Posts Tagged ‘The Bible’

Joshua 18:11-19:51
The Lands & Cities Given to the Remaining Tribes

Last night as we were watching the movie, Dirty Dancing for the millionth time, one of the famous lines is “this is my dance space! This is your dance space!” It reminded me of being a kid at home living with my mom, dad and my brother.

As kids, we wondered about why our dad had such specific rules for us and such specific chores for each of us. My brother and I shared a bedroom up until we moved to Elgin, SC when I was about to go into the fifth grade and my brother into the sixth. Prior to that we shared the same room and my dad, I guess, knew us too well. So, he established rules about what part of the room was my brother’s part and which part was mine. We would, of course, bitch about the fact that the other got some part of the room that the other didn’t. We were very competitive little boys. Our competitive nature covered everything. Of course, in sports, our competitiveness toward one another would often boil over into fights in the yard if one lost to the other or if one cheated and refused to admit it. We were competitive about toys, about clothing, about who did what for chores. We would always cry foul when we thought one brother was being favored over the other. Road trips in the car even required my dad to divide the back seat into halves and there was a defined boundary over which neither of us could cross. It was easy then for him to determine who was at fault on the trip. If you were over the boundary you were at fault, no questions asked.

It was the same with our room at home. If my toys were found on RT’s side of the room (my brother goes by his initials now instead of Little Ralph or Scooter as did at home), then I was at fault. If when cleaning the room on Saturday mornings before we were released for outdoor play the remainder of the day there was a piece of furniture on RT’s side of the room that was not dusted and cleaned, then RT was at fault and vice versa for me. It was brilliant on my dad’s part because you know how kids are. The “not me” syndrome is ever present. I think it was Bill Cosby that once said that “you are not a real parent until you have two kids. When you have only one child, you know who was at fault when something goes wrong!” When you have more than one kid, it is like solving a mystery sometimes as to who did what. The pointing fingers to the other child and away from ourselves was the thing. Blaming your other sibling or siblings was paramount. Not me it was him or them. By having his pre-set definitions and boundaries for us, my dad was actually making it easier on himself as to who was to blame for what. Sure, there were claims that my brother did it or that Mark did it when it came to our room, but dad had the rules down pat and we knew what they were. If my toy was on RT’s side of the room, then I was trouble regardless of how it got there.

It was funny growing up (looking back at it now) about how insane we were about the equality thing. The slightest perceived imbalance in the equality of our rights and privileges and property would bring about a need for a supreme court hearing before our dad. I bet it must have drove him insane. We could not really see that our parents loved us equally and for who we were individually. We could not see that sometimes life ebbs and flows and that sometimes my brother would get the better of things and then sometimes I would. Life is just like that.

I remember our jealousies and demands for equality would take on insane proportions. I remember when it was February 11, 1969, on my brother’s birthday, his 8th birthday (right in the middle of the school year). That morning we got up and we were in the kitchen waiting for breakfast and mom was making over my brother because it was his birthday. We had to get up early in those days because we lived in a small, rural town and we lived a long ways from the school. But even in that early morning hour, the war of equality waged on. It was my brother’s birthday for God’s sake, but I asked mom what time of day my brother was born. She said it was like 3:40pm on February 11, 1961. I pridefully blurted out that it was not yet time for his birthday because it was like 6:00am in the morning at the time. Woohoo! Not your birthday. Hah!!! Premature celebration, hah!!! My mom had to rein my celebration in by explaining that no matter what time you are born on your birth date that the whole day becomes your birthday. Bummer! A loss in the battle for equality. Most assuredly six months later, I would have been celebrating August 25th as soon as I woke up. Oh the jealousies that we had for one another that raged on for years all the way up until we were old enough to leave home. It is only now that as adults that we actually get along. Those rivalries and jealousies are mostly a thing of the past now. However, back in the day, especially when we were elementary and middle school kids the rivlaries and jealousies must have drove mom and dad to the outer reaches of annoyance and to “oh crap! Here we go again” syndrome when the détente of equality between was perceived to have been violated.

I guess that was why dad had all those specific rules and boundaries for us about what belonged to my brother and what belonged to me, about what was the boundary of his part of the room and what was mine, about what was his part of the back seat was RT’s and which part was mine. It must have been exasperating for my dad to have to be so specific about everything but I am sure that when the poop hit the fan between me and my brother he was glad he was that specific. Determining guilt and punishment was easier.

