March 18

March 18

Aaron’s Rod — God chooses the tribe of Levi, & fruitfulness proves God’s choice.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 17

Reading 2: Numbers 1:47-54

Reading 3: Luke 6:43-45

We saw yesterday how Aaron’s intercession saved many in Israel from the consequences of their continuing rebellion. Today God vindicates Aaron and the tribe of Levi by a miracle.

Moses has each tribe bring a staff to the tabernacle where they are labeled and left in God’s presence overnight. The next morning, there are 11 staffs and one branch with leaves, buds, blossoms and ripe almonds! All this from a piece of wood which presumably had long since left its original place in a tree!

Thus God re-affirms His choice of Levi as the tribe to care for the Tabernacle and protect the people from God’s anger when they sin. The reading from Numbers 1 reminds us of God’s original instructions, and the reading from Luke 6 makes clear that fruitfulness is the measure of a person – because fruit shows what the heart contains.

May your heart be full of God’s love today, and may you bear much good fruit through Him!

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

March 17

March 17

Korah, Dathan, & Abiram — Complaining about Moses & God’s judgment.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 16

Reading 2: Psalm 106:9-18

Reading 3: Jude 10-11

Today’s passages continue to make for sobering reading: One of the Levites (Korah), despite being chosen for service at the Tabernacle, decided that he wanted the position of priest. This shows that he saw that position as more important than his own, being motivated by pride to seek a “higher” position. In truth, his role in the nation was set by God, and he would have been wise to accept God’s assignment and submit to God’s wisdom.

Korah conspires with three other men from the tribe of Reuben (Dathan, Abiram, and On) to rebel against the leadership of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. Pride will always seek to draw others to follow in the path of rebellion and striving for position.

We see the same characteristics in the fall of satan and the angels he drew to him in his rebellion against God.

Rabbinical literature identifies Dathan and Abiram as the two men fighting in Egypt who caused Moses to flee. We have no proof of this in the Bible, but the possibility is interesting – if true they have been Moses’ adversaries for decades!

Our reading in Psalm 106 gives us more insight into the motives of these men and their 250+ followers: they were jealous of Moses (the most humble man on earth) and envious of Aaron (who never wanted to be Priest anyway)! Notice the humility of both Moses and Aaron – rather than flaunting their authority and forcing the men to back down, rather they intercede for them with God.

Nevertheless, they all continue in their proud resistance to God’s order and suffer the consequences. Dathan and Abiram are swallowed up with their families as the earth gives way beneath their tents, and Korah and his 250 followers are burned to death while offering incense (the job of priests) without God’s appointment to that role.

Notice how pride and seeking position is infectious – the jealousy and envy of the rebels spreads to the rest of the nation, and they start to grumble against Moses and Aaron even though they have seen the result of such sinful behavior.

In blaming the leaders God has appointed, the people are really blaming God, and if Aaron had not rushed out among them at Moses’ instruction with incense (symbolizing prayer to God on their behalf) the death toll would have been much higher.

For us, the sacrifice of Jesus means that such dramatic outbreaks of God’s power against rebellion no longer occur. There has been a toning down of the response to sin through grace. From satan being cast out of heaven irrevocably, to the rebels in Israel being killed, there is a major decrease in severity. And now that severity has been further decreased because all sin can be forgiven in Jesus when there is repentance. God is leaving more and more room for us to turn away from sinful behavior.

But this does not mean that God is soft on sin. And jealousy, envy, striving for position, and grumbling against authority are all still sins! Let us allow God to search our own hearts (and maybe our text messages and Facebook news feeds too) to convict us of sin and draw us to repentance. Repentance is a sincere turning away from sinful choices in light of God’s immense grace to us in Jesus. As Jude might say – don’t follow your instincts (they lead you into sin and pride) but let grace change you wholeheartedly.

You are a recipient of that grace today, and every day!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 16

March 16

The 12 Spies & 40 Years of Wandering — Israel’s unbelief & God’s judgment.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 14

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 1:29-46

Reading 3: Hebrews 3

Yesterday we saw how Israel refused to listen to God; today we read the full details of that rebellion. They would not see from God’s perspective, and they would not listen to God’s promises, and so they incurred God’s anger.

God’s anger is not pent-up and waiting to explode in response to disobedience, rather God’s anger is the consequence of turning away from the God of all the Universe, and rejecting His loving direction. The opposite of that grace is God’s anger – the terrible fruit of hardened hearts.

Notice how deeply the self-will runs in the Israelites (just as it does in you and me by the way). First they decide they know better than God (to the dismay of Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron). Then, when they are told they have gone against God and will be punished, they decide to now do in rebellion what they refused to do in obedience – go into battle to take the land.

