May 16, 2022

(Numbers 25, Psalm 68; Optional 1 John 4:7-12, Proverbs 23:19-21)

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NUMBERS 25 – Num 25:1-5 – This isn’t a RACE problem, it’s a FAITH problem. And I should put “race” in quotes, because there’s ONE race – all humans come from Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26), all equally in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). And when Ruth (a Moabitess, so this same ethnicity) left her family’s idols to trust in Yahweh (Ruth 1:15-16, 2:10-12) that was a beautiful thing and she holds special place in the Messianic line as a grandma (or great grandma or something, depending on how you read it) of King David.

Disbelief / rebellion against God SO often go together with sinful sex! So often that I know of a preacher that says this… Young adults would come back from college to visit the church where they grew up and had made a profession of faith in Jesus. But now they say, “Pastor, I’m not sure the Bible is actually God’s Word and I’m not sure that Jesus is the ONLY way…” He responds simply: “Who are you sleeping with?” And often hears: “How did you know?!”

This use of ungodly sex and idolatry to instigate God’s wrath against Israel came from the wicked counsel of Balaam to King Balak of Moab (Num 31:6-8, 15; Rev 2:14).

Num 25:6-13 – Phinehas is one of my favorite Bible characters! He’s a wonderful illustration of James 3:17-18 (“the wisdom from above is FIRST pure, then peaceable…”). In this story, he takes decisive action (appropriate under a theocracy – see Num 25:4-5) that may SOUND harsh to our modern ears but was actually loving (Num 25:8 and tremble at v 9). This is “FIRST PURE,” (James 3:17) but that’s NOT all Phinehas was about…  In Josh 22:10-34, he first checked for purity, found out there had been a huge miscommunication and joyfully led in PEACE.

PSALM 68 – Lots of overlap with Numbers! Ps 68:1 comes from the Mosaic prayer when God would let Israel know it was time to break camp and go elsewhere (Num 10:35). And there are several references to God leading through the wilderness and rescuing His people. In this Psalm (an oft-repeated theme in Scripture), God lifts up and delivers the hurting / oppressed (v 5-6, 9-10) often using surprising means (notice the women instead of the men in v 11-13 and compare Judges 4-5; “least / little / youngest” in v 27). And He ends up EASILY (v 2) defeating His foes.

Ps 68:32-35 – The SUMMARY: an international call to worship the One true God who is ALMIGHTY and rules over all!

Optional Prov 23:19-21 – Pr 23:19 – Yet ANOTHER verse that is completely counter to idea of “Follow your heart.” Instead, God has parents instruct their children to DIRECT their heart according to biblical wisdom!

Optional 1 John 4:7-12 – The wonderful truth “God IS love” (1 Jn 4:8b) is often perverted to mean that if you say anything about something being sinful that you’re not being loving. But look at the context! Vs 10 DEFINES God’s love by describing sending His Son to absorb God’s righteous wrath so that sinners who repent and trust in Jesus can receive God’s favor. Even God’s definition of love references His righteous wrath which Jesus saves His people from.

May 15, 2022

(Numbers 24, Psalm 66-67; Optional 1 John 4:1-6, Proverbs 23:15-18)

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NUMBERS 24 – Although definitely a guy who received God’s eternal judgment (Josh 13:22, 2 Pet 2:15-16, Jude 11, Rev 2:14), God’s Spirit really does give Balaam true prophecy and compels him to BLESS Israel whom he was trying to collect money to CURSE (see Deut 23:5, Josh 29:9-10). Reflections…  1) Sometimes lost people have real insights and correctly proclaim even spiritual truths. Don’t assume that they’re believers or that you should pay much attention to other things they say. The ONLY reason we pay attention to prophecies like these from Balaam is because God’s authority stamped on it by the inspired author in Num 22:12, 18-20, 34-35; 23:4-5, 16; 24:1-2).  2) Just because you’ve had some amazing spiritual experiences does NOT ensure that you’re a true believer! Make sure your trust is in the one true God as revealed through Jesus, and that HE is in charge of your life as Lord and Savior and your Everything. Balaam is a powerful illustration of both Matt 7:21-27 and Heb 6:4-8.

