Day 61 (March 2): People complain to Moses, Moses complains to God, God gives Moses help, God sends meat, Miriam and Aaron become envious, scouts explore Canaan and see giants, scouts show fear

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Today, Rob has an awesome answer for doubting Thomases.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.  Let us know if you have any comments to share.

Numbers 11-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 11:1-9): I guess I can envision fire, since we have seen God use fire a lot in our reading thus far.  However, I have heard folks say not to believe all the stories in the Bible as fact.  That it’s a wonderful book put together to either teach us how to live in society or that God did dictate it, but the stories are made up.  We’ve had the flood, the plagues and other miraculous events.  I can believe those.  I have always believed the manna from heaven, but frogs, gnats, locusts and floods are all something that can naturally happen.  Food from heaven does not.  Any words of the wise for doubting Thomases?

A. Well, honestly, there’s a fundamental “leap” that is required for stories such as this one.  Here’s the way I tend to think about such matters, which include things like the manna, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc.: the Bible makes NO claim that these are ordinary events.  It doesn’t say, “The Israelites got food from heaven, just like we do today.”  The story is describing the unique action of God in this particular circumstance.  They are, by their very definition, miracles: particular places in history where God chooses to intervene in human history for His own purposes.

So the fundamental question to ask yourself is this: Is there a God?  Is there a Being who created the heavens and earth out of nothing?  The Bible purports itself to be the recordings of interactions between this Being, which we call God in English and the Hebrews call Yahweh, and particular people in a certain period of history, roughly 1500 BC to 100 AD.  The distinction is crucial: if you believe that God did create everything that we see around us, then literally ALL of the other miracles of the Bible pale in comparison to the first one: the creation of life itself.  If you fundamentally believe that God exists and the Bible is an accurate portrayal of who He has revealed Himself to be — not merely what we have “created” him to be — then you should be able to see that such a Being is capable of much “smaller” miracles by comparison.  I see no reason, frankly, to split hairs on “which” miracles are the real ones: either there is a God who is capable of performing such signs and wonders, or there isn’t.  I really don’t think there’s a way to soft sell this: the miracles of the Bible hang together, and picking and choosing which are the “true” ones goes against the very spirit of the message of Scripture.  That, to me, is the true leap involved in faith, whether I believe the Bible speaks truthfully about the character and actions of God.

Don’t forget what Jesus told the original Doubting Thomas (in John 20): you believe in me because you have seen me [alive after I was dead], blessed are those who have NOT seen with their own eyes, and yet believe.

O. (11:10-15):  I love this passage!  Here the Israelites are whining, which reminds me of children.  I tell my youngest that to ask properly without whining.  It sounds sooooo much better.  Same here.  The Israelites should have asked instead of complaining and whining, which is the action we see in Moses.  He takes it as long as he can without grumbling, but then finally has had it and simply puts his case to God.  God grants him his wish.  In 11:21-22, Moses doubts God, but he never blames God for delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Q. (11:26-30): Why was this scene significant?  Joshua was worried that the elders who had just received the Spirit would become more powerful than Moses?

A. Not so much that they would be more powerful than Moses, but that they might lead people away from him as the true leader.  Joshua is concerned about potential revolt, but Moses isn’t worried: in fact, he wishes that the people would show more manifestations of the Spirit of God.

Q. (11:31-35): Did the people know that God would be outraged from gluttonous behavior?

A. There’s a few theories about what happened here.  The text seems to imply that everyone who ate the provided quail died, but I’ve heard other interpretations that the catch here is that the meat began to rot, and only those who ate the quail for days and days (the truly gluttonous) were the ones killed by it.  I’ll leave it to you to decide.

O. (12:8): I love this message.  Don’t question God’s wisdom, reason and loyalty.  Also, extend this to your own life, including friends and family.  If someone has a close relationship, we should not be jealous of it.  More importantly, if God chooses someone for something, honor and respect it.  Do not be jealous of it.  It’s not His plan for you.

Q. (13:25-33): Why did most of the men who explored Canaan say it was a land that would devour anyone who lives there?

A. They were scared, and the implication is that they lacked faith in God to do what He had promised: to drive out the people who lived there, even the “giants”.  In their panic, the scouts spread rumors about what they had seen, including that some of the people there were giants who would devour them (though this might refer to ritual cannibalism).  So basically, in their fear, the 10 fearful scouts are trying to prevent the people from entering the land and, in their mind, being conquered.  The easiest way to do that: to proclaim that you’ve seen unconquerable people who will squish you like bugs if you challenge them.  The people will pay dearly for this fearful decision.  In the end, an entire generation will be lost before the people are ready to enter the Promised Land.