Beware! Numbers 35 – Deuteronomy 16

7310883864_505a568184_k

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

One warning shows up repeatedly in Deuteronomy. Take heed! Beware! Watch out! Moses warns the people over and over again, not to be on guard for enemies, but to know that they will be tempted to abandon their commitment to God.

Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. Deuteronomy 4:23

Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Deuteronomy 6:12

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day. Deuteronomy 8:11

Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16

The greatest dangers to their commitment would be the prosperity they would experience in the Promised Land and the example of the native people who would tempt them to abandon God. Moses could rightfully make this case for steadfastness because the people pledged their faith to God back at Mt. Sinai. Now they would make that same commitment a second time as Moses gave the law to them a second time.

God and Israel entered into a conditional covenant. It was conditional because there were requirements which the people had to follow. Only then would they receive the benefits or blessings of the agreement. There were also curses which fell upon them if they broke the agreement. The contract was not unconditional like God’s promise to bless Abraham and give his descendants the Promised Land. But it was a covenant, meaning that the relationship between the two parties went much deeper than a contract. God was not simply going to walk away if Israel proved unfaithful.

As you read these laws and think about the agreement the Israelites made, remember that we do not live under this covenant. There are timeless principles here including the demand to keep God first, the importance of respecting life, compassion, honesty, and others.  We relate to God, however, under a new covenant of receiving grace through faith in Christ’s work on the cross. We have our own commands to follow (be holy, pray without ceasing) but the agreement between God and the Israelites is not binding upon us. Both covenants were necessary because of the underlying condemnation of sin which weighs upon every man and threatens to send us to Hell unless remedied. The old covenant of Sinai still teaches us, as Paul said, that we are much in need of grace and cannot find an escape from Hell on our own. One final question: do you consider the new covenant to be conditional or unconditional?

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Numbers 35-Deuteronomy 16. Next week I will write about Deuteronomy 17-Joshua 4. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Numbers 35-Deuteronomy 16.

Running for refuge: Numbers 35

Here be giants: Deuteronomy 1-2

No idle thing: Deuteronomy 4

Give it a rest: Deuteronomy 5

Teach your children well: Deuteronomy 6

The Problem of Prosperity: Deuteronomy 8-9

How does your garden grow? Deuteronomy 11

The Poor, always with us – Deuteronomy 15

Image by Helmuts Guigo on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0

Victories and Defeats: Numbers 18-34

2856215102_2665e64410

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

A tumultuous mixture of highs and lows buffeted the Israelites as they finished their desert wanderings and prepared to enter the Promised Land. The older generation passed away as exemplified by the deaths of Miriam and Aaron (Ch. 20). Moses himself was disqualified from entering Canaan because of his disobedience in striking the rock at Meribah. Joshua was appointed as Moses’ replacement (Ch. 27).

There are several important early victories on the east of the Jordan River. Arad is defeated, followed by Sihon of the Amorites and Og of Bashan. But before these battles even begin the Israelites are plagued again by their old complaining spirit and God sends poisonous snakes among them to discipline them. God does not remove the poison, the consequence of their sin, but gives them an antidote instead: they are saved by their faith in God’s promise to heal them through the bronze serpent raised above them (Ch. 21).

After the string of uninterrupted military victories, the men of Israel proved faithless to God by worshiping the Baal of Peor, a Moabite/Midianite idol. The prophet Balaam could only speak words of blessing over Israel, but he taught the Moabites/Midianites how to seduce the men of Israel in both a physical and religious sense. Victory over the wicked scheme is gained by zealous Phinehas, but only after 24,000 Israelites die (Ch. 25). In the end, Balaam and many Moabites/Midianites die as God takes vengeance on them (Ch. 31).

Reuben and Gad decided to settle in the fertile pastures east of the Jordan and outside of God’s land of promise (Ch. 32). Their choice of second best is another defeat, and will reap unwanted results in the end, but for a time they maintain unity by agreeing to fight alongside their brothers.

The frailty of men and the power of God are fully on display in these chapters. Even Moses, the greatest among them, stumbles and shows how all men fail to live up to the righteous requirements of God. But in spite of their weakness God’s strength and mercy brings them through the wilderness and into his place of blessing.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Numbers 18-34. Next week I will write about Numbers 35-Deuteronomy 16. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Numbers 18-34.

Broken against the rock: Numbers 20

Snakebitten: Numbers 21

The rest of the story: Numbers 23-25

The daughters’ request: Numbers 27

True to your word: Numbers 30

Settling for less: Numbers 32

Looking back to move ahead: Numbers 33

No Satisfaction: Numbers 3-17

7660828120_22797332d1

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

The Israelites spent almost their entire first year of freedom camped at Mt. Sinai, and though they were no longer slaves in Egypt they could not escape the prison of their own discontentment. But as they left Sinai and headed towards Canaan, their anguish boiled over repeatedly in complaints about food, leadership, and perceived dangers. At its root their dissatisfaction always went back to a lack of faith in God. Though they might not have admitted it, they were telling God that his provision was not good enough. They knew better than he did about what they needed.

First they complained about their hardship (11:1) and God sent fire that consumed those around the outskirts of the camp. Then they moaned about the lack of variety in their diet (11:4-6), and after satisfying their craving with quail he struck them with a severe plague. Miriam and Aaron objected to Moses’ special position (12:1-2) and Miriam was made leprous for a week. The majority report of the twelve spies who went to Canaan said that there was not way they could defeat the people living there and that they should return to Egypt (13). God struck down the ten men who doubted him and condemned the remaining adults (except for Caleb and Joshua) to die in the wilderness (14).  Finally, a group of 250 men led by a Levite named Korah challenged their exclusion from the priesthood (16) and all of them died along with their families.

You can’t miss the discontentment of the Israelites, but you also can’t overlook the anger of the Lord. Why was there so much conflict? I think in part it was because of the close proximity of God and the Israelites. He was dwelling with them right in the midst of their camp. In addition, the people were extremely accountable to God because they had seen his mighty hand of deliverance repeatedly. John Piper’s mantra helps us understand God’s righteous anger. If God is most pleased with us when we are most satisfied with him, then surely he will be most displeased with us when we are least satisfied with him.

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Numbers 3 – 17. Next week I will write about Numbers 18 – 34. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Numbers 3 – 17.

The firstborn are the LORD’S: Numbers 3-4

Taking matters into your own hands: Numbers 5

The Nazirite vow: Numbers 6

A love letter: Numbers 7

Sacrifices that open our ears: Numbers 7

How do I know God’s will? Numbers 9

The anger of the LORD: Numbers 11-12

The Crisis of Belief: Numbers 13-14

Faithless: Numbers 14

Between life and death: Numbers 16

Image by Robert Körner on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0.

Provisions for Prosperity: Leviticus 14 – Numbers 2

1350774047_ce481b2d51

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

We love to speculate, but when it comes to Biblical matters I think it’s a mistake. If we try to guess God’s motives when they aren’t clearly described, we may err. The laws laid down in Leviticus prompt us to wonder, “why did God forbid this or command that?” Many people jump from that questioning to a tenuous position of concluding they know why God set down the law as he did. In the end they cannot prove their conclusion and we cannot conclusively disprove it. We can only speculate.

But God makes it clear what happens when his people obey him – they prosper.

I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:9-12

God made a conditional covenant with the children of Israel. If they would keep the conditions of the law, he would bless them and be with them. The law was given so that they might prosper in the fullest sense of the word, not just materially but in every way. In addition the law made the people distinctive. Their adherence to the law made them God’s people. Finally, the law made them holy. Because of the effects of sin and the curse laid on Adam and Eve the people were unable to approach God. Many of the unclean things described in Leviticus owed their fallen state to the effects of the curse. The world had been subjected to decay, mold, skin diseases, and even the difficulties of child-bearing. These were results of the curse. The provisions of the law made it possible for sinful people to move from a state of uncleanness to holiness, from decay to wholeness.

Three consequential provisions are found here in Leviticus: the schedule of feasts, the Sabbath year and the Kinsman-redeemer. The Sabbath year is important because of the way the Israelites failed to keep it. Their captivity in Babylon lasted only as long as was needed to give the land the Sabbath rest the Israelites failed to give while they lived in the land (see Lev. 26:34 and 2 Chron. 36:21). The kinsman-redeemer is important both for the way Boaz acted as redeemer for Ruth (resulting in their becoming the great-grandparents of David) and for the way Jesus served as our kinsman-redeemer (therefore he had to be part of the human family in order to redeem us). The yearly feasts ordered the worship life of the Israelites, featured repeatedly in the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels, and ultimately were fulfilled in their truest since in his death and resurrection (and perhaps in his second coming and the world’s final judgement).

Leviticus is both a manual for the worship of God in Israel and a theology of Old Covenant ritual. Comprehensive understanding of the ceremonies, laws, and ritual details prescribed in the book is difficult today because Moses assumed a certain context of historical understanding. Once the challenge of understanding the detailed prescriptions has been met, the question arises as to how believers in the church should respond to them, since the NT clearly abrogates OT ceremonial law, the levitical priesthood, and the sanctuary, as well as instituting the New Covenant. Rather than try to practice the old ceremonies or look for some deeper spiritual significance in them, the focus should be on the holy and divine character behind them. – John MacArthur

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Leviticus 14-Numbers 2. Next week I will write about Numbers 3-17. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Leviticus 14-Numbers 2.

The issue with issues: Leviticus 15

Bad Sex: Leviticus 18

Holiness – the things you do: Leviticus 19

Celebration Calendar: Leviticus 23

Jubilee and Kinsman-redeemer: Leviticus 25

Promises kept or broken? Leviticus 26-27

What’s in a number? Numbers 1-2

Into God’s presence: Exodus 33 – Leviticus 13

image

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

In these first weeks of Bible reading we have seen how God began to deal with mankind one person at a time. A Noah, or an Abraham, or a Jacob. Then he expanded that connection to involve a group, the family of Jacob, and finally the whole nation of Israel. Now as the book of Exodus closes, one year has passed since God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. God has established his presence among them, and he shows them a way to come safely before him. God makes it possible for this sinful rabble to enter his holiness. It requires a place, the tabernacle, a series of commandments they and their priests must obey, and a set of offerings to remove their guilt. Through their obedience to this process their uncleanness will be made pure, and their commonness will be made holy. Then and only then will their consecrated representatives gain entrance to the most holy place of God’s presence.

The tabernacle is all gold on the inside yet covered in an organic skin, foreshadowing the day when our mortal bodies will house the Holy Spirit. The offerings made before the tabernacle demonstrate a needed progression from admission of sin, to devotion of the whole self to God, to an experience of peace and fellowship. But no sooner do the offerings begin than two of the priests, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, are struck down by God for improper worship. From the start God stresses the necessity of obedience and a proper spirit of worship. Yet the years to come will show how quickly the Israelites descend into a spiritless external observance without heart.

But Jesus changes everything.  New covenant. Not on stone but on our hearts. New tabernacle. Not a building for God presence but his spirit in us. New access to God. Not just a few consecrated priests who can enter God’s presence, and then but once a year, but access for all believers at all times.  The old covenant and tabernacle served their purpose, however, by showing our need of salvation and the inadequacy of our human efforts.

Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf (John 16:26-27)”. In other words, I’m not going to insert myself between you and the Father, as though you can’t go to him directly. Why? “The Father himself loves you.” This is astonishing. Jesus is warning us not to think of God Almighty as unwilling to receive us directly into his presence. By “directly” I mean what Jesus meant when he said, “I am not going to take your requests to God for you. You may take them directly. He loves you. He wants you to come. He is not angry at you.” … So, come. Come boldly. Come expectantly. Come expecting a smile. Come trembling with joy, not dread. Jesus is saying, “I have made a way to God. Now I am not going to get in the way.” Come. – John Piper

About this blog

During 2020 I plan to post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Exodus 33-Leviticus 13. Next week I will write about Leviticus 14-Numbers 2. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Exodus 33-Leviticus 13.

Exodus 33-34: Reflections of Glory

Exodus 36-38: The tabernacle: gold with skin on

Exodus 40: If you build it …

Leviticus 1-4: Wrongs righted

Fat and your heart: Leviticus 7

Dangerous worship: Leviticus 10

To eat or not to eat: Leviticus 11

From Egypt to Sinai: Exodus 13-32

golden-calf

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

The journey from Egypt to Mt. Sinai took, according to tradition, 45 days. Five days later Moses received the law, so Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, is forever tied up with the law in the Jewish observance of the feast. The Israelites were at Sinai another 40 days as Moses spoke with God. Such a short time and yet so much happened.

  • Pharaoh’s army was destroyed
  • God provided water and bread (manna) even as the Israelites grumbled
  • God gave the Ten Commandments and other laws
  • Moses confirmed a covenant between God and the Israelites, and they agreed to obey the law
  • Instructions were given to Moses on the construction of the Ark and Tabernacle, and on the attire and consecration of the priests
  • The people turned away from God to idol worship when Moses was delayed on the mountain

We see some great contrasts here: the miraculous provision of God and the grumbling of the people, the devotion of Moses compared to the idolatry of the Israelites, his faith and their doubt. Important concepts are introduced: manna, which becomes the bread of life; the mercy seat where God comes to confer forgiveness, the idea of God dwelling or tabernacling with men. We see another type of covenant introduced: not the unconditional covenant whereby God promised the land to Abraham, but a conditional covenant that requires the people to obey God.

Perhaps most important of all, we are shown the plans for the earthly tabernacle. I say earthly because it is only a representation of the actual tabernacle in heaven. The earthly tabernacle points to the heavenly tabernacle, as the writer of Hebrews explained.

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12

Many of the laws that we will read in the coming weeks have one purpose, to allow a sinful people to approach a holy God. Through these rules things that were polluted became clean, and things that were common were consecrated and made holy. Only then could a sinful person come before God’s presence. Praise the Lord that now believers have that dwelling place of God, that spiritual taberncale, that Holy Spirit, within us, and each believer may by God’s grace come into his presence continually.

“There He stands, clothed not now with linen ephod, not with ringing bells, nor with sparkling jewels on His breastplate. But arrayed in human flesh He stands; His cross is His altar, His body and His soul the victim, Himself the priest. And lo! before His God He offers up His own soul within the veil of thick darkness that has covered Him from the sight of men. Presenting His own blood, He enters within the veil, sprinkles it there, and coming forth from the midst of the darkness, He looks down on the astonished earth and upward to expectant heaven and cries, ‘It is finished! It is finished!’ That for which you looked so long is fully achieved and perfected forever.” Charles Spurgeon

About this blog

During 2021 I will post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Exodus 13-32. Next week I will write about Exodus 33-Leviticus 13. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Exodus 13-32.

Exodus 13: Learn to remember

Exodus 16: Will God give me what I need?

Exodus 20: The lure of idols

Exodus 23: Who decides what’s right?

Exodus 25: Sanctuary

Exodus 28: Standing in the doorway

Exodus 30-32: Faith in the unseen

A Nation Meets God: Genesis 43-Exodus 12

iam

You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.

Four hundred years pass, and Israel is no longer a family, or a clan, or even a tribe, but a nation of over a million people. As Halley said in his Bible Handbook, God took one man, Abraham, and from that man he raised up a family, the family of Jacob with his twelve sons, and from that family he formed the nation of Israel. The Old Testament at its heart is the story of how God grew that nation, and then from that nation took one family, the family of David, and from that family raised up one man, Jesus of Nazareth.

But that is still to come. Now God is dealing with the infant nation of Israel. The people of Israel are crying out in their slavery and oppression. The time has come for God to reveal himself to this nation, and he does so by telling them his name and by showing them his power. He will no longer be just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He will be their God as well, a personal God, and he makes it personal by giving them his personal name. He is I AM, the self-existent, eternal, unchanging LORD or Jehovah.

God’s actions are just as important as his name in making himself known to Israel. The things he does for them, from the ten plagues to their deliverance from Egypt, demonstrate his sovereign power. He is able. There is nothing he cannot do. His actions also demonstrate his love and concern for them. He is willing. This dual nature of God became a recurring theme for the Psalmists, as in Psalm 59:16.

But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;

This section closes with a foretelling of God’s plan of salvation for the entire world. God causes the death angel to pass over each family of Israel because of the blood of a lamb. The event becomes a yearly feast to memorialize God’s act of deliverance, but it also establishes a pattern so that years later Paul can acknowledge that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us join the feast.” For us, as for the children of Israel, God is able to save. And he is willing, because he loves us. We only need to do as the Israelites did and cry out to him for deliverance.

It is a sign that the Lord is coming towards us with deliverance, when he inclines and enables us to cry to him for it. – Matthew Henry

About this blog

During 2021 I will post weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered Genesis 43-Exodus 12. Next week I will write about Exodus 13-Exodus 32. I hope you will continue along with me. You can find daily posts about these chapters archived here on the Bible in a Year blog. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering Genesis 43-Exodus 12.

Genesis 44 – A selfless act that changes everything

Genesis 46 – A man, a family, a nation

Genesis 50 – A word that isn’t in the Bible

Exodus 3 – The personal God

Exodus 4-6: Moses’ practical atheism

Exodus 7-9: A Hard Heart

Exodus 12: More than a baby