On Numbers 20...
"Here she comes again... I always cringe inside when I see her. She is so..."Have you ever thought such things?
"He is so arrogant... if I ever get the chance, I'm going to take him down a notch."
"I can't believe I lost control again. I hate my temper, but I just can't seem to hold my anger in check."Do the same things... things you know are wrong... things you want to stop... do they keep happening over and over? Jesus one time talked about having a fountain inside of us - one full of eternal life. But honestly, more often I feel like I have a fountain of muddy, slimy water inside me. As good as I try to be and as much as I'd like to be a good Christian, these slimy, dark, impure words and thoughts and actions keep flowing out of me.
"I wish I could take those words back... once they landed, I could see how much they hurt... but how can I undo them?"
"Not you, surely... you're a pastor." No really... me, too.
Sometimes, when we hear or read these stories about the Israelites doing sinful, disobedient things over and over, even when God is right there doing amazing things in front of them, it's easy to think, "They are just fools; why don't they ever get it?" But you know what? When I'm honest, I totally understand them... I'm just like them.
Again, there is part of me that says, "Forty years of wandering, being thirsty, and God providing including this EXACT situation. And surely you have seen the results of your parents not trusting God and Moses' leadership!" But then, when I'm honest, I think of my almost 40 years of life and how often God has answered my prayers and shown Himself to be true and real and present in my life, and how often I have repeated the same mistakes... the same acts of disobedience... the same sin.
And yet, we have also been reminded of God's faithfulness - that though His people fail and fight against Him, He continues to provide a way forward and an invitation to come home to Him. Today's text is a wonderful reminder of this. It is easy to focus on Moses in this story, and we will look at that. But, the real treasure in this story is God's generous faithfulness in providing AGAIN for His contentious, quarreling children. In a sentence, that is the amazing Good News for us today - that God graciously provides, even for sinful, quarreling children like you and me.
Do you understand the huge news that is? The Bible isn't the story of God rewarding good people with greater and greater honors until they rise into Heaven. It is the story of God having mercy and showing love to sinful, bickering, quarreling, fighting, contentious children. It is the story of God showing mercy to you and me, and inviting us to respond to Him.
Those waters were called "Meribah" because there the people struggled again against God, and Meribah means struggle or striving. Those are the waters that seem to continue to swirl around in our lives in this in-between time between slavery to sin and being with God in Heaven. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been brought out of slavery - we can obey God and follow Him because God's Spirit lives in us. Yet, the waters and memory of the old life still swirls in and around us.
God graciously provides forgiveness and lovingly invites us to turn to Him again and again, choosing faithfulness and obedience. That is Good News! And that is an amazing grace God!
If you are new to this blog....
Sunday, March 25, 2007
On Numbers 20...
Sunday, March 04, 2007
On Exodus 16...
Look at what happened in the situation of the hunger in the wilderness. It is very similar to the way God responded to their thirst.
God instructed Moses with "rules" that the people would need to follow. Again, God's deliverance is linked to obedience. God would provide meat (quail) and bread (manna). The obedience involved trusting God. The people were only to collect what they needed for one day. They tested this, and the food went bad.
I have two observations:
1. God could have transported them from Egypt through the Red Sea to the Promised Land, but he chose for them to endure the wilderness. Likewise, God could beam us right to Heaven when we come out of death through trust in Jesus Christ. But, God chooses for us to live a life between salvation and Heaven.
2. God could have provided them with lots and lots of food and water, but chose to give them just enough for one day. Often, God gives us just what we need for the moment or the day, whether that be peace, respite, help, or guidance.
Why did and why does God act in these ways? I believe it is to teach us trust. It is to train us in faithfulness - so we will become worshiping followers of God through Jesus Christ. If God gave me all the riches, health, prosperity, and power I need (or think I need), would I ever call out to Him again? Would I think I needed Him at all?
Should I send my children on to college now? No, surely they are not yet ready. Heather and I are training them, raising them up hopefully to be mature and godly young women. Along the way, we are enjoying the relationship of parent and child. God was continuing to reveal Himself to His people. He was not just miraculous Savior - they would understand that from the plagues and the Red Sea. He was also Lord of their lives - every moment and every day, and they needed to learn to trust Him in every moment, especially in the difficult ones!
God not only provided for His people's needs, despite their grumbling; He did so in order that they might know Him as their God. God was building relationship with them through trust, obedience, and His provision. That has significant implications for you and me. It means that our present concerns - our present "wilderness experiences" - are not meant to make us forsake God, but to trust Him!
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you in need? Is money scarce? Is your health failing? Is the way forward difficult or confusing? Does it seem like God is nowhere to be found, you're on your own, and there is little hope?
Listen, this is the Good News from God's Word. It is consistent throughout the Bible, from these passages in Exodus to Psalm 23 to John 14 to Revelation: God is here. God is with you. God loves you and desires a relationship with you. God is strong and has already accomplished salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. God desires your obedience and trust. God hears your prayers. And God is willing and able to give you what you really need - maybe not what you think you need - but what you really need... enough for today so that you might trust in Him again tomorrow. Know, too, that God is taking you somewhere. If you are following Him, you are not wandering in circles. If you are trusting Him, He is teaching you faith so that you will know Him and worship Him, and so that you will have hope in Him.