Thursday, March 25, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Three

Day Seventy Three, Joshua 18-21

I’ll confess again, today’s reading was filled with more boring geographical reading about how the land was divided up among the Israelites. It was filled with even more unpronounceable names of places, and even more unpronounceable names of people that took possession of those unpronounceable places that the Israelites conquered.

The one thing that I took away from today’s reading came at the very end, where the Scripture says, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Lord keeps His promises. Always. (Can I get an amen?)

Also…look at what the Scripture says about His promises…it calls them “good promises”. Folks, He’s good. God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-Two

Day Seventy-Two, Joshua 13-17

I’ll confess, today’s reading was filled with boring geographical reading about how the land was divided up among the Israelites. It was filled with unpronounceable names of places, and unpronounceable names of people that took possession of the unpronounceable places that the Israelites conquered.

The one interesting thing that happened in today’s reading was that Caleb requested his inheritance in the promised land. We’ve not heard much of Caleb lately, it’s pretty much been all about Joshua as the leader of the people. But Joshua was not alone on the day that he came back from spying Canaan 45 years earlier. Caleb stood by his side, also trying to convince the people of Israel that the Lord was with them and would give them the land.

Although the people wouldn’t listen to them, on that day, Moses told Caleb, “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.”

Now, 45 years later, Caleb goes to Joshua with the request, “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

What faith!

Project 4:4--Day Seventy-One

Day Seventy-One, Joshua 9-12

Today’s reading is also one of significance for me, again because of that Beth Moore “Believing God” study.

Basically, the Israelites make a treaty with the Gibeonites, who lead the Israelites to believe that they are from afar. The Israelites go into this themselves, without inquiring of the Lord, and they are deceived. For the people are actually not from afar--they are neighboring people that the Israelites were to conquer. But they were afraid so they deceived the Israelites into this peace treaty, so that the Israelites must keep their word to them and not destroy them.

Well, when an alliance of kings goes to attack Gibeon, they send word to the Israelites, asking for help. They say, “Remember that treaty you made with us? Come help us now, to fight these kings!” So because Israel must, they go to help defend Gibeon.

Beth talked in her lesson on this about how the Israelites must have felt. They spend all night marching, literally uphill, to fight this battle for the Gibeonites. She talked about how exhausted they must be, not to mention angry with themselves, for falling for the tricks of the Gibeonites, and not bothering to talk to the Lord about it beforehand. She also mentioned that the world’s mentality is one of, “You got yourself into this mess—now get yourself out of it.”

Praise God, dear friends, that our God is not that way! He told Joshua not to be afraid; He would give these people into their hands. The Lord threw the armies of the alliance of kings into confusion, and he sent large hailstones among them. Word says more of the men died from the hailstones than were killed by the sword that day.

Also, on that day, Joshua asks the Lord to make the sun stand still as they fight this battle in Israel. A couple of main points from the entire “Believing God” series were having the faith to believe that God is who He says He is and that He is able to do what He says He can do. It’s about having faith to believe Him for anything. Whether He gives what you’re asking or not, you’ve gotta at least believe that He can. She touched briefly on what a major request Joshua made, as he believed the Lord for the seemingly-impossible. Scripture says, “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”

Project 4:4--Day Seventy

Day Seventy—Joshua 6-8

Today’s reading includes the conquering of both Jericho and Ai.

From the conquering of Jericho, the main thing that I take away is this: when you’re following God’s instructions, sometimes it may seem like you’re going around in circles, not making any progress. Trust Him anyway, and continue to obey Him.

After the conquering of Jericho, the Israelites attempt to conquer Ai. However, because of the sin of one man, Achan, the Lord is not with the Israelites, and they were routed by the men of Ai.
Joshua prays to the Lord, who tells him that Israel has sinned, and that is why He is no longer with them. He instructs Joshua to destroy the evil from among the camp, then He will bless Israel once again.

From this first attempt to conquer Ai, the main thing that I take away is this: one person’s sin can affect the lives of many, many people. And friends, that affect is not a good one. As a dear friend of mine has often emphasized on his blog, “sinleadstodeath, sinleadstodeath, sinleadstodeath.”

