Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 10 May 2022:
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.”
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.
Numbers 11:4 – “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!’”
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 to global pandemics and conflicts to local domestic issues, but we can’t see the suffering person two cubicles down from our work station. How are all these “global crisis” really relevant to the person next door whose life is falling apart due to personal issues? 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.
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.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5 — “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful…. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
This is how we must see ourselves – “as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” We have a sacred calling and requirement – that we “be found faithful.” We must diligently critique ourselves, but not by just considering our behavior, we must search our hearts to understand the motivations behind our behavior, seeking to eliminate pride, fear, self-centeredness, and guilt that would cause us to do the “right” things for the wrong (fleshy) reasons.
We should also remember that we remain poor judges of our own character, often deceiving ourselves, thinking higher of ourselves than we ought. Even still, we must also recognize the righteousness we have in Christ, not of ourselves but through grace, imputed to us through Him. Spirit-enabled humility is key, particularly when we begin feeling confident in our actions.
- Proverbs 21:2 — Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
- Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 — Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
- Galatians 6:3 — For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We must also acknowledge that if we are poor judges of our own character, we are certainly far worse judges of the character of others. We cannot see another person’s heart and cannot understand what motives are behind the other actions of others. Only God knows the heart.
- 1 Corinthian 2:11 — For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
- Jeremiah 17:10 — “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
- Psalm 44:21 — Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
- Proverbs 30:10 — Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be held guilty.
Until God discloses the purposes of the hearts of ourselves and others, we can only hold each other accountable to behavior from the measure of the word of God, but with humility and gentleness, recognizing that we all sin and fall short of the Glory God, and that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not through the merits of our behavior. Strive relentlessly but humbly to be found worthy of your sacred calling, and be prepared to proclaim why the Good News is so “good.”
1 Corinthians 4:20 — For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
“Christianity is not moral platitudes, lofty intentions, and noble thoughts. The fundamental characteristic of God’s kingdom is power. Paul faced constant criticism about his work among the early churches. Some of his detractors would travel to cities such as Corinth and speak extensively about all that Paul was doing incorrectly. At times, people in the churches were enticed to believe the slanderous criticisms against the apostle.
Paul responded with a reminder that the test of a kingdom citizen’s authenticity was not the persuasiveness of his words, but the spiritual power of his life. Paul candidly acknowledged that some did not find him eloquent in speech (2 Cor. 10:10). Yet they could not question God’s power in his life. He had seen many people converted, and many churches were started through his ministry. He had been used to heal the sick and raise the dead through God’s power. Regardless of whether his words were eloquent, they carried spiritual power and authority that came from God.
You will encounter many people who seek to convince you of their opinions concerning the kingdom of God. They may speak passionately. They may even bring charts and graphs to prove their points! But the test of the validity of their words is the spiritual power of their lives. If a person speaks forcefully about a point of doctrine but is habitually sinning, his words are discredited by his life. If a person talks of the power of God but gives no evidence of victory in her life, her words are empty. It is much easier to talk about the victorious Christian life than it is to live it.
If you only have the appearance of godliness without any corresponding spiritual power (2 Tim. 3:5), ask God to cleanse you of your sin and to fill you with His Spirit so that your life is characterized by power.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 May 22: Today, strive to “be found faithful,” while proclaiming salvation by grace through faith in Christ.