Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 13 Mar 18:
1. Numbers 25:1-3 — “While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab…. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor.” When God’s people partner with the world, God view this as whoredom. Syncretism is perhaps the biggest threat to the church today. Have you partnered with the world in any way? Do you see this compromise as God sees it?
2. Numbers 25:7, 8 — “When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped.” God expects His people to take a stand against sin within the church.
3. Numbers 25:10-11 — “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy.’” Perhaps no sin is addressed more in the Bible than sexual sin. Perhaps nothing is more destructive to a person, a people, or a nation than sexual sin. From the very beginning (Genesis) God placed His standards on sexual activity to be between one man and one woman in one life-long marriage. Marriage is a spiritual union, far beyond the physical, and reveals not only the love we have for our spouse, but also the love we have for God. Marriages are meant to emulate the love Christ has for his Church, and are intended to raise godly children. God takes sexual sins VERY seriously, calling them abominations, despite the fact that our society rejoices in them. Today, to commit adultery is to “have an affair.” To “whore around” is to be sexually free. Acceptance of homosexuality is “enlightened tolerance.” Today’s OT readings offer a shocking story of how seriously God takes sexual sin. In case it is lost in translation, God honors Phinehas’ commitment after Phinehas, seeing a man taking a Moabite woman into his tent to have sex, enters into the tent and runs a spear through both of them while they were having sex. While this may seem like a cruel act, consider how much pain and suffering you have seen over your lifetime directly caused by sex outside of marriage – divorce, abortion, STDs, crimes of passion, destroyed families, child abuse, pornography, sexual assault, etc. Now that our Nation has dissolved most historic standards related to sexual conduct, where do you think our nation is going – to a better condition? I pray that more Christians will be bold enough to stand up for God’s standards on sex and marriage, regardless of what the “culture of death” says is the “enlightened” answer.
4. Numbers 25:11 — “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy.” God’s people care about what God cares about and hate what God hates.
5. Numbers 25:11 — “…he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy.” A very famous pop culture celebrity once said that she stopped being a Christian when she read that God was a jealous God. There is an ungodly jealousy and a godly jealousy. There is a selfish jealousy and an unselfish, righteous, loving jealousy. Both forms of jealousy are motivated by a desire to protect or defend. Selfish jealousy is akin to envy and greed and promotes suspicion, distrust, resentment, hostility, degradation, tension, and discord. Godly jealousy zealously protects out of love. God knows that the hope of His people is Him, and He cannot tolerate anything that might get in the way of His people and Himself. Phinehas was commended for His jealousy because he was jealous with God’s jealousy, not his own jealousy. Phinehas was protecting the people from destruction, not seeking his own self-interest. It is very rare that people are jealous with God’s jealousy. Don’t confuse godly jealousy with envy.
6. Proverbs 13:3 – “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” As Christ’s Ambassador, only say what Jesus would say. If you find yourself wanting to express your own thoughts, to speak your mind rather than the mind of Christ, best to keep your mouth shut. Just say nothing. If your words don’t encourage someone to draw nearer to Jesus, you are actually working against Jesus.
7. Proverbs 13:17 – “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing.” If you are a faithful witness, your words will only bring healing. If you speak hurting words, you are committing cosmic treason against Jesus. Do you take your words that seriously?
8. Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Your best friends should be wise, wholehearted Christians who are helping you become closer to Jesus every day. If this doesn’t describe your closest companions, you are compromising your sanctification.
9. Proverbs 13:23, 25 – “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous…. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.” Godly people plan to leave an inheritance for generations, in part by not living greedy, excessive lives in the present. Most of America is upside down with more debt than savings, largely because they are not satisfied to live simply and frugally. Americas are the richest people in the world, but usually have nothing to show for it in the end. The mindset now from most parents seems to be that their responsibility is to get the kids out of the house so they can take care of themselves; therefore, their kids go into debt to make “make ends meet’ – it becomes a vicious cycle. God’s people should not be in debt to the world.
10. Acts 24:2 — “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation….” Christians may betray God and God’s people by seeking earthly peace through compromise rather than eternal peace through fidelity to Jesus. Today, the church is largely silent on social issues because they don’t want to cause trouble with the ungodly.
11. Acts 24:5 – “For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Paul upset the peace to bring ultimate peace through Jesus. When Paul spoke the truth, he caused trouble not only for himself but also for all other Christians, much like Moses caused trouble in Egypt for the Israelites. Not only Paul but the whole Christian church stood on trial. Paul demonstrated great moral courage through his faith, hope, love, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
12. Acts 24:6 — “He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him.” The ungodly are not compelled by truth and justice, though they claim to be. In the end, the ungodly will do whatever they think it takes to get what they want. Jesus promised that His followers would face persecution from the ungodly because the ungodly, content and comfortable in the darkness, will not bear the light of truth and will be compelled to extinguish it.
13. Acts 24:10 — “I cheerfully make my defense.” Christians disagree without being disagreeable, always demonstrating humility in their boldness. And Christians rejoice in the opportunity to share Jesus, regardless to personal cost.
14. Acts 24:14 – You must choose: There is only one true religion, one true path to God, Jesus. This ‘unacceptable, close-minded, primitive, uneducated belief’ is the Gospel, the truth, the Good News. Are you prepared to be a fool for Jesus?
15. Acts 24:15 — “…there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” The Good News is the answer to Bad News, all are sinners who will face final judgment before the LORD. You hardly hear this message anymore, even out of the church. Salvation requires repentance from sin.
16. Acts 24:16 – “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Maintaining a clear conscience is an act of discipleship and sanctification that takes work, striving to walk in fidelity and obedience while continually confessing your sins to God and to others.
17. Acts 24:18-20 — “While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council….” Paul understood the law of the land and was ready to use it in his defense. Christians today need to be ready to do the same.
18. Acts 24:25 — “And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment….” In light of the coming judgment, all should be incentivized to seek righteousness and self-control. Felix had good reason to be “alarmed”: “None is righteous, no, not one,” and apart from salvation through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, willpower cannot free someone from the slavery of sin. (Romans 3:10; Romans 6:18) Only Christ can free us from sin. Like love, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not something man-made. Ironically, control of self requires surrender of ‘control’, submitting control to Christ – “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Only through submission can we resist the devil. Only through our connection to the vine does the branch have any life. Apart from the vine, that branch has no chance. If you lack self-control, check your submission.
19. Acts 24:25 — “Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’” Many respond to the Gospel by choosing not to decide, but this is still a choice. You may be ignored or discounted, but you are called to proclaim, not to convince. Speak the truth in love, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 March: Clear your conscience by confessing your sins and by seeking forgiveness. Make restitutions when required. (Act 24:16)