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The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
by Dave MillerIn our last lesson we were in the book of Leviticus. Let me summarize this book very quickly before we move on. The word "Leviticus" means that which pertains to the tribe of Levi. The book of Leviticus is a book that describes the matters of the priestly tribe of Levi of the nation of Israel. There are twenty-seven chapters that give all of the priestly details that pertain to the Law of Moses. The book can best be deciphered by the word holy which is used more than ninety times in the book. Our English word holy is essentially the same word as the word saint or sanctified, coming from the same root term. All of those words, holy, holiness, saint, sanctified, refer to the concept of being set apart and used for Godís purposes. The notion of holiness has to do with the idea of committing oneself to the specifications that God has indicated are within His will.
For example, in Leviticus chapter 10 we find two of the sons of Aaron. Mosesí brother, Aaron, had four sons. Two of those sons, Nadab and Abihu, are described in that chapter. In their responsibilities as priests under the Old Law they were responsible for, among other things, burning incense. On this occasion weíre informed that they took their censers and they put incense on the censers. Then they introduced what the text calls strange fire. The word "strange" means "foreign or alien"--fire used for burning that God did not sanction. He wanted fire apparently from another source, perhaps the altar, the burnt offering altar. The Bible indicated that God sent fire down out of the atmosphere and burned those two boys to death. Notice carefully Leviticus 10:3 where Moses says, "Now I know what God meant when He said, ĎI will be sanctified (I will be shown to be holy) by those who wish to approach me in worship. And before all the people I will be glorified (that is, honored or shown respect).í"
The point of that chapter, and really the whole book of Leviticus, is that God has given human beings throughout Bible history--Pre-Mosaic, Mosaic, Post-Mosaic, the Christian era--information to which we are to conform. In order for us to be holy we must commit ourselves to complying with Godís will. In I Peter chapter 1, near the end of that chapter, Peter quotes from the book of Leviticus, "You know, even in the Old Testament, God said weíre to be holy because God is holy." He applies that to New Testament Christianity and indicates that we, too, are to function in a holy way.
To be a saint in the Bible does not mean to be some special, elite, spiritual person. It means that you have made the decision to conform to the will of the God of the universe. Therefore you are holy in the sense that you have listened to what God has told you to do, and you have made the decision to devote yourself to Godís will. That makes you a saint. It doesnít mean that you are perfect, that you never sin. But you have committed your life, set your life apart from the world and from sin and from devoting oneself to pursuing oneís own interest, and decided to become a Christian and to live for God. Hence every Christian in the New Testament is holy, that is, "a saint or sanctified". Thatís the biblical use of the term "saint". The book of Leviticus, though written to the Jewish people and dealing with Levitical matters under the Law of Moses, nevertheless has tremendous application for people living the Christian life in our day.
That brings us to the next book of the Pentateuch, the book of Numbers. It is so named because of a census that was taken, a numbering of the people, at the very beginning of Numbers and then, forty years later, at the end of the book of Numbers a second census is taken of the people. When Numbers opens the people are still situated at the base of Mt. Sinai. They have come out of Egypt and traveled down the Sinai Peninsula to Mt Sinai where God is giving the nation all of these laws, statutes and regulations that will govern this nation, including the Ten Commandments. The book of Numbers describes in the early chapters a lot of matters that pertain to the Levitical law. The Bible indicates that God gave them instructions to strike camp. They had been at Mt. Sinai for several weeks. Theyíre now to strike camp and move to their second objective. Their first objective was to go to Mt. Sinai, having come out of Egypt, to receive Godís will. Now theyíre to proceed to their second objective, the promised land, the Land of Canaan. They traveled from Mt. Sinai in a northeasterly direction up out of the Sinai Peninsula and arrived at the southern most border of the promised land.
Notice in chapter 13, when the nation arrives at the southern most boundary of the land of Canaan, they assemble a reconnaissance team composed of twelve men, one leading man from each of the twelve tribes. This reconnaissance team is charged with the responsibility of going up into the land of Canaan and investigating land conditions. They leave and travel from the south right on through the land of Canaan up into the northern most borders of Palestine. They are gone for well over a month and then they return. They stand before the nation in chapter 13 and give their reconnaissance report to the nation. Hereís what they say: "This land is everything God said it would be." They, in fact, used the Hebrew idiomatic expression "a land that flows with milk and honey". This expression means that itís bountiful, itís sumptuous, and it would well provide for the needs and desires of this entire nation. Itís truly a bountiful land. In fact, they brought back one cluster of grapes that was so enormous that it was suspended on a pole and carried by two men, as evidence of the bounty of this land of Canaan.
