Numbers 17-A Failure to Communicate

There was a great classic movie called Cool Hand Luke. In the movie, Steve McQueen was a prisoner that acted as escape artist.  He drove the prison warden crazy. As McQueen would be recaptured, the punishments would become more severe.  The warden, as he issued the punishment, would say these classic words, “What we have, here, is a failure to communicate.” Such was the case with God, Moses and the children of Israel.
God set Moses as the leader of the people. God set Aaron, Moses brother, as the head of the Levites who were the spiritual leaders of the people. Well, after the people rebelled against these men and God, many died. So now, to end the unrest, God told the people to designate a leader from each tribe, and put the leaders name on a staff.  God then had the staffs brought to Him, in the Tabernacle, and He told them he would make the staff of His leader sprout!  Pretty clear assignment; and a pretty clear sign from God.
God told them that He would choose so that people would quit rebelling and then have to be punished and or die.  Seemed like a clear message.  So Aaron’s staff budded, sprouted and produced almonds. No other staff did anything. Aaron was God’s clear choice–end of discussion. So the people’s response was a clear “Failure to communicate”! They came to Moses and cried, “We are lost now, are we going to die?” 
Really? God just said–“I will choose; so no one else has to die!”…What they had there was a failure to communicate.  God loved His people. He wanted to lead them, bless them and simply make them the greatest nation on earth. They simply could not understand. So, they continued to miss the point.
In our lives, God wants the same. He wants to lead us, guide us, and prepare us for eternity. All God asks in exchange, is for us to allow Him to lead us and have a relationship with us. We are constantly looking for the other answer. Like the Israelites we miss the point–God always wants to mold us, bless us and make us the best we can be. It is sometimes very difficult training, but, if we will simply trust Him, we will be blessed. Seems reasonable to me!
God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.

The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.

10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! 13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

I Thessalonians 5–Thanksgiving

This is a rare Saturday post. I am writing this one to remind myself and you that we are to be Thankful and grateful.  Paul was telling the people that they were to encourage one another, they were to acknowledge the efforts of those that worked hard. They were to be grateful and Thankful in all circumstances.  Not because it was easy, but simply because it was God’s will for Christian’s lives.

While it is often difficult, we are to rejoice always, pray continually and be thankful in any and every circumstance. If we will trust God and follow that plan, it is certain that we can overcome the struggles that we face and honor God with our lives.  

This is a week to be thankful. We celebrate it, we stop our business for it.  We gather as families to remember that we have been prepared, protected, provided for by a God that sees and knows all. Let us never take that for granted, and let us always remain thankful.

God Bless You

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Final Instructions

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

Numbers 16 Part 1–Let’s Let God Decide

Moses had grown accustomed to the insolence of the people. Every day, it seemed, some of them were complaining about something. While it was never pleasant, Moses would take it in stride and keep humbly leading the people. But on this day, after Moses had watched the people rebel; after God told Moses the current adults would never enter Canaan; and Moses would be leading them around the desert–Moses was hit with a blow he did not expect–he was accused by his Levite leader of being the one to dishonor God.  It was an outright rebellion and attempted overthrow.
Moses was devastated. He never wanted the Job! God dragged him in and trained him. He and God talked almost daily. Moses was one of the most humble men in history. To be accused of setting himself above the assembly…and by the men he trusted the most–was almost more than he could bear.  But, as Moses was a true friend of God, he did what only a friend could do–Moses said fine, lets let God tell us who He supports.  I am certain the men in rebellion swallowed big when they heard that. 
 It is easy  to get a group of unhappy folks together to complain and stir up trouble, but, when God comes down in a cloud every day in the camp–you better be ready to face Him.  These men heard God on the mountain. They saw God lead them daily. They felt God’s wrath as he burned the edges of camp and dropped quail on them til they were stuffed.  Still, they thought they could overthrow His anointed leader! 
Moses had nothing to lose–In truth, God was all he had anyway. If this God that dragged him from Midian, took him to Egypt, lead him through the plagues and Exodus saw him as rebellious, then so be it.  So, God would be the judge.  
In our lives, we often do all we can to trust and follow God.  In the journey, we fail, we fall and we get up and march again. Throughout the journey, however, we must continue to humbly seek God. If we do, no matter what the enemy , the world or even our closest allies may charge us with–like Moses, we can simply hit our knees and let God decide.  If we can trust God through those most arduous of trials; then we can trust God through anything.  Trusting God through anything is exactly where we need to be.
God Bless You

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent[a] and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

When Moses heard this, he fell face down. Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

