9/11 Free Style – Slight Return

Depravity Gravity Caused Planes to Crash
Divine Image Bearers on Jihadist Trash

Rejection of One Who Became Our Leaven
Barred Perpetrators From Entering Heaven

Their Self-Sacrifice on an Altar of Demonic Hate
Sealed a Tragic Irreversible Fate

Courageous Heroism Helped Victims Cope
Brought People Together and Engendered Hope

Prior to this Day of Mysterious Decree
Received New Eyes and Was Able to See
Spiritual Terrorism Inside of Me

Prayed This Many Times Before
Need to Do it Again Once More

Moving Forward From Self- Awareness of Sin
Help Me Live As One New from Within

index

Remember to Remember

God doesn’t owe us anything (Job 41:11). There is nothing within us or outside us that merits or warrants His acting favorably toward us (cf. Jer.17:9). The only sense in which God has obligated Himself to us is to fulfill the promises He has previously declared He will fulfill (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4). The righteous and holy consistency of His character demands nothing more and nothing less. Looking at life from this perspective enables us to perceive the outworking of divine grace in unexpected places.

Today’s taste of Torah encourages us to embrace hope by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past while simultaneously looking forward to His promises for the future. Our text is Deuteronomy 1:20-21, 26, 29-33. These verses deal with Israel’s Disobedience at Kadesh-barnea. It reads: 20 I said to you: “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up and take possession of it as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” 26 But you were not willing to go up, rebelling against the command of the Lord your God. 29 So I said to you: “Don’t be terrified or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw Him do for you in Egypt. 31 And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. 32 But in spite of this you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who went before you on the journey to seek out a place for you to camp. He went in the fire by night and in the cloud by day to guide you on the road you were to travel.”

Basically what we have here is a presentation of a faithful God demanding a faithful people. Yahweh had been faithful in bringing the nation from Sinai to her present location, and by giving her victory over her Transjordanian enemies. He also reminded the people of the future blessings they could anticipate because what God had done in the past He was fully capable of doing in the future. God’s great desire for His covenant people had been that they possess what He had promised them. Unfortunately however this first post-Exodus generation would not do that because of fearful unbelief.

This sin of failing to enter the land because of unbelief was not just an underestimating of God’s power. In verse 27 of Deuteronomy 1, the Israelites blamed Yahweh for their predicament and totally maligned His character by claiming that He hated them and wanted to use the Amorites to kill them. This grossly distorted thinking was the antithesis of God’s elective covenant love. In fact such delusion caused God’s goodness to be doubted, His Word to be denied, and His will to be disobeyed.

Even though we’ve all tasted the goodness of God on innumerable occasions, and even though we’re all continually doing better than we deserve, you and I still face the temptation of judging God’s motives on the basis of circumstances. In the dark night of our soul, we may be prone to wonder if the LORD hates us when we experience sickness, shortages, and other sufferings. Our thinking can become distorted and our spirit paralyzed by fear. We can become convinced God is against us, even setting us up for failure despite His clearly, repeatedly, and trans-dispensationally saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (cf. Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; 1 Chron. 28:20; Ps. 37:28; 94;14; Isa. 41:17; 42:16; w/Heb. 13:5). This is why the author of Hebrews challenged all of us to maintain a proper focus as we run the race of life; remembering that Messiah Himself ran this same race victoriously: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured an execution stake and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Heb. 12:1-2). That’s the crux of what it looks like to remember to remember.

C-ing Your Sin

Within the context of continuing preparations for entrance into the Land of Promise, and against the backdrop of the LORD instructing Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites for their actions against Israel; Numbers 32:20-23 reads: 20 So Moses said to them, “If you will do this, if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for the war, 21 and all of you armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven His enemies out from before Him, 22 and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you shall return and be free of obligation toward the LORD and toward Israel, and this land shall be yours for a possession before the LORD. 23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.”