The result of this “double disobedience” is defeat. And for forty years the nation wanders in the wilderness, reflecting the forty days taken by the spies to bring the report which caused them to rebel.

For us, the good news is in Hebrews 3: Jesus has made a way for us to come to God, and all we have to do is guard against making the same mistake: “Do not harden your hearts.”

Heart hardening starts with seeing circumstances larger than God, then grows through unbelief and fear, until it is completed in rebellion.

By contrast, soft hearts are focused on God’s nature, learn to trust Him through difficult circumstances, and are marked by obedience.

Have a great day, with a soft heart!

Mark.

March 15

March 15

The 12 Spies & 40 Days of Searching — The fears of the 10 spies vs. the faith of Caleb/Joshua.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 13

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 1:19-28

Reading 3: Joshua 14:6-9

What do you see?

What do you say?

Today we read a cautionary account of the results of seeing with eyes that are not focused on God, nor seeing by faith. We see what happens when our assessment of a situation is based on comparison of ourselves with our circumstances rather than  comparison of our circumstances to God’s promises.

The spies saw what God had promised them, but compared themselves with the people in the land, rather than listening to God’s promise that He would give them the land. Even though God promised to be a Father to them, they preferred their own estimation of the situation, and the fear-filled, negatively-focused account took hold in the whole nation (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua).

The result was that those who had faith received the inheritance God promised them, and Caleb was still full of faith and boldness at the age of 85! But the rest wandered in the wilderness until they died.

So today, the choice for us is: what do we see? God’s promises or the world’s threats? And what do we say? “With God all things are possible” or “They will eat us for breakfast!”? (Numbers 13:32).

There truly is life and death in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Because our vision forms our confession, and our confession sets our direction, determining our destination.

God has great plans for your future and mine; where will you go today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 14

March 14

The People’s Complaining — Israel’s complaining & God’s judgment.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 11

Reading 2: Numbers 12

Reading 3: Philippians 2:14-16

Complaining is common. We all complain at times, and some of us complain all the time. The thinking goes that when we complain, others will give us sympathy for our hard lot in life. But complaining is not the innocuous diversion from hardship that it appears to be. For the believer, complaining is a serious and highly contagious sin.

The reason for this is that, by complaining, we are saying “God isn’t doing a very good job of running the universe, and He could do much better as it relates to my life.”

That is a very serious, unbelieving sin!

And today we see the consequences in the people of Israel when they complained. Even today there are serious consequences for complaining: we miss out on God’s provision for us, we see the world through unbelieving eyes, and we fail to trust God. That is a perilous state for anyone!

The Apostle Paul gives us the key to overcoming complaining. In his letter to the Philippians he writes “Hold firmly to the word of life.” By allowing God’s Word to be alive and active in our hearts and minds, we can shake off the sinful complaining ways of the world around us.

Maybe today you want to look at your output (whether spoken, written, or posted online) and ask God whether it shows that you are holding firmly to the word of life, or complaining about something?

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 13

March 13

The Pillar of Cloud & Fire — Relying on human guidance vs. God’s guidance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Numbers 9:15-23

Reading 2: Numbers 10:29-36

Reading 3: Isaiah 48:17-19

We have reflected repeatedly on the difference between obeying God and following our own wisdom. Today we see another lesson in the same vein. The Israelites started out well, following God’s leadership through the wilderness at the direction of the pillar of fire and smoke. When it lifted, they moved, and when it settled, they camped.

That seems very simple, yet it is also a challenge to our human natures that prefer to know what is happening, and preferably what is going to happen! Thus Israel gradually relied more on their own wisdom and less on God’s leadership. The result is that they were eventually sent into exile for disobedience. Isaiah records God’s lament over their un-necessary hardships.

Sometimes you and I go through experiences that are the result of our own disobedience. The consequences of disobedience remain the same – separation from God and relinquishing His plans for us – BUT we do not have to remain in our rebellion. Jesus has opened another way for us: forgiveness for our sin, repentance to take a new direction, and grace to live an obedient life in Jesus.

Choose wisely today – peace and fruitfulness depend on it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 11

March 11

Love Your Neighbor — Love your enemy, who is your neighbor, & the Good Samaritan.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Leviticus 19:18

Reading 2: Matthew 5:43-48

Reading 3: Luke 10:25-37

As if to underscore the need for God’s grace, today we read three selections which outline God’s standards for relationships: love your neighbor, love your enemy, be perfect.

Those are impossible to accomplish without God’s help!

But consider this: God would not require a standard which is not achievable – that would be inconsistent with all we see of His nature in the Bible. So these standards reveal God’s heart for us, and his resources too.

