Strike up the Band!

1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 32a NIV

As our Bible reading today we have just one chapter in the book of 1st Chronicles (chapter 6) – still in the genealogies.  This chapter is devoted to the tribe of Levi.  Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob and his descendants would be the ones God chose to be the Levites for the nation of Israel.  They were set apart for service to God.  They would be the care takers of the tabernacle (where people sought God), and later the temple.  From their tribe would come the family line that would serve as priests and the most holy role of high priest, which later Jesus himself would take upon his shoulders.

But, that’s not all – some of the Levites (those listed in verses 33-47) – were given the responsibility of temple musicians.  They were to play, sing, and make music to the Lord – to lead the temple-goers in their worship of the Most High.

I love that God created us to enjoy music.  I love the power of music – just read any article on music and the brain or music therapy – or better yet – listen to the nurse as he plays his guitar in the hall of his covid-19 ward.  Or witness the miraculous turn-around of the struggling infant when his big sister sings to him the song that she always sang to the baby in her mommy’s belly.  Or hear the band play as the Titanic sinks.  Music grips us and moves us in many ways.  Let music be a source that moves you toward God as you come to worship.

As our church has gone online during this time of isolation, I miss the community lifting their voices and instruments together in worship.  But even now, music remains as a powerful means to move us closer to God.  Look up the words to an old hymn.  Pick up an instrument you have neglected too long.  Thank those who have used the gift of music to lead you into meaningful worship.  Share with your family a song that reminds you of God’s love, character and promises.  Search for Bible verses about music.  Play worship music as you go about your day.  Research how many instruments are listed in the Bible?  Post a song of Christian joy and hope on social media.  Write your own psalm of praise – maybe you will even set it to a tune.

Music was a powerful part of worship long ago, it is still today, regardless of our situation – and it will be in the future as well.  I love the verses in Revelation where the faithful will sing in worship to God and the Lamb Jesus Christ as the Kingdom of God is preparing to unfold.  Let’s get started practicing today to be a part of that choir!  God and His Son are worthy of our worship!  Sing it out!

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+6&version=NIV

Tomorrow we go back to the Psalms – 81, 88, & 92-93 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Living Like a Levite

Numbers 35 & 36

Rebecca Mon pic

Imagine that today is your regular day of worship at your local church. You grab your Bible and head out to the church. You walk into the Social Hall and there is the guy who usually arrives early setting up folding chairs. You place your Bible on the table and begin unfolding the chairs while talking with him. Another person enters and starts making the coffee and turns on the heat. The room already feels warm which is nice on this chilly day. The Pastor walks in from his office and asks how your day has been so far. Soon people start arriving. A few Youth Workers enter carrying some bags filled with crafts for the kids to make. They are headed toward the Youth Room. The room begins to fill up as more people enter. A couple of praise team members smile as they walk through carrying guitars and making their way to the sanctuary. People sip coffee and others just sit, talk and laugh. Everyone settles in as the Pastor hands out a list of prayer needs and praises. A couple of people share updates on the Missions collection and the food drive. After prayer, the teacher begins to share a lesson about the importance of the Levites. You discover that the Levites served the LORD in many ways including taking care of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Levites from the family line of Aaron served as the priests for the Israelites. Some were in charge of the treasures of the house of God and dedicated gifts. Some served as guards and others were musicians and singers. They were also the only Israelite tribe that received cities, but were not allowed to be landowners “because the Lord the God of Israel Himself was their inheritance”.

 

Ok, so why imagine this scenario? Because our reading is about the Levites and as servants of God, we have a lot in common with them. This special tribe was chosen to serve the Lord. These servants used their God-given talents to serve the LORD in their community. How amazing that we have this same opportunity today. We are gifted in different ways and possess different talents, but all of these can be used in our service to God. Our willingness to serve is evidence of our love for God and others.

God honored this tribe in Numbers 35. The Lord told Moses to command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in, pasturelands for their cattle and all their other animals. The Levites received forty-eight towns with six of the towns as cities of refuge, to which a person who killed someone could flee. God displays His provision and grace not only to the tribe of Levi, but for all those in the Israelite community. Hebrews and foreigners could flee to the city of refuge for protection and justice. The LORD also provides protection for the inheritance of the individual tribes in Chapter 36. In the example of Zelophehad’s daughters we see that God valued the individual inheritance of each tribe. When we see how God’s commands and regulations were offering provision and grace to the community and the individual, it makes us realize how awesome He is. It makes us want to give of ourselves. It makes us want to serve, to live like the Levites.

