Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!

Create an Account

Save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Advertisement

Most Recent



The Rest


Daily devotional

Sunday January 27 – The second counting

Among these the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. - Numbers 26:53 Scripture reading: Numbers 26:1-4; 52-56; 63-65. The Book of Numbers is marked by two countings. The first one is in chapter 1, and the second is here. This one marks the end of a period: all those 20 years or older have died, except for Joshua and Caleb. Moses is still alive too, but he will not enter either. This new counting indicates a new generation. These numbers speak of God’s faithfulness and care. After all that has happened, there is a new generation, there is still a people. Each tribe is represented. They will all receive a part of the land as promised to Abraham. In fact, the number is quite close to the first number. In spite of Israel’s grumbling and stubbornness, the LORD goes on. He counts His people again, to make sure they are all there. He counts those who are able to go to war. There are battles coming. Inheriting the land will require effort. The chapter also contains a warning for next generations, to go on in faith and obedience. Notice that throughout this chapter, people are mentioned who died because of disobedience or irreverence. It mentions the plague that had just happened. It refers to Dathan and Abiram. (Although, we also learn that the sons of Korah did not die!) When Judah is counted, Er and Onan are mentioned. Among the Levites, we find Nadab and Abihu, who died. Inheriting is by faith, it is not automatic. Let’s not take it for granted, but heed the warning of this counting. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness. Pray for strength to follow the Lord, to trust and obey Him. Pray that next generations may confess this as well.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Saturday January 26 – Baal Peor

Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. – Numbers 25:11 Scripture reading: Numbers 25 From the wonderful heights of Balaam’s defeat, we now go to the terrible depths of Israel’s immorality. The women of Moab invite the men of Israel to a feast for their gods. It involved sacrifices to the dead, sexual immorality and idolatry. The men fall for it. The anger of the LORD is kindled. A plague breaks out. The invitation to participate in sexual immorality was the brainchild of Balaam (Numbers 31:16). He could not change the blessing into a curse. But he knows that the people of Israel themselves could do this if they would insult the holiness of the LORD. So, he suggests the Moabites tempt Israel with idolatry and immorality. The enemy cannot stop God's blessings by force, nor can he get in between the Lord and His people. He can try to tempt God’s people so that they will incur His covenant wrath. The situation is saved by the zeal of Phinehas. He kills an Israelite man and Midianite woman who blatantly defy the holiness of the LORD. Phinehas is praised for it. How can we resist the temptations of the evil one? Are we any better than the Israelites? We have a High Priest Who has satisfied the anger of the LORD, our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we fall into sin too, but in His mercy, God imputes to us the righteousness and holiness of Christ. It is ours by faith in God’s promises. Therefore we can and must pray, lead us not into temptation. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for the righteousness and holiness of Christ. Pray for strength not to be led into temptation.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Friday January 25 – Balaam: prophet against his own will

“… but speak only the word that I tell you.” – Numbers 22:35 Scripture reading: Numbers 22:22-37 Having seen what Israel had done with Sihon and Og, King Balak realizes that there is something special about this people, they are blessed. Conventional warfare will not stop them. If somehow he can take the blessing away or change it into a curse, then he can stop them. He turns to the expert in this field: Balaam. Balaam had the reputation of being connected to the spiritual world and his words were powerful. However, Balaam had to recognize that when the LORD blesses Israel, Balaam cannot change this. Balaam can only say what the LORD allows. This message is driven home to him by what happens on the journey. The donkey sees the Angel of the LORD and saves Balaam’s life three times. The donkey saw more than Balaam who was the expert in spiritual matters! What an irony! He admits he is no match for the LORD God. In the chapters that follow we find some of the most beautiful prophecies about God’s faithfulness coming from the mouth of Balaam. The LORD will fulfill His promises and no evil spirit can stop Him. First, the enemy tried to stop Israel with force. The next attempt is by demonic powers. The LORD shows that demonic powers are under His control. We are involved in a battle with forces in the air. We need not be overwhelmed by it. Christ has disarmed the demons on the cross (Colossians 2:15). Therefore, they cannot separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord that Christ is King and that the demonic powers cannot stop His work. Pray that we are not intimidated by Satan’s power, but be strong in the Lord and His might. Pray that we may use the whole armor of God. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 24 – Many nations He struck down

