Thursday, January 27, 2011

Numbers - How long till we believe Him?

I’m really surprised to say this – I mean, I’ve read the entire Bible through, so I’ve hit Numbers before, but I suppose I just forget how much non-numbers type stuff there is in the book. It’s still not among my favorites (the book of James reigns on), but I found myself wishing I had more time to digest Numbers than just one lump sitting of it.

Suffice it to say, from Exodus – up to Numbers, so far the kids are still being bad. These children of Israel complain, so God gets mad and kills some of them, the kids repent. Until the next day when they get tired of eating manna all the time and they complain again and we start all over. I’m perpetually amazed that there was anyone left to walk around Jericho much less the large large numbers tromping about killing bulls at the end of this book.

But as I started it… warily… I asked God “Is there anything I’m going to be able to pull out of Numbers? (I stressed “Numbers” in a whiney tone that told God exactly how I felt about this little book.) Fortunately, He’s moved past the immediate killing of whiney-babies and simply stayed quite while I plugged into Numbers *whine* *whine*.

And I'm glad He did because it really is a far better book than people give it credit for.

There were several moments that caught my eye/ear, but one thing really stuck with me.

God led this stubborn, double-minded people all this way to give them the “Promised Land”. They get to the doorstep and sure enough, the spies say it’s everything they hoped for and more. BUT, well, it looks like it would take a miracle in order to get into the land so – obviously – the people start crying and, - honest to goodness – say “It would be better if you had left us to die in Egypt” or even if they had died in the wilderness. Then they immediately try and stone the folks saying they'd win the battle and started planning a return trip to Egypt.

And here is Gods response:

And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? Leviticus 14:11

How long will it be till they believe Me?

It’s a sucker punch. “for all the signs which I have showed them – how long will it be till they believe me?”

Holding onto that thought, the verses kept flowing until I reached Chapter 20, where the kids are thirsty and there isn’t any water. So God tells Moses to speak to a rock and water will come out.
But Moses, instead, hits the rock with his ever trusty rod. Still works though – water comes out, and the kids are happy.
But God wasn’t. And while I’ve heard a few people talk about the importance of the “strike” and track it back to Jesus’s crucifixion and why the strike shouldn’t have happened – it’s Gods next words that surprised me.
He says “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them"

The reason Moses struck the rock – “Because you believed me not

And from there my imagination took over and I began to wonder about events. So here is what I wonder:

Moses, has been using this rod a lot. It’s been a snake, it’s how most of the plagues began, it’s how they figured out Aaron was supposed to lead (his rod budded).. Moses was pretty used to using his rod for his part in the miracle process.
Moses also didn’t like to speak. His first reaction to God’s call was “No way, I stutter” (something to that effect).
And I wonder… just because I can… if his dislike for speaking and his familiarity with using that faithful old rod had any impact on his decision to hit the rock rather than just speak to it.

If I follow that trail, it leads it right home to me.

Because here I sit willing to do so much for Christ, willing to use all my little tools and ideas, and every once in awhile He says “go pray for this person in this way” and I say.. ‘um, I’ll go pray for the person this other way that looks less crazy”. Or He points out something that can be done that is outside of what I call my “skill set” and I never actually say “no” I just proceed to do something close to what He wants – but done my way. Maybe you haven't done that - but I sure have.

And granted, while God has done some amazing things for me those things are nothing compared to what the children of Israel got to see and experience, and be a part of. And He asks them how long… how long after all I’ve showed you, how long till you believe me!

And I wonder if He’s ever asked that of me.

It’s going to sound odd, but I was raised to not be noticed. As the children of a pastor we were very noticed and it was outrageously important that we not be bad, wrong, stupid, silly, foolish or any other synonyms that rhyme with "not perfect". Within that scope, I learned it was better if people didn’t notice you at all, because noticing you meant people talked about you. And I discovered people, even when saying nice things about you, can draw negative attention to you. So I learned to blend in. And even today I still strongly desire to just blend in. I hate being different. I hate it with an absolute passion. I hate people looking at me. I hate people thinking about me. I hate people noticing me. But nearly everything about my Christian walk that I’m unable to hide leaves me standing out in the open looking very obvious, very noticeable, and very different. I get angry at other Christians sometimes wishing that they were more – out there – like me just because that would mean I’m less noticeable.

But God takes Moses, who does not like speaking and calls him into speaking to hundreds upon hundreds of thousands. And when that isn’t enough, He calls him to perform a miracle based on the one function he doesn’t like to do: Speak it.

God takes me, who desires to hide behind someone else and slip in and out of church with hardly a squeak in between, and calls me over and over again to be different, noticeable, even outlandish.

And when I hide, when I refuse to perform in the functions to which He has led me – it’s not about me. “Because you did not believe Me”

I’m going to struggle with it. Writing about it, examining it, knowing it’s there and understanding it for the hindrance and disobedience that it is – I know I’m still going to struggle with it.
But what I take from this is knowing the root of my struggle. As I battle for spiritual growth in this particular area my prayers don’t need to be centered around “make me more comfortable stepping out” but instead my heart can cry out – “Lord, oh my Lord, help me to believe You.”

I’d like to think something changes in the very dynamics of the problem when I’m the one calling out to God “ How long Lord, how long til I believe You after all you’ve done?”

I think the rest of the story certainly bears a mention - that the people that didn't believe God's promise concerning their ability to make it into the Promised Land - God angrily says "As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:"

God help us all when God agrees with us rather than us agreeing with Him.

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