“Hear, O Israel”

Scripture Reading for February 23: Deuteronomy 5-7

“Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your foreheads.  Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This passage from our reading today is known by faithful Jews as the “Shema”.  This Hebrew word simply means “listen”. The Shema is quoted twice daily by devout Jews around the world reminding them of the importance of a relationship with the one true God.  This passage was quoted by Jesus in part when he was asked which was the greatest commandment.  He answered with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  (Matthew 22:37-38)  This ancient word from a sermon of Moses around 1500 years before Christ was foundational in the devotional life of God’s people.  Let’s examine it closer today and seek to apply it to our lives as twenty-first century AD Christians.

First, hearing is important!  God wants us to have ears to hear His voice!  Remember that the nation of Israel did not want to hear God’s voice speaking His commandments.  They had asked Moses to hear for them so they would not die.  Moses was repeating what God had told him.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God! (Romans 10:17)  God sends His people out to speak His Word to bring faith and obedience and the resulting blessing on His own.

Second, the Lord is one!  There is no other God but God!  He is the creator of heaven and earth.  He is holy and complete in Himself.  He desires the love of His children and loves them infinitely, desiring the best for them.  His love is expressed in his Word and commandments.  When we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we are actively responding to His Word in obedience.  If we love Him, we obey His commands. (John 15:9-11)  His joy will be in us and our life will be full!

The last point to look at in this devotion is the need to impress these commands of the Lord on our children. If these commands are on our hearts, we will pass them on.  The most effective way to pass them on is to live them out and speak about them in the normal flow of life.  Live them out from morning to night.  Make them the focus of all you do because they are on your own heart!  It’s pretty simple really!  What an impact on the next generation!  Are you listening?

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Sunday Rest and Reflection–Baalam

Greetings! Today is another day of rest and reflection about what God has been saying to us.  Have you enjoyed Numbers?  What have you learned about Jesus Christ through this book?  Do you sense God speaking to you about Christ as you read the stories about Moses and the people of God as they learn to walk with God in their midst?

A story I did not write on comes to mind today.  It’s the story of Balaam.  Balaam was a prophet for hire who was hired by Balak, King of the Moabites.  Balak was afraid of the Israelites and had heard the reports of how they had completely destroyed Sihon and Og, two other kings that opposed them.  God had given them this victory and led them in this conquest.  Balak was trying to get advantage the only way he knew how.  He sent a delegation to hire Balaam to come and curse the Israelites.  Balaam, to his credit, sought God as to what he should do.  God told him not to go and not to curse Israel. (Numbers 22:12)

A short time later, Balak sent more distinguished men and more money to try and entice Balaam to come and curse the Israelites.  Balaam was tempted, but he sought God again on this matter.  Money and men have a way of clouding God’s instructions.  God told him to go, but do only what He instructed him.  This led to the incident where Balaam’s donkey talked to him and warned him about the Angel of the Lord who was waiting on the way to kill him!  God’s mercy and justice are evident here in this tension.

Balaam goes to curse the Israelites and as he stands to act, a spirit of prophesy comes on him.  Each time, he blesses God’s people instead.  These blessings speak of Jesus Christ and God’s desire to bless his people.  Numbers 23:6-10 records the first blessing and verses 18-24 the second blessing.  God has blessed his people, who can curse them?  When God speaks a promise, no one can change it by sorcery!  (Numbers 23:20,23)

The final prophesy of Balaam is recorded in Numbers 25: 14-24.  In this prophesy, Balaam warns Balak of what the Israelites would do to his people in the days to come.  He sees a vision of the Almighty.  This vision is of a star coming out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel.  It was not now and not near, but would surely come.  He would crush the head of Moab and conquer Edom.  This ruler is Jesus Christ, the star out of Jacob and the one who holds the ruler’s septer!  Jesus would crush the head of the serpent as prophesied in Genesis 3:15!

The tradgedy of Balaam is what he did later.  He evidently figured out a way to help out Balak.  He told them to send in the women and seduce the Israelites and get them into idolatry.  That would bring a curse from God on the Israelites as a consequence of their own sins. (Numbers 31:15-16)  Balaam was a false prophet who met a tragic end! (Numbers 31:8) We must be on our guard!  Our enemy Satan is always trying to seduce us! (Revelation 2:14-16)

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Pastor’s Walk Podcast: Genesis Summary Part 4 (Joseph)

This is the fourth and final podcast on Genesis. In this podcast Pastor John continues to summarize the events discussed in Genesis. Pastor John’s primary focus here is the life of Joseph.

The Next Generation!

Scripture Reading for February 21st: Deuteronomy 1-4

The name “Deuteronomy” literally means “second law”.  Deuteronomy is quoted directly in 17 of the twenty seven New Testament books and alluded to nearly 80 more times.  This book is a record of four sermons given by Moses to the congregation of Israel in the last months of his leadership.  It records lessons he learned and wanted to pass on to the next generation who would possess the promised land.

Moses has led the nation for forty long years around the wilderness.  A journey that should have taken less than two weeks stretched out because of grumbling and complaining and doubt and unbelief.  (Deuteronomy 1:26-27) Moses, himself, will not get to enter the promised land due to his own dishonoring of God at Kadesh. (Numbers 20:8-12)  Moses seems to blame the Israelites for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 1:37)  God does hold leaders to a higher standard because of the revelation and intimacy they share with Him.  Moses is trying to impress upon this next generation why their parents suffered consequences of the wandering and death.

Moses also preaches to this next generation to inspire faith in God.  His questions to them are typical of the Jewish style of teaching.  In chapter 4 he asks them about God.  “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?”  “And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8) The obvious answer is “none!”  They are a special people marked by God traveling with them.  They are marked by the holiness and love of God’s law which sets them apart from all other nations!  They must be careful to teach these truths to their children and grandchildren!

From these first chapters of Deuteronomy, I see several key lessons for us today.  First, a record of the past history of God’s dealings helps the next generation learn faith.  Moses wanted to pass on the lessons he learned so his children and grandchildren would enter in and possess all God intended for them.  We must honor our elders and learn from them.  Secondly, the Law, represented by Moses cannot take us into the promised land on our own effort. We need grace and faith in the sacrifice for sins and cleansing.  Moses, himself, disobeyed God’s holy Word and was forbidden to enter Canaan.  Third, God promises victory to His followers.  He disciplines and warns them of potential trouble so that they might succeed.  God is truly for his people!

“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on earth below.  There is no other.  Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40

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Promises from God!

Scripture reading for February 20: Numbers 34-36

The God we serve knows everything!  When He speaks, He speaks truth that we can take at face value.  God told Moses in today’s reading about the boundaries of the land He was giving them and how to divide it when they took possession of it.  (Numbers 34:2) They had yet to own any of it.  These instructions were words to inspire faith in God’s people.  They were to cast lots for their portion in the land.  (Numbers 34:13) God decided by lot who would get what.  “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

As the Israelites entered the land and took possession of it, God had Moses appoint a leader from each tribe to oversee the assignment of the inheritance.  The only name that stands out in this list is Caleb.  He and Joshua are the only ones left from the generation 20 years old and older who had not perished in the wilderness on the way to the promised land. These two are examples of  the veracity of God’s promises.  “God is not a man that he should lie.” (Numbers 23:19) God alone knows the end from the beginning and He speaks to His people to build their faith.  This faith will inspire them to act on God’s Word and take what belongs to them.

In these last chapters of Numbers, we find provision for cities of refuge.  God knew that his people would need mercy.  Emotions get out of control and things happen.  Revenge instincts are strong and sometimes violence  that causes death erupts.  The cities of refuge were scattered throughout the land and provided a place where someone who had killed another could flee from the avenger of blood.  (Numbers 35:6)  These cities were Levite cities.  The Levites had no inheritance but were given cities and pastureland throughout the promised land to use and to minister to the people.  Six of these forty eight towns were cities of refuge. They were to mediate these serious situations when someone came for refuge.

What lessons can we get from these final chapters of Numbers?  First, our God does know everything and has good plans for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)  He wants us to know those plans and walk by faith and claim our inheritance!  He has provided a refuge for any who sin.  We can flee to Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer and find grace and help in time of need!  (Hebrews 4:14-16)  He mediates all our sins and provides refuge and mercy to those who repent!  Take time today to ponder some of these promises and by faith possess those that you need today!  Our God is on your side!

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

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You can be sure. . .!

Scripture Reading for February 19: Numbers 31-33

As our last two adopted children were growing up, I had them write scriptures as a discipline for doing wrong.  This helped them in several ways.  They needed to learn to write English and it helped with that.  They needed to learn the Word of God and build their faith.  It helped with that.  After writing the verse, they needed to explain what it meant to them. Some of the things they did were normal childish things, but some were willful. They obeyed to a point, but always looked for a way to get around true obedience by twisting our instructions or taking it out of context.   One of the scriptures that we used was this simple warning found in Numbers 32:23: “you can be sure your sin will find you out.They wrote this verse dozens of times!

In our reading today, the context for this verse was a warning given by Moses to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.  These tribes petitioned Moses to be able to stay on the east side of the Jordan River and not enter the promised land with the rest of the tribes.  They were lured by the lush pastures and the potential to make money with their large flocks and herds of sheep and cattle.  They were going to have a great life without their rightful inheritance promised by God.  They were satisfied with what they could see–why take a chance on what they might get?  They promised to fight and help their brothers take their inheritance, however.  So Moses warned them against failing to fulfill their promise to fight. It would be a sin that would find them out!

We have lots of people today like these tribes of Israel.  They experience the blessings of God’s deliverance from sin and see the miraculous daily supply of God.  They agree that a full inheritance is fine for others, but they are satisfied with what they can have right now.  They want the easy life and are not sure that what God promises is worth the chance or the effort.  They choose to go part way with God’s people, but want what they can see themselves, not what is promised!

The end of these tribes proves God’s Word is true again!  (1 Chronicles 5:24-26)  They were later unfaithful to God and prostituted themselves to other gods.  God gave them over to their enemies and they went into captivity!  They were faithful for a time, but in the end going just part way was not enough!  They sinned against God and their sin found them out!  God tried to warn them.  In his love, he tried to help.  But we often don’t learn from the warnings and have to be ‘found out”!  Don’t let this happen to you!  Take time today to be honest with God!

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Hoglah, a daughter of Faith!

Scripture reading for February 18: Numbers 26-30

I sometimes teased my daughters that I strongly considered the biblical name “Hoglah” for naming them!  My wife and I raised lots of hogs in our early years so this would fit our past life!  Somehow, they never have thought that was funny!  But in today’s reading, Hoglah is a daughter to be proud of!  She is a pioneer in the “women’s rights” movement, way ahead of her time!

In Numbers 27 we have a record of five daughters of a man by the name of Zelophehad.  This man had died during the march through the desert.  His daughters went before the Tent of Meeting and petitioned Moses for an unusual request.  They wanted to be allowed to inherit the property of their father.  One of their talking points was that their Dad had not been a part of Korah’s rebellion.  He had simply died as a result of his own sins. (Numbers 27:2-3) Up to that time, no ruling had been made and it was tradition that the sons got the inheritance.  These godly daughters felt that was unfair!  They wanted equal rights to an inheritance in the promised land!  (Numbers 27:4-5)  God agreed!

This is a breakthrough for women’s rights and spiritual equality that God has established!  Roles for men and women are defined by God and we must accept those roles.  But some things are open for negotiation.  These women teach us some important lessons.  We must all appeal to the Lord and to His established leadership when we need answers.  We should abide by the decision of leadership.  Some problems in the community of believers must be worked out through prayer and interaction.  God will help us.

Their story continues at the end of Numbers, where another question arises concerning their inheritance of property.  What if they marry outside of their family?  Will that land transfer out of the tribe?  God’s answer was that they must marry within the clan to keep the property!  These godly women responded in obedience and faith and married their cousins. They kept their property and inheritance!  Oh, for daughters like Hoglah!   (Numbers 36:1-12)

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Ancient Snake-bite Remedy!

Scripture Reading for February 18: Numbers 21-15

I hate snakes!  When I was little, Mom often asked me to take lunch and a drink to my Dad who was working out in the field.  This particular day in late June, he was cultivating corn about a half-mile from the house.  I was walking along the path, minding my own business, when I almost stepped on a large bull snake!  In my fear, I threw the water jar and Dad’s lunch at the snake and took off running for the house.  Mom consoled me and then sent me back to retrieve the bottle and lunch.  I complained and grumbled. Thankfully, the snake was long gone!

In our reading today, the Israelites were doing what they did best–grumbling!  As they grumbled against Moses and God, God sent poisonous snakes which bit the complainers and caused death.   (Numbers 21:5) The Israelites then asked Moses to pray for them and confessed their sin. (Numbers 21:7)  God answered Moses as he prayed with some strange instructions. He was to make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole in the camp.  Anyone who was bitten could look at the bronze snake on the pole and he would be healed!  (Numbers 21:8-9)

What can we learn from this ancient story?  The first lesson is that sin causes death!  God has repeated this over and over but His people seem to forget!  Another lesson is that grumbling against leadership isn’t pleasing to God.  When we do, we are actually grumbling against God.  A third lesson is that when sin’s consequences come, we run to our leaders for help and prayer–and God does answer.  We then must have faith to do what God asks in order to be saved or healed!  True faith is obedience to God’s revealed truth.

