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June 2004 Archives

June 1, 2004

Undeserved Honor

So Moses took the staff from the Lord's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Numbers 20:9-10

I don't think I have ever fully understood why it was such a big deal for Moses to strike the rock instead of speaking to it. The water came anyway. God still met the need of His people. Yet Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the promised land due to this incident. I have always wondered what they did that was so wrong.

In truth, it wasn't striking the rock that did it. Their sin was pride. In their anger over the people's grumbling, they dishonored God. They took the credit for what was God's doing and God's alone. Not once did Moses or Aaron say, "Watch, and the Lord will provide!" Essentially, their words added up to: "Fine! If you won't be quiet, we'll give you water!"

Others had been struck dead for less, but God continued to honor them in spite of their actions. Oh, Aaron died soon after this, but he was mourned for thirty days. Only honorable men are remembered in such a way. And although Moses never stepped foot in the promised land, God let him see it from afar.

Lord, there are many ways I have dishonored You in my life. The consequences must still be faced at some point. But in truth, You honor me still. The blood of Your Son is honor enough for any man.

Thank You for Your undeserved grace. The day will come when I stand ready to enter Your promised land, and despite my actions of dishonor, the action of Jesus will cover me. I long for that day. I long to be by Your side. Stay near me today.

June 2, 2004

Let's Go!

Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. Numbers 21:25

Sihon king of the Amorites refused to allow the Israelites passage through his territory. In fact, he sent his army to attack them. God was with the Israelites, and all of Sihon's land was taken away from him. If they could do this with a tired, depleted army, what could they have done when God originally commanded them to enter Canaan?

The Israelites had to be asking themselves, "Why did we not listen to God before?" Standing on the edge of the promised land, they had a full army. God Himself was saying, "Let's go!" Yet the people hesitated. They did what they did best - complain. God banished an entire generation to wander in the desert. Now many had died from battles and plagues.

Lord, too often I hesitate in chasing Your will. Time after time, You say, "Let's go!" I reply, "I'm too small." The promised land will always be out of reach as long as I don't trust You. When I trust, I see success.

Help me, Lord, to take the land that is destined for me. I'm tired of living in fear.

June 3, 2004

Like a Donkey

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. Numbers 22:23

There are many great men in the Bible that I try to emulate. I long to have the heart of David, the insight of John, the compassion of Timothy. But who would ever think of praying, "Would You give me the eyes of a donkey?"

Balaam's donkey had eyes to see things that Balaam himself could not see. Now, Balaam wasn't just any guy off the street. He had a reputation as one who spoke to God. Those he cursed were cursed, and those he blessed were blessed. What was it that shut his eyes on this particular day?

Was it the money? Balak had offered to pay him handsomely if he would come curse the Israelites for him. We don't really know what it was. God had told him to go, and Balaam had strict instructions to do only what God told him. However, the angel of the Lord quickly came to oppose him; apparently Balaam's heart wasn't as it should have been. Three times, Balaam's donkey saved his life. Rather than receiving a reward, she was beaten. It takes courage to go a different way when those around you can't see what you do.

Is it courage? Or is courage simply fearing one thing more than another?

Lord, so many times I ask for courage to stand against the enemy. Am I asking for the right thing? Maybe I should be asking to be like Balaam's donkey. Maybe I should ask for insight - and fear. If I could see the truth and I could fear You more than my enemy, maybe I wouldn't disappoint You - and myself - so much.

Help me, Spirit, to see the world around me today and to fear God... like a donkey.

June 7, 2004

The Shout of the King

"No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them." Numbers 23:21

Balaam received an oracle from God to bless Israel rather than curse them. God said there was no misfortune in Jacob; no misery was in Israel.

Now, wait a minute! Is He talking about the same people who have been wandering around in the desert complaining and dying from plagues? How is that not misery? How is that not misfortune?

The truth is: God's presence overshadows any and every circumstance. No matter what the Israelites experienced in the desert, the mere presence of God at the Tent of Meeting - the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led them - was enough to say they were truly blessed. The shout of the King was among them!

Okay, Lord. Lately, my wife has been telling me that I am too pessimistic. She says I'm looking at the glass as half-empty rather than half-full. It seems that I have forgotten that Your presence in my life can overshadow the challenges of living it. I'm too caught up in what others think. I'm more worried about the opinion of men than I am about the opinion of my God.

Spirit, help me to stop grumbling. Help me to not take everything so hard. Help me to remember that You are ever-present. I have much about which I can rejoice.

