From Egypt To Canaan – XXXVII

November 30, 2016

Image result for photo crossing the Jordan into CanaanJoshua 3:15-17

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

Forty years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were ready to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land of Canaan!  God had done many miracles over those forty years under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  He would perform many more with Joshua now in command, as they drove the heathen tribes out of Canaan and were established as the new nation of Israel in Palestine.  In Joshua 3:15 through 17 we see a mighty work of God:

      …as…the feet of the priests who bore the ark were dipped in the edge of
      the…[Jordan River], (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the
      whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream
      stood still, and rose up in a heap very far away….So the waters that went
      down toward…the salt sea…were cut off; and the people crossed over op-
      posite Jericho.  And the priests that bore the ark of the covenant of the
      LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all the
      Israelites passed over on dry ground….

Much like the crossing of the Red Sea forty years before (see Exodus 14:16-22), there are two great miracles involved in this current crossing:

•      One – The river divided where the Israelites needed to cross, right across from Jericho!  I have heard it said that the Jordan stopped flowing because an earthquake shifted the land enough to block the flow of the river.  But it does not say that – or even hint that an earthquake was the cause!  It does say that “…the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose up in a heap very far away…” (verse 16).  How far?  I left out of the featured Scripture above for the sake of space:  “…far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan.” (verse 16).  Adam is almost 20 miles north of Jericho!

And to make the miracle more spectacular, God did it…during the…time of harvest… [when] the Jordan overflows all its banks…” (verse 15).  But it is simply as Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.” (see Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Matthew 19:26; Mark 9:23; 10:27; 14:36; Luke 18:27).

•      Two (and this is a miracle that is often overlooked) – “…all the Israelites passed over on dry ground…” (verse 17).  If you have ever stepped into a river bed, a lake bed, or someplace where water has covered the ground for a long time, there is usually mud and muck covering the bottom!  But here, once the water had retreated, it was dry ground!  There were some rocks strewn about the river bottom for (according to Joshua 4:3 and 8) Joshua “…commanded them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from…the midst of the Jordan…and [they] laid them down…” on the western side of the river as a memorial to their crossing.  Also “…Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark…stood…” (Joshua 4:9).  But the river bed was dry and free enough of stones and rocks that about two to three million Israelites crossed with no problem!

Since Paul has reminds us in I Corinthians 10:11, “…all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come…”; and since God has said in Malachi 3:6, “…I am the LORD, I do not change…” – not even a “…variation or shadow of turning…,” according to James 1:17; and of Jesus, who wrought so many miracles, it is written: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever…” – why do we not expect our Lord to perform miracles on our behalf today?!!  Did not Jesus tell His followers in John 14:12:

      Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he
      will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My

Many Christians do expect – and receive – His miracles!  But far too many believe the age of miracles is over.  I do not! I have seen God work in my life too many times over the years to doubt His miraculous intervention when I need Him!  And I rejoice to hear of His great intervention in the lives of others.

In Mark 16:15 through 18, the second gospel closes with these words of Jesus:

      Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who
      believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be
      condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe:  In My name
      they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take
      up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt
      them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Scholars say this passage was not in the original manuscript of Mark, but was added much later.  The compelling evidence, they say, is that this passage is not found in the two most ancient and most complete manuscripts – the Codex Vaticanus from the years between AD 325 and 350; and the Codex Sinaiticus, penned circa AD 375-400.  But by that time in history, Christianity had become the religion of state of the Roman Empire.  And it had been so watered down, that much of the power of God working through His children was neglected and/or lost!  I believe it was easier to take mention of the miraculous out of Scripture than to be challenged to live up to it!  So it is today!  To see the Lord Jesus work mightily through His disciples, they must be sold out to Him and obedient to His Lordship!

God worked mighty miracles throughout history!  Do you want to see in your life what Joshua and the Israelites experienced in theirs?

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXVI

November 28, 2016

Image result for photo Rahab the harlotJoshua 2:1, 12, 13

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

While the Israelites were on the eastern side of the Jordan River, “…Joshua…sent out two men…to spy secretly…” (Joshua 2;1).  He told the spies, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” (Joshua 2:1).  He wanted them to scout out the city on the other side of the river about six or seven miles to the west of where Israel was camped. Joshua wanted to know about Jericho – how strong it was militarily, and what it would take to conquer the Canaanites who lived there.

      So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and
      lodged there….[When they were about to leave, Rahab implored them]
      …“I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kind-
      ness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house…and spare
      my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have,
      and deliver our lives from death.” (Joshua 2:1, 12, 13).

She knew why these men of Israel had come to Jericho!  And, as she told the men Joshua 2:9, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.”  So Rahab sided with Israel, and Israel’s God!

