Imagine trying to have a close relationship over a long distance and without ever getting to know your partner. Could you even call it a real relationship? Two people who are acquainted with one another have a type of relationship, but they do not have an interactive, loving, and intimate relationship. They can’t. An intimate relationship requires truly knowing who your partner is.
God knows us because He made us, but it takes more than a set of repetitive prayers, a few glimpses at Scripture, and a weekly visit to a church to get to know God. All the gold stars, volunteer duties, and memory verses in the world will not take the place of seeking God with your whole being in the effort to get to know Him deeper and better. His word even tells us that when we seek and search for God with all our hearts, we will find Him.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 6:4 through Deuteronomy 6:25 (the end of the chapter), we begin with God’s main introduction of Himself to the people of Israel. In Hebrew, the first verse is called The Shema. It means “hear” or “listen.” You may even have heard it sung in your church in either Hebrew or English or a mix of both since some Israel-friendly churches like to add it to the worship songs. There’s some great information with a breakdown of words and such for the subject at Wikipedia. For our reading today, the verse that begins it all goes like this…
Hebrew: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad — English: Hear Oh Israel, The Lord Our God, The Lord is One
The reading continues with what Yeshua quoted as the greatest of all commandments…
And you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.
Moses then tells the people that these words should always be on their hearts, and they are to teach them carefully to their children. They should talk of them when they are at home, when they travel, when they lie down, and when they rise up. They are so important, they should be written on something strapped to their hands, tied around their foreheads, written on all their door frames, and engraved on their gates.
As the chapter continues, Moses reminds the people that when they are living in the land of promise, in houses they didn’t build, using water from wells they didn’t dig, and eating from vineyards and olive trees they didn’t plant, to remember who delivered them from Egypt and brought them to the land. He tells them to fear The Lord, serve Him, and swear by His Name. Then, he reminds them to never follow other gods, especially those chosen by the people that surround them because Yahveh is there with them, and He is a jealous God. Moses reminds them to never again test God like they did at Massah and to always do what is right in His eyes.
The last paragraph gives us the first representation of the power of personal testimony. Moses tells them that someday their children will ask them why they have so many laws and rules. When that happens, they are to tell their children that the community of Israel was once in slavery to Pharoah in Egypt, but The Lord brought them out with a strong hand. They should tell them of the signs and wonders God worked against Egypt, and that He brought them out for the purpose of bringing them to the land He promised to their ancestors. And they are to share that He gave them all the laws and statutes for their own good because it is righteousness for them to observe all that The Lord commands.
I love how Moses keeps referring to the laws of God being for the good of the people, and how that should even be part of their testimony to their children (and I’m sure to others). Their testimony should include the bondage they were in before they were delivered, and it should include the powerful ways in which God brought them their deliverance. Our reasons for keeping the laws of God are the same. They bring us righteousness, and they are for our own good. By living a holy and separated life, people will ask us why we’re not like everyone else, and then we will have a chance to share the testimony God gave us when He delivered us from whatever bondage we were in.
No matter how many laws we keep though, if we forget God, they become nothing but legalism. We must know who He is to know why we would want to walk with Him. The longer we serve God, the more we should know Him and know about Him, but it must begin somewhere. That somewhere for Israel was Deuteronomy 6:4-5, so it should work just as well for us. When we know God as who He is, we can have an intimate relationship with Him that becomes more than doctrine or legalism.
So how does that translate to those of us now who serve under the blood of Messiah? Well, since God never changes, it means that even for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, God is still One. We won’t be able to fit that infinite concept into a finite mind easily. Even Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:16 that Godliness is a great mystery. He reminds Timothy that God was manifested in the flesh, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, and received up into glory. God could only have done those things in the body of Yeshua.
Because of my personal testimony and studies, I have much more to share on this finding out who God is and how we can draw closer to Him, so if you want to read the rest, just click for more at the end. If you must come back to it later, or you’re just not ready now, I ask you to pray specifically to ask what God meant when He told Israel that He is One Lord and why that is important. I bless each one of you, my readers, with a desire for more wisdom in your walk that you may also have more intimacy in your walk with our wonderful Creator. Shalom and Bye for now.
Do you remember this old family sing-along song? If so, I’ll bet you have some verses for it that I’ve never heard, and I’m certain I have at least one you’ve never heard because I think my family added some verses for their own fun. What I didn’t know until I looked it up tonight at Wikipedia is that it was an old African spiritual song that refers to the return of Christ and the rapture. The original includes verses like “King Jesus, He’ll be driver when she comes,” and “She will take us to the portals when she comes.”
Our family just sang it for the fun of it and for the sound effects at the end of each line. For example, at the end of the first (title) verse, we’d all say, “Hi, Gal!” And after the six white horses verse, we’d shout, “Whoa, Bill!” After singing about how we’d all have chicken and dumplins, we’d say, “Yum, yum.” And my favorite was always the sort of sawing sound we’d make when we sang about killing the old red rooster. The most fun was at the end when we would try to make all the sounds, one after another, and in the right order.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 5:19 through Deuteronomy 6:3 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Deuteronomy 5:22-6:3 (in the Amplified Bible and other versions), we begin this section as Moses reminds Israel of God’s words to them from the midst of the mountain covered by fire. Now, they have all gone around the mountain, and they have much to remember, including the words God etched in stone with His own hand.
Moses tells the current generation how their forefathers sent tribal leaders to Moses requesting that only he go up and speak to God rather than them. The people bring up that most who had ever heard God’s voice no longer remained alive, and the elders tell him that people have decided they don’t want to take a chance of God speaking to them in their imperfections and it costing them their lives. When Moses arrives to communicate their message to God, He tells Moses He has heard it. He also tells Moses that it is a wise decision, and that He desires the people always have that kind of respect and reverence for Him, so things will go well for them and for their children forever.
God then tells Moses to have the people go back to their tents. Afterwards, Moses is to come back and stand near God while He tells him all his commands and laws for them to do when they possess the land of promise. Moses tells the people to be watchful to do exactly as The Lord commands and not to turn to the right hand or the left. He says that if they follow God’s ways, it will go well with them, and they will live long in the land.
At the chapter change, the writing changes to where it seems more in the present tense as Moses tells the people, “These are the laws and commands of God for you to obey in the land you are going to possess.” He tells them the laws are written that they will fear The Lord and obey all his rulings in every generation–parent, child, grandchild–as long as they live. Verse 3 from the Complete Jewish Bible reads with authority but also as a blessing…
Therefore listen, Israel, and take care to obey, so that things will go well with you, and so that you will increase greatly, as Adonai, the God of your ancestors, promised you by giving you a land flowing with milk and honey.
Much like the way I reworded The Ten Commandments in yesterday’s post, this gives the “why” in fulfilling the laws of God. As God shows in His comments to Moses about desiring the people to always have respect and reverence, He wants things to go well for us forever. He is creating both a new Heaven and a new Earth because He wants an abundance of people to join Him for eternity. His arm is not too short that He cannot reach to the depths of sin to pull a person toward Him. No matter how far away someone has gone, remember that God wants them for His own. He wants to reward those who come to Him, and leave their temporary sin, with blessings that will last an eternity. He desires to see many waiting there with joy and praise when He comes around the mountain of return to bring His people home.
TEN WAYS TO LIVE A HAPPIER LIFE…
- Don’t prioritize anyone (or anything) that doesn’t love you with the greatest love ever offered. In other words, put God first because if you gave your all to someone, that’s what you would want too.
- Remember that statues cannot see, hear, or answer prayers, so it’s useless to worship them. Besides, if you were the one who sees and hears, you wouldn’t want to be ignored for a statue.
- Don’t call out to God unless you want Him to answer because when you call, He wants to respond.
- Remember Who gives you rest and Who came up with the idea of rest on the last day of the earth’s creation.
- Give honor to the ones who didn’t abort you and who set you on the path of life. Be thankful God used them to create life for you, and honor Him by honoring them just as you like someone to respect gifts you give them.
- Don’t murder unless you like the idea of someone else murdering you.
- Don’t cheat on the one you promised your faithfulness, especially if you don’t like being cheated on yourself.
- Don’t take or harm something that does not belong to you. Respect the property of others as you want yours respected.
- Don’t lie about other people, and remember how bad it feels to have someone tell a lie about you.
- Don’t be jealous of the properties and gifts of others since you don’t want someone to make you feel bad about your own gifts and properties.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 5:1 through Deuteronomy 5:18 (in the Complete Jewish Bible), and through 5:21 (in the Amplified and other versions), Moses takes Israel back through God’s commandments and laws for them to live long and happy lives in their new land of promise. He reminds them of the covenant made with them in Mt. Horeb when God spoke to them face to face from the fire. Moses says he stood between them to receive the commandments so they could live, but the covenant was between God and His people. Moses begins with God’s words that say, “I am The Lord that brought you out of the bondage of Egypt” and then goes into a reading of the Ten Commandments given to them during the covenant.
We read these same commandments when we did our studies in the book of Exodus, so I won’t rewrite the actual Scriptures again, but I did write my own version of them with a bit of a twist; I wrote them with the “why” factor. I believe God’s laws make perfect sense, and we can reason among ourselves why it is good to follow them. If we cannot find any other good reason, we have the reason that all of God’s commandments are to treat others the same way we want to be treated.
Think about it this way: If any one of us were God, we wouldn’t want to give our everything to someone only to have that someone give their lives and thanks to someone who didn’t love them with the ultimate love. We also wouldn’t want them to say “thank you” to a brick wall when we are the ones actually answering their queries. And we wouldn’t want a person to keep calling our name only to ignore us when we answer.
The commandments God gives us will bring us to a happier life because they help us to think of others and not just of ourselves. The saying is true that a person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package. We will always be happier if we consider our effect on the world instead of always trying to judge how the world affects us. The two greatest commandments, to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself, follow the same rule of not making ourselves number one but of putting others first. That’s why the other ten can hang on those two. Whether it’s stated in ten, or two, or just the golden rule, the secret to living a happier life is always to think of others first.
I find it difficult to go very long without finding one of the ApologetiX parodies that lines up with something in the reading portions. I’m so impressed with a band that can teach strong messages from the Scriptures and still make them fun to learn. In this video, they parody the theme song from the movie Grease and do a great job with the new lyrics. They teach about the blessing of having Yeshua (Jesus) in our lives in spite of what the secular theories try to teach about Christ being bondage to people. And they also talk about confession, faith, divine grace, and searching God’s word. The lyrics are on the YouTube page, and you can also find them here.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 4:41 through Deuteronomy 4:49 (the end of the chapter), we begin with Moses separating out three cities on the east side of the Jordan River that will be used as cities of refuge. He names Bezer in the desert for those from the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead for those from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan for those from the half-tribe of Manasseh. These cities will allow those who have killed accidentally and without hatred in their hearts to have a place to run for mercy and to live without fearing for their lives.
After Moses names the cities, the reading proclaims, “This is the Torah which Moses placed before the people of Israel–these are the instructions, laws, and rulings which Moses presented to the people…” Said in another way, “This is the Word of God.” It goes on to describe how God delivered the people out of Egypt, the victories they won, the kings they defeated, and the borders of the new land God is giving them to possess.
