KEY SCRIPTURE Numbers 20:1-3 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!
RELEVANCE The power of selfishness or self-ness can create such a small window of vision and is the opposite of Godliness. We cannot see big pictures or ideas greater than the size of our own eye.
After spending roughly a year at Mount Sinai, where God gave them the instructions of Exodus and Leviticus, the Israelite sojourners continued their trek in the book of Numbers. In the nomadic life, their desire for the flowers of Egypt—their former penal colony—overrode all the sweetness of the journey.
Instead of being excited about the wonderful miracles God would do next to provide for them, they showed a continually obscene disregard for Moses and Aaron or their anointed ministries.
Our key scripture reveals a particularly distasteful lack of sympathy and sensitivity toward Moses and Aaron as they mourned the death of their older sister Miriam. The same Miriam who pushed three-month-old Moses in his bullrush crib into the Nile and who convinced Pharaoh's daughter to adopt him and employ his mother as a wet nurse. Miriam, who taught the desert women godliness and spiritually supported many families.
Further, verses 4 & 5 show the extent of their self-focus in one of the most venomous verbal lash-outs in the Bible. And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
We all struggle to see or believe anything unrelated when stuck in self. Their narcissistic impulses generated a lack of appreciation of or care for God under whose grace they journeyed. "This evil place" was the habitation of the Lord's mercy, an aspect they refused to see.
As with all self-absorbed people, they couldn't bring themselves to admit the problem was theirs—in this case, their lack of faith. That is, until God's penalties forced their confessions. Even then, those apologies were indigestible and short-lived.
If they opened their hearts properly to God, they could see that the seed, figs, vines, or pomegranates would have been their personal spiritual growth. They could have followed the examples of Joshua or Caleb, the two faithful people, asking them how to change their outlook and get a heart for God. But no! Complainers then and now cannot see in colour.
They remained dispassionate about the future crossing of Jordan. They refused to see the triumph in the colours of the Tabernacle and High Priest—their hope and connection with the living God. Not the view from the inside where the priests worked, but from the outside. You see, those people lived a grey life. In today's language, they refused to become genuinely Born Again, where life's transformation contrasts so immensely with the past.
They couldn't (wouldn't) see the invigorating Blue, Purple, Scarlet and white linen of the Tabernacle Gate, nor the reminding white righteous fence standing regally among the surrounding tents. Neither did they notice the High Priest's entrancingly colourful and holy regalia of a blue head covering with a tiara of gold, or the twelve lustrous gems on his breastplate, the black onyx stones on his shoulders to uphold the twelve tribes in prayer and held with gold chains, or the Ephod's array of Blue, Purple, Scarlet and fine white linen with the thin Gold strips glistening in the sunlight.
The Lord's provision of a pillar of cloud daily to guide and protect them from the sun's heat and a pillar of fire by night to give them light in the desert's extreme darkness struck no chord of thanks or praise. Their dissatisfaction overriding all appreciation or affection.
Their spiritual lives were bland like all unbelievers until they meet Christ, as was the Apostle Paul's until his road-to-Damascus conversion, and as we are until we give our hearts to the Saviour. They did not believe in God's promises or trust His power and omnipotence.
Every day of the camp, that central Tabernacle and its colours were present, representing communion with the one and only Lord God. Yet, they were oblivious to anything other than their clouded perspective.
The message for us is that these Israelites weren't some abstract tribe who lived in an unrelatable era. They were some of our spiritual forefathers journeying through Abraham's walk of faith, the same nomadic path we wander today. How much do we whinge and disbelieve? What strains of their DNA might we possess?
Their desert experience, responsibilities and accountabilities were all faith-based, as are ours. And the choice to believe what we cannot see is identical. God calls us to walk along the narrow way, not see with a narrow perspective.
PRAYER Dear Lord, I have been guilty so many times of selfishness, blocking out the sunlight and refusing to allow your Word to act. As I walk this path, please open my eyes and heart to see how you see and have that same vision.
Photo by Fernando Gomez