29.5 Moses 29, Day 5

Seeing through God’s Eyes

As Moses enters his last day of life at age 120, he is obedient to God and climbs a mountain.  From there we are told, “God showed him the whole land”.

First, I thought it was interesting how much this fit to the original promise of God to Abram that started all of this back in Genesis 12:1. “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.””

Second, I was curious if the view from Mount Nebo matched the biblical account. There is a lot of guesswork in trying to identify any specific spot in the middle east.  This writing took place long before accurate maps and there were no GPS coordinates provided.  But, from my research, there appears to be fair agreement on the location of Mount Nebo.  It is a mountain rising from Jordan’s plateau with a current height of 2230 ft above sea level, keeping in mind that the dead sea to its west is 1401 ft below sea level.  A mountain range rises to the west of the Jordan river, blocking the due west view to the Mediterranian Sea, but there are sight lines not obscured by other mountains.  We also don’t know the effects of erosion or other shifts in the landscape over the past thousands of years.

Here are maps I found online.  The first is from Near East Tourism, http://www.netours.com/content/view/257/30/ and the second is from biblestudy.org  http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/division-of-promised-land-to-twelve-tribes-israel-large-map.html

Sightlines from Mt. NeboDivision of Promised Land to the Children of Israel

As you can see, keeping in mind the very rough nature of these maps, the recount of the view starts with “from Gilead to Dan“.  Gilead is a city to the north and Dan is both a city and a territory belonging to the tribe of Dan, which are no where near each other.  You can’t see the city of Dan from Mt. Nebo but you would get very close to the assumed northern border of the territory of Dan.  It goes on to say he saw “all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea”.  Today we can’t see “all of” Naphtali, but we can see part of it.  We can see Ephraim and Manasseh and the land of Judah.  We can see the Mediterranean Sea.  Following down the river through the Dead Sea, we can see, “whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar.

But look again at the wording of this.  He saw Dan, Naphtali, territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, the land of Judah.  Keep in mind, that when Moses is called by God to look over all of this land, the Israelites have not yet crossed.  They’ve taken a census, but they haven’t divided the land.  The amount of land they possessed west of the Jordan, at this point, was zero.

What God allowed Moses to see wasn’t just a bunch of dirt and rocks.  It wasn’t the cities of enemies or the struggles and battles that lay before the Hebrew people.  Instead God allowed Moses to see the land as it was promised and would be.  A land belonging to the tribes of Israel, rich with food and water and livestock and massive in its dimensions.  He allowed him to see their earthly home.

And then, as Moses was still being allowed to look through God’s eyes, he would have been allowed to see his own eternal home.

Many have used the term “seeing is believing.”  Show me with my own two eyes and I will be.  I need to see it to believe it.  But what we see at the conclusion of Moses life is the heavenly version of that saying.  Believing is seeing.  I need to believe it to see it.  It reminded me of the story of the Apostle Thomas in John 20:24-29 which concludes with Jesus saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The promised land for the Jews was a foreshadow of something bigger, better and everlasting.  Open your heart and open your faith so that you can see.  How do you need to ask the Lord to remove the blindness of your heart where your view is blocked by fear, doubt or disbelief.

My Answers:

10.
a.
Covenant promise, unconditional, Forever, Everlasting possession, to Abraham and his offspring.  The key is that while this covenant refers to a physical place, land that can be walked and measured by width and breadth, it also refers to something bigger and more significant and more eternal.  If the land was all there was to the promise, it would not be forever or everlasting.  The promise was not just of the physical space but in the spiritual realm, a promise of everlasting life and eternal communion with kinsman and the Lord.

b.
It was a foreshadowing of the promise of God to an everlasting home.  Our eyes are not focused on where we stand, but where we are going.  Where we stand, we are strangers and foreigners, but where we are going is a spiritual (and ultimately physical) forever.

11.
filled with the spirit of wisdom.  The Israelites listed to him and obeyed the Lord

12.
True greatness comes by serving the Lord, not by human strength.

29.5 Moses 29, Day 5

27.5 Moses 27, Day 5

Personal Choice / Personal Accountability

One of our questions today regarded the choices we have made and what words we could use to tell others about choice.  As I thought about this I was confronted by the denial of accountability I see in those around me such as neighbors, people I work with and others that I know.  Everything seems to be someone else’s fault.  There is always someone else to blame: politicians, educators, big business, religion, even God.

There is anger, fear and resentment, but mostly it comes from a spirit filled with discontent.  As Deut 28:65 says, “an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”

We like to hide behind the “no one is perfect” line as justification for a life of rebellion.  But in Deut 30:11 God says through Moses, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”  He goes on to say it isn’t hidden in heaven or some foreign land. “No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

We are given freedom of choice, obedience or disobedience.  We choose the path.  But the path we choose has consequences.  A journey of disobedience brings hardship and curses.  These are not threats, they are reality of what an eternal life on the path that veers away from God looks like.  A journey of obedience brings blessings.  That does not mean there will not be trials and hardships, in fact, God promises His people there will be those things.  The difference is that, while neither path is without difficulty, the path of righteousness is one traveled along side God who promises to lift us up and carry us along when things get too tough.