This story is actually a picture of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus used this story right before the most famous verse in all of Scripture.  The snake that was lifted on the pole is a picture of Jesus Christ crucified.  He was made sin, who knew no sin, that we might be healed from the serpent’s poisonous bite.  If we will look with faith to His finished work on the cross, we will be saved and healed!  God loves His people and wants to save them from the poison of sin’s bite and the consequence of sin–death! (John 3:14-18)  If we refuse the remedy provided by God, then we will die and perish because of our refusal!  This ancient snake-bite remedy turns out to be the current remedy for all mankind!  I am sure grateful that I have looked at Jesus Christ with faith and received the healing from my own sin of grumbling, complaining and rebellion! Have you done the same? (Romans 10:9-10)

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God’s Chosen Authority

Scripture Reading for February 16: Numbers 17-20

Our reading today follows the awful deaths of Korah and his family.  The earth actually opened up and swallowed them all and they went down to Sheol crying out. (Numbers 16:31-34) They rebelled against the leadership of Moses and, in doing so, against God.  It’s so easy for people to criticize leadership.  Each person seems to be able to see a different or better way to do things.  Each leader has his own faults as well– none are perfect!  But we learn from this record that God Himself chooses leaders and places them in authority.  When we rebel or criticize leadership, we are rebelling and criticizing God!  He is not pleased with grumbling and rebellion!

In Numbers 17, we have a record of God’s mercy towards the people of Israel.  He had the leaders of each tribe bring their staffs and lay them before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting.  The next morning, Aaron’s staff had budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds! (Numbers 17:8)  The other staffs were still dry sticks of wood!  God had demonstrated his choice of authority!  Only Aaron and his sons would be High Priests!  Moses was to take this rod and place it in the Tabernacle of Testimony as a reminder of his chosen authority. His desire was to stop the grumbling and call the people to faith and godly submission.

This incident is a picture of Jesus Christ as God’s chosen authority!  He meekly and obediently followed God’s instructions as he lived and walked on earth. He lived a sinless life and was crucified and laid in a tomb.  All religious Jews had criticized His leadership and servant ministry.  But God raised Him from the dead!  He produces fruit in raising to eternal life all who put their trust in Him.  He is presently God’s “rod of authority” seated at God’s right hand.  He is our High Priest forever!  He ever lives to make intercession for us!  What a pleasure to trust God’s authority!  All those who won’t trust will end up like Korah!  The earth will open up and Sheol will swallow them with weeping, crying and gnashing of teeth!

Take some time today and pray for those in authority over you. Give them a call or drop them a note and let them know that you appreciate them. Practice giving honor to God’s chosen authority!

“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 1st Peter 2:17

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Sunday Rest and Reflection–Moses and Christ!

When we started our journey through the Bible, I began with Luke 24.  The resurrected Jesus taught his disciples on the road to Emmaus and again in the room in Jerusalem everything concerning himself in the Law and the Prophets.  (Luke 24:27, 44) The Law refers to these Books of Moses that we have been reading.  As we take time to rest today, let’s think about these Books in relation to what they reveal about Jesus Christ.

First, Moses himself was a picture of Christ.  Moses was a prophet, a priest, a servant, a shepherd, a mediator, and a deliverer.  We find that Jesus is the final Word from God and holds the office of prophet and priest, as well as king (which Moses was not).  Jesus was a servant, (Matthew 12:18) the Good Shepherd, (John 10:11-14) the only mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5) , and our deliverer (1Thessalonians 1:10)! In his character description, Moses was the meekest of men. (Numbers 12:3)  Jesus was humble of heart as well. (Matthew 11:28-30)  Moses was faithful and obedient as was Jesus Christ.  Moses was powerful in word and deed (Acts 7:22) and Jesus certainly was!

In the account of Moses’ early life, he was a baby in Egypt and had to escape Pharaoh’s murder attempt.  Jesus, as a baby, was taken to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder attempt.  Both were providentially cared for by God to survive and fulfill their mission of deliverance!  Moses was rejected by his brothers and as a result obtained a Gentile bride while on the back side of the desert.  Jesus was rejected by his brothers and also has a Gentile bride, the Church!  Moses delivered God’s people from the death angel by the blood of a passover lamb.  Jesus delivered God’s people from death by his own blood spilled on the cross! Moses was eventually accepted by his brothers.  Jesus will be when he comes again!  Moses led the people and fed the people and mediated their concerns.   Jesus Christ is our King, provider and intercessor!

Take time today to think of some other aspects of our Lord that he has revealed to you as you have read these Books of Moses!  May your heart burn with love for Jesus!  Have a blessed day!  Pastor John

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