Voting Values – I

October 31, 2016

Image result for photo votingRomans 13:1, 3, 4

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

The Bible deals with every aspect of life that you or I will ever face!  There is nothing that can happen in life that is not covered in Scripture by direct command, an example (of people, places, or happenings), a parable, a comparison, or an inference.  Sometimes it is plainly stated.  Sometimes you have to study and pull together several Scriptures to get the clear answer.  But the answer is always there!  God has left nothing out!

I want to write a couple more blogs concerning the upcoming election on Tuesday, November 8th.  Some people like one list of candidates for office, and some like another.  Some do not like either candidate – especially for the office of President of the United States!  I heartily recommend looking at the issues – the chief things which matter to you, and are important for society – and Vote Values, your values!  Let me amend that statement, because this website, Gems For Living, is designed to help Christians grow in their faith.  Look at the issues from God’s viewpoint, and vote as He would lead you!  Where do you find His viewpoint on the issues?  In the Bible!

But first, let’s look at Romans 13:1, 3 and 4:

      Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no
      authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed
      by God….For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you
      want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will
      have praise of the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But
      if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he
      is God’s minister, a avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

God has given us human government for our good!  I know, not all government officials – elected or appointed – are good.  Some are not good at all!  But we want the best ones in office!  And for Christians, we want those who adhere most closely to what God has revealed in His Word!

Now, consider some of the main issues we face:

•      Marriage and the familyThe family forms the foundation of society, whether we are talking about society under federal, state, or local governments – or no official governing oversight at all.  What does the Bible say?

      ✞      Genesis 1:1; 2:7, 22, 24; Malachi 2:15 – “In the beginning…the LORD formed man….Then… He made…a woman and He brought her to the man….Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh….And why one?  He seeks godly offspring.

      ✞      I Corinthians 6:18 (King James Version) – “Flee fornication [sex outside of marriage]….

     ✞      Hebrews 13:4 – “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornication and adultery God will judge.

     ✞      I Corinthians 7:9 (God’s Word to the Nations) – “…if you cannot control your desires, you should get married.  It is better for you to marry than to burn with sexual desire.

      ✞      Malachi 2:15, 16 – “…let none of you deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.  For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce.

•      Abortion – This question comes down to:  When does human life begin?  And, Does a woman have the right over her own body, to the extent that an undesirable pregnancy can be ended?

      ✞      Psalm 127:3 – “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is His reward.

      ✞      Psalm 139:13-17 – “…You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your book they all were written, when as yet there were none of them.  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How great is the sum of them!

      ✞      Jeremiah 1:4, 5 – “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’

      ✞      Jeremiah 32:35 (Good News Bible) – “They have built altars to Baal in Hinnom Valley, to sacrifice their sons and daughters to the god Molech.  I did not command them to do this, and it did not even enter my mind that they would do such a thing….

      ✞      Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder.

We will continue to examine critical issues in light of what the Bible says in our next blog.

Sufficient Grace

October 28, 2016

Image result for photo God's grace

II Corinthians 12:9, 10

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I will take a short break from the series, From Egypt To Canaan, because I want to focus on something that has been upon my mind.  I call it Sufficient Grace.  And the Scripture is II Corinthians 12:9 and 19:

      And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made
      perfect in weakness.”  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirm-
      ities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in
      infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s
      sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was ‘boasting’ to the Corinthian Christians of his Hebrew background and – after his conversion (see Acts 9:1-8) – the persecution he endured as he boldly spread the good news of Jesus Christ! (See II Corinthians 11:22-33; Galatians 6:17).  But he also was telling them of God’s miraculous “…visions and revelations of the Lord…” (II Corinthians 12:1).  Then he adds in verses 7 and 8 of chapter 12:

      And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations,
      a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest
      I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord
      three times that it might depart from me.

It is then that our featured Scripture comes into play:  God’s grace was more than enough to compensate for the trials through which Paul was going – trials God was not going to take away, and to keep the apostle humble and utterly dependent upon Him!  And when Paul understood this, he not only accepted the Lord’s decision, he boasted (gloriedKJV) in his infirmities!  For then he had to depend upon God!  And he could then truthfully exclaim, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  God gave Sufficient Grace!

And what is grace?  A short definition of God’s grace is “His unmerited favor!”  We don’t deserve it!  We deserve His condemnation!  But He gives us His favor anyway!

There is another Scripture I want to bring to your attention, Romans 5:20 – just the latter part of the verse:  “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.  Oh, how I thank God for this short statement!

