Moabite Women and Jesus raises the dead: March 28th 2021

Numbers 23:27-26:22

The Moabite King, Balak, took the prophet Balaam to a third location overlooking the Israelites hoping this would change God’s mind to curse the Israelites rather than to bless them. People can be very persistent when trying to pursue evil. Balaam had the sense to continue to obey God and blessed them, ‘May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!” (v.9).

The King was furious and refused to pay Balaam. It is interesting that he didn’t harm or imprison the prophet. Balaam was respected and feared as the King knew that Balaam did receive genuine words and visions from God. Balaam confirmed that however much money he was offered, he couldn’t go against Gods commands. He even gave a final prophecy for free, which must have really ruined the King’s day, by predicting the Israelites would conquer Moab and several other nations.

The Moabites might not have been able to win in battle but they had other ways to scupper the Israelites. The Israelite men start to have sex with Moabite women in the picturesque town of Shittim. I live in North Wales and we have hundreds of villages named after places in the Bible: Bethel, Nebo, or Carmel. We even have a little village called Sodom, in the county of Denbighshire. However, the name ‘Shittim’ does not seem to have been adopted even though it means something innocent like ‘acacia trees’. Once, the Moabite women had seduced the men, they ‘invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these Gods’ (v.2). Of course, God was going to be infuriated by this unfaithful behaviour. The devil knows today that women can easily corrupt men through the power of sex and turn them from God and so exorcists report that far more women than men are oppressed or possessed by the devil. It’s the ‘Eve Principle’. A woman working for Satan can turn far more men away from God, than a man can turn women away. If Adam had been alone in Eden, he would have continued to ignore the tree that he had been banned from eating from. It was Eve’s persuasive power and Adam’s weakness to resist her that pulled down the entire human race.

Amorth states that women are far more often demonised than men because they go to fortune tellers more, which gives demons a legal right to attach to them. Our Pastor reported that once when she carried out a village baptism session in Africa, 14 out of the 40 women who came to be baptised were heavily demonised. None of the men showed similar signs. The baptisms had to be carried out in a large oil-drum full of water and when a demonised women was dunked under the water, the demons would not let them come back up. They tried to drown the women and the women started to squirm like snakes under the water as the demons manifested. Possession by snake demons is still common in many parts of the world. It took a lot of physical effort to drag the women back to the surface, finish the baptism and deliver them from the demons. The golden rule of carrying out baptisms in the field is always to baptise the largest men first, then they can physically wrestle any demonised women back to the surface.

The Israelites have to put to death anyone who has worshipped the demonic God of the Moabites and another plague breaks out among them killing 24,000. The son of the Chief Priest spears an Israelite man and his new Midianite wife, and God gives him a covenant of peace and an everlasting priesthood. This must have been a bit awkward for Moses, who of course was married to a Midianite woman, Zipporah (see my blog for 27th March).

A second census taken totalling all the men over twenty years old and this comes to 601,730. At the last census there was 603,550 but this new census was taken after 40 years of wandering in the desert, so numbers haven’t really gone up due to the elderly Israelites dying in the desert, fighting with indigenous tribes, earthquakes swallowing rebels and several plagues as punishments for disobedience.

Luke 7:11-35

Jesus was touched with compassion at the grief of a widow over her dead son, ‘When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry’ (v.13).

Jesus raised the dead son and ‘gave him back to his mother’ (v.15).

John the Baptist, in prison, wondered if Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus told John’s disciples to report back to him the miracles that were taking place. When people come to our churches they should expect to see miracles taking place through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us. We should all be witnessing miraculous cures / miracles / prophecies and words of knowledge. At the Pentecostal church I attend, there are often testimonies about medical miracles that have occurred after prayer. For example, members of the congregation have had fibroids that required an operation or a skin cancer – only for the patients to be miraculously cured by the time they came to the hospital for treatment. There are scans, medical records and baffled doctors to prove this. Every week, people bring prophecies and words of knowledge from God. This should be a weekly occurrence in all churches. How else do we prove that the word of God is true and powerful? If we don’t see miracles happening on a regular basis in our churches, it is because our priests / pastors and fellow parishioners do not have enough faith, are not sufficiently filled with the Holy Spirit and are not praying to God for miracles because they don’t believe He can do what He says He will do. This is disobedient, rebellious unbelief. I would suggest that we should all move to a place where we will see some miracles and pray for the Holy Spirit to fully come into our bodies and ignite it with fire and power so that we can carry out miraculous healings for the glory of God.

