Small Group Study Guide, Week 9


Rather than a detailed, day-by-day summary, I’m going to continue to point you to resources that will help you unpack the daily readings. They will give you additional helps and insights for each day. Please continue to let me know any suggestions to make this as useful to you as you prepare as possible.

The Unfolding Story Podcast: This is a daily 3-5 minute podcast from Peyton Hill, pastor of FBC Prattville.

The Bible Recap podcast: Typically around nine minutes, this podcast from Tara-Leigh Cobble also provides a concise summary of the day’s readings, focusing on where you see God’s character in the readings.

Links to Blog Posts for this week’s readings from (this site):

Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage. Don’t skip questions in bold.

  1. As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise? (Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.)
  2. Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 12:2. Point out that in the previous chapter, after Moses had gathered seventy elders, “the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Point out that it’s very possible that Aaron and Miriam (or at least Aaron) were two of the seventy elders through whom God spoke in Numbers 11:24-25. How might that have contributed to their arrogance?
  3. Any guess as to why Miriam was the only one to get leprosy, when both she and Aaron spoke presumptuously? (Leader: there isn’t a clear answer. It is possible that since she is named first in 12:1, then she may have been the instigator. It may also be that she was singled out because she was a woman criticizing the patriarchal leader. Don’t shoot the messenger!)
  4. When the twelve spies bring back their report about the Promised Land, the claimed they saw the Nephilim in the Promised Land (13:33). How do you explain this if you assume the Nephilim were destroyed in the Flood (see Genesis 6)?
  5. Look at the sequence of events in Numbers 14: The people believe the ten spies who didn’t think they could take the land. They say, “It would have been better for us to die in this wilderness (v. 3).” Then God tells them they won’t be able to enter the land, but instead they will die in the wilderness (v. 32). So basically God gives them what they said they preferred. Then they change their minds and decide they can take the land. What do you make of this?
  6. If you were in Moses’ sandals, and God told you He was going to start over and “make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (14:12), what would you say?
  7. When Moses intercedes for the people, did God change His mind? Can God change His mind?
  8. Why doesn’t Moses get to enter the Promised Land? Why was striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock such a big deal? Is it right or fair that leaders are held to a higher standard?
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Day 059: Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble (Numbers 12:3)

Moses was a very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Through the Bible: Numbers 11-13

I won’t lie. I think this is maybe the funniest verse in the Bible. If you accept that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, then you can’t help but chuckle over the image of Moses describing himself as a “very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth.” (CSB)

When I was in eighth grade, our Men’s Chorus (don’t laugh) performed Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to be Humble” for our annual dinner theatre. We liked it because we got to strut around with our chests puffed out and sing lines like,

I used to have a girlfriend, 
but I guess she just couldn't compete
With all those love-starved women who keep clamoring at my feet
Well I prob'ly could find me another,
but I guess they're all in awe of me
Who cares? I never get lonesome,
'cause I treasure my own company.

And we really liked it because we got to sing a cuss word in the chorus. You’ll have to look it up yourself. I’m a pastor now, so I can’t tell you what it was.

So, back to Moses. Could he really write that line about himself with a straight face?

I read different commentaries on this verse, and most believe this was a line added by a different editor. Because a genuinely humble person wouldn’t typically describe themselves as the most humble person on the face of the earth.

On the other hand, Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and so if the Spirit wanted verse 3 in there, then who was Moses to argue? Especially because, you know, he was so humble.

But I think the point is to make it clear that there wasn’t anything Moses did to provoke Aaron and Miriam. The Spirit wants to make sure we, the readers, know that it was Aaron and Miriam who were in the wrong here. In a commentary on, one scholar writes,

the phrase is added so that the reader can understand the narrative more fully. In the context, Moses’ brother Aaron, and sister Miriam, had spoken against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman. They said to Moses, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also” (Numbers 12:1-2)? These statements amounted to a direct attack upon the authority that God had given Moses.” 

It wasn’t about Moses pointing out how humble he was. It was about God defending the reputation of his chosen servant. He did the same thing with Job when he told the three friends, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

You see, regardless of what Mac Davis says, it’s actually not hard to be humble at all. For one thing, we serve an awesome God, and the closer we get to his greatness, the more we can agree with John the Baptizer: He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30).

But even more importantly, its easy to be humble when you live like you don’t have to defend your own reputation. You know the Lord will do it for you.

