Bible Study

Mar 2017
Equal Opportunity

The current status of our justice system is bloated and overreaching. Sometimes we wonder if our representatives are actually advocating for our wishes or their own tenure. It’s easy to become disenchanted with all the branches of government. In Numbers 27-29, we see the original care of a God who desires equal representation and equal opportunity.

An equal opportunity social issue arises before Moses, the lawgiver, is taken to be with the God of Abraham. The daughters of Zelophehad appealed to Moses for their deceased father’s name’s sake. They were in danger of coming into a land totally deprived of any opportunity. Why should they lose out on the blessing of God? Moses could have made a decision. He was trained in the best schools in Egypt and had been walking with God for over forty years, but he does not. As was his habit, he counselled with God regarding this situation.

The second equal opportunity issue was a successor issue. Who would secure the nation’s possession for them? The nation of Israel needed a shepherd who could provide and protect. Without one to represent them, they would be scattered and vulnerable.

The third equal opportunity issue was a spiritual one. The spiritual need of Israel surpassed all other needs. Clearly, Moses’ summary of these final details was to instil in them the importance of the sacrifices. If you calculate the number of sacrifices the Israelites offered up in a year, it is astounding. Every year 1,035 lambs, 29 rams, and nearly 100 bulls were slaughtered! Sin’s price tag is always more than we want to pay.

All three of these issues required a mediator. Whether it was God, Moses, or the priests, someone had to bridge the gap between blessing and bereavement, victory and vulnerability, favor and fate. Jesus Christ is our mediator. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). He ushered us into the inheritance of blessing because we have an advocate in Christ (Ephesians 1). Jesus sees the multitudes and has compassion. He took the initiative to provide (Mark 6) and protect (John 10) His flock. All of our weaknesses are complete in Christ and now we can come before the throne of grace with our requests (Hebrews 4:14-16).

We have an advocate who leads us into favor with God. Praise God for our Great Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)!

Mar 2017
Warrior of Peace

Do we truly understand peace? If you were to search throughout Scripture for models of peace, who would you select other than the Prince of Peace Himself? It probably would not occur to you to consider the man to whom God extended a covenant of peace. Partly because his story is obscure, but it also seems ill-fitting to believe a man such as Phineas should be linked with peace.

In Numbers 25, the children of Israel are yet again in the throws of rebellion. This time they have flung themselves into the gutter of immorality and idolatry. It appears they have bowed themselves to the worship of lust. Moses is speaking to the leaders, warning them of the need to act aggressively against the infidels, when the most belligerent display of rebellion occurs. The son of one of the family princes, Zimri, parades his whoredom before the face of Moses, the people, and God. It shocks the people incredulously. No one moves.

Could it be they doubted the seriousness of sin?
Could it be they were unsure how to respond to an elite family?
Could it be they were simply unprepared to address the sin in others because they had not consecrated themselves to holiness?

Phineas rose up, took a javelin, and fulfilled God’s instruction by killing the perpetrators within their tent of wickedness. The rhetoric of the leaders did not halt the plague. The regret of the people mourning at the Tabernacle did not stem the tide of God’s wrath. One man rose to action and by his act of righteousness brought peace to the nation. Only a handful of people in Scripture were personally blessed with a covenant from God. This vigilant and valiant act launches Phineas into the prestigious company of the uniquely blessed.

Peace is not biting your tongue indefinitely. Peace is not tip-toeing around the elephant in the room. Peace is not sweeping everything under the rug.

To speak about sin yet do nothing does not embody peace.
To sorrow about sin yet do nothing does not embody peace.
To spear the evil to the floor at the command of God, this is the messenger of peace.

Peace sometimes is a mighty warrior as much as a feathery angel’s wing. Peace is not for the faint of heart or the passive. In the name of peace, the Prince of Peace marched against the powers of darkness liberating mankind from the plague of God’s wrath. In the name of peace, Jesus Christ victoriously wielded the Sword of the Spirit and pierced the darkness. One day the righteous will witness evil’s final twitch before it is eternally expired. Give thanks, today, for God’s peace is not passivity but activity. His peace passes all understanding.

Will you be a warrior of peace against spiritual darkness in your life, in your home, and in your community? Rise up!

Mar 2017
The Evil of Disbelief

Yesterday, we mapped disappointment, discouragement, depression, and disbelief. All of these are dangerous, but maybe there isn’t any apparent sin. A spectator may not charge you with the “fowl mood,” but you know where you stand and more obviously God knows. Numbers 13-14 are the rest of the story. It is the fruit of the journey which led to disbelief. Once we enter the delirium of disbelief, sin is lying at the door.

We may arrive at disbelief in different ways or quicker ways, but once we pull in the shoddy town of disbelief we are in the Kadesh moment. Think of an umbrella. As long as I am properly aligned (under) the umbrella, I am protected. Disbelief is the moment, the half-step, out from under the umbrella. Eve caved to disbelief when she doubted the word of God. Cain was a resident of disbelief when he could not accept God’s rejection. David spent the night in disbelief when he figured no one would know. Peter’s disbelief was the door slam of denial. The children of Israel faced their own moment of disbelief when ten spies returned with the evil report. Instead of praising the blessing and fruitfulness of following God, they counted the giants and impossibilities and forgot the power of God. Their disbelief produced disobedience.

