1620.) Numbers 25

July 17, 2015
Stele depicting Baal (The Louvre)

Stele depicting Baal, found in the ruins at Ras Shamra, northern Syria (The Louvre)

Numbers 25   (CEV)

The Israelites Worship Baal

1While the Israelites were camped at Acacia, some of the men had sex with Moabite women. 2These women then invited the men to ceremonies where sacrifices were offered to their gods. The men ate the meat from the sacrifices and worshiped the Moabite gods.

25. -thumbs-down

Thanks for nothing, Balaam!

Of all things, it turns out that this double sin of idolatry and sexual immorality was Balaam’s idea!   Somehow or another, he had to earn that money!

Revelation 2:14 (NIV)

You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

2 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness.

Balaam, through his wicked counsel to Balak, got what he wanted — but he also ended up dead among the enemies of God (Numbers 31:7-8). He enjoyed his money for only a short time.

3The LORD was angry with Israel because they had worshiped the god Baal Peor. 4So he said to Moses, ” Take the Israelite leaders who are responsible for this and have them killed in front of my sacred tent where everyone can see. Maybe then I will stop being angry with the Israelites.”

5Moses told Israel’s officials,  ” Each of you must put to death any of your men who worshiped Baal.”

6Later, Moses and the people were at the sacred tent, crying, when one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite  woman to meet his family. 7Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron  the priest, saw the couple and left the crowd. He found a spear 8and followed the man into his tent, where he ran the spear through the man and into the woman’s stomach.

Phinehas was one among those in Israel who would not accept this blatant rebellion against God.

25. impalement

“Impalement by Phinehas” woodcut by Johann Christoph Weigel 1695 (Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta)

Leviticus 20:10 (ESV)

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

When temptation comes alluring
Make me patient and enduring.

The LORD immediately stopped punishing Israel with a deadly disease, 9but twenty-four thousand Israelites had already died.

10The LORD said to Moses, 11” In my anger, I would have wiped out the Israelites if Phinehas had not been faithful to me. 12-13But instead of punishing them, I forgave them. So because of the loyalty that Phinehas showed, I solemnly promise that he and his descendants will always be my priests.”

Psalm 106:28-31 (NIV)

They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;

they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.

This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

14The Israelite man that was killed was Zimri son of Salu, who was one of the leaders of the Simeon tribe. 15And the Midianite woman killed with him was Cozbi, the daughter of a Midianite clan leader named Zur.

16The LORD told Moses, 17-18” The Midianites are now enemies of Israel, so attack and defeat them! They tricked the people of Israel into worshiping their god at Peor, and they are responsible for the death of Cozbi, the daughter of one of their own leaders.”

Now there is zero tolerance for the Midianites.



These last few chapters have been clear pictures of temptations which overcame the hearts of people who thought they were too smart, or entitled, or free . . .  Where, Lord, am I justifying my sin?  What in my heart needs to be acknowledged, repented of, confessed, and forgiven?  I want to be righteous in your sight, God, thanks to the sacrifice Christ made for me on the cross.  HERE  is Sojourn and “Approach, my soul, the mercy seat.”


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Baal.    http://www.louvre.fr/sites/default/files/imagecache/940×768/medias/medias_images/images/louvre-stele-quotbaal-foudrequot_0.jpg
thumbs down.   http://www.clipartbest.com/cliparts/biy/LXr/biyLXr4iL.jpeg
Weigel.  http://www.pitts.emory.edu/woodcuts/1695Bibl/00005934.jpg

1619.) Numbers 24

July 16, 2015
24.  Balaam looking down

Balaam looking down over the “goodly tents” of the Israelite camp.

Numbers 24   (CEV)

1Balaam was sure that the LORD would tell him to bless Israel again. So he did not use any magic to find out what the LORD wanted him to do, as he had the first two times. Instead, he looked out toward the desert 2and saw the tribes of Israel camped below. Just then, God’s Spirit took control of him, 3and Balaam said:

” I am the son of Beor,

and my words are true,  so listen to my message!

4It comes from the LORD,

the God All-Powerful.

I bowed down to him

and saw a vision of Israel.

5 People of Israel,

your camp is lovely.

Ma Tovu is a Jewish prayer —

which begins with the verse above, Numbers 24:5 — “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!”  This prayer is often recited by worshipers, reverently, joyfully, as they enter the synagogue. You can listen to it  HERE.

6It’s like a grove of palm trees

Num24 palm

or a garden beside a river.

You are like tall aloe trees

that the LORD has planted,

or like cedars

growing near water.

7You and your descendants

will prosper

like an orchard

beside a stream.

Your king will rule with power

and be a greater king

than Agag the Amalekite.

