Numbers 4 is not a place most people flip to for encouragement. Moses is counting the Levites and assigning tabernacle jobs like carrying lampstands and tables. It's a long, detailed list. But at the end, the Scripture reads, "...they were numbered...each according to his service and according to his task..."
You are probably sitting saying, "And..."
I agreed. I had read this verse multiple times and every other time I would have been right there with you. But not this time. These men were chosen for a job and each job, whether it was carrying the ark or dragging a board through the desert, had a purpose.
You are chosen. I am chosen. We are chosen. For a job. And each job has a purpose. Your marriage. Your children. Your family obligations. How you make a living. How you serve God. You have a purpose and God has chosen you for the job He has given you. Even if it seems like your job is hauling a set of poles, those poles have a purpose that we will not be able to see until we "make camp" in heaven. There God Himself will shows us their value as part of the "righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:8).
This is the blog post I sat down to write four weeks ago, "What I Learned From Numbers 4:49". But how good is our God? He gives more than we can imagine. It's exactly what we need at precisely the right moment. Happy Thanksgiving!
Sometimes when a verse arrests my attention, it feels like God put it there just for me. He is speaking directly to me, my life, and I am seeing rich, wonderful applications of His word. The depth of this passage or that detail of the story, is so amazing. . .maybe no one else has ever noticed it!
And honestly, it used to deflate me when I would have a spiritual insight and someone else had already thought the same thing. But somewhere along the way, it ceased to be disappointing and instead became even more exhilarating: there were two of us!
The omnipotent, all-knowing God of the universe Who taught me this truth in His word, taught my brother or my sister in Christ the exact same thing. Now that's an amazing God! When He speaks to us, He has a purpose: a command to follow (as Numbers 4:49 repeats twice), an attitude or thought process to change, an encouragement to give, something that sculpts us more into the image of Jesus Christ.
The riches of God's word are not a hidden or personal collection for some cellar or safe room. They are a treasure that we get to put on display for the world (Matthew 13:52).
"According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand of Moses, each according to his service and according to his task; thus were they numbered by him, as the Lord commanded Moses." -- Numbers 4:49
That was the verse that the Holy Spirit fixed my mind on a few weeks ago. It's a "skim over" verse. A conclusion to yet another list of people and tabernacle paraphernalia. I typically read these lists quickly, and simply to check the box that says: Bible Study. I don't generally expect God to speak through them. And that's wrong.
God through Paul tells us that His entire Word is profitable -- not merely the portions that we judge to be interesting or instructive. It rests on us to approach His word correctly, assuming:
1. God intentionally included this,
2. For my edification, and
3. He is present and able to apply it to me and my life. (Even when we may not want Him to.)
Have you ever been reading the Bible and suddenly have a verse jump out at you? (I hope so because it is one of the ways I know God's Spirit is present with me.) My natural response is to shrug and say, "Oh, that's cool." and press on with my agenda to read three chapters. It has taken me too long, but I eventually learned that this is God calling me to stop reading and meditate on that verse -- regardless of where I am in my reading for the day.
Last week, I had one of those moments reading Numbers, arguably one of the driest books in the Bible (which proves God intentionally included everything in His word). Reading that verse today -- even knowing what God was pointing out to me then -- just doesn't strike me the same way.
Every time this happens to me, I am reminded about why God desires and deserves instant, first-time obedience -- it is for our good. The moment that He speaks, is the moment we are best prepared to hear. If we say, "Not right now, Lord. I just need to finish the book of Philippians in time for Sunday School" He may not instruct us again. Instead, when the Holy Spirit speaks, we need to lay down our plans, pick up a pen and say, "Speak Lord, for Your servant hears."
The man-made stairs, called "The Incline," are essentially a single staircase straight to the summit. (And you can continue on to Pike's Peak -- if your water supply and legs will hold out.) From the foot of the mountain, it looks easy. But your legs, lungs, and brain will tell you the truth pretty soon.
Some of us became Christians, looked at the life of Jesus followers and thought, "That's easy. It's straight and well-marked." But our eyes deceived us, because everyone who climbs the Incline uses the same stairs. They go through the same things -- just like life.
Trusting Jesus as your Savior and serving Him as Lord does not change that. Death. Illness. Broken hearts and minds. Addiction. These flourish in our sin sick world and without Jesus, suffering and sin wins. But with Jesus, sin is defeated, and we have hope: the top of the mountain awaits those who do not give up.
"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
In Manitou Springs, CO, you can scale a mountain in 16 minutes and 42 seconds. (If you are a world class athlete.) There is a sign at the bottom of the "hill" that says that 16:42 is the official record time. It took us 90 minutes...but you know, who's counting? Expectations matter.
Too often in life we go into a job, relationship, or ministry opportunity with expectations. Sometimes we know we are expecting them (like to get a raise or a promotion) and sometimes we don't (like expecting people to appreciate our service to God). Often when we get angry it is because our expectations are going unfulfilled. We aren't getting what we think we deserve out of "this".
As I considered this, I realized that when I get angry it should trigger me to reevaluate what I am expecting. The thing about expectations is that even if you know them, it's hard to change them. It's easy to say, "Oh, it's okay if I don't get to the top in 16:42." But when you get to the top in 90:33, you feel a tinge of defeat because those deep rooted desires are still there.
Lord, please change my desires to what they should be in my everyday life.
Ps. Sorry this is so late...had a computer meltdown.
2,768 steps -- that's all it takes to get to the top of "The Incline". (In addition to all detours you take trying to get into the shade.) The best thing about this popular tourist destination is you can see the top (or at least what you think is the top) the whole way. As we hiked, I kept singing about heaven because that is our ultimate goal in life. And just like our journey to heaven:
-- The Incline is a journey of faith -- we trust the mapmakers or in the case of heaven, the Mapmaker.
-- The stairs are steep and it's hard even for those most prepared.
-- People get discouraged, detoured, and distracted. A large percentage who start hiking, never make the summit.
-- You can't see every step on the pathway to the top. You only know where you are planning to end up.
-- And there are lots of surprises! (Like being told once you make it to the top it's 4 1/2 miles to make it back to your car!)
Cue the music and the lights and ACTION! The leading man drops to his knee and proposes marriage to his woman. How romantically sweet and sappy! And yet still a moving, beautiful expression of dedicated, exclusive love, but as I heard his profession it seemed his words rang empty. Because regardless of how wonderful he is, how much he desires to protect her, care for her, love her, and make her happy: he can't. And even standing before the altar and the pastor, they never addressed the fact that no matter how sincere and how great a person is, they can't keep a promise to love selflessly.
Only God can.
Our culture likes to put a significant other, a great job or hobby, or an amusement in the place of honor in our lives to reign as "king" and be the reason for living. But if anything or anyone other than Christ sits on the throne of your life, it is UNWORTHY. And the result of an unworthy regent results in divorce, bitterness, disillusionment, broken relationships, lust, fear, suicide, forgiveness, church shopping and job hopping.
There is only one rightful King. His name is Jesus.
So what is God's love language?
Words of affirmation? Yes.
Time together? Yes.
Is that fair? To want love in every way humans can display love? Yes.
God has an all-encompassing term for this kind of love. He has clearly told us what His "love language" is.
God's love language is obedience. Obedience in word, in sacrifice, with our bodies and our time. Obedience with our lives, for a lifetime, that's God's love language.
"If you love me, keep My commandments." -- John 14:15
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.