he proclaimed words that spoke blessings for the people. 

Interestingly, in Luke 2, we also read of proclamations and oracles. However, these proclamations are given by a very different kind of being on a very different occasion. In Luke 2, we read about the birth of Jesus. This account includes the shepherds greeted by the heavenly host who praised God after they sent the shepherds on the way to baby Jesus. These angels proclaim “good news of great joy that will be for all people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David” (Luke 2:10-11). The angels proclaimed the greatness of God. And, they proclaimed the good things that God was going to bring to his people, the Christ. 

We may not have a diviner proclaiming God’s promises to us. We may not have a heavenly host appear to us. But, we do have God’s word. In his word, we have proclamation after proclamation of the good things that God is giving us. We have promise after promise of what a life as a believer will lead to. When you are facing difficult times, where the end seems unclear and your feet feel unsteady, trust in the proclamations of God. What is he proclaiming over you today?

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Numbers 27-28 and Luke 4.

Numbers 19-20, Psalm 51-52

Moses and the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings continue on in Numbers 19-20. In previous chapters as we’ve seen, God faithfully shows up for Moses, choosing him and the Levites as the priesthood to be the leaders and go-betweens between God and the Israelite people. In Numbers 20, Moses has to deal with the Israelites’ rebellious spirit again. They came fighting against Moses saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It’s not a place of grain, figs, vines, and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink!” (Numb. 20:3-5).

Even though God continued to provide for the Israelites time and time again, the Israelites had yet to learn to trust in him. They questioned God’s purpose for them and even stated that they wished they had died with the Israelites who had been killed in the plague after Korah’s rebellion. One rebellion had just been resolved with the blossoming of Aaron’s branch, but the people were again questioning Moses’ leadership because of their circumstances in the wilderness. 

Moses responds as he normally does – by falling face down before God to beg God for help. God responds to Moses and Aaron and gives them specific instructions to follow: take your staff and speak to a rock. Then, water will flow out. However, Moses, heated in the moment, rashly gathers the assembly and says to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Then, he struck the rock twice and water gushed out (Numb. 20:9-11). In this pivotal moment of Moses’ leadership, he does not respond with level-headed humility. Instead, he responds rebelliously towards God because of his frustration with the people. By forcefully striking the rock and saying that it was him – Moses – who brought the water out, he took the glory away from God and placed it on himself. Moses decided that he was going to be the one to save the Israelites, and he forcefully showed them what he could do. 

I totally can identify and sympathize with Moses in this moment. He loved God. He loved the people. And, he truly wanted what was best for the people. But, he got frustrated. He was tired and probably thirsty. He was overwhelmed. Because of this, he made a mistake with dire consequences; he would not lead the people into the promised land. He got caught up in the feelings of the moment, the seeming impossibility of shepherding the Israelite people into a trusting, righteous way of living and into the promised land. When he looked at his situation, he may have felt trapped, may have felt hopeless, or may have just felt mad. The one thing he forgot to do was to view those feelings in light of the character of God. He forgot to trust in who God was – to remember that despite what the Israelites were saying, God was always in Moses’ corner. 

We all have times where the circumstances we are in cause us to be blinded by the feelings we have. We may feel stuck, tired, hopeless, mad. Maybe we feel like we just want to hit something. Or we just want to give up. But remember – God is in our corner. When we face those difficult times, we can trust that he will always come through. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Numbers 27-28 and Luke 4.

Numbers 17-18, Psalm 49-50

Yesterday, we witnessed the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses. At this point, the Israelites had refused to enter into the promised land after focusing on the battles they would face rather than the rewards they would reap with God’s help. After that, the Israelites continued to not trust God when they spoke out against Moses. They didn’t realize that in doing so, they were – in effect – not trusting God. The rebellion that Korah instigated ended for the most part when he died. In Numbers 16, we see God choose Aaron and the tribe of the Levites as his priesthood. The twelve tribes all brought their staff to the temple to represent them. Aaron’s staff – which represented the Levites – sprouted, formed buds, blossomed, and produced almonds (Numb. 16:8). Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that almond branches and almond blossoms make their appearance in relation to the temple and the priesthood. In Ex. 25:31-40, the lampstand that was to be kept continually burning on the altar was supposed to be shaped like almond blossoms. This was the light that the priesthood was in charge of day and night. In the miracle of Aaron’s rod, God showed clearly which group of people he wanted as his priesthood, and he chose the Levites. 

Numbers 18 continues on with laws and requirements for the priesthood along with ways that the priesthood could be provided for by the Israelites people. Nestled in these verses is such an important truth for us today. Numbers 18:5-7 says, “You are to guard the sanctuary and the altar so that wrath may not fall on the Israelites again. Look, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift.” 