8With the strength of a wild ox,

God led you out of Egypt.


You will defeat your enemies,

shooting them with arrows  and crushing their bones.

9Like a lion you lie down,

resting after an attack.

Who would dare disturb you?

” Anyone who blesses you

will be blessed;

anyone who curses you

will be cursed.”

24.  Abraham

Jews would hear in Balaam’s words echoes of God’s promise to Abraham:

Genesis 12:3 (NIV)

“I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

10When Balak heard this, he was so furious that he pounded his fist against his hand and said, ” I called you here to place a curse on my enemies, and you’ve blessed them three times. 11Leave now and go home! I told you I would pay you well, but since the LORD didn’t let you do what I asked, you won’t be paid.”

Each of the first three prophecies, it has gotten worse for Balak. In the first one, Balaam fails to curse Israel; in the second, he blesses Israel, and in the third, he curses Balak! How much worse can it get for the king of Moab?

12Balaam answered, ” I told your messengers 13that even if you offered me a palace full of silver or gold, I would still obey the LORD. And I explained that I would say only what he told me. 14So I’m going back home, but I’m leaving you with a warning about what the Israelites will someday do to your nation.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message

15Balaam said:

” I am the son of Beor,

and my words are true,

so listen to my message!

16My knowledge comes

from God Most High,

the LORD All-Powerful.

I bowed down to him

and saw a vision of Israel.

17 What I saw in my vision

hasn’t happened yet.

But someday, a king of Israel

will appear like a star.

24. WiseMenStillSeekHim

Matthew 2:1-2 (NKJV)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”



HERE  David Nevue plays his arrangement of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I love listening to Advent and Christmas carols out of season!


He will wipe out you Moabites

and destroy  those tribes who live in the desert.

18Israel will conquer Edom

and capture the land

of that enemy nation.

19The king of Israel will rule

and destroy the survivors

of every town there.

2 Samuel 8:13-14 (NIV)

And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites  in the Valley of Salt.

He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.

20And I saw this vision

about the Amalekites:

Their nation is now great,

but it will someday

disappear forever.

21 And this is what I saw

about the Kenites:

They think they’re safe,

living among the rocks,

22but they will be wiped out

when Assyria conquers them.

23 No one can survive

if God plans destruction.

24Ships will come from Cyprus,

bringing people

who will invade

the lands of Assyria and Eber.

But finally, Cyprus itself

will be ruined.”

25After Balaam finished, he started home, and Balak also left.


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Balaam looking over the Israelite camp.   http://www.chabad.org/media/images/109650.jpg
palms.    http://d3thflcq1yqzn0.cloudfront.net/012103190_prevstill.jpeg
“The Pillar of Cloud.” digital art by Ted Larson.   http://www.digitalartbytedlarson.com/img/exodus-cd-cover-600-x-600.jpg
Abraham.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/11-abraham-starsjpg.jpg
Wise Men.   http://s230.photobucket.com/user/sweetmummyof3/media/Wisemenstillseek.jpg.html

1618.) Numbers 23

July 15, 2015
23. Delphi

Another king, another prophecy, another blessing?  Croesus of Lydia, 590 BC, went to the oracle at Delphi (ruins above) to ask if he should make war on the Persians.  The answer came that if he did, he would destroy a mighty empire.  Croesus heard it as a blessing, but he was wrong — he was defeated; the empire he destroyed was his own.

Numbers 23   (CEV)

Balaam’s First Message

1Balaam said to Balak, ” Build seven altars here, then bring seven bulls and seven rams.”

2After Balak had done this, they sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar. 3Then Balaam said, ” Wait here beside your offerings, and I’ll go somewhere to be alone. Maybe the LORD will appear to me. If he does, I will tell you everything he says.” And he left.

4When God appeared to him, Balaam said, ” I have built seven altars and have sacrificed a bull and a ram on each one.”

5The LORD gave Balaam a message, then sent him back to tell Balak. 6When Balaam returned, he found Balak and his officials standing beside the offerings.

When Balaam returned, Balak and all the princes of Moab were ready. They were ready to learn what their money had bought them from Balaam!

7Balaam said:

23. Balaam blesses Israel

” King Balak of Moab brought me

from the hills of Syria

to curse Israel

and announce its doom.

8But I can’t go against God!

He did not curse

or condemn Israel.

9” From the mountain peaks,

I look down and see Israel,

the obedient people of God.

10They are living alone in peace.

And though they are many,

they don’t bother

the other nations.

” I hope to obey God

for as long as I live

and to die in such peace.”

11Balak said, ” What are you doing? I asked you to come and place a curse on my enemies. But you have blessed them instead!”