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s Bible passage, the last two chapters of Numbers, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+35-36&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be the first two chapters of Deuteronomy as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Satisfaction and Sin

Numbers 18 29 NIV

Numbers 18

Everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord is yours. – Numbers 18:14
The old saying to “save the best for last” might be our natural inclination as people, but when it comes to giving to God, the best should always come first. That was what God demanded of Israel. As the chosen servants of God, the Levites received that offering, the very best, as their own.
1st of all, the Levites enjoyed a distinguished role. They were God’s gift to Aaron. There should have been no confusion about Aaron’s authority over them; instead, they should have appreciated the fact that God had wanted them for His service.
That service was part of its unique responsibility. No one else in Israel could come so close to the Lord’s dwelling as the Levites. They were given the opportunity to care for and handle the holiest dwelling in the whole land. They were employed in the service of the Almighty.
God blessed them with material gifts as well. In exchange for their service to God, the Levites received the tithe offered by the entire community, the best that Israel had to offer.
For any among the Levites to have been unhappy, they must have been deceived or deluded about their stance with God. The proper response to all that He had given them was to give Him a tenth of what they received—not just any part of it, but the very best of the best. Instead, they demanded more. People who are not satisfied with the best, can never really be satisfied. Do you recognize what God has blessed you with?

Numbers 19

If a [unclean] person does not purify himself, he must be cut off from the community, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. – Numbers 19:20
It was very easy to become unclean without realizing it. To touch a corpse, to be in the same room as the dead, to stumble over a grave, was enough to defile the Israelite, and excommunicate him from the Tabernacle with its holy rites. Could anything more graphic give us a clear picture of sin? We cannot be in contact with people who are blatantly sinning, or using foul language, or watching movies or tv that express the evil of this world.
This is the reason why, at the end of the day, we often feel unable to pray, or hold fellowship with God: we are excluded from the Most Holy Place, because of this defilement. There is only one way of escaping it, and that is in being covered, sealed, by the Spirit of God. “In whom you were sealed until the day of redemption.”
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading, Numbers 18-20 can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+18-20&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 21-22 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Counting in the Wilderness

 

Numbers 1 & 2 Cain

Do you ever feel like you’re in your high school math class reading through the book of Numbers like a timeworn Algebra 2 book? Rest assured there’s no Pythagorean theorem in this book of Numbers! The name ‘Numbers’ actually comes from an old Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The Septuagint translators gave the book that title because of the listing of the numbers of the tribes of Israel in the first four chapters. It is a shame that the title of this great book is defined by only a small portion of its contents. The Hebrew name given to the book is much more accurate to its true contents, בְּמִדְבַּר (bemindbar). The Hebrew word bemindbar actually means “in the wilderness” which is exactly what the book of Numbers covers. After a long-awaited return to the land, which was promised to their fathers, the Israelites can finally take the journey through the desert back to Israel. The trip from Egypt to Israel shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of weeks on foot, but somehow the Israelites found a way to make the journey last 40 years. There is a lot that happens in these 40 years.  This book is filled with rich history that is very dear to the Israelite people and events that would shape their faith and ours forever. If anyone has ever told you that Numbers is a boring book, I stand opposed. As we spend some time traveling though the beginning of this book I hope you see the importance that God has placed in its words.

The first words of the book are its name sake. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting.”  There you have it, these words literally are the title of the book. I want to point out something that can easily be over looked by long-time Christians, and that is the phrase “the LORD spoke to Moses”. When was the last time that God chatted you up to give you direct commands? It’s not every day that the Creator of the universe talks directly to people. Only a few times in the Bible do we see God in direct communication with people in this way. I think as Christians we become numb to the stories we read as if everything is a normal day occurrence when it isn’t. For the first time in history there is a place that God has designated to dwell among His people. For the first time in history God is setting up a nation to call His own. God literally creates the nation of Israel before our eyes in the book of Numbers. When you stop to think about it, what is happening here is a monumental shift in history, setting the world on a course for God’s redemption plan to take place.

