From Unfolding Grace:
“At the end of Exodus, with Israel still at Mount Sinai, God graciously filled the tabernacle with his presence. This reminds us of the beginning of the Bible’s story, when God dwelt with humanity in Eden. Adam and Eve were like priests, made to know and worship God. In this way the tabernacle is a symbolic Eden. Then tabernacle also anticipates the end of the Bible’s story, when God will once again dwell with his people, this time forever. Israel’s tabernacle is a symbol and foretaste of God’s restored presence with His people.”
And from there, our journey through the Word skips ahead to the book of Numbers. Leviticus laid out for God’s people how He was to be approached and worshipped. There were sacrifices, cleanliness codes, and days of remembrance, all of which called the people of God to be Holy as God is holy. And with those provisions in place, the Lord led His people to the promised land, which is where we pick back up in Numbers 10-14.
Wednesday, March 24th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Numbers 10-14
Focused Passage for Reflection - Numbers 11:1-23 (v. 23)
Reflecting on the Text:
The people complained. The Lord promised to provide. Then the people struggled (or just refused) to believe Him and rest in His provision. Sometimes it was the people. Sometimes it was the leaders. Sometimes it is us.
Can you relate? Sadly, I can. With five brief words, the Lord caught Moses’ attention…and mine. They were words that applied to the promise of meat, and should have been words that the people remembered when it came later to the promise of land. “Is the Lord’s hand shortened?” (Numbers 11:23)
It was a punchy and effective rebuke, offered to Moses of all people. He had just questioned whether or not the Lord was able to pull off the promise He was making. Remember, the people complained (once again) that there was no meat. They longed for the good ole days back in Egypt when they had more variety in their diet.
The Lord got angry. And then Moses complained to the Lord that he had to deal with these people. It was just too much for Moses to have to put up with.
So with all of the complaining going on, what did the Lord do? He graciously gave Moses help, calling him to appoint elders to share the load. And then He promised an abundance of quail, enough to feed the people for a month! It was a big promise, and Moses questioned whether or not God was up to the task.
That is where the five-word rebuke comes in. But it was not merely meant for Moses. It is meant for me, and most likely for you. I read those words and am convicted of how many times I limit God’s abilities. I constrain Him according to the ways of man. I doubt His provision. I question His ways. I practically deny the supernatural. And in all of this, I try to protect the Lord’s reputation by not expecting too much or by overpromising. Is it just me, or can you relate?
The words of verse 23 continue to ring in my mind as I read on into Numbers 13 and 14. The spies went in to look over the Promised Land. It was a good land! The spies described it as flowing with milk and honey. They brought back a grapevine so big it took two men to carry it by a pole draped across their shoulders. The Lord was making a big, bold promise. But there were big people in the land, and the spies were afraid. It was a different version of the same story. The people wondered if the Lord’s hand was shortened, and their disobedience and doubt cost them everything.
Does any of this hit as close to home for you as it does me? Sure, we must be careful in applying this question in such a way that we believe the Lord will do anything we want. But for many of us, the real danger is that we will dis-believe the Lord can do what He promised. The rebuke likely stung Moses for a bit, but he learned his lesson. Will I learn mine? Will you learn yours? Will we believe that God is God, and will we actually depend upon Him in prayer? Will we cast our burdens upon Him, even those really big ones? Or will we treat Him as if His arms are shortened, and then go off on our own way?
Questions for personal reflection:
Where are you struggling to believe in the power of God?
How does this struggle impact and limit your prayer life?
What might it look like for you to repent of unbelief and to replace it with belief?