The king of Moab was understandably disturbed. He had paid good money for a particular outcome, and the opposite had happened!

12Balaam answered, ” I can say only what the LORD tells me.”

Balaam’s Second Message

23.  B & B fire

13Balak said to Balaam, ” Let’s go somewhere else. Maybe if you see a smaller part of the Israelites, you will be able to curse them for me.” 14So he took Balaam to a field on top of Mount Pisgah where lookouts were stationed.  Then he built seven altars there and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each one. 15” Wait here beside your offerings,” Balaam said. ” The LORD will appear to me over there.”

16The LORD appeared to Balaam and gave him another message, then he told him to go and tell Balak. 17Balaam went back and saw him and his officials standing beside the offerings.

Balak asked, ” What did the LORD say?”

18Balaam answered:

” Pay close attention

to my words–

19God is no mere human!

He doesn’t tell lies

or change his mind.

God always keeps his promises.



HERE  is “Forever God Is Faithful”  by Chris Tomlin.


20” My command from God

was to bless these people,

and there’s nothing I can do

to change what he has done.

21Israel’s king is the LORD God.

He lives there with them

and intends them no harm.

22With the strength of a wild ox,

God led Israel out of Egypt.

23No magic charms can work

against them–

just look what God has done

for his people.

24They are like angry lions

ready to attack;

and they won’t rest

until their victim

is gobbled down.”

25Balak shouted, ” If you’re not going to curse Israel, then at least don’t bless them.”

Do you hear the king’s frustration?

26” I’ve already told you,” Balaam answered. ” I will say only what the LORD tells me.”

Do you hear Balaam’s whininess?

Balaam’s Third Message

27Balak said to Balaam, ” Come on, let’s try another place. Maybe God will let you curse Israel from there.” 28So he took Balaam to Mount Peor overlooking the desert north of the Dead Sea.

29Balaam said, ” Build seven altars here, then bring me seven bulls and seven rams.”

30After Balak had done what Balaam asked, he sacrificed a bull and a ram on each altar.

Perhaps they are thinking, “third time’s a charm”?


Images courtesy of:
ancient Delphi, Greece.   http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/1013035.jpg
Balaam blesses Israel.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/23-balaam-blesses-israel.jpg?w=450
Balaam and Balak.    http://www.biblevisuals.org/images/look_inside_bvi/visualized_bible/OT/OT14_illustrations/OT14_P11_illustrations.jpg

1617.) Numbers 22

July 14, 2015
22. Rembrandt

“The Ass of Balaam Talking before the Angel” by Rembrandt, 1626 (Musee Cognacq-Jay, Paris, France)

Numbers 22   (CEV)

1Israel moved from there to the hills of Moab, where they camped across the Jordan River from the town of Jericho.

King Balak of Moab Hires Balaam To Curse Israel

2-3When King Balak  of Moab and his people heard how many Israelites there were and what they had done to the Amorites, he and the Moabites were terrified and panicked. 4They said to the Midianite leaders, ” That bunch of Israelites will wipe out everything in sight, like a bull eating grass in a field.” So King Balak 5sent a message to Balaam son of Beor who lived among his relatives in the town of Pethor near the Euphrates River. It said:

I need your help. A huge group of people has come here from Egypt and settled near my territory. 6They are too powerful for us to defeat, so would you come and place a curse on them? Maybe then we can run them off. I know that anyone you bless will be successful, but anyone you curse will fail.

Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel, to cripple them spiritually so they could be defeated in battle. Balak seemed to know the strength of Israel was spiritually rooted, and they had to cut off from their source of power if they were to be conquered. It seems Balaam was known as a mighty man in spiritual things. As far as Balak was concerned, when Balaam cursed or blessed a man or a people, it came to pass.

–David Guzik

7The leaders of Moab and Midian left and took along money to pay Balaam for his work. When they got to his house, they gave him Balak’s message.

8” Spend the night here,” Balaam replied, ” and tomorrow I will tell you the LORD’s answer.” So the officials stayed at his house.

Here we see the heart of Balaam revealed. Though he was obviously a man with significant spiritual gifts, he was not a man with a genuine heart after God. He was “seeking God’s will” regarding cursing the nation of Israel — something that was plainly not His will.

9During the night, God asked Balaam, ” Who are these people at your house?”

10” They are messengers from King Balak of Moab,” Balaam answered. ” He sent them 11to ask me to go to Moab and place a curse on the people who have come there from Egypt. They have settled everywhere around him, and he wants to run them off.”

12But God replied, ” Don’t go with Balak’s messengers. I have blessed those people who have come from Egypt, so don’t curse them.”

13The next morning, Balaam said to Balak’s officials, ” Go on back home. The LORD says I cannot go with you.”

