25.5 Moses 25, Day 5

How can a loving God…?

Our story today can be a major stumbling block to many people.  It also is at the heart of language that discusses the “God of the Old Testament” vs. the “God of the New Testament.”  This God appears to be ruthless, uncaring, unloving, where the one we grew to know through Jesus was forgiving and peaceful.

So, let’s back up and get at the heart of our repulsion to this situation.

1. People die.  We don’t like it that people die, especially when it is us or our loved ones, but generally, we understand that it is something that is going to happen and we accept it.

2. God is in control of everything.  To believe in an all powerful, all knowing, sovereign God is to also believe that God is in control.  Nothing happens that God does not allow.  God also has the power to stop anything and everything.  If God chose to have someone live to be 120 or 969 years old, they would live to that age.  That is what being in complete control means – the power over life and death.

3. If people die and God is in control then God is in control of life and death.  Here is where we start losing some people with a concept of a really small God.  They want a god who is in charge of “good things”, but “bad things” are just a matter of chance – outside of god’s control.  (I switched to small “g” because that does not describe the God of scriptures.)

4. Women and children die.  Again, not something we really like, but we understand that if everyone dies, it is going to include women and children and God is in charge of that, too.

5. Large numbers of people can die at the same time.  Plagues, earthquakes, natural disasters, flooding, tornados, tsunami.  None of these are things we like and understand (from a how it fits in God’s design point), but we generally accept that they happen and, if we also believe God is in control, then God allows them to happen.

6. In times of war, people kill other people.  Again, not something we like or look forward to, but we generally accept it as fact and the definition of war.

When we look hard at Numbers 31-36, our issue with the Midianites is not that they died (people die) or that women and children died (that happens to) or that large numbers of people died.  At heart, it isn’t even that God allowed them to die, because that has been happening ever since Adam and Eve.  It isn’t even that they died on that die because we can and do accept that, for each of us, there is a day and time that our life will end (again, and a sovereign God has control over that moment).

Let’s back up a second.  God didn’t need the Israelite involvement to have the Midianite people die on this particular day.  He could have done it with a plague (like those he allowed in the Israelite camp).  He could have opened the earth (Korath).  He could have rained down fire and brimstone (Sodom)  He could have used any of the plagues of Egypt, starvation, drought.  He could have chosen another conquering army to come in or even an internal coup.

God did not need the Israelites to deal with the Midianites.  And, let’s look at the Midianites.  These were a people who pimped out their women, their wives, mothers and daughters, to another nation (Moab) to use to seduce the Israelite men.  These were a people who openly worship Baal and gave safe harbor to Balaam.  These are also people who had Jethro as a priest and Moses’ wife and sons as kinsmen.  These are people who had the opportunity to learn about God and worship the one true God but they chose to reject Him and breed idolatry, sorcery and hate for God’s people.   The sins and choices of one generation can carry forward and infect generations to come.

God’s people were moving in to this land and they were going to conquer it.  They weren’t co-habitating it.  They weren’t moving in next door to friendly neighbors.  They were conquering the land and taking possession of it.  The people were going away, one way or the other – and, they weren’t going away willingly.

So, our complaint isn’t that there was a war, or that the Midianites died, or even that they died on this day, or even that they died on this day in large numbers or even that they died on this day in large numbers which included women and children.

Our complaint is that people, men like you and me, were used by God to carry out this action.  Why is it that we can be ok with their death and even be ok with their death with God in control but we are repulsed by it being done at the hand of men?  I think there are two reasons:

1. We don’t trust our fellow man.  We have grave concern that some delusional person will see this historic event as some justification for taking action themselves.  We see it as justification by other religious groups for their heinous actions because, well, the Jews did it.

2. We are afraid that God would/could/might ask us, as zealous believers, to do the same thing.

I think both are fully rational reasons to be concerned and repulsed, but, let’s face it – neither of them is an indictment against God.  If you “can’t believe in a God…”, that statement isn’t about God it is about yourself and your fellow man.

Also, that was then.  It is not a precedent, it is an isolated event at a specific time in ancient history.  It was then – this is now.  None of us are part of the 12 tribes of Israel freed from Egypt to move in to the promised land.

I lack trust in the crazies in the world as well – the ones who believe that their religious zeal gives them the right to behead people and set them on fire or kill or mutilate them in various ways.  That is not this passage and it is not truth.  I, too, have certainty they do not share my faith in God.

