Day 074: Understanding the Pharisees—a Little (Deuteronomy 11-13)

13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. (Dt. 13:1-3)

There are two tests in Deuteronomy for a false prophet. The second one is in Deuteronomy 18:22, which we will get to in a couple of days. It’s the easy one:

22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. 

A prophet says something will happen; it doesn’t. Therefore he’s not from God. Problem solved.

But the first test, the one we get to today, is a little harder. A prophet speaks, and it does come true. And his words are accompanied with signs and wonders that amaze the people. HOWEVER, if the so-called prophet follows this up by enticing the people to go after other gods, then he also is a false prophet, even if what he said comes to pass.

Deuteronomy 13:3 goes on to say that God could allow this in order to test the people, to know whether they loved the Lord with all their hearts and souls.

This gives us a rare opportunity to understand the Pharisees’ mindset in the New Testament, at least a little. I’ve sometimes wondered how the Pharisees could still reject Jesus, even when He performed so many miracles in front of them. But in their minds, Jesus was leading the people away from Yahweh, and therefore the Pharisees were justified in putting Him to death. You really see this in the healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Even after healing a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years,

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)

Of course, Jesus wasn’t enticing the people to go after other gods, and if the Pharisees were really studying the Scriptures, instead of fixating on all the man-made traditions they had developed to ensure people kept the law, they would have known this. This is why Jesus will say to them a few verses later in this same passage,

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

So there’s a reason Deuteronomy insists that we write God’s words on our hearts. Why we talk about them when we lie down and when we rise up. Why we inscribe them on our doorposts and bind them to our hands and tie them to our foreheads (See Day 072: Taking God at His Word). God’s word is really the only thing that will help us discern whether a prophet is speaking truth. It can’t be merely external: “He performed a miracle! His prophecy came true! He must be from God!” No. You have to internalize God’s Word. You have to know it so well that when a leader says something that contradicts it, alarm bells will go off immediately, regardless of how flashy or inspiring or motivational that leader is.

Beloved, know God’s Word! Pragmatism is a false idol. A thing will never be true just because it “works.” But a Biblical teaching will always work because it is true.

Day 073: Seriously Geeking Out on Hebrew (Deuteronomy 8-10)

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor shall there be any after me.
Isaiah 43:10

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the mezuzah–the scroll of the shema that is rolled up and placed in a box on the doorpost of every Jewish home. And if there’s anyone who just wants to geek out a little on Hebrew and Jewish culture, here’s another fun fact:

The first line of the scroll is Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Shema Israel, adonai elihenu, adonai echad.) You can see this going from right to left (because Hebrew reads from right to left).

This shema scroll has two letters that are disproportionately larger than the others: the ayin of the first word, shema, and the dalet of the last word, echad. (I circled them in red on the image above). I thought at first that this might have just been a mistake on the part of the scribe, but, oh, no. If you watched these guys work, you would know that they don’t make mistakes. If they do, the parchment and the pen are both destroyed. It turns out that EVERY Shema scroll has these two letters larger.

So how come?

Here’s what I found on another great Jewish learning site ( One explanation is that it makes sure no one makes pronunciation errors that would change the entire meaning of the prayer:

If the word shema, שמע, would be read with an aleph—which sounds very similar to the ayin—the meaning of the word would change from “hear” to “maybe,” changing a firm declaration of belief into an expression of doubt.

In other words, the meaning would change from “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God” to “Maybe, O Israel…”

Which is not what you are going for.

The article goes on:

Similarly, if the ד (dalet) of the word echad, אחד, would be mistaken for a ר (reish)—as the two look almost identical—then echad (“one”) would be read acher (“other”). This would make our belief in one God look like a belief in two gods.

Again, the scribes wanted two make certain no poor kid accidentally read “Maybe, O Israel, the Lord our God is other” on his bar mitzvah.

That would be bad.

There is yet another reason given for emphasizing these two letters. Together, these two letters together spell עד (eid), the Hebrew word for “witness.” When we recite the Shema, we attest to His primacy. This reflects the words of Isaiah 43:10:

 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor shall there be any after me.

I’m in awe of the reverence the Jewish people have for the Torah. And beloved, as you continue this Bible Recap journey this year, the Lord is growing you in your reverence for His word. Stay with it!