Day 058: The Mandatory Retirement Age (Numbers 8-10)

23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.” (Numbers 8:23-26)

I had never noticed that God put an upper limit on the time a Levite could serve in the tent of meeting. Fifty years! In our culture that seems really young. But perhaps when you think about the heavy lifting involved with all those sacrifices, the upkeep of the tabernacle, and (at least until they were settled in the Promised Land), the work involved in breaking down and setting up the tabernacle whenever the Lord led them to a new place, it starts to make sense.

Add to that the wear and tear of being the representative of the people to God, and (for me anyway) you begin to see God’s grace in creating a mandatory retirement age for the Levites. I like what the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says about this regulation:

Again, in these regulations we sense the holiness and the mercy of God. His holiness demands that his ministers be fully able to do the work that is required for them. His mercy precludes a man doing the work when he was no longer physically able.

I agree, but I think the mercy goes beyond giving an aging priest a pass. Because notice what the Scripture says: even though they are not actively slaughtering the sacrifice, or carrying the utensils, or loading the oxcart, or maintaining the eternal flame, they aren’t just “pastors put out to pasture.” Instead, verse 26 says, “they minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard.”

Such kindness. Long before psychologist Erik Erickson developed his theory of developmental crises, God understood that a human being will deal with the desire to contribute, and the feeling that they still have something to offer as they get older, as opposed to simply stagnating.

And it isn’t just a token job. These aren’t Wal-Mart greeters here. Once a priest reached the age of fifty, they were to minister to their brothers by standing guard.

I read this in two ways. First, literally standing guard. Protecting the holiness of the tent of meeting. Ensuring that all the procedures and rituals were properly followed. Watching for intruders, troublemakers, and enemies.

But I also zeroed in on the “minister to their brothers” part. Anyone who serves as a pastor will tell you how important it is to have older mentors and accountability partners in their life. Someone who knows firsthand the temptations associated with pastoral ministry. Someone who will affirm them, encourage them, strengthen them, guide them, pray for them, celebrate with them, and correct them when necessary.

When you look at it this way, you realize that this isn’t just giving an old guy something to do in a patronizing way when they can “no longer do the work.” It is realizing that shepherding the shepherds is vital and crucial.

I am unbelievably blessed to have breakfast once a week with three older men. One is my former boss, Travis, the senior pastor with whom I served before becoming a lead pastor myself. He has been retired for a couple of years now. But I will never miss an opportunity to spend time with him. He is the finest example of ministry with integrity for the long haul that I know personally. And though he still actively serves as an interim pastor at a small church in the country, he has eased comfortably into his role of ministering to his brothers.

In many ways, he is what I want to be when I grow up. I hope that in ten or fifteen years, I’m going to be the one having breakfast with a pastor or two from the next generation, doing everything I can to stand guard over the care of their souls.

Party On, Moses! (Leviticus 23)

#9 in the 66 in 52 series. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor. February 26, 2023.

If you’ve been keeping up with the reading plan, this week you finished Leviticus! that means you’ve made it up one of the big hills on this marathon! That’s great news!

And now we are in Numbers. And I know that over these past couple of days, you’ve been thinking that this isn’t much better. Unless you are an accountant or a Sunday School Director, an entire book about counting people doesn’t sound all that exciting.

However, I think you will be surprised. Once you get past the censuses in the first few chapters and the last few chapters, the stuff in the middle is pretty great.

And remember that every word of the Bible matters. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So even in Leviticus and Numbers, we are reading words that were breathed out by God, and that are profitable. And my prayer is that you are going to see this in Leviticus 23.

So, In chapter 23 of Leviticus we have the festivals of the year. Look at verses 1-2 with me:

23 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

What follows is a description of one weekly observance and seven annual feasts that were to be observed by the Jews. And these were not low-key, somber events. They were parties!

God is saying to the children of Israel, “Once a week, and seven times a year, you’re going to celebrate the relationship you have with Me. It’s going to be a party. And you are going to have these celebrations every week, every year, in every generation, whereever there’s a community of Jews, until the end of time.

And so the title of the sermon this morning is “Party On, Moses.” Let’s pray, and we will dive in.


The first feast Isn’t an annual feast. It’s a weekly observance. Look at verse 3:

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

When you look at this verse, what is the word that jumps out at you? Rest.

Even today Jews in Israel take this day of rest seriously. It truly is a celebration. Families dress up a little nicer. Parents will often buy little gifts or toys for their kids on their way home from work on Friday. Most men buy flowers for their wives every Friday for the Sabbath. And if you happen to live in a tourist town, wealthy families will often have shabbat dinner at one of the swanky hotels where Gentiles do the cooking. [Tiberias story]

The Sabbath was a gift, not an obligation. God gave us the seventh day and said, “Thou shalt chill.”

