TODAY’S READING- THE BOOK OF NUMBERS- EVERY NAME COUNTS; NEW TESTAMENT- JESUS AT 12
Today our reading in the Old Testament begins with Numbers 26.
Another list of names— How boring! Or so we might think. But this is not the case.
After the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, those who scoured the lists of names of survivors did not consider the process boring. They carefully read the lists of those who found shelters hoping that they would find the names of missing loved ones.
You will notice that the only names from the first census of warriors that are found in the census taken 38 years later are Joshua and Caleb.
We do recognize some surprising survivors among those listed in Chapter 26.
Although Korah, Dathan and Abiram died with the company of conspirators, the sons of Korah are listed with the new generation that are ready to enter Canaan.
“The sons of Korah, however, did not die.” (Numbers 26:11)
What other observations can we make?
We recognize the names of the sons of Jacob; although deceased, their descendants continue to gather under their banners. This is another reminder that we are leaving a legacy for others to follow. What would a banner of your life look like?
The number of fighting men at the end of the 40-year period, 601,730 is similar, but not an increase, to the number that they had at the beginning- 603,550. The reason for this is sobering. Unbelief. The unbelief was manifested in murmuring, idolatry, lust, disobedience, rebellion, jealousy, greed and spiritual compromise which caused many to turn to the worship of Baal. Despite more than the 24,000 deaths recorded in Chapter 25, the Lord had been faithful to bless and replenish this nomadic multitude.
The listing of the new generation reminds us of the continuity of purpose in the Divine Enterprise.
All the nations of the earth are linked to this story of a primitive tribe in the wilderness!
How? The blessing given to Abraham was intended to bring a blessing to all the tribes upon the earth. God’s promise to Abraham was global in scope. World redemption would come through the promised seed of Abraham.
In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (GENESIS 12:3). “Your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 22:17-18; 28:14). The Apostle Paul explains that the Promised Seed of Abraham is Christ (Galatians 3:16). “In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham comes to the Gentiles” so that “we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14) In the future we will hear “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
All nations and every generation are connected to this story.
We learn also that, ultimately, God’s sovereign purposes will not be thwarted by human unbelief. A generation may perish through their disobedience, forfeiting their privilege of entrance into the Promised Land, but the day of entrance will come. God will raise up those who will do His will if others fail to do so. How much more preferable it is to be among those who actually accomplish God’s choice purposes instead of leaving them for others.
May we all have the spirit of Joshua and Caleb! May we not shrink back in fear or unbelief. But let us possess what God has called us to possess by resting in Christ’s sufficiency and yielding ourselves to God in full obedience.
This verse from tomorrow’s reading is a fitting summary:
Numbers 26:63-65 These are those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.  But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.  For the Lord had said of them, “They shall surely die in the wilderness.” And not a man was left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: LUKE 2:36-52
Luke provides a well ordered and well researched account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth in his gospel. He has interviewed many of his subjects and provides helpful historical details to inform our understanding of the gospel events.
Anna is 84 years old when she prophesies that Jesus is God’s answer to all those looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). Anna’s husband died after they had been married only seven years. She had devoted her remaining days to the service of the temple, with fasting and prayer. While many of the religious leaders were unaware of the birth of the true Messiah, Anna was exercised in spiritual discernment and rejoiced that the hour in which God would fulfill His promise had come.
Like the prophet Simeon, Anna was privileged to see the answers to her prayers in her lifetime.
Luke is careful to note that Jesus was brought up under the Law of Moses and that the grace of the Lord was upon Him (Luke 2:39). Jesus grew strong physically, intellectually, and spiritually.
40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:40 (NASB)
The next scene that Luke chooses to record in his narrative takes place when Jesus is 12 years old. He is now old enough to participate more fully in the feasts of Israel. He accompanies his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He is old enough to be a “son of the law” (in the Hebrew, ‘bar mitzvah’), for he has reached the recognizable age of accountability. At this age, a child becomes an apprentice in his father’s business. Jesus would take more responsibility in his father’s household.
Prior to the age of twelve it would have been likely that a child would travel in the company of his mother. At the age of twelve, the boy is now treated as a man, and would travel with his father.
It could have been the case that Jesus went down to Jerusalem on previous occasions, and perhaps this occasion, with his mother. It is easy to understand how each parent might assume that Jesus was with the other on the return trip from Jerusalem as Jesus was at the age of this transition. When both parents realize that their son is with neither of them, they go back to Jerusalem where, after three days, they find Jesus in the temple. There, he is observed sitting in the midst of the teachers, BOTH listening to them AND asking them questions. What is most astonishing is that Jesus is ANSWERING the questions.