God gave Moses the word to give to Israel after they were delivered from their bondage in Egypt. I hadn’t really put that together before, but it wasn’t the words of God’s law that originally set the people free. God’s love for His people came before His commands to them. The laws and commands of God have their own delivering power, but their best power is what they can do to prevent us from going into (or back into) bondage.
What sets people free from bondage to sin now? First, it is the love of God for His people. Few unbelievers will get an understanding of that from just the written words, so God gives each of us a testimony to share with the circle He places us within. Our testimony of God’s love toward us works to draw people away from the darkness and emptiness that steals their joy of living. It draws them toward a place of repentance. That place of real, heartfelt repentance when they first meet Jesus the Word heart to heart is when their chains fall off and they find themselves set free to walk away and avoid the sins that have plagued them (go and sin no more).
Once people have stepped out of their initial “Egypt” of bondage, they need direction just as the community of Israel needed direction. The written word of God gives us the direction to continually walk a path that leads away from bondage. For the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus the Word gave them a more excellent reason (His love) to follow the laws and commands that had become their own form of bondage. He wants us to study His written word to find wisdom to lead ourselves and to teach and lead others. And, He wants us to stay in communication with Him as our Living Word to help us walk in the joy of His holy presence. The lyrics at the end of the song above say it perfectly…
Research the Word, yes the Word that you heard
It’s God’s truth, it’s God’s teaching
(It’s the truth, I mean it)
This is the time, it’s the place, it’s the moment
Now Jesus is waiting receive Him
Jesus, the Word, yes the Word, yes the Word…
There is a theory that the last song played on the RMS Titanic, was the song Nearer My God to Thee. We can see how fitting it seems for the members of a band that has chosen to calm fearful passengers instead of getting rescued themselves to wish to be nearer to God before each takes his final breath. And, of course, this wish is also a wonderful blessing on others whose lives are coming to an end. However, even before we face our final moments, we should desire to become nearer to our Creator, and that desire should be the strongest ache in our heart if we claim to love and serve Him. After all, we want to be like Him, and it is His desire to be nearer to us, so our response in kind would bring us nearer to Him.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 4:5 through Deuteronomy 4:40, we read of Moses’ encouragements to the community of Israel before they enter into The Promised Land. He tells them to observe and follow the laws he has taught them as he received them from God, so that all people will see them as having wisdom and understanding. He says that as others see Israel living under the laws of God, they will say things like, “This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.” And then Moses quotes one of my favorite verses (verse 7, Complete Jewish Bible)…
For what great nation is there that has God as close to them as Adonai our God is, whenever we call on him?
Moses goes on to ask what other great nation has laws like the Torah he is giving them, and he reminds them to be watchful and not forget what they have seen with their own eyes. He says they should make the laws known to their children and grandchildren, so they will never vanish from their hearts. And then he reminds them of the day they stood at the foot of the mountain and heard the voice of God coming out of the fire as God proclaimed His covenant to them.
Moses reminds the people how when they heard the voice and saw the tables of stone, they did not see any image or shape of God at that time, so they should never try to make God into any kind of image later. He says for them to not make any representation of male or female human, animal, bird, fish, etc. For the same reason, he tells them not to look up at the sun, moon, and stars and see them as gods or as anything they should worship because God Almighty has allotted these things to all people on the earth.
Next, Moses reminds Israel that God pulled them out of the smelting pot that was their life in Egypt specifically to make them a special people for Him. He again tells them how he himself cannot go into the land because of them and to watch themselves, so they will not corrupt themselves and become separated from God in their hearts. Moses says he will call on the sky to be a witness for him that on the day this people forgets their God and carves and worships false gods to serve instead, The Lord will scatter them throughout the earth, and they will disappear from the land they are about to possess.
Moses then encourages the people that–on the day they have given themselves over to false gods that cannot see, hear, eat, or smell–if they will call out to The Lord in their distress, and if they will seek and search for Him with their whole heart, they will find Him and He will answer. He tells them that Yahveh is a merciful God who will not fail or destroy them, and He will not forget the covenant He has made with them or with their ancestors.
I love what Moses says to them in verses 32 and 33 (CJB)…
Indeed, inquire about the past, before you were born: since the day God created human beings on the earth, from one end of heaven to the other, has there ever been anything as wonderful as this? Has anyone heard anything like it? Did any other people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and stay alive?
He goes on to ask them if God ever tried to take any other nation from the bowels of the earth and used His might to make a people especially for Himself. Moses reminds Israel that with signs and wonders and an outstretched arm, God did exactly that right before their eyes. He tells them these things were shown to them, so they would know that Yahveh is God, and there is no other like Him. He, as their God, wants them to know His instructions because He loved their ancestors, and because He wanted to bring these present people to their new land. He closes today’s words with a message for them to keep all of God’s laws so they can do well and live for a long time in the land God is giving them forever.
It’s a little hard for me to condense these words and still let you see how big they are. Click on the link above to read the portion for yourself, so you can see just how much power and love is in God’s laws for His people. Many of the commands and words are repeated, and I think it’s for emphasis both to them and to us today. God wants a people for Himself forever, and by keeping His commands, we keep ourselves separated from anything that would try to come between us.
As God’s children, we have a promise of God’s big love for us. His word tells us the following in Romans 8:39 (New Living Testament)…
No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God loves us with the greatest love that exists, as He proved when He laid down His own life for us on the cross at Calvary. It is a love of titanic proportions, and He desires that we give it back to Him by willingly seeking His wisdom in everything we do and say, in all our desires, and in every day we live. May all of us who love God be constantly praying to draw nearer to Him today and always.
Did your parents ever tell you that whatever punishment they were about to give was going to hurt them more than it hurt you? I know mine did, and I never believed them until I had to play the parent role. Whether the punishment was to sit in the corner, or something bigger like taking away a favorite toy or object, having to dish out any kind of pain to someone we care about causes us immense sadness even when we know it’s for the good of the one receiving it. Even with the above photo showing my great niece in a fake jail, seeing the sadness on her face is painful even knowing she was doing as she was told and making a sad face for the picture. There’s just something inside of us that does not like to cause pain to others–especially when those others are people we love.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 3:23 through Deuteronomy 4:4, we begin a new week and a new Torah portion. Our week’s Parashah is number 45 titled Va’etchanan in Hebrew and meaning “I Pleaded” in English. We begin with Moses pleading with God about His decision to keep Moses out of The Promised Land. Moses begins with praise, telling God how he is just now learning how truly great He is and how mighty his works are. He asks God to please let him cross the Jordan River and see the wonderful country and Lebanon.
Moses then tells the people how angry God is with him because of them, and he says God will not listen to his pleas. Instead, God tells Moses to be quiet about it and not talk to Him anymore on the subject. He tells Moses to go up to Mount Pisgah and when he gets there, he will need to make sure he can see north, south, east and west. God promises Moses he can look with his eyes, but he absolutely will not be allowed to cross the Jordan.
God tells Moses to encourage Joshua as the new leader of Israel because he will lead them into the new land. Moses explains this and goes on to remind them to listen to all the laws and rulings he is teaching them because the laws will enable Israel to live long and to take possession of the land promised to their ancestors. He tells them not to add anything to what he is saying, and not to subtract anything from what he has told them, and then he reminds them of what God did at Ba’al Peor and how God destroyed all who followed the false god, Ba’al Peor. But God spared all those who chose to follow only Him, and Moses reminded them how every single one of them who followed The Lord was still alive and ready to enter the promise.
Somehow, without the Scripture actually saying it, it seems I could hear the pain in God’s words to Moses about no longer bringing up his desire to cross over. Even though it says God was angry, it was more like, “Enough, Moses. This is hurting me more than it is hurting you. I want you to cross over, but I must keep my word because I am The Lord and I change not. Now get up to the mountain where you can see everything, and don’t bring this up to me anymore because it hurts me too much to discuss it.” And the fact that Moses joined Yeshua and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration would appear to line up with the fact that Moses did go to Heaven even if he didn’t get to go into The Promised Land.
I imagine that even now, in order to show us mercy and keep us from being lost in our sins, when God has to send us some kind of painful “wake-up call,” it still hurts Him to do it. Because no sin can enter the Heavenly realm, He must push us toward a place of repentance where we will let go of our sins and willingly cast them under the blood of Yeshua. It’s not about how big or little the sins are, and it’s not about how many good deeds we do in this life to try and make up for any evil we have done, it’s about turning away from the ways of the flesh that seem right to a man and totally surrendering to the will of God. When we do that, we become dead to self and all things become new, so we can enter Heaven washed and clean. Then, God will say, “Well done, my true and faithful servant. It was worth the pain and suffering I had to bring to be able to spend eternity with you dwelling in the fullness of my presence and joy.”
Can I tell you how many times I have gone to church services or patriotic gatherings and watched hubby cringe and grimace when they play The Battle Hymn of the Republic? Well, that’s pretty much every time. Hubby has a southern heart, and he is amazed at how many people, both southern and Christian, do not realize the history behind the song. If you click on the title, you can read the Wikipedia page showing that the song was written to proclaim victory for the Union Armies over the Confederate Armies. The lyric writer, Julia Ward Howe, was a Union sympathizer, and she believed God was on their side and would have His wrath against the south, so even when we sing it as unto The Lord taking victory over the enemy of our souls, he hears the original meaning behind the lyrics. And he should be happy that I am spreading the word about the truth behind the lyrics. 🙂
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 3:15 through Deuteronomy 3:22, we finish another week and another portion of Torah, and we have Moses bringing things up to their present time. Moses finishes describing which lands go to which tribes, and then he tells of the last order he passed along from God. He reminds Israel that they can leave the women and children and livestock, but they are to march into The Promised Land armed and ready to fight for what God is giving them. After they win, they will come back to reclaim their families and cattle, and they will settle into their various possessions.
The portion concludes with Moses reminding the people of the words of encouragement he spoke to Joshua. From verses 21 and 22, we read…
Your eyes have seen everything that Adonai your God has done to these two kings. Adonai will do the same to all the kingdoms you encounter when you cross over. Don’t be afraid of them, because Adonai your God will fight on your behalf.
God wanted Moses to remind the people, and to remind Joshua, not to forget what they have seen. If they can keep their minds on those victories of the past, then knowing God is going with them into their future should be enough to help them keep up the good fight of faith. If they keep up the good fight, they can be sure they will win because God is fighting right there on their side.
I think we all have days that sometimes extend into longer periods of time where we begin to wonder if God is really fighting on our side with us. We lose battles, and we see friends lose battles, and it makes us think that maybe loss is the will of God for us. But while God may allow us to lose some battles in this lifetime, He will not allow us to lose the most important war, the war for our souls and the souls of others. It is not His will that any person should be lost, so whatever path we walk, it should be one that moves us forward in the great battle for the gathering of human souls to their Maker and Creator.
Whether we have seen it in our own lives, or read it in God’s word, we have seen the glory of God’s salvation. The change that comes over a person when he commits his life to Yahveh is indescribably wonderful. I think about the crazy man at the tombs, and how he was filled with so many demons that he would rip off his clothes and cut his body with sharp stones. We find at his deliverance that he was filled with a legion of demons. And yet, when Yeshua walked toward him, a thousand demons might have held his tongue so it was impossible for him to ask for salvation, but they could not stop him from running to meet his Savior who gave him the victory he needed. When the disciples caught up with Jesus, they found the man clothed and in his right mind. How amazing is that?
