Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

Joshua 11:16-12:24

Summary of Conquests

 

Last night, I watched a movie that I had last seen in the movie theatre. Now, last night it was on TBS. It was the movie, Interstellar, starring Matthew McConoughey and Anne Hathaway. It is one of those movies that messes with your head. It is well-written but it deals with some heady scientific concepts. The theory of relativity plays a front and center role in the movie. That is a pretty high-brow concept to be the star concept of a movie. The movie does not dumb down the science and the theory and it challenges you to consider the concepts of their being different dimensions of life that we are not aware of outside of time, spatial relationships, and motion.

 

The story centers on Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper, a former NASA pilot turned farmer, who discovers mysterious coordinates to a top-secret government project. He is recruited by his old colleague Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a journey into the nether regions of space to, essentially, find a new home for humanity. While it’s somewhat glossed over in the film, the reason for this mission is because the Earth’s resources are dwindling rapidly, with the “blight” rendering the planet incapable of yielding any crops except for corn, although that will be over soon as well.

 

At any rate, despite the protests of his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), Cooper joins this all-important mission aboard the Endurance spacecraft alongside Brand’s daughter and biologist Amelia (Anne Hathaway), physicist Romily (David Gyasi), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and two androids known as TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). Their mission is to enter a wormhole and explore the three planets orbiting the black hole Gargantua, which are named Miller, Mann and Edmunds, after the astronauts who explored them in the previous Lazarus missions. In Interstellar, Cooper wrestles with the decision to join the Endurance, since he knows he will be separated from his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) and son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) for an unknown amount of time. He doesn’t know then that years upon years will pass, with Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck) growing up never knowing if and/or when their father will come back. It’s Murph’s undying faith that Coop will return that provides a heart-wrenching payoff.

 

What a quandry this film proposes, saving humanity (where through the vagaries of the relativity you only age a few years) at the expense of spending time with your family over a period of sixty or so years on earth. Which would you do? Do something that no one on earth will possibly remember that will save their lives or stay on earth, not take the risk and suffer and die with your family as the planet wastes away. Would you rather take the risk of failing in an effort to save humanity for which you may never get credit for and risk alienating and destroying family relationships to save something greater, humanity?

 

Sometimes, we have choices like that to make. We can take the easy way out or we can do the hard work whose fruit might not been seen in this lifetime or, at least, not for many years. We may choose comfort over doing hard work that may take many years to realize. We see this in this passage. Remember, back in the first approach to the Promised Land, the Israelites did not want to do the hard work of conquering the Promised Land. Wandering in the wilderness for 40 years was preferable to having to fight and claw and scratch out the conquest of the Promised Land. Remember, God promised them the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, but they did not want to do the work that was necessary to obtain it. Here in this passage, we see just how hard that work was. Let’s read it together now:

 

 

 

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

 

21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. 22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

 

23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.

List of Defeated Kings

 

12 These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah:

 

2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.

 

He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge—from the middle of the gorge—to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. 3 He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee[a] to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah.

 

4 And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

 

5 He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

 

6 Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.

 

7 Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. 8 The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. These were the kings:

9 the king of Jericho       one

the king of Ai (near Bethel)         one

10 the king of Jerusalem              one

the king of Hebron          one

11 the king of Jarmuth  one

the king of Lachish          one

12 the king of Eglon       one

the king of Gezer             one

13 the king of Debir        one

the king of Geder             one

14 the king of Hormah  one

the king of Arad               one

15 the king of Libnah     one

the king of Adullam       one

16 the king of Makkedah             one

the king of Bethel            one

17 the king of Tappuah one

the king of Hepher          one

18 the king of Aphek      one

the king of Lasharon      one

19 the king of Madon    one

the king of Hazor             one

20 the king of Shimron Meron   one

the king of Akshaph       one

21 the king of Taanach one

the king of Megiddo      one

22 the king of Kedesh    one

the king of Jokneam in Carmel  one

23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)        one

the king of Goyim in Gilgal         one

24 the king of Tirzah      one

thirty-one kings in all.

