Sunday, 23 February 2014

(55) February 24: Numbers 11-13 & Mark 5:21-43

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider how you would describe Israel’s response to God.

To ponder:
Chapters 11-25 take us to the point of entering Canaan. But it takes much longer than it should because of Israel’s fickle faith seen in our reading. To this point they have obeyed God, and 10v35-36 affirms God is with them to fight for them. Yet immediately we read how they grumble about their hardships, provoking the LORD who “heard.” A number are consumed. However, Moses intercedes and the fire recedes. No doubt Christ’s constant intercession protects us.
You’d expect the lesson to be learnt, not least after the numerous miracles previously witnessed. Yet, provoked it seems by the Egyptians with them (the rabble), Israel then complain about the miraculous manna compared to the luxuries of Egypt – conveniently forgetting their slavery. “Every family” is implicated (11v10), and the LORD is clear that this is a “rejection” of him (11v20). So he is again angry, and Moses is overwhelmed at trying to lead such a rebellious people.
Moses’ complaint hints of frustration, but the LORD is graciously patient with him. Through Moses he calls seventy elders to meet him at the tent of meeting and empowers them with his Spirit to share the burden. The sign of the Spirit is “prophecy” which might have entailed “visions” (12v6). Moses’ desire that all God’s people were prophets highlights our post-Pentecost privilege of having the Spirit. We can know and speak of God in a way Israel never could.
            Astonishingly, through Moses the LORD promises meat for a whole month, and Moses can barely believe it. But by governing the wind, the LORD causes quail to fall three feet deep and “a days walk in every direction.” God can do all things, answering any prayer. Yet as soon as the people eat, they are judged with a plague for their sin.
            Once more you’d expect the lesson to be learnt. But instead, Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses. With self-righteous jealousy they condemn him for his Gentile wife. Again, the LORD “heard.” Coming down to the entrance of the tent of meeting in a cloud, he speaks to them, affirming Moses’ uniquely intimate relationship with him, perhaps because of his humility (12v3). In anger, God then strikes Miriam with leprosy, which may suggest she was the ringleader. Once more Moses intercedes, but she is disgraced for a week.
How readily Christians grumble at Christ’s call or the hardships of discipleship (Jn 6v64). How quickly they forget the wonders God has done for them. How easily this grumbling can spread from the rabble to every family in a church. And how hard for the leaders to whom they complain, or about whom they complain. But God “hears,” encouraging us if leaders, and discouraging us if grumblers. We are to “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Phil 2v14, 1 Cor 10v10-11), submitting to our leaders so their work is a joy (Heb 13v17).
Israel’s fall hits rock bottom when men from each tribe explore Canaan. As so often, the mention of forty days hints that this was a test that could result in deliverance. But they fail. They report the land was all God promised, which should have strengthened their faith. But, with exaggeration to strengthen their point (13v33), they spread a report that the people are too large to overcome. Only Caleb has confidence they could be victorious. We too are to believe that nothing can hinder God’s promises. No, “in all things we are more than conquerors” for nothing “can separate” us from his love (Rom 8v35-39).

Praying it home:
Praise God that for the wonders he has done and will do for us in Christ. Confess where you have grumbled at your lot or against your leaders, asking God’s forgiveness and help to change.

Thinking further:
12v6-8 teach prophecy comes usually by vision or dream. But they make us wonder too, how Moses saw “the form of the LORD” and spoke with him “face to face.” Was this the pre-incarnate Son, or at least some vague form or vision of him? Some think the rare times in which the LORD is seen in the Old Testament can only be explained in this way, as “no-one has ever seen God” but only Christ has “made him known” (Jn 1v18). John certainly speaks of Isaiah seeing Christ’s glory (Jn 12v41), which seems to be refer to his vision in Isaiah 6v1-4 (the context to the quote in Jn 12v40).

If you receive this post by email, visit and make a comment.


Post a Comment