It was as if Balaam is saying, “God doesn’t want me to do this . . . but I can be persuaded.”

14The officials left and told Balak that Balaam refused to come.

15Then Balak sent a larger group of officials, who were even more important than the first ones. 16They went to Balaam and told him that Balak had said, ” Balaam, if you come to Moab, 17I’ll pay you very well and do whatever you ask. Just come and place a curse on these people.”

Balaam refused to decisively put away a temptation the first time it came. Now the temptation came back to him stronger than it was before.

18Balaam answered, “Even if Balak offered me a palace full of silver or gold, I wouldn’t do anything to disobey the LORD my God. 19You are welcome to spend the night here, just as the others did. I will find out if the LORD has something else to say about this.”

20That night, God said, ” Balaam, I’ll let you go to Moab with Balak’s messengers, but do only what I say.”

We can say that God did not change His will. He had clearly declared His will, and Balaam had decisively rejected it. Now God prepared Balaam up for judgment, to both test and reveal the wickedness of Balaam’s heart.

21So Balaam got up the next morning and saddled his donkey, then left with the Moabite officials.

Balaam and His Donkey Meet an Angel

22. Balaam

22Balaam was riding his donkey to Moab, and two of his servants were with him. But God was angry that Balaam had gone, so one of the LORD’s angels stood in the road to stop him. 23When Balaam’s donkey saw the angel standing there with a sword, it walked off the road and into an open field. Balaam had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road.

The donkey was more spiritually perceptive than the prophet! The donkey had no spiritual gifts, but at least acknowledged his Creator. The prophet had wonderful spiritual gifts, but also a disobedient heart and walk.

24Then the angel stood between two vineyards, in a narrow path with a stone wall on each side. 25When the donkey saw the angel, it walked so close to one of the walls that Balaam’s foot scraped against the wall. Balaam beat the donkey again.

26The angel moved once more and stood in a spot so narrow that there was no room for the donkey to go around. 27So it just lay down. Balaam lost his temper, then picked up a stick and smacked the donkey.

22. Balaams donkey cartoon


James 1:19 (NIV)

Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

28When that happened, the LORD told the donkey to speak, and it asked Balaam, ” What have I done to you that made you beat me three times?”

29” You made me look stupid!” Balaam answered. ” If I had a sword, I’d kill you here and now!”

30” But you’re my owner,” replied the donkey, ” and you’ve ridden me many times. Have I ever done anything like this before?”

” No,” Balaam admitted.

Balaam admitted that the donkey got the best of him in this conversation!

31Just then, the LORD let Balaam see the angel standing in the road, holding a sword, and Balaam bowed down.

from Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who,
by Frederick Buechner


The legend of Solomon’s ring, the adventures of Dr. Doolittle, the attempt to decipher the dots and dashes of dolphins and to teach chimpanzees to type out their thoughts on computers all reflect man’s ancient dream of being able to talk with the animals.  As fascinating as a message from outer space would be a message from the inner space of a great blue heron or a common house cat sunning herself on the kitchen linoleum.  Their mute gaze suggest a vision of reality beyond our imagining.  What do they see in their ignorance that we in our wisdom are mostly blind to?

In the Book of Numbers, Balaam’s ass sees an angel of the Lord barring the way with a drawn sword in his hand and thereupon lies down in the middle of the road with Balaam still on his back.  When Balaam clobbers him over the head with a stick, the ass speaks out reproachfully in fluent Hebrew, and then Balaam sees the angel too.

This is perhaps a clue to the mystery.  Whereas men as a rule see only what they expect to see and little more, the animals, innocent of expectation, see what is there.  The next time the old mare looks up from her browsing and lets fly with an exultant whinny at the empty horizon, we might do well to consider at least the possibility that the horizon may not be quite as empty as we think.

32The angel said, ” You had no right to treat your donkey like that! I was the one who blocked your way, because I don’t think you should go to Moab.  33If your donkey had not seen me and stopped those three times, I would have killed you and let the donkey live.” 34Balaam replied, ” I was wrong. I didn’t know you were trying to stop me. If you don’t think I should go, I’ll return home right now.”

35” It’s all right for you to go,” the LORD’s angel answered. ” But you must say only what I tell you.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials.



HERE is a fun piece — Don Francisco sings a song about Balaam and his donkey, as an accompaniment to a Sunday School play!


King Balak Meets Balaam

36When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went to meet him at the town of Ir, which is on the northern border of Moab. 37Balak asked, ” Why didn’t you come when I invited you the first time? Did you think I wasn’t going to pay you?”

38” I’m here now,” Balaam answered. ” But I will say only what God tells me to say.”

39They left and went to the town of Kiriath-Huzoth, 40where Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep and gave some of the meat to Balaam and the officials who were with him.

