Covered: Numbers 20; 27:12-23, 34-35; Deuteronomy 1-7
Not Covered: Numbers 18-19, 21-26, 28-33, 36
Scripture Memory: The Gospel: Must Receive Christ – John 1:12, Revelation 3:20
It can be very easy to become frustrated with the Israelites. Much like the disciples, the Israelites’ lack of faith and or apparent contempt for God’s repeated provision seems baffling. However, our fear often negates our faith and narrows our focus to see only the difficulty surrounding us. In this week’s passages, as well as the “unread” passages, the Israelites question the wisdom of God’s direction through Moses. They act out of fear: Fear of death, but mostly fear that God had forgotten them. This follows the display of God’s power through the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea leading to the defeat of Pharaoh’s army, the presence of God going before them in a cloud or pillar of fire, and His provision of manna from heaven and water from a rock! But just as we experience in our lives, in moments of fear, we must make a choice. Faith does not require that fear be absent, but our faith
While Numbers chapter 21 is not listed in your reading plan this week, I hope you will make time to grasp the significance found here. Once again we see the Israelites complaining and growing impatient. Their beloved High Priest, Aaron, was dead, and they were seeing only desert and lack of water for miles. Overwhelmed by fear and exhaustion, they lost sight of the history of God’s provision. In response to their grumbling and lack of trust, God “sent venomous snakes among them.” As people begin to die, they cry out to God in regret over their sin and lack of submission. Their fear begins to shift from one of doubt to one of reverence. In response to their repentance, God instructs Moses to create a bronze snake on a pole. He offers His people a solution to their trial. Imagine their confusion when directed to look at a bronze snake as their only solution for rescue. This seemingly random process can cause us to pause and wonder at God’s peculiar ways. With people dying and snakes swarming an encampment, looking up is the last action they would want to take! To be saved, the people needed to shift their gaze from what was promoting fear and instead focus on God’s solution – that in man’s eyes did not make sense.
As humans, we can see this cycle of the Israelites’ doubt and God’s provision as tedious and frustrating. However, God uses this particular episode of the Israelites complaining to foreshadow Jesus, who says in John 3:13-14, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The bronze snake not only healed their bodies; it also directs our focus to the pinnacle of eternal significance. It became a reflection of the ultimate antidote for death—the raising of Jesus on the cross.
It is important for us to remember that God did not become so frustrated with His people that He sent snakes out of impulsive anger and that His means for their salvation was not offered without forethought. He utilizes the Israelites’ rebellion to point us toward Jesus. God continues to show His character through the disobedience of humanity.
In our lives today, we often experience this situation of doubting God’s sovereignty. These doubts follow soon after He has shown us His faithfulness, just like with the Israelites. He supernaturally gives us the means to pay our bills one month, but then an illness hits which ignites our doubts. Many situations create a spirit of fear, and we disobey when we allow it to consume our thoughts. God uses our disobedience and impatience to point toward His character. Many of his methods redirect our attention to the cross. He is never surprised by our lack of faithfulness, and He never chooses our correction at random.
In His love, He chose to provide a means of physical salvation to His people in a way that foreshadowed spiritual salvation. Both shift our focus from the physical realm to His ultimate purpose and provision. He uses His intervention in our lives to encourage us to look to Christ and recognize His sovereignty. Even in the midst of His correction, He gives grace and comfort. As God observes our fear and rejection of His control, He does not dismiss us. He uses all situations to call us to look up, see His provision and be saved for eternity.
Written by: Allyson Pitre
Photo: Vivek Doshi