Day 072: Taking God at His Word: The Mezuzah (Deuteronomy 5-7)

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

When my mother in law came back from Israel, she brought me a mezuzah, the box Tara-Leigh was talking about today. I have it nailed to the doorpost of my office. When you go to Israel, you’ll see them on the doorpost of every building. Even in our hotel, there was one mounted at the entrance to every hotel room.

Mezuzahs differ widely in style, but most mezuzahs have the Hebrew characters shin, daleth, and yodh, or at least the shin (ש)These are the consonants in the name Shaddai, or God Almighty (Remember that character shin. In the next few months, Tara Leigh is going to talk about something regarding that character and the topography of the city of Jerusalem that will blow you away!!)

I saw this everywhere we went in Israel: religious Jews would touch the Shin of the mezuzah as they entered a building, then touch their fingers to their lips and speak a prayer of thanks.

You’ll also notice that it is mounted at an angle on the doorpost. I promise that this isn’t because I don’t know how to use a level. The tradition in Israel is to mount the mezuzah so the blessing will pour into the room. I’ve been told that a traditional gift for a Jewish couple who is expecting is a nursery mezuzah that they mount on the doorpost of their baby room.

Inside is a rolled up scroll of the Shema itself. These are the prayers from Dt. 6 and other passages which religious Jews pray in the morning and evening. I bought this scroll in the Jewish quarter of the old city in Jerusalem. It is on lamb skin parchment and blessed as kosher.

The regulations and requirements of what makes a mezuzah scroll kosher are incredibly complex. You can read about them in this article, The Laws of a Kosher Mezuzah, if you want to take a deep dive. But just to give you a frame of reference, this relatively short article contains fifty two citations of Torah law, detailing everything from how high to place the mezuzah on your doorpost to how much of a margin to leave on the scroll.

I love ritual and tradition. I love how careful religious Jews are to adhere to the letter of the Law. At the same time, I am very aware of how ritual and tradition can replace genuine devotion. For all of us, it is a wonderful thing to cover our walls with Scripture. But for all the commandments of the Shema concerning writing the law on your doorposts and binding it on your hand and your forehead, the most crucial place for God’s command is right there in Deuteronomy 6:6:

6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 

Day 070: The Grace of Repeating Yourself (Deuteronomy 1-2)

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, (Deuteronomy 1:3)

The very fact that Deuteronomy exists is a testimony to the grace of God. The word “Deuteronomy” means “second law.” And as we heard in the Bible Recap podcast this morning, there’s a lot of repetition in the book. It’s Moses’ farewell speech, his own Bible Recap, in which he stands on the edge of the Promised Land and lays down the law for a new generation.

Some people might think it’s unnecessary. The people had the law. Why did Moses need to repeat it? Some of us might have groaned a little when we heard Tara-Leigh introduce the book we are starting today. We’ve just slogged through two books of nothing but law. Can’t we skip “second law” and get back to the action?

And there are some people who think having to repeat yourself is a sign of bad leadership. “I told you once, and I don’t stutter” is their mantra. And if their instructions aren’t followed to a T the first time, they lose it.

For several years, I was a coordinator for a Christian summer camp. At the beginning of the summer, I helped train the young adults who would be running the camp for the rest of the summer. Then I would come back to the camp midsummer to evaluate how they were doing.

I will never forget coming back to one of my locations and talking with the Recreation Director, the staffer who was in charge of teaching the Bible study leaders the games and activities they would use to reinforce the Bible study. He was struggling. His team wasn’t following his leadership well.

I rode with him in his truck one day during recreation. The rec field was kind of a big bowl, with a road running around the rim. We stopped at a couple of places, and he would call out corrections to the Bible study leaders with his megaphone.

“This is the worst rec staff I’ve ever worked with,” he complained. “They don’t listen. They make up their own rules. They’ve forgotten everything I told them at training week.”

I looked at his truck. I looked at where we were up on the hill, compared to where the staff were, down on the rec field. I looked at the megaphone. I said, “Man, if that’s the case, what are we doing up here?”

“I stay up here so I can keep an eye on everything they’re doing wrong.” he said.

“Why aren’t you down there with them?” I asked. “You know, helping them remember?”

“Why should I have to?” he defended. “We’ve been through these games. Everything is written down. They just don’t read it.”

I told them once. And I don’t stutter.

Oh, the grace of Deuteronomy. The grace of hearing the Law a second time, and a third, a fourth, and a ten millionth. The grace of God giving the Israelites a leader who literally did stutter (Exodus 4:10). Moses probably had to repeat himself a lot. And that’s a good thing, because for forty years, the people needed to be told the same things, over and over.