Jesus did not abolish the law, but He did fulfill it.  God is God.  The God who created the Universe is the one alive today.  If you have an issue with God, take the time to truly examine your complaint.  Is it really against God or, actually, is it against your fellow, fallen man?  If it is the latter, then accept and embrace God – He is our only source of power and protection against the wicked in this world.

 

 

I went long on this part but I wanted to mention one item about the Reubenites and Gadites.  Did you notice what it says in Number 32:1 – “They saw.”  Isn’t this, over and over again, at the heart of our problems and disobedience.  We put more faith in the sensory of our eyes than we do in the promise and faith of our heart.  We put seeing over believing.  As a result we settle for far less than what God has in store for us.  We are pulled into sin.  We doubt what we can’t see.  We have wandering eyes leading to impure thoughts.

Where in your life are you putting your faith in your sight rather than in God?  Where are you allowing your eyes to lead you into a state where you risk being a “brood of sinners”?

 

My Answers:

9.
a.
God is just, so, yes.  The Midianites harbored Balaam.  They worshipped idols including baal.

b.
God could have simply wipe them out for their sin.  However, he chose to allow the Israelites to do the battle to teach them, show them His strength and theirs and to test them on their obedience.

10.
a.
They had lots of flocks and saw the land was suitable for livestock – “do not make us cross the jordan”  (sounds like still a bit of victim mentality)

b.
No.  He thought they were shirking their responsibility to the nation – “a brood of sinners”

c.
They agreed to go into battle, “go ahead of the Israelites” but leave their women, children and livestock in place.

11.
a.
Historic reference.  It was the history of God shaping this nation, not unlike recording birthdays or height on a door post.

b.
weddings, mission trips, commitments to help missions, teaching occassions, application of gifts, joining organizations, churches

12.
To ensure there is not vigilante-ism but justice.  Gave time for witnesses to gather to tell truth instead of rushed judgment

25.4 Moses 25, Day 4

(1) Charging Station or Garden? and (2) Honoring to Women

Many of us have shaped an image of our relationship with God and church and the bible and worship like a charging station in a technological age.  We plug in to worship and devotion.  We recharge.  We then unplug and go out into the world.  As we wear down, we plug back in.  We talk about how worn down we get, how drained we feel and the energy of the spirit.

We have adopted this relationship analogy because it is one we use in other parts of our life.  Juggling between different priorities and responsibilities we apply some processing resources to one or the other.  We try to have “quality time” with our kids and family.  We even do the same thing to our kids and family by getting them plugged in to the right schools, teams, groups and activities.

But, I think our lesson today in Numbers 28-29 shows how that is a flawed mindset.  It is one that leads to an idea that we can justify delayed connection time if we “supercharge”.   Along the lines of, I can’t be at all of my kids games but when I’m there I’m on the front line, cheering the loudest and all decked out in the appropriate colors and uniform.

But in the list of worship activities for the Hebrews they look less like a recharging station and more like a garden.  God is getting ready to move them into their new home, the Promised Land, and He wants them to put down strong roots.  He wants to nourish those roots daily in worship to him.  He wants to tend the soil around the plantings weekly.  He wants to prune the plants and clear the weeds monthly.  He wants to prepare the soil and harvest the fruit at appropriate times each year.

How would our lives change if we changed our mindset to a more organic and living garden with God?  Would it help us understand the importance of steady nourishment and sunlight (Son-Light)?  Would it help us see the storms of life as part of the rhythm of what strengthens us?  Would we see our connection with God as a living connection?  Would it reduce the amount of up-rooting we do to ourselves with the constant un-plugging and plugging in and the stresses and strains all of that involves?  Couldn’t we produce for more spiritual fruit for God’s kingdom if we are firmly rooted in the Word of God?

 

On a separate note, I thought both Chapters 27 and 30 speak to God’s special love for women.  Many have formed an idea of the bible as being demeaning or derogatory to women.  I understand this argument when situations like the census where only the men are counted.  But, I think these 2 chapters also speak to the love and provision God intended for women.  Contrary to any other nation of their time, the nation of Israel in the promised land would have been very progressive.  Not only could women own property in their own name and retain title to it (ch 27), but they could also independently enter into binding contracts and agreements (vows) that were impacting not only on themselves but also on their families.  I don’t think the people of God did a good job of continuing to walk in the intent of these chapters, but it was heartening to see God’s love and appreciation for all of His creation, not just the male members.

