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.

Excuses, Excuses…

Excuses, Excuses…

By Patricia Knight

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The Lord said to him,
“Who gave human beings their mouths?
Who makes them deaf or mute?
Who gives them sight or makes them blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?
 
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord.
Please send someone else.” 

—Exodus 4:11-13, NIV

God called Moses to lead His people to freedom, terminating four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. As God’s representative, Moses would establish non-negotiable terms of release with Pharaoh. Moses resisted God’s assignment with repeated, feeble excuses, pleading with God, “‘Please find someone else to do it’” (Exodus 4:13). God had already chosen an assistant and said to Moses, ”’What about your brother, Aaron, the Levite {priest}. He is already on his way to meet you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you and will teach you what to do’” (Exodus 14b-15). After declining a fifth and final time, Moses finally accepted God’s commission. To allay Moses’ fears, God demonstrated miracles Moses could perform when facing Pharaoh.

Moses’ stubborn resistance collapsed in submission to God’s authority and divine assistance. His stalwart determination, obedience, and allegiance to God and his people strengthened with each future adversity blocking his path, providing a pattern for all Christians to follow. Moses learned the roles of advocate and intercessor for the Israelites, pleading with God several times to save them when God was so angry with their disobedience, He was prepared to annihilate the entire population, calling them a stiff-necked people.

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Though initially manifesting anxiety that exposed a wobbly faith walk, Moses later became the great leader, lawgiver, and spokesman for Israel, achieving monumental triumphs in his career. He wasn’t a natural-born leader, but he was willing to follow God, learning leadership skills for a lifetime of service.

How do we respond when God presents us with an assignment that we hesitate to perform? Like Moses, are we primarily worried about our personal frailty and faults? Christians are adept at conjuring up clever excuses when God requires that we step outside our comfort zone. Lack of faith is usually responsible for blocking our path of obedience.

God focuses on our availabilities rather than our abilities.

He uses common people for uncommon jobs. And, He always walks before us, preparing our paths, leading us with His mighty power. “God has never sent any difficulties into the lives of His children without His accompanying offer of help in this life and reward in the life to come” (Billy Graham).

God hasn’t changed during the centuries since Moses lived, still promising strength and leadership with every mission He assigns. The Apostle Paul said, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV). Paul recognized the limitless nature of his abilities when his plans conformed to God’s will. “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). If we believe in God’s Word, we receive power to accomplish God’s work.

Imagine walking the paths of a flower garden, inhaling the sweet fragrance naturally emitted from mature blossoms? “Now he {God} uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” (2 Corinthians 2:14b-15 NLT).When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our lives are transformed by His grace. We appropriate the character traits of Jesus, radiating the fragrance of His life. Love for our Savior is portrayed by our humility, integrity, and compassion.

Our lives are letters written by the Holy Spirit for all to read. “You yourselves are our letter, written on your hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Is your life a letter that captivates readers’ interest, from which they will acquire great truth and knowledge of Jesus? Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. May your relationship with God be revealed by joy, dependency, and love.

Jesus said, “‘You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. If I make you a light-beacon, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bushel, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’” (Matthew 5: 13-16, The Msg.).

A Christian’s primary function is to glorify God. Spiritual effectiveness is determined by our ability to flavor the world for Christ. God-centered lives honor our Father in heaven, witness to His goodness, and proclaim His salvation. Believers possess no inherent light, but Christ shines His light through us, penetrating a dark world.

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Jesus told his disciples, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV). The risen Savior commanded His Word be preached to all people, in every nation. Though few of us will serve as missionaries in a foreign land, each believer is a disciple of Christ. The old adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” indicates the most effective place to communicate Jesus’ message of salvation is within our own circle of influence.

It is wise to ponder God’s instructions before we frivolously dismiss His leadership, avoiding Moses’ initial reaction of shrinking in fear when God requested that he embark on a new spiritual challenge. It is futile to argue with God; in doing so, we minimize our participation in miraculous victories He plans to accomplish through us. God has demonstrated His faithfulness and trustworthiness throughout the ages. Now we have the opportunity to serve Him enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, as He empowers us to do the work to which He assigns us.