Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

The Sabbath – A Time For Worship And Fellowship

March 19 – Today’s Readings – Numbers 28-30 and Psalms 79

Living in a society like ours, it is difficult to imagine giving an entire day to the Lord and to family without doing any “regular work”. We have so many projects on the go – we need to pay off the car or the credit card – the renovations can’t wait another day – the boss is always short-handed and the pressure is on to produce. What’s more is that we take great pride in our heroic work efforts – “You know I haven’t taken a real day off all month!”

Don’t misunderstand me – I was brought up with a strong work ethic and my father saw to it that his son would not be a slacker. I believe in hard work and providing for my wife, my children, the Church, the needy, and paying my taxes.

However, we as a society have redefined the concept of “rest” making it a dirty word. Why is it God was so insistent that His people rest on a regular basis? He even instituted a Sabbath Day of rest, complete with severe punishment for not observing it. Perhaps He knows something about us humans that we tend to ignore. Perhaps He understands that if we do not regularly gather as a people to meet with the Lord – spending time in fellowship and with family – we will be spiritually unhealthy and unbalanced. Once this happens in our lives, idolatry (focus on wrong things) becomes the next step downward. Idolatry separates us from our fellowship with God, but a Sabbath rest brings refreshing and a time to re-balance and re-focus ourselves spiritually, emotionally and relationally.

What did Jesus have to say about the Sabbath? – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28) He absolutely did not want us to become “legalistic” in this matter but this does not mean we shouldn’t heed the wisdom of the Word of God, which outlines a regular, weekly rest, worship and fellowship in our lives. We have a desperate need to institute some good time management habits at the prodding of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:25 reads, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Obviously there were many in this Hebrew Church group who had quit attending worship services and having fellowship on a regular basis. Is it “The Law” that we gather weekly to worship? No but it was a New Testament pattern for Christians to gather on “The Lord’s Day” for worship, fellowship, breaking of bread, teaching and prayer. These are the activities that keep us focused and bonded as the family of God. A day off is also a great way to stay in tune with the people you love. Phone calls, emails, skype, meals together, and walks together . . . These are Sabbath activities for me – the things that restore my soul.

Questions:

1. What steps will you need to take in order to “carve out” some “Sabbath” for yourself, the Lord and your loved ones?

2. What part does Church worship and fellowship have in your Sabbath rest?

Moral Decay

March 18 – Today’s Readings – Numbers 25-27 and Psalms 78

In Psalms 78, Asaph gives us a poetic but bleak summary of Israel’s history under Moses and in “The Promised Land”. It’s quite remarkable how accurate his account is considering it was written hundreds of years after the fact. The other thing of note is that Asaph describes Israel’s bad behavior in great detail, taking pains to “tell it to the next generation”. This Psalm shows us that, without God’s grace and The Holy Spirit, our natural bent is to be self-willed and rebellious towards God. It’s only His grace that teaches us to say “no” to sin and to keep us walking right before God. Thank God that we can live as His sons and daughters, baptized in the Holy Spirit and full of his grace. Let’s never forget that we have access to this grace on a daily basis by humbling ourselves before Jesus for, without His grace, our behavior will become as bad as that found in the history of Israel.

Speaking of bad behavior – did you notice that the Moabites (Numbers 25) were completely powerless to defeat Israel with military might? What strategy did they employ then? You guessed it – they decided to destroy Israel FROM WITHIN! Take heed because this is the same tactic the enemy tries to use against the Church today. Do you realize that most great military super-powers throughout history have fallen – not from military defeat – but from MORAL DECAY? Fill the nation with immorality and that nation will self-destruct – it will crumble from within. Fill the Church with immorality and it will become dead and powerless.

Lets not be duped into thinking that the Church is somehow immune to self-destruction. Churches have to remain zealous for God, humble before God and attuned to God’s purposes if they are to have life in them. When Churches begin to accommodate sin – when they quit putting God first in action as well as word – when they “water down” the true message of God’s purposes for this world – they then become powerless – not much more than a social club, living only for self and not for the heart of God. God has made ample provision for the Church to be free from sin but even the New Testament Churches fell short of God’s provision at times. Freedom from sin can only be found in the grace of God, which in turn can only come from humility before God. Anything short of this will mean moral failure.

Lets keep a “Phinehas attitude” towards sin in our lives – be vicious with it – don’t let it get a foothold! How? By walking closely with Jesus and doing exactly what HE tells you. The fire of God takes care of sin very effectively, but we must be careful to act against sin, not just pray about it. Let the next generation speak of how we walked with God – not how we messed up. Asaph spoke to the next generation of Israel by telling them to not be like their forefathers. Let it be said of this generation that we did it right! We walked with the Lord.

Questions:

1. Please give further comment about how “Our Enemy” can cause destruction from within the Church.

2. Please comment on Phinehas – what made him a “hero” in Israel?

May Those Who Curse You Be Cursed

March 17 – Today’s Readings – Numbers 22-25 and Psalms 77

Numbers 23:23 declares, “There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel” – and again in Chapter 24:9 we read, “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”

Many Christians today come from a religious past where “curses” are commonly placed upon people. I have spoken to several who are deeply troubled because some “evil religious” person in their past placed “a curse” on them. There is fear associated with this practice and fear perpetuates the deception that these “curses” can harm us. These chapters in Numbers provide comfort for Christians who come from this type of background because they clearly state that God strongly opposes those who “curse” His people. As consecrated children of God we live under a protective shield that cannot be penetrated by these false religions. We also have been given authority in Christ to have power over this kind of activity.

