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Numbers 10 through 14: Complain, Complain, Complain

Monday, February 12, 2018 9:28
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Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective

Reading through Numbers is very interesting. Don’t forget, as you read through Scripture on a daily basis (and hopefully, that’s something you’re involved in), keep asking this question: What does this portion of Scripture reveal to me about God? Try to get away from the “what’s in it for me?” syndrome that all too often puts the person at the center, instead of God’s Word. There are reasons God took the time to write His Word using roughly 40 human authors over a period of 1,600 or so years to accomplish it. God wants us to know about Him and His character. We cannot learn that if all we’re doing is approaching His Word to find out what we can get out of it for ourselves.

At any rate, as we move through Numbers, we learn some very intriguing things about God and the way He dealt with a group of people who were constantly pushing Him to react angrily to them. We need to be aware of these things because again, it tells us a great deal about God, His sovereignty, and His character. We then take that and learn to apply it to our lives.

In Numbers 10, God instructs Moses regarding the silver trumpets that were to be made by artisans in the camp and to be used as alarms and attention getters for the nation of Israel. Blowing both trumpets simultaneously meant the entire congregation of people would gather at the entrance to the tent of meeting (v. 3). Blowing only one would be a call for just the heads of each tribe or clan to appear (v. 4). Beyond this, the trumpets served as a precursor to going to war as well as dictated which tribe would set out on the journey and in which order. In short, there were many uses for the trumpets, which is rather irksome to me when people dogmatically state that the Rapture will occur after the blowing of a specific trumpet judgment in the book of Revelation. Those particular trumpets were sounded to mark the release of a new judgment. In the case of the Rapture, a trumpet blast also occurs prior to the actual event. These two different types of trumpet blasts do not necessarily correlate, though I realize that in some people’s minds, they are one and the same. Again, in the Old Testament usage of trumpet blasts, there are many different uses, some long, loud blasts, while others are short. There are also series of blasts used by Israel. We cannot be dogmatic in stating that the trumpet blasts in Revelation connect directly to the blast that occurs prior to the Rapture. That is like saying that there is no differentiation between one or two blasts, and long or short blasts.

But moving on, the second portion of Numbers 10 highlights the nation of Israel setting out on the rest of their journey toward the Promised Land. This should have been the last leg of their journey. Unfortunately, due to disbelief, it was not. It literally extended their wandering in the wilderness another 40 years (one year for each day they spied out the land, Numbers 14:34).

But before we leave Numbers 10, notice something odd. Check out the text starting in verse 29. Moses implores Hobab, who happened to be the son of Moses’ father-in-law, or Moses’ brother-in-law, to stay with the Israelites. Moses reasoned that since Hobab knew that area well, he would be able to help them find their way through. This, to me, is a bit absurd. I don’t understand Moses’ thinking here. Shouldn’t Moses have simply leaned on God instead of anyone else? It is clear that God spoke to Moses like one man speaks to another. God didn’t use dreams or visions that needed interpretation. He spoke directly and clearly.

We can chalk this up to either Moses being overly hospitable to Hobab, or he wanted him around because he at least felt with Hobab, he had another person in his corner. He may also have humanly thought that Hobab knows this area so well that he will be of great help to us as we forge our way to the Promised Land. In short though, Moses should have simply leaned more heavily on God, not another person. Do you ever do that? I do and while it’s not wrong to seek the wise counsel of others, it is dangerous when we come to think they themselves are the answer we seek. Moses had even less of an excuse since he has such a vivid relationship with God in the first place, unlike ourselves.

I know that there are people today who swear that they talk with God and He “talks” with them back. They can tell you the conversations they’ve had down to small details. I don’t doubt their love or sincerity for God, but I do question the reality of their claims. God does not “speak” to us as we speak to other human beings. God uses His Word to speak and the Holy Spirit to impress upon us or urge us in a direction He wants us to move. I’ve read some really silly sounding conversations that people claim to have had with God and I cannot help but wonder when they stand before Him and the truth comes out, they will learn that they either had an imaginary conversation or something else.

Numbers 11 highlights the fact that once again, the people complained. This was a regular occurrence and here, as they did three days after the Lord parted the Red Sea, it is three days after they start out that they begin grumbling and complaining again. We human beings are creatures of habit. We tend to fall back on what we know, what we’ve done before. This is why so many of us struggle with the same sin over and over again. It’s simply a new occurrence of the same problem. In order to get beyond it, we must learn to trust in God and we must also be extremely diligent in doing all we can to avoid falling back into sin by avoiding situations that allow that sin to come to the fore.

The people of Israel did what came easily to them, in spite of all the miracles that God routinely performed on their behalf. They complained and grumbled at the first sign of a problem. Instead of understanding that this new “test” would allow them to grow in their faith, they said, “Forget that noise! I’m going to complain! Oh, woe is me! God hates me!” It’s absurd to the max, but this was their go-to response.

1 And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them. (Numbers 11:1-3 ESV)

What did they have to complain about? Nothing really, but they complained anyway. Because of that, God heard it of course and decided to send a warning. We’re not sure if God actually started little fires near the people who were complaining or if lightning bolts hit the ground and started things on fire, but it is clear that the people got the message and begged Moses to talk to God on their behalf. Still, this did not stop it entirely.

4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Numbers 11:4-6 ESV)

Note the “rabble” were present and made it worse for everyone else. It only takes a few. They started complaining because they had no meat. All they had was that “manna” (literally in Hebrew, what is it?). They longed to be back in Egypt where they had their full of many foods. They needed meat.

I can relate as I like a good steak like the next carnivore, but they were creating problems, constantly putting God to the test. God’s solution? Oh, He would send them meat, so much so, that they would get sick of the very thought of it! At the end of Numbers 11, God does send meat in the form of quail. He also sent a plague that killed many people because of their ungrateful attitudes.

As Christians, what’s our takeaway? We had better not do what the “rabble” of Israel did. While God might not send a plague, He may take us home “early” from this life as Paul notes to the Corinthians. Our attitude should be one of joy and thanksgiving for the things that come our way because it is through them that God’s will for us is accomplished.

Numbers 12 tells us about those closet to Moses – Miriam and Aaron – and how they treated Moses treacherously. These two were upset that Moses had married a Cushite woman. According to them, Moses should not have done that. Whether Moses should have marred the woman or not was not only none of their business, but it was fully moot at this point since Moses already married her. Miriam and Aaron started to think of themselves more highly than they ought to have and God of course, heard it. He called them out of their tents.

God basically gave Aaron and Miriam a good talking to and explained that He reveals Himself to whomsoever He wills. In the case of Moses, God assured the two that He spoke to Moses as one many speaks to another. Basically, God was telling Miriam and Aaron to mind their own business and stop questioning Moses or God. When God left their presence, Miriam had become leprous. Aaron was unaffected. I’m going to assume this was so because Miriam might have been the instigator here. Maybe she had become jealous of Moses and his new wife. Even though Miriam was Moses’ sister, she may have taken a less important role after Moses remarried. This could have been the reason. Aaron obviously had concerns or he would not have joined with Miriam, but it’s possible that like Eve, Miriam brought out his desires into the open, whereby he sinned. In the end, they both learned a very valuable lesson.

Numbers 13 and 14 tell us about the situation where Moses sent spies in the land of Canaan based on the Lord’s directive. Spies were chosen and sent into the land. They remained their 40 days and when they returned they had with them some of the spoils of the land. However, all but two spies (Joshua and Caleb), deemed it unwise to go up and take the land. The people were big and powerful. They had completely forgotten the fact that God was on Israel’s side. Even though Joshua and Caleb pointed this out, the people as a group were ready to stone these two.

In response, Moses and Aaron pray to God for help. He provides it by visibly coming down to the camp and stopping the impending violence. He then issues a decree that every male 20 years and older who was part of the group who complained and doubted would not only not enter into the Promised Land but would die in the wilderness. And it was so. Forty years later, the Israelites again were at the border of the Land that God promised to give them. What would they do then? That’s another store.

Folks, if you’re a Christian, not only do we need to keep our sin list with God very short (confession is good for the soul), but we also need to make sure that we are not doing anything that will cause God to turn to us in loving anger in order to discipline us. We should make it a practice to have an attitude of thanksgiving instead of grousing and complaining. What God allows and sends our way is for our betterment, for our growth, and for His glory.

May we be living examples of His love shining in and through us so that others will see our lives and glorify our Father in heaven. We’ll be back later today with another article about some of Q’s most recent posts. He’s been busy!

Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective


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