Bible reading for May 5.
"But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, 'Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.'" (Numbers 13:30)
WHEN GOD'S PEOPLE DO POORLY. The discontentment among the people even seems to affect Miriam and Aaron, Moses' siblings. They had two complaints, one unspoken and one spoken: a) Moses had married an Ethiopian woman; and b) Moses was (too) supreme in his authority as spokesman for God. As to the first, Moses' wife, Zipporah, is usually described as a Midianite, but she may have been of African descent. Or perhaps, she had died and Moses remarried, and his new wife, a believer in Yahweh, was of Ethiopian background. Either way, the resentment from Miriam and Aaron was that Moses married outside the tribe. But further, they maintained that God spoke through them just like he did through Moses, which was not true. Moses, however fallible as a man, was unique in his position over the nation and prefigured the coming Messiah (Deut 18:15-19; Heb 3:1-5). As one who spoke face-to-face with God, he did have a singular authority from God in giving his revelation to the nation. The kingdom of God, then and now, is not a democracy.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. So, ethnic superiority and personal envy was at the heart of the situation. Miriam and Aaron's public reproof of Moses was in reality no more that a petty and proud self-promotion. They wanted to pull Moses down to their level, or else raise themselves up to his. In this event Miriam apparently took the lead -- perhaps a kind of replay of Genesis chapter 3 -- and had to spend a week living as a leper outside the community. In compassion Moses intercedes on her behalf: "And Moses cried to the LORD, 'O God, please heal her - please'" (12:13).
REALITY CHECK. At first glance, people may appear reasonable in their responses, given the circumstances. In chapter 11, the people are hungry and tired, and weary of the same-old same-old. We can understand that. In chapter 12, Moses' siblings think he is too prominent in authority and needs to come down a notch. We like that sort of thing. In chapter 13, the land looked good but the scouts also had good reason to fear the giants and the strength of their walled cities. Circumstances, ...given the circumstances, ...under the circumstances... But God reveals the heart. He uncovers the heart of our ingratitude, egoism, envy, deceit, and unbelief which underlies so many supposedly reasonable responses. God sees things differently, and his revealed will is the truest reality. Theologian Herman Bavinck helps here,
"In its essence, rather than accepting God's reality in a receptive mode, this sin [of deception] involves positing empty reality using words, creating another reality, a thought world divorced from that which is. People do this in order to create 'realities' that deny and reject the things of God. Lying is a self-conscious hiding of sin under images made up of words. People try to create themselves as different from who they really are, construct a different image of themselves for public view. This is self-deception..." (Reformed Ethics, p 135)
THE MINORITY REPORT. The good news is that Caleb, along with Joshua, sees things the way God sees them. They know they can do this seemingly impossible task if God leads and enables them. In this they are men of faith, though they stand in the minority. They will indeed make it to the new land. God says, "But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it" (14:24). Are you and I willing to stand on the truth even if we're in the minority?
"Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish." (Psalm 49:12)
WHO WANTS TO BE A BILLIONAIRE? Being a millionaire is so last-century. Now we only make note of which media mogul or business owner has become a billionaire. That's having a thousand millions of dollars, if I did the math right. We are impressed by wealth. We take interest in the lives of wealthy people. When we meet rich people we may be intimidated by their power or influence. At least, we envy them and would like to have just one of their multiple homes or cars (or planes) or to have a portion of their fashionable clothing.
BUT HERE'S WISDOM. This psalm is called a wisdom psalm (v 3), like Psalms 1 and 37. That is, it is not a song of prayer or praise, but an inspired reflection on life, along with advice, such as we might find in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. The Bible tends to take the long view on things: material wealth will pass away, just like youth, beauty, strength, intellect, prestige, influence, and so on. It will all be left behind. More importantly, wealth cannot redeem us from the guilt, judgment, and death we face before God (vv 7-8). Only the Lord himself can do that: "But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me" (v 15). So, here's the question we must ask ourselves: can we be satisfied with the Lord himself, and with whatever lot in life he chooses for us? Do we value our redemption in Christ as greater than all the riches of this world?
"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done." (Matt 16:25-27)
Image credit: photo above by Devin Justesen on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.