CH 4 GOD’S TEACHING

Religious teachings conceived in the minds of men tend to neglect the more important matters of law: justice, mercy, and faith. Jesus’ strongest rebuke against the Pharisees was their willingness to tithe on the smallest herb in their gardens, even as they neglected caring for widows. They would readily stone a woman guilty of adultery but forget to include the man. The Pharisees permitted aiding a suffering animal on the Sabbath day but allowed no aid for a man. When Jesus healed a person on the Sabbath, they condemned him. The teachings of the Pharisees added heavy burdens to the law that made life difficult. 

James expanded on Jesus’ thoughts about the more important matters of law when he wrote:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

 God lives by the same faith he expects his people to live by. He set the example of how to live by faith when he brought Israel into the wilderness. No matter how badly Israel behaved, he never left them naked and destitute of daily food. God’s mercy triumphed over Israel’s evil judgment that God is a mass murderer who brought them into the wilderness to kill them.

God brought Israel into the wilderness so they could worship him, but before they can worship, they must embrace the more important matters of law. When God heard Israel grumble about him, he “cut in” on them with his teaching, so they could know him and keep the festival of worship without malice and insincerity.

 GOD’S PLAN

God is eternal, with no beginning and no end. He is not limited to the life span of one man or one generation to fulfill his purposes. From time to time God reveals a part of his nature. When all of the parts are assembled, we will see God clearly and no longer have reason to quarrel.

God’s people quarrel like children because we don’t have all the parts yet. We “know in part” and “see through a glass darkly.”[1] We are growing in the knowledge of God, and will continue to grow until we become mature. When we reach maturity, we will be united in thought, purpose and actions.

Religious leaders who lose sight that we are still growing in the knowledge of God, camp on one truth as the end of all truth, and inhibit the growth of others. Pride and fear prohibits them from adding to the knowledge they possess and they stop growing. Believing they possess all truth, they resist the next part necessary to gain a clearer image of who God is. 

 YOU WILL KNOW

 The LORD said to Moses,  “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.'” Exodus 16:11-12

 Before God gave Israel his law at Sinai, he gave them his teaching, so they could survive as a people. The law Israel received at Sinai was not the end and sum total of who God is. There is another part of God called mercy that Abraham understood and set his hope upon when he had no reason to hope. He died thousands of years before Jesus was born, yet Jesus said, “Abraham saw my day and was glad.” If Israel didn’t accept Jesus, they would stop growing in the knowledge of God, therefore, it was imperative that Israel know how to recognize “the prophet” Moses told them would come.

The Lord told Moses when you “eat meat” and are “filled with bread” you will know that I am the Lord your God. Did Israel remember and know God? Let’s find out by fast-forwarding to the day a remnant of Israel ate meat and were filled with bread. Jesus fed 5,000 with 5 small loaves and the disciples filled 12 baskets with the leftovers. When the people realized what Jesus did, they exclaimed, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”[2]

Their conviction about Jesus came from the writings of Moses or the torah / teachings they received every Sabbath. God’s plan worked so well, the people determined to make Jesus their king by force. Jesus had an odd reaction to their zeal. He told his disciples to leave in the only boat available. Then he hung around until everybody went to sleep, and he left too.

When the people woke up and discovered their king was missing, they searched for him. Jesus promised that anyone who looks for him would find him, but he never promised that you would like what you find. Jesus does not patronize or manipulate.

  When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  John 6:25-26

 When they found Jesus they called him “Rabbi!” What happened to “King?” Yesterday, they attempted to make him their king by force. Apparently, they were perturbed that their king abandoned them in the middle of the night, so now he is just another Rabbi. They looked for Jesus and found him, but they didn’t fool him. They did not want to know when he left. They wanted to know why, so he told them the truth. He left because they didn’t want him. All they wanted was more bread.

If they had wanted Jesus because the miraculous sign told them that he is the “Lord your God” they would not have demanded him to become king before his time. Hundreds of years later, Israel still worshiped according their desires. They still wanted what they had in Egypt, “all the food we wanted,”[3] and they were still willing to bow down to anyone who will give them what they want. This kind of worship makes you a slave. God is looking for people who want to be his children.    

God did not fail when he taught Israel how to know him. Israel failed because they never learned to love his ways. God doesn’t need any body to make him their king. He is King and no one can take that away from him. God desires the same thing we desire; to be loved and accepted for who he is even if he is not who we want him to be.

I thought I loved God after my salvation experience. All it took was one simple command from the Lord to reveal that I didn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find the strength to obey a simple instruction a child could understand and do. Every time I opened my Bible the scripture “if you love me you will keep my commands”[4] convicted me until I was so frustrated I quit going to church.

After many years and much pain, I finally understood that I couldn’t love God until I understood his ways. My failure to obey God was rooted in fear of the unknown. I knew God existed, but so do devils and they don’t love him. I knew that God delivered me, but so did the generation he rescued from Egypt and they perished in a wilderness.

Ultimately, I became angry with Pastors who taught me how to be religious but failed to give me knowledge of God’s ways. I am a true child of Adam and Eve, who blamed others for their personal failures. It’s wasn’t the Pastors’ fault I didn’t know God. I read the same Bible they did.

 HIS WAYS

 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans[5] run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom[6] and his righteousness,[7] and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33

 The use of the word pagans is broader than a group of people who worship many gods. In Jesus day, and for centuries after, Paganism ruled the world. Separation of church and state is a relatively new idea that began with the founding of America. Ancient governments sponsored the worship of many gods and forced their religious views upon its citizens. Christians were considered atheist and persecuted for preaching the worship of one God.

Jesus conveyed the idea that all people are concerned about the necessities of life, but God’s people don’t have to worry. If we seek God’s kingdom, or the royal way he rules and his righteousness, everything we need will be added.

We can understand how God rules royally and in righteousness by examining the way God treated Israel at the Desert of Sin. Righteousness has many definitions connected to it. Some say it simply means you are in right standing with God, which is true but vague. The Pharisees’ concept of righteousness was hear no evil, see no evil and do no evil. Jesus warned us that the Pharisee’s brand of righteousness would not gain us entrance to God’s kingdom. God’s righteousness alone gives us access to his kingdom.

God’s understanding of righteousness can be found in the law he gave to Moses.

 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. Leviticus 19:15 KJV

 In God’s eyes righteousness is treating people with equality. It’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Nations have attempted to give their citizens equality for centuries and for centuries failed. America was founded on the notion that all men are created equal, yet the founding fathers treated men of a different color and women of any color unequal. All human righteousness is a filthy rag compared to God’s hence Jesus admonition to understand God’s righteousness. Human righteousness will never measure up to God’s because we don’t love like God loves.[8]

 GOD’S LAW

 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;        the sinful mind is hostile to [9]God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8

 The Greek word Paul used for law is nomos. Vines Expository Dictionary says nomos means to divide out, distribute,” primarily meant “that which is assigned”; … nomos became the established name for “law” and …is the standard for the administration of justice.”[10]

The only standard for the administration of justice that you and I have a prayer of surviving is the Torah or the teaching given at the Desert of Sin because that is where God taught us how mercy is administered. The teaching Israel received at Sinai is guaranteed to curse and condemn, because that is what happens when we live according to the dictates of law instead of mercy. God gave the people he delivered a way out of the curse of the law before they needed a way out.

 A SIMPLE ASSIGNMENT

This is what the Lord has commanded: Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent. Exodus 16:16

 Mercy is being compassionate toward a person based on their need.[11] It does not matter who the person is or how grievous their sins. Mercy always treats him or her right or with righteousness. Mercy will not withhold what a person needs, because you don’t like the way they look and act. In God’s eyes it is right that everyone has the basic necessities of life, even those who behave badly. Mercy is right and mercy is for everyone.

At the Desert of Sin, God assigned a simple task. The Lord commanded everyone to gather according to his or her need. Then the Lord told his people what they needed; one omer (or one quart) for each person. If there were three people in the tent, gather three quarts.

Is this hard to understand? Is it a difficult thing to do? This is God’s test! God gave Israel a simple instruction. The assignment proved whether they would walk in his teaching or not. The standard by which law is administered is equality because that is how God shows mercy!

Let’s see if the people are content to walk in God’s teaching, to walk in equality, to walk in mercy, or we could say it this way, to walk in the Spirit.

