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Featured Our spiritual journey

Discussion in 'Bible Study Forum' started by Deborah_, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Redemption (Exodus 12)

    This is where the journey begins: in Egypt.

    Israel is enslaved (and has been for generations). They are completely unable to save themselves; God has to send Moses to force Pharaoh to let them go. The preceding few months have seen a trial of strength - not between Moses and Pharaoh, nor between the Israelites and their oppressors, but between two rival spiritual powers. One by one, nine plagues have undermined the credibility of Egyptian religion; the final plague, the death of the firstborn sons, will expose it as completely worthless. During the previous plagues, Israel have been spared automatically; but this time each individual household has to advertise their commitment to God by displaying the blood of a slaughtered lamb – signifying that a death has already taken place. (God doesn’t ‘need’ such a sign to recognise His own people, but they need to understand the mechanism by which they will be spared.)

    In every house in Egypt, someone dies that night – either the firstborn son, or the lamb that has taken his place. At this catastrophic calamity, Pharaoh capitulates, and the Israelites are ordered to leave immediately. Those who sheltered behind the bloodstained door that first Passover night are able to go out the next morning and head for the Promised Land. Their new life of freedom has begun!

    And this is also where our spiritual journey begins.

    We too - all of us - are born in slavery. We are enslaved to idols (Galatians 4:8), to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), or simply to a life of emptiness and futility (I Peter 1:18). In one way or another, Satan holds us in his grip, and none of us can get free by our own efforts. God must intervene - and He has done so, by sending His Son on a rescue mission. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

    Jesus is our Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7), the sacrifice that satisfies God’s judgement against the whole rebellious world. He died in the place of all those who freely choose to put their trust in Him and shelter behind His blood. And when we do, we are immediately set free. But, like the Israelites, we are still inside ‘Egyptian’ territory. We have a long way to go…
     
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  2. JPPT1974

    JPPT1974 Flowers of May Encounter Team

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    We are redeemed in Christ. He saves us when we asked Him into our hearts and repent of our sins.
     
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  3. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Baptism (Exodus 14)

    As they march eastwards, the Israelites are confident and cheerful, believing that all their problems are over and unaware that they are being pursued. For even after the near-destruction of his country and people, Pharaoh’s heart is unchanged! He will not relinquish his claim to ownership of the Israelites, and he thinks he sees an opportunity to undo God’s work of salvation. His swift chariots soon overtake the slow-moving Israelite caravan, encumbered as they are by livestock and vulnerable non-combatants. There is nowhere for them to run or hide, and panic immediately sets in. They are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the sea - and there seems to be no way out…

    Essentially this is a battle of ownership: do they belong to Pharaoh or to Yahweh? The same battle is fought over every believer who is redeemed from the clutches of Satan (who, like Pharaoh, will never admit defeat!). If the outcome depended on us, we would have no hope; but God is stronger than Satan, and He will win the victory for us (Exodus 14:13,14).

    As darkness falls, a strong wind and an unusually low ebb tide combine to expose a narrow causeway right across the strait. God has made an escape route for them through the sea!
    “Your path led through the sea,
    Your way through the mighty waters,
    though Your footprints were not seen.
    You led Your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalm 77:19,20)
    With deep water on either side of them, the Israelites are shielded from any flank attack. Eventually the Egyptians realise that the Israelites are getting away, but all they can do is set out along the causeway after them. Even as they do so, they begin to realise that they are making a terrible mistake: their chariots quickly become bogged down in the soft sand, the tide turns, and the causeway disappears beneath the waves again. Now it’s the Egyptians who are trapped, because there is no safe passage for those not following the call of God (Hebrews 11:29). Unable to escape from the rising water, they are all drowned.

    The crossing of the Red Sea marks the final, definitive break with Israel’s old life and the beginning of their new life with God. The die is now cast; there can be no returning to Egypt now. Paul tells us (I Corinthians 10:1,2) that it is a kind of baptism. Baptism symbolises many things, but one of them is the boundary between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. This is one reason why the logical timing of baptism is immediately upon conversion (as in the New Testament), just as the crossing of the Red Sea was the first ‘event’ in Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. As we go through the water, we are visibly brought out of Satan’s jurisdiction and into the Church. There is no going back…
     
  4. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Testing (Exodus 15:22-27)

    Full of joy and praise after their miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea, the Israelites march on - straight into the desert. As they trudge through the hot thirsty wilderness, their enthusiasm steadily evaporates. Eventually they reach an oasis, but their hopes are raised only to be immediately dashed again: the water is undrinkable. The bitterness of the water draws out the bitterness in their hearts, and in no time they are finding fault with both Moses and God.

    Moses is the one who prays for a solution to the problem, and God provides one: the wood of a local tree, when added to the water, absorbs the pungent mineral salts and makes it palatable. The people are able to drink and then continue on their way. Only 7 miles further on (another day’s journey) is the large oasis of Elim, where they find not only ample space to camp, but also shade and abundant water.

    The life of the redeemed is no ‘primrose path’ – it is very often a life of suffering, frustration and disappointment. And this can hit us at a very early stage; many believers find the days and weeks following their baptism especially tough going. It is tempting to wonder if we have gone wrong somewhere, or to think that God has let us down. Yet it is God’s will for us, as it was for the Israelites, to take the difficult path, because “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:3)

    We need to undergo spiritual discipline, but the times of testing are usually brief. Through them we learn that God is able to meet us and help us in any situation. He can transform our bitterness and pain, and give us refreshment even in the most unlikely places. And He will also give us times of blessing, a foretaste of our ultimate destination.
     
  5. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Food and drink (Exodus 16 & 17)

    After a month on the march, all the provisions the Israelites have brought with them are exhausted and hunger begins to bite. And in no time they are looking back with nostalgia at the ‘good old days’ of slavery! Our memories are notoriously selective: they have already forgotten all the bad things about their life in Egypt, and can only think about the food (which must have been better in memory than in fact!).

    But God does not fail them. The next day they are introduced to manna - the supernatural food that is to sustain them all for the next forty years. Each day’s supply (with the exception of the day before the Sabbath) is sufficient for that day only; those who try to save some for the next day quickly discover that if we hoard God’s gifts, they go bad on us.

    One question is repeated many times over, as they move from oasis to oasis: Will there be water at the next stop? At Rephidim (in the most fertile part of the Sinai peninsula) they find the well unexpectedly dry. But God has the situation under control; water is already there, waiting for them, and needs only to be released.

    There is a fundamental issue at stake here: if we throw our lot in with God (as the Israelites had done, irrevocably), can we trust Him to take care of us? Sooner or later we will discover that the journey is long and that our own resources are insufficient. But by miraculously providing the Israelites with food and water in the middle of a barren wilderness, He has demonstrated that ultimately our only real need is God. “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:3,4) Every time we take Communion, we are reminded that our souls are sustained for eternity by Jesus Himself. “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven… Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6:32,49-51)
     
  6. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Facing the enemy (Exodus 17:8-16)

    At Rephidim, Israel have their first encounter with an enemy since escaping from Egypt. The Amalekites, a nomadic tribe of Edomite descent who roam the Sinai peninsula, harass the Israelite caravan, attacking the stragglers (Deuteronomy 25:18). At the Red Sea, God Himself had defended Israel against the Egyptian army; the Israelites hadn’t needed to lift a finger. But from now on, they have to learn to fight for themselves (albeit with God’s help).

    Fighting is the job of the younger generation (so Moses commissions Joshua to lead the army into battle); but those who are too old to fight nevertheless have an vital contribution to make, for prayer is the ‘secret weapon’ of God’s people. It is only Moses’ continual intercession (signified by his raised arms) that enables the inexperienced Israelite soldiers to win the day. This kind of prayer is exhausting, and not even Moses can do it all on his own; he needs the help of his two companions.

    We too have an enemy, the devil, who will continually harass us on our pilgrimage. And God won’t do everything for us; we need to put on our spiritual armour and go out to do battle against him (Ephesians 6:10-17). Even so, we cannot win the battle in our own strength; we must not forget also to pray (Ephesians 6:18)! In such situations, group prayer is even more powerful and more effective; that is why Paul wanted the believers in Ephesus to pray for him (Ephesians 6:19,20).
     
