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Where Travelling North was going West!
Compliance and the Kingdom,
or Complaints and Non-Blessedness!
We have considered events in the East; let us now move westward, and watch how some Northern nations are going West. At the same time, let us learn, that so difficult item for modern man, things moral, spiritual, historical and wise from the word of God applied to the ways of our times. As always, the spiritual principles of the Bible, no less than its particular predictions, prove fatally applicable. If it were not for a nose-dive on the part of many nations, we might not have to look at the phenomenon of multiple crashes; but since this dive is proceeding, the topic forces itself upon us. At the same time, the remedy looks us in the face.
We shall find in ancient Israel a most stimulating exhibit of divine working, much as a younger brother might learn from the life style, sequence and manners of his older brethren!
Israel had suffered much. The nation had been for several centuries in Egypt, at first as a special and delightful guest, because of the God-given wisdom assigned to Joseph, and the enormous effect that this had on the well-being and wealth, not to say discipline and address of the nation.
In Numbers we feel for their position acutely, since they had been immersed in slavery in which there was as so often, a political motif. It was too likely that so large and skilful a body as Israel, still housed in Egypt, would become a political peril, and slavery kept them busy. This appeared part of the equation; and the rest ? possibly it was Egyptian pride, in their new form of culture, possibly it was envy, or even economic thrift, for as the USSR knew so well, how much can you make out of human beings who are expendable, while your projects are expansible! Hitler had the same idea in concentration camps.
We remember, as in The Exodus, the enormous power God displayed in direct eye to eye confrontation with the Pharaoh, who was not accustomed to any other power being prominent, let alone dominant, in his land, and had to learn the hard way, as Western Society is now doing, that if God can make a people great, as He did Israel, He can also make it small, as occurred in the time-honoured culture of ever so important Egypt. Its 'gods', mere intimations of natural power with little thought to the underlying power to produce them, and a few wriggles of hope, were pitiful.
Pitiful gods make in the end, pitiful people; and that is only one reason why the British Empire fell. In the Elizabethan days, as seen so dramatically in so famous a novel as Westward Ho! of Kingsley, and in the life and labours of Drake and many others of Devon, who won their battle with address, and divine aid like that at Dunkirk centuries later, in the vigour of the poetic and dramatic work and the sheer courage and intensity, yes and immensity of exploration, there was a Protestant base, a biblical emblem, a sense of purpose, industry and vision, of things greater than comfort or complacency, of a visionary end and an assured aim which, though of course not present in all, became so intrusive in the national realm, that it became a beacon to many others.
By the end of the nineteenth century, however, pomp and grandeur had become greater, but not faith. How well Archbishop Ryle, in his classic, A New Birth, especially in the chapter, Do you Pray ? stigmatises the sleeping spirituality which was becoming so prominent as the calibre of vision and the source of strength were successively dismissed, and a new liberalism swept on its ugly course, until by the end of World War II, there was such a pre-occupation with comfort and provisions, that the sense of national destiny seemed almost lost.
There is much more decline, and indeed, the fact that Charles Darwin was British is no accident, and the glory of power did not fail to receive due regard from both British and German powers, though the delusive character of it has despoiled both nations. On this further, see Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 4, Ch. 3, Ch. 6, Christ, the Cumulative and the Culmination Ch. 8, Sparkling Life ... Ch. 8, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, SMR pp. 315Aff., Defining Drama .Ch. 10 .
'Chance', that nonentity of creative thought concerning creation, becomes king, when in fact it is merely the name for the purposive absence in a given system, for the lack of such intrusion or direction or control, as if a child were not to act when his train-set were working, for long periods. This is not 'chance' but abstinence; and when he does act, then the system is conditioned anew, just as it was given its conditions when first constructed. (Cf. Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs. 9, 13 and the above.)
So do kingdoms fall, and so has the USA, in its own form of decline both in biblical church membership, and the direction of large congregations, little more in many cases, than a husk without the biblical wheat, fallen into meaningless symptoms, the residue of a burnt-out faith, or the product of a freakish one, which neglects to find its true and adequate object, and so becomes a mere psychological datum. The West has in large measure been stricken not only in Europe, Britain, but in the USA (cf. News 132, 121, 122, It Bubbles Ch. 11, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 2). In the US itself, such incredible seeming rush in California, recently, to have some form of certificate to validate socially what is utterly condemned biblically: indeed, not only perversion of sex in one act, but in a life UNIT! The Episcopal Church insisted on its actively homosexual bishop despite I Timothy 1:10, and I Corinthians 5 and 6.