47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. Luke 2:47 (NASB)
Jesus’ answer to his parents’ question made sense in the light of his reaching the age of accountability as a son of the law, for from this time on He would be assigned to His father’s business:
Luke 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (NASB)
Luke 2:49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (KJV)
The Greek text does not include the word for business or household; only the word ‘Father”. The Kenneth Wuest translation puts it this way:
“Had you not known that it is necessary in the nature of the case for me to be occupied in the things of my Father?” (Luke 2:49)
Here is a good verse from Psalm 60 for you to memorize today:
12 Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries.
Psalm 60:12 (NASB)
Verses 1-11 contain David’s cry for help. “Deliverance by man is in vain”. It is vital to know where true help comes from. Let us not forsake calling upon Him in prayer and giving thanks to Him for the victory He gives.
TODAY’S PROVERB: PROVERBS 11:15
Proverbs 11:15 (NASB) 15 He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it, but he who hates being a guarantor is secure.
The Message paraphrase captures the meaning of this proverb well: “Whoever makes deals with strangers is sure to get burned; if you keep a cool head, you’ll avoid rash bargains.”
Brazil has become a leading mission-sending nation with great emphasis on the unevangelized and on church planting. Brazilian’s faith, enthusiasm, adaptability and talents (football, music, dancing) open many doors, but poor preparation and support can undermine all these. Pray for:
- More who will go to the field and more churches who will send them. While just under 2,000 is a formidable number of missionaries sent, given the mass of Brazil’s evangelicals, the sending ratio is actually very poor. The large majority of congregations have no involvement in missions, and the explosive growth of missions in the 1980s and 1990s may not be characteristic of 2000-2020. There is still great and untapped potential.
- Mobilization and facilitation. Associação de Missões Tranculturais Brasileiras (AMTB) mobilizes churches into mission and serves as a linking network for 35 of the largest Brazilian cross-cultural mission agencies.
There is a challenge of the less reached regions. Brazil’s evangelical population is very unevenly distributed; the northeast and south in particular lack an evangelical presence.
3. The squalid favelas. These slums are a highly visible blight in every major city- nearly 20% of Brazil’s population and up to one third of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo’s populations live in the slums (there are now 600 favelas in Rio alone). They were swelled initially by rural-urban migration and more recently downwardly mobile middle classes. Criminal gang lords often preside over a web of extortion, drugs, violence, prostitution and disease, but the police’s heavy handed and frequently corrupt approach often makes them as much a part of the problem as the solution. However, the desperation has also brought responsiveness to the outreach directed there, often by Pentecostals who have come from the same background as those they are attempting to reach.
4. The poor and underdeveloped Northeast has Brazil’s lowest percentage of evangelicals, in particular, Paiuí and Ceará. The poor Sertão hinterlands contain hundreds of municipalities that are less than 5% evangelical. There is a great exodus of the poor to the Amazon and the cities of the northeast. Pray for a wise ministry approach that weds church-planting with relief and development through an effective Brazilian and expatriate missionary presence.
5. The Amazon basin, larger than the whole of non-Russian Europe, is of huge global importance because of its oxygen generating forests and biodiversity. The challenges for outreach are the pioneer settlements springing up along new roads through the forests and the 36,000 yet unchurched river communities accessible only by boat.
The only city with more Japanese than São Paulo, Brazil, is Tokyo! An estimated 1.5 million Japanese live in Brazil. Approximately 60% of Japanese Brazilians claim to be Catholic, but ancestor worship, Shintoism and Buddhism also tend to be part of their practice. There are a growing number of evangelical churches among Japanese Brazilians. Over 300,000 Japanese Brazilians have moved to Japan, where they face discrimination. Pray for a strengthened witness to Japanese Brazilians.
THE NEED FOR DISCIPLESHIP.
There is still Biblical illiteracy among the Christians. There is a need to train believers to read the Bible for themselves.
Our discipleship course: “The 12 Daily Habits for Healthy Discipleship” is also now translated into Portuguese.
One of the top needs in Brazil, according to OPERATION WORLD, is for effective appropriate TRAINING.
“Rapid growth…has generated a dearth of trained leaders. With over 200,000 evangelical congregations, traditional education models are inadequate to meet the need. Many are making pastoral training a top priority now; Baptists, Presbyterian and Foursquare are examples of such groups developing new seminaries, TEE programs and in-service training opportunities. …Pray for wise and creative solutions to this challenge.”
PRAYER: Father in heaven, You declare the end from the beginning. You know all things and number the hair on our heads. Forgive us for our many lapses into unbelief, when we fail to realize Your infinite knowledge, love and care. May we be numbered with those who persevere in faith and love and grow in the knowledge of Your grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742