Archive for » May, 2011 «

May 19, 2011 – Numbers 28

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Have you ever noticed how hard it is to really trust? We’ve probably all played that game at work retreats or youth groups wherein someone stands with their back to another person and then just falls over, trusting the other person to catch them.  How many of us actually let ourselves fall straight back?  I know I always gave up about halfway through my descent, throwing a foot out behind me.  Fully trusting someone is one of the hardest things to do, especially if that someone is your friend who thinks it’d be funny to watch you bounce off the carpet.

Did you notice in today’s reading how many sheep/bulls/etc were sacrificed to God in a given year?  2 a day every day, plus 2 more on each Sabbath, plus 10 for each new month, plus 10 for the Passover, plus 10 for the Feast of weeks, etc etc etc.  That’s almost a thousand animals every year, by my count.  And that’s just for starters; there’s all kinds of other sacrifices prescribed throughout the rest of the Pentateuch.  That’s a large chunk o’ change, no matter who you are.  Going by the price of hamburger at the grocery store, I can only image what the price for a whole cow is.


How easy would it have been for the Israelites to look at these requirements and think “no way, I can’t afford that.  My family needs to eat them critters, not burn em up.”  Don’t we do the same thing?  “I can’t afford to tithe/give an offering this week; the heating bill is due.  I’ll make it up to God next paycheck.”

The Israelites saw this principle more clearly than we do, but it’s still applies even though we have to work a little harder to see the connection.  Who ultimately provided the livestock for the Holy BBQ?  Doesn’t it all come from God anyway?  If we give our whole paycheck to the missionary that visits church, will God just forget about us as we eat cardboard?  If we offer our livelihood to God, do we really think that He won’t be able to afford to pay us back?


What’s the underlying assumption when we say things (or think them) like this?  Isn’t it really saying that God may not provide for us?  “I can’t quit my job and do ministry; how will I make house payments? How will my family eat?”  Not to say that everyone should quit their job and do ministry, but what is our motivation?  Is it because we honestly feel we’re doing what God wants us to do, or is it because we don’t trust Him to provide?

Are you able to give up your own provision and trust God?


May 18, 2011 – Numbers 27

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If there’s one thing that we’ve perfected as a race, it’s the art of pouting.  It’s amazing how kids are born with the innate ability to pout almost as soon as they enter the world.  Of course, it’s all cute and adorable when a 3 month old does it, but it wears off quickly when a teenager gets it going.  Until you get to your 20s, when you learn how to pout by just undermining those in authority rather than actually physically pouting.  That’s much healthier.


In today’s reading, God tells Moses that it’s time to prepare himself; he’s about to die right before the Israelites go into Canaan.  Most of use probably would have taken this opportunity to either a) beg God for another chance or b) grumble and say something to the effect of “fine. I don’t wanna go in that ole dirty promised land anyway.”

Moses does neither.  Instead, his attention is focused on those under his leadership.  He asks that God prepare and appoint an able successor, so that the people will be well-led after his departure.  The Lord selects Joshua, one of only two survivors of the Egyptian slavery to enter Canaan.


What a good example for us.  If we are in leadership in some capacity, and the time comes to pass the mantle to someone else, we need to be willing to set it aside without anger or self-pity, and focus on the good of those under us.  It’s so easy to feel that “God called me, so nobody else can do as good as job.”  That may be true, but God’s not always looking for the person who will be as good as you; He may be trying to train someone that is completely different and completely appropriate to a new situation.

The question becomes “Do I trust God enough that I can let this ministry go? Or do I need to make sure that I’m in charge? For the good of the people, of course.”  This is especially difficult for those that are part of a ministry that has seen growth and blessing during their time of leadership.  It’s so easy to believe that God is blessing the ministry because of us; what happens when somebody less faithful is in charge?  Won’t people under us suffer?

The truth is, we probably fear losing our own sense of identity and worth more than we fear for the people under us.  But God is looking for people who find their identity in Him, not in a ministry.

Do you trust God enough to let someone else lead “your” ministry?


May 17, 2011 – Numbers 26

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Numbers 26 is one of those tough passages in the Bible that we find difficult to gain any wisdom from (or from which to gain any wisdom, if you’re an English teacher). It’s a list of names and numbers which may have been exciting to the Israelites, but seems rather boring and tedious to us modern readers. Have no fear, though, all that it means is that we get to dig a little deeper to try to find what God is saying to us today. Wouldn’t want em all to be easy, would you?


This is the second census (counting only the fighting men) that Moses took of the Israelites; the first was nearly 40 years earlier when they first reached Canaan. After all that time wandering around the Sinai peninsula, one of the striking features is that the numbers for the first and second censuses (censi?) are so similar: 603,550 for the first and 601,730 for the second. Despite living in a desert for an entire generation, the people were as strong as before.

Notice in verse 54 that God divides the land by the size of the tribe. The larger tribes got more land. Now, some of the smaller tribes could say “hey, that’s not fair. We should get as much land as so-and-so.” Also, notice verse 56. It seems so oddly out of place in a list of the military, and yet there it is black and white in Holy Writ.


So what do we take from this? Do we just skip over this chapter and rush ahead to the epistles to get to stuff we can apply to ourselves? Nay, nay, thrice nay I say. Here are some pondering points, given in no particular order:

1) God cares for his people. It’s so easy for us to look at desert times as “let’s just survive this.” But God took care of his people, and several tribes dramatically increased in number, showing that God was not only preserving His people, but blessing them as well. (a few tribes lost population too, primarily Simeon and Reuben, which coincidentally were the tribes that God disciplined because of rebellions. Also food for thought.)

2) God has sense of fair play, but it may not be like ours. In several places in the Bible it speaks of “everyone had what they needed.” We tend to want everything to be “fair,” which we narrowly define as “we all should have the same amount of money and stuff.” However, God provides for people according to their need, not according to what their neighbor has; he who had much did not have too much, and he who had little did not have too little.

3) God remembers everyone. Serah was the daughter of one of the least important tribes, and yet she gets a whole verse just to herself in the Bible. Not bad. Some of the kings of Israel only get 2.

And you were gonna skip this chapter. Shame on you.