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March 21, Day #81 – Things Were Running Smoothly, but Then …

Numbers 9:15-11:3 opens with a cloud that represents the presence of the LORD appearing to cover the tabernacle. “From evening till morning the cloud … looked like fire” (verses 15-16). We see here that “whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; whenever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped” (verse 17). I would think that having a visible representation of the Lord’s presence would have been a wonderful experience and an awesome assurance of the power of God. In verse 23, we read that the Israelites “obeyed the LORD’s order, in accordance with His command through Moses.” Several times in Numbers, we have seen examples of Israelite obedience (cf., Numbers 1:54; 2:34; 3:51; 4:37; 4:49; 5:4; 7:89; 8:4; 8:22; and 9:5). When the Israelites are obeying, they are also experiencing God’s favor, and we are gratified when we see this in the book of Numbers. In Numbers 10, we see the construction of the two silver trumpets which will be used to sound forth signals throughout the camp. Then we see that God will lead them away from Sinai “to set out the first time” (verse 13). After a little over a year, Israel is finally on the move – and we are excited with them – as they now head toward the promised land. But then ... we come to Numbers 11, and what do we find? “The people complained about their hardships before the LORD” (verse 1), and as we will see, they are not going to improve. I’ll return to this thought in my concluding paragraph.

In Psalm 35:19-28 we see David’s call for further rescue from “the ungodly” and “those who gloat over him – his enemies” (verses 16-21). David knows that God has seen them, and he requests that God “contend” for him – “vindicate me in your righteousness” he cries (verses 22-24). If we love the Lord, and we live in fellowship with Him, like David, we have the opportunity to call on Him Who is our Father – our Lord – Him, Who “delights in the well-being of his servant” (verse 27). And when He rescues, contends for, and vindicates us - like David – may we not fail to “speak of His righteousness and praise Him all day long” (verse 28).

In Luke 3:1-22, we see the account of John the Baptist “preparing the way for the Lord” (verse 4). We note that Luke is very careful to place this account within an accurate, historical framework – “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (verse 1). John’s message is to call the people to “repentance” and to call them to fairness, righteousness, and honesty in their dealings with others (verses 11-14). John’s specific call to these virtues is a clear indicator that they were either deficient or even non-existent in that day. This section ends with Jesus coming to be baptized by John – the significance of which cannot be overstated. As baptism is an outward sign of identification, Jesus stood in absolutely no need of repentance whatsoever. His baptism represents His official, public identification with mankind – with you and me – who definitely need repentance. The Father approved this identification by sending the Holy Spirit, and vocalizing in words (as we said yesterday) – “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (verse 22).

From our readings today, I was impressed by several thoughts. (1) Complaining holds us captive, but proclaiming God’s faithfulness sets us free. We should remember and apply this principle to our hearts and lives. Falling into complaints is a form of slavery, and it’s unproductive. (2) Throughout the Word of God, we find intentional redundancies. Many expressions are repeated over and over again - sometimes to our annoyance. But every good teacher knows that repetition is an instructional tool designed to hammer home the truths that we need to hear and learn. Redundancy in God’s Word guards us against forgetfulness, and it helps us to “hide it in our hearts.” (3) In Luke, we see John’s humility before God and all the people - he recognized His own unworthiness even to untie the Messiah’s sandal. Yet, John was faithful to proclaim the truth even in the face of persecution. What an example for us!

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