Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 13 March 21:
Numbers 33 – “And they set out from…. and camped at….”
Numbers 33 lists all the movements and encampments of the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert, from Egypt to the plains of Moab. Over 40 displacements are recorded, and God didn’t want His people to ever forget any of them, each with its own story of joys, sorrows, encounters with God, and displays of God’s holiness, sovereignty, providence, mercy and grace. As Israelites in Moses’ day recounted this abridged version of their history, I suspect many became overwhelmed by emotion. As God prepared His people for the next great chapter in their lives, He wanted them to first recount all that He had already done in their lives so they would not lose sight of their total dependence upon Him and His steadfast love, faithfulness, mercy and grace.
The pillar of cloud and fire led the Israelites all over the desert for forty years to eventually bring them to the Jordan River, which is only a two-week journey from Egypt by direct route. But ultimately, God wasn’t leading them just to the Promised Land, He was leading them to Himself. And as discussed previously, Moses wasn’t even allowed to cross the Jordon River with the people, because God was more interested in Moses’ relationship with Him than He was about Moses reaching a temporal objective. The Israelites’ complicated and tedious path through the wilderness was a journey of sanctification, reconciling God’s people to Him — “…for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3) Likewise, our life’s journey is not about what we accomplish, it is about becoming “one” with Him, and our journey only makes sense from the perspective of that purpose –
- John 17:3, 21 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
- Romans 8:28, 29 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
“On their gods also the Lord executed judgments…. destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places.” (Numbers 33:4, 52) The Israelites’ incredible journey describes their struggle to gain freedom, freedom from the power of idolatry – God substitutes. The Lord miraculously and triumphantly led His people out of the idolatrous land of Egypt, but despite God’s mighty works, the Israelites continuously drifted back into idolatrous thinking, resulting in God’s discipline. God brought the people out of Egypt but then spent 40 years getting Egypt out of the people. Now, God is leading His people into a new land full of idolatry, a “Promised Land” if they see Him as the Promise, if they refuse to accept any substitutes for Him, if they will “demolish all their high places.” God gave the people a strict warning to tear down the idols so they could experience the fullness of joy in Him. Likewise, God calls us to tear down our idols, those things that detract from our right relationship with Him; and to be clear, our idols are not small statues –
— 1 Samuel 15:23 — For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
— Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Perhaps you have been wandering too long in your own personal desert wilderness because you are still hanging on to idols. Perhaps you aren’t ready to cross over into a new ‘promised land’ because you are still too susceptible to being influenced by idolatry. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) Pray that God will give you a heart like today’s psalmist — “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.” (Psalm 31:6-8)
Job 21:22-30 — “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly. He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 Mar 21: Today, clean out your tent – remove from your life (your thought and your physical life) all that dishonors God for distracts you from God.