abiding trust in God

marmsky December 2017 (10)devotional post # 2226

Numbers 1:10-11

Num 1:10  from the sons of Joseph, from Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud, and from Manasseh, Gamliel the son of Pedahzur;
Num 1:11  from Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni;

abiding trust in God

Joseph’s line produced two generals. Elishama means “my God has heard” and reflects a belief in prayer, not because prayer has power but because God listens to prayer. Gamliel means “reward of God” or “my reward is God” and reflects the same trust in the God of the Bible to respond to our commitment to him. Joseph learned this lesson in a pit, and in prison. He cried out to God and God heard and rewarded his faithfulness.

Benjamin’s line produced general Abidan. The name says “my Father is judge.” It reflects a belief that our heavenly Father oversees the affairs of humanity and will see to it that justice occurs. It also reflects the belief that injustice is not necessarily ours to correct. The Father is judge, and we are not.

God’s people are best prepared for warfare when they have an abiding trust in God to hear prayer, reward faithfulness, and correct injustice.

LORD, we place our trust in you, and look to you for strength.

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fighting for the right reasons

marmsky December 2017 (9)devotional post # 2225

Numbers 1:7-9

Num 1:7  from Judah, Nachshon the son of Amminadab;
Num 1:8  from Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar;
Num 1:9  from Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon;

fighting for the right reasons

The LORD warned his people of the wrong motives for warfare through the names of these leaders. Judah’s general was Nachshon, which seems to have been associated in some way with the magic arts. Perhaps God was getting them ready to see a pure magic from his hand, which would encourage them to stay away from the dark arts for good. Issachar’s general was Nethanel, whose name says “given by God.” The Lord wanted his people to trust him to give them what they need, not to just try to take it on their own, or to trust some foreign god for it. Zebulun’s general was Eliab, whose name said “my God is a father.” This name encouraged a religion not based on fear, and a warfare not based on possessing a kingdom, but on spreading a family.

LORD, keep us from fighting for the wrong reasons.

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my rock, my friend

marmsky December 2017 (8)devotional post # 2224

Num 1:4  And there will be with you a man, a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers.
Num 1:5  And these are the names of the men who will stand with you. From Reuben, Elitsur the son of Shedeur;
Num 1:6  from Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai;

my rock, my friend

The LORD communicated his connection with his people through the names of these leaders. Reuben’s general was Elitsur, whose name said “God is my rock.” This spoke of stability even in the midst of a nomadic life full of transitions and change. Simeon’s general was Shelumiel, whose name said “my friend is God.” This name encouraged a people who felt helpless in the desert to let their powerful friend fight for them.

LORD, thank you that we do not have to face life’s changes by our own power, but that you invite us to rely upon your power and your presence.

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head count

marmsky December 2017 (7)devotional post # 2223

Numbers 1:1

Num 1:1  Yahveh spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, in the conference tent, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, and this is what he said,
Num 1:2  “Take a head count of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, by the number of names, every male, head by head.
Num 1:3  From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, by their armies.”

head count

Numbers is a deeply spiritual book, but it begins in a mundane fashion. It starts out as a command to organize the armies of the nation. In a sense, it is a record of the draft. You do not draft in peace time. You draft when you are expecting to be involved in a long and deadly conflict. As we read through this book, we will find that the nation delivered from bondage in Egypt is still in a mighty war. Instead of the slavery of Egypt, this nation is now in severe spiritual warfare. An entire generation is now mustered to engage in that war, but they will lose. The generation behind them will reap the victory. The book of numbers is the story of those two generations, and that spiritual warfare fought in the desert.

LORD, wake us to the reality of the war we are in, and the cost it will take to be victorious in that war.

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bang fizzle

marmsky December 2017 (6)devotional post # 2222

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

2Co 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Build, encourage one another, think about one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2Co 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2Co 13:13 All the holy ones here send you greetings.
2Co 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

bang fizzle

Paul concludes his letter with a bang in chapter 13, really laying down his feelings of discouragement and betrayal for those who are opposing his ministry. But in these final words, there is none of that.  His passion seems to fizzle out.  But the deep rooted cause of his passion can still be seen in these words. Paul wants the Corinthians to change because they have been recipients of God’s grace and love, and have the Holy Spirit within them. He encourages change within a context of rejoicing, because the triune God is at work, bringing the change about.

LORD, sanctify us, because all we can ever be is what you make of us.

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two possible outcomes

marmsky December 2017 (5)devotional post # 2221

2 Corinthians 13:8-10

2Co 13:8 Because we cannot serve a church which is against the truth, but we serve for the truth.
2Co 13:9 Because we are glad when we are being weak and you are being strong. Your complete harmony is what we pray for.
2Co 13:10 I am writing these things while I am away from you for this reason, so that when I come I may not have to be brutal in my use of the right that the Lord has given me — to build you and not to destroy you.

two possible outcomes

Paul envisioned two possible outcomes to his letter. He would either come to Corinth and find a repentant, restored, harmonious church, or he would come and find a church which he would have to destroy. The difference is truth. That is, what matters is if there is truly a Christian presence in Corinth. Paul’s enemies said that he and his team were weak, but that the church is strong. Paul said that if that were really true, he would be glad. It would mean that he would not have to condemn them when he comes.