The baptism that John had carried out for the forgiveness of sins had changed peoples hearts so they were able to acknowledge Jesus’ words. The hard-hearted, like the Pharisees, who had resisted John’s call to repentance, which would have prepared them to receive and accept Jesus, rejected God’s purpose for themselves. Baptism is a legal requirement for us to go into God’s Kingdom. We should be desperate to receive it. Baptism removes all traces of sin and puts a permanent supernatural seal stamped on our hearts that we belong to God. If you call yourself a Christian, yet haven’t been baptized you should be earnestly desiring it and must arrange it as soon as possible. You might not feel you need to do it if you have been ‘born again’, but it’s a legal requirement to enter heaven after you die and the demons, who will formally argue against you entering heaven, are extremely legalistic. You ‘might not feel’ you need a passport to enter a foreign country like Australia but you will not be allowed in without one. Similarly, we should desire our baptismal passport to enable us to enter the presence of God.

Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus enjoyed a party and drank wine. Whatever people in the public eye do, they are going to be criticised. People didn’t like John’s abstinence but they also criticised Jesus mixing with sinners and enjoying a drink with them. I think the key rule, when it comes to alcohol, is constant moderation. I like to avoid obvious temptations and so I don’t normally have crisps, chocolate or alcohol in the house. I also don’t like clutter. I would never have a wine cellar or even a wine rack in my home as I would set myself a challenge to empty it. In lockdown, I have diligently consumed all the food from our enormous chest freezer and cleared out our huge loft. Once I start on a challenge to tidy something, it will get done. But if friends were coming to dinner, I might buy a single bottle of wine and wouldn’t feel guilty about drinking several glasses. However, I work much more efficiently if I haven’t been drinking, I sleep more soundly and I seem to get more inspiration about what to write about. There are plenty of scripture readings about how alcohol might hinder us if we let it take over:

‘And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions’ (Isaiah 28:7).

‘Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise’ (Proverbs 20:1).

Psalm 38:1-12

Poor King David is in a miserable state. He pleads with God to not rebuke or discipline him (v.1). God’s wrath has descended on him, because of his sin, and ‘there is no health’ in his body (v.3).

He is completely distraught: feeble, utterly crushed and he groans in anguish (v.8).

People avoid him (v.11) but his enemies are still setting traps for him. The same Psalm finishes with David calling out to God, ‘Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour’ (v.22).

However, we know today that Jesus will never leave us: ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). If we have have been baptized, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and are adopted children of God.

We will face tests and trials in our life but positive things will come out of all of them. They help to make us strong.

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose, (Romans 8:28).

‘See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction’ (Isaiah 48:10).

We can look back on previous issues and reflect on how God brought us through them. We can shrug off new trials – that would previously have floored us – with confidence, while retaining our internal joy.

‘We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:3).

God will rescue us in the end if we keep faith

‘And the God of all Grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast’ (1 Peter 5:10).

Picture: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Christ_raises_the_widow%27s_son_from_the_dead._Wood_engraving_Wellcome_V0034858.jpg See page for author, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Balaam’s Donkey / Building on Rock: 27th March 2021

Numbers 22:21-23:26

Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. God was very angry, even though He had told Balaam to go with them (22:20). An angel stood in his way to block him, because his path ‘is a reckless one before me’ (v.32). Maybe God thought Balaam was still just pursuing a large payment for his services and can’t be trusted to listen to God’s advice. This reminds me of when God met Moses at a lodging place on the way back to Egypt (Exodus 4:24) and ‘was about to kill him‘ even though God had just told Moses to return to Egypt. Moses is saved by his wife, Zipporah, carrying out an emergency circumcision on their baby boy and furiously flinging the bloody foreskin onto Moses feet, ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me’ (Exod. 4:25). Moses is saved by the spilled blood. This is a very strange story.

