Preparing a People

Preparing a People

Scripture: 3 John 1:2, Numbers 5:1-31, Numbers 6:24-26
Date: 10/10/2009  Lesson: 2
God instituted several laws to guide them into good health and stable society.

Heroes of Faith by Doug Batchelor

Heroes of Faith by Doug Batchelor
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Good morning and a wonderful Happy Sabbath. I want to welcome those of you this morning who are tuning in. Whether you're listening on the radio this morning, watching live on our website at sacccentral.org or watching on the various television networks, we welcome you this morning to Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church. I hope you're ready to sing, 'cause we are. We've been warming up and we're ready.

We're ready for our first favorite hymn request this morning. It is 301, "near, still nearer." And this is from melissa and janelle in australia. Michael in California, barbara in england. Minna in italy, elizabeth in New York, John in Oklahoma and jane in the Philippines and adrian in the republic of korea. So we're going to sing 301 this morning, the first, second and fourth verse.

Join us, 301... Oh, they sounded good this morning, joe and jim and henderson on the piano. We thank you guys for adding so much to our weekly services with your beautiful music. Our next request is 229, "all hail the power of Jesus' Name," . And this is from matuzalem in angola, jizelle and patrick in antigua and barbuda, nola in australia, cleonice in brazil, barbara in California, arthur in cameroon, sherace in england, daphnie in florida, trent in Georgia, deonne, jacqueline and zaria in grenada.

Bob and Paula in Idaho, tosin in ivory coast, wayne in Minnesota, John in Oklahoma, jerrydith in Philippines, melissa in st. Lucia, marvin in south korea, bobo in Texas and lydia in zambia. So this is a favorite and it is a good song. "All hail the power of Jesus' Name." We're going to do first, second and fourth verse... I was reading this week about in the book "the Great Controversy" one of my favorites, and there's a chapter about when we get to heaven and it's one of my favorite topics.

And it was talking about when adam and Jesus see each other again for the first time since, you know, adam's death so many years ago and how they will be reunited and he's just going to fall down at his feet and cast his crown on the golden street. And then of course everyone that's there will follow and do the same thing. I can't imagine what that's gonna be like. It's gonna be amazing. And we will all hail the power of Jesus' Name.

I like that. I hope you and me and everyone here this morning will do everything that we can that will make sure that we are right with Jesus so that we can be there on that day. If you have a favorite song that you would like to sing with us on an upcoming week, you know what to do. Or if this is your first time watching, I'm gonna tell you, it's very simple. Go to our website at saccentral.

org and click on the contact us link and you can send in your favorite hymn and we will sing that with you on an upcoming Sabbath. At this time though, let's bow our heads for prayer. Father in Heaven, we thank you so much for loving us unconditionally. And we so many times feel like we're a hopeless mess, but we know that with you, all things are possible and you can give us strength to be overcomers and we thank you so much for that hope that we have this morning and that assurance. I pray that you'll be with us as we open up Your Word and we study together that you will enlighten us and that we will take something away from this lesson study this morning that we can apply to our lives in this upcoming week.

And we thank you so much for bringing us here this morning into your house to worship you. I pray that you'll be with each person that is joining us this morning through whatever form of media they're watching or listening, that you'll be with them and give them the special Sabbath blessing as we meet together. In Jesus' Name, amen. At this time our lesson study is going to be brought to us by our youth pastor here at central church, pastor steve allred. Oh, he's also engaged, and he's going to be married soon.

Thanks, debbie. It is good news, I just didn't plan to announce it quite like that, but that's all right. No problem. All righty. Good morning, Happy Sabbath.

This morning our free offer is offer number 780 and it's a little book called "12 steps to revival" so call into the number there on the screen 866-788-3966 for offer number 780, "12 steps to revival." You know the military does it. It's intense. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with a parent who just sent their son off to basic training in the navy, just joined the navy a couple weeks ago and I haven't heard all the details but I was talking with her a few days ago and she said that he had called home and it was a tough experience. It's a shock to your system, isn't it? I haven't done it, but the people I've talked to who have, the stories I've heard, the goal is to reform a person, to make them into somebody different. Take this motley crew of young men usually, maybe some young women as well, and to shape them into a soldier, make them into someone that will be disciplined, do what the military wants them to do.