 

In this passage, we see that much of the conquest of the land of Canaan seems to have happened quickly (we can read about it in just a few pages), but it actually took seven (7) years. We often expect quick changes in our lives and quick victories over sin, over circumstances that oppress us, over obstacles to our successful enjoyment of life. However, our journey with God is a lifelong process and any changes in our lives or victories over that which we want to conquer may take time. It is easy to grow impatient with God and feel like giving up hope because things are moving too slowly, according to our standards. When we are too close to a situation, it is difficult to see progress. But when we get a chance to reflect, we can see that God never stopped working. In this passage, we see that this information is a summary of the first half of the book of Joshua. It lists kings and nations conquered by Joshua both east and west of the Jordan River. The accumulation of evidence here suggests that, even though it takes time sometimes, obedience to the Lord will result in victory and not just some quick fix.

 

That’s the thing that we must grapple with in our relationship with the Lord. If we are to grow in our relationship with Him sometimes we have to put in the work that we may not see immediate results from it. We want quick answers to our prayers. We want a “if I do this Lord, you will do that immediately” relationship with the Lord. Just think of how long Moses had to work in Midian before God called him to lead His people. Just think of Moses leading Israel in the desert for 40 years and not getting to even go into the Promised Land. He never got to see the fruition of the conquest, but without Moses’ efforts Israel would have never made it back to the Promised Land. Just think of Joseph toiling away in prison, falsely convicted of a crime he did not commit, mind you, for 12 years. Twelve years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but he continued being faithful to God (even when there was not immediate results). Jesus lived for 30 years in the flesh before He began His ministry. Was it wasted time? No. It was necessary for Jesus, the God in the flesh component of the Trinity, to know the feel, the touch, the everything of our merely mortal existence. He knows what it is like to cry over loved ones who have passed. He knows the joy of life’s great events in our lives. He knows pain of hitting his thumb with a hammer. He knows the pain of being beaten within an inch of His mortal existence. He knows it all from the human point of view. It took thirty years. Also, think of Jesus from His humanity’s perspective knowing that His death on the cross would give us a way to be reconciled forever with God but He had to endure real human suffering and a gruesome death for that to happen. He even asked the Father to take that cup from Him. What a choice that would be do something that will matter for eternity but you gotta put in the work on the cross that nobody will notice until they understand that you were not just human but you were the fully divine presence of God. Millions of people will ignore what you did. Millions more won’t even recognize that you even existed. But in order for everyone to have access to the Father through your payment on the cross, you must do this.

 

Sometimes, we must do the hard things to grow in Christ. We must do more than just what’s easy. We may suffer hardships as a result of our faith but the rewards go far beyond the here and now. Is God asking you to do something hard that will take a long time to see any benefits of. Sometimes being a Christ follower involves obedience without any tangible earthly results. But we must do them any way because God has directed us to do it. We may have a cushy life and a comfortable life now but God may be calling us to do something that is really hard? Are you willing to trade the here and now benefits of this life but miss out on God’s eternal blessings? What is God calling you to do that is hard and you are shying away from it? What if you miss the real eternal blessing that God has in store because what lies ahead seems to hard? The safety of here and now pales in comparison to the blessings that come from obedience.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 27:12-23 (Part 2)

Joshua Chosen to Lead Israel

 