The them that Moses is speaking to here are the sons of Reuben and Gad. These sons of Reuben and Gad asked Moses to allow them to settle in a specific part of the Land; the area known as the Transjordan. Initially, Moses rejected their request. But then the sons Gad and Reuben offered to fight alongside Israel in order to help God’s covenant people take possession of Cannan.

So Moses agreed to let the sons of Reuben and Gad settle in the section of Land they wanted if they would keep their word to militarily fortify the other tribes of Israel. Then Moses warned them that if they did not fight, if they did not come alongside the other Israelites in battle, not only would that be a sin against the LORD, there would also be consequences for their disobedience.

Now even though this warning concerns a specific and singular situation in Israel, there is an application to be gleaned from this for those of us who follow Messiah. When we deliberately and consistently choose to disobediently act out, we too will experience negative and often serious consequences for such actions.

So what do we do? We should do what Daveed Melech – King David did in Psalm 51. When it comes to sin, don’t conceal, get real. Don’t conceal, get real. Be a Davidic mensch!

What does this mean? What does this look like? First, express confession. Appeal to God. Acknowledge sin. David said, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin (Ps. 51:1-2)!”

Second, request cleansing. Ask God to remove sin, restore joy, and renew spiritual intimacy. David wrote, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven! May the bones you crushed rejoice! Hide your face from my sins! Wipe away all my guilt! Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me (Ps. 51:7-10)!”

Thirdly, have confidence. God can forgive, and God can fortify. Regarding this truth, the Spirit inspired David to say; “Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit– O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject (Ps. 51:16-17).”

Here’s the deal: Once freely obtained, salvation is eternally secure!  And, it’s also possible to lose an opportunity to serve God, particularly in a leadership capacity; if we don’t adequately deal with sin. So when we get real with God about who we are, and what’s really going on in our lives, we can say something like, “LORD don’t put me on a shelf. I still want to be a part of what you’re doing in the world. God use me! Here I am. Send me!”

Express confession. Request cleansing. Have confidence. And be encouraged, because when you do this; your sin and guilt is removed, your spirit is renewed, and you’re able to fully, freely, and enjoyably participate in God’s service. Why? Because your cleansing is complete. Because instead of doing conceal you do real.

Old/New Beginning

In Numbers 26, Yahweh is seen preparing the second generation of post-Exodus Israel for the reception and enjoyment of their Land promise. Here the LORD specifies the offerings that are to be instituted for corporate worship and the celebration of Israel’s festivals. A concise reference to this is found in Numbers 29:39-40. It reads: 39 “These you shall offer to the LORD at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.” 40 So Moses told the people of Israel everything just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

In order to properly arrange for life in the Promised Land, all the offerings that God required the priests to offer for the whole nation over the course of an entire year had to be set-up in an organized fashion. These offerings maintained fellowship with God. Numbers chapters 28 and 29 contain a list of the minimum number of sacrifices that were to be offered each year for the nation as a whole. Plus, individuals could and did bring other sacrificial offerings in addition to these.

This system was critical because the real key to a successful conquest of Canaan, and the key to living a happy life within its borders was continual fellowship with God. So at this time, God presented to a new generation, by way of Moses, a finalized and complete set of regulations; regulations for offerings, offerings which for the most part had already been given at Mount Sinai; offerings intended to facilitate intimate worship of God by His people in the Land promised to them.  In this section of Numbers a new wilderness generation is given an old/new beginning. Because again while moving forward to receive their Land inheritance, they’re reinstructed to continue presenting the offerings previously received at Sinai.

Now in addition to facilitating corporate worship and celebration, prior to Messiah’s death these prescribed offerings were also the primary means by which God enabled His people to understand the enormity of their sin and corresponding need for atonement. But now that Messiah has died, these ceremonies are redundant and actually offensive because to try and repeat them implies that something else is needed in addition to Messiah’s death to receive forgiveness of sin.