•      I have heard it often said by parents of grown children, “I sure would not want to bring kids into this world today with all that is going on in society!”  And they may add, “Look at what our grandchildren are going to have to face as they grow up!”  Even young couples thinking about starting a family have told me, “Should we have children?  What are they going to have to overcome as they grow up in this modern society?  It is much worse – drugs, sex, liberal education, and so on – than when we were growing up twenty years ago!”  But I tell them of Romans 5:20, and then say:

      Look, no matter how bad wickedness and sin get in this old world, God’s grace
      is always, always greater!  With godly upbringing and much prayer surrounding
      your young ones, they will make it!  If God is leading you to bring children into
      this world, do not be so frightened that you neglect that leading!

•      Think of our presidential election coming up in just 13 days!  Some people are very discouraged at the choices for President of the United States that are laid before us.  But I recall what a fellow pastor recently said to me:  “It does not so much matter who sits in the White House.  It matters Who is on heaven’s throne!”  Jesus Christ is on heaven’s throne!  He isKING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS! (Revelation 19:16).  And God tells us in Daniel 2:21 that “…He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings…” (see also Job 12:18; Psalm 75:6, 7; Daniel 4:32, 34, 35).  And the same goes for presidents!  No one will be seated in the Oval Office without God putting him or her there!  It may be for our judgment, our chastisement, or our blessing!  But they will be in that high position only because the Lord allows them there!

Remember that whoever is elected President, whoever is appointed as judge to the Supreme Count, whatever laws are passed – as stated above:  “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”  No matter how bad wickedness and sin get in this old world, God’s grace is always, always more!  Depend on it!

…AND VOTE ON NOVEMBER 8!  God very often uses our humble human participation to manifest His will!  I believe He will do just that in this election also!




From Egypt to Canaan – XXVI

October 26, 2016

Image result for photo rebellion against GodNumbers 14:39-42

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

God was so angry with the rebellion of ten of the twelve spies and also the whole nation of Israelites, that He immediately killed the ten…who brought the evil report about the land…” (Numbers 14:37).  Then He told Moses in Numbers 14:34 and 35 to tell the people:

      “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land,
      forty days, each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty
      years, and you shall know My rejection.  I the LORD have spoken this.”

Here is what followed – as reported in our featured Scripture – Numbers 14:39 through 42:

      Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people
      mourned greatly.  And they rose up early in the morning, and went up to
      the top of the mountain, saying, “…we will go up to the place which the
      LORD has promised, for we have sinned.”  Then Moses said, “Now why
      do you transgress the command of the LORD?  For this will not succeed.
      Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not
      among you.”

And defeated they were!  “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in the mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45).  What can we learn from this?

•      Sin has its price!  Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7 through 9:  “Do not be deceived…whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh, will of the flesh reap corruption….for in due season we shall reap….”  In that Scripture the apostle points out this works for good as well as for bad.  But I want to emphasize the latter because of what happened to the Israelites.

Someone once said, “Some folks sow their wild oats, and then pray for a crop failure!”  Cute, but it does not work that way!

      ✞      A young couple ignores God’s prohibition against premarital sex. (See Ephesians 5:3).  They repent of their sin and are forgiven.  But they cannot undo some of the results of their actions – virginity lost forever, possible STD’s, perhaps an unwanted pregnancy, and if that happens, lives forever changed because of the responsibility of a child!

      ✞      A young person starts to use tobacco (I smoked my first cigarette at age 5!) and becomes addicted (by age 21 I smoked three packs a day!)  He may quit entirely (I did 49 years ago!).  But years later he still can be inflicted with lung cancer (although I had a lung cancer scare a few years ago, I have never come down with that awful disease!)

      ✞      A teenager experiments with drugs – just for a fun high, just once or twice!  My brother did just that.  But he became addicted, and he was a drug addict for over 55 years before he died at age 69!

The Israelites rebelled and were forgiven!  Moses interceded again for the people (see Numbers 14:11-19), and God answered in Numbers 14:20, “I have pardoned, according to your word.”  But they still had to pay the price of wandering another 38 years – 40 years total – in the wilderness!

•      Don’t be presumptuous!  The Israelites presumed that they could still be victorious in taking the land of Canaan, even though God through Moses commanded them not to go!  “…the LORD is not among you…,” Moses told the people.  I don’t know whether they did not trust Moses to give them God’s true word or not.  But they acted on their own initiative and strength!  As a result, they suffered a grave defeat.  It does not say how many were killed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites, but it was probably a significant loss of fighting men.

When God closes a door, don’t try to pry it open!  Don’t push ahead anyway when the LORD saysNo! ”  Sometimes God speaks through circumstances, or the counsel of other Christians, or sometimes in “…a still small voice.” (I Kings 19:12).  Listen carefully, and then act in obedience!  But often the directive is plainly revealed in the Bible!  For instance, in II Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”  And in I Corinthians 7:39, Paul gives this directive concerning widows:  “…if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”  A person who marries another becomes one with that person! (See Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5, 6; I Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31).  But how often does a young man or woman (older people also!) say, “We love each other!  He (or she) may not be a Christian, but I will make him (or her) a believer!”  But far too often, what happens?  The unbelieving one brings down the Christian!  And the one so sure of himself or herself ends up with a broken relationship and a damaged faith!