You know every discipline, it seems like, has its right of passage, doesn't it? If you're in the medical field, you if you want to be a doctor, you want to study medicine, maybe it's that first year of medical school where you get all of the menial tasks that no one else wants to do. You're the little gopher for everyone in the hospital. All the residents tell you what to do. The doctors tell you what to do. In construction, you know when I was a teenager, I did some construction during the summers and I was at the bottom of the totem pole and that's where you start out, right? You do.

And I remember doing concrete work. I worked with a friend of ours and he was a contractor, and my job was to haul those wheelbarrows full of concrete sloshing around across the, you know that reinforcement wire that put in the bottoms of--it wasn't rebar, but it was the wire stuff, you know, they roll out. And you're like bumping along trying not to drop this to lose any concrete, and that was what I spent my summers doing in -degree weather and that's where you start out, right? Well, if you want to be a pastor, it used to be that there were some rites of passage there as well and one of those was that you had to spend some time being a call porter. Anybody know what a call porter is? You know you'd have to go door to door selling books. And so I remember-- we don't do this as much anymore, but it's still around in some places and so before I started working as a pastor, I had the privilege of doing this for about five summers, I think it was, ten-week summers.

Pounding the pavement, sleeping on school gymnasium floors with other students who were in these programs, going door to door. And I realized I didn't really want do that for the rest of my life. Believe me, it's interesting stuff. It's hard work, right? It's hot work. You gotta have thick skin for that kind of work because you go to these doors and a lot of people don't want you there.

You're persona non grata at most of these doors, right? But you know it's the toughness, it's this experience that makes it such a formative experience. It really shapes you. I'll just tell you a quick story here before we get started with our lesson tonight and you'll see how this ties in. It was my first summer. I was 17 years old.

I was doing something called big books where you sell the hardcover Bible story sets and "conflict of the ages." And that's--those aren't the softcover ones that cost $5 or $10. These are the ones that are like $300 a set or something like that. So we were out knocking on these doors in salt lake city, Utah. Yeah, it was fun. And so great place actually, I enjoyed it.

A lot of good people there, and actually a lot of the folks there--but it was hot. And it was a hot place to be, let me tell ya. And there were some tough aspects to that as well. So I remember that first summer, boy, I was not ready to do big books, didn't know what I was getting into. I spent the first 5 weeks of that 10-week summer not making one sale of hardback big book sets, not one.

I made some mega book sales, I sold, you know, enough to keep gas in my car and food on the table. Not one set for 5 weeks. The leaders were just they're like "what's wrong? You seem to be doing your canvas well, and is everything okay between you and God?" And I couldn't figure it out, no one else could either. But you know I stayed with it and in those first 5 weeks, I learned how to pray like I had never learned how to pray before that. Because you know tough experiences do that, don't they? They force you to your knees, at least they can.

And it was during that--those weeks when I was trying to figure out what was going on, out there knocking on doors every day, very discouraging. God taught me so many things that it has made me the person that I am today. I really don't think I'd be the same person without that difficult experience and the rest of the summer God blessed and I had a good summer. But that was one of my boot camp experiences, if you will. And so I have a question, as we talk about our new lesson quarterly, it's called "people on the move," talking about the book of Numbers, not a book that you necessarily would think is the most interesting bedtime storybook, right? Actually, maybe it is.

It's got some pretty cool stories in there. I have a question, did God send the Israelites out into the desert for a reason? Do you think maybe it was their -year boot camp experience? That's a long time to be in basic training, isn't it? And before they could enjoy the luxuries and the blessings of the promised land, maybe they needed this formative experience. So today we're gonna look at preparing the people. And it's the second lesson in your quarterly if you want to follow along. How many of you were able to read Numbers 5 and 6 this week? Anyone want to raise their hands? Anyone read those chapters? Good a few, so that will help us as we go through this today.

So the first part, Sunday's lesson, "disease control." Not something you always associate with talking about when you're dealing with Bible topics, but it's in the Bible. Imagine this scene. Just imagine. When I say imagine, I want you to really imagine so you know you can see it. Look around, what do you see? What do you see there? Breathe in, you're in the Israelite encampment.

Breathe in, what are the smells there and then what are you hearing all around you? It's a giant camp site. There are people there, lots of people, hundreds of thousands of people. And there are animals there as well, lots of animals. And so you're smelling, you're hearing, you're seeing all of this and as the lesson quarterly pointed out, maybe this campground was much like a refugee campground, a refugee camp that we still see in parts of the world today. Of course, I think that as we read through the book of Numbers, Leviticus, God gave specific instruction that's what we're gonna be talking about today, of how this can be done the best way.

