numbers

Numbers 35, Isaiah 27, Psalm 140

Today’s Bible readings are Numbers 35, Isaiah 27-28, Psalm 140.

This devotional is about Numbers 35.

The best form of leadership is self-leadership. If every person would do what is right, what is wise, and what is best, then human leaders would be unnecessary. We would not need bosses, or human government, or even pastors.

Although self-leadership is the best form of leadership, it is also the most difficult form of leadership. Even when we know what is right, what is wise, what is best, we have trouble doing it. Laziness, lethargy, pride, and depravity call to us, making us yearn to do was is easy, pleasurable, or perverse rather than what is right. So all of us need human authority; each of us needs leadership to call us to do what is right, to lead us toward what is right, and to hold us accountable to righteousness.

Moses knew this as well as anyone else. In this chapter from Numbers 35, God told Moses that his time had come and his life would be over. Moses’s response was not to plead for more time; it was to beg God for godly leadership for the people (vv. 15-17). This shows why Moses was such a successful, godly leader. He cared about the people and what they needed more than himself and what he wanted or needed. His life illustrates what servant leadership is all about.

God was gracious to Israel and provided Joshua to succeed Moses. There was a very public transition from Moses to Joshua in verses 22-23. That transition provides an excellent model to follow anytime there is a change from one leader to another.

Notice, though, how Moses described the need for leadership in Israel. Recall that Moses had been a shepherd before God called him to lead Israel (Ex 3:1). The time he spent as a shepherd caused him to observe how people wander from righteousness into danger just as sheep wander from nourishing pastures into sin. So in Moses’s prayer for a new leader he said, “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community... so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (vv. 16, 17b). A good leader, a godly leader, knows that each of us has a heart that can wander; therefore, godly leaders show their care by giving oversight, guidance, and correction when people need it.

The problem is that people are not as easily led as sheep are. Someone told me that sheep bite; that may be true, but according to Jesus they hear the voice of the shepherd and follow him. People are not always so quick to listen and follow their leaders, even when leaders provide loving guidance and oversight.

If you are a leader, do you love and lead and watch over your people like a shepherd does his sheep? If you’re under a leader, do you listen to the voice of your shepherd and follow him? Good leadership is a gift from God. Be wise and follow the leaders God has given you.

Numbers 32, Isaiah 24, Psalm 137

Today, read Numbers 32, Isaiah 24, and Psalm 137.

This devotional is about Numbers 32.

Have you ever made plans based on something someone else promised they would do? For instance, have you ever signed a purchase agreement to buy a home because you had a contract to sell your home to someone else? Every had that other person that you were counting on back out?

If so, then you know how painful it is to take someone at his word, make plans based on him keeping his word, then have to scramble when that person didn’t want to do what they said they would do.

That’s where Moses was here in Numbers 32 and why he was so mad at the Gadites and Reubenites in this chapter. For Israel to take the Promised Land, they needed their army at full strength. When the Reubenites and Gadites decided that they wanted to stay and occupy the land East of the Jordan (vv. 1-5), it seemed like a breach of trust, a refusal to do what all God’s people had believed God for and had agreed together to do. It looked to Moses like Kadesh Barnea, part 2 (vv. 6-13). Moses went so far as to call them “you brood of sinners” (v. 14) for not wanting to possess the land with the rest of the tribes of Israel.

People often make agreements and then break them without cause. Sometimes we cannot keep an agreement we’ve made because we have an illness or injury that makes it impossible or a financial setback that leaves us without the money we need to do what we said we’d do. In those cases, you haven’t broken your agreement; God allowed circumstances into your life that prevented you from keeping it. Other passages in scripture talk about what to do if you can’t keep an agreement you’ve made, but the basic principle of scripture is that God expects us to do what we’ve said we will do. When we decide to renege on an agreement we’ve made, we’ve acted contrary to the nature of our Father. He is faithful to his promises and always does what he said he would do. As we grow in Christlikeness, we should be more and more trustworthy and faithful to the promises and agreements we make to others.

Are you a man or woman of your word? When you say that you’ll do something, do you do it even if it is costly? Is there something you said you’d do that you’re thinking about backing out of today?

Ultimately Moses brokered a deal that allowed these tribes to have the land they wanted outside the Promised land while still helping the rest of God’s people to inherit the land (vv. 16-22). If Gad and Reuben refused to abide by the new agreement, they would “be sinning against the Lord” (v. 23). So are you and I if we do not keep our word to others.

Numbers 27, Isaiah 17-18, Psalm 132

Today’s readings are Numbers 27, Isaiah 17-18, Psalm 132.

This devotional is slightly adapted and re-posted from 66in16. It is about Numbers 27

Although his sin prevented him from entering the land, Moses did not mourn his own loss or spend the rest of his life moping about how he deserved better. In fact, his focus was not on himself at all; he was concerned about the future of Israel without a clear leader. We saw this in today’s reading in verses 15-17: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” Israel had such a hard time living in obedience to God’s word with a clear leader like Moses; how could they possibly follow the Lord without someone who would care for them and watch over them like Moses did? What an incredibly tender heart Moses had for the people who had treated him so poorly. When they sinned, he interceded for them. When they were ready to receive God’s promises without him, he prayed that the Lord would send them a good leader to shepherd them.

God answered Moses’s prayer with Joshua in verse 18. Notice, though, that Joshua would not fulfill 100% of Moses’ responsibilities. Moses led the people, spoke to God directly on behalf of the people, and received God’s communication for the people. Joshua would fill the role of leader, especially in a military sense, but Eleazar would take the role of communicating with God (v. 21). And this transition of leadership did not wait until Moses died; God wanted to begin answering Moses’ prayer now, so in verse 20 God commanded Moses to begin handing over leadership to Joshua even while Moses was still alive. In obedience to God, Moses publicly designated Joshua as his successor and commissioned him in the sight of all the people (vv. 22-23). Many leaders would be threatened by this, but not Moses. His concern was for the people, not for himself. Truly “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3).

The lesson for us is clear. Godly leadership is concerned with providing what the people need to be obedient to God; it is not concerned with receiving as much power, respect, success, or whatever as possible. This is the difference between humble, godly leadership and the worldly leadership that thinks it is all about me. As you consider how you lead your family, or the ministry at church that you’re involved in, or whatever you find yourself leading, is your concern to find the best way to provide godly leadership—even if it takes the spotlight off you? Or, do we let the strength of our sin nature corrupt how we lead so that we think of ourselves first and our flock last?

Numbers 25, Isaiah 15, Psalm 130

Today, read Numbers 25, Isaiah 15, Psalm 130.

This devotional is about Numbers 25.

The end of the previous chapter, Numbers 25:24 says, “Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.” This gives the impression that Balaam couldn’t find a way to curse Israel so he and Balak went their separate ways. At the beginning of today’s chapter, Numbers 25, we read, “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods” (v. 1). This sounds like a separate event from the preceding chapters but it is not. The place mentioned in verse 1, “Shittim,” is, according to Numbers 33:49 “along the Jordan” which is also where they were when these Balak/Balaam incidents began (see Numbers 22:1). So the location where the events of Numbers 25 happened is the same location where Balak tried to get Balaam to curse Israel.

Furthermore, Revelation 2:14 refers to “...the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.” This indicates that Israel sinned sexually and in idolatry here in Numbers 25 because Balaam taught Balak to entice Israel into sin this way. In other words, Balaam couldn’t call down a curse on Israel himself because that would involve asking God to do something that was against his revealed will. But Balaam could bring a curse on Israel if he could get them to sin. Sex was a gateway sin to idolatry (25:2) and this brought a curse on the people of God. Verse 3b says, “And the Lord’s anger burned against them.” The result was the death penalty for those who sinned and death by plague for 24,000 others.

Sin and its consequences, then, severely weakened the nation of Israel. Maybe it wasn’t as bad a a curse, but it was bad nonetheless. The lesson here for us is that if Satan wants to hurt you, hurt our church, and hurt the cause of Christ--and he does--then successfully enticing us to sin is an effective way to do so. Maybe it isn’t as damaging as a direct strike such as Job experienced, but it is an effective way to hurt the Lord’s work. We need to guard our hearts and lives against sin for many reasons. It is displeasing to God, dishonoring to the Lord, damaging to our spiritual life and more. But one result of sin that maybe we don’t think about as much is the damage it can do to the Lord’s church and his cause.

If you’re living in unrepentant sin, the best way to contain the damage is to come forward and repent. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” If you’re playing with sin in your mind, going over and over in your head what it would be like, how nobody would ever know, etc. then please consider how much damage your sin can do--to you, your family, our church, and more. Then turn from that sin, refusing to play with it mentally any longer.

Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, Psalm 128

Read Numbers 23, Isaiah 13, and Psalm 128.

This devotional is about Numbers 23.

When we left Israel yesterday, Balak the king of Moab had enlisted the help of Balaam to bring a divine curse on the people of God. Balaam was eager to earn the money that Balak was offering so he went with Balak’s delegation so that he could curse Israel. God, however, met with Balaam and told him only to say what the Lord told him.