Go and make disciplines is one of the most famous lines uttered by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. He did not say “Go and make converts!” He said “Go and make disciples!” There’s a big difference. Jesus meant for us to not only lead people to the cross and accept Christ as their Savior but to teach them what it means to live a godly life and to grow into being more and more like Jesus everyday and to reach out and share the good news with others. It was to be an ongoing repeatable process. This was practical advance to not only to ensure that the church survived but also to ensure the spread of the gospel to the far corners of the earth by people who did not directly know Jesus Christ the person who physically walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. Jesus did not want the spread of the gospel to be dependent on his physical presence. Otherwise, His mission would have failed. Christianity would have been a local phenomenon in Jerusalem and nowhere else and would have died out within a generation or two. That did not happen though. Christianity is now the largest religion in the world, by most reckonings, and has been for many centuries. It all started with Jesus training up his direct disciples. They lived together, worked together, worshiped together, had fun together, worked hard together, for three years. Jesus invested in these men daily. He practiced the principle of “You watch. I do. We do together. You do. I watch. You do it alone.” Although they were often clueless, after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became the most amazing force of change the world has ever seen.

 

This is practical advice for church leaders whether you are paid staff or not. If you are a ministry leader at your church because God has made a way for you to be in that position because He has given you the passion and spirit for your ministry, you would be wise to follow Jesus’ example during his earthly ministry. The survival of your church is at stake. As leaders in the church, we must continually be developing the next leader. We must have the next man up mentality. We must identify those who are reporting to us in our ministry as those who have the potential to replace us. This is true not only in ministry but in business as well but we will focus on the church here.

 

We have two great laboratories of two megachurches who looked at leadership differently and we have seen how those two megachurches played out. Mars Hill Church in the Seattle, WA area was one of our nation’s largest churches. It had a huge central campus church and, I don’t know exactly, but maybe 20-25 satellite campuses in the state of Washington. It was a huge church and was doing great things for the Lord. They were reaching people who previously were unreached by the gospel. The lead pastor of the church, Mark Driscoll, became famous as a result. He became a famous author of many books on the Christian life and on Christian leadership. However, as time progressed, Mark succumbed to the celebrity of his position and became arrogant to the point that the elders of the church asked that he step down and when he didn’t, they removed him from his position. Within a year and a half, just a year and a half, the megachurch that was once the largest or at least one of the top 5 largest churches in America imploded and disbanded. The church is no more. It is sad to say but Mars Hill Church, after taking years to gather the momentum that it had, was gone in a flash. Why? Lack of leadership development that would have ensured the survival of a church in crisis.

 

Newspring Church here in the Upstate region of South Carolina is another example of a church in crisis. However, the results so far have been different. Perry Noble grew Newspring from just a few people meeting in an auditorium and Anderson University in Anderson, SC into a 30,000 strong church with its central campus in Anderson and 22 other satellite campuses around the Upstate. Perry Noble took a lot of heat from traditional churches in our area and from his own denomination for preaching “gospel lite” to his people and certainly that may be true. However, Newspring was reaching people who would otherwise not darkened the door of a church EVER. As often happens with megachurches, the lead pastor runs into trouble. The weight of a fast growing, large church is often too much for its founder. In Perry’s case, he turned to alcohol and inappropriate relationships with women who were not his wife. He failed his church morally. That was six months or more ago when Perry agreed with his elders at the church and stepped down and checked himself into rehab. Clayton King, one of his associate pastors, was asked to step in and takeover after the larger than life figure of Perry Noble. However, where Mars Hill began to implode almost immediately, Newspring is still chugging along. They are surviving. Say what you will about Perry Noble and his seeming lack of deep grasp of Christian theology, he did built a leadership structure that is enabling Newspring to survive a crisis. Newsping developed a leadership team where each level of the organization was being groomed for the next level of leadership. That’s how organizations survive.

 

Jesus wants His church to survive and thrive and with the flawed individuals who run it. The key to survival of any church is its ability to generate new leaders. Every second and third tier leader in every church should be being groomed to take the place of the leadership under which they operate. Leaders should be developing leaders. It’s not just theological. It’s practical. From a theological standpoint, we should not become complacent with the positions that we hold at church. We should have the humility to learn more and more and become more and more and be stretched to serve the Lord beyond what is comfortable and easy. It’s practical in that it ensures the survival of the organization. Next man up!

 

The difference between Mars Hill Church and Newspring Church is what I thought of when I read this passage again today for the second time. Let’s read about the passing of the baton to Joshua in this passage, Numbers 27:12-23:

 

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)

 

15 Moses said to the Lord, 16 “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

 

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership,[a] and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

 

22 Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.

 

In this passage, we see that Moses did not want to leave his work for the Lord without making sure that a new leader was ready to take his place. First, he asked God to help him find a replacement. Then, when God showed Moses that Joshua was that guy, Moses gave him a variety of tasks to ease the transition of Joshua into his new position. Moses also clearly told the people that Joshua had the authority and the ability to lead the nation. His display of confidence in Joshua was good for both Joshua and for the people of Israel. To minimize leadership gaps, anyone in a leadership position should train others to carry on their duties should he or she have to suddenly or eventually leave their position. While you have the opportunity, follow Moses’ pattern. We must first pray that God will open our eyes to that “next man up” or “next woman up” underneath us. We must follow God’s prodding and select that person. We must develop that person into a leader (sometimes this will involve stretching them beyond what they think they can do). Then, we should commission them. We must make it known that they are a leader in training with our full trust and that they will be the one to replace us.

 

This is practical advice not only for the church but also for us who operate in the secular business world as well. A successful department and a successful organization is one that does not have to reboot itself every time there is a manager departure. A successful organization is one that develops leaders at every level so that when that “next man up” opportunity presents itself, that next man up steps into the next level position ready to succeed. If you are not developing the people underneath you, then you are being prideful and your organization will be hurt or destroyed when you leave. That is not what we want in our Christian organizations and that is not what we want when we are Christians working in secular organizations. One of the characteristics of Christ was that He made His disciples feel like part of the team. He developed that. He had a plan for transition of leadership. As Christians, we want to leave our secular organizations better than we found them. We want develop leaders to take our place and have influenced them for Christ in the process.

 

In our churches, we must follow the example of Christ. We must have the humility to realize that it is not about us and not horde the power the we have been granted. We must give it away. We must raise up disciples to ensure the survival of the church. This is not about us. This about ensuring that the gospel message will be told from generation to generation from century to century. Let us take our egos out of the way and develop leaders just as Moses developed Joshua and as Jesus developed the disciples who changed the world.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 12:1-16 (Part 1 of 2)

The Complaints of Miriam and Aaron Against Moses

 

Have you looked at the on-stage members of your church staff and became jealous because they get to be on-stage and you’re not. Have you ever wondered why your talents are not being recognized at church? You say to yourself, I feel called to be a preacher and you go to seminary but yet you never get to preach? Have you ever felt pigeon-holed into certain tasks at your church simply because that is what you have done for a living for all of your adult life? You think to yourself, I have been in my profession for all these years because that’s just how life worked out and it was the easiest path using one of the talents that God has given you. You think that God has given you the skill of writing and He has given you great passion for God’s Word but yet He is providing you no outlet to pursue and use those passions. No churches are calling you to be their preacher and there seems to be no outlet it for it for you at your present church, your home church. Jealousy is divisive emotion. It can cause bitterness and disillusionment. Jealousies are not of God and they are the division-building sins that Satan whispers in our ear.

 