I mean this is a big ordeal, right? Hundreds of thousands of people out in the desert, big camp site. How you gonna work with this? And so in such an environment, God instituted some common sense disease control mechanisms, we could say. And some of these were millennia ahead of their time. Let's look at this. All right, let's go to Numbers 5:1-4 and I think we have someone who's going to read this for us.

Who has that passage? Okay. Go for it, steve. Numbers 5:1-4. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead: both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell. And the children of Israel did, and put them out without the camp: as the Lord spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.

" Thank you, steve. So here we have sort of a quarantine taking place, don't we? God said all right, if someone has a certain kind of skin disease, including what we know as leprosy today but not exclusively that, they are supposed to be separated from the camp. And you know and so we look at this and we ask, well, did God do this because he didn't like these people? You know he was trying to make them feel bad because they had a physical disability? Is that what was going on here? Absolutely not. It was a simple common sense measure that needed to take place so that the rest of this huge multitude of people wasn't infected with these diseases. So very simple, basic but yet maybe ahead of its time.

And God said, "hey, this is what I want you to do." And the lesson takes it to another level. It says, all right so now we're talking about the physical, you know the diseases aspect. We know that today. But what about spiritually? Does this apply spiritually? Do--does God still--what spiritual message can we take away from this? If you look at verse 3, look at verse 3 down there at the last part, what does it say? It says, "you shall send these away." And the last part, "so that they will not defile their camp where I dwell in their midst." Defilement, what spiritual message is there in that? You've heard the saying one bad apple, right? What can one bad apple do? Spoil the whole bunch, right? It's true, isn't it? Is it true? I've seen it happen in youth groups before. You know you have one kid who isn't connected with God and they're, you know, enjoying the pleasures of sin, so to speak, you know? And they come in and they can make sin really attractive to the rest of the kids and consequently pull the whole youth group down.

It's happened before, so it can happen. And we don't want to be that person, do we? We do not want to be that person. So I like the lessons questioned there. They ask this, they said, what things, this is under Sunday's lesson, what things are we watching? What things are we reading? What things are we even eating? That can affect us, can't it? Doing or even thinking that make us feel as if we are spiritually exiled from the camp? Do we need to think about those things? This last week I was visiting some members Wednesday morning and leaving that appointment. I was heading somewhere else and I noticed that my car was kind of driving funny and I was thinking, you know what's wrong here with this? Maybe my power steering is going out 'cause it was like it was tough to steer.

And so I get on the freeway and I'm barreling down the freeway. Get to my next appointment, pull up and I get out of my car and I look around, and there the front passenger tire is almost flat. It's really low. And I've been driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway on this tire that's about ready to, you know, it's almost flat. And I thought about that experience.

You know it's interesting 'cause I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and I thought I'm just not gonna worry about it. I don't want to pull over now and check. I just want to keep going. Is that what we do sometimes in life? And we're going along, we're barreling down the freeway of life, something inside us tells us that not everything is okay. We need to stop and check, don't we? Because you know it's when the Holy Spirit speaks to us, that voice that we call conscience, we need to listen, don't we? It's not safe to keep going because it could be, it could be fatal.

And I like what the lesson also brought out, 1 John 1:8-9. We know these passages but let's look at this again. I don't think we could ever be reminded of this enough. So if we're feeling spiritually defiled, we're barreling down the freeway of life, we know something's wrong. We need to stop, we need to listen, we need to evaluate, ask God to search us.

Happens usually in our quiet time with God. And if we're not having quiet time then it probably won't happen. But here's the solution, look at this, this is so beautiful, it's so simple. John 1:8-9, "if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, the truth is not in us." But then here's this part, here's the hope. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just--" let's say it together.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That's good news, isn't it? Wow. So God doesn't leave us with some, you know, grievous thing that we must do to have harmony with him. He says, "listen it's simple. This is what you need do." Moving on to Monday's lesson, this lesson series, as the book of Numbers is, it's kind of a combination of many different topics, it seems like. They kind of all are put together here.

So now we're gonna be talking about the camp of Israel. Here they are. We're continue with the camp of Israel. We're talking now about the social mechanisms that God put in place to keep things on a level that he wanted them to be. So imagine you're out there again in the camp of Israel and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, one big campground.

