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

24.2 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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22 Moses, Uncategorized

22.3 Moses 22, Day 3

Law vs. Grace / Trust in the Word

Moses’ times were marked by “The Law.”  In particular, we see in our lesson today the challenge of the law.  Moses was a humble and faithful servant.  At this point in the scriptures he is probably well over 100 years old.  He has not been perfect, but he has been faithful in his God-appointed task of bringing the Israelites up out of Egypt and into the promised land.  But, he will now not be going into the promised land himself.  There is no gray-area in “the law”, there is either obedience or disobedience, adherence or rejection.  Moses disobeyed.  He did not honor God as holy.  Under the law, he was inadequate.  In tomorrow’s lesson, though, we also see God’s grace.

How often in my own life do I put my trust in something tangible over the sufficiency of the Word of God?  I can feel more comfortable and more secure with something I can touch or hold.  I’m often shaped more by the words of Theodore Roosevelt to “speak softly and carry a big stick”, putting my faith more in the stick than the speech.  But the scriptures teach the opposite.  By far, the Word of God is more powerful than any stick.  “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Heb 4:12

God, please give me the ears to hear the power of your word and the voice to speak it boldly!

 

My Answers:

6.
a.
Take the staff, speak to the rock in front of them and it will pour out its water

b.
took the staff, gathered the people, spoke to the people (chastising them – taking credit “must we”), struck the rock twice with his staff

7.
a.
took credit, disobeyed, put trust in the staff instead of in God – they wanted something physical, not just verbal

b.
physical connection with the rock instead of verbal – taking credit

c.
when I live in doubt and worry about a situation

8.
a.
“you will not bring this community into the land I give them”

b.
1. of anyone, they knew better, 2. They each had interceded repeatedly, the fact that neither objected or interceded shows they did not see it as unmerited, 3. They already knew they weren’t going in (God had already said only Joshua and Caleb – Ex 14:30)

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22 Moses

22.2 Moses 22, Day 2

Slave Mentality

Before getting into the heart of today’s lesson, we have one verse noting Miriam’s death.  This past week I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by an evangelical group with a mission to help women in the middle east.  In many parts of the world, the middle east in particular, women are extremely dis-empowered.  They have absolutely no say in the conflicts, no voice and no vote.  They normally are not the ones standing up and shouting or raising firearms.  Yet, they face all the consequences and hardships.  While little was said about Miriam’s final days, months or years, we know that she died in the wilderness not in the promised land.  She was not one of the spies.  She was not a shouting voice.  Yet, the consequences of their actions also affected her.  We need to diligently be mindful of and pray for those in similar situations.  We need to be mindful and prayerful in all of our decisions to recognize the decisions affect not only me but also those around me.  We speak for our households in our actions – we need to speak correctly, as Joshua will say, “As for me and my house, we serve the Lord.”

In the core of our lesson today I saw again the “slave mentality” of the Hebrew people.  They saw themselves as victims, as slaves.  There were no armies forcing them to remain.  There were no palace guards.  They were free.  There were huge benefits of staying together, but, it was choice not force that bound them.  Yet, they took no responsibility.  Starting in vs. 4: you brought us into this wilderness, you brought us up out of Egypt, you brought us to this terrible place.  You, you, you.

This wasn’t Moses’ or God’s choice.  They were being provided with daily manna, that tasted like a sweet coriander, but they complained about the lack of grain and figs in the land.  They were shown bunches of grapes so massive it took 2 men to carry, but they complained about the lack of grapevines and pomegranates. They were brought to a land of milk and honey, the promised land, but rejected it.  But, in their mind, it wasn’t their fault.

It almost seems that  Moses could take the Hebrew out of slavery but he couldn’t take the slavery out of the Hebrew.

How are you viewing your life with a victim or slave mentality?  What are you blaming on other people or circumstances?  Are you living as a victim or victor?

My Answers:

3.
The lack of detail.  She did not get a say in the entry into the promised land, none of the women did, yet, she suffered the consequences.

4.
a.
How little things change.  God is providing daily food and again and again they fall into the same patterns

b.
I think they were mostly being dramatic.  No one was forcing them to continue together.  If they wished to separate from the community, it was their prerogative

5.
He did not demonstrate anger against them, as if resolved that they were a path to the next generation

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19 Moses

19.4 Moses 19, Day 4

Complaining springs from ingratitude

Part of our aim for this week is that complaining springs from ingratitude.  I love the imagery of the spring in that line and we see it in today’s lesson.

Miriam and Aaron have gotten themselves all wound around the axle about Moses’ new wife.  We don’t have a lot of information here.  We don’t know if something happened to his first wife.  We don’t know if there was some other tension or jealousy.  We don’t know if it had anything to do with race or nationality.  We just don’t know and I don’t think it wise to try to fill in the blanks.