That was the thing I thought about this morning as I read through these two very specific chapters about the boundaries of the lands for the remaining tribes of Israel. I saw how detailed it was about these boundaries between what is basically family, brothers – the twelve tribes of Israel descend from the brothers, the sons of Jacob. Wow, how specific these boundaries are. That then reminded me of how dad had to be so specific with my brother and me. Think back to your own childhood. It was probably similar in how your parents had to be sooooo specific about everrrrrything. With that in mind, let’s run through these two chapters now:

Allotment for Benjamin

11 The first lot came up for the tribe of Benjamin according to its clans. Their allotted territory lay between the tribes of Judah and Joseph:

12 On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan, passed the northern slope of Jericho and headed west into the hill country, coming out at the wilderness of Beth Aven. 13 From there it crossed to the south slope of Luz (that is, Bethel) and went down to Ataroth Addar on the hill south of Lower Beth Horon.

14 From the hill facing Beth Horon on the south the boundary turned south along the western side and came out at Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim), a town of the people of Judah. This was the western side.

15 The southern side began at the outskirts of Kiriath Jearim on the west, and the boundary came out at the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16 The boundary went down to the foot of the hill facing the Valley of Ben Hinnom, north of the Valley of Rephaim. It continued down the Hinnom Valley along the southern slope of the Jebusite city and so to En Rogel. 17 It then curved north, went to En Shemesh, continued to Geliloth, which faces the Pass of Adummim, and ran down to the Stone of Bohan son of Reuben. 18 It continued to the northern slope of Beth Arabah[a] and on down into the Arabah. 19 It then went to the northern slope of Beth Hoglah and came out at the northern bay of the Dead Sea, at the mouth of the Jordan in the south. This was the southern boundary.

20 The Jordan formed the boundary on the eastern side.

These were the boundaries that marked out the inheritance of the clans of Benjamin on all sides.

21 The tribe of Benjamin, according to its clans, had the following towns:

Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, 22 Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23 Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24 Kephar Ammoni, Ophni and Geba—twelve towns and their villages.

25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26 Mizpah, Kephirah, Mozah, 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28 Zelah, Haeleph, the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath—fourteen towns and their villages.

This was the inheritance of Benjamin for its clans.
Allotment for Simeon

19 The second lot came out for the tribe of Simeon according to its clans. Their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah. 2 It included:

Beersheba (or Sheba),[b] Moladah, 3 Hazar Shual, Balah, Ezem, 4 Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, 5 Ziklag, Beth Markaboth, Hazar Susah, 6 Beth Lebaoth and Sharuhen—thirteen towns and their villages;

7 Ain, Rimmon, Ether and Ashan—four towns and their villages— 8 and all the villages around these towns as far as Baalath Beer (Ramah in the Negev).

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Simeonites, according to its clans. 9 The inheritance of the Simeonites was taken from the share of Judah, because Judah’s portion was more than they needed. So the Simeonites received their inheritance within the territory of Judah.
Allotment for Zebulun

10 The third lot came up for Zebulun according to its clans:

The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid. 11 Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. 12 It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. 14 There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. 15 Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages.

16 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of Zebulun, according to its clans.
Allotment for Issachar

17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar according to its clans. 18 Their territory included:

Jezreel, Kesulloth, Shunem, 19 Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20 Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, 21 Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah and Beth Pazzez. 22 The boundary touched Tabor, Shahazumah and Beth Shemesh, and ended at the Jordan. There were sixteen towns and their villages.

23 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar, according to its clans.
Allotment for Asher

24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of Asher according to its clans. 25 Their territory included:

Helkath, Hali, Beten, Akshaph, 26 Allammelek, Amad and Mishal. On the west the boundary touched Carmel and Shihor Libnath. 27 It then turned east toward Beth Dagon, touched Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtah El, and went north to Beth Emek and Neiel, passing Kabul on the left. 28 It went to Abdon,[c] Rehob, Hammon and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. 29 The boundary then turned back toward Ramah and went to the fortified city of Tyre, turned toward Hosah and came out at the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Akzib, 30 Ummah, Aphek and Rehob. There were twenty-two towns and their villages.