What comes to your mind? What's the first thing? Maybe woodstock? No, I'm kidding all right. How about, you know I was thinking maybe new orleans superdome? Remember that? Remember back there, hurricane katrina? I was thinking about that situation. The aftermath of that hurricane, thousands of people were crammed there into that sports stadium. And after hurricane katrina, a while after, I was in new orleans for a couple of days for--to visit someone and there I drove by the superdome. It didn't look like a very inviting place at all.

And so you know the people in the superdome there, you remember the stories, right? Things got a little touchy because you're living in this place with a bunch of other people you don't know, even if you do know them, it still can be tough. And what's the mentality? The mentality is this is a long-term thing? We're gonna live here for the rest of our lives? Is that what the mentality is? This is a temporary situation, right? I'm getting out of here as soon as I can. So the Israelites, here they are. They've been slaves. They've lived in, you know, slave dwellings in Egypt, probably weren't the best but they at least had stability to some extent, predictability.

There were trees that had produced fruit, pomegranate trees. There were--they had gardens. And so they're out in the desert, they're getting the same food every day and they're in this situation where they're thinking, you know what? This is a temporary situation. Moses told us we'd be on, you know in the promise land here. This is a short trip.

But things kind of went a little bit longer than expected, didn't they? Quite a few years longer than expected. And so how do you think things began to--you know how did tempers begin to act in that situation? You think there were some altercations in the camp? You know tempers get kind of hot, don't they? And so God, even though he had commanded them, and you can read a specific example, Leviticus :18, to love each other. As anyone knows, that's not always the easiest thing in a community setting. And so Numbers 5. Let's see I need to go back to Numbers 5, and let's see verse 6.

Look what happens here. Numbers 5:6, look what happens. "So the Lord spoke to Moses," verse 5, "saying, speak to The Sons of Israel when a man or a woman commits any of the sins of mankind acting unfaithfully against the Lord and that person is guilty..." So wait a minute what does it say here? Hold on. Speak to The Sons of Israel. When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind.

So in other words you're doing, you're sinning and it implies you're also sinning against someone else. Sins of mankind, who are you sinning also against? It says acting unfaithfully against who? And it's--this is a very important biblical truth, I think. The lesson said this, it said, "to wrong our neighbor is to sin against God himself." I think that's what the Bible says actually. And here's why, 1 Corinthians 6, you know this passage. We can say this one by heart, Corinthians 6:19-20 it says, let's see, know ye not.

Verse 19-20, or do you not know that your body is, what? God lives in you, that's right. And it says, "whom you have from God and that you, you are not your own." Here's why, verse 20, "for you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." You have been bought by--with a price. Now it's interesting, the lesson brought this out. I like this. It says you know if someone sins against your--if someone does something to your property, they go beat your car up.

You know they vandalize your property, the sin isn't just against the piece of property but it's also against, who? It's more against you, isn't it? I mean you feel it inside. I remember when I had someone steal my car one time and you know actually watched the guy drive off with my car. I think I told that story one time in a sermon. And anyway, that was very--it was just--i felt very, personally violated like someone had just like done something to me, you know? They took my car, but it really was a personal thing. That's what happens with God, right? We hurt one of his children, we're all God's property, God feels violated, doesn't he? He feels like we've hurt him.

Now it works the other way too. I think if we learn to love people, we also learn to love God and we'll look at a verse in a minute that actually talks about that. I used to think, I don't know about you if you ever thought this, I used to think spirituality and love and all of this stuff happened--we perfected that within a vacuum. You know what I mean? Like that used to be the mentality back in the day. You would become a hermit and you would go to a cave and you would live there in this detached environment and you would become holy.

Is that how it works? You know there's some things that--spending time alone. We need more of that in our culture today. We are so busy. We're always around things and people, but is that how you really learn to love? That's the question. And so look at 1 John 4:20.

Not in the lesson, but I wanted to bring this out. Back to 1 John there, 4:20. Okay. Yes, this is it. All right, 1 John 4:20 it says this, "if someone says, I love God and hates his brother, he is a," what? Yeah, and then here's the reasoning, "for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, who he can touch and feel, cannot love God who he has not seen.

" That's John's reasoning. He says, "listen, if you can't love the people in your world that are tangible, you can actually talk to them, interact with them on a physical basis like we do in our world, then you can't love God whom you haven't seen." And his reasoning makes some sense. In fact the question I'm asking is, is it possible to learn how to love, to perfect holiness in a vacuum? And I think the answer is no. We cannot learn to love unless we are around other people and that's why church is such a vital thing. You know every now and again I talk to someone who's getting ready to be baptized and they say, "you know but do I have to join the church? All you people, you know?" I mean come on, let's just face it, churches have problems, don't we? Don't we? Sure, we do.