41The next morning, Balak took Balaam to the town of Bamoth-Baal. From there, Balaam could see some of the Israelites.


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Rembrandt.  http://www.abcgallery.com/R/rembrandt/rembrandt95.html
Balaam’s donkey sees the angel.   http://www.biblebios.com/balaam/balaam.jpg
cartoon.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/22-balaams-donkey-cartoon.jpg?w=450

1616.) Numbers 21

July 13, 2015
21. liftupthecross

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”   — John 12:32

Numbers 21   (CEV)

Israel Defeats the Canaanites at Hormah

1The Canaanite king of Arad lived in the Southern Desert of Canaan, and when he heard that the Israelites were on their way to the village of Atharim, he attacked and took some of them hostage.

2The Israelites prayed, ” Our LORD, if you will help us defeat these Canaanites, we will completely destroy their towns and everything in them, to show that they belong to you.”  3The LORD answered their prayer and helped them wipe out the Canaanite army and completely destroy their towns. That’s why one of the towns is named Hormah, which means ” Destroyed Place.”

It is strange idea to our way of thinking, but Israel at this time would show that property was completely given to God by destroying it — thus making it unusable to anyone else. It was an expensive and whole-hearted way to give things to the Lord. This was Israel’s way of saying, “we’re not fighting this battle for our own profit, but for the glory of God.”

–David Guzik (and all following comments in green)

Moses Makes a Bronze Snake

21. Ratner

by Phillip Ratner (The Ratner Museum, Bethesda, Maryland)

4The Israelites had to go around the territory of Edom, so when they left Mount Hor, they headed south toward the Red Sea.  But along the way, the people became so impatient 5that they complained against God and said to Moses, ” Did you bring us out of Egypt, just to let us die in the desert? There’s no water out here, and we can’t stand this awful food!”

Sadly, the new generation sounded like the old. If they continued in the steps of their fathers, this new generation would be no better able to enter the Promised Land than the previous generation was. In fact, they perhaps acted worse than their fathers here. In eight previous passages (Exodus 15:24, 16:2, 17:3; Numbers 12:1, 14:2, 16:3, 16:41 and 20:2), the children of Israel are described as speaking against Moses. In those situations, Moses knew (Exodus 16:7-8) and the Lord knew (Numbers 14:27) they were really speaking against God, but the people were not brazen enough to do it directly. Now they are brazen enough, because it says the people spoke against God and against Moses!

6Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes that bit and killed many of them.

7Some of the people went to Moses and admitted, ” It was wrong of us to insult you and the LORD. Now please ask him to make these snakes go away.”

If this new generation was capable of deeper sin (such as openly complaining against the Lord in Numbers 21:5), they also have hearts softer and quicker to repent — they quickly humble themselves before the Lord and Moses. They ask Moses to pray for them; they know their answer lies only in the saving work of God.

Moses prayed, 8and the LORD answered, ” Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won’t die.”

9Moses obeyed the LORD. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes.

21. moses_serpent

John 3:14-16 (NIV)

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”



HERE is one of my favorite hymns! “Lift High the Cross” is a 19th-century English Christian hymn. It was written in 1887 by George Kitchin and revised in 1916 by Michael R. Newbolt. The arrangement here is by Sterling Procter and it is performed by The Chancel Choir, The Chapel Choir, Broadway Baptist Church and The Oratorio Chorus, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and The Festival Brass.

“Lift High the Cross” was first published in the United States in 1974 by Donald Hustad in Hymns for the Living Church.


Israel’s Journey to Moab

10As the Israelites continued their journey to Canaan, they camped at Oboth, 11then at Iye-Abarim in the desert east of Moab, 12and then in the Zered Gorge. 13After that, they crossed the Arnon River gorge and camped in the Moabite desert bordering Amorite territory. The Arnon was the border between the Moabites and the Amorites. 14A song in The Book of the LORD’s Battles mentions the town of Waheb with its creeks in the territory of Suphah. It also mentions the Arnon River, 15with its valleys that lie alongside the Moabite border and extend to the town of Ar. 16From the Arnon, the Israelites went to the well near the town of Beer, where the LORD had said to Moses, ” Call the people together, and I will give them water to drink.”

17That’s also the same well the Israelites sang about in this song:

Let’s celebrate!

The well has given us water.

18With their royal scepters,

our leaders pointed out

where to dig the well.

21. water-well

A well for water at Doune Castle in Scotland.

from Morning and Evening,
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.”  –Numbers xxi.17

Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise:  “That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.”  The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God.  We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged Himself to give all we require.

The well next became the cause of a song.  Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous.  In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow.