  7. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Obedience (Exodus 19)


    After two months of travelling, the Israelites finally reach their primary destination: Mount Sinai. They have come far to the south of the Promised Land, but this is no detour. Their salvation is complete and unconditional; but in order to enjoy their new relationship with God, they have to make a response – a commitment to obedience. “Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:6)

    And so God gives them the Law - not ‘in a vacuum’, but in the context of a once-for-all experience of unearned and undeserved salvation. It is because of what God has done for Israel that He has the right to command their allegiance - and they have the obligation to give it. And His laws are not a list of arbitrary rules; they lay out a lifestyle that will reflect His righteousness. If the Israelites obey them, they will become a distinctive people displaying God’s glory to the nations around them.

    “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (I Peter 3:18) He has redeemed us - not so that we can carry on living like unbelievers, but so that we can live in a way that brings glory to God. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18) When we become Christians, we cross over from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God - and we must thereafter obey the laws and commands of our new King. This is why, though we are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:15), the New Testament is full of ethical instruction…

    If we understand correctly the purpose of the law, there should be no conflict between law and grace; we obey our Lord not in order to make ourselves His people but because He has made us His people.
     
  8. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Worship (Exodus 25-29)


    Israel’s first formal act of worship and thanksgiving is to donate the materials for the construction of a sanctuary – the Tabernacle.

    It is truly amazing that the Creator of the universe should condescend to ‘live’ in a man-made structure. It isn’t that God needs a home; rather, the Tabernacle is a visual aid to symbolise the reality of His presence and to teach us certain truths about how to approach and worship Him. Every element in the Tabernacle’s construction conveys a spiritual truth; it is an earthly, material representation of spiritual realities (Hebrews 8:5). Because of this, every detail of its structure is of great importance, and it has to be made exactly to God’s specifications.

    And so Israel is able to enjoy fellowship with their God and be His people. They will learn to pray to Him, to offer sacrifices to Him, to confess their sins, and to express their gratitude for what He has done for them. As they camp in the desert, He ‘camps’ with them, living alongside them and travelling with them in symbol as He will one day do in reality (John 1:14).

    Just like the Israelites, we pray to God (I Thessalonians 5:17) and confess our sins (I John 1:9) on a regular basis. We even offer sacrifices - not animals, but praise, thanksgiving, and good deeds of all kinds (Hebrews 13:15,16). But worship is not just something that we do on a Sunday in a church service; we live our whole lives in God’s presence. One of the reasons that Jesus became Man was to share our earthly life - to be truly one of us - so that He knows from experience all the difficulties and temptations that we have to face (Hebrews 2:17,18). And He has not abandoned us. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
     
  9. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Rebellion & idolatry (Exodus 32)


    Sadly, the Israelites have not grasped the concepts of monotheism and imageless worship (even their deliverance from Egypt they attribute to Moses, not Yahweh), and they find it hard (despite the evidence of the daily manna and the pillar of cloud) to comprehend an invisible and intangible God. Impatient to continue on their journey, they soon grew weary of waiting for Moses to return from his meeting with God on the mountain, and decide to take matters into their own hands.

    So the people ‘gang up’ on Aaron (there is more than a hint of intimidation), who lacks the spiritual conviction to resist their demands. The making and use of images can always be rationalised as an aid to worship; but invariably such things dishonour God and end up replacing Him.
    “At Horeb they made a calf
    and worshipped an idol cast from metal.
    They exchanged their glorious God
    for an image of a bull, which eats grass.” (Psalm 106:19,20)
    The bull-statue is the standard representation of Baal, the fertility god of the Canaanites. And this is what is presented to the Israelites as an image of Yahweh. It might be labelled with His name, but it is a gross misrepresentation of His nature. For although the bull could be said to represent Yahweh’s strength and power, in the minds of the people it is associated with sexual potency. A whole religion (altar, priest, sacrifices and festival) is quickly invented to go with the idol, and the people adopt it with great enthusiasm. They claim to be honouring their God; but in fact, they have created a completely different god – one with no moral demands - and the ‘festival to Yahweh’ rapidly degenerates into a drunken orgy. The consequences will be disastrous… God is offended almost beyond recall, and the nation comes close to being wiped out (Exodus 32:9-13).

