February 7, 2011: Numbers 2, Leviticus 25:23-27 Devotion Sharing

Click here to read Pastor Ed Kang’s thoughts on family and church, related to today’s devotions.

Submitted by Grace Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

Consider the picture of the tribes encamped in close proximity around the tabernacle, and what kind of life this would have fostered.
By living in this kind of close proximity to the tabernacle & to one another, they would have fostered close communities that provided care, encouragement, as well as accountability and protection for one another. Because they lived so close to each other, they would have seen each other often, be in & out of one another’s homes, and people’s needs would be known & met. Because they all serve the same God & have the common purpose of living out his commands, they would also have provided tremendous encouragement for one another to continue to live according to His ways. Furthermore, I picture the members of the community providing accountability as well as a hedge of protection from temptation to stray, to serve other gods, & fall prey to their personal weaknesses/sins.

Once the Israelites settled in the promised land, how might life have changed if the regulations in leviticus 25 were not in place?
If the regulations in Leviticus 25 were not set in place, the tight-knit communities would not be able to form nor maintained. When a countryman becomes poor & has to sell his land, then to relocate, he would be removed from the community that he was once part of, and as more and more people were moving out & new tenants moving in, close community life would virtually be impossible.

What are some modern day factors that militate against the picture of life envisioned in these passages?
Some modern day factors that militate against the picture of life envisioned in these passages are:
a. People living in different cities, far from church & from one another
b. People moving to different cities and places because of great academic and career opportunities
c. People church hoping for year, or not able to settle or commit to one
d. People having different picture/vision of the church (unbiblical) or people coming to church w/ their own personal agendas.

I have also seen people who have been going to church for years, but never growing into the community God envisions because they are not honest or don’t open up, and they live in isolation in their own thoughts and feelings. this goes along with hidden sins that were not confessed.

Consider the process by which concepts – including spiritual truths become lived-out realities. what concrete elements are required for this to happen? I consider the process by which concepts & spiritual truths become lived out realities this way:
1) Getting to know and familiarizing with one another
2) Get to a level of honesty & trust through seeing one another’s lives and doing life together
3) Be able to fix and speak truth in love to one another
-To fix/correct one’s wrong/unbiblical thinking
-To encourage those who are down with the truths of god’s promises & love
-To turn someone away from sin & a destructive path

4) “Sticking it out”, through the ups and downs, hard, confused, spiritually dry times.
In sum, the concrete elements required for spiritual concepts to be lived out would be investment of time and in relationships, honesty & truth, and accountability/encouragement under the same vision of doing God’s will.

*What would it look like for a modern Christian to order his or her life according to the layout of Numbers 2?
-Living close to church & to one another
-Living among the same people of God over time
-Living under the same purpose of obeying God’s commands
-Living in trusting and close relationship with others

How does this apply to me?
Thinking about the vital necessity of a spiritual community in order for spiritual concepts/values to be lived out, and the process through which this happens reminded me of what the panelists were talking about yesterday at the Do the Right Thing forum. Their answer to whether we can actually do the right thing that we know was the church, a close knit-community that can strengthen one another to do the right thing together. The secular individualistic world that we live in goes against the formation and sustenance of a strong biblical community and I see how it will require me to equip my mind to think biblically as I live out my life in the context of the community that I live in. I need to ensure the vital elements of what makes a strong spiritual community in my life & in the lives of those that I am ministering to – living in close proximity, to have a common goal/vision, to be honest & vulnerable before one another in trust & humility, to keep each other accountable to live according to god’s values, and to stick it out through ups and downs and across time.

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Submitted by Peter Choi, Gracepoint Berkeley

The tribes’ close proximity around the tabernacle would have been a constant reminder of the presence of God. Accountability before God – no one would have the excuse that they forgot, because the tabernacle is right there! But what is interesting is that the close proximity to the tabernacle would have also insured their close proximity to each other, which would have made them mindful of each other all the time. At first thought I wondered why God did it this way, thinking that the sheer number of people would have made it claustrophobic, making the situation ripe for people to get annoyed with each other. But I realized that when differences are worked out, and it becomes increasingly clear to everyone that it is God who holds them together (as the tabernacle is in the center), there is clear advantage in everyone being so close together. Seeing faith lived out, being mindful of their role in the community, holding each other accountable would have been an everyday reality for the Israelites. The fact that they spent so much time in the wilderness, in close proximity to one another would have insured that a pattern was established over the Israelites’ long tenure in the wilderness as well. The provisions would have also insured that no one wander off to secure a better patch of land for themselves, as would have been the case in the absence of such a provision.

There is something very basic to how people are when it comes to securing something nicer, something more comfortable, something more convenient. So these provisions probably did a lot to prevent a natural degradation of the community over time, as people followed their desires for something better. This is likely the case with the regulations in Leviticus 25 as well. Without them, the temptation would have been very strong for many to try to secure for themselves a better piece of land – to upgrade for something that is more secure, more comfortable, more convenient, even if it was a little bit further out from the rest of the tribe. Just leave the land and start over somewhere else rather than try to work it out. Find a little patch that you can call your own and start fresh. It sounds so appealing. But you are not just leaving the land. You leave the people as well, the positive influence, the spiritual foundations laid over the many years in the wilderness together. The provisions defined in Leviticus 25 made it so that the people do not move away from the land, remain together, and that each person remain connected to the community, with all the benefits. And that’s the kind of life that God envisioned in the first place – where he is the center, and life is lived out in community, where a person’s whim is tempered by the wisdom of the community and a person’s security is derived not from what he owns or what he can do, but from being part of the community.

Modern life, with one’s ability to pick up and move up to thousands of miles away at a drop of a hat, makes such connectedness a challenge. Especially when pressures from society almost push me in that direction. While mobility has made it practical for people to live in suburbs with their nuclear families, not having to deal with a single soul if they didn’t want to, that is not the picture of what God had in mind. With the advent of the internet, a person literally has millions of connections, but not very many meaningful ones. At the end of the day, the modern individual’s preference always win out – his desire for something nicer, something more comfortable, more convenient, more advantageous. Possible? Yes, but from today’s text it’s clear that this was not what God had in mind.

As a person with a natural tendency toward lonerism, I can understand why anyone would be attracted to setting up shop a little further out. I get frustrated with my inability to communicate clearly and feelings of not wanting to deal with people start to creep up. But basically this boils down to not wanting to deal with the reality that I am connected. Frustrated or not, I am part of a people. This is very serious because in its essence, what it means to be human, to be made in the image of God is to be relational, to be connected, to be a part of community. It is no surprise, then, that a life that is lived in isolation is a poor one, where examples are lacking, accountability is non-existent, and encouragement to do the right thing absent. Because that is precisely how I learn to live out my faith – by following the examples that more spiritually mature people have set for me, by being held accountable to high spiritual standards by leaders and peers, and by being an example for others. Without such connectedness, spiritual life is just a fantasy, something to be embraced only in the idealism of youth – certainly not a reality to be lived out into my 40s, 50s and beyond.

So as I continue to live out my life in community, at our church, into my 24th year here, I realize more and more that the kind of connectedness at our church is something to be more than grateful for. I am indebted. And what I have at Gracepoint, flaws and all, is a working model for modern times of how I can order my life according to the layout found in Numbers 2.

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