I think it is pretty clear that Balaam was a heathen prophet who did not know the Lord but knew of the Lord and enquired of God on that basis. God, for his own reasons, chose to communicate with Balaam even though he was not a genuine worshipper.

Here in Numbers 23, Balak is ready for Balaam to earn his money and start cursing Israel. But, just as he said, Balaam was only able to say what God told him to say (v. 26) so blessings were what came out of his mouth. In one of those blessings Balaam said this, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind” (v. 19). We’re all thankful for the fact that God does not, even cannot, lie; but what about Balaam’s statement that God is “not a human being, that he should change his mind”? In 1 Samuel 15:11 we will read, “I regret that I have made Saul king....” This sounds like God changed his mind about something quite important--which man should lead and serve Israel as king. God seems to have changed his mind about sending judgment on the Ninevites in Jonah 3:10, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” He also seemed to change his mind about Hezekiah’s death (2 Kings 20:1, 4-5). So why did God tell Balaam to say that God is not a human being that he should change his mind?

The answer is that God does not change his mind, but that changes are part of his plan. In the case of Saul, God’s regret was over his unbelief and disobedience. God, of course, knew that Saul would be disobedient but he wanted Israel to see the contrast between a guy who looked like a king “should” look (Saul) and David, a king who would follow God genuinely, from the heart. In the case of Jonah, the whole purpose in sending him there was to warn them about judgement so that they would repent. Their repentance was part of God’s plan so that he would withhold judgment until a later time and so that Jonah and Israel would learn an important lesson about hatred. Finally, in the case of Hezekiah, God’s “mind change” was done to demonstrate his power to Hezekiah when Hezekiah cried out to him in faith.

So, it is true that God does not change his mind. His plans and decrees were established in eternity and do not change in real time. As Psalm 119:89 says, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” We don’t need to worry, for instance, about whether God will change his mind about the return of Christ or about our salvation. God has promised these and other blessings to us and he will fulfill those promises just as he fulfilled his promise to Israel that they would enter the land under Joshua (which is what happened fairly soon after the events recorded here in Numbers 23). Trust God, then, your life takes unexpected turns that make you question his purpose or his control. God is not a man that he should lie or change his mind.

Numbers 18-19, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Psalm 124

Today’s readings are Numbers 18-19, Isaiah 8:1-9:7, Psalm 124.

We were supposed to read Numbers 18 yesterday. Sorry; I included it in today’s readings to get us back on schedule.

This devotional is about Numbers 19.

Some of God’s commands in the OT law are easy to understand. “Do make any graven images, do not kill, and do not covet” are a few examples.

Some others make sense if you understand their purpose. The sin offering, for example, taught people that (1) every sin was worthy of death (as Romans 6:23a says) (2) they could be forgiven if a substitute died for them. When Jesus died on the cross, he came as the true, final sin offering so we now understand the symbolism of the animal sacrifice known as the sin offering.

Other commands of God are harder to grasp and Numbers 19 is one of those. Verses 1-6 describe the recipe for making the “water of cleansing” from the ashes of a red heifer. Verses 7-22 describe the regulations and uses of this water of cleansing. But what good did it do anyone to be sprinkled with this water?

The “water of cleansing” did nothing. It didn’t make anyone physically clean, it didn’t remove sins, nor did it have magic spiritual powers that removed demons or something else bad from someone’s life. It was truly and only a ritual, a ceremony with no tangible benefit. So why did God command it?

Verse 9 said this water was “for purification from sin” but the only instances where God commanded it to be used were when someone touched a dead body (vv. 11-13, 16-21). So “purification from sin” must mean from the purification from the consequence of sin--death. Death was not God’s original plan for humanity; it was his curse on us for our sins. Since God is life and death is a curse, God gave them this ritual to set them apart from the consequences of sin. If someone were to touch a dead body without this ritual, they would “defile the Lord’s tabernacle” (v. 13b, see also verse 20c).

The point of the red heifer purification water, then, was to teach Israel about the holiness of God. God was not to be approached and worshipped by someone who had been in contact with death. Instead, they were considered defiled and unacceptable to approach the Lord until they went through this ritual. The ritual was a teaching tool to show God’s people, and us, that God is completely separate from sin and death and one must not approach him to worship without being set apart.

In Jesus we have been set apart. There is no need for this kind of ceremony any longer because God has credited to us the perfections of Christ. When we come to God in worship--prayer, singing, whatever--we know that we will be accepted because Christ’s death has been applied to us and we are declared clean, worthy, set apart, washed, sanctified, holy, and perfect in him.