The fact of Deuteronomy is a testimony to God’s patience and long-suffering. His slow-to-angerness. His abounding in steadfast love to a thousand generations. The fact of Deuteronomy points to the Incarnation itself: when God knew He couldn’t just stay at the top of the hill, keeping an eye on everything we were doing wrong, shouting His corrections to us with a megaphone.

He came down to the field and walked alongside us. Teaching. Correcting.


Day 069: Shelter, Savior, Sacrifice (Numbers 35)

“And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭35:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭35‬:‭28‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For the most part, what I thought I understood about Numbers 35 had more to do with church history and Disney cartoons than with the Bible. Let me explain.

Throughout the Middle Ages, even as late as the seventeenth century in England, robbers, thieves, and murderers could flee to the cathedral, grab hold of the ring on the door, and invoke the law of sanctuary, which would protect them from mob justice. Today, you can visit the museum at Durham cathedral, where, over the course of nearly 500 years, over 300 criminals found refuge.

Then, there’s Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Quasimodo swinging down from the roof of the Cathedral, then rescuing Esmerelda from being burned at the stake, then landing back on the parapet and screaming SANCTUARY! SANCTUARY! as he held her unconscious body aloft before the cheering crowd.

Given my fear of heights, I wondered if Esmerelda would have been better off on the ground.

I am thankful for Tara Leigh Cobble’s Bible Recap podcast, because it wasn’t until she explained the detail about the death of the high priest that I really understood what a beautiful passage this is.

You see, death—any death, even an accidental one—had to be paid for. Verse 33 goes on to say, “blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” But when the high priest died, his death paid the debt. Not just for one person in one city of refuge, but for every person who had shed innocent blood throughout Israel.

Numbers 35 is the first time in Scripture the word “refuge” is used. But it definitely is not the last. In 2 Samuel 22, David wrote, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (v. 2-4)

“Refuge” is a frequent word in Psalms (46 times), Proverbs (7 times) and the prophets (14 times). It became a dominant metaphor for God’s loving protection for His children.

Curiously, “refuge” is used once in the New Testament, by the author of Hebrews:

we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 6:17-20

The author of Hebrews talks about two unchangeable things, and they are both in this passage:

  • Jesus is the shelter to which we flee for refuge. Through Christ, we have strong encouragement to hold fast to the anchor of our soul.
  • Jesus is the high priest who enters into the inner place behind the curtain, to make atonement for our sin.

Do you see it? Jesus is our Shelter and our Savior!

Our refuge and our Redeemer.

Our protection from sin and our propitiation for sin.

Our shield and our sacrifice.


Day 068: Divine Desalination (Numbers 33-34)

Date Palms near the Dead Sea. The kibbutz communities around the Dead Sea are bringing the desert to life!
“your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin alongside Edom, and your southern border shall run from the end of the Salt Sea on the east.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭34:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

On the Bible Recap podcast, Tara-Leigh talks about the deadness of the Dead Sea— how salty it is, how lifeless it is. I was there this time last year, and everything she says about it is true. Including, by the way, how much fun it is to float in it. I wrote another blog post about that. You can Check it out here

But Tara-Leigh also talks about the prophecy of Ezekiel 47, that one day the Dead Sea will be made fresh. Here’s what Ezekiel wrote:

“And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.”
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭47:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I get hung up on this prophecy because of how physically impossible it is. The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth—1,385 feet below sea level. And that’s why it’s dead. Everything flows into it, but nothing flows out of it. Nothing can. It’s the law of gravity. When water finds the lowest point, it will pool there. It will stagnate. It will die.

For the Dead Sea to live, the topography of the very earth would have to change. The Great Rift Valley would have to be raised. Mountains would have to be made into valleys.

To which God, through the prophet Isaiah, says, “No problem”:

“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.””
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“But, God,” I protest. “You would have to remake the entire world for that to happen.”

To which God, through the Apostle John says, “Yep.”

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“But God,” says I, with my tiny little faith, “That is just a lot to believe. You’re going to rearrange mountains?”

To which Jesus says, “That’s the plan.”

“And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I serve a God who raises the dead. Who spoke stars into existence. Who upholds the Universe by the word of His power. In light of that, this Dead Sea desalination project is nothing!

If a valley can be lifted up, imagine what God can do with a crushed spirit.

