There are a lot of ways you can die in the desert. You can get sun poisoning, you can die of dehydration, or you can cross paths with a desert critter that bites and poisons you. None of these types of deaths sound in the least bit pleasant, and thankfully, most people who live in, or pass through, a desert won’t face a desert-related death. Personally, I loved living in the high desert of Kingman, Arizona, but I also loved having a cool house and cool water to get relief on the hottest days.
In today’s reading from Numbers 26:52 through Numbers 27:5, our reading begins with God telling Moses how to divide the land between the tribes of Israel. Because He is a fair God, He says to give the larger plots of land to the larger tribes, and the smaller pieces of land to the smaller tribes. The reading also goes through the ancestors of the tribe of Levi who will not get any land of their own because they are set apart for the priesthood.
There is a quick rundown of all the clans numbered in the recording of the Levites who now number 23,000 in the count of men who are one month old and older. The clans include Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites, along with the sub-clans of Libnites, Hebronites, Mahlites, Mushites, and Korahites. There were still Korahites because Korah’s sons were not killed when the followers of Korah were swallowed up by the earth for their rebellion against God and Moses. And the Kohathites are from Kohath, an ancestor of Amram. Amram married Jochebed and fathered Aaron, Moses, and Miriam.
The current census as taken by Moses and Eleazar the high priest is a registration of all the people now living in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan river from Jericho. The reading points out that not one person who was registered in the previous census taken in the wilderness of Sinai was still alive–except Joshua and Caleb. As God prophesied to the previous group of people, they all died in the wilderness without seeing The Promised Land.
The reading concludes with a group of five sisters whose father, Zelophehad, was a descendant of Manasseh but had passed away without leaving any sons to carry on his name. The daughters go before Moses and Eleazar to plead their case for their own piece of property. They state that their father did not die in the rebellion with Korah, but died in the desert due to his own sin and did not leave any sons. Moses and Eleazar promise to take the matter before God to seek an answer for them.
There are many ramifications that follow both faithfully serving God and disobeying Him. The Sinai wilderness proved to be a giant graveyard for those who refused to trust in the Word of The Lord. Maybe all those incidents of rebellion, like that of Korah and those that followed him, were the times God gave the people over to their reprobate (condemned) and fleshly minds, so their behavior would help fulfill the prophesy that they would die out there. Maybe all those places where I was reading and saying how I could not believe people could be so stupid were just areas where I was seeing what it looks like when God sears a conscience with a hot iron.
Thankfully, the end result of failing God is not always to end with a troubled mind, but what about those who have been given mercy after mercy, grace after grace, and proof after proof of God’s love and power yet still choose to walk opposite His desire and will? In today’s Proverbs (Chapter 30 for the 30th day of the month), it speaks of how churning milk produces butter, and pushing angry words produces strife. We could add that drinking poison produces death, and purposeful rebellion against Yahveh Almighty produces the wages of sin. We could also add that confession and repentance of our sins produces God’s everlasting mercy and grace, and puts our sin and its wages under the blood of Yeshua. It’s all simple mathematics (you get out what you put in) and chemistry (God is better than “poison control”), and we can trust that God will be fair and balanced and faithful to His word. HalleluYah!
The one place you don’t want to break down is in the desert. It’s hot, there are bugs and snakes and scorpions. It’s dry. There’s little to no water. You could die out there. And did I say that it’s hot? Yep, there are some beautiful things about the desert, like the colorful flowers on some cactus, but it’s definitely not a place to get stranded.
In today’s reading from Numbers 14:26 through Numbers 15:7, we read about a different kind of desert breakdown. In this one, there was a huge breakdown of honor and respect between the community of Israel and Yahveh, their Deliverer. The community of whiners and complainers have gotten on God’s last nerve, so He tells Moses to give them the bad news of what their complaining has brought to them.
God makes a promise that all who treated Him without honor and respect would die in their journey instead of entering into The Promised Land. He tells Moses to let the people know that their carcasses would fall and rot in the desert. On top of that, He says their children will be forced to wander the desert with them until their parents’ carcasses turn back to dust. I don’t know exactly how long that would take with the desert heat and scavengers, but God tells them they will wander for a total of forty years because their punishment is to wander one year for each day the spies were on their mission. Forty days of recon have now turned into forty years of sunburn.
But even as God is issuing this justice to those who continually failed Him, He lets them know that His eyes have been on two men from the same generation, and those two men have not failed God. Joshua and Caleb will enter the land sworn to their ancestors because they have honored God as God and respected His word with trust.
