Continuing a plan to get through the entire Bible in a year, follow as I journal through the reading. I have chosen a straightforward approach that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. This will not be an in-depth study or a comprehensive commentary. There are plenty of sources for such material. This is stage one Bible reading, taking the text at face value and sharing impressions.
Today’s reading comes from the book of Numbers, chapters 11 through 13, citing numerous flares of rebellion among the Israelites. Some impressions from the text:
- It may be shocking to read that God consumed complaining Israelites with fire. However, the real wonder is that he stopped short of destroying them all. Consider the audacity of their complaint about food. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” That cost nothing? They were slaves! How quickly that part was forgot once they grew hungry for meat. Lest we judge them too harshly, we do precisely the same thing in our own way, complaining that the amazing grace we’ve been shown is somehow not amazing enough.
- Moses’ complaints weren’t significantly better than his people’s. “And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers?” It can be easy to fall into this style of thinking in ministry. Are we really responsible for others, people who we share no familial connection with? The answer lies in the question’s premise. Since God is father of all, we do share a familial connection.
- Regarding the people’s demand for meat, God agrees to provide, saying, “You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him…” This is how God operates. If you want your sin, you can have it. Enjoy. Eat up. And bear the inequity. Deal with the consequences on your own, and see how it works out for you. God’s harshest lessons are taught by letting us have exactly what we want.
- God’s rebuke of Miriam for questioning Moses’ authority may seem harsh, but was in fact a mercy. God states as much when He says, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” If a human father deserves respect, how much more does God? How much worse should be the punishment for rebellion? Yet God offers mercy.
- Caleb dissents from his fellow spies in their report from the land of the Amalekites. The difference between them is that Caleb trusts God, and knows that they fight not as men against men but as God’s chosen nation. The others fear the Amalekites’ height and strength and numbers, because they view their situation through strictly human eyes.
Return soon as we continue our year-long journey through the text of the Bible.
Catch up on the previous entries:
The book of Numbers lives up to its name. – Numbers 1-2
Tests and tributes. – Numbers 5-6
God leads Israel from Sinai into the wilderness. – Numbers 8-10