Bump Your Borders!

Command the people of Israel, and say to them, When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its borders),  your south side shall be from the wilderness of Zin alongside Edom, and your southern border shall run from the end of the Salt Sea on the east. And your border shall turn south of the ascent of Akrabbim, and cross to Zin, and its limit shall be south of Kadesh-barnea. Then it shall go on to Hazar-addar, and pass along to Azmon. And the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and its limit shall be at the sea.

“For the western border, you shall have the Great Sea and its coast… This shall be your northern border: from the Great Sea you shall draw a line to Mount Hor. From Mount Hor you shall draw a line to Lebo-hamath, and the limit of the border shall be at Zedad. Then the border shall extend to Ziphron, and its limit shall be at Hazar-enan… You shall draw a line for your eastern border from Hazar-enan to Shepham. And the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain. And the border shall go down and reach to the shoulder of the Sea of Chinnereth on the east. And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its limit shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land as defined by its borders all around.” Numbers 34:2-12

Our God, in His vast flurry of beauty and creativity, is also orderly, detailed, and exact. He appoints explicit boundaries for His people in the land He’s prepared for them. His lines always fall in pleasant places. (Psalm 16:6)

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When we consider our lives before God, we know He crafts our possibilities, and equips us personally to investigate and flourish in them. But He also defines our boundaries, beyond which we must not go if we are to take full advantage of His design and flourish in His will. Each day, we can enter every inch of life our Lord offers with gusto, while submitting to His omniscient instruction. (Genesis 3; Psalm 32:8)

It is said that children placed in an open field without fences tend to huddle in the interior, timid in play. But with a fence surrounding that same space, they freely run about, enjoying every bit of ground afforded because the boundaries secure their domain.

As seasons pass and challenges pester, do we turn inward, limiting our reach of exploration because life’s too uncertain to trust God’s outer limits? What makes us reluctant to venture into unfamiliar spaces to minister to others, unwilling to test His wider borders? Are we consciously, or unconsciously, shrinking our influence and diminishing our effectiveness for His kingdom due to fear of the unknown, unseen, untested, uncomfortable? He has prescribed our boundaries, hemming us in securely in His love and care while opening to us vast stretches of opportunity to trust, obey, and bear fruit. (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 139:5)

Lord, keep me trusting You as I dwell in Your land, befriending faithfulness, fulfilling Your high and honorable purposes, doing good to every edge You ordain. (Psalm 37:3)

Some Things Must Be Driven Out

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying,  ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. You shall inherit the land… But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.'” Numbers 33:50-55

There are some things God knows vie for our affection, and steal our devotion to Him, so He instructs their banishment from our lives. If we want to progress in spiritual well-being and ‘settle in new lands’ of faith, tolerating pet sins, flirting with temptation, and coddling the enemy with his assorted charms will surely trip us up. God says, demolish what you can, separate from the rest. The pesky foxes you allow to remain will sting as barbs in your eyes, irritating or masking your vision, and thorns to injure growth and inhibit your movement. (Song of Solomon 2:15; 2 Corinthians 6:16-17)

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In this life there are certain stubborn ‘tares’ and temptations from which we will not escape (and must therefore resist), but there are others in which we should not dally, from which the Lord would have us extricate ourselves, or that we must remove from our menu of daily opportunities. As His children, we are to be different from the world, ofttimes counter-cultural, and sometimes this requires bold and difficult choices to renounce, destroy, or remove idols. Do I take enough quiet to recognize and acknowledge the foreign inhabitants I have befriended? Where and how have they affected my allegiances? (Matthew 13:24-30; John 17:15-17)

What do I do with my free time? Where do I allow my feet and eyes and thoughts to wander? What conversations tend to gossip, or complaining, or disparaging of others made in God’s image? When and where do I indulge in looking at images and offerings that titillate covetousness, prurient desire, or greed, and what steps will I take to put them away? It may take removing myself from a mailing list, avoiding or leaving a specific place, turning off certain entertainment, or changing the subject.

So often, present trouble stems from wily enemies we have allowed a foothold somewhere in our lives– a thought, a fear, an “innocent” practice, an inordinate amount of time spent in certain activity or company, a secret idol, a root of bitterness. We wonder why there is little fruitfulness or enjoyment of our relationship with the Lord, but fail to renounce the high places we have erected and given space in our affections. Allowing them to remain will only sap our dwelling place of plenty and peace. (Ephesians 4:27; Hebrews 12:15)

Lord, lead me daily to Your good land, and drive away all that would inhibit my pure devotion or diminish Your glory.

Don’t Drown!

