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.
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?