The First Human Death

“Has God indeed said …” Genesis 3:1

These are the first recorded words of Satan and their echo is still reverberating around the world as strong as on that first occasion. People around the world are showing open rebellion and defiance against their Creator. Sin has made people more willing to shake the fist of defiance at God.

Satan chose to discredit God through Eve most likely because she had not heard the original command from God (2:16-17) She received it second hand from Adam. This is a good reason why everyone should hear from God first-hand and personally. This made Eve vulnerable, as it will any person who does not read God’s word for themselves, and Satan knows it.

Apparently Eve chose to accept Satan’s criticism of God without consulting Adam and she ate of the fruit. This put Adam in a place that he could not have envisaged. He would have to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. For how he should have responded, refer to Numbers 30:8. In full knowledge of what he was doing Adam accepted Satan’s criticism of God and so sin and death entered the world. The first human physical death was Adam and Eve’s son, Abel, murdered by their firstborn, Cain (4:8). Abel’s death must have caused immeasurable grief and shock to Adam and Eve. Seeing this terrible consequence of their sin would have been horrific.

The record of the Bible is one of God speaking to people, through the prophets and through the Lord Jesus Christ, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even so Satan still finds numerous willing ears to his question. Since he spoke to Eve through the serpent he has continued to ask of men and women, “Has God indeed said…” The response is evident all around us. God allows Satan to serve Him by continuing to test the hearts of men. But there is the voice of Jesus calling men to repent, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Each person will make their own choice as to whether they will believe Satan’s lie or God’s truth. Receiving Satan’s lie as truth is to call God a liar and a deceiver. Satan is a murderer and a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

To choose to believe what God has said is the opposite of what Adam did in the Garden and opens the grace door (John 10:9-10) to salvation purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

That They May Know

“Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them” Revelation 11:11

God’s two witnesses will be a thorn in the side of those who oppose Christ for three-and-a-half years. Those who want to silence them will be consumed by fire (v 5). As part of their testimony God will give them power similar to that which He gave to Moses and Elijah. They will cause a drought for the whole time they testify, turn water into blood, and strike the earth with plagues (v 6). No wonder many will wish them dead and attempt to kill them – but the Lord will protect them. John records that those who oppose Christ will make war against the two witnesses and eventually kill them but not before they have finished their ministry (v 7). We can be comforted by this in that the Lord takes care of His people until their work is done.

It will seem a triumph when the two witnesses are finally killed. Television, newspaper and other media will give this first event full coverage. Social media will run amuck with celebration for a few days (v 10) until God raises them from the dead (v 11). Television and newspapers will not headline this second event, however. Heads of government will endeavour to shut down social media conversation just as they do now with any news that is unpalatable to them.

Why will the Lord allow the two faithful witnesses to experience such opposition and the pain of death?

A purpose for the plagues in Egypt through Moses was so “that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 14:4). The same is true of this future event. Also it would appear that many Egyptians left their homeland with Israel in the Exodus (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4). The Egyptians had seen the destruction of their false gods and the revelation of the one true God and been moved in heart (Exodus 12:36). Those who left with Israel presumably had chosen to follow the God of Israel much like Ruth did years later.

The death and resurrection of these two witnesses was a final testimony to Israel first and to all mankind that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the one true God and has power to raise up and give life to whom He will. While the majority will harden their hearts there will be many who will repent and humbly surrender to the Lord. The book of Revelation reveals that multitudes will be saved during this time even though it may cost their earthly lives (i.e. Revelation 12:11). They will have discovered and now know the truth about Jesus Christ.

Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

Eyes on the Eternal

“We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:5-6

It is possible that we may forget and take for granted the everlasting grace of God that meets our every need and begin to look back with selective memory on our past. God had been miraculously and graciously providing the manna for some time while Israel journeyed in the wilderness en route to the Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey. Some began to reflect on what they had left behind and they craved the food of Egypt and that craving spread like an aggressive cancer to many others. They complained against Moses but in reality their complaint was against God. It had the effect of wearing Moses down even to the point of desiring death. This was when the Lord intervened. He sent quail for a month and those who had yielded to craving for the old life died that month. We will die spiritually if we begin to crave the things of this world.

