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Bible study

Bible Study – Through the fire… And the water… (Numbers 31:23)

Today’s Reading: Numbers 30-31

Today’s Reflection: Numbers 31:23

Everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless, it shall also be purified with the water for impurity. And whatever cannot stand the fire, you shall pass through the water.

What is this text saying?

In Numbers 31, Moses receives instructions from God to have Israel destroy the Midianites.  The people of Midian had repeatedly conspired to destroy Israel, both by having them cursed (Numbers 22:1-6), and by seducing them into the idol worship of Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:6-9, 14-18).   When the Israelite soldiers return from their task they bring with them spoils from their defeated foes.  Moses gives instruction that all of the material goods from Midian have to be purified before being brought into the camp of Israel.

Why is it important?

There is a principle of purification being demonstrated here.  The material wealth of Midian was associated directly with the idol they served, and with rites and practices thought to earn his favour like child sacrifice and sexual perversions.  But the very presence of God dwelt in the camp of Israel, so items related to such practices could not be brought into God’s presence in their current form without inciting the Lord’s wrath.

Idols made from precious metals had to be melted down (passed through the fire) so they no longer bore any trace of the pagan worship they had once been part of and could now be used for God’s purposes.  Garments and materials that had once been used in pagan rituals had to be washed (passed through the water) so any stain of the practices they had once been associated with could be washed away.

How can I apply this?

The principle of purification also applies to people who choose to follow God.  The Bible tells us all have sinned so to some degree we all served the kingdom of darkness (Ephesians 2:1-3).  But because of His great love and mercy God sent His son Jesus Christ to rescue us from sin.  Through His death and resurrection, Christ won the victory over the enemy and we are the spoils He has taken from His defeated foe.  Christ desires to one day bring us to the Kingdom of God so we can spend eternity in the presence of our Lord and Saviour (Ephesians 2:4-9).  And now as we walk in the freedom from sin He has bought for us Jesus is purifying us, a process also referred to as Sanctification.

Romans 6:20-22 – For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.   But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Two important points:

  1. First make the decision to follow Christ.  There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.  Knowing about Jesus may or may not change the way you think about Jesus.  Knowing Jesus changes you.
  1. Next, once you’ve made this decision, accept that things in your life are going to radically change.  God will take things from you that you are accustomed to, but that cannot follow you into a life with Him.  God will bring things into your life that you are not accustomed to, designed to prepare you and lead you to what God has planned for you.  And along the way you will encounter challenges from the enemy—he may be a defeated foe but he is still an active one, and he’s seeking to discourage and destroy the faithful (1 Peter 5:8).

The process of Sanctification won’t always be easy or pleasant, but God never promised comfort.  What He does promise to always be with us, and He assures us we can find eternal security in Him.

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

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