Sunday, August 17, 2014

"The blessing of God ... the greatest gift money can't buy!"

Day #233:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 18th

Scripture Reading:  Numbers 5 - 8 …

What does it mean to be "blessed"?  To most it probably means that good things are happening ... and at least in theory, those things are blessings from God.  Some today use the word "lucky" in place of blessed, and some undoubtedly use the word "blessed" in the place of what they really mean, "lucky."  The truth is, only those who know the one true God who sovereignly rules over the affairs of men can be "blessed."  To be "blessed" is to know who you are, why you're here and where you're going.  All other "blessings" are the fruit of a relationship with the living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  Apart from Him, everything else is just "stuff."

The people of Israel in the days of Moses were blessed!  They had been chosen by God to display His glory and to proclaim His Name to the world.  God had given them His law and when they were obedient to Him they received blessing after blessing.  God gave them victory over their enemies and gave them instructions for living and for worship.  He told Aaron and his sons, who were ordained to be priests, to bless the people of Israel with these words, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace" (6:24-26).  God put His Name on Israel and promised to bless them with His presence.

In Chapter 5, God speaks of the "purity" of the camp of Israel.  Some of these requirements sound strange to us (indeed, ARE strange to us!), yet they give a picture of God's call to Israel to be faithful to HIM!  The requirement to put those with infectious diseases (diseases that would spread) outside the camp points to the infecting power of sin.  Those who remain in their sin will finally be found outside the holy city of God in eternity!  The law of "jealousy" points to God's own jealousy over Israel, as she pursued false gods and alliances with the kings of other nations.  In the commandments God says that He is a "jealous God."  The judgment for the unfaithful wife was severe because it was a picture of God's judgment on His unfaithful people.

The Nazarite vow required an act of consecration, for the Savior would be a Nazarene, not only in practice, but from the very town of Nazareth, which comes from the root word for "branch."  The word plays throughout the Bible inevitably point to God's relationship with His people and to Jesus, the coming Messiah, the Savior.  Everything reminded the people of God's reign over them and of His call to obedience - an obedience that they could never give perfectly, and which drove them to long for the Savior, the Messiah, to come.

As the representatives of the twelve tribes brought offerings for the dedication of the temple, one-by-one they approached the place where God promised to dwell with His people and gave their offerings to the priests.  And then the Levites were brought before the people to be consecrated, set apart, for their ministry before God on behalf of the people.  The people laid hands on them and God said, "In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites and they will be MINE!" (8:14)  This pointed to two very significant things that would take place in the future:

First, Jesus would become our Great High Priest.  The writer of Hebrews says that "we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" (Hebrews 2:14).  He goes on in verses 15-16:  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  Believers need no one else to go before us into the presence of God, for Jesus has made the perfect sacrifice and continually intercedes for us before the Father's throne in heaven.  Consider that when you are overwhelmed by your own sin or the evil in the world around you.  Our God reigns and Jesus is on the throne!

Secondly, the setting apart of the Levites as priests to serve before God at the tabernacle points ahead to us as believers in the world today.  John writes in Revelation 1:5-6:  "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father - to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen."  WE are priests before God, offering our praise and thanksgiving ... bringing our lives before Him and laying them down at His feet.  WE have been blessed "in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:4). Out of all the people on earth we have been chosen, loved, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and marked with the Holy Spirit!

Reading about God's dealings with Israel and His blessings should continually remind us of OUR position before God through faith in Jesus, and having received such blessings we should remember that "to whom much is given, much is required" (Luke 12:48).  The blessings of God in Christ cannot be bought, they must be received, and when you know you ARE blessed, your life will reveal your thankfulness and God will be praised, for He IS worthy!

"Almighty, everlasting God, my Savior and my Lord, it is in knowing You through Your Word that I discover my own identity as one of Your people.  Oh, how I thank You for blessing me with Your Spirit and opening my heart to believe, my mind to understand, my ears to hear and my eyes to see the truth revealed through Jesus.  I trust in Him and know that I am blessed beyond anything I could ever earn or deserve.  My life is in Your hands, O Lord, so let me be a faithful priest in Your household, to serve Your people and to give to You all You deserve.  To You be glory, honor and praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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