April 15: What We Know After 40 Years of Wandering

Read Numbers 33

The wandering was done. That pointless, sin-induced 40-year trip from wilderness to wilderness. It was time to send in the Israelites. Time for them to claim the promise.

The one their parents had forsaken with fear and betrayal when they believed the ten men who told them it wasn’t going to work.

I read these fifty-six verses and think how difficult it is for me to pronounce the names of so many of these places God led them through.

It started the day after the Passover.

On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn. (vv3-4)

Their wandering journey started with the clear movement of God’s hand on their behalf. The unmistakable saving grace that He granted. The amazing and all-powerful work of God the LORD.

I wonder what it was like for Moses as he recalled every place they had travelled through. Every stop they had made along the way.

Did each name bring back memories, whether good or bad? As Moses penned each one, did he remember details, colors, smells, feelings?

As we read through this summary to the end of these wilderness wanderings, we might sum up the journey with three simple points about God.

1. God sees. He walked His children Israel through every piece of that wilderness. He never left them to fend for themselves. Continually provided, even in their ingratitude.

2. God wanted His people to never forget the journey He had brought them through. Every step those fathers took through that wilderness wandering was noted and important along the journey to the promise. Even in the wandering, God used every step to reveal Himself as holy and purposeful and faithful and good.

3. Complaining is a big deal to God. He takes it personally when His people grumble against the leaders He provides. Or whatever He provides. Because He alone is the Provider. When God’s people complain, He views it as an affront to His very Name. The I Am. The LORD.

The fact that God had Moses record all these things reveals something of its importance to us as well. The Israelites’ 40-year journey through the wilderness changed the course of an entire nation. And it changes us today.

Because we can learn from their mistakes. We can rejoice in their promise. We can rest in the Presence of God with us.

brw

April 14: Moses’ Legacy

Read Numbers 27

A new day was dawning. A new era lay just beyond that mountain. The mountain God would have Moses climb to look over the land he’d led Israel to inhabit. The land he knew he would never set foot on.

Eleazar and Joshua were God’s newly appointed men. The ones who would lead those two million feet into the Land of Plenty, conquering kingdoms for the LORD their God.

Aaron’s son and Moses’ protege.

I wonder what that day felt like for Moses.

To climb that mountain and look out upon that vast land. Knowing he could have had it, if only he’d held back his hand and used God’s holy Word to flow the water from that rock back at Meribah in Kadesh.

What was it like to commission another man to finish the job he had so hesitantly stepped into to. The roll he had been handed by God Himself and grown into over those forty years of wandering with God.

Did he feel excited for Joshua and the rest of the nation?

Moses had watched this generation grow up, been part of their upbringing.

Was he disappointed in himself still?

And what about Joshua? I wonder how Joshua felt taking on this commission for which God had now so clearly chosen him.

Did he wish it were different? Had he dreamed of stepping into that land next to Moses, his mentor?

Had they talked through specifics on those long walks through the wilderness? Had they trained for all the ways Joshua might lead? Had they strategized possible battles? Talked about other possible leaders?

No doubt Joshua was ready. He had been trained by the best of the best. The man with whom God spoke face-to-face. The one God had handed His Law to, produced water from rocks through, shown up for, hung out with. There can be no better training.

As desperately as Moses wanted to set foot onto that land, I imagine he was equally excited.

It was time for the people he loved and had led for those four decades to take the kingdom God had promised they would take.

Though Moses would not physically participate in the taking of the land, his legacy would. Because God had called him to it.

What kind of legacy will you and I leave, I wonder? Will it be one for which our children’s children can say “God led us to His place of promise through him (or her)?”

brw

 

April 13: God’s Almighty Sovereignty

Read Numbers 25

“There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. (Rev. 2:14).

Apparently Balaam, the man who got schooled by a donkey, came up with a way for Balak and the Moabites to thwart the Israelites. He couldn’t curse them, but they could curse themselves. “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD” (Num. 31:16).

God’s relationship with His children was covenantal. It means He gives His Word. And they give theirs. Both sides give.

Yes, God is sovereign. But because of His great love for His people, He gave them the freedom to choose for themselves. They could choose to follow Him and His Law and live. Or they could choose rebellion and death.

They chose false gods and worshiped the gods of their girlfriends. God’s chosen, set-apart people, bowed down to the gods of the Moabites and Midianites. When God called Moses and the leaders of His people to put a stop to the madness, the people fell down and repented. But still there was one who was too cool to repent.

