Unexpectedly Deep

numbers
Gospel City Discipleship Group
Bible Reading Journal [13]
Dec. 23, 2016
Numbers – Unexpectedly Deep

What a difficult book. This book brought up so many different feelings as I read it. First it’s like, filled with off the wall rules, like in Numbers 5 when the wife of a jealous husband who thinks she has committed adultery has to drink the dirty water to prove her innocence or guilt before the priest or the story of Balaam, a prophet whom God spoke through, but then allowed to be killed by Israel a few chapters later. Whaaat?

It also painted a picture of a God that I sort of didn’t like. It felt as though God just killed lots of people, His people. In Numbers 11 the people are complaining, so He kills a bunch of them, but directly afterward Moses complains and God listens, He doesn’t kill Moses. I was thinking through these perplexities out loud with Jennifer and she said something that really hit home and helped me to interpret and understand this picture of God better. She said “well, the wage of our sin is death.” That’s right. I want to read about the merciful God that I know, the one that showers grace upon His children out of love — but my God is just. My God is righteous. My God hates and punishes sin. Actually, I do deserve to die for my sins. There is no reason God shouldn’t send a plague or fire or snakes to kill me here and now — no reason except for Jesus. Wow. Who knew I’d be seeing the Gospel in Numbers?? I didn’t. I think this book paints a vivid image of a Christless people. Actually, God killed less people than deserved death. He only killed some of them. Why? To show that He is holy. To show the value of what Christ has done for me. Jesus took my place so that I would not bear that wrath, although I am the one who fully deserves it. My heart is black before His purity. Yet Christ has washed me white as snow. That is the first thing I saw as I read numbers.

The second thing I saw was how the appropriate timely intercession of the priests (Aaron, Phinehas, etc.) or Moses’ prayers of intercession turned away God’s wrath. Their intercession saved many lives, their prayers and offerings were seen and heard by God. And you know what? I am a stiff-necked complaining Israelite. I lament for the things I want, forgetting God’s goodness and presence with me, turning to idols even while He is in my midst! I could have been destroyed for my sin countless times, it’s what I deserve. Through Numbers I saw the deep value in having a High Priest, and I think I understood more deeply the meaning of Jesus as my High Priest, interceding for me always. Hebrews 4:14-16 says: “Since then we have a great high priest… Jesus, the Son of God… Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” So although I started out with feelings of frustration and even like, I didn’t want to be associated with this God who killed His people in so many ways, by the end I could see that this is the just cost for our sins, and God is still so merciful toward us. Jesus is my savior who cleanses me from my dirty sin, He is my High Priest, making atonement for me and interceding on my behalf. I could never have earned such favor, and I am humbled to receive such a gift. I am also surprised that God taught me these two deep concepts, bringing them deeper into my heart, through the unexpectedly impactful book of Numbers.

 

Mind-bogglingly Mindful

In my Discipleship Group we will be reading a lot of the Bible in a short amount of time (the whole thing in 9 months to be exact). It has been really great seeing all of the wonderful things that God has done in the Old and New Testaments. While I’ve been reading I have been struck by God’s greatness and his unbelievably big plan for his people. If I were to summarize the short Psalm 8, I would say it is about David expressing his awe and wonder over who God is. He describes God as majestic and powerful, mighty and glorious, bigger than we are, yet mind-bogglingly mindful of us. That is exactly how I feel when I spend so much time in God’s word. I remember how small I am and how many mistakes I make, yet I cannot escape the truth that God is mindful of me, caring about my every need, comforting me in my distress and rejoicing with me in my victories.

Having read through Genesis, hearing of how God created man out of nothing, yet he cares so deeply about us that he sent Christ (in Matthew) and the Holy Spirit (in Acts) to guide us, pray for us and especially to redeem us from the destruction of sin — I marvel right along with David, saying, “When I look at your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps. 8:3-4). This is a question I hope to ponder during our challenge over the next two semesters. How can God love me so deeply when I am nothing but sin-filled dust? I do not know how, but I do know that he does.

During this time of saturating myself in the Word of God, I want to make sure that not only complete my task, but that I take time out of the tasking to fill my heart and soul with the truth God is speaking to me. So far his truth has been his deep care for mankind. He mourns when the earth is so filled with evil that he decides to destroy it with a flood, yet he redeems Noah and already plans a better way for us to be saved. He sends Jesus to us and demonstrates his beautiful plan for salvation in the Gospels. God cares about the debilitating consequence of sin in this life and has sent us a Helper to comfort us or even heal us in this age. Yet if he does not choose to heal us, he has promised that he will in the age to come. It is so mind-boggling how deeply he cares for me!

Practically, I find the story and song tones of Genesis, Matthew and Psalms are easy to read and absorb. However, the fast paced long sentences of Acts has been a little overwhelming. I’m able to catch the gist, but going deeper would require a slower pace for me. Something I do see easily in Acts is that the Old Testament is foundational to understanding God’s story for us. The apostles often reference and return to the truth of God described in those pages. I am excited to be reading them simultaneously (though at first I thought it would get confusing… and it still might). I honestly feel I have a deeper appreciation of the OT. For me, it’s easier to grasp. Because my inclination would be to focus on the OT, I think I should spend more time focusing on the New Testament during this season. I pray that God will give me eyes to see and a heart to understand his Word to me and about himself in the NT more deeply this semester. Please join with me in that prayer as well.