Thursday, March 16, 2017

March 16: Numbers 24 – 25; Psalm 59; Proverbs 11:14; Luke 2:1-35



Overview

            Numbers: The third time Balak offered sacrifices, Balaam didn’t leave to consult omens because he knew it pleased the Lord to bless Israel. Instead, he gazed upon the tents of Israel and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. He prophesied about Israel.
            He affirmed that he hears and sees what God wants. He then tells how beautiful Israel’s encampment is. He tells how God has blessed them taking them from Egypt and providing for them. This will continue as its kingdom will be exalted and conquer other nations. He asserts that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.
            Balak is angry and tells Balaam that he will receive nothing from him. Balaam reminds him that no amount of gold would keep him from telling what God says. He then prophesies about Moab.
            Moab will cease to exist and a ruler will come from Jacob to crush Moab. Israel will also dispossess Edom and Seir. In addition, Amalek will be destroyed. The Kenites will be burned by Asshur. Ships from Kittim will afflict Asshur and Eber. When he finishes prophesying, Balaam goes home.
            The people of Moab then invite Israelites to their sacrifices and they hook up with Moab women. The Lord tells Moses to hang the offending leaders of Israel. Moses instructs the leaders to kill their men who have engaged in the adulterous worship of Baal of Peor and promiscuity with the women.
            While the people who remained faithful were weeping at the tent of meeting, the son of an Israelite chief brought the daughter of a Midianite chief to his tent in the sight of everyone. Eleazar’s son, Phinehas, saw it, followed them, and killed them both with a spear. This stopped the plague on the people after twenty-four thousand died.
            The Lord promises Phinehas that he will always have a descendant serving as a priest before the Lord because he was jealous for the Lord. Then the Lord tells Moses to harass and strike the Midianites for tricking the people.
            Psalm: David again is asking God for deliverance from his enemies. He hasn’t done anything to deserve their treatment so he ask God to get up and punish even nations.
            His enemies keep coming back like a pack of wild dogs. They don’t think God will observe their behavior. But God does know what they are doing. So David asks God to kill them so that they know God rules.
            When they come back, David will continue to sing God’s praises and take his refuge in him. God is his fortress and shows his love to him.
            Proverbs: People who don’t look for counsel often fail. Many advisors help.
            Luke: Caesar Augustus wants a census so everyone in Judah has to go to his or her hometown to register. This takes Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Jesus is born there.
            The Lord sends angels to shepherds nearby telling them that the Savior has been born and they will find him lying in a manger. The angels announce glory to God and peace to those with whom he is pleased. The shepherds go into town and find Jesus. They then tell others about finding Jesus.
            Jesus was circumcised and named on his eighth day. When it was time for their purification, they took Jesus and the prescribed offering to the temple in Jerusalem. A man named Simeon met them. The Holy Spirit told him he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He recognized Jesus when they brought him into the temple. He praised the Lord and said that Jesus would save all people. He would be a light to the Gentiles. He also told Mary that Jesus would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel and he would be opposed as thoughts of hearts are revealed. Her soul would be pierced.

What Stood Out

            Numbers: “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” (Num 24:9).
            Psalm: “Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city” (Ps 59:6).
            Proverbs: “In an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov 11:14).
            Luke: “This child is appointed … for a sign that is opposed … so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Insight

            Numbers: Moab had no valid reason for wanting to curse Israel except for Balak’s fears. While they were camped “in the plains of Moab” (Num 22:1), they were north of Moab’s territory. They had not attacked Moab but had actually killed Moab’s enemy, Sihon, who had taken some of Moab’s territory (Num 21:26). They were now living in this area and had taken over the cities of Sihon and Og (Num 21:31).
            Balaam had previously asked the Lord what to say about Israel and then repeated it. This last time, he didn’t ask. I simply looked at the nation of Israel spread out before him and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. This time, God was clearly making known what his plans were for both Israel and Moab. Had Moab taken a different stand toward Israel, there may still be Moabites to this day. However, the clear plan of God is to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse it.
            Moab wanted to curse Israel, it is no long a nation, and there are no more Moabites. Israel still exists even after nearly two thousand years of exile. The descendents of the original Israelites are still numerous all over the world as well in Israel in spite of attempts to eradicate them by people like Haman in the book of Esther or Hitler in World War II.
            That one verse spoken by Balaam is one of God’s serious promises, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” (Num 24:9). When Israel disobeyed, the Lord was the one who brought nations against them. They did his bidding but when they went too far, the Lord punished them (Jer 25:12). Because the Lord isn’t finished with Israel, it should make us think seriously about our attitude toward the nation of Israel as well as Jews around the world. We certainly should be blessing them and not cursing them. That doesn’t mean we condone whatever they do, but it means we seek their blessing from the Lord. That’s one reason I support Jewish evangelism through Jews for Jesus. There is no better way to bless people than to help them know Jesus as their personal Messiah.
            Psalm: We live near a greenbelt where coyotes roam. When they howl, it is eerie and wicked sounding. It reminds me of David’s description of his howling enemies like a dog pack. While I don’t have human enemies like David, there is one who does the same thing. Satan is like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He is our enemy and the instigator of sin. Sin doesn’t always need Satan helping out because our own evil desires are sufficient to instigate sin (James 1:14-15). Satan and evil desires are just like those coyotes, dogs, and David’s enemies. They keep coming back, screaming to unnerve us so that we will fall, and sin. What did David do? He sang praises to God (Ps 59:16). James says to submit to God and draw near to him (James 4:7-8). Sounds like a plan the next time I’m tempted.
            Proverbs: It is too easy to do stuff without asking others if it is wise or a good direction. I’m impulsive and pride is at the center of leaning on my own wisdom instead of seeking wise counsel. Of course, the best counselor is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. If the Bible says it isn’t wise, I don’t need to ask others for advice. Too many worldly counselors will lead us astray.
            Luke: Simeon was blessed with a great promise from the Lord. He was one of few people who recognized Jesus for who he is. Jesus is the Messiah not only for Israel, but for the Gentiles also. He is the one who brings salvation. What he said about Jesus was so astounding that even Mary and Joseph were wondering about it. Simeon apparently had something to say to Mary in private.
            He told her that Jesus was appointed for the rise and fall of many in Israel. He also said he was appointed for a sign that would reveal what is in a person’s heart. This last one is something that we seldom ponder. Jesus taught from the very beginning that what is in our hearts is our problem, not our outward conformity to the Law. When our hearts contain evil, we will produce evil. That is why he was always in opposition to the Pharisees. His very presence in their lives convicted them of sin.
            The same can be seen when someone mentions the name of Jesus. Those who know him rejoice and are glad. Those who don’t know him scoff, ridicule, and even use his name as a curse. When we talk to people about who Jesus is, it reveals what’s in their hearts. Thankfully, when he is in our hearts, we can overcome those temptations to sin that are like howling coyotes.

Application

            I’m thankful that Jesus has come as our Savior. It would be depressing to try to live a godly life without him. Sure, counselors could help but there would be no true victory over sin. Thank you Jesus, for saving us, living in us, and enabling us to be victorious over sin. It is time to sing a song to the Lord!

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