Think about this in the “then and there” of it being delivered by Moses to the Israelites.  God has committed to take them as His and given Himself to be theirs.  He has formed an everlasting relationship with them.  But, even as He recommits to that relationship, He knows they will cheat on Him.  He knows they will disobey and worship other gods.  He knows they will commit atrocious and deplorable acts meant to cause Him pain.  He knows they will become so distant and callous to the gift that He is giving them, a gift of peace in the promised land, that they will completely lose this book of the bible and it will remain lost in a pile of debris in the back of the temple for years until it is uncovered during a remodeling project.  And, yet, not only does He commit to the relationship with them but He promises that after they do these hurtful things, He will still take them back and even cut those things out of their heart as if they never had occurred.

The choice, the path that leads to life and prosperity or the path that leads to death and destruction, was theirs as it yours and mine.  But make no mistake, we choose our own path and live with the consequences of that choice.

If you are on the wrong path, if you are traveling alone or living a relationship with God that treats Him as a spare wheel to be pulled out in times of trouble instead of a steering wheel to keep you out of trouble, you are not stuck.  God always provides and on-ramp to bring you back onto the road of salvation.  He is one prayer away from sending in the rescue crew of Son and Spirit to save you from the mess you have made.

I choose to make my own choice.  I choose obedience to God.  I choose life.  What do you choose?

My Answers

10.
a.
return to the Lord and obey Him with all your heart and soul

b.
circumcise their hearts

c.
While God wants and expects me to be obedient, He will forgive my disobedience, even to the extent of “cutting it out of my heart” so that it is no more and welcome me back and reconfirm His relationship with me

11.
a.
life and prosperity, death and destruction

b.
I choose life.  I choose a sacred relationship with God to belong to Him and to put all my trust in Him

12.
Because He loved them.  Because He knew the sin they would commit and, in love, wanted to warn them to change their ways.
The law was a guardian to protect the people (protective custody) as those belonging to God until the day that Christ came and paid the ransom for their souls

27.5 Moses 27, Day 5

27.4 Moses 27, Day 4

A Holy Covenant Relationship

All of our study this week in Deuteronomy, starting in Deuteronomy 26:17 and continuing through Deuteronomy 29, reminds me of a wedding ceremony.  You can hear it in the language of the scriptures:

17 You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws—that you will listen to him. 18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised

Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God.

10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

I believe this analogy is fitting.  God wants an intimate relationship with you and with me.  He actually wants a vow larger than a wedding vow.  A wedding vow lasts for a lifetime.  God’s desired relationship lasts for eternity.  God’s commitment in His covenant is you will be His and He will be yours.

As we grow in our relationship with God we see and understand more of Him.  More time in the Word also builds a closer relationship with God and opens our eyes to His nature and attributes.  As God reveals Himself to us, that revelation is something that can never be taken away.  God wants to continue to reveal the secret things, the things we cannot understand without first understanding who God is.  Each of those “things revealed” is a gift, an everlasting gift.  Our mind may not be able to fully understand all of who God is, but that doesn’t mean it is something that is held as a secret from us, it is just something we cannot yet understand.  If someone were to ask me a question about Quantum Physics, I wouldn’t know enough to begin the conversation.  Yet, someone who has spent their life in study of it may grow in their appreciation of how much there is yet that we don’t know or understand.  God is bigger and deeper than quantum physics, yet, like an amazingly patient teacher, each day He is willing to teach us more about Himself.

 

My Answers:

7.
13. confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you

8.
Idolatry

9.
a.
God’s judgments and His paths

b.
The law, the covenants, God’s love and mercy

c.
God’s warnings to His people out of His love for them.  God’s patience.  God’s willingness to listen to prayer, that God is approachable.  The correct posture for obedience: up/worship, around/love, down/fear of God.

27.4 Moses 27, Day 4

27.3 Moses 27, Day 3

I do it myself

When our kids were younger we would often here them say, “I do it myself”.  They didn’t want help.  They didn’t want direction.  They wanted to exercise their independence.

God doesn’t restrain or restrict our independence.  He made us and He made that as part of our nature.  He wants us to make choices.  But, like a loving parent, He wants us to make the right choices.

God lines up the events of our life.  Some to encourage us, some to challenge us and make us stronger.  This is in the same way that a parent or teacher or coach would line up controlled events for us to practice and learn and grow.  God is in control.

And, He wants to bless us along the path of life.  He wants us to be blessed.  He wants us to be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.  Blessed when we come in and blessed when we go out.  Blessed in our work and in our leisure.  Blessed in our families and against our enemies.

I think of it like a special protective coating that God has for us every single day, like sunscreen or the de-icing solution on airplanes.  God wants to wash a blessing over us every single day that permeates our physical self, our thoughts, our words and our actions.

But how often do we side step the blessing or shove it out of our way like a child wanting to “do it myself”?  How often do we reject not only the blessing but reject God pushing him to be behind us instead of the one who goes before us?  How can you stop right now (seriously, right now) and ask God to pour His blessing over you to change the rest of the way you live out this day?

 

My Answers:

5.
To be blessed, to be blessed when you come in and go out, to enjoy God’s provision of food/shelter/defeat of enemies, To be established as His holy people, to walk in obedience to Him, abundant prosperity, opening the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty

6.
a.
32.  Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand.

b.
They disobeyed by not driving out the enemy in the promised land, disobedience led to famine during the time of Elisha, and ate their own children

c.
To have increased obedience.  To enter obedience joyfully.

27.3 Moses 27, Day 3

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

24.5 Moses 24, Day 5

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

 

24.4 Moses 24, Day 4

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

 

24.2 Moses 24, Day 2