Are we thirsting?  Let us not murmur, but sing.  Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it—the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it.

The Israelites left the desert and camped near the town of Mattanah, 19then at Nahaliel, and then at Bamoth. 20Finally, they reached Moabite territory, where they camped near Mount Pisgah  in a valley overlooking the desert north of the Dead Sea.

Israel Defeats King Sihon the Amorite

21. Tissot_Conquest_of_the_Amorites

“The Conquest of the Amorites” by James Tissot

21The Israelites sent this message to King Sihon of the Amorites:

22Please let us pass through your territory. We promise to stay away from your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. As long as we’re in your land, we won’t get off the main road.  23But Sihon refused to let Israel travel through his land. Instead, he called together his entire army and marched into the desert to attack Israel near the town of Jahaz. 24Israel defeated them and took over the Amorite territory from the Arnon River gorge in the south to the Jabbok River gorge in the north. Beyond the Jabbok was the territory of the Ammonites, who were much stronger than Israel.

25The Israelites settled in the Amorite towns, including the capital city of Heshbon with its surrounding villages. 26King Sihon had ruled from Heshbon, after defeating the Moabites and taking over their land north of the Arnon River gorge. 27That’s why the Amorites had written this poem about Heshbon:

Come and rebuild Heshbon,

King Sihon’s capital city!

28His armies marched out

like fiery flames,

burning down the town of Ar

and destroying  the hills along the Arnon River.

29You Moabites are done for!

Your god Chemosh

deserted your people;

they were captured, taken away

by King Sihon the Amorite.

30We completely defeated Moab.

The towns of Heshbon and Dibon,

of Nophah and Medeba

are ruined and gone.  31After the Israelites had settled in the Amorite territory, 32Moses sent some men to explore the town of Jazer. Later, the Israelites captured the villages surrounding it and forced out the Amorites who lived there.

We now better understand God’s favor and mercy to Israel. Before they face the hardened warriors of Canaan, God gave them smaller foes and smaller battles to fight. We see how foolish the unbelief of the previous generation was.

Israel Defeats King Og of Bashan

33The Israelites headed toward the region of Bashan, where King Og ruled, and he led his entire army to Edrei to meet Israel in battle.

34The LORD said to Moses, ” Don’t be afraid of Og. I will help you defeat him and his army, just as you did King Sihon who ruled in Heshbon. Og’s territory will be yours.”

35So the Israelites wiped out Og, his family, and his entire army–there were no survivors. Then Israel took over the land of Bashan.

Psalm 81:13-16 (NLT)

“Oh, that my people would listen to me!
Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
How quickly I would then subdue their enemies!
How soon my hands would be upon their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him;
they would be doomed forever.
But I would feed you with the finest wheat.
I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
cross and clouds.   http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/8687/liftupthecross.jpg
Ratner.   http://www.ratnermuseum.com/includes/images/photos/heroes/hero_7.jpg
Moses and the serpent of brass.  http://www.oneil.com.au/lds/pictures/moses_serpent.jpg
castle well.  http://www.itraveluk.co.uk/photos/data/745/medium/water-well.jpg
Tissot.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Tissot_The_Conquest_of_the_Amorites.jpg

1615.) Numbers 20

July 10, 2015
20. Poussin Moses Water Rock

“Moses Striking the Rock for Water” by Nicolas Poussin, 1649  (The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

Numbers 20   (CEV)

Water from a Rock

1The people of Israel arrived at the Zin Desert during the first month  and set up camp near the town of Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.

20. RIP

Good-bye, sister Miriam.

2The Israelites had no water, so they went to Moses and Aaron 3and complained, ” Moses, we’d be better off if we had died along with the others in front of the LORD’s sacred tent.  4You brought us into this desert, and now we and our livestock are going to die! 5Egypt was better than this horrible place. At least there we had grain and figs and grapevines and pomegranates.  But now we don’t even have any water.”

Same song, 49th verse ! . .

20. figs

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Numbers 20:5 — And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place?  It is no place of seed, or of figs . . .

“It is no place of figs,” so the poor grumblers said.  They were continually grumbling, and generally about food, which after all isn’t the most important thing in life.  We have an expression, “I don’t care a fig,” meaning, “I don’t care at all.  It’s not worth caring about.”  I have been making a list of figs, those little things not worth caring about and yet about which we are sometimes tempted to grumble.  Perhaps you have a few private figs of your own — if so you can add them, privately, to the list.

I’m not in the place I want to be.  I’m not doing the work I want to do.  I’m not with the particular friend with whom I wanted to be.  I don’t feel very fit.  I can’t help others much.  (We forget that it doesn’t matter that we can’t, if others can.)  My plans are so often interrupted.  I’m so tired.  I don’t like this food.  Somebody said something about me.  I have all sorts of temptations.  Nobody knows how hard it is for me.  I can’t help feeling downhearted.  Figs, figs, figs — what will any one of these things matter a hundred years hence, or ten, or one?  Then what do they matter now?

6Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the sacred tent, where they bowed down. The LORD appeared to them in all of his glory 7-8and said, ” Moses, get your walking stick.  Then you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water. That’s how you will provide water for the people of Israel and their livestock.”

9Moses obeyed and took his stick from the sacred tent. 10After he and Aaron had gathered the people around the rock, he said, ” Look, you rebellious people, and you will see water flow from this rock!” 11He raised his stick in the air and struck the rock two times. At once, water gushed from the rock, and the people and their livestock had water to drink.


“Water from the Rock” by Lucile Butel, 1989

12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ” Because you refused to believe in my power, these people did not respect me. And so, you will not be the ones to lead them into the land I have promised.”

This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses. It seems that with only one slip-up, he now had to die short of the Promised Land. But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God.

It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.

Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary — and unrighteous — that Jesus would be struck again, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel.

–David Guzik

13The Israelites had complained against the LORD, and he had shown them his holy power by giving them water to drink. So they named the place Meribah, which means ” Complaining.”

Israel Isn’t Allowed To Go through Edom

14Moses sent messengers from Israel’s camp near Kadesh with this message for the king of Edom:

We are Israelites, your own relatives,

The nation of Israel was brother to the nation of Edom, because the patriarch Israel (also known as Jacob) was brother to Esau (also known as Edom), as related in Genesis 25:19-34.

–David Guzik

and we’re sure you have heard the terrible things that have happened to us. 15Our ancestors settled in Egypt and lived there a long time. But later the Egyptians were cruel to us, 16and when we begged our LORD for help, he answered our prayer and brought us out of that land.

Now we are camped at the border of your territory, near the town of Kadesh. 17Please let us go through your country. We won’t go near your fields and vineyards, and we won’t drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the main road  until we leave your territory.

“the main road”

The Hebrew text has ” the King’s Highway,” which was an important trade route through what is today the country of Jordan. It connected the city of Damascus in Syria with the Gulf of Aqaba in southern Jordan.   (CEV footnote)

See a map  HERE.

18But the Edomite king answered, ” No, I won’t let you go through our country! And if you try, we will attack you.”

19Moses sent back this message: ” We promise to stay on the main road, and if any of us or our livestock drink your water, we will pay for it. We just want to pass through.”

20But the Edomite king insisted, ” You can’t go through our land!”

Then Edom sent out its strongest troops 21to keep Israel from passing through its territory. So the Israelites had to go in another direction.

Aaron Dies

20. RIP

Good-bye, brother Aaron.

22After the Israelites had left Kadesh and had gone as far as Mount Hor 23on the Edomite border, the LORD said, 24” Aaron, this is where you will die. You and Moses disobeyed me at Meribah, and so you will not enter the land I promised the Israelites. 25Moses, go with Aaron and his son Eleazar to the top of the mountain. 26Then take Aaron’s priestly robe from him and place it on Eleazar. Aaron will die there.”

27Moses obeyed, and everyone watched as he and Aaron and Eleazar walked to the top of Mount Hor. 28Moses then took the priestly robe from Aaron and placed it on Eleazar. Aaron died there.

20. Tissot.  Death of Aaron.

“The Death of Aaron” by James Tissot (The Jewish Museum, New York)

When Moses and Eleazar came down, 29the people knew that Aaron had died, and they mourned his death for thirty days.

Num20 no eye has seen

Psalm 116:15 (King James Version)

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.



Several ideas floating in my mind:  the death of Miriam, who had watched over her baby brother as he floated down the Nile to Pharaoh’s daughter — water from a rock — troubled times — how much Moses probably had counted on and leaned on both his sister and his brother.  Then I found myself remembering a song from decades ago, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”  First released in January 1970, it is way high up on every chart of the greatest popular songs of all times.  HERE  it is.


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
Poussin.   http://www.abcgallery.com/P/poussin/poussin73.html
tombstone.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/20-rip.jpg?w=450
figs.   http://munchbrothers.org/wp-content/gallery/fig-sorbet/figs2.jpg
Butel.     http://www.artbible.net/1T/Exo1601_Manna_Quails/images/20%20BUTEL%20L%20EAU%20DU%20ROCHER.jpg
Tissot.    http://assets.messianicbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Tissot_The_Death_of_Aaron-adj.jpg?291596
No eye has seen.   http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9c/e1/71/9ce171d56605975d7969e63bd19b684c.jpg

1614.) Numbers 19

July 9, 2015

Num19 washed

Numbers 19

The Ceremony To Wash Away Sin

1-2The LORD gave Moses and Aaron the following law:

19. red heifer

“a red heifer without defect or blemish” — verse 2, NIV

The people of Israel must bring Moses a reddish-brown cow that has nothing wrong with it and that has never been used for plowing.

