Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 32-33:39; Luke 4:31-5:11; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 11:22
In Numbers 32 the tribes of Rueben and Gad decide that they would like to settle on the east side of the Jordan River, in the land that belonged to the recently defeated Midianites and Moabites. A cursory reading of this chapter might make it seem like this was a reasonable request since these tribes were highly pastoral and the land was excellent for raising animals.
But I think these two tribes decided to settle for something less than God’s best. The land on the east side of the Jordan was very appealing and had excellent qualities. But it wasn’t what God wanted for His people. As good as that land was, God wanted something better. The problem with Rueben and Gad is they settled for “good enough” rather than “great”. And to have “great” they would have had to fight for it. That would have been hard work and would have taken time. In their mind it wasn’t worth it.
We do the same thing today. We settle for something (or someone) in life rather than going after what God wants for us. I am certainly guilty of doing this. I wonder what my life could have been like if I had been willing to work a little harder and wait a little longer for things.
Moses seems to be suspicious of their motives so he makes sure they are committed to helping their brothers secure their land in Canaan. Ruben and Gad vow to join the battle (Numbers 32:17) leaving their women and children behind on the east side. Now certainly the women and children would have been sitting ducks for their enemies so a portion of the men from these tribes would have had to stay behind also. So already we know that not all of them will cross the Jordan and their vow has already been compromised.
Moses ultimately agrees to their request but I don’t think this was what God wanted. I notice that Moses did not consult God about this matter. In many previous passages where Moses had to make a decision we read that he went to God in prayer to get the answer. He does not do that here. I think both Moses and the tribes of Rueben and Gad made mistakes in judgement regarding this issue.
One thing Moses does do that is commendable is he makes sure that the next leadership team knows about this plan (Numbers 32:28). Moses will not be crossing the Jordan with everyone else so he briefs Joshua and the other leaders so they know what is going on.
Numbers 39 recounts the journeys of Israel from the time they left Egypt to the time they finally crossed the Jordan. It would be very interesting to know the exact route today. But place names have changed many times in history so we don’t know exactly where many of these town were.
But notice that Israel left Egypt boldly (Numbers 33:3) after God defeated the gods of Egypt (Numbers 33:4). It wasn’t Pharaoh that god was judging in Egypt – it was the Egyptian’s false gods. Notice too that during the last part of their travels Israel moves a lot. There is a lot of activity but no progress. Such is the way of life when we are not fully devoted to God. To make spiritual progress, or any kind of progress, we must trust Him and allow Him to lead us where He wants us to go. There is no reason to fear the leadership of God. He has only our best interests in mind.
Luke says something in Luke 4:32 that caught my eye today. He said “the people were amazed at His [Jesus] teaching, for He spoke with authority”. When Jesus spoke He didn’t just sound like someone spouting off His own opinion for the sake of impressing people. When He spoke He sounded like someone who knew what He was talking about. He was sure of Himself. I started thinking about the way I talk about Jesus, God, and the Bible. When I speak do others perceive me as someone who has done a lot of research and, hence, comes across as an authority on these topics? I hope so. Because if I give the impression that I am telling other people about Jesus out of arrogance (as opposed to compassion), then my words will have no affect on anyone.
Its very interesting that demons knew exactly who Jesus was. But the people of Israel did not (Luke 4:34). This is sad because evidently the religious teachers were not doing their job. As we’ve seen in Matthew and Mark, and will see in Luke and John, these leaders didn’t know who Jesus was. So they could not teach anyone the truth. We have the same situation today in many churches. Leaders who don’t read the Bible deeply and who manipulate the words in it to create an errant message that is more appealing than convicting. The state of our churches today may not be any better than it was 2,000 years ago.
Proof of the poor teaching of the religious leaders in Israel at this time is seen when the people attribute Jesus’s miracles to power in His words rather than power in who He was (Luke 4:36). We have spiritual leaders in our world today to attribute the power to change to rituals and meditation and mind-games. When the only source of real healing power is Jesus Christ.
In Luke 4:38 we read that Peter (at this point known as Simon) had a wife. Here is another place in the Bible where we see that the teachings of Catholicism are false. The Catholic church attests that Peter was the first “pope”. But this passage makes it clear that Peter was unqualified for such a position as he was married.
Notice that people came to Jesus after the sun went down (Luke 4:40). Sunset was the end of one day and the beginning of the next day. The day described here was probably a Sabbath day when people would have been forbidden to do any work. So they waited until the day ended to come to Christ. Here we see another rule, established by the ill-qualified religious leaders of Israel, which kept people from Jesus. Sadly, many countries around the world, notably China and Islamic countries, have rules that make it difficult for people to hear about Jesus. The men who have ruled these countries over the centuries will have to answer for that to God.
Jesus gives a great example in Luke 4:42. He gets away to an isolated place, presumably to pray. Getting away by oneself to talk with God is very important. For some people this can be difficult. But I think it is very important. We definitely need quality alone-time with God on a daily basis and I encourage anyone reading this to make time for this.
Notice what Jesus states as His mission. He came to preach the Good News. He didn’t come solely to do miracles, although they had their purpose. Too many people, then and now, simply want God to give them a quick-fix so that their life on this earth will be better (or so they think). But God is more interested in our eternity. And the only way to have the eternity God is offering (i.e. heaven) is to study and understand His word.
Many Psalms were written by David while he was under tremendous pressure from his enemies who were trying to kill him. We will read more about that later in the Old Testament. Psalm 64 is another one of these. David appeals to God to save his life and continues in assured hope that God will do just that.
Outward beauty is nothing if the inner person lacks quality. That is exactly what Proverbs 11:22 tells us. The definition of beauty has changed over the years. For example, today a woman is considered good-looking if she is thin. But about 500 – 800 years ago women were admired for being “voluptuous”. Look at any painting of a woman made during the Renaissance. Today these women would be considered fat. But the definition of character never changes. Things like honesty and integrity have always been highly admired and espoused.
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