Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 1 June 2022:
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 brought 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.”
2 Corinthians 4:7 — “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
From Henry T. Blackaby: Knowing God and having Him reside within you is a treasure of infinite value. Jesus likened this value to that of a perfect pearl. The collector would readily sell everything he had in order to possess this one matchless pearl (Matt. 13:45-46). Your relationship with God places an immeasurable value on your life. The treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge are available to you through Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His love now fills you. His incomprehensible peace surrounds your heart and mind (Phil. 4:7). When Jesus dwells in your life, everything available to Christ dwells within you (Eph. 3:19). Paul was comparing our lives with the clay pots commonly used in his day. The contents of the earthen vessels, not the containers themselves, were of great value. The jars would become chipped and broken and would deteriorate over time, but nobody thought of the jar—they were interested in its contents. Paul noted that our great possession is that which God has placed within us. When people focus on us, they see a frail, imperfect, and deteriorating vessel. Nothing that comes from our flesh is worthy of praise. Our bodies are aging and losing strength (2 Cor. 4:16). Only as we allow God to fill us and renew our inner self will people see a treasure of immeasurable worth. Don’t focus on outward appearances and physical strength, for these deteriorate. Rather, allow the Holy Spirit to convince you of the infinite treasure that is within you because of God’s presence.
2 Corinthians 4:10 – “…that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
From Oswald Chambers: “We have to develop godly habits to express what God’s grace has done in us. It is not just a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved so that ‘the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.’ And it is adversity that makes us exhibit His life in our mortal flesh. Is my life exhibiting the essence of the sweetness of the Son of God, or just the basic irritation of “myself” that I would have apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy adversity is the acute sense of eagerness of allowing the life of the Son of God to evidence itself in me. No matter how difficult something may be, I must say, “Lord, I am delighted to obey You in this.” Instantly, the Son of God will move to the forefront of my life, and will manifest in my body that which glorifies Him. You must not debate. The moment you obey the light of God, His Son shines through you in that very adversity; but if you debate with God, you grieve His Spirit (see Ephesians 4:30). You must keep yourself in the proper condition to allow the life of the Son of God to be manifested in you, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. Our circumstances are the means God uses to exhibit just how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure His Son is. Discovering a new way of manifesting the Son of God should make our heart beat with renewed excitement. It is one thing to choose adversity, and quite another to enter into adversity through the orchestrating of our circumstances by God’s sovereignty. And if God puts you into adversity, He is adequately sufficient to “supply all your need” (Philippians 4:19). Keep your soul properly conditioned to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on your memories of past experiences, but let the Word of God always be living and active in you.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 June 22: Today, clean out your tent – remove from your life (your thought and your physical life) all that dishonors God for distracts you from God. (Numbers 33) Manifest Jesus to others today through your behavior. What is insider your cup is what will spill out when it is bumped. Pay attention to how you respond to irritations and afflictions. Make the most of the opportunity to reveal Christ to others. (2 Corinthians 4)