Sunday, August 24, 2014

"The keys to 'success': Trust the Lord your God, follow His leading and give thanks at all times!"

Day #240:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 25th

Scripture Reading:  Numbers 9 - 12 ...

We say often that being a Christian means having a relationship with the living God, the one true God, our Creator, who has revealed Himself in His creation, in His Son Jesus Christ, and by His Word and His Spirit who is at work in every true believer.  We talk about having a relationship with God because that is the central theme of the whole Bible.  God's purpose in salvation is to restore sinful people to a relationship of love with Him, their God.  As we read of the Israelites as they come out of Egypt we discover that their relationship with God, for the most part, was merely outward.  Few (we don't know how many) truly trusted God or rejoiced in His goodness and mercy and grace.  Though having been delivered physically from Egypt, they remained in spiritual bondage ... spiritually blind and dead, unable to see the glory of their God, even though He was constantly displaying it right before their eyes - literally!!

The Apostle Paul wrote of them hundreds of years later:  "They were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.  Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did" (I Corinthians 10:1-6).

Spiritual life is a gift from God ... not everyone has it ... in fact, most don't.  As the people were leaving Egypt God commanded Moses to have them celebrate the Passover.  They had celebrated the Passover the night God sent the angel of death to slay the firstborn of Egypt.  Now they were free ... free to worship, free to rejoice in the Lord, their God.  Even those who were "unclean," those whom the law said could not bring their offerings to God for a time ... even these could celebrate the Passover, could celebrate their freedom and rejoice in the Lord.  What a beautiful picture of God's forgiveness - of His willingness to receive sinners into His presence!!  The blood of the perfect Lamb covers our sins in the sight of God so that we may come to worship Him!

As Israel entered the desert on their way to the land God had promised their forefathers, it was necessary and essential that God went with them - more than that, that He LEAD them.  He did so by appearing in a cloud over the tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.  When the cloud lifted, the people traveled on, when it remained, so did they.  God gives this picture of your life and mine as we seek the Lord daily for guidance.  Our guidance is found in His Word and through His Spirit living within us.  God's Spirit gives us the Word and teaches us God's will for our lives, and as we apply the truth and the principles God has revealed we are LED through this life!  All of this was and is a picture of God's leading in our lives and the importance of following HIM!

In Chapter 10 God mentions trumpets.  Trumpets were an important part of the life of the Israelites as they traveled, and even later as they came into the promised land.  Trumpets were used to call the people to gather together (the rapture!), to engage in battle (Armageddon) and to worship (the victory of Christ and the Millennium).  Could there be any question as the people set out that God was with them, that He was for them, that He was their Provider, their Savior, their Guide ... that He was all they needed??!!!!  But these people were sinners and, as we saw above, most of them remained spiritually dead.  So after witnessing the power of God firsthand in Egypt, at Mt. Sinai and thus far through their journey, they began to complain, to grumble and to question God's goodness and faithfulness.

First, the people complained about how hard things were ... remember, they were just delivered from slavery in Egypt.  God sent fire to consume some of them.  Then others began to grumble about the manna they were eating every day.  They said, "If only we had meat to eat!"  Moses was troubled and God was angry.  Moses was getting tired, so God appointed seventy elders to help Moses lead the people and placed His Spirit upon them.  Then God sent the people meat ... LOTS of meat!  God told Moses to tell the people that they would eat meat the next day, but Moses doubted.  Where would the meat come from?  God replied, "Is the LORD's arm too short?  You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you" (11:23).

God sent a wind over the sea and a flood of quail entered the camp.  The people gathered the quail and began to eat, but God was angry and sent a severe place and many people died.  What was the point of this?  Some of these things seem strange to our ears because we do not live in that time.  Yet here is another picture of what many people today refuse to accept:  God takes sin seriously ... very seriously. It's not always good when God gives you what you want.  When people who are called by God's name crave the things of the world more than they desire God Himself, the outcome is discipline, and in the case of those who are not true believers, judgment.

Even Miriam and Aaron got in on the complaining against Moses and his leadership.  There is a significant parentheses in Chapter 12, verse 3:  "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth."  Some might read that and say, "Wait a minute, didn't Moses write the book of Numbers?"  Of course, he did, but perhaps that is why there are parentheses around the statement.  God inspired, moved, directed Moses to write what he did and truth is truth.  Miriam and Aaron had no right or reason to complain against and criticize their brother.  Leading Israel was not a task Moses volunteered for.  He was called to leadership and God had used him to bring the people out of Egypt.

So it is with EVERY true leader that God calls to lead His people.  Those who are called by God and empowered by His Spirit take no credit for the fruit of their labors.  They give glory to God and trust Him to accomplish in them and through them everything HE desires.  That's why the criticism of Moses was so unfounded and God dealt with it directly.  Notice that it was Moses who interceded for Miriam before the Lord, as Jesus does for you and me.  It was our sin that sent him to the cross, yet He intercedes for us before the Father's throne and sends His Spirit for our healing.  Truly, His love and grace are amazing!

Watching the people of Israel is like learning everything you SHOULDN'T do!  As we follow Christ the "keys to success" are trusting the Lord, following His leading and giving thanks.  God says, " For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. ... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  Read God's Word, trust in Jesus, follow His leading and give thanks ... and you can't go wrong!

"O Lord my God, as You led the people of Israel out of bondage, so You have delivered me from slavery to sin and have set me free to serve You with joy and thanksgiving.  Help me to trust You in the midst of the struggles that come, knowing that You are always with me.  Give me grace to live for You daily and not to complain when things don't go the way I think they should.  Remind me often to give thanks for ALL You have done ... especially for the gift of Your Son, the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life!!  I rejoice in YOU, my Savior and my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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