...and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel. – Psalm 135:12 Scripture reading: Numbers 21:21-35 The defeat of Sihon and Og is mentioned in Psalm 135 and 136. In both, it is in the context of the LORD showing His power and steadfast love. The LORD is leading His people to the Promised Land. The enemy of the LORD will do everything to try to stop this. He tries it in the first instance with intimidation. Israel is facing powerful enemies. The first one is the powerful nation of the Amorites under the kingship of Sihon. Israel asks to pass peacefully through their territory, but the king refuses and instead comes out with his army. The LORD gives the victory. The second opponent was Og, King of Bashan. He comes out with his powerful army. The LORD also gives him into the hand of Israel. Deuteronomy 3:4 says that 60 cities now are in Israel’s possession. Israel already controls the land east of the Jordan. The people faced these battles before entering the land. The LORD shows that their strength lies in trusting in Him. It is not Israel’s might, but the power of the LORD. What an encouragement before entering the land! For us too. The enemy may seem powerful, but he cannot stop the progress of God’s Kingdom. He tries to intimidate the church with power. "Our fighting would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing." This Man is Christ Jesus, He must win the battle. “Your exalted name, O LORD, will stand firm for evermore.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for giving us the right Man on our side. Pray for strength in the battle against the powers that intimidate the church. Pray for the believers who face persecution.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 23 – Inheriting the land is by faith alone

And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. – Numbers 21:9 Scripture reading: Numbers 21:1-9 The people of Israel are back at Kadesh and the first encounter with the Canaanites does not go very well. Israel suffers a defeat. But Israel dedicates itself to the LORD. The LORD gives a victory. Victory is by faith alone. Instead of going directly into the land they have to make a detour (see chapter 20). The new route leads through difficult terrain. The people grumble against the LORD and Moses. They accuse Moses of evil motives: he led them in this wilderness to kill them. They want to go back to Egypt. As a punishment, the LORD sends poisonous serpents. This discipline hurts the people and they confess they have sinned. As a remedy to the bites of the serpents, Moses has to make a bronze serpent and anyone who looks at the serpent will live. This is a remarkable way of dealing with the people. The serpents are not taken away, but as people are bitten, they have to look at this symbol and they will live. Why would they? The only reason is that the LORD had said so. Israel has to trust the word of the LORD. There is nothing magic in the bronze serpent. Looking at it is the expression of their faith in God’s promises. The Lord Jesus referred to this incident in His discussion with Nicodemus (John 3). As looking at the serpent gave healing and life, so believing in Jesus Christ gives life. Entering the Promised Land is by faith alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His grace in Jesus Christ. Pray for the strengthening of your faith.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 22 – The Lord shows Himself holy at the waters of Meribah

Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. – Numbers 20:12 Scripture reading: Numbers 20:1-13 It isn’t hard to feel sorry for Moses. He makes one mistake and is punished with not being allowed to enter the land. The people are back to the place they were 40 years ago, Kadesh. Because there was no water, they blame Moses and Aaron and accuse them of evil motives. When we do not receive what we want or think we deserve, grumbling is often the reaction. The LORD does not destroy the people, for had He not said that He would hold the priests, the leaders responsible? Moses was given clear instructions, but he disobeys them. He had to speak to show the power of the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). Instead, Moses makes it into a personal matter. No matter how many excuses can be given, his action is an insult to the holiness of the LORD. Yes, there is water in abundance for the people, but Moses and Aaron hear the judgment of the LORD. They too will die in the wilderness. They have joined the generation of grumblers. The rock from which the LORD gave water symbolized His grace. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that the Rock was Christ. What God gives in the Rock, He gives fully in Christ. In a way, Moses hit “Christ” and thus was not allowed to enter the land. Moses is not the Redeemer we need. He too was a sinner. What a blessing that we have a Mediator who did not sin! His righteousness is ours by faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the perfect Mediator. Pray that in all our words and actions we may hallow the Name of the Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College. ...

Daily devotional

Monday January 21 – Made clean to serve

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. – Hebrews 9:13-14 Scripture reading: Numbers 19 Reading this chapter you may wonder, what does it mean? The first part of the chapter deals with the slaughter of a heifer. This is not to be confused with the regular sacrifices as recorded in the first chapters of Leviticus. In the sacrifice of this heifer, the involvement of the priest is minimal. There is also no transfer of guilt. The heifer had to be sacrificed in order to get ashes. An added interesting detail is that being part of this sacrifice made a person unclean, unlike many of the other sacrifices. It reminded the people of the power of defilement. The chapter then describes situations in which the ashes had to be used, namely to cleanse someone who had come in contact with death. Death is the result of sin. At the same time, death is a reality in life. In chapter 17, we read that 15,000 people had died. They needed to be buried. That means the need for cleansing was acute. The LORD provides a way to purify from the defilement of sin. These ceremonies remind us of the destructive and pervasive power of sin. Sin defiles. The good news is that the LORD provides a way out so that we can serve Him. The Letter to the Hebrews brings this out. The ashes of an animal purified people, how much more will the blood of Christ purify us from dead works to serve the living God. He offered Himself without blemish to God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD for providing purification from dead works to serve Him. Pray for His grace that we may offer ourselves as living sacrifices of thankfulness to Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Sunday January 20 – Provide for the support of God's servants

Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due. – Numbers 18:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 18:8-32 The priests and the Levites have important work to do. Because of their work, Israel can continue to function as people of the Lord. But they have to live too. They need income, food and drink. Since the Levites had no inheritance in Israel, the LORD makes sure they can live and do their work. He is their inheritance and for this reason, gives to them a portion from what the people give to Him. Certain parts of the sacrifices, the wave offerings and the price of redemption, which the people had to give to the LORD, the LORD now gives to the priests. When it comes to the Levites, the LORD gives to them the tithes which Israel are commanded to give to the LORD. The Levites needed to give a tithe of their income as well. The importance of these laws is that in this way the ministry of the tabernacle could continue. The same counts for us. True, we do not have priests and Levites anymore, but in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14, Paul refers to these laws and connects them to providing for those who preach the gospel.  In Lord's Day 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism, we confess that the Ministry of the Gospel has to be maintained. Are we willing to give? The support of the priests and Levites had the LORD in the centre. Our support for the ministry of the gospel also is a spiritual service. We give to glorify the Lord, and we do so thankfully. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that we have opportunity to give to Him. Pray that we may give thankfully and willingly. Pray that the ministry of the Gospel may continue throughout this world. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Saturday January 19 – How can we come near to God?

And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?” – Numbers 17:12-13 Scripture reading: Numbers 17:12-18:7 Finally, the Israelites seem to get it. They show respect for the holiness of God. This is pleasing to the LORD. We know this from Deuteronomy 5:22-33. At the time the LORD had spoken to them from Sinai they had shown similar awe. The LORD’s response was wonderful, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always.” Our God is a consuming fire, and therefore we have to worship Him with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29). Let’s keep this in mind as we prepare for worship. Does our worship reflect this respect for the holiness of our God? “Are we all to perish?” The LORD answers the question of His people. He makes the priests responsible for guarding the holiness of the LORD. When they do their work faithfully, Israel will be able to come near to God and not be consumed. If they do not serve faithfully, then the LORD will punish the priests; they will bear the iniquity. The priests receive a clear mandate to guard the holiness of the sanctuary and they are accountable to the LORD. This chapter has implications for the task of the elders to exercise discipline over the congregation. If they do this faithfully, it will be a blessing to the church. How can we come near to God? It is an important question for us as well. The answer is even more wonderful than the one Israel received. We can come near in confidence through the atoning work of our Priest, Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the perfect work of our High Priest. Thank Him also for elders who are charged to supervise us. Pray that we prepare ourselves for worship in the proper way. Pray that the elders may receive wisdom and courage. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Friday January 18 – The high priest stops death and gives life

And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” – Numbers 17:10 Scripture reading: Numbers 16:41-17:11 You would think what had happened to the rebels was enough for the grumblings to stop. It was not. The very next day the people accuse Moses and Aaron of killing the people of the LORD! The LORD is ready to destroy Israel. In fact, He is already doing it. A plague has started. There is no time for Moses to intercede, as in previous instances. Quickly Moses gives instructions to Aaron. He has to take a censer with coals from the altar and go among the people. That was something to order! The High Priest was holy and thus not allowed to come in contact with death. But Aaron goes and when the plague comes to where he stands with his censer, it stops. The intercession of this High Priest stops the power of death. Following these events, the LORD wants to make it clear that He appoints leaders.  He uses the staff of Aaron as a visual proof, because, unlike all the others, it has sprouted, put forth buds, produced blossoms and bore ripe almonds. These are the same buds and blossoms as on the lampstand! The staff of Aaron becomes a symbol of life. The LORD gives life through the High Priest appointed by Him. It is not difficult to see how Aaron here foreshadows Christ, our High Priest. Christ by His death and resurrection broke the power of death. In Christ alone is true life. How rich we are in Christ and His intercession. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for what we have received in our High Priest, Jesus Christ. Ask for His grace and Spirit to fight the powers of sin and live new lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 17 – Jealousy is the root of rebellion

Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. – Numbers 16:11 Scripture reading: Numbers 16:1-35 Again the people rebel. As Psalm 106:16 shows, it is fuelled by jealousy. There are actually two movements that find each other in a common goal: to get rid of Moses and Aaron. The first group is Korah and his followers. They resent that Aaron alone can be the high priest. They feel that they should be able to take that position as well. Their reasoning: all in the congregation are holy. The other group is led by Dathan and Abiram, who are from the tribe of Reuben. They oppose Moses as leader. Isn’t Reuben the oldest son of Jacob? Moses recognizes that two groups are involved. He tries to reason with Korah and his followers. Consider how privileged you are already as priests. Why are you not satisfied with what you have? When it comes to Dathan and Abiram, Moses summons them, but they refuse to recognize his authority. Moses then refers the judgement to the LORD. Korah and his followers have to appear before the LORD in the tabernacle. As they do, fire comes down and consumes them. With regard to Dathan and Abiram, Moses orders the people to withdraw from them. The earth opens up and swallows them alive. The LORD confirms that Moses and Aaron are appointed by Him. Let’s not think that we are immune to jealousy. The Spirit warns us not to follow Korah (Jude 11) and perish as he did. Instead, the Lord calls us to obey our leaders and submit to them (Heb 13:17). Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the leaders He gives. Ask for His grace to obey and submit to them. Pray for those who are charged with oversight over our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 16 – How to live as God's people in God's land

When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you… – Numbers 15:1 Scripture reading: Numbers 15:1-10; 37-41 This chapter may seem out of place. It is about sacrifices and not about Israel’s travels. However, it is in place! The journey through the wilderness is also a time of learning. In fact, there is something very amazing about this chapter. In the previous chapters, we read about Israel’s rebellion, God’s punishment and Moses’ intercession. Now, look at how this chapter opens: “When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you,” Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t this speak of God’s willingness to forgive? He seems to have forgotten about the previous rebellion. He has thrown Israel’s sin behind His back. He will bring them in, but they certainly need to learn how to live with a holy God. This chapter points to several aspects to be kept in mind. The regulations about sacrifices stress the need to be totally dedicated to the LORD. The laws about unintentional sins highlight the urgent call to repent. Yes, we fall into sin, but we should not continue to live in sin but return to the LORD and ask for mercy. The law about breaking the Sabbath reminds them that they have to observe the day of the Lord and keep it holy. The tassels in their garments teach the people that every aspect of their lives is to be ruled by the commandments of the LORD. What a gift that God forgives our sins in Christ. Now He calls us to a life of thankful service. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that He removes our sin as far as the east is removed from the west. Pray for His grace to serve Him in thankful obedience. Ask for the Spirit to help us serve God in all aspects of our lives. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 15 – Two reports

Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. – Numbers 14:9 Scripture reading: Numbers 13:25–14:10 The events of these chapters mark a turning point in the travels of Israel. Israel has to turn around and go back into the wilderness. She will have to spend 40 years in the wilderness. A whole generation will die; they will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Hebrews 3 uses this as a warning, lest we think that we can enter without showing faith! Israel has come to the border of Canaan. Twelve men are sent to inspect the land. The LORD allows His people a foretaste of what is to come. However, instead of making the people more eager to go in, it causes a rebellion and subsequent punishment. What is the case? There are two reports, one by ten spies and the other by two. Both reports agree that the land is good, that the produce is amazing and that the people are powerful. But they come to opposite conclusions. The majority report says: we cannot do it. These giants are too much for us. Doesn’t this sound realistic? The minority report says: we can do it. It will be possible. These giants are a piece of cake. Does this not sound unrealistic? What is the difference between these reports? The majority report looked at the fact from a human perspective. The minority report saw the fact in light of God’s promises. Which of the two reports was realistic? Facts have to be judged in the light of God’s promises. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for giving His promises. Ask for wisdom to judge facts in the light of these promises.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday January 14 – Put away all envy

Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? – Numbers 12:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 12 “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1) Envy is dangerous; it destroys relationships, careers, even lives. Envy is one of the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians 5:21. Envy can involve possessions, but also positions, as Numbers 12 shows. The people of Israel had to learn that the LORD uses leaders to guide and protect them. They had to respect and obey these leaders. It took some time to learn this because, by nature, we would rather be our own master. Aaron and Miriam become jealous of Moses’ position. Miriam seemed to take the initiative in this. Aaron joined her. They begin with putting Moses in a bad light by mentioning that Moses had married a non-Israelite. Once they gain popular support, they come with the real point: Why should Moses alone be the leader? They are envious of his position. Moses reacts in the right way. He leaves it in the hands of the LORD. The LORD steps in and makes very clear that Moses is His servant. When you attack him, you are in fact attacking the LORD. Note how highly the LORD speaks about Moses as His servant. In punishing Miriam, the LORD shows that He supports and defends His servants. Moses has to intercede for his sister and he did. In this way, the LORD calls His people to respect their leaders and submit to them. He governs us through their hand. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for the gift of leaders. Pray that the Lord may give them His grace so they can fulfil their task. Pray for strength to fight against envy and jealousy.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Sunday January 13 – Is the Lord’s hand shortened?

Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! – Numbers 11:29 Scripture reading: Numbers 11:1-15; 24-29 It doesn’t take long for the people to show their true nature again. They grumble. They are not happy with their food, the manna. They crave the food of Egypt. As if Egypt was a holiday resort! Grumbling distorts one’s view. It is a denial of God’s work of redemption. As a result, the LORD is angry with His people. Israel’s grumbling leads to another crisis. Moses feels that he cannot do it anymore. Grumbling is contagious, for Moses also becomes a grumbler! He even questions God’s ability to provide. The LORD assures him that His hand is not too short. He can and will do what He says. The LORD first solves the leadership crisis. He gives Moses seventy helpers. Some of the Spirit given to Moses was enough for seventy men. Next, the LORD deals with the people. He grants them what they demand, but it becomes their punishment. They eat the quail the LORD sent but die with the meat between their teeth. Coveting leads to death. This chapter shows the danger of grumbling. The Spirit warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:10 not to grumble. How can we fight this inclination? Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Moses realizes this too and expresses the longing for the day of Pentecost to come. The hand of the LORD is not too short in that His Spirit changes our grumbling hearts into hearts that rely on God alone. Each Sunday He is at work to do this! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that His hand is not shortened. Thank Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pray for strength to fight against grumbling. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Saturday January 12 – God shall arise and by His might put all His enemies to flight

Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered. – Numbers 10:35 Scripture reading: Numbers 10:11-36 The day of departure has come! The ark, the throne of the King of kings, is leading the way. Whenever the ark was lifted up, Moses said, “Arise, LORD, let your enemies be scattered, and your foes flee before you.” When the ark stopped, he would say “Return, O LORD to the countless thousands of Israel.” These words have a war-like tone. The journey is not a holiday trip, but part of God’s plan to destroy the power of the enemy and give His people peace in His kingdom. This is part of the war mentioned in Genesis 3:15! King David saw his task in fighting the wars of the LORD in this light as well. In Psalm 68 Israel rejoices in the victory given by the LORD. Note that the Psalm begins with the words of Numbers 10:35. The wars King David had to fight were not for personal gain, but also part of God’s plan to destroy the kingdom of darkness and establish the kingdom of light. Interestingly, the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8 refers to Psalm 68, when he describes the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. As His people, we share in this victory. The Lord gives office-bearers so we may share in His victory. Going back to Numbers and the words of Moses, they were a prophecy of the victory of Christ and therefore we still sing them today with Moses and David as we look forward to the complete victory of our King. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the victory of Christ. Pray that His Kingdom may come, when God will be all in all. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Friday January 11 – The trumpet shall sound

They shall be a reminder of you before the LORD. – Numbers 10:10 Scripture reading: Numbers 10:1-10 The LORD commands Moses to make two silver trumpets. These trumpets function in the covenant relationship: the LORD calling His people and the people calling upon Him. In the first place, the trumpets are to be used when the LORD calls together leaders of the congregation or the people as a whole. In the Bible, the voice of the LORD is often connected to a trumpet. His voice is like the sound of trumpets. By means of these two trumpets, the LORD reminds His people that they have to follow His voice. Their travels are directed by the voice of God. The second use of the trumpets is when the army is going out to war and on feast days. In these instances, the trumpets express the voice of the people. It says that they shall be a reminder of Israel before the LORD. That means: He will hear the trumpets, remember His promises and help or bless them. Of course, the LORD does not forget, but He loves it when His people appeal to Him on the basis of His promises. We no longer hear trumpets as the LORD calls us, nor do we use trumpets to call upon the LORD. The Lord comes to us in an audible voice and we may call upon Him with our voices (see Hebrews 12:18-25). What a blessing to live in this wonderful communion with our Lord as we are on the way to the day when the trumpet will sound. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for calling us by His Word and for giving us the freedom to call upon Him. Pray for wisdom to pray in a way that is pleasing to God.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 10 – The Lord leads his people

At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. – Numbers 9:18  Scripture reading: Numbers 9:15-23 The journey through the wilderness will not be easy. The LORD makes sure His people know that He leads the way. He does this by the cloud of glory. It had filled the tabernacle after it had been set up (Exodus 40). The cloud is the assurance that the LORD Himself is present in His glory. When the cloud lifts, the people have to break up camp. When the cloud settles down the people have to camp. The LORD leads the way, knows the way and He will provide on the way. This means the people need not worry. Yes, the journey will have its challenges, but the LORD is leading. They will not get lost. Not only do the people have to trust in the LORD, they also have to obey Him. They may not travel to the Promised Land finding their own way, but have to follow the LORD wherever He leads them. They have to keep in step with Him. The coming chapters will show that both, trusting and obeying, do not come naturally. As we travel, we too need to know we are not alone. God’s glory is now revealed in Jesus Christ. He has promised that He will never leave us. His Word and Spirit are with us. This gives us confidence as we travel. He knows the way, He is the Way. We have to follow Him, that is, we have to obey Him. Follow the Lamb wherever He leads us. Trust and obey! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for leading His people. Pray for His grace so that we trust and obey, also when the path may seem difficult or we see no end in sight. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 9  – The first anniversary

Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. – Numbers 9:2 Scripture reading: Numbers 9:1-14 One year has passed since the people left Egypt. It is time to celebrate the first anniversary, to rejoice in the power of God’s redemption. In fact, the LORD wants it to be celebrated every year. The memory of His redemption has to be kept alive. The people need to be reminded of the reason why they are traveling. This applies to us as well. Do we know why we are sojourners? Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the Lord reminds us of the start of the journey as well as the destination. The call to celebrate the Passover leads to problems.  Some Israelites cannot join the celebration because they are unclean. It is important to note that the situation was caused by things beyond their control and not by unwillingness. Moses brings the matter to the LORD. The LORD recognizes the problem and responds to it. He allows for a second celebration a month later. The LORD realizes that we live in a broken world. At the same time, this is not an excuse for an easy way out. If they would not celebrate during the second month, they will be cut off from the people. Excuses may not be used as a cover-up for unwillingness! How do we apply God’s commands in a broken world?  We read in Philippians 1:9: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of redemption and wisdom. Pray that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and discernment.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 8 – Walk in the light of life

When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand. – Numbers 8:2 Scripture reading: Numbers 8:1-4; Exodus 25:31-40 Among the various preparations for traveling onward, we come across an instruction about the lampstand. It is connected to the consecration of the Levites since they are the ones to care for the lampstand. The lampstand resembled a blossoming tree and symbolized the tree of life. The Tabernacle signifies the gracious restoration of Paradise. The lamp was also a source of light, thus representing the blessing that in the darkness of this sinful world, the LORD continues to give light, His revelation. In Exodus 25 and 37, you can find instructions on how to make the lampstand. In Numbers 8, the emphasis is on the use of this lampstand. It was placed on the north side of the Holy Place opposite the table of showbread. The priests would go between these two on their way from the main altar to the altar of incense. They needed light to be able to see as they walked to the altar and back to the people. Thus, the lamp was essential for the functioning of the priests, for the functioning of the covenant of grace. As the people are getting ready to move on, the LORD reminds them that they can travel onward, when the priests are able to walk in the Holy Place. The Lord Jesus fulfills the lampstand. He is the light (John 1:4), for He reveals the glory of God. We can only journey onward when we walk in the light of His grace. Let him who has an ear, hear! Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the life and light we receive in Christ. Pray that we may walk in the light of His face, with our ears open to His Word. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Monday January 7 – Regular voluntary contributions

…and the chiefs offered their offerings before the altar. – Numbers 7:10 Scripture reading: Numbers 7:1-11; 84-89 Not only is this a long chapter, but it is also repetitious. All the leaders of the tribes offer gifts and they all give the same. Do not take the repetition as a lack of originality. It reflects the thankfulness of the leaders for the ministry of atonement and their desire that it can continue. The description of these gifts, though it may seem repetitious, shows the overflowing thankfulness of the people for God’s grace. The whole nation is involved. We learn that the giving was done willingly. It was, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:7, an act of grace. In addition to this, the contributing was done with a purpose. All the gifts were useful for the service of the LORD so that the people could travel onward with the LORD in their midst. Note the way the chapter ends, the covenant fellowship can continue. Contributing is essential to God’s people. It is a result of the grace given us in Christ. We were bought, not with gold and silver, but with His precious blood. When we give, we do so out of thankfulness that He Who was rich became poor for us (2 Corinthians 8:9). When we give regularly it shows that the LORD is part of our lives. It is voluntary, for the Lord loves the cheerful giver. We give so that God’s work may continue. We may give according to the measure in which He has blessed us. Do we excel in this work of grace? Suggestion for prayer Thank the Lord for His gifts of redemption in Christ. Pray that we may excel in this act of grace.  This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Sunday January 6 – Threefold blessing