A heifer is a cow which has never been pregnant, and thus cannot yet give milk. They had to find one with a red color — which, of course, would be somewhat rare.

–David Guzik (and all following comments)

3Moses will give it to Eleazar the priest, then it will be led outside the camp and killed while Eleazar watches. 4He will dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it seven times in the direction of the sacred tent. 5Then the whole cow, including its skin, meat, blood, and insides must be burned.

In no other sacrifice in the Old Testament is the blood required to be burned.

6A priest is to throw a stick of cedar wood, a hyssop  branch, and a piece of red yarn into the fire.

When the heifer was burnt, the priest would also put cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet into the fire. Each of these items has a special significance.

Cedar is extremely resistant to disease and rot, and is well known for its quality and preciousness. These properties may be the reason for including it here, as well as a symbolic reference to the wood of the cross.

Hyssop was used not only with the cleansing ceremony for lepers, but also Jesus was offered drink from a hyssop branch on the cross (Matthew 27:48), and when David said purge me with hyssop in Psalm 51:7, he was admitting he was as bad as a leper.

Scarlet, the color of blood, pictures the cleansing blood of Jesus on the cross. Scarlet was used in the veil and curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:31), in the garments of the high priest (Exodus 28:5-6), the covering for the table of showbread (Numbers 4:8), the sign of Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 2:21), and the color of the mocking “king’s robe” put on Jesus at His torture by the soldiers (Matthew 27:28).

7After the ceremony, the priest is to take a bath and wash his clothes. Only then can he go back into the camp, but he remains unclean and unfit for worship until evening. 8The man who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and take a bath, but he is also unclean until evening.

9A man who isn’t unclean must collect the ashes of the burnt cow and store them outside the camp in a clean place. The people of Israel can mix these ashes with the water used in the ceremony to wash away sin. 10The man who collects the ashes must wash his clothes, but will remain unclean until evening. This law must always be obeyed by the people of Israel and the foreigners living among them.

What Must Be Done after Touching a Dead Body

19. morgue

The LORD said:

11If you touch a dead body, you will be unclean for seven days.

The practice of quarantining all those who come into contact with a dead body was a wonderful public health measure as well. Those potentially contaminated would be set aside until it could be seen if they had contracted a disease from the dead body.

12But if you wash with the water mixed with the cow’s ashes on the third day and again on the seventh day, you will be clean and acceptable for worship. You must wash yourself on those days; if you don’t, you will remain unclean. 13Suppose you touch a dead body, but refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes. You will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean and will no longer belong to the people of Israel.

14If someone dies in a tent while you are there, you will be unclean for seven days. And anyone who later enters the tent will also be unclean. 15Any open jar in the tent is unclean.

16If you touch the body of someone who was killed or who died of old age, or if you touch a human bone or a grave, you will be unclean for seven days.

17-18Before you can be made clean, someone who is clean must take some of the ashes from the burnt cow and stir them into a pot of spring water. That same person must dip a hyssop branch in the water and ashes, then sprinkle it on the tent and everything in it, including everyone who was inside. If you have touched a human bone, a grave, or a dead body, you must be sprinkled with that water. 19If this is done on the third day and on the seventh day, you will be clean. Then after you take a bath and wash your clothes, you can worship that evening.

Thus, ashes of the red heifer (which the ingredients all speak of the work of Jesus on our behalf), combined with water (which speaks of the work of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit) combine together to bring cleansing. It can cleanse even the uncleanness brought about by death.

All this cleansing is a precious picture; but the reality is in Jesus: For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14)

20If you are unclean and refuse to be made clean by washing with the water mixed with ashes, you will be guilty of making my sacred tent unclean, and you will no longer belong to the people of Israel. 21These laws will never change.

The man who sprinkled the water and the ashes on you when you were unclean must also wash his clothes. And whoever touches this water is unclean until evening. 22When you are unclean, everything you touch becomes unclean, and anyone who touches you will be unclean until evening.



How to get clean on the inside? How to have sins washed away?

HERE  is an old hymn that has fallen out of favor in the present-day church, but the text speaks biblical truth. “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood” sung by Selah.


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
My sins are washed away.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/35/d2/88/35d288ac4ef098ae2751e0871a7f8822.jpg
red heifer.   http://www.templemount.org/bigcow.GIF
body at the morgue.  http://markontheworld.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/morgue.jpg


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