Numbers 16-17

Read Numbers 16-17

When I was in 6th grade, I tried out for the middle school basketball team. I worked hard the weeks leading up to tryouts and pushed myself even harder when the day came to impress the coaches. 

When the team roster was published, my name wasn’t there. I was devastated and became bitter about it. I remember one young man I just couldn’t believe made that team over me. 

I was faster. I made more baskets. I was the entire package—at least, in my mind. Soon, I voiced my thoughts to those around me and others started to share my way of thinking, because why? I swayed their way of thinking about him so I wouldn’t be alone in my jealousy-stricken mindset. 

Reading through Numbers 16 and 17, “jealousy” is the word that keeps coming to mind. There’s grumbling again amongst the people. This time, Korah has started a rebellion. In fact, he, along with Dathan and Abiram have swayed the thinking of 250 other leaders accusing Moses of pride and deceit. They even reject his authority overall. 

He’s jealous, upset, and angry just like I was at the coach who didn’t put me on the team instead of the boy I thought I was better than.

Take a moment to read through Numbers 16 and 17. Notice how Moses handles himself. Notice the way God carries out judgement. 

We can read the text several times over and see different lessons within it, but for today, I want to ask this: 

Are we like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram?

Do we struggle with jealousy, or are we so unhappy with our current situation that we undermine the authority or rally the troops against the leaders God has placed in specific roles to fulfill His plan? 

Jealousy comes when we take our eyes off the Lord. We forget who He is and who we are in Him. 

He’s in control—even if we don’t make the team or like Korah we don’t always agree with our leaders, we can trust God. 

He’s for us. 

I want to challenge you today to let God search you and to keep your focus on Him. 

Blessings.

Numbers 13-14

Read Numbers 13-14

The temptation in writing a devotional on Numbers 13-14 is to focus on Caleb and Joshua as shining examples of what it looks like to display unwavering trust in the promises of God, specifically in the face of daunting circumstances. Be like Caleb and Joshua! That would be the easiest route to take—and while it’s not wrong, I’m not sure it’s the main thrust of the passage.

The truth is that we have far more in common with the grumbling Israelites than we do the honorable spies. We doubt God’s promises. We question his provision. We shun his providence. When his purposes don’t line up with our plans, we rebel. Just as the Israelites turned their eyes back to slavery in Egypt (Num. 14:2-4), in our rebellion we effectively turn our eyes back to slavery to sin and death, foolishly choosing our way and our will over God’s higher ways (Is. 55:9) and his good and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).

And here’s the hard truth: that never ends well. As previously mentioned, the thrust of this passage is not primarily “Be like Caleb and Joshua!”—the main point is that rebellion against God is met with judgment. Israel, as God’s chosen people, still felt the consequences of their sin and rebellion. We, as God’s children, still likewise feel the consequences of our sin and rebellion—after all, the Lord disciplines those he loves (Heb. 12:5-6).

While we are not free from all of the consequences of our sin, praise God that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the penalty of our sin. As Moses effectively saved the Israelites by interceding for them (Num. 14:13-19), Jesus saves to the uttermost by continually making intercession for all who draw near to God through him (Heb. 7:25).

Numbers 11-12

Read Numbers 11-12

When struggling, the instinct for a lot of people (myself included) is to bemoan the troublesome circumstance and trudge through the days in a muddle of frustration and dissatisfaction. Neither tend to bring peace. This passage presents us with classic scene of the Israelites struggling with faith and obedience while Moses struggles with frustration in his leadership role. The Israelites spent countless hours venting to one another about their perceived lack of provisions. Did they take time to remember all of the times God had provided for them? To be grateful for the provisions He was supplying? To look beyond their own desires? No. Instead they complained. The posture of their heart was not turned toward the God who is always faithful, but rather it was turned inward, selfishly focused on what they wished they had. They had forgotten that God’s plan is always best. In the end, their choices during the struggle led them into disobedience and ultimately consequences from the Lord.

