Walking Through Ephesians

Walking Through Ephesians

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Day 21 (Numbers 21)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This chapter provides what might be the brightest moments in this entire book. Israel completed three successful military campaigns: the Canaanite king (v. 1-3), the Amorite king Sihon (v. 21-32), and Og king of Bashan (v. 33-35). Three great victories all found in this chapter. Yet, when we read Numbers 21 we don’t remember Israel’s victory, we remember their defeat. In the midst of these victories we find another occasion of Israel grumbling over the lack of water and good food, and God sends “fiery serpents” to punish them.

The serpent scene is interesting. The people rebel against God and Moses with their tongues, and God sends a judgment through serpents. But it’s here we see something Israel does that’s remarkable – they confess they’ve sinned (v. 7). Then it is Moses, who they complained against, who intercedes for them, and God, who they turned against, who provides the cure. Moses built the bronze serpent and whoever was bit yet looked to that bronze serpent lived. What a type for Christ! (John 3:14-17)

There are so many thoughts to pull from this chapter. I’m sure you’ll glean much through reading and reflecting over it. Here’s what I took from Numbers 21: what a shame that the great victories Israel won through the strength of the Lord are overshadowed by their sin. It’s a reminder to us that it can take years to complete works, to build trust, to sustain a positive influence and reputation, but all of it can come crashing to the ground in an instant through sin. Sin ruins and destroys. We need to realize this – one moment of darkness can harm, destroy, and certainly overshadow years of hard work for light.

But there’s hope – just as there was for Israel. God provided Israel with their humble, compassionate leader Moses (who had interceded on their behalf numerous times by now). And after the serpents, God provided Israel with 2 more victories. And even with the serpents, God provided their healing – the bronze serpent. For those who had been bit, God gave a second chance.

Some of you may be feeling like this today – caught up in a series of wrongs – whatever good you’ve done seems overshadowed by the sin you’ve committed. You’re bit by the bitter sting of sin. Remember – God provides. And for you He has provided a Savior. Look to Jesus. See His example. See His grace. Rejoice in His love. Follow His words. Don’t give up on God – He’s not given up on you.

Here’s a simple reminder for you today: God has victory in mind for you. But that victory is only found in Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Fix your eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Don’t let the failures and sins of yesterday distract you from a better today, and a brighter tomorrow. Rise with Jesus – look to Jesus – and be victorious in Jesus.

Our victorious King, this day we pray to You realizing how sweet and powerful those words are: “Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In You we do have victory – victory over sin – victory over our past – victory over Satan – victory over the grave. All this is possible through You – the Son of Man lifted up for the sins of the world. Thank You for providing for us what we need. Father, You gave Israel the bronze serpent. You’ve given us something far more precious – You’ve given us Your Son. How deep is Your love, how great is Your grace! Please forgive us of our sin. Help us to see hope when it seems there’s none – help us to see light when all we see is darkness – help us Father, to see victory before us, when all we see is defeat behind us. Help us to rise when we’ve fallen, to learn and change, and become more like Jesus than we were before. We long for Heaven – we long to be reunited with our loved ones who have fought the good fight and finished the course – we long to see our Jesus, and to sing and shout the victory! Lead us Home Father. Lead us on to victory!  

Day 20 (Numbers 20)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Great Disappointment
The death of Miriam affected Moses and Aaron deeply (Number 20).  It was Miriam whom God chose to save Moses’ life. She led the praises following their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 15).  The only blemish on her life was when criticized Moses (Number 12).

With that burden, Moses must still deal with the whining and complaining of Israel. Again and Again they cry, “Why have you made us come out of Egypt, to bring us to this place?” Now there is no water and they begin their complaining once again (Numbers 16:1–40).
God appears to Moses and Aaron. He tells Moses to speak to the rock instead Moses strikes the rock. As a result of this one blemish on his life God said, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Further, Moses faces another disappointment, the death of Aaron. Aaron had been by his side from the beginning, when he first appeared before Pharaoh. The one blemish on his life was the event at Sinai concerning the golden calf.
Moses had to be weary from the complaining of the people. But the deaths of his two siblings had to really drain him. Further, his one blemish of striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock must have been devastating to him.
Haven’t we all in one way or the other been in the shoes of Moses? Disappointment and fatigue weaken us so that we do something in weakness we would never have done in strength.  But, do not miss the mercy of God as well.  In spite of the charge, “You believed me not…” God enabled Moses to see the Promised Land. He also is listed as one of the great people of faith in God’s book (Hebrews 11).  One blemish on our lives does not have to destroy us. God will be merciful to us too.

