24 Moses

24.5 Moses 24, Day 5

Phinehas: Skewered Sinfulness Stops Fury

Our verses for today start at Number 25:6 but I believe you have to go back and include 25:5 to get the story of Phineas correct.

Moses called together THE JUDGES of Israel.  As you might recall, on the recommendation of his father-in-law, Moses had set up a hierarchy of governing men from the community.  From Exodus 18:21, 22 we learn that Moses was counseled to, “select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times.

These were the people that God, through Moses, commissioned to “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord.”  It was their job and their duty.  In the same way a judge in our courts may be commissioned to deliver a severe sentence to a convicted criminal or a police officer or soldier may be put in a position to use deadly force in the conduct of their duty.

But the judges did not go into this duty with a carefree attitude.  In Numbers 25:6 we read that this whole assembly (not just some of them but all of them) were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  They were crying because of the sin, but also because of the seriousness of the burden placed on them by the sin of the people.  They did not want to kill their brothers and cousins, fathers and sons.

When, in the middle of all of this, with 24,000 people dying, with the judges assembled in mourning and repentance, crying tears at the tent of meeting, along boldly strides Zimri with a Midianite women in tow, taking her brazenly into his tent in broad daylight to defile and reject God’s commandments.  Multiple witnesses, verdict delivered.

The fact that all of the judges did not rise up against this man is a testimony of how shocking the immoral act was given the situation.  But zealous Phineas, raised as the grandson of the High Priest and the son of the current High Priest stands up and delivers justice.

With that one bold act, the plague stopped.  It was not the death of Zimri that paid the price.  It was the dedication and conviction of Phinehas that restored God’s faith in His people.

We are not called to be executors of God’s wrath.  Yes, there is grave sin in our time committed by brazenly spiteful and wicked people.  Pick any abomination and there are not only people practicing it, but those who promote it.  But we are not ordained as judges tasked by God will carrying out His sentence on these people.  Phinehas was.  That is the difference.

In Matthew 7, Jesus taught, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

But that does not mean that we are not supposed to demonstrate zeal in the duties that have been commanded of us.  We just have different duties than Phinehas and the judges of Israel had (praise the Lord for that!).  We should be zealous in being holy.  We should be zealous in being nourished by the Word.  We should be zealous in obedience.  We should be zealous in parenting and teaching.  We should be zealous in generosity.  We should be zealous in the chastity and fidelity of our relationships.  We should be zealous in going and making disciples.  We should be zealous in ensuring others will “know we are disciples by our love.” (John 13:35)

We close our lesson with Balaam and the fact that he, a mortal man, was killed by the sword of the Israelites.  But he has a legacy.  His legacy is what not to do.  In every situation he is mentioned it is always a negative.  Despite delivering 7 fold blessings on the Israelites and coming face-to-face with the Angel of the Lord – there is nothing positive in his legacy, just what not to do.  How do you want to be remembered – for being zealous or for being greedy?  For being the one who God finds loyalty and bravery and the justification for ending the plague or as the one who brings on the anger of the Lord and plagues on people?

 

My Answers:

10.
a.
He did it in zealous obedience.  24,000 people were dying from sin and it was Phinehas’ job to follow the verdict given by the Lord.

b.
by staying obedient to Him and His word

11.
a.
taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin

b.
Killed by the sword by Israelites

12.
a.
He does not tolerate sin in His people

b.
To be holy – to not be lured into wickedness and evil.  To avoid temptation

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24 Moses

24.4 Moses 24, Day 4

Subversion, perversion, aversion and reversion

What happens next in the story of the Moabites and the Israelites speaks volumes of both groups of people.

Subversion has always been and is today a common strategy used to overthrow an enemy.  Identify the weaknesses of your enemy and use that to weaken their positions of strength.  Weaken the walls.  Play to the things they want to keep hidden and secret.

For the Israelites, that weakness was a temptation of the pervisions offered by the Moabite women.  They quit thinking with their heads and began bowing down to the gods of Baal.

Their aversion (turning away from the correct path) and reversion (inability to maintain a higher state), resulted in dire sin and the wrath of a just God.

