Travel Plans

Traveling is one of my favorite things.  I love thinking about, planning and going on trips, day trips, week-end getaways, week long vacations and I have been fortunate to have taken many different trips.  Moses and the Israelites spent quite a bit of time traveling also.  Chapter 33 of the book of Numbers includes a detailed list of the “journeys of the sons of Israel.”  But now, their 40 years of wandering in the desert were finished and they were poised to enter the Promised Land.  Sadly, those who would enter the Promised Land were the second generation of those who had left Egypt – all of the original group, except for Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb had died and, in verse 38, Aaron dies.

When anyone in our family is getting ready to leave on a trip of a week or more, we call each other.  I think of these as our “just in case” calls.  Just in case some disaster or problem occurs either at home or with the travelers; it seems good to touch base, make sure we know the when’s and where’s of the trip, remind them that we will be thinking of them, praying for them and hoping they are having a wonderful time!  God had some final important instructions for Moses and the Israelites before they step into the Jordan, the last leg of their long and difficult journey.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan,  then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places;  Numbers 33:50-52

  • Drive out the inhabitants
  • Destroy their figured stones and molten images
  • Demolish their high places

This sounds so harsh, the people currently living in the Promised Land were idol worshipper’s and God’s plan was that the Israelites were to be set apart to worship Him and Him only.  God knew their tendency to be led astray and powerfully influenced by others and we are no different. We all have one or more idols in our lives; our modern day idols are less obvious than those made of stone but are no less tempting.  Our idols can be much more subtle, things like status, financial security, physical appearance, another person.  We give our idols cute names like career advancement, investment strategy, meaningful relationships – now don’t misunderstand me; these are all good things but when they take first place in our time, energy, hearts and minds they become idols.  Driving out these “inhabitants” may mean changing the people, places and things in our lives.  Is your group of friends more interested in hitting the clubs than in encouraging your walk with God – you might need different friends.  Does getting that promotion mean eliminating family time, cutting out church – your job title could be your “molten image”.  Are you spending more time with your TV than with God and His Word – the recliner has become your “high place”.

God tells Moses what will happen if the idol-worshippers and idols are not removed…

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. Numbers 33:55

When we don’t eliminate the idols in our lives we can expect the same results:

Pricks in the eyes – ever get something in your eye?  It is difficult to concentrate on anything until we remove that grain of sand.  What we see affects and changes what we think.  If we focus on our idols our thinking gets twisted and confused and the idol becomes our priority; we focus on the created thing and not our awesome Creator.

Thorns in our sides – being a “workaholic”, “couch potato” or party animal all will have a serious affect on our health.  Worry will replace peace, frustration and anger will replace joy.  Science is revealing what God has always said, stress saps your strength and can definitely shorten your life.

Trouble in the land – it is impossible to serve two masters.  Worshipping power, position and money destroys families and relationships.  The idol of self-gratification results in everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, usually at the expense of others.  These earlier, idol-worshipping societies did not survive, eaten away from the inside out,  imploded on themselves.

Discovering our personal idols and then eliminating them will take prayer, discernment and discipline; it may require making some difficult changes to the people, places and things of our lives.  The Christian Life is the trip of a lifetime, worth thinking about, planning and enjoying into eternity.  Have a wonderful journey!

You Get What You Get

There was a very limited menu in the home I grew up in and my kids were raised in the same kind of home.  Meals were prepared, you sat down to eat and you ate what was served.  Most meals were planned and prepared based on Dad’s favorites, available budget and Mom’s inspirations.  As a kid, we never ate brussels sprouts, casseroles, or raw broccoli because my Dad did not like those; we did eat mashed potatoes, gravy, pot roast and roast chicken – big Dad favorites.  In my home, I do most of the meal planning and always have, in general I did it the way my mom did, I cooked what my husband and I liked and what the budget would allow.  I did try to include some kid favorites such as macaroni and cheese.  My kids never had to eat brussels sprouts either but they were expected to eat whatever was cooked and served without complaining.

I didn’t have a lot of patience for complaints about the food choices then and I still don’t have a lot of patience with complaints or complainers; it is all too easy complain and once that train gets rolling it is very difficult to stop.  The Israelites apparently complained loudly and often, there are numerous episodes of their complaining recorded in the Old Testament.

The book of Numbers, chapter 10 verse 33 tells us that the Israelites left the mount of the Lord and walked for three days, their first, organized march.  They had spent a year camped in the desert and at the end of these first 3 days they set up camp; Numbers 11 records that they immediately start complaining!

They complain about the situation they are in,

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord;”

And then they complain about what they are not eating,

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,”.  

Next they complain about what they are eating, 

“There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

Moses jumps on the “Complain Train” bemoaning the difficulty of leading these baby whiners,

I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me.  So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once,”

God’s anger is kindled greatly and He has a dramatic and swift response to this chorus of complaints:

  • Warning – the Lord sends a fire that burns the outskirts of the camp.  Certainly God could have burned it all, He chose to burn just some and the fire died out when Moses interceded in prayer.  Has God given you a gentle warning?  Are your complaints becoming tiresome to those around you?
  • Mercy – God anoints 70 elders, men to assist Moses in listening to complaints and settling disputes.  There were over 600,000 adult male Israelites at this time and an unknown number of women and children, a lot of complainers and problems.  Have you considered that God may be holding back on allowing some bigger/worse problem your way?
  • Provision – God sends quail and lots of it, 36 inches deep worth of quail.  I have never eaten quail but I guess it would be a welcome change from manna.  Most people are like me, I have everything I need to survive, maybe not exactly what I want but what I truly need.  Does this describe your life?  Am I, are you, grateful for what you do have?
  • Punishment – Plague, possibly a result of all the quail, rotting since there was too much of it to collect, clean and cook.  The people were so greedy the place was renamed Kibroth-Hattaavvah, Graves of Greediness.  God is patient and long-suffering but He is also just, He will never protect us from experiencing the consequences of our choices.

I cannot be too hard on these Israelites because this sounds so like me at times.  I complain because it is too hot or too cold, my feet hurt, I’m tired, I don’t like where I am, I want to be somewhere else, I have to dust the stuff I have, I can’t afford to buy more stuff, I wish I could afford a steak, I am sick of eating salads, brussels sprouts look and smell weird, my clothes are shrinking, I have no time to exercise, exercise is too difficult, and on and on and on it goes.

Complaints are an insult to God.  Complaining sends the message that God’s gifts are just not good enough.  Philippians 4:6 tells me that I am free to ask God for whatever I want but I need to ask humbly and receive whatever He sends with gratitude.  This story makes me think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  She’s the greedy girl who wants everything she sees.   She ignores Willy Wonka’s warning about his experimental chewing gum, grabs it and pops it into her mouth.  She begins to turn a delightful shade of blue and inflates, turning into a huge round blueberry.

So be careful!  You get what you get but when you get what you want it might make you sick but not to worry, no brussels sprouts served in this house!

Stay Flat!

Some of my least favorite conversations start like this.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

“I can tell something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”

Like a ping pong match, this exchange can go for a while until one or the other person breaks down and tells why they are angry/hurt/upset/worried/sad etc.  Most of the time it is pretty easy to “read” the people we are close to and we know when to start this conversation.

But we know how to hide, how to pretend, how to dissemble, and how to divert attention from what is really going on with us to some other meaningless thing.  God knows we do this and that we like to think we are pretty good at it.  When Adam and Eve were hiding in that garden He knew where they were and why they were hiding but He asked, “Where are you?” It was similar to asking them, “What’s the matter?”

We may be able to hide from one another but we cannot hide from God.  In chapter 5 of the book of Numbers God has some interesting instructions about revealing some things that could easily be kept hidden.

Leprosy – cannot be in the camp where God is; a person having leprosy must be put out of the camp.  Leprosy often begins with a  visible sore or white patch on the skin and it would it be easy to keep it hidden for a while.

Wrong another person – the offender must confess their sin and make proper restitution. But what if the wrong is not such a big deal or the person offended cannot be found?   “No one will ever know”  This is not an acceptable excuse, we know we did it and so does God.  No procrastination either, do it right away before you “forget”.

Suspected adultery – a husband suspects his wife may have committed adultery but has no proof. (And yes, sorry ladies, a woman suspecting her husband did not have this same recourse and yes, this does not seem fair.)  The husband must take her to the priest, he is not to nag her with accusations and because there are no witnesses she cannot be stoned to death. (The penalty for adultery Leviticus 20:10).  Now it gets really interesting, the priest prepares bitter water for her to drink (water with dust from the ground mixed in)  and the priest makes this pronouncement,

the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

There was really nothing special or “magical” in the water, the priest and woman were agreeing that God would judge her.  If she had committed adultery, she would become barren – unable to bear children, her sin would be exposed.

This is one of those parts of the Bible that makes me look up to God and say, “Huh?  I don’t think I really get all this, God.”  And I “hear” God say, “That’s ok, I am glad you are working on it, you don’t have to understand every word of my Word but what do you get?”

And here are two things that seem very clear:

  • Sin spreads, like leprosy, it will not go away and must be dealt with or it may “infect” others.  Once I have taken one apple from my neighbors orchard it becomes much easier to take two or three the next time,  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
  • God expects His people to be holy as He is holy.  To be honest in all our dealings with one another.  To be honest with Him, to confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, to make restitution if necessary, to honor our marriage vows with our faithfulness.  To be pure and holy is a process, it begins on the outside with cleaning up the obvious sin in our lives, whatever that is, drinking, bad language, etc.  Then we are to move on the deeper levels, being honest in all of our dealings with each other and finally to honesty in our closest, most intimate relationship – our marriages.

Jon Courson (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1) writing on the woman accused of adultery in this passage says that her swollen belly indicates her inner turmoil and her rotten (wasted) thigh represents an inability to walk spiritually.  A swollen belly and a painful leg make it difficult to walk (ask anyone who is 8 – 9 months pregnant!)  A pure life brings inner peace and a strong walk with the Lord.  How do you get that?  Admit your sin to God, ask Him to forgive you, believe that Jesus died for you, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.  So, keep your belly flat and your legs strong!

Assigned Parking

“Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.”

Some of you might recognize these lines as song lyrics written by Irving Berlin from the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The song is a musical duel between the competitive leads, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  The words are all too true, no matter how good you are or think you are, someone is always better.  Competition can be energizing, it causes some people to work or train harder, to study or practice more, to do whatever it takes to be the best.  Competition can be discouraging, someone will get a higher score than you, someone else can do what you do faster, better, easier and it can make you think it is just not worth the effort.

When I started to blog I discovered an important aspect was connecting with other bloggers, reading what others were writing and thinking, commenting on other blogs and receiving comments on my own posts; this is a part of blogging I am enjoying very much.

It did not take long to discover that some of the people blogging are really, REALLY GOOD!  Way way better than me at expressing themselves and their posts are really REALLY informative, thought-provoking and helpful!  Reading and following these accomplished and gifted people make it easy to allow discouragement to overshadow the inexplicable urge to write and continue blogging.  So you cannot imagine how happy I am to be reading the book of Numbers in my Bible.

Now if you have ever read the book of Numbers it is not exactly the most exciting book in the Bible!  it is one of the first five books of the Bible or the Pentateuch.  Numbers begins with God instructing Moses to take a census of the nation of Israel and counting people and things is the predominate activity in the first 7 chapters – maybe exciting to an accountant but not so much for the rest of us.  But the Bible is full of truth and treasure and in chapter 2 God had a gem for me and for anyone else feeling over-looked and discouraged.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.” 

In the books prior to Numbers, God had given detailed instructions to the Israelites about His tabernacle, His laws and how He is to be worshipped.  Now He gives them very specific camping instructions; who is to camp where.  God tells Moses which tribes are to camp to the north, south east and west of the tabernacle, who is assigned as the leader of each tribe, and, He repeats the number of men (the census totals) for each tribe.  God assigns each one their parking space.  No one is omitted, everyone knows where they need to go and everyone has a specific spot.

I love what I see about God here:

  • God is a God of order and not chaos.
  • God is not random or capricious.
  • God  has a perfect plan.
  • God has an assigned place for everyone.

Yep, I may not be the best blogger or whatever else I attempt, but God has a plan, a purpose and a place that I only I can fill and He has the same for you!  My challenge and encouragement to myself and to you is to keep on keeping on; whatever God is calling you to do and wherever you are – hang in there and don’t stop.  Do it to the best of your ability, ignore the “competition”, and keep putting one foot, or keystroke, in front of the other.  God’s got me an assigned parking spot, it is right where it needs to be and I’m parking there!