Numbers: don’t give up all hope like Israel!

Image source: HallelFellowship

Imagine yourself as part of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai for two years. The trumpet has finally sounded that it is time to move to the promise land. Goodness me, the excitement in the camp is overwhelming! Men are beating their chest for the amount of land they will occupy, farms they will establish, and homes they will build. The women are relieved that finally they will live in a proper house with a proper kitchen not this camp life cooking outside.

Unlike when they left Egypt in a hurry, disorganized, chaotic, unsure – now they leave Mt. Sinai super organized as we see in Numbers 10. As they marched to the promise land, we are told that “Judah’s troops led the way. They marched behind their banner [the Lion], and their leader was Nahshon son of Amminadab” (Numbers 10:14). They were folloed by the tribe of Issachar, then Zebulun, then the Levites (the Priests) carrying the Ark of the Covenant and other Temple furniture. Then others followed in an orderly beautiful pattern.

Numbers 10:33-36 (New Living Translation) states: “They marched for three days after leaving the mountain of the Lord, with the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant moving ahead of them to show them where to stop and rest. As they moved on each day, the cloud of the Lord hovered over them. And whenever the Ark set out, Moses would shout, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” And when the Ark was set down, he would say, “Return, O Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel!”

The divine presence was so powerfully visible to all the people. Soon the excitement faded, legs grew tired, stomachs were more hungry, bodies were tired. Remember they had been camped for two years and had entered into a daily routine settled life. This massive movement was exciting but tiring, would be better if they just disappeared from Sinai and re-appeared in the promise land. So the people started complaining – Moses, this is too much, you want to kill us! In their immediate discomfort, they lost sight of the big objective, vision, and mission.

So we get to Numbers 13 and 14; I find the crucifixion of Jesus painful to read, I also find Numbers 13 and 14 painful. Moses sends 12 spies to Canaan, they come back and all agree the land is flowing with milk and honey. Joshua and Caleb said we can take the land, the other 10 spies convinced the 600,000 men fit to go to war that they can’t take the land. These men get so angry and mad, and wanted to kill Moses. The cloud of God by day and the fire by night that protected them is still there, yet they were so fearful, and angry, and decided to kill Moses.

Two years after leaving Egypt, we are told in Numbers 14:1-4 (NLT): “Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”

In their immediate discomfort, they lost sight of God’s big plans. One of the great hymns says “Count your blessings, name them one by one…”. I am afraid that even after we have counted our blessings, we could still turn around and say “God, you are not welcome here”. When we hit bad times, let’s be patient a little more with God. Let us not give up all hope like this people did in Numbers 14:1-4.

Great God, help us not to lose all hope in this troubled world, Amen!

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