LORD, make us churches built on your truth, so that we never have to face the condemnation of those who serve for the truth.

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turning the table

marmsky December 2017 (4)devotional post # 2220

2 Corinthians 13:5-7

2Co 13:5 Test yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Evaluate yourselves. Or do you not understand this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?– unless you actually are unqualified!
2Co 13:6 I hope you will discover that we are not unqualified.
2Co 13:7 But we are praying to God that you may not keep doing us wrong– not that we may appear to be qualified, but that you may keep doing what is right, even if it means our disqualification.

turning the table

The Corinthians’ rejection of Paul’s missionary team was a wrong, and Paul wanted to right that wrong. But his motivation for correcting that wrong had nothing to do with the team’s reputation. The team had proclaimed the gospel to Corinth. It was the gospel which was at stake. They wanted the gospel message to take root and thrive in Corinth, even if it meant their being disqualified to minister there from now on.

To that end, Paul urges the Corinthian believers to test themselves, to evaluate and document (dokimazo) their actual standing in the faith. He hopes that they will see that their following these new leaders has led them down the wrong path, and that they need to repent.

The Corinthians were being taught that they should put the missionaries to the test. Paul turns the table. He urges them to put themselves to the test. He is confident that if they merely take a look at what God had done in Corinth in the past (under the leadership of Paul’s team) then they will see that the promises of these new super-missionaries (huperlian apostolon 12:11) are empty.

LORD, give us the wisdom to see when we are falsely judging those who minister to us.

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third statement

marmsky December 2017 (3)devotional post # 2219

2 Corinthians 13:1-4

2Co 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. From the mouth of two and three witnesses, every statement will stand.
2Co 13:2 I predicted and I predict — now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, those who sinned before and all the rest, and I warn them  that if I come again I will not spare them–
2Co 13:3 since you are seeking proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.
2Co 13:4 Because he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. Because we also are weak in him, but among you we will live with him from the power of God.

third statement

Paul’s third visit to the Corinthian field will be his third witness, and he plans to display the power of God to silence his critics. The same Christ who is powerful among the Corinthians will prove himself powerful when Paul and his team are present. They live with Christ, and draw from that power, and are confident that it will be available to demonstrate the truth of their claims.

LORD, give us the confidence to minister boldly, knowing the presence of your power to verify our words, and vindicate us.

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speaking before God

marmsky December 2017 (2)devotional post # 2218

2 Corinthians 12:19-21

2Co 12:19 You are thinking all this time that we are defending ourselves before you. We are speaking before God in Christ, and all the things that we are saying, friends, are meant to build you up.
2Co 12:20 I am afraid that I may come and somehow find you not as I want you to be, and that I may be found by you to be not what you want. I am afraid there will be quarreling, jealousy, angry feelings, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.
2Co 12:21 I am afraid that when I come my God may again humble me before you and that I may have to grieve over many who formerly lived in sin and have not repented of their impurity, sexual immorality, and promiscuity that they once practiced.

speaking before God

Given the way Paul had been treated by these Corinthians, why doesn’t he just tear up the letter and let the church die the death of the disobedient? He is afraid that even a visit will not achieve positive results — that he will find the church steeped in conflict and fallen back to their old depravities. So, why does he still speak words that are being written down for the church in Corinth? He has to. The passion with which he speaks is a passion empowered by the Holy Spirit — producing words that can build up the church. These words still reflect that passion, and they are still empowered to build up the 21st century church.

Paul understood that he was not just speaking before the Corinthians, trying to fix their problems. He was speaking words inspired by the Holy Spirit. He was speaking before God.

Holy Spirit, give us your words — from your word — to speak into our situation.

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following divine advice

marmsky December 2017 (1)devotional post # 2217

2 Corinthians 12:16-18

2Co 12:16  But be that as it may, I have not burdened you. I “was crafty, and tricked you.”
2Co 12:17  Did I exploit you using any of those whom I sent to you?
2Co 12:18  I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus exploit you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not follow the same footsteps?

following divine advice

Paul continues to answer the accusation that his team has acted inappropriately toward the Corinthians. He had said that he had decided not to ask the Corinthians to bankroll his evangelistic efforts when he was present among them. Now he tells them that when he sent Titus and “the brother” to further establish the work there, they followed the same protocol. So, in neither the original mission work, or the follow-up work could Paul and his team be legitimately accused of exploiting the Corinthians.

It seems to me that the reason the Holy Spirit led Paul to make this exception — not asking the Corinthians for their support at all — was that He knew about this future accusation. He was protecting Paul and his team from any legitimacy to the accusation.

It would do us all well if we prayed more, listened to the advice of the Holy Spirit, and followed that advice, even if we have to make exceptions in policy.

LORD, forgive us for failing to seek your advice. Guide us as we make decisions, and give us the wisdom to follow your advice.

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