Right, that's us. You know that's humanity. If you're human, you're gonna be imperfect. You're gonna have problems. So the churches are not perfect places although that's where we're heading towards.

We want to be like that, don't we? And so some people say, "well, why do I have to join the church?" And it's like well wait a minute, that's how God helps us to grow. It's by rubbing each other. It's by, you know it's like the stones and the tumbler. We polish each other. That's why I love mission trips.

You take a bunch of people who don't know each other from a church and you throw 'em into this experience where they eat together, they sleep on the floor in a church together. They work together out in the hot sun for a couple weeks. And you either learn to love or very much dislike each other, right? And hopefully it's the former. But you know it's an opportunity to have conflict, which is what happens when you have people working together. People are gonna disagree.

That happens, conflict isn't bad, but what do you do with the conflict? It's an opportunity to have conflict and work it through and learn to love. That's how you learn to love, isn't it? So which by the way brings me to another point, just a side point that is mentioned later in the lesson which we won't talk about later. Which if it's true that this is the way you learn to love by interacting with other people, then when it says in John 4:8-16 that God is love, that means God did not learn to love or I shouldn't say learn because I don't think he ever had to learn, but God cannot be love in a vacuum either. In other words, he can't be love by himself, can he? Which is another evidence to me that The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit have always existed together eternally and have always manifested that love to each other and into their creation when they created. And so back to the Hebrew camp.

Let's continue on here. So if you had sinned, okay, against someone and in sinning against someone you sin against God, but if you had done this, what were you supposed to do? And let go to Numbers 5 again. This is verses 6-8 and I have someone who has that verse who's gonna read that for us. Anybody have that? Numbers 5 and let's see, verses 6-8. Who has that? Okay.

"Speak unto the children of Israel, when a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him. Thank you. So what's the short of this? What was the guilty person to do, in one word? Pay back, recompense, right? This principle is all throughout the Bible. You can read Ezekiel 33:15 where it says that those who have stolen should pay again what they have robbed.

Luke 19 the story of zacchaeus talks about this. Actually this is a very good passage. Let's look at this one if you'd like. Verses, Luke 19:8-9. So Jesus stops, he comes to zacchaeus' house.

Zacchaeus, his problem has been that he's had sticky fingers, right? He's a thief. He has taken some off the top, you could say, of his business of tax collecting. And so people are grumbling. They're saying, "Jesus, why are you going to be guest of this sinner?" You know it's interesting because the very next verse shows us that Jesus trusts in zacchaeus. That he would respond to his love was not misplaced, not misplaced.

Here's what happens, verse 8. "Zacchaeus stopped and he said to the Lord, 'behold Lord, half of my possessions-'" how much is that? Fifty percent. "I will give to the poor." His 50%, his net worth just went down that much, right? "I will give to the poor. And if I defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back--" how many times as much? This is amazing, isn't it? Unlike the story, this is in contrast to the story of the rich, young man who approached Jesus just a few verses earlier. Probably it could have been the same day, we don't even know and he had turned away because he had great possessions, didn't want to sacrifice them.

Here's zacchaeus, tax collector, outcast of society and he steps forward and he says, "Jesus, I'm gonna give away 50% first of all, and then 4 times as much." I mean he was a poor man after this transaction took place right here, this contract with Jesus was signed, right? He was a poor man in the world's goods but look what happens. He suddenly became the most wealthy person in the universe, just like you and I can become that most wealthy person. Verse 9 Jesus said, "today salvation has come to this house." Can you put a dollar value on salvation? Absolutely not, right? This is immeasurably--this is incredible. "Today salvation has come to this house," Jesus said, "because this man too is a son of Abraham. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

" And so the lesson rightly brings out this point, it says righting wrongs with other people still applies today. And I've had to do that in my life a couple times where, you know, I realized hey, that wasn't right. I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have treated someone like that. Maybe I need to, you know, do more of that.