•      Repentance must be genuine!  It says in our Scripture, “…the people mourned greatly …saying, ‘…we have sinned.’ ” (Numbers 14:39 and 40).  They sounded sincere!  But true repentance involves seeing things as God sees them, and then acting appropriately – and they were following their own thinking!  Paul wrote in II Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted of; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”  The Israelites were sorry for their disobedience, only because it involved the loss of good things promised!  What God wanted was for them to see that their wicked hearts were in rebellion against His leadership!

Paul defines sin in Romans 3:23 as “…fall[ing] short of the glory of God.”  Do you hold God’s glory before you?  David prayed in I Chronicles 16:10, “Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD.” (See also Psalm 105:3).  This is the attitude that leads to true repentance – desiring to restore and keep that close relationship with Him!

From Egypt to Canaan – XXV

October 24, 2016

Image result for photo twelve spies of IsraelNumbers 13:1, 2, 25, 31-33

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

You should read the whole story in Numbers, chapters 13 and 14.  It concerns the most grievous rebellion of the Israelites yet – a rebellion that led to 38 years of wandering in the Sinai desert,…until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.” (Numbers 32:13).  Our featured Scripture is condensed, but still expresses the cause of Israel’s extended wilderness trek:

      And the LORD spoke to Moses…“Send men to spy out the land of Canaan
      …from each tribe…you shall send a man….And they returned from spying
      out the land after forty days….And …[they] said, “We are not able to go up
      against the people; for they are stronger than we.”  And they gave the child-
      ren of Israel a bad report of the land…saying, “The land…is a land that de-
      vours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great
      stature.  There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak…); and we were
      like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

Moses sent out twelve men – one from each of Israel’s tribes – to spy out the land of Canaan, the Promised Land.  After 40 days of exploring the country, ten brought back an evil report.  Only Caleb and Joshua trusted God to aid the Israelites in conquering the pagan tribes of Canaan! (See Numbers 14:6-9).  And only Caleb and Joshua, of the adult population of that whole generation of perhaps three million people, were allowed to enter the Promised Land !

What happened?  And what can we learn from this sorry episode in Israel’s history?

I find it interesting that all twelve spies first gave a positive description of the land, reporting “…the land where you sent us…truly flows with milk and honey…” (Numbers 13:27).  And they showed the people a bunch of grapes they had brought back as evidence – a cluster so large that…they carried it between two of them on a pole.” (Numbers 13:23).  But then they added to their report an increasingly negative view of militarily taking Canaan:

•      Numbers 13:28 – “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong….”  Yes, but God had promised to give them victory in conquering that land! (See Genesis 17:8; Exodus 6:8; 13:5; 33:1-3; Leviticus 20:24).

•      Numbers 13:28 – “…and the cities are fortified and very large….”  Yes, but the LORD had very recently soundly defeated the Egyptians – the most powerful nation on earth at that time! (See Exodus 14:30, 31).

•      Numbers 13:28 – “…moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.”  These Anakim were giants, according to our featured Scripture (see Deuteronomy 2:10, 20, 21; 9:2).  According to Joshua 11:22, Israel eventually defeated these giants, and “None of the Anakim were left in the land of the children of Israel…only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.”  These three cities were in the country of the Philistines.  And according to I Samuel 17:23, Goliath the nine foot, eight inch tall giant – “…the Philistine of Gath…must have been the last of the Anakim!

•      Numbers 13:29 – “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the banks of the Jordan.”  In blog XIV of From Egypt to Canaan, I wrote about the Amalekites and how they attacked Israel at their weakest point.  Because of this, God told His people, “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:16).  God had miraculously defeated that pagan tribe before (see Exodus 17:8-13), and the Israelites should have known He would do it again!

•      Numbers 13:31 – “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.”  All these pagan tribes resident in Canaan might have been stronger than the Israelites, but (as it later says of God in Psalm 89:13):  “You have a mighty arm; strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand.”   And David wrote in Psalm 60:12 and 108:13:  “Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.

•      Numbers 13:32 – “The land, through which we have gone as spies, is a land that devours its inhabitants….”  Remember what all those who spied out the land said at first?  I quoted it above from Numbers 13:27:  “…the land where you sent us…truly flows with milk and honey…”  But if you don’t want to do something, you can always find reasons to bolster your opinion!