After the Israelites destroy Achan, his family, and all of his belongings, then the Lord gives the city of Ai into the hands of the Israelites. After they conquer Ai, they build an altar to the Lord on Mount Ebal, according to the Lord’s instructions through Moses before they crossed over into the promised land.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Nine

Day Sixty-Nine, Joshua 1-5

Today’s reading is one that is filled with lots of major significance for me, after last summer’s Beth Moore study that I did on believing God.

I wrote a post about it here.

Just to give a short recap of that, though, we have the Israelites cross over the Jordan and prepare to conquer the land of Canaan. Beth taught of the significance of the ark of the covenant going before the Israelites, parting the waters of the Jordan, as He was keeping His promise and fulfilling the covenant He had made with Abraham many, many years earlier. (Let me just say that God keeps His promises. Always. Can I get an amen?)

After they crossed the Jordan, they camped at Gilgal, where the men, who had not been circumcised, were circumcised. When they did this, the Lord said, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” That’s how this campsite got the name “Gilgal”—which sounds like the Hebrew word for “roll” or “circle”. Beth also taught that the Lord was the One who had brought the Israelites full circle. He made a covenant with Abraham many years ago, for them to be His people. But then they were in slavery for hundreds of years. But this day, the Lord has brought them back up out of slavery, as now THEY are preparing to conquer a land.

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Eight

Day Sixty-Eight, Deuteronomy 33-34

Despite the song of the Israelites’ disobedience in the previous day’s reading, Moses last words to the Israelites are blessings upon each of the tribes.

Today’s reading ends with Moses viewing the promised land from the top of Mount Nebo. After this, he dies, and the Lord buries him. The Israelites mourn for him thirty days, then Joshua was filled with the Spirit and took over as the people prepared to enter the promised land.

We also see an amazing testament to the kind of man of God that Moses was. Scripture says of him, “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face…”

Oh to know Him like that!

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Seven

Day Sixty-Seven, Deuteronomy 31-32

In today’s reading, Moses is drawing even nearer to the end of his life, and Joshua, his aide, is to take over as the leader of Israel. In the presence of al the people, Moses encourages Joshua with these words:

“Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Although Moses has warned the people against disobeying God’s commands, the Lord already knows that His children will be disobedient. So the Lord teaches Moses a song which contrasts the Israelites’ unfaithfulness with the Lord’s faithfulness. Moses is instructed to teach this song to the Israelites, so that they will remember what the Lord has said.

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Six

Day Sixty-Six, Deuteronomy 27-30

Now that Moses has finished restating the laws of the Lord, in today’s reading the Israelites renew the covenant that they first made at Mount Sinai.

Moses assures the people that if they follow God’s laws, He will bless them and they will be very fruitful and prosperous in the promised land.

However, he also reminds them that the Lord will bring curses of unfruitfulness, plagues, diseases, oppression, captivity, and dispersion if they fail to obey His commands and walk in His ways.

Moses reminds the people of all the great things the Lord has done in keeping His covenant to them, and how He has cared for and provided for them.

Moses also reminds the people that this covenant is to be everlasting, from one generation to another. They are to pass down the Lord’s commands to the generations that come after them, so that their descendants will know the Lord and walk in His ways.

Although there is the warning against disobedience, there is also a reminder of God’s grace. Moses assures the people that even if the Lord scatters them to the most distant lands, if their children repent and turn to the Lord with all their hearts, then He will show compassion and restore them.

Moses encourages the people by letting them know that this covenant is not too difficult for them too keep, and not too distant, for ‘the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”

Moses ends this renewal of the covenant by giving the people a choice. He says, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess…This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

“For the Lord is your life…”

The same applies to us today. Indeed, it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

Also, we have the same choice today.

Choose wisely.

Choose life.

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Five

Project 4:4—Day Sixty-Five

Day Sixty-Five, Various Passages from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Awhile back, I wrote a series (that I guess I’ve still not technically finished) about God and remembrance: what God remembers, what He wants us to remember, and examples of people asking Him to remember certain things.

