My Bible readings have me in the beginning of this only Book that truly matters, and so I am asking God to help me see the lessons I should be learning from what can sometimes seem tedious study, since so much of the story of the Jews’ time in the desert is filled with specifics about measurements for building the tabernacle, the specific punishments for different crimes, etc. Still, I believe God is showing me some pretty interesting things because I have asked for Him to, in faith.
Reading in the book of Numbers, I tried to see myself in the shoes of the Jews. They might have had the privilege of witnessing God’s miracles and seeing His presence up close–like having manna and water delivered to them out of nothing and seeing God appear in a great cloud and column of fire to guide them, but I have the knowledge of God’s greatest miracle: that He gave His only Son to die for our sins.
Knowing this, can I see my own worries and misplaced concerns about everyday life as the same kind of backsliding that I scoff at when I read about the Jews and their golden calves or whining about being tired of the same kind of food every day? Reading the early parts of Numbers in this way, I have come up with three conclusions I can try to apply to my walk with Christ.
- God keeps His promises
- God said He would rescue the Jews from Egypt and take care of them. But, every time you turn around, the Jews keep wanting to go back to Egypt, back to slavery and harsh taskmasters. However, the Jews don’t remember these negative sides to life in Egypt when they are whining to Moses. All they remember is having a variety of food there and not just manna.
- Don’t we Christians do similar things? Christ promises that He will be with us always. Christ admonishes us to look toward treasures in heaven and not on earth. He wants us to understand that our relationship with Him is what matters most, not the car repair we have to find a way to pay for. And yet, how many times do we fret instead of trusting that Christ also keeps His promises? He brings us through the storms in this life, often not in ways we expected, but usually we can look back and see the good Christ works in the things that happen to us, especially when we approach those things by putting our belief in Him first.
- God doesn’t want us to fail.
- I think it is a mistake to place on an omnipotent God an understanding of emotions that is limited by our human perceptions. In other words, when God gets angry, it is in no way the same as when we humans get angry. There just isn’t a way for us to understand God’s “emotions” unless He chooses to reveal them to us.
- I say all that to propose that the punishments that God metes out when the Jews fall short should not necessarily be seen so much as an anger response as a disappointment that borders on mourning. And what, exactly, is God mourning except the loss of those who fail to have faith in Him despite everything He is doing to show the Jews that He alone is God?
- If God mourned the failure of the people He had chosen to establish Himself as the one and only God of the universe, how much more must he mourn when people reject Christ, or when we Christians reject the lessons Christ worked so hard to teach us?
- The bottom line of the cycle of lack of faith and punishment as the Jews wandered in the desert is the lesson that God does not want us to fail. Think about how many times God allowed the Jews to begin again with their relationship with Him. Then, think about how Christ allows us to awake each morning as a new creature. As long as we acknowledge our sins to Him and repent of them, we get to walk with Christ in the presence of God once again!
- No greater love….
- God wants our BEST.
- Every sin or uncleanness in the book of Numbers requires sacrifices that begin with the offering of the best that the person has to offer. Lambs with no defect, the best grain, the finest incense. Only by giving the very best that a person owned could the person really feel the sacrifice required to make things right with God again.
- The Jews’ relationship with God in the desert always involved barriers. God spoke to Moses directly, who then conveyed God’s messages to the people. Thick, wonderfully made curtains separated the unconsecrated masses from the inner sanctuary, where only the anointed, clean priests could enter to present the best of the best to God to redeem those who had sinned.
- With Christ, the inner curtain has been rent in two! With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and with Christ as our High Priest, we can speak to God directly and know that He is listening and hears us.
- If God wanted the best of what the Jews in the desert had to offer, what do you think He wants from those of us who have chosen to accept the Grace and gift of the Cross? Do you give Christ your BEST every day? Do you at least think about giving Him your BEST?
- If you are wondering what the BEST is for a Christian, begin with a study of the Sermon on the Mount, where Christ expounds what it looks like to be a true citizen of the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t promise that it will be easy, but He does promise to be with us every step of the way.
There are lessons in the Bible for all of us, not just in the New Testament. Even though the Old Testament books include some cultural references and ways of life that are thousands of years removed from modern life, people still retain the same basics of human nature that can bring us closer to God or push us farther apart from Him.
The choice, as always in a fallen world where free will exists, is ours to make. As you study the Bible, remember to ask God to show you ways you can apply what you read in your every day life, no matter how far removed the events you are reading about seem to be from your usual experiences. God keeps His promises. And one of those promises is that those who ask, believing, will receive.