•      Numbers 13:32 – “…and all the people whom we saw in it are men of a great stature.  There we saw the giants…the descendants of Anak….” (See the third point above).

•      Numbers 13:33 – “…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”  Talk about making mountains out of molehills!  Because they chose to view themselves as too weak to obtain what God had already promised, they transferred that perceived opinion into the minds of their opponents – what they must be thinking!

The Israelites were increasingly trying to convince themselves not to go in and take the land God had promised to give them!  And because they strongly voiced their beliefs, the vast majority of the people joined in their rebellion!  Here is what it says in Numbers 14:1-4:

      Then all the congregation lifted up their voices, and cried, and the people
      wept that night.  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses
      and against Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we
      had died in the land of Egypt!  Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 
      Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our
      wives and children should become victims?  Would it not be better for us
      to return to Egypt?”  So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader
      and return to Egypt.”

No wonder God was upset and angry with His people – angry enough to make them wander in the wilderness for 38 more years!  He instructed Moses to tell them,

      “As I live,” says the LORD, “just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I
      will do to you:  The carcases of you who have murmured against Me shall
      fall in this wilderness, all you who were numbered according to your entire
      number, from twenty years old and above.” (Numbers 14:28 and 29).

Trust the LORD and obey Him!  Murmuring, complaining, and disobedience can carry a heavy penalty!

The Logic Of Missions

October 21, 2016

Image result for photo Missions

Romans 10:13-15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I am taking a quick break From Egypt To Canaan to present The Logic Of Missions.  This coming Sunday, I have been given the privilege of being the main speaker at a missions conference in a church I used to pastor in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. All Christian churches, as well as individual Christians, should have a plan for missions – for outreach.  And it should be a Biblical and logical plan!  The basis for this plan is found in Romans 10:13 through 15:

      For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then
      shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall
      they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they
      hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are

There are five steps to this Logic Of Missions, and they are presented in reverse order:

•      The fifth step is verse 13.  But a more complete description of this step is found in Romans 10:9 through 13:

      …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart
      that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the
      heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made
      to salvation.  For the scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be
      put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the
      same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls up-
      on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

This is what one must do to be saved!  It is more than just calling on Him.  For Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”  Thecallingmust be accompanied by genuine heart faith – that He died for your sins,my sins!and that He lives again! (See Hebrews 7:25, Revelation 1:18).  It does not matter who you are or what your background is!  Just come to Him and accept Him as your Savior!

•      The fourth step is in verse 14:  “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”  It is by faith!  And according to Hebrews 11:6, “…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is [exists], and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  You can’t come to someOne you don’t believe is even there!

•      The third step is also found in verse 14:  “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? ”  People have to hear the gospel before they can believe it – that…

      ✞      God Himself became incarnate when Jesus Christ (the Son of God, God the Son) left the glories of heaven and became a man! (See Philippians 2:5-8).

      ✞      Jesus lived the perfect sinless life we could never achieve! (See Hebrews 7:26; I Peter 2:22).

      ✞      He voluntarily offered Himself on Calvary’s cross as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind! (See John 10:18; I Peter 3:18).

      ✞      He rose from the dead, conquering sin, Satan, death, and hell! (See Luke 10:18; I Corinthians 15:54; Hebrews 2:14; I John 3:8).

      ✞      He lives forever to apply salvation to all who by faith come to God through Him! (See John 17:3; Hebrews 7:25).

•      The second step is in the last part of verse 14:  “And how shall they hear without a preacher? ”  Someone has to go and tell the gospel to those who have not heard!

•      The first step is in verse 15:  “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? ”  It is not everyone’s calling to go to remote places to give the gospel to those who dwell in spiritual darkness.  But it is every Christian’s responsibility to provide assistance to those who are called to go!

Too many Christians think of missions as one being called to serve God in remote jungles or other primitive places!  Yes, that is one aspect of missions.  But the Lord, just before He ascended into heaven, told His disciples in Acts 1:8:

      But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and
      you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria,
      and to the end of the earth.

Where was this said?  Just outside of Jerusalem!  In other words, we are to begin our missionary endeavors right where we are – to our own family, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers and school mates!  It does not take much financial support (prayer support, yes!) to fulfil this missionary call!  So be a missionary starting with your Jerusalem!

From Egypt to Canaan – XXIV

October 19, 2016

Image result for photo complainingNumbers 12:1-2

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There is an interesting incident recorded in Numbers 12:1 and 2 that speaks to us concerning leadership jealousy and jockeying:

      Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian
      woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 
      And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses?  Has
      He not spoken through us also?”  And the LORD heard it.