We are told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that God will continually change us from one degree of glory to the next. If we simply continue to walk with Him and never forget the glories we have already seen, we can keep the faith to keep up the good fight.
(By the way, if you like to read stories about God working in human lives and bringing victories both big and small, I’d like to recommend the books written by my friend and sister in Christ, Deborah Aubrey Peyron. Her books, The Miraculous Interventions(TM) Series, are collections of stories from her own life, and from the lives of others, showing where God intervenes in the human life and world. She thought God only intended for her to write them down to remind her of His presence, so she could keep up the good fight, but when people started asking her when her book was due, she got the message. She has just released her third book in the series, and she will continue to write in the series as long as God sends her people with stories to be told.)
“I’ve got shoes, they’re made of plywood…” is the beginning of a misheard lyric line from You’re the One that I Want out of the movie Grease. It’s only one of many misheard lines from songs that you kind find in books and online searches. But not all songs about shoes are misheard. There’s an old Johnny Cash song that says “all God’s children got shoes,” and then it says, “Gonna put on my shoes and walk all over God’s Heaven.” It’s a catchy tune, and you’ve probably heard it once or twice. If not, you can listen to it at YouTube, and you might even recognize it.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 2:31 through Deuteronomy 3:14, we won’t read about shoes, but we will read about what happens when God tells you where to walk. Moses is talking about when God prepared Israel to overtake Sihon, King of Heshbon. He relates how the king and all his people came out against Israel, but because Israel was acting in obedience to overtake the land as God directed, they defeated him, his sons, and all his people. Moses tells them how they took every city and utterly destroyed every city and its inhabitants, and that no city was too strong or walled high enough because God handed it all over to them.
There were cities that God said to stay away from because He had plans for them, so Israel obeyed and did not attack those places. But then God told them to turn up the road to Bashan and go against Og, the king of Bashan. Again, the king and all his people came out against them, and again Israel defeated them because God gave them victory. Israel defeated all sixty of the king’s cities even though they were highly fortified with walls, gates, and bars. In addition, they took many unprotected cities.
At the end of the battles, Moses tells how he divided the possessions of the cities among the tribes. The territory from Aroer at the edge of the valley to half the hill country of Gilead Moses gave to the sons of Reuben and Gad. The rest of Gilead he gave to the half tribe of Manasseh. The kingdom of Og was called the “kingdom of giants” because when they found Og’s iron bed, it measured about thirteen and a half by six feet. Now that’s one huge guy, and you better know that God is with you before you go after someone like that.
Life is filled with giants and battles that God wants to give us victory over, but we must trust God to arm us, train us, and suit us up for battle before we can fight effectively. We can’t look at our own weaknesses because it will turn our focus away from God and toward our situation. It’s just like when Peter obeyed Jesus and walked on the water; he didn’t start to sink until he took his eyes off of Jesus and put them on the waves instead. The world is God’s to give, so if He says to do battle and overtake the enemy, it’s only because He has already planned our victory and the enemy’s defeat.
The song says, “I got shoes, you got shoes,” and we do. Ephesians 6:14-16 (in the Common English Bible) says it this way…
“So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
We have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and we can walk through (and out of) any valley of defeat on this earth and keep walking until we’re stepping on Heaven’s streets of gold.
The full title of this image is “Purple Cat is Opposed to the Right to Arm Bears.” I certainly can see his point. I know most hunters would not like the idea of armed bears, or any armed wildlife either. Imagine the days when the only way you could eat meat was to go hunt and kill it yourself. You would not have wanted it to shoot back at you. But if you were to ask the bears and other game, they would all be against hunters being armed simply because most anything that lives will fight to continue doing so. Regardless of who brings the fight and who must defend themselves, we were made to want to live.
The right to protect ourselves from anyone who might harm us or our possessions is not a bad thing, but criminals who don’t want to risk their own lives while committing their crimes, and governments who don’t want to risk people stopping them from stepping over the line, are all in favor of taking away our rights to bear arms. But it takes a strong and armed generation of people (who are willing to fight) to keep the balance. As nice as it would be to think that disarming everyone would automatically generate peace, unless you could be sure that all people would keep Godly morals and follow The Golden Rule, that idea must be reserved for the new Heaven and the new Earth.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 2:2 through Deuteronomy 2:30, we will read about those who had the right to bear arms but didn’t do the right thing with it. Following all we’ve been studying so far in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is still telling the current generation of the children of Israel what events led them to where they are today. In this story I’ve noticed something new, and that is the detail that those who were forced to wander for 40 years to prevent their entrance into The Promised Land are now shown as soldiers only. Verse 14 states that it took 38 years from the time they left Kadesh-Barnea because they had to wait until every man capable of bearing arms was eliminated from the camp.
Now, just because they were trained to fight, they were not supposed to fight in every circumstance. As we read through today’s portion, we see cities where God told them to go through without fighting. When they got near Esau’s land, they were told to treat them well and to pay for all food and water they used while passing through. God reminded them that they did not need to fight because He is their provider and has given them everything they need.
When Israel crossed through the desert of Moab, God also told them not to fight there because He would not give them any of that land. Instead, He had given that territory to the descendants of Lot. The reading also mentions the fact that giants used to live in that land as well, and that makes me wonder if the men were ready to fight them there, but it was almost 40 years beyond when God intended for them to be giant killers.
As Moses continues the story, he talks of all the cities filled with giants (and men that may have been part angel in some theories) and how God went before the armies and displaced the inhabitants so those He chose could take possession. The children of Lot and the children of Esau apparently obeyed and followed God, so they were now living in their own lands of promise. But when God was ready for the sons of Jacob to have their part, and the old soldiers had been completely replaced, He told them to stop going in circles and prepare to take the land He prepared for them.
From what I read in that last part, it appears that Moab was not going to be part of it until Sichon, King of Heshbon, refused to even let the children of Israel pass through his territory. Because this evil king would not even sell food and water to his visitors, God hardened his spirit and made him an enemy that Israel would fight and defeat.
I’ve said before how uncomfortable all the war talk makes me, but at the same time, I know it’s necessary because all men do not live according to God’s righteous ways. Even in simple ways of doing business, there are times I wish God would force people to do the right thing, so I would never have the anxiety that comes from getting ripped off. If God forced people to do things His way, then we could know without any doubt that what people do for us would be done with honesty and fairness. Unfortunately, that won’t happen in this lifetime, but that’s not a reason to give up freedom and push to control all things in this life either.
I can’t guarantee that every tongue will say things I want to hear, but I would never advocate for cutting out the tongues of everyone who says something I find displeasing. I won’t take away pencils because of journalists who use their God-given gifts of writing to tell lies. And there are gun-owners that hurt people, so they should not have guns, but those who want the right to protect themselves from those abusers should not have to pay the same price as the abusers. Let us fight the good fight as God leads us, and trust the rest to the future His promises hold for us.
When the clothing campaign first came out, and I started seeing things all over the place with the words No Fear, I remember thinking what a foolish campaign it was because it left God out of the equation. When the writer in the 23rd Psalm says he will not fear, he includes “because you are with me” in reference to The Lord his Shepherd. With God, we do not have to fear, but without Him, we have no guarantee of the kind of peace that drives away our fears.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 1:39 through Deuteronomy 2:1, Moses speaks to the “little ones” that God promised would cross into The Promised Land after their parents sinned against God. He tells the children what happened when God stopped them in their paths and sent them back out into the desert.
After the spies came back, and the people stirred God’s anger with their fears and complaints about giants in the land, they thought they could just change their plans and get God to change His mind. They said, “Now we will go up and do everything The Lord told us to do,” and it says they considered it an easy matter since they were following commands God had given. But Moses told them not to go and fight because God would not be with them and their enemies would defeat them.
Did they listen to God? No. Did they listen to Moses? No, not to him either. Moses says in the reading that the people took matters into their own hands and went up into the hill country without God’s blessing and presence. When they did, the Amorites came out of the hills and came against them like a swarm of bees. They defeated Israel in Seir and chased them all the way back to Hormah. After that, when they cried out to God, He neither listened to them or paid attention to them, and they were forced to stay in Kadesh longer than planned. Beyond Kadesh, they traveled the road to the Sea of Suf and stayed circling Mount Seir for a long time.
Listening to words of God without them being the current and anointed spoken word for our hearts and our time is like taking verses out of context. If we take just part of three verses (Matt 27:5, Luke 10:37, and John 13:27), we can get the instruction: Judas went and hanged himself. Go and do thou likewise, and what thou doest, do quickly. That twisting of Scriptures out of context is used often by those who are trying to manipulate people who respond to every “the Bible says” statement without searching the Scriptures and trying the spirits. More than likely, there were leaders who did this to the children of Israel, and they were outside of the will of God. God did tell Israel to get ready for battle, and He guaranteed them victory because He would be with them. But, when they chose not to go with Him, and then chose to obey later when He said not to go, they were in double rebellion against Him.
God’s word tells us not to fear in some form or other about 365 times. It’s good that we can have Yahveh to lean on and trust every day of the year, but that doesn’t mean that we have Him on our own terms. Even the No Fear company faced bankruptcy in 2011, so nothing is guaranteed even when a company is big and profitable and expands into the soft drink industry.
God has given us His entire word, and He gives us His Holy Spirit to guide our interpretations, so we can know His encouragement to not fear in the proper context. No fear, especially of failure, is good when we are walking in humble obedience to God’s direction for our lives. In obedience to Him we find His presence, and in His presence, we find the strength to do all things through Him.
A long journey without stops along the way is just not as fun as one with brief retreats and planned detours. When my husband and I used to travel with the boys, we tried to make the journey as much fun as the destination. We stopped to see the world’s largest prairie dog and a five-legged cow, we visited the Precious Moments museum, and we rode a miniature train in Tiny Town. If a rest area had trails or play areas, we tried to spend some time enjoying nature or riding on swings. The stops along the way are what made our journeys fun, and the stops along the road of life are what keep our days filled with real living.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 1:22 through Deuteronomy 1:38, Moses is continuing his talk to the current generation of Israelites about the history of the generations before them. He speaks as if they are one in the same people since he wants to make sure they will not repeat the same mistakes as their recent ancestors. As he takes them on the journey of deliverance from Egypt, he walks them through the paths walked by their parents and the stops made along the way. He begins with the journey of the spies into The Promised Land.
I noticed as the reading started that Moses says it was the people who suggested they send spies out ahead of them, but when I first wrote on this topic, the reading stated it was God who sent the men out. This makes me a little unsure as to who had the original idea, but since both God and Moses agreed the idea was a good one, they all worked together to bring it to pass. Moses tells of the journey and how the spies returned with fruit from the land and the report that The Lord was sending them to a good land.
Unfortunately for that previous and sinful generation, the good report of the spies, and the evidence they carried to encourage the people, was not enough. The people focused on the report of giants in the land and accused God of hating them by bringing them from Egypt to a place where they would be killed by giants. Moses tells this new generation of the encouragements he shared with their ancestors, reminding them of all the places since Egypt where God had shown Himself as strong and as their Deliverer. He also reminds the people that God said He would go to the land of promise with them and would fight for them, but they chose fear instead.