Read Ephesians 1:18-21 with me: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

Not only has Christ been raised above all these principalities, but we are in that place too – “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. (Ephesians 2:6)

What we really need, when faced with this kind of spiritual opposition, is faith. Faith that our God is bigger than their puny gods or curses! He eats them for breakfast. Faith, in the face of false religion, casts out all fear. The curse spoken over a Christian will return upon the person who uttered it! Such is the power and protection of the child of God. A person who is “hidden in Christ” has absolutely nothing and no one to fear. He walks in the love and grace of Almighty God, who alone is to be feared. Imagine coming out of shaman or witchcraft dominated religion and into the freedom and power of Christ. What joy there is when we realize sin and all the false religious practices of the World have no hold on us any more. This is what we are to say to Church-going people who feel oppressed by false religion – “Have faith in God! Hide yourselves in God! Walk in the love of God, which casts out all fear! – And be blessed!”

Questions:

1. As Christians, what are we to fear? Why is this?

2. Are we to have fear of the enemy? – Of death itself?

No Honour For God?

March 16 – Today’s Readings – Numbers 19-21 and Psalms 76

Today we read about the now familiar problem of “no water in the desert”. The script goes as before – there was no water – the people grumbled – Moses went to God about the problem and God made provision for the people.

There is only one major difference this time. Moses became offended by the people’s attitudes, got angry with the people, called them a bunch of rebels, and struck “The Rock” twice instead of speaking to it. Why did He strike The Rock? Perhaps it was because God had previously commanded that He strike it, or perhaps in his raging he simply lost control of himself. The way it happened is probably not as important as what happened afterward – God told Moses – “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites”- that he would be disqualified as the one who would lead the people into the promised land.

Let’s make sure we understand this – God made a big deal about how Moses conducted himself in front of the people. Even though Moses was performing miracles, the “manner” in which he did things did not honour God. So, if I understand this correctly – I can be doing the right thing but in the wrong way or with the wrong attitude and it will get me in trouble with God!

YES. We can pray or worship, or read the bible, or serve, or give, or prophesy or do miracles but if we are not representing God properly, we are in trouble!

In the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13 we read “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” The “love attitude” comes from surrender to the Spirit of Almighty God. Our dysfunctional attitudes and actions can never be a substitute for God’s love.

Compare this account to the one found a page later in Numbers 21:16-18 where the leaders of ancient Israel were faced with the same “no water” problem. “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together and I will give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank – the nobles with scepters and staffs.” In this account God is honoured and we find nothing but God’s blessing on the people. Whoever said, “attitude is everything” was right on track – our good works, without Godly attitudes profit nothing.

Questions:

1. What do you suppose those elders were doing, out in the sand, digging around with their shepherd’s sticks?

2. Moses “lost his cool”, disobeyed, and lost the Promised Land. What are the issues in our lives that could cause us to lose our “promised land”?

Disobedience And Frustration

March 15 – Today’s Readings – Numbers 16-18 and Psalms 75

Here is another extreme example of how the Old Testament nation of Israel was NOT supposed to do things! These people were obviously very displeased that they had been forbidden to enter the “promised land”. They were mad at God but they took it out on Moses and Aaron. This tendency is common to man. We may be frustrated with something or someone and take out our frustrations on an innocent bystander – often a member of our family or an innocent person who happens to be in the “line of fire”. Moses and Aaron had not done anything except to follow the leading of God, but they became targets because they stood as “ambassadors” in the place of God. In their anger, the people even said that Egypt had been a place “flowing with milk and honey”! How easy it is to lose perspective when things are not going our way.

Make no mistake – Israel was certainly at a very low place, having lost the Promised Land and being told that their only future was to die in the desert. What had they done to deserve this? They had firmly opposed God’s loving purposes for the nation. In the same way today, people sometimes see the wonderful plan of salvation as “too hard”. They see themselves as having to “give up” too much. Instead of moving into the land the way God planned, they decide to do it their own way.

God would have brought the people into the Promised Land if they had only believed He could do it, but they thought the conquest all depended on their natural abilities. God’s grace and His grace alone was the only way to take “the land” God had for them. It was indeed flowing with milk and honey – it was a place of tremendous blessing – but there were also giants, mountains and strong kings facing them.

There is hard work to be done in God’s vineyards and harvest fields – but if God is for us, these things will be bread for us – we are more than conquerors. This is the wonder of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit – we begin to see things through God’s eyes. We keep our eyes on Jesus and the problems facing us seem very small in comparison to His greatness. The Spirit of God teaches our hands to war and to work. He teaches our hearts to remain steadfast and full of faith – and He teaches us to keep our attitudes right.

Without the Spirit of God, we are no different than these Israelites were – grumbling – losing focus – lusting after the world – full of fear – full of selfish ways. Our only way forward is to lose ourselves in Christ for without His grace we will only be angry, blaming, backbiting people – But WITH Jesus, all things are possible.

Questions:

1. Israel did not “enter in” because they did not believe – how does this lesson apply to all mankind?

2. The “fruit of bitterness” was the outcome of their lack of faith – why is this?

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