Friday, May 26, 2017

Year 7, Day 146: Numbers 31

Theological Commentary: Click Here

There are several really neat dynamics within this passage.  First of all, God sends the Hebrew people out against the Midianites prior to Moses’ death.  God wants to finish what Balaam started a few chapters back.  God wants to prove that His favor is with the Hebrew people right now.

When the Hebrew people do go out and fight, they decide to kill all the men but keep the women and children.  Of course, from the perspective of the ancient world, this action makes sense.  When the Hebrew people do take possession of Canaan, they are going to need slaves to do all of the hard work so that these Hebrew people can live in luxury.  These Hebrew people are just trying to lighten their work load.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not trying to justify what they did.  What they did was wrong.  In fact, that’s really my point.  What they did was wrong, yet it makes perfect sense from a worldly mindset.  The point should be clear.  Often what the world thinks makes sense is truly wrong.

Furthermore, think about the lasting effects of their decision.  God is rejecting the native people of Canaan because of their false worship and their lifestyle.  If these Hebrew people bring a bunch of slaves into the land with them, they will also be bringing in their gods and all of the things that God has rejected!

What I love about the end of this chapter is the grace the is shown to these warriors.  In spite of their decision to keep the Midianites alive, they suffer no consequences.  Instead, they are told about why their decision was wrong and then told to go and make amends.  Then they are told to purify themselves because of their recent combat.  Then life goes on as normal.  It shows that we need to be a people who forgive mistakes and who teach and support people who do make mistakes.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Year 7, Day 145: Numbers 30

Theological Commentary: Click Here

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the man vs. woman debate when reading this passage.  Now that I’ve mentioned it, I also want to avoid it.  If you want to hear my thoughts on that dynamic, click on the theological commentary link above.

Instead, I want to focus on what I consider to be the more important theme in this passage.  Ultimately, this passage is about people learning to keep their word.  This chapter teaches us that when we make a promise, we need to try our very best to make that promise come to fruition.  After all, we serve a God who kept His promises – even sending His own Son to die so that His promises would be kept.  God keeps His promises, it shouldn’t surprise us that He wants us to keep ours, too.

Furthermore, if we are going to keep our promises, then we really need to think before we speak.  When we open up our mouths, the thought should have crosses our mind and we should approve of it.  After all, how can we be expected to keep our every word if we haven’t taken the time to process and think through our words?

Truthfully, I think this is a chapter that can really bring benefit to our modern culture if we don’t allow ourselves to get hung up in a debate about the sexes.  We live in a culture that is about immediate gratification.  We live in a culture where much of our contact with other people is done via quick texts, even quicker snapchats, and impersonal Facebook posts.  Our culture is becoming a culture where there is no personal consequence for the words that come out of our mouth.  I believe the results of such a culture are coming more and more to bear.  We can learn much from the underlying premise of this chapter indeed.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Year 7, Day 144: Numbers 29

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today, I am going to start with the fifteenth and the eight day of the festival.  Hopefully as you read, you picked up on the differences within the paragraphs that reference these.  These days are holy days.  These days are days without normal work to be done.  Naturally, being seven days apart, these days would line up with the idea of Sabbath.

If we step back from this concept, for a second, we can rationalize it really quickly.  We are very comfortable with the idea that Sabbath means no normal work.  It fits really well with what we understand of traditional Judaism.

On the other hand, let’s look at the non-Sabbath days.  These are also days of worship, yet there is no prohibition for normal work on these days.  What does this tell us?  I believe the message is subtle, yet clear.  Worship does not have to be separate from life.  We can worship God while going about our life.  We can worship God while being in the world.

So often we like to compartmentalize.  We think that there is worldly life and then there is godly worship.  What we see here in this chapter, though, is different.  There is worship while we go about our worldly business and there is worship while we separate ourselves from our worldly work.  In other words, we can take God with us wherever we are.  We may not think of worshipping God while we are out and about in the world, but that is our problem and not God’s problem!

In addition to this thought, I have some very interesting thoughts in my commentary from several years back.  You can read them if you want a completely different perspective on this chapter.  In that post, I focus on an entirely different element in these verses, not necessarily contrary thoughts.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Year 7, Day 143: Numbers 28

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In the blog post to which I reference above, I end with a tally of the amount of sacrifices that this chapter would require.  I find it a rather neat total.  It isn’t neat in that the numbers are of any great significance.  It’s neat in the sheer volume of sacrifice that is required on a yearly basis.

That being said, let me take a step back and acknowledge something.  I am not saying that the sacrificing is neat because all of these animals had to die.  I am not a fan of the slaughter of innocent animals, nor do I promote any kind of senseless killing.  I’m not celebrating the death of these animals in any way other than they are killed at the command of God.

