March 10, 2009

Crisis Training - Year Bible #10

The main definition of crisis - "A stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, esp. for better or for worse, is determined; turning point." Under some conditions a crisis may be good, leading to positive change. In other cases it may not be so good. In the news these days, many are referring to our period of history as a time of crisis. Even before talk of an economic depression began, there was serious emotional depression taking place. Statistics show the suicide rate had been climbing steadily since 1999, as shown by an AJPM study referenced at this link. And so the zeitgeist of despair has been compounded.

As we study through the Bible and come to the book of Numbers, we see the challenges the Israelites experienced in the wilderness. The trials were meant to train them positively, but they often turned into crisis situations with negative results. We see how Moses had a meltdown on more than one occasion. Many experts contend the economy will worsen in days to come, and so it may do us well to heed the lessons from this book and consider its wisdom for crisis times. The book of Numbers gets its name from the numbering of the men of Israel, which happens two times, once at the beginning of the book and once at the end before they enter the land of Canaan (26.1-51). The amount of the males over 20yrs is about the same both times, around 600,000 but it’s a completely different group of people, a whole new generation, except for two guys. Out of the approximate 2 ½ million people that left Egypt for The Promised Land, only 2 ended up finishing the Jewish “Million Man March.” That’s about one in a million – not good!

The book of Numbers is kind of like the ultimate reality show “Survivor” or “The Last Hero” as it’s called in Russia. But it’s not just for entertainment, there are valuable lessons (I Cor 10.11). Set in the desert wilderness, the tribes are given the basic tools of survival. God’s daily provision of manna and His presence are standard issue, available daily. Specific instructions are explained on keeping the right attitude and behavior. It is interesting to see who survives and why. You may already know the answer as to who survives, but there may be some new info that can apply to your life today.

The Land of Canaan was only a 40 days journey from Egypt. But after 2 years in the wilderness they still haven’t arrived in the Promised Land. What’s going on? As a t rule of thumb, Old Testament physical pictures show New Testament spiritual principles. The key to understanding the difficult passages of the OT is in looking for the spiritual significance. When you do this, the meaning of the Bible falls into place. In reality, the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was meant to be a brief time of training in preparation for the Promised Land. The lessons in this time of training also apply to Christian life today. Actually, all the five books of Moses are pictures of the Christian life and it would be helpful to first review them, as they apply so far.

Sold into Slavery

In Genesis, we saw how Adam’s sin and rebellion against God swept the world into a fallen state. People became separated from God spiritually and the sin nature began to predominate. In case you haven’t noticed the reality of this, just check out the news of what’s going on in the world. James 4.1 asks “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” The NT describes it as the sin nature. Romans 7.14 says “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.”

The Taste of Freedom

In the book of Exodus, we saw how the Israelites first tasted freedom from slavery in Egypt. After 400 years of drudgery, it was excellent to celebrate the first Passover feast, the Seder, to mark this event. Although the Jews were set free physically, the details of the night flight from Egypt clearly indicate a much deeper meaning, that of spiritual freedom from the spiritual slavery of sin. After being freed their lives didn’t become easier. In a sense in became more difficult because the enemy began to pursue them with a vengeance. When a person lives in spiritual blindness, a slave to sin, the spiritual enemy does not care to attack or bother so much. But when a person takes a stand for God and changes from the enemy’s camp to God’s camp, you can expect attacks from the enemy. And what was the answer? They passed through the waters of the Red Sea and the enemy could not follow. The safest place for a believer is in 100% commitment to God. A believer who is wishy washy or playing around with sin is in a dangerous place, ripe for God’s loving discipline (Heb 12.6) or worse (I Cor 11.29-31).