    We might not go so far as to worship statues of animals; but that does not mean we are immune to the lure of idolatry. Growing weary of waiting for Christ’s return (II Peter 3:3,4), the Church has far too often succumbed to the spirit of the age and absorbed aspects of the surrounding culture, giving them a Christian gloss to make them acceptable. It’s hard to look at the proliferation of mediaeval saints and not see a strong resemblance to the personal and local deities of pre-Christian paganism. But before we condemn the mediaeval church, we need to consider how much some sections of the modern church flirt with New Age philosophy and practices, while others pander to materialism. “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?” (I Corinthians 10:22) It’s a dangerous thing to do!
     
  10. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Repentance and reconciliation (Exodus 33 & 34)


    As a result of Moses’ impassioned intercession (Exodus 32:11-13), Yahweh does not destroy the Israelites; but that does not mean that what they have done can be brushed under the carpet. His presence is temporarily withdrawn - and the people mourn (Exodus 33:4-6). They realise that without God, life’s greatest blessings are not worth having - not even the Promised Land. From that time on, the Israelites wear no jewellery, as a perpetual reminder that they are unworthy of their God.


    But God is “the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6,7) He always keeps His promises - and He will never totally reject the people He has chosen and redeemed. The stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments (representing the covenant between Him and Israel) have been broken… but He tells Moses to make some new ones, so that the covenant can be renewed. Israel are never to forget that they are a forgiven people.


    Do we consider ourselves to be any better than the Israelites? “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12) Sooner or later during the course of our pilgrimage, all of us will let God down - and some of us will let Him down very badly. But that need not be the end of the story. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) We may lose our sense of His presence for a while, or experience some other form of discipline; but we can be assured that He will not reject us. And so we will continue on our journey, more aware of our weaknesses - but still His people, despite it all.
     
  11. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Organisation (Numbers 1-4)


    After a year camped at Mount Sinai, the Israelites have built a sanctuary at which to worship, and have received a law to regulate their everyday life. All that remains is for them to be organised into a coherent and disciplined community, capable of tackling the long trek through the wilderness and the conquest of Canaan.


    This organisation will be based on their pre-existing tribal loyalties. Just like the Egyptian army (which camped in a square with the royal tent in the very centre), the Israelites are instructed to arrange their tents in an orderly manner around God’s tent, the Tabernacle. Each tribe is allocated its own area, according to its ancestry. And when they break camp and go on the march, each tribe has its designated position in the line. The tribe of Levi are given the responsibility of taking down, transporting and re-erecting the Tabernacle; and each Levite clan has its own defined role within this task. Because each place and role has been assigned by God, inter-tribal rivalries and arguments are minimised - and the system works.


    Bureaucracy has a poor image; but it is noteworthy how many pages of the Bible are devoted to lists, censuses, rotas, and other kinds of administrative ‘paperwork’. As much as we might yearn for the supposed simplicity of the early Church, the fact is that large numbers of people need organisation if they are to live harmoniously and work effectively together. “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (I Corinthians 14:33) Each local church is a ‘body’ whose members have differing gifts and functions, determined not by us but by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12) - and ‘administration’ is on the list of gifts! But there is also a need for larger groupings - and the much-maligned denominations (which are, fundamentally, just ‘tribes’ of like-minded churches) actually perform this function rather well. Inter-church rivalry is inappropriate and unnecessary; we can and must work together to fulfil God’s purpose for all His people.
     
  12. JPPT1974

    JPPT1974 Flowers of May Encounter Team

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    Yeah very true. As referring BTW we as God's children and how we become His when we accept Christ as Savior and Lord. Sorry I did not explain it well.
     
  13. aspen

    aspen “"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few

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    Lose your "I" and you overthrow your 'old man' and are free to experience transformation instead of talking about it.
     
  14. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Holiness (Numbers 5:1-4)


    The Israelite camp is where God manifests His presence on earth, and like any ‘sacred space’ must be kept holy. And so the final stage in its re-organisation is to exclude all those individuals who are seriously ‘unclean’, either temporarily (such as through contact with a dead body) or permanently (the lepers). Although still members of the community, they have to live separately in order not to ‘pollute’ the main body of the camp. For many Israelite families, this purging of the camp will be a distressing experience; but they nevertheless obey God’s command.


    The end result of these instructions is a camp made up of concentric circles. At the very centre is the Tabernacle, the holy presence of God. Immediately around it are camped the priests and Levites, forming a ‘buffer zone’ between God’s dwelling-place and the rest of the camp. Then come the tents of the ordinary people, forming the main circle. And on the outermost edge, like orbiting satellites, are the ‘unclean’.


    For us, such enforced exclusion seems unbearably harsh; but we have to understand how completely pure God’s dwelling-place must be - and will be, in the age to come. “Nothing impure will ever enter the city, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) How should the Church (the current dwelling-place of God on earth) reflect this in the present age, bearing in mind that we must also copy Jesus’ willingness to associate with sinners? We have to be welcoming to all outsiders, without discrimination; but at the same time we ought to deal strictly with our own members and discipline anyone whose behaviour is glaringly incompatible with their Christian profession - such as the Corinthian believer who was living openly in an incestuous relationship (I Corinthians 5). This will never be a comfortable task; but the alternative is to allow the distinction between the church and the world to become blurred. It’s worth remembering that ‘excommunication’ in the Biblical sense is neither permanent nor total; such people are merely ‘on the fringe’ until they come back to their senses, at which point they can once again become full members of the church.
     
  15. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Guidance (Numbers 9:15-23)


    The pillar of cloud that has accompanied the Israelites all the way from Egypt is now located over the Tabernacle. It is a reassuring sign of God’s continuing presence, and is visible even during the hours of darkness because of the fire within it.


    This same pillar of cloud will determine all the Israelites’ movements for the next forty years. When God moves, the people will move; when He stays put, so will they. They must learn to submit the course of their lives (both in timing and in direction) to His will. Some of their camps will last only one night, others many months. The lack of any pattern means that they will soon get into the habit of being always ready to move at short notice.


    Many Christians worry about ‘missing’ God’s guidance; but actually, this is far less of a problem than you might think. Most of the time we should stay where we are and carry on doing whatever it is that we are doing (I Corinthians 7:20). If and when He wants us to make a change, He has ways of letting us know. We have to learn to be patient and follow His leading, rather than acting on our own initiative. Waiting is often a necessary prelude to making progress, and God’s timetable allows for delays. Even if we do make a mistake (and the Israelites were to make many), His overall purpose will not be frustrated.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  16. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    ‘Come with us’ (Numbers 10:29-32)

    As the Israelites prepare to leave Mount Sinai, Moses invites his Midianite in-laws to come with them. “Come with us ands we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.” (verse 29) Initially, Hobab refuses; he is reluctant to leave his own territory (for it is only natural to cling to what we know), and perhaps is also unsure whether he, as a non-Israelite, will be able to participate in Israel’s covenant.

    But Moses doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He wants Hobab’s help (for God usually meets our needs through the ministry of other people). Hobab’s intimate knowledge of the area they are about to travel through might well be part of God’s provision. And although his family are not Israelites, they can still put their faith in God’s promise and share in His blessings.

    We often think of the old covenant as being restricted to the descendants of Jacob; but that is an over-simplification. Jacob’s household had always included servants of other nationalities, and when the Israelites escaped from Egypt many other slaves took the opportunity to escape with them (Exodus 12:38). So there was always a certain ethnic mix - but all who were willing to make a spiritual commitment to Israel’s God and enter into Israel’s covenant (by being circumcised, in the case of the men) were granted full rights under that covenant. Hobab did accept Moses’ offer - and although his descendants (the Kenites) retained their own cultural traditions, they settled in the Promised Land and played a part in Israel’s later history (e.g. Judges 4; Jeremiah 35).

    How much more eager should we be to invite outsiders to join us on our pilgrimage! “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” (II Corinthians 5:11) We need to be realistic in what we offer: there is a journey to make through the wilderness before we reach the fullness of God’s blessing. But God will give us many ‘good things’ along the way. If we have confidence in His promises, others will be encouraged to trust Him as well.
     