Numbers 12–Respecting God’s Man and Plan

It is always easy to criticize those in whom we are jealous. Moses was clearly God’s man. Aaron was Moses spokesman and brother but was never the true leader of Israel. One evening, Aaron and Miriam began criticizing Moses for his choice of wife. He had not been a pure Jew, as it were.  God was not having any of it! He called the three of them to a meeting.  God took no time to set Aaron and Miriam straight–You will not criticize my man, Moses.  Miriam was struck with Leprosy and expelled from camp.  Moses pleaded Miriam’s healing, and God healed her, after allowing her to think about it for a week.
We have to watch our tongues.  We are all sinners, saved by grace. When we start criticizing others, comparing  their worth to ours, it rarely reflects positively on the person criticizing or the one being criticized.  In addition, that behavior calls into question God’s plan and His leadership. We have to trust God to place the right people and circumstances before us, as the Lord leads us on this Amazing Journey. Ours is not to question him, but to follow God humbly and gratefully. (Scripture describes Moses as the humblest man on earth.) Vs. 3.
When we question God’s leadership, we question God. If God brings in the wrong folks, He will correct it. Meanwhile, we are to honor God’s authority.  We are also to remain humble and simply live in a manner worthy of the Gospel. God Calls us to trust Him, follow him, and not spend our days criticizing God’s plan; which we simply do not understand.
God Bless You

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

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

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. 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, 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.
But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
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?”

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.

Numbers 11 Part 1–God, You Are Not Doing Enough…

“Really!”, I am sure that was what God was saying to Himself.  God delivered these people from 400 years of captivity. They were slaves, and they being worked to death and killed for no good reason. God raised and sent them Moses. He struck Egypt with 10 plagues including the killing of Egypt’s firstborn at Passover. God then led the Israelites out of Egypt; with wealth and treasure lavished on them by their former captors. Once out of Egypt, God parted the Red Sea and led them through on dry land–then destroyed the Egyptians that pursued them.
After their release, God led the Israelites to Sinai where He gave them the law. He formed a government for them, and He prepared them to take the land He  promised them.  He led them, fed them protected them and loved them.  Still, they complained about their hardships and their menu.  It wasn’t all the yummy food they got in Egypt, after all.  So God lost His temper–sent fire down and burned the outskirts of the camp…I am sure it aroused some concern. In fact, it scared the people spit-less. Moses prayed and God relented. That should have been enough to remind them–but it was not. Soon the people started complaining about the menu Manna was simply not enough–they thought.  So, God sent so much quail to eat, that the people ate quail till they were sick of it!
We see God do so many amazing things, and because He does, we begin to think we are entitled to be blessed. We get angry when God does not move fast enough or well enough to suit our schedule.  We begin to complain and quit being grateful for all God has done. We forget that we have eternal life. We also have purpose and meaning for our journey here.  When we begin to act entitled, rather than grateful–we take away God’s ability to bless us and use us. Like Israel–I am sure God wants to burn “our outskirts”.  We must always walk seeking him. We need to remain grateful for what we have and not be ungrateful for what we do not have.  As we live with grateful hearts, God will meet our needs and prepare us for whatever lies ahead.  
God Bless You
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah,[a] because fire from the Lord had burned among them.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?

Numbers 9–The Passover

God was clear, the Passover celebration was to be considered a vital part of the culture.  Those that traveled with Israel, foreign or native, needed to celebrate.  Even those that were unclean needed to celebrate Passover.  The Passover was a critical reminder of God’s rescue of the people of Israel.  Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites despite the pleas and promises by Moses. God had to take drastic measures to liberate the people.  The Passover celebration was the reminder of not only God freeing the Israelites, but also that God avenged the deaths of the 1st born males of Israel.

God desires that we know and remember the truth in our relationship with Him. The Lord uses the Bible, fellowship with other believers, and prayer to draw us closer to him.  He also uses occasions like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Passover to help us remember the things He has done to be in relationship with us.

When we encounter these days, we need to do so with reverence and gratefulness.  It is not about the trappings or presents–it is about God freeing us from our slavery and sin, just like He freed the Israelites from their slavery. We must never forget the lengths God went to to free us and to save us from eternal separation from Him.

God Bless You

The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’

Numbers 8 Part 2–The Temple Retirement Plan

God recognized the value and precision of the Levitical priesthood to the nation of Israel.  He wanted the best and the strongest to perform the duties that would define the relationship between God and His people.  So God set parameters for the time of active service for the Levites.  The men form the tribe of Levi who worked in the actual tent of meeting, were only eligible to do lead in the duties of the tabernacle from age 25 to age 50. After that they were to retire.  They could still assist, but they were no longer supposed to do the actual work involved.

So what did the Levitical seniors do to fill their days after age 50? In actuality, this passage speaks to the Temple Guard of the Levitical priesthood. The men that  being described are warriors that are to guard and protect the Tent of meeting.  The treasures that were housed there were significant and precious.  God wanted the best and the brightest to be ready to fight to protect it.  So God’s first retirement really was for his warrior priests and they were to be ready for a span of 25 years and then, they were to step back and let others fill the role.

God knows the best plans for our lives. Like the Levites, God calls us to be ready to go and willing to stand firm. But, God also knows our limitations and never wants us to be put in a position we cannot handle.  We have to be ready to meet the challenges He sets in front of us, but, also know that He will not put us in something we are not ready for.  Even if we may be  too old to be temple warriors, it does not mean we are no longer able to serve.  We simply fill other roles and serve in other ways. God really never calls us to retire; He simply calls us to refocus our energies, talents and experience to serve God and others.

God Bless You

From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”