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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

26 February 2012

Week 9 Readings

February 26 Numbers 6-9
February 27 Numbers 10-13; Psalm 90
February 28 Numbers 14-16; Psalm 95
February 29 Numbers 17-20
March 1 Numbers 21-24
March 2 Numbers 25-28

25 February 2012

Week 8 Review - Numbers

The opening of Numbers is pretty dull. There’s a census, and 603,350 men are counter. We have a listing of the names of the men who are the “head of his ancestral house”. More names. But when you know what the names MEAN….

Reuben sent Elizur, "My God the Rock"
Simeon sent Shelumiel, "God my Salvation."
Gad sent Eliasaph, "My God that gathers"
Judah sent Nahshon, "The Diviner"
Issachar sent Nethaneel, "God the Giver"
Zebulon sent Eliab, "My God the Father"
Ephriam sent Elishama, "My God the Hearer"
Manasseh sent Gamaliel, "My God the Rewarder"
Benjamin sent Abidan, "My Father is Judge"
Dan sent Ahiezer, "My Brother is Help"
Asher sent Pagiel, either "My Fate is God," or "My prayer-God"
Naphtali sent Ahira, "My Brother is Friend"
Beautiful names when you stop to consider that they all point to attributes of God!

The Levites were set apart as God’s own. They remained uncounted, and God tasked them with tabernacle duty.  Aaron and his sons were set to do the priestly duties, and God told Moses that anyone approaching without authorization would be killed. Again we see a clear command from God as to how worship was to take place.

A census was then taken of the Levites. It was compared to the census of the men from all the other tribes. The Levites became a substitute for the firstborn of the men of all the other tribes, one-for-one. Remaining firstborns needed to pay “redemption money”. What a picture of the redemption that Christ paid for us as our High Priest. He was the redemption of the  world – one-for-ALL!

When we think of the people who were unclean being sent out of the camp, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you think of how many people were traveling – if 600,000 plus MEN were there, it was a couple million when you add men who were not included in the census, women, and children – this camp was HUGE, and to be sent out meant they might have had to travel for a mile or more. This reminds me of how far I was separated from God by my sin. Once the people were made clean again, they could return to camp, and the parallel there is that once I was saved, God allows me into His family.

It’s been an eventful couple weeks in our reading. I pray that you continue reading every day, and I will see you next week.

We CAN read through the Bible in 2012 – together!

23 February 2012

Week 8 - 23 February - Leviticus 26 and 27

Today we finish Leviticus and begin Numbers. I pray that these blog posts have brought you to a clearer understanding of the way God used Israel’s laws, sacrifices and worship requirements, to show not only the people of that day the path to holiness, but to show us Christ in the parallels between the sacrifices and His atoning work on the cross.

 We start today’s reading by hearing God’s promises for obedience:

You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. 2  You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. 3  “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5  Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. 6  I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. 7 You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8  Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9  I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11  I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12  And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. Lev 26:1-13 (ESV)

What great and precious promises. Unfortunately, the Israelites could not keep the commandments and walk in the statutes. That’s why they needed the priests to sacrifice for their sins – and that’s why we need Christ to atone for our sins. God lists the many curses and punishments for disobedience. And yet – knowing that there was a severe punishment for disobedience – the people chose to walk in sin. We do that even today. We have the whole counsel of God, yet we allow our sin nature to take over. We need to keep reading the Word, praying, attending church services, and asking fellow Christians to be our accountability partners so we can walk more like Christ every day!

I found the last part of Chapter 26 quite interesting. God tells Israel what will happen if they choose to ask for forgiveness. He doesn’t promise to make their problems go away! They are still required to make amends for their sins. How many times do we hope that asking forgiveness will cover the effects of our sins?

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” Lev 26:40-45 (ESV)

Leviticus is a mighty book, full of wisdom for both Israel and our contemporary society. I pray that you have been blessed through this set of readings. I plan to go back to [mostly] weekly postings unless someone requests more frequent postings for a specific book.