God had prepared this generation their entire lives to enter the promised land.  A people set apart, fed, clothed, cared for day and night.  Their enemies fell down in terror before them.  They enjoyed freedom to grow and multiply and look forward to the great gift and reward to come.  And, they were willing to sacrifice all of that for food and carnal lust.

But think about what that also says about the Moabites.  Balaam counsels them on the Israelite weakness, but the Moabites are the ones who willingly pimp out their mothers, wives and daughters for military gain.  Who does that?  Most societies protect women and children, not send them out to sleep with the enemy.

God could not allow this.  In every way it was wrong, destructive and undermined the very nature of a holy people.  Found guilty by multiple witnesses and by the judgment of God, a sentence of death was imposed by God and a plague began.

 

My Answers:

8.
a.
Sexual immorality with Moabite women, invited them to sacrifice to their gods, yoked themselves with Baal

b.
To reject God

c.
Chose to delay worship rather than putting God at the beginning of every day.  I also chose to trust in him for housing and care of mom/uncle : missed blessing of daily walk, frustration, trust and peace in things I have turned over to Him

9.
God said to – it is always wise to be obedient.  God also was teaching them through this, the consequences of yoking themselves to the heathen people and their gods

 

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24 Moses

24.3 Moses 24, Day 3

Oracles and Other Locales

I was listening to a David Jeremiah podcast on the story of Job.  One of the things he brought up was an interesting question, “Do you have a big God or a little God?”  There is only one true God and His size doesn’t change, but peoples’ believes about the size of God can vary.

Balak had a little god.  If God keeps you from doing something over here, just move over there, where He can’t hear you any more.

Little gods are petty.  You are always in trouble with a little god.  You are always needing to do something to appease a little god – like building 7 altars.  Little gods are expensive, they want what is yours.

Our God, the God is the Israelites, is not a little god, He is the Big God.  He is everywhere in every dimension: height, width, depth, time, state of matter, speed.  He created everything, not just the physical elements, but the very laws of nature and physics and chemistry and biology across the universe.  He was before there was time and He will be after the linear progression of earthly time has ended.  He is in control of all things, thoughts, words and deeds.

Balaam was praised by Balak because what he blessed was blessed and what he cursed was cursed.  But God’s word through Balaam turns this around.  In regard to God’s people, anyone who blesses them is blessed and anyone who curses them is cursed.

God is not a man that he should lie or a son of man that he should change his mind.  God is God.  God’s people are the righteous, who live apart.  They live in beauty, spread out in garden’s well watered by the spirit and the word.  They are powerful like a lion because they serve the all-powerful King.

So, how big is your God?  Do you try to control Him?  Do you try to put Him in a box?  Do you try to buy-Him-off with acts or bribes?  Do you think He needs your time or your money or your devotion, instead of recognizing the creator of everything already has rights to all things and you are delusional to think it is “yours” to begin with?  If you don’t like the answer from the bible do you seek out some watered down message somewhere else?

If so, open your eyes.  There is an Angel of the Lord standing in your path with sword drawn, because the path you are on leads to death and destruction, curses and damnation.

If you continue to believe in a little god, you are not believing in the Big God.  You will continue to augment your little god with other things, other “religions”, the occult, spiritualism, self-help, sorcery, divination, wishful thinking. You will continue to try to buy favors or to buy your way out of problems.  You will continue to live in fear, a terrified life, filled with dread.

A belief in the The Big God does not need augmentation.  God created everything.  Jesus made full atonement. The Spirit is pure holiness.

Maybe its a good time to upgrade the size of your God!

 

My Answers:

5.
1st
Brought to curse, how can I curse what God has not cursed – I see people who live apart, very numerous, they are righteous

2nd
God is not a man, won’t change his mind – no misfortune for Israel, God is with them, like a lion

3rd
Beautiful tents, spread out like gardens well watered, God brought them, like a lion – those who bless you blessed, curse you..

