Our paperwork runneth over!

My, oh my.

I never would have thought having a loved one die would be so complicated.

Dad died on August 11th. Yet, the paperwork, processes and fees that go along with his death continue on, a month later.

I understand that things have to be done to “close out” one’s estate, so to speak. Here is what I don’t understand–death is a guarantee. No one makes it out alive. People leave behind loved ones who are, especially in the first few days, weeks, and months, attempting to process the concept of moving on with their lives without said loved one. Yet, the process of putting the person’s affairs in order is tedious, confusing and time-consuming. Dad left things in pristine condition for my mother–she has the information for his life insurance policies; contact information for the UAW; his will, etc. Yet, there is simply WAAAAAY too much to be done. This place needs an official death certificate, this place will accept a copy. This place charges a fee for such-and-such, and of course the state of Michigan is going to profit. I would love for someone to explain to me how after a person pays thousands of dollars for a funeral, why they then have to pay $162 simply for the state to file forms on the decedent’s behalf???

I accompanied Mom to the court today. Dad was awarded a settlement because of the injuries he sustained to his lungs after working around the asbestos (thanks again GM. A lot of lives were damaged by this, not just ours. Dad, before he passed, was fully aware of other co-workers who had either died (most were mid- to late-fifties, which in my humble opinion, is young) or were struggling with lung conditions after spending years working diligently in unsafe automotive plants). Mom is strong, but the death of one’s partner of over forty years undoubtedly leaves you in a fragile position. Now, in order for Mom to receive the settlement money (Dad did not live long enough to get it. That bugs me) there are several legal steps she must take in probate court. She had no idea the process would be this EXTRA, and how could we have known? We assumed she would just take the will and death certificate up to the courthouse, possibly pay a small fee, and be on her way. NOPE. The SMALL fee is actually $162 dollars (it costs that much to file paperwork???) and then there is the possibility of a hearing, appointment of an executor, etc. Although most of the proceedings may be done without court appearances, the point is this–there is really no one to explain this to us in detail. We have only found out when we have gone and attempted to do something, then been told that something else needed to be done FIRST. The whole process is confusing.

Not only did we find out today that the probating proceedings were not as simple as we thought, we also found out that the person who was supposed to help us doesn’t work on Fridays. How were we supposed to know that???

To top things off, Mom also received a letter from a company that didn’t bother to identify itself. It only expressed condolences about Dad’s passing, and then said it wanted to identify the person who had access to Dad’s assets and could pay his bills. I Googled this company and found that they are a debt collector that specializes in collecting debts of deceased people.

Yep. Process that for a moment. Before even fully allowing a family to grieve, there are people who set out to collect debts–even small ones. My Dad always paid his bills on time. He had an excellent credit score. This company did not identify itself as a debt collector or even explain what debt they were trying to collect, which is what made me suspicious. Here are reviews I found of this company:

http://pardonmyfrench.typepad.com/pardonmyfrench/2008/07/dcm-services–.html

Mom grew visibly frustrated, and I can understand why. She has been trying to do everything she is supposed to do, and it has not been easy.

When we got back from that we set to work getting the thank-you cards ready. Dad’s funeral was the biggest I’d ever seen. We had it at the biggest church in the area, and there were so many people there in the sanctuary and balcony that some people had to stand. And they did. It made me proud to know that my dad had touched so many people, and that was obvious by the fact that Mom had a houseful of guests everyday bringing food, flowers, and comfort during the days leading up to his funeral. Now those very people will be getting a beautiful thank-you card that we designed.

We want to continue to honor his memory in style.

Now that I’ve gotten my rant over, we left off at Numbers chapter eighteen.

Recall that in the previous chapter, God showed that Aaron was indeed the rightly chosen High Priest. This was shown by his budding staff. Now God reminds Aaron of the duties he, his sons and descendants are to carry out in terms of the priesthood. Their fellow Levites are there to assist them, but are not to near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar–otherwise Aaron, his sons and the offender will die. They are responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar. God refers to the priesthood as “a gift” given only to Aaron and his sons.

