Inherited Freedom

Photo Credit: Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Inherited Freedom

By Pat Knight

As the Israelites prepared to possess the Promised Land, the inhabited territory was apportioned among the twelve tribes, each one receiving an allocation according to population. The location was chosen by lot. Each family was assigned a segment of land that would be passed down through their sons in future generations, ensuring that “no inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors” (Numbers 36:7).

Zelophehad, who died during four decades wandering in the wilderness, had five daughters but no sons by which to comply to the new land regulations. During their forty-year trek, the daughters had time to contemplate the consequence of their father’s disobedience. He was a member of the larger Israeli community whose members all died in the wilderness after they unanimously resisted entering the Promised Land, defiantly refusing to trust God’s promise of leadership and protection.

With land division in progress, Zelophehad’s five daughters sought an audience with the nation’s legal counsel—Moses, the judge and law-giver; Eleazer, the priest; leaders of the assembly of Israel—to request their father’s inheritance in the Promised Land. The sisters were courageous, determined to seek justice for their father’s memory by presenting an intrepid defense: “‘Our father died in the wilderness … but he died for his own sins and had no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no sons? Give us property among our father’s relatives’” (Numbers 27:3-4).

Moses, perplexed by the unprecedented details, inquired of the Lord. What better legal representation could the women desire than that of the righteous judge, Almighty God, the defender of justice? His decision was swift and equitable: “‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. Say to the Israelites, if a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughters’” (vv. 6-8). The only caveat was that God specified each of the five daughters must marry men of their own choices from within their father’s tribal clan, so that “no inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits” (Numbers 36:9). The five noble daughters rejoiced at the outcome and obeyed God by marrying within their own clan. Case closed.

Our Lord, the author of freedom and opportunity, has perpetually championed women’s equality. His Word is replete with examples of women who served Him in prominent positions. God created Eve as a helper and a companion comparable to Adam, establishing a one-man, one-woman marriage and family unit. As a child, God tasked Miriam with strategically placing her infant brother’s floating basket on the Nile River (Exodus 2:4), anticipating discovery by the Egyptian princess, preserving his life, preparing Moses for the future when he would lead the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. As an adult, Miriam served alongside her brother as the first prophetess in Israel.

Deborah was a prophet and the most courageous among the other male judges. She led Israel into victory over the Canaanite army that had doggedly pursued them for over twenty years. Deborah was the only wise judge in Israel from whom the people sought legal decisions (Judges 4:5). She trusted God, sought His will, and obeyed Him. Esther, a Persian queen, saved the Israelite nation from extinction using her quick wit and courage, chronicled in the Bible book with her name.

Rahab, a harlot (Joshua 2:1-21), whose house was located on the city wall in Jericho, hid two Hebrew spies, and later lowered them down the outside wall to escape the king and his henchmen. In the future when Jericho was captured by Israel, a scarlet cord draped on the city wall identified Rahab’s family, a reminder to spare their lives. Rahab was included in the lineage of King David and later the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5), a poignant reminder of God’s limitless love and forgiveness available to a repentant sinner of any occupation or nationality.

In the New Testament age, Jesus accepted Mary as a disciple who anointed his feet with fragrant oil in recognition of His upcoming sacrifice (John 12:3). Jesus admonished His friend, Martha, to abandon her distracting dinner preparations to join her sister, who sat listening at her Master’s feet, in a room filled with men (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus also allowed women to join His large group of disciples on their journeys.

Lydia, a business woman and a dealer in purple fabric, taught Bible studies, welcomed the apostle Paul as a boarder, and held church services at her house. (Acts 16:14-16, 40). Dorcas was a universally loved woman who befriended and provided for the poor (Acts 9:36-38). Jesus waited at the town well to specifically instruct the Samaritan woman about Living Water that produces eternal life through salvation. Due to her witness among the townspeople, many others came to faith in the Son of God (John 4:6-14).

The apostle Peter explained: “‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’” (Galatians 3:28). In Christ, social, gender, and racial barriers are negated. All who come to God in humility and faith are members of the family of God. There are no exceptions to equality in God’s kingdom on earth or everlasting life in heaven.

Early in their history, God commanded the Israelites to refrain from intermarrying with their neighbors to avoid assimilating their liberal social culture and pagan worship practices. However, God’s chosen people disobeyed, introducing the belief held by other nations that women were merely chattels with no freedom. Consequently, women have suffered oppression and abuse; disenfranchised and powerless in many cultures throughout history, currently requiring legal intervention to reverse the trend. Such inequality was never God’s plan. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Our heavenly Father initiated emancipation at creation. Spiritual freedom in Christ has always superseded the subjugation and injustice of women that leads to oppression, necessitating legislation and discipline. Jesus Christ has always been the forerunner to accept and empower women everywhere. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. The Lord was pleased to elevate Zelophehad’s five daughters in status as landowners in Israel, just as He welcomes each one of His faithful daughters into eternal paradise as a child of the King.

“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). A woman’s physical beauty is elusive, but her spiritual comeliness is permanent, celebrating her noble character. God honors her humility and reverence. Let us strive for both as joy and obedience radiate from our hearts.

Looking For Jesus

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

LOOKING FOR JESUS

How to find Christ in the Old Testament

By Liz Wann

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

The unfolding plan

The major story of the Old Testament is about God choosing and setting aside a people for himself (the Israelites) and continually preserving them. The story is told through a variety of literary genres, such as sweeping historical narratives, prophecies, poetry, and proverbs. In the New Testament, the focus narrows to historical accounts of Jesus’s life and the lives of his first followers, including their letters and reflections on who Jesus is and what that means.

Many people claim that the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in their depiction of God. They think of God as full of love and mercy in the New Testament, and full of wrath, anger, and punishment in the Old. But it’s not that clear cut. God is a God of wrath and mercy throughout the entire Bible, with the climax of his wrath and mercy being poured out at the cross. The common thread running through both sections of the Bible is God’s plan to save humanity from sin’s degradation. The stories, prophecies, and people in the Old Testament point us to a coming Savior who will cleanse us of our sins—Jesus, a better Adam, a better Moses, and a better David. If the New Testament is the part of the Bible where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, then the Old Testament is getting us ready for his coming.

Read the rest here.

Shoe Leather

Shoe Leather

By Pat Knight

How long could we wear one pair of sandals before the construction or materials deteriorate? Since the 1950’s the garment industry has manufactured what has become known as disposable clothing. Due to its lower production costs and cheaper materials, a substantial amount of our clothing is considered dispensable after a season. The concept of shoes and clothing with lifetime endurance is a foreign idea.

“During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, their sandals and clothing were supernaturally preserved by God for four decades. From the very beginning of the wilderness journey, God delivered food from heaven with explicit directions of how to gather and prepare it. This sustenance became known as manna, a daily provision of balanced dietary nutrients the Israelites ate for the next forty years.

Peter Jenkins, author of Walk Across America and The Walk West, walked from the east to the west coast of the continental United States from 1973-1979. During his prolonged walk, he wore out thirty-two pair of boots. He also wore threadbare a pair of sneakers in just eleven days while journeying across rugged terrain.

Walking over rough ground erodes shoe leather from the exterior as perspiration deteriorates interior shoe components. Walking with a broken down pair of shoes can be dangerous. When all support from within the shoes is diminished, back and hip pain may result. A flopping sole could cause one to trip and fall.

God eliminated any health hazard from ill-fitting, worn-out sandals during the Israeli’s wilderness walk by miraculously preserving their footwear. During their forty year march, the wandering Israelites wore the same pair of sandals and outfit of clothing, ate only the food God distributed every morning, and were protected from communicable diseases that could have swept through the camp of millions of people, devastating their population. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). 

God established a covenant with His people, explained by an “if-then” formula. When the Israelites obeyed God, He blessed them; if they disobeyed, then God punished them. There were consequences for their actions. God “has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (Deuteronomy 2:7). In response, the people consistently disobeyed and broke the covenant they established with God. Sadly, they suffered the consequences.

In Genesis 14, we learn of the first recorded war in the Bible. When Abram was alerted that his nephew, Lot, had been captured by an alliance of rulers from surrounding countries, Abram amassed a small army from his household members to rescue Lot. With only 318 fighting men for his cause, Abram was greatly outnumbered. But, due to God’s help Abram developed military strategy that freed Lot along with all of the other captives. He then confiscated all the booty plundered by the enemy forces from the city of Sodom.

Following the victory, the King of Sodom generously offered Abram all of the spoils of battle. Abram refused the gift, explaining that he had sworn an oath to God not to accept any of the plunder from the battle. Abram’s only desire was to save Lot and praise God for the victory.

If Abram refused to accept the booty, the King of Sodom would be unable to claim any responsibility later for any portion of Abram’s riches. He wanted to give God total credit for any wealth he attained. Abram was completely obedient and for His loyalty and worship, and God rewarded him. Abram was eighty-five years old when God announced His plan to give him a son as his heir. God then took Abram outside to gaze at the stars, He promised, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). God later confirmed His promise to Abram: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). It would be difficult to gain an inheritance that exceeded the generosity of God.

Abram’s obedience was the compliance God expected from the children of Israel for whom He supplied all material possessions during their wilderness wanderings. God wanted His people to know that whatever wealth they eventually accumulated in the Promised Land would not occur as a result of their own efforts, lest their hearts swelled with pride and they forgot how God miraculously provided for them. Due to His provisions during their walk, it was obvious only God possessed the ability to feed, clothe, and maintain the health of His people. God wanted them to be constantly reminded of His love and faithfulness.

“I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:6b). The Lord was testing His people’s obedience; most of the time it was lacking.

God desires to interact in our lives as much as He was fully involved with the children of Israel. He cared for His people when they were wandering in the wilderness just as He promises victorious journeys to us in this current age. Whenever our Lord provides answers to prayers, protects us from harm, or performs a miracle in our lives, it is for the foremost purpose of shining His light in a dark world to bring glory to His name.

The Israelites didn’t need a change of clothes or shoes; neither of them deteriorated for forty years. What miracles God performed in His children’s lives! It is His desire to do the same for us, to be intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. After all, aren’t we all wandering through this wilderness of life? It is best to travel with God’s guidance and provisions. “My God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19). Depend on His promises, for they are vast!