Monday, February 19, 2018

Beyond a buddy God

 "Psalm 50 - The Lord Summons the Earth" by Moshe Tzvi HaLevi Berger


TODAY'S SPECIAL:
 Numbers 31-32; Psalm 50

TO CHEW ON: 
"You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
but I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes" - 50:20,21


We put ourselves in danger of making some of the most serious errors about God when we think of Him as being just like us.

How could a God who is all-loving and all-powerful allow evil, we ask,  and manufacture a God who is either not all-powerful or not love.

How can a God who tells us to be humble, demand that we praise Him, we wonder, and manufacture a God who is all ego or so meek and mild as to be of no consequence.

In Psalm 50, Asaph challenges the misconception that God is altogether like us. He points out that:
- God is the creator (Psalm 50:1,2).
- God's presence is mysterious and awe-inspiring (Psalm 50:3).
- He is an altogether capable, righteous judge (Psalm 50:4-6).
- He doesn't need us or our possessions (Psalm 50:7-13).
- Rather, we need Him (Psalm 50:14-15).
- His silence and lack of reaction to our rebellion don't mean that He doesn't see or care (Psalm 50:16-21).

Our human minds and imaginations, limited as they are by time and space, find it hard to conceive of a God who encompasses all the descriptions of Him in the Bible. There comes a time when we need to throw up the hands of our human understanding and opt for a different response. It is a response of faith. It expresses itself in an attitude of praise,  thanksgiving, and compliance to the rules and principles-of-living given to us by this God who is beyond our understanding. It's how Asaph responds in verse Psalm 50:23:


"Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God."

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You that You are beyond my imagining. When I don't understand You, I choose faith. Help me to resist the temptation to keep You in the box of my human ability to figure You out. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 50

The Bible Project VIDEO: HOLINESS (Theme series)



MORE: More thoughts along the line of Psalm 50
"Beware of a mindset that belittles and insults God. God is an absolutely unstoppable, unfailing, constant, volcano of power and fire and joy and help. He never wearies in the slightest and is omnipotently enthusiastic about his gracious purposes in your life. Never let a weak or miserly or tightfisted or weary or boring God enter your mind. He owns all and loves to glorify his power and grace by delivering people who call on him. Keep God great in your eyes for the rest of this year.") By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org emphasis added.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

The "sweet aroma" of sacrifice

Offering a sacrifice (Image: Pixabay)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Numbers 28-30; Psalm 49

TO CHEW ON:
“Command the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer Me at their appointed time.” Numbers 28:2

Do you have a favorite smell? Have you noticed how smells have the power to jog your memory and trigger your emotions? It’s interesting to note that apparently God too has a sense of smell, and that smells also cause Him pleasure or displeasure. At least ten times in Numbers 28 and 29 following the introduction of the idea in Numbers 28:2 (our focus verse), we read the expression “a sweet aroma to the LORD.”

This “sweet aroma” was not the scent of perfume, flowers, or the seaside, but the smell of burning. Every one of the “sweet aroma”s in our passage came as a result of a burnt sacrifice of an animal alone or offered with flour and oil.

The first time we read of God being moved by the aroma of a sacrifice is in Genesis 8:21, when Noah offered clean animals after leaving the ark. “The idea is that Noah’s sacrifice was a propitiation or satisfaction of God’s righteous requirement,” explains an article on GodQuestions.org.

The same is true of the sacrifices we read of in Leviticus and here in Numbers: “As in the case of Noah’s offering, what pleased the Lord was the commitment to offer worship in His name as He commanded” (above article).

God’s pleasure at the smell of a burning sacrifice was not an automatic reaction, however, but very much in tune with the attitude and actions of the worshiper. For when instituting this sacrifice system, God said to Moses: “And after all this, if you do not obey Me but walk contrary to Me … I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” - Leviticus 26:27,31.

There are at least two references to that sacrificial aroma in the New Testament that help to connect us today to God’s olfactory reaction to offerings in the Old.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 Paul challenges Christians to be the aroma of Christ to all. We know that Christ was the final sacrifice, the one by which we have life. Since His was a sacrifice of both His death and our life, the aroma of our lives should affect all around us (“…those who are being saved… and those who are perishing”) with reminders of life or death.

I ask, are we so dead to self, alive to Christ that our lives actually remind those being saved of life, those unsaved of death?

In Ephesians 5:2 Christ’s sacrifice to God (“for a sweet-smelling aroma”) is connected with His love. Paul challenges readers of His day and us today to walk in Christ’s sacrificial love.

Do we live with such love?


PRAYER:
Dear Father, Your reaction to the smell of sacrifice challenges me to be more complete in offering myself to You in the way Paul describes it, “… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God …” (Romans 12:1). Amen.
 
PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 49

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Zion dwellers

Jerusalem at night
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 25-27; Psalm 48


TO CHEW ON: "Walk about Zion,
And go all around her.
Count her towers; ....
For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death. Psalm 48:12, 14


Zion is the city of Jerusalem. This Bible dictionary description helps us see it in its natural setting:

"The city is set high in the hills of Judah, over 30 miles from the Mediterranean, and over 20 west of the north end of the Dead Sea. It rests on a none-too-level plateau, which slopes noticeably toward the southeast. To the east lies the ridge of Olivet. Access to the city on all sides except the north is hampered by three deep ravines" - New Bible Dictionary, p. 614.

