Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Those Who Reject God Bow Down Before Satan

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 4:1 - 30
  • Psalm 63:1 - 11
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Luke 4:1 - 30
Chapter four begins with the temptation of Christ in the wilderness for 40 days.  Jesus had just been baptized (3:21) and was filled by the Holy Spirit, which led him into the wilderness (4:1). 

Satan tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness.  We are told that the devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, offering all of them to Jesus if only Jesus would worship him (4:5-7).  Jesus refused the offer.

Two things strike me about that passage.  The first is that it says the devil "took him up" (4:5) to show Jesus the kingdoms of the world.  So in my mind I'm picturing an experience like one would see in the movies -- being lifted above the clouds by a powerful force, being shown the entire world.  It must have been a very powerful experience.

The other thing that strikes me is that the world is Satan's to give to Jesus -- or to whomever he wishes to give it to.  Quite simply, Satan has complete power over this world.  This world -- this place of sin and suffering and pain -- we don't belong here.  We Christians are not home here. 

Right now, this world is Satan's domain.  That will soon be changed, but for now that's the situation we live in.  When one chooses the world instead of the Lord, they are truly choosing Satan over God.  They are not choosing to simply not believe in God -- they are choosing the world.  They are choosing Satan. 

How often do you hear someone say that they don't believe in anything?  They don't believe in God, don't believe in Satan, don't believe in a higher power at all.  Most people who don't believe in God don't consider themselves Satan worshipers.  But in the end, those who reject the Lord are instead embracing Satan and letting him rule them.

That's exactly the kind of worship Satan wants, right?  He wants to turn as many people from the Lord to him as he possibly can.  And if the person is clueless that they're literally following Satan, that's even better because Satan loves to deceive.  Don't choose Satan.  Don't choose the world.  Don't choose yourself, for that is choosing the world.  Choosing the world choosing Satan.

Jesus has complete power over Satan and through Him so do we.  I am so thankful that in this dark world we live in, we have a light that shines constantly and guides our every step.  This light protects us, it heals us, it carries us when we need it.  This light shines even when we turn away from it and into the darkness that is the world.  This light has authority over Satan.  This light is breathtaking.  This light is Jesus Christ.  Thank you, Lord, for leading me out of the darkness.

Psalm 63:1 - 11 
This Psalm is filled with rich praise and longing for the Lord:
1  Oh God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.  My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you.
5  You satisfy me more than the richest feast.  I will praise you with songs of joy.
These verses above utterly convey the satisfaction that comes from knowing the Lord.  They convey the feeling that stirs your soul when you discover that -- not only do you feel the Lord inside you -- you want to know the Lord so much more!  Your soul longs and thirsts for this closeness.  Nothing else can can satisfy these cravings -- not even the richest feast.  This is such a glorious psalm.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Israelites Battle the Midianites; Why Does God Order the Deaths of Children in Battle?

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 30:1 - 31:54
  • Proverbs 11:20 - 21
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Numbers 30:1 - 31:54
Chapter 31 tells the story of Israel's conquest of the Midianites.  The Lord was angry with the Midiantes because they had led many Israelite men into worshiping Baal of Peor.

Israel went into battle with only 12,000 men.  It doesn't say (as far as I can tell here) how many they fought against.  What it does say is that all five of the Midian Kings (Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba) were killed in battle.  All the men, boys, and non-virgin women were killed either in battle or shortly afterwards. 

The Israelites captured 675,000 sheep and goats, 72,000 cattle and 61,000 virgins.  So while we do not know how many Midianites were killed, we do know that the amount of animals and virgins was quite large.  Virgin women would not account for a large percentage of the population, yet there were 61,000 of them.

Now before someone reads this and gets the wrong impression about the taking of the virgin women -- they were not kept because the men wanted just the virgins.  Originally the Israelites did not kill the women and children, but when the captives were led to Moses, he was angry.  The way the Midianites led Israel to worship Baal was by luring the men into the beds of the women.  Therefore only women that were virgins could live because they did not participate in that scheme. All others were ordered to be killed.

I was surprised when 31:8 mentioned that the Israelites killed Balaam.  I found the story of Balaam to be quite interesting, and remarked about it in two separate posts.  When we first met Balaam, he was sent for by the king of the Moabites to curse the Israelites.  The Lord told Balaam these people were not cursed -- they were blessed. 

The Moabite king sent for Balaam a couple times before Balaam finally agreed to go.  Along the way, an angel of the Lord blocked the road and Balaam's donkey would not pass.  Balaam beat his donkey three times before the donkey turned around and spoke to him, warning him to say only what the Lord told him to say.  Balaam agreed, and despite much anger from the king, he did not curse the Israelites.  He went on his way.

I thought that was where the story ended, until the Israelites killed Balaam.  No information was given in that verse as to why, but later in verse 31:16, we are told that it was Balaam's advice that gave birth to the scheme. 

This really surprised me, since Balaam seemed to follow God's command and left without cursing the Israelites.  So I wonder why he would plan to cause the Israelites to worship another god?  Obviously Balaam knew the Lord, he received visions and he knew it was the Lord who warned him against cursing the Israelites.  

So what motive might Balaam have had to try to make the Israelites fall out of favor with God?  Was it money?  He was offered an awful lot to curse them, but since he couldn't I doubt he got paid.  Maybe I'll run across more information later.  If not, it's all speculation for me.  Anyone else have thoughts on the matter?

Proverbs 11:20 - 21
20  The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.
21  Evil people will surely be punished, but the children of the godly will go free.
Verse 21 really speaks to me today, especially since I read about all the deaths of the Midianites -- and that included the male children.  I also recall reading other excerpts where the children were ordered to be killed after a battle.  I always wonder about that.  

The bible says in more than one place that a good crop yields good fruit and a bad crop yields bad fruit.  I guess the same could be said for children.  I don't condone the deaths of the children by any means, but these passages at least help me to reconcile my feelings when I read stories like the one above. 

God knew the hearts of these children and he knew the hearts of the parents. If He deemed any of them worth saving, then He would have saved them.  It's still sad, but at least it helps me understand better why the Lord would command that those children be killed.

A short note on integrity -- doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.  Sometimes it might feel like there's no reward to doing the right thing, but right here we are told that God knows.  God knows and he values it of us.  And if we do the wrong thing because no one is looking, he knows that too, and that he detests.  I know which choice I choose to take. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Are We All Descendants of Seth, Son of Adam?

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 3:23 - 38
  • Psalm 62:1 - 12
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Luke 3:23 - 38
Today's reading contains the entire lineage of Jesus Christ.  What I find interesting is that this lineage starts with "Jesus was known as the son of Joseph" (3:23).  So this lineage was the line of Joseph, even though Joseph and Jesus did not share a blood lineage like Jesus and Mary did.  I do suspect that Mary and Joseph were related, though I haven't read anything (or at least I don't remember reading anything) to back that up.  I just know that marriages were often kept within the extended family.

Regardless, the lineage line given is very interesting.  I don't know how many names are there, but it is overwhelming to follow it all!  The line starts with Jesus, and ends with Adam.  The verse (3:38) ends with "Adam was the son of God".  I never really thought of Adam as being the son of God, but I guess he was -- he was created in His image from the dust of the ground.  This makes me wonder what precisely "begotten" means (from my favorite verse, John 3:16).  Since Jesus was God's only begotten son, how does that differ from Adam, who was simply "the son of God"? 

While I was looking back in Genesis for my next topic (coming up below), I came across a verse in Genesis.  I remember reading this verse before, and thinking about giants and heroes, but I don't recall a significant line in it.  I am referring to Genesis 6:4:
In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.
The phrase I am talking about here are the "sons of God".  Sons of God!  What is meant by this phrase?  Obviously these aren't the sons of Adam, since they children are distinguished by size.  These "sons of God" gave birth to giants, to warriors, to ancient heroes.  So who were they?  Jesus is the only begotten son of God, Adam was a son of a God because he was created by God ... so who are these other sons of God?  There is so much yet to be learned from the bible!  I can't wait to learn more on the subject.

One other thing caught my eye on this lineage list.  Adam's son Seth is where the lineage line for Jesus started.  We follow the line from Adam all the way through to Noah from Seth.  So I have to wonder -- I know that we are all descendants of Adam, but are we all descendents of Seth also?  Since only Noah's family went onto the boat, and everyone else was wiped out?

I looked back in Genesis 7:7 to see who Noah brought with him on the ark.  It says that Noah brought his wife, as well as his sons and their wives.  It doesn't say anything about Noah bringing daughters, and if he didn't bring daughters, then they didn't bring husbands -- and therefore the entire male line in the ark would have been of Noah.  If all the males from the ark were descendants of Noah, and Noah was a descendant of Seth, then aren't we all (who are alive today) descendents of Adam's son Seth? 

I could have faulty logic here, so if I do please let me know!  Regardless, I must say I've never had such an interesting lineage line read.  And to think, I used to abhor the lineage lines!

Psalm 62:1 - 12  
Psalm 62 is a beautiful Psalm regarding trust in the Lord.  I'd quote the entire Psalm here if I could (if the battery weren't about to die on my laptop!).  Instead, I will quote 61:5 - 8, and leave it at that:
5  Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
6  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.
7  My victory and honor come from God alone.  He is my refuse, a rock where no enemy can  reach me.
8  Oh my people, trust in him at all times.  Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
God is our refuge, our rock, our salvation, our hope, our fortress.  Such a great psalm, one of my favorites so far! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How Many Animals were Sacrificed During the Festival of Shelters?

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 28:16 - 29:40
  • Proverbs 11:18 - 19
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Numbers 28:16 - 29:40
Today I am trying to understand more about the sacrificial requirements in Numbers.  What I am trying to understand is if these sacrifices are by person, by family, by clan or by tribe.  28:3-8 tells us that the following sacrifices were required daily:
  • Two one-year-old lambs
  • Four quarts of choice flour mixed with two quarts pure olive oil
  • Two quarts alcoholic drink
 So first of all I'm trying to wrap my head around the daily sacrifice, because it seems like an awful lot to me -- to sacrifice two lambs per day would be 730 one-year lambs per year, plus 1,460 quarts of choice flour mixed with 730 quarts of olive oil, and 730 quarts of some alcoholic drink.  So how is this broken up -- is this per person?

When you look at some of the festivals, the numbers are even more astounding.  Take a look at the Festival of Shelters, for instance, discussed starting in 29:12.  The Festival of Shelters was a seven day festival, with sacrifices required each day in addition to the normal daily sacrifices:
  • Day One
    • 13 Young Bulls
    • Two Rams
    • 14 one-year-old lambs
    • 78 quarts of choice flour to go with the bulls
    • 8 quarts of flour to go with the lambs
    • 28 quarts of flour for the lambs
    • 1 Male goat for sin offering along with grain and liquid
  • Day Two
    • 12 Young Bulls
    • Two Rams
    • 14 one-year lambs
    • 108 quarts choice flour (Bulls:  6 * 12 == 72) (Rams: 4 * 2 == 8) (Lambs 2 * 14 == 28)
    • 1 Male goat for sin offering along with grain and liquid
This list goes on for each of the seven days of the festival, with the bull count lessening by one per day.  So that leaves a total of:
  • Lambs: 14 * 7 == 98
  • Rams:     2 * 7 == 14
  • Bulls:      13 + 12 + 11 + 10 + 9 + 8 + 7 == 70
  • Flour for Lambs:  2 * 98 == 196 Quarts
  • Flour for Rams:    4 * 14 == 56 Quarts
  • Flour for Bulls:     6 * 14 == 84 Quarts
That is an insane amount of offerings, and I don't see how a single family could cover it all.  Of course I don't know what it was like living in that time, did everyone have huge herds of animals?  I would still think, however, that the offering had to be split in some way that a single family didn't take the entire offering on themselves.  Then again, the families were quite large and extended back then.

So in the end I don't know what to make of the sheer amount of offerings or how the system actually worked per person/family/tribe/whatever.  Perhaps I'll find out more later!

Proverbs 11:18 - 19
18  Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.
19  Godly people fine life; evil people find death.
What is more important to you -- riches in this life, or an everlasting life where you never have to worry about how much money you have?  Do you want to live it up in this life and disregard your eternal life?  For me the choice is easy.  What is your choice?