Numbers 9-10, Luke 20

Followers of God.

Numbers 9-10, Luke 20

In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. – Numbers 10:11-12 ESV

God led His people. From the moment He set them free from captivity in Egypt, He had directed their path. He had gone before them, guiding their every step along the way and providing for their every need. But they had to follow. They couldn’t veer to the right or the left. They couldn’t go off in another direction. If they did, they would suffer the consequences. God’s leadership required faithful followers. It reminds me of the chorus of the classic old hymn, Where He Leads Me I Will Follow. It simply says, “Where He leads me I will follow; I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.” The people of Israel had spent nearly a year camped at the base of Mount Sinai. During that time, God had given them His law and provided them with the construction plans for the Tabernacle. He had given them the sacrificial system in order to provide a means of atoning for and receiving forgiveness for their sins. There at Mount Sinai they enjoyed God’s presence and provision, but Mount Sinai was not their final destination. They were not where God wanted them to be. So “In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran” (Numbers 10:11-12 ESV). God led and the people followed.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had a purpose behind everything He did. In order to get the people of Israel all the way through the wilderness, He knew it was going to require much more than which direction to go. He could lead them, and they could follow – but they would have to follow according to His terms. Their following would have to include faithful obedience to His righteous rules and divine requirement. They would have to follow obediently. God could have miraculously taken them straight to the Promised Land. He could have eliminated the need for the journey altogether, but instead, He took His time. He gave them rules of conduct. He painstakingly provided them with instructions as to how they were to live as they followed Him. The wilderness wanderings were going to be a time of testing, to see if they would live set-apart lives, faithfully following God’s prescribed plan for His people. God didn’t just expect the people to follow, but to do so faithfully. In other words, they had to follow according to His terms. They had to keep His laws. They had to celebrate His festivals. They had to keep the Sabbath. They had to regularly sacrifice for their sins. They had to deal with impurity in their midst. Their journey from Mount Sinai to the land of Canaan was to be marked by obedience. God’s leading was going to require the people’s faithful adherence to His commands.

What does this passage reveal about man?

From our vantage point this side of the cross, it is sometimes easy to look back at the Israelites and wonder how they could have been so slow to realize just how good they had it. They seem slow to comprehend just how blessed they were to have God’s actual presence living among them. They got to see incredible miracles and witness amazing acts of provision, such as manna that came from the sky and water that flowed from a rock. They wore sandals and clothes that never wore out. But in spite of all this, they continued to disobey Him by disregarding His commands. The psalmist writes, “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness, and insulted him  in the desert! They again challenged God,and offended  the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:40-41 ESV). But before we point our fingers in accusation and derision, we need to realize that their story is far too often our story. We find ourselves on a journey. We are walking through this life, headed to another “land” that God has promised to give us. He has chosen us as His own. He has given us the indwelling presence of His Spirit. He leads and directs us. He speaks to us through His Word. He has called us to live lives that reflect our unique standing as His children. He has called us to live holy lives. And yet, we struggle with faithfulness. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV).

For the Israelites, Mount Sinai held special meaning. It was there that they received God’s law. It was there that they were given His plan for the sacrificial system and the hope of atonement for sin. But they were not meant to stay there. They had to move on. They were on their way to somewhere else. For many of us as Christians, we bask in the glory of our salvation story. We camp on that day we placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and remain content to dwell on that special moment as the most significant day of our lives. But we must move on. We must recognize the fact that our salvation is the beginning, not the end. There is life to be lived – in Christ. He is to followed, not just believed in. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). There is a cost and commitment to following Christ. It is a daily event that requires faithful obedience to His will and His way.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus had many followers when He walked this earth. But when things got tough, and they discovered that His journey was going to include suffering and even death, the majority of those who had been following fled. Believing in Christ is easy. Following Him is difficult and sometimes risky. His disciples would learn this. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were thought to be faithful followers of God. But they were repeatedly condemned by Jesus for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness. He compared them to their ancestors who had killed the prophets of God because they didn’t want to hear the message of God. These men were followers of God in name only. They lived by their own set of standards. They put on a facade of faithfulness, but were actually blind to the will of God for their lives. Highly knowledgeable of God’s Scriptures, they were unable to recognize the Son of God standing in their midst. And they refused to acknowledge Him as their Messiah and Savior.

Following is not easy, especially when we are prone to going our own way. Even after salvation, we are constantly tempted to take our lives into our own hands and determine our own destiny. But God has a plan for our lives. He has a path for each of us to take. We are on a journey from salvation to our ultimate glorification. Heaven is our ultimate home. But we find ourselves wandering through this wilderness called earth. We have been given an inheritance that includes a permanent home in His heavenly Kingdom. But in the meantime, we are living in what Paul Tripp calls “the gospel gap.” Our salvation is in our past. Heaven is in our future. And we live in that in-between time where our sanctification takes place. We are in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ as we faithfully follow His example of love, obedience, humility and service. It is on this planet that we are to live out our salvation in tangible, practical ways that emulate the nature of Christ by allowing the indwelling Spirit of God to powerfully flow through us, producing a lifestyle that is radically different than the world around us. Our following of Christ is to result in our reflection of Christ to the world around us. It is as we walk with Him, living in obedience to Him, that we become increasingly more like Him.

All of this reminds me of another great hymn from my past: Footprints of Jesus

  1. Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
    Come, follow Me!
    And we see where Thy footprints falling
    Lead us to Thee.

    • Refrain:
      Footprints of Jesus,
      That make the pathway glow;
      We will follow the steps of Jesus
      Where’er they go.
  2. Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
    Seeking His sheep;
    Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
    Helping the weak.
  3. If they lead through the temple holy,
    Preaching the Word;
    Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
    Serving the Lord.
  4. Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
    We follow Thee;
    Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
    Gethsemane!
  5. If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
    We go again,
    Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
    Our cross of pain.
  6. By and by, through the shining portals,
    Turning our feet,
    We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
    Heav’n’s golden street.
  7. Then, at last, when on high He sees us,
    Our journey done,
    We will rest where the steps of Jesus
    End at His throne.

Father, I want to follow You faithfully. I want to live a life that reflects the character of Christ. I want my walk to match my talk. And it all begins in my heart. I can fake following you, but You know my heart. I can go through the motions, and fool those around me, but You know what is really going on inside of me. Help me to die to self and live for You. I want to daily take up my cross and die to my will and my way, so that I might more faithfully walk according to Your way. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Numbers 7-8, Luke 19

From Joy To Tears.

Numbers 7-8, Luke 19

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” – Luke 19:41-42 ESV

In chapter seven of Numbers, we see the joy and generosity of the people of Israel at the dedication of the Tabernacle. The entire chapter is a list of all the gifts the various tribes brought to the dedication. And Moses painstakingly records the exact nature of each tribe’s contribution, revealing that they all gave equally. This occasion was spread out over 12 days, with the various sacrifices for each tribe taking up the better part of the day on which they made their presentation. So for almost two solid weeks, there was the giving of gifts, the burning of sacrifices, and the atonement for the sins of the people. This would have been a remarkable celebration. And it ended with Moses going into the Tabernacle to meet with God, where “he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, and it spoke to him” (Numbers 7:59 ESV).