Have you ever considered how a passage like this one shows how utterly holy God is? As you think about this offering, do you get a greater appreciation for all that God has given to us in Christ? He not only cleansed our sins; he has removed every unacceptable trace of sin, death and defilement from us, not because of anything we did but because Jesus did it all for us. That is something to praise the Lord about!

Numbers 16, Isaiah 6, Psalm 122

Today’s Bible readings are Numbers 16, Isaiah 6, Psalm 122.

This devotional is about Numbers 16.

Back in Numbers 12, Moses faced opposition from his own brother and sister. They challenged his authority to lead because the Lord had spoken through them just as he had spoken through Moses (12:1-2).

Here in Numbers 16, Moses and Aaron were opposed by some of the Levites led by Korah (vv. 1, 3). Their objection was that, “The whole community is holy” (v. 3c). They went on to charge Moses and Aaron with elevating themselves above the people (v. 3f). So their argument was, “We’re all God’s chosen people and we’ve all been redeemed from Egypt by God’s power and have been promised a new land. Who are you, Moses and Aaron, that you’ve assumed authority over us?

Just as he did in Numbers 12, Moses did not defend himself; instead, he called on God to defend him by accepting an incense sacrifice either from Korah and his guys or from Aaron (vv. 16-18). God was willing to punish the entire nation for this rebellion (v. 21, and later, v. 45) but Moses and Aaron interceded with the Lord on behalf of the people (vv. 22, ). God’s punishment did fall on Korah and his rebellious followers (vv. 31-35) and on some of the people through a plague (v. 49) but he was merciful to the nation as a whole in answer to the prayers of Moses and Aaron.

This story brings up a few important points to consider:

  1. The Bible teaches that every believer is a priest (1 Pet 2:5) just as Korah suggested in verse 3. But the Bible also teaches that God has given leaders for the good and growth of his people (Eph 4:11-13). Leaders must lead in truth and humility but, if they are doing that, then God’s people must follow them.

  2. Moses had the right attitude toward opposition which was to let God deal with it. He was confident that God would vindicate him and God responded accordingly to his faith.

  3. Godly leaders will intercede for God’s people even when God’s people are difficult and disbedient to their leaders. Given all the problems they had faced, you would think that starting over would be an appealing idea to Moses, Aaron, and their families. But it was not; the reason is that they loved God’s people and wanted them to obey and prosper by the Lord’s grace.

How is your level of humility when it comes to spiritual leaders? Are you someone who thinks leadership belongs to you or do you see leadership as an opportunity to glorify God and to reflect the glory of God to others? Moses had the humility to lead well. As a follower, do you have the humility to listen well to your leaders and follow them? If you are a leader, will you love and pray for the people you lead even if they are out to get you?

Numbers 14, Isaiah 3-4, Psalm 120

Today we’re scheduled to read Numbers 14, Isaiah 3-4, Psalm 120.

This devotional is about Numbers 14.

Israel was in all-out rebellion against the Lord and against Moses. Although the land was theirs for the taking and they had seen how great it was, they refused to believe God’s word and, by faith, take the land. Here in chapter 14 the people are complaining loudly “against Moses and Aaron” (v. 2) and plotting to return to Egypt (v. 4).

God was angry with the people for their rebellion and threatened to destroy them all (vv. 11-12), but Moses stepped in and interceded for the people (vv. 13-19). And what was the basis of Moses’s intercession? It wasn’t a claim that Israel’s sin was “not that bad” or that he, Moses, was okay with what they said. No, Moses knew his people were acting wickedly. Instead of making excuses for them, appealed to God’s character. Yes, Israel’s sin was bad so Moses appealed instead to the greatness of God’s mercy. He prayed back to God the revelation God had given to him when he said, “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’” (vv. 17-18).

God loves it when we remind him of his promises even to the point of praying back to him what he was revealed about himself. These kinds of prayers demonstrate that we have been paying attention and learning who God is. They also show us how utterly dependent on God we are. When we pray back to God descriptions of who he is, we are demonstrating our faith and knowledge of his Word. This glorifies God and gives him a basis for granting our requests. After all, what better basis could there be than the word of the Lord?

Do you pray scripture back to God? Do you quote or paraphrase passages you’ve read and learned about so that God can answer your request in a way that pleases Him? Start today. Think about a need in your life then think about how God might bring his grace into the situation. Then ask God to act based on the theology or scripture passage you’ve spoken to him in prayer. Watch God work as he defends his word and you, his children, from those who would seek to harm us.

Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 2, Psalm 119:145-176

Today’s readings are Numbers 12-13, Isaiah 2, Psalm 119:145-176.

This devotional is about Numbers 12

It is more than a little ironic that Moses is the author of Numbers and that he wrote verse 3, “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)” The humblest man on earth wrote in holy scripture about how humble he was. The first literary instance of the humblebrag.

Not really, of course, because the Holy Spirit inspired him to write that, so we reading God’s assessment of Moses, not his self-assessment. There is plenty of evidence of his humility, too, such as how he resisted the Lord’s call to lead Israel and how he insisted that God blot him out of the book of life if he blotted Israel out of it. Despite how powerfully God used him to lead, then, he truly was a humble man, someone who did not have an inflated view of himself.

His brother and sister did not have the character trait of humility. We can see that in verse 2 where they said to each other, “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’” The implication of their words is that they were co-equal leaders with Moses. If they didn’t like his wife (v. 1), then he should be held accountable to them.

The problem is that God had chosen Moses directly and had commanded him to lead Israel. Aaron and Miriam were called to supporting roles under Moses’s leadership. Although it was true that God had spoken through Aaron and Miriam, he had not spoken to them in the same way that he had spoken to Moses (v. 8). They were way out of line, then, when they tried to exercise equal authority to Moses. Moses, being the humble man that he was, waited for God to take up his cause instead of defending himself. Moses was not disappointed because God did in fact speak up to defend him (v. 4: “At once the Lord said...”).

Two issues of application come to mind when I read this passage.

  • First, stay in your lane! God has called us to each to different responsibilities and has invested in us different levels of authority. If your leader is in sin, then you should confront him (Gal 6). If you think he is making a bad decision, you can “appeal to him as a father” (1 Tim 5:1). But most of the time, it is our job to follow the leaders God has given to us, not to question or rebuke them. Whenever we speak to someone we are supposed to follow or serve in a way that presumes equal or greater authority to that person, we have shown a level of pride that is not pleasing to God.
  • Second, let the Lord fight your battles for you. Humanly speaking, Moses had every right to defend himself but he did not. Because of his humility, Moses allowed God to take up his cause and vindicate Moses. The New Testament urges us to follow that pattern ourselves. Romans 12:19 commands us, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’ says the Lord.” It takes real humility to let God fight for you when you are being mistreated or your authority is being usurped. Instead of fighting for ourselves, justifying our actions and angrily denouncing our opponents, what if we trusted God enough to let him handle the situation?

So what’s the state of your humility. The title of humblest man ever is taken but each of us can and should follow Moses’s example in our own lives. If you are a follower, be a good follower and stay in your lane. If you are a leader and you know what you are doing is right before the Lord, let him handle the criticism and and fallout that comes your way.

This is pleasing to God because it puts all our cries fo justice in his righteous hands to execute.

Numbers 36, Psalm 80, Isaiah 28, 2 John

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 36, Psalm 80, Isaiah 28, 2 John. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 36.

This passage in Numbers discusses how property rights in Israel’s promised land were to be managed, but in the middle of this passage there is an interesting statement. In order for the daughters of Zelophehad to retain their family property, they had to marry within their own family. Verse 6 says, “This is what the Lord commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan.” Notice that phrase, “They may marry anyone they please….” When I was a young, unmarried man, I wondered and worried about who the Lord wanted me to marry. Since I believed (and still do) that God knows all things because he has sovereignly decreed all things either directly or by allowing them to occur, I believed that God had chosen my wife. But how would I find her and, when I did, how would I know that she was “the one?” Furthermore, what if I misjudged the will of God or wanted to be with someone so much that I missed the will of God for my life? These are heavy questions and the Bible seems to give little to no insight on them.

Until I read this passage, that is. When I read this passage I noticed that God did not specify who the daughters of Zelophehad must marry. He could have! He could have revealed their names to Moses and paired them up right then and there. Instead, however, he said that they had the freedom to marry “anyone they please.” This was a great relief to me. God’s will for my life would not be someone revealed by mysticism nor would I be forced to pledge my faith to someone I might actually dislike. No, God’s word allows his people to marry “anyone they please” as long as that person meets a few other important qualifications. Instead of giving us steps for finding “the one,” God’s word tells us that there are certain things that a godly believer should be looking for in a spouse. God wants us as believers to marry other believers (see 1 Cor 7:39 and notice that the widow “…is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord”). This is not just someone who claims to be a believer, but who claims it and shows it by a growing Christian life so that together they can raise a godly family (see Mal 2:15). Further, the book of Proverbs specifies some characteristics of a wise woman. So, instead of looking for “the one” and wondering how I would find her, I sought out Christian girls I thought were attractive and looked to see if they had evidence of a growing faith and the character qualities that would contribute to a godly marriage. And, in God’s grace, he led me to a beautiful woman who compliments me well and has been an excellent companion for me for over 20 years now.

