Joshua 3-4, Acts 7

God-Exalted Leadership.

Joshua 3-4, Acts 7

Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. ­– Joshua 3:7 ESV

Joshua was God’s hand-picked replacement for Moses. But it was essential that the people see him as Moses’ equal and not just some unqualified stand-in. Also, God knew that Joshua was going to need some reassurance that his role as leader had God’s “Good Housekeeping seal of approval.” So God let him know that He was going to “exalt” him in the sight of the people. He was going to elevate Joshua’s stock in the minds of the people by giving clear and convincing evidence that he was indeed God’s man for the job. It just so happened that the very time of the year that God had picked for the people to begin their conquest of the land of Canaan was the same time of year when the Jordan River overflowed its banks. This was not a coincidence or a circumstance that caught God off guard and unprepared. It was all part of His divine plan. Just when the people of Israel were going to have to cross over the Jordan, God made sure that the circumstances were as difficult and impossible as they could be. They had lost their esteemed leader, Moses. They were faced with the prospect of having to get over a flooded, rapidly flowing river. They were being led by an unproven, novice leader. In other words, the situation was just right for God to work. And He did. He instructed Joshua to have the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the waters of the Jordan and, when their feet touched the water, the river ceased to flow and left them standing on dry ground. The people were able to cross over the river and into the land of Canaan, safe and sound. God had exalted His new leader. He had proven to the people that Joshua was His man for the moment. “On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all that days of his life” (Joshua 4:14 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God confirms those whom He chooses to act on His behalf. Moses was given the ability to perform signs and wonders, confirming his position as God’s spokesman and deliverer. David was given the ability to defeat Goliath, an adversary far greater in size and strength, and in doing so, revealed that God’s hand was on him. The prophets spoke on behalf of God and their right to do so was confirmed by God’s fulfillment of their prophecies. God exalts or lifts up those whom He chooses. He confirms those whom He calls. But it isn’t always the way we might expect. Not every called one ends up working miracles or performing great signs and wonders. In the story of the early church, found in the book of Acts, we see the rise of Stephen to leadership. He had been recognized as a man of “good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3 ESV). He was full of grace and power. God elevated him to a position of leadership within the church and gave him the ability to speak truth boldly and without compromise. He was clearly God’s man for the hour. Luke describes him as having a “face…like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15 ESV). And yet God chose to exalt Stephen in a way that most of us would find shocking and surprising. This man, whose life was marked by grace and power and who was filled with the Holy Spirit, was stoned to death by the hands of those with whom he attempted to share the good news of Jesus Christ. He was exalted in death. Jesus had warned the disciples that this was going to happen. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9 ESV). Stephen became the consummate leader that day. He gave his life for the cause of Christ and was exalted by God in his death. Again, Jesus had taught His disciples, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 ESV). “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35 ESV). The truth is that God sometimes exalts His chosen leaders through suffering and even death. This was the case with Jesus. Paul writes, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9 ESV). Jesus was God’s own Son, and yet He had been sent to suffer and die. He was the Chosen One, but His role was to be that of the suffering servant and sacrificial Lamb. His obedience “to the point of death” resulted in His exaltation.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have a warped view of leadership. We have saddled the concept with misconceptions and misunderstandings, turning it into a self-centered and self-elevating notion surrounded with power, position, prominence and possessions. We see leadership as tied to authority and power. And in the world, all these things are true. But in God’s economy, leadership is always about service, humility and sacrifice. Some of God’s leaders, like David and Solomon, held positions of prominence and power. Others, like Stephen, found their tenure short-lived and marked by tragedy. Virtually all of the disciples would die in their service for the Kingdom. There is no doubt that they were chosen of God and served as leaders for the cause of Christ, but their leadership would be marked by suffering and death. There is something attractive to most of us about being a leader like Moses or Joshua. The idea of being God’s instrument for accomplishing great signs and wonders is appealing. We all want to be used by God. We would all love for others to see the hand of God on our lives through the miraculous things He accomplishes through us. But what if God’s exaltation of us involves our suffering and death? What if His calling on our lives is revealed through our suffering in this life? Prosperity, power and prominence are not necessarily the mark of God’s hand on a man’s life. Before David could become the king of Israel, he had to suffer for years, living as a fugitive in the wilderness with a bounty on his head. He lost his job, his wife, his mentor, his reputation – and yet he was God’s chosen one. He had been anointed by God, but had to suffer on behalf of God. Joseph was God’s hand-picked choice to provide a place for the descendants of Jacob to live in the land of Egypt during the time of famine. But Joseph had to suffer humiliation, slavery, false accusations, imprisonment and worse – all before he could experience the exaltation of God. His suffering was all part of God’s divine plan. Stephen’s death was all part of God’s plan. It actually confirmed his calling by God. We don’t understand it. We don’t necessarily like it. But even in his death, Stephen revealed the hand of God on his life, calling out  “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60 ESV). His life was a witness right up until he breathed his last breath.

