Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 21-22:20; Luke 1:26-56; Psalm 57:1-11; Proverbs 11:9-11
After 40 years Israel finally makes moves to enter the Promised Land in Numbers 21.
God gives Israel victory in battle and they destroyed all the people and towns of Arad. This was not Israel being cruel. By destroying everything in the town they were showing that they were fighting for God, not for personal gain. They didn’t keep any spoils for themselves. This would have been counter-intuitive to warfare of the day and would certainly have signaled to other nations that God was with them.
Notice that the victory in Numbers 21:3 was at Hormah. This was the same place that they were defeated 40 years earlier when they tried to enter the Promised Land by force after God forbade them to enter due to their lack of faith (Numbers 14:45). I don’t think this is unusual for God to work this way. If we chicken-out of something God wants us to do because we are too afraid He will sometimes bring us back to it at a later time when we are spiritually stronger. If you ever notice God giving you a second chance, take it.
Personally, I am going through this myself right now. There was something I was too afraid to do a few years ago and I passed on it. I’ve regretted it ever since. But lately I see that God is leading me back in that direction and this time, if the opportunity presents itself again, I’m going to jump all over it. God would never have lead me there in the first place if He didn’t think I could do it. After all, with Him in my life I can do anything. God wants us to have great things. Don’t make the mistakes I’ve made or Israel made and pass on them when He presents them to you. If you weren’t ready He wouldn’t have taken you there.
In Numbers 21:4-5 we see that the people had to take a major detour and got discouraged. This is another lesson. God’s path isn’t always straight. He uses detours and such to build up our patience, character, and expectations.
Interestingly the people of this new generation repent quickly (Numbers 21:7). Its understandable to sin, but we need to repent of it as quickly as possible. A favorite saying of mine is:
The amount of time it takes someone to apologize is inversely proportional to their maturity level.
You can expand that to say the more spiritually mature a person is the sooner they acknowledge and confess their sin to God.
God has Moses make a bronze snake and attach it to a pole. When anyone bitten by one of the poisonous snakes God sent looks at it, they will be cured. This is clearly a foreshadowing of Jesus on the cross. In fact, Jesus referenced this very incident in relation to His death (John 3:14-15).
Notice that no one had to do anything to be healed. They simply had to look at the serpent. Just like we can do nothing to earn our way to Heaven… we only have to look to Jesus to be saved. Its interesting that a snake, which is a picture of evil in the Bible is used by God here. But bronze is a forged metal. It is made by burning copper in a fire and then beating it with a hammer. Similarly Jesus was beaten and sent to hell for the sins of others. The bronze serpent on the pole is a symbol of sin that has been dealt with. Jesus on the cross is the fulfillment of this Old Testament symbol. Isn’t this stuff cool?
Israel experiences a couple of victories at the end of Numbers 21. Their foes in these cases were pretty small. God is using on-the-job training to get them ready for bigger enemies. This is how God works. He isn’t going to throw us into the ring with Muhammad Ali before giving us the proper training. If the previous generation of Israel had only realized this they would have already been in the Promised Land. Another example of why it is wise to trust God the first time.
In Luke 1:30 we see another person, this time Mary, get scared when she sees an angel. I don’t know why I find this amusing. I guess we seem to think that people mentioned in the Bible are more spiritual than we are. To an extent that is true, but I think these passages show that these Bible people are just ordinary people of their day. God uses everyday people in everyday situations to accomplish His plans and glorify Himself to the world.
Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel contrasts with Zechariah’s yesterday. Whereas he didn’t believe what he had heard Mary did believe and committed herself to God (Luke 1:38).
Clearly the idea that Jesus was God existed before He was even born. Notice that Elizabeth calls Mary’s unborn son “Lord” in Luke 1:43. There are those people who claim that Jesus was made into a god centuries after His death. But the Bible makes it clear (both here and elsewhere) that is simply not true. The plan always was for God to come to earth as a human being to die for the sins of others.
With Jesus’s conception and eventual birth, God is fulfilling a promise He made centuries earlier to Abraham (Luke 1:55). God’s plan may take time to unfold but that is not any reason for us to give up or to not believe. Just because we don’t see something happening doesn’t mean it isn’t. God has a great plan for your specific life as well as for all of humanity.
Notice Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. At the time of Mary’s visit Elizabeth was 6-months pregnant (Luke 1:26). I’m sure Mary stayed to help with the birth of John. But I also wonder if it was at this time that she (Mary) became pregnant. It would make sense as she was not with Joseph, her fiance. By being separated from him no one could claim that Mary and Joseph had sex and thereby call into question the virgin birth of Jesus.
Psalm 57 picks up on the idea that God has a purpose for you (Psalm 57:2) and will fulfill it. Part of God’s purpose is for you to realize and understand just how much He loves you (verse 3). He will rescue His children from all harm so we can be confident in Him and praise Him beforehand (Psalm 57:7).
Proverbs 11:11 really made me think this morning. Honest citizens are good for a city. We can safely expand this to larger territories like a country. But wicked people tear communities apart. I see this happening in the United States as we speak. This country is being run by people who do not recognize the true God of the universe. I’m not talking solely about elected officials but the general population. The path they are taking this country on will lead to its ruin. No question.
When the Rapture happens and God’s children are removed the United States will be devastated. Not only will the country lose a large percentage of its population, but those that remain will in no way turn to God for subsequent direction. This will lead the country further into decay.
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