Numbers 11-13; Psalm 43
Yesterday we saw the Israelites fully prepared and finally setting off from Mount Sinai. Now, literally in the next chapter things start to go wrong. The people complain, showing their ungratefulness at what God has done for them.
God is angered and punishes them, normally with some kind of destruction or disease. Then Moses prays to God for relief and God stops. To remind themselves of this moment, the Israelites name the place where it happened. This all happens in the first 3 verse of Numbers 11 and is a condensed version of what happens almost every time the people complain.
But as soon as God stops, the people start complaining again. This time it’s because there isn’t enough variety in their food. Back in Egypt they had meat and a wide range of vegetables. Here they just have manna.
It goes to show how selective our memory could be. The Israelites were beaten and enslaved in Egypt, yet now all they can remember was how good it was to have cucumbers.
All this time the Israelites are showing their lack of faith in and appreciation for God. This time the pressure of the situation becomes too much for Moses, and he cries out to God to either give him help or kill him.
Even as Christians, in church we can focus on the things we don’t like and complain, forgetting that God is faithful, but also that our leaders are human and can only do so much.
Back to Moses, God gets him to get a team around him of seventy elders who can lead the people with him. He then puts some of his spirit into each of the elders. After that, he turns round and gives the people what they wanted, meat. But he punishes them as well, hitting them with a great plague.
But still the people don’t learn. This time it’s Moses’ own family, Aaron and Miriam, that start complaining and challenging Moses. Moses being humble doesn’t fight back, but God defends him. He gives Miriam leprosy to show that he really is for Moses and then forces her to wait outside the camp for seven days before he removes it from her. The people are not doing well.
As they begin to approach the promise land, Moses sends out some spies to see what the situation is like. Who currently lives there? What are the resources like?
Twelve spies go out and then come back with their report. The land is flowing with milk and honey. It’s a great place to live. The problem is the people there are strong. One spy, Caleb, stands up and encourages everyone, saying they can do it. But the other spies are scared and tell everyone that they can’t.
At the end of the chapter, we get an interesting verse.
“And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
If you can remember all the way back to Genesis 6:1-4, we saw some spiritual beings, Sons of God, sleep with human women who then gave birth to the Nephalim, giant warrior men.
Somehow these Nephalim survived the flood. Or maybe more spiritual beings came after the flood and made some more. The Bible doesn’t specify. But what it says here is that these Nephalim went on to have children of their own.
One of them was likely a guy called Anak. And just like over time we saw Abraham become a nation of people, the descendants of Anak become a nation of people. Sometimes called the Anakites other times just called the descendants of Anak. As descendants of a Nephalim, these guys were much larger and stronger than normal people.
I mention this to say here we’ve got a people that are a result of evil spiritual beings, standing in the way of God’s people. The war that these two sides eventually fight is as much a spiritual war as it is a physical war. So store this up in your head for later.
Because of these spies, it’s going to be a while before Israelites come to defeat these enemies, and so you’ll find this information useful later.
Many believe Psalm 42-43 were originally one psalm, as they both share the same refrain. We’ve mentioned multiple times that Biblical lament involved bringing God your complaint and struggles, ask God to intervene, and declare your trust in God.
In Psalm 42 the psalmist shared their struggles and made declarations of trust, but they never asked God to intervene. That request appears here in Psalm 43.
Psalm 43:1-4 - A prayer for deliverance
Psalm 43:5 - Why are you downcast my soul
Having worked through their emotions in Psalm 42, the psalmist is now ready to ask God to break in to their situation. They ask God to defend them and protect them from those who would wish them harm.
They also begin to interrogate God. Why is that God seems far? Why is that the psalmist is suffering at the hands of their enemy? We may feel scared to ask God these kinds of questions, but he would much rather us bring the questions to him than let them sit inside us chewing away at our faith.
The psalmist asks God to send out his light and truth. They are drawing on God’s character, asking him to be faithful to who he is. The psalmist’s desire? To once again be brought into God’s presence. That’s all they want. To experience the joy they know comes from God.
So one last time the psalmist speaks to their ownself, to encouraging themself to continue to hope in God.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.