During the past year, I have struggled with this very sin. Jealousy is really a sign of something deeper. It is really about pride and often hides the real issue. Those Lord has dealt with me on this issue and humbled me on it and I now realize that the real issue was that I was angry at Him for not letting me have my heart’s desire. Often we are jealous of others and the positions that they hold because we want what they have for the wrong reasons. Do you think that maybe God was dealing with pride on my part? Did I really want to be a preacher who preaches every Sunday because of some amount of fame that it might bring me? Was I really wanting to be a public preacher without going through the planned process that God has for me in this? Are there things that God is working on in me that need to be worked on before I can hold the position of on-stage preacher at our church or as the solo preacher at a smaller church? Could it be that there are still things I need to learn before I take the next step? Even worse in my prideful heart, could it be that I am not meant to be that public face of my church or any other and that God has me exactly where He wants me? That was a crushing thought to my pride. Maybe, you are already in your ministry. Maybe, the reason that you, as you see it Mark, feel into your accounting career and have excel reasonably well in it is because that is what your God-given talent is. Yes, He has talented you to be a writer, and a prolific one through this blog at that. Yes, He has given you great passion for God’s Word. Yes, this passion is such that you rarely read any other books than books that give you greater insight into God’s Word. It is so obvious to others and to God but it was not to me. Pride simply is a lack of trust in the Lord. Pride can lead you to be angry at God for not giving you, like a two year old child, the toy that you wanted. It is only through painful self-examination in prayer that I have come to realize that I have not been trusting the Lord with my pastoral future. I must realize that God is in control.

 

I liken myself to Joseph and Moses in coming to realize that I must serve the Lord in the capacity that He has me in at the moment and do it with fervor, passion, and with great love for my Lord. I must do what He has in front of me and trust Him with the rest. What if Moses had complained about living in Midian for forty years before he was called to come free his people from Egypt. What if he had whined during those forty years and complained and didn’t see that his time as a herdsmen was necessary for the last forty years of his life where he was the leader of a nomadic people in the Sinai peninsula. What if Joseph, falsely accused of having inappropriate sexual relations with an Egyptian governor’s wife, had whined and complained about being falsely accused and just sat in prison in brooding anger. Instead he became a trusted servant of his jailors which led him to be in a position to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. Each of these men faithfully went about what God had placed in front of them and served in that capacity to the best of their ability for as long as was necessary. They trusted God with the rest. They did not really have much concern about what was next because they knew that God had their back and would open doors as He saw fit. In them, I see men who maybe thought to themselves that this is it. God has me where He wants me and maybe this is where He wants me for the rest of my life and be good with that. How much do we trust the Lord is the ultimate issue or how much will be let our pride take over and destroy what God has planned for us? Some might say that this is a defeatist attitude. But it is more of a trusting attitude and a giving-God-control attitude.

 

I have had to learn to trust God in that way myself. I have had to learn that maybe this is exactly what God intended all along. That struggle in my own heart is what I thought of when I read today’s passage, Numbers 12:1-16:

 

12 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

 

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

 

4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

 

“When there is a prophet among you,

    I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

    I speak to them in dreams.

7

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

    he is faithful in all my house.

8

With him I speak face to face,

    clearly and not in riddles;

    he sees the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid

    to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

 

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

 

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”

 

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

 

16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

 

People often argue over minor disagreements, leaving the real issue untouched. Such was the case with Miriam and Aaron. They represented the priests (Aaron) and the prophets (Miriam), the two most powerful groups of the Israelites, next to Moses. The real issue was their growing jealousy of Moses and their own anger at God caused by their pride. Since could not find fault with Moses’ leadership, they chose to criticize his wife. Rather than face the problem squarely by dealing with their envy and pride, they chose to create a diversion from the real issue. Miriam was punished by God and not Aaron not because she was a woman and Aaron was a man but rather because, based on the Hebrew grammar of the sentence, she was the one who started the whole jealousy conversation with Miriam. It has been amply proven in Exodus that Aaron was not strong-willed when it came to resisting public opinion even when he knew it was wrong. Miriam was the instigator here.

 

Miriam held an important position in the people of Israel. God had given her great talent of prophecy and of song. She was important among the Israelite people and that is why her story is included here. It shows how jealousy caused by pride can take our eyes of the gifts that God has given us. It can take our eye of serving the Lord in the capacity that He has us. It gets our eyes of the fact that God has us where He wants us at the moment, and maybe even forever, because that is where He needs us to be. It takes our eyes off the good that we are doing in the capacities that we are in. We must learn to trust the Lord that He has us where He wants us and that it is HE that will make it abundantly clear to us (with no sense of dissension but rather a sense of peace) when it is time to take the next step. Joseph was a servant in a jail for 12 years, but He trusted God and served there to the best of his ability. Where would the people of Israel have been without Joseph having served to the best of his ability in that jail. They would be dead due to famine. There would have been no Moses, no Exodus, no Promised Land. What if Moses had not dutifully served his father-in-law in Midian for 40 years. The Israelites may well have not survived in the wilderness without Moses’ experience living the nomadic lifestyle. Without that, there would be no people Israel. No promised land. No people from which Jesus Christ would come.

 

Let us begin to trust God with place that He has us right now and serve Him in that capacity to the best of our ability for as long as God would have us do that. No, that’s not some defeatist, status-quo attitude. That is trusting God with our future. That is trusting that He will make a path for us. That is trusting that He will make our way clear. That is trusting that He will let us plainly see and feel that is time for the next thing. In the meantime, we shout the gospel through our trust in Him to serve Him in the capacity that He has us right as if this is the final thing, as if we are in our sweet spot, as if we are preaching to the world by the way we serve the Lord in the place that He has us. That’s trust. That’s humility. That is putting our pride in its place.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 2 of 3)

Moses Chooses Seventy Leaders

As our church begins planning for one our main events of the year, as we call it, The Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway (TMG, for short), I am reminded of how sometimes people forget that we are ministering to others but rather see such events as ways to make themselves known. I remember the first year that Elena and I were in charge of the event (which was the second year of the event) I had a situation that simply baffled me as to where a person was at in their spiritual walk. I had this one lady who not once came to any planning meetings or any of the volunteer meetings nor did they commit in any of the volunteer sign-ups for the event. However, on the day of the event, they just showed up. And they showed up with expectation because, at that time, she and her husband were members of the small group that I and my wife lead. This lady thought that because we had pushed participation to our small group members and that because she knew us that she would get a special position or something at the TMG.

 

In this event, we make it known to the community through various helps agencies that we will be giving away 500+ turkeys and dry goods for families to have a nice thanksgiving meal at home with their families. It is a big event with lots of moving parts to it. It is a big event with Elena and me as the overall event leaders and then leaders of the ten different functional teams underneath us and then probably 350 volunteers from our church participate in the event (between the 350 volunteers and 15 leaders at various levels, it involves almost half of the 770 regular attendees and staff of our church). It is an event that has taught me more about leadership than any of my secular jobs put together. Needless to say, it’s a big deal that pushes our church’s people resources to the limit each year. However, anyone who has ever participated in it comes away humbled by seeing the needs of the community around us that often remain hidden from our eyes. It is to teach our people that there are needs all around us and that we have to be bold in engaging the culture around to find out what our neighbors are going through and meeting those needs as we are talented by the Lord.

 

I digress on the beauty of not only the beauty of giving to our community without expectation but also the discipling that the event does for our people. Back to this lady of which I have spoken. Although we had meeting to which she did not come where we told people to be there by 7am so that we could marshal all our volunteers into place and advise them of what their functions were and to pray at length for what was about to happen, she shows up at 9am – an hour after the doors opened for the event at 8am. She immediately sought me out and asked where I wanted her. I told her that since she did not sign up for anything that I would have to find a place where we did not have enough volunteers. I knew that we were weak in the “bag room” (where we were handing out the bags of dry goods to our visitors). In that room we had 600 bags containing canned yams, canned green beans, canned corn, etc. that had been donated by our church members and regular attendees. There were people at the counter in that particular room that would actually hand the bags to our guests and interact with him. Behind them were volunteers who would hand to the bags to the counter folk and people behind them that were keeping the inventory of bags moving forward as the inventory was being depleted. This last part was where we were weak and this is where I put this lady.

 

I learned later that she was outraged at me for having put her in the “back of the back of the back” of the event as she called it. She thought that just because she was in our small group that she was going to be given a place of privilege even though she did not take the time to be part of any of the meetings in preparation of the event and did not show up when all the other volunteers did. She wanted a visible position because she knew me. She wanted to be out front and seen. Needless to say, my putting her in the back of the back of the back of the event caused to not only caused her (and her husband) to leave our small group. They eventually left our church over this one offense toward her pride.

 

It is that idea of having our pride get in the way of ministry that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the second time. Today, my eyes and my heart were particularly drawn to vv. 26-29:

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

In vv. 26-29, we are reminded of a similar incident in Mark 9:38-41. The disciples wanted Jesus to forbid others to drive out demons because they were not part of the rock band, “Jesus & His Disciples”. The narrow view of Joshua here with Moses and the disciples with Jesus was condemned both by Moses and by Jesus. Moses correctly asserts that oh that all of Israel were prophets. Jealous pride can make our churches into cliques. I am part of the in-crowd and you are not. I have special privilege because I know the preacher and you don’t. I am privileged because I know an event leader and you do not. As leaders too, we can become smug in the power that we have obtained or, even in the fact that we are so in-tune with the Spirit and most of our church folk appear to be here just for what they can get from the church. There is a smugness that God detests in that. God can choose whomever He wants to work through. Just because I have been at my church six years longer than you does not mean that you must wait six years to be on par with me. You are my equal child in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are here for one thing. To give God the glory. We are not here for our glory. We are here to lift Jesus up high!

 

When you may have a chance to get offended at church, think about why you are offended. Are you harboring the sin of pride? When you as a leader of the church start feeling that you get it and your people do not? Whose fault is that? As leaders, we are not here to massage our egos. We are here to grow people up in Christ. We are grow them up to “get it!” just like somebody grew us up where we got to the point that we “got it!”. We are to develop those who we lead. We are to disciple them so that they can take our place. As the old saying goes in the business world, “the best manager is the one who works himself out of his job!”. That means that you have developed your people so well that the best of them would be able to take over your job when you leave it. That means by developing your people that you give away your job to them by offloading responsibilities to them as they grow. It means by doing that you can take on more responsibilities from those above you and make yourself more valuable to the organization. In Christian organizations, we are to reproduce the leaders that we are in the people beneath us. As a church volunteer or as a leader in the church, we cannot let pride and possessiveness get in the way of ministry. We must humble ourselves to the ministry of Jesus Christ. We are not here to stake out our realm of power. We are here to give glory to God through the love that we show to others in whatever way we can participate in it. We are here to give glory to God by developing disciples who have the hunger and passion that we do and develop them so that they can take our place (when God calls us to the next step within our church or in another avenue of service to the cross).

 

That’s what we are here for!

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 7:89

The Cherubim Above the Ark

Have you ever noticed as a parent that you can pick out your child’s voice, your child’s cries among many voices? When you child is a baby and is in their crib in another room in another part of the house, maybe even on a different floor of your house and you wake up instantly when that child begins to cry in the night? We as parents know our children so acutely that we can pick out their cries among a din of voices or from a distance. We are in tune with our flesh and blood. We know our children intimately. We spend a great deal of time with them. We know the difference between tones of their voices when they need us. As they grow older, we know from their tone of voice as to whether they are telling the truth or lying. We know from how they look as to whether they are happy or sad, sick or healthy, hungry or full. It starts when they are babies. As you learn your child, you know which cries are hungry cries and which cries are just fighting sleep cries. We know which cries are bad dream cries. We learn our children. I was discussing with my wife the other day that when my girls need something from me, they put multiple a’s in the word, daddy. So, it becomes daaaaaady. It is a matter of tone as to knowing whether it’s a “daddy I need money” daaaaady or whether it’s a “please fix this for me” daaaaady. As my oldest child went through a grueling 18 hour labor from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning this week, there were the “please fix this for me” daaady cries. I know the difference. By their voices, I know when my daughters are happy, sad, in need, angry, and so on.