Israel was on its way to the Promised Land where God would personally dwell with the people. They would have all they needed. They could make bricks to build their own houses instead of building Pharaoh’s cities, they could grow crops to feed their own children instead of feeding Pharaoh’s armies, they would not feel the whip on their backs and they would not be forced to kill their own sons. They forgot all these things because they looked at their present circumstances and compared them with selected memories of their past. They also forgot or did not believe God’s promise and for that a whole generation of Israel died in the wilderness and never entered the Promised Land.

Our complaint against the Lord will begin when we take our eyes off our destiny. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, dwelling with Him in His kingdom is our destiny regardless of our present circumstances. God has and will graciously provide all we need as we travel toward our real and eternal home. If we begin to doubt His promise we will also begin to look back and complain against His gracious provision and leading. We will again desire those things that brought only death and destruction. We will lose the joy of an abiding and intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.

In writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul wrote, “… we do not lose heart. … our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

When our desire is for our Destiny and our eyes are upon Him we will see no reason for complaint regarding our present circumstance and we will have no desire to return to the existence we had before we met Him who is life. Our joy will be full.

The Moses Syndrome

 “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly” Numbers 20:10, 11

The language of Moses and the context of this event suggest that Moses had lost his cool with the people over their continuing disobedience, lack of faith in the Lord and their rebellious nature toward the Lord. Only one who has never had to lead or manage another person or people would have difficulty identifying with his frustration.

However, for Moses and Aaron, prophet and priest, this single act of Moses would bar them from entering the Promised Land. What was it that Moses had done that invoked such a reaction from God? It may seem such a trivial and excusable action to us that we cannot fathom why the Lord would so humiliate Moses before all Israel.

Understanding as to why the Lord took such a strong action is evident in the passage. That evidence also reveals why many Christian never enter the rest of God (Psalm 95; Hebrews 4).

The command of God was to “speak to the rock” (v 8) but Moses “struck the rock twice with his rod.” The rod is symbolic of the authority of God which is evident throughout the exodus. This can be more readily seen in Numbers 21 when a bronze serpent is mounted on Moses’ rod. The question arises, “Was Moses prevented from entering the Promised Land because he was disobedient?” That might seem the case but we need to look deeper. Why didn’t Moses obey the exact literal word of the Lord?

The reason given by the Lord in verse twelve has two linked parts in it. Firstly Moses did not “believe” the Lord. As we read the history of Moses to this point it is very evident that Moses did believe the word of the Lord or he would not be where he was doing what he was. What has happened? Secondly, the Lord says that Moses did not hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel. To “hallow” is to esteem as holy or separate from that which is unholy.

When we combine the words of the Lord with the words and actions of Moses in verses ten and eleven we can see that Moses had made a huge shift in his own identification. He was identifying himself (intrinsically unholy) with the Lord (intrinsically holy) instead of the people Israel (intrinsically unholy). For a moment in his life spiritual pride arose in Moses’ heart and he spoke to Israel as if he was God. He had momentarily forgotten that he was also a rebel. In so doing he forgot his place and stole away the people’s concept of the holiness of God. In effect, he made himself equal with God (intrinsically holy). This may have been part of the reason for the murderous attitude of the Pharisees and scribes toward Jesus when He claimed equality with the Father.

Since Moses was the leader of God’s people there would have to be a significant consequence if the people of Israel were to have a true concept of the holiness of God restored in their minds.

When we have a critical spirit we are the same as Moses as he was at that time. Instead of pleading with our holy God on behalf of other believers we criticise them from a proud and arrogant heart. We could emulate King David as revealed in Psalm 35:11-14. A critical person will not experience the “rest” of God and they will darken, if not destroy, other people’s perception of the holiness of God.

