Today’s scripture passage cuts painfully close for me. I never realized I would see myself in the book of Numbers, but there I was this morning, right there on the pages of the Living Word of God.
Day 63 reading: Numbers, chapters 21-22
Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” The Lord listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. (21:2-3, NIV)
So, once again, God saves the day in a big way. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride with the Israelites at the helm, but I’m sure that’s how my own life will feel in retrospect, too.
But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses (21:4-5, NIV).
Again? And again…and again…and again. Why do the Israelites keep forgetting that He’s the real deal. Why do they only call out to Him when they need His miracles and then throw Him by the wayside when they are bored?
Aren’t we just as bad about that? I hope none of you reading this can relate to this, but I know my own walk tends to vacillate at times, too. You know, one minute you’re praising God and high as a kite on Him alone, then the next moment your child walks in the door with a bad report card and all of your praising goes out the window. Or you have a car wreck and although you are thankful to still be alive, you’re cursing the woman who broadsided you because she was talking on the phone, putting on lipstick and had a dog in her lap…all while attempting to drive.
Things happen in our very human lives that render very human responses; and I believe that God understands that completely. He knows what is in our hearts. He knows that He is in our hearts. So having very human moments in our day to days will not tear us from our Lord, but speaking out against Him over and over again as the Israelites are doing obviously took it’s toll on the relationship between the two.
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. (21:6, NIV)
So Moses prayed for the people.
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.” (21:8, NIV)
Again, the Lord gives His people an “out.” Just think of the scripture passages from just the past few days when the Israelites watched as the earth opened up and swallowed so many of their people whole, then were consumed by Holy fire, then a plague wiped out a number of them. So many watched their fellow comrades die on the spot because of their attitudes toward the Lord, yet here they were again, speaking out against Him; And here He is again saving them and proving His Presence with them.
And is it just me or was Moses almost as forgiving as the Lord Himself? Always praying for the people even after they rebuke him and speak against him? He has a supernatural tolerance for the people, because of what God had done in his life.
The Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.” (21:16, NIV)
He always provides for our needs. Always.
Then the people when on and won another battle and occupied more land, just as the Lord always said they would. And even in their fear, the Lord spoke to Moses to cover them.
The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of [Og king of Bashan and his whole army], for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.” (21:34, NIV)
When God is for us, when God is leading us, when we take God by the hand and follow Him and the path He has laid out for our lives, who can possibly stand against us? Hear this: NO ONE.
“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.” (22:5, NIV)
Recall this passage from Day 16 of our journey:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” (Genesis 12: 1-3, NIV)
Then, we meet Balaam (and myself face-to-face in the mirror of the Living Word of God):
But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” (22:12, NIV)
But Balaam answered [Balek and the other princes], “Even if Balek gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God.” (22:18, NIV)
Are those ever words to live your life by. Only God gives me strength to do all that I do.
That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him.
When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field.
When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it.
When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with a 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?”( 22:20-22, 23, 25, 27-28, NIV)
I have a confession to make. I uses to write my blog postings at night. It’s my most creative time and the juices are flowing. The problem with this is that then I stay up far later than I should and don’t end up getting enough rest at night. How many of you know that alarm clock or children pounding down the hallway come at the same time every morning no matter how much or how little sleep you get? So, my answer to this issue was that I would start going to bed earlier and waking up earlier, too. But at least by studying and writing early in the morning, I have a set time and a set schedule to keep me on track. The key there is that I can’t sleep through my alarm clock…
At night I pray that the Lord wake me up as early as I need to be woken up in order to read and write on the next day’s scripture passage, and this morning as I was set to get up and read, my alarm was set for 5:00 a.m., but my Lord work me up at 4:21 the first time. Note: the first time. Some mornings, I can’t seem to help having mental bargaining going on in my head with God. Me bargaining with God. Really? I’m as bad as the Israelites! So, this morning I slept through His 5:21 wake-up call, then His 4:28 wake-up call, then His 4:33 wake-up call, and on they went until I finally responded.
Friends, I don’t know if that makes me more like Balaam or more like the donkey in today’s passage, but let me tell you that when I finally got out of bed and into the Word, I was struck down by this last portion of scripture.
Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. (22:31, NIV)
Doesn’t life go smoother (at 4:21 a.m. or any other time of the day or night) when we follow the path He sets for us. When we ask for His Mighty Hand to save the day (or wake us up), doesn’t it work out better when we follow His path, step-for-step? Friends, I have to tell you, I don’t want to be like the Israelites on their roller coaster ride. I want to live a life of smooth sailing, following God close on His heels, never distracted from the world, but always facing Him for guidance, then actually DOING WHAT HE SAYS TO DO.
Make it a great day,
Day 64 reading: Numbers, chapters 23-25