Taking Care of the Preachers

Today’s Passage – Numbers 34 – 36 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – 1 Corinthians 5 – 8;  Proverbs 28Psalms 141 – 145

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 89

Read a previous post from this passage – “The City of Refuge

Read the “Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them. And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.” – (Numbers 35:2-3)

When the children of Israel went in to possess the land that God had given them in Canaan, all of the tribes received a fair portion of the property. However, one tribe, Levi, was not given a section of the country as the other tribes were. Instead, God commanded the other eleven tribes to each give up portions of their territory to be used for cities for the tribe of Levi to live in. The entire congregation of Israel would be responsible for providing a place for the Levites to stay in. Remember, the tribe of Levi was made up of the priests, as well as the men that were responsible for transporting and serving in the tabernacle (and later the Temple). The Levites could not provide for their own families as the other tribes could, because they were busy serving in the ministry. Not only did the other tribes provide them with a place to stay, but they were also responsible to take care of their other material needs.

The same principle applies today. God’s people are responsible to do whatever they can in order to make sure that the people that minister to them are provided for. A preacher that has to work in a secular vocation will simply not be able to do as much for the Lord as one who does not. However, there is also a danger in some cases for preachers to get lazy when they are completely provided for, and when there is little accountibility. I personally know of a few full-time servants who accomplish little with the abundance of time they have available to them. I guess the bottom line to this thought is that the people in the church should do everything that they can do to meet the needs of the preacher and his family, but the preacher must also realize that even though he does not have a human boss watching over him, he must stay busy and work hard for the cause of Christ. And, because he is not in it for compensation (“not for filthy lucre” – 1 Peter 5:2), he must be willing to do whatever is needed in order to effectively minister to God’s flock whether he is paid or not. God will ultimately care for his needs anyway, regardless of whether or not the church can.

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” – (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? … Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” – (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13-14)


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God Knows Why

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 30 – 31 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Romans 13 – 16; Proverbs 26; Psalms 131 – 135)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Isaiah 51:11

Read the “0226 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.” (Numbers 31:15-17)

Numbers 31 is a very somber passage of Scripture. Moses is commanded by the Lord to perform one last task before he dies, which was to “avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites”. 12,000 men from Israel went out and attacked a much greater number of Midianites, and were able to conquer them completely without losing one of their own men. Of course, the Midianites were not so fortunate; they ended up losing everything with all of the adult males being immediately slain. At first, the women and small male children were all spared. However, when the victors returned to camp with the spoils and the captives, Moses commanded that all of the small male children, as well as all of the adult women would also have to be slaughtered. Only the small girls were spared.

I must confess that Bible passages such as this are not the ones I look forward to reading. Later on, in 1 Samuel 15, God would once again order the annihilation of an entire nation of people (the Amalekites), including all of the women, children, and even the livestock. I have often wondered why God would command such a thing. I have examined these Scriptures carefully in the past and have even preached messages from them. I have explained to people some of the reasons why God would need to be so severe, but I was always left with more questions in my own mind. Wasn’t there any other way? Couldn’t God have spared even just the children? How do we reconcile this Old Testament God of vengeance with the New Testament God of love and mercy? My human reasoning cannot fully comprehend the answers to all these questions regarding what God was thinking when He chose such drastic courses of action.

I still don’t have all the individual answers to these and many other questions, but I have come to a place in my faith that has helped me tremendously. I no longer question God. There are a lot of things about God that make absolutely no sense to my finite brain, but I trust that He knows what He is doing, and He does not have to offer me any explanation. Why did God kill all of the Midianites? Why did He destroy the entire world with a flood? Why did He kill the Amalekites? Why did God allow the Towers to come down on 9/11? Why does He permit the pain and suffering of millions of people today? I know why, and yet I don’t know why. I mean, I may understand partially, but I can’t comprehend fully; but I do know God, and I trust Him that He knows why, and that’s good enough for me. I know God loves me, and I know He loves the world and all of the people in it, and I know that God does everything right, even when I can’t see any right in it.


