Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 15 May 2022:
Numbers 16:1-12 – People depart from God when they demand a “higher” work than He gives them.
Numbers 16:4-5 — “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, ‘In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him.’”
We must be very careful not to project our own sinful motives onto others, judging their actions from the context of our own sinful motivations. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram judged Moses as ‘self-seeking’ because they were self-seeking — they projected their own faults on him. They evaluated Moses’ actions based upon how they made decisions, selfishly. They automatically assumed that Moses had to be lifting himself up and empowering himself for personal gain, because that’s what they would have done and were, in fact, now doing in their challenge. As is so often the case, they were calling their selfishness spiritual – “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them.” In their selfish defensiveness, they caused a problem that should not have occurred and incited others to disunity. We often assume the worse in people because we see them from our own frailties. We are often ungracious to other sinners because in them we see our own sin and feel threatened. In our relationships, we often take things as personal attacks when, in fact, the behavior of others may have nothing to do with us. We must stop and remember the attributes of love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Seek first to understand before being understood. Before we judge another person and their behavior, before we search our Bibles for verses to prove their sins, perhaps we should seek to humbly understand what motivates them to do what they are doing, getting to the heart of the problem. Remember, we are called to a mission of reconciliation.
At the heart of this conflict was that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were not getting what they wanted quickly enough (because of their own failures) and blamed the leadership – “Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards (Numbers 16:14).” James had this to say, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!” How many times have selfish passions divided churches, families, friends? Our hearts are deceptive, and we are all susceptible to self-centered, passion-based sin. Best, therefore, to be overly gracious and let God recover what you think you may have lost in the process.
“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…. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:3, 9-21).”
Psalm 56:2 – “…my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.”
Attacks are motivated by pride.
Psalm 56:3, 4 – “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
The remedy for fear is trust in God. Fear is a trust problem, a faith problem. “Do not be afraid,” is a command often repeated in the Bible. It is a command because, in our lack of faith, we must be reminded to practice trust, to do it even when we don’t feel it. The more we do it, the more we will start feeling it. These verses tell us that an important process to learning to trust and no longer fear is to ‘praise God’s word.’ It is very difficult to become fearless without impassioned Bible study. Put on the full armor of God BEFORE you begin the day’s battle; praise God (even if you don’t completely feel like rejoicing) for the truths you read in God’s word and trust in them. What does “rejoice” mean? It means, essentially, to ‘joy’ again. When you feel doubtful or down, re-joy – praise God and be filled with joy, despite your apparent circumstances. Focus on the love and faithfulness of God and His promises for you. Obey the command to fear not. Don’t allow yourself to be afraid or the worry. Replace your negative thoughts with the truth of Jesus. This is something you must decide to do.
Psalm 56:4 — “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
If you truly trust in God, you will not be worried. To know Him (John 17:3) is to love Him; and to love Him is to trust Him; and to trust Him is to obey Him. You won’t trust someone you don’t know very well. You can’t know someone very well you haven’t spent much time with and who you haven’t seen to be trustworthy. Spend more time with Jesus and see His love and faithfulness in your life. When you are worried, turn to Jesus, and He will give you peace. (See Luke 10:38-42)
Psalm 56:8 – “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”
God knows every bit of your sorrow, counting every tear you shed. The Psalmist is struggling with fear and doubt, and is reminding himself of God’s perfect love and reliability. This is written as an example for us.
Psalm 56:10 — “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise.”
How you feel about God’s word reveals how you feel about God. A worn out Bible usually belongs to someone who isn’t.
Psalm 56:12 — “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.”
Your level of obedience reveals your level of gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Psalm 56:12 – I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you.
Fear is one of the biggest causes of sin. In your fear, remain obedient. In your obedience, God’s fidelity will become more evident to you, you will trust more, and fear less.
Psalm 56:12, 13 — “I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
God loves you so much that He gave his only Son so that you would not perish but would have eternal life. How then should you live your life on earth?
Psalm 57:2, 3 — “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”
God will fulfill His purpose for you. Even your trials are part of God’s plan for your life, though you cannot understand why while you are going through them. Mary and Martha could not understand why Jesus delayed in healing Lazarus and allowed him to die, but Jesus wanted to bring Mary, Martha, and Lazarus into a much deeper understanding of Him and relationship with Him; He wanted them to truly experience that He is the Resurrection and the Life. God always shows you perfect love and faithfulness, and you might have to go through your own fiery furnace or lion’s den in order to truly see it.
Psalm 57:7 – “I will sing and make melody!”
In the midst of trials, praise God!
Psalm 57:9 — “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”
What you say to others about Jesus reveals what you really think about Him.
Proverbs 15:7, 28 — “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools…. The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
Our words are far more important than we think. “Proverbs alone uses the word ‘mouth’ 44 times, the word ‘tongue’ 19 times, the word ‘lips’ 33 times, the word ‘words’ 45 times, the word ‘speech’ 12 times, and the word ‘speak’ 7 times. Today’s Proverbs tell us that our words are a direct reflection of our hearts. We may not be willing to physically assault our enemies, but we are likely willing to call them fools. (Matthew 5:22) Of course, words can be very destructive. The most revealing words are our ‘careless’ words, what we say without really thinking. Have you ever had to apologize for words you let ‘slip’ out of your mouth? Did you say, “I didn’t really mean it.”? The truth is you were only saying what you were thinking based upon what was in your heart. When your guard was down you spoke the truth of your heart. Do you occasionally lash out at others and then say, “I’m not really an angry person”? Your words reveal otherwise. Do you occasionally allow profanity to slip out of your mouth? What does that say about the condition of your heart? What will come out of your mouth today? Will your words reveal the love of Christ to others? Will your words be a blessing? Will they bring healing and reconciliation? Will your words reflect the character and will of God? Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) A good disciple discipline is to hold yourself accountable at the end of each day for every word you spoke. Each evening, consider your interactions with others and what you said to them. Did you speak love?
Proverbs 15:19, 24 – The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway…. The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
Proverbs uses the word “path” 23 times. Everyone is on a path, but only those who enter the “Gate” of Jesus Christ, and follow Him as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” find eternal life. A leader who does not lead others to Christ is an anti-Christ, preaching hope in something else which is an idol. Jesus said that the path of Life is narrow, and few take it.
Proverbs 15:28 – The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Proverbs 15 uses the word “heart” eight times, and all of Proverbs uses the word “heart” 77 times. Beyond behavior, God judges the heart. You can do the right things with the wrong heart and fall short of the Greatest Commandment and the First Commandment of total love for God. We are not perfected in love, but this is our goal. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the truth of your heart.
Proverbs 15:31 — “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.”
Proverbs uses the word “listen” 16 times, hear 19 times, “ear” 14 times, and “receives” four times. So much of your growth and sanctification depends upon your ability and willingness to truly listen to God’s word, from the heart, a heart that is humble and fully receptive. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts you, enlightens you, and empowers you through God’s word.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 May 22: Today, make the decision to trust God completely with your trials and challenges. Trust that God knows exactly what is going on in your life and is fulfilling His plan for you which is based on His perfect love for you. Praise God today. Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything. You have to decide to trust — today is the day (Psalm 56, 57).