Meditations from the Word
by Pastor David MacAdam
MAR 14: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 21-22:20 | Luke 1:26-56 | Psalm 57:1-11 | Proverbs 11:9-11
OLD TESTAMENT READING: THE END OF "THE WANDERING GENERATION"
THE SERPENT OF BRASS
Instead of taking God at His word and trusting Him for victory over the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, the Israelites "turn away" and go south eventually passing to the east side of the Dead Sea.
The people become impatient with God and Moses and murmur against them. The LORD sends chastisement— fiery serpents whose poisonous bites infect them with a terminal illness. This death sentence provokes repentance to the degree that the people come to Moses and acknowledge their sin. They ask Moses to intercede for their deliverance.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9; NASB)
Moses is given instruction in these two verses that in the New Testament Jesus will use as a picture of the plan of salvation. In John's Gospel, chapter 3, He instructs a spiritually curious expert in the Torah named Nicodemus how a person can be born again.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:10-16 (NASB)
We are born again by trusting God's plan of salvation- Jesus dying on the cross as the serpent who was a sinner, murderer and liar from the beginning (1 John 3:8, John 8:44). He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21).
Moses was not commanded to put a serpent on a pole but a serpent of brass upon a standard to be lifted up. What a picture of the cross of Christ!
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4; NASB)
Those who, in obedience to God's Word, look to Jesus Christ, are saved from the sentence of death that their sin has put upon them.
The 19th century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a mighty instrument in God's hand, was converted on a snowy day in Colchester, Essex, England. He ducked into a primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street because the snow prevented him from going to his intended destination. There he heard a barely literate layman get up and expound upon Isaiah 45:22 22 "Look unto me, and be ye saved", (KJV). He used looking to the serpent on the pole in Numbers 21 as an illustration.
He began thus: 'My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, "Look." Now that does not take a deal of effort. It ain't lifting your foot or your finger; it is just "look." Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says. Then it says, "Look unto Me." 'Ay,' said he, in broad Essex, 'many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You'll never find comfort in yourselves.' Then the good man followed up his text in this way: 'Look unto Me: I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on the Cross. Look: I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend; I am sitting at the Father's right hand. O, look to Me! Look to Me!'
Spurgeon then describes the moment that changed his life forever:
"Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. He then said, 'Young man, you look very miserable.' Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued: 'And you will always be miserable — miserable in life and miserable in death — if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.'
"Then he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist can, 'Young man, look to Jesus Christ.' There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the Precious Blood of Christ."
NUMBERS 22 - THE LORD IS NOT TO BE MANIPULATED- THE STORY OF BALAAM
Plans to manipulate God will backfire.
In the final chapters of the book we read of Balaam, a pagan prophet. His inclusion in the Bible gives us a strong warning against attempts to manipulate God.
Much time, energy and effort is spent by Balak, the king of Moab (a type of the flesh) to try to manipulate God.
The victories which the Lord granted the children of Israel over King Sihon (of the Amorites) and Og (of Bashan) send fear into the heart of Balak, the king of Moab. He seeks to strategize with Midian in an effort to avoid having their natural resources swallowed up by the Israelites traveling through their land.
4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, "Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." Numbers 22:4 (NASB)
In an effort to curse Israel, King Balak hires the pagan seer Balaam who had an international reputation for supernatural dealings.
Balaam lives at Pethor in northern Syria, some 400 miles north of Moab. First Balak sends messengers on this long expensive trip to solicit Balaam's help. Balaam gives these flattering dignitaries lodging while he makes inquiry to YAHWEH (the God of the Hebrews) (22:8).
We see many examples of God's sovereignty in the story of Balaam.
God speaks to whom and through whomever He chooses. He can speak to Abimilech and Laban in a dream (Gen 20:3; 31:24). He can answer a pagan prophet, Balaam, and even speak through his donkey.
God did come to Balaam. Perhaps it was in a dream, as the same expression is used as when God came to Abimilech and Laban:
9 Then God came to Balaam and said, "Who are these men with you?" Numbers 22:9 (NASB)
Like a parent, or good counselor, God often asks questions to someone when they are in the midst of trouble; not because He doesn't know the answers, but because He wants us to trace our steps and think about our disobedient courses of action. To Adam, He asks "Where are you?" To Cain: "Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen? Where is your brother Abel? What have you done?"
God prods us with questions to help us resist temptation or to provoke repentance. In this case, if Balaam attempted to curse Israel he would be bringing a curse upon himself.
God asks Balaam,"Why are you entertaining these proposals to curse those people whom I have blessed?"
As the Lord said to Abraham: 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12:3 (NASB)
The LORD says to Balaam:
"Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." (Numbers 22:1; NASB)
This is the revealed will of God. Jesus reminded His disciples that they are to pray according to His revealed will. This revelation might be called God's sovereign will of His command.
Balaam tells Balak's delegation that the LORD (YAHWEH) has refused to let him go with them. (He does not tell them why, nor specifically that they are already irrevocably blessed.)
In his heart, Balaam has not shut out temptation completely. When Balak hears that his first delegation was refused, he sends another much more impressive delegation with a more attractive offer, saying, "Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming." In other words, "Name your price."
Balaam refuses this delegation's offer but offers them hospitality, hinting that there was some hope that he could change God's mind.
19 "Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me." Numbers 22:19 (NASB)
In His infinite mercy, God came to Balaam again at night, and said to him:
"If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do." Numbers 22:20 (NASB)
What are we to make of this? Did God change His mind? His original precept (His will of command) stays the same. But Balaam compromised his obedience, having kept the door open to temptation. God, knowing the bent of Balaam's heart, sovereignly chooses to use Balaam for His purposes and prove that He is not be manipulated. He therefore implements a strategy for His own choice purposes, a permissive will, His sovereign will of decree, that will work with Balaam's sinful heart.
In the Bible we see that God in His perfect knowledge works with sinners, those who violate His will, to accomplish His Sovereign will of decree, which will not be thwarted. We saw this with Pharaoh who repeatedly hardened his heart. Only later we discover that God hardened His heart to demonstrate His power and glory. For God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).
Jesus said 29 "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." (Matthew 10:29; NASB)
35 "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' Daniel 4:35 (NASB)
Throughout the Bible we see that God uses people and actions He disapproves of. He sometimes uses in His sovereign will of decree those who are in opposition to His moral will of command. For example, God used the sinfulness of those who put Jesus to death to accomplish His choice purpose of redemption.
22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. Acts 2:22-24 (NASB)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Luke 1:26-56
The same angel named Gabriel, who brought Messianic prophecies in Daniel 8 and 9, and brought the announcement of John the Baptist's birth (Luke 1:19) to Zacharias, is sent to Mary in Nazareth. He tells her that she has found favor with God and will be the mother of the Messiah.
Mary submits to the will of God, although it remains a mystery to her how she, being a virgin, and having no relations with a man, could become the mother of the Promised Child. Her faith is exemplary as she responds, "Be it unto me, according to Your Word." (Luke 1:38)
Gabriel tells Mary that her relative Elizabeth has conceived in her old age, encouraging her that "Nothing will be impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)
Mary visits Elizabeth and discovers that the situation is as Gabriel told her. Elizabeth hears Mary's greeting and the prophet-in-utero jumps with joy, filled with the Spirit. Elizabeth calls Mary, "Blessed among women" (not 'Blessed above women') and "Blessed is the fruit of your womb!" Elizabeth recognizes Mary her younger cousin, as the mother of her Lord.
Mary responds to this fulfillment of God's Word with a song of praise, often referred to by its Latin name, "the Magnificat"
46 And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. Luke 1:46-47 (NASB)
In both Elizabeth's and Mary's words, we see that both of these women personally recognize their need for Jesus as both Lord and Savior.
READING FROM THE PSALMS:
As in the previous Psalm, David is surrounded by those who would seek to harm him. In this case, it is King Saul and his men. David chooses to put his confidence in God rather than his own devices.
His prayer is that God be glorified in the outcome of his trial.
Psalm 57:5 "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth."
David praises God that he can rest in the knowledge of His mercy and truth. He summons his soul to worship:
Psalm 57:8-9 (NIV) Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. 9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.
Psalm 57:7 (NIV) My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.
READING FROM PROVERBS:
Proverbs 11:9-11 (NIV) 9 With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape. 10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. 11 Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Botswana
Republic of Botswana
Area: 581,730 sq km
The Kalahari Desert covers 80% of the country. Dry and prone to severe droughts.
Annual Growth: 1.46%
Challenges for Prayer
The Tswana were the first Bantu people in Africa to respond to the gospel; several tribes turned to God in the 19th Century through the LMS from England. Other missions followed. Today, the majority of Tswana are Christian in name. Sadly, there is widespread immorality, drunkenness and a breakdown of the traditional family structure, including a high proportion of illegitimate children. Other less numerous groups resent the Tswana's socio-political influence in Botswana. Pray for a reversal of the moral decline and for renewal among the Tswana.
Most mainline Protestant churches were established by Western missions in generations past, but now are generally in decline. Some suggest that the mainline churches' struggles today are a legacy from the early missionaries' failure to contextualize the gospel to local culture; this has resulted in pervasive nominalism. Both local congregations and denominational structures are affected. Pray for revival among these historic churches.
- Pastor David
MAR 13: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 19-20:29 | Luke 1:1-25 | Psalm 56:1-13 | Proverbs 11:8
The "red heifer" sacrifice is unique. It is mentioned only once in the Old Testament. The ashes from this slaughtered animal are taken to a ceremonially clean place and mixed with the water to be sprinkled on the third and seventh day of the seven day purification process required when someone is rendered unclean by coming in contact with the dead.
A heifer is a young cow before she has had her first calf. Unlike the offering of bulls and goats which must be offered continually (Hebrews 10:1-4), the red heifer offering is representative of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ that has ongoing efficacy for cleansing. Its ashes serve as evidence that the sacrifice has been fully consumed and atonement has been provided for. This proof is mixed with water (a type of the Word of God –John 15:3; Eph 5:26 and administered by the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39).
According to Numbers 19, the heifer must fulfill several conditions:
1. It must be unblemished and without defect- a type of the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.
2. It must never have been under any yoke- which is a type of Jesus not being a slave of Satan, the god of this world (Eph 2:2; 2 Cor 4:4). He also did not commit himself to man because he knew what was in man (John 2:24). Instead He committed Himself to the Father to be what He had planned for Him to be for man- the perfect substitutionary sacrifice.
3. The actual hide of the heifer and not just the hair must be red. Red signifies sin- Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18). This reminds us of Jesus being identified with sin on the outside while remaining pure on the inside. "God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
4. The red heifer had to be burned outside the camp. "Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate." (Hebrews 13:12)
The blood of this sacrifice is sprinkled seven times from the finger of the priest in front of the Tent of Meeting. The number 7 means 'enough' meaning that it is sufficient. The raised finger indicates the number 1. It is one sacrifice sufficient for all.
The burning of the red heifer is also different from other sacrifices. The priest casts cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet into the midst of the fire as the offering is being consumed. This indicates that the offering is for all of creation. Solomon wrote of all creation "from the cedar…even to the hyssop." 1 Kings 4:33-34
Scarlet represents sin and Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:2 (NASB)
2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
So the offering of the red heifer stands for the perfect, once and for all sacrifice of Christ.
Hebrews 10:10 (NASB) 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14 (NASB) 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
The communication of this truth for the ongoing purification of believers is illustrated by the application of the water of purification that contains the remaining ashes after the red heifer has been burned outside the camp.
The sacrifice is not repeated when we need purification. Its efficacy is applied. The word of the cross is received by faith.
John 15:3 (NASB) 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Romans 10:17 (NIV) 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Ephesians 5:26 (NASB) 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
The water of the word speaks of the efficacy of the once and for all sacrifice and bears witness to the fact that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (NASB) 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
We know that our old man has been crucified with Christ.
Romans 6:6 (NASB) 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
Whenever we touch something of the old man, Adam, we become defiled and need to be cleansed. Our need for cleansing does not necessitate the repetition of Jesus' perfect sacrifice. It requires that the truth of the efficacy of His once and for all sacrifice, evident in the precious blood of Christ, be applied to our lives through the water of the Word by the Spirit.
1 John 1:9 (NASB) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The story of the first generation of Israelites in the wilderness is drawing to a close. Numbers Chapters 15-19 describes the 38 years of wandering, of the total of 40 years of the journey, from the Exodus to the Promised Land. By the time the children of Israel are ready to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, all those who had been over 20 years of age at the time when the twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh Barnea, would have died. In the last 38 years they would have come full circle, arriving back where they started, the place where they originally gave credence to the faithless report of the ten spies who defied Joshua and Caleb's report that the Lord was able to deliver their enemies into their hands.
The nation of Israel has received a 38 year chastisement for their unbelief. An entire generation forfeited their right of entry into the Promised Land.
In Numbers Chapter 20, both the death of Miriam and Aaron are recorded (Numbers 20:1, 28).
Unbelief is now revealed in Moses. You will remember that 38 years earlier at Mount Horeb, in the Wilderness of Sin, Moses was commanded to strike the rock (the Hebrew word 'sela' indicates 'a cliff' and not a 'boulder') with his staff (Exodus 17:1-7). This first striking of the rock was a clear picture of Christ (our Rock- 1 Cor 10:4) being "smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4), punished by the rod of Divine justice so that sin be atoned for. The result of justice being satisfied was water from the Rock, which speaks of the life of Christ ministered by the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39).
In the incident recorded in Numbers 20:8 Moses is told to:
"Speak to the Rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water."
Moses disobeys this command and misrepresents God both in attitude and action. In the heat of his frustration, Moses reprimands the people saying, "Listen now, you rebels; shall WE bring forth water for you out of this rock?"
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 (NASB)
Moses misrepresents God in what he says. The water was not to be fetched, nor was Moses called to fetch it. The rock would yield water once spoken to. Whereas the first incident with the "Smitten Rock" represents "Christ crucified" by whom we are reconciled to God. The second incident with the "Living Rock" represents that very same Jesus, risen, glorified and at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12) by whose indwelling life we shall be saved (Romans 5:10). The same Jesus that died for us, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, to live in us, by the Holy Spirit. We can speak to the Rock. We can speak to the Living Rock to make our requests known, our access having been purchased at the cross.
Moses lifts up his hand and strikes the rock twice with his rod. This is not what God asked him to do. He who was smitten for us needs not to be smitten again.
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14; NASB)
Moses also takes credit for bringing water to the people. This is another distortion of the real truth.
In this incident of testing, known as "the waters of Meribah", the Lord proves Himself to be holy. Moses would not bring the assembly into the Promised Land. God's sovereign hand is seen in this as Moses who represents the Law, points to the Promised Land, but cannot bring anyone into it.
3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son (YESHUA- of whom JOSHUA will be a type). Romans 8:3 (NASB)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: LUKE 1:1-25
Dr. Luke, the physician, prepares both his New Testament accounts, His Gospel and the Book of Acts, for a gentleman named Theophilus. Many scholars believe that Theophilus was the attorney working for Paul's defense, while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Luke had been a member of Paul's first missionary trip to Macedonia, joining him when he sailed from Troas to travel to Philippi (Acts 16:11). Both Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts would furnish the Roman authorities with a true account of that for which Paul was on trial, the defense of the gospel, and the histories both of Jesus Christ and the resurrection aftermath that spread Christianity across the Empire.
In his second volume, the Book of Acts, Luke references this gospel.
Acts 1:1-2 (NASB) 1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
Luke is considered to be a first rate historian as he carefully anchors events in their historical setting. He gives specific details referencing the locations and families of the people he writes about so that his account can be easily investigated for accuracy. He is also careful to show that Christianity was not a political movement designed to topple Rome, but that it was a movement whereby God provided to topple the rule of sin in the heart.
Luke has a more exhaustive record of Jesus' teaching than the other gospels. Luke has 17 parables that are unique to his account. He also records seven miracles that are not recorded in the gospels of Matthew or Mark.
Luke begins his gospel narrative with the story of Zacharias, who receives word from Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, that his wife, Elizabeth would bear him a son, whom he is to call John. This son, born in their old age, will be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah, fulfilling what was promised in Isaiah 40.
Isaiah 40:3 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God."
He would be the one foretold in the final prophecy of the Old Testament, given in Malachi 4:6.
Luke 1:17 (NIV) 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Zacharias finds this promise incredible. As a sign that this would come to pass, Zacharias is told that he will be struck silent until the day when these things take place.
READING FROM PSALMS - Psalm 56:1-13;
This Psalm was written during a very difficult time in David's life when he was taken by the Philistines in Gath.
Psalm 56:1 (NIV) 1 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack.
He was naturally fearful for his safety.
Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV) 3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
He speaks to his fears, announcing the trustworthiness of God.
Notice that he makes a choice: I will trust. I will not be afraid.
Some have said that fear is faith in reverse. David knew he had to change gears. He had to engage with God in faith instead of giving way to his emotions.
Proverbs 11:8 (NIV) 8 The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Area: 51,129 sq km
Mountainous Balkan state bracketed by Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.
Annual Growth: -0.11%
The war of the early 1990s devastated Bosnia and shattered its fragile agrarian infrastructure. Massive population movements, wholesale destruction and disruption of communications sank the economy further. Foreign aid is still important as is rebuilding the infrastructure; tourism is growing in importance.
Challenge for Prayer
The post-war socio-economic situation is troubled, and recovery is slow. A poor country even before the strife, Bosnia still struggles with poverty. Only organized crime syndicates do well for themselves; these groups must be shut down if Bosnia hopes to join the EU with all the accompanying financial rewards. Young people in particular are pessimistic – more than 60% want to leave the country; the brain and youth drains further sap Bosnia's potential. Pray for economic transformation, and for a new generation of Bosnians to lead their nation into a bright future rather than flee a sinking ship.
Religious communities are as entrenched as ever and deeply divided along ethnic lines. Orthodoxy has been subverted by Serb nationalism, and Catholicism by Croat nationalism. All groups view Protestants and independents suspiciously. Pray for the Spirit to move powerfully among the churches and for Christians to realize that their citizenship lies first in heaven.
- Pastor David
MAR 12: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 16:41-18:32 | Mark 16:1-20 | Psalm 55:1-23 | Proverbs 11:7
"But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron"
As powerful a demonstration of God's judgment upon the sons of Korah had been, the Israelites failed to see their deaths as actually being caused by God. They held Moses and Aaron to blame.
On the day after the destruction of the sons of Korah, the people were murmuring against their leadership. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to stand aside so that He might consume the rebels instantly. The possibility of imminent judgment falling upon the Israelites causes Moses and Aaron to practice what they have learned about intercession. They recognize that God's wrath against sin can only be removed through making atonement, in this case, the offering of incense as a memorial of the perfect intercession of the High Priest offered on behalf of the people.
This time the wrath of God against sin is seen in the punishment of a plague. 14,700 are killed. Aaron runs into the midst of the assembly, offers incense and makes atonement for them. He stands between the living and the dead as God's appointed mediator.
To validate God's appointment of Aaron and his descendants as priests another sign was given.(The previous sign was that the brazen censers of the sons of Korah were hammered into a covering for the altar as a reminder that none but the sons of Aaron were to burn incense to the Lord-Numbers 16:40). The staffs from the twelve tribes were put before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. On the following day, the staff of Aaron, representing the house of Levi, had miraculously budded and produced almonds.
God's appointment is manifested with the gracious gift of resurrection life and fruitfulness.
In Numbers 18, Aaron and his sons are to "bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary." This means that they were being held responsible for any neglect or failure to uphold the laws of the sanctuary and enact their sacred duties.
They made a covenant of salt (v.19) which was inviolable and permanent. Salt is a preservative and the covenant was to be preserved.
The previous judgments of God upon violations of the sanctuary laws demonstrated the importance of divinely appointed mediation between God and Israel- foreshadowing the one divinely appointed mediator, Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
Numbers 18 summarizes the duties and privileges of the priesthood.
This verse reminds us that it is a gift to serve the Lord.
Numbers 18:7 (NIV) 7 I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift.
And the ministries of our brothers and sisters, members of the new royal priesthood in Christ (1 Peter 2:9) are a gift to us.
Numbers 18:6 (NASB) 6 "Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the LORD, to perform the service for the Tent of Meeting.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 16:1-20
"There you will see him, just as He told you."
The angel, a messenger from God, reminds Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James and Salome, as they discover that the tomb in which Jesus had been buried is now empty, that every word of Jesus is reliable. He will do all He has said. He previously told his disciples that He would be killed and rise on the third day (Mark 9:9-10, 31; 10:34). And now He has risen.
In spite of Jesus telling them He would rise on the third day, no one believed Him. The angel notes this and Jesus when He appears to his disciples, lovingly rebukes them for it. (v.14)
Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene. (v.9) She tells the disciples that Jesus is alive but they refuse to believe her. Eventually Jesus appears to others, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then to the Eleven.
Jesus gives both the Great Commission and predictions of what will happen as the gospel is preached throughout the entire world.
Tim Keller writes in "King's Cross": Jesus had risen, just as he told them he would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but he must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday he walked out free. The resurrection was God's way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it." (p. 219, King's Cross, The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Keller, Tim, c. 2011, Penguin Group)
READING FROM THE PSALMS: Psalm 55:1-23
Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
The Psalmist expresses that he is carrying the heavy burden of having been betrayed by a close friend.
Psalm 55:12-14 (NIV) 12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
God hears our prayer when we call out to Him. He is on the throne. He has suffered betrayal and therefore understands our hurt.
Hurts are inevitable in life. God promises to sustain us as we suffer them
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV) 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV) 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
READING FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs 11:7 (NIV) 7 When a wicked man dies, his hope perishes; all he expected from his power comes to nothing.
Where do you place your hope for the future? In riches that you cannot take with you when you die? All other hopes will eventually be revealed for what they are- hopes that die. Christ alone is our living hope.
1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV) 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS: prayer continued for Bolivia
Centuries of entrenched paganism continues its hold. Pray that the church will recognize its deep seated influence.
Low literacy levels, lack of biblical knowledge and limited discipleship opportunities give rise to theological error and moral failure.
Leadership training is a desperate need recognized by all- precipitated by rapid church growth in past decades. Only a small fraction of pastors have formal theological training. There are over 30 Protestant seminaries and Bible schools as well as a variety of TEE institutes and training programs; all of which will not suffice to meet the need unless the Spirit actively calls, raises up and sanctifies thousands of new leaders.
- Pastor David
MAR 11: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 15:17-16:40 | Mark 15:1-47 | Psalm 54:1-7 | Proverbs 11:5-6
In the Book of Numbers Chapter 14, after the tenth incident in which the people of Israel's unbelief provoked the Lord's anger, the Lord gave an oath that none of those who were over twenty years old would live to enter into the Promised Land.
WE LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, SUBJECT TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FUTURE
In the Book of Numbers, Chapter 15, the LORD gives these same people further instructions pertaining to how worship is to be conducted, justice satisfied, and forgiveness obtained, when their children inherit the land from which they themselves will be excluded. Once again we see how the purposes of God are not thwarted by their unbelief.
He reminds them that although the remainder of their days will be lived out in the wilderness, they belong to the land they have not possessed, and they are to be mindful of its laws.
This is a reminder that all of us are accountable to the rule of God, and those of us who have been given the gift of future access, are to set our minds there. We are to live with the laws of the future age affecting our present, even praying today, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done."
In Numbers 15:22 Moses repeats instructions pertaining to the sacrifices for unintentional sins that are committed once they come into the land. But he also reminds them that there is no provision in the Law of a sacrificial offering for a person who deliberately defies God's law; to do so is blasphemy which is punished by being cut off from among the people.
Numbers 15:31 (NASB)
Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.
This reminds us that sin separates. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). Our hope is not in any sacrifice we can bring. Our only hope is in the mercy of God which is shown to us in God's sovereign loving choice to bring a 'once and for ALL sacrifice' through His Son's voluntary offering to provide atonement for our sin on the cross. This makes possible a free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). The gift is not given in the merits of any sacrifice we could bring.
GOD'S AUTHORITY IS UPHELD IN THE LAW - SIN MUST BE PUNISHED
The punishment by stoning of the man who violated the Sabbath law proves that the law of God is upheld by the authority which it represents. God's Word is not to be taken lightly. His authority was to be respected. The incident in Numbers 15:32-36 demonstrate that God's laws are enforceable and will be enforced. Here they are enforced "just as the Lord commanded Moses" (verse 36).
THE BLUE TASSEL
After the people of Israel receive the verdict that none of them older than twenty will enter the land, the exception being Joshua and Caleb, the Lord instructs them to attach tassels on the corners of their garments. Each tassel reminds them of the commandments of the Lord for which they are accountable. They are to put cords of blue on the tassel of each corner. The color blue represents heaven and prophetically points to 'the man from heaven', Jesus Christ, who would fulfill the commandments on their behalf.
1 Corinthians 15:47-49 (NASB)
The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
Romans 10:4-5 (NASB)
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
As the children of Israel walked through the wilderness, they followed the Ark of the Covenant which was draped in blue cloth. The cords of blue on the corners of their garments served as an outward reminder that they were bound in identification with the heavenly purpose and heavenly provision of the heavenly man. From God's point of view, those who identified with Christ by faith were cut from the same cloth and attached to all that the sacred blue, the ark of the covenant represented.
Moses himself was to be excluded from the land, although he might not have realized it at this point. But he would also wear the blue cords at the corner of his garment as an outward sign of his identification with the heavenly enterprise that would come to pass in the Land. Of course, in the New Testament we see that Moses actually does make it into the Promised Land. He appears there on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Elijah. All the years of his wilderness wandering had led him to the mount where he could meet the one to whom he had been attached and identified by faith fifteen hundred years earlier.
Even in the wilderness the sons of Israel were to live as those belonging to the land, even though they would be for a time excluded from it. They were still citizens of heaven, subjects of the government of God, and partakers of a heavenly calling.
Philippians 3:20 (NASB)
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
NUMBERS 16 - KORAH'S REBELLION
Korah, a Kohathite of the tribe of Levi, conspired with Dathan, Abiram (sons of Eliab) and On (son of Peleth) (all three from the tribe of Reuben) to challenge Moses. The conspiracy spread, soliciting the support of 250 leaders of renown who rose up against Moses and Aaron.
Moses once again falls on his face before the Lord in intercession. He then challenges Korah to appear the next morning before the Tent of Meeting. The Lord Himself will show who is authorized for the holy leadership role among His people. Korah and his fellow conspirators were to take coals from the holy fire and censers with holy incense and appear before the Presence of the Lord at the Tent of Meeting.
At first Dathan and Abiram refuse to comply, insisting that Moses had no right to "lord it over" the people.
Rather than lashing back at the conspirators, Moses brought his heart cry to the Lord. He pleads his case of being innocent of having caused these men harm. (16:15).
The sons of Korah were jealous not only of Moses authority but the privileges of Aaron and his sons to serve in the Holy Place.
On the following morning the Lord is poised to bring retribution to the entire congregation. Once again Moses intercedes for the people, insisting that all should not have to pay for one man's sin.
The Lord vindicated His authority as the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed up Lorah, Dathan, and Abiram and all their households. The 250 conspirators who insisted that they had sacred rights to bring incense before the Lord were destroyed by fire that came from the Lord.
Eleazar the priest takes the holy censers out of the blaze and hammer them into sheets for a plating to cover the altar of incense as a reminder that only those authorized by God (Aaron and his sons) should come near to burn incense before the Lord, or they will suffer the destruction that came upon Korah and his company of conspirators.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 15:1-47
THE PRIESTS INTERROGATE JESUS - ARE YOU THE CHRIST?
When Jesus appeared before Israel's religious leaders he was questioned if He was 'the Messiah'. Jesus replied with the sacred name of God, "I am" and explained that He was more than what they expected the Messiah to be. He was the Son of God, and then, in the context of the Scriptures from Daniel Chapter 7, that He will return as the judge of all humankind. One day the table will be reversed and they will not be interrogating Him, He will be interrogating them (Mark 14:61-62)
Daniel 7:13-14 (NASB)
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
PILATE INTERROGATES JESUS- ARE YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS?
Pilate asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews, and Jesus responds, "It is as you say."
Jesus is silent before the harsh accusations of the chief priests. Pilate is amazed. He is amazed again as the people choose to set free Barabbas, a known murderer and insurrectionist, instead of Jesus who had yet to be proven guilty of any misdeed.
The crowd did not just demand that Barabbas be freed and Jesus returned to prison, but that Jesus be crucified.
One by one Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled, but Mark is writing to a Gentile audience and focuses primarily on the action- binding, delivering Him into the hands of sinners, who are scheming, questioning, accusing, shouting, scourging, mocking, abusing, dressing Him in purple, crowning Him with thorns, beating Him with fists, with reeds, whips with fragments of metal to tear His flesh, spitting on Him, and leading Him away to be crucified.
On Golgotha, "the place of the Skull", the heel of the Promised Seed is bruised but the Serpent is crushed.
THE THICK DARKNESS
All accounts of the crucifixion of Christ note that darkness was over the earth from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, from noon to 3 PM.
Some have surmised that this was an eclipse of the sun. Eclipses don't last more than a few minutes. They also don't occur at the time of a full moon. Some have thought it to be a windstorm. But Passover was in the wet spring season and not the dry dust time of year.
It seems that this darkness was similar to the judgment that fell upon Egypt; the ninth plague at the time of the first Passover.
Exodus 10:21-23 (NASB)
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt." 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.
This time the judgment was not coming down on Egypt but on Christ, the Passover Lamb, the Appointed Substitute for the Firstborn, the Redeemer Priest.
Mark 15:33-34 (NASB)
When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" which is translated, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?"
The thick veil that separated the Holiest of All from the Holy Place in the temple of Jesus' day was much bigger and thicker than the one that was in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. The Tabernacle curtain could be folded and placed over the ark as a covering. The veil in the temple was massive, heavy and thick. We are told that teams of oxen pulling on opposite sides could not tear it. This was the veil that separated people from the Presence of God in the Holiest of All. But when Jesus died on the cross saying, "It is finished", the veil was torn from top to bottom.
The fact that it was torn from top to bottom was an indication of who did it. Through the perfect atoning sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the cross, and his shed blood, put as it were on the mercyseat, justice is satisfied and mercy is released. The barrier that excludes sinners from the presence of a holy God is removed. We can boldly come to God on the basis of Jesus' perfect work of redemption.
THE ROMAN CENTURION
Access to the glory of God's grace, is now open to all. Sinners who join themselves to Christ by faith can find instant forgiveness and acceptance.
The Roman centurion seems to be the first to draw near to "the Holiest of All" now that the veil had been torn in two.
Mark 15:39 (NASB)
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
The Roman Centurion by Nathan Greene (copies available) http://www.nathangreene.com/prod_detail_list/73
In seeing the way Jesus breathed, he heard Jesus' last words. "Father forgive. It is finished. Into your hands I commend my Spirit."
His confession of faith is especially significant in that the only person a loyal Roman subject would call "the Son of God" would be Caesar. Roman coins bore the inscription, "Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus". Yet this man having witnessed Jesus' suffering and death was convicted to the core, that Jesus was the true Son of God.
Psalm 54:1-7 & Proverbs 11:5-6
The reading from Psalm 54 is a prayer of deliverance ("deliver us from evil") and the reading from Proverbs 11 is a reminder to pray that we will not be led into temptation by our evil desires and unfaithfulness.
The Psalmist cries out: "Save me, O God, by Your name, And vindicate me by Your power." (v.1)
He thanks God that He does hear when we pray. "For He has delivered me from all trouble, And my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies." (v.7)
"Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul" (v.4)
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Bolivia
Republic of Bolivia
Area: 1,099,000 sq km
Landlocked Andean state. High plateau in southwest, tropical lowlands in north and east. One of only two landlocked republics in the Americas.
Annual Growth: 1.78%
Capital: La Paz (administrative); Sucre (legal)
Answer to Prayer
Aymara and Quechua peoples, who date back to pre-Inca times, have both experienced major church growth in their midst, and spiritual responsiveness seems to be increasing.
Challenge for Prayer
Poverty, economics and the coca leaf are inextricably linked. Around 70% of the population is mired in poverty, half of those in abject poverty. Growing coca is much more profitable than growing other agricultural products, and many of Bolivia's population are farmers. The president advocates growing the leaf for traditional purposes, but it is impossible to control how all of the coca-leaf harvest is processed. Pray that individuals, both those in power and those in poverty, would have the courage to reject temptation and to make good decisions.
- Pastor David
MAR 10: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 14-15:16 | Mark 14:53-72 | Psalm 53:1-6 | Proverbs 11:4
Today's reading in Numbers 14 marks a dramatic turning point in the history of the people of Israel in the wilderness.
It is the day when the Lord pronounced chastisement upon the entire generation of those over twenty years of age, apart from Joshua and Caleb, and pledges that they shall not enter into the Promised Land.
Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.
The account of this incident is given by the Psalmist centuries later, and picked up again in the New Testament Book of Hebrews. The Psalmist signals and the writer of Hebrews proclaims that there is a present danger in 'hardening your heart to the Lord' and that there is "A Promised Rest" in Christ. That rest is greater than that which those who perished in the wilderness and those future generations who eventually settled in Canaan, had ever envisioned.
Psalm 95:11 (referring to the incident in Numbers 14)
Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest."
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end…
This is the tenth incident that provoked the Lord's anger. The number 10 represents the completion of judgment in Scripture. We have seen this in the Ten Plagues that fell upon Egypt in judgment for Pharaoh's hardness of heart. The Ten Commandments reflect the judicially complete claim upon Israel that pronounces all guilty and in need of redemption. The judgment of the flood came with Noah, the tenth patriarch.
Let's review the ten incidents that angered the Lord:
1. Exodus 14:11-12 (At the Red Sea)
Then they said to Moses, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?  "Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."
2. Exodus 15:24 (At Marah)
So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
3. Exodus 16:3 (At the Desert of Sin)
The sons of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
4. Exodus 16:20 (Disobedience in Collecting Manna)
But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.
5. Exodus 16:27-29 (Collecting Manna on the Sabbath)
It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.  Then the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?  "See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."
6. Exodus 17:2-3 (Complaining against God for lack of water at Rephidim; renamed Massa and Meribah)
Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?"  But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"
7. Exodus 32:7-9 (Worshiping the Golden Calf)
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.  "They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!' "  The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.
8. Numbers 11:1-2 (Complaining at Taberah)
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.
9. Numbers 11:4 (Complaining about lack of meat)
The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, "Who will give us meat to eat?
10. Numbers 14:1-4 (Failing to Trust God about the Promised Land)
Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.  All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  "Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?"  So they said to one another, "Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt."
FEAR IS FAITH IN REVERSE
The report from the ten spies radically changed the perspective of the congregation of Israel in the wilderness to the degree that they want to go back to Egypt! Fear gripped their ability to reason. Grumbling spread throughout the camp. The purpose and work of God was called into question. Moses and Aaron are considered guilty for misleading them. Soon the whole congregation forgets the great event of the Passover, which they had significantly commemorated months before, and they regret having ever eaten the divinely ordained meal and taken the journey.
"Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" Numbers 14:3 (NASB)
The Lord takes note of their words.
Does fear ever cause your recollection of God's provisions and promises in your life to vaporize? Have you stood in fear before problems that outsize you and watch them grow into formidable giants? Be careful not to allow fear to revise your history, paralyze your present and retreat from what God has promised in your future. Like Caleb and Joshua, learn to see every difficulty in the light of God's faithful presence (He is here), His power (He is able) and His promises (He will bring you into your inheritance).
With each complaint, the Israelites further shifted their gears from 'forward in faith' to 'reverse in fear'. As their distaste for life in the wilderness grew, so did their hunger for their recollections of the leeks and cucumbers of their past. Soon their imaginations were on a sentimental journey to Egypt. Imagined pleasures overshadowed the reality of their former hardships. No one spoke of the scars on their backs from the cruel whips of their taskmasters. Life in Egypt was far better than this.
God is blamed for their current conditions and so are their leaders. They want to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. They want to choose a new leader to take them back where they came from (Numbers 14:2, 4).
The crowd was ready to stone their leaders and would have done so had the glory of the Lord not intervened.
At first the Lord threatens to destroy all the people (as one man) for their sin of unbelief and start over with Moses, as He did with Abraham, and from him make a greater nation.
Moses intercedes for the life of his people, that the LORD'S name and power be vindicated among the nations. Moses makes His plea on the basis of the revelation of God's character (Exodus 34;6-7; Numbers 14:18).
"Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." (14:19)
Then the Lord says something quite amazing; something that indicates that indeed Moses and the Lord did speak with one another as a man speaks with his friend.
20 So the LORD said, "I have pardoned them according to your word; Numbers 14:20 (NASB)
It is important to take God at His Word, but also remember that He is ready to take us at our word.
He forgives the sins of His people, yet chastises their unbelief. All those who are over twenty years old will not enter into the victorious possession of the Promised Land. They will perish in the wilderness. For each of the 40 days of unbelief when they spied out the Promised Land in the light of their fears instead of God's Word, they would bear the guilt in a year of wandering in the wilderness. For 40 years they would wander and know the Lord's opposition.
The Lord also tells them that it would be as the people said. He was listening. They shall fall in the wilderness, but not at the hands of the enemy as they expected. God would cause them to fall. But instead of their children being taken away from them as plunder, they shall enter into the land. They will spend the rest of the forty years in the wilderness as shepherds on account of their father's sins.
Judgment also fell upon the ten spies who gave the evil report, all of whom died with the plague.
On the next day, the people, grieving the news of God's punishment, want to make amends, take courage, and enter into Canaan to face the giants. Moses tells them that their plan won't work. If they proceed in their own strength, they will be struck down by the Canaanites. They went without the Lord's permission, His presence (represented by the ark of the covenant) or His appointed leader, Moses, and were defeated.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 14:53-72
The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of 71 religious leaders in Jerusalem. They were so anxious to convict Jesus of a crime that they were searching for those who would testify against Him.
There were two interviews in Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin. The first, held in the middle of the night, was illegal, as it was against their customs to try a person at night (John 18:12-24).
The second phase of the trial before the Sanhedrin was at daybreak (Luke 22:66-71).
The Sanhedrin were attempting to use the testimony that Jesus had claimed he would destroy the temple at Jerusalem to condemn him to death, but the testimony was not consistent (Mark 14:59) Jesus did not threaten to destroy a temple made with hands, but pointed to another temple, the temple of His body, which would be killed and raised again.
John 2:19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
The High Priest asks the big question: "Are you the Christ?"
62 And Jesus said, "I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." Mark 14:62 (NASB)
It was this admission, that Jesus was the Christ, that gave the priests the cause they were looking for to condemn Him to death. They charged Him with blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God.
Note that after Jesus is arrested, Peter denies Jesus three times, as Jesus predicted.
1. One of the servant girls while Peter was warming himself by the fire
Peter said, "I neither know nor understand what you are talking about." (Mark 14:68)
2. When the servant girl points him out to bystanders on the porch.
Peter again denies it. (Mark 14:70)
3. The bystanders accused him of being one of the disciples.
Peter begins to curse and swear, "I do not know this man you are talking about." (Mark 14:71)
When the rooster crows the second time, Peter remembers that Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times and he begins to weep.
Earlier Jesus had said:
30 "Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times." Mark 14:30 (NASB)
God's mercy to Peter, which we shall see in his full restoration to being a faithful apostle of Christ, should be an encouragement to us all.
(The oil on canvas painting on the left is "The Denial of Saint Peter" by Gerrit van Honthorst, c. 1623, and is housed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.)
READING FROM THE PSALMS: Psalms 53:1-6
Psalm 53 echoes what we heard in Psalm 14 with some minor differences. Verse 6 of Psalm 14 is replaced with an addition to verse 5. It is made clear that the people who were being put to shame were the afflicted counselors whom God had rejected.
In Psalm 53, no longer do we read, "God is with the righteous generation" (which was in verse 5 of Psalm 14). In Psalm 14 verse 6 the Psalmist used the tetragrammaton (YHWH- LORD) referring to the covenant keeping God who is deeply interested and involved in the welfare of His people ('Yahweh' is his refuge). However in Psalm 53, the verse has changed. Instead of the Name (YHWH) that refers to the relational covenant-keeping God, the Psalmist uses 'Elohim' , the Name of God that refers to His almighty power that sustains the universe. This suggests further spiritual declension among God's people.
So Psalm 53 is a slightly expanded version of Psalm 14. The first verses in both Psalms speak of the fool who claims to be an atheist. The Hebrew word used here for fool is 'nabal'. It is not the word that is used of someone who is uneducated or stupid. It is a word that describes moral senselessness. It is not a lack of evidence of God's existence that drives a person's atheism, although that may be their claim, but it is their insistence on moral autonomy, that they are answerable only to themselves. They assume the position of final authority, ignoring the evident contradictions and deceit in their own thought life and behavior. They lack moral sensibility. The evangelist Billy Sunday used to say that atheists can't find God for the same reason criminals can't find policemen!
The second verse moves from 'practical atheism' in particular to the human condition in general. The Apostle Paul quotes from these Psalms in Romans Chapter 3 as summaries of human depravity:
Romans 3:10-12 (NIV)
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."
The Psalm ends in verses 5 and 6 with David's prayer for the Promised Messiah who will save his people from their sins and restore them to function with a new nature that is joyfully submitted to the rule of God.
PROVERB FOR TODAY
Proverbs 11:4 (NIV)
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness that we need to deliver us from death-the wages of our sin (Romans 6:23) is the righteous act of God accepting Jesus' offering of a perfectly righteous life on our behalf and righteously satisfying God's justice that demands payment for sin. This righteousness is a free gift that is accepted by faith (Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-25; 9:30; 10:6).
Wealth, such as silver and gold, will be useless when you are called to give an account before the throne of God. Only the righteousness of the finished work of Christ on behalf of guilty sinners can put us in the right with an Almighty, all holy God.
1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV)
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Bhutan
Challenge for Prayer
Bhutan is one of the world's least evangelized nations. The continued isolationist policies of the government combined with the highly significant role of the Buddhist monarchy further reinforce the hold of tantric Vajrayana Buddhism, complete with the strong occultic/demonic influence of pre-Buddhist Bon animism. Pray for true spiritual liberation for this land of the Dragon (Druk Yul). Pray for King Wangchuk and his salvation.
The Tibetan/Himalayan peoples comprise the majority population, with the Bhutanese people cluster numbering 50% of the population. They are strongly Buddhist, and Christians among them number only a few hundred. These scattered believers are limited to small fellowships at best; most have faced varying degrees of persecution or social ostracism. Among the five largest peoples (Dzongkha, Tshangla, Lepcha, Kheng, Gurung), only the Lepcha have any significant Christian population. Pray for the emergence of a vital witnessing fellowship in every ethnic group of the Bhutanese.
Bhutan was effectively closed to all Christian witness until 1965. This was followed by 25 years of slight relaxation, during which Indian and other expatriates were able to witness. Since 1990, restrictions have increased. Pray for the growth of the church in this land.
- Pastor David
MAR 9: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 11:24-13:33 | Mark 14:22-52 | Psalm 52:1-9 | Proverbs 11:1-3
NUMBERS 11 – HEARTS ARE TESTED IN RELATIONSHIP TO CIRCUMSTANCES
In Chapter 11"The Book of Numbers" becomes "The Book of Murmuring and Wandering" due to the unbelief that infects the multitude.
There are a number of references in the New Testament to the incidents that take place in these remaining chapters in the Book of Numbers. In the third chapter of Hebrews we read:
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Hebrews 3:7-12 (NIV)
How did the hearts of those who had seen miracles at the hand of God get so quickly deceived into the state of unbelief?
First, there were "those in the camp who complained of adversity" (Numbers 11:1).
They were known to be "complainers". They complained when conditions were difficult. They complained when their patience was being tried. Their patterns of thought and speech, their character and overall demeanor had become known during the first year of the journey. Three days after the Red Sea parted and they crossed over on dry ground, a clear manifestation that God was their Deliverer, they complained about the lack of water on the other side. And now, three days after setting out from Sinai, they are complaining again.
While Moses took his complaints about the people to the Lord, these discontents complained about the Lord to the people.
Secondly, many people were becoming like them. Negativity is contagious. The grumble will tumble. This is clarified in the NASB translation.
Now the people BECAME LIKE those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD. (Numbers 11:1; NASB)
Thirdly, there was "the rabble (mixed multitude) among them who had greedy desires".
The Hebrew word "asapsup", translated "rabble", is only found in this instance in the Old Testament. Earlier translations of this word are "mixed multitude". Other versions translate it as the "foreign rabble" because it specifically refers to those Egyptians who joined the Israelites in their Exodus after the last plague.
In the Book of Exodus, Chapter 12, verse 38, we learned of these people.
38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. Exodus 12:38 (NASB)
Perhaps they were welcomed into the congregation because of their wealth. They had a very large number of livestock. They received the good news of the Promised Land with joy and were delighted to pass through the Red Sea and witness the mighty hand of God. Yet there was no foundational recognition of their need for the Passover Lamb.
The mixed multitude was of mixed faith.
It is most likely that they did not personally apply faith in God's Word about the necessary application of the blood of the spotless lamb to the doorposts of their home on the evening of the Passover. Perhaps they had no firstborn sons to lose. Or maybe they joined themselves to the Israelites as a means of protection against future disaster.
Perhaps they joined the exodus because they saw it as a "quick fix" for their problems. These were Egyptian residents who saw the Israelites being blessed in the land of Goshen and understood that they were now on their way to a land of abundant opportunity, a land their God promised to be flowing with milk and honey.
But in the barren wilderness of Sinai the promise of fertile fields and abundant crops were soon discounted as "unreal". Their greedy desires were not being fulfilled. Instead of talking about Canaan, they would talk about home. It was in Egypt, not in Canaan that their desires would be satisfied.
In Jesus' Parable of the Wheat and the Tares we are told of the reality of mixed multitudes. The Apostle Paul warns us not to sympathize with their carnal and worldly desires, and their preference for what they had in their old life instead of what God has promised in the new.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NASB)
Paul applies the wisdom pertaining to mixture in Deuteronomy from which he draws the analogy of "an unequal yoke" and the call to unadulterated affections among the people of God.
Deuteronomy 22:9-11 (NASB)
"You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled. 10 "You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 "You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.
The mixed multitude now doubted God's ability to bring them into the land. They saw no redemptive purpose in the trials, hardship, discipline or delays in the desert. How could these be from God, they thought. Or if they were from God, He is being too hard on them. When God sent fire to the outskirts of the camp, instead of crying out to God in repentance, they cry out to Moses.
Fourthly, there were those who were ungrateful for the manna.
They were weepers. They wept at the doors of their tents. They cried out "Who will give us meat to eat?" They were discontent. Their appetite was for something other than what God had on the menu. They lost their taste for manna, although it was freshly, faithfully and miraculously provided by God to sustain them on their journey. They were weary of the bread from heaven.
So, God gives instruction to Moses:
18 "Say to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, "Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt." Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 'You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out of 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 ever leave Egypt?"
When people have their fill of their greedy desires they discover it is not what they truly needed or wanted.
Moses is already tired and weary. He is not weary of the manna. He is weary of the attitudes of the people.
We are vulnerable when we are discouraged and exhausted. Moses misinterprets God's promise to give the multitudes meat as meaning added work for him! How can he prepare meat for all these people? His heart is growing cynical, doubting that God's people would ever be satisfied, no matter what they were given.
The LORD responds to Moses, "Is the LORD'S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not."
The Lord keeps His word and a wind brings in quail from the sea and it falls to the ground until some are waist deep in fresh meat. The people gathered it and cooked it, but those who ate it were sickened by it. (Numbers 11:33).
The place was named "Kibbroth-hattaavah" (THE GRAVES OF LUST) because there they buried the people who were greedy.
We see that God's most severe judgments are often to let them have their own desires:
So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them. Psalm 106:15 (NASB)
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. Romans 1:24 (NASB)
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, Romans 1:26 (NASB)
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, Romans 1:28 (NASB)
The Lord makes it clear that in rejecting the manna, His people were rejecting Him (Numbers 11:20). In Exodus 16:4 and Deut 8:3, He had warned them that the manna would be a test as to whether their hearts would be filled with faith or unbelief.
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. Exodus 16:4 (NASB)
3 "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3 (NASB)
NUMBERS 12 – HEARTS ARE TESTED IN RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORD AND THOSE WHO SPEAK IT.
In our own wilderness journeys, our hearts are tested in relationship to the Word of God and those who speak it.
This certainly happens in the Book of Numbers.
Moses speaks the Word of God. People, at first are happy to do what the Lord commands through the words He has given to Moses. As a result people are made ready to journey and set out for the Promised Land.
The pressure of clarifying and communicating the Word of the Lord becomes more than Moses feels that he can personally bear. Therefore the Sovereign Lord offers to spread that spiritual endowment for prophecy to seventy others. (Notice that the Bible does not indicate that spiritual gifts are transferred by laying on of hands. The Sovereign Spirit rests upon them). The Holy Spirit rests on 68 of them who are gathered with Moses around the tent. "And when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again". (Numbers 11:25)
Prophesy is a gift of the Spirit. But it also requires human cooperation. There are times that God can put His words in the mouth of a donkey, but His intention is to speak to man through man. He needs messengers for His message. But the messengers need to have hearts that are submitted to the Lord.
The hearts are again tested in regard to people prophesying in Numbers 11:26-29. Two of the seventy, Eldad and Medad, for some unknown reason, are not together with Moses by the Tabernacle when the group start to prophesy, speaking forth the Word of God. Yet the Spirit rests upon Eldad and Medad, and they too are given the gift of being able to prophesy. First, a young man protests, and then Joshua tells Moses to restrain them! (Numbers 11:28)
Moses rebukes Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that ALL the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!"
Moses had a vision of the Sovereign grace of the Lord and the privilege of being His spokesperson. The people needed to be encouraged with the Word of the Lord. Would that they all be able to encourage themselves and each other!
The Apostle Paul states a similar sentiment:
1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NASB)
3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NASB)
The situation reminds us of the disciples complaining to Jesus about another upon whom the Spirit was resting,
49 John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." 50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you." Luke 9:49-50 (NASB)
The tests in regard to prophesying continue.
Moses' sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, spoke out against him. First, they were upset with his marriage to a Cushite woman. Then they expressed resentment towards Moses being God's designated spokesperson and they questioned his authority.
2 and they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" And the LORD heard it. Numbers 12:2 (NASB)
Let us be careful not to make too much of our own particular gifts and experiences. Instead let us recognize God's authority as expressed through His Word.
The Lord said that Moses is more than a mouthpiece, he is a faithful servant. He knows me. He reverences my Word and beholds the form of the Lord in the Word. (That commendation reappears in the Book of Hebrews!)
Miriam is chastised with leprosy and Moses intercedes for his beloved sister. The Lord took Miriam's attack on Moses personally, because ultimately that is what it was.
As a result Miriam was set aside as leprous for seven days and the entire camp of Israel had to wait until she was purified before they could resume their journey.
NUMBERS 13 – HEARTS ARE TESTED IN RELATIONSHIP TO THE PROMISES
Our reading concludes with the sending out of the 12 spies into the land of Canaan. Representatives from each tribe are chosen. Joshua, of the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb, of Judah, are among them. They are given a list of conditions to report back on.
The twelve are gone for 40 days and then return, with ten of them giving an evil report.
The ten spies concurred that, yes, the land was as God said it would be. The land does flow with provisions for livestock and fruitfulness. They brought back astounding samples of fruit to prove this.
NEVERTHELESS, they said, the descendants of ANAK, and NEPHILIM are there.
The name "ANAK" means "long necked". The Anakim were big people who stood tall in the eyes of others. While the ten saw these "long-necked" sons of Anak as a problem looming large, two spies, Joshua and Caleb, saw them as giant opportunities in work clothes. Long necks mean greater distance between shoulders and heads. A greater distance makes for an greater opportunity to separate the two.
"NEPHILIM" refer to "giants", but the root word, 'naphal,' means, "to fall down, or be cast down". Whereas the ten spies saw the Nephilim as a giant obstacle, Joshua and Caleb went for the root interpretation! If God had called them to possess the land, indeed the Nephilim would 'fall down', or "be cast down" before them.
The people favored the majority report that the obstacles in the Promised Land were insurmountable. They believed a lie that "it is a land that devours its inhabitants".
The ten spies confessed that the people were too strong for them. Joshua and Caleb knew that although they might be too strong for them, they were not too strong for God.
How often we adopt the viewpoint that magnifies the enemy and minimizes the promises and power of God!
Notice how the negative report affected not only how the people saw the enemy but how they saw themselves!
33 "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." Numbers 13:33 (NASB)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 14:22-52
After sharing the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus proceeds from the upper room and outside the city walls to cross the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives, where the Garden of Gethsemane is at its base.
The disciples had remembered the first Exodus in the celebration of the Passover meal and were about to experience the second and greater Exodus, a deliverance from their bondage to sin and death. The time had come for the Lamb to be taken away and slain.
Jesus prophesies and interprets a prophecy that was written hundreds of years earlier by Zechariah (13:7).
27 And Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away, because it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.' (Mark 14:27; NASB)
In addition to prophesying their scattering in fear, Jesus again prophesies His resurrection and what would happen after the resurrection.
28 "But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee." Mark 14:28 (NASB)
Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane is one in which He wrestles through all his human feelings that would resist His obedience. It was time for Him to be sacrificed for us as the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). He knew this. It was the hour for which He had come.
35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. Mark 14:35 (NASB)
Jesus relentlessly surrenders His will to that of the Father, knowing it meant death by crucifixion.
Jesus' intercession ends with a resolve: "The hour has come. Behold, the Son of man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners." (Mark 14:36).
It seems likely that Mark is drawing from Peter as a source eye-witness in this Gospel. Peter is in almost every scene. Mark kindly does not mention that it was Peter who cut off Malchus' ear with a sword when the entourage of the priests came with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. But then Mark adds a detail overlooked by the other gospel writers and one that would likely have escaped Peter's attention, that of a young boy wearing nothing but a nightshirt over his naked body. By this time Peter and all the others had fled. But the boy followed Jesus. The report continues that he was seized by the authorities. The boy managed to escape by breaking free from his nightshirt and running away naked. This information must have come from another source other than Peter. Perhaps the boy was Mark himself. Many believe that the Last Supper was held in Mark's mother's home and that Mark, unwilling to sleep when Jesus left for the outdoors, followed Him to Gethsemane.
READING IN PSALMS: Psalm 52:1-9
This Psalm, we are told, is about the incidents described in 1 Samuel 21 and 22 when Doeg, the Edomite, King Saul's chief herdsman, demonstrated his true wickedness by reporting to Saul that Ahimelech had served food to David and given David Goliath's sword.
Verses 1-4 describe Doeg's true character. Verses 5-7 describe his doom and verses 8 and 9 contrast the nature of Doeg with that of a worshiper who has been made right with God through faith in the gospel promise.
There is great application to our own lives. We have inherited the Doeg nature of sin. Verse 1-4 could well describe the characteristics of the sin nature within us. In verses 5-7 we see what that sin nature deserves as punishment. In contrast to this we see the impact of being justified by faith in Christ.
In describing his heart of gratitude, David gives us words that describe the attitude of one who has been made right with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Psalm 52:9 (NIV)
"I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
Let us exalt His Name together!"
TODAY'S READING FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs 11:1-3 (NASB)
"A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. 2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. 3 The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them."
We must love justice and fairness if we are to live a life that is well-pleasing to the Lord. Practice doing what you say you will do - INTEGRITY. Do the right thing. It is wise to be humble. Remember all that you are without Christ and you have a lot to be humble about. Without Him you are nothing and have nothing worth boasting about.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: BENIN
Area: 112,622 sq km
A long, narrow country wedged between Nigeria and Togo.
Annual Growth: 3.20%
Challenges for Prayer
Economic advancement and endemic corruption. Genuine efforts to uplift the economy too often fail because of corruption; as a result, Benin remains one of the world's 20 least-developed countries. Up to 70% of the skilled workforce must subsist by taking manual or menial-labor jobs. Pray that those in positions to enrich themselves at the nation's cost might instead be honest and self-sacrificing workers and leaders.
Less-reached peoples. Most peoples are still considered unreached – only a handful of smaller peoples have a Christian (Catholic) majority. Benin has Africa's highest percentage of followers of traditional religions and is probably the least evangelized non-Muslim country in Africa. For specific prayer:
a.) The Fon are the most numerous people in Benin. It was from Fon animism that voodoo developed. The Fon have a significant Christian population, but many are nominal and voodoo still permeates their lives. Outreach by several Western and African missions birthed a large number of churches, as growth and responsiveness are found in equal measure. Pray for more Fon Christian leaders, and for believers untainted by animistic influences.
b.) The Gbe include 19 southern peoples from the Kwa/Guinean grouping, forming a patchwork of unreached and unevangelized peoples – accounting for 59.5% of Benin's population. Among most of these peoples, indigenous evangelical churches are few, but growth is occurring.
c.) The Ede Nago are located on the southeastern border with Nigeria, in the region of Ketou. Until recently, they had little real exposure to the gospel and have no Scripture in their tongue. Related to them are the Idacca who live in south central Benin and are over 90% animist. There are now teams working among them.
d.) Muslim peoples. Most reside in the less evangelized far northern part of the country. They include the Dendi, Zerma, Hausa, Foodo and Kotokoli. Only the Zerma and Hausa have the whole Bible, and neither is more than 1% evangelical. Pray for teams to reach them –SIM, AoG and IMB all target specific peoples.
e.) The Fulbe (Fula) peoples of the far north have experienced a real breakthrough, with several thousand coming to Christ through Western (SIM, AoG) and indigenous ministries. There is a Bible school and a growing number of radio programmes for the Fula, and their receptivity to the gospel continues.
f.) The 1.3 million urbanites of the two capitals. Rapid urbanization brings many from unevangelized peoples into the cities, including a quickly growing Muslim population. Teams are needed to specifically reach these groups in their new urban context; pray for awareness of the cultural differences among peoples and how best to reach each one. Nigerian missions and a number of Benin-originated churches are doing urban evangelism in several cities.
- Pastor David
MAR 8: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 10-11:23 | Mark 14:1-21 | Psalm 51:1-19 | Proverbs 10:31-32
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 10- 11:23
For almost two full years the people of Israel have gone nowhere. They have been camped in the plains of Sinai. God is using this time to prepare them for the journey ahead.
The Book of Genesis was a gripping narrative. The first half of the Book of Exodus continued the dramatic story of the descendants of Jacob and their emergence as a great nation from their captivity in Egypt.
The action stopped in Exodus 19. The second half of Exodus, the entire book of Leviticus, and the first 10 chapters of Numbers until the tenth verse record the words of the Lord – the Law of God, His Testimony in the Tabernacle, and the Preparations for the March into the Promised Land.
PREPARATION FOR THE JOURNEY
During this extensive stop on the plains of Sinai the LORD has made it known that He is a holy God. He binds Himself to His people, Israel, in a holy covenant. Israel is to be a holy nation (Exodus 19:5). Through them and their Seed, His promise of redemption will extend to all nations.
Exodus 19:5 (NASB) 5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
The first part of the Law spoke of the demands of God's Holiness (Exodus 20-24).
The second part of the Law spoke of how those demands will be fulfilled in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-31:18; 35:1-3). The Law points us to our need for grace. In the provision of His grace, the law is fulfilled.
The Tabernacle represents the perfect life and ministry of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. In Him, God finds the Holy Place He is looking for in humanity. In Him God finds a man in whom He is well pleased. God's favor rests on His holy Son who fulfills the Law. The glory of God, which is God's verdict upon perfection, is beheld in Him.
John 1:14 (NASB) 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness is set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. Offerings for the altar are received for 12 days (Numbers 7:78). On the 14th day the nation celebrates the Second Passover in history, the first Passover as a memorial to the actual event.
On the first day of the second month, God initiates a plan to organize and prepare His people to advance through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The first census begins with the numbering of the fighting men (Numbers 1:1). The second census numbers the Levites, organizing them according to the households of the sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Numbers 3:16). A third census was taken of the firstborn males of the people of Israel to assure that there would be an appointed substitute from among the Levites to stand in for them (Numbers 3:40).
God is able to mold the mob into a well organized congregation, with each member knowing their place and duties when the time came for the march. Particular duties for the dissembling, portage, and assembly of the Tabernacle were assigned to the tribes of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari. The Tabernacle was to be central and first in their considerations, especially when the time came to set up, break down or move camp. No one would camp until the Tabernacle was assembled. In the procession through the wilderness into the Promised Land, the Ark, carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites, would lead the way as they followed the cloud (Numbers 10:33).
The Ark was the chest made of acacia wood (representing uncorrupted humanity) and was covered with gold (representing deity). Inside the ark were items directly linked to the Testimony of God- the Unbroken Tables of Stone (representing the revelation of God's righteousness kept intact, Matthew 5:17). Also in the Ark was the pot of Manna (the testimony of God's faithfulness to sustain them with His provision - the Bread from heaven- John 6:35), and later, the Rod that budded (a prophetic picture of The Resurrection and the Life - John 11:25).
Unlike the other sacred items of the Tabernacle which had the blue cloth underneath and other coverings piled on top, the Ark of the Covenant had the veil and goatskin underneath and the blue cloth on the outside. Blue represents heaven. Jesus is the only man since Adam with an open heaven. Like the Ark in the wilderness procession, He leads us as the Pioneer of the Heavenly Way.
THE LAST DETAIL: THE SILVER TRUMPETS
Clear communication is important in every community. More than 600,000 men, plus women and children and some others, known as "a mixed multitude" who had come from Egypt (Exodus 12:38) were to be mobilized quickly and in an orderly fashion.
To assure that they would understand their marching orders and the intended purpose of their movements, clear signals were to be given on silver trumpets.
"Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out."
(Numbers 10:2; NASB)
The word for 'trumpets' here is 'chatsotrah'- which indicated a long straight narrow trumpet with an expanded mouth. (There is another word for 'trumpet' in the Old Testament, 'shofar', which is a ram's horn. It is not the ram's horn that is used here.) These trumpets were to be made of beaten silver. Silver, as we have seen, is a consistent symbol of redemption in the Bible. It was the silver shekel that was used "to redeem" the sons of Israel (Numbers 3:46).
If only one trumpet sounded, the leaders would assemble.
If the two trumpets sounded together, all the people would assemble.
All the children of Israel were instructed to distinguish the different meanings of the trumpet blasts.
The trumpet alerted the people for the following redemptive purposes:
1. TO ASSEMBLE together as a congregation (Numbers 10:2) (Hebrews 10:25)
2. TO ADVANCE; Setting out under the leadership of the cloud (Numbers 10:2) (Matt 28:19-20)
3. TO BATTLE. The trumpet sounded the alarm that they were under attack and they were to rally for warfare; "an enemy oppressing you;" (Numbers 10:9) (Eph. 6:18)
4. TO CELEBRATE. The trumpet also could sound forth a call to show joyful gratitude to God. It was used as a call to praise and worship God. It is a cry to remember who God is and His Redemptive work (highlighted in the appointed feasts and regular festivals) (Numbers 10:10).
THE STORY CONTINUES AND THE PEOPLE ADVANCE
With the last instruction pertaining to the trumpets given to the people, the cloud finally moves on the twentieth day of the second month of the second year after the Exodus. The people set out for the first time with the tabernacle!
11 Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; 12 and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the LORD through Moses.
THE SETTING OUT (Numbers 10:11-28)
It could have been a chaotic mess if it had not been for the law of God and the specific instruction pertaining to tribal leadership, banners, signals, encampments and a prescribed procession order.
However when the time came to set out, the procession went smoothly. The tribe of Judah set out first, with the rest of the encampment on the eastern side following; the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun. Then, the tabernacle fabrics and framework were packed up by the Gershonites and Merarites who carried their cargo on the carts that had been given them by the other tribe's leaders (Numbers 7:1-8). The Southern flank under the standard of Reuben followed, with the tribes of Simeon and Gad behind them. Then came the Kohathites carrying the sacred objects of the Tabernacle on wooden staves covered with gold. (It was forbidden to carry them any other way but on the shoulders of the Kohathites (Numbers 7:9).
The marching of the Kohathites with the sacred objects of the Sanctuary on their shoulders is a picture of the privilege and responsibility of believer-priests to personally shoulder the cross of Jesus Christ. We are to daily recognize our identification with Christ. When he died, we died. When He was buried, our old man was buried. When He rose, we are identified with Him in the resurrection. When He ascended to the right hand of the Father, we ascended 'in Him'. Through the ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit has descended into our hearts. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We bear His presence and His testimony in the wilderness of this world--- We bear the significance of the altar -His exchanged life makes us a living sacrifice! We bear the laver (the cleansing of His Word), we bear the Lampstand, (He has made us lights of the world). We bear the table of showbread (His fellowship with and in His people) and the Altar of Incense (His testimony of perfect worship and prayer before the Father). We joyfully carry the testimony portrayed in the Ark of the Covenant -the merits of His perfect finished work of redemption, no condemnation. He is our daily bread and resurrection life.
The Camp of Ephraim on the West followed the Levites, with the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin following them. Finally, the rear guard for all the units set out, the northern flank under the standard of the tribe of Dan, with tribes of Asher and Naphtali following them.
The Kohathites, carrying the Ark of the covenant, must have made their way to the front.
Thus they set out from the Mount of the LORD three days' journey, with the Ark of the covenant of the LORD journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them. (Numbers 10:33; NASB)
The headship, leadership and pioneering of Christ is seen in the preeminence given to the Ark.
In verse 35, the Ark is identified with the movement of the cloud. Whenever the Ark set out, Moses said,
"Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered!"
Whenever the ark came to rest, Moses said,
"Return, O LORD to the countless thousands of Israel." (Numbers 10:36)
We will hear these phrases repeated again in future generations as we travel through the Old Testament.
"Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him." (Psalm 68:1 (NASB)
HOBAB, MOSES' BROTHER IN LAW
Moses invites his Midianite brother-in-law, Hobab, to join the journey. At first, Moses invites him to come with him and assures him that he would do him good, for that is what the Lord has promised Israel. But Hobad refuses, preferring his own land and people. Moses repeats the invitation challenging Hobad to put his knowledge to good use. Hobad was familiar with the land and could tell them where to camp and be "as eyes" for them. It was a call to service, to sacrifice, and to use his gifts to help others, more akin to the call of Jesus to His disciples. It would appear that Hobad finally responded to this call and joined the journey for we read of his descendants in Judges 4:11.
The wisdom of Moses extending this invitation is debated. Was Moses forgetting that it was the Lord who would be the eyes of Israel and that it was the cloud that would determine where to camp?
THE TABERAH FIRE- THE MURMURING THAT CAUSES GOD'S ANGER TO BURN
Some people don't travel well. The children of Israel were complaining within three days after miraculously crossing the Red Sea. They had complained about the water at Marah (Exodus 15:22- 26). Two years later, they are found complaining once again. On the heels of a triumphant march with the supernatural manifestation of the Presence of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire, the Lord detects their "heart murmur".
It is important to note that all of our complaints, no matter how private, are within the Lord's hearing (Numbers 11:1). Our words reflect our thoughts, preoccupations and perspectives.
The Lord mercifully warns them of His anger at their unbelief by consuming the outskirts of the camp.
The rabble (mixed multitude, those foreigners who came with them from Egypt- Exodus 12:38) who had "greed desires", and the sons of Israel stirred up strife with their complaints. These become the "rabble-rousers" in the community. Sins of the tongue spread like wildfire. God's warning of the wildfire did not curtail the griping. Instead of setting their affections and minds on things above and the miraculous provisions and sure promises of God, they fanaticized about Egypt. Saying nothing of the slavery, the lashes and beatings they endured under their task masters there, they reflected on the salad bars in the slaves' canteen with free fish, and a choice of five sides: cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic!
The manna is a picture of Christ, the living bread from heaven (John 6:51). But the people complained. "Now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna (Christ) to look at." (Numbers 11:6).
How sad it is to know that we can become familiar with the miraculous presence of Christ in our lives. Hearts can turn cold. They can refer to the manna. They look at the manna, but their diseased appetites no longer hunger to partake of Him.
It is when our strength is dried up that we need to look to Christ, our bread from heaven and partake of Him. We should know where our strength comes from.
The heart murmuring now turns to a roar with people weeping at the doors of their tents (11:10). Moses is so discouraged by the burden of leadership that he asks the Lord to either help him or kill him (11:15).
THE PROPHESYING OF THE SEVENTY
How was Moses to encourage the troops whose minds were set on things below and could not see the good of what God had done or was doing in their midst?
The Lord asked Moses to gather seventy elders so that they could encourage the people with their words which would come from the same Spirit that inspired Moses. As soon as the Spirit rested on them, the seventy began to prophecy which must have provided some encouragement to the people. Sadly, the seventy did not continue doing it. (Numbers 11:25).The Scriptures do not tell us why, but the overall message of the remaining chapters hint that it was a resistance in their hearts to believe the Word of God. You cannot prophecy the Spirit-wrought encouragement of the Lord through the spoken word very long if you don't have a heart to believe it.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MARK 14
SHE HAS DONE WHAT SHE COULD
Jesus said that "wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world", the story would also be told of what Mary did when she was with Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. She broke the alabaster box of perfume and anointed his head with the costly ointment of spikenard.
This statement is amazing as we consider that Jesus prophesies with confidence that His message would be preached "in the whole world" and that Mary of Bethany would be spoken of in the context of telling the story. Her act, so highly praised and considered a suitable adjunct to the gospel, is not one of contributing to some social work among the needy, or even a display of love for neighbor, as admirable as that might be. It is an act of pouring out all that she had, while given the opportunity, in devotion to Christ. It must have been her most costly possession (it was a hope chest of sorts) and she voluntarily expended it all upon Jesus. No other day in her life, no other person, no other work, no other cause or investment was more worthy than this one, Jesus.
Jesus' own disciples were indignant at her deed. They scolded her. But Jesus saw it as a praise-worthy act of worship reflecting true spiritual discernment. The disciples protested: "To what purpose is this waste?" (Mark 14:4; 26:8). The Gospel of John tells us that it was Judas who said "Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?" The apostle John indicates that Judas said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money and helped himself to it as he pleased (John 12:6). But Mark and Matthew point out that ALL the disciples were bewildered and bothered by Mary's extravagant worship and thought of it as being 'excessive'.
Jesus does not discourage us from giving to the poor. He explains:
"For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 "She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. (Mark 14:7-8, NASB)
We don't know how many opportunities we will have to show our love to Jesus in this world. Let's seize the moment and give Him our all while we can.
Jesus announces that one of His disciples would betray Him. You can feel a heaviness of sorrow come upon each disciple as your read Mark's brief account of the Last Supper. We can understand. Our own hearts are capable of treachery. "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22)
But Jesus would go to the cross to deal with treacherous hearts.
"For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him." Jesus rests in what the Word says about the necessity of His atoning sacrifice to bring a rescue to the human race.
The next line is a sober reminder of the reality of hell. If hell did not exist this sentence would not make sense:
"But woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been good FOR THAT MAN if he had not been born." (Mark 14:21)
If there were nothing beyond this life it would not make sense that it would be better FOR JUDAS himself, had he not been born.
PSALM 51- THE PSALM OF REPENTANCE
Psalm 51 is a good psalm to read on your knees. It is David's psalm of repentance.
There is no real joy without repentance.
Blessed are those who mourn (their sin), for they shall be comforted. The poor in spirit will put all their trust in the One who bore their sins upon the cross and offers a new life, with a new heart, through the gospel.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 (NASB)
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17 (NASB)
"The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted."
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Belize
Area: 22,965 sq km
A Caribbean coastal enclave bordering Guatemala and Mexico. It has the world's second-largest coral barrier reef.
Annual Growth: 2.08%
Belize is Central America's most sparsely populated country.
Most of the population is of mixed descent:
46% Mestizo/Ladino: Guatamalean and Honduran background; 25% Belize Creole; 10.6% Amerindian: the indigenous people of Belize with 3 main languages: Ketchi, Mopan and Yacatec; 6% Garifuna (Black Caribbean) descendants of African slaves and Arawakans forcibly relocated from the Caribbean.
Politics: formerly British Honduras; independent from Britain in 1981 as a stable parliamentary democracy and member of the Association of Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community.
Challenges for Prayer
Many missions, especially short-term, have saturated this small nation. Much has been positive, particularly in the areas of medicine/health care (especially in the remote and poorer areas), literacy and training. But the never-ending presence of mission-trippers creates dependency, which actually undermines the national Church. Pray for fruitful partnerships that empower and require true sacrifice by all for Kingdom purposes.
Belizeans are largely professing Christians, but syncretism is common. The Spanish speaking immigrants with their superstitions, the Mayans with their underlying paganism and the Garifuna with their black magic all need a culturally relevant and sensitive presentation of the gospel.
HIV/AIDS is a serious threat. The 2.4% (and rising) infection rate is the highest in Central America.
There is a great need for discipleship training.
- Pastor David
MAR 7: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 8-9:23 | Mark 13:14-37 | Psalm 50:1-23 | Proverbs 10:29-30
"The Christian body in America is immersed in a crisis of biblical illiteracy," according to the Barna Research Organization. George Barna writes, "In many ways we are living in an age of theological anarchy. The church is rotting from the inside out crippled by a non-biblical theology"
When given 13 basic teachings of the Bible, only 1% of adult believers firmly embraced all 13 as being Biblical perspectives.
Spirituality is being built upon the shifting sand of private emotional attachments rather than the solid rock of revelation.
A survey taken of evangelical pastors in Brazil (Abba Press and Ibero-American Bible Society) reveal that half of the pastors 50.68% (of 1255 respondents from different evangelical denominations) said that they have never read through the entire Bible one time. The reason, they say, is a lack of time. Yet the leaders of the church in the Book of Acts devoted themselves to the Word of God and prayer (Acts 6:4).
It is true that we are all pressed for time in our busy schedules. But we are left at a great disadvantage if we do not give adequate time to reading and reflecting upon the Bible.
The apostles of the early church followed the example of Jesus and preached the gospel from all of the Scriptures.
THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS
44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses AND the Prophets AND the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44, NASB)
27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27, NASB)
THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
Acts 20:20-21 (NIV)
"You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus."
Acts 20:27, NIV
"For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God."
The Bible is not meant for thumping. It is meant for reading and being taken to the heart. May the Holy Spirit illuminate our understanding as we read the entire Bible together!
TODAY'S OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 8-9:2
THE SEVEN LAMPS OF THE LAMPSTAND
It is wonderful to read through the Bible and discover how important symbols, such as the lampstand, are first introduced.
We first encountered the lampstand (the menorah) when the Lord revealed its design and purpose in Exodus 25:31.
Exodus 25:31 (NASB) 31 "Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.
The lampstand was to be made of one piece of beaten gold with an ornate base, an upright central shaft, and six branches extending upwards from the shaft to bear light, three on each side. The six cups for the flames are shaped like almond blossoms. An ornamental bulb and flower were upon each branch and four cups with ornamental bulbs and flowers were on the vertical shaft itself.
THE PURPOSE OF THE LIGHT
The Lord instructed that the purpose of the lamps was to ensure that all that was in front of it be fully illuminated. It was to give light to what was done in the Holy Place.
It was to shine on the Table of Showbread and the Altar of Incense.
The Table of Showbread is where the twelve loaves of unleavened bread were stacked. These loaves represented the 12 tribes of Israel. The Table of Showbread represented DIVINE FELLOWSHIP WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
The Altar of Incense represented DIVINE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD IN PRAYER.
Without the illumination of the Lampstand, true vertical fellowship with God and horizontal fellowship with His people would be impossible.
1 John 1:6-7 (NASB) 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
As believer-priests we need DIVINE ILLUMINATION, the Light of the Written Word (Psalm 119:130). We need the Living Word, the Word made flesh. We need the light of the Lord Jesus, His sinless life, His substitutionary death and burial as the Last Adam, His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father as the second man (1 Cor 15:45,47). We need the Light of the World (John 8:12) for DIVINE FELLOWSHIP. As the Psalmist said, "In Your light, we shall see light." (Psalm 36:9)
It is in the light of Christ that the service in the tabernacle finds its meaning. It is in the light of God's provision in the gospel that we can have fellowship with one another.
In the light of God's word we see that the ministry and offerings of the Tabernacle speak of the life and ministry of Christ. We see by the illumination of the Holy Spirit what we have of the righteousness, peace and joy of Jesus who lived a holy life on our behalf in order to be able to offer it to believers as a free gift. (Romans 14:17)
THE DEDICATION OF THE LEVITES
There was a public commissioning of the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle. It was not as elaborate as the ordination of the priests described in Leviticus 8.
The priests would be ritually cleansed with a full body shave, body wash, and three offerings— a burnt offering, sin offering and grain offering.
Then the whole congregation would lay hands on them, affirming the fact that the Levites would be standing in as their representatives before God, and as representatives for the first born sons of Israel in particular.
The Lord explains that the Levite would stand in place of every firstborn son of Israel to ensure that not all the people would be killed if one person violated the Law and came too near the Sanctuary.
THE RETIREMENT OF THE LEVITES
The Levites served from ages 25 to 50. Great strength and stamina was required for this work. Lighter jobs apart from the daily service of the Tabernacle and mentoring roles were appointed to those who were over fifty.
NUMBERS 9:1-14: THE FIRST COMMEMORATION OF THE PASSOVER
The first Passover in the Wilderness took place on the second year after the Exodus on the 14th day of the first month as commanded in Exodus 12. (There is no record that the Passover was celebrated on the first year after the Exodus event).
According to the Word of the Lord, those who failed to keep the Passover would be cut off from the people of God. This brought great concern to those who were 'ceremonially unclean' at the time. They approached Moses with their concern. Moses went to the Lord who spoke to him from the Holiest of All over the mercyseat between the two cherubim.
The Lord graciously gave a provision for those who wanted to keep the Passover but could not due to uncleanness (such as from touching a dead body) or being on a long journey. Those people exempted from celebrating the Passover on the appointed time could do so one month later, according to the regulations given for the ceremony.
THE PRINCIPLE OF FOLLOWING THE CLOUD
The community in the wilderness was not left to its own devices for guidance. They were not to chart their own course.
"At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out." (Numbers 9:23)
The nation had learned that they were to live "according to all the commandments that the LORD had given to Moses".
(The Painting on the left is by Pat Marvenko Smith c. 2000; prints are available at revelationillustrated.com)
Now we read of the people moving directly "at the command of the Lord". Moses was God's appointed man, but he was a man under authority. He was publically accountable to the authority of the Word and the cloud. The cloud was visible to all by day or night. Even in the darkest hour the cloud would be visible because of the fire that was in it. The cloud would lift and move when it was time for the children of Israel to pull up stakes and continue their journey. When the cloud descended and settled down, the Israelites would set up camp and abide until the cloud signaled their next move.
This must have cultivated a habit of watchfulness and readiness among the people of God. It is a habit that is encouraged throughout the Old and the New Testament.
34 "Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts. Proverbs 8:34 (NASB)
There are many spiritual benefits from maintaining 1) A Listening Ear; 2) A Watchful Eye; and 3) A Waiting Heart.
Question: 1. What is God saying to you?
Question: 2. How are you seeing the Lord at work in the world and in your life?
Question: 3. What are you trusting God for?
We must continually be yielded to the government of God, submitting our plans and our schedules to His guidance.
13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:13-14 NASB)
We are to be obedient to the objectively revealed will of God, the written Word, the commandments of the Lord given through the authors of Scripture. We are also to be yielded to the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit who, like the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, is able to prompt the redeemed people of God in a walk by faith with the Spirit setting the pace.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25 (NIV)
The leaders of the early church publically witnessed to their accountability to the Holy Spirit in leadership decisions.
28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" Acts 15:28 (NASB)
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 13:14-37
In Chapter 13 of his gospel, Mark gives his account of Jesus' teaching on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. It is called the "Olivet Discourse" and concludes with the "Olivet Parables".
After Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which actually occurred within the generation, forty years later in 70 AD, Peter, James, John and Andrew privately ask Jesus about future events. Jesus responded to their question by warning them not to be led astray (13:5) and to be on their guard (13:9). The gospel must be preached to all nations (13:10) and there will be great persecution of the church before Christ's return.
There will be counterfeit revivals which will mislead many.
21 "And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'(the Anointed One); or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;
22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. (Mark 13:21-22)
Jesus warns of what is referred to as "the abomination of desolation"
Mark 13:14 (NASB) 14 "But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
The Abomination of Desolation was first mentioned in the prophecies of Daniel (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11).
Some thought that this ancient prophecy had been fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanies (meaning 'God manifest') set up the image of Zeus in the Jerusalem temple in the second century BC.
The Encyclopedia Britannica reports:
When Antiochus returned from Egypt in 167 he took Jerusalem by storm and enforced its Hellenization.
But Jesus refers to this prophecy again as something to happen in the future, the ultimate desecration of the temple by the Antichrist.
Then will come a period of unprecedented tribulation. This is something unlike anything we have seen to date.
19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now--and never to be equaled again. (Mark 13:19;NIV)
This statement discounts the belief that this event has already taken place.
A warning is given that there will be insidious works of deception involving false Anointed Ones (Christs), false prophets, who will perform signs and wonders to lead people astray.
Jesus clarifies that signs and wonders are not clear indicators of God's presence. The fact that Jesus said that the character of the deception and delusion will be so strong that if possible, even the elect would be deceived into denying the true gospel, shows how careful we must be.
THE OLIVET PARABLES
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
Jesus says that we can learn from the fig tree. Whereas the fig tree is often associated as a symbol for Israel (Deut 8:8; 1 Kings 4:25; Luke 13:6) the Gospel of Luke warns us of taking the fig tree as representing Israel in this case:
Luke 21:29-31 (NIV)
"He told them this parable: 'Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.'"
Jesus is simply saying that when you see these things taking place (most likely verse 5-23) know that the return of Christ is near. He is at the door!
No other human being could say this without being ridiculed:
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Mark 13:31 (NIV)
Therefore let us make it a priority to take to heart the words of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, which He said testify of Him.
THE PARABLE OF THE RETURNING HOUSE OWNER
Whereas Matthew records five parables (the fig tree, the house owner and the thief, the good and wicked servants, the wise and foolish virgins, and the talents) Mark only gives two. The first, the parable of the fig tree, encourages us to be aware of the season. The second is a short version of the parable of servants in charge of a household while their Master is on a trip when his return date is not known. Be ready!
If Jesus is God why did He say that He did not know the day or the hour of His return? The gospels tell us that Jesus, though He was God, put aside His divine attributes for His earthly ministry in order to identify with the human experience. To be our perfect Redeemer he had to do things that He as God could not do unless He became man— learning (God is all-knowing), growing strong (God is all powerful) being tempted (God is not tempted) and, of course, suffering death (God is eternal). In emptying Himself of these divine prerogatives for the mission, He submitted to the will of the Father.
No one can predict the day of the Lord's return, so Jesus says, "Stay awake and be ready"!
Read this Psalm and tremble. How great God is!
The first six verses compose a prologue describing God coming to judge His people before all heaven and earth.
"The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken" (Psalm 50:1)
When we talk to God we need to be first reminded of Who He is and what He has already spoken.
The first sentence of the prologue has three names for God- EL-He is the all-powerful, the Mighty One. ELOHOM- He is God over all – the Maker of heaven and earth. YHWH- He is the LORD - the Self-Revealed God of covenant relationship, the God of Infinite Grace- "I AM" ever and always Who you need me to be.
He has spoken. For God Himself is Judge.
In the first section, verses 7-15, He condemns formalism, the emphasis on outward appearances of piety rather than the true meaning of worship. He is the All-Sufficient and All Knowing One and does not need our sacrifices. He is not to be treated as if He needed our religious attention.
In the second section, verses 16-21, the Lord condemns hypocrisy. Is our behavior reflecting what we know about Him?
Verses 22-23 give us an epilogue:
Psalm 50:22-23 (NASB) 22 "Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. 23 "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God."
"The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity. 30 The righteous will never be shaken, But the wicked will not dwell in the land."
Let us learn the way of the Lord (John 14:4) and follow!
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR BELGIUM
Area: 30,528 sq km
One of the Low Countries; often called The Crossroads of Western Europe.
Annual Growth: 0.54%
Capital: Brussels. Capital of the EU and headquarters of NATO
Answer to Prayer
The presence of many immigrant believers has also given impetus to the increase of faith. About half of all evangelicals in Belgium are foreigners, significant numbers of whom came to faith while in Belgium. Most praiseworthy is the very deliberate self-identification as "international churches" rather than "immigrant churches" – reflecting their multicultural nature and intention to reach out to Belgians and other Europeans.
Challenge for Prayer
Belgium has witnessed, for centuries, blood spilled on their land by other European powers, irrevocably wounding Belgian character and identity. The Protestant community is only in the last few decades recovering from the destruction of its 600 congregations by the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th Century. Pray that the defilement of past violence might be removed by Christ's own blood, and pray that true healing of past damages and fear might occur.
- Pastor David
MAR 6: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 6-7:89 | Mark 12:38-13:13 | Psalm 49:1-20 | Proverbs 10:27-28
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 6:7:89
Numbers 6 teaches us about the Nazarite vow. The word "Nazarite" comes from the Hebrew word "to separate". Therefore a Nazarite is "a separated one". The word 'separate' or 'separation' appears 16 times in this chapter.
The Nazarite vow could be taken by any person, male or female (see Numbers 30:4) who would voluntarily abstain from certain worldly privileges in order to dedicate themselves to serving God. The vow could be for a limited period, such as in the case of the Apostle Paul in Acts 21:23-27, or a lifetime, such as in the case of Samson (Judges 13:5;16:7), Samuel, or John the Baptist.
The degree of abstinence may vary but we learn from Numbers Chapter 6 that they restricted themselves from eating any product of the grape, the fruit of the vine. They abstained from cutting their hair, and from being polluted by a dead body, even if it were that of a close relative.
The vine was a symbol of the joy and prosperity that comes from this earth. Wine whetted the appetite for luxurious indulgence, inflamed passion and could intoxicate the brain.
The long hair was a symbol of that which comes from the physical head of mankind. Those who took the vow were mindful that they were under a headship that was not their own, but under the headship of God. It was a reminder of the vow that had been made. It was a sign of dedication and devotion to God. When the time of the vow was fulfilled, the hair would be shaved off the head and put on the altar's fire as an offering to the Lord. The devotee would also bring a sin offering, a burnt offering and a peace offering. There would also be an offering of consecration, a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, along with a grain offering and a drink offering.