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A Strong Message

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 25 – 26 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Romans 5 – 8; Proverbs 24; Psalms 121 – 125)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Proverbs 27:15

Read the “0224 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

 “And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.” – (Numbers 25:6-8)

In Numbers 25, we have a very strange story. It seems that as the people of Israel were sojourning in the land of Moab on their way to the Promised Land, some of the men began to get cozy with the women of Moab. God had a big problem with this for several reasons; but the main reason is that these women were not Jews by birth or by conversion. They were an idolatrous people, having entirely different standards of morality as well as an idolatrous system of worship. It wasn’t long before the people of God began to participate in the sacrifices to these false gods. This was a violation of God’s sternest warning to the people when they left Egypt. The Israelites were to be a separated people. God didn’t want them to fellowship with any other people because He knew that they would eventually turn the Jews away from Him.

God was furious with the people, and He wanted Moses to do something in order to purge this idolatry out of the camp of Israel. Eventually, a strange thing happens. A man took a Midianitish woman into his tent in the sight of Moses. I do not think they were going in there to have a Bible study. Anyway, this was also witnessed by one of the priests: a man named Phinehas; and he, in his zeal for the Lord, went into the tent and thrust a spear through both the man and the woman at the same time. At first glance, we might think that God would not support this kind of action, but on the contrary, He is very pleased with it; and He rewards Phinehas and his family for doing it. Why? Because what Phinehas did served two purposes. First, it appeased the wrath of God, and secondly, it sent a strong message to the people of Israel to stay away from the inhabitants of the land. God is a jealous God.

By the way, these people were from the land of Moab. Remember yesterday’s blog about Balaam. Balak, the king of Moab wanted Balaam to curse the children of Israel. Balaam was unable to do this because God would not allow it, but it appears that the people of Moab were able to as much damage to Israel by fellowshipping with them as they could have done by fighting them. We really need to be careful who we fellowship with. My preacher used to say: “we are now, or we soon will be, who we hang around.” I believe that is a true statement more often than not.

I believe that today our churches are being inundated with sin and compromise. Most of God’s people, including many preachers, are looking the other way. We have almost given up the fight against sin. We need a Phinehas today, that will stand up and send a strong, yet loving message against it. We need some bold Christians that will stand against the incoming tide of immorality and cultural idolatry that is flooding the lives of the people of God.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” – (Ephesians 5:11)

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” – (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

 


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Which One Is The Jackass?

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 22 – 24 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Romans 1 – 4; Proverbs 23; Psalms 116 – 120)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Proverbs 3:5 & 6

Read the “0223 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12)

“And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” – (Numbers 22:28)

“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” – (2 Peter 2:15 – 16)

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” – (Jude 1:11)

Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers presents a very interesting and familiar story of a mule that was given by God the ability to speak audibly to her owner, Balaam. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to carefully read the passage in order to get the most out of what I am about to say. Besides, what God says in His Word is far more important that what I will say in this blog, so don’t skip the reading.

Anyway, in this passage we have the prophet Balaam, who is living in the land of the Moabites. Why he lived there and not with the people of God is a mystery. The king of the Moabites is watching very closely the nation of Israel as they are sojourning very close to his border. He wants them out, so he goes to the man of God and asks him to place a curse upon Israel. He doesn’t go himself, however, he sends some of his princes to do his bidding. After hearing their request, Balaam inquires of the Lord, and the Lord tells him not to go with these men, and not to speak anything against Israel because they are a nation blessed by God. Balaam the prophet goes to the men and gives them God’s answer. The men return a short while later and press him to reconsider. Now this is where Balaam begins to err. He already asked God, and God had already said no; but the princes promise him if that he would go with him, their king would give him great honor and a lot of money. Now, he should have just repeated what God had already told him; but instead he tells them that he will go back and ask God again. He wanted God to give him what he had already been told that he wasn’t going to get. Balaam’s problem is that he really wants God to curse the Israelites, because it would mean that he would receive great riches from this Moabite king. God is not at all pleased with Balaam, but he allows him to go. He permits him to do what is in his heart. He was not permitted to curse Israel, but he was permitted to cozy up with the enemies of Israel, and receive the rewards that came with it. So, I ask you the question: which one was the real jackass?