This woman is called a harlot in Joshua 2:1 (see also Joshua 6:17, 22, 25; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).  The Hebrew word means “to commit adultery” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary).  Rahab was a prostitute, a lady of ill repute!  But, just as Jesus said in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance…,so God reached out and touched Rahab’s heart, and she responded by faith!  How do we know Rahab became a woman of faith?

•     She is listed in the genealogical record of Matthew 1 as an ancestress of Jesus Christ!  It is written in Matthew 1:5 and 6 (God’s Word to the Nations):  “Salmon and Rahab were the father and mother of Boaz.  Boaz and Ruth were the father and mother of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of King David.”  Jesus was born in the direct line from King David though his son Nathan (see Luke 3:23-31).  There are only godly people in the Messiah’s ancestral line, and Rahab was one of them!

•      Of the many heros of faith in Israel’s history, Rahab is one of the few singled out in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11.  In verses 30 and 31 it is recorded:

      By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven
      days.  By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not be-
      lieve, when she had received the spies with peace.

•      James, the author of the general epistle bearing his name, discussed how “…by works faith…[is] made perfect…” (James 2:22).  He only uses two examples from Israel’s past to bolster his argument – the first was Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.  Abraham showed the extent of his faith by obeying the LORD and offering his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice to Him! (See Genesis 22:1-19).  God had told the patriarch in Genesis 21:12, “…in Isaac your seed shall be called.”  But, if the lad was killed and offered up to God, how could he produce offspring?  Here is what Hebrews 11:19 tells us (Easy-to-Read Version):  “He believed that God could raise people from death.  And really, when God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, it was as if he got him back from death.

The second example James uses was Rahab the harlot in James 2:25.  The author argues that Rahab showed great faith in that she was a gentile heathen (a Canaanite) but she believed that Israel’s God was so powerful that the gods of the tribes of Canaan could not stand before Him – that the land would be won by the Hebrews!  So she made a life-changing decision to embrace Jehovah God of Israel!

What is the main lesson we can learn from all this?  No sinner is beyond the pale of God’s mercy and grace!  No transgressor of the LORD’s righteousness is too great a sinner so as to be refused His salvation!  The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, saying, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15).  He considered himself the chief of sinners because, as he testified in Acts 26:10 and 11:

      …many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the
      chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 
      And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blas-
      pheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even
      to foreign cities.

Yet the LORD saved Saul of Tarsus, transformed the man into Paul the apostle, using him for the glory of God perhaps more than any other person in history!

Consider the thief on the cross who was most likely also an insurrectionist and a murderer (see Mark 15:7).  He looked to Jesus, not as a condemned and crucified man, but as the King!  For he said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).  What did Jesus tell him?  “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).  This criminal was forgiven and saved!

Come to Jesus Christ!  Put your faith in Him, that He is the only Savior – the only One who can cleanse you of your sins!  No matter how bad you think you are, you are not beyond His saving grace!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXV

November 25, 2016

Image result for photo courageJoshua 1:7-9

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

Moses had died (see Deuteronomy 34:5-8) and Joshua was commissioned to take oversight of the children of Israel, to lead them into Canaan, the Promised Land.  They were still encamped “…in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.” (Numbers 36:13).  And “…the LORD spoke to Joshua…saying…” (Joshua 1:1)…

      Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according
      to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from
      it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 
      This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall med-
      itate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is
      written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you
      will have good success.  Have not I commanded you?  Be strong and of good
      courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with
      you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7 through 9).

The first thing that strikes me is what is the reason for the needed courage?  It would be understandable if God told Joshua that he needed courage because he was about to lead Israel across the Jordan River and engage in battle strong nations! (See the spies’ report in Numbers 13:27-29; 32, 33).  It would also be reasonable to surmise that Joshua needed courage to assume the leadership of about two to three million (often rebellious) people!  It had been Moses in that position as the able leader for the last forty years!  But for what does God tell him to be strong and very courageous?  To observe to do according to all the law!  In other words, the LORD was telling Joshua he needed courage to obey Him!

Do we need courage to obey God? Yes!

•      First, we need courage to observe His Word!  The word observe in the Hebrew means “to guard; generally to protect, attend to…” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary).  Why do we need courage to observe His Word?  Because of the extent…

      ✞      …of the Word!  Before Moses died, he completed writing the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible.  According to Rabbi Simlai, who lived in the third century AD, there are 613 laws in these five books.  That is a lot of do’s and don’t’s with which to be familiar!

Since the close of the first century, the New Testament canon is complete.  We have a lot more of God’s Word than did the Israelites of Joshua’ day!  And it is our job to master the Bible as much as we can, and that’s a daunting task – a life-long task!  Most Christians, it seems, are frightened by this challenge, and we need courage to tackle it!

