Jeremiah 43: There is a phrase that says: “There is a sucker born every minute.” It seems that in Jeremiah’s day that statement was more than true. Having seen the devastation of the land, the temple, and the carrying off of prisoners, the ones left still did not trust their faithful prophet, Jeremiah. Over and over he had said to yield to their captors, trust God and you will live but they would not. And so we see that the fools decided the words of Jeremiah were untrue, packed up and went to Egypt, and sure enough, trouble followed them. They never returned to Israel, just as God said. They were of the Dennis the Menace generation. I am sitting down on the outside but standing up on the inside. I refuse to admit I am wrong, I refuse to obey, yet are the first to complain when trouble comes their way.
Today the gospel is free but many refuse to listen and submit to God’s ways. They still think that their works are better than God’s ways. Clearly, as Paul wrote: “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.” [Eph 2:8-9]
Judges 3:7 to 5 If given the opportunity, who would you like to meet from the pages of history? Would it be Abraham Lincoln, Adoniram Judson, or Deborah and Jael from today’s reading? As we browse the pages of this book, we come face-to-face with Joshua’s challenge of Israel’s men to lead. To a man, they said they would, but Joshua warned them that they would not and so it came to pass. As we wander these chapters, we want to put it aside, for it is the book with the most violence, and we meet the most unlikely characters.
First is the woman Deborah who sat under the Date Palm Tree, solving disputes. What happened to the men’s leadership? We aren’t told. In this chapter, we learn about the man Barak whose name means lightning, but he does not live up to his name. He is, in fact, fearful of many things and will only go if Deborah accompanies him. She reminds him that he may be victorious if she goes, but the glory will go to a woman. And who is this woman but Jael, who is a Kenite, not even an Israelite.
What is the lesson we are to glean? When men do not lead, God will allow another to get the glory. Pray today for the men of our families and our nation. Pray that they are strong and courageous, just as God told Joshua.
What are the marks of a humble person? They are willing to wait on God’s plan and timing. Joshua is such a man; a picture of true humility. He had waited over 47+/- years to achieve a place of rest since leaving Egypt’s slavery. He had seen the wonders of God at work in Egypt; he had been a faithful spy at Kadesh Barnea and had been a faithful servant of the Lord under Moses. He then led the children of Israel over seven years as they conquered the land and until every one of the Lord’s faithful promises to the family of Israel was completed. He waited patiently for his inheritance. He didn’t ask for land but only a city. Humble people are satisfied with the least and are willing to wait until others have their share. Humble people are those who do not seek glory or honor but only that which pleases the Lord. Joshua only wanted what the Lord wanted. God has placed this man for us to study and to learn exactly what God requires and desires.God “has told you…to carry out justice, to love faithfulness, and to live obediently before your God.” [Mic 6:8]
Today may we take our lesson from this man and learn from him how to please God.
Zelophehad had been a devoted father, but he had no sons, only daughters. We know he was faithful because the daughters eulogized him in chapter twenty-seven; “Our father died in the wilderness, although he was not part of the company of those that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah but died for his own sin, and he had no sons.” [Num 27:1-11] Because the tribal lineage passed through the male line, they learned that their father’s name would be lost from among his family. So they asked Moses to rule regarding Zelophehad’s inheritance. In chapter thirty-six we find that the heads of their tribe came to Moses with a “sticky-wicket” problem of marriage. If these daughters married outside their tribe, then the inheritance would pass to the new husband and the new tribe which also included husband’s land.
Moses concurred with the men that these girls should only marry in their tribe so that there would not be a problem with the land inheritance in the year of the Jubilee. The girls agreed, and they went on to marry men of their tribe.
God placed this long tale here and in three chapters of Numbers and Joshua to show how God honors obedience, decisions, and choices.
Numbers 5 &6: Why so much given to the innocence or guilt of the woman and not the man? Is this not one-sided? But to help us see the bigger picture we must recall the warning in Prov 6:34. Men are more prone to retaliation than women. Second, her womb must be preserved; unlike today. Thirdly, God has put into place that which will protect her from the accusations from her husband. Lastly, is the warning from Eccl 5: if you make a vow, be sure to keep it otherwise you are seen as a fool. [Eccl 5:4]
Fast forward to the NT and we see how Jesus used this law to protect the Samaritan woman [John 4] who had been used by unscrupulous men, even up to 5 of them! Then the woman caught in adultery [John 8:10] and the Pharisees in their self-righteousness are exposed because they too were “jealous” and their sin exposed as Jesus wrote on the sand. Did he write this passage? We don’t know but one by one they left beginning with the eldest to the youngest. Jesus asked her where are your accusers and she said there is no one. In his most gracious and loving way he said, neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more. He acknowledged her sin but forgave her.
So what is our takeaway? Purity is held to a high standard in God’s eyes. Be ye pure so God can bless you. We are cleansed by Jesus. It is interesting that Numbers 6 includes the Aaronic Blessing which is in summary form was what Jesus offered to the woman caught in adultery.
Matt 23 In the movie Snow White, the wicked queen stopped by her mirror each morning asking: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? The mirror replied that she was—until one day the mirror said it was not she, but Snow White. This a picture of what Jesus saw as he observed the self-righteous religious leaders.
The mirror of the Pharisees revealed knowledge but lacked understanding. When Jesus looked deeply into their mirror, he saw hypocrisy. Rather than seek to correct the flaws the mirror revealed, they just piled on more phylacteries and longer tassels. Inwardly, their mirror reflected a lack of compassion. These religious leaders, just like us, had blind spots. God has given us His mirror called His Word, which reveals who we truly are. But too often, like the man in James, when God reveals the truth, we walk away and forget what we saw or like the religious leaders, we heap on more and more “makeup” to cover our flaws.
What does your mirror reveal? If it is self-exaltation, God will humble you, and if the mirror reveals humility, He will exalt you. It is your choice.
Ezekiel 34 From Genesis to Revelation, each author presents Jesus. He is sometimes seen as a teacher or a mentor, but in Ezekiel, he is the Good Shepherd in contrast to the bad shepherds who did not care for the sheep. Ezekiel receives a message from the Lord God to prophesy against the false shepherds of Israel. They plundered the weak sheep, which were scattered and became food for every wild beast. But, the Good Shepherd will search for His sheep and gather them from their distant places to feed on the rich grass of the mountains of Israel.
Later when Jesus came, he saw Israel once again floundering and the sheep wandering because of the bad shepherds. He pronounced judgment on them and reminded them that they would have repented long ago if they had seen the same miracles that Chorazin saw. Even though the bad shepherds refused to yield to God, one day the Good Shepherd would come, and He would lay down his life for them. Ezekiel’s message to the exiles was that the Sovereign Lord knew what was happening. He will seek the lost and bring back the strays, bandage the injured, and strengthen the sick while the bad shepherds would be judged. “And then you shall know that I am the Lord” for He is the Good Shepherd and the Lion of Judah. God sees and He will judge all sin. [Num 32:23]
Trust God; He is Sovereign, He is the Good Shepherdand the Lion of Judah
In Babylon, Ezra spent his time memorizing scripture, praying, and seeking help from the king. He prepared to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem – the city he probably never had seen, yet it was in his heart to go there and teach the people about God. [Ezra 7:10] Ezra trusted God to provide all he needed and set the example of how to lead both practically and spiritually. Committed, like Moses and Joshua, he prepared the people to follow him.
We are experiencing social distancing, but the Babylonian kings had it down to a science. All Jews were isolated from the Babylonians. God isolated them so He could raise a holy people to return to Israel; but not so in Jerusalem. There the influences of the wicked culture had impacted the people’s resolve to be pure before God.
The leaders in Jerusalem decided to wait until Ezra had shared the treasures of the king—then they shared about the unholy alliances they had made. The news brought Ezra to his knees; he tore his hair and his robes and sat down devastated. Chapter 9 is the example of a missionary’s repentant prayer that brought the people to their knees. What about us when we see the sin of our nation? Do we drop to our knees and spread our hands to the Lord God?
One year when I was teaching, I had six sets of identical twins
and one set of identical triplets! The children who attended all wore uniforms,
so it was a challenge to differentiate between them! The Prophet Samuel’s two
sons who were so similar they could have been twins but they walked in the ways
of the world, not Samuel’s. It was not just one of the sons, but both walked
contrary to the ways of Samuel, and they did so publicly. Every godly parent,
just like Samuel, wants their children to follow the path of godliness, but
sometimes children do not. We say they “march to their own drummer.” The
leaders of the nation came to Samuel to give them a replacement in a king. They
wanted to look like twins. They wanted to look like the nations around them
with a king to rule and fight for them.
Samuel’s heart was broken to hear the leaders say: “we reject your
sons.” But God told Samuel: “Listen
to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, for they have
not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them;” and
remind them of the consequences of their decision.
Proverbs tells us to raise up a child in the way he should go, and
he will not depart from it. [Prov 22:6] But sometimes no matter how diligent we
are, some children will seek the world, not God.
If this resonates with you, know that we are here to pray for you
if you have children who march to their own drummer, not God’s.
Numbers 16 We have all, as children, played a game called follow the leader, and the followers mimic the leader’s actions. Elimination happens when you fail to comply, thus eliminating yourself from the competition, and there always seems to be one who wants to do his/her own thing. God calls it rebellion in Numbers 16, we find one man, Korah, who challenges the leadership of Moses. He, like some, usurped the leadership by placing himself in the “I” position. When “I” gets in the way, the ego is puffed up, and we begin to say: I know better! This same scenario is what took place in the Garden of Eden, and men have not learned from that lesson.
God had already chosen, anointed, and proven that Moses was the leader, yet Korah was unsatisfied. He wanted to be the new leader of the Israelites. Gathering the Reubenites to join him, he began murmuring, which escalated into a full roar of mutiny.
Satan loves it when we grumble and better when we gather others to follow us. It starts when we listen to the voice of Satan rather than God. Jude describes the scenario. They dream and defile the flesh in their rejection of authority. They are divisive and devoid of the Spirit. He is an example of pride.
Two men with instructive lessons about the character of people: Moses, a man of humility, “fell down with his face to the ground.” Korah, a rebel, fell when the earth opened up and swallowed he and his family all because he failed to honor God’s anointed.
Rebellion is easy; humility and submission to the Lord’s anointed are hard.