However, the Israelites weren’t the only ones struggling. Moses was dealing with his own attitude, his burden of leadership, and his exhaustion. The difference we see in his struggle is the choice he made in the way he chose to deal with it. Instead of running to Aaron to vent or sitting in bitterness, he went straight to his faithful God. He was brutally honest with God about his struggles and pleaded for help and relief. God heard Moses and eased his burden. Moses knew that he was called to lead the people for God’s glory, but he also knew that he couldn’t do it alone. He understood that his provision was to come from the One who had called him. He knew that only God had the power to refresh his spirit and lift his burden. And he knew that seeking God, no matter the outcome, would always be best.

So take a minute to ponder with me about our own tendencies. Do we react to struggles like the Israelites, fussing about in discontent? Or do we respond to struggles like Moses, by going straight to our Provider for sustenance and guidance through the trial? Do we seek our own comfort or God’s glory? Are our hearts postured toward God or ourselves?

Leviticus 26

Read Leviticus 26.

In Leviticus 26 we see a fairly extensive list of blessings that God would give Israel for their obedience, followed by an equally extensive list of punishments for their disobedience. The people are left with a pretty clear image of possible results for their choice to follow or not follow, but God has already given them a reason to obey. Take a look at verse 13:

13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

Leviticus 26:13, ESV

God had already proven that He wanted the best for the Israelites by freeing them from slavery, and the continued call for the people to follow Him is woven into this chapter. The same message is true for us today. He is the Lord our God; He freed us from our sin, and He is calling us to choose to follow His commands.

Leviticus 23

Read Leviticus 23.

God knows us, doesn’t He? He knows our penchant for busyness and our bent toward distraction. He knows how we use the first to feed the second and that the end result is a heart turned in on itself–weary and worn from the endless work of self-seeking and self-exaltation. So, in His goodness, He offers an exchange–rhythm and rest for our busy and distracted hearts. For the Israelites, the rhythms were marked clearly on the calendar. There was a day of rest each week to re-center their lives around the Lord and a calendar full of feasts to remind the people what the Lord had done for them. These were days and times to pause from ordinary work and remember what it means to be the people of God.

In Matthew 12, Jesus would talk about Himself as the “lord of the Sabbath,” but before that, He also offered an invitation for us to rest. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus knows our penchant for busyness and our bent toward distraction. He knows that what you need isn’t another task on an already endless to-do list but the presence of the One who rested and offers rest to you. He also knows that you’re still prone to choose the first before the second. Even reading through the Bible can become another task on the list, with the goal being to do instead of to be. To the weary and heavy laden, the lord of the Sabbath extends an invitation: come to Him, trust Him, and receive rest for your soul.

Leviticus 16 & 17

Read Leviticus 16-17

The Old Testament sheds light and provides context for God’s redemptive plan for us. And it includes bloodshed.

Sin has a penalty or price—death (Romans 6:23). Someone or something must pay the price for sin. The book of Leviticus sets up a system for this of payment and puts an emphasis on the Day of Atonement. 

Atonement, within religious context is “reparation or expiation for sin” or “the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing.” The Day of Atonement from Leviticus 16 was one day per year the High Priest would carry out the rituals, per instruction from the Lord, to cleanse himself, and then the people of Israel. Take a moment to read through the chapter to get a picture of how the process looked for Aaron to complete the Day of Atonement.

This day happened once a year and reminded the people their sin needed to be atoned for, forgiven, to make amends for their wrongdoing. The sacrifices made would not be a permanent atonement. Nothing could permanently cover or pay for the sins of the people. 

But a new covenant was coming. 

In Jeremiah chapter 31, we’re told of this new covenant. It’s not like the covenant the Lord made in the past. Instead, the Lord says He will put His law within “them” (His people), and He will write it on their hearts. 

The Lord goes on to say He will forgive their iniquity and will remember their sins no more. The annual Day of Atonement will be no more.

In the New Testament, Hebrews 10:16-18 reads much like the passage in Jeremiah, saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds.” Then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 

Jesus is the one who fulfills the prophecy written in Jeremiah. He permanently paid the price for our sins by dying and then coming back to life.

Because of Jesus, the Day of Atonement is gone. There’s nothing left to be paid or covered.

We have a King willing to die for us, and that makes me want to live for Him. 