After all of this is decreed, the people are sorrowful and want to make up for their misdeeds, but again they want to do it on their terms and without either respecting or honoring God. This part really must be read to be appreciated, so here are verses 39-43 from Chapter 14 in The Message Bible…
When Moses told all of this to the People of Israel, they mourned long and hard. But early the next morning they started out for the high hill country, saying, “We’re here; we’re ready—let’s go up and attack the land that God promised us. We sinned, but now we’re ready.” But Moses said, “Why are you crossing God’s command yet again? This won’t work. Don’t attack. God isn’t with you in this—you’ll be beaten badly by your enemies. The Amalekites and Canaanites are ready for you and they’ll kill you. Because you have left off obediently following God, God is not going to be with you in this.”
Still, even with the warnings, these disobedient people did things their own way, and the Amalekites and Canaanites attacked them just as Moses said they would. Those who lived in the hill country beat the arrogant Israelites all the way back to Hormah.
The beginning of Chapter 15 talks of the sacrifices that will acceptable to God when those who do enter The Promised Land get there, so I guess this change is just to show that it’s time to focus on those who will dwell there and not spend anymore time on those who will die in the desert. I almost feel more of a sadness over the end of God’s conversation toward these people than when He was angry and threatening them.
To me, the very definition of “Hell” is eternal separation from God, and there can’t be more of a dry place than one where His presence and voice are absent. Thankfully, because our Messiah is The Lily of The Valley and The Rose of Sharon (desert), we have an advocate who will deliver us even from the dryest desert breakdown. If we are broken under the burdens of our sin, we can turn to Him for redemption and salvation. His mercy will bring us cool comfort in the dryest places of our lives, and from there, He will continue to deliver us as long as we walk with Him and show Him obedient trust.
And, here, for a little contrast to the rusty old cactus-filled clunker above, is a mosaic I put together from beautiful cactus flowers I found around Flickr. If you click on the image, you can find links in the image description to view each picture in full size and by its original photographer…
I have great travel memories all the way back to times as a small child when most of my car travel included long naps in the backseat. I still love the atmosphere of a truck stop early in the morning just before the sun comes up because I remember that first stop on a drive we started at about 4am. That time of day, the idling truck engines create a steady hum, and in the late spring and early summer, there is is just enough crispness in the dew-filled air to chill you awake. That first stop on a long trip is also still charged with excitement about both the journey and the destination.
In today’s reading from Numbers 10:11 through Numbers 10:28, we read about the beginnings of travel for the community of Israel. I don’t know if they had any camels, but I imagine a camel ride would be preferable to a very long walk. The journey ahead would take the children of Israel from the Sinai Desert to the Paran Desert as the pillar of cloud led them. This was Israel’s first journey, and the Scripture says they followed according to all of God’s words to Moses. In other words, they adhered to God’s corporate travel policies.
As they traveled, they moved by companies and leaders, and the divided movement allowed the Levites to take down and carry the tabernacle according to God’s direction. The descendants of K’hat who carried the tabernacle were ahead of the other tribes, so that the tabernacle could already be set up by the time the rest of the community of Israel arrived. You can click on the above link to read the exact divisions of camps and leaders as they traveled in the orderly fashion directed by their travel agent, Moses, according to all the instruction He received from God.
While I still love going places, travel is not as easy for me with having to carry a CPAP machine, get someone to care for my kitty cats, and the general issues with age and pain. But I imagine things were quite a bit rougher for a people that had to carry their entire house and home with them as they moved along. Still, I wonder if they got excited to see where God was going to take them next. They knew their stops were temporary because they knew their final destination was “The Promised Land,” but each step along the way must’ve held some excitement as they knew it was getting them closer to home.
Even with the enjoyment I find in traveling, seeing new sites, visiting with those I love, and finding fun things to do along the way, there is nothing like getting back home and back into my regular routine. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it well when she said, “There’s no place like home.” For believers in Messiah who trust in the promises we will receive after He comes back for His own, we know that our stops in this temporary life are steps to move us closer to that place we long for, that place we will one day call “home” for eternity. In the meantime, if we move forward according to God’s travel plans, we can enjoy the journey.
As I finished this post, I thought about an old song by Johnny Cash called “Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home” and I’ve found it here sung by him and June. It even includes his notes about writing it. Enjoy…
I’ve never been much into camping, myself, but I suppose if home means camping, being asked to camp around the church is not quite the big deal it would be to me. I have gone to church camp a couple times, and it wasn’t too bad because of having a cabin, but I still prefer my own home and bed.