From here, Moses communicates God’s anger against those who saw His abilities, agreed to stand as soldiers and fight for the land, and then gave up because they only wanted the destination without the journey. Moses tells them that the entire evil generation is banished from entering into the land except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He goes on to say that it is because of them (and I’m not sure if he’s still talking of the previous group or is now focused on the current people) that even he will not be able to enter in, so Joshua the son of Nun will lead them in his place.
Not every stop in our travels, or on life’s journey, will be the same. Some places we stop because we have to, like necessary bathroom breaks when we’re traveling. Some places we stop because we catch a glimpse of something we know we may never see again, so we stop and take it in, and maybe we capture the memory in pictures. Some stops are a combination of necessary and nice, like when we’re hungry and we choose to eat at that famous restaurant we’ve seen advertised on all the billboards.
In life, we will have necessary stops, joy stops, and those that are a combination of both. As we travel, if we learn from those who have traveled before us, we can spend more time looking for the stops that will bring joy to the journey, but we will still have some of those necessary stops just because that is part of our temporary life on this earth. When I took the picture above, I was having unresolved issues from neck surgery and looking at another more serious one, plus I was dealing with a lot of stress at work as I tried to transition out of my job for a chiropractor. I didn’t plan to stop on the back steps that April evening, but I walked out at that golden hour when everything seemed to glow in the fading sunlight. I had to grab my point and shoot and grab the picture before the moment disappeared.
Since then, I’ve had many more stops on my journey, some wanted and some not so much. I can look back at that sunset image (including the colorful manipulations I’ve done on it in pink, purple, and peach) and remind myself that God has both my sunrises and sunsets in His capable hands, and He will lead me on every step of this journey as long as I am willing to follow Him. Even in those times where I face difficulties, I do not face them alone. And no matter how many stops I have to make along the way, I can trust that He will walk with me, stop with me, and bring me to the right destination when my journey reaches its end.
We’ve now traveled all the way from Genesis 1:1 through Numbers 36:13. we’ve learned about God’s creation of all things, the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, an earth gone wild, and an earth destroyed by water leaving only Noah and his family. From there, we’ve met Abraham as the father of righteousness, Isaac as Abraham’s son of promise, and Jacob who became Israel. And from these leaders and patriarchs, we have seen Israel become a people in bondage, Moses become their reluctant deliverer, the leadership of Egypt destroyed for their sin, Israel delivered from their bondage in Egypt, Israel forced to wander because of their unbelief, and God use Moses to lead multiple generations of Israel from victory to victory. Now we begin a new book in their lives; the book of Deuteronomy which means “a copy of the words” in Hebrew.
Before we get into the reading, here’s a cool video (with lyrics) from my favorite Christian parody band, ApologetiX, called Learn Some Deuteronomy, which is a parody of Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard…
Now, in today’s reading from Deuteronomy 1:1 through Deuteronomy 1:11, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Today, we start Parashah 44, Hebrew D’varim meaning “words” in English. We begin with the words that Moses spoke to all Israel from the far side of the Jordan River, on the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year. The reading says that Moses took it upon himself to expound the Torah of everything God had told him to speak to them. In other words, he wanted to leave them with a summation of what he felt was important about their time together–the words from The Creator to His children.
Moses begins with reminding Israel that God was the One who spoke to them in Horeb and told them they had stayed long enough on that mountain and that it was time to move on. God told them to turn and take their journey up to the hill country of the Amorites and all their neighbors in the Arabah. God then directed them to the lowland, the south (the Negev), the coast, the land of the Canaanites, and then to Lebanon as far as “The Great River,” the Euphrates.
Moses continued to speak to the people who were now at the entrance to their promise, telling them that God said (in verse 8, Amplified Bible), “Behold, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.” He went on to bless them with the reminder that God had multiplied them, and that their numbers had grown, so they were now like the stars of Heaven for multitude. He added (verse 11 AMP), “May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you as He has promised you!”
I don’t know about you, but I can hear the love as Moses speaks to this people he’s been leading for so long. He is like a proud parent who has watched his children grow, bear children of their own, make mistakes, repent, mature, and finally get to that place where he could close his eyes and entrust them fully to the hands of God. All Moses wants for this nation now is for them to continue to grow and be blessed from now through eternity.
What Moses wants for these people, and the fact that Moses spoke face to face with God, tells us that Moses bore the heart of God toward these people. God also wanted nothing more than to bless them, make them grow, and bless them some more from then through eternity. That He made them blind for a time, so He could build another flock of the Gentiles, does not mean that God has changed His desires for His children. He still wants them blessed for eternity, and this is why the two flocks will become one when He grafts Israel back into their own root. He is using those of us not born into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel to continue to multiply Israel. We have a bigger family than we can ever imagine.
And now, I will share one more ApologetiX video with you since it is another one about Deuteronomy. This one is called Ronomy, and it is a parody of Del Shannon’s Runaway. It doesn’t have lyrics, and they’re short, so I’ll start with those…
As they walked along they numbered two million strong
With all of their wives and all their young
And as Israel walked out of Egypt some things went wrong in the desert
That’s why they took so long
In the book where it began, Israel found itself in Egypt’s land
Bid adieu in Exodus, straight through Leviticus and Numbers
While, while, while, while, while they went astray
And they wound up their desert stay in Deuteronomy
It used to be that naming shows from a specific era was a clear give-away to someone’s age. But now, with the advent of cable and satellite, and stations dedicated to classic television from days gone by, lots of people have the pleasure of enjoying television and movie entertainment from the past. Of course, the older I get, the more I change what I consider to be entertainment, but I do enjoy the stuff from the era when joking about a miniskirt was considered risqué instead of the out and out sexuality that’s pushed out of Hollywood now.
In today’s reading from Numbers 36:1 through Numbers 36:13 (the entire chapter), we complete another weekly portion, and we finish the book of Numbers. And Moses is finishing up his ministry as the leader of Israel by taking care of a few loose ends. In this case, a clan member from the tribe of Joseph has just realized that an earlier ruling requested by the five daughters of Zelophehad could turn out to create an imbalance in the inheritance of the tribes. The ruling was simply that if a man had no sons, his daughters would receive the inheritance from their father as if they were sons.
The problem, as pointed out by the clansman, is that if these girls marry into another tribe, they would take their inheritance with them, taking away part of what rightfully belonged to one tribe and giving it to another. In addition, they would then have a new inheritance with their husband’s family. At the year of Jubilee, when all properties return to their original owners, the tribes these daughters married into would have more than their fair share, and the tribe from which they came would be short some of its inheritance.
Moses decreed a new law that stated these daughters, and any daughters in the same position, would be required to marry within their own tribe to prevent any imbalance in the portions of inheritance. The tribes and the daughters seemed receptive to the law, and in obedience, the girls married from the sons of the brothers of their father. (In other words, they married their cousins.) In doing this, they fulfilled the command that no inheritance would be shared tribe to tribe, and each person would cling to the inheritance that belonged to the tribe of his or her ancestors.
I know there are lots of jokes about intrafamily marriage relationships and inbreeding, but I’m certain God wouldn’t have told them to do something like that if it was actually considered incest and would cause problems like birth defects. I’m happier that we consider that off-limits now, at least in the U.S., but for the purposes of keeping the purity in the tribes, it made sense for their situation. At the same time, I have a feeling that those tribal lines did eventually get blurred, and they may have led to some pretty heated conflicts in the future of Israel. Maybe they still do.
Now, I wonder how God sees the tribes and His family as it is scattered all over the world. Wouldn’t it be funny to find out that by way of ancestral bloodline, your next-door neighbor is actually related to you? Or, what if you found out that you and your cousin had ancestry from Israel but from different tribes? Thankfully, God does have it all sorted out, and He knows who is who right down to the DNA in each strand of hair. And we can be even more thankful that no matter how many families are on the face of the earth now, God has a plan to turn the multiple flocks into one flock under One Shepherd, and we will spend eternity worshiping the One Father we all share equally. Those will be the days.
Accidents aren’t always bad things. In the image above, the photographer was trying to set up for a sunset he planned to capture in a few moments when he accidentally hit the shutter and snapped the picture. Once he looked at it and realized how good it was (except for the lens flare in the middle), he shared the unedited masterpiece on purpose. When I finally gave my heart to The Lord, it was sort of an accident that I’m glad to say has become a purposeful walk in His presence for 31 years as of today. I was bribed to visit the church, and I only knelt down because that’s what everyone else was doing, so I accidentally got myself into a position to be prayed for by a group of women who gathered around me because they thought I was repenting. That accident quieted me enough to hear the voice of God, so He could speak to my heart.
In today’s reading from Numbers 35:9 through Numbers 35:34 (the end of the chapter), we read about accidental events that lead people to cities of refuge. I spoke of the cities yesterday but only of their existence, not their purpose. Today, God speaks to Moses to detail what people are able to live within the borders of those cities. Because in God’s law the next of kin can rightfully kill a person who has killed his or her relative, a location of safety needed to be set up for those who killed someone accidentally.
This portion of the reading gives examples of accidental killings such as shoving someone without being angry or throwing something that accidentally hits the person, and the end result is death. It also lists purposeful things that cannot be claimed as accidents, such as hitting someone with a piece of iron or a large rock. Even a person who strikes another with his own hand, if the hit is in anger and it results in death, the person is considered a murderer and eligible to be put to death.
If it is determined that a person killed someone accidentally, the killer is permitted to live in a city of refuge either until a trial or until the death of the high priest. If the killer comes out of the city before either of these events, he takes his own life in his hands because he makes himself subject to the next of kin avenger. If it cannot be determined that the death was purposeful, it will be considered an accident because in order to accuse someone of murder, there must be two or more witnesses. The testimony of one witness is not sufficient enough to put someone to death.
As the reading closes, God also warns people that if a person has actually committed a murder, no one is to take a bribe from them to say it was an accident and allow them to live in a city of refuge. The killer must be put to death. Also, no one must receive a bribe to allow a person to leave the city of refuge before the death of the priest. These things that would allow a killer to go free in any way cannot be permitted because blood defiles the land. A price must be paid for it, and it cannot be allowed to defile the land because the presence of Yahveh lives in the land with His people, Israel.
The statements about an avenging next of kin being required to balance the scales by killing the murderer tells me that God absolutely requires balance in all things. The chaos in our present society is due to the lack of that balance. We have killers and liars that get away with their crimes. We have people who represent justice who will change their rulings for the right amount of money. And, we have a whole lot of people with the mindset that if the excuse is good enough, or the procedure of apprehension and conviction doesn’t dot every “i” and cross every “t,” the person who committed the crime should go free. Yikes! Fortunately, when the law operates as it should, witness testimony is still considered the strongest proof just as it is here.
Let me mention here that while we have an “accuser of the brethren” that seeks to testify against children of God and try to get them condemned to Hell, we also have God’s justice system that requires two witnesses. I believe the other witness would have to be the accused. In other words, just because the adversary wishes for you to perish, if you stand against the accusations and curses, you stand strong in Christ. No one will be lost just because the enemy desires his soul. A person will have to give up his soul by refusing to repent and place his sins under the blood of Yeshua. At the judgment seat, those two witnesses (satan and the accused) will testify, so no one will be able to claim it’s an accident if his name is not in The Lamb’s Book of Life.