I wonder if Aaron looked at it as a gift, or a burden? I wonder if preachers today who are truly called to do so see their calling as a gift, or a burden? My assumption would be that sometimes their burden gets heavy and maybe they momentarily doubt what they are doing, only to be lifted back up when they realize that their job is truly the most important one in the world. People ascribe status to certain positions. Of course it is important to be the president, vice-president, a doctor, an entrepreneur, etc. But only the preacher who has truly dedicated his life to rightly dividing the word of truth has a vested interest and 24-hour dedication to helping people achieve spiritual gladness. My pastor always says it is not his job to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell–that is God’s job to perform such a judgment. But it is his job to try to get as many people saved as possible.

I proposed an analogy to the kids last Sunday, one I try to live by. I told them to think of the best place on earth. Disney World was a prime example. I told them to imagine a place ten thousand times better than Disney World. They then had to imagine all of their loved ones lining up to get on a train to go to this wonderful place. Before each person boarded the train, a conductor with a long list asked each person their name, checked his list for the name, and marked them off if their name was on it, allowing them to board. I asked the kids to imagine if one of their loved ones was left off the list, and left behind, not allowed to come to that wonderful place. Would it be the same without them?

Pastors do have a burdensome job, but I think it is important to remind our pastors of the rewards they will reap once they have finished their race. They will be able to have a joyful reunion with people they counseled, married, baptized, funeralized, etc. If you have a good pastor, tell him every now and then. Drop him a little card or word of encouragement. And if you don’t have a good pastor–find a different church.

Back to Aaron…

God informs Aaron that the priests’ needs are to be supplied by the people: “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. Eat it as something holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy” (vv. 8-10).

Aaron and his sons, in return for their work, are entitled to the best there is: The finest olive oil, finest new wine and grain, everything that has been devoted to the Lord, all of the firstborn (although they must be redeemed, with the exception of firstborns of cows, sheep or goats), etc. The Levites have no inheritance in the land, because God (who owns everything, remember) is their share and inheritance among the nation. The Levites also receive all of the tithes as their inheritance in return for their work. Any Israelite who goes near the tent of meeting and is not a Levite will die. The concept of even the priests giving a tenth as a tithe is presented in verse 25-26:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering”.

Priests were not above giving God what was due him.

Chapter nineteen begins with a command given to Moses and Aaron to have the Israelites bring them a blemish-free red heifer, one that has never been under a yoke. I wasn’t exactly sure what a yoke looked like, so I Googled it:

Eleazar the priest, Aaron’s son, is charged with taking the animal outside the camp, slaughtering it, and using some of its blood to sprinkle seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. Then the animal is to be burned. While it is burning, Eleazar is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and place it on top of the animal. Then, Eleazar will bathe himself with water and wash his clothes. Although he can come into the camp, he is considered ceremonially unclean because of his contact with the dead animal. The man who burns the animal must also wash his clothes and bathe and be considered unclean as well.

A man who is not ceremonially unclean will gather up the heifer’s ashes and put them in a ceremonially unclean place outside the camp. The ashes are to be kept for use in the water of cleansing–for purification of sin. The man who gathered the ashes and dumped them outside the camp is considered ceremonially unclean and has to wash his clothes too.

Anyone who comes into contact with a human corpse is unclean for seven days. On the third day they are to cleanse themselves with the water using the heifer’s ashes. They must also do this on the seventh day. If they do not, they will not be clean. If they fail to clean themselves after becoming defiled by a corpse, the will be guilty of defiling the Lord’s tabernacle and will be punished–cut off from their people.

When someone dies in a tent, anyone who enters that ten and anyone who is in it when the person dies is unclean for seven days, as is any open container that has no lid fastened upon it. Anyone out in the open who touches someone that has been killed with a sword or by a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, is unclean for seven days. The unclean person has to go through the cleansing ritual by putting some of the ashes from the burned purification offering (the red heifer’s ashes) into a jar, pouring fresh water over them, and having a man who is clean dip some hyssop into the water and sprinkle it on what is unclean–the tent the person died in, its furnishings, or a person who has touched a human bone or grave, etc. This is to be done on the third and seventh days. They also have to bathe and wash their clothes. If they do not, they are guilty of defiling the Lord’s tabernacle and will be cut off from their people.

Admittedly, when I first read chapter nineteen I had to fight to keep my eyelids open. As I have mentioned before, when I first read the Bible I wondered why there had to be so many rituals and details??? Now I understand more. Look how there was a chasm between God and the people. Holy God could abide with the people via the tabernacle, but thanks to the sacrifice of our Lord and Jesus Christ, we who have accepted Him have the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. There is no more separation from God. Did you notice that the Israelite commoners were not allowed to enter the tent of meeting? We don’t have to worry about that. Jesus freed us from that. We now have the privilege of direct access to God. We can take our cares and concerns directly to the One who knows all about them and can help us through them. I don’t understand why more people don’t accept!!!!

