My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4) http://bibl.co/8289
“Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace.” Job 22:21
When you find yourself in the wilderness, what’s the one thing you need more than anything else? God! That’s why the Lord told Moses to build the tabernacle and He used it as a teaching tool to show His people that: (1) He wants to meet with us regularly. The word “tabernacle” means “tent of meeting.” God wants you to spend time with Him. He wants you to get to know Him. Because when you do, you’ll worry less and trust Him more. The Bible says, “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace.” It’s important to listen to God’s Word being taught, to meet with other believers, and be encouraged by their testimonies. But at some point you’ve got to stop trading in second-hand information and get “up close and personal” with God. James writes, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas 4:8 NKJV). (2) God wants to be at the center of our lives. When Israel set up camp each night, the twelve tribes pitched their tents in formation surrounding the tabernacle, where God’s presence dwelt. Every man, woman, boy, and girl could stand in the door of their tent and see God in their midst. Could the message be clearer? When your deepest affections and greatest ambitions are centered around Christ, your life will take an upward swing. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4 NIV). The formula for thriving in the wilderness is: Center your life on Christ and soak yourself in His Word!
Blessed is the fact that Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress; although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and, like many birds, they sing best in their cages. The waves may roll over them, but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God’s countenance; they have a buoyancy about them which keeps their head always above the water, and helps them to sing amid the tempest, “God is with me still.” To whom shall the glory be given? Oh! to Jesus-it is all by Jesus. Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer, but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy. He is sick and suffering, but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him. He is dying, and the cold chilly waters of Jordan are gathering about him up to the neck, but Jesus puts His arms around him, and cries, “Fear not, beloved; to die is to be blessed; the waters of death have their fountain-head in heaven; they are not bitter, they are sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God.” As the departing saint wades through the stream, and the billows gather around him, and heart and flesh fail him, the same voice sounds in his ears, “Fear not; I am with thee; be not dismayed; I am thy God.” As he nears the borders of the infinite unknown, and is almost affrighted to enter the realm of shades, Jesus says, “Fear not, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Thus strengthened and consoled, the believer is not afraid to die; nay, he is even willing to depart, for since he has seen Jesus as the morning star, he longs to gaze upon Him as the sun in his strength. Truly, the presence of Jesus is all the heaven we desire. He is at once
“The glory of our brightest days;
The comfort of our nights.”
“God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?” — Numbers 23:19
The portion for this week is Balak, after the king of the Moabites, from Numbers 22:2–25:9, and the Micah 5:6–6:8
At some point in our lives, we all have experienced broken promises. Perhaps someone broke a promise to us that left us feeling disappointed or even betrayed. Sometimes, we might be forced to break a promise ourselves because something legitimately important came up, and we feel terrible about breaking our commitment. There is only one being who we can count on to never break His promise and that is God. In this week’s Torah reading, the evil sorcerer Balaam discovered that the hard way.
First, let’s take a look at some background information. According to Jewish tradition, this was not Balaam’s first encounter with the children of Israel. No, Balaam had been plotting against this nation for centuries. The Jewish sages teach that Balaam was the mastermind behind the Egyptian plan to enslave the Israelites as a way of permanently subjugating them. So, as you might imagine, Balaam was more than a little disappointed when God set the Israelites free. It upset his entire plan, his greatest “accomplishment.” It’s no surprise then that Balaam was all too eager to curse the Israelites when asked by the king of Moab.
However, try as he might, every time that Balaam tried to curse the children of Israel, blessings came out instead. Balaam’s goal was to have the Israelites die in the desert or, better yet, return to slavery in Egypt. Balaam would be vindicated, and his honor restored. However, God had already promised to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
On his second attempt to curse the people, Balaam couldn’t help but declare, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” In other words, Balaam, by his own unwilling admission, would not be able to change God’s plan nor could he cause God to break His promise.
Let’s use this teaching to remember that God does not break His promises and reflect on a few of His promises.
God promises reward for obedience: “If you follow my decrees . . . the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit” (Leviticus 26:3–4). He promises to save the righteous from trouble: “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you . . .” (Psalm 50:15). The Lord promises to forgive those who repent: “If my people… turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin…” (2 Chronicles 7:14). And God promises to bless those who bless Israel: “I will bless those who bless you …” (Genesis 12:3).
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalms 23:1-4) http://bibl.co/8211
“And there was none feeble among His tribes.” Ps 105:37 NKJV
Notice something else Israel enjoyed in the wilderness: divine health. Think of the health issues you’d expect among two million people walking through endless desert with no doctor or hospital in sight. Yet from the youngest to the oldest, “He…brought them out…and there was none feeble among His tribes.” That’s because they lived on a diet provided by God Himself. Their troubles began when they complained and wanted to go back to the food they ate as slaves in Egypt. Hello! There’s an important lesson here for those who live on fast foods that promote ailments like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Imagine pouring five pounds of sugar into the gas tank of your car and complaining that it won’t run. Now, when health problems run in your family, or economic circumstances force you to eat less than ideal food, God understands and you can go to Him with confidence, believing, “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (Jas 5:15 NKJV). But when the choice is between exercising wisdom in order to have good health or exercising faith in order to be healed, your choice is clear. When Israel entered the Promised Land, God told them, “Serve the Lord…and He will bless your bread and your water…take sickness away from the midst of you…[and] fulfill the number of your days” (Ex 23:25-26 NKJV). Then He gave them dietary laws to live by that set them apart from the surrounding nations. Question: How many of us fail to “fulfill the number of [our] days” and the assignment God gives us, because we refuse to exercise discipline when it comes to our diet? Think about it!
The streams of living water which flow from Jerusalem are not dried up by the parching heats of sultry midsummer any more than they were frozen by the cold winds of blustering winter. Rejoice, O my soul, that thou art spared to testify of the faithfulness of the Lord. The seasons change and thou changest, but thy Lord abides evermore the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad and as full as ever. The heats of business cares and scorching trials make me need the cooling influences of the river of His grace; I may go at once and drink to the full from the inexhaustible fountain, for in summer and in winter it pours forth its flood. The upper springs are never scanty, and blessed be the name of the Lord, the nether springs cannot fail either. Elijah found Cherith dry up, but Jehovah was still the same God of providence. Job said his brethren were like deceitful brooks, but he found his God an overflowing river of consolation. The Nile is the great confidence of Egypt, but its floods are variable; our Lord is evermore the same. By turning the course of the Euphrates, Cyrus took the city of Babylon, but no power, human or infernal, can divert the current of divine grace. The tracks of ancient rivers have been found all dry and desolate, but the streams which take their rise on the mountains of divine sovereignty and infinite love shall ever be full to the brim. Generations melt away, but the course of grace is unaltered. The river of God may sing with greater truth than the brook in the poem–
“Men may come, and men may go,
But I go on for ever.”
How happy art thou, my soul, to be led beside such still waters! never wander to other streams, lest thou hear the Lord’s rebuke, “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt to drink of the muddy river?”