Are we there yet? Lessons from a forty-year journey
A road trip of many hours frequently elicits the whining question of kids, “Are we there yet?” But what if the trip were not for many hours but for forty years? Would we whine or would we look for important lessons to learn about God and Mankind?
This blog is based on last week’s reading: Numbers 11-36
Numbers–the story of a forty-year journey
What stands out in the book of Numbers? God is gracious but His people are rebellious. God provides everything for Israel’s success but they complain and mess up what could have been a good thing.
See what God gives to these descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After miraculously delivering them from Egypt (Exodus 1-19), He gives them a new beginning with a clear goal to march in and take over the Promised Land. The Lord specifies several kinds of structures to make sure they could function together as a society. These structures include division of labor, order for worship, designated places for camping and marching, and recognized leaders for each tribe and clan. He guides them as to when to go and when to stop. Through Moses, God brought them to the border of the land and sent spies to search out the land.
Meanwhile, the people complain at every turn. The food is boring. Egyptian food was so scrumptious. There’s no water. They rebel against Moses who they see as a pompous tyrant. They hear that the Promised Land is full of giants heavily armed. They refuse to go in, but when God tells them all the adults will die in the wilderness they refuse to stay out.
But God is gracious and faithful to His covenant promises with Abraham and Moses. He hears Moses’ intercessory prayer for the people (Numbers 14:13-19). He still punishes sin and rebellion but provides a bronze serpent and healing for those snake-bitten complainers. He thwarts the evil plans of Balak who hired Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22-24). The Lord kindly allows the nation to go on through forty years of wandering until all the original rebels died and Moses got them back to the border of the land.
Who’s the hero?
At times we see an admirable spirit in Moses as he pleads with God to spare the nation so the Lord’s name would not be mocked. But that would-be hero can lose his cool and strike a rock in self-glorifying anger (Numbers 20:10-13). Joshua stood along with Caleb against the other spies declaring that God would give them victory if they would trust Him. But Joshua was no hero when he jealously wanted to punish a couple of Spirit-filled men who prophesied in the camp (Numbers 11:26-30).
Have you noticed? The only hero in this story is God. Indeed, He alone is the only hero of all human history and of all eternity. To Him alone belongs all glory and honor and praise.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism in question 4 asks, “What is God?” The answer is “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The book of Numbers is the account of a monotonous forty-year journey of incorrigible people who were graciously allowed to experience that God who alone is glorious.
In your long (possibly) monotonous journey, are you learning lessons about God and Mankind?
This week’s reading: Romans; Proverbs 1-5