March 23

Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46

As we’ve seen repeatedly in the civil law of Israel, God’s desire was that the nation not only possess the land, but that it would remain in each family, generation after generation; this would foster security and a culture of economic equality among the people. 

The daughters of Zelophehad previously brought a case before Moses, seeking God’s guidance when there were no sons in the family. The LORD determined at that time that if there were no sons, the inheritance would go to the daughters (Numbers 27).  They now bring another case before Moses, but this time for a different reason – what would happen if they married someone from a different tribe, would that land then transfer from tribe to tribe?

Moses received the Word of God on this matter:

Numbers 36:6–7 (NKJV) “This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe. 7 So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.’”

The Word of God definitely affects every area of our lives, including the choice of who we’ll marry. Today, God’s Word says something similar to all Christians, “Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of God,” only Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The daughters of Zelophehad didn’t complain:

Numbers 36:10 (NKJV) “Just as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad.”

That’s a great way to end the book of Numbers – a book where the people of God wandered due to disobedience ends on a note of obedience. Had they learned their lesson?

Next the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Torah (the Pentateuch).

“Deuteronomy, Moses’ “Upper Desert Discourse,” consists of a series of farewell messages by Israel’s 120-year-old leader. It is addressed to the new generation destined to possess the Land of Promise—those who survived the forty years of wilderness wandering. Deuteronomy, like Leviticus, contains a vast amount of legal detail, but its emphasis is on the laymen rather than the priests and sacrifices. Moses reminds the new generation of the importance of obedience if they are to learn from the sad example of their predecessors. Moving from the past (Israel’s history) to the present (Israel’s holiness and homeland) to the future (Israel’s new leader), Moses stresses the faithfulness of Israel’s God, who “brought us out…to give us the land” (6:23).” – Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K., Talk thru the Bible

The book of Deuteronomy is a beautiful book consisting primarily of a repetition of the law and at times, an adaptation of the law. Moses delivered this book in his final month of life, on the plains Moab, on the brink of the Promised Land. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy three times in His defeat of the devil (Matthew 4:1-11).

Moses reiterates God’s guidance for the nation to go forward into Canaan and his own inability to bear the people alone – how God would use other leaders to serve the people more efficiently. Since Moses was about to depart in death, they needed to trust in their new leadership – it was the LORD who established it. This would be important for the reception of Joshua as well (Deuteronomy 1:28).

Moses shares Israel’s history and their failure to enter into the land initially, so they wouldn’t repeat that failure again. Thirty-eight years ago they left God out of the equation, refused to believe and died in the wilderness. Moses at that time pleaded with the people:

Deuteronomy 1:29–32 (NKJV) “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God.”

God had carried them all the way, why did they doubt His care? Why did they cry and complain in their tents? (Deuteronomy 1:27). Be careful; God hears our conversations even in the privacy of our own homes and hearts.

God carries us, He even died for us, we should trust our unknown futures to the God we know! May we learn from the children of Israel. It’s been said that, “Those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it.” Not that we beat ourselves up, but we keep looking up…to the Lord.

We should also learn from that awesome description of Caleb who God blessed, “…because he wholly followed the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 1:36) Isn’t that inspiring?

Moses also reminded the people of their failure in attempting to fight the enemy without the LORD. They were chased away and driven back – they didn’t have a chance without God, and neither do we! May we learn from them and come to that place of proper faith and understanding – Philippians 4:13 and John 15:5.

Luke 5:29-6:11

Matthew the former tax-collector and Sinner (with a capital S) invites Jesus over for dinner, and Jesus says yes. Of course the religious establishment finds fault with this, which provides a great teaching opportunity for all of us. Jesus did not come to call the “righteous” to repentance, He came to call sinners to repentance. Ultimately Jesus calls all of us, because we’re all sinners, and I’m so grateful that He does – that He reached out to me a former drug-addict, thief, drunk, and sailor-mouthed fool. I was (and still am) a sick sinner in need of a physician, healing, freedom, and forgiveness. Reaching out to sinners and even hanging out with them as God would lead us, is a very Christlike thing to do.

The Pharisees refused to see the positive, and focused only on what they perceived as negative. They constantly criticized Christ on a number of issues including the fact that His disciples didn’t fast. Jesus essentially says, “Settle down fellas, the time will come when My followers will fast – and you missed your chance to be saved and serve God – I must now find new wineskins for the new wine (the new covenant).”

Jesus is just living His life, He’s being led by the Spirit. Some say He was picking fights with the Pharisees, and that may be true because these religious leaders were rotten to the core. One day His disciples were hungry, they plucked the heads of grain and ate a little, it was a quick and simple snack to tide them over…but the Pharisees had defined that as work, and the Law forbade work on the Sabbath Day…so they questioned, even challenged Jesus.

This brings up a huge issue for us to consider together. I’d like to give the Pharisees the benefit of the doubt, that in the beginning, all they wanted to do was to obey God’s Word. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says that no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day (Exodus 20:8-11) but the big question is, “What is work?” In order to answer this question for everyone, the Pharisees, in their aspiration to be obedient, took the 10 commandments and created 613 commandments out of them – defining everything meticulously – including what work is. If a tailor carried a needle in his coat, it was considered work! Their relationship with God was ruined with a slew of rules and regulations. This is what legalism does; it goes beyond the Word of God and adds human traditions, and it imposes upon other people our own personal convictions.

Warren Wiersbe said this, “People who live only by ‘Is it lawful?’ cannot understand our Lord’s principle, ‘Is it loving?’ The scribes and Pharisees had transformed the Sabbath from a day of blessing into a day of bondage, and Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath so He could challenge them. It is always right to do good and to meet human need (Micah 6:8), for love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8–10).”

Psalm 66:1-20

This Psalm exalts God far above the nations of the earth and even looks forward to the day the whole earth will worship Him (Psalm 66:4). What a day that will be!

In the meantime, we can clearly see God’s power, love, and work in the nation of Israel.

The Psalmist invites the world to “Come and see” (Psalm 66:5) and to “Come and hear” (Psalm 66:16).

How God parted the Red Sea and His people prevailed. Even how they went through difficult times of trial and discipline, and yet God refined them in the fires and the floods (see also Isaiah 43:2).

Psalm 66:10–12 (NKJV) “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”

A closer look at God’s people reveals that He really does work ALL things together for good  for those of us who love Him (Romans 8:28); that He really does hear our prayers, as we do our best to keep our hearts right before Him. I’ve always been challenged by Psalm 66:18, its essence is captured in the NIV:

Psalm 66:18 (NIV) “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

As we abide in Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, and even yield to His discipline, with clean hands and surrendered hearts, we will see God work, He will answer our prayers and inevitably the day will come when we will:

Psalm 66:1a (NKJV) “Make a joyful SHOUT to God…”

Proverbs 11:24-26

These three Proverbs are all about giving to others, being generous, and willing to help out people when they need assistance. God will bless the benevolent, He will “water” the ones who do well for His people, crowns of blessing will be bestowed upon the caring and considerate soul.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

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