I see five things to consider in these two verses:

•      Female leadership – There is still today the thought among some that men should be in the chief positions of leadership, not women!  Yet women have achieved top positions in government and business (re: Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England, 1979 – 1990; Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard).  Notice in verse 1 that Mariam is mentioned first!  This indicates that perhaps she was considered more important than Aaron in Israel’s leadership – yes, even back then, in that male-dominated culture!

•      The real complaint – Often it is not the first thing voiced in a complaint that is the real issue of it!  The reason for the complaint listed in verse 1 is that “…Moses…had married an Ethiopian woman.”  But when Moses wrote the record down (for he authored the Pentateuch), he knew it was not that he had married an Ethiopian woman The real reason was jealousy because of his leadership position over the Israelites due to his close relationship to the LORD!  The Scripture tells us in Exodus 33:11:  “…the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (See Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10).  Until the time of Jesus, that kind of closeness never happened again!

What we can learn from this is that when we are dealing with complaints, don’t take the first stated reason as the real reason!  Often, we have to dig deeper to find out why the complaint is being lodged!

•      Rebellion against the LORDMiriam apparently led her brother Aaron in this jealous complaint against Moses.  But in reality, they were complaining against God Himself, for He had chosen Moses for the leadership position over Israel!  And such rebellion is dangerous!

Miriam paid a penalty by being afflicted with leprosy! (See Numbers 12:10).  When Moses interceded for her, God made the duration of her affliction only seven days! (See Numbers 12:14).  Don’t be hasty in rebelling against God’s choice of leadership!  As it says in Psalm 105:15, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.

•      Racial prejudiceMoses had married outside his own people, and his sister and brother didn’t like it!  But remember, Moses was raised among the royalty of Egypt (see Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:21, 22).  Ethiopia was the country just south of Egypt, and many Ethiopians must have mingled among Egypt’s people.  Moses was used to being around Ethiopians!  While Egyptian skin shades can vary from light Caucasian to very dark, Ethiopians are generally of darker complexion.  Moses must have married a dark-complexioned woman!

Now it says in Exodus 2:18 and 21 that “…Reuel [called Jethro in Exodus 3:1 and other scriptures]…gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses…” as his wife.  But Reuel is called “…the priest of Midian…” in Exodus 2:16.  The Midianites lived to the east of Canaan, not south of Egypt in Ethiopia.  One explanation for this apparent discrepancy is that Zipporah was an Ethiopian/Midianite – a Midianite of dark skin, like the Ethiopians.  Perhaps the complaint of Miriam and Aaron was not about skin color, but about nationality – Zipporah was not an Israelite!

Nevertheless, it was prejudice!  And prejudice should have no place in a Christian’s world view!  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).  As Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17:26:  “[God] has made from one blood every nation of men for to dwell on the face of the earth….

•      “And the LORD heard it.” (Numbers 12:2).  We need to remember that God hears everything – as well as He sees everything and knows everything – even our unspoken thoughts! (See Psalm 1391-4; Hebrews 4:13).  And what Jesus told His listeners in Matthew 12:36 and 37 surely applies not just to words, but to thoughts also:

      …I say unto you that every idle word men may speak, they will give account
      of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by
      your words you will be condemned.

That God knows everything about us, and hears us – even our unspoken thoughts – should be both a challenge and a great comfort to us!  It is a challenge in that we need to keep ourselves clean and holy, not just in what we do and say, but in what we think also! (See Philippians 4:8).  And when we live in such holiness, we have “…the comfort of the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 9:31) in our hearts.  We also should have comfort when we read what Jesus said in Matthew 6:32:  “…your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things…” – the things we need for living out our lives! (See Matthew 6:31).

Thank God that He knows me so well, and yet totally accepts me and provides for me in His Son! (See Epheisians 1:6; Philippians 4:19).  Have you thanked Him for this lately?

From Egypt to Canaan – XXIII

October 17, 2016

Image result for photo slobberingNumbers 11:4-6; Psalm 106:13-15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

It had been 13 months and three days since the Israelites had departed from Egypt (see Exodus 12:2, 6, 37; Numbers 10:11, 12;10:33).  In that time they had seen many miracles:

•      Exodus 13:21; 14:19 and 20; Numbers 9:15 and 16 – The guiding, illuminating, and protecting pillar of cloud and fire!

•      Exodus 14:21 through 28 – The Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptian army!

•      Exodus 15:22 through 26 – The healing of the bitter water at Marah!

•      Exodus 16:13 through 15 – The provision of quails and manna!

•      Exodus 17:7 – Water brought forth from the stricken rock!

•      Exodus 17:8 through 13 – The defeat of the Amalekites!

•      Exodus 19:16 through 31:8 – The miracles surrounding the giving of the Ten Commandments!

•      Exodus 34:29 – The glowing face of Moses from being in God’s presence!

