Those Israelites. Ugh.
This week in the book of Numbers, you’ll be reading about the events of three stages of Israel’s time after the exodus from Egypt and before their entrance into the promised land of Canaan: 1) Events leading up to God’s judgment of 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 12-14), 2) events that happen during the 40 years (Numbers 15-19), and 3) events that happened right at the end of the 40 years before entering Canaan (Numbers 20-31).
Perhaps nothing is more clear in this section of Numbers than the fact that the Israelites are just the worst sometimes. Just count how many times they show a complete lack of trust in God and the leaders God place over them. Just count how many times they grumble and complain over their conditions even when God provided manna and quail for them (Num 21). See how they continue to crawl towards other gods (Num 25). So frustrating. So incomprehensible.
Is it though? It’s super easy to bash on the Israelites. And they deserved whatever punishment they received from God. But when you deeply analyze the fallen condition of sinful human kind, it really isn’t all that incomprehensible. Placed in that situation, how likely would it have been for me to look at my circumstances and realize the easiest and most natural way to deal with it is to start complaining to the one who brought me those unfortunate circumstances. Just think about how the blood boils in our lives when we are inconvenienced in the slightest way.
How about we look at Israel’s disobedience as a warning instead of as a moment to pat ourselves on the back. That’s what the Apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 10. Use those lessons as a time to reflect on your lack of trust in God and an encouragement not to end up how they did! Use it as a reminder that even in Israel’s disobedience God was just, yes, but also the most patient and loving God they could have had. He continued to lovingly give them the law to follow and meditate upon. He provided solutions to the pain their sin caused (Ch. 21). He changed the curses of their enemies into blessing (Ch. 23-24).
So he acts with us. Even in our disobedience, God is patient and loving. And this love then flows through us as we live in obedience to his will.
Blessings on your week of reading!