In chapter twenty, the Israelites arrive at the Desert of Zin and camp out in Kadesh. The older generation is dying out, and apparently the time is approaching for the Israelites to move into their new territory. Verse one from this chapter says “In the first month…” and does not say in the first month of what year. That leads us to believe that the wilderness period has been completed. It is suggested that thirty-seven years has passed since the Promised Land Spy Expedition–thirty-seven years of wandering is pretty much goes by without mention in the Bible. Yours truly of course wonders what the people were doing all of that time. Part of me thought that maybe they had finally humbled themselves and gotten to a better respect for God and understanding of and appreciation for his will, but the next few passages of Scripture inform me that they were, unfortunately, still spiritual babes:

“Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (vv. 2-5).

WOW. Really, people???

What interests me about this passage of Scripture is this. Number one, these people have still failed to realize that they brought this on themselves. It reminds me of some of my fellow Americans. In general, society has done everything it can think to do to kick God out of the nation. Prayer in schools–not okay. Displaying the 10 Commandments in legal buildings–offensive. Christian principles and teachings are mocked, ridiculed, and scorned. The very people doing the mocking think they are simply offending Christians and have no idea how they are disrespecting God, and that they will have to answer for it. Yet, when tragedy comes, the first thing people DO is look for God. The same people who claim to not believe in God are always the main ones asking “why did God let this happen” or “where was God when this happened”?

I say that to say this– Why should God show us any favor when we don’t show him any?

Why should God have continued to richly bless the Israelites when they were showing outright disdain for his teachings?

God was trying to put the Israelites in a very elite status, and they would have been afforded some very lofty protections if they had obeyed. At this point, it is apparent that they still don’t understand their Lord. For some reason, they have not yet accepted that any power and authority Moses has was given to him by God and God only. And they don’t get grains, figs and pomegranates because they don’t deserve it!

People today are the same way. They live whatever life they feel like living, then get mad when God doesn’t bless them according to the blessings they decided they are worthy of. Again–our will does not always align with God’s will. Those of us who have accepted God’s only begotten Son and try to live lives that are pleasing to Him will be blessed. But I don’t understand why some people who don’t bless God themselves expect to be on the receiving end of something good. They treat God like some sort of Santa Claus.

Since the Israelites have not gotten to a place where they are even fully acknowledging God, they also fail to acknowledge his power. There was no need to complain about water. All they should have done was prayed to God for water!

Although we know that Moses was the nation’s intercessor and intermediary, I often wonder if any of the Israelites took it upon themselves to pray to God? To offer thanksgiving in the form of prayers on a regular basis? To approach him with their concerns? Of course we know that Moses was Top Dawg so to speak, but the Bible does not say that God would not hear or answer the prayers of an individual Israelite who approached him correctly in prayer (as far as I know. If I am wrong, DO tell me). So why, instead of grumbling and complaining, don’t the Israelites simply pray to God for water? Actually, shouldn’t they have already been convinced that God knew full well there was no water and had every intention of providing it for the people HE had chosen?

Moses and Aaron, understandably disturbed and probably too fit to be tied, went from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting, where they throw themselves to the earth, face down. The glory of the Lord appears to them. God instructs Moses to take his staff and have the assembly gather before him and Aaron. In their presence, he is to “speak to that rock” (v. 8)  before their eyes and water will pour out from it.

Something happens this time. Instead of doing what God tells him to do, Moses strikes the rock twice with the staff. God did not tell him to strike the rock–he merely told him to speak to it. Also, Moses says something that is a departure from his typical humility: “Listen you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (v. 10. Italics added by me).

Moses, you’re cool and all, but who is “we”?????

His timing couldn’t have been worse, especially considering what I just wrote above–the Israelites had not fully accepted God’s power or that anything that Moses had accomplished was because God was using him. This act, where Moses was boldly giving some credit to Aaron AND taking partial credit himself (by using the term “we”, he was acting as though he played a role in the miracle of water coming from that rock, when we know today that there was nothing he or Aaron could have done WITHOUT God that would have made water come from that rock) could only stand to emphasize the Israelite’s confusion as to who was truly in charge. God doesn’t have time for that type of direct, public disobedience from one of his servants. Everything that Moses had achieved was because of God. I can imagine God’s feelings may have been a bit hurt. After all, Moses was the one who God had lifted up, who he spoke to face-to-face. Now Moses, perhaps acting irrationally out of his anger, disrespects him a little? Ouch.

God voices his displeasure right away, and the punishment for Aaron and Moses:

“Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (v. 12).

This place is Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord–not Moses, not Aaron, the Lord–and where he (AGAIN) was proved holy among them.

Leave it to me to be consumed by details that are not present. I talk about how some of the details in the Bible that are given are redundant, and then I ask questions about details that are pretty unimportant. It’s more curiosity than anything. I wonder how shamefaced Moses and Aaron were upon receiving that punishment? I wonder did they make any offerings or anything? I wonder how humbled they were?

Moving on.

Moses sends messengers to the king of Edom, asking if he will allow the Israelites to pass through their country. Edom denies their request (recall that Edom is the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob who sold his birthright to his twin brother for some stew AND lost out on a blessing due him from his father, causing strife between the two) and tells them if they attempt to come through, they will be attacked. Israel again asks to come through, and their request is again denied. Edom comes at Israel with a large and powerful army and Israel turns away from them.

That interests me as well. I am confused as to what happened. Apparently, Kadesh, where they were camped, was right on the edge of Edom territory. I am wondering if Edom came to the camp and tried to push the Israelites out, or did the Israelites attempt to move forward and get turned away by Edom’s army? Either way, I just wonder how much consulting the people had done with God. As we know, God has promised to protect and lead the people, but they are not to go anywhere until he tells them to. So I wonder if the reason Israel had to turn away from Edom was because they had not gotten word from God first, or if this was something that just happened? Perhaps Edom, having heard of the power of the Israelite God, got spooked, and upon hearing that they intended to pass through, decided to just come out and get a heads-up on them by attacking. I dunno.

Chapter twenty ends with the death of Aaron, which is actually foretold by God. The Israelites come out from Kadesh to Mount Hor, near Edom’s border, and the Lord tells Moses and Aaron:

“Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there” (vv. 24-26).

Of course I have some thoughts about this. I have gone back and forth about whether or not I’d like some kind of forewarning before I die. I think I would like to know, so I can get my affairs in order if needed, and possibly complete any “Bucket List” items I might have. I think my Dad knew his time was coming to a close. I have mentioned before that before he passed away, he gave us quite a scare, when he had to be resuscitated as he was coming from the emergency room to his hospital room. There was some speculation among some of my relatives that God had given him a vision that let him know he wasn’t going to be here much longer. In the days leading up to his death, Dad had made comments to a number of people that, when we put them all together, lets me know that he probably knew he wasn’t going to make it. He told one of his good friends that when he had the episode that required his resuscitation, he had a vision where he saw a cloud–the shekinah cloud.

Dad never told me, my mom or my sister that, and I know why he would choose to tell that friend (who is also a minister) about that vision instead of us–because we wouldn’t have been receptive to its meaning. Undoubtedly the vision must have brought him some comfort and peace, because that let him know that although his time was near, there was a place for him with the Lord–because Dad never seemed scared or upset.

Aaron had an important position despite his numerous failings (the golden calf fiasco, grumbling with Miriam, and the Meribah situation). We have seen several examples in recent Scriptures of how Eleazar was being prepared to take over his father’s role. In my humble opinion, God allowed Aaron to know of his death beforehand in that Eleazar may be fully prepared to be appointed the new high priest, including the process of removing the priestly garments from Aaron and giving them to Eleazar, and that Aaron might be able to see for himself that his son/descendant will carry on his office. Aaron died right after the garments were on Eleazar, on top of Mount Hor. Moses and Eleazar descend the mountain, and upon hearing of Aaron’s death, the Israelite community mourns him for thirty days.

This brings us to chapter twenty-one. The period of mourning is over, and the Israelites are still on the move. The Canaanite king of Arad, who resides in Negev, has heard that the Israelites were coming (do you see how their reputation precedes them? People are afraid of their very impending presence). This king attacks Israel and captures some of them. Now all of a sudden Israel knows what to do–they make a vow to the Lord:

“If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities” (v. 2).

I didn’t think it was possible!

They went to GOD about it. And look at what happens next:

“The Lord listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah” (v. 3).

Doesn’t it make more sense to pray to God than to complain against him??? The request they made of God was simple. He honored it and they of course came out on top.

But, let’s not get excited too fast.

As the people travel from Mount Hor along the route on the Red Sea, going around Edom since they could not cross through, they get impatient and AGAIN complain against God primarily and Moses secondarily. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing them sing the same old song, but here it is:

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (v. 5).

If you look up the terms “long-suffering” and “patient” in a dictionary, there ought to be one definition and one definition only: GOD. Can you believe how much God puts up with, from the Israelites AND from us today? Could you have tolerated this? I know I couldn’t have. I get irritated within nanoseconds when my kids whine or complain. Imagine that you have handed someone EVERYTHING plus some. They have tantrums and you still provide for them. They disobey you and you still protect them. How much could you stand?

Well, they aren’t completely off the hook. God sends venomous snakes among them that bite the people, causing many of them to die (their deaths were probably pretty slow. I don’t think snake bites kill that fast, even back then). But, the people do something we usually don’t see of them–they acknowledge that they had brought it on themselves.

“The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people” (v. 7).

I wonder if they were just saying that to say it or if they truly meant it. The only reason I believe the people were really repentant is because God listened to them. He tells Moses to make a bronze snake, put it up on a pole, and all those who have been bitten that can look upon the snake and live. Moses does as told, and anyone who was bitten by a snake looked at the bronze snake and survived.

The Israelites move on and camp at Oboth.

Their journey continues from Oboth to Iye Abarim to the Zered Valley. There are a bunch of other places listed in the Scriptures from verses 10 through 20… I’ll let you read them. It is in verse 21 that Israel sends messengers to the king of the Amorites in Sihon, asking if they can pass through.

As I’m sure you guessed, Sihon tells them no.

Not only that, he pulls an Edom and has his army march out into the wilderness against Israel. I’ll bet they had heard of how Israel turned away from Edom and thought they had a chance. However, things are different this time–Israel puts them to the sword and takes over the land from the Arnon to the Jabbok. They don’t go further because the border of the Ammonites territory was fortified. Israel is able to capture all of the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon, which was the city of Sihon king of Amorites.

Interestingly, in verse 14, the Scriptures allude to a “Book of Wars of the Lord”. It seems as though this book, which has never been found, included recordings of songs or poems about war victories. One of those is given in verses 14-15:

“…Zahab in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon and the slopes of the ravines that lead to the settlement of Ar and lie along the border of Moab”.

The Bible does not say that the song in verses 17-18 or the poem in verses 27-30 are in this Book of Wars, but considering where they are and their subject matter, it is my humble opinion, until I research and discover otherwise, that this song and poem were in that same book:

“Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank–the nobles with scepters and staffs”.

“That is why the poets say: ‘Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt; let Sihon’s city be restored. Fire went out from Heshbon, a blaze from the city of Sihon. It consumed Ar of Moab, the citizens of Arnon’s heights. Woe to you, Moab! You are destroyed, people of Chermosh! He has given up his sons as fugitives and his daughters as captives to Sihon king of the Amorites. But we have overthrown them; Heshbon’s dominion has been destroyed all the way to Dibon. We have demolished them as far as Nophah, which extends to Medeba”.

(Those names are some doozies, aren’t they?)

Out of curiosity, I Googled “Chermosh”. I was greeted with several pages worth of irrelevant entries (apparently some games have used the name Chermosh for one of their characters, etc.) before getting to anything remotely pertaining to the Bible. Apparently Chermosh was a worshiped god of war in Moab.

Israel settles into the land of the Amorites. The Bible states that Moses had sent spies to Jazer, and the Israelites captured the surrounding settlements and drove the people out of there. Then they went up the road toward Bashan, where Og king of Bashan and his whole army march out against the Israelites at Edrei.

The Lord has their back, front, and both sides. He tells Moses: “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon” (v, 34).

So the people of Israel struck down Sihon, his sons and his whole army, leaving no survivors, and took possession of the land.

I am excited about the upcoming chapters but must tend to some of my other duties. We are coming up on my favorite stories in this book–that involving Balaam and Balak.

One of Dad’s favorite songs.

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