Today is the day of salvation. If you have never truly repented for the sin you were born into in this flesh, walk now into the city of refuge that was built for you on the foundation of God’s mercy. It is not His will for any to perish, so He provides a way for you to escape the death sentence that is the penalty for sin. It was no accident that Christ went to the cross for “whosoever will,” and it is no accident if you are reading this post and have not yet committed your life to God. Let all the accidents of your life–loss, pain, suffering, depression, unfairness, or whatever has plagued you in this life–be a catalyst for purpose, and may you turn today and walk forever in the mercy and grace of Yeshua HaMashiach. Amen.
Each of us may define a place to find refuge differently depending on what we are trying to escape. We may use a trip home or a vacation as a refuge from work. Refuge from pain might be in a certain medication or in healing. And, refuge from a storm could be anything from an umbrella to a storm cellar depending on the severity of the storm. The definition of refuge is “The condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble.” For Christians, our main refuge is from death as a penalty of sin, and we find it in the blood of our Messiah, Yeshua.
In today’s reading from Numbers 35:1 through Numbers 35:8, The Lord talks to Moses again about the way the community of Israel should live in their new land. God says for Moses to order Israel to give the Levites cities to live in as well as open land. The land is for livestock and crops while the cities are for the Levites and their families to live in. God gives very specific dimensions and space for the cities and their surrounding land, and the dimensions sound very much like those of the New Jerusalem in Bible prophecy.
God says Israel must give the Levites a total of 48 cites, 6 of which are designed as “cities of refuge” as a place to flee for someone who has killed another human being. The other 42 cities are just for them. The division of these cities will come from the inherited land of the various tribes of Israel with those who have a bigger inheritance giving the larger spaces of land to the Levites.
These lands and cities are a form of tithe from the people of Israel because the Levites do not have their own inheritance as do the other tribes. God has set them aside to do His work and create a government over the people that will serve to protect them if everyone adheres to God’s plan. The tribes with the bigger inheritances give more, but if we could measure it out, I’m certain they would still give the same percentage because God is no respecter of persons. He knows what we need, and He knows what we are able to share.
And don’t you find it wonderful that in providing for the protection over His people by way of law and those who will govern by that law, God also provides mercy? He is absolutely sovereign, and He is loving and giving in all He plans. He covers every possibility in life, including that humans will fail and need refuge from that. He makes the law like He makes necessary rain storms to grow plants from the earth that produce food and oxygen, and then He adds His mercy like we add storm shelters to our homes. We need the storms, and we need shelter from the storms. We need God’s law, and we need Him to pour out new mercies for us every day because we will likely break His laws many times each day.
What are some things that you consider pursuits, dangers and troubles in your life? When you need refuge from these things, what are the places or behaviors that give you refuge–even temporarily? Do you find your refuge in a bowl of ice cream or some retail therapy, or have you learned to go running to the mercy seat at the throne of God to find your peace?
A city of refuge represents more than just a rest stop. It is walled and fortified to protect you from danger, and it gives you a place to live daily in freedom. Church attendance and good works are not a city, though they can offer temporary shelter. But, salvation and living a life of obedience and worship to God is a city; a place of permanent dwelling. It is God’s will that all would find His cities of refuge and live there for the rest of their earthly lives that He may dwell with them for eternity. Let us go beyond the rest stop of seeking a brownie button for attending Sunday School or doing some good deed, and let us instead move in with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths to places where we dwell within God’s presence. There we will find a real place of refuge.
Vinnie the travel-planner did a good job at getting from point A to point B, but he often left before he took time to really see anything. He went away almost as fast as he came to any destination. He was the kind of person for whom they write things like stop and smell the roses.
Vidal the photographer, however, was quite the opposite. He stopped, saw, looked at, admired, and smelled…and smelled…and smelled the roses. He liked to linger over things of beauty, and he was never ready when Vinnie set off to yet another new location. So, Vidal got Vinnie to stop just a little longer, and Vinnie kept Vidal moving at an energetic pace.
Vinnie and Vidal needed each other, but they also needed Vickie the tour guide because she was the one who made sure they took care of whatever business they originally set out to accomplish. Vickie helped both of her traveling companions conquer their “to do” lists. Together, the three of them came, saw, and conquered a magazine full of journalistic endeavors.
I had to come up with a quick fiction story to head us off because today’s reading from Numbers 34:16 through Numbers 34:29 only gives us a couple of sentences of action and then a list of the names of tribal leaders that Moses put in charge of taking possession of the land and of dividing the inheritance among the people. Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, were the primary leaders. After that, each tribe had a specific leader appointed to go, see, and conquer the land of Canaan for Israel.
So, there’s not some deep spiritual lesson in a list of leaders, but in the fact that we need leaders, and we need each other, for any important task is always a good lesson to remember. Even the Latin victory chant would sound incomplete if we only said, “Vici!” (We conquered!) Most of us are so accustomed to the claim of Veni, Vidi, Vici (we came, we saw, we conquered) that we know what it means even if we don’t really knowing what it means. The image above comes from a restaurant by that name, so they gambled on most guests knowing enough to trust it would be a winning cuisine.
Many of the images I found while searching for that phrase were of people standing in some type of dominant or winning position. They stood on mountain tops and in front of tall buildings to show their successes in travel or physical endurance. Because we’re reading the Bible from this point in history, we know Israel will be successful, so we may not even think of the internal battles they had to overcome to get to their victory. But God was there with them then, and He is here with us now, so that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper,” and when we reach our points of success with Him by our side, we too can shout, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”
As a little girl of maybe two or three, I would reach for a forbidden item, draw back my hand, slap it with my other hand, and firmly tell myself, “No.” From the stories I’ve been told, this bit of cuteness was a result of early childhood training from my Aunt Shirley. When I was born, she told people she would not “child proof” her home because she felt it was more important to train me how to behave in her home than to change her home to adapt to my behavior. It worked then, and it works now. I’m a firm believer in treating the homes and property of others with the utmost respect, and I think it’s important to teach everyone to care for those things that do not belong to them as if they’re made of fine china.
So this whole thing of illegal immigration has me confused as to why people would think it’s okay to come into our home and treat it with disrespect. We have laws for a reason. We have immigration and border laws for protection of not only the current occupants, but of any who would legally and respectfully become legal occupants. But with so many in this country not setting an example of respect and value, I suppose it’s pretty difficult to expect a stranger to show respect either.
In today’s reading from Numbers 33:50 through Numbers 34:15, we read about God’s preparation for the immigration of the community of Israel into the land of Canaan. The first thing to remember is that we live on this earth that God owns and has caused to reproduce for us, and too often we forget Him as we indulge in its benefits. The Canaanites lived as if there was no God, and instead they worshiped false gods and idols. Because of their disrespect, God had no problem taking what was rightfully His and willing it to His children. He said in other passages that even the earth itself would vomit out that type of disrespect.
As Israel prepares to take over the land, God has a set of plans to help them live there securely. God tells Moses to tell the people, the first requirement is to expel all the people currently living there. Next, Israel must destroy all the stone figures, metal statues, and high places built for false gods. God warns them that if they don’t drive out all the inhabitants, whoever is left will become like thorns in their eyes and stings in their sides as they harass them in the land where they are living. Beyond this, God says He will do to Israel what He has sworn to do to the Canaanites. There is no choice. The land must be cleansed.
The rest of the reading gives exact details about the borders of the land that is to belong to them and how they will divide it up. I don’t know biblical or current geography well enough to know what that means they should own now, but I’m certain they don’t have all that God willed to them. But there is something I noticed in the description. I read how one border runs along Egypt and another along the Jordan River, and I thought how like the Christian life that is. Egypt represents sin and slavery. Since we live in the flesh, we have a border along sin and the fleshly desires that kept us in bondage before Christ set us free. The Jordan often represents death, and that is also a border as we walk through this life never knowing exactly when we will be required to cross over. It’s up to us to protect our borders to keep sin out and to avoid crossing into death before our time.
We must remember that this world is not our home. It is a temporary dwelling place provided to us by Our Creator, and we need to respect this life even though it’s not permanent. While we’re here though, God’s word says to occupy it with life until He returns, so we need to protect our borders from the illegal immigration of evil spirits that would try to put us back in bondage. We have border fencing because God says His walls are called salvation. And, since His gates are called praise, we simply need to keep the fencing secure by remembering and uplifting God for all He does for us. Because He dwells within the praises of His people, we will have perfect border security.
When I worked in the travel store of a popular truck stop off of I-40 in Arizona, the atmosphere in the mornings always reminded me of the joys of going places with my grandparents. Sure, getting up at 4am, so we could be on the road before sunup and out of town before rush hour, was not always fun, but seeing new people and places was worth it. And the truck stops were worth it too. Being a kid, I didn’t have to drive, so I got to sleep an extra two hours and wake up as we pulled into the big travel center at Buttonwillow, California, and that’s when the fun really started. I think I discovered grape “Bubble Yum” and “Pop Rocks” both in travel stores before they were in all the convenience stores near home.
In today’s reading from Numbers 33:11 through Numbers 33:49, we read more about the travels of Israel as they left Egypt. I wonder if they got excited each time God told them to move on. If the adults didn’t, surely the kids got excited to see something new on the road ahead. Maybe they even found rocks that popped (up under the wheel of a wagon) as they pulled into some temporary campsite. 🙂
You can read all the verses by clicking on the link, and there you can see each little stop and destination. I’ll give you some of the bigger jumps like their move from The Sea of Suf to the Seen Desert to the Sinai Desert to Mount Shefer. They moved on through a bunch more towns and cities until they were once again in the desert; this time the Tzin Desert. When they stopped at Mount Hor, Aaron took his last breath, and Eleazar became the high priest in his place. Eventually, they moved on and into the plains of Moab and across the Jordan River from Jericho, which is where they are currently. This is their last stop before going in to fight for the land promised them in the land of Canaan.
Knowing the way God works in details, there is likely a type and shadow for every city and every stop made by Israel, and those types and shadows likely line up with places in life now walked by the flock gathered to God from the Gentiles. I can see so many parallels in our journey from bondage to our eternal promise. Dry places, valleys, mountain tops, new lives, deaths of mentors and leaders, etc. And we have stubborn people who make our journey more difficult like the kings who refused to let the community of Israel walk on The King’s Highway and made them walk around the long way, and Red Sea moments that seem impossible to get through until we’re on the other side. But God is faithful to bring us through it all, just like He was faithful in every step of Israel’s deliverance journey.
Neither of our journeys is ended yet. Israel still seeks her Messiah, and her faithful will know who He is when the time has come and God makes the two flocks into one. We still seek the second coming of our Messiah, and we long for the promise to see Him like He is and to be like Him. All of us long to be delivered from bondage and trouble on this earth, and we all want to see our enemies come face to face with our God and Father who has vowed to protect and deliver us. But until we get to that place, all we can do is keep traveling on, one step at a time, and one truck stop at a time, until we get where God wants us in this life and then in eternity.
Just for fun, here are a few more songs of encouragement for your road trip of life…
- Jesus, Hold My Hand (As I travel through this weary land, there is a Friend who walks with me.)