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them. – Numbers 6:27 Scripture reading: Numbers 6:22-27 These words are familiar. Perhaps you will hear them today at the end of the worship service, as the blessing. They are an important and wonderful part of meeting the LORD in worship.  The LORD puts His Name on His people. We cannot travel onward without the blessing of the LORD. The formulation of the blessing is truly beautiful. It consists of three lines, each one a bit longer than the previous. Each line begins with the name of the LORD, I AM WHO I AM. And at the end of it all, we hear: peace. Our God is an overflowing fountain of blessings. He says that He will keep us. The second line affirms that, in His grace, He makes His face to shine on us. That is stressed even more in the third line: the LORD looks upon us and gives us peace. Life is restored by Him. We need not be afraid. The priest had the wonderful task to proclaim this blessing to the people. The people could go home in the assurance of this blessing. Today we receive this blessing as a result of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. It is therefore not a wish, but a proclamation of His grace, to be received in faith. We can travel onward each new week knowing that the LORD’s name is upon us: the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. What else can we say but: Amen! Suggestion for prayer  Thank the LORD for His wonderful blessings: His care, His face shining on us and the peace we receive. Pray for His Spirit to help us walk in the light of His countenance, to seek the comfort of His grace each day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Saturday January 5 – The vow of the Nazarite

Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. – Numbers 6:5 Scripture reading: Numbers 6:1-21 An Israelite could make a vow and for a certain time separate himself to the LORD.  Numbers 6 gives the requirements: he had to stay away from anything that could intoxicate him, not cut his hair and not touch anything dead. If somehow he made a mistake, he had to start again. The beginning and end were marked with sacrifices. We know from the Bible of life-time Nazarites, e.g. Samson, but this chapter deals with people who made a temporary vow. They could dedicate themselves to the LORD. The Nazarites symbolized that Israel is a holy nation, a kingdom of priests.  What did these three requirements mean? Alcoholic drinks were forbidden because when the Spirit of the LORD rules one's life, then there is no room for other “spirits”. Letting one's hair grow indicated that one has no control over his own life; his strength lies in the LORD. Because death is connected to sin, any contact with death had to be avoided to remain holy. Do these requirements not describe how we are to live as Christians? We are to be holy for the LORD. Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), but be sober-minded (1 Peter 1:13). Let the Lord rule every aspect of your life, including your outward appearance (1 Peter 3:3-4). Flee from the corruption of sin (Hebrews 12:1). See also the marks of the Christian in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. In Christ, this is our permanent calling. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the blessing of being sanctified in Christ. Pray for His grace to live holy lives, to be filled with His Spirit, to be ruled by Him and abstain from sin. Ask for wisdom about how to live holy lives each day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Friday January 4 – How to deal with sin?

…that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell. – Numbers 5:3 Scripture reading: Numbers 5 The holy God is pleased to dwell among Israel. However, there can be things that threaten the holiness of the camp. Human beings are sinful by nature. The LORD recognizes this and gives means to make sure the camp is not defiled. Chapter 5 mentions three situations: defilement, transgression and distrust. Not only does the LORD point out the wrong – which is a blessing in itself already – but He also gives a way of dealing with it. The first situation involves bodily uncleanness. The unclean person is to be put outside the camp for a time. The second situation is when a person realizes he has sinned. Then restitution has to be made. The third involves the relationship between a husband and wife. The procedure to deal with this has nothing to do with spells or magic, but if the wife is accused and cannot prove her innocence, then the LORD allows her to prove her innocence by this ceremony and so trust can be restored. With these ceremonies, the LORD teaches His people what sin does: it defiles, breaks faith and undermines mutual trust. What a blessing to know that with Christ is full forgiveness because He died outside the camp. The defilement of our sin was taken away by Christ. Whereas we break faith, Christ kept the commandments of God perfectly and so restored us to God. He allows us to rebuild trust in our relationships because of His sacrifice. Forgiveness is a treasure in the church. Suggestions for prayer Thank the LORD that He points out our sin and provides complete forgiveness. Ask for strength to admit sin and fight against it. Ask for His grace to build trusting relations and for help if this trust is broken. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Thursday January 3 – You are a holy nation

They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. - Numbers 3:8 Scripture reading: Numbers 3:1-16 and 4:46-49 Yesterday, we saw the layout of Israel’s camp: God is in their midst. However, God is a holy God and His people are a sinful people. How can a holy God live among a sinful people without the holiness of God being insulted and the people being destroyed by His wrath? We find the answer in chapters 3 and 4: the function of the Levites. The Levites were set apart by the LORD to serve Him in a special way. Looking at the camp again from a bird’s eye view, we see this function of the Levites in the layout of the camp. The Levites were located around the tabernacle, between the tabernacle and the people. God provided a layer of protection between Himself and His people. The Levites had to guard this special relationship so that the covenant fellowship could go on. When they did their duty faithfully, Israel could live from the blessings of the LORD and the LORD would receive the praise of His people. The Levites were a living reminder that Israel is a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). The Levites were also a gift of grace. Israel could enjoy the rich blessings of God’s presence because of their ministry. Today, we no longer need Levites to serve us since we have the perfect High Priest at the right hand of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are a holy nation so that we now may live for Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the gift of the Great High Priest. Ask Him for His grace to live as His holy people and proclaim the wonders of Him Who called us out of darkness into His light. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Wednesday January 2 – Decently and in good order