•      Exodus 40:34 through 38 – The glory of God manifested at the tabernacle’s dedication!

•      Leviticus 9:22 through 10:2 – The fire of the LORD devouring offerings and the two rebellious priests!

But they soon forgot all the miraculous events, and fell to complaining and lusting!

It was at Kibroth Hattaavah (Numbers 11:34) – the name meaning “graves of lust” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions) – that the Israelites started complaining about manna, the God-given bread from heaven!  Here is the record from Numbers 11:4-6:

      Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense
      craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said, “Who will
      give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish, we ate freely in Egypt, the
      cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now
      our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna
      before our eyes.”

Centuries later, an unknown psalmist wrote a commentary on the incident in Psalm 106:13 through 15:

      They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted
      exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert.  And He gave
      them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.

Notice some things that happened at Kibroth Hattaavah:

•      It was the mixed multitude that started it!  I did a study on the mixed multitude in From Egypt to Canaan – IX (Sept. 14, 2016).  This mixed multitude was made up of other nationalities – most likely Egyptians – who, when they saw how the Israelites were delivered from the effects of the ten plagues, decided to cast their lot in with the favored people, even if they did not have faith in Israel’s God!  Much like those who today in our churches call themselves Christians but have not been born again (see John 3:3, 5), they can be the cause of much grumbling and dissension!

In our modern times, churches, as well as individual believers need to be careful concerning whom they allow to influence them!  As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived:  Evil company corrupts good habits.

•      But – and we experience this also in our churches today – whoever might start the complaining, a number of true believers are likely to join in!  This is what happened at Kibroth Hattaavah!  The Israelites, influenced by the mixed multitude, jumped into the rebellion!

•      Solomon warns us in Ecclesiastes 7:10:  “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’  For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.”  Human beings seem to have this tendency – they remember the good things of the past, but not the bad as readily!

The children of Israel thought about the abundance and variety of food available in Egypt, but they were forgetting the harsh slavery! (See Exodus 1:14).  Also, one wonders how much food was available to such an oppressed people!

•      Finally, we can get so accustomed to God’s blessings we begin to take them for granted!  That’s what the Israelites were doing in our featured Scripture.  And don’t we forget how blessed we are in America and in other civilized nations?  The poorest of us in America are extremely wealthy compared to much of those living in the third world!  And our liberties are seen as abundant in oppressive societies!

We need to keep in mind what David wrote in Psalm 23:5 (King James Version):  “…my cup runneth over.”  And we need to praise and thank Him for all His provision! (See Psalm 34:8-10; 116:12).

So heed Psalm 103:1 through 5, and do it regularly:

      Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
      Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:  who forgives
      all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from
      destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who
      satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like
      the eagle’s.

From Egypt to Canaan – XXII

October 14, 2016

Image result for photo two men fightingLeviticus 24:10-16

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There is an incident recorded in Leviticus 24:10 through 16 that, at first read, seems unduly harsh:

      Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian…
      and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp.  And the…son
      blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought
      him to Moses…And the LORD spoke to Moses…“Take outside the
      camp him who has cursed; then….Then you shall speak to the child-
      ren of Israel, saying, ‘Whoever curses his God shall…surely be put to

The man who cursed was angry, and in the middle of a fight with another man!  In the heat of the moment he said something which he shouldn’t have!  Should he have died for it?

Even after I became a Christian at age 19, there were many times that I said or did things that were dishonoring to God.  How many times I used the LORD’s name in cursing, I don’t care to remember!  You see, I was raised in a family where cursing and cussing were an everyday way of life – especially for my father.  I recall him teaching me to swear when I was a little boy!  It was almost “Repeat after me.”  When I got it right, he would slap my knee and laugh.  By the time I was teenager – and running with the wrong crowd – I could turn the air around me blue with foul language!  I certainly and repeatedly broke the Third Commandment:  “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).

Why was God so harsh on this man?  Often, the first obvious offense against a commandment or ordinance brings serious repercussions so others may heed, fear, and obey.  God’s name is holy!  God’s person is holy – absolutely!  In Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, LORD is translated from the Hebrew word often written as Jehovah, and it means, “(the) self-Existent or eternal.”  So sacred is the name of Jehovah to Orthodox Jews – YHWH or YHVH, read right to left – that they will not even pronounce it!  It is often referred to as “the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name, or the Distinctive Name” (Judaism 101, The Name of G-d).  And while they are permitted to write it, the name of God may not then be erased (defaced).

So perhaps you can see why God protects His name so carefully.  And to make sure that His people knew He was serious about the Third Commandment,You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,He made an example of this first obvious offence!  After all, it is written in Leviticus 18:5 (Lexham English Bible):  “…you shall observe My statutes and My regulations by which the person doing them shall live….”  And James tells us in James 2:10, “…whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”  Being a follower of the LORD is serious business!

