Scripture Reading: Numbers 25 - 28 ...
Human nature continually displays why the judgment of God is just. Some people say they get tired of hearing about sin, but that's like saying you're tired of hearing about cancer. Just as cancer eats away at the body, so sin eats away at the soul. If you discover you have cancer, it does no good to pretend you don't, and denying that sin exists is equally foolish. How much better to seek the cure!! That's what God offers in His Word ... the only cure for the disease that infects every human being alive today, as it has since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. And while the effects of sin are many and varied in our lives, the most harmful is our separation from God and the resulting eternal death.
At first reading, the judgment of God upon the surrounding nations, and upon the Israelites, appears unfathomable. But in the context of God's holiness we need to grasp the fact that sin leads to death, physical and spiritual death. When the men of Israel committed sexual immorality and adultery with the women of Moab and then worshiped their gods, they were guilty of gross idolatry. They were already committing idolatry when they committed sexual immorality, and they multiplied their guilt when they worshiped the Baal of Peor ... the false gods of the Moabites. God's judgment was swift and deserved! 24,000 people died in the plague before the zeal of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stopped the plague.
God says of Phinehas, "He was as zealous as I am for my honor among them" (25:11). Think about that statement. How zealous is God for His own honor? And He says that Phinehas was as zealous as He was! How zealous are WE for God's honor today? People are often allowed to question God, to "put God on trial," so to speak, by saying that it is unfair of God to save some and not others or to allow suffering and death in this world. If God is in control, why doesn't He DO something? Really? Remember what God did with Job when after his long debate with his friends he questioned God ... "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me!" (Job 38:2-3). And when Paul explains how some question God's sovereign choice, we hear God's answer: "Who are you O man, to talk back to God?" (Romans 9:20).
Can ANYONE who claims to believe in the holy and righteous and perfect God who reveals Himself in His Word honestly question His judgment of sinners like you and me??? Several times God threatened to destroy the entire nation of Israel, but Moses or someone else stood in the gap and prayed and God held back. The Savior would come from this people, just as God had promised. So when you see the judgment of God, remember, this is only a foretaste. Each time God stopped the plague that He sent. Each time God spared some. But God's reprieve is only temporary. Eventually, all who reject Him, who commit idolatry by putting other "gods" before Him, WILL face death - eternal death. The suffering and trials of this life for those who know God's mercy, for those today who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ, are temporary. But for those who leave this life without a Savior, their suffering is just beginning. Why? Because God is holy!!
As God commands Moses to take a second census of Israel, it reveals two things: first, God had kept His promise to make of Abraham's descendants a great nation; and second, God remembered His judgment on those who had refused to enter the promised land forty years earlier. Why the census? "Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. For the LORD had told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left except Caleb ... and Joshua ..." (26:64-65). God had said to Moses then, "As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times - not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it" (Numbers 14:21-23).
The physical death of 24,000 was but an example of God's coming judgment upon the entire human race. Yet, those who come to God, who approach Him in the way He has commanded, WILL enter the promised land. For Israel, it was Canaan; for those who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, it is heaven and, finally, the new heaven and the new earth. To show that it was God who determined the leader of Israel, Joshua was commissioned before the whole assembly of the people of Israel to take the place of Moses (27:22-23).
God's justice and coming judgment are sure and certain, yet just as certain are God's grace and forgiveness to those who come to Him through faith in the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, JESUS!! God has made a way and we who believe are getting closer to the promised land every day. God knows the number of our days and one day we will be singing with the angels as we bow down in worship before our holy and righteous God. In that day we will approach Him without fear, for Jesus died and rose again on our behalf and faith means believing that He will get us into the promised land.
As John writes in his first letter to the churches, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life" (I John 5:12-13). If your faith rests in Jesus today rejoice in God's promise, in His love and His grace, for He is with you NOW, and with every passing day you are getting closer to the promised land!
"My Father in heaven, were it not for Your faithfulness and Your promises, I would surely live without hope, waiting for this life to end. But because of Your love and the gift of Your Son I believe there IS a promised land, and that one day I will enter it because of Your grace to me in Jesus. Strengthen me daily with the confidence and hope that comes only by true faith and help me to persevere as I bear witness to the truth that YOU ARE GOD!! To You I give my praise, my thanks and my life, in Jesus' name, Amen"