The Sons of Korah here praise Zion for its beauty, its qualities as a refuge, the way its appearance instills fear in Israel's enemies, and its stability.

But it is more than a mere city. For in the Jewish mind of that day its grandeur and solidity seem to be equated in some way with God Himself. Jerusalem was the center of their worship and so its qualities become a reflection of Elohim, the God they worship:

"For this is God (Elohim)
Our God forever and ever
He will be our guide
Even to death" (vs. 14).

Metaphors for God abound in the Bible. He is compared to
  • a bird covering us with its feathers (Psalm 91:4).
  • a mother caring for her child (Isaiah 66:12,13)
  • a father (Psalm 68:5; Matthew 6:9).
  • a shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6).
  • a fire (Hebrews 12:29).

... and many more.

I love this picture of God as the city of Jerusalem. The city's elements of beauty, safety, and solidity remind us of the security we have in Him.

The last line talks about God as a guide. It fits so well with the Numbers passage we read today where Moses asked God who would lead the people after he died, and God told him to anoint Joshua. Joshua, with Aaron's son Eleazar the priest, would guide the Israelites into the promised land (Numbers 27:11). For us too, God has people (parents, friends, pastors, teachers, authors) to act as His representative to guide us.

PRAYER: Dear God, this picture of You as Zion reminds me of the safety and hope I have in You. May my life as a Zion-dweller be a credit to You. Amen. 

 PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 48

MORE: A city on a hill

I wonder if Jesus was thinking of Jerusalem when He mentioned a city on a hill during the Sermon on the Mount. Reading the physical description of Jerusalem, above, made me think of this verse—something we can take into the day.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. ... Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14, 16. 
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Cursed by ourselves

Balak and Balaam - Artist unknown
Balak and Balaam - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 22-24; Psalm 47

TO CHEW ON: " ' He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
Blessed is he who blesses you,
And cursed is he who curses you.' " Numbers 24:9


Today we read the prophet Balaam's three pronouncements over Israel. Though Balak, king of Moab hired him to curse that nation, divine intervention kept him from delivering any kind of hex. Instead God put only blessings in his mouth. He saw Jacob as numerous as the dust of earth (Numbers 23:7-10), Israel as a mighty lion (Numbers 23:18-24), and he finally pronounced over Israel a blessing as fruitful and ascendant nation (Numbers 24:3-9). His final oracle spoken to Balak (Numbers 24:14-24) even contained a messianic element as he predicted a future leader appearing as a star in the sky (Numbers 24:17).

One Bible commenter says about the Balaam-Balak incident:
"There should be no problem in relating this unit to Numbers. For one thing, the prophecies of Balaam affirmed that God's unequivocal commitment to his people will continue well into the future. … Nothing or no one is able to hinder God from doing that. An omnipotent God and not a human manipulator is the determiner of history" - Asbury Bible Commentary (accessed through this passage's "Study This" link on biblegateway.com - emphasis added).

But we know the preceding and following instalments of Israel's story—how checkered it was. Previously we read the story of a mass rebellion where Moses and Aaron's leadership was challenged by Dathan, Abiram, Korah and 250 of Israel's leaders (Numbers 16). A challenge to Aaron's leadership resulted in his rod budding supernaturally (Numbers 17). The people's complaints and grumbling provoked Moses to strike the rock instead of speak to it as God had told him to (Numbers 20). Poisonous snakes came into the camp as a result of their grumbling (Numbers 21). The chapter following the Balaam-Balak incident is titled "Israel's harlotry in Moab" (Numbers 25).

Our Bible commenter makes a wise observation:

" … the (Balaam-Balak) narrative functions as a condemnation of God's people, at least indirectly. The donkey does God's will. Balaam, albeit unintentionally does God's will. But what of Israel? … Israel's real enemy is Israel. God can change a hireling's words of curse into blessing but he cannot change a community's words of backbiting, criticism, and faultfinding into doxology. God's people need not fear the hex of a religious magician or the threats and taunts of a Moabite king. But whenever they degenerate into a community ruled by a quarrelsome, self-serving and envious spirit, there is cause for grave concern. Unholiness, not magic, is Israel's undoing" - Asbury Bible Commentary (emphasis added).

Might this not be equally true of us in the church? We are right to be concerned about the threats to the church's existence from the outside. Our secular critics would love to shut us down because of our stand on issues like abortion, changes to the definition of marriage, sexual orientation and identity, and euthanasia. But I'm wondering if the biggest threat to the church is not these outer pressures at all but disunity and sin tolerated within. The biggest threat to the church might be the church.

Let's search our hearts, as individuals and as a body, and stamp out these embers of quarreling, selfishness, envy, immorality etc.—sparks that have the ability to ignite and destroy the church body from within.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to see myself and my sinful attitudes and tendencies through Your eyes. Help me to make choices for holiness so I will be an asset, not a liability to my local church and Your kingdom. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 47

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Discouraged

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 19-21; Psalm 46

TO CHEW ON:  "Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way." Numbers 21:4


Have you ever noticed how one little choice of bad attitude leads to the next and the next until you've worked yourself into a full-blown funk? That seems to be what happened to the Israelites in today's reading.

They have just conquered King Arad, destroying all the cities of his small kingdom south of Canaan. Perhaps the Israelites expected to enter Canaan from that point. Instead God led them on a detour away from the promised land. That understandable disappointment may have sparked their initial complaints.

They began with an attitude that is common — at least to me: discouragement — "discouraged" is also translated "impatient" (Amp, NIV, NLT), "depressed" (Amp), "irritable and cross" (Message).

Their complaints had typical characteristics:
- they were against leadership: "the people spoke against God and against Moses."
- they were against conditions: "There is no food and no water and our soul loathes this worthless bread."
- they had the typical faithless tone: "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?"

God's response—sending poisonous snakes among them—may have seemed harsh. But it certainly got their attention. The remedy—Moses erecting a bronze snake to which the bitten looked and were cured—foreshadowed God's final blow to sin through Jesus on the cross (John 3:14-15).

I ask myself, am I struggling with a typical though negative attitude today? Discouragement, impatience, irritability in my situation may seem like a harmless, even expected response to irritations, disappointments, and difficulties. But it is just such common attitude choices that got the Israelites into trouble way back in the wilderness and still easily trip us up today.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to guard my attitudes. I want to nip my faithless bent in the bud before it blooms its toxic flowers of complaining, unbelief and depression. Amen

PSALM TO PRAY:  Psalm 46

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Are you a loyal bride?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 17-18; Psalm 45

TO CHEW ON: "Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father's house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him." Psalm 45:10-11

This psalm is subtitled "The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride" in my Bible. The picturesque images of a middle-eastern marriage ceremony with a king welcoming his new bride grow heavy with meaning as we think of them in terms of the spiritual wedding of Christ and His bride. Of course we recognize this as a theme that flows through the Bible.

One aspect of this theme is the couple leaving their childhood homes and establishing a new home together. It's a principle as old as creation: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh" - Genesis 2:24.

Of all the expressions in the Bible, Ruth's declaration of loyalty to her mother-in-law (even after her husband was dead) is the most poignant. Not surprisingly it is often used in wedding ceremonies:  
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God - Ruth 1:16,17.

My Bible's commenter explains how the instructions for a bride to leave her old home apply to Christians in the church age: "The bride of a king was often from another nation, and so she had to break with her own culture to marry, just as Christians now must forsake marriage to worldly things in order to be part of the bride of Christ" - Dick Iverson, notes on Psalms, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 723 (emphasis added).

And so we do well to ask ourselves, are we living totally and unreservedly in the home of our husband the Lord Jesus? Or do we still hang on to bits and pieces of our worldly homes from the past?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am so honored to be part of Your Bride. Help me to be faithful bride who incites Your desire because my loyalty is all to You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 45

MORE: Spiritual adultery

We recall how many of the prophets speak of Israel's backsliding and worshiping idols in terms of marital unfaithfulness--adultery. The prophet Hosea was even commanded to marry a harlot (Gomer) and when she left to go after other men, he had to repeatedly bring her back home. This was a picture to Israel of how God pursued them.

Andrew Peterson's powerful song "Hosea" pictures Gomer's waywardness and her final response to Hosea persistently coming after her (just as God pursues us).

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 Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Caleb spirit

Image: Pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 14-16; Psalm 44

TO CHEW ON:
"But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went and his descendants shall inherit it."  Numbers 14:24

We all have friends who could be characterized as positive, who can be counted on to have a can-do attitude, who see life's glass half-full. They are Caleb kind of people.

I love how Caleb and Joshua stand up to the crowd with their faith in God and Moses intact, even after seeing Canaan's giants. Instead of focusing on the size of their obstacles they report the richness of the land and claim the power of God over those giants: "...for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them." Don't you just love his attitude!

Even God took note and said to Moses, "...My servant Caleb...because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully I will bring him into the land where he went..."

His exploits continue. For he indeed survives the forty more years of wilderness wandering and drives out the giants from his Canaan territory (Joshua  14:10-14; 15:14).

What an example to us. What challenges—giants if you like—have we faced so far in 2018? Whatever they are, let's face them with Caleb-like faith as we:

1. Envision the future we desire - Numbers 14:8.

2. Focus on how big and powerful God is - Numbers 14:9,10.

3. Speak words of hope and faith, not despair and unbelief. Earlier Caleb spoke words of faith (Numbers 13:30). Again in our reading he speaks of the delight of the land not the terrors of its citizens, while the other spies discourage the people by filling them with fear. God pronounces His verdict on all these words: "'Say to them, "As I live, just as you have spoken in my hearing, so I will do to you"'" Numbers 14:28 (emphasis added).

By the outlook we choose and the words we speak we cement our attitudes more firmly into our psyches and put our future and the future of our descendants on one course or another.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of Caleb. Please help me cultivate a Caleb spirit as I enter the new year. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 44

MORE: Are we our own problem?
"Where there is no vision, the people perish" - Proverbs 29:18

"The Israelites had no positive vision for their lives—no dreams. They knew where they came from but they did not know where they were going. Everything was based on what they had seen and could see. They did not know how to see with 'the eye of faith.'

".... (Referring to Numbers 14:2-3) I encourage you to look over this passage carefully. Notice how negative these people were—complaining, ready to give up easily, preferring to go back to bondage rather than press through the wilderness into the Promised Land.

"Actually, they did not have a problem, they were the problem" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, pp. 181, 183.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Monday, February 12, 2018

Help for the Frustrated Leader

Moses helped by Aaron and Hur - Exodus 17:12
Illustration from Treasures of the Bible



TODAY’S SPECIAL: Numbers 11-13; Psalm 43

TO CHEW ON: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Has the LORD’s arm been shortened?’” Numbers 11:23

Here we see Moses so discouraged and frustrated with the complaints and grumbling of the people, he wants to die.

His cry out to God was not ignored. Here is a short list of how God came to his aid and the aid of other frustrated and discouraged leaders in the Bible.

1. He gave Moses helpers,
putting His Spirit—the Holy Spirit that was on Moses—onto 70 leaders of the people so they could help him - Numbers 11:24,25.

2. Before David became king and was on-the-run from Saul, on one occasion his camp was raided by Amalekite bandits. All their stuff and wives were taken. David’s response to his own outrage and the anger of his men: He “strengthened himself in God” - 1 Samuel 30:6.

3. For Solomon, his request for wisdom and God’s reply happened in a dream. The next day he went about his work as usual, perhaps not knowing if anything had changed. However, it was soon evident, by the wisdom with which he judged the people, that God had indeed answered his prayer - 1 Kings 3:28.

4. Elijah, after fleeing for more than a day from Queen Jezebel, fell asleep, awoke to an angel-prepared meal, slept some more, ate again, and carried on “in the strength of that food” for 40 days and nights - 1 Kings 19:5-8.

5. In our reading additionally, God’s way of solving the meat problem was, in effect, to do a miracle. When God promised meat and Moses objected: “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered to provide enough for them…?”  God replied: “‘Has God’s arm been shortened?’” - Numbers 11:23. (“‘Has the Lord’s hand [His ability and power] become short [thwarted and inadequate]?’” - Numbers 11:23 AMP.) In other words, When was I ever limited by anything, to keep My promises?

These are still some of the ways God uses to bring us out of discouragement and provide help (some He does for us; some we do ourselves).


We defeat discouragement by:
  • Accepting help.
  • Changing our focus from the situation to God.
  • Going about our tasks with faith, confident that God has answered our prayer.
  • Attending to our physical needs for rest and food.
  • Trusting that God can, and sometimes does, respond with miracles.


PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to use the means available to me to dispel discouragement. You and Your plans are never thwarted! Help me to believe this at a life level through up and down times. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 43

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Prayer practices from the Psalms

prayer
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 8-10; Psalm 42

TO CHEW ON: "Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance - Psalm 42:5


In these two Psalms (42 & 43) we see a person who is praying from a place of deep distress. I love it that Bible writings like this show us that people who lived back in Bible times were a lot like us. They felt discouraged, intimidated, depressed, overwhelmed, and very needy. But this Son of Korah wasn't content to stay in that dark place. These psalms are his prayers and they illustrate some excellent prayer practices.
  • He tells God how much he needs Him and why - Psalm 42:1,2. His need seems to be based in part on the scorn of people around him. Those mockers point out that God hasn't come to his rescue so maybe He doesn't even exist. Our Son of Korah tells God about this - Psalm 42:3,10.
  • He remembers the good times of going to 'church' with the multitudes (Psalm 42:4) and the nation's history with God (Psalm 42:6) and in this way bolsters his faith.
  • He talks to his discouraged self. Three times he repeats self-talk that begins with "Why are you cast down, O my soul…(Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). A sidebar article about these verses says:
"…he refocuses himself on the promises of God, confronts the fears and contradictions deep in his soul, and challenges himself about every semblance of unbelief in his heart …. Faith comes alive by hearing the truth so the psalmist seems to be preaching to himself being renewed in hope as he reviews who God really is" - David Bryant, "Preparing Yourself to Pray," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 720.
  • He puts into words what he wants—exactly what he envisions God will do for him:
- Show him lovingkindness - Psalm 42:8.
- Replace his anxious nighttime thoughts with songs and prayers - Psalm 42:8.
- Set him free from the schemes of deceitful, unjust men - Psalm 43:1.
- Send His truth and light as direction for living - Psalm 43:3.
- Bring him back to church with songs of praise - Psalm 43:4,5.
Maybe we should embrace some of these practices in our own lives. We could:
- Talk to God with brutal honesty—telling Him about our troubles and how much we need him.
- Talk to ourselves, repudiating our feelings with the truth of who God is and His promises to us.
- Recall how God has helped us in the past.
- Express in detail what we'd like God to do for us.

PRAYER:
Dear God, sometimes I feel a lot like the Sons of Korah. Please help me to remember these prayer practices and use them. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 42

MORE: Who is God? What are His promises?

"…Faith comes alive by hearing the truth so the psalmist seems to be preaching to himself being renewed in hope as he reviews who God really is," says our Bible commenter. What is the truth about God? What are His promises?

