Monday, 24 February 2014

(56) February 25: Numbers 14-15 & Mark 6:1-32

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the words said to describe Israel’s failure.

To ponder:
Dissent travels fast. “All” and “every” member of the assembly grumble on hearing the spies’ report, even threatening to stone their leaders. And this the same evening.
            The desire is to reverse God’s work: choose a different leader and return to Egypt. The godly grieve, recognizing how serious this is. Joshua and Caleb also affirm the land is just as God promised (14v7-8), warning the people against rebellion, and telling them that “if” God is pleased with them, he will give it as he is “with” them. As with previous grumblings, God then speaks with the people at his tent. Their action is to hold him in “contempt” and “refuse to believe in spite of” the many miracles witnessed. We too must give an account for “every careless word we speak” (Matt 12:36-37). And we too should grieve the sins of the church.
            Twice God asks “how long” Israel will act this way. It hints to his patience wearing thin, whilst looking to the time he will give them new hearts. For now, he is minded to destroy them and make a nation through Moses. But Moses intercedes. For us it is a model prayer. Moses’ ultimate concern is God’s glory. If the people are destroyed, he feels the nations would assume this meant God was unable to do as he intended. For this reason he therefore calls on God to act according to his revelation of himself. He quotes God’s words after the incident with the golden calf. This event is similarly key in the history of Israel (14v17-19, Ex 34:6-7).
            God forgives as asked, but destroys the faithless spies with a plague and condemns Israel to living in the desert for forty years until every adult but Caleb and Joshua are dead. These two have a “different spirit” and “follow” God “wholeheartedly.” So only they and the children will inherit. Again, however, Israel fail. Trying to remedy the situation, they admit their sin yet disobey this “command” by now going into the land, only to be beaten because the LORD was not with them.
            Throughout the contrast is between belief and unbelief - between trusting God by trusting his word and his power to fulfil it, or being fearful in the face of what seems to stand against it. We are warned not to display the same hardness of heart in turning from God, lest we fall short of entering our eternal rest (Heb 3v7-4v11). When faced with the struggle with sin, the desires of life or the hardships that can come with faith, we too can be tempted to grumble and turn back, telling ourselves we’ve followed Christ pointlessly.
            Chapter 15 affirms that the people will eventually enter the land (15v2), giving instructions that assume their harvests will be good (15v19-21). Most striking is that aliens are counted “the same before the LORD” once more displaying his wider concern.
Offerings are specified for when the community or one person unintentionally sins, and the seriousness of intentional and so defiant sins is stressed. This is to “despise” God’s word. We should take note. It implies unbelief. In Israel such people were to be “cut off” (ie. destroyed in some way by the LORD). This is immediately seen in God’s instructions over the Sabbath breaker. Knowing that this was the great sign of God’s covenant relationship with Israel made it a hugely defiant act.
As if acknowledging how hard Israel are finding obedience, God then commands that they hang blue tassels from their clothes as a reminder. Blue was the colour of the curtain concealing the ark that contained the commandments.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he is faithful to his promises and able to fulfil them. Ask him to give you a wholehearted spirit that never doubts this or turns from him.

Thinking further:
None today.

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