Posts Tagged “Numbers”

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Get to know God better by reading through the Bible a little bit every day. Pray, ask God to reveal Himself to you, then read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The main readings schedule readings that allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in the schedule put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. He always does. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today?

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

Resting at the River's Edge May 2013 Reading Schedule

 

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word is the best way to get to know God. We learn who He is and how He works. It is His love letter to us, His instruction manual written for us, and it breathes His Spirit upon us as we read.

You’ll find our April reading schedule in the March/April bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

What treasures have you found while reading this week? Share them with the rest of us. You can email me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

Resting at the River's Edge April 2014 Reading Schedule

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonIn my previous blog, we looked at Numbers chapters 13 and 14 – the story of the Israelites seeing the giants in the Promised Land instead of God’s Promise – that He had already given the land to them and that their enemies were already “helpless prey.” Oh Lord, help us to see Your promises in our lives and not the giants that might temporarily be inhabiting our land.

Let’s read the end of the story. When we last left the Israelites, Joshua and Caleb were begging the Israelites to take God at His Word and enter the Promised Land. The Israelites would have none of it. Here’s just a sample of their whining:

“Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Numbers 14:3-4 (NLT)

A few verses later we read God’s perspective on the situation:

11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?
Numbers 14:11 (NLT)

We use softer words than God does. We might say that the people didn’t believe God or didn’t trust Him. God said “How long will these people treat me with contempt?” Other translations say “How long will the people despise me?” or “How long will the people reject me.” Those are serious charges. It gives us a greater understanding of how our lack of faith impacts God. God says “I’ve done all these things for you and you take my gifts, spit on them and then turn your back on me.”

I’m guessing that most of us have had experiences like that. There are people that we’ve poured our lives into and then at some point those people reject us. It is incredibly hurtful. It can be devastating! That’s how God “feels” when we don’t trust Him. At least that’s how He describes it!

Lord, forgive me! Lord, forgive me.

Moses took up the case of the Israelites and pled with God to spare them. God relented, bringing us to one of the saddest passages in the Bible:

20Then the LORD said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 
(Numbers 14:20)

The Lord forgives! Hallelujah! I’m so thankful that He is a forgiving God. But sin has consequences. Continuing with verse 21…

21But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’S glory, 22not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested me by refusing to listen. 23They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will enter it. 24But my servant Caleb is different from the others. He has remained loyal to me, and I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will receive their full share of that land. 25Now turn around and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”
Numbers 14:21-25

Sin has consequences. We would all agree with that. Yet we don’t like to think of our sin as having consequences…especially the consequence of losing the opportunity to receive all the promises God has given us. I see that clearly here. The promises God has given us are obtained through faith. When we choose to walk outside of faith, we are walking in unbelief and we disqualify ourselves from receiving those promises. Now God is gracious and He will still give us eternal life…He’ll even bless us in this life…but if we continually respond to God’s open gate by backing away from it, we risk receiving discipline instead of promises.

“Now turn around and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”
Numbers 14:25 (NLT)

I find this to be two of the saddest sentences in the Bible. The Israelites have just been told that their dreams of entering the Promised Land will never be realized. Those sentences break thousands of dreams and bring thousands of heartaches. What caused the death of that dream? Their own fear – their own lack of faith.

Lord, keep me from myself! Help me keep my eyes on You and Your great love and power – because I don’t want to have the experience of the Israelites. I want to live out the purposes God has for my life. I don’t want to hear Him say “OK. Turn around…head into the wilderness…”

There are lots of consequences to living in the wilderness. There are also blessings – their clothes and shoes didn’t wear out for 40 years, they had food they needed…but they missed out on living in the land flowing with milk and honey. They missed out on the grape clusters that were so large they required two men to carry them. They missed out on accomplishing the eternal purposes God prepared in advance for them to do.

I’ve said it over and over again – I want to live like God has left the gate open. I want to embrace the challenges looking at God’s outcome not the obstacles in the way. The obstacles are there just waiting to be conquered! I’m guessing that you do too. Maybe that dream has been buried for awhile, but I trust it’s still there.

Don’t take my message the wrong way. Being in the wilderness isn’t always a result of sin. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to fast and be tempted by satan. I am not saying that if you’re in wilderness it’s because you’ve sinned. I am saying that it could be because you stepped back from something God asked you to do.

