February 27 — Numbers 8-10 — Waiting on God (about 1445 BC)
When it was time to celebrate their second Passover, some men who were unclean from touching dead bodies, asked Moses if they could keep the Passover. Moses’ response was, “Wait, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you” (9:8). God then gave Moses directions concerning that situation. A similar thing happened earlier when a half-Egyptian man blasphemed the name of Yahweh. The people took the man to Moses to ask about what should be done to him. “And they put him in custody, till the will of the LORD should be clear to them” (Lev. 24:12). God responded that he should be stoned to death. When we don’t know the answer regarding what we ought to do, we need to turn to God and ask for His direction. For us, the answer is probably already in the Bible.
February 28 — Numbers 11-13 — The Anger of God (about 1445 BC)
Four times in today’s reading God’s anger is mentioned. Three times (11:1, 10, 33) it was connected to Israel’s complaint about the lack of meat to eat, in spite of the fact that they had brought many sheep, goats, and cattle with them from Egypt. God punished them by killing some with fire (11:1) and later killing many, “with a very great plague” (11:33) while they were gorging themselves with the miraculously delivered quail. One would think that would be enough to stop the rest from complaining about how God was handling things. But in the next chapter, Miriam and Aaron were bold enough to complain about Moses’ leadership, claiming to be equal mediators of God’s word: “Has he not spoken through us also?” (12:2). God said to them, “Why … were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (12:8). Again, “the anger of the LORD was kindled” (12:9) and Miriam was punished with a week’s worth of leprosy. When we are tempted to complain about how God is handling things in our lives, we should remember Miriam and the ungrateful quail eaters.
March 1 — Numbers 14-15, Ps. 90 — Persistent Rebellion (about 1445 BC)
The Israelites seemed to be hopelessly unbelieving and rebellious. True, they did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit as we do, yet some, like Moses, Caleb, and Joshua, remained consistent examples of faithfulness in the same circumstances as their contemporaries. Following the report of the spies, the fearful people exclaimed, “would that we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). Be careful what you wish for when God is listening! After Moses’ plea for their forgiveness, God said to Moses, “I have pardoned, according to your word” (14:20) but God said to the people, “what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness” (14:28-29). God’s way is always the best way to go, even when it might not make sense to us at the time or may go against our own desire or concept of wisdom and fairness. We should take the advice of Joshua and Caleb: “do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear …” (14:9). Psalm 90 is added here because it was written by Moses.
March 2 — Numbers 16-17 — The Price of Rebellion (about 1426 BC)
Korah was of the tribe of Levi, those men chosen by God to serve Him by supporting the ministry in the tabernacle. That wasn’t enough for Korah and 250 other like-minded Levites; they wanted more limelight (16:10). God’s verbal response to them was, “You have gone too far!” (16:3) and His physical response was to bury alive the main leaders of this rebellion and to burn their other followers with fire. Shouldn’t that have shown once for all the fearful price of rebellion against God’s leaders? Nope! The next day the rest of the congregation blamed Moses and Aaron for the deaths of those rebels: “You have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41). It was not Moses and Aaron who killed those people but God Himself, and the people should have responded with respect and fear. They were actually rebelling against Yahweh, which resulted in the death of 14,700 in a God-sent plague (16:49). There is a high price for rebelling against God and His appointed leaders. Remember that the next time you are tempted to voice a complaint about your pastor!
March 3 — Numbers 18-20 — Water of Quarreling (period of 1426 – 1407 BC)
The people of Israel were such perpetual complainers that God had a place named in their dishonor: Meribah, which means “quarreling” (20:13). In spite of the tragic punishments God had given earlier for rebelling, again the people “quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD!’” (20:3). They were as foolish as they were gutsy. Like before, they complained about why Moses (not God!) had brought them into the wilderness (20:4) and they suggested that Egypt would be better (20:5). In response, Moses and Aaron “fell on their faces” (20:6), apparently to find the will of Yahweh. God told them to “Take the staff … and tell the rock” (20:8) to produce water. Instead, Moses “struck the rock with his staff twice” (20:11). God’s response to his disobedience was to refuse him entry into the promised land (20:12). A big penalty for minor disobedience? No, every disobedience is a big one in God’s sight. We must learn from this that God wants us to be obedient in everything He commands. Although the water from the rock was a gift from God, it was still called Meribah because of the quarreling that precipitated it.
March 4 — Numbers 21-22 — Worthless Food!? (about 1407 BC). God had just given Israel victory over a Canaanite king who attacked them. Then God’s guiding cloud led them back to the south and east “to go around the land of Edom” (21:4). Again, foolishly gutsy Israel reverted to their old complaint about having left Egypt but they added a dangerous and defiant criticism against God when they called the miraculous manna, “this worthless food” (21:5). Another punishing plague followed, this time with poisonous serpents (21:6). Do we forget today about victories God recently provided for us? Do we get tired of God’s gifts to us and complain about the lack of variety or quality in our diet? Do we grumble about having to take a detour on the way to our destination? If so, look out for God’s “snake of discipline”! Rather, we ought to be continually grateful for God’s protection, provision, and direction.
March 5 — Numbers 23-25 — Manipulating God (about 1407 BC). Balak considered Israel an enemy although they had done nothing wrong to him or his people. To help him, he called Balaam, a man who followed Yahweh to some degree. Balaam had faults but he was faithful in seeking God’s will and communicating only what God told him to say. God’s message was one of blessing toward Israel. Balak’s desire, however, was that Israel should be cursed. When it didn’t work the first time, he took Balaam to another place, Pisgah (23:14), from which to look at Israel and curse them. Failing to get the curses he wanted there, he took Balaam to another place, Peor, and said, “Perhaps it will please God that you may curse them … from there” (23:27). It didn’t work from there either because he was trying to manipulate God. “God is not man … that he should change his mind” (23:19). If God says it, that settles it. Forget about trying to manipulate God into removing one of His commands so you can enjoy a sin that attracts you!