“God can turn your penalty into a blessing,” preached CHC’s executive pastor, Bobby Chaw last weekend.
“Often when you read the Bible, you read Genesis, then Exodus. When it comes to Leviticus, you tend to skip it. When it comes to Numbers, you totally tear it out or erase it, and you go straight to Joshua.”
The church burst into laughter at Bobby Chaw’s comment. The executive pastor was introducing his teaching from the book of Numbers on the weekend of Jun 1 and 2.
Picking up from his early sermon in April on Numbers 1, Chaw shared a timely message from the second chapter of Numbers.
“The Hebrew title for Numbers is Bemidbar, which means ‘in the wilderness’,” he reminded the congregation. Sharing from John 16:33, Chaw went on to explain that Christians can draw wisdom from the book of Numbers to overcome challenges in life.
The pastor set the context by talking about how God instructed Moses to arrange the 12 tribes of Israel around the tabernacle. There were three tribes on each side of the tabernacle and the first tribe mentioned was Judah. Judah received the prime land east of the Tabernacle (Numbers 2:3).
Chaw went on to read from Numbers 1:4-15 where the 12 tribes were listed according to the seniority of Jacob’s 12 sons. Reuben, the firstborn, did not take the first position in the camp, noted Chaw.
“Natural precedence does not determine your place in the kingdom,” he pointed out.
THE LAW OF CAUSE AND EFFECT
How is it that Judah got the prime land?
Traditionally, the firstborn receives the inheritance. “The firstborn, Reuben, committed sexual sin,” Chaw explained, drawing from Genesis 35:22 and Genesis 49:3-4. “Reuben did not deal with the lust of the flesh. That lust became the Achilles’ heel that stumbled him and caused him not to excel.”
He added, “In this world, we are susceptible to temptations. However, when it comes, you have to be careful! You have to be disciplined.”
Chaw went on to explain what the second brother, Simeon, did to forfeit his blessing (Genesis 49:5-7). In Genesis 34:25, Simeon and Levi deceitfully murdered all the men of Shechem out of revenge for their sister Dinah, who had been raped.
“Wrath and anger are not of the Spirit of God. If you entertain wrath and anger, blessing can become a curse,” the pastor cautioned.
Because of their sin, the descendants of Reuben and Simeon suffered the consequences 400 years down the road. They were placed at the south of the Tabernacle, putting them in the same standing as the sons of Jacob’s maidservants. This, the pastor taught, was the work of the universal law of cause and effect.
Chaw reminded the congregation, “Sin has serious and sometimes lasting consequences. As such, we must learn to walk in the fear of the Lord.”
REVERSING THE CURSE
However, Judah, who received the prime land, was not blameless. Chaw shared from Genesis 38:15-16 that Judah succumbed to the lust of the flesh by committing adultery with his daughter-in-law Tamar, and from Genesis 37 that he played a part to plot evil against his brother Joseph. Why did he still receive his father’s blessing?
Romans 6:23 (JUB) states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the grace of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Here is the good news,” Chaw said. “Yes, sin has consequences. The penalty of sin is death and the principle of cause and effect is universal. But you know what? God’s grace is greater. God’s grace is above all!”
Judah grew out of his self-centeredness later in life. When the 12 brothers were in Egypt, the youngest boy, Benjamin, was accused of stealing and had to stay in Egypt. Judah was the only brother who offered to take Benjamin’s place in prison. Because of his new attitude, Judah received God’s grace and his curse was reversed.
Chaw explained, “No matter what your past is like or how messed up you may be, if you can come to Christ in surrender, throwing away your old life, this moment will be a moment a transformation where the grace of God will penetrate your world and turn every penalty into a blessing.”
Another tribe who eventually received a blessing was Levi. Besides giving himself to anger and wrath with Simeon, Levi was part of the children of Israel who worshiped the golden calf (Exodus 32). However, in verses 26-29, Levi was the only tribe who chose God, joining Moses to bring judgment to the disobedient.
“Life’s worst event (referring to the golden calf incident) can often be the moment of transformation,” Chaw encouraged the people. “Previously, the Levites were people full of wrath, but now, their murderous wrath became a holy passion. God harnessed it as an asset in service of Him rather than a liability. Their radical commitment to protect God’s holiness earned them the privilege and responsibility of camping closest to the Tabernacle, which holds the presence of the living God.
Chaw said, “Sometimes, you wish you don’t have a certain weakness in your life. But you know what? If you can learn to be like the tribe of Levi, to get up and cross over to the Lord’s side, God can turn around that liability into an asset for His service. Soli Deo Gloria!”
He quoted Christian teacher and writer Watchman Nee: “A spiritual person is not just born again, but born again and walking in spiritual alignment.”
He added, “Every day, we must make a decision to carry our cross. God is looking for a group of people who will say, ‘Even when no one is following, I will follow Him.’”
Chaw ended his sermons with verses from 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. “The wilderness of life will be a daily decision, but if you choose Christ, His grace is sufficient for you,” was his reminder to the church.