God had accepted their gifts and was in their midst. This was a joyful celebration. And it was followed by the dedication of the Levites. These men were the literal “stand-ins” for the people. God had chosen them to serve Him in place of the first-born males of the people. At one point, God had commanded that all the first-born males of the people of Israel were to be dedicated to His service. This was due to the fact that He had spared all the first-born Hebrew sons on the night the Death Angel passed through the land of Egypt. But because of the sin of the people in worshiping the golden calf, God had chosen the Levites to serve Him instead. So on this day, the people were commanded to lay their hands on the heads of the Levites, transferring the responsibility of serving God from the first-borns on to the Levites. In essence, the Levites became living sacrifices, dedicated to God’s service. Paul reminds believers that we are to live with the same mindset: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had gone out of His way to ensure that His presence would be with the people – in spite of their sinfulness. He had given them ample proof of His power, His ability to provide, and the benefits of living as His people. He had freed them from slavery in Egypt. He had given them the Tabernacle as a dwelling place for His presence. He had provided the sacrificial system as a means of atoning for their sins and receiving His forgiveness. He had given them manna from heaven and water from a rock. He had guided them all along the way through a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of could by day. When they had sinned at Mount Sinai and worshiped the golden calf, rather than destroy them, God had forgiven them and allowed the Levites to serve as substitutes for the first-born. God had been generous, merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, and incredibly faithful – in the face of the people’s faithlessness. And over the coming years, their track record for faithlessness would prove to be abysmal. They would consistently fail to follow God faithfully – from the first moment they laid eyes on the Promised Land to the day they would find themselves headed into exile and back into slavery as a result of their rebellion against God. And Yet God would remain faithful to His covenant and unfailing in His love.

What does this passage reveal about man?

If we fast-forward to the time of Jesus, we find the people of God living in the Land of Promise, worshiping Him in a magnificent Temple rather than a temporary Tabernacle. They have long-since returned to the land after years in exile. But they are living under the rule of Rome. There is a dark cloud hanging over the land. They have no king. The man who calls himself the king of the Jews is a puppet king appointed by the Romans. King Herod, the self-proclaimed king of Israel, was not even a Jew, but an Edomite. He was a tyrant and a madman, who owed his allegiance to Rome, not the God of Israel. The spiritual climate in Israel was not good. The religious leaders were little more than self-righteous autocrats who lived by their own self-manufactured code of ethics. Jesus would commonly refer to them as hypocrites. These men were the spiritual elite of the day, but were little more than religious charlatans who mislead the people and who would reject Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah.

In spite of all that God had done for the nation of Israel over the centuries, they had continued to rebel against Him, while claiming a false sort of allegiance to Him. They had come to believe that their very existence as descendants of Abraham was their ticket into God’s favor. They still expected their Messiah or King to show up any day, but they were looking for a military leader who would set them free from the tyranny of Rome. They longed for a political savior, not a spiritual one. So when Jesus appeared on the scene, He didn’t meet their requirements. He wasn’t what they had been expecting, so they rejected Him.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus arrival should have been a day of celebration for the people of Israel. When Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah that day in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, He read the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV). Jesus was announcing the fact that He truly was the long-awaited Messiah. But the freedom and victory He came to bring was not from political oppression, but from sin and death. Jesus was God’s appointed representative to bring the one thing the people of Israel needed more than anything else – permanent atonement and forgiveness for their sins. He came to restore the people to a right relationship with God once and for all.

And while there was a brief, yet seemingly enthusiastic welcome upon His arrival in Jerusalem that day, the shouts of “Hosanna!” would soon turn to screams of “Crucify him!” When He failed to reveal Himself as the conquering king and liberator from Roman rule, the people would turn their backs on Him. And while His arrival should have been a time of joy and excitement, for Jesus it was actually a time of weeping and sadness. Luke records that he wept over the city of Jerusalem. He knew that they were going to reject Him as their Messiah. He also knew that the city was doomed to destruction in just a matter of years. Their might city and the Temple of God they revered would both be destroyed in 70 A.D. Jesus sadly predicted, “they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44 ESV). As in the days of Moses at the dedication of the Tabernacle, God was in their midst. Immanuel – “God with us” – was standing amongst them and they failed to see Him for who He was. The very presence of God was there, but they were blind to God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love. And it brought Jesus, the Son of God, to tears.

How often do I fail to recognize the presence and power of God in my own life? How many times have I neglected the very presence of God in my life by refusing to listen to and obey the voice of His indwelling Holy Spirit? God has proven His power, provision and presence in my life time and time again, and yet I can find it so easy to doubt Him, disobey Him, and determine to ignore Him – turning what should be days of rejoicing into times of sadness and tears. I don’t want to overlook or miss out on the presence of God in and around my life. He is there. But I must look for Him. I must focus on Him. I must faithfully trust in Him.

Father, You are faithful. There is no doubt about it. You are gracious, kind, loving, patient and consistently present in my life. Help me to see You more clearly. Help me to listen to You more closely and obey You more willingly. Each day of my life should be a celebration of Your goodness, grace, presence and power. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Numbers 5-6, Luke 18

All Things Are Possible With God.

Numbers 5-6, Luke 18

But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27 ESV

It was literally impossible for the Israelites to maintain their holiness and purity before God. Sin and sickness, both inevitable outcomes of living in a fallen world, were going to be a constant part of their lives. And because God dwelt in their midst, the ramifications of their sinfulness and sickness were serious. Disease and disobedience both separated the people from God. The very existence of disease was a direct result of the entrance of sin into the world. Ultimately, disease and decay would lead to death. God gave Moses strict instructions about what to do with those who found themselves suffering from sickness or disease. They had to be removed from the camp. This was not an indication that their sickness was due to a specific sin they had committed, but a recognition that sickness was the inevitable byproduct of sin’s presence in the world. God expected His people to remain pure, both spiritually and physically, if they wanted to enter into His presence. But as always, God provided a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, in spite of sickness or sin.

God even expected the marriages of His people to be pure and above reproach. He provided Moses with detailed instructions regarding how to determine whether a woman was guilty of adultery. It is interesting that in the “test” God provided, the hidden sin of the woman, when revealed, would result in sickness. In this case, her sickness would be proof of her sin. It is also interesting to note that the resulting sickness attacked the very organs that had been used to commit the sin in the first place. There is much about this passage that is inexplicable, but it is clear that God was dealing with sin among His people in a powerful and pronounced way. This “test”, when witnessed by others, would more than likely prove to be an effective deterrent to further adultery in the camp.