The Shout of the King is in me!

June 8, 2004

Sorcery?

Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. Numbers 24:1

The truth about Balaam is revealed. He isn't a prophet; he is a sorcerer. He previously referred to God as "his God," but as was the custom in his day, he may have worshiped many gods. The words he spoke in his first two oracles were conjured up by a sorcerer's tricks rather than revealed by the will of God. Balaam's third oracle, however, was spoken directly by the Spirit of God.

Lord, I don't think I would know the first thing about sorcery. Or would I?

How often am I guilty of attempting to conjure up Your words for my gain? We all have our little rituals... maybe this little prayer will get me this or that little prayer will get me that.

Help me, Lord, to be completely open to Your Spirit. Protect me in the choices I make, and reveal Your will so I may walk in it.

June 9, 2004

To Catch His Eye

The Lord said to Moses, "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned away my anger from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them." Numbers 25:10-11

How much difference can one man make? Too often, the number opposing what is right can be so great; those who would choose correctly are overwhelmed.

Many of the Israelite men were opposing what they knew to be right. The Midianite women were too desirable to resist. What would it hurt to worship their gods as long as they got what they wanted? In their eyes, it wasn't hurting anybody... or so they thought.

God's zeal burned against the people. As had happened before, the nation was struck with a plague and many began to die. Before He stopped, twenty-four thousand Israelites were dead. If not for the action of one man, all the people might have been killed on that day.

The one man who made a difference was Phinehas, the grandson of the Aaron the priest. The zeal Phinehas displayed that day was enough to catch the eye of the Living God. It was enough to save an entire nation.

Lord, I want to have the zeal of Phinehas. He had such passion for righteousness! His action saved so many. I want to make that kind of difference in the world. But first, it needs to start at home. It needs to start in me.

Father, help me to seek first Your kingdom and all its righteousness. Make me a man who will do whatever it takes to face the enemy and arise the victor. Make me a man with zeal for You. Let me catch Your eye.

June 10, 2004

Life Carries On

These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. Numbers 26:63-64

Life carried on in the desert.

Despite the years of wandering and the death of an entire generation, each Israelite clan was sustained. Soon, the land that was promised so long before would be theirs. Not one man over twenty years of age who had been counted in the first census was alive. Yet, over the years the number of men of fighting age in Israel was only reduced by 1,820. Some tribes grew; some were smaller. But they were strong and ready to fight.

Lord, life does carry on in the desert, doesn't it? Despite the years that my heart has wandered, You are still here - I am still here. Help me, Father, to seize the life You promised - a life of freedom in Your Spirit. Counselor, be my guide, my strength, and my all today.

June 11, 2004

Unexpected Pain

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was." Numbers 27:12-13

Moses was given a luxury that many never have. He was told that his time had come. His death was near. The Lord gave him the opportunity to get his affairs in order, and Joshua was appointed to replace him.

The brevity of life is on my heart this morning. Yesterday, I received a prayer request for a couple at church whose niece was killed in an automobile accident. She and a friend were returning home from new student orientation at college when their car apparently went off the road. Both girls died. Oh, how excited they must have been! They were registered for classes and ready for college in the fall. How sad that their lives were cut short as the excitement was really beginning.

I guess this hits me hard because my son was at that same student orientation. It really is an exciting time in life. He's finally registered for classes. He now sees himself as a college freshman (actually, he's almost a sophomore before stepping foot in class). I cannot imagine the pain of losing him as he embarks on this journey. The pain - the devastation experienced by these two families must be unbearable. Lord, bring Your comfort to them. And watch over my children. My fear seems greater as they get older. The worry could overtake me. Send your Spirit to protect them and to comfort me.

Death is so often unexpected, Father. The fact is: we should live every day like it is our last. Our affairs should be in order. We should try to end our lives with no regrets, regardless of when it is.

Help me to live a live that honors You.

June 12, 2004

The Important Things

The Lord said to Moses, "Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: 'See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offerings made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.'" Numbers 28:1-2

The Israelites faced a crucial transition. Joshua was to succeed Moses, for soon Moses was going to die. As God had commanded, the generation who saw the salvation from Egypt would not see the promised land. They were all gone. A new generation would carry on. But would they understand what was really important? Would they follow God and God only?

In Scripture, immediately after God announced Joshua's new position of leadership, the Israelites are reminded of the required offerings. Why is it repeated? This generation must have grown up with the sacrificial offerings as a part of life. Wouldn't it simply carry on without a new command from God?

