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.

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Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Shaken, Not Stirred

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29, ESV)

Just as surely as God was speaking from Mount Sinai He is speaking from Mount Zion, the heavenly version, and our author cannot help but make one more warning.  Do Not Refuse Him Who Is Speaking!  He has spoken in His Son and there is no escape if we neglect this warning from heaven.

Expositing Haggai 2:6 and 21, in which Yahweh tells Israel, as He urges the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon after their return from exile, that He will shake the heavens and the earth, the author of Hebrews speaks of another shaking to come.  He shook the earth at Sinai.  But there is a shaking of the heavens that will yet take place as well.  God’s kingdom will upset the entire order of things in the cosmos.  This will be the last shaking because only earthly and temporary things can be so shaken.  They will be replaced by a kingdom that can never be shaken.

The Hebrews, and we ourselves, must worship this God who shakes heaven and earth in the way He deems acceptable, that is, through Jesus Christ.  There is none other than the Son through whom we must approach the Lord.  Failure to do so will be a devastating decision.  Our God is a consuming fire.

God doesn’t speak of judgment to torment us with the inevitable. When someone sets a trap to catch something or someone, he doesn’t announce it, put up a sign to warn him. And God has announced a day of judgment so that we might escape it, which means he has provided a way of escape. [John Walvoord]

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Fair Warning

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31, ESV)

Doesn’t everyone sin deliberately?  I don’t steal something from a neighbor and later say, “Oops, I didn’t mean to steal that.”  But that is not what our author means in this passage.  He has already talked about how sacrifice was for “unintentional” sin (Hebrews 9:7).  This is contrasted with “high-handed” sins in the Old Testament for which there is no sacrifice provided.  The sense is sins that are committed with a deliberate defiance of God and His laws.  This depicts a hardened heart like our author describes in chapter 6.

Chapter 6 shows the person who tastes of the heavenly gift, shares in the Holy Spirit’s affect upon the congregation, sees the miracles of the age to come and defiantly declares that Jesus is not the Savior, that his sacrifice did not avail for us, and in this particular case for this congregation, that Jesus is not sufficient reason to keep to Christianity.  It is impossible, our author says, to renew such a person to repentance.  This is the unpardonable sin Jesus talked about with the Pharisees, where they saw his miracles and could not deny them but attributed them to Satan.

If the author’s readers are going to reject Jesus’ better way into the heavenly tabernacle as a better priest of a better covenant, they are defiantly rejecting God’s new covenant and there is no sacrifice for defiant sin.  If there is no sacrifice, there is only fiery judgment for trampling underfoot the Son of God and treating his sacrifice as unholy.  God will not spare that person.  The true believer will never go here.

You and I sin, and we should not, and we know we should not and that it is a way of dishonoring God.  But that is not “deliberate” or “high-handed” sinning, the kind that says I will not have God or anyone telling me what to do.  The high-handed sinner raises his fist to God and refuses to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over him.  If you, like possibly some of the Hebrews, are willing to say that Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing and that your old way of life was perfectly fine, you are in danger of falling into God’s hands for payment.  Not good!  This passage stands as your warning from God.

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Not a Second Time

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:23-28, ESV)

Once again we are reminded that the earthly sanctuary, the Tabernacle and by extension, the Temple, was a copy of the heavenly holy places.  Consequently, a better offering, better blood, than that of animals, must be offered in this heavenly sanctuary.  And that is what Christ offered, his own blood.

But he only had to do this once, unlike the high priest of Israel who had to make this offering every year.  Were he merely a sinless human he might could have made this atonement by offering himself over and over again forever, but as the Son of God, very God himself, his death, his offering of himself through the eternal Spirit (9:14), made his one offering acceptable forever for any and all who need redemption.

His coming for this signals the end of the ages.  The present evil age is now withering and dying and the age to come is coming.  And just as one’s death is followed by judgment (there are no second chances after death), so Christ’s death signifies that judgment is coming as well.  His next coming will not be to “bear the sins of many” again but to bring his kingdom to earth and save us from the judgment that comes with that and from a world has been at war with him far too long.  I’m eagerly waiting!

Mr. Mark Kagan, speaking at one of the Advent Testimony meetings, said that when on a visit to Palestine he and some other Christians gathered together in an upper room within the city wall of Jerusalem, to remember Christ’s sacrifice and death. After the meeting was over, he and another friend went to the Mount of Olives; and as they passed along they caught up a with a Jewish man who said that he also was going to the Mount of Olives. “We orthodox Jews,” he said, “as we watch the things that are happening in the world, cannot come to any other conclusion than that the Messiah’s coming must be near at hand. On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, and I am going there every day that I may be ready to give Him a welcome.”