Num 24:9 – The first half of this verse reaffirms the prophecy (ultimately Messianic) in Gen 49:9 pertaining to the tribe of Judah which God would turn into the Davidic kingly line leading to Messiah Jesus. The second half reaffirms the promise God made to Abraham in Gen 12:3. It certainly applies to how nations treated Israel, but there’s a Messianic application as well. From MacArthur Study Bible: [“The ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant centers around the coming Messiah. It is the one who blesses him who will ultimately reap God’s blessing in the future.”]

Num 24:17 – Clearly a prophecy of something in the distant future (Jesus was born about 1400 years later)… A star linked to a king! There are no other prophecies in Scripture that refer to a star, and it’s my educated guess that the wise men in Matt 2:2 were aware of this prophecy (Balaam is something like an ancient wise man / spiritual guru) and that God used this and the star to draw them to Israel searching for the recently born King of kings!

PSALM 66-67 – Both these Psalms call to ALL peoples over ALL the earth to recognize and rejoice in God’s greatness! Compare Num 24 emphasis on God blessing and ruling the whole earth by One who would come from Israel but have authority over all lands.

Ps 66:10-12 – God is in charge of the sad / tough times, too! He uses them like a refiner’s fire for silver. Wicked people were certainly INVOLVED (v 12), but it’s God and His good and wise refining / testing purposes that win. And the END of the story for every believer is complete deliverance and eternal abundance (compare v 12b to Rev 21-22).

Ps 66:16 – Biblical foundation for making opportunities for testimony times when the congregation is gathered!

Ps 66:18 – Whoa! Strong encouragement to repent linked to effective praying! For a NT example, see 1 Pet 3:7.

Ps 67 – Wonderful missionary psalm!

Ps 67:1-2 – The prayer is for God to bless His people SO THAT they can help in witnessing to the nations (NOT so that we can be comfy)!

Ps 67:3, 5 – A wonderful missions prayer and also the repeating chorus of this prayer song. I’ve set the first part of this Psalm to music – hopefully get a recording out soon 😊

Ps 67:4 – This (and really this whole Psalm) led to the title of my FAVORITE book on missions, John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. If you only had time to read ONE book on missions (and you SHOULD make the time to read a book on missions and inspire your praying, giving and maybe going) it would be this one.

Ps 67:7 – Since I’m tracing the vital but oft-neglected theme of proper Fear of God, I’ve written “F” by this verse with this note: “not separate from praise and singing for joy!!”

Optional Prov 23:15-18 – Prov 23:15-16 – We need to let kids/grandkids know that what would REALLY thrill us is not worldly “success,” but this!

Pr 23:17-18 – ANOTHER reference to proper fear of God connected to benefits – CONFIDENCE because God-fearers know the glorious END of the story. Sinners (those whose life/identity is defined by what the Bible calls sin) may SEEM to do well for a while, but don’t envy them – their end is eternal judgment (yes, again see Rev 21-22).

May 14, 2022

(Numbers 23, Psalm 64-65; Optional 1 John 3:16-24, Proverbs 23:10-14)

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NUMBERS 23 – Num 23:1-3 – Going through costly external religious ceremonies. I wonder if Balaam thinks God can be bought (like Balaam could be)? Some today certainly act like if they get just the right combination of actions / prayers, etc that they can get what they want from God. This is basically witchcraft and treating Almighty God like a vending machine.

Num 23:5, 16 – This IS a true MESSAGE (it comes directly from Yahweh), delivered through a “perverse” (see 22:32 – or your translation might have “contrary / reckless / evil”) prophet. See Deut 23:3-6 and Josh 13:22 for God’s summary on Moab’s attempt to hire Balaam to curse Israel and how God turned it into a BLESSING.

Num 23:10 – Ironically, see Num 31:8 for Balaam’s end. He became enmeshed with those trying to stand against God and got destroyed along with them.

Num 23:13, 27 – Repeated attempts at a new perspective. Maybe from THIS angle you can see things differently and say what we want you to say. It’s sad (I see it a lot these days) to see professing believers contort themselves and try to pretzel God’s Word to say something more in line with what the world wants to hear.

Num 23:19 – Compare with Psalm 50:21 (basically “you thought God was like you – BIG MISTAKE!”) and 1 Sam 15:29. This should greatly ENCOURAGE those that belong to God – He WILL bring all His people home to heaven for eternal joy in His presence. And should TERRIFY (and prayerfully bring to repentance) those that are NOT God’s – the end of BOTH is told in Rev 21-22.