The Bible is shelved morally. It has long been virtually re-written by many pastors and professors who, had they written it in the first place, would long since had been shown frauds. No other book stands for millenia, irreprovable, while asserting such predictions as to make it possessed of the ultimate in vulnerability. But the common perception of this is past, a President fools in office work, and is not dismissed, nor even rebuked, corruption abounds, folly gives orders.
People in Iraq appear in some instances to have been treated with just that degree of impersonal indifference, or worse, that has long begun to characterise the politics of power broking, at the top level in the nation (cf. Let God be God Ch. 4, News 132). Prisoners were able to be treated as if inhuman, and this is so far from the sensitivity of the spiritual culture once dominant, that it needs no further characterisation.
Thus we can learn from what happened to ancient Israel, as we inspect the rise and fall of empires, the weakening of what was once strong and all but statuesque, and the shuffling to the mediocre, and in this Age, we appreciate thus the more sensitively, the claustrophobic codes of the fallen, now concocted.
With such intellectual, moral and spiritual malfeasance, man is becoming weak, willowy, unprincipled, troubled with many things, lacking in purpose, understanding and vision, and shows it. (Cf. Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 2, Acme ... Ch. 3.) As it was to be, so it is: fear and anxiety, murderous minds in multitudes, death as a way of life, disordering in the cosmos so despised, provocations and evil, love growing cold and the pneumonias of finality aggregating in the developing miasmas of dankness of spirit and ferocities of wildness, like a social dispersion into cloven corners (cf. Luke 21, Revelation 6ff., Matthew 24, Isaiah 24, II Timothy 3, I Timothy 4, II Peter 2, Jude).
Let us revert to England. The decline numerically in the Church of England thus, was wrought not by the Spanish Armada, where power against a Protestant people was inadequate, and where a huge tempest combined with the superior agility of the English vessels, helped the entire destruction of a vast Romanist invasion, just as Dunkirk later helped England to regroup in time.
The spiritual declension is now majoring in the British joining in the European Union, so that the morals of the place in particular, can help subvert the nation (cf. Wake Up World! Your Creator is Coming Ch. 3, Journey to God ... Ch. 2). Now, though not a nonentity, Britain is growing less and less individual, objectively more subject to what is not British, to directives and conditions for life from abroad, and is entwined in the European Union which, having carefully avoided religion as such, speaks grandly of the 'common destiny' awaiting its members. This may be so; it is however a question of WHICH destiny that is important. As to that, when a nation forgets the Rock which begat it, to use the language of Deuteronomy 32, it shows. Houses on sand do not stand.
As for the Jews,
they continue precisely as designated in Deuteronomy 29-32 from the first, as in
Leviticus 26, as in Luke 21:24, flowering, fading, persecuted, mocked, disrupted
and dispersed, returning, warring with amazing victories, in the midst of
tension and peril, still rejecting their own Messiah as foretold, until the time
comes for their spiritual restoration (cf. Let God be God
Ch. 4, It Bubbles ...
Ch. 10, Victory ... Ch. 4). History has ever been eloquent in the illustrations afforded by the Jewish race, chosen by God, used, rebellious, ruined, restored once, site for the Messiah, dealing Him death as foretold, experienced deadly conditions for their own part, returned to their land as foretold, and so to this day. The lab-book is written in advance, since God knows the results; and history follows.
THE TIMES OF ANCIENT ISRAEL ARE
REPLETE WITH DIGESTIBLE LESSONS,
BETTER THAN BLOOD AS AN INSTRUMENT OF TEACHING
Accordingly, it is time now to consider the action in Numbers, which has far more to teach us than the simply numerical.
Remember before we forget to stress it, that Moses in the centre of the Lordís determination and grace for Israel, had led them out of the power of Egypt, like delivering the Jews out of Russia, had done so boldly, with miracles to order to the tune of ten, massive and overcoming all manís might, and had ALSO taken them THROUGH a sea, TO the promised land. He had been used by God to deliver to them in their masses, food and drink, as they came, within the year, to their destination of bliss and joy. Were they thrilled ? were they in danger of making an idol of Moses ? Not in the least. They were nearer to stoning him, and complaining of little things, as if the big ones had never occurred.
