Numbers 17-After Balaam…an act of love

From Dr Railey’s Christian Theology class, part 1.  Concerning God
God’s Attributes
Love-that quality by which God is eternally moved to self-communication.

Because God loves, God wants to communicate Himself, since He is love, to His children. 

It would seem we sometimes perceive, as one of my pagan friends does, the God shown in the Old Testament as a trigger-happy bipolar fruit-bat, especially when we see how he handled multiple scenarios in the Torah and Joshua.  And yet we fail to do two things to help us keep perspective of the context.  1) We forget to measure his response against the attitudes of his children, Israel.  2)We fail to understand the nature of rebellion.  I would say this happens because we judge God by our standards. We make standards for ourselves and then try to apply those standards to God.  There is a problem with that though.  It frequently boils down to our misunderstanding of the nature of God’s sovereignty and holiness.  Now I know at that word “sovereignty,” the ears of some of my Armenian brothers might perk up.  However, as Armenians, we should not fear those words.  We know that God is absolutely sovereign.  When I said a couple of days ago that God “can arbitrarily set things up any way He wants”, I took for granted that my audience does not hold some of the same ideas about God’s nature that I do, which are below.

1) God is absolutely sovereign..  
2) God is the one who sets the standards.
3) God is the standard by which all things are judged.
4) God’s standards are set forth in the Scripture.  These are the explicit parameters by which he operates.
4a) If scripture is silent on how God operates in a particular matter, then as best we can, we draw applications from what is written as best we can, making guesses as to how we think God will operate in a given circumstance, but God is not obliged to adhere to those guesses of His character.  One application of this is the Lewisian concept that, “He’s not safe but he is good.”  God is not obliged to be safe as to how we rate safeness, and even int he concept of good, he is not required to live up to our standards for goodness, since our standards are well-uninformed.
5) Whereas even the most noble and integrated unbeliever cannot and does not apply the standards of good and evil consistently, and only after belief is this possible, and failure still can happen due to temptations or whatnot, God was always consistent and incapable of failure throughout Scripture in the application of his standards, which are amazingly different from ours.
6) Even though we might have certain “benevolent ideals” if those ideals conflict with what is set forth in Scripture, then those ideals are not ideals

In light of all this, God, who is infinitely awesome, holy, just, righteous, true, faithful, and incapable of failing, is infinitely concerned with us, compassionate towards us, loving with us, and is willing to help us on all points. 

That is amazing.  

He is willing even to point the way out for us and help us.

As He did in Numbers 17 following the Korah rebellion.
 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff,

3and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house. 4Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 5And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.” 6Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. 7And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.

 8On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” 11Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did.
 12And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone.13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?”

Numbers 17 teaches something very important.  What it teaches us is that God is not bipolar.  It teaches us that God, even after the Korah matter is still vitally interested in the doings on of his people.  We see this in verse 1.  “God spoke to Moses…”.  Not “the people besought God and presented him with sacrifices and burnt offerings.  God initiated the communication with his people and told them what to do, and even actively told them that in the process they would receive a sign of whom was to carry the priesthood.  

The lessons here are as follows
1) Don’t put God to the arbitrary test or try to get him to do what you think he should do.  Don’t become as the lasagna what says to the cook, “why did you make me this way?  Why did you use this much ricotta?”  You are the lasagna, and God is the cook.  He’s pretty darn smart at what he does, so leave that domain to him, and you just do what he says.

2) God is more ready to speak to us than we are ready to listen to Him. Do not yield to the temptation to get caught up in your own thing to the point that you are unwilling to time-out of your own thing to listen for his input, about what you should and should not do.  What often happens is we refuse to listen to him, because we are more interested in setting our own agenda.  This always brings danger and negative consequences.  Just ask any child who yammers, does his or her own thing, and pays no attention to his or her parents.  

3) Don’t serve God because of what He won’t do.  That’s fear.  Serve God because He is and in response to His amazing love for you.  Serve Him because He is faithful and true, not as a response to His power.  Understand that His faithfulness and his truth back His power, which is what makes Him infinitely powerful, that’s fine.  But power is no motive in and of itself.  There is more to life than just a response to power.  If you but know the kind of love He has for you, and the way He enjoys being with you, then you might think twice about not getting involved with him, even if it means you have to turn from a sinful lifestyle.  There is more to life than a lifestyle that revolves around us.  We were hardwired for more than a self-focused existence.  

4) Realize that the Old Testament demonstrations of God’s power were fueled by a much deeper motive.  Exodus 2:23-25.  His motive was a remembrance of his covenant, which was itself motivated by his intense love for his people.  He made a promise to Abraham, and He intended to keep it.  And He used that covenant to turn the world upside down.  For it was to that people, Israel, that “a child was born, and a son was given,”  and to Him the government would revert. (Isaiah 9:6).  

Numbers 17 was therefore an act of love.

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