Num 23:20, 23 – Yes! Compare Prov 26:2 and believers be encouraged – no enchantments / witchcraft / curses can sneak past God and hurt you! But also be humbled and warned… Balaam DID figure out a way to get God to kill many of the Israelites, tempting them into sin – see Num 31:16 (which explains Num 25).

PSALM 64-65 – Ps 64 – Again, when unjustly attacked, those who belong to God run to Him, and rejoice and exult IN HIM (v 10 – even in the midst of being treated unjustly by people). Notice how different the desperate tone from vs 1 to the triumph of v 10 – this is what happens when we bring our troubles to the Lord!

Ps 65 – A reminder that God is worthy of praise from all people (there are repeated missionary reminders through this Psalm) and all of nature.

Optional Prov 23:10-14 – Prov 23:13-14 – Another VERY clear reference to firm and very counter-cultural parental discipline. Some people try to turn every reference to “the rod” into merely a SYMBOL of parental authority. I don’t see how you can read Prov 23:13-14 (and SEVERAL other similar verses) as anything other than a call to corporal discipline of children – proper spanking is not abuse (there certainly IS some that IS abuse, and that’s wicked), but a command from God. Don’t be like those who try to twist God’s Word around into something that’s more pleasing to the world (see notes at Num 23:13 today).

May 13, 2022

(Numbers 22, Psalm 62-63; Optional 1 John 3:11-18, Proverbs 23:6-9)

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NUMBERS 22 – Num 22:6 – Balaam was known for being some sort of spiritual guru. He uses the covenant name Yahweh (Num 22:8, 18, etc), but Yahweh inspires Moses to record His anger (Num 22:22) towards this perverse / reckless / evil man (Num 22:32). We know that Balaam was motivated by his greed (2 Pet 2:15, Jude 11). He did find a way to get his money eventually, by advising Moab how to tempt and corrupt Israel and get God Himself to execute some of His people (Num 31:16, Rev 2:14).

Num 22:8 – If only he stuck to this! But he seems to be hinting that he’s holding out for more money. And Balak takes the hint and ups the offer in v 16-17.

Num 22:19 – Uh-oh! But someone might say: “How is this different from Moses in Ex 32:9-14?? (and see Ps 106:23)  Answer: Moses asked God to relent based on the CHARACTER and PROMISES of God Himself! Balaam just really loves money (2 Pet 2:15).

Num 22:23-26  – God ALLOWS Balaam to seem to get his way for a while, but Balaam’s options continue to narrow. You know there’s a problem when the donkey has more spiritual insight (v 23) and makes more sense (v 27-30) than the spiritual guru!

Num 22:28-30 – Yahweh can even enable a donkey to speak (and make more sense than the angry spiritual guru)! So we shouldn’t be surprised when He compels Balaam to give some wonderful prophecies about Israel and the Messiah in the next two chapters. Nor should we be surprised that He can use a prophet with an awful attitude like Jonah or sinners like you and me.

PSALM 62-63 – Ps 62 – Once again David is under attack (v 3-4). He states the truth (v 1-2) that God alone is his hope and help. In v 5-7, David reminds his own soul of this, in v 8 he reminds the whole congregation of God’s people. In 9-10 we are reminded that people and money aren’t worth trusting in. And he closes with reminders of how wonderful God is and that He WILL bring full justice one day.

Ps 63 – See the title – this is sometime in the YEARS running from king Saul’s jealous rage in the desert (also see v 9 – “those who seek to destroy my life”). But there are NO REQUESTS in this Psalm – Just exulting in the goodness of God who Himself is BETTER than life (v 1-4). And remembering the END of the story!

May 12, 2022

(Numbers 21, Psalm 60-61; Optional 1 John 2:28-3:10, Proverbs 23:1-5)

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NUMBERS 21 – This chapter mostly filled with victories over the wicked folks NOW living in the Promised Land and surrounding area. Note 1) these are NOT at the initiative of Israel at this point, but they are attacked first (Num 21:1, 21-23, 33). And 2) read Gen 15:12-16 to be reminded that God had let His own people suffer for hundreds of years allowing the wickedness of the current inhabitants to reach full judgment level before bringing Israel back in to carry out His righteous judgment.

Num 21:3 – The site of the previous generation’s DEFEAT almost 40 years ago (see Num 14:36-45) when they disobeyed God is now the first site of VICTORY for the next generation when they cry out to God for help!

