I have a few precious moments of free time, so what better way to spend it than in the Word?
It has been a relatively…regular…day… I’ll venture to say. It still feels irregular because one of our key players (Dad) is not here, but we have been trying to go on with our lives. I can only imagine how much more difficult this task is for my mother, who has been deluged with paperwork required by every company on the earth to take care of the business that unfortunately comes along with the death of a spouse. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. She has had to arrange for the pickup or mailing of multiple medical equipment items that my Dad had been using. The difficult process of making arrangements does not end when the funeral is over. But my mom has been the epitome of superwoman strength. We’re talking over forty years of constant companionship, a love story that began in second grade.
Chapter eight in the book of Numbers begins with a discussion of the lamps. The Lord speaks to Moses and commands him to give Aaron instructions as to how to set up the lampstands: “When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand” (v. 2). Then the chapter moves apart to the sanctification, or setting apart, of the Levites, the priestly tribe. This process requires that they be made ceremonially clean by sprinkling the water of cleansing upon them, having them shave their entire body and wash their clothes. Offerings are in order as well. Before the entire Israelite community, the Levites are to stand in front of the tent of meeting, and the entire Israelite community is to lay hands on them. Aaron is to present the Levites as a wave offering to the Lord, thus setting them aside for service to God. The Levites then lay their hands on the heads of the bulls that will be offered up, symbolic of the transference of sin.
Once the purification and sanctification ritual has been completed, the Levites are considered ready to go do their work in the tent of meeting. God then reminds the Israelites of the position of the Levites:
“They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all firstborn sons in Israel. From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary” (vv. 16-19).
What is interesting to me is that ALL of the Israelites were supposed to be set aside for God. Didn’t he initially intend for the entire nation to be the priests to the world? Well, that is over and done with, which is made obvious by Israel’s consistent failure to commit to their loving God, but guess what—those of us who claim to be Christians have, like Nazirites, voluntarily committed ourselves to a life of dedication to the Lord. However, it is God who sanctifies us. When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, God does the sanctification work of making us holy and acceptable to Him. We can’t do it on our own. This whole Christian journey is not to be taken lightly. It is more than just a title, like I discussed yesterday.
Moses, Aaron and the entire Israelite community do as told, and the Levites begin their work in the tent of meeting under the supervision of Moses and his sons. God then informs Moses that Levites are to serve in the tent of meeting beginning at 25 years of age until they turn 50. After they achieve fifty years, they get to retire, although they can still assist their brothers in performing their duties.
My goodness. Can you even imagine—go with me for a minute—if, in our society, you were guaranteed a good job for twenty-five years, and made to at the tender age of 50? It makes sense, because moving the tabernacle and performing all of the associated tasks requires the strength and energy that usually comes along with younger age. However, me and my modern mindset couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to have gotten into a great job at the age of 25 and be able to retire at 50.
So let me go off on a tangent here, because I have a problem with work here in America. Yes, everyone who can work should, but there is no reason people should be working their lives away. Something I read a while ago resonated with me. AARP published an article where people who were at the end of their lives discussed their top five regrets. EVERY SINGLE WORKING ADULT should read this, and re-arrange their priorities accordingly.
One of the regrets listed, particularly by male respondents, is that they worked as much as they did. Of course we have the understanding that in most families, one or both parents has to work to keep the family economically afloat. That to me is pretty unfortunate. As I have said before, I think society was a lot better off when a parent (as we know it was usually the mother) was able to stay at home with the children (although I definitely support moms who can readily admit it is not for them). I just think that when two people have kids they have to make the best decision for the kids, and sometimes that might mean a smaller house or an older car to cut down on monthly bills so maybe Mom (or Dad) can stay home, or at least spend less time working. The following is a link that discusses how the U.S. is overworked (and yet companies treat their employees like garbage, SMH)…
It is just not right to me. Our kids are getting the brunt of it. My best memories of my childhood were the times when my family was altogether, for vacations or just Friday night dinner (we ate out on Friday evenings). And now, my best times with my husband and kids are when we are altogether. Doesn’t matter what we are doing. Of course they get on my nerves sometimes (I told you I will not be one of those people who pretends that family life is always rosy–sometimes I get irritated) but I would not trade my time with them for anything in the world. Even something as redundant as grocery shopping can be an adventure 🙂
Before I get too far into it, and I definitely can because I hate seeing how American people are getting screwed, let’s get into chapter nine. Here is an exciting event–the celebration of the second Passover, to be celebrated at the appointed time–on the fourteenth day of the month, commemorating when the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt.