We find the book of Numbers picking up the story of God’s people two years into their time in the wilderness. During this time God has made a covenant with His people and they have built the tabernacle. Then we find that God wants Moses to count the number of able bodied men that could fight. These are the numbers that we find in the first chapter. Remember these are just the men 20 years of age and up who can fight; this doesn’t include all the men unable to fight, women, and younger people. Just the fighting men numbered 603,550! No one knows the exact number of the Israelites, but many estimates put the total number of people at around 2-4 million. As we read all the numbers of the first chapter we might be tempted to drift off to sleep, but an interesting point to realize is just how accurate the numbers are. The accuracy and attention to detail, to me at least, is evidence towards the validity of the scriptures. These aren’t details that someone would make up. If you look at any mythology or creation story, you don’t frequently see detailed accounts with genealogies such as we do here in Numbers. The detailed records of the Old Testament are proof to God’s care and intent for truth. Even with counting, our God is faithful and true.

As we move into the second chapter we see a rehashing of the numbers of the tribes and explicit directions from God as to how the Israelites are to set up camp. Imagine a square with the tabernacle at the center.  Directly around the tabernacle are the Levites. On each side of the square we find three tribes. I think there are two things we can glean from Chapter 2 about how God chose to design the camp. First, I think we can see how orderly and intentional God is with His people. I think no small part of having the Levites around the center was to help maintain a health boundary around the tabernacle to keep it holy. Holiness is one of the most important things to God. We can see how seriously God treats His holiness when He strikes now Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, in Leviticus 10. I think another reason God laid out the camp like He did was so that not one tribe was favored by being closer to the Tabernacle than another tribe. Imagine the fights that could have started if the tribes were allowed to camp wherever they wanted. If Dan claimed a spot right next to the Tabernacle, Judah might have started a fight because they were closer to God that day. Although these might not be the most glamorous chapters of the Bible, they do show us that God set up a very good system for His people. The first two chapters of Numbers show us a glimpse into God’s intentionality and love for His people.

I’ll admit, the first few chapters of this book aren’t the most exciting.  However, the book of Numbers holds many interesting stories and important lessons for us to learn as followers of God.  Many of the greatest teaching points for the prophets and apostles come from the stories in this book.  It is through the miracle of the exodus and the hardships of the wilderness that the nation of Israel is birthed.  I can’t wait to explore more of this book with you in the coming days!

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+1-2&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 3&4 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

See a Victory

Genesis 48-50

Genesis 50 20 NIV

Israel asks “Who are these?” in reference to Joseph’s sons. That’s a little odd considering the length of time that Israel had been in Egypt. Had he yet to meet his grandchild whom he has just claimed as his own children? Clearly he knows about them to declare that they will receive the same inheritance as Joseph and the other sons of Israel. I think it is more likely that he is, much like Joseph did with his brothers, playing a game with Joseph. He is trying to appear as if he is slightly senile so that he can get the last laugh. When Joseph brings his two children to Israel to receive their blessing, Israel reverses their order and blesses the younger first and the older second. We see in verse 17 that Joseph has bought into Israel’s ploy. Joseph talks to his father as if his father is confused and does not know what he is doing. Israel knows exactly what he is doing. This short interaction calls a few other stories to memory. Jacob himself received the blessing due to the firstborn, although he was younger than his brother Esau. The craftiness of Jacob was clearly passed on to Joseph. We also read in Genesis 38 that the twin children of Judah born to Tamar had their birth order reversed at the exact moment of birth, with the first one to feel fresh air being the second to be born. A clear theme emerges from all of these stories: “The last shall be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). If this reversal of roles leaves you feeling satisfied, why? Perhaps you are exactly the opposite. This situation makes you indignant. Once again, why?

 

In Israel’s final words to his children, we get a little reminder of why Judah was given more responsibility than the firstborn Reuben. Judah’s older siblings are vicious. The plot to kill Joseph and the massacre of an entire Canaanite establishment are just two examples of their perverse ways. Levi was an awful man by all accounts, but the priesthood comes out of this tribe. We know that during the wandering, the Levites were responsible for carrying all of the elements of the Tabernacle. Perhaps that was a form of punishment for the sins of Levi. Conferring this holy duty to the levites could also be considered a way to correct their course. They were pushed to become the gatekeepers for all their brothers, providing the means necessary to receive the grace of God through sacrifice and all the religious acts.

 

The other thing that grabs my attention from these blessings is that Israel blesses Judah with rulership of his siblings. This is manifested in the Kingship later. It seems like a wise choice considering who the other options are. Yet Joseph would also be a fair choice, would he not? Joseph is the one who all of the siblings bowed down to in their lifetimes. Yet Israel confers his blessing upon Judah. One issue with the reign coming out of Joseph is the split of his tribe into two halves, leaving one to rule and the other to serve, even though both are equally entitled to the position. Instead, Israel puts both half-tribes under Judah.

 

Though Joseph was a man of great power and authority, he was also a man of great emotion and compassion. We see a reflection of God’s nature in him. After Israel’s death, his brothers beg for their lives at the feet of Joseph. By all rights, this is the state we should find ourselves in before God. Then Joseph delivers one of my favorite lines of the Bible: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good.” Those who attended reFuel will remember the song “See A Victory.” This song contains that line and I find great comfort in it. We must first experience the evil in order to come out on the other side and experience the good that God intended. Take comfort in God’s kindness.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+48-50&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will begin the exciting book of Exodus – chapters 1-3 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God First (I Chronicles 8-10)

Thursday, November 17

god_first-1097943

We are coming to the end of the genealogy in 1 Chronicles.  It goes through chapter 9.  After 3 days full of genealogy, I was excited to have something to read and write about that wasn’t genealogy.  However, I was struck by the last chapter of this genealogy, and felt compelled to write one more devotion on it.

Chapter 9:1b-2 says, “The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.  Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.”  The chapter continues by telling us that there were 1760 priests who returned, along with 212 gatekeepers guarding the Tent of meeting.  Four principle gatekeepers were responsible for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.  Others who returned were responsible for the articles used in temple services.  Others were in charge of the temple furnishings.

The thing that struck me about this was that the first to return, the ones listed here, were dealing with the temple and the worship of God.  It wasn’t the masons to build a wall, or the warriors who would build the army to defend the city.  The Israelites were returning their hearts to God, and had their priorities straight:  worship God first and then deal with everything else.

How does this compare to us?  Do we prepare to worship God first?  I know it is very easy for me to get things backwards, get caught up in the busyness of life, and fit God in when there is time.  However, when I take time for God first, the busyness doesn’t seem so rushed and frantic, even when the circumstances stay the same.  Let’s focus on putting God first and worship him today.

-Andrew Hamilton

Finding Your Place (I Chronicles 6-7)

Wednesday, November 16

levite_musicians

Chapter 6 starts with listing the descendants of Levi.  The tribe of Levi is set aside to be the priests, workers in the tabernacle and temple, and things like that.  In verse 11, it says “These are the men David put in charge of the music in the house of the LORD after the ark came to rest there.”  This is the list of men who had a specific job because of their genealogy.

In verses 48 and 49, it says “Their fellow Levites were assigned to all the other duties of the tabernacle, the house of God.  But Aaron and his descendants were the ones who presented offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense…”  Again, these other Levites had specific jobs or duties because of their genealogy.

As we move into chapter 7, we see lists of other groups of people, and for each one, it lists their number of fighting men or warriors.  Each of these also had a duty as warriors, both in defense and offense.

As I was reading this, I thought about how this could relate to us.  We each have special roles in the church.  If we look at the genealogy of the church, where do each of us fit in it?  Would you be listed as having “priestly duties”, the spiritual leaders in the church?  This could be as a pastor, elder, or a scholar possibly.  Would you be listed as a musician, giving praise to the LORD?  Would you be listed as a warrior, standing up for your faith on the defense and/or evangelizing and spreading the word on offense?

We are not cast into a certain position based on the tribe we belong to, but there is a place where each of us fit.   I encourage you to examine what roles God is leading you to, and follow God’s plans for you.

-Andrew Hamilton

Requesting war with giants on their home turf – super crazy or super hero? (Joshua 11-14)

Monday, September 26

nikki-mon

Nikki Green

In 1933 two Jewish boys had an idea for a super hero.  This hero was an outsider, taken from home, and dropped in a strange land.  He believed in justice and truth.  His role would be to save people.  This soon became the legend of Superman.  This brings to mind a similar story.  Moses was dropped in the land of Egypt and became the hero God’s people needed.  He stood up to the Pharaoh and delivered the Israelites from slavery.  As we moved through the Bible, Joshua becomes the Moses 2.0.  Joshua 11:15 reminds us “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.” Joshua followed God’s commands and led Israel to ultimately take over all the royal cities and their kings.  Chapter 12 reiterates, without any exaggeration or embellishment, the many victories of God’s hero, Joshua.  The Israelites had followed this great man through warfare and were now ready to receive their inheritance.