In today’s reading from Numbers 1:20 through Numbers 1:54, we’ll read about a whole group of people that God wanted to set up a church camp for Him. The portion starts out with talking about the census that God had just asked the leaders to do in order to find suitable soldiers for His service. The numbers are pretty impressive for a group of people forming an entire community in the middle of the desert. You can read the whole list by clicking above, but the total comes out to 603,550 men who were twenty years or older and fit more military service. That doesn’t include the women and children, or any disabled people.
But the part that got my attention came after the counting. The list of men is divided by tribes, and we see that the tribe of Levi is missing. That tribe is reserved for all the work necessary to keep the tabernacle operational and in a holy state. The Levites are in charge of everything associated with the tabernacle, and God even says that if anyone else tries to involve themselves in it, they will be put to death. God commands that the Levites camp around the tabernacle, so that no anger will come upon the community of Israel.
The reason I took note of that last part is in comparing it to the modern church. There are many who claim to be “called” to work for God, but without the connection to a bloodline as they had back in the Old Testament, how do you actually know? I read that part about putting to death any non-Levites who try to involve themselves, and I wondered if there is any correlation to those now who camp out in church leadership without an invitation from God. What risk does a person take if he calls himself a prophet, or she calls herself a prophetess, and they have not truly been called to that position?
I love being used of God for His work, be it as a foot soldier on a small mission, or in ways that can influence many lives. My sister and I just talked about the great feeling of being used even as a link in a chain of events that can lead a soul to Christ. That’s why I created my website at http://www.41soul.com to focus on the idea of being used by God even if it was only for the purpose of saving one soul. I think, whether we are called to soldiers in the community (body of Christ), or to be in leadership positions over the community, we must take heed to do all we do in total obedience to the leading of The Holy Spirit, and if we are called to devote our entire lives to “camping in the church,” we must remember it is to bring joy to the community–and to protect the community, not to have authority over the community or to receive praise from them. God is the only authority, and He is the only one that deserves praise.
Isn’t the desert beautiful where it touches the mountains? Even without any greenery, there is a certain beauty that belongs only to the desert. When I lived in the desert in Arizona, I loved to open the window at night and let in the cool breeze. The crisp, clean smell of desert air is just so fresh and energizing, it made me almost want to stay up all night to enjoy it. It was so much better than the overheated midday sunshine that made it hard to do anything but run for shade. That heat really made me wish for a draft. But that’s not the kind of draft we’re studying today.
With today’s reading from Numbers 1:1 through Numbers 1:19, we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 34 is titled in Hebrew B’midbar, and it means “In the Desert.” God is back for another meeting with Moses, this time in the tent of meeting in the Sinai Desert. He is looking for leadership, and He is instituting a draft of soldiers for His army. He tells Moses to do a census of the whole assembly of the people by clans and families. As part of the census, He wants the names of all those who are twenty and older and are subject to military service for Israel.
God tells Moses that Aaron is to help him do the census, and then He says that they should pick leaders from every tribe to help as well. If you click on the highlighted link above, you can read for yourself the breakdown of each of the tribes and the men God chose from each one to help with the task.
Those in the list to help with the counting were leaders in their families and leaders among the people. They were apparently more aware of their surroundings and their history since God was calling on them to give the genealogies of their tribes. They were to give Moses the names of those qualified to be soldiers, plus the totals of all the people. And Moses did exactly as God directed him.
We know from biblical history that Israel will fight in some pretty major conflicts, and we know that God gives them amazing victories–even up to our last century. When God knows there is a battle in our future, He prepares an army ahead of time to fight in His service when needed. We can tell from the signs of the times that there are some battles brewing now, so I’m certain God is already doing His own census as He looks for soldiers to stand up with Him in these last days.
The draft into God’s Army may not be the same as it was back there in the desert, but it is still important to be fit to be chosen to lift up God’s power and light in this dark world. We become fit for service to our King by confessing and forsaking sins that would hold us back from giving our all. Whatever our calling in Him, we must walk upright with integrity, maturity and strength in whatever we do. When God comes through to count those He can depend on, will you be among the numbers willing to sign up for His draft?
Word spreads fast these days with all the different ways we can communicate at the speed of fiber-optic light. But what about the “old” days? I mean, I thought we were pretty clever when we were kids and could talk through cups or cans with strings attached. (Or at least we thought we could.) When hubby and I watch one of our favorite older shows, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, I’m always amazed at how fast the bad guys hear about the payroll coming through on a Wells Fargo stage or rolling in on a train car. I was enthralled by the episode where they tracked a coming tornado/cyclone just by using telegraph.