Moses was clear in the last chapter that the laws and responsibilities given to him by God were not things that he was doing out of his own will. In this chapter, God is clear about his intentions to give as a gift the work of the priesthood. Yes, the ministry that they had would be challenging. They would face opposition from the people, and they would have to work hard in the temple. Some of their responsibilities included doing animal sacrifices, staying up all night to tend the lamps, dealing with skin diseases, and more. But, this work was a gift. A special provision and reward to be the light to the Israelites as they entered the promised land. 

In Christian circles, we talk often of the gift of Salvation. That is the first wonderful gift that we receive in our Christian walk, and we should always be grateful for that amazing grace. But, that is only the first of the many gifts that we receive as a believer in Christ. We are also given the gift of the priesthood, the gift of being a light to others. We will face the same opposition from others at times. And we will have to also take part in the grueling work of ministry. But, that is the work – the priestly responsibilities – that we have been assigned to do. 

As we head into another week, ask yourself: What is the ministry that you have been called to? Are you treating this ministry as a gift? 

Praise God that we can be partners in his work!

~ Cayce Fletcher

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: Numbers 27-28 and Luke 4.

Called – & Equipped & Planned – by God

Exodus 4-6

exodus 6 7

Anytime God asks a question, you should be thinking to yourself, “Why would God need to ask that question if he already knows the answer?” Here, Moses doubts that he has any ability to convince anyone that he had spoken with God. Then God asks him this leading question as if Moses should have known that he already had everything that he needed to fulfill the duty that God called him to. When you are given a task by God, you had better believe that he has already equipped you for the job. The staff is already in your hand.

 

The method that Moses is given of turning his staff into a snake is an interesting one. The Egyptians sorcerers already have tricks like this; they can perform a similar feat. God always has a plan and he knows the hearts of his audience. He knows that when Moses’ staff turns into a snake, no one will be surprised because they have already seen sorcerers perform the same feat. Then why would God use this method? This is simply the first of many signs to come that will change the hearts of the audience by degrees. This is the same method that Socrates extolls as the tool of a great rhetorician. The great rhetorician will not attempt to change a man’s mind by presenting him with facts. On the contrary, he will use his knowledge of the man’s heart and what is familiar to the man, even if it is false. In this way, you can slowly turn the man’s thinking towards your position by degrees, small increments. This is how I see the signs that Moses performs before Pharaoh and all of Egypt. In other times throughout the Bible, prophets perform different signs and these signs are more suited to the people of that time and region. If Elijah had performed the signs that Moses performed, he may not have been a successful prophet because the signs of Moses are too different compared to what his community was used to experiencing. If this is the case, what kind of signs might God use in our modern age?

 

Yesterday we saw some of the ignorance and incompetence of the Pharaoh, and again we see it today. When he takes the straw away from the Israelites and demands the same quota, he is acting as a bad leader. There are leaders like this who still exist today, be it our teachers or our bosses. The bad leader sees the failures of his subordinates and reprimands them by increasing their workload or taking away resources which he sees as a crutch. Doing this only makes their productivity decrease. The good leader sees the shortcomings of his subordinates and reinforces them in their areas of need so that they can be productive and produce good results. I don’t see Pharaoh’s action in this case to be cruel, merely foolish; he sincerely does not know how to lead people.

 

When God speaks to Moses again, he says that he has heard the groaning of the Israelites. What is incredible about that is that well before he heard their groaning, he had a plan in place to save them. He took the evil of the murder of all baby boys and turned it into good by allowing Moses to live. He allowed Moses to grow in knowledge by being raised as an Egyptian. Then He met with Moses to show him the way to deliver his people. This plan was set into motion before the Israelites even knew they needed saving. That is the power of a God who does not operate on our time. By the time we realize that we are in trouble, God has already been working to get us out of it.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+4-6&version=NIV

Can you believe we are about 1/12 of the way through the Bible already!  (Genesis and Job are big books!)  The Bible has 1,189 chapters in all – which means on average reading 99 chapters a month to complete the Bible in a year.  Well Done!  And, if you haven’t been reading every day – February is a great time to get started!

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Exodus 7-9 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Royal Mess

matt 1 1

Day 1 of your new Bible reading. You are psyched! You are committed. You brew a cup of coffee, clean off the kitchen table, and pull out a new set of highlighters.   You grab your large-margined Bible and you open up to your first reading:  Matthew 1. This is it. Your moment of great revelation, and then…you are instantly deflated. Genealogy. Blah. Wait…No…You are committed to do your reading.  You have new highlighters after all! Okay. Here we go. A couple verses down, and…still nothing worth highlighting. “Maybe I will just skim this,” you say to yourself, feeling a compromise is essential to keep up your determination.  The sea of names continues. Sigh. “I think I got the gist, I’ll just go to the end.” Although you made it through Chapter 1, you feel a bit defeated. No highlights; no underlines. You have made a royal mess of your reading.

