Charles Spurgeon often shared this story: “At last one snowy day, it snowed so much that I could not go to the place I had determined upon, and I was obliged to stop on the road; I found rather an obscure street, and turned down a court, and there was a little chapel. It was the Primitive Methodist Chapel. I had heard of these people from many, and how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they made my head ache ever so much I did not care. So, sitting down, the service went on, but no minister came (the snowstorm made him late). At last a very thin-looking man came into the pulpit, opened his Bible, and read these words, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’ Just setting his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘Young man you are in trouble.’ Well I was, sure enough. Says he, ‘You will never get out of it till you look to Christ.’ And then lifting up his hands he cried out, ‘Look! look! look! It is only look,’ said he. I saw at once the way of salvation. Oh, how I did leap for joy at that moment! I know not what else he said, I did not take much notice of it. I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, they only looked and were healed. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard this word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh, I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away; and in heaven I will look on still in my joy unutterable.” 
 Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator: St. John, vol. 1 (London: James Nisbet & Co., n.d.), 240–241.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV.
Thank you to those of who have read this blog/devotional over these past few months. I hope it has been of some benefit to you.
I began this effort on March 26. We had just canceled all on-site meetings of the church and I was looking for a way to keep communicating from the Word to our church family. After 140 or so posts, it is time to take a break. Writing and reviewing take time and there are church and school demands that I need to devote attention to. I will continue to post on occasion. You can subscribe to the RSS feed (see the link on this page) or follow the church on Facebook if you want to know when those posts occur.
God bless you all. I will continue to pray for you.
In yesterday’s sermon, I referred to a list of helpful diagnostic questions to use to help keep from joining in the self-righteous hostility that has come to characterize the world around us. As I mentioned, these questions came from an article written by Dave Harvey. His article is worth reading in its entirety.
May we learn this lesson well.
I am praying for you,
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there. Numbers 35:9-15, ESV.
Why does God demand that Israel set up cities of refuge in the Promised Land? Gerard Van Groningen offers a threefold explanation:
First, the holiness of the Lord is to be maintained. The shedding of blood defiles the land. The Lord dwells among his people and will not tolerate willful defilement of his holiness. Second, mercy has to be shown. Not every person who kills another does so intentionally. Such a person has to have a means to escape the avenger of blood by fleeing to the nearest city of refuge and remaining in it until the death of the high priest in office at the time of the killing. Third, justice has to be carried out for the unintentional as well as the intentional murder. All human life is precious in the sight of the Lord. Anyone who destroys it has to forfeit his life at the hand of a family’s avenger of blood or give up a great measure of freedom by remaining in the city. If a murderer escapes to a city of refuge, and two or more witnesses testify to the intentional killing, by whatever means, the avenger has to destroy the murderer. Justice also requires that neither the unintentional nor intentional murder can be ransomed. Thus the rich and poor, as well as the native and stranger are dealt with impartially.
The city of refuge is a place where the holiness, mercy, and justice of the Lord meet. These cities provide a prophetic glimpse of Jesus on the cross. As Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, died in our place, a Holy God executed His justice on Him so that He might show mercy to us. That mercy is ours if we will but run in faith to His Son.
I pray that you have experienced that mercy. If not, I pray that you will trust in Jesus and find refuge today. To learn more, see http://www.ttownbaptist.org/how-can-i-be-saved.html.
 Gerard Van Groningen, “Numbers,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 105.
Now the people of Reuben and the people of Gad had a very great number of livestock. And they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. So the people of Gad and the people of Reuben came and said to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the chiefs of the congregation, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that the Lord struck down before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” And they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.” Numbers 32:1-5, ESV
In the chapters before today’s passage, God commanded Moses to lead the people in battle against the Midianites. Moses obeyed and the people won a great victory. In chapter 32 we read of how, looking at the land they had just conquered, the tribes of Reuben and Gad see an opportunity. This land is good enough for them and their livestock. Maybe they can stay here and not bother with the whole Promised Land conquering thing.
In what follows, Moses rebukes these two tribes, comparing their desire to stay behind to the bad report of the spies who were afraid to enter the Promised Land. Reuben and Gad then propose to settle their families in this newly conquered land east of the Jordan but first send their troops to assist their fellow Israelites in conquering the Promised Land. They would have the land they desired, but only after fulfilling their commitment to the plan of God for His people.
The mindset of Rueben and Gad is a temptation for all of us. Here, on this side of the river, short of our eternal Promised Land, we see much that is good, much that lures us to linger where we are and enjoy. I believe God’s response to our desire would be much like His answer to the two tribes—something like, “You are indeed welcome to enjoy the blessings that come from living in the here and now, enjoying the victories I have given you in this life, but you must first commit to My plan for My people.”
God’s plan today is being worked out through His church as she goes into the world and makes Jesus-followers, brings them into the fold, and teaches them to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20). The lure of the good things in this life is strong, but we must prioritize our commitment to this plan. Making disciples must come before enjoying the fruits of temporal victory. Similarly, we are called to do the good works God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) and love our neighbors (Matthew 22:39).
I pray that you will know many of the blessings of victory in this life. I also pray that you are resolved in your commitment, as were Rueben and Gad, to the work of God for the people of God.