- Life’s Railway to Heaven (Life is like a mountain railway.)
- I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger (a traveling through this world of woe.)
- This Race I Have Begun (I started out and I’m gonna finish this race I have begun.)
- Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Who with me my journey shares?)
- I’ve Never Been this Homesick Before (This world has been a wilderness, and I’m ready for deliverance.)
- This Highway Leads to Glory (But it’s no easy ride.)
- Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home (It’s a straight and narrow highway with no detours and no byways.)
Now add your favorite songs in the comments. In the meantime, many blessings on your journey as you travel on toward your promise.
History was never my strong subject in school, and I don’t know why because I like it so much now. Maybe it takes getting older and more mature to realize the value of the past. I woke up the other day thinking about an event when I was twelve years old that could have drastically changed my life. In some ways, it would have been better if the rich couple from the foster home adopted me, but I wouldn’t be where I am today. Maybe I would be a writer, but it would probably be in some secular field from a college-educated philosophy instead of from the depths of emotional traumas that have molded me into a survivor that knows only God could bring me through this life with the mercy and grace I’ve seen. It has been hard, but as the line in the song says, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now, gotta make it to Heaven somehow.”
In today’s reading from Numbers 33:1 through Numbers 33:10, we start a new week and a new portion with Parashah 43. The Hebrew title for this section is Masa’ei, and in English it means “stages.” Verse 1 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) says, “These are the stages in the journey of the people of Isra’el as they left the land of Egypt divided into groups under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon.” And verse 2 tells us that Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) recorded each stage of the journey by order of The Lord. And the rest of the reading for the next two days will simply overview the travels of the children of Israel from Egypt to the Jordan River.
For the rest of the reading, and for the next day, the text will simply reiterate where the children of Israel traveled through on their journey to The Promised Land. They began the morning after the first Passover and traveled from Rameses to Succoth. They left their camping spot there and moved to Etham at the edge of the desert. Then they camped in Pi-Hahiroth just before Migdol. Then they passed through the Red Sea and camped at Etham, so I’m guessing it’s another part of the same desert. That part was near Marah where God turned the bitter water into sweet water. From Marah they moved on to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. When they left there, they camped back by the Red Sea.
As the above image says, history is recorded by the winners, and Moses was most certainly a winner. You don’t see much history recorded from the perspective of the Egyptians that lost everything because they continued to worship false gods even if the face of power and proof of God Almighty and His creation.
Those who serve God are winners no matter what life on this earth looks like. We have the promise of a prize that is so big, it will take God an eternity to give it to us. 🙂 The prizes God gives do not only go to the first, the fastest, the longest living, the most sacrificial, etc., but to everyone who crosses the finish line. Even Moses, who could not pass into the land of Canaan with the other children of Israel because of his disobedience against God will join us for the big prize. Actually, since he showed up with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, he’s likely already enjoying his big prize.
We can thank Moses for recording and capturing those journeys and memories for us to have. We can learn from them–both what to do and what not to do. We can see the endings with clarity, so we know the directions we want to walk if we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes and end up in the same places. The historian may not be recognized or appreciated until later, but of all the things Moses is, I’m certainly glad he chose to be obedient to God and become a history major.
A man decided to take a day off from work on September 11th, 2001, and meet his secret lover at a local hotel across town. In the meantime, a wife sees a news broadcast and hears the sirens, and she immediately fears for her husband’s safety. So, the fearful wife calls her husband who could be dead or in grave danger, but her husband answers the phone like nothing is wrong because he is not at work. When she asks if he is okay and starts asking about others he works with, the man chats about his coworkers like there are no problems because, in his morning tryst, he has missed the goings on in downtown Manhattan. He speaks about the office as if he is there, and that’s when the wife figures out that he’s not telling the truth.
Did the guy freak out once the wife told him what was going on? Did the wife divorce him once she figured out he was a lying cheater? I don’t know. Maybe the guy realized where he could’ve been if he wasn’t cheating and decided that God was giving him a second chance to do the right thing. Either way, when he left for his rendezvous, he would never have thought his sin would find him out in such a big and costly way. When people get caught in the moment a truth is revealed, they rarely react as if they expected it to happen. Whether it’s a bottle in the floor of the car at the scene of an accident, or lipstick on the collar, most cases of sin do eventually get discovered, and they are often discovered in embarrassing and public ways.
In today’s reading from Numbers 32:20 through Numbers 32:42 (the end of the chapter), we conclude another week and another Torah portion. This follows yesterday’s promise by the tribes of Gad and Reuben to fight for all of Israel while choosing to claim an inheritance of land outside The Promised Land where their brothers would be in Canaan. Moses comes back to them with an answer that if they will indeed fight for Israel as they have promised, God will authorize them to live in the land on the east side of the Jordan River, in Gilead, instead of Canaan with their brothers.
The authorization comes with a strong dose of warning, though. Moses tells the men that while God will allow what they have proposed, if they do not keep their word, God is watching and their sins will find them out. After the warning, Moses tells them to go ahead and build cities for their families and stables for their sheep, but then to go and do what they have said they would do.
The descendants of Gad and Reuben promise that every man who can fight will be armed and ready for war and will go over with Israel to battle as Moses has directed, so Moses takes the same word to Eleazar the high priest. Moses tells him that if the men go over to fight, they are to possess the land they desire, but if they refuse to fight, they are to take an inheritance in Canaan. And then Moses gave the land to the tribes requesting it plus to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph. And the tribes built cities in the lands where they had defeated enemy kings with God’s help.
I find it interesting that God gave the warning about their sins finding them out, and yet Moses made sure to say they would still have an inheritance even if they did not keep their word. God may not totally wipe us out just because we break a promise, but we may not get exactly what we were hoping for if we don’t keep the words we have given in exchange for our desires. If we tell God that we will do anything if He will just give us that dream job, then when He asks us to share our testimony with the meanest coworker there, we should keep our word if we want to keep our job in the way we want it. If not, maybe we won’t lose the job, but we may find things getting uncomfortable there, or we may get a new boss, or any number of things.
When we sin in secret and think we are getting away with it, or when we think our sins are no big deal, we need to know that God is watching and keeping a record. He says we will give an account for every idle word. And, yes, our sins will find us out, but that can be the greatest day of our lives if we use God’s findings to drive us to repent and change our ways, so our sins can be placed under the blood of Yeshua, and we can be free.
This title is from one of my favorite parodies by ApologetiX. Yeah, I know, I probably say that about almost all their videos I share, but they really are one of my favorite bands. I mean, where else can you hear the tunes you grew up with, Bible messages, praises to God, and have an altar call all in the same concert? I really respect their ministry, and my love for their music is just icing on the cake.
Today’s reading comes from Numbers 32:1 through Numbers 32:19, and begins with the descendants of Reuben and Gad speaking with Moses and Eleazar about their great quantities of livestock. They gather the community leaders together to present a proposition to them about the land The Lord conquered on the side of the Jordan River across from that which God has promised to Israel. They have noticed the land is perfect for all their cattle, so they are asking if it would be okay if they just took that land instead of having to cross over.
Moses gets pretty frustrated with these guys and begins to tell them the stories of their forefathers and why they wandered in the desert for forty years instead of inheriting their promise. He explains that what the men are asking right now is akin to the sins of their fathers that stirred up the anger of The Lord. He also explains how it is not right for them to just want their own provision and comfort in a land where the enemy has already been defeated only to let the rest of the tribes go across Jordan and have to fight for the land in which they will dwell.
The sons of Gad and Reuben get the message and present an alternate idea. They say they will go ahead and build stalls for their cattle and fortified cities for their women and children since they are not part of the armies anyway. All the fighting men will then join their brothers on the other side of the Jordan River and help them fight for their promise. They say they will not only march at the front of their armies, but they will continue to fight until the rest of Israel has taken possession of their inheritance. They claim, however, that their inheritance has fallen on the east side of the river.
At my first read-through of this, I couldn’t figure out why Moses would have gotten so angry at these men for wanting to stay across the river from their brothers. I was thinking it wasn’t very nice of them to want to split themselves off, but at the same time, if it made sense for their cattle, and it was an area they had fought for, I thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. It took me reading again to realize the problem wasn’t with the land as much as it was with the fact that their brothers helped them to fight for the land they now wanted. How dare they leave their brothers to fight alone just because they were now comfortable?
I guess it would be like being saved and only staying in touch with your church family and other Christians and leaving the lost to find their own way. Oh wait, too many people actually do that don’t they? I believe we call them “rabbit hole Christians” because they just go from one Christian rabbit hole to the next with no stops (in the “world”) in between. But we overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony because our testimony is what can win others to Our Savior. Don’t forget that your example in Yeshua (WWYD) is that He shared meals with tax collectors (known for their dishonesty) and sinners. Be willing to fight for the souls of others, and don’t let the devil walk into your “Jordan” (promise on this earth) and convince you to sit comfortably while the rest of the world goes to Hell.
P.S. I’m not certain how all the lands fall today, but I found an interesting site that talks of the boundaries of the promised land from God’s promise to today. Take a look at http://www.differentspirit.org/articles/boundaries.php and comment what you think about the Scripture reference from Joel at the bottom of the page. I think it means God is not very happy with those currently in charge of our country.
For some reason, there are certain people whose praise touches me more deeply than others. Maybe it’s because I can see more sincerity in the praise of some, such as those who have struggled in life. Maybe I’m just sensing or discerning sincerity at times, and it’s just a coincidence that I notice it with people who don’t have it so easy. Whatever it is, knowing what soldiers go through and knowing the risks they take for my freedom, when I see them thank God for their lives and their victories, it blesses me. Because God is the giver of life and victory, I imagine it greatly blesses God as well.
In today’s reading from Numbers 31:42 through Numbers 31:54 (the end of the chapter), we begin with the tribute Moses takes from the spoils that were divided among the people. Moses gave one-fiftieth of the materials, animals, and people to the Levites for the continued operations of the tabernacle, and since just in sheep alone there were 337,500, it was a pretty big tribute.
The reading continues with the commanders giving Moses the report that all the returning troops have been counted, and not one man has been lost. The commanders then announce they have brought an offering to Moses and Eleazar, and since it says that each man decided on his own what to give, it appears this is above and beyond the tribute of one-five-hundredth that was taken off the top as a tribute to The Lord. When all the gold and jewelry was counted, it totaled over 420 pounds that the soldiers brought to the Tent of Meeting as a reminder of Israel before God.
What I see here is a gathering of soldiers who are grateful for their lives and for their victory, and they have chosen to thank God for these gifts by voluntarily offering gifts of their own. Because God showed them favor and there was literally no man left behind, the soldiers were able to offer that much more of a gift of praise.
God loves to show us His mercy, grace, and favor. I think He shows these things because He loves us, but I also think shows them because He wants the praise they should generate. If a person does something just for praise, it is arrogant, but when The God of All Creation pours His gifts out on us, He is more than deserving of our thanksgiving. In this lifetime of battle for our souls and the souls of others, we will have victories because God will give them to us. We may stand in our armor (also given by Him) and fight the good fight, but the victory always belongs to The Lord, so the praise always belongs to Him as well. Let us bless God in every battle and in every victory by becoming soldiers of praise.
And why does everyone hate tax collectors? Could it be that most of them are focused on using the people’s hard-earned monies for personal or political benefit? Could it be that most of them represent governments and kingdoms that have far exceeded the boundaries for what part of your income tax they should claim? When those in the offices of tax collections, and those who make the rules about taxes and fees, can break the law and get away with it, who wouldn’t wish they were no longer part of our lives. When the whole situation becomes oppressive and no longer represents our best interest, maybe it’s time for another resistance like the famous Boston Tea Party. And, maybe it’s time to see how God did the same job.
In today’s reading from Numbers 31:25 through Numbers 31:41, the soldiers have arrived back at camp with all the spoils of war and with the unmarried girls whom they took as slaves from among the Moabite women. They give an account to Moses and Eleazar of all they have taken in, and God tells Moses how to instruct the leaders as to how the spoils should be divided.
God tells Moses to have the men split the take in two parts with half going to the soldiers and half going to the community of Israel. From the halves that go to the two sides, Moses is to levy a tax on all they have taken in, but the tax is different for the soldiers than it is for the people. The soldiers will pay God 1/500th of the take as a tax, and that portion will go to Eleazar the high priest. The people will pay 1/50th of the take, and that portion will go to the Levites for the care of the tabernacle.
You can read the portion yourself if you want to know the exact numbers of sheep, cattle, donkeys, and slaves the Moabites lost in their battle against Israel, but one detail gives God receiving only 675 sheep out of 337,500. Imagine the IRS only getting that much from the pocketbooks of the soldiers who fight to give them the freedom to keep their jobs. Instead, it’s the grateful business owners we see giving military discounts to our warriors and their families, while the government lets the wounded die in VA waiting rooms. What’s wrong with that picture? The government is no longer a government under God, that’s what.
While I know the “One Nation Under God” portion of our pledge was added after the fact, it represented the type of government and nation our forefathers set out to create. Oh how sad they would be now to see people fight over just the idea of quoting that statement, let alone of living as if they believe it. I want our nation to return to those roots, but it would require all of us to have lawful hearts that would drive us to being law-abiding citizens whether our position is citizen, President, or tax collector. Let us become lawful in our own lives, and let us pray for the once great United States of America to find her Godly roots before it is too late. Even if nothing changes, we can stand strong and in peace because we brought it in prayer to the throne of Yahveh. Amen.
There’s an old fable about a scorpion who asks a frog if the frog would carry him across a river. The frog is wise enough to know the deadly effect of a scorpion’s sting, so he tells the scorpion he won’t carry him. But the scorpion tries to reason with the frog by reminding him that if he stings him while they are in the water, both will die. The frog is convinced and lets the scorpion climb onto his back while he swims across. But just as they are halfway across, the scorpion breaks his word and stings the frog. The frog immediately feels the paralysis start to set in, and he begins to sink. Just before he goes under, he asks the scorpion why he would do something like that when it would kill them both. The scorpion’s dying declaration was simply this: It’s in my nature.
In today’s reading from Numbers 31:13 through Numbers 31:24, we have the men and leaders coming back from war with the Midianites and bringing the prisoners and the spoils to Moses and Eleazar. As the commanders came in from the battlefield, Moses got angry with them because of the women he saw with them who were being held as prisoners of war. He told them they should have killed the women because they were the ones that, because of Balaam’s suggestions, were tempting the children of Israel and causing them to transgress God’s law. Moses then instructed the leaders to kill every male plus every female who had slept with a man. They could keep the young virgins alive.
Moses then told the men to pitch their tents outside the camp, so they could complete all necessary cleansing rituals. They would have to stay outside the camp for seven days, and then they were to purify themselves on the 3rd and 7th days. Because of their proximity to corpses, it was also required for them to purify every garment, whether made of skin or goat’s hair, and to purify all wood. In addition, even though gold, silver, brass, and other metals had already been purified by fire, because they were spoils from the enemy, Moses told them to purify them under water. Anything that could pass through fire would be put through fire and water, and anything that could not pass through fire needed to be cleansed with water. After seven days, the soldiers were to wash their clothes and be clean, so they could enter back into the camp.
Sometimes, seeing people killed even if they’re the enemy feels harsh. It’s an especially harsh feeling when we stop to think of God’s grace–and of Yeshua’s words to love our enemies. But remember, these instructions were given even after the commandment that said “Thou shalt not kill,” so as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to kill. Are there people who refuse to discard their old nature and will continue to attack and sting even to their own detriment? Ask a suicide bomber. Even when someone seems like an innocent woman or child, if they are from the enemy’s camp, they are not friends, and if we do not handle the battle correctly, we will become casualties of war.
Remember these things when you fight battles in the spirit realm as well. We know, as Scripture says, that our weapons are not carnal because most of our battles are not in the flesh. That said, the enemy will try to convince you to fall for some kind of trickery in an effort to destroy your soul, and you have to arm yourself with wisdom and preparation, so you won’t give in and end up paralyzed as you press your way to the other side. Don’t fall for sin just because it looks pretty or innocent, and always remember that you are a soldier for God. The good thing about this fight, however, is that both the battles and the weapons belong to The Lord, and the end of the war promises victory.
As for the physical battles in this life, most of us won’t have to fight them, but we should have compassion and love for those who do. God will lead those who need to fight for us as He would have them to fight, and the rest of us can support and uplift them. If you know a soldier who fights for the good, pray for him or her, and ask God to protect that soldier from attacks of our enemies. If you don’t know any soldiers, pray for all of our U.S. troops. Also, pray for the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) to prosper against all advancement of their enemies and the weapons of their enemies. Pray that only those in the perfect will of Yahveh Almighty will prevail.
What goes through your mind when you read today’s title? Mustard gas? Food fights? Whatever it is, I’m going to guess it’s not homophones (words that sound alikebut are spelled different and mean different things). But that was the first thing that went through my mind as I read the portion to prepare for tonight’s reading. I’m always on the lookout for more words to add to my list of now over 450 sets of homophones, and I will soon be adding “mustard; mustered” to my list. So now you know that tonight’s post doesn’t have anything to do with mustard the condiment, but I became certain I would use this title when I found the cute image to go with it.
In today’s reading from Numbers 31:1 through Numbers 31:12, God speaks to Moses about the Midianite people. He tells Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites on behalf of Israel, and He tells him that after it is done, Moses will be gathered to his people. At this point, I’m wondering if Moses moved a little more slowly to prepare the troops since it would be his last battle, and he was still concerned about the people. Then again, maybe he moved even more quickly because it would be his last battle, and he looked forward to the relief his death would bring him.
Fast or slow, we don’t know, but we know that Moses obeyed God and gathered the leaders of all the tribes of Israel. Moses told the leaders to equip 1000 men from each tribe for battle, so all together 120,000 men were mustered for war. (Now you see where I got my title. :-)) Moses sent the men out, and along with them, he sent Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the high priest, with holy utensils and with trumpets to sound the alarms.
Israel fought against Midian, as God ordered Moses, and they kills every male. They also killed the five kings of Midian (Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba) along with all the others who were slain. They used a sword to kill Balaam the son of Beor, but there’s nothing in today’s reading that says what happened to Balak. The Israelites then took captive the women of Midian and their little ones, plus they took all their cattle, flocks, and goods as spoils of war. On their way out, they burned all the homes and encampments, and then brought the spoils and captives to Eleazar and the congregation camped on the plains of Moab, by the River Jordan across from Jericho.
I’m not a big fan of war, and if I thought it was possible to live in total peace and not have war at all, I would most certainly be one of the first to protest the idea of war. Unfortunately, I am wise enough to know that some people cannot be stopped except by an act of war. There are people who wage the first wars either blatantly, by doing something like attacking the “twin towers,” and there are those who wage war more silently by kidnapping young girls and using them as sex slaves.
There are many wars against the innocent that too many of us are unaware of, but God is watching them at all times. He knows when people are destroying or damaging that which is made in His image, such as the destruction of innocent babies just because they are too young to speak for themselves. I don’t know what all Midian did against Israel or against God, but it was enough that He both declared war and strengthened soldiers to fight it. He knows what He is doing when it comes to war, so that is why He told us to let Him take vengeance when it is necessary. And, if there comes a time when He wants us to fight, He will give us the instruction, the tools, and maybe even the mustard we need to do it.
How many things do we depend on each day that would change if God suddenly decided to change His mind? I mean, what if He decided that too many people were getting hurt to wait until that very last soul finds its way to its Maker? Or, what if He changed His mind about our eternal life and held back because not enough people were considering it more valuable than our lives on earth? Imagine struggling for breath as you wake up to a day of pure darkness, chaos, and the end of all things good. That would be only one scenario in a world without the grace and mercy of Yahveh Almighty. But, thankfully, we can trust in God’s promises because we have seen them fulfilled, and we have Scriptural reminders that God will never change.
- Psalm 145:13 (NLT)… For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.
- Numbers 23:19 (NLT)… God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
- James 1:17 (ERV)… Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same.
- Hebrews 13:8 (CJB)… Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever.
In today’s reading from Numbers 30:2 through Numbers 30:17 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 30:1 through Numbers 30:16 (in Amplified and other Bibles), we begin a new week and a new portion. The entire chapter begins Parashah 42, with the Hebrew name Mattot meaning “Tribes.” In this chapter, Moses speaks to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel about the necessity to keep the promises and vows they make.
When a man makes a vow to God, or otherwise obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is to keep his word and do all he promised. When a woman who is still under her father’s rule makes a vow or obligation, if her father keeps silent, she must keep her word. But, if her father is against it, she is free from the promise, and God will forgive her. If a woman makes a vow without thinking, and she is a married woman, she can be free from it if her husband hears it and disapproves. But if he keeps silent, or if she is a widow or divorcee, her promise stays with her, and she must keep her word.
We depend on a lot of promises to go through our days on this earth and into eternity. We depend on our cities to provide the water and utilities we pay them for; the bank to keep the balances of money we have secured with them; and our grocery stores to be stocked with our needs when we walk in to go shopping. What happens when we flip a switch and the light won’t come on, turn a faucet and find no water, or turn a key and a car won’t start? We get frustrated, and we know there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
What about all the things we depend on that should work but don’t because of broken promises? We have promises that we will be safe in our borders, but then those who are supposed to represent all the people in our country decide that it’s okay to cut our military and leave us vulnerable. We have promises that we should be safe in our cities, but those in positions to spend money break promises to use it wisely, and suddenly we don’t have enough of a police force to adequately protect us. Whether it’s from judges and attorneys that feel sorry for too many criminals and let them back on the streets to wreak havoc, or politicians up to the highest offices that get swayed by special interests, broken promises will bring an end result of chaos instead of peace.
We all know how it feels to have someone or something we depend on fail us, so we should strive to not do that to others. Even though we have God’s grace in the blood of Yeshua to allow us mercy that comes to us new every morning, it is better to not make promises, than to make foolish promises and change our minds when we realize the trap we’ve set for ourselves. I say this to myself as much as anyone because it’s easier to make a promise than to keep it, and I am certain some of my biggest needs for repentance come from broken promises. The book of James, in Chapter 4 and verses 13-17 (in the Easy to Read Version) gives great advice for keeping that from happening. It reads…
Let God Plan Your Life
13 Some of you say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money.” Listen, think about this:14 You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Your life is like a fog. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away. 15 So you should say, “If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But now you are proud and boast about yourself. All such boasting is wrong. 17 If you fail to do what you know is right, you are sinning.
