Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 9 Mar 18:
**** Important contextual verses before reading from Numbers this morning:
** Hebrews 6:20 – “Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (see all of Hebrews 6 and 7 for the Priesthood of Christ)
** Exodus 19:6 – “…you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
** 1 Peter 2:5 – “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
** 1 Peter 2:9 — But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
** Romans 15:15, 16 – “…because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God….”
** Revelation 1:5, 6 — Jesus Christ…. loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
** Revelation 5:10 – “…you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
** Revelation 20:6 – “…they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
1. Numbers 17:3 — “For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house.” The building block of the nation was the family. Family leadership set the foundation for generations.
2. Numbers 17:5 – “The staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout.” God chooses His leaders, not men. People may attempt to lift up leaders of their own choosing, but in the end, they will accomplish nothing good.
3. Numbers 17:5, 8 — “’And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout’…. On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” If God is in it; it will grow, unnaturally, miraculously. If God did not commission it, all labor is in vain: Psalm 127:1 – “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Authority and power come from Christ and is given to those who have been appointed by Him to do His work on earth. If you are a true Christian, that authority and power has been given to you to accomplish the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. (see Matthew 28:18-20) The word “key” in the Bible (as well as in earthly tradition) symbolizes both access and authority. Jesus was given by the Father, the “key of the house of David” (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7), and the keys of Death and Hades,” (Revelation 1:18) and Jesus has given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” to His disciples (Matthew 16:19). With this special access and authority comes great responsibility on earth.
4. Numbers 17:10 — “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.’” The evidence of the power of God in the life of a true disciple, priest, ambassador for Christ is a sign for the rebellious in order to lead them away from death.
5. Numbers 18:1 — “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood.” The priests had a sacred responsibility to keep holiness. To maintain their personal holiness and the holiness of the “church.” To emphasize a point in literature, the Jews would repeat a word. For example, when Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto you….” He was saying, “Though everything I say is true and worth your attention, this is really, really true and important.” There is only one attribute of God repeated three times: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As the priests of this age, we must not lose sight of the Holiness of God or the demand for our holiness.
6. Numbers 18:5 — “And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel.” Priests have a responsibility to protect people from their own sinful nature.
7. Numbers 18:6 — “And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting.” Priests are a gift to the people which is given to the Lord for service.
8. Numbers 18:8 — ”Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, ‘Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due.'” The priests lived off of the gifts and tithes given by the people to the Lord. The gifts and tithes were also used to create a storehouse to meet the needs of the people and the work of the “church”. (Nehemiah 10:38, 13:12; Malachi 3:10)
9. Numbers 18:20 – God’s priests had nothing but God which is really everything. We are God’s priests.
10. Numbers 18:32 — “And you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have contributed the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, lest you die.” Priests are strictly warned not to misuse the gifts and tithes.
11. Proverbs 9:1, 2 – Wisdom is characterized by structure and order.
12. Proverbs 9:6 – Wisdom involves leaving your old ways.
13. Proverbs 9:9 – “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Wise people are open and receptive to instruction.
14. Proverbs 9:14 – “She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town.” Folly is characterized by presumptuous pride and arrogance.
15. Acts 22:3 – “…being zealous for God…” Bible knowledge is misapplied and dangerous without the love of Christ compelling you, both in your understanding and in your execution. This is why Paul said that if you have all the power in the world but don’t have love, you have nothing. This is why Proverbs tells you, “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” (Proverbs 26:9)
16. Acts 22:4-7 — “I persecuted this Way to the death… I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” Paul’s testimony started with a confession of his sinfulness and total depravity. Paul’s message was clear, “I was a worthless sinner saved by God through Jesus Christ, not because of anything that I had done or because of who I had become, but merely because of God’s mercy and grace.” Isn’t that our message too? But yet we still have a tendency to act prideful in our own ‘righteousness,’ wanting others to think highly of us. We hide our sins from others because we don’t want others to see who we really are. Not Paul, he wanted everyone to know exactly how unworthy he was so that the grace of God and the glory of Jesus Christ could be magnified before men, rather than Paul. Paul wanted all attention, honor, glory, and praise to go to Jesus, and he wanted all other sinners like him to know that it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves, not good works done on earth. Do you want people to see goodness in you or greatness in God?
17. Acts 22:7 — ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ When someone persecutes a Christian, they are really persecuting Jesus.
18. Acts 22:8 — ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Jesus reveals Himself to whomever He pleases for His purposes. God’s chosen people are often the most unlikely candidates in our eyes. Paul (Saul) was not seeking Jesus when called but, rather was at war with Him. This persecutor of Christians would have been difficult to receive in a congregation after his conversion. Is there someone you could not embrace if they stepped inside your church this Sunday? (More on this point below)
19. Acts 22:7, 8 – God’s work left no choice for Paul but to believe in Jesus.
20. Acts 22:10 — What shall I do, Lord?’ When Jesus is really revealed to you, you are ready to serve Him, your old priorities are no longer priorities at all.
21. Acts 22:10 – “Go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’” God expects you to be obedient one step at a time without being told what happens next. Our obedience is not conditional upon the outcome. When God says step, we step, without knowing why. Asking God for a sign or revelation of the future is usually an indicator of a lack of faith and trust in Him. It can be a form of disrespectful disobedience — “Lord, if you really want me to do what you have said, prove it.”
22. Acts 22:13 — ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ God’s plan involves us working with other brothers in our spiritual development. God forces us into relationships because relationship is where we learn how to love.
23. Acts 22:15 – “For you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” A witness testifies to what he has seen and heard personally, not second-hand. Tell people your personal story about Jesus Christ.
24. Acts 22:19, 20 — “And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’” Paul did not choose God, God chose Paul while he was actively persecuting the Body of Christ – “And [Ananias] said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth (Acts 22:14).” Perhaps no one was more surprised by this appointment than Paul himself – “And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him (Acts 22:19, 20).’” Paul learned that “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:7-9).” God forgave and appointed Paul, this most unlikely servant; now Paul had to forgive himself and accept his appointment; those he had previously sinned against had to forgive Paul and accept his appointment too. Can you imagine if you were Stephen’s brother? How would you have acted if Paul came to preach in your church? The Bible says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 2:5:18).” To resist forgiveness (both in the giving and the receiving) is to deny our ministry. Paul had to accept grace which is hard to do – “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).” Paul trust God and changed the world for God’s glory (joyfully surrendering his life in the process). What about you? Will you accept grace and walk in grace? Will you step out in faith to commit your life to the Lord? “And now why do you wait…? Go, for I will send you…. (Acts 22:16, 21)”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 March: “For you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15) Again, a witness testifies to what they have seen and heard personally, not second-hand. Today, tell people your personal story about Jesus Christ, how He saved you, and what He has done in your life.