      ✞      …of the time commitment involved!  Again, I quote the first part of verse eight of our featured Scripture:  “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night…”  Day and night!  What time is left? (See the blog from September 23, 2013How Do I ‘Think On These Things’?). It reminds me of what God told Moses in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7:

           …these words, which I command you today shall be in your heart;
           you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of
           them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when
           you lie down, and when you rise up. (See also Deuteronomy 11:18-
           21; Psalm 1:2; Colossians 3:16).

•       Second, we need courage to believe His Word!   Joshua had been Moses’ assistant for decades.  During that time he had observed on many occasions the unbelief manifested by the Israelites!  Perhaps the most egregious example is one in which he was an active minority participant on the believing side.  In Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, Joshua and Caleb were the only two Israelites (out of possibly up to three million) who believed God’s promise to give the new nation the Promised Land of Canaan!  Yes, the Canaanites were strong, but Jehovah God was stronger!  And it also took great courage to believe such a promise, and to stand against the vast majority who would not believe and so rebelled against the LORD! (See Numbers 13:30; 14:6-10; 32:12).

The world does not believe God!  And many of those who name the name of Christ do not wholly believe Him!  We are called to stand fast in the promises of out Lord – especially when in the face of opposition! (See I Corinthians 16:13; Philippians 4:1; I Thessalonians 3:8; II Thessalonians 2:15)

•      Third, we need courage because of the extent of the battle revealed in His Word!  But didn’t I just say above that it was not the challenge of driving out the Canaanite heathen for which Joshua needed courage?  Yes.  But the battle of which I am referring is the spiritual battle to which the LORD calls every one of His children!  This personal battle is certainly implied in the Pentateuch (see Deuteronomy 1:26, 32, 43; 9:23).

But the battle against Satan and his demons is much more clearly spelled out in the New Testament! (See II Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:10-18).  It takes courage to face this spiritual war!  Also, that battle is more than just against the devil and his forces.  It is also against the two naturesthe old sinful nature, and the new godly naturethat every Christian possesses!  We must learn to gain the victory is this aspect also! (See Romans 7:14-8:1; Galatians 5:16, 17).

So, if we (as well as Joshua) have courage to fight and win the battles described above, we will also experience the victory the LORD promised His soldier at the end of Joshua 1:8:  “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

How To Give Thanks

November 23, 2016

Image result for photo ThanksgivingPsalm 116:8, 12-16, 19

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

I am taking a one-blog break in the series From Egypt To Canaan because tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  The holiday has origins going back to 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated a three-day feast celebrating the bountiful harvest God had given them.  One hundred and sixty-two years later, on October 3rd, 1783, President George Washington issued a proclamation:

      …I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be
      devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious
      Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that
      will be.  That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and
      humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country….

And so tomorrow (and each year on the fourth Thursday of November) we celebrate the National holiday of Thanksgiving.  But how do we celebrate?  Is it by family and friends gathering, overeating, and watching football on TV?  Do we even take the time and effort to give God thanks for all His blessings?  I suggest verses 8, 12 through 16, and 19 of Psalm 116 as an outline of how we as Christians should honor God tomorrow and in the Thanksgivings to come:

      …You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my
      feet from falling….What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits
      toward me?  I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name
      of the LORD.  I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of
      all His people.  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His
      saints.  O LORD, truly I am Your servant…You have loosed my bonds. 
      I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving….Praise the LORD!

•      First of all, call to mind the great blessings which God has bestowed upon us!  A three-part outline is found in verse 8:

      ✞     …You have delivered my soul from death….”  While physical death is still an experience for most of us in this fallen world, we are saved from eternal spiritual death in hell by the sacrifice on the cross of Jesus Christ on our behalf! (See John 3:16-18; 5:24; Colossians 1:13).

      ✞     …You have delivered…my eyes from tears….”  Tears are a part of this earthly life (see John 16:20, 21).  But they need never to be tears of utter despair! (See I Thessalonians 4:13).  As it says in Psalm 30:5, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

      ✞     …You have delivered…my feet from falling….”  Habakkuk faced the devastation of the Babylonian captivity.  Much of what was relied upon for daily life would be destroyed! (See Habakkuk 3:17).  But in spite of all the upheaval and destruction, the prophet was able to proclaim:

           Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 
           The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
           and He will make me walk on my high hills.

Deer are nimble and sure-footed!  The true believer will not stumble and
fall even when traversing challenging times in their lives!

•      So what shall we do to properly thank God? (See Psalm 116:12).  And take note – it is deeds that are emphasized, and not just words of thanksgiving!