But in today’s reading from Exodus 18:1 through Exodus 18:12, I don’t know how word spread as well as it did. Somehow, though, the word of what happened with Pharaoh and his armies spread across the desert to Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. There was plenty of wine, so I’m sure there were grapevines, but I don’t think that’s how the word was carried. 😉 Still, the word spreading to Jethro is important enough that our full portion for the week, Parashah 17, is titled Yitro and is Hebrew for “Jethro.”
So Jethro hears about how God has delivered Israel and all He has done through Moses since Moses sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back home to Jethro. He brings the family to see Moses in the desert where he was camped at the mountain of God. He had already sent word to Moses saying, “I, Jethro, am coming to see you with your wife and two sons.”
Moses goes out to meet Jethro and prostrates himself before him then kisses him. After checking on each other’s welfare, they enter the tent, and Moses tells his father-in-law everything God has done for him and for Israel in delivering them from Pharaoh and from slavery in Egypt. In verses 10-11, Jethro says, “Blessed be Adonai, who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Adonai is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly.” And then Jethro brings a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron comes with the leaders of Israel to share the meal with Moses and Jethro.
I’m not absolutely certain what type of priest Jethro was since he said the “now I know” part. I’m thinking that if he was already a priest of Yahveh, he already would have known that Yahveh is greater than all other gods. Never-the-less, God has always been big on wanting His good news to be spread, and I rejoice that Jethro learned and declared the truth. I believe God wants His truth carried to others by any means possible; cups, cans, telegraph, telephone, and–mostly–“tell a friend.” That’s where you and I come in with our testimonies. God’s Word says in Acts 6:7 (NLT), “So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.”
Now, I’d love to see some comments telling me what kind of grapevine you heard the good news through. Also feel free to share your favorite way to minister God’s word to others. I’ll share mine in comments as well.
Depending on your age, you might remember when everyone just HAD to own a pet rock. It came in its own little cardboard carrier, complete with a layer of straw for the comfort of your rock. There were no googly eyes on it, but your purchase included an entire booklet with all you could ever want to know about the care and feeding of a pet rock. It took me a while, but I found an interesting article with a picture of a real pet rock, info on the amazing marketing and profits, and even the full text of the companion booklet at http://wellingtonmarketingexperts.com/creative-marketing-for-the-pet-rock/
In today’s reading from Exodus 17:1 through Exodus 17:16 (the end of the chapter), we will see even more things you can do with a pet rock. The people were traveling through the desert and had no water to drink. They begin to grumble against Moses, demanding that he give them water. He asks why they are testing God and picking fights with him, and they just accuse him even more of bringing them to the desert so their children and livestock can die of thirst.
Now, here’s where rocks first come in. If you’re among the grumblers of Israel, you threaten to stone your leader to death. If you’re Moses, when the people cry out for thirst, you obey God and meet Him where He will be standing before you on a big rock in Horeb. And then, as directed, you strike the rock. If you’re Yahveh, you stand on the rock in front of Moses, and then, when he strikes it with his staff, you make water pour out of it for the people to drink. God then names the place both Massah, meaning “testing,” and Meribah, meaning “quarreling” or “contention” because of the quarreling of the people as they tested God by asking if He was with them or not.
And then our story switches to an enemy by the name of Amalek. He starts a fight with Israel at Refidim, and Moses tells Joshua to pick some men to go out and fight him. In the meantime, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climb a mountain to overlook the battle. When Moses raises the staff of God in his hand, Joshua and the soldiers have victory. But when Moses’ hands get weak, and he begins to drop his arms and the staff down, Joshua and the soldiers begin to lose. Now, we see another rock as Aaron and Hur pull one under Moses for him to sit on while they lift his hands in the air until Israel has complete victory over Amalek.
At the end of the battle, God tells Moses to write in a book and record all the events, so that they would be remembered. He then instructs him to share it with Joshua, so I’m guessing He was talking about the part Joshua could not see–the part that showed it was God who won the battle by the uplifted staff. God loves to show His power, and I believe He loves to show how He uses men to work with Him and with each other to bring about victory. This way, they can also trust the rest of God’s words that He will completely blot out Amalek from under the heavens., and that He will fight them from generation to generation because Amalek dared to set himself against the throne of God.
At this, Moses builds an altar to God (likely using yet another rock or two or three), and he names it Adonai Nissi meaning “God is my banner/miracle.” He declares that because Amalek dared to set himself against the throne of God. God will fight Amalek from generation to generation. And we can also claim God as our banner and miracle as we claim His promise to fight our enemies when they raise themselves up against the throne of God by attacking His children. We have Him to run to as our Rock of Salvation now and forevermore.
There’s an old Bluegrass song called Angels Gathering Flowers (see link below), so I came up with today’s title based on the content of our reading from Exodus 16:11 through Exodus 16:36 (the end of the chapter), that song title, and one of my favorite movie lines ever: Harold Crick (played by Will Farrell) in the movie Stranger Than Fiction brings a box of assorted bags of flour to a girl that runs a bakery and says, “I brought you flours.” God could have said that to the children of Israel as He shared what some have claimed was possibly the food of angels.
Our reading begins with Yahveh telling Moses to let the people know that He has heard their grumblings. I would add–again. He tells them that they will be eating meat that night and bread in the morning, and He says, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” And again I would add–again. How quickly they forgot. And how quickly all we humans forget between seeing the provisions of God in our lives. Thankfully, His mercy is new every morning because we so need it.
That evening, quails covered the camp, so they got their meat. The next morning, a fine white substance covered the ground like frost, and the people said to each other, “Man hu,” which was Hebrew for “What is it?” I pictured what they gathered making their hands look much like the hand in the above image, so I thought that was a great image for today. But, also, because the people said the food tasted like sweet honey cakes, I also found what appears to be a nice recipe for Gluten Free Angel Food Cake at the Taste of Home site. Please let me know if you make it and if it’s as good as the reviewers claim it is.
1-1/2 cups egg whites (about 10)
3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Assorted fresh fruit, optional
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sift 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, flours and potato starch together twice; set aside.
Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and entire top appears dry. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around side and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate. Top with fresh fruit if desired. Yield: 16 servings.
The next part of the reading covers the rules about gathering this sweet bread. Israel is told to gather for each person according to his or her appetite. They are to gather for six days, and gather double for the seventh day. (I know yesterday’s reading made it appear it would double on its own, but I guess what was in the field was doubled, so the people could gather double.) If people gathered more than they needed and tried to save the leftovers, it would melt, go bad, and before it could be eaten, it would be filled with worms. But when they gathered for Sabbath, the leftovers did not melt of get wormy.
There were a few people who still tried to go out and gather on the Sabbath, but there was nothing to gather because God did not send anything. He told those people to go back to their tents and rest. I don’t know if they had eaten all they had and ended up with an unplanned fast day, but I know that God was quite frustrated with them. One way or the other, people learned to rest on the day Yahveh chose to be the day of rest–the seventh day of each week.
The reading closes with more description of the bread, and the knowledge that Israel ate the manna for forty years until they came to an inhabited land. It also speaks of God’s command for them to take about two quarts of manna and put it in a container to be kept throughout all of Israel’s generations. I would love to know if it’s still out there somewhere, still intact inside the true “Ark of the Covenant.” If it is, I’m sure it’s not melted or wormy. 🙂
And here’s a link to a video of a Bluegrass group performing the song mentioned above…
Challah (pronounced holl-uh) is a Hebrew word and refers to the special Jewish braided bread that is eaten on Sabbaths and certain holidays. Click the word for the Wikipedia page. Also, Hebrew for Christians has a nice page with the blessings over the bread in both Hebrew and English.
The one thing I find refreshing in most Hebrew prayers that I have read is that all the praise goes back to God as the Originator. In other words, instead of saying something like, “Thank you for this bread,” the blessing over the bread says, “You receive glory because You bring forth bread from the earth.” It lifts God up as The Creator and Our Provider not just for the moment, but always and forever. I love seeing Him in this wonderful way.
As I read today’s reading from Exodus 15:27 through Exodus 16:10, I could not help but think of Yahshua, our true Bread of Heaven. He speaks to the disciples about this in John 6:28-33. The words from the New Living Testament say…
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” 30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Today’s Torah reading lays a foundation for this when the children of Israel become hungry after some more time in the desert. They begin complaining to Moses and Aaron, and they even go so far as to say they wish Yahveh had just killed them by His own hand while they were back in Egypt. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I guess that’s what was happening here since they were having trouble remembering being slaves and instead just remembering sitting around pots of boiling meat.
Moses and Aaron try to tell them to take their complaints to God. God promises that He will rain bread down from Heaven both to provide for them and to test them to see if they will keep His commandments as to how to collect the bread each day. They are told that what they collect just before Shabbat (Sabbath) will double in volume, so they will not have to go out and collect on Sabbath.
As the reading comes to an end, God tells Moses to gather all the people together and say to them, “Come into the presence of God because He has heard your grumblings.” As Aaron spoke, there before them, God’s Glory appeared in a cloud. He not only provides for us, but He hears us, and He shows up for us. We just need to seek and search for Him with all our hearts, and His word promises that we will find Him.
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