 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. Exodus 16:17-18

 The way this scripture is worded sounds like everyone perfectly obeyed God because each gathered as much as he needed. If you have ever worked with people, you know that they did not, especially these people. They were a stiff-necked people that have not obeyed God from the day he arrived to deliver them.

The key words are “when they measured it.” It did not matter if they gathered too much or if they gathered too little. When they measured it by the quart the one who gathered more than a quart left the measuring tent with a quart. The one who gathered less than a quart left the measuring tent with a quart. The measuring tent enforced equality. If you entered the measuring tent with inequality, you left the tent with equality. The measuring tent guaranteed that God’s desire prevailed in the wilderness. When God gives you will not get more than he wants you to have and you will not get less because you are not greater than God.

This sounds like Communism but its not. Communism was humanities grand effort at equality that failed miserably for several reasons. First, equality must be built on sacrificial love. The leaders of communism forced people to behave through slaughter and intimidation. Second, equality is based on need. One size fits all inhibits the talents and abilities of the strong who create the excess needed by the weak. Third, where there is no love, there is no trust and people will hoard their goods causing others to lack. The leaders of communism had more than they needed while their citizens struggled obtain the necessities of life.

 Then Moses said to them, No one is to keep any of it until morning. However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. Exodus 16:19-20

 What reason does Moses have to be angry? Our anger will not bring about the righteous life or the equality that God desires.[12] Israel’s lack of obedience did not give them more than they needed for one day because the extra rotted. Moses was angry because they paid no attention to Moses. God was not angry. His desire that each man have one-quart daily came to pass regardless of what the people did or did not do.

 TEMPORARY

The horded food spoiled because God wanted his people to eat fresh manna every morning instead of last night’s warmed over leftovers. The distribution of manna taught Israel about mercy.

 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV

 Israel had fresh manna every morning because God was showing mercy and his mercy is new every morning. Does it matter what we do when God meets the needs of all humanity whether they obey him or not? The sun rises on the good and the evil. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.[13] Why not throw a handful of manna in the pot, stretch out on a lawn chair, and watch everybody else work. When you go through the measuring tent they will make sure you have what you need. Go ahead! Reveal to everyone who you really are, and justify God when he removes you from among us because you have not walked worthy of his calling. If that is your attitude, all you will ever have is what you need because mercy is temporary and you do not obey his instructions / teachings.

God did not send an angel to their tent with a quart because welfare does not work. He commanded them to get up early in the morning and gather what they needed. In God’s kingdom you must work if you want to eat.[14] Mercy says if you are too weak God will make up the difference in the measuring tent. If you are too strong, God will not let you glory in your strength because all your extra work will avail nothing when it is measured. If you don’t trust God, everybody will know because your tent will stink in the morning. It’s not our perfection that matters to God but our willingness to obey his instructions to the best of our ability.

Mercy precedes judgment because mercy reveals who we really are justifying God in the eyes of all creation when he judges us. God is not mocked. You cannot abuse his mercy without it costing you. If you choose to be lazy and leach off the hard work of others during seasons of mercy, beware, payday is coming!

 BREAD ALONE

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Deuteronomy 8:3

 The life that I now live in the flesh is possible because God, in his merciful treatment of rebellious people, allows his sun to rise on the evil and the good and his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. We do not live on bread alone because mercy delays but does not stop death. The wages of sin is death and everyone dies once.[15] You will not escape dying once, but you can escape dying twice.[16]

Mercy is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. It gives people time and opportunity to repent. If we don’t make peace with God, one day, God’s mercy will justify God’s judgment against you. Jesus is the bread, the mercy we need to escape the justice of death. He is the only one that can free us from death.

 Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. At this the Jews began to grumble … John 6:35-41

  Like their forefathers before them the Jews were carnally minded, therefore, like their forefathers before them they grumble. They grumbled about Moses, now they are grumbling about Jesus. The people God delivered started grumbling the day God delivered them and never stopped but neither did the manna while they were being disciplined.

God is patient but his patience wore thin by Jesus day. Jesus cannot make the spiritual lessons God taught them at the Desert of Sin plainer.  Why are you so concerned about a loaf of bread that cannot sustain this physical body more than 70 years or so when eternal life comes from me? Jesus is the spiritual food and drink God gave them at the Desert of Sin. He now stands among them in the flesh and he is getting a little weary of their grumbling.

  “Stop grumbling among yourselves,”… John 6:43

 It’s only been 1,500 years of grumbling, enough already. Since they cannot grasp what God has been trying to communicate to them for more than a 1,000 years Jesus said it as plain as he can. 

 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. John 6:48

 Is this all you want! Do you want to live on bread and water, wearing the same clothes until you die in a wilderness? Man does not live by bread alone because the people God delivered had all the bread they needed and still died without receiving the things that were promised. Everyone has what they need for their physical body to live from God’s hand because in his mercy he does not turn off the sun nor stop the rain from falling.

 God has commanded the earth to sustain us contrary to its very nature as a witness of his love and mercy. Creation longs to produce its bounty for people who love God, not the sinners who hate the God who created them. Creation groans under the weight of our sin, longing for a revelation of who the sons of God are.[17]

God determined tares and wheat will grow together until judgment day. There is only one child God publicly acknowledged. Jesus, when he spoke from heaven declaring this is my son whom I love and am well pleased with. Creation does not know who God’s children are because God is showing mercy. That is why the sun shines on the good and the evil and the rain falls on the just and the unjust. But mercy won’t save you unless it leads you to repent and obey God. Even though God is not holding our sins against us at this time, he will not forgive us for the sins we commit against him unless we ask him to forgive us and change our ways by renewing our minds.

Many have abandoned the church because they can’t see past God’s imperfect people. They don’t understand that the corruption we encounter in the church teaches us to stop worshiping Moses instead of God. The Bible talks about people who desire to teach the law but do not understand what they are talking about.[18] They will convince you to do foolish things, like putting choice cuts of beef on your dead Uncles grave lest he die after he die.[19] Their teachings fill people with so much fear they will be afraid to change your ways lest they die. If you are a Christian weary and in misery it is time to shake off the burdens well meaning teachers have placed upon you and rest.

 REST

27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. Exodus 16:27-30

 Worshipping the way the world does is a heavy burden. They will work you to exhaustion and then criticize your best efforts. Some preachers will have a lot of explaining to do when God comes to take his revenge on them for driving people away from him. God’s people are nothing like their God because there is no one like our God.

Moses was angry with his congregation when they hoarded food but God wasn’t. God did not get angry when they failed to gather a perfect quart or that they tried to save some for tomorrow. We don’t see God expressing any displeasure with his people until the Sabbath day and his displeasure was directed at their teacher. The Lord said to Moses, “how long will you,” not “how long will they,” how long will you refuse to walk in my teachings.

If the people are not resting it is the teachers’ responsibility to correct it. No one has entered God’s rest yet. Joshua did not lead Israel into God’s rest. We will enter God’s rest when Jesus returns, until then citizenship is available in God’s kingdom. Not to those who worked but to those who rested to remember Jesus.

 Robinson, George, Essential Judaism, (Pocket Books, New York, New York. 2000)


[1] 1 Corinthians 13

[2] John 6:14

[3] Exodus 16:3

[4] John 14:15

[5] NT:1484 ethnos (eth’-nos); probably from NT:1486; a race (as of the same habit), i.e. a tribe; specially, a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication, pagan): KJV – Gentile, heathen, nation, people.

(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[6] kingdom: NT:932 basilei/basileia (bas-il-i’-ah); from NT:935; properly, royalty, i.e. (abstractly) rule, or (concretely) a realm (literally or figuratively):KJV – kingdom, reign. Ibid

[7] righteousness: NT:1343 dikaiosu/nh dikaiosune (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay); from NT:1342; equity (of character or act); specially (Christian) justification: KJV – righteousness. Ibid

[8] Isaiah 64:6

 

[10] Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words

[11] The Merciful by Wes Thomas, Believers Fellowship, Wednesday August 6, 2003

[12] James 1:20

[13] Matthew 5:45

[14] 2 Thessalonians 3:10

[15] Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27

[16] Revelation 2:11, 20:6

[17] Romans 8

[18] 1 Timothy 1:7

[19] See Surviving the Wilderness Lesson 3, Starting Over, by Teena Myers

About Teena Myers

Teena is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Christian Writers Guild, author of three books and a freelance writer.
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