But at some point, religious leaders decided they needed to clarify what was and wasn’t considered work on the sabbath. They compiled a list of 39 activities that were prohibited from doing on the sabbath, such as bearing a burden, because that was considered work.  

But that wasn’t enough. They decided they needed to clarify what it meant to “bear a burden.” Let me give you just one example:

  • Is it forbidden to wear artificial teeth on the Sabbath? (Who knew they even had false teeth in the second century BC?)  So, could you put them in on the Sabbath? No, because that would be work. So what if you put them in before the Sabbath? Then you wouldn’t be working but you’re still bearing their weight on the Sabbath. On the other hand, you need your teeth to eat, and if you don’t eat, you’re neglecting your body’s need for food, and that breaks another commandment.

So, here’s where they landed:  As long as they were simple false teeth, then yes. But if it was a gold tooth, then no, because that would be vanity. So, no grillz on the Sabbath. [click]

The Talmud is a commentary on the Torah. In the Talmud, there are twenty-four chapters full of this stuff!

Can you see how keeping the Sabbath was hard work? And that’s why Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man. Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath.” So if you get fixated on what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath, you’ve stopped making Jesus Lord, and instead made the Sabbath the Lord over you.  

By the way, Sunday is not the Sabbath day. It is the first day of the week. Some Christians believe you are breaking the Sabbath if you go to church on Sunday instead of Saturday. But I want you to notice something. Every time you read about the Sabbath in Scripture, the emphasis is NOT on going to synagogue. The emphasis is on resting.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go to church? Of course not. We are meant to come together for corporate worship. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Just don’t think that as long as you get that one or two hours of church in, you can ignore God’s command to rest.

Don’t misunderstand me: I believe 100% that God is to be worshiped on Sunday. And Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, every single day of the week, multiple times a day. But I also believe 100% that God has wired us for a day of rest.

So let’s make sure we are taking Sabbath seriously. We need to acknowledge that God ordained that we rest from our work. But there is more to remembering the Sabbath than going to church, and there’s more to worshiping God than which day you do it on.

So if you are taking notes on your listening guide, the keyword for Sabbath is REST

The next feast is Passover.

Now, even though there’s only one verse about Passover in Leviticus 23, it’s actually one of the most important dates on the Hebrew calendar. it’s so important that it has already been covered in detail twice, which is why it only gets one verse here.  

Every year, every Jewish household remembers the story of how the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt. They tell their children about how God instructed his people to paint the blood of a lamb on the doorframes of their houses, and how that night, the destroying angel of the Lord went throughout Egypt and killed the firstborn in every house where He did not see the blood of the lamb.  So ever since, on the 14th day of the first month, Jewish families hold a highly symbolic meal called the Seder. Seder is a Hebrew word that means order, and so the head of a Jewish household leads his family through the seder, using a book called the Haggadah.

During the meal, the youngest child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  Four questions follow. By answering the questions, the Father tells the story of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

Passover was an annual reminder of Israel’s salvation history. And once again, notice how the observance isn’t about going to synagogue and listening to a rabbi. It’s about parents teaching their children.

What happens to a faith when parents don’t teach their children? It dies. This is why Passover is the only one of these seven festivals that we still have a remnant of in Christianity. Our communion services are all about reenacting and remembering what Jesus did for us.

Parents, I can’t emphasize this enough. Tell your children and grandchildren your salvation story. Write it down. Tell it often. It is not for the church to teach your children about faith.

The Keyword is REMEMBER.

The third feast often gets lost, because people assume it is just part of Passover. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

If you remember the story of the Exodus, the Jews didn’t have time for bread to rise when they were driven out of Egypt, All they had before God sent manna was unleavened bread.

So for seven days after Passover, Jews eat unleavened bread. To prepare for this, religious Jews spend the week before Passover making sure there is not a single crumb of anything with yeast in their home.

They vacuum the house. They turn over every cushion. They search for crumbs in every pocket, beard, and belly button.

They scrub down the refrigerator, stove, and microwave. They scour the sink and countertops. They may even buy all new clothes to wear that week, and use a different set of dishes just for that week.

Ladies, I know what you are thinking: this sure doesn’t sound like a celebration to me! So let me explain what this was about.

Throughout the Bible, leaven (yeast) represents sin. Paul used this metaphor with the Church in Corinth:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

If you’re not a Christian yet, I don’t want you to hear this and think, man, I’ve got to really get my act together before I give my life to Jesus. I’ve gotta scrub and scour and quit drinking beer (because beer has yeast) and change my wardrobe before I can be a Christian.

