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Rev. James Earl Turner is one of the outstanding preachers in Metairie, Louisiana. Hear ye him.



September 7, 1998
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 Chapter 9:23

9:23 At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

  This text focuses on Israel as it moved from place to place in its wilderness journey, always at the command of God.
   The children of Israel were some nomadic people. After leaving Egypt they constructed a tent like Tabernacle in which they worshiped God and offered sacrifices. The presence of God was always known among the people through the outwardly visible sign of a pillar of cloud that hoovered over a portion of the Tabernacle. The cloud was always present. Even at night the cloud could be seen because God gave it the appearance of fire when it was seen at night.
    The people were instructed that whenever the cloud lifted it was time for them to pack up their tents and move to another location, as God dictated to Moses. Whenever the cloud stayed low, they knew it was God's will for them to stay still.
     The cloud was a visible token of God's special presence and guardian care of the Israelites (Ex 14:20 Ps 105:39). It was easily distinguishable from all other clouds by its peculiar form and its fixed position; for from the day of the completion of the tabernacle it rested by day as a dark cloud, by night as a fiery pillar of fire, over that part of the sanctuary which contained the ark of the testimony (Le 16:2).When the cloud was taken up--that is, rose to a higher elevation, so as to be conspicuous at the remotest extremities of the camp. That was a signal for removal; and, accordingly, it is properly called (Nu 9:18) "the commandment of the Lord." It was a visible token of the presence of God; and from it, as a glorious throne, He gave the order. So that its motion regulated the commencement and termination of all the journeys of the Israelites.
    John Wesley notes the importance of the cloud as a symbol for modern believers. Wesley points to the phrase, "When the cloud abode."  This is repeated again and again, because it was a constant miracle, and because it is a matter we should take particular notice of, as highly significant and instructive. It is mentioned long after by David, Psa 105:39, and by the people of God after their captivity, Neh 9:19. And the guidance of this cloud is spoken of, as signifying the guidance of the Blessed Spirit, Isa 63:14. The Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest, and so didst thou lead the people.
    The cloud became a symbol of the presence of God. Its movement became a sign of direction to believers. It guided believers then and through the Holy Spirit even today continues to guide all those who commit their ways unto the Lord.
    It is difficult to understand this passage without considering the enormous significance of the cloud. The presence of the cloud signals to all believers that God is always near us, both night and day. As long as the cloud rested on the tabernacle, so long they continued in the same place. There is no time lost, while we are waiting God's time. When the cloud was taken up, they removed, however comfortably they were encamped.
     It is very safe and pleasant going when we see God before us, and resting where he appoints us to rest. The leading of this cloud is spoken of as signifying the guidance of the blessed Spirit. We are not now to expect such tokens of the Divine presence and guidance; but the promise is sure to all God's spiritual Israel, that he will guide them by his counsel.(Psalm 73:24). Romans 8:14 reminds every believer that true "sons" of God are led by the spirit.
  At the commandment of the Lord, our hearts should always move and rest, saying, Father, thy will be done; dispose of me and mine as thou pleasest. What thou wilt, and where thou wilt; only let me be thine, and always in the way of my duty.

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Chapter 14: 7,8 

14:7-8; "And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

The text in Numbers occurs after Israel came close enough to the promised land to send 12 spies to inspect its resources. This was just months after they left Egypt. Ten of the spies reported the difficulty of taking the new land. However, Joshua and Caleb gave a minority report. They said the land was fertile and could be taken because the power of God was moving in their favor. The people ignored the minority report. In fact they became so angry with Joshua and Caleb that they almost stoned them for suggesting that they could actually enter the promised land.

The journey from Egypt to the promised land took 40 years. Israel's lack of faith in God caused them to wander. While just a few days journey away from the promised land it took them 40 years to get there. The promised land wasn't far in actual miles, but in terms of Israel's determination to get there, it was at least 40 years away.

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Chapter 23: 20

23:20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.

    This text focuses on a professional prophet by the name of Balaam who was asked by the king to curse Israel after God had blessed them.
     Balaam was one of many prophets of eastern religions who worshiped all the gods of the land. In many instances they proved to be prophets for hire who knew the intricacies, rituals and beliefs of all of the surrounding religious community.  Many of these false teachers had great power and influence. When they pronounced a blessing or a curse, it was considered a true prophecy.
     When Moses led his people across the wilderness he journeyed north on the east side of Jordan where King Balak of Moab faced the invasion of Israel. Balak sought a strategy other than battle to stop Moses. He decided to use a prophet to curse Israel. Balaam was chosen. Balak sent his messengers with fees to secure Balaam's services. Balaam asked God's permission to curse Israel. Permission was refused, but Balaam journeyed to confer further with Balak. On this journey, Balaam's donkey talked with him as he traveled a narrow trail (Num. 22:21-30). Here Balaam clearly understood that an angel's drawn sword enforced his obedience to speak only God's message to Balak.
    In four clear and precise messages Balaam insisted that God would bless Israel (Num. 23-24).
    The people of Israel were being blessed because they were living godly lives. In 23:21 Balaam said God had considered the ways of Israel and was pleased with their righteousness. Moses had insisted that they live according to the law of God.  Their righteous living drew praise from God and resulted in a blessing that could not be reversed.
    In 23:21 Balaam noted that Israel was blessed because they were strong in their faith. The phrase "strength of a unicorn" was another way of saying that the people were as strong as oxen. Strong faith and dependence upon God had led them out of Egypt. It also led them across the Red Sea and the River Jordan. Over 40 years of wandering and dependence upon God had made them strong and bold in their faith.
   Baalam concluded that the people were protected by the blessings of God. No magic spells, enchantments or special potions could be used against them because they were protected by the hand of God. God was performing signs and wonders as he guided their paths. The walls of cities were falling. The sun seemed to hang in the sky prolonging the days of their battles. Their enemies were falling by the thousands. They were a protected people that could not be stopped by any tricks the king hoped to have played upon them.
   Balaam could not curse Israel. However, they brought curses upon themselves by their willingness to commingle their faith in God with that of others around them. While Balaam could not curse Israel, he taught the Moabites to bring the men of Israel into Baal worship with its immorality. For this God would punish Israel.  What Balaam could not accomplish with a curse he did so through seductive means.

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