Worth the Wilderness

Scripture Crumbs from Numbers 9:15-23 

On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and it appeared like fire above the tabernacle from evening until morning. It remained that way continuously: the cloud would cover it, appearing like fire at night. Whenever the cloud was lifted up above the tent, the Israelites would set out; at the place where the cloud stopped, there the Israelites camped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at the Lord’s command they camped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they camped.

Even when the cloud stayed over the tabernacle many days, the Israelites carried out the Lord’s requirement and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud remained over the tabernacle for only a few days. They would camp at the Lord’s command and set out at the Lord’s command. Sometimes the cloud remained only from evening until morning; when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out. Or if it remained a day and a night, they moved out when the cloud lifted. Whether it was two days, a month, or longer, the Israelites camped and did not set out as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. But when it was lifted, they set out. They camped at the Lord’s command, and they set out at the Lord’s command. They carried out the Lord’s requirement according to His command through Moses.

The Israelites chose to be completely dependent on God. Each person decided to place their will, direction and purpose solely in the One who rescued them and set them apart. To be in the presence of the Almighty God, to dwell with God, was worth the denial of self and embracing wholehearted devotion.

God revealed Himself to His people through a cloud covering the Tabernacle during the day and burning fire at night. From each tent, the people camped around the Tabernacle could see and know God was with them, at every hour. When they woke up, God was there. While they worked, God was there. As they worshiped, God was there.

The Israelites chose to follow God, rather than their own wisdom. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stayed, they stayed. “At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at the Lord’s command they camped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they camped.”

Just as the Tabernacle was the “tent of the testimony” (vs. 15), my body (tent) covers or wraps the Testimony of Jesus Christ living in me. God chooses to place His presence over my life and dwell with me.

When I press my snooze button repeatedly, He is there. As I serve Him in my home, He is there. When I read and follow His Word, He is there. In those times I falter and fail Him, He is there. In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep because of stress or a breaking heart, He is there.

God is not my compass. He is my personal guide. I choose to be completely dependent on Him for each step, every decision.

To remain in His presence, to see Him at work and join His service, is worth the long way through the wilderness.

Lord, showcase Your glory in my life. Help me to live in a manner worthy of Your calling. When I sin against You, meet me with mercy at the Tent of Your Testimony. In the brightness of day and the darkness of night, give me the strength to cling to Your truth and faithfulness. I will follow You.

My Top 10 Takeaways from the Old Testament, Part 2

To continue, here are five more ways God spoke to me on reflection over the Old Testament. Read the first five here.

6. God deeply desires all of me: my heart, mind, soul and strength.
The foundational command that God gives to His chosen people is found in Deuteronomy chapter 6: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Throughout the Old Testament, God reminds His people that life is not religious ritual or a checklist that must be completed to please Him. It is a changed heart. It is a person who seeks God with all that they are. God wanted His people to truly love Him and worship Him in every aspect of their lives. The Old Testament, and in particular the books of the law, weren’t just a set of rules and “thou shall nots”. They showcase how God wants to be the object of our our affection and praise, and how a Holy God seeks to personally be known to His creation. God wants me. He wants all of me.

7. My sin is incredibly costly.
Sin entered the world as Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and the severe consequences reach to us today. Sin separates us from the God who created us and loves us. Since the moment in time that Eve ate the apple, God has worked to draw us back to His side. The cost of that process is extreme, as the punishment (or atonement) for that sin must be paid. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden where they had perfect communion with God. Sin began to breakout in humanity to the point that God sent a flood to destroy the entire earth except for one righteous man and his family. Again, people chose poorly and God confused the language. God set up a system of purification as He created the nation of Israel to show people the cost of their sin through animal sacrifice. But, even that was abused and people decided that they knew better than God. The Old Testament closes with a series of books harkening judgment on Israel for their sins against God, as their Creator sought to wake them up so they would turn back to Him. The Old Testament gives us a heart-breaking upfront seat to how our sin penetrates, sours and destroys people, families, nations and most importantly our relationship with God.

8. God will go to extreme lengths to bring us back to Him.
The cost of my sin is overwhelming–it is a debt I cannot pay. God knows this, and from the first sin, has put plans in place to personally cover the cost because of His great love for us. Though the Old Testament records mankind’s cataclysmic fall, it also showcases God’s unyielding quest to redeem His people. God uses floods, plagues upon world superpowers, 40-year hikes in the wilderness, extreme demonstrations from His prophets, persecution, exile, rebuilding of city walls and more. God allows His people to go through difficult times to realize their need for Him and to repent, and then performs amazing miracles of deliverance. God goes to extreme measures to rescue and preserve His people. His heart for me is no different.

9. God’s mercy endures forever.
It really does. Despite all the shortcomings and failures of individuals and the Israelites in the Old Testament, God continually speaks about His redemption, giving chance after chance for them to return to Him. Even the prophets, before proclaiming God’s judgment, would remind the people that God is slow to anger. God keeps His promises, and that is on full display in the Old Testament. His great love compels Him to pour out mercy. Even when God’s holiness demands and exacts punishment for sin, and God’s people were conquered and exiled to a foreign land, God’s mercy crops up in a preservation of the people and favor with kings in Babylon and Persia. God is there with them through it all, never abandoning them. And at the end of the Old Testament in the book of Malachi, the last revelation of God for 400 years until He speaks to Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, God speaks of His ultimate display of mercy:  “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

10. It is ALL about Jesus.
From the very beginning, Jesus was there, speaking Creation into existence. And every moment after our fall was leading to Jesus personally entering our world to pay the ultimate price of our sin on the cross. As God worked across the span of time up to His ultimate sacrifice, everything pointed to Christ. The judgment against Satan in the garden, Melchizidak, Abraham and Isaac, the boat Noah was instructed to build, Joseph, the Ark of the Covenant and every aspect of the Tabernacle, God’s system of animal sacrifice, the rescue of the judges, the united kingdom of David, Jonah’s stay in the whale and each word spoken by God’s prophets revolved around God’s ultimate plan to redeem us through the shed blood of Jesus. To know how purposeful God was to bring my heart back to His, how Jesus had already committed His life to save mine before ever creating the World, is unspeakably precious. I will never fully understand it. All I can do in response is make my life to be ALL about Jesus.