Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 6 Mar 18:
1. Numbers 11:1 – “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled…” God had miraculously freed, saved, and sustained His people, but they complained nonetheless. How does God view our ungratefulness? Psalm 50:23 – “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”
2. Numbers 11:2 – “Then the people cried out to Moses.” Leaders look out for the welfare of their followers even when they don’t deserve it. Leaders intercede in prayer for their followers before God.
3. Numbers 11:4, Acts 19:32 – “Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat!’…. Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” The rabble instigated ungodly behavior among the people. The rabble was controlled by cravings and self-centeredness. Christians run the risk of being caught up and consumed by the worries of the world, influenced more by the unbelieving community (the rabble) than by the presence of God in their lives. This is particularly true as media captivates our attention and drives the social discourse. We worry all day long about a million issues across the globe, from nuclear proliferation to local domestic issues, but we can’t see the suffering person two cubicles down from our work station. Bird flu (2006), Ebola (2014), global warming (current), how were/are all these “global crisis” relevant to the person next door whose life is falling apart? Did you get whipped up into a frenzy during the last political season? Politicians are not our main problem, nor are the various forms of ‘Canaanites’ in the world. Our problem is our infidelity to what God has commanded His people to be and to do. Consider the issues of the day during Jesus’ time under Roman occupation. The political, social, and economic situation was certainly worse for the original believers than it is for us. While many wanted Jesus to lead a political uprising and conquer using the ‘weapons of the world’, what did Jesus focus His attention on? What did He talk about? What did He do? His battle plan, His strategy was the Sermon on the Mount. His approach was to remain “one” with the Father and to draw those with whom He had personal relationships into greater unity with the Father, with Him, and with each other. Global change, revolution, starts with personal change (repentance, transformation, sanctification – vertical relationship and vertical love) and then horizontal relational change (forgiveness, reconciliation, and love). Perhaps one of the best things you could do today is go on a media fast, and intentionally stop talking about what everyone else is talking about. Focus on Jesus, and share Him with those around you. The most revolutionary thing you could do today in order to change the world is represent or ‘re-present’ Christ today in the place that God has put you, in the relationships He has given you. The worldly powers are absolutely no match against the power of God in the lives of the faithful. Where evil prevails is where we have failed to display and project God’s power due to our own infidelity. Our answers are not of this world.
– God’s people are guided by the Spirit, not by passions, cravings, and worldly desires. The “rabble” are those who are not living by the Spirit but rather are driven by self-interest and self-gratification. In today’s readings, the rabble complained about not having meat to eat, but God said that their real issue was that they had “rejected the Lord who [was] among [them].” These are the sort of people described by Paul in Philippians 3:19 – “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Both in Numbers and in Philippians, we are dealing with people on the inside – people within the congregation who aren’t really seeking God but rather the gifts of God. They are no better than Demetrius, the silversmith for the shrines of Artemis, who incited the riot in Ephesus on behalf of “great goddess Artemis,” not really for the sake of Artemis but because, “there is danger… that this trade of ours may come into disrepute.” The real danger is when the “rabble” starts to influence the rest of the church as occurred with the Israelites in the desert. Paul also warned against this. Proverbs warns us, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil (Proverbs 4:14).” Proverbs says that the key is to hold fast to the word of God, obey the commands of God, and “Keep your heart with all vigilance.” Many today who call themselves Christians have rejected the word of God in order to accommodate their own desires. Of this rabble the Bible says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).” In response, the Bible tells us to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2), and to have nothing to do with those who pursue false teachings (1 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:10).
– These week willed rabble preferred comfort over freedom and God’s provision. They were ready to return to slavery for the sake of a piece of meat. Don’t they remind you of Esau who was willing to sell his inheritance for a bowl of soup? Don’t they remind you of so many today who want to be spoon fed by the government? The above verses remind me of a quote from Samuel Adams: “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” How often as Christians do we surrender the best of what God had to offer for instant gratification. How often are we tempted to return to the slavery of sin for fleeting pleasure. Better to suffer with God than to take comfort without Him. Walk in freedom and in truth today.
4. Numbers 11:21-23 — “Is the Lord’s hand shortened?” No problem is too big for God. God will do the impossible in order to glorify Himself.
5. Numbers 12:3, 7 – “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth…. He is faithful in all my house.” God’s chosen leader was most known for meekness, humility and faithfulness. For what are you most known?