If the Dead Sea can come to life, just think what God could do with your marriage.

If mountains will be made low, just imagine how God will humble the proud who oppose him.

If God can change the surface of the earth to make life spring up where no life was before, is there anything He can’t do in my life? In yours?

Day 066: Rams, Lambs, and Silly Women, Part One: Rams and Lambs, Goats and Bulls (Numbers 28-29)

“And you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, thirteen bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old; they shall be without blemish;” Numbers‬ ‭29‬:‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s something in Numbers 28-30 to offend just about everybody. Animal rights activists won’t like all the sacrifices. Workaholics won’t like all the talk about Sabbath rest. And egalitarians REALLY won’t like the implication that a woman’s vows could be overturned by her husband or father.

Most of the discomfort comes from reading these chapters with our own cultural lenses on. But when we look at them through a different lens, there are actually some beautiful truths in these passages. In Part 2, I’ll talk about the bit about not taking a woman’s vow not being binding. But first, can we talk about all those sacrifices?

So many sacrifices. Two lambs every day (Numbers 28:1-8). Two more lambs every week on the Sabbath (28:9-10). Then, for each of the first six annual feasts, a ram, a lamb, and seven bulls. If you’re keeping track, every year the Levites slaughtered six rams, forty two bulls, and eight hundred and forty male lambs.

If you were bothered before by the body count of daily sacrifices on the altar, then the Feast of Booths (Numbers 29:12-39) must have sent you over the edge. In all, seventy bulls are sacrificed during the seven feast days, as well as fourteen rams, seven goats, and 98 lambs.

Curiously, this feast has a bonus day. Note verses 35-38:

35 “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly. You shall not do any ordinary work, 36 but you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish, 37 and the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 38 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering. (Numbers 29:35-38)

Why a bonus day? Hold that thought. For now, just imagine how physically exhausted the priests must have been at the end of the Feast of Booths. And as someone who gets queasy watching Gray’s Anatomy, I’m really, really glad I’m not a Levite.

In fact, the only thing I would want to be less than a Levite in ancient Israel is a male lamb.

Why seventy bulls? Well, remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) was the only one of the Jewish feasts that the Gentiles were welcomed to? (See Day 051: A Feast for The Rest of Us ) Zechariah 14:16 says,

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

In Genesis 10:1-32, we read what is called the Table of Nations– a listing of all the nations of the earth after the flood. Wanna guess how many there are?

Seventy. How many bulls are sacrificed? Seventy.

We also see the Feast of Booths show up in the New Testament. John 7 tells us that Jesus went up to Jerusalem for this feast. And in verse 37, we read that,

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

In other words, after the seventieth bull was sacrificed, and the sins of all seventy nations on earth were atoned for, Jesus stands up and cries out, “All who are thirsty, come to the water.”

Today, there are far more than seventy nations. In 2023 there are 195 countries recognized by the UN. And depending on how you define your terms, there are anywhere from 11,000 to 24,000 distinct people groups in the world.

Which brings me back to the Feast of Booths. Remember the bonus day?On the eighth day of the seven day feast, seven more lambs were offered. Plus one more ram, one more goat, and one more bull.

I think that eighth day represented all the nations that were to come. The Feast of Sukkot was the one that all nations were invited to celebrate. That seventy-first bull was for nations like mine, which would not exist for another four thousand years.

But hear this: when the last bull was sacrificed, there was yet one more sacrifice to be made. Jesus is the end of the sacrificial system. Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow from Him. What flowed from the Temple altar were rivers of blood from insufficient sacrifices. When Jesus shed His blood, He became the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of every nation, tribe and tongue. Every people group. For as many as would receive Him.

A Spurgeon Snapshot: The Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-5)

27 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad … The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Numbers 27:1-5)

In this tiny little story, we see a picture of incredible faith, and an incredibly gracious God. The backstory is that in Israelite culture, land is of vital importance. Many of the passages we find so tedious in Leviticus-Joshua are about the division of the land, the laws for inheritance of the land, the reverting of the land back to its ancestral allotments in the years of Jubilee, and on and on. Even today, the national newspaper in Israel is called Haaretz (The Land).

So, yeah. Land was a big deal. And in this patriarchal culture, the assumption is that land would pass from father to son. So Zelophehad’s daughters were concerned that their family’s allotment would be given to whomever married the daughters. So they came to Moses with the question: Will our father’s name disappear when we get to the Promised Land?