31 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Asher, according to its clans.
Allotment for Naphtali

32 The sixth lot came out for Naphtali according to its clans:

33 Their boundary went from Heleph and the large tree in Zaanannim, passing Adami Nekeb and Jabneel to Lakkum and ending at the Jordan. 34 The boundary ran west through Aznoth Tabor and came out at Hukkok. It touched Zebulun on the south, Asher on the west and the Jordan[d] on the east. 35 The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinnereth, 36 Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, 37 Kedesh, Edrei, En Hazor, 38 Iron, Migdal El, Horem, Beth Anath and Beth Shemesh. There were nineteen towns and their villages.

39 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali, according to its clans.
Allotment for Dan

40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of Dan according to its clans. 41 The territory of their inheritance included:

Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir Shemesh, 42 Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, 43 Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 44 Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, 45 Jehud, Bene Berak, Gath Rimmon, 46 Me Jarkon and Rakkon, with the area facing Joppa.

47 (When the territory of the Danites was lost to them, they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their ancestor.)

48 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Dan, according to its clans.
Allotment for Joshua

49 When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them, 50 as the Lord had commanded. They gave him the town he asked for—Timnath Serah[e] in the hill country of Ephraim. And he built up the town and settled there.

51 These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel assigned by lot at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And so they finished dividing the land.

When we read through this mundane passage with names and places that are in no way a frame of reference for the average reader like you and me (because we are unfamiliar with maps of the ancient Middle East and because some of these towns no longer exist or exist today under different names), we fail to see the benefit of why all of this division of land and cities was beneficial to the new nation of Israel. First, the boundaries gave each tribe ownership of an area, promoting loyalty and unity that would strengthen each tribe. Second, boundaries delineated areas of responsibility and privilege, which would help each tribe mature and develop. Third, the boundaries reduced conflicts that might have broken out if everyone had wanted to live in the choicest areas. Fourth, the boundaries fulfilled the promised inheritances for each tribe, which were promised as early as the days of Jacob (Genesis 48:21-22).

Because of the fact that we have sin natures, each one of us. God has to be very specific with us. He wants us to be holy like Him but because of our sin nature, we are blinded to holiness. We want. We covet. We are jealous. We are prideful. We are vengeful. We are murderous. We are … you name the evil … we have it. Because of sin nature passed down through the generations since almost from the very beginning of man’s time on earth, we no longer know how to act in relation to one another and to God Himself. We have to have instruction. We have to have a pre-established playbook about what is right and what is wrong. Because we are not like God, we have to have his guidebook, the Bible, on how to be holy toward one another and toward God. Because we are utter failures at it, the Bible tells us of our need for a Savior named Jesus Christ. This has been the plan and the playbook of God from the beginning of man. Redemption through Jesus Christ.

Like my dad knew that he had to be very specific with my brother and me about our boundaries, God has His Word as the specific way in which we are to relate to Him. He knew that we would need specifics. That was why the Bible was written by men inspired by Him to do so. We need the specifics of the Bible. We need to know our boundaries and we need to know about God and we need to know our need for Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 7 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

 

Little Miss Ralyn Greer. She will be six months old tomorrow. We call her “Lil Nugget”! My granddaughter is the cutest little girl that you would ever want to see and it’s not that I am prejudiced or predisposed to thinking that she is a beautiful little girl. There are complete strangers who tell us how beautiful she is and how she should be a baby model. Her eyes are captivating. Her facial expressions are just hilarious at times. Her smile is infectious. She is, also, just a really good-natured baby. She is not one of those babies who just cries all the time at the least little thing. Ralyn does cry like any baby does but it is usually when something’s wrong – she’s hungry, she’s got a present for her mom or dad in her diaper that’s no longer working for her, she’s fighting sleep, or she wants to be held. Other than that, she will let pretty much anyone hold her. She loves to play with her activities center toys. She squeals in amazement the ball spins after she hits it on her activity center. She likes to make noises just to hear herself make them. She is a joy to be around. She’s beautiful. She’s going to be a smart one. She has a good disposition. She doesn’t mind being in big crowds. I just think she’s awesome. She’s my granddaughter.