We can read the Bible in 2012 - together!

22 February 2012

Week 8 - 20 February - Leviticus 15-18

Today we begin our reading with bodily discharges (eeeew). These discharges represent our secret sins. Outwardly, we might be “super Christians” who attend church every service, sing in the choir, help count the money, usher, maybe even preach or lead worship. Our families look perfect. Our life seems to be wonderful. Inside, however, we harbor lust or envy. Perhaps we hide doubt or even unbelief. Our “real” life is very different from what we allow others to see (and when people are aware of these secret sins, it gives them a reason to call us “hypocrites”). We are just like Paul!

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:15-20 (ESV)

The discharges enumerated in chapter 15 remind us how easily our sin nature takes over. We need to honestly evaluate our lives, with God’s help, and see what “discharges” we have. We need to ask God to help us to acknowledge our secret sins. We need to understand that the sins that we hide from the world will fester, and without the Great Physician’s help, will come to the surface and ruin our testimonies as well as the peace which we should have through Christ Jesus.

In Chapter 16, we see the celebration of the Day of Atonement. This was a solemn and frightening day. All Israel was required to stop their regular work and present themselves at the Tabernacle. There, the High Priest would walk into the Holy of Holies – and it was only on this day that this approach was permitted. It is an obvious pointer to the once-for-all sacrifice made by Christ.
This ceremony was to be held in the seventh month. Seven signifies completeness.

…but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Gal 4:4-5 (ASV)

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Heb 9:28 (ESV)

The Israelites offered regular and daily sacrifices to show that we are in continual need of atonement. However, the Day of Atonement happened only once a year. Likewise, we need to continually ask for forgiveness of our sins, but there is no need for Christ to die again for our sins. It was once and for all!
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”  8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Heb 10:5-10 (ESV)

In what ways did the Day of Atonement under the law parallel the atoning work of Christ at Calvary?

1.       The High Priest had to separate himself from his family before the ceremony. His diet was limited, and on the ceremonial day, he was required to fast. He also performed all the menial duties usually performed by the regular priests. He also had to divest himself of all priestly garb and dress humbly.

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Phil 2:7-8 (KJV)

2.       Everything was to be done by the High Priest. He could receive no help.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)

3.       It was an exhausting, crushing day for the High Priest. The sins of the people were literally on his shoulders.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44 (ESV)

The atonement offering itself was also special. The goats used were to be spotless and perfect; a picture of Christ as Propitiation. The law said that the goat of the sin offering was to be killed. Likewise, our Savior was slain for the sins of the world.

Chapter 17 is quite shore, and deals with where sacrifices can be made as well as the animal’s blood.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Lev 17:11 (ESV)

This is a pretty clear picture of the atonement that Christ made for us!

And chapter 18 – when you read it, did you think of how close some of this sounded to today’s “reality TV” This proves to me that man has been sinful since time began. And God, through His wonderful grace, wanted man to remain perfect, pure and holy. He wants us to remain out of the world. He doesn’t want us to have improper sexual relations with family members or members of the same sex.  Beastiality is forbidden. And the consequences are dire:

But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. Lev 18:26-29 (ESV)

I hope that you have begun to see that Leviticus is a crucial book. It’s practical in that it tells us exactly what God expects. It’s precious in that it points to the One Who came to save us from our sins – and from the need to sacrifice in a legalistic way.

I pray that you will take time today to thank God for His Word – even the parts that on the surface seem out of date or old fashioned. I pray that you thank Him that His Word is a living book and that all of it is placed there for a reason. I pray that as we continue through the Bible, you will take the time to delve below the surface to determine that seemingly obscure passages can mean to you today!

21 February 2012

Week 8 - 22 February - Leviticus 23-25

The feasts! God set specific times for His people to gather, celebrate, and honor. These feasts were important social and cultural markers for Israel, and of course there are deeper meanings pointing to our Lord and Savior.