Search your heart, maybe God is asking you to make something right. And so but the lesson also brings out this point, but what about with God? Have all of us cheated God? Have we all, how can we say it? Have we done things to God that we need to make right? Yes, we have, haven't we? And yet can we make it right with him in the sense that we can pay him back for what we've done that has hurt him? And the answer to that is no because the things that we've done are so incredibly bad and so incredibly wrong that it would take our life to pay for them. Isn't that right? And that's why Jesus came and he said, "listen, I'm gonna pay the price." Is there a part that we have to play? Definitely. And what is that part? It's accepting and it's allowing Jesus to take our life, surrendering our lives to him, allowing ourselves to be reconciled to God. And then after we have done that, the question is this, what--keeping in mind what Jesus has done for us, what things can we do to make right things that we've done wrong with others that we may be in conflict with? That's the motivation, right? We say, "man, if Jesus died for me, died for that person, what can I do to make sure that I am right with my fellow man to the greatest extent possible?" These are things we need to ask ourselves, aren't they? I think these are important questions.

These are practical, real-life questions that affect our spiritual life. Okay, Tuesday--wait, yes, Tuesday's lesson we're gonna be talking about something very relevant to our world today. All of this is, but this is so relevant. Divorce has become a common occurrence both in the United States and around the world, true? According to the divorce statistics, I'm getting this from a source here. It is estimated that between 40% and 50% of first marriages end in divorce in the United States.

That's too bad, isn't it? This is even worse though, second and third marriages in the United States have an even higher divorce rate. That's interesting, wonder why that is? Maybe it's because what happens is a lot of times in a marriage if we have the mentality that it's a temporary thing, we'll leave one, go to another thinking the grass is greener, right? That's what happens. Get there, find out the grass isn't so green and then we find another plot of grass that looks greener, and we keep doing this and the pattern repeats itself because we never learn to really work through the things in our lives that need to be changed because the problem is never % on one person's side. It's always, at least partially, it has two people. It takes two to make a problem.

So and according to the statistics, listen to this, second marriages fail at a rate % to 67%. And third marriages fail at a rate of 73% to 74%. That's crazy. You'd think by that time you'd kind of have it figured out, right? This ain't the way to do it, but--now this is the part that really made me sad though as I read this. Listen to this, what about when you put religion in the mix, what happens? Okay.

So here's what happens, listen to this, "well, several religious denominations show a slightly lower divorce rate of about 21% to 34%." That's actually pretty good, isn't it, in our society? "Other data suggests that those with no religious affiliation actually have a lower divorce rate than those with reported religious affiliations." Now just in case you're worried that they may be coming from some secularly biased news outlet, george barnum, who's actually a Christian researcher. Does a lot of research with--he's a Christian. He's an evangelical. He says this, listen to this, "well, it may be alarming to discover that born-again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce. That pattern has been in place for quite some time.

" The reasons for that aren't clear, but it's something that statisticians, people out there that look at the data there, they're saying this is the case, that people who are actually claiming to be born-again actually have a higher divorce rate than others. Maybe it's because we come to the church, we come to Jesus we say, "okay, God's gonna take care of all my problems" and we think that that's it, right? "I don't have to worry about learning how to communicate better with my spouse. I don't have to worry about practical, real-life things that we actually need to talk about." I don't know, maybe that's one of the reasons. But he says this, "the ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and the wife." The church can't fix it on its own, although I think the church has a place, I really do. We'll talk about that in a second for a minute.

God can fix problems, but God never forces himself upon us, does he? And so he can't fix something that we're not willing to face. We have real actual situations in our own lives we need to work with, work on. But the high incidence of divorce in the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages. In other words, are we doing that? Maybe not, huh? I think the church ought to be doing more, I really do. The bigger and much more serious attack on marriage today is not so much what the secular world out there is doing to even the idea of marriage, even though that may be serious, but really what the--where the attack is happening is right in the church, it really is.

Because divorce, infidelity, these things that we see within the Christian church even, are affecting marriages in a practical, real-life way. Isn't that true? Kids are being affected. Lives are being wounded and damaged and it's troubling that oftentimes in the church we are not doing what we should about it. I'm speaking to myself as well. Well, let's talk about marriage for a minute.

Did God make marriage to last forever? Absolutely. He created it in eden. It was encased within the decalogue, that's how important it is to God. He put it right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, "thou shalt not commit adultery." Right, it's in the negative sense but it also includes that positive protection to this idea, this sanctified thing that God made back in creation. And in the theocracy back in the day when God ruled through Kings and prophets on this earth, infidelity was punishable by death.

