Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 16 Mar 18:
1. Numbers 31:15, 16 – “Moses said to them, ‘Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.’” God’s commands for total annihilation of Israel’s enemies in the Bible seem extreme and heartless, but God knew these totally corrupt foreign cultures would negatively influence His people (at a time when the nation was very vulnerable) and threaten their holiness. While we tend to value the temporal life above all else, God values the eternal lives of all generations. Only God could justly and lovingly give such a command. We get offended when God, who is completely sovereign, holy, righteous, and loving, does not show mercy. We sometimes lose sight of mankind’s depravity and guilt before God (and the destructiveness of sin upon generations) and ask how a loving God could allow certain people to die, instead of asking why a just and holy God allows anyone to live at all. We tend to think mercy and grace is something He owes us, and when we don’t receive mercy or grace, we think Him to be unjust. Justice is us getting what we deserve; mercy is us not getting what we deserve; and grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. It is God’s prerogative, in His righteousness, to provide mercy – not giving someone what they deserve. When He doesn’t give mercy, He remains Just and Righteous.
2. Numbers 32:13 – “And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone.” God’s people could not go the next level until they were purified of unfaithful people. Special assignments require special people. God is Holy; His ambassadors must in turn be holy.
3. Proverbs 16:1 — “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” What matters is not what you want to do but rather what God wants you to do. You can plan to do your own thing, but you might find yourself working against God, despite how good you think your intentions are.
4. Proverbs 16:2 — “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” It is very tempting for us to tell ourselves that our plan is also God’s plan for us in order to validate inwardly self-centered motives. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you where your motives are not really God-centered. Be careful that when you say, “God has put on my heart to [do x or y],” He really has and you are not just convincing yourself you heard what you wanted to hear from God when you really didn’t.
5. Proverbs 16:21 — “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Wise Christians know how to use gentle, gracious words to persuade others rather than arguing with them.
6. Proverbs 16:32 — “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” God designed His people to be a “kingdom of priests… [to] reign on the earth (Exodus 19, 6; Revelation 5:10).” However, before a ruler is worthy to rule anything else, he must be able to rule over self. In fact, it is an inability to rule self that disqualified God’s people for positions of leadership within His Kingdom throughout the Bible. To have and maintain the right to lead in the Kingdom, one must first demonstrate sustained personal self-control, discipline, obedience, holiness. The Kingdom of God submits to the authority and will of the King (“thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven). Our first responsibility is to submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ in our own lives and then model that life to others. Jesus modeled obedience for us and then told us that if we truly loved Him we would obey him completely; He then commanded, from our position of total obedience, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Clearly, self-control is not accomplished of our own power but through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Key though is to recognize that Christians already have been equipped with that power. Now we have the responsibility to live by the Spirit rather than selfishness (deny self), pick up our crosses (see ourselves as crucified with Christ), and choose to truly follow Jesus rather than asking Jesus to follow us (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23). The problem we have with self-control is that we have not yet fully committed to live for God rather than self. However, we were created with the specific purpose of serving and loving God; apart from our purpose, our lives are meaningless and dead. Isn’t it time to choose to serve the Lord wholeheartedly and “rule our spirits” for His glory?
– Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
– 2 Timothy 2:11, 12 — The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him
– Numbers 32:11, 12 — Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.
7. Acts 27:9-12 – “Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.’ But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said.” Led by the Spirit, God’s people will often contradict experts and the majority. God knows more than the experienced majority. The majority is often wrong.
8. Acts 27:21 – When God’s faithful servant speaks, you should listen.
9. Acts 27:21-26 – God’s purpose is guaranteed.
10. Acts 27:25 – “So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” Paul had a very unique witness because of his evident receptivity to God’s word and because of His absolute confidence in it. Do you? Paul also became the leader in crisis, despite his lack of technical competence, because of his godly courage. When the façade of man’s control is removed, the one who truly knows the One who is in control is the only person who can lead. Paul said to them, “Take heart,” much like Jesus said to the disciples in John 14 before Jesus’ arrest, when Jesus knew the disciples would lose heart in their circumstances. If God is on your side, you have nothing to worry about.
11. Acts 27:31, 32 – “Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.” The passengers and the crew on the ship had to decide whether to trust their experienced instincts or the man of God. This was a life or death decision, and one person’s decision would affect them all.
12. Acts 27:35 – “And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” When everyone else was in complete despair, Paul gave thanks to God, an incredible testimony to everyone else. Again, this reminds me of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm when the disciples feared for their lives. A faith that demonstrates peaceful trust through all circumstances is a powerful thing. At some point, we will all come to a time when all appears lost, at least on our death beds. What sort of faith will we reveal?
13. Acts 27:37 – “We were in all 276 persons in the ship.” The author knew exactly how many were on the ship. A Christian leader keeps accountability of everyone – every single person is precious in the eyes of God. Are you keeping account of everyone God has placed in your life?
14. Acts 27:42 – “The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan.” A soldier would be executed for losing a prisoner. The centurion was ready to risk his life to save this Jew. What an impact Paul had on this natural enemy of the Jews and in such a short time. The power of God tears down all social barriers.
15. Acts 27:43 – God uses relationships to save Paul. God often uses ungodly people to support His people.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 March: Today, demonstrate thankfulness under all circumstances in order to glorify God before others. (Acts 27:35)