      ✞      Psalm 116:13 – “I will take up the cup of salvation…”  But this is directed to those who already believe!  However, salvation is a life-long process that is worked out in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ! (See Hebrews 12:1, 2).

      ✞      Psalm 116:13 – “I will…call upon the name of the LORD.”  The name of the LORD represents the total person of God!  To call upon Him honors Him! (See Psalm 116:2; Jeremiah 33:3; I Corinthians 1:2; I Peter 1:17).

      ✞      Psalm 116:14 – “I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people.”  God is thanked and glorified when we keep our promises and commitments to Him! (See Psalm 50:14; Ecclesiastes 5:5 – modified in the New Testament by Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12).

      ✞      Psalm 116:15 – “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.”  If the death of His saints is precious to God, how much more is their life?  Jesus has promised us life both eternal and abundant! (See John 10:10).

      ✞      Psalm 116:16 – “O LORD, truly I am Your servant….”  The term means ‘bondslave’.  And in such ‘bondage’ we find our greatest freedom! (See John 8:31-36; Romans 6:16-23).

      ✞      Psalm 116:16 – “…You have loosed my bonds….”  We often find ourselves in bondage to sin – sometimes to destructive habits and addictions. (see John 8:34).  But…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

      ✞      Psalm 116:19 – “Praise the LORD!”  Finally, one of the best ways to thank God is to praise Him!  As it says in Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Tomorrow (and every day) put into practice what is written above, and you will have a great Thanksgiving!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXIV

November 21, 2016

Image result for photo heart of stoneDeuteronomy 7:1, 2, 4-6

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

In Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch, Moses gives three discourses to the Israelites just before he dies and Joshua takes the new nation into the Promised land.  He reviews all their history since God brought them “…out of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand.” (Exodus 32:11).  It is good to recount the stories of the LORD’s dealings with His people – in our personal lives!  But in the midst of recalling Israel’s recent history, Moses reminds the people of what they should do once they enter Canaan!  Here is a shortened version of Deuteronomy 7:1 & 2, and 4 through 6:

      When the LORD your God brings you into the land [of Canaan] which
      you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you…you shall
      conquer them and utterly destroy them…show no mercy to them…for they
      shall turn you…away from following Me, to serve other gods….But thus
      you shall deal with them; you shall destroy their altars, and break down
      their wooden images, and burn their carved images….For you are a holy
      people to the LORD your God….

The criticism has often been raised that Jehovah of the Old Testament is a cruel and vindictive God!  He told His people to totally wipe out the Canaanites because of their sins, sparing no one! (See Deuteronomy 7:23, 24; 20:16, 17).  But if we closely examine our featured Scripture, the reason the command of the LORD was so harsh is because – if the Canaanites were allowed to live – they would so corrupt the Israelites, God’s people would soon be as sinful as the heathen!  And this is exactly what happened to Israel as time went on! (See for examples Deuteronomy 32:5; Judges 2:19; II Chronicles 33:1-9).  If Israel had truly obeyed God, wiping out the heathen tribes of Canaan, they would not have been so corrupted!

But did God even give the Canaanites any chance to repent?  In Genesis 15:13 and 16, the LORD, in making a covenant with Abram (Abraham), gave the patriarch this prophecy of his progeny:

      Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is
      not theirs, and will serve them four hundred years [referring to Israel’s
      slavery in Egypt]….But in the fourth generation they shall return here
      [to the land of Canaan], for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

In other words, God was giving the Canaanites – here called the Amorites – another four hundred years to repent from their idolatry and related sins, and turn to Him!  But they didn’t, and so judgment came upon these heathen tribes!

Notice in the last part of our featured Scripture, God is telling the Israelites that “…you are a holy people to the LORD your God….”  This means separated unto Him, and Him alone!  This is exactly what God calls us to be when we accept Jesus as our Savior!  In John 17 (Jesus’ High Priestly prayer before He went to the cross) He reveals several things concerning His followers:

•      John 17:6 – “…You have given Me [them] out of the world.

•      John 17:14-16 – “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

•      John 17:18, 19 – “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified [set apart unto God] by the truth [God’s Word – see John 17:17].

•      John 17:25 – “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.

The world’s society is under the control of Satan! (See Luke 4:5, 6; II Corinthians 4:4 – King James Version).  That means the world is opposed to the things of God! (See James 4:4; I John 2:15-17).  The world – sinful people in the world – will corrupt God’s sons and daughters, if they are allowed to overly influence them! (See II Corinthians 6:14-18).

Back to the “cruel and vindictive God of the Old Testament” – is God any less concerned today about the purity of His people than He was back then?  What has changed is the emphasis of the accomplished sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins, and our proclamation of that fact to the lost world! (See Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8).

One final thought:  Is wiping out entirely the sinful influence surrounding God’s Old Testament people any less radical than what Jesus told His followers in Mark 9:43 through 48?

      …if your hand makes you sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life
      maimed, than having two hands to go to hell, into the fire that shall never
      be quenched….And if your foot makes you sin, cut it off.  It is better for you
      to enter life lame, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that
      shall never be quenched….And if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out.  It is
      better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having
      two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where their worm does not die and the
      fire is not quenched.

It is not that we are to cut off hands or feet, or pluck out eyes!  But just as radically, we are to get sin – and the cause of sin – out of our lives!  The cause of sin is our stony heart (see Jeremiah 17:9; Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 15:18-20).  And only accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior can change that! (See II Corinthians 5:17).

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXIII

November 18, 2016

Image result for photo good better bestNumbers 32:1, 2, 4, 5

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

If I was to give this blog a subtitle, it would be, Missing the Best by accepting the Good!  For two tribes of Israel, Reuben and Gad, viewed the land east of the Jordan River that Israel had just conquered – the territory of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan – and they said, “Hey, this is great for us! Let’s stay here!”  To expand upon what happened, let’s consider Numbers 32:1, 2, 4, and 5:

      Now the children of Reuben and…Gad had a very great multitude of live-
      stock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and…Gilead, that indeed the
      region was a place for livestock…[they] came and spoke to Moses…to
      Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying… “The
      country which the LORD defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a
      land for livestock….If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be
      given to your servants as a possession, and do not take us over the Jordan.”

You see, the people of these two tribes – Reuben and Gad – were promised with the rest of the children of Israel the land of Canaan, called by God Himself, “…a good and large land…a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8).  And the LORD further described the Promised Land in the following ways:

•      Deuteronomy 6:10 and 11– “…when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers…to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant…you shall eat and be full….

•      Deuteronomy 8:7 through 10 – “…the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs…a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates…of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper.  When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.

•      Deuteronomy 11:11 and 12 – “…the land…is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning…to the very end of the year.

God had chosen the best for His people!  But the people of the tribes of Reuben and Gad (plus half of the tribe of Manasseh) saw the land east of the Jordan – and it was good for grazing and pasture for their large flocks – and they chose the good, even before they had seen the best!  So they missed the best because they had decided to settle for the good!  Why was this important?  Generations later, the natural boundary of the Jordan River cut them off from fully participating in the dedicated life God intended for all Jews to live!  They sinned by not fully dedicating themselves to Jehovah God!  In judgment against their sins, that trans-Jordan area was the first to feel foreign attacks, first by Syria, then by Assyria (see II Kings 10:32, 33; 17:5, 6).  By the time Jesus walked in Palestine, that area was occupied mostly by Gentiles (non-Jews).

How many times in our lives do we settle for the good but miss the best?  And sometimes ‘the good’ does not turn out to be very good!  I have been a Baptist minister for 44 years.  But I have too often kicked and struggled against that calling!  I left the ministry four times because I found something else ‘good’ to do – something ‘better’ than the ministry!  Three of those four times were working in sales – more money and being my own boss.  Once was working as a drug counselor.  They were good professions to pursue – and after the hard work of getting things started,  I did well in sales! – not so well as a drug counselor.  But I found out that for me the ministry was the best – and God kept steering me back into it!  When I have followed my Lord’s leading, I have found that I have the best, and I have never gone wrong pursuing God’s leading!  He has gifted me to be a pastor/teacher, and I am most fulfilled by following that course.

I have a friend who has now retired from a productive career in the Pennsylvania correctional system.  He made a good living and now has a comfortable retirement.  But he has confided to me that he should have followed God’s leading into the ministry!  He feels that would have been the best choice – better than the good choices he made!

I have often counseled couples who were struggling with their relationship – marriage or pre-marriage.  Too often I have heard the story of what looked like a good match, but did not turn out so well in the end.  And I have heard it said by the Christians in such struggles,I should have waited for God’s choice for me!

I know a man in his 30’s who bought his first house a few years back.  It was a good house by his estimation, but he rather bucked God’s leading not to pursue this particular house.  The situation has turned out to be a headache for him and his family in a lot of ways!

God desires the best for His children!  And He gives us good directions to procure His best in every instance!  The directions are found in Psalm 37:3 through 7:

      Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His
      faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you
      the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in
      Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  He shall bring forth your righteous-
      ness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Rest in the LORD,
      and wait patiently for Him….

