Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 14-15:16; Mark 14:53-72; Psalm 53:1-6; Proverbs 11:4
Numbers 14 is the saddest reading we have had in the Old Testament this year. After all that God had done for Israel — freeing them from slavery in Egypt, showing them miracle after miracle, inviting them into a deep, personal relationship — they let their fears get to them. Instead of trusting God to continue giving and providing, they fear the unknown. By ignoring the truth of who God is they forfeit the right to enter the Promised Land.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Many, many, people who have walked this earth have rejected the truth of who God is. And what will be the consequence of that decision? They will have to spend eternity separated from Him (we call that hell). Just like Israel who rejected God’s way of doing things, people who chose to reject God’s salvation plan are really choosing to be shut out from His presence forever.
Look at some of the fears of Israel in Numbers 14. They presume they will die in battle if they enter Canaan. They assume their wives and children will be captured. Their fears were completely unfounded. When we stop focusing on God our minds become empty spaces that we fill with ridiculous thoughts. Don’t make up fears that don’t exist. There are some things we should be fearful of. But Israel had no reason to think these things. God had already told them what was going to happen. They were going to win! But they bought into lies rather than holding onto truth.
Joshua and Caleb are the only two men in the entire camp (besides Moses) who believe God. They rightly point out that the people, while complaining against Moses, were rebelling against God (Numbers 14:9). We may think we are upset with other people. But all our emotions can be traced back to what we think of God at any particular time. Despite Caleb’s upbeat motivational words, the people are not persuaded.
Israel wanted to enter the Promised Land. But they wanted it to be easy. God never said it would be. They had set their own level of expectations but had set it incorrectly. When their expectations weren’t met they became upset. Isn’t that how we all are? We expect life to go a certain way and when it doesn’t we complain. Instead we should look at every twist and turn in life as a chance from God to grow and to learn something new about Him, ourselves, and life. When in a tough position we need not think “How can I get out of this?” but rather “What can I get out of this?”
God is not a pushover. Even though He is patient and slow to anger He does not excuse sin. He may not react right away — because He give us chances to repent — but someday, after sins have been accumulated for generations we can expect His discipline if we do not change. This is precisely why I think the United States is in for a very difficult time. Over the past few generations we have been defiant towards God and have celebrated sinful behavior (pride, greed, abortion, homosexuality to name a few). Those sins are piling up on the current generations. At some point God’s patience will run out.
But God rewards those who are faithful to Him. Both Joshua and Caleb would live to enter the Promised Land 40 years later (Numbers 14:30). I’m sure these two men didn’t think it would be easy but they were willing to go with God. That is all He asks.
Our New Testament reading in Mark 14 continues with the “trial” of Jesus. This was not a real trial and was, in fact, illegal. Notice how the proceedings take place inside someone’s home rather than in public which was the law. These religious leaders are manipulating the entire situation for the sake of their ego.
Notice how their “evidence” against Jesus isn’t even accurate. Jesus never said “with these hands” (Mark 14:58) because He was talking about Himself when He spoke similar words earlier. Either these men were lying or they had “creative memory” as I wrote about a few days ago. In either case, Jesus is being convicted for crimes He never committed.
When I read Mark 14:71 today I couldn’t help but think of Lance Armstrong. When we are caught in a lie we often fight back with strong words just like Peter did. Even though we know we are wrong we don’t want others to know that we are wrong. We try to change their minds with staunch rebuttals. It didn’t work for Lance and it didn’t work for Peter either.
The important thing wasn’t whether or not other people knew the truth. The important thing was for each of these men (and ourselves when we find ourselves in similar situations) to realize the truth. We need to admit our sin to ourselves before we can truly be healed. Those people who are so defiant against God, as I used to be, simply don’t want to admit to themselves that they are far from being good human beings. We think we can manipulate truth by going on the offensive. As someone who tried it many, many times I can tell you it doesn’t work. Such practices only keep us in bondage to lies. True freedom comes from admitting who we are first to ourselves, then to God, then to others.
What a great segue into Psalms 53. Verse 3 confirms: “All have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!”. That pretty much sums it up. We are not good creatures. That is why God had to come to earth, as Jesus, to save us. He was saving us from ourselves. None of us are good enough to get to heaven on merit. We all fall short. Way short. There isn’t even a chance that our behavior gets us into heaven.
God knew that. Rather than leaving us to the consequences of our sin He took it upon Himself to pay for that sin by having Himself nailed to a cross of wood on which He hung in humiliation for crimes He never committed. A truly innocent human being taking on the sins of everyone who ever lived so that we could spend eternity with Him forever. That is God’s love demonstrated for you and me.
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