 

Sometimes, though, I sit and wonder if she will know her family history and how she is part of it. Since my dad’s line of the Bowling family tree ends, there will be no more Bowlings coming from my dad’s line of the family – my brother had a girl and a boy and then I had two girls. Given the fact that my brother’s son has chosen an alternative lifestyle and the rest are girls, there will be no more blood Bowlings that will trace their roots back to my dad. My nephew, because of the lifestyle path he has chosen, will only be able to possibly adopt a child if he so choses and it may be a boy but the child will not be a blood Bowling. My grandfather’s line of the Bowlings is in danger as well. He had five boys and you would think that this would have ensured the survival of the Bowling line. However, one of my uncles, Doug, adopted two daughters. One of my uncles, Oscar, had three daughters. One of my uncles, Ben, had one daughter. One of my uncles, Edward, had a daughter and a son. And, of course, my dad had two boys (me and my older brother). I had two girls. My brother had a boy and a girl. Edward’s son and my brother’s son are the only ways that my grandfather’s branch of the Bowling name survives. So for the possibility for my Pop’s line of the Bowling name to survive through producing a child who is Pop’s progeny by blood, all of our family hopes rely on Ben Bowling, the son of my Uncle Edward. Young Ben, as we call him since carries the same name as our Uncle Ben, is a quirky young man and possibly may not ever marry and have children. So, there is a likelihood that my grandfather’s bloodline and name end with this generation.

 

Therefore, the family history becomes ever so important to preserve. The stories of my grandpa and his connections and how he was always able to get things done. Questions you didn’t want to know the answers to when it came to my grandpa’s ability always having a wad of cash in his wallet that did not include small bills. Stories of my grandmother Bowling growing up in an orphanage. Stories of my uncle Ben in the service in the cold war years. Stories of my uncle Ed being part of the protests in the early 70’s that shut down the campus at University of South Carolina for one or two days. Stories of him, ironically, going into the service in the Air Force being part of the hippy generation of the 60s-early 70s that was going to change the world but found out that ya had to feed your family. Great stories though from his 20 years of service in the Air Force. Stories of my Uncle Doug and how he left our family for the last forty years of life and why it all happened over some ill-timed, ill-chosen, flippant comments of my grandfather (who always spoke his mind – he had no filter). Stories of my Uncle Ben, who seemed to have a knack for knowing when and what to invest in and how he began making more money from his side jobs and investments than his long career at Southern Bell. Stories of my Uncle Oscar and how he was the one that carried on that tradition from Pop as the guy you went to, to get stuff done, to find out information, he and his “connections” were always about to find out what you needed to find out about people, places, and things. Stories of Uncle Oscar, the first in our family to lose a child to a car accident and how that changed his family unit of the Bowling family forever. How he moved to Florida to get away the memories. Then, there are the stories of my dad and his support for the civil rights movement in the South in the early sixties as a Methodist preacher preaching messages that did not want to be heard. Stories of my dad working two jobs when bi-vocational pastors were frowned upon in the Methodist Church. Stories of my dad’s youth and the speed demon that he was. Stories of my dad being the suave ladies man who was knocked off his feet by Carolyn Burke Davis. Stories of their long marriage and many pastoral miles traveled. Stories of my life and all its ups and downs, twists and turns. Stories of her Papa (me) and her great uncle and how we had our adventures as preacher’s kids. Stories of being Star Trek nuts who used to use our dad’s churches as our Starship Enterprise. Stories of our battles of two rivalrous brothers. Stories. Stories. Stories. Stories of the tumultuous youth of her mom and her sister. Stories of how her mom is a steady rock in the storms of life. Stories of her aunt and the daredevil she was as a kid and how she still is in some ways. All these quirks and glories of our flawed but wonderful Bowling family. These things must be preserved and reveled in.

 

In Southern society, it is by nature, patriarchal and if you are a girl, you trace your family’s history through that of your husband. It is primary. However, girls don’t forget their own family trees but they do tend to put more emphasis on the family line they became part of through marriage. So, with the proponderence of girls that came forth from five boys of Ralph T. Bowling, Sr., the line comes to a close with this generation. So, it is even more important to me that Ralyn knows her Bowling side. She is a Greer by name but she has Bowling blood in her through her mom. We must preserve the stories. We must preserve the 50 years of pictures that are still in storage that my mom kept. We must preserve the hard copy pictures of that era and all the digital pictures that have come into our family over the last fifteen years. Ralyn needs to know our family history. She needs to know the story of us. She needs to know the history of the Bowling family. Without it, lessons will not be learned. Joys of the family will not be passed down from generation to generation. The sorrows of the previous generations will not be shared. The highs and the lows will not be known.