This is not the only time in the Bible that God has permitted things that were against His will. He gave Israel a king because they kept asking for one, even though He knew that it wasn’t what was best for them. Notice another example of God granting the continual request of a complaining people when the Israelites complained to God as they wandered in the wilderness:

“They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:13-15)

I know many people today who keep asking God for things that are clearly against His will. Why don’t we just take “no” for an answer. God knows what is best for us. Don’t keep pestering him to give you what He has already closed the door on. Too many Christians are practically breaking doors down that God has chosen to keep closed.


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Standing Between the Living and the Dead

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 16 – 18 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Acts 22 – 24; Proverbs 21; Psalms 106 – 110)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 121

Read the “0221 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.” – (Numbers 16:48)

The passages of Scripture that we have been reading the past few days tell the story of the Nation of Israel as they travelled through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. The trip should have taken them only a few weeks, but because of their lack of faith in God they were sentenced to wander for 40 long years until those that doubted the power of God were weeded out. In fact, only two of the original group of adults that left Egypt would actually cross over into the the land Canaan. This travelling group of Israelites was not only fearful and faithless, they were also very “fed up”; and their discontentment caused them to grumble. Now grumbling is a sin which the Lord absolutely hates. In fact, I think if you were to carefully study the Bible, you would discover that God killed more of His people for grumbling and griping than He did for any other reason.

Not only did they complain because of their discontentment, they also challenged the God-given leadership of Moses and Aaron. They thought Moses “[took] too much upon [him]“, meaning that Moses was making himself a lord over God’s heritage. I dealt with this rebellion of Korah and others in  another post. (Click here to view post)

My thought this morning, however, is found in verse 48 of chapter 16. Notice there that it says that Moses stood between the living and the dead. It seems that no matter how bad the people got in their lack of faith, their fear, and their discontented complaining, Moses never stopped interceding to God on their behalf. There were times that God wanted to wipe them all out and start over again building a new nation from the seed of Moses; but Moses always reminded God of His covenant with Israel, and He always begged God to forgive them. He reminds me of another man, named Jesus, Who years later was rejected, beaten, and hung on a Cross, yet one of the last phrases that came out of His mouth was “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”. And then later there was a man, named Stephen, who was preaching Christ to the Israelites who in turn stoned him to death; but here again, this man interceded on their behalf and said, “lay not this sin to their charge”. These men all stood between the living and the dead.

We get a chance to stand between the living and the dead in this generation also. We can intercede to God through prayer on behalf of a people that do not yet know Him. We can also go to them bringing the truth of the Gospel, which if received will restore their broken relationship with God. Oh that we would be more like Moses, Stephen, and especially Jesus, and stand for the Lord in middle of a generation of people who are dead spiritually, interceding for them and proclaiming to them the Truth that will bring them life.


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And When the People Complained…

Today’s Passage – Numbers 11 – 13 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Acts 16 – 18Proverbs 19Psalms 96 – 100)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 92:1 – 4

Read the “0219 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1)

Boy, I hope that you enjoyed today’s reading as much as I did! Sometimes when we read these Old Testament passages, especially the chapters containing the genealogies, they can be less interesting and lacking of action, but that was certainly not the case for Numbers 11 – 13.

In Numbers 11, we have an account of the people of God murmuring and complaining, which is something they did often, and God hated it. Anyway, here in chapter eleven they are complaining about the manna that God provided for them everyday. Imagine not having to work for your food, but simply going out every morning and gathering it up from off of the ground. We do not know exactly what manna tasted like, but I’d bet it was good; and since it came directly from God as bread from Heaven, I can guarantee that it provided perfect nutrition. Yet, the people were tired of manna every day. Keith Green wrote a great song that described the frustration of the Israelites with their day to day wander in the wilderness, and their lack of desire for manna. Here is a portion of “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt:”

Well there’s nothing do but travel
And we sure travel a lot
‘Cause it’s hard to keep your feet from moving
When the sand gets so hot
And in the morning it’s manna hotcakes
We snack on manna all day
And we sure had a winner last night for dinner
Flaming manna souffle

Well we once complained for something new to munch
The ground opened up and had some of us for lunch
Ooh, such fire and smoke
Can’t God even take a joke? Huh? NO!