Did God decree that I would marry Suzanne? Yes, but the factors that explain that decree are complex. God knew what would be attractive to me and who would find me attractive. He knew how we would meet and the circumstances under which we would get to know each other and want to be together. There are many, many factors that God in his infinite wisdom understands that we never will. Although there is much more to this than I can explain in this simple devotional, I think it is important to understand that making godly decisions in key areas of your life is not so much about discerning or divining what God had decreed. Rather, it is about understanding that God has designed you in a certain way and he has allowed your life to develop in certain ways and he has given you the scriptures and the Spirit and godly counselors to purify your desires and give you wisdom about making these key decisions. If you make them in faith, applying God’s wisdom from the Word as best as you can, you can follow your desires with confidence that God’s providence will lead you to his will in your life.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 27, Psalms 70–71, Isaiah 17–18, 1 Peter 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 27, Psalms 70–71, Isaiah 17–18, 1 Peter 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 27. 

Sadly, Moses’ sin at Meribah (which I wrote about here) kept him from entering the promised land. It is interesting, however, that Moses did not mourn his own loss or spend the rest of his life moping about how he deserved better. In fact, his focus was not on himself at all; he was concerned about the future of Israel without a clear leader. We saw this in today’s reading in verses 15-17: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’” Israel had such a hard time living in obedience to God’s word with a clear leader like Moses; how could they possibly follow the Lord without someone who would care for them and watch over them like Moses did? What an incredibly tender heart Moses had for the people who had treated him so poorly. When they sinned, he interceded for them. When they were ready to receive God’s promises without him, he prayed that the Lord would send them a good leader to shepherd them. God answered his prayer with Joshua in verse 18. But notice that Joshua would not fulfill 100% of Moses’ responsibilities. Moses led the people, spoke to God directly on behalf of the people, and received God’s communication for the people. Joshua would fill the role of leader, especially in a military sense, but Eleazar would take the role of communicating with God (v. 21). And this transition of leadership did not wait until Moses died; God wanted to begin answering Moses’ prayer now, so in verse 20 God commanded Moses to begin handing over leadership to Joshua even while Moses was still alive. In obedience to God, Moses publicly designated Joshua as his successor and commissioned him in the sight of all the people (vv. 22-23). Many leaders would be threatened by this, but not Moses. His concern was for the people, not for himself. Truly “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num 12:3). 

The lesson for us is clear. Godly leadership is concerned with providing what the people need to be obedient to God; it is not concerned with receiving as much power, respect, success, or whatever as possible. This is the difference between humble, godly leadership and the worldly leadership that thinks it is all about me. As you consider how you lead your family, or the ministry at church that you’re involved in, or whatever  you find yourself leading, is your concern to find the best way to provide godly leadership—even if it takes the spotlight off you? Or, do we let the strength of our sin nature corrupt how we lead so that we think of ourselves first and our flock last?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 25, Psalm 68, Isaiah 15, 1 Peter 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 25.

With God as their Lord, Israel was like a military freight train—an unstoppable army that would blast through any nation that opposed her or lived in her land. Way back in Numbers 22, the king of Moab, “Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites” (Num 22:2-3). For the past several chapters in Numbers we have been reading about how the king of Moab tried to stop this freight train from plowing through his kingdom. His strategy was to entice Balaam to call down a curse on Israel. It is unclear whether Balaam was a true prophet and non-Jewish worshipper of God or a false prophet that God decided to use in this case but, whichever it was, God was clearly speaking through Balaam. Although Balak king of Moab was looking for someone to curse Israel, all Balaam did was pronounce prophetic blessings on God’s people. This angered Balak (24:10-11) and, at the end of yesterday’s reading in Numbers 24, these two men ended their collaboration and Balaam returned to his home (Num 24:25). 

