Some friends of mine live in the mountains of Colorado, unencumbered by nearby houses, traffic, or fences. They also own a dog who tends to venture into the forest, which can be dangerous because coyotes live in the area—and coyotes lo-o-o-ve dogs.
To prevent their dog from wandering off, they set up an invisible fence. They placed electronic markers at the border of the yard and then attached a special collar on the dog that would send a moderate shock whenever the she stepped beyond the invisible marker. In short order, the dog learned how far she could venture outside the yard.
One day, however, my friends somehow detached the invisible fence from the power source. But the dog remained within the confines of the yard. In fact, my friends don’t worry anymore about ensuring the invisible fence has power—because they know the dog has become accustomed to staying close to home.
In the same way, many people learn to live within the safe confines that otherwise would be considered bondage…
…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Please join me as we explore this further.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 14. On the surface, this story about Israel’s fear of the giants in the Promised Land seems understandable. But below the surface, Israel’s struggle concerns an issue of authority. First, the people questioned Moses’ authority as their leader. But on a deeper level, they questioned God’s authority. Thus far, they had witnessed miracle after miracle. God parted the waters of the Red Sea. He made water come out of a rock. He fed them manna every day. But they couldn’t believe that God would take care of them in the Land of Promise. They didn’t believe God’s authority extended beyond the wilderness. Actually, they struggled believing in God’s authority while living in the wilderness.
Instead of pushing through their fears, the people longed to return to slavery.
The Israelites didn’t believe God was powerful enough fight their battles. So what did God do? He answered their wish in verse 2 by allowing them to die in the desert. An entire generation spent the rest of their lives in the wilderness because they didn’t believe God had the authority to create the way for them.
Mark 14:53-72. The meeting that the Sanhedrin held was completely illegal. Convening secretly at night in the high priest’s home was forbidden. The obvious excuse was that the necessary officials were in town—but people couldn’t be informed of the “emergency” meeting due to the festivities, which was treated like a Sabbath.
When entreating the high priest, the religious leaders misconstrued Jesus’ words. In Mark 14:58, they accused Jesus of saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’”
But that’s not what Jesus said. Mark doesn’t record Jesus words directly, but John 2:19 does. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus didn’t threaten to destroy the temple—he said if it were destroyed, he would rebuild it.
If you’re a devout Jew, threatening to destroy the Temple is a very serious threat. Nevertheless, the flaws in their accusation became readily apparent. Jesus, though, kept silent because he knew he could have defended himself in order to win his release.
Finally, Jesus was asked outright if he claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God. When he affirmed the accusation, they finally had something that would stick.
Jesus essentially cooperated with his accusers in order to be convicted.
Psalm 53. This psalm is nearly identical to Psalm 14 until verse 5. Psalm 14:5-6 reads,
“There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.”
Psalm 53:5 reads,
“There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them.”
What’s the difference between the two psalms?
Psalm 14:5-6 focuses on the dread among evildoers because God is in the midst of his people. Psalm 53:5 focuses on the foolishness of fear among the righteous because God is in their midst.
Really, when we fear—and follow—God, we have absolutely no reason to fear anything or anyone else. For so many of us, it’s easier to trust Jesus with eternal life than with our everyday lives. If anything, it should be the opposite.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Reading Numbers 14, I couldn’t help thinking how often we forfeit God’s provision—which requires faith—for a life of bondage. Living in bondage requires a lot less work than freedom. In fact, living in bondage requires absolutely nothing from us. Nothing. Bondage looks like the normal life.
Like my friend’s dog, we so easily become accustomed to living in bondage. Over time, we assume bondage is the norm—and we can’t imagine that anyone actually enjoys freedom.
The apostle Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
God created you to be free. Jesus died to free you from the bondages of hurt and sin.
Stepping into freedom might require some work. It might require a bold step of faith. It will most definitely require change on your part.
But it’s worth it! And it means crossing into your Promised Land.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What bondages tend to hold you back? What would Jesus say about your bondages?
- To what extent do you believe God has authority over any problem in your life?
- How does knowing Jesus cooperated with his accusers in order to be convicted affect the way you view your life?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.