If you practice these directions, you will never find yourself in the predicaments that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh experienced.  You will never be settling for something good, and missing the best!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXII

November 16, 2016

Image result for photo redeemed by GodNumbers 25:9; 26:1

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

While this is not a continuation of the story of Balaam, and how, though he would not curse Israel, he advised the Midianites how to corrupt the children of Israel, bringing upon them the wrath of God!  The Scripture I want to feature is Numbers 25:9 and Numbers 26:1:

      And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand….And it
      came to pass, after the plague, that the LORD spoke to Moses and
      Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying….

I purposefully left the Scripture ‘hanging’ because from Numbers, chapters 26 through 30 God gave His people specific instructions for both immediate action, and for when they would enter the Promised Land of Canaan!

•      First, they were to take a census of all the adults in Israel (see Numbers 26:1-4).  This was after the new nation had just lost twenty-four thousand people as a result of their rebellion and idolatry in intermingling with the Midianite women, and succumbing to their leading them to worship their Baal idols!  This was the second census since coming out of Egypt (for the first census see Numbers, chapter 1), and it reflected not just the loss of the recent fatalities, but major losses as a result of their many other transgressions over the last 40 years of their wilderness wanderings! (See Exodus 32:19-29; Numbers 11:1-3; 33-35; 14:20-29; 36-45; 16:1-33; 41-50; 21:4-9).  In taking this second census, God showed the people how many fighting men were among them to enter Canaan!

•      Second, in Numbers 26:52-65, the LORD showed the Israelites how to divide the land among the twelve tribes!  This meant that, indeed, God was going to lead them into the Promised Land!

•      Third, Joshua was God’s pick to replace Moses, and to bring His people into their new homeland! (See Numbers 27:12-23).  Yes, they would occupy their new land under Joshua’s leadership!

•      Fourth, in Numbers, chapters 27 through 30, there are several divine laws given to regulate life in the new land!

Now what does this all mean to us?  I have spoken to several people over the years of my ministry – people who believe their transgressions are so serious, they would never be able to be forgiven by God, they would never be able to be led by Him in a productive Christian life!  They feel they have sinned so greatly, they are beyond hope!  Have you ever felt that way?

I am very encouraged by these Scriptures that tell us:  though Israel greatly sinned against their LORD, He never gave up on them!  And, according to Romans 11:25 (and many other Scriptures) God is going to deal with His chosen nation and greatly use Israel in the future!

I am also encouraged by the Apostle Paul. Here is his testimony from…

•      Acts 22:4 and 5 – “I persecuted this Way [early Christians were called ‘followers of the Way’ ] to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

•      I Timothy 1:12 and 13 – “…I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

•      I Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Yes, I have wondered how in the world could God ever use me?  I committed so many sins, even after I became a Christian!  But like Paul, I say, “He counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry….”  How is that possible?  I stand counted as faithful because I am forgiven of all my sins and I wear the robe of righteousness – Christ’s very own perfect righteousness – that He provided for me by His sacrifice on the cross!  One of the greatest proclamations in Scripture is found in II Corinthians 5:21:  “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (See also Psalm 31:1, 2; Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:1-5).

No matter what your sinful past is, you are not irredeemable!  You are not thrown away by God!  Believe it! Accept it!  And live for His glory!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXXI

November 14, 2016

Image result for photo false prophetNumbers 31:7-9, 12, 14-16

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

In the last blog, I asked the question, “Did Balaam really go home? ”  It says in Numbers 24:24 that after the prophet had refused to curse the Israelites as Balak, king of the Midianites had requested, “Then Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place….”  But seven chapters later, in Numbers 31, we find Balaam is still among the Midianites!  Here is a portion of Numbers 31:7 through 9, 12, and 14 through 16:

      And [the Israelites]…warred against the Midianites….They killed the kings
      of Midian…and…Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword
      ….Then they brought the captives, the booty, and the spoil to Moses….But
      Moses was angry…and…said to them, “Have you kept all the women alive?
      Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of
      Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there
      was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.

What happened?  Balaam did not curse the Israelites because God forbade him to do it! (See Numbers 22:12).  So it seems, at first glance, the prophet was obedient to the LORD.  But we can surmise a further scenerio!  Apparently, Balaam was still very attracted to the wealth offered him by King Balak.  He could not curse Israel outright, but he could offer counsel to subvert them morally, causing God’s judgment to fall upon His people!

In Revelation 2:14, there is a commentary of Balaam’s subversion.  Jesus is dictating a letter through the Apostle John to the church at Pergamos.  He tells this congregation, located in Asia Minor:

      But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who
      hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block
      before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to com-
      mit sexual immorality.

The record of what the Israelites did is found in Numbers 25:1 through 3:

      Then Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to com-
      mit harlotry with the women of Moab.  They invited the people to the
      sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their
      gods.  So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD
      was aroused against Israel.

