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doctor looking at chart March 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Numbers 25:1–26:34; 1Chronicles 7:14-19; Numbers 26:35-37; 1Chronicles 7:20-29; Numbers 26:38-65

Responsibility and Restoration

Suppose you are admitted to the hospital with an illness. The nurses give you the prescribed medicines and the doctor periodically checks your progress. Eventually, you are allowed to go home, but you must report to the doctor on a regular basis until he is sure you are cured. It is necessary to follow the doctor's orders to live a healthier life. You are held accountable for your restoration to health. As you are held accountable for your physical restoration, all people who have been to Jesus for spiritual healing are held accountable for their spiritual restoration (1John 2:1-3).

In today's Bible reading the Israelites have spent forty years in the wilderness. Because of their refusal to trust God to give them victory over giants in the land of Canaan, everyone twenty years and over died in the desert (except Caleb and Joshua); and their children lived as shepherds until their punishment was complete. Israel paid for her sins. Even so, God continually expected her to live up to his holy standards.

The LORD was gracious to the Israelites, despite the punishments they endured. He was with them in the wilderness. Not only did he give his people and their many flocks and herds water to drink and food to eat, but he also protected them from disease and wild animals. He even protected them from threats by foreign nations, and one such nation was Moab.

As we read yesterday, King Balak of the nation of Moab tried to hire Balaam, a noted diviner, to curse Israel. However, the LORD protected his people. When Balaam finally arrived in Moab, he could do nothing but bless the Israelites, and he did this three times! Balak was furious, but God loved Israel and protected her. Balaam could only say what the Almighty wanted him to say. Instead of cursing Israel for Balak, Balaam spoke a curse against Balak's kingdom and other surrounding nations. Here is an encouragement for all those who have a relationship with our LORD—he is our defense and shield (Romans 8:31-39).

Even though God protects Israel, she is still held accountable for her actions. Balaam travels home but then returns. He is greedy for the money which King Balak offers (2Peter 2:15), so he devises another plan. Balaam teaches “Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14, NIV).

While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor [the place where Baal was worshipped]. And the LORD's anger burned against them (Numbers 25:1-3, NIV).

God's anger burns against the Israelites for prostituting themselves before Baal of Peor and defiling themselves in sexual immorality (Numbers 31:1-16). He plagues the Israelites, putting 24,000 to death before Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron the High Priest, shows himself zealous for God's honor and helps to appease his anger.

How much do we care about God's honor? In our day, many people want us to try to understand the offender, make excuses for him and defend him rather than condemn him for the wrong he has done. The LORD is a God of love, but he exercises justice on the guilty. He wants us to do the same within our framework of authority (lawfully, of course). Parents must sometimes referee their children and punish the guilty. Coaches must sit players on the bench if they do not work as team members or they are fighting. Teachers must exercise control and discipline in their classrooms. Churches and other government bodies must exercise discipline or judgment on their members or citizens. God holds each of us responsible for our actions (Hebrews 9:27; 2Corinthians 5:10).

By comparing Numbers 1:44-45 and 3:39 with Numbers 26:51 and 62, we see that over a forty year period God replaces, almost completely, everyone who died in the wilderness. There are approximately 1,000 less in the military but 1,000 more Levites in the second census (even after losing 24,000 in the previously mentioned plague). This not only shows God's judgment; it shows his mercy and grace. Although the Israelites rebelled against God, they were not completely wiped out. The first generation out of Egypt lost their opportunity to enter the Promised Land, but their children and grandchildren did not—their inheritance was not lost!

We, too, may experience discipline for our sins, but God in his grace is interested in our restoration and the continuance of a godly seed. This seed comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). We can reproduce godly seed by telling our children to treasure their relationship with the LORD, to love and obey him. Even if we have made mistakes, we can tell our children to learn from our mistakes, missed opportunities, and punishments so they do not suffer as we have. The LORD is just, but he is also good and kind.

Lessons to Live By

  • God is our defense and shield
  • Christians bear responsibility for keeping themselves holy. Beware of Satan—he uses sexual temptations as a tool to ruin God's servants and remove his blessing.
  • We may experience discipline for our sins, but God in his grace is interested in our restoration and the continuance of a godly seed.
  • A godly seed comes through a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • We can reproduce godly seed by telling our children to treasure their relationship with the LORD, to love and obey him, and to learn from our mistakes and missed opportunities.
  • God is just, but he is also good and kind.

Focus verse

Ezekiel 18: 32 (NIV) “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to mtbiblestudies@gmail.com

A Look Ahead: We are often like the Israelites—we mess up. How do we get Back on Track? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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