It was your typical Tuesday morning dash to get out the door: the spilled cereal, the “How many times do I have to tell you to put your underwear on?!”, the forgotten toothbrush… We were late. Again.
While exhaling slowly to calm down, I hear my son break the silence in the car, “Mommy, will you always love me?”
My heart squeezes tight in my chest. I felt I had remained calm through the morning, but still my sensitive son knows things are not well. “Honey, I will always love you.”
“Even if I screw up?”
“Even if you screw up – and have to face consequences – I will love you.”
This parenting thing rocks my world.
We finish the drive in thoughtful silence and he struggles to get out of the car for school. I am left contemplating the limits of my love and praying a prayer of thanks to my God who loves my kids (and myself) with greater faithfulness than I can muster.
This is the Faithful God of Numbers.
In preparation for entering Canaan, a year and 2 months after leaving Egypt, Moses arranges the people into camps as a nation preparing for battle. The LORD also prepares the priests and the Tabernacle for entering the land. Finally, “the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle… Then the Israelites set out…” (10:11-12).
The people don’t get very far on their journey before they begin to complain about the food God provides. Every morning, the LORD provided manna (Literally: “What is it?”) for the people to eat. It was “like coriander seed and looked like resin… and it tasted like something made with olive oil.” (11:7-8; emphasis mine), but really not like anything they’d had before. And they were sick of it. They demanded meat saying “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost…” (11:5)
At No Cost?!
Do they not remember how their babies were murdered? How they had to make bricks without straw? How oppressed they were?
Have they already forgotten what the Lord had done when He rescued them?
In anger, the LORD responds, “Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it – because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (11:18-20, emphasis mine)
I want to use that line someday. “You want chicken nuggets? I’ll give you chicken nuggets. Until it’s coming out of your nose!!!!”
But my motivation for disciplining my children is different than God’s. My kids are only rejecting my food. God’s people have rejected His rescue.
Three times in the book of Numbers, the people of God express desire to return to the destitute conditions of Egypt (11:5,18; 13:2; 21:5). Three times, God punishes them for their unfaithfulness. One of the consequences is deadly: The generation that was delivered from Egypt would not step foot on the promised land, but must die out before Israel can settle there.
And yet, God never abandons them.
He never stops loving them.
In the fortieth year, as the Israelites finally neared Moab and Canaan, the Moabites were terrified. So King Balak sent for the diviner, Balaam, and hired him to curse Israel.
In a bizarre series of events and conversations with God (including the LORD speaking to Balaam through his donkey – which doesn’t seem to phase the man at all!), Balaam goes with Balak’s people, but tells them, “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” (22:38)
Three times Balaam speaks blessing over Israel.
Three times, the LORD affirms his promise to be with his people and bring them into the land he promised.
God is faithful.
The Only Faithful One.
We may make vows in marriage, sign contracts, and make promises, but we will never fulfill them as God does. We lust. We hate. We miss payments and turn our backs. He alone endures.
Because He is The Faithful One, we can move forward in our lives knowing He will never leave us or forsake us. Though we sin and may have to deal with the consequences in this life, He remains our Savior and our Hope. Though times of trial, struggle, and pain come, The LORD provides.