We are three weeks into the season of Lent, three weeks deeper into following Jesus into the wilderness. The deeper we get into the wilderness and the closer we get to the Cross, the harder the journey becomes. Impatience, fear, and exhaustion are temptations that are calling on us. The joy of Easter feels close, but it is not here yet.
The Israelites in today’s passage know a little something about trekking through the wilderness, and they know something about complaining about it. At this point in the story, this is the fifth and final of the complaining stories in the book of Numbers. The Israelites are impatient, tired, hungry, and maybe losing it a little bit. They complain about having no food and water, and in the same breath they complain how terrible the food is. Huh?
Being lost in the wilderness has that effect.
The Israelites have lost their trust in God and are expressing a fear of moving forward. It always seems easier to go back to the way things used to be. Like the Israelites, we may have times in our journey when we complain about the change God calls us to, and then we have to ask ourselves, “What is holding me back?”
As they did for the Israelites, our complaints sometimes burst out of us without enough thought to even make sense of them. Sometimes we say out loud to God, “I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m lost.” Yet maybe naming those complaints aloud will help us to sort out our fear and start to let go. In order to begin to embrace all that will sustain us the rest of the way through the wilderness, we need to acknowledge all that is preventing us from moving forward.
God, hear my complaints and help me to let them go so that I can open my heart to all that will sustain me in the wilderness. Amen.
Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble by our words and actions. It’s okay to admit it. It happens to all of us. The Israelites experienced this when their constant grumbling provoked God’s wrath in Numbers 21. Yet even in this story, God provides the means of salvation. The psalmist echoes the refrain that when we put ourselves in bad positions, we may cry out to the Lord for deliverance. We read in Ephesians that all of us were living in disobedience to God, but God has done all the work of reconciliation by grace given through Christ Jesus. John ties all this together, gesturing to the story in Numbers 21 to teach us that Christ is the means of restoration and salvation for all who believe in him.
Read Numbers 21:4-9. When do you complain to God? Does your complaining ever interfere with your sense of God’s presence with you?
Read Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22. What practice helps you to thank God each day for God’s steadfast love?
Read Ephesians 2:1-10. How does your sense of God’s salvation and grace move you to do good works?
Read John 3:14-21. How do you act as a creature of light in the world? What are your “deeds that have been done in God”?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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