Israelites punished The Israelites complain against Moses and Aaron. They went ahead into the hill country, despite the fact that neither the Ark nor Moses left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hills came down and attacked them and chased them to Hormah.

Day 62 (March 3): Israelites doubt, God backs Caleb and Joshua, Moses pleads for Israelites, Complainers punished, offering rules, Sabbath penalty, tassels

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 14-15
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (Numbers 14:6): Rob has answered the subject of tearing of clothes (discussed on Jan 19, Day 19 in our reading of Job 1-4).  It has been done numerous times thus far in the Bible in acts of mourning or distress.

O. (Numbers 14:17-19): I am amazed at the close relationship between God and Moses.  Moses reminds Him of His love for His people and His forgiveness for their sins.  This reminds me of disciplining children.  God takes the Promised Land away from most of them because of their grumbling.  I would think they would know by now how serious He is.

Q. (Numbers 14:30): So Caleb and Joshua are the only Israelites who will enter the Promised Land?

A. What it says is that, of the generation who was 20 years or older in the census from our earlier reading, only these two men (remember that this includes both Moses and Aaron!) will enter the Promised Land.  The rest of the company will die.  If we remember our significance of the number 40 in scripture, one of the things that 40 stands for is a mark of a generation.  So basically, by having the people spend exactly 40 years in the wilderness, what the Lord is essentially doing is cutting off the unfaithful generation and giving the Promised Land to their children.  Joshua, who will lead after Moses, will not only enter the land, but will be handsomely rewarded when the land is divided up.  The same is true for Caleb.  Truly this is a prime example of the importance of having faith in God’s ability to keep His promises.

O. (Numbers 14:39-43): This reminds me of my youngest daughter when she was little.  I would ask her to do something and tell her what the punishment is for disobeying, she disobeyed anyway and then said sorry after she gets in trouble.  She backpedaled and tried to make it right so she could still get the prize.  The Israelites realized they disappointed God and charged on to try to make it right.

Q. (Numbers 15:30-36): These two sections — the rules about “brazen” violations of the law, and the punishment for a man who actually does so — seem related.  Are they?

A. Yes.  I would say this is a good example of the text setting up a particular scenario. Basically, people are being reminded what a particular rule is — in this case knowingly violating the Lord’s commands — and then having that scenario acted out.

O. (Numbers 15:37-41): I never knew tassels had a special meaning!

For further reading
— Who were these giants in the Promised Land? https://enduringword.com/who-were-the-giants-in-the-promised-land-qa-for-october-28-2021/
— Giants of the Bible and more. https://armstronginstitute.org/336-were-there-giants-in-canaan-after-all

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Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 16-18

Abraham Sarah Hagar

Day 5 (Jan. 5): God and Abraham’s covenant, sacrifices, God cares for Hagar, circumcision

image credit: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Genesis 15-17
(2081-2067 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (15:5): I would love to be a fly on the wall at this conversation.  I can’t imagine the Lord telling me that I am the father of all of a great nation.  How incredible that must have felt to be handed that kind of gift.  If we all trust in God, we can feel that way too.

Q. (15:9): You talked about sacrifices in Day 4’s readings, but I still don’t get it.  Killing animals seems so violent.  I just don’t understand why such violence would be pleasing.  Maybe it’s something for me not to understand?  Also, I see the three’s in this passage — a goat, a ram and a heifer, all 3 years old.

A. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you address the violent aspects of the usage of animal sacrifices; this was simply the world that they lived in, and, frankly, our entire world lived in until a couple of generations ago.  Today, we are mostly spared from the sight of animal slaughter, but it is a reality in our continued survival, vegetarian and vegan company excluded.  Let’s stick to this passage for the moment, and I will address the reasons for the sacrifice system when that comes up in Leviticus.  There are particular circumstances going on in Genesis 15 that I want to make sure we understand.

This ceremony that takes place between Abram and God in this passage is unique as it comes to sacrifices.  The animals are not sacrificed to cover sin, but rather to confirm a covenant.  As I understand it, in the ancient Middle East, a king would hold a covenant ceremony with a servant or vassal who agreed to serve the king (God of course is the King, and Abram the vassal).  The king and servant would conduct a ceremony in which animals were sawed in half (violent, I know, but it was the ritual) and the participating parties would walk between the two halves (as God does in verse 17 with the movement of the torch) to symbolize the establishment of the covenant relationship.  The sawed animals represented the punishment is either party broke the covenant, though not in a literal way.  The parties basically said, “may I be sawed in half like these animals if I violate this sacred relationship.”

God is using this ceremony to formalize the relationship between Himself and Abram in a way that Abram (and the subsequent readers) would clearly understand.  Though it seems foreign and violent to us, it would have been an especially significant experience to Abram and the ancient Jews who read these words.

I will try to keep addressing the sacrifice system as it comes up, but frankly, the Bible does not shy away from the violence (of many sorts) that takes place on its pages.

O. (15:13-16): The Lord tells of the Israelites saga.  There’s so much back-and-forth references in the Bible that it’s foolproof.  I am surprised that people still try to dispute it!

Q. (16:12): If the Lord or anyone told me that I was going to have a child wilder than a donkey, I would be a little upset.  And, God tells Hagar to go back to live with Sarai who was treating her poorly.  Hagar does not seem to be troubled with any of this.  God said that he had heard her cries, so maybe she was a believer and trusted God?

A. While it seems harsh (a common theme so far I guess), the story of Hagar is actually one of my favorites from the OT.  God made His promises to Abraham and Sarah, and a slave like Hagar could be excused for thinking that her actions (and her child) did not matter to God.  But she is wrong!  God sees her, as she points out, and cares greatly for her needs, as well as the needs of her son.  We will see more of this story in a few chapters, because it happens again.

Q. (17:12-14): Circumcision is something I totally don’t understand.  It is such a violent act for a newborn boy.  And, if it’s the mark of the everlasting covenant, no one can visibly see it unless they are naked.  So, what is the purpose?  Is this still one of God’s requirements today?

A. Regarding the current requirement of circumcision: yes, pious Jews will tell you that circumcising a male child on the eighth day is one of their most sacred duties as a new parent: the circumcision is the ritual for a child becoming “part of the family”.  And just FYI, it is part of pious Muslim ritual as well, and called “Khitan”.  Some Christians choose to participate, but there is disagreement about the requirement.  Christians who argue that we are no longer under the Law because of Jesus may still choose to do so in order to honor God.

Circumcision was (and frankly still is) a unique way of marking a person as a follower of God — and it would have been completely unique in the ancient world.  This gets at a larger theme of the first five books of the OT: that God is requiring that His chosen people act in various ways to show that they are set apart from the world (and other tribes) around them.  I won’t try to defend the violence of the act (like a broken record, I guess that would be the title for our Day 5 discussion), but there are Jews, Muslims, and Christians who to this day see circumcision as bringing their children into covenant relationship with God — something that can literally have eternal consequences.

For further study: 
— More on God’s covenant with Abram/Abraham: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-covenant-of-abraham, https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/abrahamic-covenant-with-god/
— Lessons from the account of Hagar: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/4-powerful-lessons-from-the-life-of-hagar.html

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Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 18:1-21:7

Giving in to the Holy Spirit

As your faith grows, you develop a closer connection to the Holy Spirit to where you can’t help but do what He tells you to do.  In my case, the Spirit has implanted in my brain the ability to pick up on keen sayings, highlight verses that I think could benefit others, and the creativity to put it all together.

Lately, I have been trying harder to obey the Spirit when He prods me.  When I do nothing, I feel weak and ashamed, like I let God down.  James 4:17 (ESV) says that “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  I have doubted myself for so long that it feels wonderful to listen and act on it. 

For a year or more — yes, I’m a stubborn human — the Spirit has told me to talk to panhandlers in our area.  Conveniently, I am always in a rush and don’t have time.  And my negativity says that there are so many businesses looking for workers, that these panhandlers should just get a job.  Also, word is that they make plenty of money and their begging is just a ruse.  All those voices telling me that panhandlers don’t matter are WRONG!  They do!  Everyone matters.  Remember the parable about Lazarus who was begging at the gate?  Well, he ended up in heaven and a rich man who went to hell was begging Lazarus for help!

The other day, I finally acted on the Spirit’s poking.  With a Bible in hand, I made friendly conversation with a woman who was panhandling.  She had recently moved from Italy to find work.  Her sign said “Jesus loves you.”  So right there I was given a segue to talk about the Lord.

It doesn’t matter if I converted her or not.  I just handed her a Bible and told her that she could read it to help her with her English.  I love how the Holy Spirit pushes us and we remain unsettled until we act on His urgings.  That’s all that God instructs us to do — be bold and listen to the Spirit.  What is the Spirit prodding you to do?

Dispelling Doubts of Christianity

In talking to close friends about why they don’t believe in God, I discovered several causes for their unbelief, which are fairly rational.  Christianity has been a foundation in my family for many generations, so it is easy for me to believe the Bible is the Word of God.  On the contrary, the many who are not raised knowing God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have a high hurdle in trying, or even desiring, to grasp such an existence.  Consequently, we, who are in the know, should help them!

Easier said than done, right!?!  Avoidance of awkward conversation is my biggest although invalid — reason, that has kept me from telling others about Christianity.  But, probably like most Christians, the Holy Spirit nags at me until I do what He says.  It has taken me several years to dial up the courage to talk to many nonbelievers.  But, I have realized that I have nothing to lose and many to try to save.  A big nudge from my pastor motivated me when he said, “If we don’t tell people about the Gospel, we must not like them very much.”  Ouch!

The facts are there!

For so many, a Bible was nowhere to be found in their childhood home, so they don’t give It a second thought.  And, they may have had a bad experience with a church or churchgoer and have written off God entirely.  They may have heard a few of the Biblical accounts — Creation, Noah, David and Goliath — and think of them as just made-up, entertaining stories to teach morality.  Or, they may consider the Bible just a collection of children’s stories.  

But when you dive into Scripture, you can see how the material is amazingly interwoven and cross referenced forward and backward over many centuries.  God foretelling our unbelief is apparent, as He included facts: genealogies, names of historically well-known kings and government officials, and precise geographic locations.  Our doubtful minds can say, “Hmm, there is a lot of evidence that points to the Bible being true.” 

To further support the idea that God desires to squelch our disbelief, in the New Testament, Jesus says things happen so that the Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled, and the reader can inherently believe the Bible is true. After studying God’s Word — which many scientists (Albert Einstein, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and even more including Charles Darwin) have discovered — you will see that it is undeniable!

The Bible stands the test of time

The Bible is the oldest text known to man, making it an extremely ancient historic work which may seem archaic when reading it, especially the older versions of the Bible.  Keep in mind that the oldest book was written over 3,000 years ago and the newest 1,900 years ago, when obviously, the culture and writing style were way different.  Thus, critiquing the Bible according to today’s standards is not a fair comparison.  (However, most of the benchmark actions that are viewed as evil in today’s times, will also be scorned by God.)  So take your time reading and researching those rabbit-trail questions and God’s wisdom will pour into your soul.  

My best friend from college recently told me about her experience with first opening up the Bible.  At a very low point in her life, she fell to her knees and felt a call to read the Bible.  She was out of options.  She started at the beginning in Genesis and thought, “What in the world?”  But, God spoke to her and said, “It’s OK.  Keep reading.”  Now she is a firm believer!

Thankfully, we have new versions that bring old text to today’s use of language, which makes the Bible much easier to comprehend.  It has been around for over three millennia and has been confirmed to have held on to original meaning after all those translations.  It’s importance is evident in the fact that it’s the No. 1 selling book of all time at 5 billion copies sold, with the next one in the far distance, selling around 1 billion.

God is good.  People, not always

If you put a blindfold on to God’s existence, then you are missing out on a fulfilled life!  If you sit back and think everything there is to learn about Christianity will just come to you, like on the news or tidbits here and there, you couldn’t be further from the truth.  Recently, I was talking to a long-time friend who said she doesn’t see a reason to believe because so many church leaders commit wretched acts.  Unfortunately, most of those reports are probably correct.   

The Bible addresses these transgressions.  The Old Testament features God’s own people, the Israelites, whom He chose as an exemplary nation to show others how blessed they were because of their faith.  However, with human’s inherent nature, they still fell to sin following other gods and doing despicable acts.  Nonetheless, they would return to God time and time again, repenting their sins and realizing His way gives them a more satisfying life! 

God’s knowledge of our sinful ways continues in some New Testament letters that encourages churches to cleave to righteousness or scolds them about corruption among members.  Thus, church leaders falling into sin is not a new issue.  In fact, sin even happened in heaven, which is how Lucifer, aka Satan, was kicked out (Isaiah 14:12-15)!  Jesus, the perfect teacher, would never do such evil acts, nor does He condone it — but He still loves us even when we sin — as you can read in the Bible.  He is our model of a perfect human that we can strive to be more like.  He is love and goodness!   

Many churches are amazing and follow Jesus’ example whole-heartedly.  They serve as missionaries and support mission work all over the globe helping thousands, if not millions of suffering people.  They also serve the community through homeless shelters, food bank donations, community outreach programs such as Vacation Bible School, and service projects like home repair, yard cleanup and meals.  Without our churches today, the world would be a much sadder place.

Seen as another fantasy

Yet another friend just sees Christianity as a fantasy, much like Greek mythology.  I just have this to say, “Look closer!”  The Bible is an impeccable historic account of events, prophecies, proverbs, poetry, parables, miracles, teachings and more that all relate to one another.  And, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls to support the Bible’s legitimacy.  Because the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament and the NT references the OT, there HAS to be an overseeing/directing creator, which God, in fact, says that the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), meaning the words came from Him.

That same friend argues science.  But, in fact, the Bible and science work together.  For every scientific dispute he introduced, the Bible has an answer.  There’s a good reason why it’s the best-selling book of all time — it goes deeper into history than any other book and it’s full of truth!  And, guess what?  You can be a scientist and a Christian at the same time!

Dig in!

If you still think Christianity is nonsense, all you have to do is talk to a Christian friend, call a pastor or check out a grounded church online or in person.  You can also go online and research articles.  Beware of this though, because you will find information that tries to unravel Christianity at its core.  But, I challenge you to take on those articles and find the holes in their arguments.  I have done this and it strengthens my faith even more!  Have an open mind.  Think of theology as a subject to study, just like history or science, and you will be able to better absorb what you are reading.  

In reading the Bible a while, you will discover that the whole text points to Jesus saving us from our sins.  He came to earth to show us love and that we can have eternal life if we believe in Him and follow Him.  If you have that stirring in you that lets you know when you have done something wrong and also gives you joy when you do something out of love, then that is the Holy Spirit working in you to awaken you to the Way.  After you accept Christ as your Savior — meaning because of His love for us, He came to save us so we can live eternally in heaven — then you belong to Him and will desire to tell others the Good News!

So, what have you got to lose?  Well, you have your life and potentially many more lives around you.  You have NOTHING to lose and EVERYTHING to gain!