We commonly associate an infraction as disobedience, which it is, but consider the other dimension of disobedience. When God says go and do, but we stay and don’t, we are guilty of disobedience. It may seem impossible. We may see a lot of giants, but the command still stands, “Go! I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Someone said, “God has nothing worth having that is easy. There are no cheap goods in the heavenly market. Our redemption cost all that God had to give, and everything worth having is expensive.”

Some of the most disobedient people are not the ones living outside the church, but the ones seated inside the church. They know God has commanded. They know God has moved in their life, but they refused to comply because they are living in disbelief of God. The sad end of this Kadesh moment in Israel could be the sad story of your life if you live in disbelief. The Israelites voluntarily disinherited themselves from God’s blessing. You will not lose your salvation, but you can be disinherited from the blessings of peace, joy, and victory. Have you forfeited the spoils of spiritual warfare because of unbelief? If you are facing a moment of disbelief, get out as fast as you can. Don’t risk the possibility of being disobedient. The result is grim. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22).

Mar 2017
A Fowl Mood

The plans were big! Everyone was excited. You’ve done everything possible to prepare for this incredible vacation. You get in the vehicle and off you go singing through your favorite road trip playlist. Halfway through your day, the kid spits up french fries all over the back seat. Now you are driving with the windows down. The other kid complains about the windows being down, the car breaks down, the tow truck takes his time and charges his price, and now you will never make your hotel reservation. Before you realize it, all your aspirations have tanked. What was supposed to be is no longer a possibility? The frustrations can put you in a foul mood.

The people had left Sinai and their march was now organized with certain tribes in order and the Levites transporting the completed Tabernacle. They were a new nation! They were stepping out with a new identity ready to see God bring them into the Promised Land. The first steps of the day must have been exhilarating with expectation. Three days into the journey “the people complained” and the fire of the Lord burnt and consumed them. Clearly a disappointing turn to your upbeat start. Then the mixed multitude begins to realize they have eaten manna for nearly a year and they are getting a little tired of it. They remember how good they had it in Egypt. Discouragement creeps into the camp as Moses hears every man complain about the manna. So Moses does the right thing. He talks to God about it. How would you approach God if you were Moses? Maybe you would submit your resignation. Maybe you would suggest some alterations to their agreement. Moses? He asks God to kill him!

This is a clear indicator that depression has begun its stranglehold on Moses. The spiritual spiral they are descending hits rock bottom when God says He will provide meat for Israel for thirty days, and Moses immediately questions God’s ability. Disappointment turned into discouragement, which turned into depression, which became disbelief. This is fatal spiritually. Now there is no filter for your decisions. You are in a fog and in this delirium you act on impulse. God sends the quail and the people gather the prey for a day and a half and lay them out for preparation. It appears some could not wait any longer and began eating the quail inappropriately, “and while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:33).

The next time you find yourself in a foul mood think of the results of the “fowl” mood the Israelites found themselves. How can you protect yourself from this “fowl mood”? Watch out for the words, “If only.” If only things could be different starts you on a journey from disappointment to discouragement to depression to disbelief. Watch out for the “fowl mood.”

Mar 2017
Avoiding Appearances

Numbers 5-6 are an interesting pair of chapters, but reading them together is a must. God clearly expresses the need for the camp to be “disinfected” of anything less than pristine. You read of two very interesting ceremonies at the Tabernacle. They seem very different but they echo the same point. If the people want God to dwell with them and fulfill the big promise of being their God, they must be attentive to the hint of sin.

The first is a bizarre ordeal with a woman accused of infidelity. Her husband would bring her to the Tabernacle with a sacrifice and the accusation. The priest would create an unusual cocktail of holy water and Tabernacle dust for her to drink. If when she drank the concoction she would swell and become halt, then she was guilty and everyone would know it. However, if she drank the concoction and never developed any symptoms, then God has rightly acquitted her as innocent.

The second ceremony involved a rare vow called the Nazarite vow. This showed that God was not only a “thou shalt not” kind of God but also a God who invited his people to live a life of deeper devotion. He truly wanted them to know Him intimately and this vow would have consecrated the individual for this exploration. They were restricted from anything fermented during the time of consecration. Then the instructions develop an entirely different standard when they were restricted from grapes, husk, kernel, vine or anything related to the fruit of the vine.

Both of these scenarios illustrate God’s desire for his people to avoid the appearance of sin. It is fair to believe that a woman would hardly be accused of infidelity if she was never in a position where that accusation could be substantiated. By avoiding the appearance of evil, she would never need to bear such an accusation. The Nazarite, whose vow was for strict consecration, would not be able to discern whether there was any fermentation in some grape juice. God’s instruction was to avoid any contact on the grounds of uncertainty. In other words, avoid any possibility of tainting yourself with sin.

The message of Numbers 5-6 insists we do not play around with or get close to sin. Have nothing to do with it! Charles Spurgeon wrote a great devotional in his Morning and Evening collection on this principle. Here is what he said:

Worldly conformity, in any degree, is a snare to the soul, and makes it more and more liable to presumptuous sins. Moreover, as the Nazarite who drank grape juice could not be quite sure whether it might not have endured a degree of fermentation, and consequently could not be clear in heart that his vow was intact, so…things doubtful…are wrong to us. Things tempting we must not dally with, but flee from them with speed. Better be sneered at as a Puritan than be despised as a hypocrite. Careful walking may involve much self-denial, but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense.