Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Numbers 26-36 - The Life of Moses

(My BSF Notes)
Last week we saw that Balaam was summoned by Balak, the king of Moab to put a curse on Israel.  He had heard about Israel’s defeating the Amorites and feared they would do the same to him.  We learned that Balaam was not a true believer, but used sorcery and loved money.  We saw God use Balaam’s donkey to humble him.  We also saw the immoral seduction of Israel’s men with the Moabite women, which was advised by Balaam resulting in Israel’s worship of their god, Baal.

Numbers 26-27 – Second Census

It had been 38 years since the last census of the people was taken.  Now God had Moses take a second census.  At the last census there were a total of 603,550 and this time there were 601,730.  All the men had died because of the hardships of the desert and the numerous judgments of God.  Only Joshua and Caleb were left.  God’s plan was still intact.  God still provided the men needed for the battles to come.  This census like the 1st was to count all men over 20 years old who were able to serve in the army.  It was also to assign the land of Canaan by tribes in groups. (Num. 26)  The Levites who were the priests and were to serve God for a lifetime would have no land.  They were to receive no inheritance. 

We see the story of Zalophehad’s daughters.  He had died and had 5 daughters, but no sons.  Inheritances were usually passed to the sons.  The daughters wanted his inheritance and brought their case to Moses asking him to pass the inheritance to them.  Moses took their case to God and He agreed.  The inheritance should be theirs. (Num. 27:1-11) 

Then God told Moses to go up the mountain and see the land the Israelites were to be given.  Remember Moses had sinned against God when he struck the rock 2 times instead of speaking the rock as God commanded.  He dishonored God by taking credit for water coming from the rock.  God told him at that time he would not see the Promise Land.  Afterwards Moses would be gathered to his people.  Moses didn’t worry about himself or complain, but was concerned for the people he loved.  Moses being the great leader that he was, asked God for a successor to be appointed so the people would not be without a shepherd.  God chose Moses’ faithful long time companion, Joshua.  Moses would die, but Joshua would lead the people into the Promised Land. (Num. 27:12-23)

God provided a successor for Moses and Joshua’s relationship with the people would look different than that of Moses.  Remember God equips people in different ways, but we have the same God.

Who was Joshua?  He was the son of Nun and was Moses’ servant and helper since his youth.  He stayed close to Moses and was faithful to serve quietly and without any recognition.   He was one of the 12 spies sent to explore Canaan.  He was one of two faithful spies who returned with faith instead of fear.  He trusted God and His promises.  By being with Moses for all those years, he knew all about Israel’s complaining and that unbelief and disobedience has consequences.  He knew how to approach God appropriately and reverently.   God prepared Joshua to lead as He prepares us to lead.

How faithfully do you serve God?
Do you seek recognition from others?

If you desire God to give you bigger opportunities, be faithful with the small opportunities.  Too many people want to see ministry as popularity.  Ministry is all about serving others.  If you aren’t willing to serve a few people where you are, don’t expect God to give you more people.  Be faithful even if you are serving in the nursery at church or being a greeter at the church door.  Then God will be able to trust you to bigger opportunities.  Because of Joshua’s faithfulness for 40 years, He is getting the promotion of a lifetime!

Numbers 28-30 – Reminder of Offerings, Passover, Feasts and Vows

In Num. 28-30 God reminded the people of His regulations for daily and monthly offerings, the Passover, the different feasts, and vows.  God wanted to be part of their daily lives as He wants to be a part of our daily lives.  This was a new generation and they needed to know God’s requirements and be held accountable.  They would be entering the wicked land of Canaan and needed to know how to worship God and not worship their pagan gods.  All the sacrifices pointed to Jesus Christ who was the sacrifice for all our sins.

Num. 30 addresses vows.  We need to keep our word and our promises.  I think a lot of times we intend to keep them, but don’t.  So be careful what you say so you can keep your word.

Have you made a commitment to serve God, but are getting weary and now you want out of it?  Ask God to give new enthusiasm and energy to follow through with your promises.  God values people who keep their promises.  He is a promise keeper.

Do you remember and follow God’s commands?

Numbers 31 – Vengeance on the Midianites

In Num. 31 God said to take vengeance on the Midianites.  After that Moses would be gathered to his people.  This was the part of the final days before the assault on Canaan.  Here is the account of Balaam’s end.  His advice to the Moabites turned Israel away from the Lord and was the reason he was killed.  God told Moses to have the army kill all the Midianites.  Israel captured the women and children and all their flocks and herds.  They burned the towns and their camps. 

When Israel’s army returned they brought with them the captive women and children instead of killing them.  Moses was angry and asked why they spared the women since they were the ones who turned Israel away from God.  He said now they were to kill the boys and every woman who has slept with a man, but save the girls who has never slept with a man. (Num. 31:13-18) 

Why would God command a “holy war” against the Midianites?  First of all they worshiped the idol Baal and were involved in all kinds of sin.  God had to get rid of this sin so Israel wouldn’t become corrupt.  These immoral, idolatrous women caused the deaths of 24,000 Israelites.  God knew there wasn’t going to be repentance on their part and they could only do terrible harm to His chosen people.  God used Israel to carry out His judgment on them.  It seems harsh to kill the children, but the boys probably would have grown up to be just like their fathers.  God’s judgments are righteous and true.  The Midianites were wicked, practiced evil and idolatry.  When your body has a virus, it will affect your entire body.  You have to get rid of it.  God knows that the idolatrous and immoral nations were like a virus.    

This was a spiritual battle and God is the only one who can judge.  God is sovereign and it’s hard for us to understand.  God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us.  His ways and thoughts are much higher than ours.  We must trust His judgments.  God loves everyone, but He will not be manipulated.  He defends judgment, mercy and truth.  He is the only one qualified to judge.

Principle:  God is just and will fight battles in His way and in His time.

Israel was to divide the spoils between the soldiers and the rest of the community.   They were to set apart as tribute for the Lord 1 out of 500 of persons, cattle, donkeys, sheep or goats and give it to Eleazar as the Lord’s part.  From Israel’s half they were to select 1 out of 50 and give it to the Levites.  The solders brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles they acquired to make atonement for themselves.  (Num. 31:25-54)

When God asks us to give, it isn’t a flat amount that applies to everyone.  He expects us to give in proportion to our abundance.  If you have more to give, you give more.  If you have less, you give less.  If you are struggling, the portion you give is smaller.  If you are doing well financially, your portion should be greater.

What does God expect from you?
Do you give your right portion to God?

Numbers 32 – The Transjordan Tribes

The Reubenites and Gadites had very large herds and saw the land where they were was suitable for them and didn’t want to cross the Jordan to Canaan.  In a way they seemed selfish and wanted to settle for the easy way.  They asked Moses if he could let this land called Transjordan be theirs.  They explained they didn’t want to escape the fighting, but would go and do their fair share.  They would stay and fight as long as it takes.  Moses grants their request.

Principle:  Is there an area in your life you are settling for?

Do you follow through with your obligations and promises?

Numbers 33 – Moses Records Israel’s Journey

The Lord commanded Moses to record the stages of the Israelites’ journey.  Sometimes it’s good to look back on our lives to see how God has been with us and how He has blessed us.   We can’t live in the past, but we sure can learn from it.  What is not recorded are the plagues, judgments and sins of their past.  God is not a record keeper of wrongs and neither should we be.

Principle:  Recounting God’s past faithfulness anchors our hearts for new challenges and opportunities.

I was in a Bible study several years ago and we were asked to record the events of our lives by different age groupings.  Example 1-15 years old, 16- 26 years old, 27-40 years old, 41-60 years old, etc.  When I did that, I could see God’s hand at work and how I grew spiritually.  It reminded me how He was there in every circumstance and how He had a plan for my life.  It was very eye opening.  You should try it.

How do you record important stages in your life?
What do you do to preserve your traditions?
Do you see how God was with you through it all?

Then God said when you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land.  Destroy all their carved images and idols.  Take possession of the land and settle there.  Distribute the land by lot according to the clans.  (Num. 33)  Any compromise will result in terrible trouble.  The same is true in our lives.  Anytime we only obey God partially, the devil gets a foothold.

When have you compromised with God and what was the result?
When have you partially obeyed God?

Numbers 34-36 – Land Allotted and Boundaries Established

When the Israelites entered the land, God allotted the land to each tribe as an inheritance and gave them boundaries.  These boundaries are described in Num. 34.

In Num. 35 God commanded them to set up towns for the Levites.   Six of those towns were to be towns of refuge to be used for anyone who has killed someone to flee to and await there for a fair trial.  In that culture when a family member was killed, you were obligated to honor them by tracking down the killer and kill him.  God is setting up a place of refuge for people who killed unintentional.  We call that manslaughter.  If the murder was premeditated, there was no place for refuge.  They were to be killed as they had killed.  God instituted capital punishment back in Gen. 9:6, “Whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.”

Where do you turn for refuge?

Num. 36 deals with Zelophehad’s daughters who were granted their father’s inheritance.  If they married outside their tribe, the land would pass to another tribe and upset tribal portions.  So it was decided they should marry within their tribe to avoid problems.  The daughters married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh and their inheritance remained in their tribe.