Having said that, let’s talk about why I find this neat.  If we do the math, we find that the Hebrew people are being asked to sacrifice well over a thousand animals, well over a ton of grain, and over a thousand containers of oil and wine.  Why is this neat?  It is neat because in order for the people to accomplish this, they must have had it in the first place!

In other words, it guides us to a necessary aspect of God’s character.  God only asks us to give back to Him out of what He has already given to us.  He doesn’t even require us to give it all back.  God only asks us to give back a portion of His provision.  God is a very understanding God.

Furthermore, we learn about His provision.  If God is going to ask for a significant sacrifice, He’s going to give an even more significant provision!  That is an important thought to have.  We cannot out-give God’s provision in our life.  When we read chapters like this, we should be reminded about the provision of God that allows chapters like this to even be possible in the first place.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Year 7, Day 142: Numbers 27

Theological Commentary: Click Here

For today, I’m going to talk about the daughters of Zelophehad.  Probability tells us that this situation would happen.  Even though families back in those days would have between 10 and 20 children, only about 3-7 would make it to five years old.  Of those, usually only 2 or 3 would make it to adulthood.  Naturally, we would have families whose only offspring would be girls.  In the modern world, this wouldn’t be a problem.  In the ancient world, where inheritance was passed from man to man, this was a large problem.  What do you do with an inheritance if there were no men to receive it?

What I love about this passage is that it shows us that that the typical critique of the Old Testament is completely wrong.  So often we hear that the Old Testament is chauvinistic.  We often hear presentations of the Old Testament that leave out the women and treat them as unimportant.  In this passage, we see that God isn’t this way at all!  God has no trouble with the inheritance of a man being passed into his daughters!  If God truly preferred men to women, he would have overlooked these daughters of Zelophehad and send the inheritance on to the man’s brothers directly.  This is not what God does.  The inheritance goes to the daughters.

Second, this shows us the flexibility of God.  So often we hear about God in terms of rigidity.  God is not rigid at all!  God understands that life and circumstances bring change.  When necessary, we absolutely need to think and make decisions based on the life around us.  We are not designed and created to be automatons.  God did not give us a brain so that we could abdicate critical thinking!  God desires us to always be willing to think as we apply His ways to our life.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Year 7, Day 141: Numbers 26

Theological Commentary: Click Here

If we look at this census and compare it to the census that was done at the beginning of the time in the wilderness, we notice that the number of Hebrew people went down. In Numbers 1 we hear that the number of grown men was 603,550.  In Numbers 26, we hear that the number is now 601, 730.  Naturally, this is forty years later.  We wouldn’t expect the number to be the same.

What I find significant, though, is that it was this grumbling and complaining generation that experiences the decrease.  They had every opportunity to trust in God, to enter the Promised Land, to take over, and to prosper under God’s provision.  Instead, they lived in fear and wanted to lean on their own strength.  This decision led to a decrease in the size and strength off the people.  When we reside in our own strength and grumble against the Lord, why would He prosper us?

The other dynamic hear that I find significant is the way that this chapter ends.  Only two adult people – Caleb and Joshua – who left Egypt were listed on the census as they get ready to enter into the Promised Land.  In other words, God fulfills His promises.  Even when the promises aren’t particularly pleasant, God is true to His word.  When God says that He will wait to bless the next generation, He means it!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Year 7, Day 140: Numbers 25

Theological Commentary: Click Here

If we only look on the surface of this story, it is easy to be offended by what we read today.  After all, in this chapter God applauds the fact that one of his high priests goes to a man and kills him and his wife simply because she is a Midianite.  If that is all the deeper that we read into this story, we get the wrong picture.

In fact, what is going on here is a very subtle deception of the Hebrew people.  The people of Moab decided to be friendly to the Hebrew people.  They started to invite the Hebrew people to live among them.  They started teaching the Hebrew people their ways.  As the Hebrew people mingled, they started losing their relationship with God. They started worshipping other things.

What God applauds is someone who is willing to stand up against the subtle corruption of God’s people and draw a line in the sand.  God applauds someone who is willing to see what is going on and actually do something about it.  This has less to do with the nationality of the woman and everything to do with the fact that the people are falling away from God because of the subtle corruption of the world around them.

I think this is a pertinent message for most modern people.  Everywhere we look, we can see the corruption of the world around us.  The world wants us to become more like it and less like God.  The world wants us to forsake the special calling that God has for us in our life and become absorbed into its lifestyle.  The world invites us in to pull us away from God.

What God needs, then, is more people like Phinehas.  No, we don’t need to go around killing people who fall into the temptation of the world.  But we do need people who will speak boldly against the world.  We need people who will rise up and live a life committed to a higher standard. We need people who value speaking truth into the lives of others more than it values acceptance from the world.  That’s what we need.  That’s what God applauds.