We see some more of this again, in today’s reading, as the Lord instructs the people to makes tassels on the corners of their garments as a reminder to obey all the commands of the Lord. He promises blessings for remembering and obeying. But He also promises punishment for disobedience.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Project 4;4--Day Sixty-Four

Day Sixty-Four, More Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading was a little bit of a hodge-podge as we finish up the 613 precepts of the Law. There were laws about how to treat the poor, laws about treating people with respect, and laws about going to war.

I love that God instructs the people to leave some crops in their field for the poor and the widow. He sternly warns, “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

I love the fact that our God never changes; He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. In James His Word says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-Three

Day Sixty-Three, Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading deals with everyone’s favorite subject: Diet.

Actually, God gave the Israelites specific instructions about what types of animals were clean and unclean, what types of animals the Israelites were and were not allowed to eat.

Again, we see the message repeated that the Israelites were to be set apart because the Lord was holy, so His people were also to be holy.

Project 4;4--Day Sixty-Two

Day Sixty-Two, More Various Passages from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

The motto for today’s reading is that “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

There are health regulations regarding dealing with contagious diseases, mold, mildew, etc.

God instructs the people that if they have to deal with any of these issues, they should isolate themselves to keep from contaminating other things, making other things unclean.

Incredible to me how much of this law that God laid out for the people was for their own good…they just might not have known it at the time.

Passing the Torch, Part II

In my previous post, I shared with you about my friend Jim, who was my minister at my church when I was in college. If Jim changed the way I view ministers, by making them seem more accessible, more like someone I can be friends with, then this guy has taken that one step further by making them seem real. His name is Chuck Monan, and he’s the preacher at my church here in Little Rock.

I don’t know him nearly as well as I know Jim. But I have been at my church here in Little Rock for over four years now….so I guess technically now I’ve listened to him preach on a regular basis longer than I listened to Jim.

In trying to describe Chuck, several words come to mind: genuine, matter-of-fact, honest (sometimes blunt), passionate, funny, thoughtful, practical, very well-read, interesting (perhaps because he’s so well-read), very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

I have the privilege of listening to him not only on Sundays from the pulpit, but also in a classroom setting on Wednesday nights. His authenticity, genuineness, realness, whatever you prefer to call it, is what I love most about him. And, in fact, one of those moments that I think I heard him at his most real, open, and honest, occurred during one of those Wednesday night classes, a little over a year ago. I’ll go ahead and share a little bit of that story here…

Chuck always ends our class discussions with a prayer. Always. Chuck’s even been known to start or end a sermon with a prayer. Not often, but occasionally. And I’ve been listening to him preach and going to his class, listening to him most Sundays and Wednesdays for the past four years and a couple of months now. Suffice it to say, I’ve heard Chuck pray/lead us in prayer more times than I can count.

But that one Wednesday night, we ended class, and as he started praying about something very near and dear to his heart, something changed. I’m not sure if it was the tone of his voice or just what. I don’t even remember the words he said. I just remember feeling, all of a sudden, like the 40+ of us that were in the room with him were eavesdropping on his very personal conversation as, for a few seconds, he poured his heart out to his Creator and Father God...and I was like “Whoa!”

After class, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just imagined that…” But then, later that evening at dinner, a friend said something about “…Chuck’s prayer tonight! It was pretty intense.”

That’s just an example that remains in my mind of his ability to be so open and real. But along with that quality goes the fact that he is very practical. That’s probably what I’ve been blessed the most by. I’ve been going to church, listening to sermons for years. Good sermons, lessons where I learn a lot. But sometimes those lessons can be lofty/weighty/theological/difficult to apply to my life here in 21st century America. However, I think I can honestly say that every time I sit at Chuck’s feet (metaphorically speaking, of course!) and learn from him, I walk away with a practical idea of at least one thing that I can actually do to try to be more like the person God wants me to be.

Thanks, Chuck, for passing that on.

Project 4:4--Day Sixty-One

Day Sixty-One, Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading includes various rules about marriage, divorce, adultery, prostitution, incest, etc.

