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8 Lessons from the Book of Numbers

pomegranate on the vine

For several weeks I’ve been camped out in lessons from the Book of Numbers. I’ve read the entire book over and over again, especially the first three chapters, which is, well, a bunch of numbers, and I’ve learned so much!

Lessons From the Book of Numbers

1. When clouds cover the sky, stay put.

When the children of Israel were in the wilderness God told them to set up camp; pitch their tents and set up the tabernacle when the day was covered with clouds. When the clouds filled the sky, they were to stop and stay put for days, weeks, months, even a year if necessary. As long as there were clouds in the sky they didn’t journey.

I can think of nothing more beneficial than staying put and waiting on God when clouds hang low and the world is dark. Trying to journey forward in a storm can make things infinitely worse. Navigation systems can fail; you can end up more lost and alone than you were when you started out.

Sometimes, it’s really, really hard to pitch a tent and embrace the wilderness. But, my best lessons and my greatest growth came during these times.

2. When the clouds lift, journey forward.

The wilderness did not last forever – not for the Children Israel and not for me. Eventually, a new day dawned and I was able to journey forward. During these times, I thought I was growing by leaps and bounds. But, really, I grew when I wasn’t journeying; when the day was darkest God was at work to make me whole. When the clouds lifted, I simply moved forward to discover ways in which I had been healed.

3. You don’t need spies, you need belief.

Moses sent spies, one from each tribe, into Canaan, to check out the Promised Land. There, they found grapes, heavy on the vine and full pomegranates. They said the land was beautiful – just as beautiful as God had promised. But, their report also included details of great warriors, which shook their faith.

What I’ve learned is I don’t need spies to check things out for me. I need to understand God’s purpose for my life and trust and believe. Moreover, listening to a negative report can be disastrous, thus, I really try not to give them.

can you grow pomegranates in Oklahoma can you grow pomegranates in Oklahoma Red Berries of a pomegranatepomegranate on the vine

4. If you want full pomegranates, you must have faith to face the warriors.

There will always be roadblocks; there will always be days of discouragement, setbacks and disappointment. There will always be someone telling me I can’t do this or that; someone questioning my journey. What is God’s purpose for my life? I pursue these full pomegranates because I have faith to face whatever warriors get in the way of that path that leads me to them.

5. Listen to the Calebs: you are well able to possess the land!

Only Caleb and Joshua believed. Despite the reports from the spies, Caleb said, “Let’s go!” He believed they were well able to possess the land, even though the spies returned with stories of great giants in their path. Caleb was in the minority. I can’t always listen to the majority. I can’t allow their unbelief to separate me from God’s plan for my life.

6. When in despair, ask God to kill you or better yet, just ask for 70 shoulders

Moses definitely had a hard row to hoe. At one point, he even cried out to God to kill him because he was distraught over leading the children of Israel. He felt inadequate and cried out in despair. God answered his prayer by giving him 70 elders to shoulder his burden.

This is the prayer I pray often for people who lose children; who are diagnosed with cancer; who are facing a devastating divorce. And, this is the prayer I prayed this morning, as my dear husband faces four months of taking night classes in accounting while working full-time and parenting three children. It will be a burdensome four months.

And, this is the prayer I prayed for my daughter, entering the often tumultuous junior high years. It is the prayer I once prayed for myself. And, now I pray to be one of the 70 shoulders for the people I love.

7. Don’t settle for land east of the Jordan.

During the 39th year the children of Israel spent in the wilderness, one tribe asked Moses if they could stay in the land east of the Jordan River. They were sheepherders and the land was lush and prime for herding. Moses was angry at their request because of all that had been sacrificed to get to the Promised Land and all the mistakes the generation before them had made. However, the tribe agreed to help the rest of the children of Israel fight the battle for the Promised Land if God would allow them to dwell in that land east of the Jordan. Moses prayed and God granted their request.

But, why settle? Why choose my best over God’s best? Why rely on my wisdom when the wisdom of God is so much greater? If I wait just one more year, and forsake the lush land east of the Jordan, I’ll get to enter the Promised Land.

8. God is preparing you for the Promised Land.

To get to the Promised Land, you gotta cross the river. The best way to get across is to trust God, which means obeying Him, even when his Word and His commandments don’t make sense and seem completely outmoded and impossible.

What do you think? Have you ever settled for land east of the Jordan? What is it you can’t believe? Do you need to ask God for 70 people to help shoulder your burden?

Do you know any lessons from the Book of Numbers?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Anonymous

    Meaningful writing.