One of the best ways I've found to remind myself of who God is and what His promises are is to recall / recite Bible verses I have memorized. Verses like:

Exodus 14:14
Isaiah 54:10
Hosea 6:3
Matthew 7:7,8
Philippians 4:5,7

What verses would you suggest?

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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Be blessed

Jacob blessing Joseph's sons
- Artist unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 5-7; Psalm 41

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord bless you and keep you." Numbers 6:24

Doesn't your heart just take a deep breath and settle down as you read the verses of blessing in today's scripture? There is something in this Aaronic blessing that feels like a warm blanket when you're shivering, or a cool breeze on a hot day, or a table loaded with food when you're hungry.

This blessing of only three lines (actually one, partitioned by semicolons) contains six actions. Let's look closely at them in order to soak up every bit of this blessing's goodness.

"The Lord bless..."
To bless someone means to consecrate, make holy, honour, exalt, glorify, bestow happiness and prosperity on. It's a powerful enough interaction between people—how much more when the blessing bestowed is the blessing of the Lord. How rich we are!

"..and keep you"
Keep (shamar) means to guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save the life of. When we keep something we retain the possession of it; we don't give it away. God holds onto us in that way. How safe we are!

"The Lord make His face shine upon you..."
The word "shine" ('owr) alludes to the shine of the sun, to illumine, to become lighted up, to make shine as of the face. Watch a mother's face light up when she sees her child. That's how God's face lights up when He looks at you and me. How loved we are!

"...and be gracious to you"
Gracious (chanan[a]) means to show favour, be gracious toward, have mercy on. It is characterized by showing kindness, affability. To be gracious means to be full of compassion and mercy. God is disposed that way toward us. How favored we are!

"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you..."
The picture here is similar to God making His face shine on us. I see, in addition, a focused attention, like a parent looking straight into a child's eyes. God looks straight at and into us. How known we are!

"...and give you peace."
Give (suwm) means to extend, establish, bring to pass peace - a state of mental or physical quiet or tranquility, calm, repose, reconciliation, freedom from mental agitation or anxiety. When God pours His peace over  and into us, how settled we are!

May we realize every part of this blessing as we head into 2015.

PRAYER: Dear God, Your blessing is what we need and want more than anything else, as we enter the new year. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 41

The Bible Project VIDEO: Numbers (Torah Series)



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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Friday, February 09, 2018

The dangerous holy

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Numbers 1-4; Psalm 40

TO CHEW ON: “And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.” Numbers 4:15.


Being a priest was a dangerous occupation. I’m sure after the death of his sons Nadab and Abihu due to their careless entry into God’s presence with strange fire (Numbers 3:4), Aaron, his remaining sons, and all the Levites were extra careful to obey when God said not to go into the tabernacle (Numbers 3:38) and who was and wasn’t allowed to touch any of the holy articles of worship when packing up the Tabernacle to move (Numbers 4:5,15).

Contrast that with Jesus, through whom this law system was fulfilled. After He died and rose again women held him by the feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:9) and He invited doubting Thomas to touch His scarred hands and side (John 20:27).

The book of Hebrews explains this development in the story of humankind’s redemption:

“Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant” - Hebrews 7:22.

“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him… For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” - Hebrews 7:25,26.

I love that the word “harmless” is used here in the NKJV as a rendering for akakos (also translated “blameless,” “innocent” and "without guile or fraud".) It underlines the fact that now, we don’t have to be afraid to approach God because our death penalty has been paid — “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” - Hebrews 8:28. Because of Jesus we can come near to our Saviour.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life” - 1 John 1:1.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for satisfying the law with Your death so that I am redeemed and can approach God without fear for my life. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 40

The Bible Project VIDEO: Numbers (Read Scripture Series)



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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Does God discipline us with illness?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Leviticus 26,27; Psalm 39

 
TO CHEW ON: “But if you do not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments… I will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart” - Leviticus 26:14,16

“Remove your plague from me;
I am consumed by the blow of Your hand.
Deliver me from all my transgression;
Do not make me the reproach of the foolish.
I was mute. I did not open my mouth,
Because it was You who did it.” Psalm 39:8-10


Was David (the writer of Psalm 39) right in connecting his sickness to God’s hand of discipline? Reading Leviticus and Psalm 39 together, it’s hard not to make that connection.

In fact, the consequence of sickness as a result of sin is a connection made in other places in the Bible.

In the New Testament, when Jesus and His disciples were confronted by a man born blind, the disciples asked Jesus, was it the man’s sin or his parents’ that was the cause of his blindness. Jesus replied, neither, but this blindness occurred so God’s works should be shown in him (John 9:1,3).

However, Paul connected the ill health of the Corinthians with the careless way they were participating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:30). And James, when speaking of prayers for the sick, mentioned confession and forgiveness of sins (James 5:13-16) as integral to healing.

Exactly how God is involved in / causes / allows / disciplines with our sicknesses we probably won’t know until eternity. But one thing is certain—our repentance from sin resets our relationship with God. Even harsh Leviticus 26 bears this out:
“But if they confess their iniquity … then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham I will remember…” Leviticus 26:40,42.

