Numbers 28-30; Old Testament Sacrifices and Jesus

I’m sure I say this every time I read passages describing the required Old Testament sacrifices but… there was so much blood! Thirteen bulls one day, twelve the next, then eleven, etc. Not to mention two rams and four lambs a day for a week. Oh, and don’t forget the daily goat sacrifice.

That’s a lot of blood being shed there at the temple.

We talked about the cross yesterday in Sunday School. Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. His precious blood was shed once and for all. He laid down his life willingly, intentionally, painfully, and gloriously for the forgiveness of every sin every person has ever committed or will commit.

“It is finished,” He cried. Debt paid. Period.

All the requirements of Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in that one amazing act. The Old Testament sacrifices paint a picture of what Jesus did there on the cross. Sin is serious business. The consequence for sin is death, and without the shedding of blood God cannot forgive sin.

Praise Jesus! His blood was shed so that you and I can know the freedom that comes from accepting His grace, receiving the forgiveness He bought, and walking with the God of Creation, having Him living right in us.

Thanking God for the cross today.

 

Numbers 25-27; Leading By Example

When Moses found out he was about to die, he prayed that God would raise up a man to take his place. I was struck today about how he prayed:

Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (27:15-17)

Moses knew that, left to their own devices, the Jews would go astray like sheep without a shepherd. He prayed two things about the one who would come after him. And I can’t help but think we should be praying the same thing for our own leaders, those dear ones who accept the responsibility as pastors of our church fellowships.

  1. Moses prayed that his successor would “go out and come in before them.” This seems to be speaking of the kind of example our leaders should present. Does your pastor (or do you if you are a pastor) demonstrate how to share the Gospel, and not just talk about it on Sunday mornings? Is he (or she) a presence in your community, does he talk about Jesus over coffee at McDonalds? Are people coming to your church on Sunday because of the contact your pastor has made? I knew a pastor one time who said that visitation wasn’t his gift. I’m sorry, but I question his calling. I don’t think a pastor should be making excuses for not “going out and coming in” before the people he is called to shepherd. We sheep learn by example. Moses knew that, and he prayed for a leader that would be that example.
  2. Now before you get too hard on your pastor for not being the perfect example, Moses didn’t let us off the hook. He prayed that his successor would “lead THEM out and bring them in” as well. I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t just speaking to preachers when He commanded that we get out there and make disciples. We aren’t to sit comfortably in our sheep pen while the shepherd is out there knocking on doors. We are all to be sharing our faith, calling on people God puts on our hearts, striking up conversation with people in the grocery line if God prompts us to do that. Are people coming to church because you have made the effort to invite them? It’s not just the pastor’s job to share the Gospel.

But it is his job. I will say that both of my pastors, the one in my Ohio church and the one here in Georgia, are men who are leading by this example. Going to school board meetings, or Rotary Club, or striking up a conversation with the waiter who brings coffee, or helping a neighbor pull weeds, finding opportunities to share Jesus… and taking those opportunities, these dear men aren’t just preachers on Sunday mornings. They live their faith openly every day. And they challenge us to do the same. I think this is what Moses had in mind when he prayed like he did.

Yes, our pastors have a grave responsibility to lead by example. Pray for yours. His is a very difficult job, and Satan would love nothing more than to shackle him to his desk.

And pray that God will prompt each of us to get busy, too. May we be people who eagerly put ourselves out there and lead people into our fold.

For Jesus’ sake. May He find us faithful.

Numbers 21-24; Are You Really Going To Ask God For That?

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by Balaam’s story. It seems God told him to do something, then tried to kill him when he did it. (I also have to admit I laugh every time I read Balaam’s response to his talking donkey. He answered her like it was the most natural thing to hear words coming out of a donkey’s mouth. Makes me smile)

Anyway… I’ve spent some time looking at what others have to say about this passage of Scripture, and today the lightbulb finally turned on. Let’s see if I can put into words what I see here:

King Balak’s men came to a prophet by the name of Balaam, and asked him to join them, to go back to Balak, and to curse the people of Israel. Balaam does what I think he should have done, he waited for God to tell him His will in the matter.

Balaam ends up telling the men that God refused to let him go with them. Which was true. But Balaam left out an important detail. God had said, “You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” That’s the message Balak’s men should have taken back with them. The story might have ended there.

But Balak tried again, with more important men representing him. Surely Balaam didn’t mean God was holding him prisoner. Maybe a new bunch of messengers would convince Balaam to come, with or without God’s blessing. Worth a try. Their request was the same as before: come with us and curse Israel.

Here’s another mistake: Balaam decided to go back to God and ask again what he should do. I wonder what made Balaam think God would change His mind about about not cursing His people. Maybe Balaam WANTED to go to King Balak with these important people. He said he didn’t want Balak’s money. But I wonder if his actions reveal something else.

Was he really asking God to give him permission to sin? Did Balaam want God’s blessing on sin? How many times does God need to say, “No” before we hear Him? (Should I curse Israel? Should I rob this bank? Should I spread this hurtful rumor? Duh!)

But this time God gives the go-ahead. So Balaam jumps on his donkey and heads to the king of Moab. God’s WILL was that Balaam stay. He made that plain the first time Balaam asked. But God gave permission for him to go after the second request. It was obviously not God’s will because He gave Balaam three opportunities to turn back. God tried to prevent Balaam from putting himself in a tenuous position. But it wasn’t until the donkey spoke up, that Balaam’s eyes were finally opened. He fell on his face, and admitted his sin.

The angel called Balaam’s actions “reckless.” Balaam called it “sin.”

Sometimes Scripture tells us to pray persistently. Like Jesus’ parable of the neighbor who kept knocking because he needed food for some unexpected visitors. Or like the Gentile woman who kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter. We learn that if we keep asking, there are blessings.

In this case, however, we’re told not to keep asking, or there are consequences. What’s the difference?

Sin.

You are wasting your breath if you keep going to God and asking Him to permit a sin, or condone a sin, or bless a sin. If what you are asking is clearly a sin, hear Him say the first time, “NO,” and let it go. You put yourself in difficult positions if you keep thinking He’ll change His mind.

But if what you are asking is in line with Scripture, then go for it. Keep asking. Keep praying. You might have to wait for an answer, but there are blessings even in the waiting.

Just be honest with yourself and God about what it is you are asking Him for. You can dress up a sin with good intentions, but it’s still a sin.

And God is never going to bless a sin, no matter how many times you ask.

Numbers 19-20; No One Gets A Free Pass

Not even Moses. You remember Moses, the one God used to deliver an entire nation from slavery, the one who performed miracles, the one with whom God entrusted His Law, the man who could be in God’s Holy Presence and live. Who in all of history has done more, seen more, had conversations with God more than Moses?

Yet when God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come rushing out of it, then Moses tapped the rock instead, God didn’t look at all the good Moses had done and balance that against his sin and say, “The scale tips toward good so you get a free pass.” Even Moses had to suffer the consequences for his sin.

Even Moses.

The Bible is clear that every sin comes with a death sentence. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) Every sin.

I hope you are busy doing good things in our world. I hope you are honest and kind, that you are involved in a Bible believing church, that you volunteer at the homeless shelter, recycle, and support a child in Africa.

But don’t think that any of that can substitute for accepting Jesus as your Savior, for admitting and repenting of every sin God reveals in your life. The sin you commit will be repaid with death. That’s why Jesus died.

Because no one gets a free pass.

Numbers 17-18; Budding, Blossoming, and Bountiful

Priests were highly regarded men, respected, obeyed. It’s no wonder that men from other tribes wanted to enjoy the same honor. But God made it plain that Aaron was His chosen, and only Levites were to attend to priestly duties. The staff that represented Aaron not only budded, it blossomed, and produced fruit over night.

The other staves? Nothing.

This side of the cross, as God’s kingdom of priests, we can learn from Aaron’s staff. As believers, we are chosen by God to grow in grace and knowledge, to go and make disciples, to stand in the gap between heaven and hell. We also can delight in God’s Presence, His love, His forgiveness, and protection. Buds and blossoms and bounty.

But chapter 18 reminds us of the great responsibility that goes along with all that. God told Aaron that he and his sons, “bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary…

Verse 5 says: You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.

The commentaries I read seemed to agree these verses warn me that, although being God’s child through the blood of His Son is a precious gift, there are serious consequences if I don’t use it, if I hoard it or abuse it.

I must bear fruit. If I don’t, God’s wrath will be my fault. If my neighbor goes to hell because I didn’t reach out to him to introduce him to the Savior, his blood is on my hands.

My pastor is going through I Thessalonians verse by verse with us, and yesterday we got to 5:12-15. These verses talk to us about how we are to regard those who are over us in the Lord. In other words, our pastors.

He shared the grave responsibility he has as our under-shepherd, and the fact that he will stand before God some day and account for his care of us who worship with him in our church body. He asked us to pray for him, for his faithfulness to God’s Word, and his purity, that God would keep him grounded in the Truth of Scripture, and victorious over sin in his own life.

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter, and would ask the same of you. Please pray for me as I take on the responsibility of being God’s voice to the dear women who trust me to speak the Truth. And pray that Satan will be defeated in my life.

My pastor also pointed out these verses address “those who work hard AMONG you.” Isn’t that all of us who name the name of Jesus? We need to be in prayer for our elders, deacons, youth leaders, worship leaders. We need to be in prayer for each other in our workplaces and neighborhoods as we represent Jesus to a lost world. These verses tell us to live in peace with each other, to encourage each other in the work we have to do, to be patient and kind with everyone, and always want what is best for everyone.