Num 21:4-9 – Just after their victory, more complaining, the Lord sends serpents in judgment, but also sends a surprising salvation – look and live! Beside Num 21:8-9 I’ve written a cross (reminding me this is referred to in the NT) and “Jn 3:14-16”. There Jesus calls on Nicodemus (a top religious leader in Israel) to see himself as one of the sinful, helpless folks in Num 21 and look to Jesus lifted up on the cross and live.

Num 21:10-20 – A sweet taste for how life can be when we trust the Lord and His timing and His provision. Num 21:16-18 is such a beautiful contrast to the complaining and punishment of v 4-7 and Num 20:2-13. And as a music guy I love that there was a “Song of the Well” 😊

Num 21:27-30 – Helpful insight from ESV Study Bible: [“This old poem celebrates the capture of Moabite territory by Sihon. It is included in Numbers to show that the Israelites could justifiably displace the Amorites from their land, for the Amorites had acquired it from the Moabites by force. It also helps to explain the king of Moab’s anxiety about Israel that drove him to hire Balaam to curse Israel (see 22:4–6, and all of chs. 22–24). Moab had been defeated by Sihon, and Sihon had been defeated by Israel, so what hope has Moab?”]

PSALM 60-61 – Ps 60 – When you piece together hints from the title with 2 Sam 8:1-14 and its parallel in 1 Chron 18:1-13, it appears that David was battling some enemies and Edom swooped in and attacked Israel. And they had the upper hand at first (see Ps 60:1-5, 9-10).

Ps 60:1-5 – David is feeling abandoned by God, very aware that victories and defeats alike come from His sovereign hand. But, like Peter in Jn 6:66-69, David knew there was no place else to turn for help / hope. The turning point is v 5 where David cries out that God’s “beloved” may be delivered. It’s the same tender / sweet root word used repeatedly in Song of Solomon, the same used to refer to Jesus as God’s Beloved Son (Mt 3:17, Eph 1:6), and the same term used to refer to Christians (Rom 9:25, Eph 5:1, Col 3:12).

Ps 60:6-8 – “God has spoken” – THIS is all that ultimately matters! He has the FINAL and FOUNDATIONAL word on any topic! He authoritatively speaks of His possession of ALL the nations involved – they belong to Him!

Ps 60:9-12 – Even after God has spoken, the situation looks grim (v 9-10). The title mentions Edom, God mentions what WILL happen to Edom (v 8), and David is anxious over Edom (v 9). He knows that they will NOT succeed apart from God (compare Jn 15:5), but knows that with God there WILL be victory at the end of the story! There was… 2 Sam 8:13-14 records thousands of Edomites struck down, complete victory… “And the LORD (Yahweh) gave victory to David wherever he went.” Just like the END of our story – Rev 21-22!

Ps 61:6-7 – Reminds of the importance of praying for our leaders and is also a pointer to the eternal Kingship of the great king David’s far greater descendant Jesus, the King of kings of Lord of lords.

Optional 1 John 2:28-3:10 – Don’t forget that one of the main purposes 1 Jn is written is so that you may KNOW for sure that you have eternal life (1 Jn 5:13). All these evidences are to help you examine your PROFESSION of faith and make sure there’s REALITY there. These verses are NOT talking about sinless perfection (see 1 Jn 1:8-10, Matt 6:9-12 where Jesus connects daily prayer with asking for forgiveness for the sins of that day). The Greek tense in this section in 1 Jn refers to ongoing sin that is a defining mark of your life – if your life is run by what your sinful flesh wants, then you’re NOT a child of God and need to be born again.

May 11, 2022 (Numbers 20, Psalm 58-59; Optional 1 John 2:18-27, Proverbs 22:26-29)

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SPECIAL NOTE on format change…  I’ve been falling behind in other responsibilities, but I want to keep on, so I’m going to simplify even further. Many days I’ll only write down a reflection from a verse or two that really stands out. A few tips to keep going in a through-the-Bible plan… 1) When you’re in a chapter that’s particularly hard to understand or apply, don’t get hung up on that chapter. There will be something that’s clear in one of the other passages (and pray for help in this – that the Lord will reveal Himself to you through His Word each day). 2) I’d definitely recommend reading through Proverbs mostly by reading a few verses per day, rather than just a full chapter per day when it comes up that way in the classic reading plan. 3) You may want to try handwriting a verse or two that particularly stands out each day. If you write it on an index card, you can carry it through the day and look at it off and on, having it almost memorized by day’s end. We did this sometimes to encourage our kids in regular Bible reading, and I found it helpful for me also. 4) Keep going. When falling behind, skim more than usual and ask the Lord to help you focus on what will most help you grow in knowing and loving Him.

