Numbers: A Canaanite king, Arad, heard that Israel was coming so he fought and captured some of them. Israel made a vow to wipe them from existence if God helped. So they did.
Israel traveled from Mount Hor, became discouraged, and started grumbling about being brought out of Egypt, having no food, and the worthless manna. The Lord sent fiery serpents and many died. They repented and the Lord told Moses to put a bronze fiery serpent on a pole so that any who looked to it would not die.
They continued to move through the wilderness from place to place. At Beer, the Lord provided water and the people sang about the princes and lawgivers digging the well. The then moved to the land of Moab near Mount Pisgah.
Moses sent word to Sihon, king of the Amorites asking to pass through. But he would not allow it and came out to fight with Israel. Israel defeated him and took possession of his land. A proverb spoke of Sihon’s defeat. It also spoke of Moab, the people of Chemosh (an idol), being captured by Sihon, but Israel wiped out Sihon the Amorite.
Og, king of Bashan went to fight Israel also. Israel defeated them and took their land also.
Then Israel camped in the plains of Moab on the east side of the Jordon River across from Jericho. Balak was king of Moab and was very frightened by Israel after seeing what they did to the Amorites. He sent for Balaam to come and curse Israel because the people Balaam blessed were blessed and the ones he cursed were cursed.
The elders of Moab and Midian went to Balaam with his diviner’s fee. Balaam asked them to stay overnight to see what the Lord would say to him.
God asked Balaam who the men were that came overnight. Balaam explained it and the Lord told him not to go with them. So Balaam told them the Lord had refused to let him go.
The elders went home and then Balak sent princes who were more noble and honorable to Balaam. They offered anything Balaam would request to curse Israel. Balaam responded by saying that no amount would get him to do anything other than what God would command. They stayed the night and God told Balaam to go with them but do only what he commands. In the morning, Balaam went with them.
Psalm: David calls to God for mercy as he takes refuge in the Lord and watches the storms go by. He trusts that God will fulfill what he has planned for him. His enemies will be shamed. In the midst of his enemies and troubles, David praises and exalts God. He is steadfast and sings. He looks forward to giving God thanks among the people.
Proverbs: Godless men destroy with words, whether neighbors or cities. The righteous are a blessing to the cities and their knowledge delivers.
Luke: Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that God favors her. She doesn’t understand and is troubled. He reassures her and tells her that she will conceive and will have a son whom she is to name Jesus. Jesus will be great, called the Son of the Most High, have the throne of David, and reign forever.
Mary wants to know how it will happen because she is a virgin. Gabriel tells her that the power of God will do it so that Jesus will be called holy, the Son of God. He assures her that by telling her that Elizabeth is pregnant and nothing is impossible with God. Mary agrees to it.
Mary then goes to visit Elizabeth. When she greetes Elizabeth, John leaps in her womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim that Mary is blessed and the mother of her Lord.
Mary then magnifies the Lord and extols how God has blessed her and those who fear him. He brings down the proud and mighty but exalts the humble, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away. He has remembered Israel in his mercy as promised to Abraham. Mary stays with Elizabeth for three months then returns home.
What Stood Out
Numbers: “Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us” (Num 21:7).
Psalm: “I will sing and make melody!” (Ps 57:7).
Proverbs: “When the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness” (Prov 11:10).
Luke: “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’” ( Luke 1:38).
Numbers: The people of Israel continue to stay true to their form. When the going gets rough, they grumble and complain. In Numbers 21:5, they go so far as to say they loathe the worthless food God had given them, the manna. This seems to be the climax of selfish ungratefulness. God has done so much for them in getting them out of their slavery in Egypt. He has provided for their needs in the desert. He has forgiven them for their rebellion instead of wiping them out of existence. Now they complain about the very food that the Almighty God, Creator has given them. If these were our kids, we would send them to bed without supper. We would give them a time out that they would remember. God doesn’t let it go either. Instant death hasn’t quelled their rebellions so he does something different, he sends fiery serpents that bite and kill them.
When they repent and come running to Moses, the Lord does another thing differently. Instead of removing the snakes as they ask, he has Moses make a bronze replica of the snakes and put it on a pole. When someone is bitten, they can look at the snake on the pole and live. The snakes are still there biting people. They are in pain and certainly remember their sin, but if they demonstrate their trust in the Lord and look at the pole, they will be saved.
This is a great foreshadow of what was to come in Jesus’ crucifixion. We are sinners and in our sinful state, we have snubbed God and all he has done for us. He doesn’t wipe us out because of our sin but gave us Jesus, crucified to take away our sins. When we look to him and trust in him, we will be saved. That’s exactly what Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). We still live in a sinful world and our sins still bite us, but we can always trust Jesus to forgive us and cleans us (1 John 1:9).
Psalm: David is in trouble again, or still. Saul has him hiding in a cave. Yet David’s response is to take refuge in the Lord. Trough all that is going on, he writes a song of praise and glory to the Lord. How many times do we break out in song when we faced with dire circumstances in our lives? Do we thank God for his refuge? Do we look forward to the time when we will be able to tell others about what it means to trust the Lord and take refuge in him during trials? Maybe not always but it is something to remember. We don’t want to be like Israel and complain about his care for us. It will bite us. Rather we want to be like David and rest in the shadow of his wings and watch the storm pass.
Proverbs: It’s a sad thing to realize that when wicked people die and their evil ends, people really do rejoice over it. I remember when Joseph Stalin died, March 5, 1953. For those who were too young to remember, he was the dictator over the USSR and oversaw millions of deaths in the country. The West feared him during the Cold War because he oversaw the country’s nuclear arms. When he died, my mother was listening to the radio while milking cows. She came out and yelled to us kids that he had died. She expressed great joy in knowing he was gone. It is sad when wicked people die before repenting and turning to the Lord. However, their passing often brings relief and joy when they are gone. We don’t want to be a person over whom people rejoice when we die.
Luke: Mary’s response to Gabriel’s appearance and message is an inspiration. It is in contrast to Zechariah’s response in that she was presented with the unmistakable announcement that she was going to be the virgin spoke of in Isaiah 7:14. Gabriel’s description of her son was clearly that of the Messiah. He will be called the Son of the Most High, have the throne of David, and reign over Israel forever. Even though she knew the prophecy, she didn’t understand how it would happen since she was a virgin. She wasn’t asking in doubt as did Zechariah, she was asking for more information. Gabriel then explains the miracle of Jesus’ conception will be without a man but the power of God. He tells her that this is going to be a miracle performed by God overshadowing her. The imagery is that of the shekinah glory of God as seen in the Old Testament cloud over the tabernacle. Just in case Mary is hesitant about this, Gabriel adds that her relative, Elizabeth, who was barren, is now pregnant.
Presented with the fact that she is going to be pregnant before her wedding, Mary must have realized what reproach would be heaped on her. Yet she had the assurance that this was God’s will. So, her response is to agree completely with what God wants to do.
How often do we respond with this much faith? Are we willing to do whatever God wants us to do? Are we willing to simply share the Gospel more often? It is his will isn’t it?