TODAY’S READING: Numbers 33–34
Strategic thinking and Spirit empowerment in missions go hand in hand. Even as a Pentecostal missionary, I have always been friends and partners with Southern Baptist missionaries. A friend used to joke that if all the Pentecostal zeal could be linked with all the Baptist strategy, we might very well be onto something. The history of missions is littered with missionaries doing stupid things and God overcoming it, yet if God can use our stupid ideas, think of what He can do with our smart ones. The record (of God displaying His glory as an invitation to all nations) at the end of Numbers reminds us that God is orderly and strategic. He did miracles in the wilderness. He parted the Jordan and brought down Jericho’s walls, but He also made Moses create a list of all the starting points and campsites (Num. 33:2) and He gave detailed instructions about borders and boundaries (34:2).
God gave thorough details (i.e. strategy) about what must be done in order for His name to be glorified. God’s people were to drive out, destroy, demolish, dispossess, and dwell (33:52–53). Now I doubt Jehovah is as fond of alliteration as the King James translators were, but He was clear: Whatever is of sin and false worship must go. If we do not drive out all that is ungodly, He will do to us as He thought to do to them (33:56). God in this way plays no favorites—all must obey, all must be holy if they are to live under the blessing of the Most High.
Applying these lessons to missions today, the people of God must be completely dedicated to declaring the glory of God among all peoples in God’s way and spirit. God must be faithfully and fully represented. Syncretism is not a faithful representation of God—it’s one of those stupid ideas for which God has no patience. After the Passover, God brought the children of Israel “out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians” (33:3). This statement is repeated throughout the Pentateuch, for God wants the nations to know who He is and that they are invited to join Him. God brought His people out boldly, for He expects the Passover redeemed of the nations today to also come out boldly. All that is false about other religions must be driven out and destroyed and demolished. If we are syncretistic, we will first be harassed by lesser powers (33:55) and ultimately judged by God.
In missions, we must be careful that pseudo-compassion does not lead us to think what is stupid is smart. The nations must boldly come out of their false religions and be displayed as a testimony to other peoples of the glory, power, and wisdom of God. We do not do favors for the Tamil who have come out of India to live in Singapore if we encourage them to stay within the religion of Hinduism. We set them (and ourselves) as opposed to God. God has boldly brought many peoples out of bondage before. He is looking for volunteers to help Him do so again among the Tamil.