Daily Thoughts from Numbers: Israel in the Land

The heads of the fathers’ houses of the clan of the people of Gilead the son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of the people of Joseph, came near and spoke before Moses and before the chiefs, the heads of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel. They said, “The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for inheritance by lot to the people of Israel, and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. But if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the people of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers and added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry. So it will be taken away from the lot of our inheritance. And when the jubilee of the people of Israel comes, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry, and their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”

And Moses commanded the people of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, “The tribe of the people of Joseph is right. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: ‘Let them marry whom they think best, only they shall marry within the clan of the tribe of their father.  The inheritance of the people of Israel shall not be transferred from one tribe to another, for every one of the people of Israel shall hold on to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of the tribe of her father, so that every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers. So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the people of Israel shall hold on to its own inheritance.’”

The daughters of Zelophehad did as the LORD commanded Moses, for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to sons of their father’s brothers. They were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father’s clan.

These are the commandments and the rules that the LORD commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.  (Numbers 36:1-13 ESV)

The first generation of Israelites who came to the land of Canaan refused to obey Yahweh and attack the land and take it.  They were too fearful.  This next generation is wondering how the land that will be allotted to them when they conquer Canaan will be safeguarded to each tribe.  Quite a change and an indication of faith.

Just as Yahweh listened to the daughters of Zelophedad and allowed them to inherit land in their father’s name since he had no sons, now Yahweh listens to their tribal leaders when they express a concern that the daughters might marry out of the tribe and take land allotted to their tribe to another.  The answer is to have them marry within the tribe, though presumably if they marry outside the tribe they don’t take the land with them.

The land God gave Israel and its separate tribes and families was a sacred trust.  It is still so, though Israel has since this day lost the land on two separate occasions due to their own sinfulness.  But God is not finished with Israel nor the land He promised them.  One day the nation will repent and receive their Messiah and with that will receive the trust God gave them to steward.  In that day they will see the nations flow to them and will be God’s gemstone among all the nations.  And the nations will not be jealous of this but with God honor the nation who safeguarded the seed of the woman who will restore the kingdom, Jesus the Righteous One.

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Daily Thoughts from Numbers: If God Be For Us

And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”

And he took up his discourse and said,

   “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered:  I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near:  a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.  Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.  Israel is doing valiantly.  And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!”

Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said,

   “Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction.”

And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said,

   “Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock.  Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive.”

And he took up his discourse and said,

   “Alas, who shall live when God does this?  But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber;  and he too shall come to utter destruction.”

Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way.  (Numbers 24:14-25 ESV)

Before Balaam leaves he feels compelled to prophesy concerning Moab, Balak’s kingdom, and a couple of other power-houses in the region.  Like the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 who crushes the head of the serpent, Israel’s king, unnamed but powerful, will crush the head of Moab and the surrounding territories.  Amalek, the Kenites, and Kittim will reap destruction from God.

The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled in stages with an expectation of one final and ultimate fulfillment in the end days.  Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Genesis 3:15 prophecy but along the way there are offspring of the woman (Eve) who win in conflict over the offspring of the serpent.  The serpent’s offspring are unwitting pawns in Satan’s program to destroy God’s promised seed, the Messiah, in order, he hopes, to defeat God’s kingdom.

All the kingdoms mentioned by Balaam were subdued to some degree under Joshua’s leadership and then 400 years later more completely by king David.  One day the Lord Jesus will subdue all kingdoms under his own.  How Israel came to possess this prophecy we do not know, but it serves still as an encouragement that when God is with you none can stand against you.  And it is a foretaste of Christ’s coming victory.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Daily Thoughts on Numbers: Our Canaans

Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into field or vineyard. We will not drink the water of a well. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.” But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered all his people together and went out against Israel to the wilderness and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. And Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as to the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strong. And Israel took all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. Therefore the ballad singers say,

   “Come to Heshbon, let it be built; let the city of Sihon be established.  For fire came out from Heshbon, flame from the city of Sihon.  It devoured Ar of Moab, and swallowed the heights of the Arnon.  Woe to you, O Moab!  You are undone, O people of Chemosh!  He has made his sons fugitives, and his daughters captives, to an Amorite king, Sihon.  So we overthrew them; Heshbon, as far as Dibon, perished; and we laid waste as far as Nophah; fire spread as far as Medeba.”

Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. And Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. Then they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.  But the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people, and his land. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” So they defeated him and his sons and all his people, until he had no survivor left. And they possessed his land.  (Numbers 21:21-35 ESV)

If Sihon had allowed the Israelites to pass through his land he would have retained his land, but his attack of the people led to his defeat and Israel possesses his territory.  He is an Amorite, one of the peoples God has been preparing to judge because of their wickedness.  When another Amorite king, Og, also attacks and is defeated, Israel has even more territory to settle in.

God told Moses that Israel did not need to fear the Amorites, that He would give them into their hand.  Yahweh is showing Israel that He is able to give her victory over all the inhabitants of Canaan when they cross over the Jordan.  He is able to give us victor over our enemies, Satan included.

So why aren’t we more bold to conquer territories of injustice in the power of God?  What about that neighborhood that is falling to drug dealers?  What about that business that is preying on the poor?  What about those children who are ending up basically parent-less and fending for themselves?  If God calls us to do something about it He will also grant us strength to overcome.

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Big Kingdom Living

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:23-28, ESV)

Moses’ faith is so interesting because he, more than most, had an incredibly attractive world made by human hands that he could have enjoyed with power and wealth most will never see.  If this world is it, his slice of the pie was extraordinary and an irresistible lure to forget the kingdom of God.  But he resisted the lure.  He did not bite.

His parents began the legacy of his faith, trusting that God had something special for Moses, a deduction they made based on his beauty.  We know what is extraordinary beauty and they knew it was a gift from God.

Grown up Moses exercised his own faith when he acknowledged his Hebrew identity and forsook the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Even the enormous wealth of Egypt could not compare to the treasure of knowing Christ.  Yes, he foresaw the coming of God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Though he fled Egypt the first time he did not fear the anger of the king the second time he left Egypt.  And he believed God’s promise of protection from the Destroyer by applying the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts.

Where do you believe your greatest wealth lies — in the world or in the Lord?  That’s the key.  There are temporary pleasures available to us.  Will you give up your birthright for a bowl of porridge?

Little kingdom living is an endless search for earthly treasure and unending focus on personal need; Grace calls you to a bigger kingdom.  [Paul D Tripp]

Daily Thoughts on Hebrews: Faith Tested

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:17-22, ESV)

In rapid succession the author of Hebrews continues his hall of faith, finishing up his remarks about Abraham’s faith, then touching on Isaac’s faith, Jacob’s faith and Joseph’s faith.  Abraham gave the ultimate proof of his faith in God’s promises by being willing to offer up the one aspect of these promises that he had physically received, his son Isaac.  His faith was so strong that God was going to make good on His promise that he conceived of God raising Isaac from the dead once he sacrificed him.  How could the Hebrews do any less by remaining true to Christianity instead of going back to Judaism!

Isaac’s faith looked to the future promises of God concerning his sons Jacob and Esau.  Jacob did the same with his 12 sons, prophesying over each of them in regard to God’s future kingdom (Genesis 49).  And Joseph so counted on God’s promise of return to the land promised Abraham that he left specific instructions about carrying his bones to Canaan, an instruction that Moses and the people followed 400 years later.

The Hebrews had suffered persecution and had no doubt heard many persuasive arguments from their Jewish relatives and friends who did not embrace Jesus as Messiah.  But Jesus was and is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.  These yet await a future realization when Jesus returns to finally establish his authority over all the earth.  Are you really willing to throw all that away just because you can’t see the end yet?  Don’t you feel the need of a future kingdom swelling in your soul?  You are being tested.

Few are skilled at holding themselves in a state of listening to heaven’s music.  Ordinary things – like kitchen pots clattering, telephones ringing, and TV commercials about frozen food and dishwashing detergent – drown out the song.  It is too delicate to compete against mundane things…It’s a song we never quite forget and recognize immediately whenever we catch its echo.  We recognize it because it is so full of heartbreaking beauty. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Heaven:Your Real Home)

Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: We Need a Master Builder

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8-12, ESV)

Has God ever instructed you to do something, the outcome of which you could not predict?  You want to know what will happen.  You want some guarantee that it will be good.  Maybe fear of it not being good moves you to disobey God or question whether it was really Him telling you to do something.  Surely He wouldn’t ask you to do something that could turn out bad.

The Hebrew congregation had embraced Jesus as Messiah but had experienced persecution for that.  This, and other sufferings, made them wonder if they had made a mistake.  But our author recalls for them the long journey of Abraham and Sarah toward the fulfillment of God’s promise.  They left Ur of the Chaldees but stopped in Haran before finally making their way to the land of promise, to Canaan.  They lived as nomads on land that was supposed to be theirs one day.  They waited until it was impossible for them to have a child of their own even though that was promised them.  They had a long time of not seeing the fulfillment of God’s promise but did not forsake the Lord.

And even when Isaac was born the promise that God had given them was not complete.  They did not see the innumerable offspring God had promised.  And they were still looking for a permanent abode, a city, beyond what they could conceive or experience in their lifetime.  And so are we, the author of Hebrews is telling us.

God has designed a city for us.  Like Abraham we are still looking for it.  Life does not now provide the kind of shelter and stability we long for.  The foundations of all we build are as feeble and fragile as our own lives are.  We cannot compete with God when it comes to being a master builder.  We can’t see it yet, but our hearts were made for this city and by faith we wait in expectation of its coming.  Faith and hope have merged.

Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

[Tertullian, early Christian leader, A.D. 155-240]

Daily Thoughts on Hebrews: Legacy

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, ESV)

What will make your life story a legacy of blessing to your children and grandchildren?  How can you ensure that your voice will continue to be heard, not as a voice of discouragement but one that fortifies the ones you love?  Believe God’s promises!  Live for the kingdom and pray for its coming.  Don’t give up trusting that what Jesus did for us is only the beginning of restoring all things to the pristine glory of the garden of Eden.

Abel and Cain were of that generation whose parents lived in the garden and who saw the introduction of rebellion into God’s kingdom on earth.  But each of them took a different path in light of that reality.  Abel brought an offering to God in faith that God was in the process of restoring all things and was repentant for his own rebellious heart.  He was trusting in God’s promise that He would raise up a seed who would eventually crush the head of the serpent who tempted his parents to desert the Living God.

Cain, on the other hand, took the path of demanding that God make his life one of comfort and joy.  He couldn’t wait for the restoration.  And when his brother was commended by God and his offering was not, his jealousy took a lethal turn.  Abel’s faith spoke as his blood cried out from the ground.  Abel still speaks as one who lost his life in the service of God’s promise.  He did not believe life was to be found in the things of this world, but in God’s promise alone.

If you were the Hebrews and reading or hearing this account you couldn’t help but think of how one of the reasons you felt like leaving Christianity was the suffering you had experienced in life.  This in fact is the cause of many who profess faith in Christ to give up on Christianity.  They think it is their merit badge that should bring God’s unmitigated blessing on their lives and suffering should be a thing of the past.  It is not.

Your children and grandchildren won’t look back on your life and say, weren’t grandpa and grandma so cool the way they gave up on God, got bitter about life, and gave us an example of those who don’t believe.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. —Shannon L. Alder