Saturday, May 30, 2009


Numbers 25:1-13

While the nation of Israel was staying in the wilderness near Moab the men began to engage in sexual immorality with Moabite and Midianite women. The women invited the men to feasts where they ate and drank and worshiped their pagan gods. In this way these foreign women caused the men of Israel to sin against their God. If Balak was unable to get Balaam to curse Israel he would find another way to keep them from destroying him! The LORD’s wrath was sent out against these men and he commanded Moses to put the leaders of their clans to death. A plague broke out against the Israelites and Moses and the rest of the people resorted to the Tent of Meeting where they were weeping before the LORD because of their sin and God’s judgment.

It was at that moment that one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman toward his tent right in front of Moses and the entire assembly. Aaron’s grandson, Phinehas saw what was happening and was so angry that he took action. He seized a spear and followed the man and the woman right into the tent. The text says that he drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Instantly the plague stopped but 24,000 people died as a result of this heinous sin.

God spoke to Moses, Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. God blessed Phinehas with a covenant of peace and again says it was because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.

Three things came to mind as I read this passage. First, all sin is committed against God. Sure, our sin affects the people around us in a number of ways, but our sin is committed against the one who gave us his law. Sin is rebellion against God and it is against his name and against his honor that we sin. Perhaps we might think that it is “just a small sin” and “it won’t hurt anybody” but we should be very aware of the fact that our “small sins” are still rebellion against God’s law and an affront to his name. Maybe recognizing that fact will help us think more carefully about how we view our own sin.

Second, Phinehas was honored by God because of his zeal for God’s honor. Here was a man who recognized that the sin of the Israelite men was a blasphemy against God. Phinehas had such a high regard for the honor of God’s name that he would not tolerate such blatant sin. Of course many people in our day would consider him to be judgmental and self-righteous. But the judgment was God’s judgment and the righteousness about which he was concerned was God’s! Those of us who are involved in the leadership of churches need to have such zeal for the honor of God. We often misplace our zeal. We are zealous for church growth. We are zealous for making a name for our church. Our zeal should cause us to say, “It’s all about God! Let us make his name bigger and more famous!”

Finally, God’s covenant with Phinehas reminds me of his covenant with Christ. God said he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites. It was because of Phinehas’ zeal that the judgment of God was turned away from Israel. What Phinehas did removed the separation between God and his people by dealing with the sin. That is exactly what Jesus did! King David wrote, Zeal for your house consumes me (Psalm 69:9). After Jesus drove out the moneychangers from the temple the disciples recalled this passage, Zeal for your house will consume me (John 2:17). His own death on the cross removed the separation between God and his people because he made atonement for our sin. God raised him from the dead and when he ascended to heaven he was seated at the right hand of the Father.

May our zeal for the Lord’s honor motivate us to bring many into his house so his name will be honored and glorified!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Numbers 23:21-23

The nation of Israel passed through the wilderness until they came to the border of Moab. There were so many of them that they could not be numbered. Balak had seen the victories God had given to Israel against the Amorites and Bashan. He was terrified so he called upon Balaam, a man of God, to come to Moab and put a curse on Israel. He believed that if Balaam would curse Israel then perhaps he would have a chance to defeat them. At first God would not allow Balaam to go to Balak. After Balak sent a second group to call upon Balaam, God allowed him to go.

Balaam had Balak build seven altars and on those altars they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. Balaam went aside to hear the voice of the Lord and when he returned he gave the message to Balak. It was a blessing. So Balak took Balaam to another place where the altars were built and the bulls and rams were sacrificed. This second oracle is recorded in Numbers 23. In verses 21-23 Balaam said, No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, “See what God has done!”

“See what God has done!” THAT is what it is all about. May it be said of all of us, “See what God has done!” May it be said of our churches, “See what God has done!” May it be said of our marriages and our children, “See what God has done!” May it be said of our ministries, “See what God has done!”

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Far too often pastors and churches forget that what they are about is glorifying God! It is much too easy to become wrapped up in our programs and our church growth and forget that it is all about the glory of God! It’s not about building a mega-church and making a big name for yourself. It’s about making God’s name bigger and bigger.

My prayer is that it may be said that no misfortune is seen in New Hope Church. No misery. That the LORD their God is with them. That they have the strength of a wild ox. That no evil can stand against them. May it simply be said, “See what God has done!”

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Mark 16:19, 20

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Jesus is alive! He is alive right now. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father and he is building his church. He is not just far away in glory. He is not simply basking in the worship of countless angels. He is not just an idea or a symbol. He is alive and we need to learn to live our lives in that knowledge. We have to remind ourselves daily that Jesus is alive and he is our Lord, Savior, Master, and Teacher. I fear that many Christians go about their daily lives without a single recollection of the fact that Jesus is living and active. It seems to me that many of us rarely consider the significance of the fact that Jesus is alive. Perhaps the only time we really think of Jesus is on Sunday mornings when we attend worship.

What is the natural response of those who believe Jesus is alive? The disciples went out and preached everywhere! They went out and bore witness to what they saw and what they knew to be true. If we don’t think about the fact that Jesus is alive we will not bear witness. If we truly believe Jesus is alive it will have a radical effect on the way we go through our days! When the disciples saw Jesus ascend into heaven it sealed the deal for them. They knew he was alive and they went about telling people that good news; the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.

And Jesus worked with and through them. They were not preaching alone. Jesus helped them. Jesus gave them strength. He empowered and enabled them. He worked through their message. And he showed the world the truth of their message through signs and wonders. Jesus works with us! We are not building his church; he is building his church. We bear the message of his word and he works with us to bring it to fruition. And I believe he will testify to the truth of our message with various signs and wonders!

It is all very simple and it all begins with the knowledge that Jesus is alive at this very moment! We simply go about doing what he told us to do and he will be with us and bless our work and bear witness to its truth. What do we do? We are his witnesses in all the earth. We just tell what we know to be true and the Lord will work with us!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Numbers 13, 14

In Numbers 13 and 14 is the account of the Israelite spies being sent into Canaan to scout out the land. They spend forty days going through Canaan and brought back a cluster of grapes so large that it had to be carried on a pole between two men. They also brought back pomegranates and figs. The report of the spies was accurate at first. It does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there (Numbers 13:27, 28). All this was true. Caleb spoke up and said, We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it (Numbers 13:30).

It was then that the other spies revealed their colors of cowardice and spread a bad report among the people of Israel. The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (Numbers 13:32, 33). Now the story is being exaggerated by fear. The spies foresaw danger in the taking of the land. They feared death and did not believe God could protect them and give them victory. The result of this false report was that the people became terrified and wanted to return to Egypt. They proposed stoning Moses and Aaron and choosing a new leader to take them back.

Caleb and Joshua spoke up again. The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them (Numbers 14:7-9).

God’s anger burned against the people and he suggested to Moses that he destroy all of them and build a new nation from Moses’ seed. But Moses interceded for the people and God forgave them. Nevertheless, they would wander in the wilderness for forty years until every one of them who was over twenty years old was dead. And, God struck the ten lying spies with a plague and killed them all.

We all know the rest of the story. What does this say to us? My wife has taken to saying that we are walking on water here in Shafter. In other words, God is doing a miraculous work here and we are merely walking by faith. If we stop and look down we will surely fall and fail. God has changed all the plans we had for planting this church here. It was supposed to be a nice, typical Reformed Church. But guess what! Hardly any of the many Dutch Reformed people in the area were interested in a church plant. Who has responded? God has brought us all kinds of Hispanic people who have a different culture and a different language! The church is growing! It is somewhat terrifying! God is taking the land back and giving it to us. The words of Caleb and Joshua ring in my ears, “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land…Do not be afraid…THEIR PROTECTION IS GONE BUT THE LORD IS WITH US!” So we will not be afraid.