Day 19 (Numbers 19)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chapter 19 takes us back to the issue of defilement and the need for purity. Though Israel was to avoid contamination, it was inevitable. The 2nd half of this chapter explains how one became impure through contact with the dead (v. 11-22). God’s punishment for Israel’s rebellion in not entering the promised land was that everyone 20 and older would die (Num. 14:29), as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. With a nation populated over two million people, it was likely that hundreds died daily. This chapter provides the solution for their defilement.

This chapter began giving the solution first (v. 1-10). They were to take a red heifer with no defect, and upon which no yoke had been placed, kill it, burn it, and use it’s ashes to remove the impurity.
Something I found interesting was v. 7-10 – the priest and those who came to serve this cleansing ritual both became unclean due to their exposure to the dead heifer, and were required to wash their clothes, bathe their bodies, and would remain unclean until evening. There’s an old rabbinic saying that fits this context: “They purify the defiled and defile the pure.” While there’s certainly several lessons to draw from this, the one that stuck out the most to me was the sacrifice of the priest. He gave up his own purity/cleanliness in order to purify a people who became defiled. Not only did he perform a ritual to bring about their purity, but he then had to follow up with a ritual for his own impurity. That’s dedication. That’s compassion.

That’s Jesus. For the sake of a people so defiled by sin, Jesus acted with compassion. Jesus took on flesh – for you. Jesus lived 30+ years as a man – for you. Jesus underwent temptation in a wilderness for 40 days – for you. Jesus lived a perfect life in obedience to God, leaving a perfect example – for you. Jesus wept in the garden – for you. Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood – for you. Jesus was slandered – for you. Jesus was abused – for you. Jesus was scourged, whipped, torn open – for you. Jesus wore a crown of thorns – for you. Jesus carried a cross to Calvary – for you. Jesus was nailed to that cross – for you. Jesus stayed on that cross – for you.

Yes, Jesus died for the whole world. But He died for you. Listen to the words Jesus spoke during the Lord’s Supper: “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). He gave His life for me. He bore my sins for my sake. As Paul would say, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Great Savior divine, I pray to You this 1st day of the week, the day You rose from the dead, You conquered Satan and death, You claimed the victory! In this prayer on this day I praise You. You are so loving and caring. You came to earth for me. You suffered and died for me. You took my sins upon the cross. You are such an incredible, merciful, loving Savior. I don’t deserve what You’ve done, the gift You’ve given. Thank You just doesn’t seem like enough. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be a present far too small. Merciful Lord You are beautiful, clothed in glory. You are perfect. You are victorious. Today I sing Your victory. I praise the God who formed and completed the wondrous redemptive plan. Thank You for Your love, Your sacrifice, for the forgiveness I have in You. All that I am and may be is by Your amazing grace. You are worthy of all honor, of all praise, because You purchased us with Your blood. What precious blood! What a wonderful gift! What an incredible Savior You are!

Day 18 (Numbers 18)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

God Provides

God’s people had been stubborn and rebellious. The Lord had chastened them for it, but in spite of their disobedience, the Lord had been faithful to care for them.
Part of God’s providing for them was Aaron and his descendants as priests to serve in the tabernacle. The responsibilities of the priests were serious. If they did not follow God’s instruction they might die. God held Aaron and his sons responsible for offenses committed against the sanctuary and the priesthood.  The priesthood was God’s gift to Israel. Without priests the people had no approach to God. The Levites were God’s gift to Israel but, God relieved them from menial duties so that they could devote themselves to fully serving God and the people.
If the Levites were to have no menial job then God expected the other tribes to care for them.  Both the priests and Levites were cared for means of the sacrifices, offerings and tithes of the people.
The principle is clear: Those who serve the Lord and His people should be supported from the material blessing God gives His people. “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” Paul wrote, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:13-14).
If the priests and Levites did not have enough food for their families then they had to leave the sanctuary and go work in the fields (Neh. 13:10).  Two points: It is sad when God’s people do not love the Lord and the Lord’s house to faithfully support it. Second, those who preach the gospel are never too good to go out and work in the work a day world to be able to provide for their own and the needs of the family if required to do so. 