NUMBERS 20 – Because Aaron dies at the end of this chapter (and we know he died near the end of the 40 years in the wilderness), we know that almost 40 years has passed since the end of Num 14. The next generation is having similar struggles to the first generation out of Egypt (compare Num 20:2ff to Ex 17:1ff), and even the top leaders dishonor God and aren’t allowed into the Promised Land (Num 20:10-13). Thankfully, God is faithful and WILL keep His promise to bring His people to the Promise!

PSALM 58-59 – Ps 58 – Though this Psalm may sound shocking to our modern ears, God HATES when rulers are unjust and WILL bring full and wrathful justice one day! Tremble at God’s righteous wrath poured out on His own Son when He took our sins on Him as the perfect Sacrifice. For ALL that turn to Jesus in faith (no matter how bloody or tyrannical they MAY have been – see the violent unsaved persecutor in Gal 1:13 amazed at his salvation even though “chief of sinners” in 1 Tim 1:15-16), Jesus Himself has taken their punishment. But for all others, God WILL bring justice one day, and believers are given Psalms like this to give us God-inspired words to express our horror at tyranny and to call out to God for vengeance and justice, remembering that those things ultimately belong to HIM.

Ps 59  – The historical setting (see the title) is 1 Sam 19:11. King Saul and his jealous rage towards David SEEMS to be winning for now, but God WILL triumph!

Ps 59:11-13 is an example of Imprecatory Prayer – a prayer for God to take righteous vengeance on His enemies. Notice the praying for the glory of God to be seen – compare Ps 59:13 to today’s notes at Jn 15:7-8).

Ps 59:16-17 – What a contrast! The believers is singing praises to the living God while the world is howling, prowling, and growling (see Ps 59:6-7, 14-15).

Optional 1 John 2:18-17 – 1 Jn 2:19 – My go-to verse for when folks wonder if people can lose their salvation. This verse makes clear that if someone appears to leave the faith it’s because they were never truly IN the faith.

May 10, 2022

(Numbers 19, Psalm 56-57; Optional 1 John 2:7-17, Proverbs 22:22-25)

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NUMBERS 19 – There have been so many executions by God in the last several chapters and over a million will die in the wilderness over the next 40 years. God gives exact instructions on how they can be purified involving the ashes of a red heifer mixed with water.

Helpful summary from ESV Study Bible: [“Life and death are the two poles of existence inside and outside the Bible. Holiness, God, and life are associated in Scripture, whereas uncleanness, sin, and death also belong together (see chart). Human corpses caused the gravest kind of pollution under the Mosaic system, affecting all who approached them. Thus those who have contact with the dead must keep away from the sanctuary and undergo cleansing. This rite is designed to provide ritual cleansing for all who have been near or touched corpses.”]

PSALM 56-57 – Ps 56 – The historical background (see the Psalm’s title) is in 1 Sam 21:10ff and cf Ps 34) when David was running from the jealous rage of king Saul and escaped to a chief city of the Philistines, only to be recognized as the Israelite warrior who had killed many Philistines in battle. Everywhere David turned there were enemies, and at this time in his life they SEEMED to be winning. In fear and fragility where can a believer go? The answer is in the repeating chorus of this psalm (v 4, 11) – to God Himself!

Ps 56:3-4 – When our kids were young, we memorized Ps 56:3-4 with them, telling them that Dad and Mom could not always be with them when they were afraid, but they could ALWAYS call out to God and trust in Him. He always wins! And He tenderly cares when His people hurt (note the infinite tenderness in v 8).

Ps 56:13 – The end of the story for every believer (also see Rev 21-22).

Ps 57 – The historical setting (see the title) refers to David hiding from king Saul’s jealous rage (see 1 Sam 22, 24).

Ps 57:2 – Compare Rom 8:28 – David remembering the END of the story – God WILL work ALL THINGS together for His good and wise purposes – for His ultimate glory and the ultimate good of His people.

Ps 57:7 – Even after the dire situation recorded in v 1, 3, 4, 6 notice that David’s heart is SET on praising God.