Here are some other examples of harsh punishment – God making a strong point against disobeying Him:

•      Numbers 15:32 through 35 – “…the children of Israel…found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.  And they…brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation….Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ ”  This man was breaking the Fourth Commandment:  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

•      Joshua 7:20, 21, 24, and 25 – “And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done:  When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them, and took them.’…And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us?  The LORD will trouble you this day.’  And all Israel stoned him with stones…his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had…and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

God had told the Israelites that all the spoils of Jericho – the first city Israel conquered in Canaan– was to be totally dedicated to God! (See Joshua 6:18, 19).  But Achan coveted some of the articles found in the defeated city (breaking the Tenth Commandment,You shall not covet,”and also the First,You shall have no other gods before Me,” – see Colossians 3:5) and he stole them, breaking the Eighth Commandment,You shall not steal.”  In doing so, God withdrew His support from the Israelites.  And when they attacked the next city, Ai, thirty six men died because of that one man’s sin! (See Joshua 7:5).  So while the punishment sounds severe, what would be done today to a man who had murdered thirty six people?  As far as all his family and belongings being destroyed also, Achan’s influence over his family, especially in that culture, was very strong!  God certainly set an example that made the rest of the people fear of doing something similar to what Achan did!

•      Acts 5:1through 3, and 5 – “…a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.  And he kept back part of the proceeds , his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?’…Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.”  We read in verses 7 through 10 that the same thing happened to Sapphira his wife…………..all for a little lie?

While this was a voluntary thing the early believers were doing – selling their possessions and giving the money to the apostles for distribution to others in the church experiencing persecution – Annanias and Sapphira lied about the selling price so they could appear to have given it all while they kept back a part!  God made an example of them, so others –even through the ages – would not repeat a sin like theirs!

The LORD is serious about sin!  Are you?

From Egypt to Canaan – XXI

October 12, 2016

Image result for photo 911Leviticus 26:14, 16-18

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I am generally concentrating this study on the actual happenings the Israelites experienced as they traveled From Egypt to Canaan.  As I inferred in the last blog, if we included studies of all the 613 laws God gave during this time, we would be well into the year 2020!  However, as I read over Leviticus, I came to chapter 26, and here is found warnings that all of us need to hear!  I will start with Leviticus 26:14 and 16 through 18:

      …if you do not obey Me…I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease
      and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.  And you
      shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.  I will set My face
      against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies.  Those who hate you
      shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.  And after
      all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for
      your sins.

In Leviticus 26:3 through 13 – the 11 verses before our featured Scripture – God had given the people of Israel a preview of the blessings He had for them if they obeyed Him!  Chief among the blessings is what God said in verse 12:  “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people.

Deuteronomy 28 is a parallel chapter to Leviticus 26 in that it is Moses’ review of God’s blessings and cursings.  Here is what Moses said that seems to summarize the blessings God promised upon obedience of His people – verses 3 through 6:

      Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 
      Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and
      the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring
      of your flocks.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 
      Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when
      you go out.

But the majority of both chapters – Leviticus 26:14 through 39 and Deuteronomy 28:15 through 68 – deals with God’s curses upon His people when they disobey.  Here is the thing, though, on which I want to concentrate:  In Leviticus 26, four times God gives this warning if His judgment does not wake up His people and turn them back to Him:  “…then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” (Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, and 28).  If His first judgment did not get the Israelites’ attention, God would increase the penalty seven times…and seven times more if that did not wake them up to repentance…and seven times more…and seven times more!  This finally played out in the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and the 70 year Babylonian captivity of the southern kingdom of Judah starting in 605 BC.  There was one more cataclysmic judgment about 670 years later, when Titus, the Roman general (who later became emperor) put down the last of the Jewish revolt and decimated the nation in 70 AD.  The Jews did not gain national stature again for almost 19 hundred years – until 1948 with the formation of the modern nation of Israel.

What might all this mean to us?  I will use the example of the Islamic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.  On that horrific day, 2,977 people were killed, plus 19 terrorists.  The following Sunday, September 16th, I witnessed an increase in attendance of the small Presbyterian church I was then pastoring – from about 40 people to over 60!  I also heard of other churches that experienced that kind of increase.  I thought, “O, God, are you bringing revival to America out of this horrible incident?  Will people realize their utter dependance upon You and turn back to their God?”  The following week, September 23rd, there were a few less in church.  Each Sunday for the following four weeks there were less and less in attendance.  Within six weeks of the worst terrorist attack in American history, things got back to ‘normal’ in my church, and other churches also, from what I later heard.