 

So what is the significance of Matthew 1 anyways? Why not just hop into the Christmas story?  The answer: context. This genealogy of Jesus through his earthly father, Joseph, is to establish the pedigree pointing to Jesus as a descendant of the ruling class of Israel.  God’s so purposely positioned Jesus that there should have been no doubt remaining that Jesus is the Messiah or “The Anointed One”, the one who would reestablish the throne of David.  A fact made instantly clear upon the arrival of the Magi and Herod’s petitioning to and response from the scribes (Matt 2:1-6). As much as God was at work in these plans, He did so in spite of many actions taken by those who make up the family tree.

 

How did the ancestors of Jesus depart from the ways of God? A few quick examples. Abraham laughed at God. Jacob, and subsequently his son, Judah, both betrayed a brother.  David, God’s chosen King, is mentioned alongside his mistress (later turned wife), Bathsheba, and the man he murdered, Uriah. Among the other names are hidden even more wayward actions (idolatry, stealing, lying, etc.), culminating in Jeconiah, who did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 24:9), which leads to a curse that cuts off the line of David, seemingly forever (Jer 22:30).

 

If you only looked at part of their story, collectively, it would seem like a pretty hopeless lot.  Thankfully, many of the these men and women wrestled with, fought for, and maintained their relationship with God.  In the midst of sin, reputation, or nurture, they connected, repented, and praised God. They were a royal mess, a line of sinners seeking God and putting their hope in his promise of redemption and restoration.  It is no surprise that we find many of their names in Hebrews 11, among those who are waiting to receive their promise (v. 39,40) of a hope and heritage found in Jesus Christ.

We are equally “messed-up” and have fallen short of the standards set by our King (Rom 3:23). When we struggle with sin, our history, or circumstance, it makes us feel unworthy of the faith and hope we have. Don’t give in.  Remain Psyched. Wrestle. Fight. Maintain. You may be a mess, but you are a royal mess, an heir according to the promise, directly tracing your spiritual heritage (the only one that matters) to Jesus Christ.(1 Pet 2:9; Amos 9:11) Having these roots means, we receive a special connection to God through His Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17) and are covered by grace when we miss the mark (Eph 2:8,9).  Today, spend some time examining the stories behind these names a bit more closely, but also look at your own faith story. Whether you relationship is God is slightly disharmonious, somewhat distant, or completely disconnected, you are not disowned; your heritage is Jesus Christ. He will restore the throne of David, and He will restore any mess appealed in His name.

-Aaron Winner

A New Thing for the New Year

Jer 29 13

I thank God for you – the readers who are reading today.

I thank God for those who have written devotions for us for the past two and a half years – and for those who will commit to writing a week in the New Year ahead.

I thank God for what He has done and what He will do!  For me.  For my family.  For the Church of God.  For God’s World and for His Plan for the Ages.  He is always at work!

I thank God for revealing himself through His Word!  How incredible that He has chosen to share Himself with me – and you – there in each and every page, chapter and verse of His Inspired Word.

God can choose to reveal himself in an earthquake, fire or thunder from heaven.  And, sometimes He has and He does and He will.  But more often – each and every day – He is ready to reveal Himself – His love, His faithfulness, His majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His wisdom, His commands, His Son, His plan of salvation, His light, His life, His Coming Kingdom.  God reveals himself to those who seek Him in His Holy Word.

I am excited about a New Year starting this week and I would love to encourage you to join with us at grow16Biblereading.wordpress.com in reading through the New Testament (as well as Proverbs and various theme weeks).  We will be reading one chapter from the Bible every day and you can sign up to receive daily devotions based on the chapter assigned for that day.  Each week we will get to hear the thoughts of another Church of God writer to guide us in seeking Him in His Word.  If you wish to sign up for the daily emails visit https://grow16biblereading.wordpress.com/.  On your computer – click on the follow button in the right hand column.  On your phone – click Menu, About and then the follow button.

The rest of this week we will be looking at the importance and benefits of God’s Word, and then on Sunday, January 6 we will jump into Matthew chapter 1, reading one chapter each day.  We chose a Bible reading plan that would not be too challenging or daunting for any age or experience level, and could still be combined with another plan for those already committed to a different Bible reading plan.  So grab a friend or family member, youth group or small group to help motivate and build accountability to together spend 2019 seeking Him in His Word.

Praying for Your Faith Walk,

Marcia Railton