Ps 57:5, 9-11 – Notice the MISSIONARY emphasis here. David is NOT just focused on his own pain (so easy to fall into when we’re hurting, and why the inspired book of Psalms is necessary to help broaden our perspective in hard times in our own lives).

Optional 1 John 2:7-17 – One good way to think about the Christian life is that it is all about new RELATIONSHIPS. Note all the family terms in this section. There are new LOVES (v 9-11) for God’s family, and a turning AWAY from old loves (v 15-17). This is another EVIDENCE of a true Christian.

Optional Proverbs 22:22-25 – v 24-25 – Both a warning to NOT be close friends with someone given to anger, and a powerful motivation for someone who tends towards anger to cry out to God for help in turning from this dangerous snare (v 25) that will keep Godly folks from being close to you.

May 9, 2022

(Numbers 17-18, Psalm 55; Optional 1 John 2:1-6, Proverbs 22:17-21)

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NUMBERS 17-18 – So much complaining, rebellion and death (from righteous judgment) in Num 16! These 2 chapters today are God’s firm, clear reaffirmation of His choice of Aaron and HIS line as the ONLY ones who could draw near to His presence as priests. And then much of Num 18 is instructions on how the tithes and offerings were to provide for the tribe of Levi who were dedicated to serving the Lord and His people.

Num 17:5, 8 – As I’m tracing the huge theme of both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of people, I’ve written “S!” in my margin at Num 17:5.  A few things rub some folks the wrong way, but we need to prayerfully reflect on… 1) God has the right and sovereign authority to choose.  2) All human leadership (other than the sole exception of Jesus who’s both 100% human AND 100% divine) will many times show that they’re still sinners, but God REALLY does choose to set some in unique callings of leadership / service / responsibility. And this is for the GOOD / protection / blessing of the whole group (see Num 17:10-13, 18:1-7, 18:21-23).  3) The one chosen by God is FRUITFUL! There’s clear EVIDENCE of His choice. Compare Num 17:5, 8 to Jn 15:16 and Matt 13:23.

Num 17:10 – This very sober warning by God is LOVING (“lest they die”). Compare Num 18:4-5. We should stop saying, “I love you BUT I’m going to say something tough.” Instead: “I love you SO I’m willing to say something tough to call you to LIFE instead of death” (compare Deut 30:19-20, Jn 10:10).

Num 17:12-13 – Num 17-18 (if heeded and obeyed) is graciously given by God to prevent this from happening!

Num 18:1-7 – The people NOT chosen for the unique calling of Aaron’s line saw only PRIVILEGE in Num 16, but notice the weighty RESPONSIBILITY that God lays on leaders (compare James 3:1).

Num 18:12, 25-32 – Notice that ALL (including the Levites who made their living from others’ tithes / offerings) were to give of their BEST to God. Of course we’re simply giving back a little as a reminder that it ALL comes from Him (see 1 Chron 29:10-14, Rom 11:35-36)!

PSALM 55 – David the Psalmist has been betrayed by a close friend (see v 12-14), and his heart is broken. This Psalm gives us God-inspired words to use in casting our burden on Yahweh (see the command and promise in v 22).

Ps 55:22-23 AGAIN remind us of the end of the story for the TWO PATHS in life. When our hearts are breaking, we must return to this again and again.

Optional 1 John 2:1-6 – All through the book we’ll see EVIDENCE that someone belongs to God! If there’s only a PROFESSION of faith without a new DIRECTION, the person is fooling themselves. But those that DO belong to God have Jesus as their Advocate / Defense Attorney (v 1-2)!

Optional Proverbs 22:17-21 – Both 1) the intentionality and EFFORT necessary for growing in true knowledge and wisdom. AND 2) the WORTH / value of wisdom!

May 8, 2022

(Numbers 16, Psalm 52-54; Optional 1 John 1, Proverbs 22:13-16)

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NUMBERS 16 – Korah’s rebellion – powerful illustration of Prov 24:21-22 and referenced in Jude 11. A story of well-known select leaders (v 2) who aren’t content with their lot but are jealous of the unique leadership held by Moses and Aaron. They use spiritual talk (v 3), but God is not pleased (nor fooled – see v 30)  and executes the whole group of rebel leaders and all who stayed wouldn’t separate from them.

Num 16:8-11 – Compare Jer 45:5 and Titus 1:9-11, 2:15.

