Strength in Numbers
Much has transpired in the book of Numbers over the past couple of days. The Israelites rebelled and complained a few times. Moses pleaded with God not to destroy them. But, God punished them anyway. Then, God gave them some more laws to follow, making a definite distinction between unintentional sins and intentional ones. Who knew there was a difference? I thought sin was all the same in the eyes of God. But, apparently not.
We saw someone stoned to death as a result of gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. If that seems harsh, we also watched as the ground opened and swallowed up a clan of priests who dared to rise up against Moses. It’s mind boggling to me that the people insisted on repeating the same behavior over and over again, even though that behavior quite often resulted in swift and fatal judgment.
But, then I think of how we are today. No matter how many consequences we face for our poor choices, whether its abusing substances or wasting money or being lazy, we repeat our bad behavior in spite of the known results. Perhaps it’s just a flaw in the human spirit, which started with Adam and Eve doing the exact thing they were told not to do.
This must be the reason for all of the laws of purification that we continue to see. In today’s reading, we read about the very graphic sacrifice of an unblemished red heifer, which had to be slaughtered and burned with its dung. Its blood had to be sprinkled in front of the tent of meeting, and its ashes placed outside of the camp. The irony does not escape me, however, that such a messy act could lead to purification. But, God knows better than I do.
What’s becoming increasingly apparent to me by now is that God wants nothing to do with death. The very presence of it makes a person unclean, and therefore unfit to come before God, who is the very definition of life. So, it makes perfect sense to me that death would be offensive to the Creator of all things living. But what doesn’t make perfect sense to me is how God’s anger often resulted in the death of many. I don’t want to say that this is a contradiction, but I will say that it’s confusing.
Speaking of death, there was a quick mention of Miriam being dead and buried, all in the same verse. Moses’ sister was given much less attention than his brother, Aaron, who also died in today’s reading. “All the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days,” according to what’s written in chapter 20.
But, before Aaron died, we learned why God wouldn’t allow them to go into the promised land with the people of Israel. Apparently, God told Moses to do one simple thing. But, Moses felt the need to put his own spin on the instructions given, and it cost him. It seems a small detail to me that Moses struck the rock to make water instead of just speaking to it. But, who am I? I’m not God.
I suppose it’s like telling your child to go to his room. And, instead of walking calmly to the room, he stomps all the way, then slams the door. Technically, he did what he was told to do. But, he did it in a way that’s disrespectful. So, if I think of it that way, I do understand.
These children tested God’s patience constantly, so it’s no wonder that He had to lay down the law without wavering. If we show our kids the slightest weakness in our resolve, they’ll exploit it each and every time. Even though God showed no weakness when dealing with the Israelites, they continued to test His patience anyway.
What do you think of the book of Numbers so far? Feel free to leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page.
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