So presently, in order for us to experience a new beginning with God, we need to present our bodies as living sacrifices; sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to the LORD (cf. Rom. 12:1). But let’s be honest about it; usually when we hear an exhortation like this we say to ourselves, “Well, I guess I’m just gonna to have to suck it up and try harder!” Plus, because living sacrifices can easily wiggle off the sanctification altar, what we’re really talking about here is an old/new type of beginning in the sense of rejuvenated and refocused spiritual commitment.

Given that we recently commemorated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, let me suggest this approach for following through on a sincere desire to more consistently live for God; Messiah’s Declaration of Dependence. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing” (John 15:5).

Here’s the crux of the matter: If we fail or neglect to maintain unhindered fellowship with the vine by not allowing the vine to have His way us, resisting the Holy Spirit’s work by neglecting and disobeying God, we’re not just handicapped, we’re not just at a disadvantage, we’re powerless and completely unable to produce anything of any genuine or lasting spiritual value.

Conversely, cultivating continual intimacy through loving obedience enables us to generate much that is spiritually authentic and significant. And even if there’s little or no appearance of such “fruit,” that’s not necessarily an indication that a person doesn’t possess salvation. Rather, such a state is often reflective of the fact that one is no longer moving forward, not growing in Messiah, spiritually sick, and, until they are well again, incapable of realizing and enjoying true spiritual success. So, in order for us to make an old/new beginning with God that’s really gonna stick, let’s embrace and cooperate with Messiah’s declaration of dependence; presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord as we relationally remain in Him.

Acting Right After Acting Out

Today’s Torah taste is Numbers 25:1-5 which reads: While Israel was staying in shittim; the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. 4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.” 5 So Moses said to Israel’s judges, “Each of you must put to death those of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

The context is the leader of Moab being fearful because there were some Israelites camped on his border. So he tried to destroy these Israelites by having Balaam, a Mesopotamian prophet, come and proclaim a curse upon Israel. But Balaam was only able to speak God’s word, which was a blessing for the people of Israel and a warning of cursing upon those who would curse Israel in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant.

So Balaam’s attempts to curse Israel didn’t work. However, most likely though Balaam did have a key role in seducing Israel to worship false gods and commit immorality. Apparently he advised the women of Moab to infiltrate the Israelite community, seduce the men, and then lead them to worship Baal.  During Israel’s stay at shittim men began to sexually act out with Moabite women, and then these same Moabite women induced these men to sacrifice and bow down to Baal of Peor.  And that was a clear violation of the central core of the Mosaic Covenant which demanded total and exclusive allegiance to Yahweh.

This was the deal with the Baal Peor cult; they believed that the fertility of people, cattle, and crops depended on the sexual union of a god and goddess.  And so by imitating this union of the so-called gods, men and women would seek to induce the gods to grant a greater measure of fertility. These kinds of twisted cultic practices were common in all of the nation’s surrounding the Israelites. That’s how these nations did their religion.

So the Lord responded to Israelite’s participation in this with anger. And in verse 4, He instructs Moses to execute these idolaters in a public forum in order to appease His anger. And since the whole nation had sinned God executed punishment on its leaders who stood for the people and therefore should have restrained this spiritual infidelity.  After this, in response to the LORD’s command Moses orders the judges of Israel to kill the men under their jurisdiction who participated in worshiping Baal.

 

Serious stuff! What’s it got to do with us? Simply this: We must be on guard against the adversary’s universal strategy to lead people into sexual immorality and idolatrous activities.  Ever since sin entered the world, the enemy of our souls has desecrated the holy wonderous God-given gift of our sexuality and he has used that desecration to cause us to violate God’s moral laws and to engage in various forms of idolatry. And when we play the spiritual fool in this way we give a level of prominence to things that should only be given to and received by God Himself.

The believers in Numbers 25 did not deny the faith, but they did depart from God’s standard for intimate integrity. And it’s all too easy for us to do the same thing.  It’s easy to view Divine boundaries on our sexual expression as restrictive instead of protective.  And if we’re honestly reflective, it’s not hard to see that the connecting link between immorality and idolatry is a disdain for accountability and a desire for autonomy.  And if we find ourselves subtly or overtly buying into this rebellious mindset essentially we have two options; repent in terms of a 180 shift in thinking and behavior, or experience the Father’s loving but firm corrective discipline.