In the closing part of chapter 6, God gives Moses a blessing to pronounce over the people. “The Lord bless you and keep you;the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 ESV). This simple, yet profound blessing reminds us that, ultimately, it was up to God to bless the people. It was up to God to maintain His presence among them by dealing justly with the sins committed by them. It was up to God to provide them with peace, when their repeated sins and inevitable exposures to sickness would leave them alienated from God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God alone is the instigator, arbiter and maintainer of the relationship He has with mankind. It is He who seeks us and not the other way around. Left to our own devices, man will always seek a god of his own choosing. Man will tend to make his relationship with his god based on his own performance and acts of self-righteousness. In His dealings with the rich young ruler, Jesus clarifies that obedience to a set of rules is not enough. God is more interested in the heart than any human efforts aimed at good behavior. The rich ruler was convinced that he could somehow earn favor with God (i.e. eternal life) through some form of works. Of his own admission, he was a rule-follower and a commandment-keeper. But Jesus knew that he had a love affair with wealth. His money had become his god. So when Jesus challenged him to see all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor, the man walked away sad and dejected. Luke clarifies that the “was extremely rich.” Then Jesus drops the bomb shell that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25 ESV). This went against everything the disciples believed. In their society, wealth was thought to be a sign of God’s blessing. So the disciples were shocked to hear Jesus’ words and asked, “Then who can be saved?” (Luke 18:26 ESV). Jesus gives them an answer they would have never expected. “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 ESV).

It is God who saves, not man. It is God who does for man what man could never do for himself. Jesus was the solution to man’s persistent problem regarding sin, sickness and death. Jesus came to deal with the ramifications of sin, replacing the punishment for sin with peace with God, turning the inevitable outcome of death into the unbelievable reality of eternal life. God would do the impossible.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has always lived with the delusion that life can be lived apart from God. Even those who long for God, believe that He is little more than an objective to be pursued, a giver of gifts whose favor must be earned. They make God the means rather than the end. He becomes the resource to get what they really want: peace, prosperity, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, and significance. It is why man can make a god out of anything that even remotely seems to promise those things. But we can’t earn favor with God. And we can’t turn God into some kind of divine lottery ticket that we hope will grant us our heart’s wildest desires. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus paints a picture of two individuals who represent much of mankind. One is the self-righteous Pharisee who views himself as above reproach and head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries in terms of his spirituality. The other is the humble tax collector who, painfully aware of his sin, calls on God to show him mercy.

It was impossible for the people of Israel to live up to God’s exacting standards. They would and did continually fail. But God had provided a means of atoning for their inevitable sins and dealing with the inescapable reality of sickness. It is interesting to think about the fact that sickness was hard to hide. Skin disorders and diseases would inevitably reveal themselves to the rest of the faith community. And as soon as the sickness became apparent, it had to be dealt with. But sin can remain hidden for a long time, unobserved and not obvious to the faith community. Sin was like a cancer that was hidden, undetected among the people of God, slowly spreading and infecting the body over time.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God’s call to holiness is impossible – without His help. I cannot save myself. But not only that, I can’t sanctify myself. I can’t live up to God’s exacting standards and high expectations – if I try to do it in my own strength or if I attempt to rely on my own self-manufactured righteousness. Reading through the book of Numbers simply reminds just how holy our God really is. It reminds me just how far each of us falls short of His goal of holiness and righteousness. But with God, all things are possible. He can do for us what we could never have done on our own. He provided a Savior when I couldn’t save myself. He provided the Holy Spirit to empower and guide me, when my strength was inadequate and my sense of direction was nowhere to be found. I was blind and He opened my eyes. I was sick and He healed me. I was sin-ridden and He cleansed me. I was condemned to death and He has given me eternal life. All things are possible with Him.

Father, thank You for being a God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for You. My life is a testament to Your goodness and grace. Any good that I do and any righteousness I display are Your doing, not mine. Like Paul, I say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Numbers 3-4, Luke 17

Servants of God.

Numbers 3-4, Luke 17

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” – Luke 17:10 ESV

The Levites were God’s chosen servants. They were His handpicked replacements, intended to stand in for all the first-born males who were to be dedicated to God each year. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, after having received the Law from God, he discovered the people worshiping the golden calf. Moses issued a call to the people, saying, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me” (Exodus 32:26 ESV). It was the sons of Levi who came to his aid. He commanded them to strap on their swords and act as God’s hand of judgment upon the people. They obeyed and, as a result, nearly 3,000 Israelites died that day. In recognition of their obedience, Moses ordained them to 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” (Exodus 32:29 ESV).

These men, the Levites, would remain God’s chosen servants. They served as guards over the tabernacle and all it contained. They served as carriers of all the materials that made up the tabernacle, transporting it from one camp to another during all the days they spent wandering in the wilderness. But they also served as redeemers. Each Levite was a substitute for another Jewish first-born male. God had intended for every first-born male from every family to be dedicated to his service, but the incident with the golden calf changed all that. Instead, God would allow the Levites to redeem the lives of the firstborn, serving in their place. These men were the consummate servants. They served God and they served men. They dedicated their lives to the ministry of the tabernacle. They played an integral role in the worship of God, ensuring that the tabernacle remained pure and holy, and helping provide a constant dwelling place for God and His presence during all the days they spent in the wilderness.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Our knows and understands the heart of man. He is fully aware that man will always be prone to disorder and disobedience. Faithful allegiance on the part of men does not come naturally or willingly. But God is always faithful. He guaranteed His presence among His people and ensured that they would remember that He was their King and that they were dependent upon Him for everything. The Tabernacle was not just a place of worship and sacrifice, it was a constant reminder of their dependence upon God. It was not enough to simply have Him in their midst. The Tabernacle provided the means by which they could be assured of His continued presence as they faithfully atoned for their sins through obedience to His sacrificial requirements. The Tabernacle and the Levites traveled at the center of their company, and it was to be the erected at the center of their camp at the close of each day. The physical centrality of God’s presence was to be a constant reminder of their need for God to be the spiritual focus of their lives as a people.

What does this passage reveal about man?

While God had been giving His Law to Moses, the people had been busy rebelling against Him and revealing the depth of their unfaithfulness to Him. Their own sin made their first-born sons unqualified to serve Him. But the sons of Levi had remained faithful. They had willingly stepped up and done what needed to be done to cleanse the sin from the midst of the people and satisfy the just demands of a holy God. So God made these men His servants. He dedicated the sons of Levi as permanent ministers in His tabernacle and among His people. Once again, in spite of man’s sin, God provided an acceptable solution. When He could no longer accept the firstborn males because of their sinfulness, He allowed the Levites to act as substitutes, redeeming the lives of those who were unacceptable for service.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The Levites were set apart by God. They had specific responsibilities and duties that were essential to the worship of God. Their roles were vital to ensuring that God’s presence remained with the people. The tasks they had to perform were not glamorous or prone to make their fellow Israelites jealous. They were guards of the holy things of God. They were porters and packers, making sure that the tabernacle of God, which housed the presence of God, traveled along with the people of God. In the book of Luke, Jesus gives an interesting commentary on servants. He asks His disciples, “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,  and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?” (Luke 17:7-8 ESV). Jesus goes on to say, “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?” (Luke 17:9 ESV).

Within this same passage, we see Jesus telling His disciples to beware of temptation. He assures them that it will come, but to make sure that they are not the source of temptation. Instead, they are to rebuke a brother who sins. If he repents, they are to forgive him. And even if this brother sins against them seven times in a single day, and each times repents, they must forgive him. As servants of God, the disciples were being asked to do what He expected of them. Humbly and expecting no form of thanks. They were to obey, remembering that they were “unworthy servants” who served a holy and worthy God. There is to be a humility to the servant of God. There is also to be a gratefulness. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one returned to express praise to God. He didn’t deserve healing, but he knew enough to acknowledge the One who provided it. Humility and gratefulness are the marks of a true servant of God. The Levites served without fanfare and probably received little in the way of thanks. Their roles were difficult and they had no choice in the matter. They were expected to do what God had assigned them to do. And they had to do it well – without complaint, in humbleness, and grateful for the opportunity to serve a holy, mighty God. That is the way I should live my life as a servant and son of the Most High God.

Father, Your Son came to serve, not be served. May I live with that same attitude of sacrifice and selflessness. I want to serve You faithfully and well, humbly and gratefully. Thank You for choosing me to serve You and Your people. Continue to show me how to do it with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Numbers 1-2, Luke 16

Making God Central.

Numbers 1-2, Luke 16

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses and Aaron: “When the Israelites set up camp, each tribe will be assigned its own area. The tribal divisions will camp beneath their family banners on all four sides of the Tabernacle, but at some distance from it. – Leviticus 2:1-2 ESV

As the Israelites prepare to make their way to the Promised Land, God prepared them in two ways. First, He had Moses take a census by tribe, to determine just how many men of fighting age were available. Then He gave them strict orders regarding how they were to make camp each night by tribe, surrounding the Tabernacle, which was to be kept at the center of their camp. He also instructed them how they were to march each day with two tribes leading the way and two tribes bringing up the read, with the Tabernacle safely placed in the center. God was to be kept at the center of their community at all times, whether they were camped for the night or marching by day. The Levites were exempt from mandatory military service so that they could protect and provide for the Tabernacle. Each night, they would be divided into groups of four, and they would set up their camps on all four sides of the Tabernacle, providing a protective barrier between the various tribes and God’s holy presence. The divine presence of God was not to be taken lightly or treated contemptuously. He was the key to their existence and their survival. Without Him, they would have been just another nomadic nation, attempting to survive in a harsh environment. It was God’s presence that provided the food they needed, the protection they required, the daily guidance they depended upon, and the power they would have to have if they were to conquer the enemies occupying the land of promise.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Our knows and understands the heart of man. He is fully aware that man will always be prone to disorder and disobedience. Faithful allegiance on the part of men does not come naturally or willingly. But God is always faithful. He guaranteed His presence among His people and ensured that they would remember that He was their King and that they were dependent upon Him for everything. The Tabernacle was not just a place of worship and sacrifice, it was a constant reminder of their dependence upon God. It was not enough to simply have Him in their midst. The Tabernacle provided the means by which they could be assured of His continued presence as they faithfully atoned for their sins through obedience to His sacrificial requirements. The Tabernacle and the Levites traveled at the center of their company, and it was to be the erected at the center of their camp at the close of each day. The physical centrality of God’s presence was to be a constant reminder of their need for God to be the spiritual focus of their lives as a people.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But men are easily distracted and prone to make other things the focus of their lives. We have seen how the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had made rule-keeping and ritualism the center of their religious world. It had become less about God than about their ability to keep a set of rules. The focus had become their own self-righteous efforts, rather than the holiness and righteousness of God. In Luke 16, Jesus gives a series of parables regarding money and wealth. Repeatedly, He uses the terms rich, poor, wealth, riches, and money. Jesus knew the high priority wealth and material things held in the economy of His day. For the Jews, wealth had become a sign of God’s blessing. Riches were a symbol of significance and worth. To be poor was considered to be a curse and a sign of God’s punishment. And yet, Jesus recognized that the people of God had made money their god. They had ignored the warnings found in the Proverbs regarding wealth. “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit” (Proverbs 23:4 NLT). “The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble” (Proverbs 28:20 ESV).

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus had warned, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV). He knew there was a prevailing problem among God’s people of making money and the pursuit of it the central focus of their lives. They believed that wealth was the key to contentment. They believed money was the cure-all for all problems. But Jesus warned that material things could actually become a barrier between man and God. He said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13 ESV). Divided allegiance. There was nothing inherently wrong with money. But when men make it their god, it produces all kinds of problems.

Paul provides a wonderful commentary on the problem of making money our god. “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and  we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV). It is the LOVE of money that is the issue. We are to love God. Wealth can be a tool to accomplish God’s will. Material things can be instruments in the hand of the individual who loves God and be used to further His Kingdom.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

As a child of God, my true treasure lies elsewhere. The things of this world were never meant to be my focus. I was never intended to fall in love with the things of this world. John reminds us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 ESV). I can’t love the things of this world and love God at the same time. That is divided allegiance. If I love this world and all it offers, I will fail to love God in the way He demands. I will fail to love others as He has commanded me to love them. My love of money will prevent me from loving God and man. Keeping God the central focus of my life is essential if I am going to live and love the way He intended me to. Had the Israelites failed to keep the Tabernacle at the center of their camp, they would have missed out on His presence and failed to experience His power. Had they neglected to set up the Tabernacle in the center of their camp each night, they would have squandered their only means of making atonement and receiving forgiveness for their sins. Nothing was to take the place of or become a higher priority than the presence of God. He had to remain the central focus of their lives. And the same is true for me today. I must constantly be on the lookout for anything and everything that I might be tempted to take the place of God as the central focus of my life.

Father, help me keep You at the center of my life at all time. Forgive me when I make material things more important than You. Forgive me when I mistakenly convince myself that more of anything, other than You, might make me happier, more content, more secure, or more significant. You alone are all I need. Anything else You graciously allow me to enjoy in this life, whether wealth or health, is a gift to be used for Your glory and the good of others, not to satisfy my own selfish desires.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Leviticus 27, Luke 15

The Need For Repentance.

