Read to Read …Again
Daily Reading: Numbers 1-2
Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every make by their polls;
Sometimes certain actions are approved by God and sometimes the same actions are disapproved by God. An appreciation of this truth will keep us from massive confusion and frustration. Knowing this is a key to understanding the actions of the Lord God of Heaven. Usually, the difference in why something is considered to be “righteous” (obeying God) and sinful (disobedience to God also called unrighteousness) is a matter of the motive of the heart.
For example, consider Proverbs 26:4-5. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. On one hand the Bible commands to “answer not a fool,” on the other the same Bible commands to “answer a fool.” These in back-to-back verses. Why? Because of the heart of the one doing the answering. When discoursing with a fool a person can become like him? These are weak believers that are prone to change based upon the words of others rather than the Word of God. Those strong in the faith can withstand the barrage of words a fool uses.
“Ok, preacher, what does this have to do with today’s verse and reading?” Well, because here God commands Moses to take a census of the men from 20 years old and up that are able to “go forth to war.” Later in the Bible, in I Chronicles 21, King David’s pride motivated him to perform a census of Israel. This sin of the king sent 70,000 men to an early grave. On one hand a census was righteous, on the other it was sinful, the difference was the heart and motive of both Moses and David.
In the New Testament there were two men who were both in prison. One, Peter, was awakened by an angel and led out of the prison in a miraculous fashion (Acts 12). The other man was Paul. He too was miraculously loosed by an earthquake, and would have been free to walk out, but he stayed in the prison wherein the Philippian jailer and his family were ultimately saved and baptized (Acts 16). The difference? God’s purpose for Peter was to be released, and for Paul that he, by staying in prison willingly, would be a testimony to the jailer.
Now, sin is sin is sin is sin. Never is sin permissible or approved by God. But sometimes the actions of life, based on the motive of the heart, indicates whether that action is righteous, or sinful. According to Solomon, as found in Ecclesiastes there is a time, or a season, for everything. He said there is a time to love and a time to hate (3:8). These are polar opposites. Some seem to hate all the time; some seem to love all the time. But before God there is a time for both. Same with peace and war, keep and cast away, weep and laugh, on and on the list goes.
The great secret to living a life pleasing to God is to know what time it is. Is it a time to take a census or not, a time to answer a fool or not, a time to stay or go, a time to pray or not, etc. All the answers to these questions can only be found in the will of God and the motive of the heart. Understanding this aides greatly in understanding the actions of the Lord God.
William T. Howe Ph.D.