Messed Up Hair and AllSo let’s examine ourselves. Is there something that has come to your mind as you’ve read the blogs in this series? Is there some area of ministry, some area of stepping out in faith, that you’ve been struggling to say “Yes” to God in? Don’t risk hearing God say “OK, turn around.” Boldly step through that gate. Run through it! Trust God to meet you, to have gone before you, to have already marked the giants as helpless prey. Take the first step and let Him show you that He’s laid out the plan and set things in motion.

The blogs in this series have come out of a sermon series I preached at my home church. Out of that sermon series we’ve started a new small group. It’s a group in which we share our God dreams and encourage one another to step into them. More than anything, I want to help you walk into the dreams God has placed in your heart…not get you excited about the possibility of walking into them and then having that passion die a slow death. If you’d like to be a part of a virtual group email me – Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com. We’ll get one going. Because living like God has left the gate open is worth it!

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonWhy aren’t we living life like Someone (God) has left the gate open? The reason at the top of my list remains the same – fear. My two previous blogs on the topic were about how the fear of condemnation keeps us from the freedom God has for us. The antidote to that fear is applying faith to the full gospel message – that not only are we given eternal life, but we are free from condemnation. It’s all right there in John 3:16, 3:17 and 3:18. Don’t stop reading at the end of 3:16. Eternal life is found in 3:16. Freedom from condemnation comes in the verses that follow. You can read the first blog in the series here, and the second here.

Today, I want to look at how fear keeps us from living boldly in the plan God has for our life. We’ll find that the antidote to that fear is the same faith we applied to God’s Word for our salvation. In this case, however, we’ll apply that faith to God’s ability to keep His other promises.

Turn with me to Numbers 13. Let me set the stage. The Israelites were about ready to go into the Promised Land – a land that God has promised them is flowing with milk and honey. A land that would be their own. One in which they would no longer be slaves. They had been slaves for 400 years in Egypt. Then God miraculously delivered them and He provided for them again and again as they made their way to this point of their journey. In preparation for the next phase of their journey, God said this to Moses:

“Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”
Numbers 13:2 (NLT)

Notice that the Lord described the land as “The land I am giving to the Israelites.” It was already a settled matter. God was going to give them the land. Send some men out to explore it! So Moses’ proceeded to do just that. He gave the scouting party instructions to check out the land and the people, and to try to bring back some samples of the crops.

The spies went out and indeed found the land as God had described it – a fertile where a single cluster of grapes was so large that it took two men to carry it back to the Israelites. They also gathered samples of the pomegranates and figs. Let’s pick up the story as the men return with their bounty and report their findings:

25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned 26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.”

28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

30 But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
Numbers 13:25-33 (NLT)

That last phrase caught my attention – “And that’s what they thought, too?” That’s the only verse we have that gives us any indication that the spies actually interacted with the residents of the land. Apparently these giants didn’t seem to have a problem with the twelve men stealing their grapes and pomegranates. There’s no indication that they paid for them. I’m thinking it would only have taken two of the giants to conquer the twelve spies, what with two of them loaded down with grapes and a couple of others carrying pomegranates and figs.

Do these men not realize that they just walked through the enemy’s camp unharmed? Apparently not.

Let’s just set that aside for now because there’s a more significant question:

What’s wrong with this whole discussion? What was the focus of it? Their whole focus is on what they thought they could do. They’ve looked at the circumstances and they’re no longer asking “What did God say?” or “What does God want us to do?”

How did the story start? The Lord said “send men out to explore the land I am giving them.”

We’re back to our issue of faith. The Israelites didn’t run into the land that God had opened the gate for them to enter because they were looking at the obstacles instead of at their miracle working, lavishly providing God.

Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Caleb begged the people to trust God. Read Joshua and Caleb’s plea recorded in Numbers 14, starting in verse 7:

7They [Joshua and Caleb] said to the community of Israel, “The land we explored is a wonderful land! 8And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us! 9Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
Numbers 14:7-9

“They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

I can’t get past that statement – “they are only helpless prey!” Other translations say “Their protection is gone.”

Yes, they have fortified cities…yes, they are big and strong…but they are still helpless prey. They have already lost their protection. They are ready to be conquered. God has opened the gate, let’s run through it!

Do you believe that God will provide all that you need when you run through gates He has opened?

Today’s application of faith is to believe in God’s ability to do what He’s promised – to believe in His power. The Israelites failed in that faith and because of that the failed to enter the Promised Land. Instead of trusting God’s promise, they looked at the circumstances, and chose not to believe that their enemies were already helpless prey, that they had already lost their protection. If they had believed God, that faith would have brought boldness into our lives. Do you hear the boldness in Joshua and Caleb’s words?