But please understand that these were all the things the Jews did to make themselves acceptable to God. If God has been calling you to give your life to Him, then you don’t have to get cleaned up to take a bath. Jesus is going to clean every fish He catches!

It isn’t until AFTER you invite Him into your life that Jesus starts cleaning house. That’s what Christians call sanctification. He’s going to remove all of the sinful desires in your life and replace them with the fruit of the spirit. If it wore you out to hear all the things they did to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened bread, then understand that in Christianity, all you have to do is give Jesus the broom. Let him remove the sin. Let him change those desires. You don’t have to scrub and scour and sweep. You just have to give Him the broom.

So the keyword for the Feast of Unleavened Bread is REMOVE

The next feast is the Feast of Firstfruits.

10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 

At the beginning of the harvest, everyone brought a portion of the first grain they harvested to present to the Lord. It was an expression of faith that more was to follow. We’re dedicating this first part to God, But also, we’re doing this with full confidence that there’s going to be a plentiful harvest.

Israel society was based on agriculture. If God didn’t provide the rain for the crops to grow, the people would starve. And Firstfruits reminded them of the promise that God made to Noah back in Genesis 8:22

22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

It was a joyful celebration when they were able to return the firstfruit of the harvest back to God. Every year they were learning to trust Him that He would continue to provide. So there was singing, and dancing, and clapping, and shouting.

Now, let me ask you this: when you give your tithe, do you do it at the beginning of the month or at the end of the month? If you use online giving, do you set it up as a recurring payment, or do you do it each month, and wait to see whether you’re going to have enough?

Hear me on this: what you give is between you and God. I’ll never know, and I don’t want to know how much you give. But I will say that how you give is an expression of how you trust God.

And how do you feel as you are writing that check or sealing that envelope? Are you grinning or are you grimacing? Is it duty or delight? Sometimes we look at the guys taking up the offering like pallbearers. You watch them take the offering plate up the aisle and its like you are saying goodbye to your best friend! Listen, returning to the Lord the first portion of what He has blessed you with should fill us with joy and gratitude. We have been shown time and time again that if we are faithful with the first, God will be faithful with the rest.

The keyword for this one is RETURN.

Four down, four to go. Still with me? Then let’s talk about the Feast of Weeks. Our keyword for this feast is REWARD, and we are going to see the three REWARDS this feast is associated with.

Verse 15-16 says,

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord.

Another word for fifty is “Pentecost” so the Feast of Weeks is also called Pentecost.

The feast of firstfruits kicked off the harvest season. Pentecost concluded it.

It recognized that God had provided the harvest once again this year. That’s the first reward of Pentecost.

Second reward: according to Jewish tradition, Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai on this exact day of the year even before the feast was celebrated. So for the Jews, Pentecost was a reminder of  God’s Promises. Even today, orthodox Jews don’t sleep for the twenty-four hours of Pentecost. They stay awake reading Torah, discussing Torah, praying over the Torah, memorizing Torah.

Now, Christians associate Pentecost with a third REWARD. According to Acts 2, It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came and indwelt the disciples, and they preached the gospel in all languages to the people that were gathered for the feast, and three thousand people were saved that day, and the church was born. So the third reward is God’s presence. When the fire fell at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of believers. And He still does!

So let’s review: REST, REMEMBER, REMOVE, REWARD, and now, RETURN.

All right! We are in the homestretch! We’ve covered the four spring feasts of the year. Now let’s look at the three fall feasts.

Leviticus 23:23 introduces us to the Feast of Trumpets. And kind of like the Feast of Unleavened Bread after Passover, the Feast of trumpets can get lost in the shadow of the Day of Atonement. Here’s what verse 24 says:

 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 

That’s it. That’s the whole feast. On the first day of the seventh month, blow a trumpet and take a day off from work. Why?

Because according to verses 26-28, ten days after this trumpet is blown is the Day of Atonement, the most solemn, the most holy day on the entire Jewish calendar. Cody did a great job teaching on the day of atonement last week, so we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on it this week. But I would encourage you all to go back and listen to last week’s teaching.

But back to the feast of trumpets. The keyword is READY.

What are trumpets or bugles used for? If you served in the military, the bugle call is what woke you up in the morning. In ancient days before radios and walkie talkies, a trumpet blast would signal to the troops that it was time to move. Different blasts signaled different things. But those who knew what each trumpet meant knew they had to be READY to respond.

That’s what the feast of trumpets was for. The Jews were to spend the next ten days getting ready for the Day of Atonement.

The ten days from the Feast of Trumpets to the Day of Atonement are known in Hebrew as Yamim Nora’im. It means “days of awe.” For the next ten days, focus on God’s awesomeness. Get ready by holy contemplation. Get ready for the day when your sins will be atoned for because of the sacrifice that will be made on your behalf.

