>The weird thing about going through the Bible verse by verse, in an academic sense, is that the little idiosyncrasies stick out like sore thumbs. Verses that we usually skim over, because they don’t make sense or don’t seem to add much to the story become flashing bright lights. Stories that are obviously connected flow together like a river of God’s love for us instead of the little water bottles of refreshment we usually get.
Just the other day we read the story of Aaron’s staff budding. We usually use that pericope to talk about how God chooses us and stands behind us and blah blah blah…all great points, but missing a little bit of what God is getting at. Right before that story, Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebel against Moses and, to make a long story short, are disposed of in creative ways. The big three are swallowed up by the earth, which then promptly closes back over them, effectively burying them alive. Their council of 250 elders is burned up by the fire of the Lord, and everyone who complains because this happened is hit with a plague. So we have earthquakes, fire from heaven, and plagues, and nothing seems to phase the Israelites. They still complain just as much as before, are still indignant, and generally don’t change demeanor at all.
Aaron’s staff buds because God is trying to silence the complaining and bickering. In fact, He says the reason this happens is to prevent the Israelites from dying. They’ve pushed Him so far that He’s about to snap and He wants to control His anger. The weird thing is…THIS is the instance that causes the Israelites to go bonkers! Almonds growing out of a piece of dead wood! Giant chasms in the earth, fire raining down from heaven, killer plagues…meh. Almonds? RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!
I can’t get over the pathetic nature of the Israelites. Every story we read, the farther we delve into the story of the Israelites, the more and more depressed I get reading about their ignorance. I can’t fathom how stupid they must have been to see the miracles and love of God with their own eyes–miracles and wonders we can’t even imagine–and still want to walk away.
Oh wait. Yes I can.
My freshman year of college I went with some friends and my family to see !Hero the Rock Opera, a modern day telling of the birth of Christ. Set in Bethlehem, PA instead of Israel, it shows exactly how our world would react to a modern-day Savior. We’d build him up using the media, then tear him down and dispose of him. On the way home, we talked about how we would respond if we were there…simple question: Would we believe? Sadly, the consensus answer was no.
I think the reason the Israelites irritate me so is because I know how they feel. I see God everyday, whether in large miracles or small whispers, and yet there are times everyday that I turn against Him. That I stop listening to Him. That I let myself get in the way of His plan…that I get freaked out by almonds.
I have got to stop letting the world get in the way of my relationship with God. He throws earthquakes, fire, and pestilence at me, but I still ask questions and fight Him. And when my faith is weak, something small and innocuous (like almonds!) can drop me to the turf. Good thing I don’t have to ask “What if…” I know God is alive and His Son died for me.
That’s refreshing enough for me.
“This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14