Sunday, August 31, 2014

"How long will God put up with the grumbling and rebellion of mankind?"

Day #247:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 1st

Scripture Reading:  Numbers 13 - 16 ...

I thank God that through the Bible there is a message of hope for those who draw near to God in confession and repentance, who place their faith in the Mediator, the High Priest, whom God has provided, whom we know today is Jesus Christ, "the only Mediator between God and man" (I Timothy 2:5).  But there is another message that runs throughout the Bible, not only in the Old Testament, but in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, all the way through the book of Revelation.  It is a message of judgment upon those who do not believe God's Word, who do not trust God's promises and who do not desire to worship the LORD, the only true God.  Salvation is available ... the promised land of eternal life lived in the very presence of God is offered ... but in their stubborn rebellion and grumbling most of mankind continues to choose death.

My purpose in writing these daily readings is to help those who are seeking God to know Him, not by reading my words, but by reading HIS.  I want only to point out what God has said and is saying today, praying that His Spirit will open hearts and minds and hearts and move YOU to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and to worship Him alone, for apart from that you will someday face the same judgment those in our text today faced for their rebellion against God.  He is the same God today that He was then.  In His love and grace He sent His own Son, Jesus, the Christ, to pay the penalty for sin ... yet those who reject God's offer of forgiveness and life by refusing to believe in Jesus WILL face His just judgment in an eternity of suffering.  God's offer of love and forgiveness comes to all ... have you received it?  WILL you receive it?

Our reading today reveals so clearly the two choices.  God told Moses to send out spies into the land of Canaan, the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants.  The spies went out and explored the land for forty days, then reported that the land was indeed a beautiful land that "does flow with milk and honey!" (13:27).  Then, in what is often the biggest mistake people make after they say what is right and good, they added the word, "BUT ..." (13:28).  It's all downhill from there.  Ten of the twelve spies declared that the people were too strong and could not be defeated.  Only Joshua and Caleb believed God and encouraged the people to enter the land:  "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it" (13:30).

Were Joshua and Caleb being overly optimistic?  Or did they know something the rest didn't?  The truth is that they knew GOD ... the God who had already displayed His power and glory in bringing these people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and in countless other miracles.  These people SAW, with their own eyes, more miracles in a short span of time than perhaps God has done (at least in such grand ways) in the history of mankind since!  Yet their stubbornness and rebellion reveals the reality of the spiritual death that plagues all of mankind apart from the work of God's Spirit.  Sin makes people blind to the things of God and leaves them in bondage to SELF.

When the people believed the report of the ten spies, Joshua and Caleb testified again, saying, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the LORD is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. ... Do not be afraid of the people of the land.  Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us.  Do not be afraid of them" (14:7-9).  What a powerful testimony - but the people did not listen.  Then God said to Moses that He was going to destroy all the people and make a new nation from Moses.  This is where Moses, and later his brother, Aaron, become pictures of Christ, interceding for the people.  Moses said to the LORD, "In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now" (14:19).

God gave His forgiveness, but then declared that not one of those who had seen His glory ... all those twenty years old or more, would enter the promised land.  They would die in the desert.  Only Joshua and Caleb would enter the land.  All those who had grumbled against God would die in the desert.  What a picture of the plague of sin on mankind today!  We worry about viruses and other diseases, about war and all sorts of things that kill the bodies of millions around the world throughout the centuries, but the plague of sin causes eternal death because it leaves people in their rebellion against God and finally judgment comes.

Some of the people, after hearing God's sentence, confessed their sin and tried to go into the promised land, against the protests of Moses, who told them their efforts would fail.  They were defeated, for the LORD was not with them.  In the midst of this "death sentence" for all those who had grumbled against God, God instructed Moses concerning offerings that were pleasing to the LORD.  Even those who were aliens among them would be allowed to bring offerings according to the same rules that God gave to the people of Israel.  And in the midst of the instructions, God said, "WHEN you enter the land to which I am taking you ... " (15:18).  God continued to point those who believed His Word to the future, as He does today.

The role of the "High Priest" is revealed in Aaron.  God had appointed Aaron and his sons as the only ones who could bring the atonement offering into the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant rested.  God said, "The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven ..." (15:25).  This atonement was for unintentional sins.  All sin deserves judgment and must be "atoned for," PAID for, and God has made a way!  Jesus, the perfect eternal Son of God, became a man, born physically to Mary and Joseph, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, as God had foretold, and offered the perfect "atonement" for sin on the cross, where He suffered the wrath of God in the place of all who by the work of God's Spirit would believe in Him.

Through Jesus Christ all who believe WILL enter the promised land of eternity.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!  But those who continue to grumble and to rebel against God and His Anointed One, will face the same fate as those in the days of Moses.  Korah, Dathan and Abiram and others, 250 others, challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron.  THEY wanted to offer the offerings themselves.  God dealt with them in a way that made it clear beyond any question that what they were trying to do was forbidden by God:  The earth opened up and swallowed them and their families and their possessions.  Then God sent fire to consume the 250 men who had followed them and who were offering incense before the Lord.

Why such a violent judgment from God?  What was the big deal?  Let's ask the question in another way?  How can anyone approach God?  God had appointed Aaron and his descendants as priests.  No one else could come and burn incense before the LORD.  Grumbling, complaining, rebelling against the authority that God had appointed resulted in severe judgment because it revealed hearts turned away from God ... proud hearts that did not take sin seriously and that rejected GOD's authority.  The same is true for those who reject the One whom God has appointed to be OUR Great High Priest ... His Son, Jesus Christ.  He not only gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, but He intercedes for believers before the throne of the Father.  No one else can do what Jesus has done and is doing.

Would you attempt to come to God yourself, apart from Jesus?  Only we who by faith confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and who come to God through Him will avoid God's judgment and enter the final promised land.  These real life events picture the reality of the present and the future.  God will not put up with the grumbling and rebellion of mankind for much longer.  As certainly as those who refused to believe God's promise and enter the promised land died in the desert, so all those who refuse to believe in Jesus will never enter the promised land.  And as those who attempted to enter God's presence in a different way, without a Mediator, were killed by fire, all who do the same without Jesus will face the fire of God's judgment forever.

We who believe, like Joshua and Caleb, will enter into the promised land and through the offering of our Great High Priest, we will stand in the presence of the LORD, our God, without fear, for He has promised!  Praise God for His gift of salvation and for a future that will be lived out in a new heaven and a new earth ... a land flowing with milk and honey ... and MORE!  A land where God will live WITH His people - FOREVER!!!

"O Father, how can we thank You for all You have given us?!  You have opened the way into the promised land of eternity with You and have given us access to Your very throne through the blood of Jesus.  Help me to believe ALL Your promises and to know that I have nothing to fear from the enemies who may come against me, for You, my God, are with me.  I will enter Your perfect presence and live with You forever, in a new world of Your making.  As Your judgment falls upon the world around me, I humbly thank You for Your grace and forgiveness.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

No comments:

Post a Comment