Daily Thoughts from Numbers: Power Settings

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, If any man’s wife goes astray and breaks faith with him, if a man lies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, since she was not taken in the act, and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself, then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her…

   “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and unbind the hair of the woman’s head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse.  Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then’ (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) ‘the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’

   “Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand and shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar. And the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water.  And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

   “This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.”  (Numbers 5:11-31 ESV)

There are times when the purity in the camp cannot be determined except by a trial by ordeal.  In the case of a jealous husband who is suspicious that his wife has been unfaithful, Yahweh gives a test.  If the wife drinks the concoction described here and does not get sick, she is innocent.  Her husband’s jealousy is exposed as unfounded.  He is the uncleanness in the camp, not her.  If she is guilty her womb will swell, her thigh fall away and she will be childless, a consequence of her infidelity.

It may be argued that this was a very male-centric regulation.  What if the woman was suspicious of her husband?  Could she have him drink the potion?  But in another sense this was a protection for the woman.  Mere jealousy on the part of her husband would not justify mistreatment.  This provided a definitive test and protected her from wrongful accusations.

God is concerned for the just treatment of those who are in the position of little or no power.  He does not hold guiltless the one who abuses his power.  We must not abuse the power we have but always use it for the benefit of others, not ourselves.

Advertisements

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Stealing

“When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.

“When one man’s ox butts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.

“If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.

“If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

“If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

“If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, an oath by the LORD shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn.

“If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.” (Exodus 21:33-22:15, ESV)

These cases refer in general to the application of the law against stealing. Some “stealing” is unintentional (neglect for someone’s property) and other stealing is deliberate.

  1. A situation you cause that leads to the death of another’s animal (destruction of his property) means you pay the price of the property and you get to keep the property (the animal, etc.)
  2. If your animal kills another animal you sell your animal and share the income with the owner of the dead animal. If you were negligent, knowing your animal’s propensity to be violent, you pay the owner of the dead animal for his animal and you keep the dead animal.
  3. If you steal something you must make restitution for it in accord with its value (4 or 5 times what it is worth).
  4. A thief struck and killed while breaking in during the night is not considered murder (you couldn’t determine his intent and it may have been murderous). But if you kill him during daylight you are guilty of bloodshed (presumably, you know his intent is theft not violent harm and theft is not punishable by death).
  5. Taking someone’s property by allowing an animal to graze it or starting a fire requires restitution.
  6. Giving your property to someone for safekeeping or borrowing property that then gets stolen or damaged requires restitution, but if theft was really the cause the thief must make restitution.

Ownership of property and loving your neighbor by not envying it or stealing it, or if taken, making restitution for it, is God’s requirement of His people. We must value our neighbors and what they own and be sensitive to their loss of what they own.  Are you driving safely through your neighborhood?  Are you taking care for those who come on your property?  If you wrong your neighbor’s property are you more than making up for its loss?  Love your neighbor as yourself.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Watch Out, Leaders!

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7, ESV)

Leaders must not take on themselves the responsibility and weight of doing what only God himself can do.  Nevertheless, the people we lead will put that weight on us and it may endanger our influence with them and even our lives.

The right thing to do as a leader is to go to God for help.  His leadership of us is always one step ahead, so we don’t know the plan He has and must come to Him for direction.  When we do He stands in front of us and becomes our shield through which the effronteries of effete followers cannot penetrate.

Followers must not, of course, put undue weight on their leaders.  Followers bear a responsibility before God to recognize that a leader is a tool in God’s hand to help the group go forward, not God him or herself.  When we grumble against the leader we have lost sight of that fact.

How could the people not have known, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Yahweh was among them? Their insistence on blaming Moses and on expecting him to be their rescue is bizarre. Apparently they fear Yahweh enough that they don’t want to directly blame Him, but the effect is the same. We may not always have the same assurance that they did that Moses was only doing what God told him to do. We don’t have the cloud of smoke and fire that lifts up and moves when it is time to move, that goes and stands over the rock where water pours out. But we may be guilty of a kind of practical atheism when we choose to act as if the only reason we are where we are and our leaders are leading us where we are is as if all this just happened by human endeavor.

But Yahweh gives yet another proof that He is among them when He stands over the rock at Horeb (Mt. Sinai, where the burning bush appeared) and has Moses strike it to produce water, enough water to supply a million or more people and their livestock. Why strike it? It is as if Moses is striking Yahweh, who stands above the rock in the pillar of cloud. Paul says this rock was Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4), who at his first coming was struck as well, crucified for our sins. Yahweh is picturing and foreshadowing how He will provide deliverance for all mankind when Messiah comes. Are you recognizing God’s presence in your midst? Do not live in your own Massah and Meribah (testing and quarreling).

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Grumble, Grumble

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.  On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”  So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”  And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”  And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.  And the LORD said to Moses,  “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp.  And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.  When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.  This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’”  And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less.  But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.  And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.”  But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.  Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses,  he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’”  So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it.  Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.  And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?  See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  So the people rested on the seventh day.

Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’”  And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.”  As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept.  The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.  (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)  (Exodus 16 ESV)

Grumbling, grumbling, grumbling!  The word is repeated over and over to highlight how ungrateful and unbelieving the people of Israel were.  They had seen the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the bitter water made pure, but now, when they were hungry they couldn’t believe Yahweh could take care of them.  But they didn’t blame Yahweh, they blamed Moses, so Yahweh has to make it plain to them that they are really blaming Him.  Despite their horrible attitude and disbelief, Yahweh provides them quail meat at night and then daily provides a bread like substance called manna.  His miraculous power is evident.

No matter how much each one gathers of the manna, it always ends up being exactly what their household needed.  If they try to keep some overnight it decays and breeds worms.  On Friday they gather two days-worth and it lasts overnight so they can rest on the Sabbath, Saturday, and still have God’s provision.  Some of the miraculous bread is kept in a jar before the testimony, that is, the tablets containing the 10 commandments, which have not been given at this point, and both of these will be kept in the ark of the covenant, which is yet to be built.

Why won’t we just trust God that He is able to care for us and wants to care for us?  Why must we continually fail the tests of our faith that He imposes to teach and disciple us?  Lord, help me to grow in faith and obedience.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…(Philippians 2:14-16, ESV)

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Complaining

Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.  (Exodus 15:22-27 ESV)

If God was able to be a shield of cloud and fire between Israel and the Egyptians, create a dry path through the Red Sea, and then once the Israelites were through draw the Egyptians into the sea and drown them, could He not take care of them in the wilderness?  They made their three day journey into the wilderness to worship Yahweh as commanded but when they needed water and there was none that was drinkable, they complained against Moses.  Moses did what he was supposed to do, appeal to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed him a way to purify the water, then led the people to a place full of pure water springs and palm trees.

Thus begins an ongoing pattern of relationship between Moses and the people of trial and subsequent complaining.  Yahweh tells Israel that He is purposely testing them.  The rule is this, “Obey Me and I will keep you healthy.”  This is not Yahweh’s promise to us, but to Israel in that particular period in their history.  Yet it is still, in one way, the rule of life for us.  Trust and obey the Lord and He will use us to expand His kingdom on earth.  Yahweh entered into covenant with Israel in an initial way this day, something that would be expanded when they got to Mt. Sinai with more detail about what obeying and trusting Yahweh would look like.  He has entered into covenant with us, as well, the New Covenant which He made with Israel and we now enjoy as the church because we are in Christ, the ultimate Israel.  As the old song says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

 

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

 

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

 

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

 

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

 

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and Obey | John H. Sammis, 1887

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Pitfalls of Prejudice

These are the heads of their fathers’ houses: the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the clans of Reuben. The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the clans of Simeon. These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, the years of the life of Levi being 137 years. The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, by their clans. The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, the years of the life of Kohath being 133 years. The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their generations. Amram took as his wife Jochebed his father’s sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, the years of the life of Amram being 137 years. The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri. The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri. Aaron took as his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the clans of the Korahites. Eleazar, Aaron’s son, took as his wife one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites by their clans.

These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron.

On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”  (Exodus 6:14-30 ESV)

It seems odd to us to stop in the middle of this narrative of events to give a genealogy of the main characters of the events (Moses and Aaron).  But it is critical from an Israelite viewpoint because God has made promises along genealogical lines and the house of Levi will be granted the priesthood in Israel.  So the pedigree of Moses and Aaron must be given to establish their origins and we also have highlighted for us the origins of some key players in the near future (the sons of Korah and Phineas).

The kingdom of God is inextricably linked to Israel.  God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless all nations through him is still in play.  God has sent the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), the Messiah, through the line of Israel and particularly through Judah and David.  We cannot understand what God is doing if we leave out the Jews.  Of all the peoples of the earth they will be at the forefront of God’s establishment of His rule once again on earth.  All non-Jewish peoples, the Gentiles, are brought into the kingdom on the coattails of Israel, being grafted into this vine (Romans 11) and made partakers of God’s promises.

This has implications for how we view all peoples.  We are so prone to prejudice, to pre-judging a people based on their appearance, ethnicity, language and beliefs.  From God’s perspective, however, we are all just different brands of the same product and equally loved.  His plan for all of us centers around Israel but is impartial toward all people.  Bias against anyone is like telling God He made a mistake…it is stupid.

Ephesians 6:10-20 –Conversations with God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Father, we are in a war!  I don’t know how more plainly Paul could make that point.  The enemy is scheming against us.  Evil is afoot.  Flaming arrows are being shot at us.  We are in danger of losing ground if we don’t stand firm.  Being alert is paramount.

But you don’t want us to fight human beings.  In fact, we might actually be in chains as we do our fighting.  We might be in the weakest of situations personally or politically.  Nevertheless, there is an armor to don and a battle to fight and it is all on the spiritual level.

And so our armor is spiritual.  Truth, to keep us from succumbing to the lies of the Devil and his demons.  Righteousness, positionally and personally, to keep us from despairing.  The gospel message that brings peace to those who embrace it.  Faith, to ward off the evil one’s attacks.  Salvation, to keep us secure in the midst of battle.  The Word of God, to slice through the deceptions of our foe.  And prayer, to give us a lifeline to God who gives us boldness for the preaching of the gospel.

Keep me alert, Lord!