For six years I served as an associate pastor in a church that overlooked Denver, Colorado. One of the perks of being a pastor at this particular church was the view our offices enjoyed overlooking the Denver metro area. On a clear day, I could see across the city to the plains on the opposite end of the city.
From my vantage point, my office had one of the most spectacular views in the country.
A little perspective helps us understand our lives from a different vantage point.
Please join me as we explore the vantage point of a troubled person who refused to give up hope.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 21. Once again, Moses was forced to contend with a nation of grumblers in verses 4-9. The people were slowly moving toward the Promised Land when they arrived in Edom. Since the Edomites were related to them (descendents of Esau, Jacob’s brother), Moses wanted to avoid fighting them in battle—just to cross through their land. So he guided the people on a longer route around the country which just about started another insurrection.
In this particular episode, God sent venomous snakes into their camp to punish them for grumbling. When the people finally confessed their sin, God relented by instructing Moses to erect a bronze snake in the middle of the camp.
Do you notice a pattern here? The people grumble, God punishes them, and yet they still grumble again. Punishment may change a person’s behavior for a time, but it doesn’t change the person.
The Israelites needed a change of heart, but without Jesus living inside them, they continued returning to their old ways.
Verse 14 refers to The Book of Wars. Remnants of this book appear in the Old Testament, but the book in itself has been lost.
Israel’s first conquest in the Promised Land actually occurred before they crossed the Jordan river (verses 21-35). The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh settled there.
Numbers 22:1-20. In 1967, a Dutch archaeological expedition led by H. J. Franken discovered some inscribed pieces of plaster at a site in Jordan known as Deir ‘Allah. The fragments are apparently written in Aramaic and date to about 850 b.c. They mention Balaam son of Beor, the same figure described as a “seer” in this passage.
This is probably the most widely known story in Numbers. Balaam, a prophet from Peor, was asked by the leaders of Moab to curse Israel. Incidentally, Balaam appears later in Scripture and is portrayed as being a very evil man (see 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11).
But what strikes me in this passage is the fact that the God of Israel spoke to Balaam—a man who knew virtually nothing about Israel or Israel’s God.
What does this mean for us? God not only loves people of different faiths, but he can speak to them as well. In other words, people of the Christian faith do not have a corner on God.
Now STOP!!! Don’t lob any stones at me just yet.
I still believe Jesus is the only way to God—but God speaks through nature, circumstances…and even to people who don’t share the same faith as us.
Luke 1:26-56. Luke skillfully tells about Jesus’ birth, presenting Mary’s story in parallel fashion with Elizabeth’s.
Verses 27 and 34 refer to Mary as a virgin. In Judaism, virgins were age 14 or younger. Because she was such a young unwed mother, Mary likely left town to visit her relative Elizabeth in order to avoid the criticism of the people in her village.
Mary’s song in verses 46-55 is also known as the Magnificat. The song strongly resembles Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1–10 when God opened her barren womb.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
On the run from King Saul, David hid in a cave to avoid being caught and killed. While sitting by himself in the damp, dark confines, David wrote Psalm 57. Here are a few thoughts that speak to me through this passage:
He acknowledged that God was his refuge. Only God could save and rescue him. In verse 1 he wrote, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”
He resolved to maintain his trust in God despite the danger surrounding him. “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (verse 7).
He maintained a worshipful attitude. Read these words he wrote while being pursued by Saul:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth (verse 5).
I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies (verses 9-10).
As we walk through the psalms, we see in David an immovable trust in God.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What impressed you about Mary? What can we learn from her?
- What would inspire David to write Psalm 57? How can we imitate his faith? What does his psalm tell us about God?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.