After informing the nation that this was indeed a wonderful land, ten of the twelve spies then said, "But, we cannot conquer this land." They said, "There are seven ethnic groups already situated in Palestine. Theyíve been there a good while and have well fortified cities with high walls", the implication being that their military capability far exceeded Israelís who had just recently come out of Egypt, where they were not even permitted to have a standing military. They said, "There are children of Anak in this land of Canaan, the Anakim." These would be people who were genetically giants of eight or nine feet tall. They said, "We look like grasshoppers in our own eyes, let alone theirs."
After those ten made that report, the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb said, "Wait a minute. Weíre well able to go up and conquer this land. The Lord told us to go conquer this land. Weíre able to do that, so letís do it." Yet when you turn the page to Numbers chapter 14, we have ensuing a night of national mourning. The people stay up all night weeping. All of their hopes and dreams that had filled their thoughts for centuries centered on the promise made to their forefather, Abraham, that God would give them this land. Suddenly here they are on the brink of taking this land and ten of the twelve spies convince them, "We canít do this. Weíve made a big mistake." They stayed up all night weeping. Chapter 14 tells us by morning they had already decided they were going to go back to Egypt. They would select new leaders to replace Moses. They would go back to Egypt and place themselves back under Pharaoh and Egyptian bondage.
Once again Joshua and Caleb spoke up. They gave a wonderful speech saying, "Please, donít do this. Donít rebel." They, in fact, used the word rebel. "This would be rebellion for us to do this. God has told us we can take this land. We need to do it." Yet, the Bible indicates that they refused to listen to what these two men had to say. In fact, they prepared to stone Joshua and Caleb. They were so infuriated that these men were pushing, encouraging and exhorting them to obey God. They were on the verge of stoning them when suddenly God manifested His glory.
The Bible says God spoke to Moses and told Moses and the few faithful to step aside. God said, " I will put an end to this whole nation right here. Weíll just destroy them, and weíll start over with the few that remain and once again build up the nation, in order to fulfill the promises that had been made to Abraham." Moses in his mediatoral capacity, his intercessory capacity, fell down before God and said, "Please donít destroy this entire nation because of this rebellion." In fact, he begged God to pardon them, to forgive them. Godís response to that was, "Okay, I forgive them, but every adult that participated in this rebellion (and at that point in history that would have been anyone over the age of nineteen), all of the adults who participated in this challenge of My will, this refusal to go in and take the land as I told them they could and should do, none of them will be permitted to go into the promised land. Instead, they will wander around one year for every day the spies were in the land investigating land conditions." That was forty days. God was saying, "You, as a nation, are going to have to wander around in this desert, this harsh, arid, rugged, barren part of the world for forty years until the older generation dies off." He said, "The younger generation is going to have to bear the suffering. Theyíre going to have to deal with this until the older generation has died off. At the end of that forty years, Iíll take this younger generation and take them into the promised land and give it to them." Isnít that a tragic chapter in Israelite history?
The rest of Numbers describes the wilderness wanderings, the desert meanderings. As the nation wandered, you find instance after instance where the people suffered because of their persistent rebellion against Godís will. For example, look at Numbers chapter 16 where Korah, in league with Dathan and Abiram, head an internal effort to overthrow the government and replace Moses and Aaron, or at least to gain equal standing with them in terms of authority. God dealt with them in short order. Before it was over they influenced a good portion of the nation to side with them. Thatís the incident where God caused the ground to open up, split open and swallow Korah, Dathan and Abiram and those that participated with them in the rebellion. He even sent fire on that occasion and destroyed two hundred and fifty princes of Israel because they, too, had been sucked into this constant propensity for rebellion and challenging God. In chapter 21, the people began complaining, griping, criticizing their leaders and speaking against God. It was a very rugged, arid part of the world--very tough to travel in--and they became discouraged. They allowed their discouragement to escalate into complaint and criticism and grumbling. This time God sent poisonous snakes, venomous snakes, in among the people. They started biting people and people began dying. Those who survived cried out to God to be forgiven. God gave Moses instructions about building a bronze pole that had a bronze snake wrapped around it. It was situated in a part of the camp and the people were given instructions that they were to go to that location and look upon that particular object and they would be relieved of these snake bites. Isnít it interesting that God did not remove the snakes. There was a consequence to their sin. Yet He provided them with an antidote, an atonement.
Notice in John 3 that John uses that Old Testament incident from Numbers 21 and parallels it to Christ. He said just as that snake was lifted up in the desert for people to receive cleansing, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth. That action would provide for atonement and cleansing for people who would receive the benefits of it.
The book of Numbers records this forty year period of desert wandering. It went on and on and the people continued to challenge and test God. Finally we come to the end of the book of Numbers and we are essentially at the end of that forty year period. That brings us into the book of Deuteronomy .
