Today’s Bible reading: Numbers 36:1-13; Deuteronomy 1:1-46; Luke 5:29-6:11; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 11:24-26
Today we finish our fourth Old Testament book and start the fifth. The year is going by so fast.
In Numbers 36 we revisit an issue that came up a few days ago. A family of daughters, with no brothers, was given an inheritance in the Promised Land. But that brought up another issue – if they married outside their tribe then the tribe they married into would get the land. God solves the problem but notice the bigger concept. The actions of individuals can, and often will, affect a larger group such as a family, company, or country. We live in a society where everyone has “freedom” to do what they want. What we don’t realize is that freedom doesn’t mean without consequences. Our actions affect other people and we need to think about that beforehand.
This brings us to the end of Numbers. At this point God has taken His people from having a slave mentality to having trust in Him. It took 40 years to bring them to this point. God wants to do the same thing in the life of every believer. He wants to change you from being a slave to sin to being able to rest in Him. How long that takes is up to each one of us. It depends on how much faith we are willing to put in God versus how much we want to cling to our past. This is something I battle every day. Some days I feel like I am making great progress. Other days, I feel like going back to Egypt.
In Deuteronomy 1:22 we get more insight into what happened 40 years earlier. It wasn’t God’s idea to send scouts into Canaan. It was the people’s idea. And Moses agreed with them. Apparently no one asked God because it turned out to be a bad idea. God never shows us the future ahead of time. He wants us to trust Him sight-unseen. If God showed us the path to where He wants to take us, none of us would want to go. We’d all settle for “good enough”.
Notice the overreaction of the people in Deuteronomy 1:27-28. They say some crazy things. “God hates us.” God is handing us over to be slaughtered.” “There are walls as high as the sky.” None of these things were true. But the people let their imaginations run wild. Actually, this was clearly spiritual warfare. These lies sound very similar to the lies Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden. We must always remember that we are in a spiritual battle of our minds. Satan is lying. God is telling the truth. We need to decide who we will believe.
Due to his faithfulness 40 years earlier Caleb will get “some of the very best land” in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:36). God will reward those who are faithful to him. Those rewards will come in heaven.
In Luke 5 we read about Levi (aka Matthew) who brought Jesus to his home after deciding to follow Him. Matthew was Jewish. He was a tax collector which meant that he worked for Rome – the enemy occupying Israel. This is not something that many people would do. Something had gone wrong in Matthew’s life earlier for him to decide to turn his back on his own people and embarrass his family this way. But at this point in his life he knew that he was going nowhere. He had probably seen, or at least heard of Jesus before Jesus invited him to follow Him. When the opportunity came to do something with his life, he jumped at the chance.
Jesus responds to criticism in Luke 5:32. He tells the Pharisees that He didn’t come for those that are well (or think they are) but rather for those that are sick (and know they are). This reminds of me of a phrase that a pastor used years ago when I first started attending church. He said “A church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”. As a recently converted atheist I remember hearing that and being blown away. That comments solidified my decision to leave my life behind and follow Jesus.
Jesus’s compares Himself to new wine in Luke 5:39. New wine needs to be put into new wine skins, not old wine skins. But a new wine skin will cost money. So some people won’t bother. They’ll just stick with the old wine. Jesus is offering a new way of life, one that is better than the old way. But it will cost something. Sadly, most people will stick with their current life because they are too lazy or afraid to change the old for the better.
Man made religions, such as Catholicism, focus almost solely on rituals as a way of getting closer to God. Jesus debunked this many times, including here in Luke 6 Here we see that human needs are more important than adhering to a man-made ritual. The ritual is useless and counts for nothing with God. What God wants is a merciful heart – one that considers others needs ahead of one’s own.
We another example of religion’s intolerance in the next story of the man with the withered hand. Keeping the ritual would have pleased these religious leaders but it would have left the man in his current state. That is not mercy. So Jesus heals the man. Notice that the man had to do the impossible to be healed – he had to stretch out his hand. Healing comes through faith. And while God doesn’t promise to heal us physically in this life He does promise to heal us spiritually – which is more important. But first we have to exercise faith. We have to go first.
Psalms 66 is a call for all the world to praise God. Even though God may send trials into our lives (Psalms 66:10-11) He does so only to test and purify us on the way to something much better (Psalms 66:12).
Notice too that unconfessed sin can, and does, affect our prayers (Psalms 66:18). We cannot knowingly and willingly be living a sinful life and expect God to listen to us. Certainly we all sin at times. God understands that. But habitual sin is a rejection of God and, hence, renders our prayers void.
How do you get more money? By giving it away! That is what Proverbs 11:24 teaches us. It may seem counter-intuitive. But if you hold onto something too tightly you will lose it. This is another instance where our faith has to “go first”. You don’t become more generous and then give money away. You give money away and then become more generous. And the more generous you are the more money God will bless you with. Try it. It works.
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