God has divided all human beings into 2 tribes – believers and unbelievers.  “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?   What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”2 Cor. 6:14-15.  (Belial means wickedness.)  We are not to marry outside of our tribe like in the days of Zelophehad’s daughters, because it creates problems.

All these chapters deal with Israel’s preparation to cross over into the Promised Land, Canaan.

Principle:  God will accomplish the work He began.

Are you prepared to cross over from life to death?
How can you be prepared?
Do you pray and study God’s Word?
Do you have a true relationship with God?
Do you obey only when it’s desirable to you?

In these chapters we see many attributes of God.  He is a just God.  He guides.  He is holy.  He is a promise keeper and He always provides.  He saves us, but doesn’t leave us there.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Numbers 22-25 - the Life of Moses

(My BSF notes)

Last week we saw Israel complain again about the food and water so God sent a judgment of poisonous snakes.  Some of the people were bitten and died.  God then told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  When the people who were bitten looked on it, they would live.  God didn’t remove the snakes, just as He doesn’t remove sin from the world.  Instead He provided a way to cure every person of sin.  All we have to do is to look at the cross and believe Jesus died on our behalf. 

Numbers 22 – Balaam’s Summons

Israel traveled to Moab and camped by the Jordan. The people of Moab heard about Israel’s battles with Sihon and Og and what Israel had done to them.  They were terrified of the two million Israelites and were filled with dread.  (Num. 22:1-3)  They could have had peace talks and maybe formed a treaty or they could have taken their concerns to God.  They really had no reason to fear, because God had forbidden Israel to attack Moab.   They just assumed they were in danger so the king of Moab, Balak sent for Balaam and asked him to put a curse on Israel. 

Who was this Balaam?  Is he a real prophet?  Is he a believer?  It’s confusing to tell here.  He had an reputation of being a great sorcerer and was hired by Balak to put a curse on Israel.   Later in Numbers 25 we will see the Israelites get into sexual immorality with Moabite women and worship their gods.  Then later in Numbers 31 we will see that this was Balaam’s idea.  He gave the advice to send in the women to the Israelite men.  He was offered lots of money to make Israel go away.  At first you think he is not going to give in the temptation, but we don’t see the whole story here.  1 Peter 2:15 warns about false teachers and mentions Balaam.  And in Rev. 2:14 Jesus rebukes the church at Pergamos for teaching the doctrine of Balaam.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” – 1 Thess. 4:3.  “Flee sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who commits sexually sins against his own body.” 1 Cor. 6:18.  God wants us to keep sex where it belongs, in marriage.

It is possible that Balaam was a believer.  He did speak for God by blessing Israel.  Then we read in Num. 24:1 that he resorted to sorcery at times.  If he was a believer, he is not one you want to be like.  The New Testament makes it pretty clear he was a false teacher. (1 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, Rev. 2:14)  False teachers know enough about God and speak the right words to convenience others they are true believers.  Remember God can use anyone He wants to carry out His plan.

The Moab messengers took a fee for divination for Balaam hoping it would convince him to put a curse on Israel.  Balaam didn’t refuse or send them away.  Instead he asks them to spend the night and that he would ask the Lord what he should do.  God asked Balaam who these men were and Balaam told God what they wanted.  God answered Balaam telling him not to go with them and not to put a curse on Israel, because they are blessed. (Num 22:7-12)

Balak didn’t take no for an answer, but sent more messengers to Balaam, probably with more money.
Balaam refused, but asked them to stay the night again and he would ask the Lord what to do.  God then allowed Balaam to go with them, probably only to send a message to Balak.

So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.  Then God gets angry.  Is God changing His mind?  I think Balaam is getting excited about financial gain and God is concerned he will get carried away with his lust for money. 

Then the angel of the Lord with his sword stood in the road in front of the donkey.  Balaam didn’t see the angel, but the donkey did.  The donkey turned and went into the field and Balaam struck him to get back on the path.  Balaam kept pushing the donkey and then God opened the donkey’s mouth and he spoke to Balaam.  The donkey is caught between the angel of the Lord with his sword and Balaam’s stick.  Balaam is caught between God’s will and Balak’s pushing for a curse.  This is funny story and a miracle, but the point of the story is the humiliation of Balaam.

Finally Balaam saw the angel of the Lord and bowed down.  The angel told Balaam to go with the men and speak only what he is told.  So Balaam went with them.  Then Balak took Balaam to higher ground to get a glimpse of part of the Israelites hoping to change his mind.

Do you try to manipulate God?
Where are you comprising God’s commands?
When has God spoke to you in an unusual way?
God uses the most unlikely people and even used a donkey, so are you willing to let God use you?

Principle:  God will not be manipulated.

