I read an interesting commentary today that said the giving of the instructions of the offerings for the festivals in today's readings was done as part of the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua that was coming up soon. As we saw in yesterday's readings with the census, there are 600,000 men about to enter the Promised Land - potentially 2 million or so total including women & children - who these instructions for the offerings for the festivals were given by Moses from God, as we see in chapter 29 verse 40 today: "So Moses gave all of these instructions to the people of Israel, just as the LORD had commanded him."Below is a nice image of the Jewish calendar and major festivals that I've posted up before, but I think serves well for today's readings to review again:
An image is below for Numbers chapter 29 verse 1: "The Festival of Trumpets will be celebrated on the appointed day in early autumn each year. You must call a solemn assembly of all the people on that day, and no regular work may be done."
Worship Video: Today's readings reminds me of Casting Crowns song "If We are the Body." Here's a great live version of that song:
Today in Numbers we read a powerful narrative about how Joshua was to succeed Moses. Jesus' name comes from Joshua, which means, "Jehovah is salvation." Makes a lot of sense for Jesus' name... Is Jesus your salvation? Below is a great image for Numbers Chapter 27 verses 16-17:
Worship Video: Today's readings reminded me of Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Dive:"
Today in Numbers chapter 26 we read about Israel's second census, which was commanded by God. (We'll read later in the Bible a census conducted by David that was not commanded by God, which was a sin.) This 2nd census in numbers was taken approximately 38 years after the first census. The first census in Numbers chapters 1 & 2 was taken after Israel had left Egypt. This second census is being taken just before the conquest of the Promised Land. In verse 51 today we read: "So the total number of Israelite men counted in the census numbered 601,730." This total of the second census compares to 603,550 from the first census, so is very comparable. These second census numbers obviously reflect the 24,000 deaths we read about in chapter 25 - so this number would have been higher. To me, overall, to see the numbers so similar over 38 years in the wilderness shows that God's hand of blessing was so clearly upon the Israelites. They were flourishing in the desert. Hopefully this is encouraging to us today. If we are in right relationship with God, I believe our lives will clearly flourish in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves in - even if we are in the desert!
Worship Video: Today's readings remind me of Zach Williams song "Old Church Choir:"
Today in Numbers chapter 24 we read about Balaam’s prophecies! Verse 17 is thought to be prophetic of Jesus: "I see him, but not in the present time. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel. It will crush the foreheads of Moab's people, cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth." Tyndale's commentary today suggests that the star rising from Jacob may be the prophecy that convinced the wise men to travel to Israel in search of the newborn Jesus. Here's an image of Balaam prophesying over Israel's camp: (and of course Balak looking horrified over this blessing that Balaam is giving)
And just when it looks like Balaam was turning out to be maybe not so bad in chapter 24... we get to chapter 25... In chapter 25 we read about Israel's sin in worshiping Baal and their sexual immorality. What we don't find out until Numbers chapter 31 verse 16 is that Balaam was the principal instigator of the idea of leading Israel toward this sexual sin & idolatry: "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people." Revelation chapter 2 verse 14 also refers to Balaam's hand in the incidents that took place: "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." Reading about these incidents in chapter 25 today - do you think people today still live in this tension of serving God versus being seduced by idols? What saves us from this tension?
Bob Deffinbaugh's take on Chapter 25 and Balaam's behind the scenes work is at Bible.org at this link and leads off with, "Balaam’s Advice: “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!”" is at this link.
YouTube: Today's readings reminded me of Luke Chapter 2 and this classic video from Charlie Brown:
Today in Numbers chapter 22 we read about Balaam’s talking donkey! Yes, this is a very unique portion of scripture, and, yes, one we can learn from. In verses 27 & 28 we read: “When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" There is a lot going on in the verses leading up to this point, and in the verses thereafter – which you can study more at this link . I think one thing for us to pay attention to here is how we are sometimes saved from a bad situation by what at first glance appears to be an “inconvenience.” A donkey laying down and starting to talk is inconvenient to Balaam. But, this talking donkey saved Balaam from an angel with a sword in hand that Balaam could not see. Are there perhaps “inconveniences” in your life today that are maybe saving you from a bad situation? Or, do you recognize inconveniences in the past that saved you from a bad situation? I know I have. If my car breaks down or I get sick or I miss a flight – all inconveniences – I try to remind myself that it might just be possible that this inconvenience was meant to be. It may have saved me from something much worse happening. The inconvenience – the “talking donkey” – may have actually saved me from something I could not see. Keep your eyes open for inconvenient “talking donkeys” in your life :) – and praise God for them when they appear! Here's Rembrandt's take on Balaam's talking donkey from the year 1626:
Bible.org commentary on Balaam in chapters 22 & 23 is at this link.