Once again, let’s look at this as Christians. What does the New Testament say we should always be ready for? [The return of Christ]. How will the return of Christ be announced? [with a trumpet]

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  (1 Thess. 4:16)

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

One more thing: In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been talking about the letters to the seven churches that begin the book of revelation. We studied the letter to the church at Smyrna last week, and there is a line in that letter that says,

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

One of the guys in that study came up afterwards and said, “What’s up with the “ten days” part? I’ve never noticed that before. I told him I didn’t know, but I would try to find out. And man, here it is: There were ten days of awe in preparation for the Day of Atonement. And Revelation teaches us that there will be days of awe and tribulation before that last trumpet sounds.

So I have to ask you, are you ready?

Number 6 is the Day of Atonement. And because Cody did such a good job with this last week, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. I would encourage you to go to our YouTube channel and listen to it, or read the detailed description of it in Leviticus 16. But our keyword for this one is REDEEMED.  This was the day the priest sacrificed one goat as a sin offering, and sent the other goat into the wilderness, representing God removing our sins from us.

Here’s what you need to notice in Leviticus 23: All of the other feasts give instructions for what the people are supposed to do. Get rid of all the leaven in your house. Eat only unleavened bread. Present the first of your harvest. Sacrifice a goat and two lambs at Pentecost.

But what do you do on the Day of Atonement? Nothing. Listen to what the emphasis is on the Day of Atonement:

  • 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement,
  • 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
  • 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
  • 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest,

Over and over on the Day of Atonement, God commands the people to do no work. All the sacrifices that are made, according to Leviticus 16, are made by the priests. The people do nothing.

What do we contribute to our redemption? Only the sin that makes it necessary. Jesus, our great high priest, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, says Paul. Therefore, let us keep the feast.

Feast of Booths (Lev. 23:33-44; Zech. 14:16)

Keyword: ROOM

One more, and then we will wrap up: It’s the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles.

This one is my favorite feast of them all. The Feast of Booths happened five days after the Day of Atonement.

Let’s look at the verses together: [Read v. 40-42]

Now, let me point out something to you: This was a week-long party!

  • Verse 40: You shall rejoice for seven days!
  • Verse 41: You shall celebrate for seven days!

This blew me away this week: this is the first time in the entire Bible that the words “rejoice” and “celebrate” are used!

And here was the part that, if you were a kid, you must have thought it was the coolest time of the year: According to verse 42, you were to live in booths for seven days.

What other religion has a God that says, “Thou shalt party for seven days?” Where are all you campers? What other religion says, “Thou shalt camp?”

You really need a visual for this. Check out his video from the Israeli Board of Tourism:


Did you catch it? This is the only one of the Feasts that the Gentiles are welcomed to! They come from all over the world. And it’s probably a great time for VRBO, because all the homeowners in Jerusalem are living in booths out in the backyard!

And I love the rules for the booth—there’s a limit to how high it can be, because they learned their lesson from the Tower of Babel—but there’s no limit to how wide it can be.

At the most joyous celebration of the year, there is room for everyone.

The Feast of Booths is an annual reminder for the Jews that no so long ago, they were homeless. For forty years they lived in tents and temporary shelters on their way to the Promised Land.

Friends, don’t we need some reminders that this world is not our home? We ourselves are living outside the promised land. But one day, God is going to take us home to the New Jerusalem.

And until we get there, we want to make our booths as wide as possible, so there will be room for as many people as possible. And for the stranger, the alien, and the prodigal, making room in our booth can teach  them that God has made room for them in His eternal home. In the New Jerusalem, there will be room for people from every tribe, tongue and nation.

And what a day of rejoicing that will be! Let me close by asking you the most important question you will ever be asked. Have you made room for him? If you are a Christian, do you take time to remember the sacrifice He made for you? Are you allowing Him to remove those things in your life that may be displeasing to Him? What are they?

Are you a good steward of what he has given to you, returning a portion of His blessings with your time, talents, and treasure.

Are you experiencing the rewards of the Christian life: God’s provision, God’s promises, and God’s presence?

If you aren’t a Christian, I beg you—get ready for that last trumpet. Repent of your sins, and trust Him to forgive you. Understand that you can do nothing to earn your redemption. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for you because of the Father’s great love for you.

And when He rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven to begin to prepare a place for you. He is building your sukkot even to this day. He is making room for you.

Please, make room for Him.  