The Last Joshua

“Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” Deuteronomy 31:23

The New Testament records for us the words “first Adam” and “last Adam” but nowhere will we find the words “first Joshua” and “last Joshua.” Even so, there was a “first Joshua” and a “last Joshua” with regard to the plan and purpose of the Lord and Israel.

Moses was given his name by Pharaoh’s daughter because he was found in water but it would also be an apt name when we consider that it was Moses who led Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to a life of separation from slavery to serve the living God. Though they didn’t even get their feet wet it is said that they passed through the waters. This is later likened to baptism. The nation was separated from the world (Egypt) and separated to God. There was no way back even though they often desired to return. Christian baptism is symbolic that one has been separated from the world to God and there is no way back even though we may at times desire the things of the world.

Israel’s rebellion at the opportunity to enter the land God had promised brought about forty years wandering in the wilderness while God prepared the next generation. Even that generation was at risk of not entering (Numbers 32) but the possibility of another forty years in the wilderness was enough to overcome that threat. Moses also lost the opportunity to lead Israel into the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. In his place would be the “first Joshua.” Joshua was one of the two spies who believed that the Lord would give Israel the land just as He had said. He knew that the giants and fortified cities of the land were no match for God. Joshua believed God, knew God and trusted God. One who trusts God will show it by obedience to His word. This Joshua led Israel into the land.

Much later Israel was dispersed from the land because of persistent rebellion by successive generations. Was the Lord unfaithful to His promise to Abraham? Is He powerless to fulfil that which He promised? The answer to both these questions is emphatically “No.” A believing generation of Israel had entered the land under the leadership of the faithful “first Joshua.” The Old and New Testament authors all affirm that a believing generation of Israel will take possession of the land God has given to Abraham and they will do so under the leadership of the “last Joshua,” Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul writes, “I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27).

Where is that Donkey when you Need Him?

“The word that the Lord puts in my mouth, that I must speak” (Numbers 22:38)

What if all the preachers in the world followed Balaam’s conviction? Surely we would have a much different world with many less confused Christians. Of course, Balaam didn’t come to this position without the Lord’s most unusual intervention. Tempted by gold and silver Balaam tried to have a foot in both camps. Surely God would let him have wealth and remain in His service! There have been and are many Christians who have followed in Balaam’s shadow and want the benefits of being a Christian without surrendering what the world offers. Enter the donkey! Balaam seems so set on this path that even his donkey speaking and debating with him didn’t seem unusual.

Sadly, today we do have preachers who do not follow Balaam’s eventual conviction and they do curse Israel. Where is that donkey when you need him? Balaam refused to curse those whom God has blessed. “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce who God has not denounced? (23:8) he questions rhetorically in his response to Balak. The anticipated answer is that he cannot go against the word of the Lord.

Balak may be a representation of the world of unbelievers whether they attend a nominally Christian church or not. He wanted Israel cursed and destroyed. He thought Israel’s God was like his own god but they are vastly different. Balak’s god comes from the imagination of men and remains an imaginary god. Israel’s God is the living Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.

Balaam reaffirmed the Abrahamic Covenant, “Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you” (24:9) and nothing has changed or will change in this regard. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (23:19). There is no way God is going to revoke or change His covenant with Abraham. If we believe that He has or will then we will never have assurance of salvation. If we believe that He will break His covenant with Abraham then, to be consistent, we must believe that He could break His covenant with all who have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. This is contrary to all Scripture. It is unthinkable that God would demand that we be faithful to Him and His word when He is Himself is unfaithful!

Anyone who believes that God has broken His covenant with Abraham and replaced Israel with the church follows after Balak in his comprehension of God. Such people are attempting to curse Israel whom God is blessing but instead they will receive the curse. They have a god of their own imagination that is not derived from the Bible and is most certainly not the God of Abraham and bears no resemblance to our Lord Jesus Christ. That which Balak desired for Israel came upon himself. The same will happen today to those who curse Israel. The word of the Lord to Abraham remains the same, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3). Balak did not know this but after the donkey spoke, Balaam did know it.