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 21-22, Luke 1

The Israelites’ wilderness wanderings continue in Numbers 21-22. Even though they had chosen not to enter the Promised Land because of their perceived battles, the battles came to them in the wilderness. They faced the kingdoms of Edom, Arad, Amorites, and Ammonites. In all of these battles, the outcome of the standoff was based not in the strength of the Israelite people, but in the amount of trust they had in God. 

The Israelites were a stubborn people though. They had a tendency to forget the lessons they had just learned. In Numbers 21, they had just shown their trust in God when they defeated the king of Arad. But, in verse 4, they began to grumble and complain against God, asking why they had come out of Egypt to the wilderness. This is a recurring pattern with the Israelites. When they face difficult circumstances, they begin to complain. God always responds strongly to their complaints – sometimes strikingly so. It makes him incredibly angry each and every time they begin to act in this way. In this instance, he sent poisonous snakes among the people. At other times, he sent plagues, fire, or disease – anything to show his displeasure. 

We know that this action – the complaining and grumbling against God’s ordained path – causes God anger. But, as I am reading through the book of Numbers, it’s hard for me to really rectify the description of this wrathful, vengeful God and the God of the New Testament who sent his son to wipe away all sins. Why did it make God this angry? Is it really that bad to complain? 

To answer this question, we can turn to the other passage that we were looking at today: Luke 1. This is the story of the pregnancy announcements of both John the Baptist and Jesus – both of which happened before they got pregnant! John the Baptist parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, another Levite from the line of Aaron. Zechariah was chosen to serve in the temple, a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, when an angel of the Lord appeared and told him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you” (Luke 1:13-14). After this, I would imagine that Zechariah would be jumping for joy – the desires of his heart, his deepest prayer, had been answered! But, that’s not the picture that we get. Zechariah responds, “How can I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18). Zechariah’s prayers were answered, but he wanted proof. He wanted God to prove himself to Zechariah. It seemed like an angel of the Lord appearing to Zechariah just wasn’t enough for him. 

In both the Israelites’ and Zechariah’s situation (as well as the situation with Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22), they wanted God to prove himself to be God. The previous faithfulness God had shown them wasn’t enough; they wanted God to prove himself to be big enough and powerful enough in that moment for them to trust him. But – I don’t think, for any of these people, anything that God could have done in that moment would truly have caused them to trust him more. It wasn’t on God to prove himself to them. For the Israelites, he caused the plagues in Egypt, split the Red Sea, routed whole armies. For Zechariah, he sent a messenger to talk to him face to face and tell him that his greatest desire was answered. They had already received their signs. It was the people’s responsibility to soften their hearts enough to trust in God. They needed to believe that God was who he said he was and would do what he said he would do. 

We are required to trust in the same way. God has done tremendously more than we have ever deserved. He is currently doing more in our lives than we could ever hope for. It is our responsibility to trust him to be God. We just have to follow in obedience to him.

~ Cayce Fletcher

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

Numbers 15-16, Psalm 46-48

“Clap your hands all you peoples; shout to God with a jubilant cry. He chooses for us our inheritance – the pride of Jacob whom he loves.” Psalm 47:1,4

As Kyle mentioned yesterday, the book of Numbers is anything but boring. And today, we got acquainted with the interesting – and deadly – story of Korah’s rebellion. In chapter 16, Moses and Aaron are approached by a group of Levites led by Korah who had had enough of Moses and his leadership. He confronted them and said, “You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord’s people?” (Numb. 16:3). 

Moses, raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, had led the Israelites out of Egypt. Not only was he the main leader, but he also acted as a go-between for the Israelites and God, speaking to God frequently on the Israelites’ behalf and receiving the law and the commandments from God. From the outside looking in, Moses could seem to be a pretentious guy giving meaningless commands to the Israelites people with fatal consequences for the people who broke them like the man stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32-36. Korah, the man at the head of the rebellion, was also from the tribe of Levi and had the support of 250 leaders of the community. At this point, they had probably had enough of Moses’ rules and spoke out against what they believed were unjust commandments.

But, little did they know what that would cost them. Moses cried out to God and trusted in God to deliver him. He prayed that the people would see them who was the true messenger of God based on what God did. When they both came to present offerings in firepans to God, the ground opened up and swallowed Korah and all his household with all of their possessions and they went “down alive to Sheol” (v. 31-35). Then, fire came from the Lord and killed the 250 leaders who were presenting offerings in firepans to God. The Israelites, who still believed that the real men of God were Korah and his followers, began to complain about Moses and Aaron. God sent a plague to kill the Israelites, and that plague killed 14,700 before Moses put a stop to it by standing between God and the people. 

This chapter in Numbers is a whirlwind, full of intrigue, suspense, and vengeance. What’s striking to me is the complaint of Korah that sparked this chain of events that led to the death of close to 15,000 people. Korah and his followers complained about Moses and Moses’ power. And like I said, from an outsider who didn’t understand the true purpose and meaning of the law, those complaints would seem valid. But, Korah was missing the whole point of the message Moses was communicating, because that message centered around God. Korah wanted to the power for himself. He didn’t realize that Moses wasn’t doing those things for himself, but instead, he was acting in complete humility and obedience to God. To Korah, those commandments seemed meaningless, arbitrary, and harsh, because he didn’t truly know God. Thus, he wasn’t willing to be obedient to his commands. 

The world looks at the message of Christ and says similar things. It asks us, “Who do you think you are? Don’t you know we all have a little bit of God in us? How dare you try to tell us what to do?” Little do they know that the message we are following is not based on us and our likes and dislikes. It’s not something just made up by human hands. This is a message from God! And that makes all the difference. 

When you find yourself feeling the force of all the world’s questions, you can stop and remind yourself of the promise found in the psalms: You are chosen by God to be his holy set apart people. 

~Cayce Fletcher

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 15-16 and Psalm 46-48