Day 17 (Numbers 17)

Friday, February 17, 2017

We have a short chapter today. Moses had it rough. There seemed to be countless complaints about his leadership. As we noted yesterday, the complaint against the men God appointed as leaders was a complaint against the God who appointed them (16:11). In today’s reading God provides a way to put an end to the complaints and rebellions against Moses and Aaron (17:5). A staff is presented from each of the 12 tribes with the head of their households written on the staff. Whomever’s bloomed indicated the one God chose. This would have been a clear demonstration – this leadership of Moses and Aaron was not self-appointed, but by the will and intention of God.

And what an amazing miracle! A dead staff – cut off from its root (source of life) – now blooms and produces almonds. That’s impossible! That’s the work of God – He is the source of life. Once the people see Aaron’s rod, their response was absolute fear. They could have been thinking, “We’ve been rejecting God’s chosen leader/high priest. We’re doomed!” They just saw what happened to Korah’s rebellion that led to death. They must have been terrified that their grumbling and complaint against Moses and Aaron would lead to the same fate.

Here’s a thought I had from this chapter: DON’T COMPLAIN. How sad is it that after all this time, and all these miracles, and all that Moses had done to prove himself as God’s appointed leader, it took yet another miracle for Israel to stop their grumbling (v. 5). It’s easy to complain. We’ve got a natural knack for criticism. This is obviously a broad subject, because there’s a lot we can grumble about. We grumble about the weather. We grumble about the country. We grumble about leaders, and elected officials. We grumble about aches and pains. We grumble about people who seem to grumble a lot. Sometimes our grumbling comes into the church – grumble about worship, about the leaders, about members we don’t see eye to eye with, grumble about the young people, grumble about the old people, grumble about the kids.

Grumble…grumble…grumble…And God hears all of it (Ex. 16:7-8). What does all this complaining say to God? What does it say to those who hear me? What does it say to those who aren’t Christians? What does it say about me? Oh if we would just stop and ask ourselves these questions. Why am I complaining? What will these words show others about my God? About my heart? 

Here’s a reminder for today: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Phil. 2:14-15

Remember – in the midst of hardship, difficulty, and pain - God is always good. Remember – when frustrated and disappointed by others around me – God is patient in my times of weakness, I should be too. Remember – when upset at elected officials – God is king on the throne, He never fails. Remember – when feeling worthless, empty, like what you have and where you are simply aren’t enough – you are a child of God – you’re adopted into His family.

I don’t need to grumble and complain when I stop and remember that I have all I need in God. Israel’s answer was right in front of them – just look to the tent in the middle of the camp. Just remember that even in your wilderness journeys, God is there. He always has been, and will be. When you feel like complaining – stop – and remember God. He’s always there. Stop and count your blessings. I won't need to complain when I consider all I have to be thankful for!

Merciful Father, what a blessing to know You are with us everywhere we go. We know You are good, You are loving, You are the giver of every good and perfect thing. Everything I need, You have provided. I tend to get so distracted by the aches and pains of life, and so easily find myself complaining about it, rather than turning to You in my distress, and finding my comfort and relief in You. Forgive me. I know that in You I have every reason to live a life of true joy. Help me to overcome the negative, critical attitudes in my heart. Even in life's storms, help me to turn to You rather than complain about You. Let the words of my lips be words of thanks and praise, not criticism and complaint. And let my joy and satisfaction in You become contagious in the lives of others – that I may point others to the true source of joy and satisfaction in this life – to You. Thank You for giving me reasons to be thankful, reasons to rejoice. Because of You my cup overflows. You are so good to me. Thank You Father.

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