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place.” “Take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Matthew 7:24-25; Hebrews 6:19; 2 Peter 3:17-18

We had finished our canoe trip, and having pulled our vessels to the sandy bank, my friends and I went back into the water to await the rest of our youth group. Bobbing and chatting, I lost my foothold, and within a split second, was swept into the raging current downstream. My efforts as a decently strong swimmer were no match against the power of the spring-swollen river. Think quick, grab a limb jutting from broken tree across the water ahead, here, hold! Ow! Hold! Bruised, breathless, I hoisted myself onto the tree, and waited for a human chain of hefty male teens to catch me when I jumped. In the moment, all was survival; once ashore, I realized I’d almost drowned. I’d been saved by God’s gracious hand, and by focusing on the immediate real and true, and holding on to what was solid.

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We face dilemmas, churning opinions and advice and warnings, choking uncertainties beyond our control, harsh unyielding realities, and can feel as though we are drowning. Frustration and fears grip tight, our emotions churl, and we get swept up in a current away from what we know to be true: the sure foundation that God reigns, He is good, and on our side. The urgency of our emergency can cause panic, or we can grab hold of our certain Rock. When we keep our heads above the water, and our sights forward, our Lord delivers. He is immovable, His purposes sure. (Psalm 62:6-8,11-12; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 8:31)

What worry floods your thoughts? What disappointment overwhelms? What segments of information pull our emotions under to where we gasp for air and context? Where have the pressures of the urgent, or confusions of the present, caused us to forget what has tested time, and lose our footing of faith? When the torrent sucks and swirls, will we stay calm, keep our heads, and do the next right thing?

“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.”  ~Edwards Mote (1834)

Lord, You are the shield round about me and the lifter of my head. Allelujah! (Psalm 3:3)

My King from of Old

O God, why do you cast us off forever?
    Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
    which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
    Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Yet God my King is from of old,
    working salvation in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by your might;
    you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
    you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You split open springs and brooks;
    you dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
    you have made summer and winter.

Arise, O God, defend your cause!” Psalm 74:1-3,12-17,22

Ruin, separation, opposition, violence, loss. The psalmist appeals to the One who had purchased His people from of old to belong to Him forever. Do You not see the hurt, the ruin, the devastation of what we have built, the interruption to our worship, the seemingly endless scoffing and reviling of God Himself, the downtrodden situation of the poor? Surely You can remember our situation and rise up!

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Yes, the same One who has chosen and secured His people from of old, who has known us by name since before we were born and numbers every one of our days, is the One who is still our King, whose cause is righteous and redemptive and whose power is great. He works salvation in the midst of destruction, splits our darkness with light, crushes our enemies as our Defender and Captain, establishes unshakable hope in despair, and sets limits for our pain and trials. (Psalm 90:2; 139:13-16; 1 Peter 5:10)

Do I choose to dwell on the temporal difficulties, losses, conflicts, of my present situation, or take in the eternal vastness of my King from of old, who is infinite King forever, very present in the here and now but beyond man’s time in the working sweep of His good and glorious cause? From beginning to end He reigns! Will I appeal to Him in my troubles, and submit my trust to His broad rule, His limitless might, His all-encompassing plan? (1 Peter 4:12-13; 2 Peter 3:8-9)

Our hope need not be in a specific end, but can be grounded and comforting when fixed in the King from of old, and the fact that He has divine cause, and will surely defend and perform it. When we dictate our desired results, or assume our own ends and rights, we will likely be disappointed. But when we allow the psalm of our hearts and our reasonable cry to be shaped by the character and immovable will of God, we can be at peace. He who is of old brings new mercies every day to awaken stronger trust in Him. (Lamentations 3:23)

O King, I bow as Your subject. Help me believe that You know the beginning and are writing the end, and all will be accomplished to Your glory and praise. (Revelation 1:8; 4:8,11)

 

Partake!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, be diligent.., for if you practice these qualities you will never fall… Pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:3-10,19

The Source and vehicle? God and His divine power. The generous grant? All things that pertain to life and godliness, and God’s precious and very great promises. The motivation? To partake of His divine nature, having been freed from sin’s corruption. Our call? To His glory and excellence. Behold what is ours for the partaking!

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It is hard to dress a limp body. Our gracious Lord has brought all the garb, provided everything necessary for us to partake of His divine nature, but He elicits our cooperation in getting dressed in that nature. We make available our hearts for the shield of faith, our minds for knowledge and virtue. We put out our arms in active faith as we serve and work, and exercise self control as we speak, react, and behave. In tandem with our every effort, our Lord fuels steadfastness, develops godliness, fills to overflow with brotherly affection and love. (Ephesians 6:14,16; Philippians 4:8)

What we think is not possible we have shrouded in unbelief. We trip up on the unloveliness of others, the challenge of a circumstance, or the repugnance of a requirement, and are near-sighted to the vast possibilities of God. He who has delivered us from sin’s tentacles is the One who matures in us our new person, with all attending qualities, fresh impulses, and new affections. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

What reluctance and unbelief need we release in order to partake of all God has to offer? He gives us every good reason to be made like Him, and therefore effective and fruitful as we live our days. Will we let go of every thing that holds us back, so we are free to seize His all things?

