Old Testament: Numbers 24:1-25:18
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Numbers 24:1-25 Balaam, Take Three
Just because “the Spirit of God came upon him” (v. 2) didn’t mean Balaam was saved in the Old Testament. It just meant the Holy Spirit came upon him. He did not indwell him as in a saved person in the the New Testament (Rom. 8:9, 11).
In Num. 24:7, the explicit statement is that Israel will have a king which it would. Israel would “eat” its enemies. Not quite the curse Balak was hoping for. He clapped his hands (v. 10), no doubt in frustration and disgust. Balaam says that he’s going to let Balak know how bad it’s going to be for him. He lets him know that it is going to be total destruction for him which looks forward to world domination in Rev. 16: 16 and 19: 19-21. Balak and Balaam went home after this. He is mentioned again as being slain in Num. 31:8 and Josh. 13:22. He is mentioned in an unfavorable light in the New Testament in 2Pet. 2: 15; Jude 11, and by John in Revelation 2: 14.
Numbers 25:1-10 Those Peor People Get The Point
This was the last time the people rebelled during their wilderness trip. Satan failing to subvert Israel from without, now tries to subvert the nation from within. Who motivated the pagans of Moab to intermingle with God’s people? None other than our antihero, Balaam (Num. 31:16 cf. Rev. 2:14).
Baal was the name of the local heathen sun god who was worshipped through gross sexual immorality. Yahweh told Moses to slay all those who had submitted to Baal. One Israelite flouted his Moabite “lover” in front of the entire nation. Phinehas, the son of the current high priest, Eleazar, stuck a spear through the both of them. Did Israel get the point?
The Apostle Paul states that 23,000 died in one day (1 Cor. 10:8). Moses says the body count was 24,000 (Num. 25:9). A contradiction? No, apparently 1,000 died on another day! And the plague came to a screeching halt.
Numbers 25:10-18 Phinehas without Ferb and the Cozbi Show
Because Phinehas showed his zeal for the Lord, the Lord blessed him. The priesthood would come from the line of Phinehas forever.
In contrast, Cozbi was the name of the prostitute who was speared. Her father was a leader of the Midianites. Therefore, Yahweh pronounced a curse on the Midianites.
New Testament: Luke 2:1-35
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Luke 2:1-19 The Biggest Event (So Far)
The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem according to Old Testament prophecy (Micah 5:2). How did God pull that off? Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome issued a decree for a census. Joseph had to bring Mary, from Nazareth where he was living, back to his hometown to register. Guess where? Bethlehem. This was because he was a descendant of King David of Bethlehem (v. 4). Mary had to ride the sixty-five miles while pregnant with Jesus.
While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. She wrapped the baby in long pieces of cloth like those used for burial. Jesus was born to die (cf. the gift of myrrh, a burial spice, from the wise men, Mat. 2: 11). Jesus’ crib was a manger (v. 7), a feeding trough for animals. All the inns all had no vacancy signs. Jesus’ family was poor and Jesus grew up in poverty (2Cor. 8:9). Shepherds were some of the poorest people in society. God announced the coming of His Son through angel and then putting on a show for shepherds (Lk. 2: 9). A multitude of angels then appeared with the first angel (Luke 2:11). The “sign” to the shepherds would be finding a baby wrapped in strips of cloths lying in a manger (Luke 2:12). That kind of thing didn’t happen every day.
The angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). After that, the shepherds wanted to check it all out. You would, too. They found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger. Everyone was in awe (Luke 2:18). Mary treasured and thought a lot about what the Shepherds had told her about the angels in the sky. It all served as further proof that she had just given birth to God’s Son (Luke 2:19). The shepherds left glorying God because all that was told them was true (Luke 2:20).
Luke 2:20-35 Now Presenting . . . Jesus!
The boy was named Jesus as commanded by Gabriel to both Mary and Joseph (1:31; 1:18-21). Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua which means “Yahweh is Salvation.” According to the law, Jesus was circumcised on the eight day (Lev. 12:3).
Jesus was presented as the first son (Lev 13:2, 12) in Jerusalem after Mary’s days of purification were finished (Lev. 12:1-8). Mary and Joseph presented either two doves or two pigeons which were the offerings for the poor. The normal sacrifice would’ve been a lamb. Jesus was The Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world. The offering was not for Jesus, it was for Mary’s purification.
There was a righteous and devout man in Jerusalem named Simeon who had been intensely waiting for the Messiah (“the consolation of Israel” was the Messiah who would bring peace). God promised Simeon the special grace of beholding the Messiah before he died. And he just “happened” to walk into the Temple as Mary and Joseph were presenting Jesus. He lifted Jesus in his arms and prophesied. He said Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles meaning the gospel was going to go out to the whole world and that He would especially be the “glory . . . of Israel (Luke 2:32).” Joseph and Mary were amazed at all that was happening (Luke 2:33). Simeon warned that many would “rise” because of Jesus, trust in Him and go to Heaven. Many would also “fall” and oppose Him and go to Hell (Luke 2:34). Simeon also warned Mary of her future suffering when Jesus would suffer before her eyes (Luke 2:35).
Psalm 59:1-17 A Lament Psalm by David
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Psalm 59:1-17 Dirty Dogs
Psalm 59 is another imprecatory psalm, like Psalm 58, pronouncing curses on bad people. Yesterday the curses were on government officials, today David is cursing dirty dogs, people who were looking to off him. You may have seen movies where the main character was being chased just short of their lives. But have you had anyone trying to actually kill you? Of course, Jesus said that to wish someone dead was the same as trying to kill them (cf. Matt. 5:21-22). You may have someone who wishes you were dead. Or you may have cancer or a sickness that would like to remove you from the earth. If so, this is a good psalm for you.
When you are doing God’s will, people will try to derail you. They may be jealous, they may be threatened. I don’t know what happens to them. But often they will try to eat you for lunch. Even your best friends may try to kill you, figuratively or literally (Ps. 55:12-13). That was David’s problem, again. Those close to him were trying to eviscerate him.
Jesus warned His disciples that if evil people wanted to kill Him, they will want to kill them, too (cf. Matt. 10:24-25).
David implores God to release him from the threat of his enemies (vv. 1-3). He hadn’t done anything to provoke them but they were still after him (v. 4). As King of all armies, “Lord of hosts,” David asks God to punish all who should be punished (v. 5). I think David paticulary wanted God to target his enemies.
He says his enemies were like burping dogs that prowl around the city (vv. 7, 6). They are kind of strange dogs that have swords coming out of their mouths (v. 7). They don’t think anyone can hear their braying but the Lord does. He laughs at them (v. 8, cf. Psalm 2:4).
David goes into “trust” mode (vv. 9-10). We should learn from him. What do we do when things go wrong? Do we call someone? Do we vent on Facebook? Those things are OK but when it comes down to it, we should get alone with God.
David wants God to torture his pursuers a little bit before they die (v. 11a). He wants his enemies to have to scatter as a witness to God’s power (v. 11b-c, 13). He’d like to see them snagged by their own sin (v. 12). After that, David would be content if they were slain (v. 13).
Verse 14 is the refrain. His enemies are like junkyard dogs. A dog was about the lowest form of creature in Jewish culture. I used to read A.W. Pink, a Christian writer of the last century. He hated dogs and would cite all kinds of references to prove that God didn’t like them either. Jews did consider them one of the lower life forms. I guess, like Pink, we all have our own idiosyncrasies.
I don’t know if he liked cats. I do. But if you have a dog, it’s OK. It’s just not OK to act like one.
These dirty dogs wander about the city looking for food and growl if they are not satisfied (v. 15). It means they are looking for some person to harass and devour. Their father has the same tendencies. Satan wanders about like a lion looking for someone to eat for lunch (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8; Job 1:7).
In the midst of this turmoil, David says he will sing about Yahweh, His strength and his love (v. 16 a-b, 17a). David confesses that God had been his security when he feared his own demise (v. 16 c-d, 17b).
“Lovingkindness” in verses 16 and 18 is the Hebrew hesed which means covenantal, binding love. God has bound Himself to you and He is love (cf. 1 John 4:8, 16).
When the smokes clears, God Himself is our refuge (cf. Ps. 62:8) and the only safe place for us to be protected by the dirty dogs.
Proverbs 11:14 Guidance Counselors
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If a nations’ leaders do not respect God, they won’t have true guidance (v. 14a). If they don’t follow His law, the nation is in trouble. If we, as a nation, continue to murder little defenseless babies, I don’t know what hope there is for us. Perhaps, that is why there has been a dearth of leadership lately. How can God bless us when we commit such a vile sin as a nation?
If a leader has a coterie of good godly counselors, however, there is hope (v. 14b).
Choose Life: Scripture: Numbers 25:8 NASB “Such A Stomach Ache!”
” . . . and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.” Numbers 25:8
I don’t think people these days get that God is holy. I really just don’t think they get it. Since He isn’t just zapping people that need to get zapped, they think He isn’t around or they don’t want to be bothered with an all holy God. They mind an all-loving God but a holy God is problematic.
Well, the Israelites certainly had to deal with God’s holiness. God told Moses to have the leaders off all the offenders. This might seem mean and cruel but actually the action saved the nation. A bad prophet, Balaam, had advised a bad king to corrupt the Israelites from within by tempting them to idol worship and immorality (cf. Num. 31: 16). It would have destroyed Israel from the inside out if God had’t taken action.
One hero, Phineas, pierced a couple through the stomach who were flaunting their immorality and idolatry right in front of Moses. He literally tore the guts out of the rebellion by his courageous act. The plague that God had sent on His people stopped immediately but 24,000 were killed. When all the judgments of God on the people in the wilderness are considered, one has to wonder how there were any Israelites left!
In the New Testament, Jesus said that any offending member of a person’s body should be removed if it causes that person to go to Hell (cf. Mt. 5:30; 18:8; Mk. 9:43). Here, God was literally cutting out offensive members from the body.
I don’t recommend you actually cut off part of your body but I wonder if you are doing anything that you know God doesn’t want you to do? Paul said that we should “consider ourselves dead to sin” (v. 11) and that we should “present . . . your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (v. 13b).
God wants us to have life (Jn. 10: 10b). He doesn’t want us to get depressed and have stomach aches from disobeying Him. Is there anything you need to cut off from yourself and throw away?
If you do, you will find that you are choosing life (Deut. 30:19)!
Be honest with God and ask Him to show you if there is anything in your life that you need to change (Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way, Ps. 139:23). The Holy Spirit will show you if there is. Then deal with it! You’ll be glad you did!
The purpose of the “Choose Life” is to pick a positive help out of the One Year Bible (OYB) reading plan for the day. There is always something positive in the Word of God to cheer us and give us strength. For more on today’s reading, check out my One Year Bible blog: Peor People Get The Point, The Cozbi Show