Here in Numbers 25, however, we see, unexpectedly, a curse fall on Israel. It was not a curse brought on supernaturally by God by a prophetic utterance. Instead, it was brought on them by their own disobedience to God’s commands. God had preserved Israel as a separate nation in Egypt and kept them from intermarrying with the Egyptians which would cause them to lose their distinct national identity. God gave them all kinds of laws many of which were non-moral but designed to keep Israel worshipping the true God and  to keep them distinct and separate from their neighbors. But, despite God’s commands not to worship other gods and not to commit adultery, here in Numbers 25 God’s people forsake God’s commands and engage in idolatry and adultery with the Moabites. Passages such as Revelation 2:14 (and others) tell us what Numbers does not—that although he could not prophetically curse God’s people, Balaam taught the Moabites how to create a curse organically by sinning against God in adultery and idolatry. Because they disobeyed God’s word, which was designed to bless them, “the Lord’s anger burned against them” (v. 3). The rest of chapter 25 describes the devastation that God’s punishment brought on his people. 

Israel’s experience in this passage should sober us and warn us. We ask for God’s blessings in our lives and God has blessed us immensely in Christ. While the world and the devil would love to see us fall under the curse of God’s judgment, God’s promises in Christ stand between us and their desire to harm us. What removes God’s blessings in our lives and causes us to miss all he wants for us to have in Christ is our own choices to sin against God’s word. Remember James 4:4, which we read last week: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Sin is so damaging in so many ways but one of them that we should keep in mind is how it cuts us off from God’s blessings and makes us an object of his displeasure. Because Christ bore the wrath for our sins, we don’t ever need to fear being lost and becoming God’s enemies in the sense of losing our salvation. But when we sin, we do lose the power of God and his blessings in our lives and, instead, expose ourselves to the consequences that are embedded automatically in many sins. Our worship and daily exposure to God’s word is designed by our Lord to protect us from the deceitfulness of sin so that we can live in God’s power and enjoy his blessings in our lives.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 20, Psalms 58–59, Isaiah 9:8–10:4, James 3

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 20, Psalms 58–59, Isaiah 9:8–10:4, James 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 20.

It is hard to read about Moses’ life and not identify with him. He faced one challenge after another. At one time or another everyone was against him, including his own brother and sister. Yet, despite the challenges, he kept leading, kept praying for the people, kept faithfully doing what the Lord commanded him to do. Here in Numbers 20 he faced another crisis—a familiar one—the lack of water. Of course the people complained about it (vv. 2-5) and Moses, as he did so often in the past, went to God in prayer looking for the answer (v. 6) this time with his prayer-partner Aaron. God commanded him to “take the staff” (v. 8) which he had once used to strike a rock and bring forth water. This time, however, the instruction was to “speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (v. 8). On his way to do what the Lord commanded (v. 9), the pressure of all this grumbling may have finally gotten to him. He and Aaron gathered the people (v. 10a), but then Moses made a speech. He called the people “rebels” and asked “must we bring you water out of this rock?” Hopefully God was included in that “we” but that’s far from certain because Moses next act was not to obey God by speaking to the rock as he had been instructed. Instead, Moses smacked the rock twice with his staff (v. 11). God graciously provided the water, but Moses and Aaron were judged for Moses’ disobedience. And what caused Moses to disobey? “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12b). It was a lack of faith in that moment—not a lack of faith in God to provide the water, but the lack of faith to demonstrate the holiness of God to the people. Had Moses obeyed God’s command to speak to the rock, God would have been exalted and revered when the rock gushed forth. But by striking the stone with his rod, Moses was acting in anger not in faith. In the ministry, it is hard not to get frustrated and even angry with people when they disobey God’s word. It’s also hard as a parent when our kids disobey. But when we correct someone who is disobedient, are we concerned about them learning the holiness of God or are we mad because they’ve challenged our authority, or exhausted our patience, or just disrespected us? Any of these negative responses is sinful because they don’t come from a sanctified desire to show the world the greatness of God. Instead, we try to coerce obedience through anger or manipulation. These do not honor God and we should expect that God will not leave us to dishonor him without bringing his hand of discipline in our lives. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 14, Psalm 50, Isaiah 3–4, Hebrews 11

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 14, Psalm 50, Isa 3–4, Hebrews 11. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 14.

From the time Israel left Sinai in Numbers 10, the tension has been building among the people of Israel. In Numbers 11 they complained about the manna that fed them and received two separate judgments from the Lord (vv. 1b, 33). In chapter 12, Moses’ own brother and sister gossiped against Moses and attempted to undermine his leadership (12:1) and God judged Miriam with leprosy, curable only through Moses’ prayer for her. In chapter 13, twelve spies explored the promised land and found it amazing. Nevertheless, they doubted God’s promises and were too afraid to claim the land for themselves (vv. 26-33). Here in chapter 14—right on the brink of receiving the promise—the people revolted against Moses and Aaron and were ready to go back and surrender to the Egyptians (vv. 1-4). Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb pleaded with the people to repent and claim God’s promise by faith (vv. 5-9), but their pleas were rejected (v. 10). God stepped in at this moment and announced his intention to punish the Israelites and start over with Moses (vv. 11-12). 