 

When I read this final verse of the passage/chapter of Numbers 7 again this morning, I was about to move on to the next passage, Numbers 8:1-4, but something struck me about this final verse of this passage that I had to circle back to and write about. The idea of Moses hearing the audible voice of God was what struck me. Just as I know by the sound of my children’s voices what was and is going on with them, Moses actually heard the voice of God on frequent occasions. What was that like? Was it an actual, audible voice that could be heard through Moses’ ears that could possibly have been heard by others if they were standing beside or near where Moses was?  Or was it something that Moses perceived as audible in his mind but was not an auditory sensation through his ears? Either way Moses got to hear the voice of God. That is a privilege accorded only a few in the Bible. Let’s read again what this verse says:

 

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

 

To hear the actual voice of God! Wow, what an honor that must have been! To hear God speak words! To hear Him say words where there was no mistaking what He meant. No trying to figure out what God is telling us. No discerning what His message is to us. Just plain out hearing and understanding. How awesome would that be! That got me to thinking though. Why is it that you and I do not hear the actual voice of God? Was Moses actually that much better of a person than we are? What’s the deal here?

 

Imagine hearing the very voice of God. Moses must have trembled at the sound. But why do you and I not hear an audible voice of God like Moses. Do we not have the voice of God available to us? Yes, we do, in fact. We have the Word of God recorded for us in the Bible and we should have no less reverence and awe for it as Moses would have had for the audible words going forth from God. He sometimes spoke directly to His people to tell them how to live. The Bible records these conversations to give us insights into God’s character. How tragic it is when we take God’s Word lightly. Like Moses, we have the privilege of talking to God, but God answers us differently – through his Written Word and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. To seek God’s voice and to understand God’s Word in ways that give us answers to our life questions, we must seek to know God intimately so that we can discern his voice through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives just as Moses did.

 

According to gotquestions.com, it says, on this issue:

 

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

 

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

 

Just as we know our children’s voices and know what each and every inflection of their voices mean (because we spend so much time with our children over the years). Just as we know how they different inflections of using the very same word means different things, we know this. We know this because we know our children on an intimate level. We know our children better than anyone in the world with, maybe, the exception of our spouses. When you live with a child for all those years as they grow up, you know them almost on a molecular level. You know them intimately in a way that you do not know other people who live outside your home.

 

We can know God intimately through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It is only through that act and Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit that we can truly begin to understand God. It is through His Holy Spirit that we can discern God’s Word that once seem folly to us. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to apply the truths of the Bible to our lives. We have God’s Word and we have the Holy Spirit. These are the materials for an intimate relationship with God.

 

I am not saying that God cannot or will not speak audibly to us or someone else now or in the future. He is God. He can reveal Himself to us the way that He wants. However, He has given us His Word and He sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. These are the tools that He gives us. We must become intimate with the Holy Spirit by listening to that voice that tells that which is right and wrong and guides us toward God’s will. We must. We must study the Word of God, not just read it. We must become so immersed in the Bible that we devour it. We must study it daily. We see it as essential to our lives. We must also spend time with the Lord in prayer. Being intimate with Him where you focus is totally on Him. There are so many things that we put in the way of spending time in His Word or in specified prayer time. We do not think it is important and then we wonder why it is difficult for us to discern God’s will.

 

What if you did not spend time with your kids? What if you did not spend countless hours with them over the course of their home years? The only way we know our kids is the intimate time, the intimate years that we spend with them. It is the same way with God. We learn everything about him through making Him our Lord, studying not just reading His Word, and spending specific times of prayer with Him. We learn his traits and his characteristics this way and thus learn to better discern His will. Maybe one day we will be so in tune with Him that we will actually hear His voice like Moses did, but that will only come if we focus on and be intentional about being intimate with God. Then and only then will we recognize His voice in the same way that we can hear the small voice of our baby in a crib in a different part of the house as if the baby were right in our ear.

 

Amen and Amen.