Even as the rest of the nation wept for their sin, Zimri paraded his foreign girlfriend through camp. A statement of rebellion that spoke louder than words.

God used Phinehas, and his zeal for the Lord God Almighty to deal with his rebellion. And He used a plague to stop the idolatry.

Still, God worked His plan. Still, He kept His promise. The plague wiped out the rest of those God had said would not enter His Land of Promise. The generation whom God had promised would not enter the land He promised.

Even in the Israelites’ freedom to rebel, God worked His mighty hand to keep His promise. God had prepared a new generation of Israel to enter the land and fulfill His promise.

Almighty God invites us into a covenant relationship with Him as well. He has moved His miraculous saving hand of mercy and provided us with life beyond our imaginings if we will just agree. Believe. Trust Him for that saving grace.

We can choose forever life through Jesus Christ or we can choose our own way and face eternal death.

brw

April 12: The Word of God and The Voice of a Donkey

Read Numbers 22

“Moab was in great dread of the people because there were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel” (v. 3).

It took Israel about forty years to learn exactly whose mercy they were under. But King Balak of Moab and Balaam the prophet did not get the memo. They thought the Lord God served the prophet, not the other way around.

So Balak sent for the Balaam and asked him to speak curses against the people of God. To protect the Moabites from Israel, who was now camping just outside the kingdom.

So when the prophet-for-hire didn’t get God’s approval to go, he sought it again until he got the answer he thought he was looking for. See, Balaam wanted that money from the king. So God sent him on his way with this instruction: “but only do what I tell you” (v. 20).

Little did Balaam know God would actually tell him what to do through the mouth of a donkey. That’s when he got a true picture of the God he was dealing with.

This was God the Lord. The Lord who does not serve any man. Rather, He is the One to be served by all. Man. Beast. Balaam. Balaam’s donkey.

King Balak sent for Balaam because he wanted the power of his words. He thought a man could hold power within his words to curse or to bless. He hadn’t heart the story of God’s plan to provide water with His Word.

The mere stroke of His vocal chords hold the power of life. But God would not use His own voice with Balaam. Rather, He would use the voice of a donkey. Seriously. Balaam spoke with his donkey and gained understanding.

God would speak His Word through Balaam since He knew Balaam was set on doing just the opposite. Since Balaam wouldn’t speak according to God’s command, God made sure his donkey would. “Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me” (v. 32).

You see, Almighty God had the power to stop a man in His plan. And while Balaam had the freedom to go to Balak, God made sure he spoke only blessings on His people not the curses Balak demanded.

We can learn a lot from Balaam and his donkey. Even more than the fact that Mr. Ed was not so far-fetched as we may have originally thought. Most importantly, though, is the fact that God’s Word cannot be thwarted by any man or plan. His Word stands strong and true. And always faithful.

brw

April 11: The Difference Between Mercy and Grace

Read Numbers 21

The route they were on had taken its toll. The only reason they were on it was because Edom refused to let them pass through their country. Going around Edom added about 175 miles to their trip. And the Israelites were cranky.

I wonder why God hadn’t just given them victory over Edom 175 miles back and granted His mercy to just let them pass through.

That was exactly what they needed — God’s mercy. As much as they liked to think it was Moses’ fault or Aaron’s fault that they were where they were, the truth remained — it was God alone who held their future. He granted the victory. He dished out the judgement.

He sent snakes to remind them of His sovereign and merciful ways. For, this time the Israelites themselves recognized their own sin and confessed. God’s judgement forced them to confess their own need for His mercy. “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you” (v. 7).

So God provided a cure. Just like He provided the cure for us. Caught in the consequence of sin and death, God has granted us His mercy through Jesus Christ. For the Israelites, it was a copper snake on a pole for them to look at. All they had to do was acknowledge it and they would live. (v. 9)

For us, it’s Jesus Christ, lifted up for the judgement we ourselves deserve. Taking sin we ourselves have committed. And when we acknowledge Him as the only way to real life, the One true and merciful God, He lets us live.

After He saved them from His judgement, God blessed His people with a spring of water that made them celebrate like they had not celebrated in years.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that mercy is not getting what you deserve while grace is getting what you do not deserve. I believe that rings true here in these verses. After God granted His mercy and did not give the Israelites what they deserved, He gave them abundant flowing water. The gift of grace, which they did not deserve. Because Almighty God is good. And He is full of mercy.

He stills grants His mercy. When we look to Him whom He raised up on the cross  to take the judgement for it, He showed us His mercy. Now He gives us life, real and abundant life.