Joshua, the chief priest, and the heads of the twelve tribes oversaw the allotment of God’s Promised Land.  Joshua seems to barely wrap up his military duties and has to quickly take on the responsibilities of property management and administration.  He assigned lots as God commanded through Moses.  The Levites had not been granted an inheritance in terms of land.  The sons of Joseph had become two tribes (Manasseh and Ephraim), since Jacob had adopted them as his own (Gen 48:5).  This made it possible to have the twelve part nation.  The Levites carried out religious duties for the Israelites.  They were given cities to live in, but were not land owners “because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their inheritance” (Deut. 18:2).

We need heroes that show us how to follow God wholeheartedly.  Caleb, from the tribe of Judah, had joined Joshua 45 years earlier as one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land.  Caleb boldly approached Joshua, on behalf of his tribe, and requested exactly what both men had heard Moses promise to Caleb, because he “followed the LORD wholeheartedly” (Josh. 14:8).  This is where the hero-status jumps up to a whole new level!  The land Caleb was requesting was not void of “bad guys”.  As a matter of fact, if you remember the “giants” that terrified 10 of the 12 spies – they were inhabiting this land.  Caleb admits he’s 85 years old and says he’s still as strong as the day Moses sent him out.  He says he’s ready to go out to battle.  “Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.  You yourself heard that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Josh.14:12).  Why does the Bible name the folks living there?  The 3 sons of Anach (Sheshai, Ahiman, & Talmai) were also known as 3 clans of giants – the stuff legends are made of.  We watch 85 year old Caleb request the large, fortified cities, full of giants, & on a hill – for his retirement package.  I wouldn’t have blamed him if he requested land near the river, shaded with palm trees, and free of his enemies!  In his old age, he did what the rest of Israel could not and would not do – he believed in God’s word & defeated the giants (and their fortified cities) on their home turf.  (Josh 15:14).  He won and took up residence in Hebron, something he’d probably envisioned for his tribe for more than four decades.

2 Cor.16:9 tells us “the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”.  Young and old can learn from Caleb’s example, as he followed God wholeheartedly – that’s the stuff heroes are made of!  I’m sure those two imaginative Jewish boys heard their fair share of Old Testament Bible stories.  Superman is fun to read about, but as we continue our journey through God’s instruction manual, we have some truly super men to learn from.

 

 

 

The Israelites Mess Up Again, Shocker! (Exodus 31-34)

By Josiah Cain

Tissot_The_Golden_Calf

There is a lot to cover in these chapters and a lot of cool and terrible stories take place. Of course, in normal Israelite fashion, we find the people of God disobeying orders. They make a golden calf statue to worship while Moses is away on Mt. Sinai. God tells Moses that the people are messing up and Moses then pleads with God not to destroy them; if it wasn’t for Moses the Israelites would not have made it very far. So Moses goes down to see what is happening and ends up destroying the tablets that God made and the golden calf the people made. Moses then orders the Levites to kill the people who disobeyed God and this is the same event that made the Levites the priestly tribe for the rest of Jewish history. In total 3,000 people ended up dying that day at the hands of the Levites but that wasn’t enough for God; God later in the evening sent a plague to kill some of the Israelites and finally all the punishment was over. The Jews really can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble.

There are many things that I don’t envy about Moses, like the time he killed that Egyptian, but if there is one thing I am jealous of, it would be the way he talks to God. It says in chapter 33 that God talked to Moses face to face. What? How cool is that! Can you imagine talking to God face to face?!? It is incredible to think that Moses literally heard the voice of God and sat in the same place as God dwelt. I would give anything to commune with God in this way. Reading the way that God and Moses communicate just builds my anticipation for the coming kingdom even more.

Moses actually spent so much time with God that his face started to glow. I can’t imagine what this would have looked like but it was enough to scare some of the Israelites apparently. I wonder if we will have glowing faces when we spend a bunch of time with God? It did stink for Moses though that he had to hand carve the Ten Commandments again. I would still trade 40 days of no eating and stone carving for that much time with God.

Thanks for reading again and please take to heart the lessons that we can learn from the Israelites. If we follow God’s rules then everything works out for us in the end. I also think that we can learn patience from this story. The only reason they made the statue in the first place was because they were worried that Moses wasn’t coming back. We need to wait because God always has things under control.