Num 16:25 – Heartbreaking, multi-generational consequences for sin!

Num 16:26-35 – Compare Rom 16:17, 1 Cor 5:9-13, 2 Cor 6:17, Titus 3:10. There are clearly STILL times to have separation.

Num 16:32 – But at least some of Korah’s sons must’ve listened to the warning in v 26 – see Num 26:11 (and many Psalms written by future generations from this line – “sons of Korah,” who were still very involved in Tabernacle / Temple ministry – 1 Chron 6:22, 31, 37).

Num 16:35 – God is STILL a consuming fire (1 Cor 11:27-31, Heb 12:29).

Num 16:34 – This is NOT proper fear of God, though – see v 41ff!

PSALM 52-54 – All three of these Psalms show where evil is seemingly winning for a time. But they’re all focused on WAITING for God’s deliverance in His timing (compare Ps 52:9, 53:6, 54:5).

Ps 52 – The historical setting is when David, fleeing from king Saul’s unreasonable rage, talks Ahimelech the priest into giving him and his men some necessities (1 Sam 21:1-8). Doeg the Edomite was there and curried favor with Saul by tattling, then butchering the community of priests (including their families and animals) that were there when David got a little help (1 Sam 22:7-23). This Psalm is David’s inspired-by-God reminder that God WILL bring justice one day. Again, we’re reminded that the end of the story for each believer is ETERNALLY enjoying the presence of God (Ps 52:8-9), while the end of the story for every person who does NOT make God their refuge (see v 6) is destroyed forever (see v 5; compare 2 Thess 1:9). From the hymn This Is My Father’s World: “This is my Father’s world and let me ne’er forget that though the wrong SEEMS oft’ so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

Ps 53 – Almost exactly Psalm 14. Don’t miss that v 1-3 (quoted in Rom 3:9-12, so I’ve written a cross and “Rom 3:9-12” in my Bible margin) refers to ALL humans except Jesus. The key point of Rom 1-3 is that ALL of us are depraved, and the only hope is for God to save us through Jesus. Too many in our world think that people are basically good and think that our main problem is something outside of us, victimizing us. Sadly, because this is a post-Gen 3, fallen world we DO victimize one another. But a recurring theme through the Bible is that our MAIN problem is OURSELVES.

Ps 53:1 – Key to understanding the “fool” (a key word in Scripture, especially in wisdom literature like Psalms and Proverbs). “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” He may not say that out LOUD – he may not CALL himself an atheist, but he ACTS like one. He ACTS like he won’t have to stand before God at the judgment someday. Rom 1-3 (and Ps 53:1-3) makes clear that ALL of us come into this world living like this. Then (in v 4-5) God shifts His focus to those who STAY in their own way, thinking that they’re getting away with not calling upon God and turning to Him and His way…

Ps 53:4-5 – The END of the story is that the unrepentant will one day be in great fear / terror / dread, because God as the perfect Judge of all the earth will one day get full and complete justice.  Next to Ps 53:4-5 I’ve written a capital “S!” (because of the focus on the Sovereignty of God) with the note “GOD WINS!”

Ps 53:6 – Wonderful prayer for God’s people (including Gentiles who are grafted into the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob / Israel by faith in Jesus – see Gal 3:14, 26-29) when we feel our overwhelming minority among the unrepentant majority who love to oppress God’s people.

Ps 54 – The title gives the historic context as the events in 1 Sam 23. While running for his life from the unreasonable jealous anger of king Saul, David does NOT just survive, but actively helps others in danger. He leads his men to rescue a town who then betrays his hiding place to king Saul. David AGAIN shows believers who are overwhelmed and under attack how to respond – take our problems to the living God our helper!

Ps 54:4-7 – The END of the story for every believer – full and complete deliverance and joyful thanksgiving to Yahweh forever!

Optional 1 John 1 – 1 John is all about the clear DIFFERENCE that trusting in Jesus makes in the life of a believer. Again, not talking about sinless PERFECTION (see v 8, 10), but there WILL be a clearly different DIRECTION (v 6-7).

Optional Proverbs 22:13-16 – v 13 – yet another verse warning about laziness, and how a sluggard tends to find SOMETHING to use as an excuse. This is a balance to 22:3. Which verse do you need more right now??

Pr 22:15 – Very counter-cultural right now regarding firm discipline in child rearing!