I love how my Bible’s study notes sum this up:

“Re: “Then I will remember My covenant” (Leviticus 26:42): The theme that God remembers His promise and never goes back on His word is emphasized in the covenant relationship. The community of the covenant is never without hope. God is always ready to receive His people in repentance even after they have failed and abandoned Him” - Brad H. Young, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 167.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please convict me of sins in my life that make me vulnerable to sickness. May I be quick to repent and turn from them. Amen.
 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 39

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Orient your fragile life by the North Star of eternity

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Leviticus 24,25; Psalm 38

TO CHEW ON:
“My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.” Psalm 38:10


It doesn’t take much to knock the breath out of us. An accident, a natural disaster, or a bout of sickness (as David seems to be suffering in this psalm) and we are flat on our backs and wondering if we’ll see next month, let alone next year.

Bible imagery of the brevity and fragility of life brings home the sobering facts. A lifespan is referred to as a shepherd’s tent and a weaver’s loom (Isaiah 38:12), grass and field flower (Isaiah 40:6), and a faded leaf carried away by the wind (Isaiah 64:6).

God is aware of our slightness: “He remembered that they were but flesh, / A breath that passes away and does not come again” (Psalm 78:39); “He knows our frame;/ He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

But are we as aware? Most of the time, probably not. But when our lives are threatened (as David’s was by Saul - 1 Samuel 20:3), or we get sick (Psalm 38:10-12), suddenly we’re face to face with our mortality.

These can be depressing thoughts. However,  the facts of our fragility, brevity and apparent futility lose their power to get us down when we shine on them our hope of spending eternity with God. I love how Paul expresses this hope in 2 Corinthians 5:

“For while we are still in this tent, we groan under the burden and sigh deeply—weighed down, depressed, oppressed; not that we want to put off the body (the clothing of the spirit), but rather that we would be further clothed so that what is mortal (our dying body) may be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]” - 2 Corinthians 5:4 AMP.

Whether life is good for us now and we would love for it to go on like this indefinitely or we’re down and seemingly at death’s door, let’s hang onto the fact that when life here ends (which it will for all of us sooner or later) it’s not all over for us. And let’s orient our lives by the North Star of life in eternity with God:

“Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth away from Him] or away from home [and with Him] we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be well pleasing to Him” - 2 Corinthians 5:9 AMP (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to orient my life here and now by the coordinates of eternity with You in heaven. Amen.
 
PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 38


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Ancient food bank

"Gleaning" by Arthur Hughes
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Leviticus 21-23; Psalm 37

TO CHEW ON: "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 23:22


God makes no secret of the fact He is for the poor, pities the poor, and wants those that identify with Him to defend and help the poor. In today's reading we have one way people could do that: by harvesting carelessly, making sure there was something left for gleaners. Then, one year in every seven, they were to let fields lie fallow, leaving the entire volunteer crop for the poor (Exodus 23:11).

Here are a few other pro-poor policies and attitudes found in the Bible:
  • A relative should be allowed to redeem a poor person's possession (Leviticus 25:25).
  • The rich were not to turn away as in ignore or grow calloused toward the poor person's plight (Deuteronomy 15:7).
  • The person holding the poor person's pledge (or down-payment) was not to keep it overnight (Deuteronomy 24:12). (Perhaps because the pledge would be something the person needed for their very health or well-being, like their cloak for warmth).

The results and rewards of helping the poor also show God's sympathetic heart. toward them. The person helping the poor:

  1. is called "blessed" (Psalm 41:1) and "happy" (Proverbs 14:21).
  2. is loaning to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17).
  3. will get the wealth of those who take advantage of the poor (Proverbs 28:7).
  4. won't lack (Proverbs 28:27).
  5. will find their generosity helps them to follow Jesus in discipleship that readily abandons all to Him (Matthew 19:21).

God's attitude toward the poor prompts us to take a long hard look at our own attitudes. Do we avoid going to places where the poor will approach us? Do we "hide our eyes" from the panhandler, the raggy man seated outside Safeway beside his coin pot, the dusty woman pushing her grocery cart of blankets and bottles (Proverbs 28:27)?

It might be a good idea to settle on a strategy of sharing with the poor. Some ways that come to mind:
  • Give regularly to organizations that help the poor and homeless.
  • I read of someone who, when approached by a beggar, empties his pockets, giving him/her all the cash he is carrying at the time.
  • I heard of someone else who designates a monthly sum of money to give away to the poor. He gives it as the needs/requests come.

How do you help the poor?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your tender heart toward the poor. Help me to have Your attitude. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 37


MORE: The flip side.

The flip side of being a helper of the poor is being a helpee, that is, the poor person needing help. Most of the poor are not lazy deadbeats at all, but people who for one reason or another are needy.

