Tag Archives: Christianity

February 24, 2018 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 30-31.

    Having established that Joshua would be his successor, Moses ordered the Israelites to attack the Midianites from whom the women who seduced the Israelite men into idolatry had come. The fact that Balaam is listed as having been killed as part of this war lends support to the idea that he was not from near the Euphrates but was instead somewhat local. Of further interest is that the Midianite women started seducing Israelite men to worship Baal after Balaam had failed to curse the Israelites on behalf of the Moabite king. The final thing of note is that the Midianites were descended from Abraham through one of his sons by Keturah, whom he married after the death of Sarah.

    The fact that Midianites were also descendants of Abraham explains how Moses’ father-in-law came to worship God and how Balaam came to his knowledge of God (assuming that Balaam was from nearby and a Midianite). It also provides further explanation for why archaeology shows so many similarities between the worship practices of the Israelites and their neighbors. The presence of the Midianites, the Ishmaelites, and the Edomites, as well as the descendants of Keturah’s other sons would have meant that there were a lot of people influenced by Abraham’s worship of God.

February 23, 2018 Bible Study — Planning For Succession

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 27-29.

    When Moses realized that he would not be leading the Children of Israel much longer he asked God to appoint someone to take his place. Moses’ chosen successor was Joshua, who had been Moses’ assistant since shortly after the Israelites left Egypt. Joshua is first mentioned as Moses’ assistant at Mt. Sinai, but the context there indicates that he had already been Moses’ assistant before that. Now the interesting thing is that God splits Moses’ duties between Joshua and Eleazar, Aaron’s son and successor as High Priest. Joshua was to be the leader of the people, but when God’s guidance was needed he was to have Eleazar consult God. Moses did the latter himself. This split created checks and balances which limited the likelihood of abuse of power. There is an important lesson here. Moses had been training Joshua as his successor for the entire time the people of Israel were in the wilderness. Yet he still asked for God’s guidance in selecting his successor. Moses both planned for succession and asked for God’s guidance on implementing it when the time came to do so.

February 22, 2018 Bible Study — The Price of Disobedience

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 25-26.

    Reading this passage again today, I realized that the men who had sexual relations with Moabite and Midianite women did not consider it to be anybody’s business but their own what they did. Since the women they were have sex with were not Israelites they did not think the Israelite community had any say in their behavior toward them. This attitude is reflected in the behavior of the man who brought a Midianite woman to his tent in front of the gathering of the people, despite Moses having called out such behaviors. We are accountable to our community for our behavior, even if the “victims” of our bad behavior are outside of our community. That wording does not adequately convey the lesson from this passage. Phinehas’ actions seem rather harsh, yet 24,000 people among the Israelites died from the plague spread because of men behaving the same as the man whom Phinehas killed. I do not advocate that we follow Phinehas’ example, but we need to hold our fellow believers accountable, and allow our fellow believers to hold us accountable, for being faithful to God’s commands.

February 21, 2018 Bible Study — I Can Only Do What The Lord Tells Me

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 22-24.

    There are two theories about where Balaam was from. The first is that he was from somewhere near the Euphrates (the NLT says exactly that, but there is significant ambiguity about the correct translation of the original Hebrew). If that was the case, he would likely have come from the same area as Abraham’s family, which would suggest he was part of the same religious tradition which eventually resulted in Judaism. The problem with Balaam being from near the Euphrates is that it would have taken several days to weeks for Balak’s messengers to get to him and several weeks for him to return with them. The other possibility is that Balaam was from an area a day or two’s journey north of where the Israelites encountered him. There is a certain logic to this closer location. In addition, there was an archaeological discovery of a wall “painted” with sayings from a “Book of Balaam” on a wall of a house in a town which would fit this alternate origin for Balaam. The only problem is that the wall is from several centuries after this story (and thus might have been something created because of this story). In this latter case, we discover one of several biblical indications that some of the people in the area worshiped the same God as the Israelites.

    No matter where Balaam was from there is a theme going throughout the message he gave in response to Balak’s prompting. This theme develops through the messages which Balaam gives to Balak. In the first message Balaam says, “how can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I condemn those whom the Lord has not condemned?” We should give careful thought to these two questions considering that Jesus died to bring redemption to everyone. Let us not curse nor condemn those whom Jesus has called our neighbor. In his second message, Balaam tells us that God does not lie, nor does He change His mind. No curse can touch those whom God has named His own, no magic has any power against them. I could go on and follow how this theme develops in the next two messages, but I need to wrap this up. However, I wanted to remind myself and you that we should live by something Balaam said in this passage: “I can do only what the Lord tells me” That is a basic principle which should guide us day in and day out.

February 20, 2018 Bible Study — Avoiding Making A Shrine Out Of Aaron’s Tomb

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 19-21.

    I never really thought about it before, but I noticed today that both Aaron and Moses died on a mountain away from everyone but a couple of witnesses. The significance of this is that neither was buried in a place which could become a shrine where people could go to worship. If Aaron had died and been buried in a location which was known to the people of Israel, his grave would have become a shrine where at least some of the people of Israel would have gone to worship. We have numerous examples throughout history where the graves of prominent religious figures became objects of worship in and of themselves. Here God ensured that that did not happen with Aaron’s grave.
    In today’s passage the Israelites approached the lands of four nations. Three of those nations they completely wiped out, the fourth they backtracked and took a different route. There was one key difference between that one and the other three. The king of Edom mustered his army and took up a defensive position while telling the Israelites that he would not allow them to cross his territory. The other three all initiated attacks against the Israelites.

