Often I find myself struggling with my place in life. While most all of my friends seem to move along at a "normal" pace, I feel as though I am always thirty minutes late to the show... ok maybe its more like a decade late. Of course this is a struggle for me because at the end of the day I seem to fear man rather than fearing God. I have bought into the lie that life is about having a certain amount of money in the bank (just enough not to worry = an endless supply), a respectable job (a tenured track position at a University), an advanced degree (3 letters following my name please), and the number of proverbial pats on the back I can get (as many as possible). I ought to consider it all rubbish and long to share in his sufferings, but mud pies, mud pies, that is what wets my appetite. I don't really see these things for what they are and this is the problem. In part, I believe that my picture-"perfect" future could not even begin to bring me joy but rather would be only distraction and then in part, like a dog returning to its vomit, I keep accepting the same old b.s. that there are greener pastures just on the other side of the fence.
The other day, a friend of mine asked me what I thought the point of the book of Numbers was and I didn't have a ready answer; since that time I have been thinking some about it. The book opens with the Israelites in their second year of the Exodus from Egypt. It is God bringing his people from the old way (of captivity) to the new way of life, but of course there is a large chasm between the two and this is the sojourn. At the beginning of Numbers, we find the Israelites are at the foot of Mt. Sinai and in we know from having read Leviticus that they have received all the guidelines and laws from God about how they should live. Numbers traces their pilgrimage from Mt. Sinai to the land flowing with milk and honey which should have only been an 11 day or so trek but in actuality takes nearly 40 years. Constantly throughout the book they fall short of seeking the Lord and following his ways and thus they do everything but trust in him. It is titled "Numbers" because God requires I think, two censuses: one at the beginning of the epoch and another towards the end and we see that rather than being fruitful and multiplying, they have decreased substantially in number by the second count of heads; this is because so many have perished in the desert. Still, God is steadfast and is faithful to complete the work that He has started. Eventually as a people, they get to the land, even though an entire generation has passed away (save two faithful men). This book seems to be about the journey of one's faith and what it looks like to go from being an enemy of God to realizing eternal life and particularly about all that stuff in between which looks ugly and is so often frustrating to the point of wanting to throw in the towel. That is, as we live out what is an admixture of faith and unbelief, it feels at times like we are just running circles. Numbers is a narrative about God in his awesome mercy breaking our stiff necks so that we may turn our eyes from evil and fix them upon the author and finisher of our faith.