Oh, Moses, put down your pen!
What? Oh no, manna again?

Oh, manna waffles
Manna burgers
Manna bagels
Fillet of manna
Manna patty
BaManna bread!

I think the main reason that the people complained was because they were on a different timetable than God. I know I am. I want what I want, when I want it, which is usually immediately. The people liked the manna at first, but they got tired of it. I am sure that God knew that they needed a little more variety in their diet, but He wasn’t providing it as fast as the people wanted. So what did they do? They griped and complained. They wanted MEAT! And, they wanted it NOW! They more than desired it, they lusted after it. So, what did God do? He gave it to them in the form of quails. So many of them that they were piled up three feet deep in a large area surrounding the camp. They ate so much of it that it came out of their nostrils. They loved the quail that God provided at first, but they would soon tire of it as well.

Why is it that God’s people get tired of the good things that He provides for them. Why is it that we always want more; we are never satisfied, never content.

In chapter twelve, we see that the complaints were not limited to just the lay people. Apparently Aaron and Miriam were upset about the fact that Moses had chosen an African wife. God was not pleased with their criticism either, and Miriam was stricken (at least temporarily) with leprosy.

Then in chapter thirteen, God sent twelve spies in to check out the land of Canaan. He didn’t want them to figure out how God was going to bring them in to defeat the Canaanites, He just wanted them to see how beautiful and abundant the land was so they could get a vision for what God had in store for them. Instead of coming back excited, they came back scared. They did not believe that their God was able to defeat the Canaanites, and they, too, griped and complained.

When are we going to learn? Why can’t God’s people see that their cups are overflowing with blessings, instead of viewing them as half-empty. Is this the way you see things? Do you tend to see the negative side of everything? Learn from all of these examples from Numbers 11 – 13. God is good, and He is very good to His children. He has dealt with us far better than we could ever deserve.


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The Voice of God

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 7 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Acts 10 – 12; Proverbs 17; Psalms 86 – 90)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 89:1

Read the “0217 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him.” – (Numbers 7:89)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – (John 10:27)

Chapter 7 of Numbers is certainly a long chapter, and not exactly what I would call great devotional reading. However, as with the rest of the Bible, this is a very important passage. Here we see the heads of the tribes of Israel all presenting to the Lord their offerings at the dedication of the Tabernacle. Each tribe had to offer the same thing which includes some gold and silver; incense and flour; and an assortment of animals. We certainly can see from this passage, and from many other recent chapters that the Israelite were certainly dedicated in the area of giving; but they not only gave what was required, they also gave over and above what was asked of them.

The last verse of this long chapter tells us that after the offering was made, Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with God, and he heard the voice of God coming out from between the cherubims on top of the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to hear the audible voice of God; to actually hear Him speak personally to my physical ears. I can, however, hear the voice of God today as much as I desire to because He speaks to me through His Word. The Bible is God’s voice. He spoke to me this morning about this dedication offering. He also gave me some wisdom from Proverbs 17. And then he motivated me and stirred me as I read about Peter and and the other apostles and people from Acts.

God speaks to me in other ways also besides the Bible. Sometimes, as I walk and pray in the mornings, God will speak to my heart. Now, we have to be careful about these “still small voices” that we hear in our heads and our hearts. We need to be sure that it is God that is talking to us. Sometimes our flesh and even the devil will put thoughts in our heads that are not of God. One way you can tell if it is actually God talking is if the thing that He tells you is in agreement with the Word of God. He never goes against His Word. It always disturbs me when people tell them that God had told them to do something that was a complete contradiction to His clear revelation from the Bible.

Have you listened for His voice today? Did you open up your Bible this morning, along with your heart and mind, and hear what God has to say to you? Have you waited on Him today in your prayer closet to hear Him speak to you about specific areas of your life? It is not that God is not still speaking today as much as it is that His children are not listening.

