Numbers 33-34, Psalm 51
Our lives in many ways are like the 40-year wilderness journey that is being recounted by Moses. As we get older we tend to remember certain events, while forgetting others. The Israelites during these forty years had times of obedience surrounded by long periods of disobedience. Paul describes the state of our life's work in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is." A little later in the New Testament, we read in Hebrews 8:12, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
As we read through the first 49 verses of Numbers 33, it consists of a bunch of names that we might never have heard of or remember, and probably can't pronounce. It may appear to be one of the most boring passages to go through. But realize each place mentioned represented a place where the children of Israel chose to follow Him obediently. Just like the promise above in the New Testament, God remembered those times when His children shined. As we go through the chapter, the first 15 verses bring us from Egypt to Mount Sinai. From verses 16-36, Moses chronicles their movement from Mount Sinai to Kadesh Barnea when the spies were sent in. This period accounts for a little over a year. From verse 37-49, they detail their movements from Kadesh-Barnea, 38 years later to the border of the Promised Land. What is glaringly missing is the 38 years in between when they disobediently wandered in the desert with many deaths occurring. This shows that God chose to specifically record every spot that they chose to obey, but there is no mention, no record, no memory concerning their years of disobedience. Notice in Numbers 33:51, the Lord says through Moses, "...When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan,". God promised to bring them in, and though they hadn't yet entered, God reassures them that it is guaranteed. Notice His instructions to the people as they enter the Promised Land in 33:55, "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell."
Like the Israelites, for those of us who have come to faith in God, our lives are marked with moments of obedience in which we shine for and glorify God. These are moments which God will remember. Unfortunately, our lives are also often full of days, weeks and years of wandering in which we choose to live for ourselves and block God from moving in our lives. Thankfully, for those of us who have accepted Jesus' offer of salvation, these moments will be burned up and forgotten. Though God will forget, they are still responsible for a considerable amount of pain and regret for us and others, brought about by our own foolish actions done in isolation from God. Notice in Numbers 33:55, God instructed the Israelites to deal completely with the Canaanites and drive them out. For those of us filled with the Holy Spirit, we too must deal severely with our flesh which tries to coexist with the Spirit. We can make no ceasefires or peace treaties with our flesh. Otherwise, it will continue to rear its ugly head leading us into disobedience and back into desert wanderings away from God. Just like the 40-year marathon, the Israelites spent in the desert, we too living out the Spirit-filled life are in a marathon, not a sprint. May we adopt the same mind as Paul as he said in Philippians 3:13-14, "...but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: