So, I've finished reading Numbers early this week. According my chronological reading chart, I read Numbers 1-14, Psalms 90, and then finished reading the rest of Numbers. Psalm 90, written by Moses, is thought to be the oldest Psalm, most likely written after the Children of Israel refuse to enter the promise land. Thinking about it in that light, made a few things jump out at me.
Up until this point the people have complained over and over and over again. They have complained and failed to obey 10 times, about the army of Egypt behind them (Ex. 14:11), about the lack of water (Ex. 15:24 and 17:2), about the wilderness (Ex. 16:3), about the lack of food, about the lack of variety of food, and then not gathering it all the way they were told to (Ex. 16:20, 16:27, Num. 11:4), and on and on (Ex. 32:7, and Num. 11:1). The final straw, the tenth time, is all their complaining about the promise land and refusing to enter it (Num. 14:22). Moses has complained a few times up to this point too, but the difference is that he carries his complaints to the Lord, and the Lord provides answers. The people on the other hand complain to each other in bitterness against the Lord. I heard a preacher tell in a sermon one time, that there is nothing wrong with complaining and pouring out our heart in prayer. He said that God is a loving Father, and He can change things when we go to Him, or He can comfort us and give us strength in our circumstances. HOWEVER, the elder was quick to point out, that we never solve anything by complaining to each other about our situation. Numbers proves this.
God has been telling the people for some time that this is a great land, and that it's going to be theirs. The spies report back confirming how great the land is. However, in their report they dwell on the negatives, the strong cities, the giants, the fierce men of war. After seeing all of the miracles, they doubt God's ability, and insist that they cannot take the land. Of course Caleb and Joshua insist that God will give them the land, but the people desire to stone them, and still refuse to enter the promise land. God initially threatens to kill them all, and make a nation of Moses, but Moses intercedes for the people yet again, and God condemns them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. At this point some of the people decide they want to enter the promise land after all, and they go. But, God doesn't go with them and they are defeated in battle.
The very night I read chapter 14, I saw a similar situation in our own house. Britt gets to sit up a little longer than Ruth at night and play on his leap pad, to wind down before bed. However, on that particular night, I told him that he needed to go and use the bathroom and be read for bed, before playing any more. Rather than go, he pitched a fit and refused, and lost out on the opportunity to play on his leap pad that night. As I put him to bed, he apologized and asked to play his leap pad after he finally went to use the bathroom. I had to tell him no. He wanted to fix it, but it was too late. Likewise, sometimes we can't fix things, and the Lord still punishes us for our actions.
I found it interesting that much of Psalm 90 parallels the thoughts that Moses expresses in his prayer to the Lord, and to the Lord's answer to him in Numbers 14. Psalm 90 starts out by establishing God is eternal, great, and that we cannot compare to him, as we are only here for a little time. It talks of how the Lord sees all of our sins, like the complaining in the heart of the people, and in verses 12-17 seems to beg for forgiveness, that we might do better, "teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." He then asks that they might be made glad even in affliction. It reminded me that even in discipline and hardship we are to learn to walk closer. Daddy use to tell me that he was spanking me so that I would learn to not repeat my mistakes. God is no different. We can chose to become bitter when the Lord rebukes us or we can grow.
You would think that this would have taught the people a lesson, but they continue on to complain at least 4 more times. About Moses and Aaron having all the power in the camp (Num. 16:3), that Moses and Aaron killed Korah and the people that rebelled (Num. 16:41), again about the lack of water (Num. 20:2), and finally blaming God and Moses for them still being in the wilderness (Num. 21:5). How often do we do the exact same thing? I'm grateful for a God that is long suffering and patient with my many faults.