 

My Answers:

7.
a.
They were children when the Israelites were first at Mount Sinai when the law was first communicated

b.
The pattern, daily, weekly, monthly, passover, first fruits,   Builds on past but points to the future.
God expects us to worship him daily, weekly, monthly and on special holidays

8.
Many think the bible message is derogatory to women.  This chapter helps show is protective and honoring, progressive and empowering (at least in parts).

25.3 Moses 25, Day 3

Whom do you live for?

I love the question in our lesson about what would you do/pray if you found you only had one week to live?  I think the answer to that question, at its heart, reveals for whom we live.

If you live for yourself, with one week to live, the focus of that week will be on yourself.  What will make you feel better?  What is on your bucket list?  Where to go, what to see, what to do.  Sky diving.  Rocky Mountain climbing.  You would want to cram in as much “living” as you could in the time you had left.

If you live for others your focus is going to be on provision.  What can you do to get your accounts in order, line up documents, accounts, people to leave a legacy and take care of those on whom you are focused.

If you live for God your focus is on His will and mission and expanding the kingdom.  What message can you leave?  Whom can you reach out to?  How can you use your circumstance to invite others into God’s family and live as an example of pure faith and trust in your final days?

As human’s we are all on a scale of all three of these.  Thinking of it as a three dimensional graph, we fall somewhere in the X,Y,Z space with few (if any) of us totally along one axis.

The reason I think this is a wonderful question is not because it helps identify where I am (if I answer honestly), but it gives me the ability to assess where I would like to be so I can continue to change my life and my priorities to move more in that direction.

As Christians, most of us would like to live less for ourselves and more for God and less for ourselves and more for others.  That is definitely the example we see in Moses.  When presented with the deadline (no pun intended) of his life, his concern was for the continuation of his mission work for the Lord and the care of a people that he loved.

So where are you now and where do you want to be in regard to the priorities of your life?

How will you live differently if you start “living like you are dying?”

How will you live differently if you start “living like you are going to live forever?”

If you are a Christian (and the rapture doesn’t occur in your lifetime) both of these are true statements.

 

My Answers:

5.
a.
He allowed him to see the promised land.  He honored his request for succession planning

b.
who would God appoint as the leader over the people

c.
provision for my family

6.
God picked him.  God had Moses give him some of his authority (when he did, the Holy Spirit transferred to him).  He did not see the Lord face-to-face.  He did not stand in the tent of meeting with God, Eleazar served as the intermediary.

25.2 Moses 25, Day 2

Everyone Counts in God’s Book

I found it interesting that the census, both and the beginning of the book of Numbers and her are to the person.  There isn’t any rounding or estimating.  Person by person, tribe by tribe, the people are identified and counted.

In the same way, every soul matters to God.  We live in country, in districts or provinces or states, in neighborhoods and families.  God cares about all of that and guides it, but every single person individually matters as well.

The number of people preparing to enter the promised land is almost exactly the same as those who left Egypt, but it isn’t the same group.  In the same way that you can stay the same weight while getting more fit by gaining muscle, the prior nation was a grumbling lot where this one is a fit, fighting machine.

I loved the way the daughters of Zelophehad exemplified the confidence this generation held.  “Give us property”.  There was no doubt and no hesitance.  They were confident, assured, that there would be property.  No “if’s” and no “maybe”.  God will give them the land.  They also didn’t ask or beg or try to negotiate, they spoke out a claim to what they believed should be theirs.

What a change this is from the generation of grasshoppers.

Are you operating with the same level of confidence in God’s promise?  Are you begging for scraps and hoping for salvation or, like these women, are you claiming what should be your inheritance as a child of God?

 

My Answers:

3.
a.
~40 years (a bit less because they didn’t have the first until the 2nd year and there is still time for the trans-jordanian tribes to build cities before entering, but we know Moses is still alive in the 11th month of the 40th year and he dies before they enter

b.
almost the same – 603,550 to 601,730

c.
603,547 Caleb and Joshua alone from those 20 years and older (at this point Moses is still alive whether he was counted in the census or not but that is why I chose -3 instead of -2)

d.
The number of fighting men for the army
To divide the territory
To show that even in the wilderness the people thrived

4.
They were bold in honoring their family name by approaching Moses and Eleazor, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and stating “give us property among our father’s relatives.” And the Lord said, they are right.
Women can own property and (from Num 27, if marry in own clan) at year of Jubilee it is returned to them .