  17. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Food again (Numbers 11)

    The Israelites are the recipients of a daily feeding miracle - every morning, in the midst of the barren wilderness, there is nutritious food waiting to be collected. And yet within a year or two its very familiarity has made them contemptuous of it. Admittedly, a diet consisting mainly of manna must have been a bit monotonous; but when they start to pine for the variety of the food they had in Egypt (verse 5) they are getting things out of proportion.

    Moses seems to be completely unprepared for the tidal wave of misery rolling through the camp, and falls into despair. The people under his care are like small children in need of constant attention and support - and they show no sign of growing up! (verses 11,12) He feels honour-bound to give them what they want, but can see no way to satisfy their demands - and so he believes he has lost all his credibility as a leader (verse 15).

    The first time that God gave the Israelites meat, it was in grace, in order to meet a genuine need. But this time He will do the same thing in anger, to make a point - and so the outcome will be very different. They have begged for meat, and that’s what they will get - but in such quantity that it will turn out to be a punishment rather than a blessing (verses 19,20).

    Once again it’s the time of year for quail to migrate over Sinai. By now Israel are in a very different part of the wilderness, but a strong wind blows the birds off course to where they are camped. The exhausted birds are easily caught and killed; there are so many of them that the people do nothing else for two days! The quail meat is dried in the sun for later consumption - but the pleasure of eating it is quickly terminated by an outbreak of severe food poisoning that causes many deaths.

    Although food is essential to life, there are other things more important than the menu. The Israelites took their eyes off what they did have, and thought only of what they didn’t have - a sure recipe for unhappiness. They wanted to go back to Egypt - but those who embrace the culture of Egypt will also embrace the plagues of Egypt.

    "Better a little with the fear of the LORD
    than great wealth with turmoil.
    Better a dish of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.”
    (Proverbs 15:16,17)


    A surfeit of food is not necessarily a blessing; it may be a curse! Our loving heavenly Father gives us what we need (which is not the same as what we want); do we trust Him? “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (I Timothy 6:8)
     
  18. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Food again (Numbers 11)

    The Israelites are the recipients of a daily feeding miracle - every morning, in the midst of the barren wilderness, there is nutritious food waiting to be collected. And yet within a year or two its very familiarity has made them contemptuous of it. Admittedly, a diet consisting mainly of manna must have been a bit monotonous; but when they start to pine for the variety of the food they had in Egypt (verse 5) they are getting things out of proportion.

    Moses seems to be completely unprepared for the tidal wave of misery rolling through the camp, and falls into despair. The people under his care are like small children in need of constant attention and support - and they show no sign of growing up! (verses 11,12) He feels honour-bound to give them what they want, but can see no way to satisfy their demands - and so he believes he has lost all his credibility as a leader (verse 15).

    The first time that God gave the Israelites meat, it was in grace, in order to meet a genuine need. But this time He will do the same thing in anger, to make a point - and so the outcome will be very different. They have begged for meat, and that’s what they will get - but in such quantity that it will turn out to be a punishment rather than a blessing (verses 19,20).

    Once again it’s the time of year for quail to migrate over Sinai. By now Israel are in a very different part of the wilderness, but a strong wind blows the birds off course to where they are camped. The exhausted birds are easily caught and killed; there are so many of them that the people do nothing else for two days! The quail meat is dried in the sun for later consumption - but the pleasure of eating it is quickly terminated by an outbreak of severe food poisoning that causes many deaths.

    Although food is essential to life, there are other things more important than the menu. The Israelites took their eyes off what they did have, and thought only of what they didn’t have - a sure recipe for unhappiness. They wanted to go back to Egypt - but those who embrace the culture of Egypt will also embrace the plagues of Egypt.

    "Better a little with the fear of the LORD
    than great wealth with turmoil.
    Better a dish of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.”
    (Proverbs 15:16,17)


    A surfeit of food is not necessarily a blessing; it may be a curse! Our loving heavenly Father gives us what we need (which is not the same as what we want); do we trust Him? “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (I Timothy 6:8)
     
  19. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Food again (Numbers 11)

    The Israelites are the recipients of a daily feeding miracle - every morning, in the midst of the barren wilderness, there is nutritious food waiting to be collected. And yet within a year or two its very familiarity has made them contemptuous of it. Admittedly, a diet consisting mainly of manna must have been a bit monotonous; but when they start to pine for the variety of the food they had in Egypt (verse 5) they are getting things out of proportion.