Now given God’s patient long-suffering nature clearly His preference is that we repent. But sometimes denial is not just a long river in Egypt. Denial can be a foolish dangerous game we play with God. So may the LORD gives us the courage to be real with Him about who we are and what’s really going on in our lives in light of all that He is and all that He has done on our behalf.  And may our conviction of sin be quickly followed by confession of sin as we refocus and reaffirm our desire to live a life that’s truly pleasing in His sight.  Because this is the heart of acting right after acting out.

Zero Degree of Separation

The focus of today’s taste of Torah is an incident involving Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites. It took place at a location called Meribah which means contention. The text is Numbers 20:9-13. 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them.

Here’s what’s happening, here’s what’s going on. After 37 years the Israelites have returned to the wilderness of Zin and Kadesh. Previously, it was there that God judged the older generation of Israelites for not believing Him. Now God is going to judge Moses for the same thing. The leader will succumb to the same temptation that the people he was appointed to lead fell into.

The unbelief of Moses was not a failure to believe that God could, or would provide water for the people; it was a failure to believe that simple obedience to God’s command was the best course of action. Moses did more than God told him to do. He didn’t believe that God’s way was the best way so he took matters into his own hands. He was impatient with the Israelites’ complaining. He felt frustrated because the Israelites were slow learners of the lessons God was teaching them.

Instead of speaking to the rock as God told him and Aaron to do in verse 8 of this chapter, Moses spoke directly and harshly to the Israelites. He struck the rock twice with the staff that he had already done many miracles with. But just like those previous miracles, this miracle was not about the power of Moses, it was about the power of God! However, because he was frustrated with the people, Moses seemed to forget that he was not the performer of miracles but merely God’s instrument for bringing miracles into view so they could be witnessed by the Israelites.

Yet with the exception of this incident, Moses was a faithful servant of God. And if another person had committed this sin, most likely it would not have been so serious. But the reason it was this serious is because Moses held a high profile leadership position.  And with that came a greater degree of accountability. In this instance Moses set a bad example. If the Lord allowed his actions to go unpunished it would encourage this new wilderness generation to disobey and doubt God like their parents had done. Did God forgive Moses? Yes, absolutely! Did God hold Moses accountable for actions? Yes, absolutely! God shortened the term of Moses’ service and he was not allowed to bring the nation into the Promised Land because he harshly rebuked the people, took credit for what God had done, resented the Israelites, lost his temper, disobeyed God, did not trust God’s power, and failed to glorify Him. Plus, Aaron was also guilty because he didn’t prevent Moses from sinning. Evidently Aaron could have done that but chose not to and so God punished him as well. For these reasons verse 24 in this chapter says that both Moses and Aaron rebelled against God. Both men inappropriately took God’s place as the center of attention.

What should we learn from this? What does this lesson look like? How should it play out in our daily experience? Here’s a suggestion: Regardless of our age and spiritual maturity, we must guard against making foolish decisions that can hurt our witness for Messiah.  We need to understand that no matter how close we are to God, no matter how many answers to prayer we’ve experienced, no matter how much God has used us in the past, still, in a moment of weakness, in an flash of rebellion, in the act of acting out, anyplace, anytime, and for any duration of time; we are fully capable of failing to obey God.

So, what do we do when we’ve blown it? Let me encourage you with this: Messiah completely understands our emotions when we feel some degree of separation from God. I’m not speaking of our positional righteous standing by virtue of our trust in the finished redemptive work of Messiah; I’m referring to our moment by moment relational intimacy with God which is a direct by-product of our compliance to the promptings of the Spirit; promptings to confess and turn from sin.

Whatever relational separation we experience to a finite degree, Yeshua experienced to an infinite degree! When the Lord said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me;” there was unprecedented disruption of eternal fellowship because the second person of the Divine Tri-unity was bearing the entirety of past, present, and future human sin at that specific moment in time.