Worship Video: Today's readings remind me of the Matthew West song "Only Grace:"
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today:"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you will trust God completely. Pray that you will see God's promises made and promises kept in the Bible this year, and in your life.
Comments from You & Questions of the Day: Based on my reflections today, have you ever had any "talking donkey" experiences in your life? An experience that at first glance was a huge inconvenience to you, but in retrospect was an incredible blessing from God? Basically, have you ever had a blessing in disguise? Do you think God still can use "talking donkey" experiences in our lives today to get our attention? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
God bless, Mike
p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this Bible Blog ministry today! Please also consider partnering with us by financially supporting this ministry. Thank you!
Today in Numbers chapter 22 we read about Balak sending for Balaam - hoping Balaam will curse the Israelites. Balak sends messengers the 1st time and Balaam gets a message from God to not go with these messengers, as God has blessed the Israelites. What is interesting to me are verses 15-17: "Then Balak tried again. This time he sent a larger number of even more distinguished officials than those he had sent the first time. They went to Balaam and gave him this message: "This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Please don't let anything stop you from coming. I will pay you well and do anything you ask of me. Just come and curse these people for me!" For some reason these verses really reminded me of temptation in our lives today. Like Balaam with the messengers on their first visit, we may realize something is not what God would want us to do - and we send the temptation away. But... then the temptation can come back! In a bigger way - with more distinguished officials than before... with more allure than before... the temptation that we resisted once so valiantly can come back. And then, the question becomes - with the opportunity to be "paid well" by the temptation, will we still resist the temptation? Can we resist the temptation a 2nd time? Through Jesus, our mediator before our Heavenly Father, yes, I know we can. If temptation has visited you once - or twice - or even many times - will you pray to God today in the name of Jesus that temptation will never overcome you?
Bible.org's commentary on Balaam and Numbers chapter 22 is at this link.
Worship Video: Today's readings remind me of fantastic Bluetree song "God of this City:"
Today in Numbers chapter 20 verse 12 we read about God pronouncing that Moses & Aaron would not enter the Promised Land - "But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!"" Why did this happen? Well, it's best to stick with Scripture - God says that Moses & Aaron did not trust God enough. They did not trust God enough to demonstrate his holiness to the people of Israel. Thus they will not lead them into the Promised Land. Where was the lack of trust? Go back to verse 8 and you'll see God tell Moses to "command the rock" for water - command meaning verbally... then in verse 11 we see Moses strike the rock twice - not using the verbal command God instructed him on, but using an action. There also may have been a pride issue when Moses in verse 10 says "must we bring you water from this rock?" You'll notice the little word WE - We being Moses & Aaron? -this is probably not the way to best recognize God for God bringing water out of the rock... It looks like Moses is taking credit. How about us in our lives today? Are there times when we disobey God's direct commands to us? Are there times when we take credit for God's work? Even if we generally follow God's instructions - as Moses clearly does for the majority of his life - should we be on constant watch that we do not disobey God?
Worship Video: Today's readings in Numbers 19 reminded me of Nicole Nordeman's song "Holy:"
Today in Numbers chapter 17 verse 8 we read how God stopped the questioning of the Israelite community about Aaron and his houses' unique priestly authority - "When Moses went into the Tabernacle of the Covenant the next day, he found that Aaron's staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted, blossomed, and produced almonds!"
The 2nd sentence in Numbers chapter 18 verse 20 stood out to me today: "And the LORD said to Aaron, "You priests will receive no inheritance of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your inheritance and your share." What a beautiful thing to hear from God! I am your inheritance and your share. In your life today, is God your inheritance and your share? Do you want God to be your inheritance and share? Does anything else at all compare to this glorious inheritance?
Worship Video: Today's readings reminded me of the terrific song "Christ Is Risen" by Matt Maher:
Today in Numbers chapter 15 we read about unintentional and intentional sins. Verse 30 stood out to me - "But those who brazenly violate the LORD's will, whether native Israelites or foreigners, blaspheme the LORD." I have thought about this in my life in the past... and thought about that old phrase, "ignorance is bliss." While this phrase may seem true at first glance - ignorance is bliss - it's obviously not "True" at all. It is so much better to know godly Truth, than to be ignorant. However... once we know godly Truth, what if we then consciously go against that Truth? What if we "brazenly violate God's will"? This verse today reminded me that once we know Truth - and as we continue to grow in our knowledge of Truth and the Bible - we really should be much more intentional in how we live. We know what godly living looks like. We should not go back to our old ways of thinking or our old habits. We know better. And we most certainly should not think that "ignorance is bliss." It isn't.
"Trial By Fire" - ever hear this term? I think this term may have gotten its genesis here in Numbers chapter 16. Korah's rebellion caused Moses to explain how this true trial by fire would go down in verses 4 through 7 - "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show us who belongs to him and who is holy. The LORD will allow those who are chosen to enter his holy presence. You, Korah, and all your followers must do this: Take incense burners, and burn incense in them tomorrow before the LORD. Then we will see whom the LORD chooses as his holy one." A trial by fire indeed occurs subsequently in this chapter. Here's how Boticelli depicts this scene of scripture in the Sistine Chapel in Rome (note that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine - whereas other artists painted the walls - I just learned this just now!):
Verses 12 & 13 stood out as completely strange, as these 2 men had somehow now thought that instead of being a prison, Egypt was now in their minds a paradise?.... "Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they replied, "We refuse to come! Isn't it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects?" I wonder if we do this in our lives? Think that things that used to be so bad for us are now somehow good? I know I've done this. I've left situations or relationships or bad habits - knowing they were simply bad for me - and then later down the road I've sometimes thought to myself, "ahh... I miss xyz or doing xyz... I should go back to that." And I do. And I regret it all over once again. There is a somewhat obscure R.E.M. song that goes "Don't go back to Rockville - and waste another year." I think of this song on occasion when I am tempted to go back to something I know I shouldn't go back to - I sing to myself, "don't go back to Rockville." Perhaps Dathan and Abiram should have been singing to themselves - "don't go back to Egypt - and waste another year..." What about you? Is there an Egypt / Rockville or two in your life that you've left behind? Are you ever tempted to go back? Do you sometimes even think you might have been wrong about how bad things were back then.... that it might have really been a land flowing with milk and honey even! Well, I know we'll all have our moments of going backwards.... but I pray we see the True land of milk and honey in front of us that is only available through a relationship with Jesus and the Father - and that we won't go back to our "Egypts"...
Worship Video: Our readings today about the crucifixion of Jesus reminds me of the song "Jesus Paid It All" sung here by Celtic Worship (with bagpipes!):
Today in Numbers chapter 14 we read about Joshua and Caleb's bold faith. They were ready to move into the Promised Land! Again, similar to my thoughts in yesterday's post, I wonder if sometimes in our lives, when we are on the brink of something new & something big - that is of God - are we like Caleb & Joshua, or are we like the Israelites? Are we ready to move forward quickly and decisively on toward what God is giving us? Or, are we putting on the brakes and starting to complain? Do we sabotage ourselves? This is a tough question to ask ourselves I realize. But I think that if we honestly look at our life, we can oftentimes be more like the Israelites in this chapter - putting on the breaks and really becoming the cause of my own problem... I pray that I can have faith like Caleb and Joshua. I pray that I will boldly move forward to what God is calling me toward. How about you?
Bible.org has a powerful commentary about our recent readings in Numbers titled "Israel's Failure at Kadesh Barnea"at this link.
Worship Video: Today's readings remind me of the song "Wake Up Sleeper" by Austin French: