Because the sun rises in splendor every morning and sets in beautiful colorful serenity every day, do we make it a god? It should remind us of the incredible power and love of an eternal God.
In Numbers, the exodus sojourners were attacked by serpents. They cried out and God provided them with a way to escape:
Numbers 21:8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
In the Numbers incident, it was an action of God that saved them, the brazen serpent was the vehicle. The Israelites kept the brass model and eventually they began to worship it as indicated in 2 Kings 18:3-4 several hundred years later:
3 And he (Hezekiah) did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.
Hezekiah removed all the idols including the brazen serpent that had become an idol. It is a good lesson for us today. When God works through various vehicles today such as people, ministries, and movements, these vehicles should be catalysts in inspiring individuals to develop a relationship and trust in the one true God. Too often the means becomes the end instead of being a means to an end. A catalyst is something that causes other things to react without itself being affected. Discipling is just that. It is a process that helps people connect to God without getting in the way.
Jesus Christ refers to the brazen serpent image with an analogy to himself:
John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Jesus Christ is our catalyst for reconciliation to God. He has a very unique position being seated at the right hand of God and head of the body. God has given him power and authority through the spirit to be the head of the church of God. He is the way to God.
Have you ever thought about what is true beauty? We catch a glimpse of it in eyes that shine and in words that truly encourage. We hear it in wisdom as we feel its peace. Genuine excitement reflects its power. Whenever we look for God it can be found even in the vast wilderness of this world.
The title of the book of Numbers is translated ‘In The Wilderness’ from Hebrew (‘Bemidbar’) and that it is! At the end of Exodus, God came down from Mt Sinai and filled the tabernacle that had been made according to His directions. It was a transportable tent to be taken on their journey to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The time frames for Exodus and Leviticus are very short compared to the +38 years of this book describing the trek through the wilderness. The people got to the edge of the promised land, but because of fear in their own hearts they could not go in. Thus, what should have been a much shorter journey became drawn out.
God has previously expressed His heart to provide for and interact with His people many, many times through the ages. Mt Sinai has come and gone. Archeologists disagree today about where it was located. Maybe its location is no longer important to God. Yes, it is the place where the burning bush appeared to Moses and where Moses received the 10 commandment and guidelines for living. But once God had done that, He stepped down right in the middle of them to be their God.
For God to be God to His people, he asked for free-will devotion and adherence to His way of right. He was and is not tolerant of evil, but He is forgiving. He designed the universe, he ought to know how to navigate it.
Much has happened to humanity since the days of Moses, but the wilderness hasn’t changed too much. God has given us a great path to follow through the ultimate sacrifice of His son. His desire for us is to be His sons with power to overcome fear and to relate to Him not only as some entity in our midst, but relationally in our hearts.
The world is not very peaceful nor very encouraging. It still is a wilderness. God is still God and he is everywhere where there is a heart to live in. His wisdom continues to be extended and every morning we can rise with genuine excitement for the day. The love of God is the most beautiful thing in the world.
1 And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation (tent of meeting NIV) saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. 3 If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. 4 And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Leviticus1:1-4
These opening verses of Leviticus contain several gems (‘and’, tabernacle of the congregation, burnt offering, voluntary and atonement). Wrapped up in these words are the promises of fellowship, free-will and salvation wholeness (physically, mentally and spiritually – body, soul and spirit wholeness)
Leviticus 1:1 opens with the word ‘And’! This tells you something right away. Leviticus is connected to Exodus. In Exodus chapter 40, the tabernacle (Link-skene-tabernacle) was set up and ready for business. In verse 33, it says Moses finished the work and guess who stops by?
32 When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses. 33 And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. 34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:32-33
The desire of God’s heart is to have a relationship with each of His sons. Moving from the mountain to the tent of meeting is a starting place. Eventually He would move from the tabernacle to the temple; then to Jesus Christ (John 1:14 – tenting among us); then on the day of Pentecost into the hearts of men and women who believe.
The book of Leviticus is an inspiration as well full of information about God’s heart. It is a curious book to many but very necessary for our learning as it contains shadows (Link – skia- shadow), symbols and patterns of things to come.
Honestly, chapters 4-6, of Ephesians should be read together and not in pieces. Ephesians chapters 1-3 are about God’s love. Chapters 4-6 are about loving others and how we should relate to people in a godly way. Unity is a nice thing and Ephesians 4:1-7 addresses unity, but we need to see the rest of Ephesians to see what pitfalls threaten unity and how to deal with them. For example in Ephesians 5:11, God is pretty clear that we can have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. How does this relate to longsuffering and forebearing (Ephesians 4:2)? We have to read Ephesians 4:23-27 and other sections to read verse 2 of chapter 4 correctly.
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:23-27)
This is not hard to understand because it is specific. It is much more difficult to just read Ephesians 4:1-7 without the context; one would have to extrapolate one’s own theology on the true meaning of unity. ‘Putting away lying’ is an important concept. Lying can be a tool in manipulation, gossip and very subtle conversational tact. Speaking the truth in love can dispel genuine anger maybe not for every side involved. When one person loves the truth, the sun will not go down on that person’s wrath. It is speaking the truth in love that causes one to peacefully grow up!