22 February 2016

Relationship Determines God's Response

“And the mixed multitude among them [the rabble who followed Israel from Egypt] began to lust greatly [for familiar and dainty food], and the Israelites wept again and said, Who will give us meat to eat?

And Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and in the eyes of Moses it was evil. And Moses said to the Lord, Why have You dealt ill with Your servants? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people on me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I brought them forth, that You should say to me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father carries the sucking child, to the land which You swore to their fathers [to give them]? Where should I get meat to give to all these people? For they weep before me and say, Give us meat, that we may eat. I am not able to carry all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. And if this is the way You deal with me, kill me, I pray You, at once, and be granting me a favor and let me not see my wretchedness [in the failure of all my efforts]. 

And the Lord said to Moses, Gather for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the Tent of Meeting and let them stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take of the Spirit which is upon you and will put It upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not have to bear it yourself alone. And say to the people, Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt. Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat one day, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty days, But a whole month–until [you are satiated and vomit it up violently and] it comes out at your nostrils and is disgusting to you–because you have rejected and despised the Lord Who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, Why did we come out of Egypt? [Ps. 106:13-15.] 

But Moses said, The people among whom I am are 600,000 footmen [besides all the women and children], and You have said, I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month! Shall flocks and herds be killed to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be collected to satisfy them? 

The Lord said to Moses, Has the Lord's hand (His ability and power) become short (thwarted and inadequate)? You shall see now whether My word shall come to pass for you or not. [Isa. 50:2.]” ~Numbers 11:4, 10-23 AMP

Moses gave God a couple of pieces of his mind here, first about leading a troupe of millions, and then about their complaints. Moses didn't put on a stiff upper lip and soldier through--he did some ranting, here, and God heard him. And I absolutely love that. Moses was not the reserved, stoic, subordinate leader. He didn't speak obsequiously to his God. He took his complaints to Him, and just as yesterday's post on Psalm 23 talked about, stood before the Lord in true vulnerability, yet in the confidence and strength of his God-given identity, working through his frustrations in a "discussion" with God. (I think Moses was also feeling like he had failed, because the Israelites were so ungrateful; and like many leaders since, he felt a responsibility for the success of those he shepherded.)

It's so interesting, too, how Moses' complaint and the complaints of the Israelites were met so differently by God. Moses' complaints were met with miraculous solutions and no loss of favor in God's sight. In sharp contrast, the Israelite's complaints were met with harsh judgement: a glut of meat for them to make themselves sick on and a deadly plague. Once again, this illustrates that our interactions with God are heart matters: the same kind of words can come out of the mouths of two different people, and God will respond differently based on the posture of the heart that those words came from. Moses pursued real relationship with God, willing to receive, willing to climb the mountain and step into the thunderings and lightnings, most likely believing that even if he died, what God offered was the best of all possible ways. I'm not entirely sure what the Israelites were going for when they complained to God, but it clearly wasn't coming out of or moving toward relationship, because they got a dramatically harsher response.

Father God, thank you for continuing to call me into trusting you more and more. Thank you for Moses' example of hashing things out with you, without any fear. Thank you for your patience, your goodness, your faithfulness, and the powerful yet sweet gentleness of your love for your children. Thank you for new experiences with your presence, your spirit, and your character. And thank you, most of all, for the growing relationship I have with you that is such a delight to me. Thank you for the leading and guiding that keeps on exposing the things I think that are not in right alignment with you, and then offers me correction. Thank you for the space and freedom in which to get stuff wrong, and still have profound relationship with you as you lead me closer to you. Thank you for the safety I have in you, for the vulnerability I can abide in with you. Watch over your children today, God, and sustain us all as we come after you, in Jesus' name, amen.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!