Here’s the deal, it’s not God changing His mind about us that causes a degree of separation from Him, it’s the unconfessed sin in our lives that’s incompatible with His absolute moral perfection that causes a degree of relational separation from Him. So, to maintain relational intimacy and effectiveness in ministry, our confession of sin needs to happen in immediate response to our conviction of sin. That’s how we stay on track, and that’s how we finish well with zero degree of separation.

Conspiracy Leery

The location of today’s taste of Torah is Numbers 16:28-35. It reads: Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.” 31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

The context of this judgment is the LORD is instructing His people about the importance of the Levitical priesthood. And the major story line here is that the Israelites are challenging the position of Moses and Aaron in relation to that priesthood; a challenge that’s decisively answered by Yahweh. The central point of this passage is clear. Rebellion against those whom God has chosen is rebellion against God Himself! And notice here that Moses makes a startling announcement. In effect he says, “Something absolutely terrible is about to happen. And the something terrible that’s about to happen is God’s confirmation of me! This confirmation will demonstrate that I’m the man He has chosen to guide and direct you in the Levitical priesthood He has sanctioned and established.

God’s response to Israel’s rebellion against the person He had chosen to serve in a priestly leadership capacity was a graphic and direct message to the nation that He would literally bury alive those who rebelled against His will. We know that because Sheol, the place of the dead, is pictured in this text as being immediately below the surface of the ground. However, having said that we also need to say this; this episode does not teach that leaders are always right! It’s simply but powerfully saying that if a leader is appointed by God rebellion against that leadership is rebellion against God. And so we see that in addition to causing the earth to consume the people who followed Korah, God also destroyed with fire proceeding from Himself, 250 self-styled leaders who arrogantly presumed to come before God’s presence without God’s authorization.

What is this saying to us? Well first it’s not a good idea to step into a sinkhole! But more importantly, with regard to inexcusable disloyalty, it’s saying we must never become a part of a conspiracy against godly spiritual leaders.  Just before this incredible display of God’s judgment, as this conspiracy is unfolding, as this rebellion is rearing its ugly head, verse 22 in this chapter says that Moses and Aaron fell “facedown.” What does this mean? It means that despite severe emotional pain, despite being deeply offended, they were not intimidated. They knew God would intervene. And not only that, Moses and Aaron cried out to God not to destroy the entire community! They exhibited genuine heart-felt compassionate intercession. Think about this for a moment. In a context of deserved judgment, they pleaded for undeserved grace, why; because they were godly spiritual leaders.

Here’s where I’m going with this: Over the years I’ve been blessed with some great friendships with pastors. And sometimes, to a small degree, because of the traveling aspect of my ministry as a guest speaker, I get to be a pastor to these pastors. To them I’m a safe place to vent and be real. And I’m genuinely honored that they trust me in this way. These guys are my heroes.

Unless you’ve been there and done what pastors do, and have dealt with what pastors deal with, you don’t really get their world. You don’t know what’s like it’s like to put yourself out there in a public vulnerable way because you love Jesus and sincerely want to serve Him. It’s a toe to toe fist fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil; a conflict that on this side of eternity never totally lets up.

Pastors get fired or are forced to leave their churches all the time for all kinds of unjustified reasons!  Don’t be part of that shameful mistreatment. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into a pastoral coup d’e’tat. Don’t be a hyper-critical immature/insecure consumer of ministry. Don’t drop out and say, “I’m going to do church at home by watching my favorite bible teacher on TV.” Disciple up, and be willing to do life with messy flawed imperfect people just like yourself.  Will you get hurt and disappointed? Of course you will.  And guess what, you’re going to hurt and disappoint people as well. So don’t secretly plot behind the scenes to try and remove a godly spiritual leader. If you’re internalizing the Word and cooperating with the Spirit you’re better than that. Love on these guys! They need it. And they deserve it!