The Nazarite was not to go near a dead body, including that of a close relative. Not only was the Nazarite separated from the strong pull of natural affection that might compromise one's devotion to God, they recognized by this action that they were separated from death unto life.
THE AARONIC BLESSING
Numbers 6:22- 27 contains the well known benediction which the LORD gave Moses to give Aaaron and his sons with which they were to bless the people of Israel. It is a prophetic picture of how God's favor is turned upon us through our perfect mediator Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6 (NASB) 6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Numbers 6:24-26 (NASB) 24 The LORD bless you, and keep you;
25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.'
Numbers 7 records the offerings of the leaders of the tribes who served as overseers. They were abundant and sacrificial, a cart for every two leaders and an ox for each one.
Moses distributed these gifts to Aaron's sons. Two carts and four oxen went to Gershon, whil 4 carts and 8 oxen went to Merari.
No carts and oxen were given to the Kohathites for they were to transport the holy furnishings on poles of wood carried upon their shoulders (A picture of our taking up our cross to bear the presence and ministry of the Lord).
For twelve days the leaders made their offerings, one leader per day.
The Chapter concludes first with Moses going into the tabernacle to speak with the Lord and then the Lord speaking audibly to Moses from above the mercyseat. Everything God says to us comes through the cross, by way of the mercyseat, representing the place where justice has been satisfied by the perfect work of redemption that Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
Numbers 7:89 (NASB) 89 Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, 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, so He spoke to him.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 12:38-13:13
The 12th chapter of Mark concludes with the dramatic contrast between those who play the role of being devoted to God and those who truly are.
The sacrificial offering of the widow who gave two copper coins as an offering to God was estimated by Jesus to be of more value than all the other contributors to the temple's treasury box. God sees not only how much we give, but how much we keep back. He can see what is inside the treasury box but what is in our hearts.
King Herod the Great had doubled the size of the temple from what it was during the reign of Solomon. When one of Jesus' disciples praised the wonderful buildings on the temple mount, Jesus predicted that not one stone would be left upon another which would not be torn down.
How accurately this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD! When Titus of Rome, the son of Vespasian, ransacked Jerusalem, the temple was destroyed completely. Tradition has it that the intense flames of the temple fire caused the abundant gold and silver to melt and run between the stones. Roman soldiers totally dismantled each stone to extract the valuable gold.
Jesus also gives his disciples signs that point to His return at the end of the age. He speaks of easily being misled by those who come in His name, even claiming to be Him! We are seeing more people in our day who claim to be Jesus. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda of Miami claims to be the second return of Christ, the anti-Christ, and he has thousands of followers who believe him because of the miracles they have seen and the teaching they have heard.
He is interviewed here on CNN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfgnNHJ2zQc&feature=related
Allan John Miller of Australia claims he is the real son of God. "I am Jesus" he says. He leads a growing group of followers called "Divine Truth" who believe they are bringing in the kingdom.
Psalm 49 reminds us that wealth cannot save us from death nor earn us a right standing with God. Wealth becomes a false security to many. Money cannot rescue you on this side of the grave or on the other side.
Psalm 49:10-12 (NASB) 10 For he sees that even wise men die; The stupid and the senseless alike perish And leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inner thought is that their houses are forever And their dwelling places to all generations; They have called their lands after their own names.
12 But man in his pomp will not endure; He is like the beasts that perish.
The redemption of the human soul is costly. Only the God-man Jesus Christ can ransom us from the grave and redeem us from the curse of the law.
Psalm 49:15 (NASB) 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah.
"The fear of the LORD prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 28 The hope of the righteous is gladness, But the expectation of the wicked perishes."
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS: Belgium
According to "Operation World", although confined to a small part of the population, the evangelical faith in Belgium has never been stronger.
Belgium is a deeply divided nation. For 2,000 years, its territory has straddled the cultural divide between the Latin/Romance and Germanic worlds. Walloon-Flemish rivalry and resentments color the use of language, the economy, politics, religious life and worldviews of both communities. The growing immigrant population adds a third angle to this dynamic. An eventual breakup of Belgium is within the realm of possibility; this defining issue has paralyzed political progress. Pray that national leaders at every level may have wisdom regarding this complex challenge. Pray that the Church might be a profound example of unity to the wider society, and that real reconciliation and peace might be shaped in Belgium.
- Pastor David
MAR 5: TODAY'S ONE YEAR BIBLE READINGS
Numbers 4:1-5:31 | Mark 12:18-37 | Psalm 48:1-14 | Proverbs 10:26
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 4-5:31
Numbers 4 teaches us that God cares for every detail of our life and our worship, both individually and as a community of those with whom He has called to walk in the wilderness of this world.
When the people of God are on the move it is imperative that the Lord's presence be among them. The Lord agreed to dwell among them on the terms of His covenant. His testimony in the tabernacle, which is the testimony of Jesus, the gospel, spells out what is required in order for God's presence to be among them.
The thoughts of God must be given careful attention in all that we do.
There is a divine order. Every member of the community counts (and is numbered). Every member is given an assignment as a sacred trust.
There are clear lines of accountability within the ranks.
We are to walk and work together according to the assignments we have been given as the people of God.
The success of the people of God bearing witness to God's purpose and plan depends upon their overall submission to His directives.
This reminds us that God has a plan for His called out ones, the church, to walk together in local assemblies. Each member of that community has an assignment that is vital to the purpose of the whole - to bear witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The mission of the local church is clear:
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
His presence goes with us as we follow His directives.
The Kohathites were given the responsibility to transport the ark, the table of showbread, the lampstand, golden altar of incense, the articles for ministry and the bronze altar. They were assigned to carry the holy furnishings of the Tabernacle, but were forbidden to look upon or touch them. First Aaron and his sons had to pack and cover them with coverings of cloth and waterproof hides of sea cows. Each item of furniture was to be covered with a particular color of cloth, with the sea cow cover put on in a certain order. Some ark of the covenant had the sea cow cover underneath and the blue cover visible outside. The table had both blue and scarlet cloth covers with the sea cow cover visible to the people. All the other items transported by the Kohathites had the sea cow cover. There was no outward beauty in these, as they prophetically picture Jesus in his earthly humanity.
Isaiah 53:2 (NASB) 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
What people noticed about Jesus in his earthly ministry was the 'heavenly blue', his 'otherly qualities', which demonstrated He was communicating a life from heaven. The ark of the testimony, covered with blue cloth, bore the tables of stone upon which were written the commandments. This represents Jesus' testimony of love that fulfills the law. People also saw the miracles. This is reflected in the resurrection life of Aaron's rod that budded after it had been cut down. People were attracted as Jesus fed them spiritual nourishment in his teaching, bread from heaven. But the glory of God's full testimony is only revealed when we see Christ Jesus crucified, risen and ascended, His blood on the mercyseat. Until we see God's glory in the gospel of the finished work of Christ, the coverings continue to veil Who He truly is from our eyes.
The Kohathites, who carried the sacred furniture, were under the supervision of Aaron's son, Eleazar, who carried the anointing oil and sweet incense (Numbers 4:16).
The Gershonites, who carried the curtains (the outer court curtains and entrance curtain) and the ropes and equipment for the Tabernacle curtains were under the charge of Aaron's son, Ithamar (Numbers 4:28).
The Merarites, who were assigned to carry the frame, the crossbars, posts and bases for the Tabernacle and the outer curtain, were also under the oversight of Ithamar (Numbers 4:33).
This reminds us to appreciate every member of the local church. Each one has an assignment that contributes to the maintenance of the life of the whole. Each one walks in a loving relationship with the others and humbly submits to the directions that God has given through those who have been appointed as overseers.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NASB) 12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.
Hebrews 13:17 (NASB) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Numbers 6 teaches us that it was imperative that purity be maintained in the camp. All that were unclean in any way were to be put outside the camp. This does not mean that they were banished or left to perish, but that they were not permitted to maintain their proper place and service within the tribes of their people. Those who were ceremonially unclean according to the Law (suffering an infectious skin disease, suffering a discharge or having touched a dead body) were sent outside the camp.
There was a law demanding full restitution for wrongs. (5:5-10).
Most unusual is the Test for the Unfaithful Wife. We learn that if a husband was suspicious, but could not prove, that his wife was guilty of having an extra-marital affair, there was a recourse provided in the law. The husband could prepare a jealousy offering consisting of grain, without oil or incense upon it, and bring his wife and the offering to the priest. The priest would take holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor in it. The priest is to write upon a scroll the curses that are to come upon those who transgress and then wash them clean off the scroll into the bitter water. The priest then takes the grain offering from her hands and wave it before the Lord bringing a handful of it upon the altar as a memorial. She then drinks the bitter water. If she is innocent of the adultery her husband suspects, no harm will come to her, she will be acquitted of all charges and will be able to have children.
The passage highlights the perils of jealousy between a husband and a wife and the importance, in the interests of national strength, of a strong and pure family. The drinking of this water was harmless in itself. Only an act of God would bring proof of guilt.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Mark 12:18-37
Jesus answers the Sadducees and demonstrates that He is an authority on both the Scriptures and the power of God. The Sadducees deny the resurrection. Jesus affirms that those who died are counted as alive with the Scriptural evidence, citing God's self-revelation in the Torah – "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", not the God of the dead, but the living. He also knows what life is like in the resurrection. He has been there. He informs them that when the dead rise they will neither marry or be given in marriage.
Jesus is asked by a teacher of the law, "What is the greatest commandment?" Jesus replies with the Shema (Deut 6:4-5) and the exhortation to love God with all one's heart with all one's soul, mind and strength and then to love one's neighbor as one's self (Leviticus 19:18,34).
The teacher of the law agreed that these commands were more important than ceremonial rectitude.
What is most astonishing is that Jesus has the authority to tell the teacher of the law where he stands with God.
Mark 12:34 (NASB) 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Jesus asks a question while teaching in the temple courts. He then explains from Psalm 110:1 that the Messiah, the Son of David, is in fact, greater than David, in that he is the Son of God.
Psalm 110:1 (NASB) 1 The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
Those who trust in the Lord find complete resource in Him. The city of our God speaks not only of Jerusalem, but prophetically of the people of God under the rule of God; ultimately what we see in the New Jerusalem.
There is symbolic imagery here: "His holy mountain" speaking of God's government; "in the far north"- an idiom for the place of God's throne.
When Jesus refers to Jerusalem in Matthew 5:35 he gives it the name the Psalmist ascribes to it in Ps 48:2
Matthew 5:34-35 (NASB) 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
Jerusalem is the place to which Christ will return and therefore we can think of the benefits of His righteous rule as we read this psalm. One great benefit is found in verse 14.
Psalm 48:14 (NASB) 14 For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.
"Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy one to those who send him.
Let's not be a bother that people want to get rid of. Let us be diligent to do what we have been sent to do!"
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS: Belarus
Area: 207,600 sq km
Landlocked; fertile agricultural land with extensive forests on the North European plains. Surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Smallest of the three Slavic nations of the former USSR.
Population: 9,587,940 Annual Growth: -0.47%
Answer to Prayer
The believing Church in Belarus is growing, even as Belarus's overall population slides downward. Much of the growth occurs in the context of persecution and state hostility, and often believers must meet in difficult circumstances. But the Church is definitely increasing in numbers, in maturity and in confidence.
Challenge for Prayer
The cultural and political dominance by Russia and Poland lasted for many centuries. Belarus itself lacks, to some degree, its own identity. Pray for a truly indigenous expression of Belarusian Christianity to develop and then spread using all methods: church services, theological education, literature, broadcasting.
The Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 occurred in the Ukraine, but affected Belarus most severely. Subsequent environmental and human devastation is significant with 20% of the nation's land affected, two million people uprooted and several thousand dead or dying from radiation-induced cancer.
Religious groups face increasing pressure from government officials. These include Orthodox expressions that do not submit to the state approved Moscow patriarchate.
Evangelical Christians are increasing despite concerted opposition and intensifying persecution. The state steadfastly maintains laws that forbid meeting in homes for worship, forming congregations of less than 20 people, opening religious schools, ministering outside of the home city, and importing and distributing non-state approved literature. The inability to buy or rent property for worship is the biggest problem for evangelicals.
Pray for the training of new leaders. As the Church grows, the new port-communist generation needs to be disciple and shaped according to Biblical values. This must be done amid repressive laws that restrict meeting, training and education.
- Pastor David