Keeping our eyes on the Lord and trusting in His promises brings boldness into our lives that gives us the freedom to live like someone left the gate open. It’s what Joshua and Caleb were urging the Israelites to do – “let’s go get ’em” was their message.

What gate has God opened for you? If you believe that God loves you unconditionally, have you run through the open gate? If not, is it because you’re looking at what’s on the other side with natural eyes instead of supernatural eyes. What is on the other side of that gate? The fulfillment of God’s eternal purposes in your life…and the impact God wants to have through you on the lives of others. Is that what you’re seeing? Or are you seeing the giants between you and that fulfillment? Don’t look at the giants, look at the promises of God. Those giants are inhabiting the land that God has already given to you. They are helpless prey – if you boldly trust God. If you boldly go into the land He will deliver them into your hands.

What kind of giants are they in your land?

  • Is it the giant of not having enough time?
  • Is it the giant of not having enough money?
  • Is it the giant of not having enough energy?
  • Is it the giant of not having the wisdom or knowledge?
  • Are they giants of long-established patterns that are hard to break?
  • Is it the giant of complacency – being quite comfortable where you are, thank you very much?
  • What have I missed? Whatever your giants are…

Messed Up Hair and All“They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

Let’s engage our faith – to take the promised land! That’s a big goal – a God-sized goal. Let’s engage our faith to pursue God goals that are bigger than we are. Let’s engage our faith to live like God has left the gate open for us!

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1Now the LORD said to Moses, 2“Make two trumpets of beaten silver to be used for summoning the people to assemble and for signaling the breaking of camp.
Numbers 10:1-2 (NLT)

I didn’t get very far in today’s Resting at the River’s Edge reading. I started with Numbers 10:1. I ended with Numbers 10:2. Sometimes God interrupts us after only a verse or two. That’s OK! Don’t rush past the whisper of God. Pause and camp out a bit! You can always catch up on your reading tomorrow or the next day or over the weekend. Never push to finish reading when God highlights a verse and speaks into your spirit.

That’s what happened to me this morning. I read verse two and my mind exploded a bit:

“Make two trumpets…to be used for…for signaling the breaking of camp.”

When the trumpet sounds pack up your things, saddle up your horses (donkeys, camels, minivan, whatever) and let’s move! This place you’re at now – it’s just your current campsite. God is going to blow the trumpet and it’ll be time to move on.

That is as true today as it was during the time of Moses. God immediately brought this passage to mind:

16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. 
1 Thess 4:16-17 (NLT)

When the trumpet sounds, there will be no packing up of our things or saddling up of our horses – we will rise from our graves or be caught up in the clouds supernaturally to meet the Lord in the air! Whew! I remember a dream I had about thirty years ago. I was a relatively new Christian. Studying the rapture was all the rave then. I had one of those dreams that are so realistic when you wake up you can’t believe you were dreaming. We were in swirling winds that had the force of a tornado but wasn’t being at all destructive. We were initially frightened, but then instantly had a knowing that this was the rapture – that we were being transported to be with the Lord. Our fear immediately turned to incredible excitement and joy! Wow!

What this passage and my dream remind me is that we are just passing through this life. This is our (very) temporary camping place. Phil did a study on heaven and in preaching called this life a “cheap motel” compared to the home that awaits us. He’s right. We’re just living in a temporary, cheap motel, folks.

And one day…ONE DAY…We shall hear the trumpet sound and whether we’re dead or alive, we will rise to meet Him in the air…and remain with Him forever! Did you catch that part of the verse, too – we will remain with Him forever. That won’t be a temporary camp. That’s our permanent home.

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

So while we’re living here on earth, while we’re living in this temporary home, don’t load yourself down with stuff you have to pack and carry when it’s time to break up camp. Instead, build a trousseau for your marriage to the King of Kings – build up treasures in heaven.

Tomorrow’s blog – How do we do that? How do we build up treasures in heaven? Stay tuned…In the meantime, travel light because one day the trumpet will sound!

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Here’s more details about the plan and our schedules.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. Let’s share the treasures God drops in our spirits as we read!

Also, NEW in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them.