I don’t have too much to say regarding these rules, considering that I’ve never been married.

I do know that God takes marriage very seriously. He likens the relationship between Him and His people to that of a husband and wife. When the Israelites turn away from Him to follow other gods, they are guilty of adultery, in a sense.

Yet even though His people are unfaithful, God remains faithful.

A couple of other favorite passages come to mind…

The command in Ephesians for husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”

And a passage from Hosea, where the Lord says, “’Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up out of Egypt. In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘you will call me “my husband”’ you will no longer call me “my master”…’I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.’”

Project 4:4--Day Sixty

Day Sixty, Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading includes more rules and regulations regarding people’s personal rights and responsibilities. It includes instructions for people to take responsibility for damage or destruction that they’ve caused; instructions on treating slaves with dignity rather than harshly; instructions not to charge interest or take as collateral something that a person needs to survive; instructions on canceling debts; obligations to the poor; rules about keeping your oaths; and instructions about dealing honestly with people, using proper weights and measures.

Again, I love the emphasis on treating people fairly, as God reminds the people that they are dealing with their brethren. In short, they are to treat people the way they would want to be treated. Jesus would lay out this golden rule for his followers in Matthew 7:12.

Also in this reading is a passage that became one of my favorites a long time ago, as it is the source for a song that I learned at church camp when I was approximately 10 or 11 years old. I’m not sure who wrote the song, or I would give credit where credit is due. But the song is called Pierce My Ear and the words are as follows:

Pierce my ear, O Lord my God;
Take me to Your door this day.
I will serve no other God.
Lord I’m here to stay.

For you have paid the price for me;
With your blood you ransomed me.
I will serve you eternally;
A free man I’ll never be.

So what does serving God eternally have to do with piercing my ear? Well, in Exodus 21, God gives these instructions regarding an Israelite that takes one of his Hebrew brothers as a slave:

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Nine

Day Fifty-Nine, Various Passages from Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading has rules regarding specific crimes…crimes against people and property…crimes about such things as murder, manslaughter, injury, kidnapping, rape, assault, theft, etc.

God laid out rules to prevent these things from happening, yet to protect those who committed one of these things accidentally or unintentionally. Again, the emphasis is on the fact that the people are to be holy to the Lord, and thus they are to get rid of every form of evil among them.

Passing the Torch--Part I

I’m a little bit behind here, but a couple of weeks ago, JD asked people to write a blog post themed “passing the torch”, sharing with everyone about a minister who has been influential in their lives.

I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell you about a couple of men of God in my life. The first is a man that I went to college with at Henderson State University down in Arkadelphia, AR. His name is Jim Buie. He’s a few years older than me…but he took his time going through school, taking a year off here, or a semester off there…so even though he’s about five years older than me, we were in school together for most of my own four-year college career.

Jim was (and still is) the preacher at our church there in Arkadelphia. One of the very first things he did for me was change the way that I view preachers. I know that sometimes as we sit and listen to these godly Christian men preach from the perfect Word of God week after week after week, it’s hard not to think of them a little bit differently. We might come to expect more from them, putting them on some sort of a pedestal, so to speak.

But for the first time in my life, my minister was my peer. He was someone that I spent a lot of time with. He was my friend. (I’d never really been friends with a preacher before. Not really, you know; they were just these men, older than my parents, who got up each week and told me how to better live according to God’s Word.) But as his friend, I got to know a little bit of the struggles that he faced as a minister to a congregation.

As his friend, I was also blessed that I got to see his generous heart. As often as he had the chance, he’d share his material blessings with others.

But more than anything, I was blessed and encouraged by seeing his dedication to the Lord. I believe what’s left the biggest impression on me is the way that he allowed God to control his life and his plans, in order that God might use him. You see, Jim didn’t set out to be a minister. In fact, although he grew up going to church, he didn’t even become a Christian until he was about nineteen years old! Jim was a music ed. major, and his plan was to become a band director! And a fine band director he would’ve made, I’m sure! But God had other plans…so when God seemed to be calling Jim into ministry, Jim changed his plans. He changed his major and took some time off to focus more on ministry.