February 19, 2018 Bible Study — Following the Leader(s) God Has Appointed

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 16-18.

    Sometime shortly after the defeat the Israelites suffered when they tried to enter the Promised Land after initially refusing to do so, several prominent men formed a group to replace Moses. This appears to have been a response to Moses’ decision (as directed by God) to lead the people back into the wilderness. The story of this rebellion has always troubled me because the rebels basic argument is one which resonates with me; shouldn’t the leader be answerable to the people? I do believe that the leaders of the Church should be accountable to the members. On the other hand, we need to carefully seek God’s guidance before we seek to remove those whom He has placed in a leadership position.

    That brings us to the reason this group thought that Moses should be replaced. They felt that he had failed to fulfill his promises to the people. Leaving aside the failure of the people to do their part, this is a good starting point for replacing a leader. However, it is an insufficient basis for putting oneself forward as the replacement. These rebels failed to lay out their own alternative course of action to the one chosen by Moses. Further some of the leaders of the rebellion refused to come before God and the people to make their case for leadership change. Which brings us to how Moses dealt with this challenge to his leadership. He laid the matter before God for God to make His will clear about who should lead the people.

February 18, 2018 Bible Study — Standing Up To the Crowd

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 14-15.

    When the people of Israel heard the report of 10 of the spies sent into the land of Canaan (at the end of yesterday’s passage), they plotted to rebel against Moses. When the other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, spoke up and tried to convince them that they could conquer the people of the land with God’s help, the people began talking about stoning Caleb and Joshua. I was going to go a different direction here, but I realized that this passage highlights the risks we sometimes need to take in order to be faithful. When Joshua and Caleb went against the sentiment of the majority, they were threatened. Nevertheless, they did not back down. We too will be called by God to take stands which go against the crowd. In this case, the threat against Joshua and Caleb never materialized, something we need to remember. Of course, sometimes we will pay a price for being faithful. Nevertheless, we must be faithful, even when we face threats for doing so.

February 17, 2018 Bible Study — Dealing With Frustration

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 11-13.

    Shortly after leaving Mt Sinai the people of Israel began lamenting the fact that they no longer had access to all of the good food which was available in Egypt. As I was reading today I realized that this event occurred as the result of a build up of unresolved complaints, most, if not all, of which were extremely minor, even to the people making them. Despite having set up people to judge in “legal” disputes among the people, Moses was still the go-to guy for spiritual counseling. That is not quite the right way to express that, because it makes it seem like something the priests could address, but it was not the sort of things you would go to a priest about. The people knew that these issues were too small to bring to Moses, but it left them with ever increasing frustration that finally blew up. As a result, God told Moses to select 70 men upon whom God would pour out His Spirit so that they could take some of this burden off of him.

    In addition to telling Moses to select 70 men, God told him that He would send them meat to provide variety to their diet, so much that they would become sick from it. When looked at the way I laid out in the previous paragraph, God’s response seems harsh. However, the frustrations the people of Israel were feeling were their own fault. They had failed to seek out someone to help them deal with their complaints, complaints which they knew were minor. There are really two sides to this. If we are the leaders of a group of people, we need to put into place systems to allow people to vent their discontent and frustration, systems which make them feel like their concerns have been heard and will be addressed (an important part of making people feel like their concerns will be addressed is for their concerns to actually be addressed). On the other hand, if we are members of a group (and we all are), we need to find people to whom we can present our discontent and frustration, people who can see that they get addressed.

February 16, 2018 Bible Study — Being Eager To Take Part In Worship

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 8-10.

    Following the dedication of Aaron and his sons as priests and the dedication of the Tabernacle, the Children of Israel dedicated all of the males of the tribe of Levi to the service of God (or possibly concurrently). This dedication strengthens the “twelve plus one” nature of the nation of Israel which foreshadows Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. In a manner similar to the way that the Levites were dedicated to God in place of the first born sons of the Children of Israel, Jesus was dedicated to God in place of all of us. There are severe limits to this comparison, but I am convinced that Jesus knowingly chose Twelve Disciples to make this connection.

    The account about those who were unable to celebrate the second Passover has lessons for us. There was a group of men who came to Moses because they were ceremonially unclean from touching a dead body and thus could not celebrate the Passover. They were not looking for a loophole to get out of doing so. Rather they were upset that they could not. So, they were eager to take part in the ritual of Passover. We should be similarly eager to take part in activities of worship. God gave Moses instructions that those who could not take part in the Passover, because they had touched a dead body (such as when someone had died and needed to be buried) or because they were traveling, should celebrate the Passover a month later. However, this only applied to those who had a reason why they could not take part at the normal time. It being inconvenient was not such a reason.

February 15, 2018 Bible Study — The Levites and the Twelve Tribes

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 7.

    After Moses set up the Tabernacle and anointed it, the leaders of the tribes other than the Levites made offerings for transporting the Tabernacle and its furnishings and to dedicate the Tabernacle. It is not clear from the passage if this happened before, during, or after the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. One thing I noticed this year reading through the Bible which comes out especially in this passage is that the Levites were not counted among the Twelve Tribes (most of the time). That instead Ephraim and Manasseh were each counted as one of the tribes. What I find interesting about this is that it matches up with Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. The other thing of note is that the leaders of each of the Twelve Tribes gave exactly the same offering, even though we know from the census counts a few chapters earlier that the tribes varied in size by a significant amount.