Moses had been chosen by God to be the leader of the currently enslaved Israelite nation, yet had failed to carry out the most important act of the Old Testament Blood Covenant – circumcising his son. From his wife’s fury, we can guess that she was the one who had refused to have their son circumcised but Moses had been weak, failing to insist that it must be carried out. Zipporah only relented when Moses was about to be killed. Even more disturbingly, is that if you believe that all actual physical encounters with ‘the Lord’ in the Old Testament are actually with Jesus (known as Christophanies) – as he is the only incarnate person of the Trinity and no-one can see God without dying – this would have been Jesus ‘about to kill Moses’ (4:24), who then lets ‘him alone’ (Exodus 4:26) only after his son’s blood touches Moses’ feet. Moses is spared and forgiven through the shedding of blood, just as we are justified and made righteous through the shedding of Jesus’ precious blood on the cross.

So, in summary we have Jesus arriving as an assassin to kill Moses because he wasn’t fit to the lead the Israelites, having failed to have his son circumcised. However, it is easy to forget about the time travelling abilities of God. God can move around time and knows the past, present and future. So God knew that if Moses was threatened with death, Zipporah would finally relent to having her son circumcised and Moses wouldn’t be killed. God knows the future and the choices people will make under pressure. It just shows how radical God is prepared to get in order to make people obey some foundational rules. We know today that a basic requirement to get into heaven is to be baptized. The indelible supernatural stamp you receive on your soul from baptism is like a passport with a valid visa allowing you entry into a country. If someone has refused to become baptized, when they have been told this fact, God may start doing some radical things in their life to get them to comply.

Amazing stories like this demonstrate the truth of the Bible. People haven’t just included the easy, ‘God is love’ stories. They have included the hard to digest, tough-love stories. Moses wrote the first five books of this Bible and he doesn’t hold being nearly killed by God against Him in any way. So Exodus chapter 4 is basically Moses saying, ‘Yes, God was about to kill me, but he didn’t. I deserved it, because my wife and I failed to respect his covenant. Nothing to see here, let’s move on with the story’.

It’s very similar to Abraham very nearly sacrificing his son Isaac in Genesis 22. These days, if we heard a voice in our heads saying, ‘Sacrifice your family as a burnt offering‘, we can reply, ‘It is written, thou shalt not kill. Get behind me, Satan.’ However, Abraham was sure it was actually God that had given him the instruction to slay his beloved son. Maybe the command had come from Jesus, if God had actually appeared to Abraham in physical form. Abraham was so full of faith that he was actually going to kill Isaac. Yet, God knew he was going to be stopped at the very last minute and no-one was going to die.

God sent an angel to oppose Balaam and it stood in the road. The donkey that Balaam was riding tried to avoid the angel repeatedly – despite being beaten for its troubles – and eventually lay down and refused to move. We then have the fascinating line, ‘The Lord opened the donkey’s mouth’ (v.28) and she started to speak. We learn from this that: animals can potentially talk (however, God has closed their mouths so they normally don’t); they can see angels when we can’t; they can try to save us through their actions; they have a memory, a sense of belonging to someone and a sense of justice, ‘Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’ (v.30). Presumably God let all the animals in the garden of Eden talk (hence Eve’s conversation with the serpent wasn’t considered unusual) and perhaps they were all still talking on Noah’s ark up until the flood receded and the fear and dread of humans fell upon them (Genesis 9:2). This should make us treat the creatures in our lives with even more respect. If God opens their mouths, what are they going to say about us? I hope the birds in the garden will testify on my behalf, ‘He spent an awful lot on peanuts’.