Of course this celebration does not come without a little drama. Some of the Israelites had come in contact with a dead body, and thus were ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in the Passover, which they had all been commanded to do. They come to Moses and Aaron with their dilemma. I like what Moses says: “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you” (v. 8). It is so obvious that Moses had done a ton of growing throughout this entire process. He doesn’t jump to a rash judgment. He knows this a matter of the Lord, and he depends on the Lord for an answer. I have learned that my entire LIFE is a matter of the Lord, and I can and have to do depend on him for answers. Even things that might seem insignificant or embarrassing ought to be discussed with our God.
The answer is given–any Israelite is still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, even if they have become unclean because of a dead body, but they are to do it the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are still to eat the lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs, but must not leave any of it til morning or break any of its bones. A warning is given that everyone, foreigner or not, is to celebrate the Passover, and the Israelite who fails to do so will be cut off from his people.
I like the principle that foreigners were expected to be included in the Passover. It kind of reminds me of how we as Christians ought to live our lives. I do not believe in pushing my beliefs off on people, although I will discuss them with anyone whenever the opportunity prevents (meaning I do not believe that Christians should wage wars or persecute non-believers. Not saying that we should be quiet, meek or timid when it comes to discussing Jesus). However, when someone comes into my house, they know right away that as for me and my house, we serve the Lord (paraphrased from Joshua 24:15). There is no smoking or alcohol in my home, no fighting or strife. When we have people into our house, whether or not they do it at home, they join us to pray before we eat. The hope is that for those who haven’t made prayer and thanksgiving a practice, that perhaps they follow the example we set there. I keep hearing about parents who for whatever reason allow their teenagers to have their significant other spend the night–HOW ABOUT NEVER. (My adult children too, for that matter, if they are still living with me when they are grown. Don’t even ask unless it is an emergency, and if they stay in my house, they are sleeping on a different floor or in a separate wing or something).
During the last part of this chapter God discusses how the Israelites are guided during their journey to the Promised Land. We are reminded that a cloud had settled over the tent of the covenant law of the tabernacle the day it was set up. From night until the morning, the cloud appeared like fire, and this is how it shall be–a cloud during the day and fire at night. Whenever the cloud lifts, this means that the Israelites were to do some walking; when the cloud settled, that told the Israelites to camp out. At the end of the chapter we find that the Israelites are obedient to this command.
In chapter ten a situation begins to unfold. The Israelites are getting close to where they can make their first approach to the Promised Land. All of the preparation has been leading up to this. God instructs Moses to make two trumpets of hammered silver, which are to be used to call the entire community together and for having the camps set out. When both trumpets sound, that means the entire nation is to meet at the entrance to the tent of meeting. If only one is sounded, only the leaders are to assemble before Moses. When the trumpets sound and the camp is to move, the tribes of the east set out first (Judah, Issachar and Zebulun); at the second blast, the camps on the south set out (Reuben, Simeon and Gad). The blasts that indicate when the camp is to set out is to differ from the blows that indicate when the community is to assemble. Aaron and his sons are charged with blowing the trumpets, and this is a lasting ordinance. No one else is to blow the trumpets. When they go into battle against an oppressive enemy, they are to sound a blast on the trumpets. They are also to use the trumpets at their times of rejoicing–their appointed festivals and New Moon feasts. Here we see the many uses of the trumpet–to call people to assemble; to signify war or victory; and to tell people when the move. It is safe to say that all three of these uses are symbolic of what will happen when Jesus returns: In Matthew 24:31, there is a passage of Scripture that talks about trumpets sounding when Jesus gets back:
“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.
Looks like that trumpet call will fulfill all three of those criteria. Imagine that day. Those of us who are believers will hear the trumpet, know that our God has come, and thus we will assemble and move–we will be caught up in the air (raptured). Victory already is the Lord’s, but imagine that day–can you imagine what the unbelievers will do? How loving of our God to take us out of this world before the Tribulation begins, but look at how loving he is–the Tribulation is still a time where people can come to Jesus, and many will, according to the Bible. (I won’t get too far of myself, but the Revelation is a fascinating, albeit difficult, read).
The journey continues. It is the second month of the second year after their delivery from Egpyt, and the cloud lifts, instructing the people to move. The camp moves until the cloud settles, and there they camp out. This occurs in the Desert of Paran, which was located around the area of Midian. The next several passages of Scripture describe the order in which the tribes set out.
Now Moses makes a request of his brother-in-law Hobab. He asks Hobab to come with them as they go to the Promised Land. At first Hobab declines, saying he is going to go back to his own land and his own people, but Moses manages to convince him, saying that since he is a Midianite and familiar with the land, he can be an asset to the Israelites. In return for his eyes, they will treat him well and share with him all the goodness God bestows upon them. They set out and travel for three days. At the end of chapter ten we see the verbal commands Moses gave to the people whenever the ark of the covenant sets out before the people to find them a place of rest:
“Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you” (v. 35).
Whenever the ark came to rest, Moses said:
“Return, Lord, the countless thousands of Israel” (v. 36).
Now we have reached chapter eleven. Here we see yet another instance of discontent and grumbling among the Israelites. They waste no time in verse 1, and also in the same verse, God wastes no time getting angry:
“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp”.
Wow. God has done amazing things for these people, yet they are never satisfied. Again I dare to say that we get like that sometimes today. I am guilty, although not as often as I used to be. You know what helps me when a situation looks bleak? A list. Even in the midst of my Dad’s death, it has helped me gather my thoughts. I can write down what is negative about a situation and what is positive. In every instance I have ever encountered, the positive side is longer than the negative, and then I have to apologize to God for my negativity or ungratefulness and ask his forgiveness. What is positive about my Dad’s death?? Number one, the fact that because of my Jesus I’ll see him again. Number two, I had 33 wonderful years of a very active and present father. A lot of people don’t get that.
Let me move on 🙂
Of course, probably before they even acknowledged what had brought on the fire anyway, the people cry out to Moses, and he prays to the Lord. God answers Moses’s prayer by allowing the fire to dwindle. The place is then called Taberah, “because fire from the Lord burned among them” (v. 3).
Some people think there is no harm to complaining, but complaining actually shows that you do not appreciate what God has given you and/or you don’t have faith that he will come through for you. Complaining often reflects some worldliness that has set in. A lot of times we complain when we notice we don’t have something that someone else does. We are to be like Paul and be content. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having dreams or goals. I still want a house with a big backyard for my kids and a garage for my husband’s cars. But for now, I am perfectly content with what we just bought, and I take care of it. Sometimes God wants to see whether or not we will be responsible with the little bit that he has given us before he blesses us with a lot. Complaining shows that perhaps we are not ready to receive what he has to offer.
Verse four includes an interesting term: rabble. Apparently, the word refers to a group of people, not native to Israel, who had followed them out of Egypt. Interesting that they are the ones to complain about the food and cause the Israelites to start wailing about having meat to eat–remember that the Israelites were supposed to be setting an example for others to follow, not the other way around? No sooner had the rabble started craving food other than what was being provided, the Israelites followed suit. I find their complaint to be absolutely appalling, considering the food they ate in Egypt was given to them while they were being enslaved:
“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (vv. 4-6).
A short description of this unappetizing manna follows: “The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin” (v. 7). Even as much as I like to eat, I tend to think that what nothing the Egyptians could have been as good as what God provided. I think I’d stick with God’s provision. Let’s think–if I had the choice between the food grown down here by man, with all the chemicals, preservatives and other toxins and poisons in it and God’s manna, I’m sure I’d go with the manna.
The process for preparing the manna is then described. The people would gather up the manna, grind or crush it, cook it in a pot or make it into loaves. It tasted like it had been made with olive oil. Every night, manna would come down, in time for the Israelites to have a manna breakfast.
Moses overhears the people wailing, and is troubled. The Lord is angry. And I am confused. How long had passed since the people had the Taberah incident???? And they are complaining AGAIN??? Are they gluttons for punishment, or should I say, fiery deaths? Moses is frustrated, and understandably so. He asks the Lord why he has been burdened with the Israelites. His appeal shows that despite his growth, he is still human:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin” (vv.11-15).
I took several things away from this passage. In my own grief, I have had some questions, and there have been some people who have insinuated that we are not supposed to question God. I don’t agree. I can look to this passage, and the entire book written by the minor prophet Habakkuk, as well as other examples in the Bible to find people who have asked “why”? I keep in mind that my understanding of the world and God’s ultimate plan is extremely limited in the major scheme of things, and I know some things I will not understand until I see Jesus for myself. However, I do not see how it is disrespectful to petition God. Doesn’t he want our honesty? Aren’t we to go to him when we are frustrated and seek answers? I mean, who else am I going to ask about my Dad’s death except the one who created him, and the one who took him home?
I also noticed that as irritated as Moses is, he does at least ask where he is supposed to get the meat for the people. So either he actually did care about the Israelites, or he just wanted to shut them up, or a combination of both.
Finally, I couldn’t help but consider the job of a pastor, and the job of each and every Christian. A pastor is supposed to be responsible for the spiritual needs for a large, and usually diverse group of people, all living at different levels of spiritual maturity (or immaturity). I can only imagine how often they think their responsibility is too heavy to bear. Oftentimes our spiritual journey can be difficult, because we get into situations that may seem hard. I’m talking everyday situations. Of course as I grow in the Lord it gets easier to deal with difficult people, but that doesn’t mean that sometimes when someone yells at me I don’t want to say something back. I have to remind myself who I represent. Sometimes as Christians we have to bear the brunt of worldly people’s bad behavior.
The Lord hears Moses’s plea and offers him some help. He tells Moses to bring seventy of the nation’s elders to him at the tent of meeting. He will come down and speak to Moses there, and take some of the power of the Spirit that resides on Moses and transfer it to them so that they would be able to help him bear the burden. There are some that debate whether or not Moses should have asked for help. I tend to think that since God so readily agreed to it, that perhaps it was okay, but some people think that Moses had a lack-of-faith moment and didn’t seem to realize that God could provide all the help he needed. Keep in mind that Moses was probably pretty old by this point, and it kind of makes sense that he would have assistance. I think that allowing the elders to help was a part of God’s provision for Moses.
The Lord then tells the people that they are to consecrate themselves; they will have meat to eat tomorrow. I am sure God’s feelings were hurt–he informs the people that he has heard their cries and complaints. In response to their ungratefulness, they will not only have one day of meat, they will have a whole month of nothing but meat (absence does make the heart grow fonder, does it not??), “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it” (v. 20). The Lord tells them by their complaint they have rejected the Lord.
Now, I was with Moses until his next statement, where he basically questions God’s ability to provide enough meat for a month for millions of people:
“Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” (vv. 21-22).
Sigh. You’d think by now Moses knew better. However, I did find a bit of comedy in God’s response:
“Is the Lord’s arms too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you!” (v. 23).
I just know God had to be too fit to be tied. The plagues. Deliverance. The Red Sea. The guidance of the cloud and the fire. And these people still doubted him.
Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said involving the seventy elders. An interesting exchange occurs here. Some of the Spirit that was on Moses is taken and transferred to the elders. When that happens, they prophesied, but only at that time. Then, two men who apparently were elders but hadn’t been chosen to be a part of the seventy, Eldad and Medad, had the Spirit rest on them as well. Why? Only reason that makes sense is because God had chosen them. Maybe there was something about them that God recognized that Moses had not. The elders had to be people that were known as leaders and officials among the people. Maybe two of the seventy that Moses had chosen had characteristics that would make them harder to work through, and maybe God saw a bit more flexibility in Medad and Eldad. Whatever the case, the two men begin to prophesy as well, and Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ longtime aide and next leader of Israel, tells Moses to stop them.
Moses knows better. He knows that God can use whomever he wants. I like his response: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (v. 29). I love that Moses is not afraid to share the spotlight. Imagine if you were at church today, and you were one of the choir’s main soloists, and had a particular song that you claimed as your own. Imagine if you showed up one Sunday and someone else was singing your song. Would you be jealous, or would you be happy that someone else has the capacity to minister through song? There is no place for jealousy in church.
Now Moses gets to see where doubting the Lord will get him. God allows a strong wind to come out from him and drive quail from the sea. The Bible says
“It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food” (vv.31-34).
Just for references: A cubit is roughly the measure from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and a homer is a measure of volume, the equivalent of about 220 liters.
Why do you think the Lord allowed the people to start eating, then struck them with a plague? I’ll bet it’s because they didn’t even have the decency to thank the Lord and apologize for their initial ungratefulness. I’ll bet they forgot that fast that another prayer had been answered, although it had not been because of anything they had done, but because of Moses’s intercession, and that they had just witnessed a miracle… I’ve never heard of a strong wind driving quail in such a manner.
Either way, God’s anger against them was justified.
The chapter ends with the group moving from Kibroth Hattaavah to Hazeroth.
The plot will continue to thicken, but now it is time for me to do what I discussed above… have a little time with my peeps 🙂
We had homemade pizzas for dinner 🙂
I took the title of today’s post from one of my favorite songs by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Enjoy.