4th
future – star will rise out of Israel, scepter, Moab, Sheth, Edom destroyed

5th, 6th, 7th
Amalek, Kenites, Ashur, Eber, all people destroyed

6.
a.
He believed God was constrained by physical space, going to a new location might change things.  He didn’t like the first response

b.
Sometimes it is to get confirmation of counsel and direction, but more commonly it is because I didn’t like what I heard.

7.
He knew the Lord, but still had repeatedly chosen to consort with demons

 

 

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24 Moses

24.2 Moses 24, Day 2

The Madness of Balaam

What does it mean for one to have “madness”.  In our modern, clinical world, we tend to equate madness with illness, something that is a disease or affliction that someone has through no control of their own.  We consider an insanity as a just reason for someone to not be held accountable for their actions.

But is there a different definition of madness?  One that isn’t inflicted upon, but chosen by the individual.  Someone who is presented with full knowledge of repercussions, but chooses the foolish path.  It would be considered madness for a parent to allow a young child to play in an area scattered with broken glass.  In this case we would consider that an act of insanity, but not one that would receive any sympathy or relief of accountability.

It can almost be thought of as dual minded.  On one hand, you are consciously aware of the right thing to do, and yet, you purposefully choose to do the wrong thing.

I bring this up because in 2 Peter 2:16 we read, “But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey–an animal without speech–who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness”.

I see this dual mindedness in Balaam.  In one mind, he hears God’s voice.  He knows to obey.  No amount of money can change his pledge of obedience.  In another mind, he chooses to commune with evil spirits, to practice divination and sorcery, to go for monetary gain to disobey God and speak against the Israelites.  In his other mind, he can witness and angel and bow down in repentance and obedience.

Again, I am not presenting mental illness as an excuse for Balaam, but I do believe his actions (and God’s actions) speak to someone who was mad.  Balaam clearly heard the explicit command of the voice of God.  The one he (Balaam the obedient) had chosen to listen to and obey.  And the very next morning he (Balaam the idolator) was who got up and saddled his donkey.

We see the wickedness in his outburst of anger.  We see his separation from obedience to God in his blindness to the Angel of the Lord.  It does not say God prevented him from seeing, it only says that God later opens his eyes after allowing the donkey to chastise him.  It is clear that this is not the same minded Balaam who obeys God in 7 oracles of blessing (tomorrow’s lesson).

I don’t think God was angry with Balaam for asking repeatedly.  Paul asked repeatedly to be allowed to witness to the Jews, and that door was repeatedly closed.  God was not angry for Paul’s persistent prayer.  I don’t think God was angry with Balaam for not waiting for the officials to come back to him to get him to leave as many  commentators have stated.  I understand scripturally how they make their argument based on the wording of what God says in Numbers 22: 20 “if” (the Hebrew word ‘im: Strongs H518 = if).  But the English translation of  that word depends entirely on the tense of the sentence:  If the men come to you vs. if these men have come to you (i.e., since these men came to you).  Since sentence tense is completely different between Hebrew and English this is why we see differences between bible versions from the KJV to NIV.  I’m just not on the page that God was angry because he didn’t wait.

I think it is not only that he went, but what mind he was in when he left.  The Balaam that left that morning wasn’t one bent on serving God, it was one seeking profit, power and prestige.  It was one who knew what was right, but still had full intent, as he had done repeatedly in the past, to practice sorcery and divinition.  God was angry because he (that Balaam) was who was seated on the donkey that day.

I also see this as different than falling into sin as we all as Christians often do.  Balaam’s sin was not the result of temptation, it was the purposeful and direct choice to willfully not only reject God’s direct commandment, to reject God and attempt to put Him on the same level as demons and fiction.  It is like going in to a test in school knowing all the right answers but purposefully choosing to select the wrong answers.  This is a clearly spiteful act and contrasts decidedly from someone performing in error.

The amazing part to me wasn’t God’s anger or even the talking donkey, but the fact that God is so filled with love for His creation that he allows the level of choice that Balaam was executing.  To hear the voice of God and purposefully choose to willfully reject Him and commune with the lowest minions of the devil.  To sell your services of wickedness and curses.  It must break God’s heart to see the depths to which his creation can fall, and, yet, He gave even Balaam, and even a donkey, a voice to speak His truth.  We also see His love of Israel.  That regardless of the wicked plots of earthly kings, no curse would befall them.

