Sunday, September 14, 2014

"You can't curse what God has blessed ..."

Day #261 - Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 15th

Scripture Reading:  Numbers 21 - 24 ...

God's principles are unchanging.  If you learn how God has worked in the past you will understand how God is working in the present and how He will work in the future.  God doesn't change His principles from one age to the next.  When God chose Abraham and promised to make of him and his descendants a great nation, He said, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3).  God's purposes for mankind were and are tied to the descendants of Abraham.  And the promised "Seed" of Abraham, through whom all nations would be blessed, is Jesus.

Because God's principles are unchanging, His blessing comes through His promises to Abraham and so through the Savior who physically descended through the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah.  And the principle of God's blessing continues through Jesus Christ to all who believe in Him.  That's why there are several things in our reading today that point to Jesus.  Throughout the Old Testament you find pictures of events that are like arrows pointing to the One through whom all who believe are blessed by God.  One such event is recorded in Numbers 21.

As the people of Israel traveled through the wilderness they once again grew impatient and complained and grumbled against Moses and against God (21:4-5).  They were tired of the desert and they were tired of the manna that God gave them to eat every morning.  Because of their complaining, God sent poisonous snakes among them and many of them were bitten and died.  Then the people came to Moses and confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray for them.  Moses did so and God told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  As the bronze snake was lifted up, "anyone who is bitten can look at it and live" (21:8).  Moses did what God had said and it worked!

This seems like an isolated incident in the life of a people who lived more than 3,000 years ago, but it is referred to some 1400 years later by none other than Jesus as He speaks with the Pharisee, Nicodemus.  Jesus was explaining the need to be spiritually reborn, a concept Nicodemus did not yet understand.  Jesus wanted him to see the connections between what had happened in the past and what was happening in the life of Jesus and how it all pointed to Him.  He explains:  "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven - the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in HIM may have eternal life" (John 3:12-15).

Even a bunch of snakes, sent by God to discipline His people for their complaining, pointed ahead to Jesus' crucifixion and the salvation God offers to all who believe in Him.  The bronze snake, of course, had no power to save, but it was a symbol pointing to the God who alone can save from certain death - eternal death ...  Because Jesus was lifted up on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for sin, the plague of death is stopped for those who look to Him.  It is here that Jesus reveals to Nicodemus that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  Whoever looks to the Son and believes in Him has life!!!

As the people of Israel moved on, God gave their enemies into their hands.  It was not because Israel had the most powerful army that they defeated those who stood against them, but because God was with them.  That is true of us as believers, today, too.  God's wisdom and strength are our weapons against the enemies that come against us, especially our spiritual enemies, including Satan himself.  As Paul says it in Romans 8:31:  "If God is for us, who can be against us??"  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus ... NOTHING!!  So often those who claim to believe today cry out for God's blessing, asking God to give them more things, to make their lives easier, to give them everything they want.  And when God doesn't give them everything they've asked for, what do they do?  They do the same thing Israel did, they complain!!

We who believe today need to remember that our Father in heaven "HAS BLESSED us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).  We already have everything we truly need through faith in Jesus.  Eternal life is God's gift through the blood of Jesus, and it is His Spirit who has moved us to believe in Him in the first place.  If you have trusted in Jesus for forgiveness you ARE saved from God's wrath and you know that God is with you NOW and that He will never leave you or forsake you.  Even in those times when things are hard, difficult and humanly unbearable, He will provide all that you need as you look to Him.  Even when you pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4) you do not have to be afraid.  He WILL bring you home!!

As one who has been reconciled to God through Jesus, you ARE blessed, and no one can change that! Which brings us to Balak and Balaam.  Balak was the king of Moab and he had seen how Israel had defeated the nations around them, so he sent messengers to a man known to speak for God.  His name was Balaam.  Balak told the messengers to ask Balaam to put a curse on Israel (22:6).  They were willing to pay him, to reward him well for doing so.  Balaam told them he would inquire of the Lord and God said to Balaam, "You must not put a curse on those people, because they ARE blessed" (22:12).  Balaam delivered God's message, but Balak would not take "No" for an answer.

Balak sent more messengers, and Balaam explained that he could not go beyond what God commanded.  However, he said he would ask God again.  Did he really think God was going to change his mind??  God was angry.  He told Balaam to go with them, but sent an angel to stand in his way.  While a humorous story in some ways, the principle revealed is anything but humorous:  Don't question what God says!!  God opened the eyes of Balaam's donkey to see the angel and when Balaam continued to beat the donkey for stopping and trying to avoid the angel, God enabled the donkey to speak to him!!!  Finally, God opened Balaam's eyes to see the angel and God gave him a message for Balak ... and for US!!

As Balak, this foolish king, tried to coerce Balaam to curse Israel, God gave Balaam these words to say, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?  I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot change it.  No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel.  The LORD their God is with them ... There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel.  It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!'"  (23:18-23).  Don't you want to say, "AMEN!"?  Look at what God has done!!!

Balaam then goes on to proclaim God's blessing:  "How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! ... Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. ...  May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed" (24:5, 7, 9).  In his fourth oracle he even declares that "a star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel ... A ruler will come out of Jacob ..."  (24:17, 19).  Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!!  One reference after another that points to the One who would be the "SEED" of Abraham, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the line of Judah.  "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is HIS!" (Genesis 49:10).

The principle revealed in these chapters is vital to our understanding of what Jesus has done for us.  Paul writes to the Galatians, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit'" (Galatians 3:13-14).  The assurance we have as believers is that the curse of sin and death has been removed from us through the death of Christ in our place.  And you can't curse what God has blessed!!  As a contemporary song declares, "No power of hell, nor human plan can ever pluck me from His hand; for I am His and He is mine!"  Praise God!  I AM BLESSED!!!

"My Father in heaven, it is YOU who have blessed me through Your Son Jesus Christ.  I now rest in Him and exist in a state of eternal blessedness.  Not even death can separate me from You.  The curse has been removed, my sins have been forgiven and I rejoice in Your salvation.  Give me strength daily to proclaim Your salvation and to give thanks for Your blessing, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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