    Moses seems to be completely unprepared for the tidal wave of misery rolling through the camp, and falls into despair. The people under his care are like small children in need of constant attention and support - and they show no sign of growing up! (verses 11,12) He feels honour-bound to give them what they want, but can see no way to satisfy their demands - and so he believes he has lost all his credibility as a leader (verse 15).

    The first time that God gave the Israelites meat, it was in grace, in order to meet a genuine need. But this time He will do the same thing in anger, to make a point - and so the outcome will be very different. They have begged for meat, and that’s what they will get - but in such quantity that it will turn out to be a punishment rather than a blessing (verses 19,20).

    Once again it’s the time of year for quail to migrate over Sinai. By now Israel are in a very different part of the wilderness, but a strong wind blows the birds off course to where they are camped. The exhausted birds are easily caught and killed; there are so many of them that the people do nothing else for two days! The quail meat is dried in the sun for later consumption - but the pleasure of eating it is quickly terminated by an outbreak of severe food poisoning that causes many deaths.

    Although food is essential to life, there are other things more important than the menu. The Israelites took their eyes off what they did have, and thought only of what they didn’t have - a sure recipe for unhappiness. They wanted to go back to Egypt - but those who embrace the culture of Egypt will also embrace the plagues of Egypt.

    "Better a little with the fear of the LORD
    than great wealth with turmoil.
    Better a dish of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.”
    (Proverbs 15:16,17)


    A surfeit of food is not necessarily a blessing; it may be a curse! Our loving heavenly Father gives us what we need (which is not the same as what we want); do we trust Him? “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (I Timothy 6:8)
     
  20. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Food again (Numbers 11)

    The Israelites are the recipients of a daily feeding miracle - every morning, in the midst of the barren wilderness, there is nutritious food waiting to be collected. And yet within a year or two its very familiarity has made them contemptuous of it. Admittedly, a diet consisting mainly of manna must have been a bit monotonous; but when they start to pine for the variety of the food they had in Egypt (verse 5) they are getting things out of proportion.

    Moses seems to be completely unprepared for the tidal wave of misery rolling through the camp, and falls into despair. The people under his care are like small children in need of constant attention and support - and they show no sign of growing up! (verses 11,12) He feels honour-bound to give them what they want, but can see no way to satisfy their demands - and so he believes he has lost all his credibility as a leader (verse 15).

    The first time that God gave the Israelites meat, it was in grace, in order to meet a genuine need. But this time He will do the same thing in anger, to make a point - and so the outcome will be very different. They have begged for meat, and that’s what they will get - but in such quantity that it will turn out to be a punishment rather than a blessing (verses 19,20).

    Once again it’s the time of year for quail to migrate over Sinai. By now Israel are in a very different part of the wilderness, but a strong wind blows the birds off course to where they are camped. The exhausted birds are easily caught and killed; there are so many of them that the people do nothing else for two days! The quail meat is dried in the sun for later consumption - but the pleasure of eating it is quickly terminated by an outbreak of severe food poisoning that causes many deaths.

    Although food is essential to life, there are other things more important than the menu. The Israelites took their eyes off what they did have, and thought only of what they didn’t have - a sure recipe for unhappiness. They wanted to go back to Egypt - but those who embrace the culture of Egypt will also embrace the plagues of Egypt.

    "Better a little with the fear of the LORD
    than great wealth with turmoil.
    Better a dish of vegetables with love
    than a fattened calf with hatred.”
    (Proverbs 15:16,17)


    A surfeit of food is not necessarily a blessing; it may be a curse! Our loving heavenly Father gives us what we need (which is not the same as what we want); do we trust Him? “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (I Timothy 6:8)
     
  21. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Leadership (Numbers 12)

    Moses has a lot on his plate at the moment - and now on top of it all he finds his leadership challenged by his own brother and sister! Ostensibly their grievance is his second wife (has Zipporah died?), who is a foreigner and not even of Abrahamic descent. (Perhaps Miriam wanted to see herself as Israel’s ‘first lady’!) But the real reason is simple jealousy; they are both older than Moses and resent being in the shadow of their ‘upstart’ younger brother.

