Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 30-31:54; Luke 4:1-30; Psalm 63:1-11; Proverbs 11:20-21
In Numbers 30 we read just how seriously God takes honesty and integrity. In our world today it is common for someone to make a promise and then break that promise in the future. But God commands us to “do exactly” what we say we will do. As we can see, God’s commands make sense and are for the benefit of everyone. They aren’t unreasonable. If we think about it, they really are the same values we say we want to see in ourselves and others. We just don’t walk the talk.
This chapter speaks of vows and pledges repeatedly. A vow is a promise to do something. A pledge is a promise not to do something.
God has appointed men to be the spiritual leaders of their families and households. When God grants authority He always demands accountability. Being the leader is a privilege for a man, but it comes with heavy expectations of making the right decisions. God says that if anyone in a household in Israel made a foolish promise the father/husband would be held responsible for it. Therefore, God gives him the right and, more importantly, the responsibility to evaluate these promises to see if they are wise. Hopefully he would do this while seeking wisdom from God. If the man was too lazy to evaluate a promise made by someone in his household, the promise was considered valid (Numbers 30:14) even if it was a foolish promise.
God is not favoring men here. Someone has to provide leadership otherwise one of two things happens. There is no leadership at all. Or there is a power struggle. God chose husbands/fathers to be accountable to Him. That is certainly an honor. But it comes with high expectations.
God orders Israel to attack the Midianites as punishment for their seduction of Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality in Numbers 31. In addition to punishment, God was trying to keep Israel safe from similar future plots. God was looking out for His people.
We will read a number of passages in the Old Testament wherein God orders Israel to go to war against other nations. These passages often trip up atheists who point to them as “proof” that God is non-existant (how could a loving God kill all those people?). This was a stumbling block for me when I was an atheist as well. But, like any other part of the Bible, you have to read it and think it through to understand it. And you have to read the entire Bible to get the big picture.
God did not hate the Midianites. But the Midianites hated God. They had their own gods (false, as it turned out) and they were infiltrating Israel with these false gods and sexual sin. At any time they could have turned to the one true God and repented of their sin. But they did not. So God destroyed them – thousands of years later Israel still exists but none of us have ever met a Midianite.
To me this sounds eerily similar to the United States in 2013. We don’t recognize the true God. Instead we have our own gods: pride, money, sex, entertainment, etc. At any time we can turn away from these useless idols back to God and He will bless us and protect us. But if we don’t, there is no doubt that He will send enemies to destroy us. And there are plenty of warning signs that this is on the horizon. All the hateful threats towards our country coming from places like Iran, N. Korea, and Venezuela are warnings of what may soon be coming. I believe God will use these people to bring us down unless we repent (i.e. “change our minds”) and give Him His rightful place in our lives.
Notice our friend Balaam was killed in this battle (Numbers 31:8). He was never really on God’s side as we saw a few days ago. All he wanted was money. But as it turned out it was foolish of him to put his trust in money. It didn’t save him.
The warriors of Israel defeat Midian but make a mistake of keeping the women and young boys alive. This was a mistake. The women who were sexually mature had to be put to death or else they would have enticed the men of Israel to sin again. The boys would have grown up to be men who would have sought to avenge their father’s deaths. On the surface it seems cruel for God to order these people to die. But as we see, doing so protected Israel. That was God’s main goal. He will protect His own. If you don’t yet belong to Him you don’t know what you are missing. When you join God’s family you get a God who loves you so much He will destroy your enemies so you can have abundant life.
Jesus can empathize with us because, just like us, He knows what it is like to be tempted. Only He never sinned by giving in. We see in the passages in Luke today that Satan will often appeal to a legitimate need, for example hunger (Luke 4:3). But He tries to get us to fulfill it in an illegitimate way. Sexual sin is a perfect example. We are sexual creatures by God’s design. Sex is a need we have. But God defines when sex is appropriate. But Satan will attempt to convince us to have this legitimate need fulfilled apart from God’s plan. That is when it becomes sinful.
Notice too that Satan knows the Bible. He quotes it to Jesus in Luke 4:10-11. Make no mistake – Satan knows God’s word better than you do. And He will twist is around so what he tells us sounds right but is actually wrong, just like he did to Eve. This is why knowing Scripture is so important. It is our number one weapon against temptation. But sadly, most of us know the words to the theme songs of our favorite TV shows better than we know the Bible. There is no wonder why people are falling into sin more now than ever.
In Luke 4:13 Satan leaves Jesus until another opportunity. Satan was defeated when he failed to coerce Jesus into giving in to temptation. But this verse of the Bible makes it clear that Satan will be back. He doesn’t give up. If we follow Jesus’s example we too can defeat Satan. But remember it will be just one battle. The war lasts our entire lifetime. We need to be ready for when he makes another attempt to break our fellowship with God.
Jesus teaches in a synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:17-30. But the people simply want Him to perform miracles. They weren’t interested in Him. They were interested in themselves. He proceeds to tell them this and their opinion of Him turns from amazement (Luke 4:22) to fury (Luke 4:28). The fact that the people rejected Jesus wasn’t based on anything wrong with Him – it was based on the fact that something was wrong with them. That is the same message God gives us today. God’s message never changes. People can find all kinds of arguments against Jesus, but none of them hold any water. I know. I had plenty of arguments when I was an atheist. But over time every one of them went down in flames. The only thing keeping you from Jesus is you.
I can really relate to Psalm 63 today. Just like the author I have had a great thirst for God lately. My life has been filled with major spiritual warfare as I try to live my life according to God’s plan. At times I feel overwhelmed and on the verge of defeat. But just like parching an unrelenting thirst, I have (thankfully) turned to God instead of giving in to the temptation and have walked away fully quenched. There is no more satisfactory feeling than being filled with God’s spirit. And that can only happen by being in on-going communication with Him.
Would you like to please God? Proverbs 11:20 tells us how. Life a life with integrity. This makes God happy. But God hates it when we lie, manipulate, steal or deceive. Make God happy. Take every opportunity to be honest and upright.
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