That's how serious God took it on both parties, by the way. The pharisees in John 8 didn't get it right. So let's look at Numbers 5 with that in mind. This is a very interesting passage. We're back there in Numbers 5:11 through--let's see, we're not gonna read all the way down through verse 31 but let's just read the first couple of verses here.

I trust that you've been reading your lesson and have already read all of this, but we're reviewing. So verse 11, "then the Lord said to Moses saying, speak to The Sons of Israel and say to them, if a man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him and a man has intercourse with her and it's hidden from the eyes of her husband and she is undetected, although she has defiled herself and there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act, if the Spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself, the man shall then bring his wife to the priest and shall bring as an offering for her one tenth of an ephah of barley meal. And he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity." Okay, now I'm gonna tell you the rest because we're not gonna read through all these verses here. But basically there was a little ritual, you can say, that would take place. And there was some water that was considered holy and they would take a pinch of dust and they would write down some curses that would occur if this person had been unfaithful to their marriage vows.

And then they would wash off these curses, the ink of them, into this water and it would be mixed up. And the person would drink this water and the curse that was pronounced was if you have been unfaithful, this will cause your bowels to rot and so on and so forth. If you have not been unfaithful, if you've been faithful, then you will be blessed. Nothing will happen. And so we look at this today and we're like, ooh, that's kind of weird, right? Hocus pocus, a little magic going on back here, yeah? Something kind of interesting, right? Well, not necessarily.

Who was God dealing with here first of all? We don't do this anymore today in the church, maybe we should, I don't know. Probably not, I'm kidding. But what was--who is God dealing with? Children, his children, yes. And they were people who had just come out of being told every move to make, right? Had they learned to think for themselves in Egypt? Maybe on some levels, but not on others. They were slaves, right? They were people who--and you can see this and God's dealing with the Israelites, the children of Israel very aptly described as that because they probably had a very elementary mind-set about a lot of things in life.

They had been told when to eat, when to wash their hands. Everything was told to them because they were slaves, right? Their masters treated them like animals probably. And so here they come, they come out into the desert. God's like "alright, I'm gonna make things simple, tangible." They're used to idolatry. They've seen the Egyptians with their idols, so let's build a sanctuary.

They can see something that kind of they can figure out that I'm inside of this. I'm not into idols, God's not into idols, but he's gonna make something that's gonna help them to understand who he is, something tangible, sacrifices they can make, right? So he has this ritual. The lesson brought this out, it says, "the procedure, although strange to us, was not an instance of magic, rather it was a concrete visual aid that ex-slaves could grasp. It was not the water but the Lord who read the wife's heart and who punished or cleared her." And then a commentator says this, he says, "everything depended on whether the woman was holy, guiltless, or unholy, guilty. If the holy met the unholy, judgment was inevitable.

If the holy met the guiltless, harmony prevailed." So God took this very seriously, this whole idea of marital fidelity, of staying true to what God had sanctified, this thing called marriage. And the question is asked, well, what about the woman? What if the man was just jealous and he wanted to just make his wife miserable, right? Take her in, hey let's see if you're guilty of this. And so here's the question, they said, how was the procedure also a protection for the woman, very good question 'cause I think it was, who could be a victim of the husband's unwarranted jealousy? How do you think? Well, if he was accusing her, and nothing happened, her name was cleared, wasn't it? So that was I think something that you can see God's fairness there in this, even in this ritual that is a little bit different than we think of doing today. So however strange the whole thing may seem today, the point is it brings out how important the marriage vow is in the eyes of God, amen? God alone knows just how much pain, suffering and damage has been caused by marital infidelity and it's true, it does cause pain by one partner or the other. What a tragedy.

This is--i agree with this so much. What a tragedy in so many societies today, marriage vows seem to hold no more sanctity than a handshake. Isn't it true? Slip in and out. No big deal. It's sad.

Welcome to America, right? Welcome to American Christianity. And the biggest problem in regard to infidelity, divorce and the biblical remarriage is, in my opinion, that it desecrates the biblical sanctity of marriage on a daily basis and it's happening in the church. You know if it's happening out in hollywood, we understand, don't we? They don't make any professions. That's their--those are their standards, their morals. Hey, you wife swap, you husband swap.

You go out with a different girlfriend every other day, right? We expect that of them, but in the church, do we expect that? Well, there are no quick fixes. This is not a marriage seminar, we're just talking about what the Bible's talking about here. There is no quick fix to this problem, but I think the church needs to do more, I really do. And I don't know what the answers are exactly but if you have any ideas, come talk to me. Talk to the pastors.

Let's talk about Wednesday's lesson. So it talks about on Wednesday how we have all been called to be priests. And if you read 1 Peter 2:9 it says, for you are a, what? A holy generation, a peculiar people. What else? A royal priesthood. "Chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession that you might proclaim the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into light.

" Marvelous light, right? That's us. How many Christians are called to be priests? Every Christian. So every Christian then is a priest. Every Christian is someone who is to be a mediator, a connector between fallen humanity and God, isn't that right? That's our job, that's why we're here. We're to be intercessors.

We are to be those who intercede between fallen humanity and God. And yet the lesson talks about the nazarites, very interesting group of people. And in fact you can take a nazarite vow for your whole life or for a specified period of time. So in Numbers 6, again, we will not read this whole chapter because that is almost the whole chapter is dealing with the nazarite vows. But it says, "when a woman," verse 2, "a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a nazarite to dedicate themselves to the Lord, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink.

He shall drink no vinegar whether it made from wine or strong drink nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dry grapes." And you can read about why that was more in the lesson. I like what they say about that. Verse 5, "all the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall pass over his head. He shall be holy until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord. He shall let the locks of his hair on his head grow long.

" And so all of these different regulations, not go near a dead person even if his own family member died. How would you characterize this vow? What was the purpose of it? It obviously made this person--it was--they were set apart from everyone else. This was not common, not everyone did this, right? So they were taking a vow to live in a way that was different for a certain period of time. Some people it was for their whole life. Who was an example of that in the Bible? Samson, John the baptist, I believe, was--so you have these examples.

And so we bring this down to and we say all right, so wait a minute. All this old testament, some of these rituals, we're not quite sure how they apply today. But let's ask, what's the Spiritual lesson here? How can you, how can I take something from this nazarite vow and deepen our relationship with God? What were they doing here? They were abstaining from things, weren't they? They were fasting, taking a time-out from certain activities or foods. Is that beneficial in our spiritual experience sometimes? Yes? Sure. Why? Is it because God likes to watch us not enjoy life? You know, is it because God is saying, "all right, I'd like you to fast so that I can watch you squirm, I enjoy--" is that the point? No.

Do--if we deny ourselves, is it beneficial to us? It is. For example it can--if we abstain from food or certain kinds of food, it can help our mind to be clearer, can't it? It can also help us to learn how to exercise more self-control. Learning how to turn the tv off and not turn it on. If you're like me, man, if I have a tv in my house, sit there and you know if one, you know, channel's not working, you go to the next one, keep going and pretty soon you've wasted 2, 3 hours sitting in front of this tv, right? That's why I don't have a tv. But taking a break from these things, it does something to us, it helps us.

It strengthens our self-control. It can clear our mind. It can give us more time to spend with God, can't it? And so I'm thinking that, you know, you can think of areas. Maybe there are some things in our life today, food, entertainment, even financially. Say, "hey, I'm gonna stop spending money on x over here, so that I can spend more money on another cause, helping this poor family or giving something to God's work over here.

" Maybe the amish have a point. You know the amish you've seen them, right? Back there on the east coast is where most of the amish settlements are. And I remember driving through lancaster, Pennsylvania there and you see the buggies and the horses. Life is a little more simple than it is for us sometimes, right? Definitely slower. You know you're not whizzin' down the freeway at 80 miles an hour.

You might be going at maybe miles an hour if you're lucky, right? And so life is slower, maybe more simple. Don't have to worry about what you're gonna wear every day. It's pretty much the same thing, right? Maybe it's not a bad thing. I don't know. There's some good things about it.

And so the question, the lesson asks, how about us? As Seventh-day Adventists, do we live in anticipation of a better country? Yes. What is that better country? It's heaven, isn't it? Okay, so what are some concrete ways that we can protect ourselves from getting caught up in this world that we live in today so that we don't lose sight of our final destination? Should we be simplifying our lives, perhaps, living more moderately, not extravagantly? Things to pray about. Things to really take seriously. And so we finish up today in Numbers 6:22-27. Here's what it says, "then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to aaron, to his sons saying, 'thus shall you bless The Sons of Israel.

' You shall say to them, 'the Lord bless you and keep you. the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.' So shall they invoke my name on The Sons of Israel and I will then bless them." You want God's blessing? Today, once again, our free offer is number 780. The booklet is called "12 steps to revival." Call the number on your screen, -866-788-3966.

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