Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 15:17-16:40; Mark 15:1-47; Psalm 54:1-7; Proverbs 11:5-6
Yesterday in our Old Testament reading Israel blew their golden opportunity. They turned their back on God out of fear rather than walking with Him in faith. The price they will pay for that mistake in judgement will be steep: they will never get to enter the Promised Land. God had great things in store for them. But they decided to bypass it because of fear. The same is true for us today. If you have not trusted Jesus to pay for your sins you are missing out on the great things God wants to give you both in this life and the next. Don’t let fear or ignorance of God dictate your eternity.
In Numbers 15 God starts talking about the future. Israel had just screwed up big-time and lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They have to face the consequences but God isn’t going to forget them. He immediately starts building them back up by reminding them that He will keep His promise of giving them (not the individuals, but the nation) the Promised Land.
Just because we may not realize that we are sinning at any given moment doesn’t mean that its okay. Even unintentional sin has to be paid for (Numbers 15:22). Sometimes we know we are sinning. Sometimes we know even before we do something that God hasn’t designed us for. But sometimes we don’t realize it until later. In all those cases we need to acknowledge our mistake and bring it before God. He will always forgive. Always.
And then there are those who brazenly ignore God’s will (Numbers 15:30). They were to be cut off from the community. In modern-day terms these people have no hope of seeing heaven as someone who has a relationship with God will not sin “brazenly”. Its one thing to let temptation get the better of us. That happens to everyone. We are frail creatures who sometimes think wrong is better than right. But a defiant attitude towards sin is a sure sign that someone has no relationship with God. And as we’ve been learning all year, it is a relationship with God, through Jesus, that saves someone from hell. Sadly our culture praises and adores people with kind of attitude. Such people may be “winners” now. But they will be “losers” in the long run.
In the very next passage we see an example of someone defying God’s commands (Numbers 15:32-36). Whenever we defy someone’s commands we are brazenly saying that that person has no authority over us and that he (or she) doesn’t know what he is talking about. We have many people like this in our culture who call themselves “reformers” or “modern”. What they really are is arrogant. God is the creator. He therefore knows more about everything than we do including what is best for us.
In Numbers 16 we see Korah try to take advantage of the spiritual defeat Israel had just suffered. He attempts to usurp power from Moses. The only problem was that God is the one who put Moses in a leadership position. Moses never asked for it and, in fact, didn’t want it (recall our reading of the Burning Bush incident).
Moses’s first reaction is to pray (Numbers 16:4). Whenever we find ourselves in a tough spot we should seek God’s wisdom. It appears that God told Moses what to say and do in response to Korah’s accusations. God also informed Moses that Korah was really being motivated by ingratitude. He wasn’t satisfied with the role God had asked Him to play in the Tabernacle (Numbers 16:9). In the end God affirms Moses as the leader in a very dramatic way. Sadly, those who followed Korah were killed as well. The take-away for us: don’t follow divisive people. Such people are out for themselves and will prey upon your emotions to get what they want. When they fail, you’ll be taken down with them. Instead, follow God. He is not our for Himself. He is out for you.
The Jewish leaders bring Jesus to Roman leader Pilate in Mark 15 today. Since Israel was under Roman rule they had no right to execute people directly. They could recommend people for execution but Rome would carry it out if they agreed with the death sentence. Also, the Jewish leaders probably wanted Rome’s buy-in to executing Jesus so that they could distance themselves from the whole situation if things turned out badly (i.e. if the people rose up in protest).
But Pilate is no fool. He realizes that Jesus is innocent (Mark 15:10). But the people had turned against Jesus and the last thing Pilate wanted was a riot (remember this was the Passover season so Jerusalem would have been teeming with tourists). So he agrees to have Jesus executed. What did he care? One more dead Jew wouldn’t matter to him.
In Mark 15:16 we see Jesus mocked by the Roman soldiers. Jesus didn’t have an appearance that would scare them so they certainly didn’t know that they were mocking God. But just like those today who make fun of Jesus, they will find out.
The comments of the priests and teachers in Mark 15:31 sound very familiar to me. I, too, used to wonder how could Jesus be God if He couldn’t save Himself from crucifixion. But that was the wrong question. The question isn’t why “couldn’t” He. The questions is why “wouldn’t” He. Certainly Jesus could have come down from the cross or stopped the crucifixion all-together. He was God. It wasn’t that He couldn’t. It was that He wouldn’t.
God wasn’t going to stop the crucifixion of His son because if He did then there would be no path to heaven for all the people that God created. God created you to be with Him forever. But your sin keeps you out of heaven just like mine keeps me out. Instead our sin gives us a one-way ticket to hell which is eternal separation from God. This will not be a pleasant experience. God knows this. So He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died and went to hell for three days on your behalf. If God didn’t do that you’d end up separated from Him forever. But by believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins through His death, on the cross you can have eternal life in heaven with God. Isn’t that great? That is why He didn’t come down from the cross. God stayed nailed to that piece of wood for you.
It was not unusual for crucifixion victims to live for days on the cross. Crucifixion was designed to be a painful, humiliating, drawn-out, slow death. But Jesus dies in just 6 hours. God had mercy on Him and didn’t let Him suffer too long. I can’t even imagine hanging there for 6 hours never mind hanging there for days.
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