Jesus at the Center

Read: Numbers 1-2, Mark 3:1-21

As much at it irks me to spell centre the American way (in a title, no less), I fear that today I must since it is a title. It’s the title of a great song that begins like this:

Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be it’s always been You Jesus Jesus

As we start our journey in to the book of Numbers, we read about how God organised His people. First he started the draft. Every able-bodied man aged twenty and over was conscripted into military duty. Then He laid out the map for the camp. Suddenly Israel was no longer a group of former slaves, but they were an army.

In those days, a military camp would have looked similar to a pond after a stone had been dropped in it. The very centre, where the stone fell, would have been the person of highest rank—usually a king. In every subsequent ring would be those of lesser and lesser priority. Should an enemy come to attack the camp, they would have to plow through the entire army before finally getting to the king.

In Israel, things were a little different. There was a tent at the centre of camp. And it did house a king, but not in the expected sense. Central in the Israelite camp was the Tent of Meeting. The Tabernacle. The Holy of Holies. God’s dwelling place. He placed Himself at the very centre of all Israel and then, very deliberately, set His people around Him.

Numbers 2-1-2.jpg

If this is how God insisted Israel organise themselves, it begs the question, where have we placed God in our own lives? Is He at the very centre? Does everything else revolve around Him? Or is He more on the outskirts, more susceptible to being forgotten about or left out of everything altogether?

The song we started with goes on:

And nothing else matters
Nothing in this world will do
Jesus You’re the center
Ev’rything revolves around You Jesus You

We know that God doesn’t change. He wanted to be the centre of everything with Israel and He wants to be at the centre of everything with us. But do we give Him room to be just that? Is He the stone that caused the ripple or is He just something the ripple washes over?

Jesus at the Center © 2011 Integrity Worship Music, Adam Ranney | Israel Houghton | Micah Massey


Read: Leviticus 13, Matthew 26:20-54

Leviticus 13 is probably one of the most disgusting chapters in the Bible. I don’t mean that in a Hey man, that was totally disgusting! (which really means cool) kind of way. I mean it’s gross. It’s an entire chapter on rashes, boils, pus, and other infections that I’d rather not read about in such detail. But it’s important.

In a practical sense, removing from the camp those with infections was helpful to the entire nation. Left to fester, a person could end up infecting a high percentage of the population over a period of time.

In a spiritual sense, we can take away a few things. If we take the concept of an infection and apply it to our spiritual lives, those infections become ideas. Some ideas are good and, like a nasty rash, some are bad and can spread in a hurry. So what can we do?

  1. Identify. Is my perceived issue really an issue at all? Are the ideas rolling around in my head just ideas or are they more? Do they have the potential to create bigger issues down the road if left unchecked? If you’re not sure about some thoughts or ideas you’ve been entertaining, check with the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Once you’ve identified whether a thought is obedient to Christ or not, we can move on.
  2. Incubate. Some ideas never go beyond an initial thought. They come and go. Others may need more time to fully form so that they can be weighed against the Bible. Leviticus describes some skin rashes that either healed over a period of seven days or began to fester and spread. Some thoughts will be brought into line simply by renewing our minds while others may start to get out of control if not reined in.
  3. Isolate. If a thought or idea that you’ve been entertaining proves to be set against the knowledge of God, it’s time to isolate. When a person was found to have an infectious skin disease, they were isolated until they were healed and could once again be made ceremonially clean. If the infection persisted, these people were forced to live outside the camp to prevent the infection from spreading to others. If you find your thoughts leading you astray, isolate them. Take them captive. Don’t entertain them. Don’t spread them.

Leviticus 13:46

Ideas, when they become words, are like an infection. Once they’re out there, it’s pretty difficult to take them back without a great deal of effort and energy. By dealing with issues before they ever get to the contagious stage, we could solve a lot of issues in the church. Our standard always has been and should be the Word of God. If what we think or say is not for God, it is against Him. And it is up to us to keep ourselves and each other in line—even if it means taking the time to correct our thought patterns. Better to live in isolation for while than to have to live outside the camp and fellowship of other believers.

Difficult? Maybe. But we have the mind of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 2:16.


ZEAL: Passionate ardor in the pursuit of any thing, an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object, and it may be manifested either in favor of any person or thing, or in opposition to it, and in a good or bad cause.

Have you ever been zealous about something? If you were, zealous probably isn’t the word you’d use, but zeal is still something we encounter and experience.

In Numbers 25, Israel has—once again—fallen prey to temptation and has been drawn away from God and into the worship of foreign gods. The Lord is mad. M.A.D. Mad. God has ordered that all of the ringleaders be executed in broad daylight. Right after this order has been given, an Israelite man made the less-than-intelligent decision to bring a Midianite woman into the camp. God’s anger is already burning at white hot. The priests share in His rage. Who are these people to deny the God who led them out of captivity, feeds them and provides for them every day for forty years, and wants to bring them into their own prosperous land?

In a fit of passionate zeal, Phinehas, son of Eleazar flees the scene only to return with a spear. In one swift move, he launches the weapon and skewers the man and woman both. This single act stopped the wrath of God within the Israelite camp.

I am in no way telling anyone to find a weapon and take out the next person who sins in your presence, but what if we, the Church, responded in a similar manner to Phinehas when sin enters our camp? I’m not talking about the unbeliever—sinners are supposed to sin. I’m talking about when Christians sin. Yes, we sin. Most people wouldn’t use that word. He stumbled. She’s going through something. Oh, it’s just a season they’re going through. We whitewash our shortcomings and pretend it doesn’t happen.

I know that there is sin in my own life and, after reading this passage, I wonder what would or could change if I went after it as zealously as Phinehas went after the man with the Midianite woman? What would happen if I called out my own sin and slayed it for all to see? What if we all did?

Would the Church be seen less as a gathering of hypocrites and more like a place where everyone is welcome to work out their salvation? We are all works in process, let’s not pretend we’re a finished product. Why not be accountable and hold others accountable?

Call sin what it is. Look at it. Acknowledge it. Get it out of the camp.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 24-27, Mark 8:11-38

Set Out

When was the last time you followed something or someone without question? Do you make a practice of it? Do you avoid it at all costs?

And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people if Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.

Numbers 9:17 (ESV)

No questions asked, when God moved, Israel moved. And this wasn’t just a few people with a couple of animals. It is estimated that over 2 million people fled Egypt with all their animals and belongings. Now, a year later, that number had surely increased.

Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in the camp and did not set out, but when it lifted, they set out.

Numbers 9:22 (ESV)

Can you imagine having just settled 2 million people in a camp and then having to pack it all up and move again? Over and over again, when the cloud moved, Israel moved. No questions asked. After all, this was the very same God who had, just a year ago, delivered them out of Egypt.

When Israel forgot who they were, they got stuck. They became enslaved.

When Israel remembered who they were, they moved. They were free.

When God tells us to move and we move, we are not following blindly – not if we know and understand His Word. When God tells us to move and we move, we are being obedient because we know who we are following and what He is all about.

We have a covenant with God. An agreement that suggests all parties involved have come to an arrangement whereby, if one should not hold up their end of the bargain, the other doesn’t have to either. God’s not going to change. He won’t break the agreement.

When we choose not to follow God, we separate ourselves from our sacred covenant. We forget who we are and become enslaved by things we have no business associating with. But when we remember who we are and the covenant we have with God through Christ, we  are free.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17b (ESV)

We follow God because we know that He has a plan and purpose for us that is far greater than our own. We follow God because we have a book that is filled with His promises for us. We follow God because He loves us and we love Him.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 8-10, Mark 5:1-20