Leviticus 27, Luke 15

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” – Luke 15:7 ESV

The entire book of Leviticus is a picture of the holiness of God. It would be easy to mistake it as some kind of a divine rule book for life, but at the core it is a revelation of the holiness of God. God’s holiness is contrasted with man’s sinfulness. A holy God cannot coexist with unholy men. His holiness and His justice require that He punish sin, because, ultimately, sin is rebellion against His will. The commands, rules and regulations outlined in the book of Leviticus give the people of God a clear understanding of just how holy their God is. He cannot tolerate sin of any kind, so He requires that His people reflect His holiness in every area of their lives. From their worship and their work, to their home life and  personal hygiene issues, God provided them with His non-negotiable requirements. He had set them apart from all the other nations of the earth. He had made them His prized possession, but that high calling came with high expectations. They were going to have to live up to His exacting standards. But God knew they were incapable of keeping His laws. He fully realized that their sin natures would make obedience impossible. So He provided a means of atonement. When they eventually sinned, which He knew they would, He included a way for them to be restored to a right relationship with Him. The entire sacrificial system was intended to provide a means of paying the penalty for their sins and making forgiveness possible. But they had to take their sin seriously. They had to recognize that their sin was a problem and it required a solution. If they failed to take sin seriously, the results would be devastating. But they would have no excuse. They had been told. They had been warned.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The book of Leviticus provides an amazing picture of God’s grace. He did not have to choose the descendants of Abraham as His priceless possession. He didn’t have to redeem them slavery in Egypt. He was not obligated to give them a land of their own. Yes, He had made a covenant with Abraham, but they had broken their part of that covenant over and over again. And yet God would fulfill what He had promised. He would do what He had said. He would accomplish what He had set out to do, not because of the people of Israel, but in spite of them. In reading through the book of Leviticus we get a wonderful, and yet sobering, contrast between God and man. The repeated calls to purity, cleanliness, holiness, obedience, faithfulness, sacrifice, and repentance cannot be overlooked. The people would have been well aware of their sin. God made it painfully obvious that their actions and attitudes were flawed and deserving of His divine judgment and wrath. But if they would simply acknowledge their sin and follow His divine prescription, they could experience atonement and enjoy forgiveness. God had provided a way. It was costly. It involved the shedding of blood and the loss of life. It required an admission of guilt and a desire for cleansing. The people of Israel would have fully understood that their lives were dependent upon God’s grace and mercy. They should have known that their efforts at living in complete obedience to His laws would have fallen woefully short. God’s laws were all-encompassing, impacting every area of their lives.  “Leviticus 27 points out that holiness is more than a matter of divine call and correct ritual. Its attainment requires the total consecration of a man’s life to God’s service. It involves giving yourself, your family, and all your possessions to God” (Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. New International Commentary on the Old Testament series).

What does this passage reveal about man?

By the time Jesus appeared on the scene, the people of Israel had turned God’s laws into some kind of ritualistic religious endeavor that had long lost its meaning. The rules had become the focus. In fact, the Pharisees had developed their own set of rules and rituals, intended to make them look even more religious than others. Rather than focusing on the holiness of God and their own sinfulness, they had made it all about their own ability to keep their own laws. They took pride in their outward signs of compliance. But Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. He showed up on the scene calling the people of God to repentance. John the Baptist paved the way for His arrival, proclaiming, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father. For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham'” (Luke 3:7-8 ESV).

Jesus would later say to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV). His point was that, as long as the Pharisees viewed themselves as righteous, they would never recognize and repent of their sinfulness. These religious leaders had made it all about rule-keeping. They took pride in their ability to keep even the minutest of rules, But Jesus accused them of missing the point. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42 ESV). In today’s reading from chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel, we see once again the Pharisees and scribes complaining about Jesus because, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2 ESV). They were appalled at Jesus’ lack of decorum. He didn’t play by their rules. He didn’t live according to their standards. But they were blind to their own hearts and refused to acknowledge their need for a Savior. So Jesus told them, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous person who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 ESV). Jesus’ use of irony here is sobering. He refers to the Pharisees and scribes as “righteous,” but their brand of righteousness was fake. As long as they viewed themselves as self-righteous and deserving of God’s mercy and grace, they would fail to receive it. It is a recognition of sin that leads to the realization of a need for repentance. The Pharisees had long since stopped measuring their holiness by God’s standards. They had come up with their own. They had long lost sight of their own sinfulness and their need for salvation. As far as they were concerned, they were fully capable of atoning for their own sins. But they had forgotten the words of the prophet Isaiah: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The story of the prodigal son should be the story of us all. He was really no more of a sinner than his older brother. Yes, his sin was more visible and more pronounced. But even the older brother, while seemingly living in obedience to his father, was actually bitter and resentful toward him. He viewed himself as sinless. He saw himself as the faithful rule-keeper. When he discovered that his father had thrown a party for his long-lost brother, he became angry and declared to his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:29-30 ESV). Rather than rejoice at his brother’s return, he became resentful and angry, revealing his belief that his “obedience” had somehow earned him favor with his father. But the real point of the story is the repentance of the younger brother. He saw his sin and repented of it. He saw his need for his father’s forgiveness and grace. He came broken and fully aware of his sin. The older brother came arrogantly, stubbornly holding on to what he believed to be his right to a reward.

God has made my sinfulness perfectly and painfully clear. At one time, I was just like the younger son, living in my own sin and trying to determine my own fate. Then I finally reached the painful point where I realized that I was desperately in need of help. I could not fix my problem. I was hopelessly lost and destined to die in my own sinfulness. But God provided a Savior. He lovingly offered me a way out. And it began with a recognition of my own sinfulness and the realization that I could not save myself. Paul reminds us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV). My holiness was God’s doing, not my own. My salvation was provided by God through Christ. It is those who recognize themselves as sinners who realize their need for a Savior. It is those who understand their sinfulness who are most willing to repent, to turn from it, and turn to Jesus as the only sure solution. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).

Father, thank You for helping me to realize that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. But forgive me that there are still times when I fall back on my own self-righteousness. I can find myself going back to a life of rule-keeping, hoping that I can somehow earn favor with You. But my obedience to Your will should not be based on earning, but a yearning to show my gratitude for all that you have done for me. I want to learn to obey You because I love You, not because I am trying to get You to love me. You have already proven Your love for me by sending Your Son to die for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Levitus 25-26, Luke 14

The Cost of Discipleship.

Leviticus 25-26, Luke 14

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26-27 NLT

As is clear from a reading of the book of Leviticus, being a child of Abraham, one of the chosen people of God, was costly. That distinction came with a great number of conditions. It was not easy to live up to the standards to which God had called them. There were rules, regulations and requirements of all kinds. And God took them quite seriously. They were not suggestions, but commandments. And in chapter 26, He made it quite clear that disobedience to His commands had dire consequences. In a series of “it…then” statements, God let the people know what would happen if they obeyed, and what would happen if they disobeyed. Obedience would bring prosperity, power, peace, protection, and the abiding presence of God. But disobedience would result in disease, defeat, drought, destruction and eventual deportation. And everything God predicted and promised in these verse took place. As long as they were obedient, God blessed them. During the reigns of King David and his son, Solomon, Israel became a prosperous and powerful nation. He gave them victory over their enemies and during the days of King Solomon, He allowed them to live in peace and prosperity. Until King Solomon disobeyed God. In spite of his great wisdom, King Solomon disobeyed God and married foreign women. He ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines. But it got worse. “So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods” (1 Kings 11:6-8 ESV). He disobeyed God. He broke God’s commandments. And as a result, God split his kingdom in two. The days of prosperity and peace were over. And from that point forward the two divided kingdoms of the people of God found themselves on a downward spiral of disobedience that led to their eventual destruction and deportation.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had made the terms of His covenant quite simple. Yes, it was going to be difficult, and virtually impossible for the people to keep all the commands He had given them. But He had provided ample means by which they could receive atonement and forgiveness for their sins. But they would have to refrain from turning to false gods and turning their backs on the one true God. He had told the, “I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high” (Leviticus 26:11-13 NLT). He promised His presence. He reminded them about His powerful works of the past and assured them that there was more to come – if they would simply obey Him and remain faithful to Him. Yes, it would be costly. His blessings came with requirements. They would have to practice justice. They would have to treat one another with respect and dignity. His will would have to supersede their own. His requirements, however unreasonable or ridiculous they may have sounded, would have to be followed. The very idea of the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee had to have come across as totally nonsensical to the people. Releasing someone from paying you what they owed you had to have seemed unfair and unreasonable. And all indications are that the people never really obeyed these laws. In fact, God seems to intimate that once the people were deported as slaves into foreign countries, “the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it” (Leviticus 26:34-35 ESV). God had a reason behind every rule and requirement. Ultimately, it was so the people would know that He was God. He wanted them to grow in their dependence upon Him and recognize their need for His presence and power among them. They couldn’t keep these rules without Him. When they broke them, they needed His forgiveness, made possible through the sacrificial system He had provided for them.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We love the blessings of God. To a certain degree, we believe we somehow deserve the blessings of God. He owes them to us. But His blessings were directly tied to obedience. Faithfulness was an essential quality for those who wanted to experience God’s blessing on their lives. And yet the people of God became lazy and lax in their relationship with Him. They continued to expect His blessings in spite of their disobedience and refusal to keep their part of the covenant. They failed to remember that their was a cost and commitment to being the people of God. They began to believe that God’s rules were optional, not required. They began to take short-cuts and create loop holes. They compromised and cut corners. All the while believing that their status as His chosen people somehow guaranteed them His blessings, regardless of their conduct or the condition of their hearts. Repeatedly God forewarns them, “But in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me” (Leviticus 26:27 ESV). The word “contrary” carries the idea of open hostility or opposition. They would live their lives in direct opposition to God, rather than in obedience to Him. And as a result, God warned them, “then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27 ESV).

They were going to fail to keep God’s laws, and He knew it. They were going to reject Him as their God, by the way in which they conducted their lives – in disobedience and unfaithfulness.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

And yet, God remained faithful. I am amazed at God’s unfailing love and unwavering commitment to His covenant. In spite of them, He would bless them. Yes, He would lovingly discipline them, but He would also restore them. He provided a way back. He told them that “if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land” (Leviticus 26:40-42 ESV). All they would have to do is confess and God would restore them to the land. But amazingly, they would fail to do that as well. Nowhere in the story of the people of Israel do we see them confess and return to God. Even in the midst of their exile, they remained unrepentant and unwilling to return to Him. And yet, God would restore them – in spite of them. “Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 26:44-45 ESV). My God is faithful.

He has called me to live in obedience to His indwelling Spirit and in keeping with His Word. He has set me apart as His child and commanded me to grow in increasing likeness to His Son. He has provided me with His Word to guide me and His Spirit to empower me. But life as a disciple of Jesus Christ is not without its costs. Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27 NLT). Following Jesus was not going to be a cake walk. There are tremendous blessings that come with a commitment to Christ, not the least of which is eternal life. But there are also costs. We must put off our old lives and leave behind our old loves. We cannot attempt to love God and love the world at the same time. Our conduct must line up with our confession. Our behavior must reflect our beliefs. Our new nature, provided for us by Christ through His death on the cross, must show up in our everyday lives. But our old natures will be an ever-present problem. We will be prone to cling to our old way of living, to live according to the ways of this world. We will find ourselves holding on to old habits and compromising our conduct rather than dying to self daily. There will be times when our light will dim, our saltiness will diminish, and our faith will waiver. But God is faithful. He will do His part. He will continue to lovingly discipline us, patiently perfect us, and relentlessly conform us into the likeness of His Son. He will finish what He started. He will complete what He began. He will accomplish everything He has promised. And all He asks is that I do my part and remain faithful.

Father, I want to live for You. I don’t want to compromise my life and let this world distract me from living in faithfulness to You. But I need Your help. I need Your Holy Spirit’s power. Thank You for making the Christian life possible. Thank You for providing me with everything I need to live the life You have called me to. Keep me increasingly more dependent on You, not only for my salvation, but my sanctification – my ongoing transformation into Christlikeness. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Leviticus 23-24, Luke 13

To the Lord.

Leviticus 23-24, Luke 13

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” – Luke 13:34 NLT

As the people of God, the Israelites existed for the glory of God. Everything about their lives was to be focused on Him – every aspect of their lives throughout the year was to revolve around Him. Everything about the Tabernacle, the feasts, and the Law was designed to remind them of God’s holiness and to bring Him glory. God filled the year with festivals and feasts, each intended to commemorate His divine action on and influence over their lives. From the weekly Sabbath observance to the yearly Passover celebration, they could not escape the fact that their very existence was a result of God’s grace, mercy and unfailing love. Throughout chapter 23 of Leviticus, we see the phrase “to the Lord” used repeatedly. The various feasts are referred to as “holy convocations,” or sacred assemblies. These were to be days that were set apart on the calendar each year to remember what God had done in their lives – from His miraculous redemption of their lives from captivity in Egypt to His gracious provision of crops during the last year. These days were to be dedicated to the Lord and held as sacred. Their lives were to be a testament to God’s glory and grace, power and provision.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God wanted the people to understand that everything He had given them to do was to be done with Him as the focal point. The Sabbath was to be dedicated to the Lord. The Passover was “the Lord’s Passover” (Leviticus 23:5 ESV). The Feast of Firstfruits was intended to honor the Lord as the people presented to Him the very best of all that they had. Pentecost was a one-day celebration where they were to present a thank offering for God’s provision for their physical and spiritual needs. The Feast of Trumpets served as their New Year celebration. The sound of the trumpets signaled the beginning of another new year and called the congregation to once again dedicate the year ahead to God. It was to be a reminder that God was in their midst and working on their behalf. The Day of Atonement was a day of fasting and self-denial as the people gave up their normal activities and dedicated themselves to the task of sacrifice for their sins. This was a once-a-year occasion that provided for the people atonement for the sins committed over the previous year. Apart from their fasting, this was all the work of God. Their atonement was His doing, not theirs. This was a day of humbling before and complete dependence upon God. The Feast of Tabernacles was a yearly celebration and commemoration of God’s provision of their needs during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. He had provided them with shelter, food, water, and even clothes that did not wear out. It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness and provision.

