Posts Tagged ‘tolerating sin’

Numbers 33:1-56 (Part 2 of 3)

Remembering Israel’s Journey

There is an old saying from the days when computers were not as easy to use as they are today that said, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” It was known at the GIGO principle. It meant that if you wrote a computer program that was in a sense, garbage, you would get results that were meaningless, garbage also. In those days, you had to use specific commands written in a certain specific way to get a computer to follow your directions and generate the results wanted. Because computers are essentially decision tree machines, if you did not write the entire series of commands in the right way, the program would fail, send itself into a logic loop, or just generate garbage results that were meaningless. Therefore, it was important to write the programs with the appropriate commands. It was also important to sequence the commands in the proper order so that the program would not fail. If you remember the card reader days of computers and the days where computers filled up the entire basements of buildings, you will remember the frustration of computer science classes in college. I dropped out of a computer programming class in college (1979-1983) because of the tedious perfection that was required in these kinds of classes back in those days.


Certainly, computer programming lives on today because computers are still essentially decision tree machines (yes/no answers to commands). However, the language used to write computer programs I am sure has become more simplified and easier to use. I am sure that it is easier now to develop computer programs because, man, look at the things that computers assist us in doing these days that they could not do back in the early 80s. It is phenomenal to think of the things that are controlled by computers today that were not so back thirty years ago. The programming is still there. It is still essentially driven by yes/no answers to commands. There is just a class of people that has developed over the past 30 years that do that stuff and we have ceded a great deal of hidden power to them. Just think of how our society now can be crippled by someone (with computer programming skills beyond what we dopes of consumers can imagine) introducing a virus into our computer systems that control our lives. Banking systems have been crashed. Power grid computer systems have been crashed. You name it. We have seen it happen. Each of us has probably experienced it on a smaller scale when we have accidently downloaded a virus into our computers and the virus has fried our computers. It all happens because of the lack of security in computer systems or accidently or purposely allowing malicious programs (that is what viruses are, computer programs) into our computers. These garbage programs produce garbage results that fry our computers. Hackers also can use these programs to steal identities and steal money and leverage victim companies and individuals to get what they want.


How do we typically prevent these garbage programs from invading our computers or computer systems. It is another computer program called security software. These programs are written to detect the introduction of programs to our computers systems that are inconsistent with the software and operating systems resident on our computers. Also, we have programmers at companies and governments whose job it is to test the defenses of our security software systems. It is all very dizzying to the common man in this computer connected world in which we live. It is important for us as computer users to be very vigilant about websites we visit and about what emails we open and read. We have to develop discernment about what we allow into our computers. You hear of some people who constantly have problems with viruses on their computers and then you hear of people that have little if any problems. It’s all about having your computer protected and not visiting suspicious websites and not opening suspicious emails. You can survive the world of computer viruses if you simply are vigilant and have discernment about what you allow into your computer.


Why are we talking about computers and computer programs and the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land in the same breath. They sound so totally unrelated. They could not even conceptualize what a computer was back in those days. But, they are related. I will tell you how after we re-read Numbers 33:1-56 this morning:


33 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:


3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.


5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth.


6 They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.


7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.


8 They left Pi Hahiroth[a] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.


9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.


10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.[b]


11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.


12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.


13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.


14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.


15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.


16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.


17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.


18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.


19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.


20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.


21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.


22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.


23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.


24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.


25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.


26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.


27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.


28 They left Terah and camped at Mithkah.


29 They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.


30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.


31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.


32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.


33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.


34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.


35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.


36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.


37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.


40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.


41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.


42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.


43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.


44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.


45 They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.


46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.


47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.


48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.


50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.


55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”


In the final few verses, vv. 50-56, God told Moses that before the Israelites settled the Promised Land, they should drive out the wicked inhabitants of the land and destroy their idols. In Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to live as Christians in the same manner. We must throw away our old way of living and move ahead into the new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites moving into the Promised Land, we can destroy the wickedness in our lives or we can tolerate it and let it have a place in our lives. To move into our new life in Christ, we must drive out our sinful thoughts and practices to make room for the new.


When we allow unrepentant sin to continue in our lives, it becomes an impediment to our right relationship with God. For example, a person hiding a pornography addiction spends so much time either participating in the sinful activity or covering it up that we start forgetting about God. Maintaining our sins and covering it up become more important than God. Like yesterday when I was talking about my own addiction to approval through sex, it became my god. It got in the way of godly pursuits. It got in the way of sound judgment. It got in the way of family relationships. It got in the way. Anything that we entertain that is sinful in our lives will eventually destroy us and make us ineffective for the Lord. Just think of Perry Noble who did not think his overuse of alcohol would get in the way of leading the third largest church in America. Just think of Mark Driscoll who did not think allowing pride, arrogance, and a sense of celebrity would destroy and implode not only his leadership of Mars Hill Church but also cause the entire church to implode. Just think of any public scandal not only with religious leaders but in general of people who fed their sin and did not recognize sin as harmful and it led to their downfall.


We must be vigilant about sin in our lives. We must have God’s security software (His Word and accountability partners) that will help us detect our blind spots of sin. We must recognize sin, isolate it, and toss it out with the garbage. We must be humble enough to recognize sin in our lives and deal with rather than tolerating it and even glorifying it as OK.


We must also be discerning about what we allow to exist in our lives. When we listen to music that glorifies sinful sexual behaviors, we begin to tolerate it. When we allow it in our minds it softens our defenses. When we watch television shows that glorifies sinful behaviors, we are allowing it into our computer system of our mind. When we surround ourselves with sinful experiences, it enters our mind and softens our defenses. As we know the Israelites did not completely wipe out the Canaanites from the land and they tolerated their existence and eventually their sinful ways infiltrated the Jewish culture and there were constant cycles of idolatry and sinful behaviors of generations of Israelites. They became ineffective for the Lord. We cannot allow sin to fester in our lives. It is like a computer virus, a malicious computer program, that will crash our computer. It is the old garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) principle. How can we expect to have godly thoughts, act in godly ways, live godly lives if we surround ourselves with sinful inputs to our computer systems. We cannot put our hands in the fire and not expect to get burnt by it. We cannot dabble in sin, say it’s ok, without getting burnt by it. We are to be in the world but not of it. We are to witness to the world but not participate in activities that we know to be against the will of God as expressed in His Word. His word is our security software for our minds. We must know His Word and submit to it and not try to operate outside the boundaries of its protection.


Amen and Amen.