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

I must constantly learn to see my role as one of God’s chosen ones, not through the world’s false concept of leadership. I must see that sometimes suffering is God’s form of exaltation. He may call me to suffer on His behalf. He may choose me to walk a difficult path. My life may at time be marked by suffering and shame, but that does not mean I lack His hand on my life. It may be confirmation that He has chosen me for something great. He may be exalting me by making less of me. Paul reminds me, “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him” (Philippians 1:20 NLT). That prospect is not attractive to most of us. We would prefer to be Joshua; standing before the people, giving instructions, wielding power and authority, and acting as God’s spokesman. But it may be that our leadership will be marked by suffering, insignificance, pain and even death. I want to be able to say as the apostle Paul did, “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20 NLT). Whatever God calls me to, I want to honor His Son with my life – whether that means living it or losing it for Him.

Father, exalt my life however You see fit. Help me to see that suffering for You is just as much a form of leadership as accomplishing great things for You. Help me to see that as long as I am living my life in submission to Your will and dependent upon Your strength, I will be living a life worthy of my calling. Then I can leave the results up to You.  Amen

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

Numbers 17-18, Luke 24

Our High Priest.

Numbers 17-18, Luke 24

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. – Luke 24:44-45 NLT

As a result of the rebellion of Korah, God brought a plague among the people of Israel. It was only the quick action of Aaron, as he atoned for their sins, that prevented the complete destruction of the people of Israel at the hands of God. He intervened and interceded on their behalf, and God spared them. As a result, God reconfirmed His selection of Aaron and his sons as His chosen representatives. The budding of the rod of Aaron was a divine sign of God’s choosing of Aaron and the tribe of Levi as His servants. They would belong to Him. Only the Levites could serve as guards over the Tabernacle and only Aaron and his sons could serve as intercessors with God on behalf of the people. With their jobs came great responsibilities and great blessings. They were to be holy and set apart unto God. They received no inheritance in the land, but God provided for them from the gifts that were given to Him as a part of the sacrifices of the people. They received from God what was holy. They ate the best of the best. But they had to very careful not to profane or desecrate the things of God with their lives. God warned them, “You, your sons, and your relatives from the tribe of Levi will be held responsible for any offenses related to the sanctuary. But you and your sons alone will be held responsible for violations connected with the priesthood” (Numbers 18:1 NLT).

These were ordinary men who had been given an extraordinary responsibility. They were the literal keepers of the spiritual flame of Israel. They maintained the Tabernacle and everything in it. They protected it and transported it. Aaron and his sons, as the priests, were responsible for offering sacrifices on behalf of the people, atoning for their sins and providing a means for them to remain in a right standing with God. But their work could never fully remove the guilt of sin. They could never provide full atonement for the sins of the people. But the priesthood and the sacrificial system as outlined in the Old Testament was a foreshadowing of something greater to come. “They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: ‘Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain.’But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises” (Hebrews 8:5-6 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God’s plan for the Tabernacle, the sacrificial system and the priesthood was temporary system that represented a far greater future reality. It was imperfect because it involved sinful men. Aaron and his sons were sinful and flawed just like every other Israelite. In order for them to perform their duty as priests, they first had to be purified. They had to have their own sins atoned for. And the writer of Hebrews tells us, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office” (Hebrews 7:23 ESV). But God’s plan was far greater than that of the Tabernacle and the earthly priesthood. He had already determined a better means of atoning for the sins of man. And it would involve His own Son. This had been God’s plan all along. After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus gave His disciples two separate Bible lessons where He “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45 ESV). For the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27 ESV). Jesus unpacked all the writings of Moses and the prophets, showing how He had been foreshadowed and predicted. Everything had been pointing to Him. The entire sacrificial system was but a shadow of things to come. The priesthood as practiced in Moses’ day, served as a glimpse of something greater to come. “He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.  Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.  The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever” (Hebrews 7:26-28 NLT).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man would need a greater High Priest. We would require a greater means of atonement. The sacrificial system as practiced by the Jews in the days of Moses and even into the days of Jesus, would never fully eradicate the sins of men. Because man’s capacity for sin was endless, so was the need for constant sacrifice. There was never a point at which they were totally forgiven and completely free from the guilt of their sin. If nothing else, the law and the sacrificial system were a daily reminder of the ever-present reality of sin and guilt. No one could keep the law perfectly, so therefore no one was sinless. And the constant capacity to sin required the constant need to sacrifice in order to atone for those sins. But Jesus came to put an end to the madness. He was the High Priest who came to deal with sin once and for all. “He did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:25-28 NLT).

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

My sins have been paid for. My atonement has been accomplished once and for all. I can now stand before God as righteous in His eyes. All because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross on my behalf. I have been set free. I am no longer a slave to sin. I have the capacity to live differently and distinctively, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. My righteousness is not of my own making, but has been given to me by Christ Himself. He bore my sins and gave me His righteousness. He died so that I might live. When I read the Old Testament, I must look for Christ. I must see His image and understand that all God did was pointing to His Son’s ultimate arrival on the scene. The Old Testament is as much about Christ as the four Gospels. Prior to His ascension, Jesus took time to teach His disciples and point out all that the Old Testament Scriptures revealed about Himself. The story of the Bible is the story of God’s ultimate redemption of mankind through the saving work of Jesus. Like any story, it has a beginning and it has an end. In the story recorded in Luke, we see Jesus departing from His disciples, ascending up into heaven. But we know that’s not the end of the story. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 ESV). He has gone, but He will someday return. His work as priest is complete. But His job as King is not yet finished. I look forward to the day when God closes the final chapter in His great book of redemption.

Father, thank You for the priestly work of Your Son. Thank You that Your plan didn’t stop with the sacrificial system. Reading through the book of Numbers reminds me of just how sinful we men can be. It reminds me just how hopeless we are without You. Your standards are high. Your expectation of holiness is unachievable. But You provided a better way. You provided the ONLY way. You sent Your Son. He paid for our sins. He died in our place. He satisfied Your just requirement that sin’s price be paid for through death. He gave His life so that we might live. Amen

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

Numbers 15-16, Luke 23

Rebellion Against God.

Numbers 15-16, Luke 23

And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. – Numbers 16:31-33 ESV

Yesterday we talked about the ever-present danger of doubt in the life of the follower of God. Doubt has a way of turning into disobedience, and disobedience against God is nothing more than rebellion against His Word and His will. In chapter eight of Numbers we see this pattern lived out in the lives of Korah, Dathan, Abiram and On. These men were descendants of Levi and, as such, they were responsible for the care and upkeep of the Tabernacle of God. God had set them apart as His servants and their jobs were essential to the spiritual well-being of the people of Israel. But they were dissatisfied with things as God had planned them. They wanted more responsibility. They wanted a greater role. They doubted God’s order of things and demanded a restructuring of responsibilities and duties. The pointed their fingers at Aaron and Moses, exlaming, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3 ESV). Like Miriam in chapter 12, these men expressed their doubt in God’s preordained order and it led to their open disobedience and rebellion.

Moses is surprised and shocked. He asks them, “ is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together” (Numbers 16:9-11 ESV). Moses makes it clear that their beef was with God, not Aaron. Their rebellion was God-directed. They didn’t like things the way God had set them up.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was incensed. As a holy, righteous King, He was unwilling to tolerate the open rebellion of these men, so He warned Moses, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment” (Numbers 16:21 ESV). God was so angry. And His anger was so great that He was willing to wipe out not only these men but the entire congregation as well. While the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram was more pronounced and obvious, the reality was that the entire congregation was guilty of rebellion against God. But Moses and Aaron interceded and begged God to spare the congregation and punish the ring leaders. So God allowed Moses to warn the people and have them separate themselves from Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Then His judgment fell, with the ground itself opening up and literally swallowing the men and their entire families. Not only that, the fire of the Lord wiped out the 250 men who had aligned themselves with Korah, Dathan and Abiram and sided against Aaron and Moses. God would not tolerate rebellion among His people. He knew it to be like a cancer that, if left unchecked, would spread among the people. So He eradicated it in a powerful way.

What does this passage reveal about man?

And yet, amazingly, we read, “on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord’” (Numbers 16:41 ESV). Once again, the disbelieve that what had happened was God’s will. And they openly rebel against God’s representatives. So as before, God warned Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the people because He was about to destroy them. But Moses intercedes yet again, telling Aaron to take his censer and “carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun” (Numbers 16:36 ESV). God was bringing judgment on the people, and Moses’ quick thinking and Aarons’ immediate response spared the lives of many. In spite of their efforts, 14,700 people died that day – at the hand of God. There would have been even more, had not Moses and Aaron acted. Their rebellion was a sin against God, and only the atoning work of Aaron, the high priest, was able to satisfy the righteous judgment of God against them. Doubt is inevitable and, if left unchecked, it will always result in disobedience and rebellion against God. Mankind is prone to unfaithfulness, even those who call themselves followers of God. Disobedience is in our nature. The risk of rebellion is a constant reality for each of us.

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

In the gospel of Luke we see the people of God once again rebelling against the will of God. He had sent His Son as the Savior of the world. But Jesus didn’t come as they had anticipated He would. He failed to meet their expectations. Rather than a conquering king on a white horse, followed by a powerful army, He was a carpenter from the small hamlet of Nazareth and accompanied by a rag-tag group of disciples. Rather than revere Jesus, the religious leaders found Him revolting. They longed to rid themselves of His presence. They arrested Him and dragged Him before Pilate, the governor, for trial and, ultimately, execution. Even Pilate found Jesus to be innocent of any wrong doing. He tried repeatedly to release Him, but the people demanded His crucifixion. And they got their wish. Their rebellion against God’s resulted in the death of the One whom God had sent. They doubted God’s Word and rejected His will. Writing more than 750 years before the events of the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah predicted, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT). God sent His Son to deal with our rebellion. But rather than snuff us out, He provided a means by which we could be healed and made whole. He payed the debt we owed, He suffered the death that was meant for us. He took on the penalty for our rebellion against God.

Father, prior to Christ coming into my life, I was a rebel against You. I was a law breaker and fully deserving of death. But rather than wipe me out like You did Korah, You gave me a way out through Jesus Christ. He died in my place. He suffered for my rebellion. My sins nailed Him to the cross. My bore my guilt and took on the penalty for my sins. And I can never thank You enough. Amen

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

Numbers 13-14, Luke 22

The Temptation to Doubt.

Numbers 13-14, Luke 22

And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” – Numbers 14:11 ESV

Doubting God seemed to be the national pastime of the nation of Israel. But before we cast stones, we might consider just how often and easy we find it to doubt God in our own lives. The fact is, doubt is a constant companion to the people of God, and it is one of the greatest tools in the arsenal of the enemy. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to doubt God’s word when he said, “Did God actually say…?” He caused her to question the veracity of God’s word. He even disputed God’s decree that death would be the outcome of eating the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. He told Eve, “You will not surely die!” (Genesis 3:4). As a result, Eve doubted and eventually disobeyed. One of the natural outcomes of doubt is always disobedience. If you don’t trust God’s Word, you will eventually disobey it. And that’s exactly what happened to the Israelites. After reaching the border of the land of promise, Moses sent in 12 spies, a special reconnaissance task force, to check out the situation. After 40 days, they came back with a report. They had good news and bad news. The good news was that the land was indeed fruitful. They admitted that it flowed with milk and honey, just as God had promised. They even brought back a single cluster of grapes that was so large it had to be carried on a pole by two men. But there was also bad news: “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large” (Numbers 13:28 ESV). What these men didn’t realize was that this was actually meant to be good news. God had told them that He was going to bring them to a land “with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 ESV). He had promised, “I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:2-3 ESV). But not that they were there, they began to doubt God’s word. Their doubt caused them to question His promises and deny His power to do what He said He would do. Caleb, one of the spies, encouraged them to “go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30 ESV). But the rest of the spies said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we are” (Numbers 13:31 ESV). Their doubt would quickly turn to disobedience.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had promised. He had never denied that the land was full of powerful nations. But those same powerful nations had built fortified cities and had established strong infrastructures to support their sizable populations. Had the land been empty, there would have been no cities, towns, vineyards, fields, or homes. The land was flowing with milk and honey because it was crawling with powerful enemies. But God was going to hand all of it over to the people of Israel, if they would simply trust His word. It was the very presence of the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Canaanites and Amorites that made the land worth having. Had no one been living there, it would have been a wasteland. There would have been no giant cluster of grapes. There would have been no flowing milk because there would have been no livestock. What to men appears as opposition, God sees as opportunity. God had proven His ability to protect and provide. He had revealed His power of their enemies. His miraculous defeat of the armies of Pharaoh should have been more than enough proof that the occupants of the land of promise were not going to be a problem. But the people doubted, and God saw their doubt for what it really was. “How long will these people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11 ESV). To doubt God is to despise Him. The Hebrew word means “to condemn or spurn, to treat with contempt, to reject.” Doubt is directly tied to disbelief. They were rejecting God’s word by refusing to believe it. In essence, they were calling God a liar. They were denying His power. They were questioning His faithfulness.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Doubt is a natural human response to difficulty. When we face trials and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, it is easy to doubt. But as followers of God, we must learn to view our circumstances through the lens of God’s character and past performances in the lives of His people. He has a track record of faithfulness. He has a history of doing the seemingly impossible and accomplishing the highly improbable. But too often we allow doubt to turn to disobedience. And when we do, we actually despise the One we say we love. In the gospel of Luke, we have the sad story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. As one of the twelve, Judas had seen all the miracles of Jesus. He had listened to His teaching. He had witnessed His power to heal the sick and even raise the dead. But somewhere in his heart he doubted the words of Jesus. And he began to deny the truth that Jesus truly was the Messiah. Jesus said of him, “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22 ESV). Judas doubted and his doubt turned to disobedience and, ultimately, the betrayal of Jesus. But he was not alone in his doubt. Peter too would find himself doubting the words of Jesus. He struggled with believing that God’s plan really did include the death of Jesus. He wanted to prevent it. And when put into a difficult spot, this member of Jesus’ inner circle of the disciples even denied that he even knew Him. His doubt turned to disobedience. When things didn’t turn out quite the way he had expected, he found himself questioning God’s word and doubting Jesus’ promises.

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

I find doubt to be a constant companion in my life. When faced with difficulty, it is so easy to focus on my circumstances and fail to see what God is really doing. Like the Israelites, I can see the “giants” in my life as nothing more than insurmountable obstacles, rather than God-ordained opportunities for blessing. God has promised to bless me. He has promised me joy everlasting and abundant life. But according to the Scriptures, “joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 ESV). In other words, it comes after a period of darkness. Victory can only come when there has been an enemy to defeat. There is no healing without sickness. There is no need for forgiveness if there is an absence of sin. King David knew these truths all too well. He faced many trials and difficulties in his life. He was surrounded by enemies of all kinds. But he was able to say of God, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV). David found doubt to be a regular companion in his life. But he refused to allow that doubt to take root and lead to disobedience. He knew that doubting was just another form of despising and denying the goodness and grace of God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV).

Father, I want to trust You more and doubt less. I want to see the obstacles in my life as opportunities to see You work. Forgive me for making more out of my difficulties than I make out of You. I want to acknowledge You in ALL MY WAYS – the good times and the seeming bad times. I want to continue to recognize that with You on my side, there really is no such thing as bad news, because You can use the worst of circumstances to accomplish Your best in my life. Amen

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

Numbers 11-12, Luke 21

The Unattractiveness of Ungratefulness.

Numbers 11-12, Luke 21

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” – Numbers 11:4-62 ESV

Complaining, grumbling, dissatisfaction, and discontentment. These are all common characteristics of the human race. Even the people of God have been known to whine and moan about their lot in life on occasion. The book of Numbers records the journey of the people of Israel as they made their way from Mount Sinai to the land of Canaan – the land promised to Abraham by God. And just three days into their trip, the people of Israel began to complain about their misfortunes. They moaned about how difficult their lives were. They had grown lazy during their stay at Mount Sinai, and now there were having to put effort into following God. No more sitting around camp while Moses did all the work up on Mount Sinai. Getting to the land of promise was going to take work on their part and, as a result, they complained. The source of their complaint was a “strong craving.” They desired something they didn’t have. They coveted something that was missing in their lives. The people wanted something that God had not chosen to give them. And they showed ingratitude for what God had provided. This is a danger for every child of God in every generation. God had led them and fed them. He had provided manna for them to meet their physical needs. But in their opinion, it lacked flavor and spice. They wanted more! They preferred the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlics of Egypt. Never mind the fact that their meals in Egypt were eaten as slaves. They wanted MORE than what God was providing. When it came to their well-being, they knew better than God. Their complaining revealed and underlying belief that they had been better off in Egypt. Their grumbling exposed their doubt in God’s love and wisdom regarding their lives.

What does this passage reveal about God?