I’m not certain, but I believe within several months of becoming a Christian, he was acting as a sort of youth minister to some of the high school kids at the church he attended. A few months after that, another church in town was in the process of looking for a new preacher. They would have men in town occasionally on the weekends, trying out for the position, if you will. But they asked Jim to fill in for them on the weeks when they didn’t have someone in town.

That was ten years ago. Jim is in their pulpit today, still preaching. I don’t do as good of a job of keeping up with him as I should. We text occasionally. I usually see him a couple of times a year. We usually counsel a week of church camp and a weekend retreat each year, where I get to see him pour himself out in ministering to kids...seems to me that’s what he’s really got a heart for.

Despite the fact that I don’t talk to him as often, or spend as much time with him, or even get to hear him preach often anymore, I continue to be blessed by the example this brother of mine has set, submitting to God’s will for his life.

Thanks, Jim, for passing that on.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Eight

Day Fifty-Eight, Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

This reading has rules about the Israelites government: rules for their king, for a judicial system, for establishing courts, for maintaining justice, and for punishment of crimes.

Just overall, I love the emphasis that God places on these things…on justice and fairness. I love the fact that He loves people, so He wants His people to love each other and treat each other fairly.

Also of interest are His instructions to the people for when they settle in the land and want a king to rule over them. God instructs them that the king “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold…he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”

Unfortunately, it’s when the kings of Israel rejected this advice, beginning with Solomon, that things went downhill for the people of Israel.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Seven

Day Fifty-Seven, Various Passages from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading has rules and regulations regarding people who were to be excluded from the congregation; vows taken before the Lord; gifts dedicated to the Lord; and laws of separation.

In this reading were the instructions for the Nazirite Vow. This is interesting for me, just cause it reminds me of Samson, one of the most interesting Nazirites we’ll read about in the entire Old Testament. I’m looking forward to that.

Looking forward to just about any reading that’s more interesting than what we’ve got these days.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Six

Day Fifty-Six, Various Passages from Leviticus and Numbers

This day’s reading has rules for the Israelites for purification from various types of uncleanness. It has rules about childbirth, leprosy, bodily discharges, death…

Basically, lots of things can make a person unclean by coming in contact with them. This was unacceptable, as the Israelites were to be holy, set apart. That’s the recurring theme through a lot of the rules for the Israelites. It’s as though cleanliness really is next to godliness.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Five

Day Fifty-Five, Various Passages from Exodus and Leviticus

This day’s reading contained rules for the priests that were to serve the Lord. There were rules about their appearance, their clothing, who they could marry, etc. Those who had some type of physical defect or who were unclean in any way were not allowed to serve. Only those who were perfect, if you will, could serve, because they were to be holy.

I’m reminded of Peter’s words to the early church, words which apply to us as Christians today: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Like the Israelites, we are God’s chosen people, and like the Israelites, we are to be holy because God is holy. However, we have received His mercy, and we are all priests, able to serve the living God, able to approach His throne, being made holy by the blood of Christ, who is our High Priest.

This day’s reading also had instructions for a Sabbatical year, in which there was to be rest for the land, with no sowing and reaping in the seventh year.

Finally, there were instructions given for the Israelites to celebrate a Year of Jubilee every fifty years. It would begin on the Day of Atonement, and it was to be a holy year. In this year, debts were to be cancelled, property could be redeemed, slaves or servant could go free. This year of celebration seems to have been designed in part to keep the Israelites from mistreating one another. Also, though, it seems to foreshadow a celebration of our own freedom in Christ, who has redeemed us and made us His own.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Four

Day Fifty-Four, Various Passages from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading has instructions for guilt offerings and special offerings.

Guilt offerings, similar to sin offerings, were made in the case of unintentional sin. The regulations for various guilt offerings also include instructions for making restitution for certain trespasses.

Besides these five major types of offerings covered over the past couple of days (Burnt, Grain, Peace, Sin, and Guilt offerings) there were other special offerings that were to be made at various times…the Sabbath, the first of the month, etc. Today’s reading contained rules about these offerings and a few other details of the Israelites worship, regarding the lamps burning and the showbread.

This reading ended, however, with an instruction for Aaron to bless the people of Israel with these words:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
I’ve come to love this passage of Scripture simply because it’s the words to a song that our worship minister likes to lead. Occasionally, we’ll end a time of evening worship by singing these words of blessing to each other.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Three

Day Fifty-Three, Various Passages from Leviticus and Numbers

Today’s reading has instructions for peace offerings and sin offerings.

Peace offerings, unlike the burnt offerings and grain offerings were only partially burned up—the rest was to be eaten. If it was a required offering, it belonged to the priest to eat. If it was a freewill offering, the worshiper could also eat of the offering. It was considered a type of fellowship offering.

The sin offering was an offering that was made to atone for a sin or transgression of omission that was committed unintentionally. There were specific instructions given for sin offerings for the priests, leaders among the people, the entire congregation, and individuals.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-Two

Day Fifty-Two, Various Passages from Leviticus and Numbers

Today’s reading talks about a couple of the different types of offerings the Israelites were commanded to give to the Lord. It has regulations for burnt offerings and grain offerings.

Burnt offerings were continuous sacrifices of unblemished animals. The worshiper was to lay his hands on the animal, its blood was used to make atonement for the person worshiping, and the burnt offering was completely burned up.

The grain offering was an offering of devotion, and was to bring God’s blessing upon the crops. There were specific instructions about how they were to be prepared, and the worshiper would offer whatever crops they were offering according to those specified instructions.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty-One

Day Fifty-One, More Various Verses from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading covers all the feasts that the Israelites were commanded to celebrate. There were three major feasts, along with a few others that the Israelites were to celebrate each year.

The first major feast is the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Passover. This, of course, memorializes God freeing the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, as He sent His angel of death into Egypt, but He passed over the homes of the Israelites that were covered in the blood of the lamb. This was a weeklong celebration, during which times the Israelites were to have no yeast. They were to eat unleavened bread. The Passover meal was to include lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. On the first day, and on the seventh day, they were to observe a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It was to be celebrated during the first month of the Jewish calendar (March-April).

The second major feast is the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of the Harvest or the Feast of Firstfruits. They were to celebrate by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord had given them. Along with this grain offering, they were to present seven male lambs, one young bull, and two rams as a burnt offering. They were also to present a male goat as a sin offering, and two lambs as a fellowship offering. They were to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work, as they celebrated in thanksgiving to the Lord their God. It was to be celebrated seven weeks (or fifty days) after the Passover, in the third month of the Jewish calendar (May-June). This is what we would later know as the Day of Pentecost, which holds major significance for us as Christians, as the day the church was established. (See Acts chapter 2!)

A lesser feast is the Feast of Trumpets. It was a day for the Israelites to sound the trumpets. They were to hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work, and to prepare a burnt offering to the Lord of a young bull, a ram, and seven male lambs. This was to be celebrated on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (September-October). Because this coincides with the first on the civil calendar, it is also a New Year’s celebration known today as Rosh Hashanah.
One of the most important days to be recognized was a Day of Atonement. This was the only day of the year that the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, with the blood of a goat, in order to make atonement for the sin of the people of Israel. The high priest would sacrifice a bull to make atonement for himself, then he would bring the blood of one goat into the Holy of Holies, while another goat, used as a scapegoat would be released into the desert, carrying on itself the sins of the people of Israel. This day called for fasting, rather than feasting, for all the people of Israel. It was to be celebrated in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (September-October).

The third major feast celebrated by the Israelites was the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Ingathering. This feast, also celebrated in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar (September-October) was also associated with a time of harvest. It was to be a week-long celebration. The people were to hold a sacred assembly on both the first and seventh days, and they were to do no regular work. They were also to make certain offerings to the Lord for each day of the feast. During this week the people were to live in booths or tents, as a reminder of the time that they spent wandering in the desert because of their unbelief.

Now, I realize this is a really long post, with a lot of detail about the different feasts the Israelites were commanded to recognize and celebrate. But it helps me to think through them all “out loud” if you will, to get my own brain wrapped around them.

Also, I think it’s important to note that God is very concerned with the fact that the Israelites actively take steps to remember Who the God that they serve is and who they are as His people; to remember where they’ve come from, where God has brought them from; to remember all that the Lord has commanded them; and to remember why He has been so good to them—because He loves them. God remembers…and He wants His people to do the same.

Project 4:4--Day Fifty

Day Fifty, More Various Verses from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

Today’s reading covers laws against false spiritualists, laws against blasphemy, laws requiring dedications, laws requiring tithing, special instructions for conquest, and laws regarding the Sabbath.

God makes it clear that He doesn’t like witchcraft or sorcery. Those who practice that should be put to death. Those who claim to be prophets but speak of their own accord are also to be put to death. God says a test is to see if what the prophet predicted comes true. If it doesn’t happen, then the prophet is to be put to death. The key here with death as the penalty for almost everything is a command for the Israelites to “purge the evil from among you.” As God’s holy people, sin cannot be tolerated.

God also makes it clear the His name is to be revered, not blasphemed, “for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” The penalty for blasphemy was also death.

God required the first and best of everything be given to Him. The firstborn male sons were to be dedicated to God, as were the firstborn of all the cattle and sheep. The best of the firstfruits of the soil were to be given to the Lord. He also required a tithe, or a tenth of everything, be given to Him.

God gives instructions for the Israelites after they cross over into the promised land. They are to dedicate to the Lord a portion of the firstfruits of the land the Lord is giving them. They are to remember what God has done for them in bringing them out of slavery and into a land flowing with milk and honey, and they are to be thankful to Him.

Sounds demanding, but Scripture says the purpose of all this is “so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.” And reverence it is that one feels toward God, when he realizes that every good thing comes from God and he realizes just how much the Lord has blessed him. Has a way of humbling a person to realize that God has blessed him beyond what he deserves. Reminds me of one of my favorite passages at the end of I Chronicles, when David is making preparations for the Temple that his son Solomon is to build, and the Israelites have brought gifts for building the Temple.

David, the sweet singer of Israel prays a prayer of praise to the Lord in the presence of the entire assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

This reading also included rules for the Sabbath, the last day of the week, on which the Israelites were to do no work, “for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He abstained from work and rested.” They were to keep the Sabbath holy, as the Lord was holy. Reminds me of one of my favorite little commercials that I hear on KLOVE radio on the weekends, where they encourage people to spend some time in worship on the weekend and to relax, refresh, and recharge, because, as they say, “taking a day off was God’s idea in the first place.”

Project 4:4--Day Forty-Nine

Day Forty-Nine, Various verses from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy

Today marks the beginning of a series of days in which the verses are very much mixed up, taking portions from three different books as we outline the specific laws that are laid out for the Israelites as the Law of Moses.

Today’s reading covers religious and ceremonial laws, the main point of which is a warning against worshiping idols or any other gods. The people are told repeatedly that there will be serious consequences for worshiping any other than the One True God.

Also in this reading is the fact that God says when they go over into the promised land, He will choose a place as a dwelling for His Name. That is where He is to be worshiped, and the people are to bring their sacrifices to Him there.

When I read that, my brain automatically fast-forwarded several hundred years to that day when Jesus was on His way from Judea to Galilee, and He purposefully went through Samaria to get there rather than going around it, as was the normal custom of the Samaritan-hating Jews, and He stopped at a well to talk to a Samaritan woman, who had lived a less-than-reputable life, being married-and-divorced five times, and who was currently living with a man who was not her husband at all, but who was a woman that Jesus still valued enough to tell her about the living water that He has to offer that will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”, to discuss with her what true worship is (and explain that it doesn’t matter where it physically takes place) and to allow her the privilege of being the first person to whom He reveals Himself as the promised Messiah!

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. But after several weeks of all of this reading about the instructions for the Tabernacle, and the rules for the priests, and the regulations regarding all the feasts and the sacrifices and the offerings, and just all of the other numerous details of the Law of Moses, I really needed some Jesus in my life. Here’s what He said to her:

“Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”