In Malachi 3:6 God says, “…I am the LORD, I do not change….”  And in James 1:17 it tells us, “…with…the Father of lights…there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  If God applies the same principle to His erring children in America today as He did to Israel back then, how might it work?

•      Almost 3,000 were killed on 9/11!  If that did not wake us up, what if the Lord then said, “…I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”  Could it be that 21,000 might die in the next big attack?

•      …and if that didn’t shake us into revival, would the next judgment kill 147,000?

•      …and if we still stubbornly refused to turn back to the Lord and His ways, seven times more might be sent our way – 1, 029,000 killed (well over a million)!

•      The fourth seven times more would result in the death of seven million, two hundred and three thousand people (7,203,000)!  Would that wake us up so we would return to Him heart, soul, mind, and strength? (See Mark 12:30).

I think you can see that all this needs to be taken seriously – God’s promise of judgment!  But when repentance is genuine, judgment is averted! (See John 5:24).

From Egypt to Canaan – XX

October 10, 2016

Image result for photo fire from GodLeviticus 10:1, 2

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We could spend a year on the meaning of the tabernacle in Exodus, chapters 35 through 40.  And in another year we might examining all the laws given in Leviticus.  But there are certain incidents recorded in the journey From Egypt to Canaan on which I want to concentrate.  The next one in found in Leviticus 10:1 and 2:

      Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put
      fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD,
      which He had not commanded them.  So fire went out from the LORD
      and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

In the preceding chapters or Exodus and Levitcus, the laws of all the different offerings were given, the tabernacle was erected, and all its related furnishings and articles were put in their proper place.  Aaron, the designated High Priest, and his sons, the assistant priests, were all bathed and properly robed, anointed with sacred oil and sprinkled with consecrating blood.  The priests were instructed to reside in the tabernacle for seven days, and that had just been completed.

Chapter 9 of Leviticus begins:  “It came to pass on the eighth day….”  On that eighth day, sin and peace offerings were presented on the altar, and Moses told Aaron, “…the glory of the LORD will appear to you.” (Leviticus 9:6).  Indeed, the glory of God did appear – for it says in Leviticus 9:24:  “…fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”  That’s when “…Nadab and Abihu…offered…fire before the LORD….”  Why did God kill them?  Weren’t they just trying to honor the LORD?

They may have thought they were honoring God, but they were trying to do it their way, and not God’s way!  What was their way?

•      It is implied by Leviticus 10:8 and 9 that Nadab and Abihu may have been drunk!  For in that verse God told Aaron, “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you or your sons…when you go into the tabernacle…lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.”  If they were intoxicated, they would not be thinking with clear minds!  Did not Paul write in Ephesians 5:18, “…do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Holy Spirit…”?  We are also told in Proverbs 31:4 and 5:

      It is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes intoxicating drink [or, by
      implication, for anyone else in a position of leadership]; lest they drink
      and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.

If Nadab and Abihu were drunk, God was saying, “Don’t ever let that happen again!

•      These two priest were intruding their own will, their own ideas of worshiping God, into what He had already revealed!

           …in the matter of timingNadab and Abihu were appointed priests under the direction of the High Priest, Aaron, their father, and their uncle, Moses.  It was the prerogative of these latter two men, having received their instructions from God Himself, to tell those serving under them when and what to do!  But these two elder sons of Aaron acted on their own!

           …in the manner of how they acted – It seems that Nadab and Abihu were caught up in the intensity of the moment.  We saw above in Leviticus 9:24, that when “…fire came out from before the Lord…the people…shouted and fell on their faces.”  It was intense!  And the two priests probably felt they should do…….something!

There are instances – and we hear on the news reports – of crowds turning into mobs and committing acts of vandalism and violence .  Yet, these perpetrators might never step out of line when by themselves.  Crowd psychology can certainly influence the actions of people – especially if intoxication is involved!

           …in the that it is called “…profane fire…” (Leviticus 10:1).  Anything other than what God has commanded is considered by Him as profane!  Here is what Adam Clark in his commentary wrote concerning this incident:

      Every part of the religion of God is divine.  He alone knew what he designed
      by its rites and ceremonies, for that which they prefigured – the whole econo-
      my of redemption by Christ – was conceived in his own mind, and was out of
      the reach of human wisdom and conjecture.  He therefore who altered any
      part of this representative system, who omitted or added any thing, assumed
      a prerogative which belonged to God alone, and was certainly guilty of a very
      high offense against the wisdom, justice, and righteousness of his Maker.  This
      appears to have been the sin of Nadab and Abihu, and this at once shows the
      reason why they were so severely punished.  The most awful judgments are
      threatened against those who either add to, or take away from, the declara-
      tions of God.

It is God’s way or no way! (See John 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12).