Numbers

Tuesday Devotional: Numbers 11

Read Numbers 11:4-35 bible

How quickly we begin to crave other food. We are beings of substantial appetites, yet we are so quick to exaggerate our physical needs beyond the point of reason in response to an overflowing and seemingly never-ending stream of temptation that surrounds and rises from within us on a daily basis. Ever so quickly we overlook the provision given us in exchange for the desires that escape us. We turn up our noses at a healthy piece of fruit filled with vitamins and nutrients that provide our bodies with strength and energy, while leaping at the opportunity to devour a snack that has little to offer our bodies nutritionally but effectively satisfies a craving of the mind. We are beings so quick to want and so quick to forget what we have. We are beings so susceptible to the influence of others that in the blink of an eye we turn our backs on that which has given us much and redirect our eyes on something that has given us nothing at all.

All too often we forget the numerous ways that God has blessed our lives because we allow our eyes to wander away from him and on to the lives of others that surround us. We overshadow his provision in our own lives because we find ourselves obsessed by how he is providing in the life of someone we know. As quick as we are to beg for his provision we are equally quick to indulge jealousy of someone else’s provision. We are much like a child on Christmas morning who receives a gift and rejoices, until the next gift is opened and the joy becomes bitterness and jealousy. This typically has nothing to do with the gift itself. It arises out of the craving for something you don’t have but that you don’t necessarily need or even want. The astonishing thing about this tendency is that God does not withhold provision upon seeing it. God is so ready to be seen that he not only receives these ridiculous complaints with grace and understanding but then responds to our requests in a way that only he will be noticed and glorified. God is so in tune with what we need and what we can handle that the reason there is ever a withholding of anything in our lives is that we are not quite ready for it.

However, if receiving what we ask for, regardless of our inability to handle our request, ultimately redirects our eyes back to the Father that knows best, God allows us to crave, reach and take hold of that which has the power to destroy us. In the near destruction brought about by our own hands at the impulse of our own wills are we then able to see the weakness of our own hearts and the strength of his. Our prayers should never be to ask God for what we think we need or feel we want. Our prayers should be to ask God for what we are ready to receive. Only in committing our desires to his will we come into a life that is abundant in the good things that can help us and avoid the things that have the power to destroy us.

The Impossible Religion: Devotion

This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

  • Impossible Devotion
  • Impossible Standards
  • Impossible Trust
  • Impossible Power
  • Impossible Purpose

Impossible Devotion (Numbers 6)

This particular chapter in the book of Numbers, found in the first five books of the Bible, also known as “the Torah,” discusses a particular vow taken by some, but not all, Israelites.  This vow was “the vow of the Nazirite.”

For the purpose of time we will not discuss the details of the vow in depth. The main idea is that it was a vow of extreme devotion to God.

To many people, Christianity is where you “try your best.” But, deep down, we do this with a prepared surrender to the idea that we cannot achieve the devotion to God that is not merely suggested, but expected.  This rebellion and resignation arises out of a distinct misunderstanding of Christianity and the relationship to God depicted in the scriptures.  This rebellious resignation implies that the purpose of Christianity is to try your best, out of your own power, to please an impossible-to-please deity.

The problem with this perception is that, throughout the entire Bible, God speaks directly to his people, telling them that if they don’t want to serve him, if they don’t want to worship him, if they don’t want to love him, then there is no place for half-hearted attempts.

The Nazirite vow was chosen, not compulsory.  God did not demand this life from all of his people.  However, the heart of the Nazirite vow is a life that God’s people should ultimately desire.  The life of the Nazirite was one of complete and utter devotion to a God that deserved such worship and commitment. The Nazirite understood that living this way was the only way to justify the balance of what God had already done and what we could never do.  The Nazirite vow revealed a commitment to God that seems unrealistic: a level of self-denial that is offensive to some and impossible to the rest.

The only way in which to desire such a vow, such a life, and the only way by which to maintain this level of devotion is to understand the reason behind the choice to take it.

Taking a Nazirite vow does not mean that you try harder than the rest and therefore will receive greater praise from the creator.  Rather, the individual perceived this option as the choice that would best honor the relationship between a “Creator” and his “Creation.”  Taking a vow like that only arises out of the knowledge and understanding that anything less would be unworthy worship and service given God’s sacrifice for us already.

Being a Christian with the commitment like a Nazirite is impossible, if one approaches Christianity from the perspective that following God is simply something to add to your repertoire of good deeds and characteristics.  The vow is impossible from the “point-earning” perspective.

The only way that this level of devotion is possible and, more importantly, acceptable to God, is if it is born out of a new identity that surrenders the heart totally to God, the only one worthy of such praise.  Only a person remade in the image of Christ can willingly and wholeheartedly undertake such a vow.

Tuesday Devotional: Numbers 35

bibleNumbers 35:1-5 

On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, the Lord said to Moses,“Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. Then they will have towns to live in and pasturelands for the cattle they own and all their other animals.“The pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend a thousand cubits from the town wall. Outside the town, measure two thousand cubits on the east side, two thousand on the south side, two thousand on the west and two thousand on the north, with the town in the center. They will have this area as pastureland for the towns.

Being a Christian in the world is difficult.  God has never been vague or unclear concerning this fact.  However, as people find strength in numbers, we tend to fortify ourselves with people who share our views and beliefs, to protect ourselves from those who do not.  We tend to isolate ourselves in “Christian Groups” because we feel threatened by the difficulties of living in a world where the word of God is mocked and hated.  We seek these “Christian Fortifications” because we doubt the promise of God to provide for us in our isolation, but we trust the provision of a Christian community.

These groups tend to make us feel safe. We like to feel safe.  Yet being a Christian is not only loving God for what he did, but loving God for what he continues to do.  How do we know if God is clearly at work and present in our lives? When no alternate explanation for provision exists.  Topping off a beverage makes very little physical difference to the fullness of a glass.  However, when you fill an empty glass, it clearly goes from nothing to something—a noticeable difference made.  The only way to see God’s promise to provide is when you are entirely reliant on his provision. This often occurs when we are alone and without.

The only way to experience God’s desire to fill our lives day after day is to be daily emptied out in preparation for his fulfillment.  Taking your faith in Jesus beyond the safety of Christian fellowship amounts to emptying yourself of the securities of people and accepting the safety of God.  We are called not to be groups of stationary, isolated Christians.  We are called in order to be sent.  We are blessed in order to become a blessing to others.  The only way we can bless those around us is to be with them, in the presence of those who do not believe.  The yeast in dough impacts the entire batch; Christians are called to impact the entire world.  Immersing ourselves in Christian communities while cutting ourselves off completely from the “outside” world is serving our own desire to feel safe.  Immersing ourselves in the trust of God and living in this world as a member of this world is serving God.