The Waters of Baptism

God’s answer to the attacks of the enemy and the temptations of sin, is first to be baptized in water. I Corinthians 10 shows that the crossing of the red sea was a picture of water baptism. Spiritually, water baptism is an outward sign of an inner work of salvation. It is a sign of obedience to God. Unfortunately, many Christians in Ukraine don’t realize its importance. Baptism as a child is a good sign that the parent’s were believers. But in the entire Bible, you never see a child being baptized. It’s always an adult who has recognized the need for salvation and commitment to God. The act of water baptism is a sign that we are dead to the old sin nature and now we live for Christ. The safest place and strongest position, is full commitment to God, as shown through the act of water baptism.

Worship School

In Exodus, we saw how the Israelites fell into various sins and temptations after being freed from Egypt. One of the main problems was a negative, complaining attitude. This actually began before they crossed through the Red Sea when they asked Moses why he led them out there. Was it just to die in the wilderness? Were there not enough graves in Egypt? (Ex 14.11) Also, when Moses was receiving the 10 Commandments, the people created and worshipped a golden calf (Ex 32). This complaining and idolatry was based on a wrong attitude towards God. The people needed instruction in having a good attitude and how to worship the true and living God. Leviticus sets the tone of worship by focusing on the beauty of God's holiness and contrasting that with the uglinss of sin. There are five types of offerings mentioned in Leviticus 1.1-2 which were examples in three ways. First they showed the Israelites how to approach God. Second, they were pictures of how Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice. And third, they are pictures of how we are to worship God today with our lives. (more details at this link) One of the offerings, the peace offering, included a thank offering. But it becomes obvious in Numbers they didn’t realize how important thankfulness is in God’s eyes.

Training in the Wilderness

Next come the trials and training in the wilderness. That is where we are at in our study of the book of Numbers. What was the main purpose of the time in the wilderness?” In Deuteronomy 8.15-17 Moses explained about God’s survival camp: “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.” Moses offers some great insight; the real place of trial and testing is not the place of the wilderness but the place of prosperity! How true it is! Look at Sodom and Gomorrah, also known as “sin city.” It was a fertile land and a place of great prosperity. Wealth in itself is not bad, but it can easily become an idol and draw us away from God. The Lord had good plans for Israel, to bless them immensely, but first they had to realize their total dependence on God, such a difficult lesson!

When I was a Boy Scout, I had a book on how to survive in the wilderness. It had pictures of edible wild berries and herbs. It had pictures of traps to make make with vines, etc., to catch birds and animals. But God’s idea of wilderness training here was the opposite of this. It wasn’t about self sufficiency, it was about His sufficiency, depending totally on Him. Like in the TV show “Survivor” or “The Last Hero,” the Israelites had been given specific instructions on what was expected of them. God supplied the basic things they needed to survive and make it through. God gave His instructions for life and for worship, as well as His daily provisions. But more than these, they had His promise that He would be with them. This time in the wilderness was meant to be a brief training ground but they didn’t get it. In a similar way, we all go through our wilderness training camps that God uses to work in our lives. It has been said “If you are not in a time of time of testing, you have either just come out of one or are about to enter one!” This is confirmed by Acts 14.22, “…that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” This is one of those promises we don’t like to meditate on so much! We must go through trials but the question is, “How will we respond?” Will we become bitter or better? Will we become hardened or humbled? Hebrews 12:11 states: "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

The Slave Mentality

It took hours to get the Israelites out of Egypt but it took years to get Egypt out of Israel. The life as a slave was familiar and dependable in a sense. Whereas trusting God for everything was not easy. They were promised a land of abundance flowing with milk and honey, but all they could think about was the past foods they knew, including “leeks…onions and…garlick,” etc. Imagine dreaming about eating onions! It says they “lusted” after these past foods (Nu 11.5). There is the story of the civil war in America whereby a slave owner in the south told a slave he wasn’t free. But then some people came and said no, Abraham Lincoln signed a declaration stating you are free. The slave had to choose who to believe. Finally, he believed the new law and gathered enough courage to walk away from the plantation. Romans 8.2 says “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

