Jesus anointed by a Sinful Woman: March 29th 2021

Numbers 26:12-27:11

Here we read a long list of the clans of Israel. This must be fascinating if you are of Jewish heritage and can trace your family line all the way back to one of these biblical clans. The total number of the fighting men of Israel was 601,730 (v.51) and the land was allocated in proportion to the number of people in each clan. This makes sense in terms of ecology / population density but one hopes that a small tribe, such as the Simeonites with 22,200 men, was happy at receiving a third of the land that the clans of Judah (76,500 men) were given. God told us all to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth’, (Genesis 9:1). The clans who been the most fecund were rewarded with the most land.

We learn the names of Moses’ father and mother, Amram and Jochebed (v.59-60).

There were now 23,000 male Levites (over a month old) – a veritable army to carry the Tabernacle and the Holy Things into the promised land (v.62).

This census was taken after the 40 years of wandering around the desert that God had mandated after the Israelites refused to enter the promised land. All the adults that had refused to go in had now perished apart from Moses, Caleb and Joshua.

In chapter 27, there are early champions for women’s rights: the daughters of Zelophehad. Their father had died in the desert without a male heir and so they petitioned Moses that they should inherit property and keep their father’s name going. Moses didn’t give an answer off the top of his head but represented them before the Lord, who agreed with them and dictates: ‘If a main dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance over to his daughter’ (v.9). It’s a long way from full equal rights but revolutionary at the time.

We see that Noah can be a female name as well as male. I am particularly taken with the name of one of her sisters, Hoglah. I think that this should be far more popular than it currently is.

Luke 7:36-50

A lady of the night wets Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and pours perfume on them (v.38).

Sounds very relaxing – my feet are aching after slogging around the town with my miniature dachshund on her extensive lockdown walks.

The Pharisee looks down on Jesus for accepting this attention, even though the Pharisee had obviously let the lady into his house. He was prepared to have her around but obviously kept himself guarded and apart from her, which prevented her from changing her way of life sooner. Jesus was actually prepared for her to touch him and this intimate contact with holiness helped her to heal.

The woman proves her faith by her deeds in ministering to Jesus. Without her actions, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to say, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (v.50).

Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous to repentance (Luke 5:32). It is marvellous when you meet people who appear to have been righteous throughout their live, particularly Christian students starting at university. They do stand out as wonderfully meek ‘aliens’ in a foreign land, surrounded by their fellow students who are drinking and fornicating. I think it’s a challenge for the righteously meek to show overt joy. As a forgiven sinner, I have this great feeling of joy and happiness in my heart all the time. I know what it was like to be in the depths of despair and to be rescued by Jesus. Who loves more? The person who has been forgiven more. ‘But he who has been forgiven little loves little’ (27:47). I think it’s more challenging for people who have never had to be forgiven of grave sin to demonstrate such a high level of gratitude. They tend to look on in quiet, calm bemusement at the dreadful behaviour going on around them. Whereas, children of the Eighties such as me can look at today’s fleshly people and remember that we were once like that.

Even righteous people, who have behaved themselves all their lives, will still have carried out small sins. No-one is sinless apart from Jesus (and, particularly if you’re Catholic, the Virgin Mary (CCC,493)). So Jesus still suffered and died terribly even for people who appear to show exemplary behaviour and we all need to reflect on this. We can schedule a daily reflection time to consider that no-one is righteous before God without the sacrifice of Jesus. We all needed rescuing by the priceless gift of Jesus’s precious blood and even if we didn’t experience an exhilarating pardon from decades of accumulated sin, we should all exhibit huge amounts of joy, gratitude and love.

Proverbs 8:12-21

Wisdom is associated with prudence, knowledge and discretion (v.12). A very powerful combination.

If we are in awe (fear) of the Lord, we hate evil, pride, arrogance and perverse speech (v.13). As a result, I can’t stand watching most politicians on TV debate shows.

However, a few rare rulers do possess wisdom allowing them to make just laws (v.15) and giving them counsel and sound judgement (v.14).

We are guaranteed wisdom if we ask God for it. ‘Those who seek me find me’ (v.17). I would much rather hire someone with wisdom, with a degree in common sense, then an unwise person with a raft of formal qualifications.

Wisdom is better than gold and silver (V.19). It makes us love justice and righteousness. If we seek wisdom and love it, it will bestow ‘wealth on those who love’ it and make ‘their treasuries full’ (v.21).

Picture: Artus Wolffort, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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

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