Todd Burpo, author of Heaven is for Real found himself in that position when his four-year-old son became deathly ill. Here are his words describing what it felt like to need help:

"... pastors and their families are usually most comfortable in the role of 'helper,' not 'helpee.' Sonja and I had always been the ones who visited the sick, brought the meals, cared for others' kids in times of need. We were adamantly self-reliant—maybe in retrospect, to the point of being prideful. But that gruelling stint in the hospital snapped our pride like a dry twig and taught us how to be humble enough to accept help from other people, physically, emotionally, and financially" - Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real, p. 153.
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 Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 05, 2018

The lure of the occult

Divination - fortune telling cards, palmistry
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Leviticus 19-20; Psalm 36

TO CHEW ON: "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:31


What do we make of such a prohibition in our time of occult popularity? The paranormal is a movie and book genre of its own with a huge following. Many look at getting their palms or tea leaves read, or following their horoscope as a lark and entirely harmless. What about hanging onto objects that are supposed to ward off bad luck or attract good luck?

The Bible is very clear in its prohibition of witchcraft and related occultic activities.

  • God is against it - Leviticus 20:6, 27; Exodus 22:18.
The story of King Saul illustrates this. 1 Samuel 28:1-24 tells the story of his desperate seeking out of a woman with connections to the spirit world when he no longer heard from God. 1 Chronicles 10:13 gives us God's perspective on what he did.
The story of Manasseh is another example. His avid pursuit of the occult brought calamity on the nation (2 Kings 21:1-17).
  • Witchcraft defined: What exactly are we talking about? Deuteronomy 8:10-11 lists the activities that are called an "abomination" to God:
"For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead" (NLT).
Isaiah describes the speech of a medium in these spooky words:
"You will speak out of the ground; your speech shall be low, out of the dust; your voice shall be like a medium's, out of the ground; and your speech shall whisper out of the dust" - Isaiah 29:4. 
  • Sorcery is also condemned in the New Testament - Galatians 5:20; Revelation 21:8.
  • Witchcraft's root: The sobering words I will end with, though, are Samuel's words to King Saul after he had committed blatant disobedience:
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" - 1 Samuel 15:23.

If we follow the lure of the occult to its source, we find a familiar and perhaps not-so-foreign-to-us root: REBELLION. So even though we've avoided practicing blatant forms of occultism, we may not be as lily white as we'd like to think!

PRAYER: Dear God, I confess that I have been rebellious. Help me to see any heart rebellion for the serious issue that it is. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 36

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.



Sunday, February 04, 2018

Superstition

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Leviticus 16-18; Psalm 35

TO CHEW ON: "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons after whom the have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations." Leviticus 17:7

Were these people knowingly sacrificing to demons? The word "demons" - "having the form of a goat or a satyr" has overtones of animism. The picture I get is of a people puzzled by and fearful of natural phenomenon. But instead of acknowledging God as the creator and sustainer of life, they are trying to appease some folk god (goat or satyr) thought to be in charge of these things.

However it came about, this false worship offended God at the deepest level. An end note in my Bible expands on this:

"The greatest sin in ancient Israel was idolatry (see Deuteronomy 32:17)...The essence of the Jewish monotheistic faith was contained in the verse, "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" - Deuteronomy 6:4 (New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 153).

Though we ourselves may eschew any overt involvement with the demonic, I wonder if there remains a vestige of it even in the lingering hold superstitions have on us. Do we ever find ourselves thinking, after a day has got off to a bad start: There's bound to be more because bad things always come in threes? Or saying things like "Gesundheit" after a sneeze, or "Touch wood" after mentioning that things are going well? Or fearing Friday the 13th? Or avoiding black cats and walking under ladders? Or needing to wear certain lucky clothes and go through certain luck-generating routines before a sports event?

Any fear we feel, any changes in behaviour we make that are inspired by superstition show that at some level we're sacrificing — to what? Demons? God's prohibition to Israel through Moses's words in Leviticus ring across the centuries to us today: "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons..."

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to recognize false worship in my life in whatever form it takes. Please free me from bondage to superstition or anything else that would make me a slave to anyone but You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 35

MORE: Do you believe in bad luck?

Well don't! As John Piper writes in article he wrote on a Friday that was also the 13th day of the month:

"In Christ there is no Bad Luck"
"Today is Friday the 13th! Bad luck day.

In case this or any other superstition frightens you or, worse, controls you, take the sword of the Spirit and kill it.

Here’s a few sword thrusts that I use.

There is no enchantment against Jacob, 
no divination against Israel; 
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, 
“What has God wrought!” (Numbers 23:23)

Does this apply to us Christians? Yes. Because “It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).  That’s us. We are Jacob. We are Israel.
And because we are, "all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So in Christ we cannot be cursed. There is no jinx or hex that can stick against those who are in Christ Jesus. 

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13)

Christ took on himself every curse that is against me. God is for me and no one can successfully be against me.

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1John 4:4)

© 2011 Desiring God

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





Saturday, February 03, 2018

Praise seminar

TODAY’S SPECIAL: : Leviticus  14-15 Psalm 34

TO CHEW ON: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

This little psalm helps us understand some of the facets of praising God, both in speech and song.