When Jesus says to the religious leader in Luke 10 “go and do the same,” He is responding to the man’s understanding that life is not measured by our righteousness but our merciful actions. That’s because God is merciful.

In that light, Jesus’ statement becomes a promise – you can be merciful.

So have a great day!

Mark.

March 10

March 10

Priests vs. Nadab/Abihu — The true priests in the Old Testament (Levites) and the New Testament (Christians).

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Leviticus 9

Reading 2: Leviticus 10:1-7

Reading 3: Revelation 1:5-6

Yesterday we read of the seriousness of sin, and learned that blood must be shed for forgiveness, underlining the cost of our rebellion against God’s wisdom and our failure to follow His instruction.

Today we see both the blessing of obedience, and the folly of following our own wisdom. Aaron carefully completes the instructions God gave to Moses, offering the sacrifices that represented and atoned for sin. Thus Aaron, the priests, and the people were able (by God’s grace) to avoid punishment for their sins.

It may help to outline briefly the five types of offering in the Law:

Burnt Offering – ascends to God; a repeated symbol of devotion and commitment.
Grain Offering – expression of gratitude; shared between God and the priests.
Peace Offering – a meal together symbolizing fellowship and commitment to one another. Portions were given to the priests and to God.
Sin or Cleansing Offering – similar to the Peace Offering but focused on purification to resume fellowship with God. So the meal went to God and was not shared by the offerer.
Guilt or Reparation Offering – monetary value to repay the consequences of a sin.

Not all of these were offered in Leviticus 9 but you will see the principle – the offerings are primarily visual reminders of God’s grace in allowing sinful mankind to live in relationship with Him, albeit at the cost of some of their livelihood. The sacrifices were not seen as payment for sin, but rather as demonstrations of God’s goodness.

In light of that understanding, the episode of Nadab and Abihu comes into clearer focus. Who in their right mind would watch all the carefully choreographed steps to demonstrate how kind God is, and how to remain in fellowship with Him despite universal sin, and then decide to make up your own way to join in?!

Clearly Nadab and Abihu were more taken with their position as priests than in awe of the God who chose them for that role, and they found out how serious is the sin of independence.

By contrast, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for all sin, and now we are a Kingdom of priests by virtue of His grace!

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 9

March 9

The Sin Offering — The sin offering in the Old Testament foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Leviticus 4:1-12

Reading 2: Hebrews 9:16-28

Reading 3: Hebrews 10:1-18

To start our journey in Leviticus, we have a very significant principle. All our readings have been showing us the place of each individual story in God’s Story, and today we see a cornerstone of  our relationship with God. Again and again we have seen the devastation caused by sin, expressed in self-rule, rebellion against God, idolatry, disobedience and many other ways.

Today we read a key principle which throws light on the whole sacrificial system that forms the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel: “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

The clear message of today’s readings is to point us to Jesus. Jesus must be the lens through which we read and interpret all scripture. The writer to the Hebrews shows us the centrality of Jesus to the whole of God’s history with humankind. “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Hebrews 10:12).

Sin is very serious, even if it is unintentional, because sin infects all of us and separates us from God. BUT Jesus shed His blood for forgiveness to be fulfilled eternally. All the sins you and I have not yet committed have already been paid for by the blood of Jesus! All that remains is for us to acknowledge that we have sinned (even unintentionally) and trust Jesus for our forgiveness. God has already told us what He will do in response: “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Hebrews 10:16-17)

And as the writer tells us in verse 18: “when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” That is good news today – who will you share it with?

Have a great day!

Mark.

March 8

March 8

Moses Finishes the Tabernacle — The earthly tabernacle pictures God’s heavenly tabernacle.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Exodus 40

Reading 2: Hebrews 8:1-10

Reading 3: Hebrews 9:1-15

Here is a wonderful chapter, ending the Exodus account, describing the presence of God in the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle was a vast visual aid, a model of a heavenly truth, and a demonstration of God’s presence with the people of Israel. This earthly structure represented those heavenly truths by reflecting an eternal reality.

For more on the symbolism of all the elements Moses set up, see an encyclopedia of the Bible, or this website.

The glory of God prevented Moses and the Israelites from coming close in that earthly Tabernacle, but our Lord Jesus has entered the heavenly Tabernacle as our High Priest, with the offering of His own blood, not just an animal sacrifice. In this way the glory of God is now accessible to us through Him. So when we do wrong, we can come to Him for forgiveness, rather than holding back until we can be made clean.

May you see His glory and come in to God’s presence today (and every day).

Have a great day!

Mark.