So God gave them what they desired – in abundance. He gave them meat in the form of quail. “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come out of Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:18-20 ESV). God gave them exactly what they craved and, in time, it would prove loathsome. They would grow sick of it. Not only that, what would initially appear as a blessing from God would end up being a curse. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:33 ESV). The psalmist would later write of this watershed event. “But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave then what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them” (Psalm 1-6:14-15 ESV). God graciously gave them what they didn’t deserve: meat. But He also justly gave them what they DID deserve: judgment. Sometimes God allows us to have what we crave, even though He knows it is not what we need. But He also allows us to learn the painful lesson that the things for which we crave tend to bring us disappointment and dissatisfaction. There is a natural human tendency to want more. We are naturally greedy and think the answer to all our problems lies in getting more of what we already have or somehow gaining access to what we believe is missing.

God had graciously provided for the people of Israel. He had chosen them, freed them, guided them, clothed them, fed them and led them. He had agreed to dwell among them – in spite of them. He had provided a means of receiving atonement and enjoying forgiveness of their sins. He had promised to bring them to a land of abundance where they would live in homes they didn’t build, harvest crops they didn’t plant and enjoy the safety of cities they hadn’t constructed. All He had asked was that they follow Him, trust Him and believe that He knew what was best for them. But they craved more. They knew best.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We must always be careful to mistake as God’s blessing the accumulation or acquisition of the things we crave for and lust after. A bigger house is not necessarily what God desires for us. More money could just as easily end up being a curse and not a blessing. Any time we crave what we do not have, it is a sign of dissatisfaction and discontentment with what God has already given us. Discontentment can spread like a cancer among God’s people, robbing them of vitality and joy, and causing them to doubt God’s goodness. We see in the story of Miriam and Aaron another brand of discontentment. They didn’t like the fact that Moses was the sole spokesman for God. They were jealous and dissatisfied with their status as second fiddles to their brother, Moses. So they complained. And their complaint revealed a deep-seated distrust in God’s sovereign will. In speaking against Moses, they had spoken against God. They revealed their belief that they knew better than God. “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed” (Numbers 12:9 ESV). Desiring greater glory for herself, Miriam ended up with leprosy instead. Her craving resulted in a cursing by God. She would eventually receive healing, but also carry with her a painful, yet powerful lesson on the danger in testing rather than trusting God. For seven long days she would find herself expelled from the people of God. Rather than enjoying a greater role as a leader of the people, she would find herself shunned by them – a reject rather than a ruler.

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

Over in the book of 1 John, we read these sobering words: “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. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life— is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 ESV). Loving the world more than we love God is a constant temptation for us as His children. We can so easily view what this world has to offer as the solution to our problems and the source of missing satisfaction. More of anything that this world has to offer will always fall short of what God has already done for us. Yet when we crave more than what He has already given, we reveal our ingratitude and expose our desire to be our own god. Peter would remind us that, “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). But as we saw with Miriam and Aaron, it isn’t always about money and material things. They desired power and more significance. They were discontent with their roles and desired greater visibility and more recognition. They were unwilling to serve where God had placed them. They craved more. They desired something different.

When Jesus came He exposed the status quo of His day. The rich were looked on as icons of virtue. The poor were seen as suffering at the hand of God for their sins. But Jesus taught that the poor were blessed and the rich would find it difficult to enter into His Kingdom. Their love for and dependence upon materialism and money would prove to be a formidable barrier to faith. They were placing their hope in the wrong things. The poor, who had nothing, would find it far more easier to trust in God, because they had no other options. Their need would prove to be a blessing. In Luke 21, we see Jesus preparing His disciples for life after His death and departure. He reveals to them what the end times will look like. Some of what He tells them will happen during their lifetimes. But much of it has yet to occur. But regardless of the timing, He warned them, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36 ESV). They were not to allow the things of this world to distract them from the reality that there is something more yet to come. The people of Israel had been promised a land of abundance. Yet they became distracted with thoughts of more – NOW. Unwilling to wait for the future outcome of God’s promises, they demanded His blessing according to their terms and their timing. They became weighed down with the cares of this life and took their eyes off the promise of God. I can do the same thing. I can find myself craving more of what this world has to offer and fail to recognize that God’s promise is not about me building a kingdom in this world, but enjoying the blessings of His Kingdom in a new world.

Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. And forgive me for loving and craving the things of this world. Help me see past their illusion and recognize their inability to deliver what they promise. Only you can provide me with joy, contentment, and satisfaction. More of what this world has to offer is not the answer. Help me to realize the truth of the statement that godliness with contentment is great gain. Amen

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

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