Did you get spanked when you were a kid?
I used to get spanked. If I had done something bad, but relatively small, I would get hit on the back of my hand. I still remember standing at the foot of the stairs, holding out my hands, cringing as I waited for punishment.
If I had done something really bad, I would get hit with a belt, usually on my legs or my bare behind. I think I’ve blocked most of those memories out.
But one thing that all of those experiences had in common was the lecture. You disobeyed me. I specifically told you not to do this, but you didn’t listen.
Why did you disobey?
Speaking of parenting, the image of God as a father is painted most clearly in the Old Testament, in the stories of His ups and downs with the children of Israel.
Today’s story is sort of in the middle. Apparently the Israelites still hadn’t learned from last week’s rebellion and subsequent mass deaths, because they were still complaining about God’s decision to give leadership to some of the Israelites (read: the Levites) and not whichever tribe the latest complainer belonged to.
So God tries again. He has each tribe set out a staff and promises to show them – tangibly, obviously – who He had chosen to hold the priesthood.
To (hopefully) no one’s surprise, the staff representing the Levites budded, bloomed, and even sprouted almonds – overnight!
It was a clear sign. It couldn’t get any clearer than this.
Maybe this time the Israelites would listen.
Adding Insult To Injury
A sign from God.
Can you think of anything better? A clear instruction. An unambiguous answer. A direct communication.
But this sign was a little different.
The Israelites weren’t asking for new information. They weren’t confused about something, hoping for clarity. They weren’t even asking in surrender, allowing God to choose their next steps on their journey.
They just didn’t like what God had told them.
They knew the Levites were God’s chosen tribe to be His priests. Heck, you and I know it; we’ve been over it that many times!
But some of the men of Judah or Dan or Naphtali or Ephraim were not pleased.
They wanted a different answer. They didn’t want to obey. They didn’t like God’s decision. They disagreed with His law.
Can you believe that?
Of course you can – the funny thing about the Israelites is that you and I are no different.
I do the same thing when I watch or say or do something I know is wrong, but I pretend I’m going to ask God again or study it later to be sure.
We do the same thing when we throw a fit when God does something we don’t like, knowing full well that we aren’t even obeying Him.
We are doing the same thing when we allow fear or worry to consume us, even though God has already promised to take care of us.
We do the same thing by not trusting God. We do the same thing by not listening to Him. We do the same thing by not believing Him.
It hurts us when we do this. It hurts our relationship with God. And it hurts the One whose Word never fails, and who only wants His children to trust Him long enough to prove it.
Again and again and again and…
That was the Israelites. That’s us.
Yet they survived and we survived because of the patience of the God who made us.
God had told the Israelites already what His will was. He had told them a lot. He had given them laws. He had shown His favor through clouds and fire. He had even foretold His will through Jacob, their ancestor, years ago (Genesis 49:7)!
But He told them again.
God bears with us. He knows how stupid we are. He is intimately acquainted with our weaknesses. He is thoroughly familiar with how ignorant we can be. Still, He doesn’t give up on us.
He could sit and tune us out while we complain and whine and carry on. He could easily ignore us and let us figure out the long way that He means what He says.
He doesn’t have to give us another sign. He doesn’t have to give us a warm glow of encouragement. He doesn’t have to send someone with the right verse at the right time. He doesn’t have to bring that song to our heart. He didn’t have to set his rainbow in the clouds. He didn’t have to repeat His love to us over and over and over through the pages of the Bible. He didn’t have to send prophets or cause miracles. He didn’t have to make promise after promise.
He didn’t have to do any of that.
But He did it anyway.
He is in love.
That Man is in love with us. Do we get it?? Are we seeing what’s right in front of our faces?
Will we finally take Him at His word? Will we listen to Him this time?
God’s Message: “I am willing to bear with you.”
When no one else will. When no one else should. When we are at our rudest. When we are being absolute brats. When we have ignored all the facts. When we have brushed off all of His love.
While we were yet sinners.
That is a species of love that does not exist on Earth. It defies human logic. It cannot be explained. It can barely be understood.
But it’s real. And it’s trustworthy. And it’s right here, ready to be accepted.
And in case we don’t believe it, He’s shown it over and over and over and over and…
What do you think? What did the miraculous sign God gave the Israelites tell us about Him? Comment below and share this with someone who needs to know how completely they are loved.