A Crisis Time

Although Christian counseling today may have some benefits, the roots of psychology are based on a completely different worldview. Humanism basically says we're all born good people. The Bible shows we are born selfish and sinful. Humanism is based on "self help," while the Bible speaks of faith in and dependence on God. Psychology tends to create lifelong dependence on a counselor, while Christianity offers total healing based on the transforming work of God in an individual. The Bible describes a world where the spiritual element is the most important. Pure psychology does not even acknowledge the spiritual world. When one feels hopeless, God offers real solutions to real problems not just "feel good" solutions. After Moses prayed his prayer to God, we see how the Holy Spirit showed up in a big way. And we see a contrast between the flesh and the spirit.

The Flesh vs. the Spirit

In the Bible the desires of our sinful selfish nature are referred to as “the old man” and “the flesh.” Here, the people wanted to gorge on meat, and it is such a great example what our sinful fleshly lusts will do to us. God sent them so much flesh they got sick and, actually, they ended up dying from a plague. The saying goes “You can’t get too much of a good thing.” Meat, the flesh seemed like a good thing but it really wasn’t. Contrast this flesh with the Spirit. God sends His Spirit upon 70 elders (Nu 11.25) and two men as well, Eldad and Medad (Nu 11.26). As the Holy Spirit empowers these 2 men, they begin to prophesy. Joshua says to stop them! But listen to the response "And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Nu 11.29) Moses wasn’t jealous that God would use other non official church people, he was glad. In the world’s economy, in the world of the flesh, it is true you can get too much of a “good” thing. But in God’s economy, in the world of the Spirit, you cannot get too much of a good thing!

The battle between the flesh and the spirit is described in Galatians 5.17. It says “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” When there is a battle going on between the flesh and the spirit, it seems like “a no man’s land.” When a non-believer is living in sin, there is usually not a lot of guilt or struggle because life is lived in the flesh all the time. When a believer is walking in the Spirit, there is not a lot of struggle, there is peace. But when a believer is living in the flesh and convicted by the Spirit, there is a lot of struggle, it’s a no man’s land, a wilderness of troubles. Fasting from food seems to be a good example. During the first three days you stomach and body rebel and you feel terrible. There is a contest with your stomach and your willpower. Both are determined to overcome. Your stomach is saying “feed me, feed me” but you have decided to go on this fast so you hang on and persist. After three days or so the contest is over, your stomach shuts down and you feel clear headed and peaceful.

The Ugly Flesh

In Numbers 12.1,2 we see more of the ugly flesh nature. Miriam and Aaron stir up a bit of a rebellion. They are jealous of Moses’ authority and want a piece of the leadership action. They weren’t specifically empowered for this by the Holy Spirit, but they want the authority, it seems, because of selfish ambition. One of the beefs they have with Moses is that he married an Ethiopian or “Cushite” woman, and so they slander him. As a result of this, God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Slander is ugly and destructive, like leprosy. Moses has great concern and prays for her healing. God heals her but orders that she be separated 7 days. God’s cure for slander is also found in Psalms 101.5, which states slanderer will be cut off. Sedition and Envy are listed as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5.20,21. Moses, on the other hand, is described as the meekest man on earth (Nu 12.3). Also, he showed love for Miriam in-spite of her rebellion (Nu 12.13). Moses’ attributes are seen in the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5.22,23. In Miriam and Moses you see the contrast of the flesh and the Spirit. And notice verse 24 “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” That is really the only answer for our flesh nature, it has to die so Christ and the HS can live through us (Gal 2.20,21).

The Sole Survivors

The flesh nature has got to go. This Spirit filled life is hinted at in Caleb’s attitude. Caleb was one of 12 spies sent into the Land of Canaan to survey the territory. All the other people, except for Joshua, said they would have rather died in the wilderness than to trust God and take the risk of entering Canaan (14.2)…Wrong answer! They got their wish! God says in Vs 23-24 “Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.” It says Caleb had “another spirit” with him and this is why he and Joshua would be the sole survivors. Even Moses is disqualified later as we’ll see in Numbers 20, because he flies off the handle and loses His temper.

Jesus and the Spirit

Moses is a representation of the law which can only take us so far. The law is meant mainly to lead us to Christ (Gal 3.24). That’s another reason why Moses did not lead them into the Promised Land. It was Joshua who did, Joshua being another form of the name Jesus. Romans 8.3-4 describes this predicament. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” We are all at different places in our faith journey but it is clear that none of us have arrived. Even after all these events, the Israelites don’t get it and they mount an attack against the enemy the next morning without even praying about it. Moses warns them that it’s not God’s will and it won’t succeed but they go ahead anyway and are soundly thrashed (14.40-45). How clear the message is. “It’s not by might nor by power but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts.” (Zec 4.6b) It’s not by the flesh but by the Spirit. All of us can be stubborn and thick headed at times. But we can rest in the grace and righteousness of Christ in our weakness.


A question we each can ask ourselves today is “Am I living mainly in the flesh or in the Spirit?” Is the fruit of my life more like the list in Galatians 5.19 or 5.22? Like Miriam, It may be that we need to spend some time alone with God to consider this question. The only cure for the flesh nature is death. So Romans 6.11 says to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. But even beyond this, we need the empowering of the Spirit for a truly victorious life. May we be trained by our trials to see our need to walk in the Spirit. Hebrews 3.19 says they could not enter into Canaan because of unbelief and this is the key to receiving the empowering of the Spirit. It’s not because of our merit. We don’t deserve the Holy Spirit’s empowering based on our own merit and we can’t earn it. All we can do is believe and pray for it. Luke 11.13 says “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” Also realize the purpose for the empowering. In Acts 1.8 it shows the empowering of the Spirit comes upon us in order that we might be witnesses, and Caleb certainly was a good example of that.

Also, the filling of the Spirit isn’t a one time only experience. Ephesians 5.18 says “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” The actual translation should be “be being filled,” present continuous. Life can be tough and people go to bars regularly to try and feel good. In a similar way, Christians need to be regularly filled with the Holy Spirit. While drinking alcohol is dangerous in many ways, you can’t get too much of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need “Southern Comfort” the alcohol, we need “Spirit comfort,” which is truly 100 proof, it’s all good all the time! (Jn 15.26) We in ministry especially need the filling of the Spirit; otherwise we will get burned out. We need to be filled so as to have something to give out. And the good news is that you can never get too much! Someone once asked Dwight Moody “Why do you need to be filled with the Spirit, I thought you were filled with the Holy Ghost back in such and such a year?” And he answered tongue in cheek “Yes, I was filled with the Holy Spirit in such and such a year, but I leak!”

As this economic crisis deepens, may we seek a deeper work of God’s Spirit in our lives! Howard Spring, an English author, once wrote "The kingdom of God is not going to advance by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God." May we seek the supernatural more than the natural. Some travel to Crimea, where we live, for a vertical challenge, to climb mountains for the thrill of it all. But more important than this, is to put God first in your life and this is the true adventure, to live vertically oriented each day, depending on God and guided by God. Some travel great distances to a health spa with the hopes of being cured of some physical illness. But God’s Holy Spirit can meet you right now wherever you are. People come to Crimea to breathe the air by the sea as a kind of health treatment. But God has something much better; God wants to breathe His Spirit into you (Jn 20.22) to heal you and refresh you on a whole new level. May we desire the best gifts of the Spirit but not forget that love is the greatest gift! (I Cor 12.31) (I Cor 12.31) As the crisis deepens we have great opportunity to share the reason for the hope that is in us. (I Pet 3.15) So to just to recap the three main points one more time, first, may we learn to depend on God above all else. Second, may we learn to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. And third, may we seek the empowering of His Spirit, especially if we have never experienced it before.

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