The word Deuteronomy is two Greek words sandwiched together meaning "second law". Deuteronomy is essentially a repetition or restatement of the original Law of Moses given forty years earlier beginning in Exodus 19. At this point in time Joshua, Caleb and Moses are still alive. Aaron is dead by this point. Virtually everyone else in the nation would have been no older than fifty-nine years of age. Deuteronomy was written to remind them or to repeat for them the legislation that had been given thirty-nine years earlier at Mt. Sinai. The book of Deuteronomy is designed to tell this new nation how they need to conduct themselves in order for them successfully to conquer the land of Canaan and to sustain themselves there indefinitely into the future.
Deuteronomy contains much application to America. What does America need to be as a nation in order to sustain ourselves on this continent? As you read through that book thereís not a word said about the economy. "Maybe our woes as a nation are economic. Maybe we need to make some adjustments to keep the economy vibrant and that way we will survive, prosper and be successful as a nation." No, the book of Deuteronomy says thatĎs not the key. "Well maybe we need to give more attention to our military." Iím not disputing that that might well indeed be the case. But a strong military will not insure the future of a nation. In the book of Deuteronomy, military preparations are not whatís discussed in order for the people to go in and conquer the land of Canaan and be successful. All the other things that most people today think are necessary for national success are not discussed.
As a matter of fact the book is very specific about the criteria, essentially amounting to two points. They are repeated over and over--Deuteronomy 4, Deuteronomy 6, Deuteronomy 10. It just keeps repeating the same points. Here are those points: Number one, in order for a nation to be successful--in their case to go in and conquer the land, and then to stay there and keep hold of that land--people need to get their own lives in order and concentrate on the will of the God of the universe. Bring your life into harmony with His will. Number two, you need to embed that same information into the next generation, the children. Thatís it. That is Godís formula for national success. He says, "You get your lives right--you adults--and you teach the children to do the same." Do you know that is exactly what is lacking in America today? Why is our nation in the mess that itís in, morally, spiritually, politically, economically? Anyway you want to look at it, when there is social chaos, when there is the breakdown of civilization, a spiral into depravity, why? Because the adult population is not living according to Godís word. They have deviated. They themselves are immoral. Theyíre scheming; theyíre lying; theyíre cheating; theyíre sexually impure. Doesnít that describe our nation from the government right on down to the lowest levels of society?
Why do we have gangs and gang violence? Why do we have children in schools using guns and shooting other children and teachers? Why is all of this taking place? Because, number one, adults have not followed the will of God and, number two, they have not imparted that same information to their children. As we see the breakdown of the home and the family as God intended (Genesis 2), we are seeing the breakdown of civilization and our nation. Itís that simple. I donít care what psychologists say. I donít care what sociologists say. I donít care what politicians say. Godís word is clear on this matter. The book of Deuteronomy underscores it repeatedly. The key to national success, national survival, national prosperity--for any nation on this planet--is for the adult population to bring themselves into harmony with the will of the one God of the universe, and then to impart that to the next generation. Insist that those children live according to the will of God even as the parents have chosen to do the same. Itís really that simple. Godís will has always been simple. Humans have this tremendous ability to generate complexity out of that which is very simple. We are very capable of creating a faÁade whereas God cuts through all that and says, "No, itís not that difficult. Itís really much more simple than that if you want to be pleasing to me."
The book of Deuteronomy is a wonderful book that applies to us today by way of application. Some of the mosaic details do not apply today. Some were specifically for the Jewish people. We read in Deuteronomy chapter 28 and following a long listing of blessings and a long listing of curses. These blessings and curses are articulated by Moses to the nation with this concept in mind: If you obey God Heíll take you into this land. Heíll boot out the wicked peoples that precede you. Heíll give you occupation of this land and He will sustain your presence there indefinitely into the future. If, on the other hand, you get in there and you disobey Him, do not conform to the covenant relationship that God made through Abraham, then you will not sustain yourselves in this land. You will be removed just like those who preceded you were removed. That teaching in the book of Deuteronomy, and some subsequent books, has implications for our understanding of the nation of Israel today. The land promise that God made to Abraham back in Genesis 12 was fulfilled largely in the book of Joshua and completely in the time of Solomonís reign in I Kings. The land promise was conditional. It was conditioned upon the peopleís obedience. We will see before we finish our study of the Old Testament that the nation as a whole rejected God. Ten of the tribes went into Assyrian captivity. Two of the tribes went into Babylonian captivity. For all practical purposes, they lost their right to the land that God had promised them, which was dependent upon their continual compliance with the will of God.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve