Tag Archives: Numbers

Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Hanging On For The Win

Life is often about making tough sacrifices today because we’re looking forward to a better tomorrow.

Whether it’s holding back on eating that chocolate cake because you’re going for a weight goal, putting those night hours into a course to get you out of a dead-end job, or even putting up with less-than-perfect conditions in a group or team because you’re wanting the final win more than your temporary comfort.  We’ll never see greatness tomorrow without some kind of sacrifice today.

But I have to say, one of the most tragic things I see is people who pay great prices, and then pull out too soon – before they get the breakthrough.  They go through a season of pain for nothing.

I was struck by this thought this morning when I read this verse:

“Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai” – Numbers 26:64

Through Joshua, God parcelled out parts of the Promised Land to the Israelites.  They’ve made it.   This is reward day.  They’re now receiving the reward of their faith.  Yet with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, an entire generation – thousands upon thousands of people – missed that moment.  They’d been through seasons with no water, with no food, they’d been attacked and set upon… they’d endured hardships and pain… and for NOTHING.  They didn’t get what was promised because they gave up.

The thought of that makes me seriously want to stick in the journey through hardship!  I mean, if you’re going to go through the pain and suffering in life, if you’re going to make sacrifices and live a fasted life… then at least make sure you stick it out to the end to get the reward!

Paul gives us this encouragement:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9

God is preparing your life for wins.  He’s got a Promised Land ready to carve up for you, and He wants you to be there on the day He hands it out!  Don’t let difficulties, doubt or discouragement rob you of the reward you’ve already given so much for.  Hold in there and don’t give up… the prize is totally worth it!

Breaking Open Historic Wells

From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.”  Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank– the nobles with scepters and staffs.” – Numbers 21:16-18 (NIV)

In their journey towards the Promised Land, the Israelites came to a place where God promised to give them water.  It was called ‘Beer’ (which in Hebrew means ‘water’) – but interestingly it doesn’t seem like there’s any water there – as God has to specifically tell Moses that He will give water to the people.  So the people sing, and the princes and nobles dig, and the water flows. 

Leadership Principles

There’s some keys in this passage for those who are leaders – as every leader in some way is a shepherd, with the responsibility of both feeding the sheep and leading them to water.  We feed them with the Word of God, but in order to water them, we must bring them into places where they encounter His power and presence.  Churches and leaders need both the Word and the Spirit working simultaneously in order for the ‘sheep’ to be healthy.  So how do we get a ‘well’ going for our people when it seems like it’s all dry?

Key 1 – Find An Historic Well

The Israelites came to a place called Beer, called water.  There may not have been any water there when they arrived, but there must have been water there at some point in the past for it to have received the name it did.  God has ordained a whole lot of different ‘wells’ for His people to drink from, but many of them have been stopped up or stopped flowing over the years.  But the water is still there, under the ground – ready to be tapped.  Some of these wells include salvation, healing, revival, worship.  When these wells get tapped then power begins to flow and the people of God get refreshed. 

Key 2 – Gather The People Together

The power of unity is well documented in the Word of God – and is an essential key if we’re going to get a well going.  The people must be gathered together, and given a common focus and plan.  Without a united group people – no well will be opened.  But when the people are together – then God’s blessing quickly comes upon the work.  We unite the people by showing them why they need the well – and what has happened historically when that well has been opened.

Key 3 – Sing To It

Worship has supernatural power to unblock wells.  One of the best ways that we can start to unblock a particular well is by choosing songs that we sing together about that well.  For example, if we want to see a healing well unblocked – then it’s important that we’re corporately singing songs about God’s healing power.  The worship not only ‘speaks’ to the situation with words of power, but worship also carries God’s transforming power to change the hearts and minds of those who worship.  Worship gets into the hearts and minds of the people.  Whatever we sing to will spring up in our midst! 

Key 4 – Get The Leaders And Nobles Digging

The final key is to get those who have visible leadership – the ‘leaders’ and ‘nobles’ – to get them ‘digging’ alongside you.  Get them committed to prayer & fasting, and to speaking and encouraging the others.  Get them investing in it. 

In Conclusion

When Israel rocked up to Beer, there was no water there.  But they left behind them a flowing well.  God is calling us to be people like that too – who come into situations where there is no life, and not only get life flowing in our time, but leave behind us a legacy for those who will follow as well. 

The Vow Of The Nazirite

I don’t usually write messages that I preach at church up here (maybe I should) but I thought this message which I brought at our evening meeting last night could be a helpful insight for someone!

We know that Christianity is free… but to follow Jesus will cost you everything!  There is a price to pay to walk in the power of God, but this price has nothing to do with our sin as Jesus has already paid for that.  No, the price we pay has to do with the changes that need to happen in our lives to accomodate more of God’s presence and power. 

A grass airstrip is fine if you want to land a small plane.  But if you want a 747 to land, you need to clear a lot of space and build a tarmac airstrip.  God has some 747’s that are flying around that He wants to land and He’s looking for lives to land them in.  These big jets carry many of the things that the church is looking for to be released, but unfortunately most people simply have a grass airstrip.

Which brings me to ‘The Vow Of The Nazirite’.  In the Old Testament, God set aside a way that those who wanted to be devoted to Him, could be. Naturally the zealots looked at this as a way of them showing everyone else that they were the best Jews.  But God’s point in establishing the Nazirite Vow wasn’t to encourage ellitism – rather it was to provide a way for those who had a genuine heart and desire to be set apart for God for His purposes. 

Numbers 6:1-8 contains the description of what the Nazirite vow entailed. 

This passage gives us 3 things:

* no alcohol,

* long hair,

* no dead bodies.

Now this doesn’t mean that we succeed if we have long-haired teetotallers who don’t hang around funeral homes!  That’s not the point.  For us today – it’s symbolic – and makes sense as we start to unpack it.  

Before I start, I’ll mention this – as I’ve prayed and studied… these are the conclusions I’ve come to.  Others may get other things out of this passage – I’m not claiming this to be the definitive work on the subject.  

So what does this kind of heart toward God look like in our day?

1) No alcohol – ABSTAINING FROM WORLDLY PLEASURES

For the people of the Old Testament, alcohol was a pleasure that they engaged in when they came to ‘chill out’.  They didn’t have TV & Playstations!  If we’re going to translate this first one into our context today – I think it’s about more than alcohol.  I believe it’s actively looking to abstain from worldly pleasures so that we can more actively seek God.  

Now get me right – I’m not talking about a bunch of self-righteous people who who look with disdain upon anyone else who isn’t doing what they’re doing.  It’s about, through love, looking for ways that we can accommodate more of God in our lives. 

The word ‘Nazirite’ comes from the Hebrew word Nazir – which means to keep something for special.  All of us I’m sure have stuff that we ‘keep for special’.  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. – 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)  

We get to choose (to a certain extent) how God uses our lives.  If we set our lives apart – nazir – build a big landing strip on our lives – He can use us for bigger purposes.  But if we fill our lives up with common, everyday busyness… it becomes harder for God to use us for His purposes.  There are times and seasons in your life where you may want to forgo some of the usual worldly things that you enjoy in order that you can make more room in your life for God to move.  Sometimes people make a decision that a certain thing is actually distracting them from going further with God – so they make a decision that they’re going to abstain for it from here on out.  

2) Long Hair – STANDING OUT / BEING INCONVENIENCED

People who were making a Nazirite vow physically stood out from others (especially the men).  In order to increase your capacity to become an ‘airstrip for God’, He’s going to make you do stuff that will make you stand out!  It may be shutting down gossip in the workplace, sharing your testimony or having to pray for healing for someone.  The increase in your heart will come as you obediently follow God’s direction – not just in your times of prayer or when you’re around Christians – but at all times!

Not only that, but long hair can be a real inconvenience!  I know, because I had it for a while!  And in the same way, when we’re looking for God to increase our capacity for more of Him – get prepared to be inconvenienced!  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  How many times have you committed to fast, only to be invited out for an all expenses paid lunch?!  The Holy Spirit will often nudge us to do things that are a great inconvenience to us.  But obeying Him is how we grow! 

3) Avoiding Dead Bodies – LEAVING GRIEF/PAIN BEHIND

This is proof that we’re not supposed to take this literally – how could we raise people from the dead if we’re not allowed to touch dead bodies!  One way that we can bring this forward into our time is by NOT CONTINUALLY WEEPING OVER THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN LOST.

All of us have experienced loss & pain.  But the one who wants to devote their life to God says to Him – ‘I’m going to serve you in my pain.  I’m not going to stop serving you to deal with it’.  I always find it amazing how some people have huge amounts of pain and keep serving God.  Others have a little, and they stop their whole lives.

If you’re wanting to see the power of God come into your life – be a person who puts God first in spite of your pain.

IN CONCLUSION

VOW OF THE NAZIRITE IS ABOUT THROUGH LOVE, CREATING SPACE IN YOUR LIFE SO THAT GOD’S POWER AND PRESENCE CAN MOVE THROUGH YOU MORE.

Building Fences

Numbers 6:3-4 – he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any juice of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried.  All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the grape-vine, from the kernels even to the husk.

In the Old Testament, a special provision was made for those who were not priests, but who wanted to take a vow of separation to God.  They were called Nazirites, and one of the outworkings of this vow was that they would not touch wine or strong drink during the period of their vow.

But the Lord in His wisdom gives an all-encompassing commandment surrounding this – that they should not drink or eat anything of the vine – either grapes, raisins, the kernels or the husk.  By commanding this, God essentially built a fence around their main vow which was to abstain from alcohol. 

Fences are great things to build into your life.  If you know that something is sin for you – then build a fence right around it – not just around the sin, but against those things that lead you to the sin.  For many of us, sin is often a result of small compromises that we’ve made.  If we deal with the small things, the big things take care of themselves!

The Brother’s Inheritance

Numbers 27:9 – If he have no [son or] daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.

When it came time to divide up the promised land, provision was made for one who died but left no children – his inheritance was to be given to his brothers. 

When Jesus died, he had no natural children (despite what some popular novels are saying on the subject!).   If he had then the inheritance that was laid up for him, would have been their possession.

Instead, Jesus referred not to his earthly brothers as his brothers, but to us!  (Matthew 12:49). This is an important step, because legally upon his death, his inheritance comes to us!  Through Christ we have received an inheritance that will not pass away.

Take Me Home!

Numbers 14:4 – They said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

Upon hearing the report of the spies who had entered and checked out Canaan – that there were giants in the land – the people rebel against Moses and his leadership.  They start talking to one another and saying ‘let’s find someone else… someone who will lead us back to Egypt’.

The truth of the matter is that although the people had been taken out of Egypt, Egypt still had not been taken out of the people.  Every time their faith was tested by God, they wanted to run back to what they knew.  It’s for this reason that this generation did not inherit what God promised. 

The people had tired of Moses’ leadership, and now they wanted a leader who was going to take them where they wanted to go.  They no longer wanted to try to inherit God’s promises, instead they longed for the life that God had delivered them out of. 

It can be tempting when things are difficult, to jump ship or start looking somewhere else where the grass appears greener.  Even the bondage and heartache of the life that God has delivered us out of can start to look attractive!  But by learning to prevail through difficult times, and by becoming overcomers, we prepare ourselves to inherit all the great things that God has for us. 

Be a believer – be a person who puts their trust in God.  He won’t let you down!