Our praise encourages others to praise Him:
“The humble shall hear of it and be glad
Oh, magnify the Lord with me
And let us exalt His name together (34:2-3)
Oh fear the Lord you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.” (34:9)

Our praise dispels fear and brings boldness:
“I sought the Lord and He heard me
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant
And their faces were not ashamed.” (34:4-5)

Our praise can be an act of faith as we invoke God’s presence into our situation, no matter how fearful or mundane:
“This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him
And delivers them. (34:6-7,17-22)
So many things in life are out of our control. Right now, I'm writing the talks for a class I'll be giving at church, and making my talks into slide presentations. But I don't have a projector. So I'm trusting that the media department at our church can help me put this together. In the last few months it's becoming evident that our little granddaughter is facing a probable diagnosis of cerebral palsy. A few years ago when we were away on a summer holiday, our fridge began dispensing water all on its own so we came home to a flooded house and a big renovation. So many things in life, little to big, can and sometimes do go wrong (or what we consider wrong).

In all of life's uncertainties the tendency is to worry. But it's a choice. So right now I’m going to turn my thoughts from fear, worry, and anxiety to praise. I will open my  mouth in praise for all aspects of the situations I'm in. I will remind myself that God is bigger than all the things that make me fearful. And I can do this in the blink of an eye, whenever a fearful thought wants my attention, all day long--that is, continuously.

What will your continuous praise encompass today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank You for Your greatness, so worthy of my continuous praise. Help me to have a disciplined mind and mouth to choose to praise You above every other response. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 34

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 02, 2018

God's eyes on you

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Leviticus 11-13; Psalm 33

TO CHEW ON: "Behold the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
On those who hope in His mercy." Psalm 33:18


After drawing attention to the grandeur of God's creation, the heavens, the seas, the earth and its nations, the psalmist zooms in. Speaking from God's point of view, first His lens catches the crowds: "....He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth." And then with several clicks on the + button, He's looking right at individuals — you and me. With each person He sees something unique:"He fashions their hearts individually". He sees and comprehends everything each one does: "He considers [understands] all their works" - Psalm 33:15.

His attention is caught particularly by those who are linked to Him in a trust relationship. What does He see and know?
  • That we trust in Him (Nahum 1:7).
  • Our days from beginning to end; both their number and what will fill them (Psalm 37:18, Psalm 139:15-16).
  • Our everyday comings and goings (Psalm 139: 2-3).
  • Our names (John 10:3).
  • Our minds and hearts (Jeremiah 20:12).
  • Our thoughts (Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17)
  • Our motivations (John 2:25)
  • Our secrets (Psalm 44:21).
  • That we are loyal to Him. In 2 Chronicles 16 we have the story of Hanani the seer who came with a message to King Asa of Judah. It was a disappointing word about how because Asa had gone to Syria for help and not to God, he would suffer ultimate defeat. Then Hanani makes this insightful comment about God's help: "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" 2 Chronicles 16:9.

Psalm 33 underlines this aspect of God's sight and knowledge. "Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him...To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine."

What are our needs today? Are we going to God first for help with them? Or are we relying on our own devices, casting about for ways to help ourselves? Whether it's sickness, business trouble, a stalled career, tangled relationships or whatever, let's bring our cares to Him first and in this way, draw the attention of His searching eyes.

PRAYER: Dear God, it is reassuring to know that You see me personally. Today I am troubled by ___. I know You have a solution to my problem. Please show Yourself strong on my behalf. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 33


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

A shocking conclusion to a beautiful day

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Leviticus 8-10; Psalm 32

TO CHEW ON:
“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Leviticus 10:1,2



Things were going so well on this day when the tabernacle worship was begun. Just before our focus verses we read of how God’s glory appeared and His fire came down supernaturally, devouring the offering. The amazed and dazzled congregation fell on their faces at this sight of God’s presence and approval.

Even as this was going on, Aaron’s sons snatched their censers, filled them with incense and fire, and began making their own offering.

What were they up to? Was this an attempt to gain a little credit for their service? Or perhaps they were showing off. Or maybe they were experimenting to see what glorious thing God would do next.  Or could they have been confused by too much wine?

We’ll never know. But lest we leave thinking God harsh and arbitrary for judging them in this way, let’s look behind their seemingly small “sin” and think about how their actions can be a warning to us.

1. Proud ambition:
Matthew Henry’s commentary suggests they were “… proud of the honour they were newly advanced to and ambitions.” What we don’t find in the passage is God’s command that they make this extracurricular offering. It was their own idea.

2. Unlawful fire:
Their presumption included taking, not the fire from the altar that was to be used in offerings but with blatant disregard filling those censers with their own fire.

3. Impulsive:

It sounds like their act was done quickly, on impulse, while Moses, Aaron and the people were preoccupied.

4. Drunk:
They may have been drunk, for immediately after this happened God addressed Aaron with a warning about serving sober (Leviticus 10:8-11).

We take away from this incident a reminder that God is holy, other, different from us. No matter what the culture of our times says about permissiveness and how breaking rules is no big deal, He doesn’t change. From this story we can learn:
  • Personal ambition has no place in God’s service.
  • No matter what our status or position, we shouldn’t presume to step out on our own but wait for God’s direction.
  • Obedience is important, even when no one is looking.
  • God’s service calls for our best focus and concentration.

PRAYER:
Oh Father God, this story reminds me that You are not to be taken lightly. Please give me a renewed realization of Your holiness and respect for who You are and what You say. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY:
Psalm 32

The Bible Project VIDEO: Leviticus (Torah Series)



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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

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