We are all in this together. We all have jobs to do so blossoms will grow and fruit is produced. I pray that God will find all of us faithful, and that our fruit will be bountiful for Jesus’ sake.

Numbers 15-16; Into The Midst

Many of the Israelites don’t seem to be very nice people. It didn’t take much for them to band together against Moses and Aaron in rebellion. Some of them even convinced themselves that the whole lot of them were holy, so who did Moses think he was, anyway? (This was after God pronounced judgment on them for their sin of disbelief. Not sure how holy they thought they were then.)

Even after God opened up the earth and swallowed the ring leaders, then sent fire to consume 250 rebels who were offering incense and dishonoring the priesthood, some of the Jews continued their vendetta against Moses and Aaron. I can’t believe their nerve.

THE NEXT DAY the whole Israelite community accused Moses and Aaron of killing the Lord’s people! Not sure how they thought Moses arranged an earthquake and a fireball from heaven without 2017 technology. But these people were actually saying Moses and Aaron were guilty of murder.

Once again, when faced with unfair treatment, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. They went to God. They didn’t even try to defend themselves against the accusations.

God said, No worries. I’ll take care of these troublemakers. I’ll send a plague and kill them all!

What did Moses and Aaron do in response? They didn’t high five each other and stand back and watch their enemies suffer for being mean to them. They hurried to make atonement for the people.

They wanted God to forgive them! In fact, Aaron ran INTO THE MIDST of his accusers and stood in the gap between the living and the dead.

He saved their lives!

God is calling us to do the same. You might be mistreated for being a Christian. People around you might be talking about you, spreading rumors, accusing you. Your coworkers might be unfair. Some people in our world fear for their lives just because they follow Jesus.

How are we to respond? By standing in the gap. We have the Truth, the only means of salvation. We stand between someone’s eternal life and eternal death. Sure, they might want to be our enemy. But God loves them. And He just might want us to get in there and tell them that, to introduce them to the Savior.

Dear God, send me into the midst of those who would mistreat me. And may You find me faithfully standing in the gap, sharing your Gospel, leading people to the only One who can save, regardless of what they do to me. 

Numbers 13-14; Turn Down The Volume

When I was a middle school teacher I found that, when the kids in my classroom started to get noisy, the louder I spoke, the louder they got. If I tried to teach over their chatter, the noise level rose (and so did my frustration level).

It’s like that with arguments, isn’t it? Voice level rises, and anger escalates.

Ten spies came back from checking out the Promised Land, and threw fear into the people. I can almost see the Jews getting caught up in the frenzy. So rather than trying to out-shout them, Moses and Aaron fell to the ground, face down in front of the people gathered there. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, a sign of distress and grief.

That got the people’s attention.

Several of my closest friends at the middle school and I had our breaks scheduled at the same time. Usually, unless there were papers to grade, lessons to tweak, or parents to talk to, we would meet in the teacher’s lounge for a cup of coffee and a few laughs. Most of the time five or six of us would sit around the table and talk about recipes, husbands, and TV shows, for twenty minutes. It was a much needed break from our day.

Two of the women were friends in school and out. They socialized together with their husbands, and enjoyed a special friendship. Most of the time, they would join the rest of us. But occasionally, they would sit together on the couch, heads together, and whisper about something they didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

What do you do when someone whispers? Do your ears perk up, your senses heighten? Well, mine did. I could be in the middle of a conversation with another teacher at the table, but as soon as my friends on the couch began to whisper, I found myself trying to listen to them, too.

I couldn’t help myself. The whispering got my attention, even if I really didn’t care what they are saying.

I got to thinking about how I share Christ with others. Do I stand on a street corner and shout “Repent! The end is near!”? Do I take my Bible and hit them over the head with it? Do I talk about Jesus, or do I live His love? Do I listen to my friend, instead of rushing in with answers? Do I argue? Debate? Lecture?

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, rather than trying to out-shout the crowd. I think I can learn a lesson from this. Oh, if you read on you’ll find out that some of the people didn’t heed what Moses had to say. They ended up facing God’s judgment in spite of his warning.

But at least Moses got their attention, and was faithful to say what God wanted him to say. I want that to be true about me, too.

So, maybe I should learn to turn down the volume. Someone said, “if you want people to hear you… whisper.” I want my life to whisper, “Jesus.”

I’m thinking that, if I want someone to hear my testimony, I should get together with them in a quiet place. I should demonstrate my love for God by quietly serving, by reaching out to them in friendship.

Then, I want to be ready to give an answer for the hope I have in my Savior. I just need to get their attention first so that they’ll ask me to.