The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side. – Numbers 2:2 Scripture reading: Numbers 2 Would it not be wonderful to have a bird’s eye view of the camp of Israel? Numbers 2 describes the specific directions the LORD gives for the arrangement of the camp of Israel. Each tribe and clan receives its designated place. Yes, there is a place for everyone. Because they are God’s people, the camp has to reflect His character. He is a God of order. For this reason, both the setting up of the camp as well as the breaking up of it is to be done orderly. This is one of the reasons why Reformed churches value order in the church (see Belgic Confession, Article 32). Another element that stands out when overlooking the camp is that all the tribes are located around the Tent of Meeting. This tent represents the presence of the LORD. Israel is set apart from other nations because the LORD God dwells among them. Isn’t this the blessing of God’s covenant? This blessing has become even richer in the New Testament church with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Lord dwells among us with His Word and Spirit. This is the miracle of His grace! The Lord is the center of the church. We live from God, He is the fount of every blessing. Everything we do is because of Him and for Him. Where He dwells, things ought to be done decently and in good order. The church can only remain church when the Lord is in the center. Suggestions for prayer  Thank the Lord for His willingness to dwell among us. Ask that as churches we remain faithful to the Lord and His Word. Pray that the order of the church may be used to promote harmony and unity. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelphand also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....

Daily devotional

Tuesday January 1 – Introduction, and the LORD counts Israel

The Book of Numbers describes the travels of the People of Israel from Sinai to the Promised Land. The LORD is bringing His people into His land, the land already promised to Abraham. The book does not mention all the events of this time period, but rather offers a selection. These 40 years are formative years for the people. As Israel travels, it learns, grows and develops. This explains the combination of historical material and ceremonial laws. As the LORD is leading them, He is also teaching them, teaching them how to live as His people in His land. The title “Numbers” is derived from that fact that people were counted twice. The first counting is in the first chapter of the book and another one is at the end of the book, chapter 26. These two countings represent two generations. The first involves the generation that left Egypt but was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief (see Hebrews 3 & 4). The second represents the new generation who will be allowed to enter Canaan. The Book of Numbers speaks of God’s covenant faithfulness in spite of man’s disobedience. Numbers is very relevant for us today. The New Testament uses the image of traveling or sojourning, to describe the life of the church in this world. We are called sojourners in 1 Peter 2:11. Also in Hebrews 3 and 4, a direct connection is made between Israel in the wilderness and the church in the New Testament. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are on the way to the Promised Land, the New Jerusalem. God’s people can only go forward when they trust and obey the LORD. May the devotions of this month encourage us in our travels. The LORD counts His people  All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. – Numbers 1:45 Scripture reading: Numbers 1:1-19; 44-46 The Book of Numbers begins with the LORD instructing Moses to count the men twenty years and older. The total number is 603,550. This may not seem the most exciting way to start a book. Yet, this chapter is important in the context of God’s work. Note the following: The counting: Parents tend to count their children when they go on an outing. It shows their concern that all are included and cared for. The LORD, having redeemed His children by His grace, makes sure they are all accounted for. The number: It describes the wonders of God’s faithfulness. His promises to Abraham are being fulfilled; these are all Abraham’s descendants. The organization: God’s nation is an organized people. The census goes according to fathers’ houses, clans and tribes. God’s covenant continues from generation to generation. The age: The fact that men 20 years and older were counted points to an army. The expression “those able to go to war” shows this too. This nation is the army of the LORD, enlisted in His battle. Our LORD is King. These elements are important for us as well. Our King, the Lord Jesus, is leading us in 2019. He counts us, making sure not one stays behind. He is faithful to His promises and uses our families in His gathering work. He calls us all to put on the whole armor of God. He, Who counts the stars and knows their names, knows us by name and leads us onward. Suggestions for prayer As we look back, we thank the LORD for His unfailing love and care over His people and over our lives. Looking ahead, we pray for strength to serve the mighty King of kings in the New Year. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Douwe G. J. Agema is currently minister of Living Word Canadian Reformed Church in Guelph and also teaches several courses at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers’ College....