 

As we finish our review of this weighty passage today, it was this idea of knowing and remembering stuff that is important and passing it down from generation to generation that came to mind. With that idea in mind, let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together:

 

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

 

11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done

 

In this series of blogs, we are talking about how we should relate to God. Today, we are talking about how do we know God and how do we preserve that knowledge. Israel had strong reasons to believe in God and obey His commands. They had witnessed a parade of mighty miracles that demonstrated God’s love and care for them. Incredibly, they still had trouble being faithful. Because few of us have seen miracles on the scale of what the Israelites saw, it may seem even harder for us to obey God and be continually faithful to His commands. But, we have the Bible. It is the written record of God’s throughout history. Reading God’s Word gives a panoramic view of both the miracles that Israel saw and also others that they did not see. The lessons from the past, the instructions from the present, and glimpses into the future give us many opportunities to strengthen our faith in God. The Bible is our evidence of God’s personal nature and how He cares for His people. It is our guidebook for living. God tells us how to live. It is also the story of how He redeems even the worst of His people. It is the story of His redemptive plan for mankind. It is the story of His love for us and His pursuit of us.

 

Just as my daughter, Meghan, and I must take care to preserve the history of the Bowling family of my grandfather whose line will vanish within this generation so that Ralyn will know her roots in the Bowling family, the Bible is our family story for those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior. Just as we can use our family history to teach life lessons to Ralyn – the joys, the sorrows, the mistakes, the blunders, the consequences, the highs and the lows of very real people with the last name, Bowling, we can learn the same things in the Bible.

 

We are grafted into the family of God through Jesus Christ. The Bible is our family history. We learn how alike we are with the completely, flawed great men and women of the Bible. In the Bible, we see ourselves. In the Bible, we see the mistakes that we make. In the Bible, we learn from the mistakes of our spiritual ancestors. We learn the reasons for why we believe what we believe. We have our family history right there in the Bible. We have the stories of how God has pursued us through the centuries. We have the story of Jesus, its central character. We have the stories of God’s redemptive plan that began in Genesis and comes to completion in Revelation. Let us remember the stories and preserve them in our hearts. Let us read the Bible constantly as if it were our family history and that it all leads down to our little branch of God’s family. That’s the point of the Bible. It is all about you and me becoming part of the family tree of the family of God. This is your family history. This is my family history. Become part of the story … through Jesus Christ. Welcome home!

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 4:44-5:5

Introduction to Moses Second Address

I remember back in the 80s, one of my favorite teen movies was “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. It was one of the better coming of age movies of the era. There was a scene where Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn) and his stoner friends come into the local teen hangout and burger joint where Brad Hamilton (played by Judge Reinhold), a high schooler himself, was the manager. When Brad sees Jeff and his friends in the restaurant with no shirts on, he points them to the sign that says, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service.” He tells them to “Read it. Learn it. Live it!” Sage advice from a burger joint manager who is just trying to figure out life himself.

 

That was a great saying though. It is pretty darned profound actually. More of us dads ought to heed that advice when we are putting our kids toys together on Christmas Eve night. Often, our kids seem to ask for toys when they are young and still believe in Santa Claus that require “some assembly required!” Some assembly required is a euphemism for “a whole heck of a lot of assembly required” or “extensive assembly required.” Often, we as dads starting putting these toys together without the instructions. We are smarter than the average bear, right? It’s just a toy, right? How complicated could it be, right? However, usually about half or three-quarters of the way through the assembly, we figure out that something’s wrong. The toy is not looking like it does on the packaging. We have too many screws left for what we have left to do. Then, we begrudgingly have to get the instructions out and realize that we put a part in the toy backwards or missed a part or something. We then have to deconstruct the toy and start over again. Only this time, we are following the assembly instructions and, guess what, it works. However, there may be some parts where you stripped out the screw holes because of your anger at having to dis-assemble and re-assemble. I had many such experiences when I was a young dad. As time goes on, though, you learn to follow the instructions from the beginning. But, hey, by that time, your kids don’t want toys anymore and they don’t need assembly.

 

I was recently able to put my new found wisdom to work, though. When we moved into our new home last month, there was no recessed area above the fireplace like at our old home where we could put our flat screen TV and all its associated audio/visual equipment. That was a pretty cool thing about our previous house. No at this house, it is a house where the main part of the structure (the living room, the bedrooms, the main bathroom, and the kitchen) were built in 1925. So spectacular fireplaces with recesses above them for flat screen TVs and audio/visual components was not even a thought. We had two choices. We could mount it on the wall. I just didn’t like that idea, even though that was what the previous owner had done. I guess I just did not trust my ability to fasten the framing to the wall where it would stay and not pull out when I hung the TV. My 46” flat screen is my baby so I could just see it come crashing down in the middle of the night and shattering to pieces. So, because of that fear, I went with purchasing an entertainment center. I found a great looking one online and ordered it. I knew there would be some assembly required. It’s a given when you order an entertainment center online. They don’t come assembled. But little did I know, this was not some assembly required. It was ALL ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. It was not some assembly. It was a whole freaking lot of assembly. It took me an hour just to separate out all the pieces to this thing into some organized fashion around the living room and in the little hallway between the bedrooms and bathroom. This thing had at least one hundred pieces to it and about a thousand screws, bolts, end caps, etc. Literally! The only way I was going to make sense of it all and be able to put the thing together was to follow the assembly instructions. This was too massive of a deal and it was going to be a centerpiece of our living room. I could not wing it on this project. There was no one central piece that you could identify as the starting point. You even had to read the instructions for that. Therefore, I studied the instructions for a good while before I even began working on this massive assembly project. It took two nights (most of it done on Sunday afternoon and evening, and then the final steps on Tuesday night) to get it done. I made some errors even with the instructions but the errors are not completely obvious. But I got it done. I did it by the letter of the instructions and it worked. I got it put together. Talk about proud. I am an accountant so most of the work I do is ethereal in nature so putting stuff together like this makes me proud. I can point to this thing and say, yeah, I put that together.

 

Reading the instructions. Following the instructions. Executing the instructions. Read it. Learn it. Live it. That’s what I thought about when I read through today’s passage, Deuteronomy 4:44-5:5, this morning:

 

44 This is the law Moses set before the Israelites. 45 These are the stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when they came out of Egypt 46 and were in the valley near Beth Peor east of the Jordan, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon and was defeated by Moses and the Israelites as they came out of Egypt. 47 They took possession of his land and the land of Og king of Bashan, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan. 48 This land extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge to Mount Sirion[a] (that is, Hermon), 49 and included all the Arabah east of the Jordan, as far as the Dead Sea,[b] below the slopes of Pisgah.

 

5 Moses summoned all Israel and said:

 

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors[c] that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.)

 

In verse 5:1, we see what I have been talking about. Hear. Learn. Follow. Later when Moses put pen to paper, it became Read it, learn it, live it for generations to follow including us today. The people of Israel had entered into a covenant with God and Moses commanded them to hear, learn and obey God’s regulations. Christians also have entered into a covenant with God through Jesus Christ and should be responsive to what God expects. Moses three-fold command to the Israelites provides excellent advice for all of God’s people, including us. Listening/Reading is absorbing and accepting information about God. Learning is understanding its meaning and implications. Obeying/Living It is putting into action all we have learned and understood. All three parts are essential to a growing relationship with God.

 

Read it. Learn it. Live it. How often do you and I just try to “live it” without “reading it” and “learning it”. We so often think we know ourselves. We take that arrogant attitude of a dad trying to assemble a toy without following the assembly instructions. We live our lives thinking that we know it all and that we do not need God’s instructions. We call His Word out of date and out of time and plunge headlong into our preferred sins because when we ignore God’s Word, our sins are OK to us. We are not being called out on them when we do not read God’s Word. We call it old-fashioned and discard it. However, God’s Word is eternal and we are just ignorant thinking we are smart compared to him. His Word is eternal truth. His Word is the assembly instructions to life.

 

Usually, it when we figure out that we have screwed our life up completely that we finally turn to the assembly instructions for life, The Bible. Wouldn’t be better for us to start with the assembly instructions from the beginning. You will still make mistakes but the trajectory of our lives will lead to Jesus Christ and the peace that He brings to our lives. We do not have to disassemble and reassemble our lives if we just follow God’s Word. Let us quit being arrogant people thinking that we know better than an almighty God. The Bible. Read it. Learn it. Live it!

 

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.