May 7, 2022

(Numbers 15, Psalm 51; Optional Romans 16:17-27, Proverbs 22:20-12)

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NUMBERS 15 – What grace! God has just told Israel that only the NEXT generation will go into the Promised Land (except for Joshua and Caleb) and then He promptly goes right back to giving commands about how to worship Him when they get into the land (Num 15:2)!  Parents can now re-focus on preparing the next generation not to disobey God like they just did and instead put their hope in God (compare Ps 78:5-8). Too often parents fear that instructing their children in an area where they’ve sinned is hypocritical. Just be honest about how you sinned (in an age-appropriate way), and point them to God’s grace – He helps us take the next step, and enables us to repent and hear about how to honor Him moving forward.

Num 15:3, 7, 10, 13, 14-16 – God makes it clear how to worship Him in a way that’s pleasing to HIM. Too often we come up with our own ideas / agendas or concepts that are more acceptable to our culture.

Num 15:30-31 – Whoa! I started off this chapter reflecting on God’s grace, but it’s NOT a cheap / light grace! And I know there’s a lot of difference about what exactly it means to be “cut off,” but v 32-36 seem to be here as a very sobering example!

Num 15:37-41 – They were to build in visual reminders onto their clothes to NOT follow their heart and NOT follow their own senses (what SEEMS good to them – foundation for the first sin in Gen 3:6 and every sin since). Compare Prov 3:5-8!

PSALM 51 – Ps 51 is David’s prayer of confession when he was confronted with his sin. The sin of adultery and the murderous cover-up is in 2 Sam 11, and many think that Ps 32 is a reflection of the miserable year in between the sin and the confrontation. I love how has carefully paraphrased the Psalm 51 and then added a final verse reflecting on these truths from THIS side of the cross. Here’s the link, but our church uses the tune from the classic hymn “Abide with Me” –

Ps 51:4 – David HAD clearly sinned against people, too, but FUNDAMENTALLY sin is against God. In my margin I’ve written: “2 Sam 12:9, 10, 13-14, Gen 39:9”. In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan makes clear to David how his sin is a rejection of God Himself, and God takes it very personally. Joseph is very aware of this truth in Gen 39:9 and reflecting on that helped him fight temptation.

Ps 51:5 – This is a vital verse helping us understand the TOTAL DEPRAVITY of the human heart. Eph 2:1-3 makes clear that we come into this world a sinner by NATURE. Of course, very early on we also CHOOSE sin, confirming that we are “by NATURE children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3, ESV)  Beside Ps 51:5 I’ve written “Sinful DEEP DOWN – from the moment of conception!”

Ps 51:7-10 – The only way to lasting joy and gladness once we’re aware of the depth of our sin is to cast ourselves on God’s mercy and get cleansed from our sin. No sin is greater than the grace of God (1 John 1:9)! John Newton (who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”) was a slave ship captain before God saved him and changed him. He reckoned that he was responsible for the death of thousands of slaves. He was asked how he was not crippled by guilt, but able to have a very sweet and helpful ministry to others (including working hard to end the slave trade). He had at least two answers (I’m going from memory, but these quotes will be close): 1) “There is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in me.”  2) “I am a very great sinner, but Christ is a greater Savior.”

Ps 51:18-19 – Although Ps 51 is mostly a prayer of confession for individual sin, notice how the prayer broadens in v 18-19 to include the wider people of God. Often as we pray, our narrow/selfish view widens and we get properly concerned about the whole kingdom of God. Also notice (and cf the notes in Jn 6 early today) that in Ps 51:12-15, 18-19 that we are DEPENDENT on God’s sovereign work, and THEN there can be a correct response from people (cf Eph 2:8-10, and note carefully the order of events – God grants faith and salvation, then strengthens believers to do good works).

Optional Rom 16:17-27 – This whole book has been about the Gospel, and begins and ends (we call this kind of bracket an “inclusio” in Bible study) with OBEDIENCE linked to faith (compare Rom 1:5, 16:19, 26). God SAVES us completely by His grace, totally apart from our obedience (or NONE of us would be saved – see Rom 3). But saving faith impacts OBEDIENCE. Compare Eph 2:8-10 – saved by grace ALONE, but that leads to (by God’s grace) good works.

Optional Proverbs 22:10-12 – Prov 22:10 – Compare Rom 16:17, Titus 3:10. Surprising to a lot of church folks, but Biblical.