TODAY’S READING FROM THE ONE YEAR BIBLE: WALK IN THE LIGHT AND KEEP IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT
“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) reveals 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
20 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 20:20-21 (NIV)
27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:27, NIV)
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 8-9:23.
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 Light of 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 Christ Jesus, 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)
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 were 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 in 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 to the right 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.
Questions for the watchful Christian: 1. What is God saying to you? 2. How are you seeing the Lord at work in the world and in your life? and 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 Sovereign leadership and 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 publicly 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”.
Mount of Olives from the Kidron Valley, courtesy of BiblePlaces.com
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 BC, he took Jerusalem by storm and enforced its Hellenization.
But Jesus refers to Daniel’s prophecy 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. Later, the Apostle Paul will teach that the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, who, in accord with the activity of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders, will be endowed with all the deception of wickedness.
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
Jesus says that we can learn from the fig tree. Whereas the fig tree is often associated as a symbol for Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Kings 4:25; Luke 13:6) that is not the obvious meaning here:
29 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.”
Luke 21:29-31 (NIV)
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 from the Mount of Olives Discourse (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. The message is to “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 our 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”!
READING FROM THE PSALMS- PSALM 50:1-23
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.”
READING FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs 10:29-30 (NASB) 29 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.
Population: 10,697,588 Annual Growth: 0.54%
Capital: Brussels. Capital of the EU and headquarters of NATO
HDI Rank: 14 of 182 (UN Human Development Reports 2009)
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.
PRAYER: Gracious Father of lights, You have given us the light of Your Word and the Light of the World. We thank You for the gift of our Redeemer King, the Lord Jesus, who shed His blood, that we might be delivered from the dominion of darkness and brought into His kingdom. Holy Spirit, continue to illuminate our understanding and energize our walk in the power of Your love. Lord Jesus, we want to be aware of the hour, with listening ears, watchful eyes, and waiting hearts that anticipate the day when we will see You face to face. Father, grant us spiritual alertness and wisdom this day, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742