Blessings. 

Leviticus 8-9

Read Leviticus 8-9.

The Bible is a bloody book and nowhere is that more evident than in the book of Leviticus. It feels like there’s some reference to blood in every chapter, and Leviticus 8-9 are particularly saturated (pun intended). There’s blood being sprinkled, blood being thrown, and blood being rubbed on ear lobes, thumbs, and big toes—which makes for an interesting read for the squeamish or hemophobic.

So what’s with all the blood?

A few thousand years later, the author of Hebrews answered the question: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

As with many things pictured in the Old Testament, the blood shed by the various sacrifices was not only commanded by God, it was also foreshadowing a better sacrifice, one whose blood would atone for the sins of the world once and for all.

As we head into a season of more conscious and consistent gratitude and thanksgiving, let’s be grateful that we no longer have to keep up with the sacrificial system of the old covenant. We live under the new covenant, in which “he [Jesus] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

Exodus 40

Read Exodus 40.

The precision to which Moses and the Israelites followed in obedience as they prepared the tabernacle is incredible. They did as the Lord commanded down to the tiniest of details. As we’ve seen, this wasn’t always the case for God’s people. More often than not, they would end up floundering in disobedience and frustration, consistently tangled up in sin, often feeling the consequences of their choices to stray from their Creator. This instance is different. This instance shows God’s approval. It also gives a clear picture of how God dwelt among His people and led them in the ways they should go, how he set them apart from other nations. I always find it fascinating to think about how God’s glory was evident in the cloud by day and fire by night…so that the people always had a clear view of where God was leading.

When I teach on these Scriptural accounts, the most common comment I get from older kids is, “What?! They could actually see where God wanted them to go? I wish it was that easy for us.” But the beauty of it is that He’s also provided us with clear guidance. We sometimes like to complicate it and get ourselves in a tizzy, in turn excusing ourselves for our missteps and disobedient choices. Ultimately, God is clear in how we should live. He’s clear that we should be meditating on His Word, making disciples, and glorifying His name. He may not always provide crystal clear answers as to where exactly to camp out like He did for the Israelites, but He does guide us through His Word and Spirit as to how we should live for Him. He dwells with us and desires for us to dwell with Him, growing in deeper communion daily.

Exodus 34-36:1

Read Exodus 34-36:1.

The thing that stood out to me in these chapters was this description, given in Exodus 35:

29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

Exodus 35:29, ESV

Although it may sound cliche to say so, this is such a great example of God’s people working together. There was work commanded by God, and the people of Israel felt moved to get it done. Together was the only way it could happen.

We need to work together. Our church. The church. There is still work to do, and our hearts are still moving us to do our part. Maybe we are being called to contribute time or money or another crucial piece of the puzzle. When God lets us know, we should be quick to say yes to being a part of the team.

Exodus 32-33

Read Exodus 32-33.

There seems to be some confusion in Exodus 32, specifically with regard to who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt. When Aaron had fashioned the gold of the Israelites into a golden calf, the people proclaimed that these were the gods who brought them up out of Egypt. But when the Lord spoke to Moses about the rejection of the people, he called them the people Moses brought up out of the land of Egypt. Just a few verses later, however, Moses pled with the Lord on behalf of the people the Lord brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before the chapter ends, the people would also identify Moses as “the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.”

There was some truth in a couple of these explanations. It was the Lord, working through Moses’ leadership, who brought the people up out of the land of Egypt, but in the wake of their rejection of the Lord in favor of other gods, God made it clear that He wouldn’t be going with them any farther. The people could still go into the land flowing with milk and honey, but the Lord wouldn’t be among them. When the people heard the Lord’s intention, they recognized it as the disaster that it was. As Moses would ask on behalf of the people, “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

The people ultimately realized that promises of God were not worth having without the presence of God. Have you come to that realization? The truth is that we all face the same temptation as the Israelites–viewing the Lord through a transactional lens instead of a relational lens. We all need people in our lives like Moses–people who will intercede on our behalf before the Lord. And we all need the Lord to go with us and give us rest. Life can be confusing, but remembering what the Lord has done can give us the clarity to say, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”