I polished off Numbers this morning over a cup of coffee and a bean burrito.
For awhile there I thought I might get smothered beneath Leviticus' grain offerings, peace offerings and the splattering of blood on all four sides of the altar. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm taking God's Law lightly. On the contrary, the heaviness of what God demanded was completely overwhelming.
Leviticus defines the magnitude what Christ accomplished on the cross.The stringent demands of a holy God are not to be trifled with. Reading Leviticus during Lent reminds me of how great a debt I owe my Savior and gives me a greater appreciation for Christ's once for all sacrifice.
And then I came to Numbers. My favorite part of Numbers was the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. The NLT just really captures this story:
"Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak. 'What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?' it asked Balaam.
'You have made me look like a fool!' Balaam shouted. 'If I had my sword with me, I would kill you!'
'But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,' the donkey answered. 'Have I ever done anything like this before?'
'No,' Balaam admitted. Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him." (Numbers 22:28-31)
When I read this story, I had a really great laugh. Balaam was so caught up in his own myopic rage that he didn't even stop to freak out that DUDE, my donkey is TALKING to me! Instead, he just answers the donkey as if donkeys talk everyday.
Numbers provides a glimpse into the blindness of our human condition. The LORD works signs and wonders for Israel. Manna from heaven, water from a rock, not to mention the guiding cloud and fiery pillar. And yet, despite these obvious signs, the people repeatedly complain, grumble and rebel.
How quickly we forget the hand of God moving providentially in our lives. How often we are blinded by our anger and fail to see that HEY, my donkey is TALKING to me!
It's a sobering reminder that unbelief and disobedience have severe consequences. Instead of reaching the Promised Land in eleven days, the LORD punished the Israelites with 40 years of wandering.
And now, plowing ahead to Dueteronomy. I'm a few days behind, maybe I'll catch up. But don't count on it!
If you're reading the Bible this year, where are you now and what are your thoughts? Please share!