The wealth in the desert
As I ponder the week’s readings, I am left with a love for Moses like I have not felt before. He was a mighty leader, an humbler one not known. He was brave before the Lord and before the people of God. He was an example and a servant. We endure more bickering among the Israelites and the reconciliation and provisions of a caring and powerful God. He provided for all of their needs, and they prospered even in the desert years of their lives. I also am wide eyed to the dire consequences of sin. “For the wages of sin is death.” Over and over, this was the case, even for the mighty priest Aaron, and later Moses. Though they never made it to the Promised Land of Canaan, God in His mercy provided. And we learned that though the people needed a servant leader, the Lord Himself was the most gracious and caring Shepherd of all.
(11:17) “They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.” We were not meant to go through this world carrying the whole burden on our own shoulders. Moses was at his wit’s end trying to keep all the Israelites happy and God provided 70 elders to help upon which He gave His Spirit. We cannot carry the burdens of others without the help of the Holy Spirit. I recently have gotten caught trying to and He let me know very clearly He was there, and I was not that strong. How grateful I am to have my God’s Spirit in me that carries the load and allows me to be a friend to those in need, and to share my own burden with other Christians.
(11:23) The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” How often I shortchange the length of God’s Arm and His power, and fail to trust, looking through my own eyes, not trusting in His.
A little Sibling Rivalry. Miriam and Aaron get jealous that Moses has the favor of the Lord and start to feel they are just as good, but Moses was the most humble man on earth, and God chose Him. God has reasons to elevate some and to use others as helpers. We are all important to further His kingdom and should not be jealous of that power; for with it, comes greater responsibility and accountability to the Lord. This side of the cross, the power of His Spirit is available to each of us who asks. How He wills we use it is up to Him and our obedience unto Him.
(13:23) When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.” Can you imagine a cluster of grapes so big that two men had to carry it on a pole? But they couldn’t see the bounty of the land for the giants that were there. They got scared and saw the struggle instead of the bounty that lay just ahead of them. Right there in front of their eyes. How often I forget that my God is bigger than the giants and has a bounty of blessing waiting right in front of my eyes, but my eyes stop at the giant and fail to see the blessings.
Miyagi, the wise Japanese man from the old movie, “Karate Kid” would say something like, “Ah, Grasshoppers, you not learn very well the lesson of life.” God is so much bigger than any Canaanite. I can’t help but think Joshua and Caleb were young and less brainwashed from all of the grumblings and negativity and thought, we can do this. And you know the story: they were the only two that entered the Promised Land. We face our fears knowing God is bigger. The Promised Land awaits for those who see God’s blessing, knowing God will handle all of our obstacles and fears.
(14:11) “The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?” My own history testifies to this truth. How long will unbelief plague my life? And even more importantly, my unbelief invokes God’s anger. I am so glad God’s Word records the desperate prayer of “Lord, I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
Unintentional Sin Provision (15:22-24) ” ‘Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the Lord gave Moses- any of the Lord’s commands to you through him, from the day the Lord gave them and continuing through the generations to come- and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering” I pray the prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (p.359) that confesses even those things I may not be aware of where I have offended my Lord:
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone,”
(16:47-48) “Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.” Aaron was a brave man in the middle of the plague standing between life and death and making atonement for the Israelites. I don’t know if I have ever stood between life and death like that, but I hope I could be as brave and act in obedience not fear.
(17:8-10) The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious.” God picks and chooses who He will use. We must not rebel against His choosing. God, please give me a reminder to abandon my rebellious nature and turn back to You, and to follow your appointed leaders.
(18:20)The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.” The Lord is our inheritance and His riches are many. Thanks be to God.
More on ceremonial uncleanness.
(20:6-12) The Waters of Meribah. Moses was told to speak to the rock and it would supply water for their livestock but he struck the rock twice, and angered the Lord, with disobedience and possibly with a little show of his own power. We must be careful to follow commands, and not let our own pride get in the way. Our power comes exclusively from the Lord.
Rebellion is a costly sin. (20:23-26) the Lord said to 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.” The Lord provided a leader priest for His people to continue before Aaron died. He allowed Aaron’s son, Eleazar to witness the power and the provision of the Lord on Mount Hor. I thought this a sad and powerful moment for Moses, Aaron and Eleazar. How private and precious in the sight of the Lord, are the death of His saints.
God makes provisions for snake bites. (21:8,9) “The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” All we have to do is look to the Lord and He will heal us from the serpent’s attack. We are bitten by evil and He reconciles us back to Him through His Son’s atonement on our behalf.
(22:27)When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Which of us doesn’t LOVE Balaam’s donkey, whom the Lord used to do His Will? I must conclude if He can use a donkey, He can use me.
(23:12) He (Balaam) answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” When the Lord gives us words, we indeed must speak them—if we don’t give Him praise from our lips, even the rocks will cry out. We must speak blessings He gives us. It simply has to spring from our mouth.
Because he was zealous for the honor of His God. It was because of Phinehas, the Levites had a lasting priestly covenant with the Lord (Num 25:10-13) “The Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”
And it was so. (26:26) “For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” Unbelief is very costly.
This is a very tender moment between Moses and His Lord, whom he has come to know like no other man since Adam. Yet in the pain of the moment, when he knows he will not be permitted to go into the Promised Land, he pleads for his people, his friends, his charge for all these years. He asks for a successor so they will not be lost. How his heart must have broken for his sin at Meribah and for his people who did not get to their Promised Land. And yet, how thankful he must have been that God granted him this provision for Joshua to take over. The Lord sees our pain, and comforts us in unfathomable ways. Just as Moses commissioned Joshua exactly as the Lord commanded, and Eleazar, his brother’s son, the priest, laid hands upon him and anointed him with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord provides for His people. He leads with a mighty and holy Hand.
For more insight and reflection on these Scriptures, visit Bev as she graciously hosts Cover to Cover on Mondays. And leave her some loving in a sweet comment since she is recovering from a broken toe. As I close this week with what lingers, I pray the prayer of Moses over our land as we approach another election of a leader for America: