Today’s Reading: Numbers 1-11
Numbers ranks right up there with Leviticus on books of the Bible that I do not enjoy reading, but God is generous and can tell us exactly what we need to hear, even in the book of Numbers. So as I hear myself whining and complaining about what is ahead for me this week, I find myself reading in Numbers about how Abraham’s growing family has a problem with whining and complaining.
One year after leaving Egypt, God told Moses to take a census of all the men 20 years of age and older. The people did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses (Numbers 1:54) and the total came to 603,550. God instructed each tribe to set up camp under their family banner with three tribes to the north of the Tabernacle, three tribes to the east, three tribes to the south and three tribes to the west. And the people did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses (2:34).
God said to count the number of men in the tribe of Levi who were one month of age or older, men who had been set apart to serve as priests. The people did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses and they counted 22,273 (3:42-43). God gave distinct responsibilities to each family group within the tribe of Levi and he told the priests to bless the people saying,
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24
Moses dedicated the Tabernacle and the priests were set up with specific instructions on how to serve God. It was now a year after their rescue from Egypt and so the Israelites celebrated their first Passover, remembering how God had spared their firstborn by passing over the homes with the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. And the people did whatever the Lord told them through Moses to do (9:23).
Eventually the Israelites became tired of this way of life – tired of the work of picking up and moving, wandering from place to place. They were tired of the manna God had provided for them to eat and they began to whine and complain. Manna was no longer enough for them. Now they wanted meat. Moses became aggravated with the people and began to feel sorry for himself, taking out his frustrations on God.
And Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!” – Numbers 11:11-15
This next part reminds me of the many times I would hear my father say after several warnings, “Don’t make me come down there. If I have to come down and tell you to be quiet one more time, you will be sorry.” God sort of gave the same fatherly warning. He said He would come down and the Israelites would get want they wanted – oh boy, would they get it! In fact, they were about to get so much meat that they would be tired of it!
Moses responded – and where am I supposed to get that much meat to feed that many people?!!! Oh Moses, I wish I could not relate to your faithless behavior but how many times have I been in your shoes. I know I serve a God who provides generously, yet I find myself asking how I am supposed to do what God is calling me to do. I can also sadly relate to the people who have been blessed by God but I become dissatisfied and bored, ready for God to bless in a new and different way. Oh, what a patient God we serve! Oh, how we must frustrate Him!
God answered Moses, “So, do you think I can’t take care of you?” – Numbers 11:23a (The Message). Or in the NLT version it says, “Has my arm lost its power?” and the NIV says, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”
Over and over again Moses had witnessed the Lord’s provision and also the Lord’s anger at the people’s complaining and selfishness, yet here he is – the one lacking faith to believe that God could do what He said He would do. I would love to sit here in judgment of Moses and shake my head and consider him an idiot but the truth is that I am no better than Moses. I am the one to whom the Lord needs to ask the question “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” or “So, do you think I can’t take care of you?” or “Has my arm lost its power?”
Over and over again we witness God’s provision. My prayer for us today is that we know with confidence that God can take care of us, that His arm is not too short. I pray that we remain in a state of obedience without questioning God or praying for more than what God is giving us. I pray that God does something within each one of our hearts today, causing us to only desire what He desires for us and to be content with what He has for us. Lord, may these things be true in our lives today. Amen.
God has provided over and over again and I choose to trust Him. I have faith that He is able and He will take care of me. I pray God strengthens your faith today as you trust in Him.