Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 27:14-34; Numbers 1:1-54; Mark 11:1-25; Psalm 46:1-11; Proverbs 10:23
We finish Leviticus today and begin the third book of the Bible: Numbers.
Not only were the Tabernacle priests responsible for performing the daily, annual, and voluntary sacrifices as well as conducting medical examinations, but today we learn that they are also responsible for assessing the value of property dedicated to God. They sure were busy.
But by this we can see that it is the local church, not the federal government, that should be the running the show. When we move everything from a local level to a national level (especially in a country the size of the United States) we have to have a one-size-fits-all approach to solving problems. Everything becomes cold and distant. There is no personal touch. Every situation is basically treated the same. Not to mention God gets removed from society which means that we rely on the less-than-perfect wisdom of human beings to make critical decisions. Less-than-perfect wisdom cannot, by definition, lead to perfect results.
Leviticus 27:34 concludes the writing of the law that God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses was up on that mountain a long time (months) scribing all these commands. It must have been very cool and humbling to be in God’s presence for that long taking notes. While I have never sat with God for months, or even hours, I often take notes when I pray. I write down what God tells me. Sometimes I write down the entire conversation (what I say and what God says). God says some very cool things. He has made me laugh on more than one occasion. He has a great sense of humor. The best part is that talking with God is just like talking to anyone else only better because His words and attitude are always perfect. He never makes me feel bad. He always lifts me up and encourages me. He is very easy to talk to really. Despite being in heaven, God is very down to earth.
We start the book of Numbers today. This book continues with the Israelites still encamped in the desert. The entire book will cover the 40 years from this time until just before they enter the Promised Land.
In chapter 1 God orders Moses to take a census for military purposes. Since the people will be entering an already-occupied land they will need to be prepared and organized. In Numbers 1:5 we see that God chose capable leaders from each tribe. Leadership is from God. He chooses our leaders for us. Sometimes He intentionally “chooses” bad leaders to teach us something. Sadly, the government leaders we have had in this country over the past several decades have been lacking in true leadership skills. When we think of God trying to get our attention we think of natural disasters. But we should also look at the leaders God gives us. Bad leaders make bad decisions which lead to bad results. This should get our attention just as much as an earthquake.
Any male 20-years old or older, who was able, was “drafted” into this army. Moses lists each of the 12 tribes of Israel, except for the tribe of Levi. They were exempt from military service because they were in charge of the Tabernacle.
I found the last verse of Numbers 1 to be very interesting. The Israelites had been gone from Egypt and living in the desert for over a year. Yet they were still being obedient to God’s commands (“did everything just as the Lord hadcommanded”). So far so good. Unfortunately future generations will not put so much faith in God and things will start to deteriorate.
Jesus enters Jerusalem today in Mark 11 riding on an unbroken colt. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus could ride an animal that no one had trained to accept a rider? That is God for you. He can take any of us in our raw form and turn us into something else. It doesn’t matter what you have done in your past (or even 5 minutes ago), Jesus can take your life and make it into something it has never been before but has always had the potential to be. You just have to make yourself available to Him.
In Mark 11:13-14 Jesus curses a fig tree because it didn’t live up to its advertising. When a fig tree has leaves it should also have figs. But this tree did not. It claimed something but didn’t deliver on it. Likewise there are those who claim to be followers of Christ but do not have “fruit”. Their life doesn’t reflect Jesus despite what they claim to believe. These people will also be cursed by God because they are not true believers.
Jesus’s behavior in the Temple is difficult to fathom just from reading the Bible. What was happening here was that the priests in the Temple had set up their own market from which people had to purchase “approved” animals for sacrifices at inflated prices. They were robbing people and completely abusing the position that God had given them. But just like the Temple, we harbor some pretty bad things in our hearts. Its all well and good to cheer Jesus for standing up for what is right in this passage but we also need to be willing to let Jesus overturn the tables in our lives to clear out the bad stuff that has no place being there.
Notice how the religious leaders and teachers were upset at what Jesus did (Mark 11:18). Jesus had destroyed their cash cow. When money is involved people can get blinded to the truth. These leaders weren’t interested in why Jesus did what He did. They were only interested in how it affected them. These men should have been seeking truth. In fact, they were seeking earthly riches. We should be careful in our lives to not repeat their mistake. It is easy to get caught up in what the world has to offer, especially in a country blessed with so much material wealth as the United States. But wealth is a double-edged sword. It can make life easier no doubt. But it can also distract from what is really important.
In Mark 11:22-25 Jesus identifies two things that can hinder prayer: lack of faith and lack of forgiveness. We must have faith “in God”. We must truly believe that He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. We cannot have faith in faith (“if I just believe strongly enough it will come true”). Our faith must be a total reliance upon God. That is why I like to pray for really big things that I know only God can deliver.
The other thing that hinders our prayers is lack of a spirit of forgiveness. God can’t forgive us if we aren’t willing to forgive others. This isn’t God being spiteful. A hard unforgiving heart cannot receive forgiveness from God. I think of it like the ground in the hot, dry, desert where I live. When rain falls on ground that is hard and dry the water cannot be absorbed. It just runs off and creates floods. Our hearts are the same. They have to be “receptive” to forgiveness before they can “receive” forgiveness. And the way you make your heart receptive to forgiveness is to be forgiving.
Psalm 46 is a great reminder that God is “ready” to help in times of trouble. There is no reason to fear disaster when God is on your side. Bad things may happen – He never promises that they won’t – but those who belong to Him will not be destroyed (Psalm 46:5).
Hey, here is a news flash: sin is fun! (Proverbs 10:23). Even God admits it. But sinning is foolish. Of course we all do it. We try not to but we do. Either intentionally or accidentally. But in the end it is never a wise thing to do.
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