Thursday, September 2, 2010

Giants in the Land

Through the Bible in 90 days: Day 11

Read: Numbers 8:15-21:7

Verse that stood out:
Do not be afraid of the people in the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them - Numbers 14:9

The book of Numbers leaves me with lots of questions. Why do the people of Israel so often rebel against Moses after having witnessed miracles as grand as the crossing of the Red Sea? Why does God's stock response to these rebellions seem to always be one of violent annihilation? How is it that Moses talks God out of such actions? Does God really change his mind so easily? And yet, among the many questions, this story still resonates with my own experiences. Learning to trust and obey God takes time. We get it one day and then fail to get it the next. Just because God answered our prayers in the past doesn't mean we will be any better at believing his promises in the future.

Every Sunday, we gather as a people and take a glimpse into the Promise Land. We talk and sing about that day when God's kingdom shall come in full, a kingdom overflowing not with milk and honey but with grace and peace. Some days we even find ourselves carrying in some of its fruits to put on display here in the wilderness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. For a brief moment we allow ourselves to ponder what life in that kingdom might actually be like.

The hope is short lived. Like the Hebrew spies, we take our eyes off the promise and focus upon the giants in the land: injustice and poverty, war and enmity between family members, our own deceitful hearts, conflicts in the church. Like the Israelites of old, we retreat in fear and even threaten to stone those prophets who speak too forcefully of hope (Numbers 14:10). We can't imagine a world in which the fruits of the Spirit might overcome the deeds of the flesh. We seek to silence those who would suggest otherwise.

And yet, despite our misgivings, the promise remains, the invitation still stands, God will bring about his kingdom come through us or despite us. The question for us is, "Which shall it be?"

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28-29.

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