  2. jenX

    @SOMETHING HAPPENED – Thanks, Beaux! I’ve prayed for a great outcome in your regard!

    @LO – I know God will provide 70 shoulders at least. Maybe more! You have a lot of folks in the BLogosphere holding you and Beaux up! up! up! You can do this thing before you!

  3. Something Happened Somewhere Turning

    I just loved this post. It made me both laugh and cry. You really are a very good writer.

  4. jenX

    @LE – oh, i hate those ads. i took it down. is that the “my lord” ad? geeezzzzzz…….you are so missed!!

    @TERRITORY MOM – Thank you! I’ll be over to check it out soon!!

    @KT – Thanks so much. The greatest problems in my life have come from settling for the land east of the jordan. That place, long term, is actually worse than the wilderness – IMO.

    @VGS – I’m so glad you told me, b/c I like most of my posts (ha!) I wasn’t sure I even wanted to post it. But, I felt peace about it, like someone other than just my dear hubby needed to hear it. Thank you for the feedback!

  5. jenX

    @GRACIE – That’s a beautiful testimony.

    @YOGI – I’ll settle for the New Yorker. 😉 I know, I’ll take Malcolm Gladwell’s place. But, I get to stay living in Oklahoma. =) Blehh, the subway. Every time I try to read th Bible all the way through I end somewhere in Deuteronomy. =/ I agree about the self-reliance. I don’t believe for one second this was God’s design for our lives, but this is what has happened. Like that blog I wrote about one time – “So Alone Like Everyone Else.” He faired well in the bloggy awards a few years back.

    @TR – I think I learned how to write from reading the Bible and hymns. they’re both chock full of metahpors. Your story about hte metric system make me feel very validated.

  6. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Amazing, Jen. I was completely taken by your first four points, above the photo, and I would have been satisfied if that was all there was (as I expected). But you kept going, building on the wisdom and insights with each point!

    This idea of trusting, and “not settling for the land East of the Jordan,” is so important. There were difficult moments in my life when I was too afraid, so I started to settle, but thankfully God gave me a gentle (but not too gentle) shake, so I kept pushing forward. I hate to think where I’d be otherwise.

    I also love the “70 shoulders” sentiment, and that you’ve needed them before, and now you can offer one. Bravo.

  7. Territory Mom

    I can’t believe I fell for the whole metric system conversion. I love this post. I even blogged about it. Yes, you do need to write for the Washington Post.

  8. le @ thirdontheright

    now jen I know I have been away for a couple of weeks but why is there a clevage girl at the top of your blog …. missed you le xox

  9. T.R.

    What a remarkable tribute to faith and hope and trusting in the grace of God. These timeless metaphors are divine mile markers on which to navigate the road of life.

    ps – We had a “visitor” too in elementary school that “prepared” us for the huge metric changes to come. I remember feeling hopeless and bewildered at this new order of mathematical thinking when the old order and already failed me! I wonder what happened that this never came to pass? Had it passed I would have been “this child left behind”.

  10. Yogi♪♪♪

    I second Rob. The Post and the NY Times should be fighting over you.

    Earlier this year I started slowly plodding my way through the whole Bible starting with page 1 and going forward (with a few detours for variety.) I approached Numbers with dread but I was surprised. I didn’t get 5% of what you did but I liked the book. I thought it had some great things to say.

    Your 8 points are great. One thing I’ve learned is that if somebody has the “want to’s” they can achieve almost anything. If they don’t, nothing is going to happen.

    The other thing is that you gotta have faith baby! You have to start somewhere.

    I’ve never been happy when I’ve settled for land east of the Jordan. I have always later decampted and crossed the river I was so afraid of later.

    I would love to have 70 shoulders. We are so self reliant in this country, including me. It feels strange to let somebody help but it almost always works out for the best and it is a blessing to both me and the one helping.

  11. jenX

    @ROB – ha! if they call will you move?

  12. Anonymous


    Fantastic post!

    What do we do when our sense of security disappears into shadowy clouds and darkness? Our reactions range from fear of the unknown to a calm acceptance and trust in God, to lead us to the Promise Land.

    There will be Giants of Crises that will befall us throughout life and our dreams shattered by happenings beyond our contol, but we need not lose hope…

    This side of heavan we can count on the Grace of God to strengthen us and enable us to have faith to look beyond the clouds and SEE the silver lining.

    Bless you– Gracie

  13. Anonymous

    Great thoughts. You should be writing for the Washington Post.Rob


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