Does this apply to this, our own nation in no small measure ? Australia is viewed by many as almost a promised land. It has been founded by a nation at that time openly committed to the Bible as you see in the Coronation, a nation specific about a national Church, which as in the days of deliverance from Spain in 1588, so in the days of Hitler, when it again was rescued, was Protestant. It is well to ponder our own nation, as we watch this historic series of episodes on the part of Israel.
If they, for their part, were unthankful to God, what is the present mood in Australia ?
Are they thinking of removing the Constitutional preamble with reference to being under Almighty God ? Are they desirous of ever new breaches of biblical truth, distancing from Christian modes, secularisation, humanisation, with unfounded morals and unbounded unwisdom ? Do they immerse themselves more and more in godless and vain naturalism, as Israel did, making gods out of nature, which is mere product, bounded and determinate ?
Alas it is so; so let us not be complacent as we watch the failure of Israel, for here lies a lesson for any and every nation, including our own. It is easy to accept wonders from the Lord with godless complacency; not so easy to repair the results.
Let us therefore return to the situation preceding Numbers 11, in ancient Israel. Thankless and complaining, the people are by no means drawing near to God. Their huge and historic deliverance from Egypt, from slavery, from being thrust into a seemingly meaningless depersonalisation and denationalisation in that land of iron, this is receding. They are becoming moaners and meddlers. Discipline is not attractive, desire is coming to the fore. Let us watch then, but first consider further the extent of their ingratitude to the Lord.
Not only had God shown these amazing miracles on their behalf, but He gave grounds for the provision of this gracious pardon, in which a man could live, in His covenant. Thus, just before they were rescued from servitude as a nation in Egypt, by one of the most amazing acts of power in all history, this followed by another in their nurture in food and water, with guidance and grace on the way through the arid areas, but before they left, they were also told of the Passover Lamb, its blood the key to deliverance from divine wrath for sin.
The blood of the sacrificial lamb had to be placed on the door of each home for all of Israel's dwellings within Egypt. This would be a testimony before God; and thus would they be singled out, NOT to be subject to the last plague. The Egyptians, lacking such a sacrificial protection, would however experience this plague.
As it was to be, so it happened. God has made the provision very clear, the ground in grace of pardon, the means a sacrifice in which the blood by its life makes an atonement (Leviticus 17:11). Death in this way could be met, sin cancelled, just as life could be and was ministered by water and manna, the latter as Christ pointed out, the very symbol of spiritual life, one that would not cease.
What then was their position as we zero in, at this point in their movement to the Promised Land, out of Egypt, to blessedness ? It was one of abundant lovingkindness and goodness from the Lord. Meaning, method, miracle, all had been supplied; they had come near their goal in Canaan, but as if immune to all this, now, complaining and pining for mere luxury:
they were miserable, not
troublesome not disciplined,
and Moses was driven almost to distraction.
We come to Numbers 11.
I COMPLAINTS, FIRE AND MORE COMPLAINTS 11:1ff.
From this, you can see that the fire of God would come, and it did; and this helped their complaints to be yet more unrepentant than before, as if to refuse discipline as well as ignore its cause. Complaints ? apply that to our land with its large Christian heritage, its secular delusions and its gross intimidations of the young (cf. TMR Ch. 8), with misused education whether at school or in TV 'morals' and declension.
How to the young complain, and those much older with them ? It is often by taking drugs, as if the ONLY CAR (or carcass if it comes to that!) you have is to be battered into walls. There is no substitution, pending the resurrection, for the body you have, and to treat it with mind-altering, body afflicting drugs is more than a complaint: it is the chemical equivalent of running at a wall and hitting it first with your head.
Complaint ? Is it boredom, the desire for the unknown, for uplift, for exhilaration, for social confraternity among those not going to the fellowship of Christ and His church, is it ravishment of life, or ineluctable love of the exotic ? Whatever it is, it is desperate, the work of devils.
The results we shall plan DV to consider in our next chapter, but as a complaint, the taking of drugs is eloquent.
Another drug is speed in cars, beyond what is lawful or needful; and ravaged bodies are not few in this field. Assertion and desertion of all self-control are just that of which Israel was also guilty; and the devils of selfish excitement, self-display and self-fulfilment at any cost, even in the form of utter delusion, these remind one precisely of the complaints and the failure in compliance with the due care of mind, spirit and body, in Israel at this time of Moses, on the way to the Promised Land.
Moses, however, with so many people with such lack of self-control, became at last exasperated.
II MOSESí COMPLAINT 11:11ff.
Impassioned with frustration, we see in these verses how Moses unwisely leaves his normal patience and asks God to kill him there and then (11:15), if he has to bear by himself the hideous weakness of the wayward people: AM I THEIR FATHER! DID I BEGET ALL THESE ? he mourns and yes, moans.
People talk of depression, and if such a mode as Moses there displayed had not been met with divine action, this may have become a mood. Mental illness seems often to lie just one step from self-indulgence in black and doubtful moods; and the nature of our bodies is such that emotions may produce chemicals and chemicals then constitute a new problem for restoration.
Things out of control, like a car without ABS braking and with a reckless driver, can become the setting for a psychological smash. The prayer of the Christian, like the interview of Moses here seen, with the Lord, is the alternative option; and here, pouring one's heart out "at all times" as Psalm 62 puts it, there is a filial relationship with one's Creator which is better than the pervasive still of the lake, the glorious uplift of the mountains and the quiet beauty of the meadow.
Forsake it, and you get what we have got: millions in mental trouble, complaining, dissatisfied, relics of what they might have been. Christ came to give life more abundantly, and He knows how.
In this case with Moses, speaking so exceedingly dramatically, and indeed loosely, with the Lord, there is a divine answer. God is the God who acts for the one who waits for Him (Isaiah 63:5). It is not a mere 'doctrine', any more than are the laws of physics. You need to know them to work in that field, but having found out, you APPLY THEM, for results. Thus does doctrine teach and faith reach.
III MUCH HELP FOR MOSES, BUT
WISDOM LACKED IN HIS PASSION,
WHILE LOVE SHOWS IT IS NOT POSSESSIVE 11:16ff.
God sent Moses 70 elders to help, and could not this entire episode have been without the excess drama, and talk of being slain on the spot ? However great are the saints like Moses, their very imperfections stand out the more clearly when they come, and we can learn.
Here is a lesson of depth! The drama had set Moses on a perilous course. There was a loosening of vitality in the outburst. Yet God acted. The 70 elders prophesied, glorifying God. Meanwhile, another two, Medad and Eldad, these prophesied also, though not numbered among the chosen 70. Someone reported this anomaly to the leader; but Moses showed that this is delightful: wonderful indeed if ALL would and could do so! Seek to understand; and to teach others of the Lord. Don't worry about seniority or position; it is the glorification of God, the opening of mind and heart, the edification of others with understanding and praise, it is this which matters.
WOULD THAT ALL did so! exclaimed a pleased Moses.
IV THE IRONIC REBUKE FOR THE PEOPLE 11:31ff,
Meanwhile, we turn to more complaints: Oh the leeks, the radishes, the cucumber of Egypt! Out here in the desert with this tasteless food, this manna! This was the sort of diatribe Moses had to hear. Was there gratitude for HAVING nourishing food at all, while on their rapid journey to the Promised Land ? at having water in great quantities for man and beast ? For being led as they were continually by fire and cloud, night and day ?
Rather they wanted the luxuries of the past, which of course, had been part of the life of slaves, driven harshly and without liberty. A pettish peckishness overcame understanding, and they feared not at all to give ardent voice to their complaints about food.
At last, the people got the quail and meat of their desire, in their travels of thought back to Egypt, which had nevertheless unmanned them into slaves, robots, things used by a foreign culture! This longing turned to death for many: so the lust of the flesh both gained its satisfaction, and received its payment.
The quail which came in such huge numbers put meat between the teeth, but deadly disease with it, enough to seize many.
How often the objects of impassioned desire, whether or not innocent in themselves, having inflamed the thought, end in ashes of nothingness, a mere flash of foolish whim or caprice, for the loose mind which is moving away from the Rock of reality which is given to man, not as a phrase merely, but as a foundation for life.
More exhibits of disorder arose without waiting too long. It is important now to realise the sequential character of the episodes. When one was finished, it seemed the next in line, in the queue of querulousness was ready to explode into action. What next ?
V STRIFE AND DIVISION WEAKEN THE LEADERSHIP 12:1ff.
Let us see it happening before us.
Moses having married an Ethiopian woman (not so surprising in view of his 40 years abroad!), this becomes an issue where vain ambition moves in Aaron and Miriam, so that the man whose help Moses HAD TO HAVE (when for lack of trust, he sought him hard, as in Exodus 4:10), now became a bane, as he had done earlier (Exodus 32), in a folly which very probably amplified the dissatisfaction of the people, by giving a weak leadership while Moses was on the Mount.
As to that, you recall the affair of the golden calf, an idol to thanklessness: Out it came from the fire! declared Aaron to Moses, at this exhibition of a leadership that was an incendiary bomb among the people, while Moses was with the Lord, receiving his instructions and necessary wisdom. He had made a golden calf, an emblem of Egyptian religion, he had become their leader during Moses' 40 day absence, and the people had declared that this foolish golden symbol, this animal, had led them out of Egypt ? Was it possible that such spiritual insanity should so quickly grip them ?
Did they thank the Lord and continue steadfastly to stay near to the One whose miracles had been multiple, whose deliverance explicit, articulate and irresistible, over man, army, sea, desert and trouble of every kind, as they travelled to their new land, to be citizens not slaves! This was the strange way of confessing it, that Aaron had enabled, and the people had chosen.
In these ways, Moses had suffered for INSISTING on having someone of natural eloquence for his aid, rather than doing as the Lord initially told him, as in Exodus 4. Faith is the simplest and the most refined; and to act without it does not please the Lord. If YOU are called to do some work for God, in a team, it is well; and if alone, it is well; but how unwise to insist on help other than the Lord, when he clearly seeks your own work.
In the present case, both Aaron and Miriam proceeded to attack Moses' due authority: are YOU the only one to whom the Lord has spoken ? they queried. Asserting themselves, they proceeded further to weaken the atmosphere of order and direction with in the camp, by so doing.
In reply, God called them to come near, and Miriam received leprosy, emblem of uncleanness. Aaron was appalled, but the Lord set seven days for her, required to leave the camp because of this disease. Would not she be so treated for a much less offence! Thus, if Miriam were punished rather lightly, yet it is a decisive correction. Worse, however, the leadership is compromised by this dissension. Thus it is small surprise if the people take rebellion against the authority of God still further, before long. So do coming events leave their trails before them, like boats in reverse.
So does self-indulgence encompass a people like an army, and weakness like a plague. It is not only athletes and soldiers who need therefore to watch and pray, and to seek strength - for the Christian soldier, spiritual strength - for the day. It is all who name the name of Christ, who should seek to walk in the Spirit; and this, is it so hard ? Is it some wanton desire to be ludicrous in rejecting the authority of the Lord and trying to do hand-spans on the freeway which seems so desirable ?
Where love is, the law of God is desirable because it is HIS! His will is goodness, and His way is to be trusted; but not at all, is this so with the mere will of man (Matthew 23:8-10).
We in our generation are fortunate that the express and certain authority of the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, is the ultimate accessible, and we do not tarry where He is disdained (cf. Luke 6:46, Romans 16:17).
Let us then see the next step in the faulty sequence which was to lead to utter disaster for many in Israel in that day. Once again, let it come as if it is happening around us, NOW.
VI WEAKNESS AND FEAR RUIN THE PEOPLE 13:27-14:16
Soon the people have the chance of glory, the opportunity of wonder, the fulfilment of all in short order Ė the land is there, they have but to enter. They are at its beginning.
The power of God has so far been with them in all things, despite needful discipline; for they have been conquering on all sides: would it not soon carry them to the heartland! But would they go ? No, they would not, and fear and contemptible weakness soon makes them willing to look for a new leader to take them back to Egypt! Indeed, they become unwilling even to listen to the wise and cool words of Joshua. In so doing, they proceed like drag racers, into the crankiness of rebellion; for they were even preparing to stone their leader, when God intervened.
WISDOM AND MERCY OF MOSES, STAYS WRATH:
YET THE PEOPLE LOSE THE LAND FOR THAT GENERATION 14:11ff.
If it had not been for the grace and mercy of Moses, the people might have been spared the 40 years, by instant death; but at least there was much to learn in life for them, instead, and though the Lord spared their lives, at Mosesí intercession, a thing in turn a test of Mosesí own heart, yet judgment proceeded. THEY, that generation of Israel, with the exception of the two leaders who were FOR entering the promised land there and then, and did not fear, having faith: it would all DIE in the wilderness, WANDER in the wilderness, and only the NEXT generation would enter.
So do foolish ways bring foolishness, for judgment can bite where the heart is soft, and expose it. In Numbers 14:12, you can see that Moses still loves the people, and his own selfish welfare is not interesting to him, on whom their condition weighs tenderly, despite the exasperation. He pleads with God for the lives of those who having refused the whole aim of the journey, become rebels, just as he had pled when they make an idol calf, as seen in Exodus 32:30-34. There he had been willing to be blotted out of the book, if the people could not be forgiven, in this a type of Christ, crucified to death, but resurrected in indomitable life.
The plea, in this instance, is heard. Life for the rebel people is granted; but their exclusion from the land is already a fact. "As I live," the Lord declared, "all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD" (Numbers 14:21).
Ten delinquencies had passed, and the penalty was clear; those who had believed, these only would enter the land promised. Remember that, provocations of unbelief are like a bunch of skunks, sent in lieu of flowers: rebellion, said the Lord through Samuel, is no less guilty than witchcraft, and stubbornness is like idolatry (I Samuel 15:22-23). Nothing will deter the Lord from holiness, without which, no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Where faith is not mixed with hearing, no amount of effort is effective! (Hebrews 4:1-3).
VIII LOST THEY BECOME FUTILE 14:39ff.
Forgiven so that they live, but disciplined by NON ENTRY to the land, and 40 years of waiting without their now desired result, the people now feel bucked up with their own strength, and seem to be desiring to escape such a thing as this blunt refusal. It is as if they cannot go straight, like arrows from a crooked bow!
They WILL NOW fight, though excluded by judgment from the land! They will act in their own strength! Such is their plan. Deny us entry ? We will MAKE an entry. The Lord however knows His own mind; merciful is He, but His wisdom cannot be bent. Ten times Pharaoh had plagues because of his obstreperous refusals of the command of God to free the Jews: and he lost all. In sad parallel, ten times did Israel provoke the Lord (Numbers 14:22), at last refusing to enter their new land, just as Pharaoh had refused to let them LEAVE his land!
Their record in the midst of miracle was appalling. Then, having wallowed in sheer lack of faith, they aspire to go and win on their own; and so they war, only to be defeated (Numbers 14:39ff.); for the Lord commissioned no belated battle, but had forbidden it. They lost, reminding us all, that "except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1).
This then became the prelude to 40 years in the wilderness. If they had longed for luxuries and fulfilment in the brief ONE year from slavery on the way to a land of their own, amidst myriads of miracles, and failed because of fear and willfulness, then now they could have the time multiplied by 40. For forty years they could now wander in the desert, having failed to enter when they had been so swiftly and miraculously been led to its very entrance. Impetuosity unbelief could now regale itself on the liquors of its own making.
So is obedience better than weakness, and so is grace better than harshness; but best of all is love, by which you DO as you are told, and WAIT on the Lord in prayer by FAITH, as seeing Him who is invisible and following Him in His ways. Hebrews 11 is filled with its examples; and it is not, as Christ made so clear, some wonderful essence which only few can have. A tiny faith, like a grain of mustard seed, can be used to move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Thus Jesus declared this, when asked why His disciples had failed to cast out a particular demon. It was ...
"Because of your unbelief: for verily I tell you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say unto this mountain, Remove from here to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you."
You have faith ? Exercise it. You have a dog and do no less! PRAY individually and in concert as in Acts 4:23ff., and let NOTHING tear you from the garment of faith! Power goes in the lines prepared; if you are an Elijah for a time, so be it; but do not forget the "7000"!
IX AARON AND MIRIAM NOW FIND
IS REBELLION EXUDED - Numbers 16
Once Aaron and Miriam, inflated, challenged Moses, ignorant of the reality of his call. Now, their example is productive, it seems, but of evil, not of good! the people challenged Moses and these two, so letting them savour what they had done, when it reverberated in their own lives, and challenged them.
With words not unlike their own to Moses, earlier (Numbers 16:3), came the sons of Korah, with Dathan and Abiram. You take too much on yourselves! and why do you exalt yourselves ? Unlike some, in such cases, Moses did not feel to fall on them with his sword, but fell on his face. Prayer was the answer. The matter was put before the Lord, and on the next day all were to appear. The assailants were to take censers and burn incense before the Lord at that time. He exposed to them that it was of the goodness of the Lord that they had been chosen in their tabernacle work, and that God's placement should have been relished.
All were summoned, but Dathan and Abiram had refused to come. They mocked Moses.
Again Moses prayed, and the next day, he challenged the whole congregation, telling them to leave the tents of all these people, and that if they left this life in normal death, then the Lord had not spoken by him. An earthquake then led to the deaths of all, wherever they stood, and the point was taken. If they had all come with Moses at his call as from God, and to this place and had failed to enter the land given, was this a time to act as if he were to be misplaced, who had been faithful! Many then blamed Moses for the deaths, and this reinforced rebellion led to a plague, Moses sending Aaron with a censer seeking divine mercy.
In all these things, you see not only the inveterate heart of complaint and rebellion in so many, with the ineluctable seeking of mercy on the part of Moses; but you also see the results of fractures in the past, in the weakness of the present. How does holiness become the house of the Lord! and how wonderful is meekness and patience, when you know Him; for then, it is rich with meaning and dynamised with spiritual peace.
As you see here, there is no excuse for sparing yourself, following yourself, making complaints in terms of yourself. You either follow the Lord or you donít, and if ever there were a challenge NOT to make excuse or complaints, but to give compliance out of love, it is written here in letters two feet tall!
Separate from what separates from the word of the Lord, the Bible; for spiritually, it will all be swallowed up in the end, which aborts His word, as were the rebels physically in their vaunting self-importance. If challenge to a man appointed by God in the performance of his mission was so perilous, what of challenging God Himself! If diversifying challenge to a sinner redeemed was so vital, so that they could ignore the direction from the Lord, what when it is clamour against the infallible and inspired word of God, His enduring precepts or even to His very own name!
How many in churches of this modern era become accustomed to wilful substitutes for divine authority and will not abide by the word of God, contriving and desiring, wandering and woefully disobedient to the Lord and to His word. Is it any wonder that so many spiritual 'cases' arise, where anomalies abound , for if there is one thing which is like a bog in spiritual life, it is using the name of the Lord, and ignoring His word, making it your own captive, aborting it here, adapting it there, adopting it at will, or passing it by, as if God were an option.
How then is God Lord if He is to be so dabbled in ? Dabbling is never wise; but when it is with the Lord, it is worse. It is defamation of His holiness, abuse of His name, playing with life. In life, you can play, by all means; but to play WITH it, it is like playing with a dagger, at your throat. Nor is it simply a matter of reading it - the call is to obey! as Christ made so eminently clear in the parable of the house on the rock in Matthew 7, and in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. You hear, one fears, more of preaching and providing the Gospel than of the obedience to Christ's commands which is inseparably linked to it, in these verses, indeed in these orders of the Lord.
X A NEW LOOK FOR LOVE, AN OLD FUND FOR FAITH
Obedience does not save ? No, but it is the inviolable testimony of salvation. People may sin ? assuredly, but a life of this character is as near the Lord as smog to the mountain purity. Pardon is not authorisation, and grace is not a highway for folly! The Lord knows those who are his, says Paul (II Timothy 2:19), and let those who are the Lord's depart from iniquity.
Love as sentiment rising to emotion, is far from the reality of the knowledge of God arising to delight in Him, and hence in His word; yet it is near to His will and close to seeking for the lost, strengthening the found and abounding in kindness, compassion and OBEDIENCE. Its alliance with faith makes for boldness of utterance, for love rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13), as in Acts 3-5. Its source in God makes for a fragrance that even distilled hatred cannot remove.
For the unbeliever, it is a matter of repenting and finding the Lord at the Cross, receiving His ransom by faith, His payment for sin, cancellation of spiritual indebtedness, and trusting in His resurrection, acting till your own comes at His return, His appearing, as an adopted child of God, in Christ. Even while we were yet sinners, God loves us and Christ died that whosoever will, may come (Romans 5, John 3). Not complaint but compliance liberates from the fumes of corrosive rebellion and brings a peace that does not seek to annul the wisdom of God, but to cherish it.
For the believer, it is a matter, out of love, of being sincere, praying, waiting on the Lord, trusting Him and acting on His word, and as He leads in terms of it and its promises.
In particular, it implies and imparts the duty of separating from dither and slither with the divine, and instead, that of following Him faithfully as love always desires; for He has not delivered Himself of His words to man (Matthew 4:4) so that man should be delivered from sin and brought to salvation, in order that man should once more arrogate the things of God to his own pleasure, pride or 'progress' and alter what He has said in any way. Does the patient love the Great Physician whose diagnosis he rejects, whose skills he degrades and whose prescriptions he mocks!
Christ did not tell us that we should live by every particle, every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, and cite the scripture decisively at every point to the devil in His own temptation (Matthew 4), in order that we should smile and do as we please, or for that matter, as anyone else should please, as if following folly did not mean committing it!
Separating from disobedient churches, if they will not return, is as clean as having a cancer removed from your face. It is multiply commanded, frequently illustrated, and a clean duty before the Lord. Sharing the life of rebellion is consent in the end; and separation becomes the cement of love to the truth. It also involves separating from the dictates of insubordinate self and being sanctified! (Matthew 16:24-27).
The word of God itself is not slow to point out this necessary course, not now in the words of Moses, Separate yourselves from the tents of these men! but in the command to cease from fellowship where the Bible is not followed. Such is to be seen in Romans 16:17, Ephesians 4:31-5:7, II Timothy 3:1-5, I Timothy 4 and I Timothy 6 for example; but it is written large from the first. (See Separation 1997 for detailed exposition, but the text is unambiguous! as was the action of the Lord in the day of Moses!)
Did Christ resolve the issues when under the devil's temptation program without the written word of God ? How did He speak ? It was by using it, applying it and cutting the cords with that sword. Notice moreover, He not only SAID the answers; He DID them.
Such scriptural basis and application, obedience, it is one step, like house-cleaning; but the other ?
It is to follow the Lord with a love which of course would not suffer such defamation and defilement, but also positively delights in His intimate fellowship and finding His will, does it with heart.
Therefore, let us no less respond by checking our love to the Lord, that it is not cold or even cooling, and following Him by faith, knowing Him in prayer, working for Him with joy in the heart, with goodwill to all. Let there be welcome in the heart for HIM and for HIS PEOPLE, while seeking the lost, without forsaking His word. This is not a nice dream; it is what you do! In this, there lies the difficulties of thousands, who like Israel of old, look to this or that idol, or refuse this or that command, afraid like some youngster, to drive the car, or else carelessly abandoning the rules, driving it recklessly.
Faith does not rest in this sort of decline; and it is by faith through grace that you are saved, when a Christian, and even that whole process, it is not of yourselves, but the gift of God as Ephesians 2 is careful to inform us.
If you have a car, drive it. If you have Christ, proceed by faith; and since He is very much alive, you run in the way with the power supplied. He keeps you, having given you eternal life (Romans 6:23, 5:1-11).
The ways of God are sublime, but where fidgeting masquerades as faith, the stark reality is that it is as unprofitable as trying to drink up the sea. It comes for many to seem meaningless, as when a fountain pen is trying to plough the earth. It is OUT OF PLACE! To be alive without divine purpose is a desperate plight; but miss the mystery and flunk the favour, it is tragic. Inferior purposes may dynamise, but it is a lifeless lust. What then when divine grace being given, surrounds the soul and makes one's path, when the life is surrendered to the Lord as He commands in Luke 14:27ff. ?
Then the meat of life is in this meaning, to do the will of God and to finish His work in His way, by the power of His Spirit for His glory. Thus, for example, with the 40 years past, did not Joshua have his long delayed glory! for he was then sent, as having been faithful at the first, to be victor at the last, and to conquer and complete the work the Lord had given him. It was THEN that they entered the promised land.
How much better had they done so at the outset! How much better if countless thousands, having first heard the Gospel, and found it good, had received Christ, repenting and realising His presence, waiting on His wisdom, walking in His Spirit! Did not God so LOVE the world that He made every provision (cf. John 3, Colossians 1)! How impersonal is the depersonalised relic which stares into a self-created void!
History is a good teacher, and wise is he or she who listens to it, when it is from the book of the Lord!
Patience, then, grace always, kindness and sympathy, intercessory prayer even for those who wrong you, and awareness of the will and way of the Lord, who living, is well able to show you, and esteeming His book as His mouth: these are ways of pleasantness and wisdom, at whatever cost, ways of joyfulness with longsuffering, such as become the children of God.
Here then is help from the book of the Lord, and by action in faith, it becomes life with the Lord of the book. Consider here those challenging and choice words of Christ in John 5:39-40! Deal with Him! for He has dealt for you.
Following the book to the Lord is the desideratum; following the book to the book is a short-circuit. However, having followed it to the Lord, follow the Lord by the book, for it is His word, the very word of the living God, who has undertaken this, that not jot or tittle will pass till all is fulfilled, of the Law and the Prophets, and as to His own word, heaven and earth will pass, but not this!
As to that, if you love Him, you will love this! Why continue in the rheumatics of spiritual decline when the vigour and exuberance of divine love with eternal truth and wise action alike, stands available ? History is a sad story in such declines: for here, to decline is to suffer decline, and the descent is a shute denuded of all beauty.