Unfortunately, we are prone to forget things at important transitions. When we experience one success or cross a milestone, we tend to see ourselves as the source of victory. This seems to be human nature.

Lord, I feel like I have forgotten the important things in life lately. My actions over the past year have been a transition. I am not as trapped by the chains that held me for so long. But somehow I feel lost. I feel like Peter Pan when he lost his shadow. My spirits seems disconnected. Can You help me find it? Can You be my Wendy and sew it back again?

Jesus, I want life to be more than ritual. I want a relationship with You that is so real that others see You in me. Help me to find my shadow again.

Will You be my shadow today?

June 14, 2004

Details

"'In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, prepare these for the Lord at your appointed feasts: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings.'" Numbers 29:39

For years the Israelites had been celebrating God's appointed feasts. As they were preparing to enter the promised land, God reminded them of these feasts. Yet He seemed to require more. When compared to His earlier command, God's reminder is filled with detail not previously recorded. The specifics about each sacrifice were omitted from Leviticus, yet they appear in the Book of Numbers.

Why the difference, Lord? Why does Scripture not record the sacrificial ordinance with the original command? Did you not require specific animals before this time? Is this something new?

I guess this is a good analogy of the Christian life. From the beginning, we have only one thing in mind - salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, the longer we walk this journey, the more detailed the requirements become. Oh, we are always to walk in grace and mercy. But in addition, we are to understand the importance of humility - the importance of doing justly. The mature Christian is more often concerned with others than himself. To expect full understanding of these things by a new Christian is like expecting a child to understand the ways of an adult.

Lord, am I ready for new things - for new detail in my walk with You? I long to be near You. I long to understand the deep things of God. Is it time to grow up? Give me Your understanding, so I might love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly by Your side.

June 15, 2004

The Weight of Responsibility

"Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself." Numbers 30:13

The Lord established a man's authority and responsibility in relation to his wife and daughter. God said, a man had the authority to nullify a vow when he heard about it. He was also responsible for her guilt if he confirmed it in silence and later nullified it.

Isn't it interesting how gender alone brings unique stresses and strains? How can a man carry the weight? How especially can he carry it in a society that no longer equips him for the responsibility?

We live in a world where gender roles have been confused. Little boys are raised to see that women are not just partners, but co-breadwinners and oftentimes the head of the house. No wonder too many man check out of marriage. No wonder more and more men and women feel they don't need the opposite sex.

Lord, we need Your help. Help us to understand what You intended - not to disrespect the role of either a man or a woman, but to equip us as only You can.

Father, help me to carry the weight.

June 16, 2004

Not One Was Missing

Then the officers who were over the units of the army - the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds - went to Moses and said to him, "Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing." Numbers 31:48-49

Twelve thousand men went to war with Midian. Twelve thousand men came home. Can you imagine what it would be like to come out of battle and realize that not one soldier had been killed? This was truly an amazing experience for the Israelites, and the commanders knew it. Upon realizing this had happened, they took all the gold they had acquired as plunder - 420 pounds of it - and gave it to the Lord.

Lord, do I recognize the miracles around me? The past few days have been filled with frustration over some broken promises at work, but I think the biggest challenges have been overcome. Thank You, Lord, for meeting me in the midst of the turmoil. Help me to gain control over the overwhelming tasks. In Your strength, I can also be strong.

I love You, Lord.

June 17, 2004

Jumping to Conclusions

"But we are ready to arm ourselves and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land." Numbers 32:17

The Gadites and Reubenites saw a good opportunity to settle their families and care for their livestock east of the Jordan. Moses only saw one thing - rebellion. He called them a brood of sinners who would make God angrier than He was with their parents.

But Moses was too quick to judge. The Gadites and Reubenites would not abandon their brothers. They planned to go ahead of them into battle. With their families settled, their whole focus could be upon God's mission for them. Moses jumped to conclusions without hearing the whole story.

Lord, sometimes I am too quick to judge. Sometimes others don't have a chance because I am jumping to conclusions with only half the information. Give me Your wisdom, so I can lead as I should.

Spirit, I need Your help today. Again, I am facing too many tasks and too little understanding. You hovered over the waters when the earth was formed. You know the intricacies of creation. How could You not know the answers for my workplace? Help me to see the plan - or merely a glimpse of it. Encourage the discouraged. Comfort the downhearted. Let us see success, so others can be served and You can be glorified. Make me a blessing today.

June 18, 2004

Specific Instructions

"'But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.'" Numbers 33:55-56

When God's commands are specific, we would be wise to follow through completely. The Israelites received very specific instructions regarding the inhabitants of Canaan; they were to be driven out completely. If any remained, they would be trouble for the Israelites, and eventually God would drive out His own children.

Everything God said came to pass. And to this day, there are disputes in Israel.

Lord, I wonder what the world would have been like if the Israelites had followed Your instructions to the letter. How would it have changed Your plan? Would Jesus have come and died like He did? I wonder what You had in mind at the beginning.

Help me to hear Your instructions, Lord, then give me the strength and courage to follow through to completion.

June 21, 2004

Life without a Map

The Lord said to Moses, "Command the Israelites and say to them, 'When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries.'" Numbers 34:1-2

I wonder if Moses had a map.

He was a well educated man. Through him, God wrote the first five books of the Bible. Did he also have the ability to draw maps? There must have been someone who learned cartography, the fine art of map making, while in Egypt. Although they didn't have the luxury of electricity or combustion engines, the Egyptians were a fairly civilized people. There must have been someone who could put it on paper.

What would life be like without maps? How would we ever know which direction to go? How would be ever know that we have reached the boundaries? Unfortunately, there are so many people who wander about in this life without a map. Every day is lived aimlessly wandering from place to place. Every day is lived with no boundaries.

Lord, thank You for the roadmap of Your Word. Americans so often take for granted that Bibles can be owned and read publicly... as long as it isn't done in the name of the government. This is one place where the enemy seems to be winning.

Yet, there are places in our world where Bibles are completely against the law. It is hard to believe the Word of God is contraband that must be smuggled and hidden to avoid persecution. And so many in this free nation ignore it!

Help me to cherish Your Word, Father. Help me to follow the instructions laid out in this amazing Masterpiece. Show me Your direction, so I can lead others as You would have me. Keep my life within the boundaries, so You may be glorified.

June 22, 2004

Nowhere to Run

"'These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.'" Numbers 35:15

A city of refuge was a place of protection - a place to which an innocent man could flee to avoid an avenger. On the other hand, the guilty man was to be put to death. There was no place to which a guilty man could run. A city of refuge did not exist for him. His days and nights would be filled with anxiety and worry. Anywhere he went, an avenger could take his life.

Lord, my spirit seems stuck on fast forward this morning. I feel like a guilty man with nowhere to flee. My attempts to pray have been interrupted by confusing thoughts - by worries - by anxious chaos.

Be my place of refuge. Quiet my heart, so I can hear You. Wash me in the blood of Christ. Remove this sense of guilt, so I might live in peace.

June 24, 2004

A Place to Call Home

"No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers." Numbers 36:7

Finally, a place to call home! Since the time of Abraham, there had been no place where his descendants could call home. Even Abraham moved about from place to place - from Ur to Haran to Canaan to Egypt, then back to Canaan. Abraham was a nomad.

How exciting the promised land must have been for these nomads - these wanderers in the desert. And to know, the land would not be taken from their children; how wonderful it must have been!

Lord, as Your children, we are all nomads on this earth. The concept of inherited land is tough to grasp, especially in a western culture constantly on the move. I long for that place that will never be taken from me - that eternal inheritance in Your kingdom.

Come, Lord Jesus! I am weary from wandering in the desert. Give me a place of joy by Your side - a place to call home.

June 25, 2004

A Deaf Ear

"You came back and wept before the Lord, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you." Deuteronomy 1:45

The time had come. Moses began his farewell to those he had led through the desert for so long. In his parting words, he seemed to say: "Let me remind you where you have been."

The tough thing about memories is that they are not always good. As the people of Israel finally stood ready to enter the promised land, Moses reminded them why their fathers hadn't entered the land forty years earlier. Their fathers had sinned, and God withdrew. To make matters worse, their fathers disregarded their sin and were determined to take the land without God's help. Without God's blessing, they pushed toward the goal, and they were driven back - defeated and broken. Crying out in their defeat, the Israelites found themselves in a place no man wants to be; God had turned a deaf ear to them.

After King David's most public failure he penned the words, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." The Israelites who had been defeated by the Amorites were far from contrite. They were prideful, and God refused to listen.

Lord, my heart is broken; my spirit is contrite. Will You hear me? Or will I discover that you have turned away and are refusing to listen? Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned - I have failed You. Where I go from here will be determined by You - and my willingness to repent. I refuse to be defined by my failure. Give me the courage to confess, and the strength to move forward. I am disappointed, but I am not destroyed. In my pride, I chose wrongly. Through my contrition, You will hear me.

Thank You for hearing my cries, Lord. Thank You for Jesus and the grace He brings.

June 26, 2004

Never Alone

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey though this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. Deuteronomy 2:7

There are times that life seems like a vast desert. Spiritual dryness overwhelms one's heart, and loneliness becomes commonplace.

The truth is: we are never alone in the desert. No matter how lonely we may feel, God is always there.

Lord, last night I met a man who saw right through me. He stepped into my life to remind me - I am not alone. Thank You for loving me enough to provide all I need. Truly, I do not lack anything. Forgive my ingratitude. Help me to acknowledge You. Give me the courage to proclaim it from the housetops. I love You, Lord.

June 27, 2004

Alright, Already!

But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. "That is enough," the Lord said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." Deuteronomy 3:26

Moses messed up, and he had to face the consequence. His anger caused him to strike a rock rather than speaking to it. Instead of honoring God, he took control. For this, he could not enter the promised land.

Yet, it appears he didn't stop asking. God finally told him, "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." It seems like God is saying, "Alright, already! Quit asking; My answer is NO."

Lord, I don't like it when Your answer is "no." I realize that consequence is a part of life, but I selfishly want my way all the time. Help me to accept Your will. Help me to honor You. Forgive the ways I dishonor You.

June 28, 2004

All Consuming Fire

But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. Deuteronomy 4:20

It is important to remember the place from whence we came. Israel was brought out of Egypt - out of the iron-smelting furnace. God proved Himself by showing His might - by freeing His people from slavery.

Lord, there are times I would like to forget the furnace. The pain was so great in those placed I once lived. Yet event today, I find myself longing to reach into the flames. Why is it that we are so fascinated with the fire? We find momentary comfort in the searing of our conscience.

But Your fire is holy. Your fire consumes all unrighteousness.

Holy Spirit, be my consuming fire today. Burn away all those things that would destroy. Help me to reach out to You in my pain. Heal me, so I might be used for Your wonderful works.

June 29, 2004

No More!

And you said, "The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer." Deuteronomy 5:24-25

The glory and majesty of the Lord is great. How an I ever survive in the Presence? Like the Israelites, I grow weary from gazing at the Lord's glory and hearing His voice. How is it that I would ever choose to turn my eyes and ears toward the darkness and evil of this world?

Why is it, Lord, that I can only bear You for just so long? My heart is fickle. Your holiness is so great that I fear I will be consumed. One moment, I long to be consumed; the next moment I fear it.

Father, I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting the battle for holiness. I'm tired of this darkness that consumes my heart. If only You would consume me. It seems that every day I search for another reason to continue. What an existence it is to daily ask the question, "Why should I remain?" I seem to live my life more concerned about those I would disappoint if I were to leave. Why can I not live in the joy of what I offer the world rather than the misery, dwelling upon the harm I would cause by leaving it?

Jesus, I need a reason to stay - a reason that goes beyond family and friends. Lord, I need purpose. Or is that what Your purpose is all about? Family and friends? Joys and disappointments?

Consume me, Lord. Let me hear Your voice.

June 30, 2004

The Righteousness of the Law

And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness. Deuteronomy 6:25

To achieve righteousness through following the law - this is what Moses asked of the people. If they didn't follow God's laws, they would lose the land promised to their fathers, but if they followed God alone, they would prosper.

History proved that the Israelites failed. This blessed nation would become a nation filled with idols, and eventually the Assyrians and the Babylonians would occupy the land. Oh, they would have the temple of the living God in their midst, yet their hearts would stray. God would punish them for not following His laws, and the land would be lost. Later, upon their return to the land, they would never again become a nation that worshiped idols.

As God commanded, the nation of Israel became a nation that followed the law, but like most things in human hands, it became an extreme distortion of God's intent. Following the law was a legalistic means of achieving righteousness. Jesus was born into a nation where Pharisees and Sadducees bickered over the tiniest detail. Although there were no graven images to be found, their hearts were far from God.

Lord, I seem to live my life in the extreme. Highs or lows - there doesn't seem to be much in between. Help me to find the balance. I long to follow You. Quiet my heart. Bring me back to a place of righteousness - not by my own strength, but by the blood of Jesus.

About June 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in June 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2004 is the previous archive.

July 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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