Day 057: The God Who Doesn’t Sum Up (Numbers 7:84-88)

84 This was the dedication offering for the altar on the day when it was anointed, from the chiefs of Israel: twelve silver plates, twelve silver basins, twelve golden dishes, 85 each silver plate weighing 130 shekels and each basin 70, all the silver of the vessels 2,400 shekels according to the shekel of the sanctuary, 86 the twelve golden dishes, full of incense, weighing 10 shekels apiece according to the shekel of the sanctuary, all the gold of the dishes being 120 shekels; 87 all the cattle for the burnt offering twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve male lambs a year old, with their grain offering; and twelve male goats for a sin offering; 88 and all the cattle for the sacrifice of peace offerings twenty-four bulls, the rams sixty, the male goats sixty, the male lambs a year old sixty. This was the dedication offering for the altar after it was anointed. (Numbers 7:84-88)

Through the Bible: Numbers 7

I used to be an editor for Sunday School curriculum. The piece I edited used the Biblical commentary from a more in-depth weekly study. It had six pages of commentary for each week. My piece had two pages. So a big part of my job was to go through what I was provided and eliminate everything I could without losing the heart of the teaching.

And so I read Numbers 7, and I think, I could have had this down to a paragraph. Over a twelve day period, twelve guys from twelve tribes brought identical offerings. Every offering was the same. God could have gone straight to verses 84-88 (and even those verses could be tightened up) and then got to the good part: Moses went “into the Tent of Meeting.” This is the first time this phrase is used in Scripture. Recall that at the end of Exodus, he was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the glory of the Lord filled it (see Exodus 40:35).

But now that the tabernacle has been dedicated, with every tribe participating equally in worshiping the Lord and providing for the tabernacle’s ministry, Moses can meet with the holy God.

I’m reminded throughout Numbers that God doesn’t edit when it comes to people. He doesn’t see a “youth group,” a “children’s ministry,” or a “megachurch.” He sees individuals, and he numbers each hair on each head. God doesn’t see a solar system, galaxy, or universe. He sees each star, and He calls it by name.

God doesn’t see nations or kingdoms. Instead, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God.

Seeing individual people takes a lot longer than categorizing groups. We tend to label, and when we do, it is usually negative.

  • “All the old people in our church.”
  • “Those Millenials.”
  • “The trouble with kids today.”
  • “Those immigrants.”
  • “That sort of people.”
  • “The refugees.”
  • “The police.”

It’s convenient to label and group and categorize. It’s easy to see people as statistics instead of hearing one person’s story. It takes a long time to learn each person’s story, to take note of the gifts and talents and offerings they bring to the table. As tedious as Numbers 7 is, it helps me practice seeing people like God sees them.

I’m so thankful I will have ten trillion years to hear their stories.

Day 056: A Memorial and a Name (Numbers 5-6)

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭6:22-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Originally Posted 2022

After spending ten days in this amazing country, I’m realizing more than ever how you can’t overstate the importance of God’s Name to the Jews. On every mezuzah you will at least see a shin, if not the whole shin-daleth-yodh; the Hebrew letters that make up El Shaddai (God Almighty).

Mezuzah outside hotel room.

When Hebrew is read aloud, the reader will substitute Adonai or Ha Shem (“The name”) whenever they come to the Divine Name YHVH in the text.

But as important as God’s name is to us, our names are even more important to God. Our daily Bible reading may seem to be in the absolute driest part right now. Just endless lists of names and numbers. But each of those names represents a family, a clan, a tribe whom God has chosen.

Most of the time, I think about the prohibitions and restrictions associated with The Name. How scribes would use one pen to write The Name rather than a pen that had been defiled by any other word. How someone could lose their life for uttering the Name. How many people did.

But what I noticed in the reading today is that The Name is associated with blessing more than cursing. Through Moses, God told the sons of Aaron to bless the people of Israel by putting God’s name upon them. Look how often the word “bless” is used in this passage:

  • “Thus you shall bless the people of Israel…”
  • “The Lord bless you and keep you…”
  • “I will bless them.”

To bear the name of God is an unspeakable blessing (Literally!)! I suppose the closest we can come to understanding this is to think about the perks of being part of the royal family in England. The name Windsor definitely opens some doors. Closer to home, I guess it’s a little like being named Kardashian. Or, an example we can all relate to: when we land in the United States in a few hours, I will feel incredibly blessed to bear the name “United States of America” on my passport.

God’s Name matters to us. But here’s what amazes me about these lists of names in Numbers: our names matter to God!

By far the most gut-wrenching stop on a tour of Israel is the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Yad Vashem is a phrase taken from Isaiah 56:3– “I will give them a memorial and a name.” The memorial honors the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. The last room one enters is the Hall of Remembrance, a circular room lined with hundreds and hundreds of file boxes, each containing information about the individual victims.

The Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem Yad Vashem translates to “a memorial and a name,” part of Isaiah 56:3. Four million names are recorded in the files around the walls.

Each one had a name.

Standing in that room gave me a new perspective on these first chapters of Numbers. It reminded me that the Bible is about God, but it is also a record of God’s people. it records their names.

God’s name is not to be taken lightly. But to bear God’s name should never be seen as a burden. We sing “Blessed be the Name,” in part, because we live in the blessing of the Name. We are called by His name. He calls us by our name.

And He never forgets our names.

Want to go to Israel with me next year? I am leading my church on a ten day tour, from February 22, 2024 to March 2. We will be flying out of Atlanta. Cost will be around $4000. If you are interested, please message me at

Praying the Psalms: A Meditation on Psalm 84

I read five Psalms first thing every morning. That way, I can read through the entire book of Psalms every month. Each day, I try to pray through one of my daily Psalms, using a method Donald Whitney teaches in his book, Praying the Bible

84 How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! 

‭Psalm‬ ‭84:1-4

Psalm 84 is subtitled, “A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.” The Korathites were a branch of the family of Korah, whom we read about on Day 055. Numbers 3 tells us what the duties of the Korathites were:

2The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, 30 with Elizaphan the son of Uzziel as chief of the fathers’ house of the clans of the Kohathites. 31 And their guard duty involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service connected with these. (Num. 3:29-31).

So as I meditated on Psalm 84 this morning, a picture formed in my mind of a Son of Korah, descended from Kohath, going about his duties in the temple. He is cleaning and polishing the vessels of the sanctuary. He’s making sure the lampstand has plenty of oil. He’s dusting the altars.

Then, he hears birdsong in the rafters. He looks to the ceiling to find its source, and sees that a swallow has built a nest for herself up there. He gets a ladder so he can climb up and remove the nest. But when he comes face to face with the mother bird, he sees that she is watching over her new hatchlings.

Maybe he thinks to himself what a blessing it would be to make a home right here in the Temple, day and night in the shadow of the altar. What a joy it would be to lift his own songs of praise to the rafters, like the birdsong of this swallow.

Heavenly Father, Your desire for me is that I would be at home with You. That I would long–even faint–to be at home in Your courts. That Your dwelling place would be to me the loveliest thing.

And, yes, Lord, a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere! I would rather have a nest of twigs and sticks before Your altar than a luxury apartment apart from it.

All morning long, the song “That Would be Enough” from Hamilton has been on a loop in my brain. I literally woke up with that song in my head. When I opened Psalm 84, I think I know why. Eliza’s song to her ambitious husband Alexander reflect what it might mean to value a day in the house of the Lord above all things. To paraphrase:

Just let me see Your face at the end of the day
And that would be enough. 

I don't need money
I don't need a legacy
You can grant me peace of mind
If I would let you inside your heart. 

I could be enough.
We could be enough.
That would be enough. 

Day 055: “My Father Was a Rabbi, and His Father Before Him…” (Numbers 3-4)

“Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭4:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Originally published 2022.

In our hotel here in Jerusalem, there is a convention of rabbis from New York. I had the privilege of sharing an elevator ride with one of them this evening (I know, it sounds like the beginning of a joke: ‘A pastor and a rabbi get on an elevator…”)

The rabbi was kind and gracious, and we wound up having a wonderful conversation about ministry. The challenge of communicating our faith to the next generation. The expectations of “edutainment”— where you have to be part educator, part entertainer if you want to keep their attention. I guess for us preachers it would be evange-tainment.

Then I asked him, “So when did you know you wanted to be a rabbi?”

He looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“You know,” I said. “How old were you when you felt the call?”

“Well, my father was a rabbi. And his father before that. And his father before that. I married the daughter of a rabbi. I don’t know that I answered a call. It’s just who we are in my family.”

It dawned on me as I was reading today’s passage that I was hearing in 2022 what the Lord commanded Moses over four thousand years ago. I didn’t ask the rabbi’s last name, but there are several modern Jewish surnames that have linguistic connections to ancient Levitical names:

  • Cohen: Koath
  • Gershwin: Gershom
  • Meyer: Merari

Our guide told us that if you meet a modern day Cohen, chances are they are either a rabbi, or they were supposed to be.

It’s a different way to look at calling. And, yes, it has some drawbacks. A few days from now in our reading plan, we will meet some Koathites that clearly weren’t happy with their jobs. I’ve sometimes wondered about Levites who didn’t want to be priests. Or Reubenites that did. Could there even be an option?

And for me, I love that I can point to the moment when I knew God was calling me into the ministry. I was in fourth grade. We had career day at our school. I dressed in a three piece, baby blue suit and carried my Bible, because I wanted to be a preacher.

But there’s something beautiful about meeting a man who, pretty much from birth has known what he is going to do. For whom the very idea of “calling” is a little confusing. It’s just who he is. Like his father, and his father’s father, and his father before him.

Oh, and one more beautiful thing about this gathering of rabbis. As I watch them here in the hotel, I see that many of them are here with their sons. Which means that there is another generation coming up after them.

Parents, if you want to know what it takes to lead the next generation to love and serve the Lord, then perhaps we can learn from the Levites: make it so much a part of your family’s identity that your children could not imagine being anything else.

Want to go to Israel with me next year? I am leading my church on a ten day tour, from February 22, 2024 to March 2. We will be flying out of Atlanta. Cost will be around $4000. If you are interested, please message me at

Day 054: Fit to Fight (Numbers 1-2)

…Every man able to go to war… (Numbers 1:20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44)

Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war! (Psalm 120:6-7)

I have a confession to make. I have never shot a gun.

I feel weird saying that, because I live in the great state of Alabama, which ranks number five in the nation for most guns per thousand people (33). For reference, Wyoming is #1 (229 per 1000) and #50 is Rhode Island (3 guns for every 1000 people).

I have a lot of men in my church who, when they find out I have never shot a gun, offer to cure me of that.

Our men’s ministry planning team did a survey, in which, among other things, we asked the men in our church what kind of activities they would like us to plan on a quarterly basis. Every one of them listed “shooting” as an activity.

Every. Single. One.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge anyone else owning a gun. I really don’t. I take comfort in knowing that on any given Sunday, there are lots of people packing heat.

Along with their husbands.

I just choose not to. I choose not to have a gun in my house. I choose to have prayer be my only defense against any intruder. If I go to my grave never having fired a weapon, I will be okay. I don’t have the itch to fire a weapon. Not even at a tin can.

Does my man card have an asterisk on it? Do I have a man card? I saw a shirt recently that said, “If you know how many guns you have, you don’t have enough.” Perhaps I can tell people, with complete honesty, “Dude, I can’t even COUNT how many guns I have!

In the first chapter of Numbers, God commands Moses,

““Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.” Numbers‬ ‭1‬:‭2‬-‭3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you were a male over twenty who was able to go to war, you were counted. The assumption was that if you were an adult male, that meant that you could and would fight. You counted. You mattered.

If you weren’t able to go to war, you weren’t counted. Children, women, the old, the infirm—they weren’t numbered in Numbers.

I wonder what the census takers would have done with me. I am a male over twenty. I am able bodied. It’s just the gun thing. Would I be considered fit to fight if I had never so much as shot a squirrel?

So the first 46 verses of Numbers make me really insecure. Less than. Not measuring up.

But then, I got to verse 47. That’s when I read that there was one tribe that was NOT counted by the number of men that were able to go to war. The Levites were exempt from the census. Instead, they were to handle the holy things. They were in charge of the tabernacle, its furnishings, and the Ark of the Covenant itself.

“But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭1:50‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And when Israel set up camp, the Levites were in the very center.

Some men might scoff. “Yeah… those Levites needed to be in the center. They needed to be surrounded by the warriors, so the fighting men could protect them.”

But that’s not why the priests and Levites were in the center of the camp. The Levites were positioned closest to the Tabernacle, so they could continually intercede for the people. They could continually offer sacrifices. They could constantly stand in the breach between holy God and sinful man.

That’s where the fighting was fiercest.

Again, no disrespect to the hunters, and shooters, and collectors among whom I live and work and minister. I love you. And I am thankful for you. And I also mean no disrespect to other ministers who enjoy responsible gun ownership.

But I don’t need you to “cure me” of never having shot a gun. I’m going to continue to wage war for the souls of the lost. I’m going to keep on waging war against the devil. And I’m going to continue to let the Lord fight for me.

I will be a warrior. But the weapons of my warfare will not be of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4)

And by the way, the priests and the Levites did go to war. Fast forward to Joshua 6, and take note of who was on the front lines: seven priests, with seven trumpets, followed by the ark of God.

They marched into battle, just like every other red-blooded Israelite.

They just carried different weapons.

Want to go to Israel with me next year? I am leading my church on a ten day tour, from February 22, 2024 to March 2. We will be flying out of Atlanta. Cost will be around $4000. If you are interested, please message me at

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