What is God doing in your life? To what is he calling you? What does he want you to do? Does it look terrifying? Do not be afraid; their protection is gone but the Lord is with you! Just don’t look down!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Numbers 11

Following up on yesterday’s thoughts on the first part of Numbers 11 we find something very interesting in the last part of the chapter.

Moses did what God commanded him to do. He found seventy elders, leaders and officials from the tribes of Israel and he brought them to stand around the Tent of Meeting. The Lord came down in a cloud and took of the Spirit that was on Moses and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. As a sign to them and to the people the newly anointed elders prophesied.

But we have these two appointed elders who for some reason did not join the others at the Tent of Meeting, Eldad and Medad. They were still in the camp when the Spirit was put onto the others. Even though they weren’t out at the tent these two men received the Spirit as well and began prophesying also. A young man heard them prophesying and ran to tell Moses about it. Joshua was upset with this development and entreated Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying. Moses responded to Joshua, Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!

Here is another parallel with the life of Christ. “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38-40).

So much of the church is like Joshua, John, and the other apostles. I, for one, had that same attitude for many years in the ministry. Picking at nits while swallowing camels. Those who didn’t toe the line theologically were just wrong and had to be changed! I acted like it was my calling to make sure they changed! I feared to work together with other churches, particularly mainline denominations, because I didn’t want to be lumped in with them. After several years of sitting under the rod of the Lord I have come to understand that the mission of Christ will be fulfilled only as the church comes together and works together in unity. It is time for us to affirm the fundamentals of the faith and let our secondary differences fall to the wayside. If I would have had my way, all the churches who didn’t believe as I did would have been stopped from working in the name of Christ in order that only those who agreed with me would have center stage in the kingdom. After all, they weren’t one of us! I have repented that arrogance and now seek to work with the holy catholic church, the true body of Christ. I don’t think we need to destroy denominationalism. Rather, we need to step over the lines that have separated Christ’s body for far too long and show the world that there really is only one body of Christ. God used Jesus’ prayer in John 17 to convict me of my wrong thinking. My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20, 21)

Thank God that Moses’ wish came true and God’s Spirit rests on all his people without consideration of denomination! May that Spirit draw us together as one!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Numbers 11

The people of Israel were complaining in the presence of the LORD about the hardships they were facing in the wilderness (Numbers 11:1). The LORD was angry with them and brought a judgment of fire upon them but Moses interceded for the people and the LORD relented. Then the rabble began to complain about the lack of good food. They longed for the fish and vegetables they were able to have in Egypt and whined about the fact that all they had was the miraculous manna God was providing for them! Soon all the people were crying out and wailing about the hardships of their lives.

This was hard on Moses. He spoke to the LORD, Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now… (Numbers 11:11-15).

Moses was bold. He spoke his heart and mind to God. I can understand his position. Everyone was looking to him to provide for them and he felt the unbelievable burden of having to take care of all these people. It would be enough to kill a man or at least drive him insane! By the way, do you see the parallel between what Moses said to God and what the disciples said to Jesus when he told them to feed the 5,000? Moses said, “Where can I get meat for all these people?” The disciples asked God’s Son, “Where will we buy food for these people to eat?” In both situations God was about to do something powerfully amazing!

But God had a plan for Moses and his leadership crisis. Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone (Numbers 11:16, 17).

Moses had the burden of serving well over a million people. He needed help and God provided it by giving seventy elders the Holy Spirit who enabled them to lead in a godly manner. Most pastors have no more than a few hundred people for whom they are responsible. But in his wisdom God has made it plain that the pastor is not to shepherd his people alone. He is to have elders; leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit who will help him lead the people and who will carry the burden of ministry with him. It is foolish for a pastor to try to lead a church without Spirit-filled elders. Even a small church can be a great burden; a burden great enough to crush his spirit and cause him to burn out. Even Moses, a man of great faith, cried out to God because the burden of leadership was too great for him. Am I arrogant enough to think I don’t need the same kind of help from the Lord?