What we do know is that “because of his Cushite wife” Miriam and Aaron “began to talk against Moses.”

What is interesting in the imagery of the spring is that, while they were wound up about his wife, that is not what popped out.  They way they sprung up against Moses was by attacking his relationship and standing with God.  The words punched at his relationship as being nothing unique or different.  “has the Lord spoken only through Moses?”, “Hasn’t He also spoke through us?”

There are times in our lives where we, too, can get “all wound up” about something.  Just like that spring, the issue coils around our heart, storing up all this negative energy.  When we release it, it springs out, uncontrolled and normally not in a matter that has anything to do with what the real issue is, but just a way to inflict harm to the other person.

But, not only is that not a healthy approach, but it is also not the biblical approach.  God recognizes we are human.  He recognizes there will be disagreements among us.  Have you noticed all the laws and guidelines He has been putting in place to address these disagreements and disputes?  Have you noticed the 70+ elders he has put in place to help the people in these areas and how he equipped them with His spirit?  God does not paint some make-believe land where everyone just gets along.  God knows we are going to get wound up from time to time especially about family and especially about leaders and especially about family who are leaders and believers.  We hold them to a higher standard and, well, sometimes we see things in them that we consider to be unaddressed faults.

But the biblical approach is not to become a spring.  Instead, we are called to unwind the concern with a fellow family member to the brother in the presence of God.  We are to release the energy, not attack with it, and get to the core of the situations.  We are to trust God and hold to His words, but also to model His mercy and grace.

What are you wound up about?  When have you felt the negative energy stored up in your heart?  Who or what have you sprung out against, especially in a way that is totally unrelated to the core issue?  What fellow christian can you join with to unwind the energy and address the issue with your brother and with God?

Start with a focus on gratitude to God.  Start with the words, “thank you, Lord” and then keep saying it as you let the negativity unwind.

My Answers:

8.
a.
Moses’ sister, watched over him in the nile, approached pharoah’s daughter, lived as a slave in Egypt, was a prophetess, leader, singer of songs
b.
He married a Cushite woman.  We don’t know enough to draw conclusions (what happened to 1st wife)  other than the fact that God, who knew her heart, was displeased and the wording in the bible implies jealousy and lack of humility

9.
a.
He didn’t respond, at least not directly.  He likely talked with God about it (history of doing that)

b.
grow sad, frustrated, humiliated, angry.

 

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18 Moses

18.5 Moses 18, Day 5

Multi-Sensory Experience

I was struck in our lesson today about how God connects with us not only on every level but through all of our senses.  The sight of the cloud by day and fire by night.  The smell of the burnt offerings and incense.  The feel of hands upon the scape goat.  The sound of the trumpet.  The taste of the unleaven bread and roasted lamb of passover.

It reminded me of a Sunday school lesson on Daniel in the Lion’s den from Daniel 6.  After the angel closes the mouths of the lions and Daniel survives his night locked in their den, King Darius issues a decree recorded in Daniel 6:26, “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.””

Our God is alive.  He is not some talisman or good luck charm.  He is not a rock we rub for good luck or a piece of wood we wave about.  He is not your lucky pair of gym shorts (although those may be alive in a different, gross way).  God is living.  He hears, He smells, He gives, He looks, He wept, He is jealous, He created, He has a mighty hand, He breathes, He speaks and He loves.  (some related verses from the bible)

God’s wants to connect with us in every way, not only in every sense (literally), but even ultra-sensory.  He wants to dwell within us, to wash us clean of our sin and to tend to and grow the garden of our heart.  He wants to continue doing this.  With special days of celebration.  With sabbath days and years of peace and rest. But also in every moment.  Accepting God isn’t an event that is done and complete.  It is more like a wedding or even more so, a birth.  It is the start of a whole new life in every way, shape and form.

What dead charms do you put trust in instead of God?  How are you approaching the living God?  Are you doing it with a repentant and humble heart or with pride in the good works you’ve accomplished?  Do you seek a real relationship with Him?

My Answers:

11.
a.
1 year (it was the beginning of the second year, passover occurs on the 14th day of the new year, or at least it did at that time until the Jewish new year was changed after the time of Jesus when the temple was destroyed).

b.
It was a commandment of God.  It was a commemoration of a critical event.  It only happened once a year.  It was defining.

c.
Sometimes get distracted but ask God to continue to show that He is present in the worship

12.
a.
the cloud covered it when the tabernacle was set up and looked like fire at night, whenever it lifted they set out til stopped

b.
2 trumpets, all called to order, 1 only heads of clans, when blast east tribes set out, when 2nd blast south side, sons of A blow

c.
with sight and sound, by what I see and hear

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