6. Numbers 12:8 – “With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.” Moses’ fidelity enabled a very special relationship with God. The Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit, but the Bible warns that we can “quench” the Spirit, “grieve” the Spirit, and get out of “step” with the Spirit through sin – “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh….” (Galatians 5:17) Sin hinders your unity with God and your ability to hear His word in clarity. The Bible says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) Nearness to God is not a matter of time and space, but rather a matter of love, displayed in fidelity and obedience. – Draw nearer to Jesus today and hear His voice more clearly – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
7. Numbers 12:13 – “And Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her—please.’” Moses prayed fervently for those who opposed him. Do you?
8. Proverbs 6:6-11 – Self-disciplined people diligently do what needs to be done without needing any external motivation or immediate payoff.
9. Proverbs 6:9 – “How long will you lie there, O sluggard?” There are many forms of procrastination. One form is to think about doing something for eternity. Successful people spend most of their time, 70-90% in execution, learning as they go. You learn the most by doing. It is important to read and think, but this too can be a form of procrastination. We often overthink it. Read God’s word and then do it. You don’t really understand it until you have experienced it.
10. Proverbs 6:16 – “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…. “ As a servant of Christ, you should know what God hates, and you should hate these things too.
11. Acts 19:15 – “And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” There is no secondhand spirituality. No one else can develop Christian maturity on your behalf. A strong Christian heritage is an asset, but it cannot take the place of your own vibrant, growing relationship with Christ. Paul had a powerful walk with God. God used him so mightily that extraordinary miracles occurred through his life. Cloths that touched Paul were taken to the sick, and the sick were healed (Acts 19:10-12). Evil spirits were cast out. Paul’s preaching and teaching were instrumental in building a strong church in Ephesus. Paul’s ministry was so impressive, in fact, that others tried to duplicate it. Seven sons of the chief priest, Sceva, attempted to cast out demons the way Paul did. They confronted an evil spirit and attempted to exorcise it “by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” These men were trying to use a spiritual power that Paul had acquired after years of walking closely with his Lord. They could imitate Paul’s words, but they could not duplicate the power that was his through his personal relationship with God. The evil spirit retorted, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The demon then viciously attacked them and humiliated them. The evil spirits were fearfully aware of Jesus (James 2:19); they were familiar with Paul’s influence over the powers of darkness. But the demons had no knowledge of the seven sons of Sceva. You can duplicate the words and deeds of a spiritually mature Christian, but you cannot inherit his or her walk with God. Christian maturity takes effort; it comes over time. If you ignore the place of prayer and if you neglect your relationship with Christ, you will not grow in your faith. Imitating the faith of others will not give you victory. Only as you nurture your own relationship with Jesus will your life be filled with spiritual maturity and power. (Henry T. Blackaby)
12. Acts 19:18-20 – Revival came when people repented and confessed their sins in the church.
13. Acts 19:20 – “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” Paul’s world worshiped idols. No idol was more revered in Ephesus than the goddess Diana. The great statue was housed in a magnificent temple and was recognized as one of the wonders of the world. An idol-making industry, providing a livelihood for many people, developed in Ephesus to support the widespread idolatry of the day. Paul did not go to Ephesus to condemn those worshiping idols but to unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. As Paul shared the truths of God, and as people were set free from sin’s , idol worship began to decline. The contrast between stone carvings and God’s power to change lives became obvious. The righteous lives of the Christians stood in stark contrast to the hedonistic practices of the idol worshipers. The victorious Christian witness was so compelling that the economy of the entire city was thrown into upheaval as idolatry diminished in favor of Christianity. An idol is anything that diverts our devotion from God. Our society is as idolatrous as Paul’s was. Rather than worshiping statues, we choose possessions, pleasures, or careers as our gods and pour our time, finances, and energy into these things. Each of us is called, as Paul was, to live a victorious, joyful, and purposeful Christian life in the midst of an idolatrous society. We do not have to seek out and condemn today’s idols. Rather, as we live out our Christianity, enjoying the abundant life God gives, our lives will discredit the idols around us. We may face opposition and hostility from those who are angered at the contrast between our God and theirs. People do not like to have their idols dethroned! Yet as we uphold Christ, others will see a difference and be drawn to Him and the life that He offers. (Henry T. Blackaby)
14. Acts 19:23-41 – Revival stirred up opposition among unbelievers.
15. Acts 19:26 – Revival came when God alone was recognized as God.
16. Acts 19:27 – Revival threatened all other religions.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 March: Today pray for your enemies and those who treat you unfairly. (Numbers 12:13)