Here is where we see what a godly leader Moses was. He had been attacked and rejected personally by these people and could easily have been the greatest cheerleader for their destruction. Instead, Moses reminded God of his own reputation (vv. 13-16) and asked the Lord to show his strength (v. 17). And what was that strength? Not the swift hand of judgment but God’s character as patient and merciful (vv. 17-18). What Moses said about God in verse 18 is from the revelation of God Moses experienced in Exodus 34:6. That experience in Exodus 34 was not only for deepening Moses’ personal understanding of and walk with God; it prepared him for this day. Having learned of the great mercy of God, Moses was prepared to call on God for mercy when God’s people rebelled against both God and Moses. 

The things we learn about God in our lives make our faith in God stronger and our experience of God deeper but they also teach us how to pray. When we ask God for anything, it pleases him when we tie our requests to his very nature. It shows that our prayers are not just selfish demands for our own gratification; instead, when they flow out from our walk with God and our understanding of his nature, our prayers become pleas for God to show his glory in our world to others by answering our prayers according to his nature and will, not necessarily according to our desires. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 11.

EVERYBODY has something to complain about in Numbers 11. The people of Israel complained about how hard it was living in the desert (11:1) and then they complained about the food that God graciously, faithfully, and miraculously provided for them (vv. 4-9).

Moses complained to God about what a burden it was to lead God’s people (vv. 10-15). And, of course, God himself had a legitimate complaint not only with the ungratefulness of the people (vv. 1b-3) but also with the unbelief of Moses (v. 23). Although God did punish some of the people for their complaining, he was mostly faithful and patient in this passage. He was patient with Moses’ unbelief and provided the month’s worth of meat that he had promised (vv. 18-19, 31) even though Moses threw a fit when God made the promise, as if God would require Moses to do something that only God himself could do (vv. 21-23). He also provided the elders of Israel to share the leadership load with Moses (vv. 24-29). Complaining comes so naturally to us, doesn’t it? And why do we complain? Because we think we deserve better—a better job, a happier life, a better spouse, more obedient children—whatever. Complaining is a symptom of an entitled heart; it demonstrates a heart that envies others, that lusts after things God has not willed for us. It rises from a mind that is focused on what we don’t have but think we deserve instead of seeing all that God has faithfully given to us. Instead of complaining, let’s learn to ask God for the things that we want and need in life (see James 4:1-3) and to be thankful for all that God has done for us (Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Numbers 7, Psalms 42–43, Song of Songs 5, Hebrews 5

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 7, Psalms 42–43, Song of Songs 5, Hebrews 5. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Numbers 7.

Numbers 7:2 says that the leaders of each tribe of Israel made offerings to the Lord to be used by the Levities and priest in their Tabernacle ministry. Those offerings were, according to verse 3: “…six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.” The oxen were not given to be slaughtered for sacrifices; they were to pull the carts. Since this kind of utilitarian offering was not commanded by God, Moses might have been uncertain if it was even appropriate to receive them as offerings. God spoke up, however, in verses 4-5: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.’” This gift was entirely useful and, therefore, a legitimate gift to the Lord for his work. Not every Levite needed them which is why the Lord said, “Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires,” nevertheless, they were helpful to some of the Levites and, therefore, they were a thoughtful gift for the Lord’s work. It is a reminder that people who serve the Lord in full-time ministry—pastors, church-planters, foreign missionaries, college and seminary professors, and others—need tools. Tools are an essential part of doing our work well for the Lord. Since I happen to be away from my office today, I’m typing this devotional on a Macbook that our church purchased for me. I’m grateful that we have money in our budget for good tools; otherwise, the only productive time I would have would be time spent in my office.

I bring this up today because just before I read this passage, I reviewed the finances of a ministry that I advise that’s not part of Calvary. This ministry is frugal and spends money carefully and wisely. In terms of raw dollars, not a lot is spent of staff salaries or ministry expenses but in terms of percentages, a good percentage goes to those areas. It would be an error, however, to think that the money spent on salaries and expenses is wasted. The people who receive pay offer valuable advice, guidance, leadership, and teaching. Without them, there would be no ministry, so paying them for their work and providing them with the tools they need is money well spent for God’s kingdom, even if it is not directly spent on the ministry’s core work. It is something to keep in mind when you choose which ministries to support and how that support is spent. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.