God designed all these things to point to Him. The people were never to take Him for granted or fail to remember that their very existence was dependent upon His love, mercy, grace and presence among them. Without Him they were nothing. But they were not only to observe the feasts and festivals as reminders of God, they were to treat Him with dignity, honor and respect – even honoring His name and never using it in a disrespectful or inappropriate manner. To do so was called blasphemy and the penalty was death by stoning. God’s name was to be treated with the same reverence as one would show Him. God was holy and was to be treated as such.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have a tendency to make everything about us. It would be easy to think of a day of sabbath rest as a day for us to kick back and relax, to cease from working and simply chill out. But the Sabbath was intended to be a day dedicate to God. The cessation from work was intended to provide the people time to concentrate their attention on God. It was also to be a reminder of their trust in and dependence upon God. If they didn’t work, they would have to rely on Him. The festivals and feasts were not intended to be civil holidays that provided the people a day off from work. They were to remind the people of God’s faithful activity in their lives. Throughout the year, the Jews were given constant reminders that God was to be the focus of their lives and the focal point of their nation. The very presence of the Tabernacle in the midst of their camp was to reinforce that God was to be at the center of all that they did as a people. To this day, the people of God are to live their lives totally dependent upon and focused on Him. We are not the stars of the show, He is. We are not to make ourselves the center of attention. We must make all that we do all about God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In the book of Luke, we have recorded for us Jesus’ lament over the city of Jerusalem. Jesus knew that His days were numbered. He had been slowly making His way to Jerusalem where He would face His arrest, trials, and crucifixion. He knew exactly what awaited Him because it had been part of God’s plan from the very beginning of time. He knew the Jews would eventually reject Him and demand His death. But their rejection of God’s offer of salvation was not new. They had stoned and killed many of the prophets of God who begged them to repent and return to Him. They had a track record of refusing God’s offers. Since the days of Moses, the people of Israel had repeatedly refused to keep God at the center of their lives. Yes, they had a Tabernacle and, eventually, a Temple. They had continued to maintain the sacrificial requirements. But they had simply been going through the motions. Their hearts were not in it. And by the time Jesus showed up on the scene, their worship of God had become little more than half-hearted attempt at keeping a set of ritualistic rules and religious requirements. He had long since ceased to be the focus of their lives and the focal point of the nation’s attention.

The same thing can happen to me. I can easily make myself the central focus of all that I do, even making my faith in Christ a convenient resource for living a better life. I can live my life as thought God exists for my glory, instead of the other way around. I can make the costly mistake of thinking that God is somehow obligated to meet my needs and grant my wishes – like some kind of divine cosmic genie. But I am to live my life focused on God. I am to constantly remind myself that my entire existence is based on His faithfulness, grace, love, and mercy. I am nothing without Him. Paul would remind me, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 ESV). Elsewhere he writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). My entire life is to be lived with a Christ-centered, God-focused mentality. All that I do, say, and am should be centered on my Savior and God. Without them, I am nothing. But because of them, I have been redeemed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with God the Father.

Father, help me stay focused on You. Forgive me for tending to make it all about me too much of the time. I am nothing without You. You are evident in every area of my life. Your love, mercy and grace permeates the entirety of my life. I can see Your hand at work in and around me constantly. Thank You for providing Your Word as a reminder of who You are and all that You have done. Thank You for Your Spirit who dwells in me and is a constant reminder of Your unfailing love for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Leviticus 21-22, Luke 12

A State of Readiness.

Leviticus 21-22, Luke 12

So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord – Leviticus 22:31-33 ESV

Holiness was not an option. It was a requirement. God’s demand that His people be holy was based on His very character, represented by His name. God’s ongoing presence among them required that they be holy. His commands were not the byproduct of an overly demanding personality. His very nature required an atmosphere of holiness. To profane His name was to denigrate His character. It was to treat Him with disrespect and dishonor, and to do so was a dangerous thing. God’s desire that His people maintain their holiness was as much for their own protection as anything else. Their actions could not diminish God’s holiness in any way. Their sins could never alter His righteous character or standing. But their failure to live in holiness could result in their own discipline and, in some cases, destruction. So it was important that they see holiness as non-optional.

There is a sense in which holiness is about readiness. The high priest had to be ready to come before the Lord on behalf of the people. He could not afford to defile himself or allow himself to become unclean, otherwise he would be unworthy to offer sacrifices before the Lord and make atonement for the sins of the people. It was a dangerous thing for the high priest, or any priest for that matter, to disqualify himself for service. He was God’s chosen representative, “for the priest is holy to his God” (Leviticus 21:7 ESV). Every area of his life was to be holy. He was to live his life with his set-apartness in mind. He could never forget the fact that he belonged to God and that his lifestyle, at home, in private, and within the community, had a direct impact on his holy standing before God. He was to live in a constant state of readiness and holiness.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The priests and the sacrificial animals were essential if the people were to maintain a right standing before God. God required unblemished animals and undefiled priests to offer acceptable sacrifices before Him on behalf of the people. The people’s only hope for acceptance before God and forgiveness for their inevitable sins was based on the acceptability of the sacrificial animal and the one offering it. It would have been important to the people that the high priest remain holy and that there were always an abundance of unblemished animals on hand. Sin was unavoidable, so they never wanted to find themselves with a sacrifice that was unacceptable or a high priest who was unworthy to come into God’s presence. Even a blemish on the skin could keep the high priest from coming before the Lord. So he had to take special care regarding how he lived. He had to be careful about what he touched and ate. He had to have a firm grasp on his household, because even their conduct could negatively impact his qualification for service. God demanded that His priests live holy lives, constantly ready to reflect His glory among the people and to represent the people in His presence.

What does this passage reveal about man?

