God had made a promise to the Israelites to give them a land filled with milk and honey. And here they are on the border... only steps away from their promise.
But God also gave them a bit of instruction... a warning actually, of what they must do to have it. For it wasn't a land vacant and empty. It was actually occupied by many people who had a lifestyle as idol worshippers. These weren't just casual idols to the people of Canaan. These were statues, images and altars which captured the people's soul. And the rituals which they professed were very ungodly.
And Yahweh, wanting to keep the Israelites dedicated to Him, knew that if these people stayed in the land, if their idols remained... there would be trouble. So He commanded that they 'dispossess' the land before they could possess it.
That meant that they would need to take the land by force... to take the place of those who already lived there. And in doing such, God asked that they destroy the images and demolish the high places. For if these were left behind, they would be a temptation to draw their hearts away from Him; to temp them to become like those who did not know God.
And while that sounds harsh, it was commanded by God because He knew what was best for the people... He knows what is best for us.
Our God was actually wanting to bless them immensely; as He does for us. But He also knows what can happen when people become double-minded... trying to be open to all options, trying to make excuse for all ways of life.
This actually became a struggle for the Israelites, as it is often for us. We want so much to accept and love all people. And that is Godly. But excusing the lifestyle and participating in that which the world approves is not.
And God knows that can only lead to a life of ruin. If we, like the Israelites receive what God desires to give without dispossing what this world values, it will become tainted, unholy and worthless. So this is how He protects uss... by asking that we trust Him in this. This is how He protects the possessions He gives... that we keep ourselves set apart from the trappings of the world and live with a higher mindset.
Yes, we can love all people.
No, He no longer asks that we take possession by destroying people.
But excusing and accepting ways of life which are unholy is not receiving God's best for us. Rather we need to ask for His discernment, His grace and His help. We should want what is best for us... as well as for those who live as we don't. This does not require our condemnation of anyone.
Loving others can be done while we maintain right-standing with God. And as such, we will be greater witnesses. Just living our life without idols, without excuse, without compromise.
Let us look to God as our Possession Protector... for He wants everyone to have the best that He offers.
Words are powerful.
God sees words as active, alive and containing power.
They can propel our life forward, or bring it to a screeching halt.
And the words God speaks not only create, but they bring promises, covenants and vows to His people, which He considers of the highest value. For He is serious about them. He is always good for His word, keeping His promises.
You cannot find one promise in the Bible that the LORD has not kept... or is not to keep in eternity. Every prophecy is and will be fulfilled. He is not one to speak quickly and then need to take it back.
He is, in fact our Solemn Vow.
And He asks that we be just as serious about our promises. He does not take it lightly when we tell someone we will help, we will serve, we will follow through... and then don't.
We don't often raise our hand and dedicate ourselves to a vow, as they did in Bible times. But that doesn't make our word any less valuable. And God holds us accountable for such.
At the very least, if we are unable to follow through... if we spoke too quickly out of excitement or the thrill of the moment, we should be sincere enough to apologize for our impulsive behavior and confess that we will be unable to fulfill our promise.
What respect might develop between people if they were so inclined to do so. No excuses, no blame... simply asking that we be forgiven the vow and allowed grace for the next time.
For we serve a God of the solemn vow. Let us endeavor to be as true to others as He is to us.
It's unfortunate that many people don't think of our God as one who would enjoy a party. In fact, I'd wager that most would call God a Party-Pooper before they'd consider Him a Party-Planner.
But the funny thing is, in the Old Testament, the Israelites were actually commanded to have several celebrations each year. One such even was called the Feast of Trumpets. And it was actually a seven day celebration where people had an automatic excuse from work!
Can you imagine... getting to call your employer and say, "Oh I won't be at work this week because I'm going to be joyful and shouting at the Festival of Trumpets." And you'd be excused because it was commanded by God.
Many of these celebrations included feasting, music, dancing and joyful shouting in order to remember how God had delivered them... how God had provided for, and protected them. He wanted them to take time to celebrate His goodness with a party. And He was the ultimate Party-Planner!
Even in the New Testament, Jesus talks about there being a party... a celebration when we arrive in Heaven. He spoke of how the Kingdom of Heaven was compared to a wedding feast in Matthew 22.
And in Revelation 19, we see visions of the angels celebrating in worship. There too is word of a wedding celebration to which we too are invited.
And here in the Psalms, David writes of celebrating IN church... in the sanctuary.
Praise God in His sanctuary.
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His powerful acts;
praise Him for His abundant greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet blast;
praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dance;
praise Him with flute and strings.
Praise Him with resounding cymbals;
praise Him with clashing cymbals.
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Psalm 150 HCSB
So dance, sing, shout joyfully!
Celebrate the fact that our God is the great Party-Planner.
And just imagine what an amazing day it will be in heaven when everything that breathes praises the LORD!
An enemy of the Israelites, one who feared their size, one who was threatened by their God... used a subversive tactic to weaken their tribes. Women were sent to distract and dilute Israel's power by tempting the men, by leading them to worship the idol Baal.
And the Lord's anger burned against them. For He is a God that requires all of our heart. He is a God that will uphold, defend, and reward those who earnestly seek Him. But He will not tolerate idolatry.
So when Phinehas zealously defended the honor of God, he was recognized before all Israel; he was rewarded wth a covenant of peace.
Imagine how our lives might change if we too were zealous for the honor of God; if we would defend His holy name and dispense with all idols in our life. How I would rejoice for a covenant of peace over my life, my children, and my children's children.
Did you know that there is mention of a UNICORN in the Bible?
But this is not our typical vision of a white horse surrounded by sparkles, rainbows and hearts... proudly showing off his one horn.
This animal, according to several Bible scholars, is more like a rhinoceros, or a wild ox, with great strength and ferocity. And the invincible quality of this animal's strength was considered so feared that it could conquer any man who offended it.
And here, the prophet Balaam depicts the character and protection of God with this unique animal. This is no My Little Pony version of a unicorn. Quite the contrary.
This one-horned animal, indigenous to Arabia, could grow to twelve feet in length and stand taller than most men. His girth and substantial size did not slow him though, as he struck fear in those who stood in his way.
But our God is not to be feared like this animal, unless we are on the opposing side. For here, he is shown to stand defending the Israelites... all the descendants of Jacob... those people He called to Himself. And the opposing king, Balak of Moab, desiring to curse them through this prophet, was now warned of the unwise choice to oppose these people traveling through the wilderness.
Yes, our God is a Fierce Defender, a strong and mighty force of protection. Let us call on Him when we are fearful, weak and needing to be delivered from what enslaves us. For just as He was faithful His children long ago, He continues to deliver, provide and defend us today.
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