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March 23, Day #83 – The Best, or the Worst?

Whenever we choose our own wills over God’s will for our lives, we are rejecting the best for something less. We see an example of this issue (which I briefly addressed yesterday) in Numbers 13-14. God wanted to give the Israelites the land, but they were not willing to receive it His way. We read, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. So Moses sent them out …” (verses 1-2). This mission was actually an answer to an earlier prayer of the Israelites who requested of the Lord that “men be sent ahead to spy out the land” (cf., Deuteronomy 1:22). Twelve leaders of the Israelites – one from each tribe – were sent out. Among these were Joshua and Caleb – the only two men who brought back a good report. At first, they said that the land was indeed what God promised: “The land does flow with milk and honey … here is its fruit” (verse 27). But then ten of them reported, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are … the land devours those living in it, and we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (verses 31-33). What kind of a report is that? If the land “devours those who live in it,” how is it that the “Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites are still in it – alive? And how do they know what they look like in other people’s eyes? This report reflects a classic example of believers who fail to trust God by faith (cf., Hebrews 3:7-19). By faith, Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (verse 30). Caleb represents the difference between actively trying to win a battle versus passively trying not to lose. Are we trying to win? Or are we just trying not to lose? So, what was the result? Numbers 14 informs us of the people’s general rebellion against God, for which they are now going to spend almost forty years wandering and then dying in the desert. Moses intercedes for them, and God forgives them, but they are going to suffer the consequences of their decisions and actions. God says, “I will do to you the very things I heard you say” (verse 28) – not one of them would enter into the promised land – except Joshua and Caleb. The men who gave a bad report were “struck down and died of a plague” (verse 37). Others disobediently presumed on their own to go up anyway – for which the Amalekites “beat them down all the way to Hormah” (verse 45). Reaching for their own idea of the best, they got the worst.

In Psalm 36, God paints a brief picture of how to identify incorrigible sinners: they — have no fear of God; flatter themselves; cannot detect their own sin; use filthy, deceptive words; act foolishly; cannot do good; plot evil; and do not reject wrongdoing. This Psalm should guide us in measuring our own hearts and in selecting the company we keep. By contrast, the second half of the Psalm indicates what should actually fill our hearts — love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, and taking refuge in the shelter of God’s wings. These are the things that represent God’s best for us.

In Luke 4:14-37, we see how Jesus was led by the Spirit to minister to those who would receive Him. At Nazareth, his hometown, He stood up in the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2, and He said that the Isaiah passage had then “been fulfilled in their hearing (verse 21). Among those in attendance, we see both favorable and unfavorable hearers. The receivers of Jesus “were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips” (verse 22), but rejecters were “furious” at Him, and they “got up, drove Him out of town, and took Him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw Him down the cliff” (verses 28-29). He explained to them the truth that “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” (verse 24) and they simply proved His point. He was not accepted there – in the same way that the world rejects Him today. From there, He went to Capernaum. In that synagogue, there was a man with a demon, which Jesus cast out (verse 35). Twice we read that “the people there were amazed at His teaching and His authority” (verses 32 and 36). What was the difference between Nazareth and Capernaum? Some people want the best and are not willing to settle for less.

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