Here is Spurgeon’s insight on this obscure passage:

The children of Israel had not seen the Promised Land, but God had declared that he would plant them in a land that flowed with milk and honey. that land would belong to them and to their descendants by a covenant of salt forever. These women believed in and valued this heritage. They were not like like Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. They regarded it, though they had never beheld it, as being something exceedingly substantial, and they didn’t want to be left out when the land was divided. They were anxious about an inheritance they had never soon, and in this regard they may testify to us.

There is an inheritance that is far better than the land of Canaan. May we all believe in it and long for it!

Charles Spurgeon

What a picture of Hebrews 11:1. Zelophehad’s daughters had the substance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen! God, give me a longing for the inheritance that is stored up for me.

Day 065: God’s Provision, by the Numbers: A Devotional with a Spreadsheet (Numbers 26-27)

51 These registered Israelite men numbered 601,730. (Numbers 26:51)

Numbers 26 is another mind-numbing list of names and numbers of Israelites, very similar to the one that began the book, and I suppose one of the reasons the book gets its name. The main purpose for the census is to show that God was faithful to His promise that none of those who rebelled against Him in the wilderness would enter into the promised Land, except for Caleb and Joshua (see Numbers 26:64-65).

File that away for later: God is faithful to keep ALL His promises–not just the ones we like!

But buried in the numbers is an amazing little detail that only comes to light if you compare the numbers from Chapter 2 to the numbers in chapter 26:

In Numbers 2:32, we read that,

32 These are the people of Israel as listed by their fathers' houses. All those listed in the camps by their companies were 603,550. 

Then, we get the number of Levites in 3:43:

43 And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.

Now, consider that for thirty-eight years, the Israelites have basically been homeless refugees wandering in the desert. They’ve dealt with plagues, wars, food insecurity, water insecurity, and rebellion.

What impact would you expect that to have on the population?

Just for fun, I found an article about the population shift in the United States that happened during the Great Depression. Bear in mind that these were the Dust Bowl years for the Midwest, when a lot of the farmland and pasture lands of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska dried up and became, well, deserts. On this map, the darker the purple, the more the population of that county declined:

Now, granted, most of these people didn’t die. They moved. And the darker green spots on this map show where they were moving to (California, here I come!).

But imagine if they had nowhere to move to? What would happen? In just ten years, the hardest-hit areas of the Dust Bowl experienced a population decrease of 25% or more! What if they had been in the desert for forty years?

This is basically where we find the Israelites. So wouldn’t you expect the population to decrease substantially in the 38 years they were in the desert?

Now, compare:

Numbers 2-3 censusNumbers 26 CensusDifference
603,550 Israelites601, 730 Israelites-1,820
22,273 Levites23,000 Levites+727

After 40 years in the desert, the net population decrease was less than one percent!

Beloved, this can only be God’s goodness and protection! God is in the details!

Day 064: The Lord in Heaven Laughs (Numbers 23-25)

1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand,
and the rulers conspire together
against the Lord and his Anointed One:
3 “Let’s tear off their chains
and throw their ropes off of us.”

4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord ridicules them.
Psalm 2:1-4

If you found yourself laughing out loud at the story of Balak and Balaam, that’s okay. I actually think it is supposed to be read as comedy. After all, the whole thing started with a talking donkey. So if you get the joke, then know that the God of the Universe is laughing along with you! Psalm 2 describes God (the one enthroned in the heavens) laughing at the schemes of men against His anointed.

I am beginning to think God allows Balaam to go with Balak just so He can mess with Balak. Picture the scene: by the end of the day, Balak, along with all his princes, has followed Balaam to the top of three different mountains. How many steps was that on his Fitbit?

Balak builds twenty-one altars to the God of his enemy. Don’t you just love how God gets glory and honor for Himself from the one that’s trying to curse His people? Balak sacrifices a pasture full of cattle and an entire flock of sheep. And what does he get in return? Three blessings on Israel, each longer and more elaborate than the last.

And then Balaam throws in a bonus blessing, in which he not only curses a bunch of other enemies of Israel (Edom, Amalek, etc.), but in Numbers 24:17, he prophesies the ultimate defeat of all God’s enemies with the coming Messiah:

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab.”

 His language reminds us of the first prophecy in Genesis 3:15, when God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. The day is coming, and the laughter of God will shake the throne room of Heaven.

And God lets us in on the joke.

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