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

Above all, enjoy God as you read! Let Him speak to you!
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here

Download only the March/April 2012 Bookmark Here

Download a Half-Page PDF of the April Reading Plan Here

Here’s April’s reading plan:

April 2012 Resting at the River's Edge Reading Schedule JPG

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings. (We found an “oops” in the bookmarks we uploaded last month – we forgot to include Feb 29 in the schedule. The bookmarks have been updated to reflect the additional day we get this year.)

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

I pray that you enjoy your time with God as you read each day.
Sandy

Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here Download only the March/April 2012 Bookmark Here Download a Half-Page PDF of the March Reading Plan Here

Here’s March’s reading plan:

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If you’re reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge reading plan, yesterday you read Numbers 34 and found the Lord defining the boundaries of Israel. He very specifically identifies the boundary lines on the north, south, east and west.

Israel had not yet battled for the land – it was still inhabited by their enemy. It would take much warfare to reach those boundaries. Yet the Lord defined the boundaries for them. As I read the passage, I wondered why God would do such a thing. Why tell them the vastness of their property when it is all inhabited by the enemy? Why tell them the limits of their property, regardless of how big it might be, before they fight their first battle?

As I continued to read, I experienced a sense of peace and wondered if that was the answer to my question. By telling the Israelites the specific boundaries of the land that belonged to them, God was doing several things:

  • He was encouraging them – building courage into them by declaring that the land already belonged to them. They could fight for it with authority and confidence because God had already given it to them.
  • He was giving them peace, because knowing their boundaries also meant knowing that there would be a time when they had conquered the land and battle would stop. When I’m in a battle, knowing that it will end brings me internal peace. It can be easy to fall into despair in the midst of a battle. Knowing that you are fighting a God-ordained battle and that the battle will one day end brings hope and light into the darkness.
  • He was giving them confidence by assuring the Israelites that He already saw into their future and knew what their boundaries were. In the midst of a battle, I love knowing that God already knows the end of the story; He has already seen it and seen me in it.
  • He was also giving them every reason to remain faithful to and humble before their God. All along, the Israelites have been journeying to the land that God has promised them. He was now establishing the boundaries of the land they were to be given.

I see the love and faithfulness of God, even as he tells the Israelites what their boundaries will be in the Promised Land.

Of course, God has established boundaries for us, too. They represent the length and breadth of “land” that we are to conquer and settle. They include many of the freedoms and the authority in which we walk as co-heirs with Christ. We can have confidence when we fight battles to win these freedoms – God has already established that those freedoms are well within our boundaries. We can be encouraged when the battle seems long, knowing that God has already given us the territory.

The boundaries God has set for us also include specific limits for our life and ministry. Many like to think that there are no limits on what we can do for God. I disagree. God has gifted each of us according to His plan and purpose for our lives. To operate beyond His calling on our lives is to be outside our boundaries. That’s not to say that we should never operate outside our spiritual and natural giftings. Often, God calls us to step into the gap and serve in an area in which we’d much rather stay far away from. God will supernaturally supply our need to accomplish His will in that interim position. We show our faithfulness to Him by going wherever He calls and leads. Setting these temporary assignments aside, however, it’s important that we not push beyond the boundaries that God has set for us. Has He gifted you to be an outstanding small group leader? Be satisfied with that ministry, not looking to expand your territory. In America, bigger is always better. In God’s kingdom, living life fully to the boundaries and not beyond is always best.

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1Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. 3So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

4The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

7The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Numbers 11:1-15

Moses has been through a lot. Standing up to Pharaoh all those times. All those plagues. The faith required to lead the people to this point. Finally he reaches a breaking point, crying out to the Lord “If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now.”

Wow. Pretty strong statement.

What drove him over the edge? It was the complaining of the people. Moses heard the people of every family wailing. Hearing the people entrusted to his care complaining is what sent him over the edge. I wonder how many times I’ve complained and it caused my pastor to cry out to the Lord in frustration? I don’t complain a lot…but any is too much. It grieves me to think of the impact that our complaints have on the men and women God has sent to encourage and strengthen us.

I could go on about how the people were really complaining about God, or how they were dissing the miraculous provision He was faithfully sending each day, or how the people were begging to go back to Egypt – the place where they were in bondage to slavery. But I won’t. I’ll let you glean those lessons for yourself. Today, I’m grieved that it was the complaining that caused their spiritual leader to doubt himself. “What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?” he asked God.

Let’s not be people who cause our leaders to throw up their hands in frustration and defeat. Let’s not be people who cause our leaders to doubt their own position and behavior.

Encourage your pastor today!

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15The Tabernacle was set up, and on that day the cloud covered it. Then from evening until morning the cloud over the Tabernacle appeared to be a pillar of fire. 16This was the regular pattern—at night the cloud changed to the appearance of fire. 17When the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel followed it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel camped. 18In this way, they traveled at the LORD’S command and stopped wherever he told them to. Then they remained where they were as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. 19If the cloud remained over the Tabernacle for a long time, the Israelites stayed for a long time, just as the LORD commanded. 20Sometimes the cloud would stay over the Tabernacle for only a few days, so the people would stay for only a few days. Then at the LORD’S command they would break camp. 21Sometimes the cloud stayed only overnight and moved on the next morning. But day or night, when the cloud lifted, the people broke camp and followed. 22Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. 23So they camped or traveled at the LORD’S command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses.
Numbers 9:15-23

This passage always fascinates me. On a number of different levels.

Visible Presence
God made His presence visible to all the Israelites – in the form of a cloud or fire. Imagine living in a place and time when God’s presence was always within sight! How would that impact you throughout the day? How would it impact…

  • Your actions?
  • Your speech?
  • Your decisions?
  • The way you think about yourself?

I can’t help but think that I’d be a better “me” if I was so obviously aware that God is always so close. Of course, He is always that close (or closer, actually).

Lord, help me to remember that You are always with me – not only when I cry out for help, but ALWAYS! May all my actions be molded Your presence.

Living a Life without a Plan
God made it very clear when and where He wanted the Israelites to go. I’m struck by how little the Israelites knew about their future plans. They had the big picture – the knew that God was taking them to the Promised Land, a place that would be their own, in which they would prosper and in which they would be free to serve their God; but they didn’t have a clue about where they would be tomorrow. Their lives were dependent on whether the Lord’s presence, either in the form of a cloud or fire, descended over the temple or lifted. Where they went depended on which direction the cloud went.

This is so foreign to me! My life is planned. My calendar reminds me what I will do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. And I like it that way. To live without even being able to plan what I will do tomorrow is pretty much beyond my comprehension. Now I know it was a hugely different society and their life revolved around making the trip to the Promised Land. All the same, when I went to sleep each night, I’d like to have an idea whether or not I was packing up camp when I woke up or continuing life in the same place.

My point is that there is a mindset that they must have had that is radically different from mine. They went to sleep without knowing where they would be the next day – other than knowing that they would be following the Lord. Although the context is quite different, I am reminded of this passage in James:

13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
James 4:13-16

I’ve never thought of my planning as a means of boasting or bragging, but I can see how it is. My calendar becomes “MY plans” – I easily lose the perspective of “If it is the Lord’s will.” The Israelites were totally dependent on God to define their schedule, and to the extent that our schedules define our lives, they were dependent on God to define their lives.

Lord, may I always submit my plans to Your plan. Create in me a total dependence on You.

Obedience 101
The Numbers passage makes it clear that the Israelites stayed when God hovered over the temple and they moved when His presence lifted. When the cloud/fire moved, they moved. When it stayed, they stayed. I am tempted to ask: If I knew God’s will as clearly as the Israelites did, would I respond with such obedience? Would you? I’m afraid there’s enough evidence in my life to not be able to answer that question affirmatively. In other words, “Well, I don’t have a track record of always doing so!”

Lord, build in me the desire and impulse to follow closely after you – when you hover, I want to stay put; when your presence moves, I want to follow.

Here’s a little experiment for us: Purpose for today, to respond to every prompting from the Lord that you recognize. I wonder how doing that would change my day? How will it change your day?

Father, I pray that you would open our eyes and ears to recognize Your promptings today! And give us the desire and impulse (and courage) to respond to them.

It’s interesting that the verse that follows the James passage I quoted earlier is this:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:17

James is saying that we fall into the trap of allowing our plans to keep us from following God’s will. When that happens, we are sinning. I’m sure this is true of me sometimes.

Lord, make me more responsive to You.

Responding to the Invisible God
But we can’t be responsive to God if we don’t see Him moving. God doesn’t reveal Himself as a cloud or pillar of fire any more (at least I haven’t heard about Him doing that for a couple thousand years!). Our challenge (or at least one of our challenges), is following the invisible God. That sounds like a great topic for my next blog. I’m off to write it. In the meantime, practice responding to what God has revealed. And let me know how it changes your day!

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