Archive for category Sin
When Joshua addresses Israel for the final time in his life, he reminds them of what God did for them and then challenges them to live up to that calling. It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the first three chapters present all that God has done for Christians and the last three urge godly living because of the grace God has bestowed.
In Joshua’s final words we find one of the favorite verses to put on household decorations “But as for me, and my household, we will serve the LORD”.
I find the most interesting part of his final words to be the exhortation to put away the idols that their forefathers worshiped in Egypt and before. It tells us that in spite of the calling of Israel by God they never put away the worldly influence of idolatrous religion. This issue will be the main reason for the downfall of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem approximately 800 years later.
Most of these appear pretty similar to our own laws on these subjects with the exception of the commandment for a woman who was not promised in marriage to marry the man who raped her. Now the father of the woman could say no to this marriage. But, I wonder if they are using the term rape more broadly than we do. We define most rape as forcible action against someone’s will, except in the case of children. But this law makes it appear they may be using it for any sexual activity that happened between an unmarried woman and man. Also, the rule that a couple who were married under these circumstances could not divorce, seems to support the idea that the sexual immorality that one could divorce for under Moses’ law was sexual sins committed before marriage.
The punishment stated for stealing, paying back what was taken plus 20% in most cases, seems like a better solution than putting people in jail and not requiring restitution. But maybe that’s just me.
I’m always amazed by the constant sacrifices being made at the Tabernacle. The level of detail in all the sacrifices and offerings explains to me why a priest wouldn’t begin working in the Tabernacle until they were 25, it would take many years of training to remember how to correctly present the offerings to God.
I find it somewhat ironic that God told the priests not to slaughter a cow or sheep on the same day as its offspring. Is this for the animals sake or, more likely I think, God is teaching Israel something, my guess is compassion and empathy for the loss of life.
The benediction that Aaron was given in Numbers 6:22-27 is the same one I usually use in weddings.
I think if I was offering constant sacrifices at the Temple the thought of sin would be a constant as well. This is somewhat reflected in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans where he says if it were not for the law of Moses he would not know sin, but that the law was given to Moses that he might understand his sin. God’s goal for these sacrifices, I believe, was to teach all people how much we need saving from our sin. That’s why Jesus said He did not come to condemn, because we are condemned already, but to seek and save the lost.
The other response I can see from offering blood sacrifices constantly, is that I might have become callous to the suffering, I would like to think I wouldn’t, but the history of Israel says otherwise. They offered many sacrifices that God hated because of their hardened hearts. We sometimes forget that the law required confession and remorse when these sin sacrifices were made.
On the other hand, because blood sacrifices aren’t being made constantly around me, maybe I take to lightly the cost Jesus paid for my sins.
Even though Balaam could not curse Israel, he did the next best thing as far as the enemies of Israel were concerned. He taught Midian and Moab to go to war using seduction and idolatry instead of direct conflict. This story should hit all of us as coming straight from Satan’s playbook. If our faith in God can’t be defeated by direct argument, then Satan will help us fall using our own desires against us.
The women of Midian that entice Israel into idolatry and sexual immorality may be Temple prostitutes that practice sex in their rituals to Baal. You will notice the passage says the sexual immorality happened after the women had invited the men to participate in their sacrifices to their gods. They practiced sexual activity as sacrifices and offerings to their gods, especially this god which was a fertility god.
The response from God and Israel against Midian sometimes troubles people, but the planned attack on Israel by Midian was warfare of a different type and it caused 24,000 people in Israel to die. The response may seem harsh to us, but we don’t understand , as God does, the consequences of little or no action. Every action or lack of action has consequences that is impossible for us to foresee. But God has demonstrated he knows how to deliver his people, especially in Egypt.
The part of today’s reading that struck me is the story of Moses and Aaron providing water for Israel at Kadesh. Not the story itself, I remember the basics pretty well, Moses and Aaron are frustrated by the people and their constant grumbling and complaining. When the people complain again about no water, Moses hits the rock God told him to speak to. I think most of us can relate to Moses frustration because of kids, parents, work, etc.. One thing I did not remember about this incident is that it happened in the last year they were in the desert. But, that’s not the thing I found so interesting today.
I was struck by how far above us God is, and it emphasizes that God shows no partiality. Moses, we could argue, is one of the two or three most godly people to live, yet he was overcome by his anger and frustration then he displayed pride and arrogance towards Israel. When we puff ourselves up we usually do it in opposition to other people, but the reality is we puff up against God as Moses did. When God punished Moses and Aaron, he says they lacked trust (or faith) in Him and they did not honor God as holy. Even though we might not have seen this incident as a big deal, God held Moses accountable for his sin, and this ought to remind us of what James writes in chapter 3:1, that teachers shall receive a stricter judgment. Spiritual leaders need to be especially aware of anger, frustration and pride creeping into their thoughts as they work with many people like Israel, spiritually immature, often lacking faith and godliness. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as more important or better than others. I think it is the most common sin and temptation for spiritually mature people, PRIDE. And we need reminding that God is Great and Awesome, provides for all, loves all, desiring that all would come to repentance. We are not great if we become spiritually mature, God is great because we are His workmanship.
Israel demonstrated their fear of men and dying, but they did not have a proper fear of God. They worried more about what might happen to their flesh rather than what God could do to their spirit. So they grumbled and complained when they were hungry and afraid, but did not respect the awesome power of God enough to honor Him and do what He commanded.
In this section of Numbers, 3 men along with 250 leaders of Israel oppose Moses’ and Aaron’s authority. They claim Moses and Aaron have taken their positions by their own power. However they were opposing God, not men. God demonstrates this to the nation by opening the earth to swallow up the households of the three men who lead the opposition and burning up the 250 men who followed them.
After witnessing the destruction of the rebellious men, what does the rest of the nation do? Why naturally they rebel themselves (sarcasm). This episode demonstrates, more than just about any other, the rebellious character of the adult Israelites who came out of Egypt. But even with Israel opposing Moses and Aaron, they made incense offerings to save the people. Finally, after 14,700 people died, the people finally realize they will die if they approach the Tabernacle of God and are willing to submit to the ministry of the priests.
How often have we rebelled against the commands of God yet we were not destroyed as we deserved, but instead we received grace because of the love of God and the offering of Jesus.