There is a sense in which the Israelites had a vested interest in the holiness of their high priest and the quality of the sacrificial animals. They would have wanted to have known that their priests were ready, willing and able to offer sacrifices on their behalf, and that there were always animals ready to stand in their place as an acceptable sacrifice for their sins. The people were totally dependent on the priest and the sacrificial animal for their future well-being and any hope they had of forestalling the wrath of God against the sins they had and would commit. Their hope was based on the character of that one man and the acceptability of that single animal. They knew from experience that sin was inevitable and, therefore, sacrifice was unavoidable. They had a vested interest in the holiness of the high priest and their own substitionary sacrifice.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Over in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is unveiled as both the priest and the sacrifice for the sins of man. “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26 ESV). He was ready, acceptable, holy, separated and fully prepared to stand in my place when the time came. He offered His own blood on my behalf in order to satisfy the just demands of a holy God. He was ready, willing and able. And there is a sense in which He calls me to live in a state of readiness as well. I have been set apart by His sacrifice. I was purchased by His blood, ransomed from slavery to sin and made a son of God. I am now to live holy because God has made me holy. I am His. And over in the book of Luke, Jesus calls me to live with a Kingdom perspective, with my eyes focused on the prospect of His eminent return and the reality of an eternal existence that supersedes this temporal one.

Jesus told His disciples to live with a healthy fear of God, rather than to live in fear of man. “ But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5 ESV). He wasn’t threatening His disciples with a loss of their salvation, but was simply warning them to live with a constant awareness that it is God who determines the fate of men, not men themselves. Men can kill, but only God can determine a man’s eternal destiny. Jesus told His disciples to live worry-free lives, realizing that God was their ultimate provider. He encouraged them to “seek his kingdom” instead. Their focus was to be on the eternal, rather than the temporal. The things of this earthly kingdom were inconsequential in comparison to the Kingdom God had prepared for them. So they were to live in a state of readiness for the future, holding on to the things of this world with a loose grip. Jesus warned them, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40 ESV). There is a sense in which we are to live our lives in a constant state of preparedness for His return. We are to live my life in such a way that His return would not catch me off guard, by surprise or unprepared. That means I must live in holiness and readiness, not in order to ensure my salvation, but as an expression of my understanding that this world is not my home.

Father, I want to live my life in a constant state of readiness for Your Son’s return. Don’t let me get bogged down by the cares of this world, the distractions of materialism and the thousands of things that can negatively influence my set-apartness. I want to live as if I belong somewhere else, because I do. I want to live as if I don’t belong here, because I don’t. I am a citizen of another Kingdom. Help me to live like it, act like it, and think like it. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Leviticus 19-20, Luke 11

Wholly Holy.

Leviticus 19-20, Luke 11

You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. – Leviticus 20:26 ESV

Seventeen times in these two chapters God reminded His people that, “I am the Lord your God.” He was to be their King, Lord, Judge and God. He had chosen them and set them apart as His own, and He expected their lives to reflect their unique standing as the people of God. God had made it clear when He said, “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples” (Leviticus 20:24 ESV). He commanded them to keep all His statutes and rules, “that the land where I am bringing you may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them” (Leviticus 20:22-23 ESV).

The holiness or separateness of God’s people was to be more than ceremonial. This wasn’t to be some kind of divine designation with no practical outcome. Everything about the book of Leviticus and the law of God was practical and prescriptive. God was giving them His rules for living as His people, and they were comprehensive and conclusive. There was no room for negotiation or interpretation. Repeatedly, God told them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV). He was the standard.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God expected the holiness of His people to show up in every area of their lives. So in that sense, it was a kind of whole-iness. In essence, holiness is the imitation of God and His character. His holiness is holistic in nature. In fact, holiness is His nature. It is the expression of His very being. So true holiness in human beings should be an outward expression of who we truly are as children of God. Our actions should flow from our character as the adopted children of God. All throughout these two chapters, God rehearses His rules for righteous conduct. He gives them practical, everyday life applications of the principle of holiness. They were to honor their parents, keep His sabbath, provide for the poor, refrain from stealing, practice justice, refuse to hate one another, refrain from sexual sin, treat the elderly with respect, deal with strangers the same way they would friends, and maintain ethical standards in all their business dealings. God was demanding that they NOT act like the nations who were currently occupying the land He was giving them. The character of those people was by nature, godless and sinful. They had few, if any, rules to guide and guard their lives. Any regulations to which they submitted were man-made and easily altered or ignored. The nations living in the land of Canaan were guilty of gross misconduct and a godless lifestyle that illustrated the power that sin had over their lives. But God wanted His people to live differently. He wanted them to live according to a higher, greater standard. So He commanded them to “consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 20:7 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Adultery, dishonesty, injustice, hatred, prejudice, stealing, lying, idolatry, murder, and selfishness. These are just a few of the characteristics that make up the nature of man in the days of Moses. And not much has changed over the centuries. Even in the days of Jesus, the same problems were rampant, even among those who were considered the spiritually elite. Jesus referred to them as “an evil generation” (Luke 11:29 ESV). Even their religious leaders were marked by what appeared to be outward conformance to the laws of God, but their inward condition was far from acceptable to God. Jesus accused them of cleansing “the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39 ESV). He let them know that the inner condition of their hearts was the real problem. He compared them to unmarked graves, hidden from view, and full of all kinds of impurity and death. No one could see what was going on inside their hearts and, therefore, they contaminated all those around them with their sinful dispositions masquerading as righteous behavior. These men had turned everything into just a set of rules to be kept. They had missed the whole point of wholly holiness. Which is why Jesus said of them, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8 ESV). He was quoting from the prophet Isaiah, and indicating that nothing had really changed over the years. The people of His day suffered from the same problem as their ancestors.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There is a desperate need for our holiness to be practical and visible in this world. Not just as a show, but as a reflection of what God has done and is doing in our lives. Unlike the Jews in Moses’ day, we have been given the Holy Spirit to empower us for living lives of holiness. He makes it possible for us to live in obedience to God’s righteous requirements. We are not left to our own devices and dependent upon our own self-effort. We truly can live holy lives because we have the Holy Spirit of God living within us. In Luke’s gospel, he records Jesus saying, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light” (Luke 11:33-36 ESV). His point appears to be the acceptance of Himself as the light of the world. In this context, the eye is the portal to the soul. A good eye, allows all the light to enter in, exposing darkness and illuminating the entire body from within. The good eye represents the ability to see light and comprehend truth. Which is why, on another occasion, Jesus referred to the Pharisees as “blind guides.” Jesus refers to the whole body being full of light, having no part in darkness. He says, “it will be wholly bright.” The picture is one of completeness, wholeness, and comprehensiveness. This is not about outward illumination, but total transformation of the person’s being. That is what holiness is to be. It is a total renovation of the inner character that shows up in our outward actions and attitudes. Actions that stem from reformed character are always more effective and lasting. They lack the hypocrisy and shallowness that come with self-motivated attempts at behavioral conformity. We can only ACT righteous for so long. God wants to make us righteous in the inside, through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Then our outward behavior will mirror our inner character, and we will be “wholly bright.”

Father, it is far too easy to fake holiness. But it never lasts. We can try and act like we are righteous, but it won’t be long until we are exposed for what we really are. I want my actions to be a true reflection of what You are doing in my inner being through the power of Your Holy Spirit. I want my outer man to flow from the transformation You are bringing about in my inner man. So that I might be practically holy in all that I do and say. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org