Continuing with the year-long reading plan, I have been reading the Old Testament book of Numbers. Actually, I am reading the study notes first because the text of Numbers is frustrating to me. I just do not get all the rules and regulations that the Lord placed on the Israelites.
Well, I said it and the walls have not fallen down around me and no lightening struck me or even near me—except the lightening that filled the sky these past couple of weeks with storm after storm after storm. I suppose it is safe to say that I am not enjoying the text of Numbers.
I wonder how the Israelites ever felt that they were living the faithful life with all the rules that Moses and Aaron shared with them. I cannot imagine remembering each detail and maintain my daily life with all the different offerings, rituals and rules that was required
Here were the twelve tribes still wandering around the wilderness, living in tent cities with all the supplies needed for daily life along with all the livestock and all that were part of their livelihood, too. And then Moses and Aaron kept bringing them more rules.
No wonder that the people became cantankerous. Today’s world is so far removed from the nomadic lifestyle that it is difficult if not impossible to relate to the demands upon the tribes. Yet, I want to find a sense of connectedness to this book.
During my college years, I was living in transition. I began in the dorm, along with many others who were strangers to me (and in the 1970s we did not have coed dorms so there were only females in my dorm). I lived in a strange land. I had new responsibilities to care for myself. I had to walk to strange new places, and I had to learn new rules and new boundaries.
Certainly the transition was far different that the Israelites exodus from Egypt, but I was leaving the safe haven of my home to begin a new life that would lead me to an entirely new setting for my life.
As a farmer’s daughter, I had learned the rules that my parents established for our family. We attended church faithfully, we went to school doing the best we could, and we did the chores that taught us responsibilities as well as how to manage our future lives away from our childhood world. I knew what was expected; I knew what I had to do; I knew what I wanted to do, too. I left for college equipped for the unknown I was stepping into.
Maybe I should understand what Numbers is telling me. Maybe I should know the fears of the people. Maybe I should know that trusting God made life in the wilderness less fearful.
Certainly the book makes my life seem so much simpler and safer than those ancient days of traveling through the wilderness. But the mental fear of those years in college might be similar to the fears of the Israelites.
One had to trust the lifestyle in which they lived, especially in community with each other and with all those people on the move. In my own life, whenever I moved from one location to the next, I needed basic rules or guidelines in order to step into a new community. I learned that it takes a year just to know the basic culture of the community.
During the ancient exile narrative, the rules and the regulations made the journey doable. With Moses and Aaron sharing the words of the Lord, the people struggled but continued onward to the Promised Land.
The doubts and the fears had to be addressed and often lead to dissension and tension—even rebellion. The results were not good, but those who faithfully listened to Moses and Aaron continued making the journey.
Our lives, today, must also follow God’s law. We are just blessed to have the New Testament to simplify the complex lifestyle of the nomadic culture the earliest Israelites experienced.
Christians today must follow God’s commandment, too, but we know that Jesus provided us just two commandments: Love God. Love one another.
Reading all the chapters in Numbers wears me out. There are so many specific directions on how to live, where to set up camp, what to sacrifice, when to sacrifice, what is an appropriate offering, and the list continues.
My transitions in life are much more manageable and far less fearful because I know that God provided us the instructions for a simple life that can fit into any culture, any location, any setting whether at home, at work, or on even on vacation.
I am free from making sacrifices because Jesus was the final sacrifice. I am free to love God and to love one another without any restrictions. I can confidently know that God is with me and life is good when I accept Jesus’ sacrifice for me and agree to do all that I can for anybody that I can in any way that I can. That is love.
I continue to work through the reading plan, and I will finish Numbers. I know that there is so much more to learn; and while reading the New Testament book of Revelations, I see a world so beautiful that I have no fear of the final life transition that is ahead.
Join me in prayer:
Dear loving Father,
Thank you for your patience with me,
Waiting for me to understand the Word.
Thank you for the lessons shared
from the Old Testament,
So we can appreciate the efforts of your faithful.
Thank you for the words of the New Testament
That have proven to make life love-filled.
May we understand the old, old stories;
May we demonstrate the new commandments;
And may we share with others the value
of loving one another as you love us. –Amen.