Tuesday, 4 March 2014

(64) March 5: Numbers 32-33 & Mark 10:1-31

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

To discover:­­
As you read note God’s intentions for Israel as she enters the land.

To ponder:
Despite his utter holiness, God welcomes requests given in the right spirit. So the Reubenites and Gadites request land not promised by him, on the east of the Jordon river. Moses’ assumption that this reflects Israel’s prior lack of faith that the land will be taken is recorded in detail. This reminds us as readers to guard against that “evil,” and so follow the LORD “wholeheartedly” (32v11-12). Moses’ concern is that, just as they are about to receive their inheritance, Israel will “make the LORD even more angry” and cause her destruction.
            However the two tribes are ready not just to enter the land but “go ahead” of the Israelites, until the nation is properly established. Their courage to “fight before the LORD” displays their faith. Moreover, they want none of the blessings of their inheritance or even to return to their families until they have finished serving God’s purposes. So Moses gave the land requested to these two tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the tribe of Joseph became two tribes named after his sons Manasseh and Ephraim).
We are also to “fight the good fight.” Our lives are to be given in faithful and courageous service, advancing God’s kingdom against his spiritual enemies not with the sword but the word. And we too must be ready to make sacrifices to this end, desiring nothing of our inheritance until we have played our part and God’s purposes are accomplished (Lk 9v23-27, 2 Tim 3v7-8).
            Chapter 33 summarises Israel’s journey before entering the land. We’re told God himself commanded Moses to record the stages. This was a reminder of the miracle of the Exodus, whereby God judged Egypt’s “gods” so that Israel were able to march out “boldly” in full view (33v3-4). It also plotted his faithful leading of Israel in fulfilment of his promises. Christ brought judgement on all evil powers by disarming them through the cross, so they can no longer enslave believers to sin or the fear of death (Col 2v13-15). By recalling this, we are kept mindful that the “gods” of the world are false and so impotent. And by considering God’s acts in his church since then, we remember his faithfulness to his promises, strengthening our faith.
            You can imagine Israel at this point massed on the plains of Moab waiting to enter. Here God instructs them. They are to “drive out the inhabitants,” destroy their means of idolatry, take possession of the land and distribute it by lot (see 26v52-56). The reason for this cleansing of the land is also given: Without it the peoples there “will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” – causing Israel grief and pain, and limiting the degree to which they enjoy the land, just as these things limit the outcome of farming. Indeed, by leading Israel into the same sin and idolatry as the Canaanites, it will mean her being driven out just as the Canaanites are due to be (33v55-56).
            We are called to keep ourselves from temptation and not be yoked to unbelievers. However, the NT gives no suggestion the church should mirror Israel in these actions. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but of the next (Jn 18v36). Our inheritance is no earthy nation but the new creation. And it is when Christ returns that false religion and its followers will be removed. For now, Christians are called to faithfulness to the Lord whilst living within a hostile world, overcoming not with force but “by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” (Rev 12v1).

Praying it home:
Thank God for the inheritance to come. Pray you and Christians you know would hold loosely to the things of this world and so give yourself wholeheartedly and courageously to building God’s kingdom?

Thinking further:
None today.

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  1. Continuing to benefit greatly from this blog-thanks Jon. Is the 2 Tim reference today actually chapter 4 rather than chapter 3? (Out of character I actually looked them all up today!)