Friday, May 11, 2012

120510 - Numbers 33 - Wandering = Pilgrimage = Development

Thursday SOAP: Numbers 33 recaps the wilderness wanderings. Maybe its my time spent meditating on "Pilgrim's Progress" but it seems to also hint at God's development program for walking new believers through and out of this world. Or maybe I should say walking the world out of new believers. ;-)


S: then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places... But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” (Numbers 33:52, 55-56)

O: This chapter of Numbers is Moses' record of their journey. The colorful names of the places help to tell the story in many places. Thorn, knocking, kneading, rest, "graves of lust," ruin, beauty, fear, sweetness, fatness, bonds, "sons of twisting," pleasantness, passage, "backbone of a man," holiness...

Deuteronomy 1:2 tells us that the 40-year wandering from Egypt to Kadesh would have been an 11-day journey.

A: The obvious explanation for that is God's judgment on the adults who disbelieved. (Numbers 13:31-14:3, 28-31) But it's also important to see it as God's preparation program for those God promised would eventually know the land. After all, God did tell them He directed them away from the Philistines so that they wouldn't be disheartened by immediate, pitched warfare. (Ex. 13:17) He also told them that they would drive out the Canaanites gradually so that they would inherit fresh territory and not have to recover it from the wilderness. (Ex. 23:30, Deut 7:22)

Again, looking at the names of these places, it's easy to imagine the spiritual life of a believer: thorns give way to knocking. Knocking results in the Lord working something into you that you need, like kneading dough. Rest gives way to lust, meaning death and ruin for anyone giving themselves over to it. Sweetness leads to fatness, resulting in bondage...

God has a "directed wandering" plan for every believer. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world, (1 John 5:4), and we are more than conquerors through Him, (Rom. 8:37), but these are descriptions of the eventual outcome of warfare, not of skirmishes and battles.

We still have so much of the world in us when we're converted, and we would despair if we saw all our faults at once. Instead, God shows us "occupied territory" little-by-little. Each stronghold houses an idol of some kind; each agreement with the enemy results in infected worship, thorns and afflictions. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

If it sounds like I'm mixing metaphors a little, I suppose I am - the journey represents the believer's life and occupied territory represents conflicts with demonic forces. But, although believers can't be occupied by these evil intelligences themselves, they can certainly take on the malicious and defective programming of the enemy and others infected by him. (See April 2006 journal entry.) There's the world (entirely external, but largely controlled by hostile forces, experienced by means of the senses), the flesh (internal, unredeemed nature that may be either influenced by the world and its god or mastered by the believer for and through the power of His God - Romans 8:13) and the devil (the slanderer, our accuser and adversary, represented by the serpent of old, the great red dragon clothed in scales of pride, the roaring lion seeking those he may devour, and the angel of light). All of these have an end. (Mark 3:26, 2 Peter 3:10, 1 John 2:17, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54) But the purpose for which God uses them now to teach us to trust His love through all these things coming against us to separate us from Him. This has the effect of making us over into the likeness of Christ, who trusted the love and purpose of the Father enough to lay down every right, every dignity and withhold no part of Himself from the plan of His Father.

P: Father, by your love and power I will overcome and be kept from idols, so proving to be your disciple.

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