Today’s reading encompasses caring for the temple, jealous husbands, Nazirite vows, Temple dedication and preparation.
One of the problems that occurs to me as I reflect on the reading and on the history of Israel throughout the book of Numbers is their many rebellions. Rebellion isn’t much of a surprise to me, not as well as I know my own heart. But the shear knowledge that for forty years, every single day the Israelites would look outside their tent and see the glory of God in smoke or fire resting on the tabernacle. Then they would go out and gather up the Manna which God had given for them miraculously. Then they would rebel by grumbling with some degree of regularity. They did not rebel because they couldn’t see the raw evidence of the God they were serving and should have been seeking. They rebelled for the same horrible reason that I rebel. Wickedness.
God be gracious to me a sinner!
Continuing on through numbers we come to a passage that has, for me, defined the book of Numbers. It isn’t an explanation of the book of numbers but rather a highlight of God’s heart. In the twelfth chapter Moses is attacked by Aaron and Miriam concerning his Cushite wife. The center of their attack was aimed at Moses’ spiritual authority to lead. But it is God’s commentary on the situation that has forever captured my attention.
Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. – Numbers 12:3
Now personally I’m a little miffed at the ESV translators here for messing with my favorite verse. Yes it’s true that עָנָו can mean “meek” as well as humble. Yet it is Moses’ humility that got the Lord’s attention. Not being a Hebrew scholar (still way too weak in that area) I can’t argue the point beyond personal preference but it gives me reason to pause and dwell on the verse a bit longer than time permits. Ah well, moving on…
Sadly the people of Israel did not move on. Moses sent spies into the land and 10/12 of them turned against the Lord and incited the people of Israel to rebellion. The book of wanderings might have ended here but because of hard hearts and absent faith the people of Israel had to endure 40 years of judgment in the desert while a new generation was raised up. Finally they journeyed to enter the promised land, but that journey isn’t going to be without war, wayward prophets, sexual temptation and struggle. It sounds a lot like our own lives.
Psalms 36-42 comprise another wonderful set of hymns. Contrasting the wicked and the righteous, relishing in the promise of God’s deliverance, meditations on the brevity of our own life against the eternity and holiness of God.