protection

Numbers 22, Isaiah 11-12, Psalm 127

Today’s Bible reading passages are Numbers 22, Isaiah 11-12, Psalm 127.

Happy Mother’s Day! Psalm 127 is a pretty good song for Mother’s Day, but I’ve written about that already. If you’d rather read that devotional than this one, here it is: https://calvary-bible.org/blog/2016/7/1/joshua-3-psalms-126128-isaiah-63-matthew-11?rq=psalm%20127

Now then, you’re still reading so this devotional will be about Numbers 22.

Israel was tantalizingly close to the Promised Land. The forty years of wandering was almost over and verse 1 says, “the Israelites... camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.” You know already that Jericho was the first city they defeated when they entered the land. So the events of this chapter and the ones that follow happen just before they received the land God had promised them.

God had blessed his people, enabling them to defeat the Amorites (v. 2) and to become a large nation (v. 3: “so many people”). Out of fear, they looked for a way to defeat Israel, but given that God was with them, what kind of “defeat” could they engineer? A military defeat was out of the question.

So they decided to try to win a spiritual war and found Balaam (v. 5). They asked him to curse Israel (v. 6) and Balaam asked them to wait overnight while he sought revelation from God. In verse 8 he said, “I will report back to you with the answer the LORD gives me.” The word “LORD” is YHWH, the covenant name of God for Israel; but why was Balaam using this name for God?

One reason is possibly that he himself was a worshipper of YHWH. Another answer is that he knew many “gods” and that YHWH was Israel’s God so he waited for revelation from that God. It is hard to know from these chapters, but I think the answer is the latter. Balaam didn’t worship YHWH but he knew who YHWH was so he sought revelation from Israel’s God.

God did speak with Balaam and ordered him not to curse his people (v. 12). Balak sent a second delegation and asked Balaam to reconsider (v. 15). This time God gave permission for Balaam to go with them on the condition that he only speak the Lord’s word (v. 20). What happened next was strange; God had allowed Balaam to go (v. 20) but in verse 22 we learn, “God was very angry when he went.” Although Moses did not explain further, God’s anger at Balaam may have been anger at his eagerness to find a way to get paid for his prophecies against God’s people. In verse 22b Balaam encountered “the angel of the Lord” which refers to Jesus before he became a man. After the very unusual interaction with his donkey (vv. 23-34) Christ spoke to Balaam himself, directly and charged him again to “speak only what I tell you” (v. 35).

There’s more to this story that we’ll come to tomorrow but here in this chapter we see God’s divine protection of his people. He would not allow his people to be cursed by an unscrupulous prophet.

Have you ever considered that maybe God’s enemies want to bring a curse into your life that only God knows about and that only he can prevent?

Numbers 17, Isaiah 7, Psalm 123

Today we’re reading Numbers 17, Isaiah 7, Psalm 123.

This devotional is about Psalm 123.

The songwriter of this song felt belittled. Verses 3b-4 say, “...we have endured no end of contempt. We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.” The problem he experienced, as described here, was less serious than many others addressed in the Psalms. Nobody was out to kill the songwriter the way that Saul and others tried to kill David. No army was attacking. This psalm appears to have been written before the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. So the situation that gave rise to this song is unclear, but probably not life-threatening.

But it appears to have been more than just a personal issue between two Hebrew men. Whoever the “proud” and “arrogant” of verse 4 were, they were likely unbelieving Gentiles who were taunting and terrorizing many of God’s people.

The response of the songwriter was to look to God: “I lift up my eyes to you...,” he wrote in verse 1. In verse 2 he compared looking to God with how slaves look to their masters. This probably refers to the provision of food and other needs that masters provided to their slaves. Slaves were in a state of complete dependence on their masters. This is how the Psalmist thought of his and other Jewish people’s relationship to God--absolute dependence. The songwriter was not planning to attack his opponents with fists or swords or even words. Instead, he looked to the Lord for “mercy” (v. 2d, 3a). His reaction to the problem behind this Psalm, then, was a Godward reaction. It drove him to his knees in utter dependence on God; it caused him to plead with God for help.

This Psalm is a “song of ascents” as you saw in the superscription. That means it was one of a collection of Psalms the men would sing three times a year as they made their way from their homes to Jerusalem for one of the mandatory times of worship. I imagine that this Psalm had a slow, somber melody. The men singing it were leaving behind their homes and possessions to venture to Jerusalem. Given the presence of hostile people around them, who would protect their home and possessions while they were gone? The answer is the Lord himself, the one they were traveling to worship. The people looked to him for help and were completely dependent on his help since they would be unable to do anything to protect their stuff while they were gone. Looking to the Lord, though, provided them with a measure of hope and comfort. Surely God would keep his promises faithfully and watch over them and their families and possessions.

As our nation becomes more secular, attacks against our faith are becoming more frequent and more direct. Maybe there are people in your life--at work or in your family or neighborhood--who are taunting you because of your faith. Maybe they treat you with contempt, ridiculing you for your faith in God and devotion to Christ. Maybe there is little you can do about it; you can’t move, can’t change jobs, can’t disown your family. What you can do is look to the Lord in humble dependence. You can pray every day and every time you feel belittled, persecuted, or threatened. Do that, and may the Lord give you strength until he shows mercy on you and deals with the threats you face in answer to your prayers.

Deuteronomy 8, Psalm 91, Isaiah 36, Revelation 6

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 8, Psalm 91, Isaiah 36, Revelation 6. 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 Psalm 91.

This beautiful song begins with a universal claim: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” The “shelter of the Most High” refers to the Tabernacle; this is a way of expressing a person’s deep desire for God. When someone wants to know God so much that he spends every possible moment in the place where God’s presence was promised, that person will be protected by God (“shadow of the Almighty”).

Verse 2 moves from the universal to the specific: “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” In other words, verse 1 promises God’s protecting shadow over anyone who delights in God so the author (probably David) states his intention in verse 2 to look to God personally for the refuge offered in verse 1.

And what kind of refuge does God offer? He gives refuge from someone trying to capture him (Saul?) according to verse 3a {“the fowler’s snare”) and from fatal disease according to v 3b (“pestilence”). He gives refuge like a mother bird gives to her young (v. 4), refuge from fear of being captured or killed overnight (v. 5a) or from military attacks by day (v. 5b:). Again, God gives refuge from disease whether at night (v. 6a) or at noon (v. 6b). In the heat of battle, when men are dying all around you, God will protect you (v. 7) and will punish those who deserve it (v. 8).

The reason for this confidence is God’s angelic protection for those who trust in the Lord (vv. 9-13) and because God will answer the prayers for help of those who love him (vv. 14-15). The result of all this protection will be a long life on this earth (v. 16a) and salvation when this life is over (v. 16b).

What a comforting song; yet, the author of this Psalm died eventually and we know that bad things do happen to godly people. So what do we make of the author’s confidence? 

First, the promises of this Psalm are for David and the kings that follow in his line. This is indicated  in verses 11-12 which Satan quoted to Jesus as he was tempted. Unlike what we are often told, Satan did not quote this passage out of context; he understood that it was God’s promise to David that insured a king in David’s line would receive God’s special protection because of the covenant God made to David. So the promises in this passage are more specific to Davidic kings than we often realize.

Secondly, based on God’s covenant with David, the king could be certain that nothing would happen to him until he had fulfilled the mission God gave him to do. Although he may fight in many battles, even taking heavy casualties in his army (v. 7), God will watch over the leader’s life until that leader’s life’s work has been completed. Verse 16 promises “long life” not the absolute avoidance of death. The promise, then, is that the Davidic king who loves God and puts his hope in God will not need to fear premature death either by war or disease. God’s protection will be on his life until he has finished what God gave him to do. While the promise in this passage applied first to David and to the heirs of the covenant God made with David, I believe this Psalm also comforts us with a principle we can count on: we are invincible on this earth until we have completed God’s work if we trust in the Lord and seek him habitually. While some godly people die younger than we would expect, that was not due to some random event outside of God’s will. Instead, those who fear the Lord and seek to live for him generally live a long life on this earth (v. 16a). For those who die “prematurely,” it is because God had another plan for them.

Finally, when the time comes to die, God’s promises to “show him my salvation” when we trust in him (v. 16b). This is a reference to the deliverance believers receive after death. 

In our moments of night time fear (v 5a, 6a) and daytime threats (v. 3, 7), the only hope we have is the promise and mercy of God. Though Christ fulfilled God’s promise in this passage as the Messiah, the final Davidic king, the invitation is still universal: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High…” (v. 1). This applies to us; when we make the Lord our love (v. 1a, 14a) and look to him for protection from all the threats around us, we are indestructible until God says it is time for us to go. Whatever you fear today, remember that the Lord is watching over you and that, even if the worst happens,  you still have the promise of God that God will “show him my salvation” meaning that you will be rescued from these dangers, ultimately, in eternity.
 
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.