He gives us grace we don’t deserve. Because Almighty God is still good. And He is full of mercy.

Have you received His mercy? Have you taken Him up on His grace?

brw

 

April 10: The Power of God’s Word

Read Numbers 20

I wonder if Moses had just had enough of dealing with these people. I wonder if, when he found himself on his face at the feet of the Lord yet again, he couldn’t hear God’s actual words. Maybe all he could hear over his noisy, frustrated thoughts was something about a rock and some water.

Did Moses rush out of God’s Presence ready to use God’s hand yet again to prove the Israelites wrong? Had he grown so confident in the job God had called him to that he thought he’d take a step out on his own?

They were in the land near Kadesh. The Wilderness of Zin. We’ve seen this place before. About thirty-seven years ago. Remember the ten spies who scared the Israelites out of believing God’s promise for the land just over the border?

The entire generation of Israelites, who had seen God turn water into walls before letting loose the torrent on their pursuing Egyptian enemies, lost the gift God had promised. Their children would enter the land, but none of them would. Only the two spies who believed God at His word. (See Numbers 13.)

Being back at Kadesh no doubt brought back terrible memories for Moses.

I have to wonder if that pre-empted his frustration. Did that painful remembering trigger Moses’ and Aaron’s dealings with God? Had they finally succumbed to the negative influence these people had been giving?

That they could be so close to the fulfillment of the Promise, converse with God so humbly,  and see His glory with their own eyes then turn around and disobey God seems hard to grasp from this side of the story.

God told them to speak to the rock in front of the Israelites. He said His Word would give water for their thirst. But Moses spoke instead to the Israelites. He used staff to smack the rock rather than trusting God’s Word to do it.

Moses and Aaron chose to ignore the power of the Word of God.

By that same power, that same Word, God provided living water for us hundreds of years later when the Word became flesh and dwelt among mankind. The Word that has the power to heal our lives and give us real and forever life.

Do you trust God’s Word?

brw

April 9: God’s Call

Read Numbers 17

It started long before this. The people complained about the way God did stuff. They wanted meat when all they had was manna. They grumbled when they couldn’t find water. All the people of Israel could see was what they did not have. 

The seed of discontent had been growing for a long, long time. It had taken root among the people and grown into disbelief that landed them a 40-year trip around the desert until their entire generation died off. (See Numbers 14.) It went through Miriam. Then Aaron. It took the form of gossip and grumbling about the way Moses led.

When Korah and Dathan took hold of that seed, they convinced others to join the discontentment camp and spread jealous disregard for God’s calling on Aaron. His call to serve God in His tabernacle as a priest. So God opened up the earth and swallowed Korah whole. He cleared the camp of the discontent leaders by moving His hand.

Still, the people grumbled. They blamed Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the people of the LORD” (Num. 16:41). As if they could pull that one off!

In all truth, God did not need to prove Himself to anyone. He had shown His miraculous and almighty hand more times than the Israelites could count. Still, he would affirm His choice of Aaron before this discontent bunch. “(T)he staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you” (v. 5).

Twelve men marked twelve staffs and laid them before the ark in which God Himself abided. And God delivered more than His promise had revealed. “The staff of Aaron for the house of Levi . . . sprouted . . . put forth buds . . . produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (v. 8).

Not Moses. Not Aaron. God was the One who’d chosen Aaron for the priesthood. A gift to Aaron and his family, to serve in front of His altar. The holy place where generation after generation would go to make atonement for the people.

It had been God’s choice alone.

God is still the One who chooses His servants for service, gifting each according to His purpose. And that gifting comes by His Spirit which He gives when we trust Him as Lord. Each calling, every gift for the glory of Himself.

How has He gifted you? Are you letting Him use it for His glory?

brw

April 8: What Korah Didn’t Know

Read Numbers 16

I can almost hear Moses talking to Korah and his rebel friends. You think I put myself in this role?!? You think I chose this job?!? Why in the world would I choose to lead you ungrateful, pride-filled people who constantly complain against me and whine?

Korah and the Levites had been set apart from the rest of the people. Separated for God’s work. To keep charge of the tabernacle. It was an awesome job, indeed. But Korah wanted more. He liked the idea of being in charge so he got some other Levites and leaders from around the camp and planned a coup.

They figured the job God had given them wasn’t enough.

If we are completely honest, most of us would admit having felt that way too.

You’re a mom who stays home with her small children, serving God by changing diapers, wiping noses, playing Go Fish thirty times a day. But you see another mom serving Him in a more prominent way. Maybe she leads a Bible study or writes bestselling books and goes on worldwide speaking tours.

You are recently retired, called to mentor young men in a Grace Group. But you’ve seen other retirees who seem to be changing the whole world in one fell swoop.

You lead a small lunchtime Bible study at work where you’ve seen God work. But your friend’s Bible study spawned another, then another, and now the whole company is experiencing spiritual revival.

It’s easy to forget that we were called by God, not ourselves. We lose sight of the truth that God alone is the One we serve. Not ourselves. He is the One who calls each of us according to His purpose and for His glory alone.

If Moses had appointed himself the leader, if Aaron had made himself the priest of Israel, then Korah’s plan would have totally worked. They could have grabbed the job of priests and run with all the authority they demanded. 

But God was the One doling out the leadership. He was the One who had given Korah and his family the job of surrounding the tabernacle. He alone had called each and every leader and given them the exact job He wanted to give.

So it wasn’t up to Korah to be used by God in a more prominent role. It wasn’t up to Dathan to take on a job with more power. It was up to God.

The same is true for you and me. The question is: Do you believe it?

brw

April 7: When God’s Name Was at Stake

Read Numbers 14

God was ready to wipe them out and just start all over.

But Moses reminded Him what this whole thing was about. His Name and nothing else. It had been about His Name when the people complained about what they did not have. And later when Korah and the 250 men rejected their positions and wanted more. Yes, coming into the Promised Land, the delivery of God’s promised gift was about His Name, and His Name alone.

Moses’ heart stood steadfast knowing that this was entirely God’s deal. From the promise He gave Abraham to the leader He chose in Moses and now to this — the scary sons of Anak who needed to be displaced, God has had this thing all along.

So Moses stood firm as he reminded Almighty God that His name was at stake. “Now if you kill this people . . . then the nations who have heard your fame will say, ‘It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness'” (vv. 15-16).

That’s when a most amazing thing happened. God the I Am pardoned the Israelites according to a man’s word. (See v. 20.) He did not obliterate this generation of Israel. Rather, He sent them back into the wilderness where they would raise the next generation. The next generation who would enter the land they had been so scared to possess.

“But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected” (v. 33)

It’s crazy how easy it is to forget whose gig this is.

He promised abundance in our lives, but we lose jobs and suffer great losses so we throw up our hands and figure the promise is only for later. For someday in eternity. While this is true to a certain extent, still Jesus promised us more and better life for even right now. (See Jn. 10:10.) But it looks to be impossible. Non-existent. Not gonna’ happen.

What might happen if we trusted Him to give us that abundance even inside that impossible loss? How might He bless us with more of His promise if we choose to see His mighty hand ready to fight for us and give us that better life? Even right now.

I dare say we’d be living the promise, even as we wait for the Promise of Heaven.

brw

April 6: Forgetting I Am

Read Numbers 13

They were scared. Somehow they knew of Anak, the giant whose sons now inhabited the land the LORD was about to hand them. The land for which He’d so miraculously brought His people out of slavery to possess.

No matter the miracles they had lived through. No matter the eyes of God that had seen them. He had heard their cries for salvation and had come and rescued them for the Promised Land.

These people forgot it all when they saw what stood between them and that land they were promised. They forgot it wasn’t they who were up against it but God.

They forgot His very name. I AM. They forgot He is. He is the One who rescues and saves and leads them by His hand through the impossible. He is the One who hangs out with their leader. The One who leads them by cloud and fire. The I Am who goes with them always.

The people of Israel forgot I Am.

It seems like God was trying to set His people up for a pep-rally of sorts. Like go see what I’m gonna’ give you! Go check out the beautiful, abundance you’re about to come into! I can’t wait for you to see your gift. But they got stuck on the gift wrap. It scared them. They had to get through the scary sons of Anak and the fortified cities. They had to get through battles before they could possess the gift God had promised.

They were too afraid to open the gift. That’s why these people of Israel, the ones in the wilderness, they never took the Promised Land. It was like they got stuck on a piece of tape, so they threw up their hands in desperation and gave up the whole gift. Deeming it unworthy of all it would require to actually open it.

They didn’t trust the Name of the very God who had rescued them from the hand of slavery and bondage to deliver the gift He had promised to give them.

If one of my kids did this, I’m telling you what — I think I would give that gift to someone else. Someone who was willing to get through the wrapping paper, tape and all, because they trusted me enough to know I would get them a gift that was worth it.

Do you trust God for the gifts He’s promised you or are you stuck on the fact that you don’t like the way it’s being presented?

brw