Numbers 23-24 – Balaam’s Oracles

(Balaam 1st Oracle, Num. 23:1-12)  An oracle is a parable or a poem.  The divination begins.  Balaam had Balak built 7 altars and prepare 7 bulls and 7 rams as offerings.  This is part of Balaam pagan practice.  Then he went to the Lord to influence Him as to what he should do.  The Lord told Balaam again not to curse Israel, because they are a people set apart.  They are holy people.  Balaam returned to Balak and told him what the Lord said.  Balaam promised he would say only what God told him to say.

(Balaam’s 2nd Oracle, Num. 23:13-26)  Balak was angry and took Balaam to another place where he can see all the people.  Again Balaam built 7 altars with 7 offerings.   Balaam then went to God for an answer.  God told him that He cannot lie and does not change His mind.  God promised to bless Israel.  Needless to say Balak was very angry.

(Balaam’s 3rd Oracle, Num. 23:27-24:14)   Balak took Balaam to another place thinking this might change his mind.  Balak didn’t give up.  Again Balaam built 7 altars and prepared 7 offerings.  Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel and didn’t use sorcery as he had done before.  Doesn’t sound like he’s a believer to me.  The spirit of God came upon him and uttered his oracle.  This sounds confusing, because he is not a believer.  God used him anyway.  God gave future blessings on Israel.  They would live abundantly.  Kings and kingdoms would be exalted and they would devour hostile nations.   Of course Balak’s anger burned against Balaam.

(Balaam’s 4th Oracle, Num. 24:15-19)  Balaam told Balak that he can do nothing on his own beyond the command of the Lord and that he was going back to his people.  Before he left he gave Balak a warning.  He predicted that One who is greater than David will come and reign on the throne forever. This of course is Jesus.  Israel would conquer Moab and Edom and Israel will be strong.

(Balaam’s Final Oracle, Num. 24:20-25)  Balaam gave his final oracle predicting Israel’s future conquering of the Amelkites, Kenites, Asshur, and Eber.  Then Balaam returned home and Balak went away.

Balaam’s sin was the love of money.  It’s a good reminder that no one can serve both God and money. (Matt. 6:24)  Money itself is not good or bad, but it’s the love of money that is the root to evil. (1 Tim 6:10)  Loving money can lead to discontent.  The more money you have can lead you to not depending on God.

Balaam’s words didn’t make him a true prophet.  He was a pagan prophet for hire.  He only repeated God’s words.  He didn’t believe in the Lord as the only true God.  He practiced divination and sorcery.  He was out for himself.  He was a people-pleaser.  He lusted for money.  He was a false teacher.  His motives were obedience for profits and eventually led to his death.  He realized the power of God, but his heart was occupied by the wealth he could gain in Moab.  There he returned to die when the armies of Israel invaded.

Do you believe in the one true living God?    
Are you certain you are going to heaven?
If not, will you repent and confess your sins and trust Him to forgive?   

Take Him at His Word and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for you, rose to life on the 3rd day, and sits on the right hand of God.  Then stop doubting and trust in your salvation.  Satan loves it when we doubt God.  Stay on your knees in prayer.  Stay in His Word daily so He can assure you of your inheritance.

"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." - Job 42:2
God never changes His ideas about sin or His ideas about salvation.

How are you tempted to make plans to do what you want instead of what God wants?
Will you ask Him to show you what is best for you?

Numbers 25 – Israel’s Seduction

While the Israelites were camped in Moab country, they began committing immoralities.  They were having sex with temple prostitutes and with those whom they were not married.  They also committed spiritual immorality.  They bowed down before the Moab gods and worshiped the god Baal of Peor.  The Lord’s anger burned against them.  God told Moses to have the leaders of the rebellious people killed and expose them in front of the whole assembly of people.  God wanted all the people to see the consequences of their sins.  One sin leads to another.  First they sinned by having immoral sex and that lead to worshipping the Moabite gods.

There was an Israelite man who brought a Midianite woman into the tent and for sex.  When Phinehas, son of Eleazer, son of Aaron the priest, saw this he could not contain himself.  They were dishonoring God!  He took his sword and killed both the man and the woman.  The plague against Israel was stopped.  24,000 died in the plague. (the plague is the immoralities)

God said to Moses, “Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.”  - Num. 25:11.  Phinehas had a pure motive.  It was nothing about revenge or self-serving, but it was only about God’s honor.  God then made a covenant of lasting priesthood with Phinehas and his descendants, because he made atonement for the Israelites.  From that point on God told Israel to treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them.

God protects His people.  God is our protector and will not tolerate sin.

How zealously are you honoring God with your choices?
When has your sin influenced others?
What situation have you honored God when others did not?

God may permit sin, but he never tolerates it.
Zealousness for God's honor is displayed by our heartfelt obedience.


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