Cover to Cover
We humans often are impressed with talent, influence, entourage, finances, possessions, strength, and appearance. We often appraise one another based on such natural things. We look on the outside to make assessments – how do they present themselves? How do they perform? We might even try to judge character based on the good things they do, what they give, how they contribute, and how much attention they are getting.
It reminds me of the prophet Samuel who heard from God that the next king would come from Jesse’s house. Samuel met the brothers, but none of them were God’s choice. David wasn’t even considered as a possibility until Samuel asked, “Do you have any other sons?” David was very young, not as strong as his brothers, and not as experienced in life. God chose David because David’s heart was yielded to Him. God saw the heart.
In Mark 7, Jesus talks about the heart. The Pharisees said that Jesus’ disciples were guilty of breaking tradition because they were eating bread without going through a ceremonial ritual to wash their hands after leaving the marketplace. This was not a Mosaic law; it was a ritual added by the elders.
Today, people can be just as religious and judgmental if a person doesn’t jump through enough hoops. If they don’t say what they think they should say or do what they think they should do, when they think it should be said and when they think it should be done, then that Christian isn’t good enough for them. If someone overlooks a sin because they are helping that person find healing or grow, a judgmental Christian will criticize the mercy being shown, even judge the minister as compromising holiness.
I’m so glad our Father in heaven has been patient and longsuffering with me! I’m so glad He didn’t give up on me when I was a spiritual baby. I’m so glad He decided to take a journey with me to understanding and applying His Word. Religious Christians aren’t as patient or gracious as God is.
Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” or pretenders, acting holy by creating and demanding people keep their rules. Being self-disciplined and being a rule-follower isn’t being holy. Taking the law and heaping more rules on top of God’s righteousness to keep people farther from God has got to be one of the most egregious sins humanity can commit.
In verse 9, Jesus nailed it, saying, “All too well you REJECT the commandment of God.” Why? “That you may keep YOUR tradition.”
This is powerful stuff here, and it applies today. The way of God is to HONOR authority, but these religious leaders found a way around honor. Honor is a heart issue; it’s not just what we do. It’s who we are. Can you honor? Can you submit? Can you support? If there comes a time when you don’t want to follow vision or you aren’t getting your way, that you work your way around honor. This person, because of their religious pride and rebellious heart, will have to come up with a reason for dishonor or withdrawal. Often the person will begin to tear down authority. He or she will try to find something wrong so he or she can feel better about their choices around submission. Surrender will be the last thing they want to do.
Actions and words can be done in pretense. I call it a Christian charade. People can pretend to have the right heart by pointing to their rightness and other’s wrongness. God knows the heart. Jesus said that it was from the heart that a man or woman was defiled.
In verse 18, Jesus said, “Are you thus without understanding also?” People caught up in a rules-based religion are people who often don’t see their own bondage. It’s sad, but it’s true. It happens today. They think they are right, and because they think they are right, they think they are better. I’m so glad that in the list of wrongs that come out of a defiled heart, PRIDE is among the wrongs. Pride is evil and it comes from within. The Pharisees were a prime example.
Jesus had mercy on everyone, but not everyone would be able to receive His truth. Pride is not just an attitude; it is a position, a stance. As long as someone does not learn surrender and bring themselves into a posture of humility, that person will not be able to receive truth. He or she may appear to know a lot, but real knowledge of God has to do with the heart.
In verses 24-30, a Gentile woman receives from Christ, showing her faith in her desperate, tenacious faith to cling to Jesus and not let Him go.
In verses 31-37, Jesus heals a deaf and mute person. Jesus does this miracle differently. He puts His fingers in the man’s ears. Jesus spits and touches the man’s tongue. Then He gives the command, “Ephphatha!” That means, “Be opened!” Mark again uses the word “immediately” and says “Immediately his ears were opened, and he could speak plainly. To open the ears meant the ears could receive sound. When a womb was opened, it meant the uterus could receive the fertilized egg. When we are open, we receive what God has for us.
When God spoke to Israel, He was also speaking to generations that would follow. When God did things a specific way with Israel, He was often prophetic of what would come. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, we see that the rock represented Christ. They drank from the rock, illustrative of us finding our spiritual needs met in Christ.
In Numbers 20, Moses was instructed to take the rod in His hand. Often, when God instructed Moses to hold the rod, God was doing something through Moses but with God’s authority. God specifically told Moses to speak to the rock.
Let’s take a moment and review. Moses led the people to the border of the promised land, and the people refused it. Then Korah causes an uprising against Moses. Then when over 250 men die from their rebellion, Moses is blamed. Then after all they’ve been through, God sends a plague with the intention of wiping out all of Israel, and Moses intervenes. Miriam dies. There isn’t any water, so the people become contentious. Now, because Moses was angry and hits the rock twice, He is banned from the promised land? Does this seem fair? You might be thinking, “Well, if Moses was punished for that, what hope is there for me?”
It’s not about being fair. It’s about Christ. God said in verse 12, “Because you did not believe Me… because you did not show honor to Me in front of the people.” God is about faith, a faith that honors authority. God cannot allow dishonor from a leader, especially in front of those the leader is leading. There had to be consequence.
In verses 14-21, the Israelites were not permitted passage by the Edomites. In Edom is what was known as the King’s highway. The King’s highway was a trade route that connected Africa with Mesopotamia. Caravans would travel through carrying expensive items, and the cities on the route protected it to keep it safe. There was also water available in the desert. It was used by kings as well. It could be a road or highway used to describe our life in God Isaiah 35:8-10, a place of safety, a place of water, a place of acceptance and joy.
Later on, in Numbers 22, the Amorites denied passage along the same route, and attacked Israel. Israel fought back and won. The tribes of Gad, Manasseh, and Rueben ended up settling there.
In Numbers 21:22-29, Aaron, the high priest, dies. Reference is made to his death coming early, keeping him out of the promised land. Moses was instructed to take Aaron and his son, Eleazer, to the top of the mountain to transfer the priesthood. Aaron died then and there on Mount Hor.
Israel went to battle at Hormah and won. The people got discouraged on their journey, again, not stopping to lean on God for what they needed, but to complain against Moses, speaking against God. God sent fiery serpents to bite and poison the people, not just because they deserved punishment; but also because He was doing something prophetic that points to Christ. To stop the poison, God instructed Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole. Everyone who looked to the bronze serpent was healed. What does it mean? The Bible says that Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). The serpent represented sin. The serpent was put on a pole, and Jesus was lifted up on a cross (John 12:32-33). If the people would rely and obey God in faith, they were healed. If we look to Jesus, we will be rescued (John 3:14-17).
The people travel to the place called Beer where people were gathered for water, and the people sang, “Spring up, O well!” Beer in Hebrew means spring or well.
In verses 33-35, Israel defeats King Og, giving them the right to possess the land. In the same way, we often have a spiritual battle before we enjoy the possession of God’s promise. We have an enemy that wants to fight us and keep us from all God has for us in this life. We have to fight with God’s authority, as one in faith, reliant on His power. Let’s keep going from one level of glory to another level of glory! In Jesus we always win!