 


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The Lord Bless Thee

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Today’s Passage – Numbers 5 – 6 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Acts 7 – 9; Proverbs 16; Psalms 81 – 85)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 61:1 – 3

Read the “0216 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

In chapters 5 of the Book of Numbers, God is instructing the children of Israel about what they should do if a man suspects that his wife has been unfaithful to him. The Bible talks about “the spirit of jealousy” that comes upon a man if there is something going on behind his back. I believe the same holds true for the wife. I know that today we don’t often think of jealousy as being a good thing; but interestingly, the Bible records that God is very jealous over his children. I do not think it is wrong either for there to be a healthy dose of jealousy within the marriage either. A man should love his wife to the extent that he cannot bear the thought of her being with anyone else. The same applies to the wife. Jealousy is, I believe, a God-given emotion. Now it must be controlled, just as all of our other emotions; and we cannot let it cause us to sin, but I believe it to be a good thing nonetheless.

Chapter 6 primarily deals with the rules concerning the vow of the Nazarite. When a person took this special vow of consecration in Old Testament days, he would not cut his hair or his beard, and he was not permitted to touch any alcohol, or come near anything (or anybody) that was dead. This vow was a vow of “separation unto the Lord”. The person that took this vow was declaring that his or her life was wholly dedicated to God. Usually, a person would be under this oath of separation for a period of time, not for his entire life. By the way, don’t confuse a Nazarite with a Nazarene, which is a person that comes from the city of Nazareth. Jesus was a Nazarene.

I was captivated this morning by the prayer of blessing found at the end of chapter 6. It seemed almost strange for this beautiful prayer to be place in this particular place. I mean, we have been reading a lot here lately about a bunch of commandments, sacrifices, rules, etc. Here, God tells Aaron that he wants him to pronounce this prayer of blessing over the people. I think God just wanted to remind the people that he loved them and that He was for them. I think we can learn a couple of lessons from this as well. First, we need to be reminded that God loves us and wants nothing but the best for us. We often will think about God as this angry, cold dictator that is ready to pounce upon us when we do wrong. That is not God. He loves us and He wants to give us the richest blessings, and a life full of abundance.

The second lesson that we should learn from this is that when we are trying to teach our children, we need to remember to let them know often that we love them. Yes, we need to give them all of the rules, commandments, and instructions; and yes, we ought to discipline them when they do wrong; but we also need to make sure that they know that we (and especially God) are in their corner, and that we want nothing but the richest blessings for their lives. This would be a good lesson for preachers and other mentors to learn as well. In our zeal to instruct, we sometimes come across as being uncaring and unloving. You have heard the old saying: “People do not care about what you know, until they know that you really care.” Well, we ought to really care, and we ought also to express that love and care often to the people that we are trying to help.

 

  


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The Center of the Camp

Today’s Passage – Numbers 1 – 2 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Acts 1 – 3; Proverbs 14; Psalms 71 – 75)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 51

Read the “0214 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp: as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place by their standards.” – (Numbers 2:17)

In Numbers chapter 2, God gives us a description of what the camp of Israel looked like when they were not on the move. A careful reading of this chapter will reveal that the nation of Israel was divided into 13 different groups, which included 11 of the original 12 tribes; and also the two half-tribes of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim). These groups were all strategically placed around the tabernacle. Immediately surrounding the tent on all four sides was the tribe of Levi. They were placed there as closely as possible to the tabernacle because that was their place of service. They were the ministers and priests of the Lord. Beyond the Levites the remaining twelve tribes and half-tribes were positioned by threes in each direction. For instance, on the east side of the tabernacle, beyond the Levites, were the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon. There were also three tribes on the west, south, and north. The thought that I am trying to develop here, however, is that the tabernacle was in the very center of the congregation. The tabernacle was the place where God dwelt, between the cherubims on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. God, and His chosen place of worship was the very center of the lives of the people of Israel.

Now let’s fast forward a few thousands years to the time of the local church. I realize that today God dwells in the hearts of His children, but the local church is God’s chosen place for corporate worship, and it is the place where we are to be organized in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” – (1 Timothy 3:15)

God should still be at the center of our lives; and the local church should be at the center of the life of our families. I have been a pastor now for many years, and I have been involved in God’s work as a layman even longer. I have observed that the families who place a high value on the local church, recognizing it’s importance, tend to be stronger and happier than the families that do not. Don’t misunderstand, I do not think that the church has a higher priority than the home but I do believe that successful homes are built around a strong, Bible believing, New Testament church. The church’s role is critical to healthy marriages and to the spiritual development of our children.

