OK, so I’m a tad behind with the blog. Even though we’ve moved on to Deuteronomy, where there is much to think about and talk about, I want to reflect on something in Numbers because I don’t want to skip the whole book. And, because I am convicted by Numbers and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. So, think about this with me.
Leviticus is kind of a pause in Israel’s story to focus in on man’s sin and God’s holiness. It pauses Israel’s story to describe the sacrifices God graciously provides to atone for sin so a holy God can dwell in the midst of a sinful people. When you get to Numbers 10 the story kind of picks back up as Israel leaves Sinai. The first things that happens once the story resumes… surprise, surprise, the people complain (Ch. 11).
In chapter 13 the spies are sent ahead into the land God promised Abraham he would give to his offspring. This should be the greatest day ever, the journey is nearly over! Israel camps on the verge of receiving God’s promise and blessing! But, the people have long forgotten God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The hardships of their journey and the conditions in which they are living have them glorifying the conditions of slavery in Egypt. The spies return and 10 of them say “We’re going to get wiped out if we go in there and try to conquer those people!” As you might expect by now Israel revolts, “Would that we have died in the land of Egypt.”
Well God has about had it and he’s ready to wipe them out and start all over again until Moses talks him out of it (an amazing exchange in Numbers 14:11-20). But even though God relents, he refuses to let any of these rebellious people enter the land and he turns them to wander in the wilderness until the whole generation dies.
What happens next makes sense to me, but is also what troubles me. In Chapter 16 a Levite named Korah and 250 leaders of the people assemble themselves against Moses and rebel against his leadership. They basically say “Moses who do you think you are? You’re no better than anyone else around here. Why do you think you get to tell us all what we have to do - like go back and wander in the wilderness? We don’t want to do that and you can’t make us." God opens the ground and swallows the rebels up and sends fire and burns them up. What happens the very next day, “all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron…”
When I first read this part of Israel’s history, I think “How dumb and blind can you be? Why can’t you people just get with the program?” But then I think of how often I am just like Korah, I don’t like God’s program. I think about how often I don’t care what God says or why he says it, because if I do what God says it’s not going to be fun, or profitable, or comfortable. Why does God say I should think this way or choose that way? Why do I have to take a hard road when I think I see a much easier one? I know what it is like to have a frustrated and bitter heart that sometimes cries out against God.
I wonder if the census in Numbers was carried out to the generations living in 2016 if I would find myself listed as a descendent of Korah, the descendent of Levi. Even if not, I find myself being referred to in Romans 3:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” - Romans 3:10-12
I am desperate and grateful that our God is gracious and merciful. He has atoned for me, ransomed me from my sin and rebellion. I am not swallowed up by the earth like Korah. I am saved from myself by grace.
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. - Romans 3:23-25