No,Balaam might have told Balak,I can’t curse Israel outright!  But I can tell you a way to get their God so angry with them that He will plague them with His judgment! ”  And plague them the LORD did!  It says in Numbers 25:9 that in His anger, “…those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.”  From the Midianites’ point of view, I would say the counsel of Balaam was very effective!

What can we learn from this?

•      We have to be increasingly careful of false prophets!  Jesus said in Matthew 24:24 that in the last days, “…false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  For instance, there are cults out there that use orthodox terms that sound good.  The Jehovah’s Witenesses and the Mormons will readily tell you that “…Jesus Christ is the son of God, the savior.”  Yet they deny that He is God Himself!  And the Lord admonishes us quite plainly in John 8:24 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible):  “…if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”  I AM !  This is the eternal name of Jehovah God by which He introduced Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14!  Jesus is telling us, “…if you do not believe that I AM [the very God of the Old Testament] you will die in your sins.”  Correct theology is very important!

•      A man or woman who says they are of God can look quite good!  But are they?  I give a simple test sometimes to Christians in my Bible studies.  I ask them to read Revelation 6:1 and 2, and tell me to whom this description is referring.

      Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals:  and I heard one of the
      four living creatures saying with a voice of thunder, “Come and see.”  And
      I looked, and behold, a white horse.  And he who sat upon it had a bow:
      and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Invariably, some in the Bible study will identify this horseman as Jesus Christ Himself!  But if you compare this description with Revelation 19:11 through 16, it is plain that the personage in Revelation 6 is a false Christ!  In fact, he is the antichrist, shown in his peaceful mode!

Know the truth, and you can then readily spot falsehood! (See John 8:32; 14:6; 17:17).

•      There will always be Balaams!  There will always be those who – though they cannot subvert the true faith openly – will attack, sometimes very effectively, through the back door!  Again, the best defense is what Paul exhorts us in Colossians 3:16:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….”  Get in – and stay in – your Bible!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXX

November 11, 2016

Image result for photo false prophetNumbers 22:1, 4-6

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

Israel was nearing the end of their wilderness wanderings.  They camped across the Jordan River from Jericho, just north of the Dead Sea.  Jericho would be the first city they would conquer in the Promised Land of Canaan (see Joshua 6:1-27).  Their present camp was located in the northern part of Moabite territory, which territory stretched more than the entire length of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.  Here is what is recorded in Numbers 22:1 and 4 through 6:

      …the children of Israel…camped in the plains of Moab….And Balak the
      son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.  Then he sent mes-
      sengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor…near the [Euphrates] River
      …saying:  “ Look, a people has come from Egypt.  See, they cover the face
      of the earth, and are settling next to me!  Therefore, please come at once,
      curse this people for me.  Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive
      them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he
      whom you curse is cursed.”

Balak, king of the Moabites, had heard of Israel’s recent victories over two powerful kings and their armies, Sihon, king of the Amorites (see Numbers 21:21-24) and Og, king of Bashan (see Numbers 21:33-35).  These two kings, to the north of Moab, had tried to oppose the Israelites traveling through Amorite and Bashanite territories, on their way to invade Canaan.  In that opposition they did not succeed!  They were utterly wiped out!

So Balak was scared!

But Balak also knew of a prophet who had a powerful reputation – Balaam, the son of Beor He lived more than 350 miles to the north, near the city of Carchemish, by the Euphrates River.  While that was a long, expensive, and weary trip in those days, Balaam’s notoriety made such an undertaking worthwhile in the king of Moab’s eyes!  For he had heard concerning Balaam…he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” (Numbers 22:6).  The king wanted Israel cursed so he could defeat them and drive them out of the Moabite territory!

Several things happened over the next few months (remember, in those ancient times, things moved at a much slower pace!)

•      Balaam is introduced to us as a prophet of the one true God – Israel’s Jehovah God!

      ▸      He seems to be led by God’s will and way! (See Numbers 22:9-13; 18-21).

      ▸      He faithfully proclaimed God’s Word! (See Numbers 22:38; 23:5-10; 16-24; 24:2-9; 13).

      ▸      It is said of him,…the Spirit of God came upon him.” (Numbers 24:2).

      ▸      He gave a clear prophecy of the coming Messiah in Numbers 24:17 through 19 – a prophecy so specific it is thought to have helped guide the wise men to the young Jesus! (See Matthew 2:1-10):

      I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall
      come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise out of Israel….Out of
      Jacob One shall have dominion….

•      But we soon learn that Balaam was an opportunist!

      ▸      God had forbidden him to go to Moab the first time (see Numbers 22:9-12). But when the Moabite emissaries come back with more wealth to entice the prophet, he wavered! (See Numbers 22:16-19).