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Land Drunk with Rain

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:1-12, ESV)

What if the immature spiritual life of these readers, the Hebrews, persists and they leave the moorings of Christian faith, leave Jesus their Savior, for their previous way of life?  The author urges them to leave, that is, go beyond the elementary doctrines to more mature teaching.  But they can only do this if God permits.

They might be those who have only been enlightened, who have heard the gospel and understand it, and so have tasted if not fully dined upon the heavenly gift of life in Christ, even experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst, hearing the good news from God’s word over and over and even seen the miracles of the age to come, the kingdom, happening around them.  They might be the soil Jesus described where the seed results in immediate growth but when trouble comes growth withers.

He warns them that if they are these kind of people they will fall away from Christ and it will be impossible for them to be restored to repentance since they knew the truth and rejected it, in essence crucifying the Son of God again, as if his initial crucifixion did not avail for them.  They will have committed the unpardonable sin.  It will no longer be “today” and they will not hear the voice of God inviting them to enter into His rest.  They will be the useless land that cannot bear anything but thorns and thistles and so is in need of burning.

The author does not believe this is a true assessment of who this congregation is.  He believes better things of them, things belonging to salvation.  In other words, he believes they are genuinely saved, are that soil that Jesus said produces fruit a hundred fold, and therefore will not fall away but will heed his warning and repent.  He has seen evidence of God’s work in their souls via their work and love for the saints.  They need to push on and inherit the promises of God.

What about you?  Is there evidence that you have done more than tasted the heavenly gift?  Are you maturing or are you teetering on the brink of truly living for Christ?

For further study:

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: What Makes God Angry

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made. (Exodus 32:15-35, ESV)

The consequences of idolatry are severe. Moses’ destruction of the tablets of stone is symbolic of the way the Israelites, with Aaron’s help, have destroyed the covenant. Moses’ anger reflects Yahweh’s anger.  Oh that our anger burned as hot in regards to idolatry, in our own lives and the lives of others.

Aaron attempts to deflect blame from himself but his explanation is ridiculous. The path to restoration from the sin is fully owning up to or confessing one’s guilt, not trying to minimize it. The other Levites, on the other hand, stand with Moses against the idolatry and slay those at Yahweh’s command who have been guilty. Yahweh sends a plague to slay the rest who were guilty. Moses is willing to sacrifice himself for the people, another example of his humility, but God wants justice for those to whom justice is due.

Nothing must stand in the way of our worship of the true and living God. No false representation of who He is must be allowed in our worship. He is the sovereign God whom we cannot control and He will be worshiped in truth only.  How dare we offer up what we call worship to a God as we have perceive He ought to be and expect anything less than His wrath.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Our Opinion vs. God’s Opinion

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18-21, ESV)

God has used a powerful display before the people as He hands the 10 commandments to them, a supernatural display that can leave no one mistaking that God in His holiness and power is present. The last time they saw such a display of lightning and thunder it was accompanied with hail as Yahweh visited Egypt with a plague. But the people draw a wrong conclusion from this display. God is not here to kill them. Yes, perhaps they do need a mediator in Moses but Moses makes it clear that God is testing them. He is seeking to birth in them a holy fear, not a cringing one, a deep sense of His holiness and the seriousness of their relationship. The goal is that they will not sin.

God’s heart for us is that we will not sin. The apostle John reminds his readers of this in 1 John 2:1,2. He says:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)

To sin is to damage ourselves. God’s laws are not arbitrary. They are a protection for us. We have been made in His image and when we act in unrighteousness we act contrary to what is best for us personally and for others. God loves us and longs for us to walk in holiness and be whole and healthy spiritually. There is discipline that comes from Him for sin, a discipline that is added to the already destructive consequences of our unhealthy choices. Hence the fearsome display on Mt. Sinai. But even that discipline is an act of His love.

Harry Randall Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) was a resident of the U.S. state of Washington who lived on Mount St. Helens. He came to brief fame in the months preceding the volcano’s 1980 eruption after he stubbornly refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders, and he is presumed to have been killed in the eruption….Truman had already emerged as a “folk hero” for his resistance to the evacuation efforts prior to his death.  After his death, his friends and family, including his sister, Geraldine (Geri), reflected on his death. Geri commented, “He was a very opinionated person.” [From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Randall_Truman> ]

We are very opinionated people, all of us, and often believe we know better than God what we should or shouldn’t do.  It costs us our lives.