    Moses is entitled to feel threatened (their grumbling is sowing seeds of disunity, and undermining his authority), but he doesn’t take any action himself. As a leader, he is neither arrogant nor overbearing; for there is nothing like a close encounter with the living God to make one humble! It is God who steps in swiftly to nip this bitterness in the bud by summoning Aaron and Miriam to judgement and striking Miriam (presumably the chief instigator) with leprosy for seven days. Having coveted the place of highest prestige, she is forced out of the community altogether for a while - giving her time to reflect on the gruesome consequences of jealousy and resentment.

    Moses was no ordinary prophet or leader. The intimacy of his relationship with God was unique (he saw God’s ‘form’, though never His face), and the revelations that he received were not one-way messages but a true conversation. These unusual privileges were the result not only of the unique role he had been called upon to fulfil, but also of the extraordinary diligence with which he carried out his commission. So it was a serious matter to speak against God’s faithful steward… and should we not be all the more willing to submit to the authority of His Son (Hebrews 3:3-6)?
     
  22. Deborah_

    Deborah_ Well-Known Member

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    Giving up (Numbers 13 & 14)

    After just a few weeks on the march, Israel reach the oasis of Kadesh-Barnea, on the border of Canaan, and are within sight of their destination! However, none of them know anything about Canaan; not even Moses has ever been there before. And there are no maps or guidebooks… so reconnaissance is an essential preliminary to invasion. Twelve men (one from each tribe) are sent ahead to spy out the land, and in due course they bring back a report.

    God has promised His people a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’; and He has not deceived them. The land is indeed extremely fertile - but it is already occupied by fierce, warlike peoples. And the spies lay such emphasis on the difficulties and dangers ahead that the people become convinced that they will die if they attempt to conquer Canaan. The result is mutiny: on the very brink of achieving their goal, they refuse point-blank to enter the land God is offering them. They want to throw in the towel and return to slavery in Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4)! Only two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, are prepared to stand with Moses and with God - and they come within a whisker of being stoned to death for their loyalty.

    To God, this is like a slap in the face. He is so angry that He threatens to obliterate the nation of Israel from the face of the earth and start all over again. Once again, Moses’ impassioned intercession causes Him to relent. But this time the people cannot carry on as before. Those who are so determined not to trust God will never be able to receive the blessings that He wants to give them; the conquest of Canaan will have to be postponed until the next generation (Numbers 14:20-35).

    Israel’s fate is a most solemn warning: it really is possible, after making a commitment to God, to fall away and fail to reach our goal. “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12) Despite the impression given by some evangelistic literature, it isn’t enough just to ‘ask Jesus into your heart’; we must then follow Him right to the end of our lives. Faith is not a box to be ticked, upon which we are given a ‘free ticket to heaven’ that we cannot lose; it is a lifetime commitment, trusting in God’s promises all the way. And in order to claim the prize, we must finish the course! We are NOT talking here about doubts and hesitations, or moral lapses; all believers suffer from these, and although they can delay our pilgrimage they need not shipwreck it. ‘Unbelief’ is something very different, much less common, and much more serious: a deliberate abandonment of Christ, a rejection of all that He has done for us, and a refusal to follow Him any further.

    The Israelites who turned down God’s great gift so flatly were not given a second chance; they had stated that they would prefer to die in the wilderness rather than fight for the land of Canaan, so God granted their request. And He will allow a professed Christian to ‘change their mind’, if they so insist. But if they do, they will discover that they can’t simply go back into the world (just as the Israelites couldn’t return to Egypt); they will spend the rest of their life stuck in a weary no-mans-land, neither one thing nor the other.

    However, there were two exceptions to Israel’s catastrophic failure: Joshua and Caleb. Forty years later, both of them would still be alive to claim their inheritance – and fit enough to enjoy it (Joshua 14:10-12)! Their story shows that if we are genuinely committed to God and believe His word, He will never let us down.
     
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