      ▸      It says in Numbers 22:31 and 32, “…the Angel of the LORD said to…Balaam…I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.”  This is not a testimony describing a godly man!

      ▸      When it should have become clear to anyone truly devoted to God that the LORD would not curse Israel, Balaam persisted! (See Numbers 23:5-10; 16-24; 24:2-9).

•      But Balaam seemed to hold his ground, staying true to Jehovah God in the long run.  He never cursed the Israelites, and he did not claim his rich wages because of his apparent obedience to God!

•      It is written in Numbers 24:25, “Then Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place….”  It seems this is the last we hear of this prophet!  But did he go home?

We will do one more blog concerning Balaam, and I think we can learn some interesting things about him – things we will do well to keep in mind as we live in these last days!

From Egypt To Canaan – XXIX

November 9, 2016

Image result for photo rejecting manna

Numbers 21:4-8

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

They has been graciously given manna from heaven for forty years!  Yet the Israelites complained – with disastrous results!  The record is in Numbers 21:4 through 9.  I have condensed it to part of verses 4 through 8:

      [As] they journeyed from mount Hor….the people spoke against God
      and …Moses:  “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the
      wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and our soul loaths this
      worthless bread.”  So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people,
      and they bit the people; and many…of Israel died….Therefore the people
      came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against
      the LORD, and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the
      serpents from us.”  And Moses prayed for the people.  Then the LORD
      said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent [of bronze], and put it on a pole;
      and…everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”

Free bread has always been a great draw!

      The Emperor Augustus…began the system of state bribery that the [Roman]
      writer Juvenal described as ‘bread and circuses’.  Free grain and controlled
      food prices meant that plebeians could not starve, while free entertainment –
      such as chariot races and gladiators in amphitheaters and the Circus Maxi-
      mus – meant that they would not get bored and restless.  Bribery it may have
      been, but it often worked.

Today, in America, freebread and circuses’ – social services for the poor – have provided too much of an incentive to be filled and distracted, and not work!

But back to our ancient Scripture:  Why did not the Israelites joyfully receive the manna?  It was free, after all!  But they were tired of wandering in the wilderness!  They were tired of the hope of the Promised Land being delayed!  And they were tired of manna as their main food!  So they complained, not just against Moses, but in this case, against God also!  And then the snakes came!  Now these snakes are described as fiery serpents – the bites of which must have caused a horrible burning sensation as their poison spread through the bitten, often leading to an agonizing death!  So they repented, confessing their sin of rebellion to Moses (and to God), and pleading with their leader to intercede with the LORD to take away the fiery serpents!

Isn’t that often the case!  We turn to God and desperate prayer when we find ourselves in grave trouble.  That’s not the time to develop a holy prayer life!  Such a life is a discipline to be regularly practiced in the good times also, so when trouble comes, we are ready to seek the face of the Father to help us.

But God, in His mercy, provided a way out!  He did not take away the snakes, but He made it possible for those bitten by the fiery serpents to overcome the poisonous effects and live!  Moses was to cast a bronze replica of one of the snakes, put it upon a pole so it could be lifted up and be seen from all over the Israelite camp.  Those who believed God’s solution to the fiery serpent problem, and simply looked at the bronze replica, would survive!

In John 3:14, the gospel writer equates that wilderness experience with a shadow prophesy of Jesus Christ on the cross:  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

•      It must be by faith!  The children of Israel had to believe that the antidote to their lethal problem was simply looking upon the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole.  Some might have thought it too simple or even silly, but it worked!  Those who believed and looked lived! (See Numbers 21:9).

It is the same with Jesus Christ!  We look with faith believing that He died for me – for my sin.  We look to the One who was raised up on a pole, on the cross.  And when we look in faith, accepting Him as our (my) Savior, we – who were heading for eternal death – find that we now have eternal life!

•      We are allbittenby the serpent!  In Revelation 12:9, our ‘poisonous snake’ is called, “…the great dragon…that serpent of old…the Devil and Satan….”  We are ‘bitten’ through the sin of our first parents, for it says in Romans 5:12, “…through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin…thus death spread to all men, because all sinned….”  Paul further states in Romans 3:10 and 23:  “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And in Romans 6:23 he writes, “…the wages of sin is death…,eternal death, separated from God, forever in hell!  That’s the result of the bite of Satan!

I wonder if there were some Israelites who thought, “It’s too easy!  I am supposed to just look upon that metal snake and I will live?  Rediculous!  I won’t look!”  And so they died.  God has made the way, the only Way Jesus plainly said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).  But He gives us free will.  He gives us the choice!  And some choose to ignore the only Way!

Do not be one of those who arebittenand die!  Look to the Savior who is raised up high on the cross!  Look in faith believing – and live!