Thankfully, we know we can depend on the promises of God for both now and eternity. We will never need to ask, “What if God changed His mind?” Let us give Him the same courtesy that if we have promised to love God with all our being, He will never have to give a report that we’ve changed our minds. Amen, and have a wonderful week walking in the blessings and presence of Yahveh.
I once bought a mattress set just because I could get one of those Serta Counting Sheep with it. Actually, it wasn’t just any counting sheep, it was a pink one to honor survivors and victims of breast cancer. I found a picture of one amongst someone’s collection of counting sheep at Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/houndstooth4/6831677590/, but you have to visit there since it has an all rights reserved copyright on it. I gotta wonder, though, what the sheep in the picture above thought of being written on. They don’t look like they mind too much. 🙂
Anyway, in today’s reading from Numbers 29:12 through Numbers 30:1 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 29:12 through Numbers 29:40 (in the Amplified and other translations), we conclude another week of Torah with instructions on celebrating the feast of Sukkot. The feast begins on the 15th day of the 7th month on the Jewish calendar, and it runs for seven days. The details for the celebration are repeated from older readings, but since they have a countdown included in the sacrifices, I’ll list those just so you can do like me and see the totals offered. God told Israel to sacrifice as follows…
- On day one: 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day two: 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day three: 11 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day four: 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day five: 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day six: 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
- On day seven: 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
The eighth day, Simchat Torah, is a festive assembly that also includes sacrifices, but this time it is 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, and 1 goat. All these sacrifices are in addition to the regular vows and voluntary offerings, and they all require lambs that are in their first year and without defect. Every sacrifice also has a grain and drink offering that accompanies it.
If you’re like me, you noticed the countdown of the bulls from 13 to 7, and maybe you even counted all the animals to see how many were sacrificed in one week. If you didn’t, don’t worry. Here’s the counts I came up with: 70 bulls for the first week plus the 1 on the festival day is 71; then 14 rams plus 1 is 15; then 98 lambs plus 7 is 105; plus 1 goat. That’s a total of 192 animals in addition to the regular offerings.
I know that God doesn’t do anything arbitrarily, so I’m certain there are specific reasons for the numbers of animals He told Israel to sacrifice. Two things I noticed about the bulls. First, I don’t read where they were required to be without defect like the lambs. Then, I noticed the bulls in the week of “Tabernacles” (Sukkot), numbered seventy. When Scripture speaks of “the nations,” it is referring to the 70 nations that were not Israel.
Did God have Israel sacrifice that number of bulls each year to represent His mercy toward non-Jews to allow them to become converted? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that He has always had mercy on all men–before, during, and since the formation of Israel as a nation, and it would not surprise me to find that an exact number of bulls was sacrificed to represent an exact number of gentiles who were saved before Yeshua shed His blood for all mankind. Tabernacles (or tents) represent our temples of flesh, so it would be the perfect feast to represent salvation for all by sacrificing both bulls and clean lambs. Whatever it meant then, I do know the blood of Christ now makes us all lambs in the flock of God, and we are counted as children in God’s family.
And with that, I bid you Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy this video by ApologetiX with a parody of the song “Barbara Ann” called “Baa, We’re Lambs”…
Imagine sitting down to write a short story, and just as you are writing the final scene, the words jump off the paper and shout, “No, the story can’t end this way!” Maybe you would argue and tell the words to get back onto the paper because you are the writer, and you know what you’re doing, but after you got the words back where they belonged, you’d call a friend to make sure you weren’t going crazy. You would need someone to convince you that you haven’t gone off the deep end because you know that it’s the creator that should have control and not the creation. Should it seem that much different with God as our Creator?
In today’s reading from Numbers 28:16 through Numbers 29:11, God is still in a conversation with Moses about all the things the people should do as they continue to live as God desires. This section covers the special feasts and holy days through the year. I’m wondering if God is just giving a primer here to make sure the people know that even in a new land, He is still their God. And they also need to know that their service belongs to God and not to a man, even though they are to respect Moses and other men whom God will call to lead them.
Each feast day is set for a specific day of the Jewish year, and each feast has certain rituals and sacrifices that God wants His people to perform. The sacrifices often use the same offerings as the daily sacrifices, but they are done in addition to the two daily offerings and not in place of them. The festivals God wants the people to recognize are all said to be holy convocations, meaning they are to be done as a community, and for God, as a holy community.
So why does doing all this worship need to begin with brokenness? Because, in order to just be obedient and do as God directs us without questioning either His motives or His methods, we must be humble before Him. It’s even more than not leaning to our own understanding. It’s realizing and trusting that God is not only in control, but He is wise with His control, so we let go of the understanding within ourselves that makes us question Him. We become broken in His presence, so we will need Him to put us back together His own way.
We have a number of repeated Scriptures that remind us who is the clay and who is The Potter, and they all reiterate the need for The Potter to be the one in control. Here are a few of them…
How you turn things upside down! —
Is the potter not better than the clay,
Does something made say of its maker,
“He didn’t make me”?
Does the product say of its producer,
“He has no discernment”?
Woe to anyone who argues with his maker,
like potsherds lying on the ground!
Does the clay ask the potter, “What are you doing?”
or, “What’s this you’re making, that has no hands?”
20 Who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me this way?” 21 Or has the potter no right to make from a given lump of clay this pot for honorable use and that one for dishonorable?
We are surrounded by a world of people who think they have all the answers within themselves or within whatever rituals they prescribe to themselves to make life bearable. And those of us who put our trust in Yahveh Almighty know that our answers and rituals often end in failure, but when we trust God through to the end of something, we always find success. Those who resist God usually do so because they refuse to be broken; maybe because they’re afraid to be broken. Brokenness is a scary place to think of going until you have experienced it. When you put your whole being into the Hands of One you can trust with all the pieces, you look forward to the blessing you will find when you humble yourself and let Him make you a new vessel as He sees fit to create.
I have always loved the song Whisper A Prayer and the last line of each verse that said “So keep your heart in tune.” The verses start with a theme (whisper a prayer, God answers prayer, and Jesus may come) along with “in the morning,” “at noon,” and “in the evening,” followed by the last line.
In today’s reading from Numbers 28:1 through Numbers 28:15, God gives Moses orders to pass to Israel concerning burnt offerings and drink offerings. The details are much the same as previous readings that included information on giving offerings, including selecting animals are that young and without defect, and including grain with the offerings.
The daily offerings are scheduled for twice a day, at dawn and at dusk, and a drink offering (including one with liquor) is offered along with the two daily offerings. There are also special offerings for each Shabbat (Sabbath) and each Rosh Chodesh (Head of the Month). For Shabbat, the people are to offer to additional lambs, and at the beginning of each month, they are to offer two young bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs without defect in addition to the regular daily offerings.
What these very specific offerings say to me is that God wants to be remembered at all times. When people have everything going their way and don’t need to call on God, they are likely to just go about their daily routine without Him being a part of it. By having Him as part of a required routine, that should be less likely to happen. If we make a habit to whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon, and whisper a prayer in the evening, I believe it will work to keep our hearts in tune. And as long as we are whispering prayers, I believe we can trust that God answers prayer in the morning–and at noon, and in the evening. Let us remember Him and give Him praise at all times throughout our days.
If you want to hear the tune and read the lyrics for this sweet tune (often listed as a children’s Sunday School song), here’s a video of just the music with printed lyrics…
God will make a way where there is no way, I know God will make a way for you. God will make a way where there is no way, For that’s what He promised to do. So when your situation seems impossible… Just trust in The Lord for a miracle! For God will make a way where there is no way, I know God will make a way for you.
I have thought on, or sang, this chorus to myself many times to help me get through what seemed like impossible situations, so I’m thankful I have it to lean on. Moses and the children of Israel didn’t have this chorus, or the written word that we depend on now, but I believe the ones that truly trusted Him had their own ways of hiding His words in their hearts for the times they felt they could not go it alone.
In today’s reading from Numbers 27:6 through Numbers 27:23, we begin the last days of Moses as leader for the community of Israel. It’s funny, but I actually feel a little sad, and I’m not the one losing his leadership. And back in those days, I would likely have been among those that only saw him and heard his teaching from a distance. Still, the heart he had for these people is made very clear as we follow along through the portion.
The girls that sought the advice of Moses and Eleazar yesterday are brought before God who answers that the daughters of Zelophehad are correct in their request. Not only does God tell Moses to grant them property from their deceased father, just as they would be granted if they were sons, He expands the property laws to be more inclusive. We see that property due to someone by rights should be passed along to all children, both male and female, and if there are no children, his inheritance will go to his brothers, then his father’s brothers, then other next of kin. I’m thinking that life estate beneficiary laws could follow along these same guidelines.
After God gives the expanded inheritance law, He tells Moses that it’s time for him to climb Mount Abarim and take a look at the land He is about to give the children of Israel. God explains that while Moses is up there, he will be gathered to his people as Aaron was because he cannot enter The Promised Land due to the rebellion over the water (striking the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded) in the Tzin desert.
It almost sounds like God was speaking with pain and sadness as He told these things to Moses. I think He wanted Moses to enter into the land of promise after all the sacrifice and work he put into getting Israel there and standing for them to protect them from God’s destruction along the way. But God needed to stand firm on His word to remain a God who could be trusted by the people, so He took Moses right to the edge, and He did not take his life until He showed him that his work had not been in vain.
I’m certain that Moses knew God’s heart as He was speaking to him because he responded with beautiful praise to God. Moses asked that God, the God of all flesh and spirit, would please set someone over the people to continue their desperately needed guidance. This is where I can see Moses’ heart of love for the people. He knew He would no longer be there to lead and guide them, or to stand up for them when they failed, so He wanted to make certain someone would take over where he was having to let go. He even told God that he wanted to make sure they would not become as sheep without a shepherd.
God told Moses to select Joshua, the son of Nun, who was a man who walked in The Spirit. He said to bring him before Eleazar the high priest, and that they should stand him before the congregation of Israel and to lay hands on him to commission him in their site. God said for Moses to give Joshua some of his authority, and for the rest, Joshua would go to Eleazar who would seek God and get an answer using the Urim stone on his priests garment. The answer would allow Joshua to know how to tell the people when to go out and when to come in, and the bestowing of authority showed the people they could trust Joshua’s directions to them.
I can see the types and shadows of Yeshua in this. Moses was like God commissioning Yeshua (same Hebrew name as Joshua) to make a way for the people. Moses loved the people of Israel, and he wanted to be sure a way was made for them to know their path and walk in it. God so loved the world that He sent Yeshua to show us a path where we could walk and be saved. Just as God did not choose Joshua to condemn the people of Israel but to lead them in the way to The Promised Land, He did not send Yeshua to condemn the world either. Instead, He chose Him to light a path that the world, through Yeshua, could find a way to eternal salvation. God wanted the children of Israel to live in the land He promised them, so He made a way for them many times over. God wants us to be saved, so He makes a way for us.
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