Lord God, multiply Your grace to me in the knowledge of God and Jesus my Lord. Prompt me daily to seize and partake of all You have afforded me, so Your nature is magnified and made attractive to all who live in a dark place of soul. May Your truth have its way in me, and its sway in the nations. (2 Peter 1:3; 2:1-3)

What Daily Does

Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time. This is the food offering that you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil. It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the Lord. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight… as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. On the Sabbath day, two male lambs a year old without blemish, and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and its drink offering… At the beginnings of your months, you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord.” Numbers 28:2-9,11

The many offerings described in the book of Numbers have varied significances for the people of Israel. Note their daily- and deliberate-ness. They are regular, measured, and orderly; they are comprised of ordinary necessities (food and drink) and are therefore sacrificial; they are self-giving as they render to God a pleasing aroma. The Lord is prescribing for His children a God-oriented life, knowing this is His design for full delight in and dependence on Him.

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Every breath, every moment, every taste, every sip, every pleasure, is a gift from Jehovah Jireh, the Provider. How often do I turn the calendar, take a bite or drink, indulge in a routine pleasure, without even thinking of the Giver of these good gifts of sustenance and delight? The Lord wisely established a daily pattern of gratitude and acknowledging the Source of every aspect of their lives, and calls us to the same today. Morning and evening, make an offering. Yield, give praise, surrender, keep the rhythm. (James 1:17)

If at the start and end of each day we set apart Christ in our hearts as holy and honored Lord, offering ourselves as living sacrifices unto His will, we orient our outlook, affections, and efforts in a heavenly direction. We enthrone our Maker, and grow in desire to walk with and please Him. We open our hands and schedules in availability to Him, owning that He is Master. We take into account what He has entrusted to us, and offer it as stewards back to Him for divine use and fruitful distribution. (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:15)

Daily ritual need not be rote or meaningless. Instead, like the consistent Old Testament offerings, it can be a substantive, pungent, even visceral relinquishing of self unto the pleasure and honor of our Lord. What am I hoarding that God desires as an offering?

Lord, break down the fences I’ve selfishly constructed, and open my heart in glad offering of my all, for Your glory and delight.

 

Counted in God’s Census

Reuben, the firstborn of Israel; the sons of Reuben: of Hanoch, the clan of the Hanochites; of Pallu, the Palluites; of Hezron, the Hezronites; of Carmi, the Carmites. Those listed were 43,730. And the sons of Pallu: Eliab. The sons of Eliab: Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when the fire devoured 250 men, and they became a warning. But the sons of Korah did not die… Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters. And the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. These are the clans of Manasseh, and those listed were 52,700… And the name of the daughter of Asher was Serah. These are the clans of the sons of Asher as they were listed, 53,400…

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe a small inheritance; every tribe in proportion to its list… according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit…’ The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born in Egypt. She bore to Amram Aaron and Moses and Miriam their sister. And to Aaron were born Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died when they offered unauthorized fire before the LordBut among these there was not one of those listed in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, ‘They shall die in the wilderness.’ Not one was left, except Caleb and Joshua.” Numbers 26:5-11,33-34,46-47,52-55,59-61,64-65

I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

The people of Israel were named, numbered, and noted. Those who would enter the promised land were distinguished from those who had rebelled and would not. Those who had contended against Moses and the LORD and were destroyed were remembered, but brave Caleb and Joshua were counted. Who we are, and what we do, never goes unnoticed, determines our legacy, and matters to God. (Hebrews 9:27)

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The current census being taken in our nation determines federal planning, strategy, and dispersement of funds, much as Israel’s census informed their inheritance of land. Owning a name as God’s child secures our eternal inheritance, as well as spiritual riches and identity with Christ in the present. What a blessing to be counted as His! (Ephesians 1:3,13-14)

In God’s kingdom, everyone bears His name. In His economy, each contributes uniquely. How clearly do others recognize in me His family resemblance? How energetically am I pursuing and introducing others to His clan? On whom will I newly place the immeasurable value God does, and invite them to join His inheritance? Do my works reflect and glorify God, or me? (Matthew 5:16)

Lord, You have called me by name and numbered me as Your child. Thank You. Bind love and faithfulness on my heart to keep that name good, so it always bring attention and honor to You alone. (Proverbs 3:3-4; 22:1)