Take a moment to consider the role that the local church plays in your life; and then consider the role that you play in your local church. We need to keep our local churches strong, and I believe that there are many ways that you can help:

1 Participate in the local church – attend the services and find something that you can do that will serve others. God has uniquely equipped you in certain areas that can be used in the local church.

2 Pray for your church and your pastors and leaders. The ministry can be very discouraging, but you can be an encouragement to the people that minister to you simply by lifting them up in prayer. It wouldn’t hurt for you to let them know on occassion that you are praying for them.

3 Support your church with your tithes and offerings. The work of God cannot go forward without the tithes of God’s people. When you don’t give you are telling God and the church that they have no place of value in your life. You can also support the church by not bashing it. Let people know where you stand. If you are for the ministry, speak out for it, and don’t let others run it down in your presence. Negativity and complaining are like cancers inside the church that will destroy it from within.

Is the local church important to you, or isn’t it? God says that it should be. Remember, He died for the church. It’s His body. He places a great value on it, and so should we.


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Rest for the Land

Today’s Passage – Leviticus 24 – 25 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – John 17 – 18Proverbs 12Psalms 61 – 65)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 47:1

Read the “0212 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this morning’s reading – “The Mind of the Lord.”

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:2-4)

The image above is of a scene typical in the southern plains during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, which afflicted parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. There were many contributing factors that caused the barren and desert-like conditions covering this huge land mass of once fruitful grassland, including a severe shortage of rain over and extended period of time. However, one of the components that added to the problem was a serious lack of intelligent land management. The government had encouraged and had given incentives for people to move to this area and farm the land; but, they over-farmed it and stripped the land of its topsoil and nutrients. In Egan Timothy’s book, The Worst of Times, Melt White from Texas was quoted as saying, “God didn’t create this land around here to be plowed up, He created it for Indians and buffalo. Folks raped this land. Raped it bad.”[1]

J. Vernon McGee refers to a similar “dust bowl” of sorts that he experienced as a young boy: “The southland where I was reared has learned, to its sorrow, that one should let the land lie fallow. A great deal of the land has been worn out by planting cotton every year, year after year. The Sabbatical year was actually a good agricultural principle which God gave to them. It is quite interesting that God knows all about farming, isn’t it?”[2]

Thousands of years before the Dust Bowl hit America, God had commanded His people to let their land “rest” one year out of seven in order for the land to be replenished with the nutrients it needs. The people could cultivate, plant, and reap their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were forbidden to do so. On that seventh year, the people could go out in the field and eat of the fruits that grew on their own, but they could not harvest what had grown to be sold in the market. The poor and the wild beasts were also permitted to eat of anything that grew on its own in the year of rest. By resting their fields one year out of seven, God also replenished the nutrients that were taken from them during the six years. This way, the fields would continue to produce.

Unfortunately, it seems that Israel did not obey God and let their land rest one year out of seven as He commanded them. According to 2 Chronicles 36, God sent His people into Babylonian captivity for seventy years, and during that time He gave the land in Israel time to rest in proportion to the number of years that they did not voluntarily rest the land when they lived there:

“To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” (2 Chronicles 36:21 – See also Jeremiah 25:8 – 11)

Though I am certainly not an expert on agricultural matters, I am told that many farmers today will rotate their fields in order that they can “rest” one year out of seven. Some farmers will actually plant something in the seventh year that they will not harvest. Then, they will plow it all back into the field returning the nutrients to the soil. The bottom line, is that farmers have learned that they cannot keep taking from the ground, without allowing it to be replenished.

A spiritual application that we can make from this is that neither can we keep selfishly taking what God has provided without every once in a while giving back. Just a thought.

[1] Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl (p. 9). HMH Books. Kindle Edition.

[2] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed., vol. 1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 437.


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