Notice that God called the people together for these assemblies. We cannot properly worship God by ourselves. “Communing with God in a fishing boat” isn’t God’s idea of worship, nor is it worship when an otherwise healthy person chooses to stay home and watch church on television rather than coming together in a live service. We need to focus our attention on worshiping God the way HE wants to be worshiped!

The Sabbath. We are to work six days and have a rest on the seventh. This day of rest is to honor God.

The Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread. We read about the institution of the Passover, when God brought an entire nation out of slavery to Egypt. We saw that the death angel was stayed by the blood of a slain and perfect lamb, which was a pointer to The Lamb that would be slain for the salvation of the world Who was killed during the Passover celebration.

The Feast of Firstfruits. To Israel, this was a celebration of the harvest. The first and best was joyously waved before the Lord, and a lamb was slain as well.

The broad field, sowed with good seed, with its golden ears ripening for the harvest, is Christ's own chosen figure of his kingdom upon earth, and the congregation of his believing children maturing for the garners of eternal life. In that field, the chief sheaf is Jesus Christ himself; for he was in all respects "made like unto his brethren. He is "the first fruits." He was gathered first, and received into the treasure-house of heaven. It was the Passover time when he came to perfect ripeness. It was during these solemnities that he was "cut off." And when the Spirit of God lifted him from the sepulchre, and the heavens opened to receive him, then did the waving of the sheaf of first fruits have its truest and highest fulfilment. Until this sheaf was thus offered along with the blood of atonement, there could be no harvest for us. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." It is as our representative and forerunner that he has been thus lifted up before God. There is, therefore, a harvest for man—a gathering into the garner of heaven. "The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the harvest is the end of the age." And when that "end" arrives, a voice shall come forth from the eternal temple, "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." —Gospel in Leviticus
Christ is our Firstfruit, and He compared Himself to grain just before He was taken to be killed.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:23-24 (ESV)

The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).  Celebrated 50 days after the Passover, this ceremony required sheaves, leavened bread, and seven lambs.
Before Jesus ascended, He promised to send the Holy Spirit.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)

The disciples were celebrating this festival in Jerusalem 50 days after Jesus was killed.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

The Feast of Trumpets (New Year). This was a day of solemn rest, punctuated by the blowing of trumpets.

The Day of Atonement. This was the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar. As we’ve discussed, it was the day that the High Priest alone performed the sacrifices needed to atone for the people’s sins.

The Feast of Booths. This festival was joyous! Fifteen days after the Feast of Trumpets, the people left their own dwellings, constructed temporary shelters, and rejoiced in what God had done for them. It commemorated the 40 years of wilderness wandering while living in tents.

God then focuses our attention on the sacred places. He gives the command to continually burn lamps. He details number and type of bread to remain on the table. This holy bread is to be eaten only by the priests and his sons.

The Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee celebrations are instituted. Every seventh year was to be a year of rest. The land was to remain unworked. God would provide enough in the sixth year to allow the rest In the seventh.

And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22  When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives. Lev 25:20-22 (ESV)

Every seventh Sabbath Year was to be a year of Jubilee where all would return to their own clans and no work would be done on the land. Prices were set based on the number of years until the Jubilee and all property was returned to its original owner during that year. The Lord reminded the people that true ownership of the land was not vested in humans, but in God. Details for the sale and trade of property were given, and the people were commanded to help their poor brothers.

God always amazes. He details the way we should live and promises blessings on us when we do. But we have a sin nature, and we frequently think that we know better than God. What does that accomplish for us? Would it not be better to take daily steps toward walking in the way God designed? Perhaps today you could pray for the beggar on the street corner. Maybe you could offer to help an elderly widow get her groceries or medicines. Reach out – show God’s love!

One more day of Leviticus! We’re almost done. See you tomorrow.