What an amazing God.

 

My Answers:

3.
a.
King of a terrified people, filled with dread, took action to call on Balaam

b.
buy a curse on the Israelites, then fight them and hopefully defeat them and drive them out of the land

c.
moved, met with, gave passage to, sought to know the God of Israel, invite Moses, repent

d.
fight, conspire against, use power of others such as the courts, try to undermine.  Some use diplomacy.  Money to buy power or influence

4.
a.
No – Despite knowing the truth he chose to live a life attempting to put God and demons, the divine and divination on the same level.

b.
Do not add to or subtract from God’s word.  God’s word can be heard by both believers and non-believers.  God is interested in the heart.  God can say no to a believer in love and yes to a non-believer to bring both into a state of heart obedience

c.
Taking greater caution to hear all of God’s message, not to add to or subtract from it as Balaam did to suit his own purposes.  To put my belief in God, not just have a belief of God

 

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23 Moses

23.5 Moses 23, Day 5

Defeating the Giants

After a great deal of traveling about, the Hebrews come to land occupied by the Amorites.  This was land the Amorites had taken from the Moabites in battle.  In fact, these Kings of the Amorites were conquering kings.

Unlike the King of Moab who rallied his troops in a defensive position to protect their land from their fear of trespassing Jews, Sihon brought out his army to attack – to vainly oppose both the people of God and God Himself.

Like all who take this position – he was defeated.

Next the Israelites turned toward Bashan.  Now, it is important to note, that there was no way around.  For God to bring them across the Jordan river into the Promised Land, they would have to travel this country.  And, like Sihon, Og king of Bashan marched out to meet them.

A little background on Og.  The name Og means giant. Deuteronomy 3:11 says, “Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites”.  That would place his height somewhere between 9 and 12 feet tall.   The Jews were now facing an army led by the giants they feared so much that it had kept them out of the promised land.

Moses turns to God and God tells him to not be afraid because, “I have delivered him into your hands.”  Notice that He does not say I might deliver him, or even I will deliver him, but that I have delivered it – past tense – done deal.  Og lost the battle before it had ever begun because the faithful Hebrews turned first to God and not to fear.

As a result, for the first time since leaving Egypt, the Jews took possession of land.  They were no longer grasshoppers – they were giant slayers.

What giants are still in your life?  What do you still fear?  Are you running away from fears or running to God?

 

My Answers:

9.
a.
The Edomites were in land given to them.  The Amorites were in land they took from others.  Both denied them passage, both came out to meet them, but in the second case they were not restrained by God and instead they had God’s strength upon them

b.
Built them as a fighting unit, battle experience, success, confidence, training of military leaders, and it gave them a place to rest and dwell instead of constantly moving about in the wilderness

c.
Helping share the gospel at work and at home.  Helping support families in raising Godly children.  Working with kids to share God’s love for them.

10.
a.
Both were bullies, conquerers.  They lived by the sword – they had no issue fighting this rag-tag group of nomads who retreated from Edom.  They had full confidence in their armies and cities.

b.
There are still bullies, those in a position of strength who use it to bully and subdue and conquer others, burning churches, persecuting children

11.
a.
Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands (past tense), along with his whole army and his land.

b.
on my knees, relying on His strength.

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23 Moses

23.4 Moses 23, Day 4

Un-Complicated

One of the stumbling blocks of Christianity is that it is too simple – it is not complicated enough.  You would think this would be a good thing, but it really can trip people up.

To live after being bitten by a venomous snake the Jews had to look at the snake on the stick.  That was it.  Period.

But put yourself in their shoes.  Isn’t that too easy?  Wouldn’t you feel better about it is it had more requirements or it was harder?  You know, maybe if at certain times of the day you had to face in a certain direction and say certain words.  Now that would be better, right?  Or if there was certain penance you had to live out to make up for your wrongs of the past?  Or maybe a requirement that you pay a certain price, a real cost, either monetarily or physically – nothing brings feeling better about being healed than a good case of suffering, right?