Eventually, the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes so he can see the angel too (v.31). This means that there is a gift of seeing / discerning spirits that God can turn on and off in us as he pleases. We can pray to the Holy Spirit to be given this gift as it is both useful and fascinating. The evangelist, Ros Powell, https://www.rospowell.com/, told me how she was once at a Christian conference in Blackpool queueing up to receive prayer ministry and she could see a demonic spirit attached to a pretty girl in a line of people parallel to hers. The spirit was giving off clouds of scent / pheromones which made every woman that walked past gravitate towards this girl. Ros said this was fascinating to watch. It wasn’t Ros’s conference so she couldn’t march over and offer to deliver the girl. She left it to the designated prayer leaders. However, later in the week, Ros, accompanied by her husband, decided to go on a trip into town for lunch and this same girl got on the bus (with the same demonic spirit still attached to her). She was, of course, accompanied by a female friend. Ros was ‘on holiday’ but prayed to the Lord ‘If you want me to do something, you will have to show me a sign.‘ Eventually, Ros and her husband reached their destination and got off at the bus stop in the centre of Blackpool only for the demonised girl and her friend to get up and follow them. Ros felt she was directed to go up to the girl in the bus stop, explain what she could see and ask if the girl wanted God to deliver her from it. The girl willingly agreed. She must have sensed that something was amiss which is why she had attended the conference. Ros prayed for deliverance while they were all still standing in the Blackpool bus stop and the spirit detached itself and left. . The gift of spiritual discernment is a powerful weapon for the urban prayer warrior.

The angel was going to kill Balaam if he had continued – and spare the innocent donkey – but Balaam apologises and offer to go back home. The angel confirms he can continues but can only say what he is told to say.

Perhaps Balaam had started to brag to the Moabite princes about what he was capable to doing to the Israelites and needed clear guidance that he ‘must speak only what God puts in his mouth’ (Numbers 22:38).

Balaam and Balak built seven altars for sacrifices of bulls and rams and twice Balaam met with God and delivered God’s messages back to Balak. Balaam confirms the Israelites cannot be cursed, as God has not cursed them (23:8) and that ‘There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel’ (23:23). Balak’s plot has been completely foiled. He has brought Balaam to curse the Israelites who, at Gods command, continues to bless them. Employing Balaam has damaged his plan to defeat the Israelites and now he desperately wants Balaam to shut up before even more blessings are imparted to them, ‘Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!’ (23:25).

We can all learn the lesson that if we plan evil against righteous people it can harm us more than it harms them.

Luke 6:37-7:10

Here we have important lessons on not judging (or condemning). If we forgive, we will be forgiven (v.37). We should generously give and ‘it will be given back to you’ (v.38). There is the warning against a blind man leading a blind man (v.39-40) and a warning not to be hypocrites (v. 41-42).

Recognise a good tree by it’s good fruit, ‘The Good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart’ (v.45). I pray that this blog is populated by the overflow of good stories and reflections that have built up in my heart as I have attentively listed to dozens of teachers from a multitude of denominations over the years,

We should lay our foundation on rock like the wise builder (6:48). We can take this as basing our lives on the words and commands of Jesus and we have to put his teachings into practice. As Peter (the rock) was the first Pope I base my life on the 2,000 years of sound foundational teaching curated by the Catholic church, which will keep me safe when floods come. I am under the church’s authority, which gives my reflections validity. If the church points out any errors, I will apologise and correct them accordingly. The Centurion recognised, from his own experience of being under authority, the valid power that Jesus possessed.

The gentile Centurion demonstrated great faith, ‘But say the word, and my servant will be healed’ (7:7). The elders pleaded with Jesus asking him to help because the Centurion had given to the Israelites. He loved them and had built a synagogue (v.5). This goes back to 6:38 ‘Give, and it will be given back to you’. The Centurion could not have predicted that when he freely gave to build a synagogue, his generosity would later help persuade the Son of God to give him back the priceless life of his valued servant.

Psalm 37:32-40

‘The wicked lie in wait for the righteous’ (v.32). If you are a Christian in a modern secular workplace, you will be surrounded by wicked people, probably even your own boss, who will be looking for any opportunity to persecute you. However, the Lord will not leave us in their control ‘or let them be condemned when brought to trial(v.33).

Many wicked and ruthless managers get shifted around or promoted from job to job ‘flourishing like a green tree in its native soil (v.35) and so we usually just have to be patient for their future to be cut off, ‘he soon passed away and was no more’ (v.36). ‘All sinners will be destroyed’ (v.38).

God will be our stronghold in times of trouble while we wait for his deliverance, because we take refuge in him. ‘The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord’ (v.39).

Picture: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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