But that is not God’s plan.  He turns to us and says, I love you, I want you, come to Me, turn to Me, cast your eyes on My son and I will give you life.

How are you making it more complicated so you feel better?  Are you “doing things for God” out of obligation, trying to add to Christ’s saving grace with your good deeds?

God wants your obedience, but only the obedience of a loving and grateful heart.  God wants you to give things over to Him, but only through adoration and praise.  If you are doing it for yourself, then it isn’t for God.  Don’t make it harder than it is, just turn and believe and live.

My Answers:

7.
a.
Make a snake and put it on a pole, anyone who is bitten can look at it and live

b.
Graven image – crafting an image, especially one of a snake/serpent, 2 Kings 18:4 Hezekiah destroys it because people are worshiping it

8.
a.
The Son of Man must be lifted up like the way that Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness so that all who believe can have eternal life.  The image of the snake on a pole was a foreshadowing of the sin of the world being laid upon Christ’s body on the cross as He was lifted up to die for us.

b.
Solid and growing – I hope someday to have a faith as un-bending as that I see demonstrated in the children I teach.

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23 Moses

23.3 Moses 23, Day 3

Snake on a Stick

From Mount Hor to the Red Sea the detouring Israelites grew impatient.  When they grew impatient they grumbled, speaking against God and Moses.

The free food that God was providing for them daily, which nourished them without their need to till the soul was “detestable, miserable food.”

It would be like approaching a parent and saying, “all you give me is love and shelter and feed and clothe me and provide for my every need.  It is horrible.”

As a loving parent, you would like to set the reset button if your child did that and give them a glimpse of what horrible is actually like, while still showing your love for them.  I think they call that “tough love.”

That’s what God delivers, in the form of venomous snakes.

And the people respond correctly.  They confess that they sinned and they repent.  They ask Moses to pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.

God, does one better, He gives them a lesson about salvation.  He has Moses form the image of a snake on his staff and put it on a pole.  When anyone is bitten they need only look at the bronze snake and they lived.

Let’s break this last part down because it can be a little bit confusing.  If this is meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ raised up on the cross, why is it a snake?  Why did looking on it heal them?  Isn’t this the creation of a graven image?

It is a lesson about Christ.  He would be raised up on the cross.  But Jesus is not the snake.  Snakes have normally been used to represent Satan and wickedness.  But when Jesus was raised up on the cross and the sacrificial lamb he laid down his life and, through grace, descended fully from His kingdom to be a Son of Man.  When Jesus the man was raised up on the stake He carried with him all the sin of the world, dating back to the first sin in the garden and including all sin of all mankind of all time.

There was nothing the Hebrews did to heal themselves.  No special words or practices.  No medicine or magic.  One simple thing – they had to turn to this gift from God.  To do so was a profession of faith, simply because it doesn’t make sense.  Looking at something with your eyes can’t physically cure a snake bite with poisonous venom streaming through your blood.  But turning your eyes and heart to Jesus is the only way to have life, real life, ever lasting life.

But what about it being a graven image.  I’m sure this was a concern.  But God allowed and instructed Moses to use it as a teaching and healing tool with the Israelites.  The crosses we hang in our homes and churches and around our necks are a reminder, a teaching tool about the gift of salvation of our Lord Jesus.  They are not to be worshipped.  We learn in 2 Kings 18:4 that King Hezekiah was forced to destroy this bronze snake because the people had begun to worship it, burning incense to it.

I think it is amazing that this same snake is today the symbol of medicine.  The American Medical Association logo includes the snake on a stick as a symbol of healing.

http://www.transworldsystems.com/cmss_files/imagelibrary/AMA%20Logo%20for%20website.jpg

 

My Answers:

4.
They did not have a fight with Edom nor were they to take any of their land

5.
a.
They were impatient, downtrodden, making themselves miserable

b.
God

c.
Venomous snakes were sent among them – bit and many people died

6.
a.
They confessed their sin and repented – asked Moses to pray for them to God

b.
Confess our sins, God is faithful and just and He’ll forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

 

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