A thorn in our side

Daily Readings – Numbers 33-34, Psalm 45

On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

“‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

Number 33:50-56

As we will see throughout the Old Testament in coming months, the Israelites would have been well served to follow God’s command. Instead they did not clear out the lands that God had prepared for them and it ended quite poorly. The inhabitants in their land truly did become barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, ultimately leading to the Israelite’s exile.

It got me thinking this morning, how many times have there been in my life where I conveniently set aside a command of God’s and then dealt with the challenges for months and years to come?

It is easy to have a mindset that we will see throughout the Old Testament, where we want God to swoop in a remove any negative repercussions from previous decisions the moment we turn back to him. We want God’s grace to be accompanied by instant removal of any lingering consequences.

The truth is that God is a loving father who is waiting there with open arms ready to welcome us back home when we turn back to him. His love is infinite and the grace he gives us is all encompassing. However, like all loving fathers, that doesn’t mean that there is not still discipline required.

With virtually any sin issue in our lives, there are almost always self-inflicted challenges we have to deal with on the backend. These challenges may be with our health, finances, career, emotional health, trust with others, etc. Sin issues in our life almost always leave behind some “inhabitants” in our lives that we are forced to deal with as thorns in our side.

When we are out of line with God’s commands, but eventually choose to turn back to him, it typically takes patience and effort to fully remove the thorn. It takes truly accepting the grace we have been given through Christ on the cross and walking out of our new identity. It requires not allowing that identity to be shaken when we are pushing through these negative repercussions.

It takes remembering who God has said that we truly are. We are sons and daughters of God. We are loved more than we can ever imagine.

Fortunately, when we are walking closely with God, there is so much more peace in our lives, even when dealing with the negative repercussions of previous actions. God will be there every step of the way with us as we trudge through these challenges.

When my daughters misbehave and I can tell they truly are sorry, every ounce of me wants to immediately remove the consequences we have set for those actions. I want to immediately say, “Never mind! I know you are sorry! Let’s go back to playing games!” However, I know that it is important that actions have consequences. I tell them how much I love them, that I only want the best for them, and that I am really excited to go back to having fun soon, but there do have to be consequences.

How much more loving and wise is our Father in Heaven?

So when you are living out repercussions, remember that this is not God being mad at you. Once you have turned back and repented of this sin issue, God is overjoyed. That doesn’t mean the ramifications immediately evaporate, but if we walk through those challenges with Christ at our side, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.

Thought to ponder

What thorns in my side still exist from current or previous times where I was not walking in line with God’s will? Have I given that area of life fully over to God?

Manna again?!

Daily Readings: Numbers 11-12, Psalm 40

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” 

Numbers 11:4-6

Whenever I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament I am always struck by what a group of whiners they are! Here is a group of people that were rescued from slavery and yet they complain about anything and everything. How quickly they seem to forget what Egypt was like! They conveniently forget backbreaking labor from sun up to sun down, being beaten and whipped, and having their male children killed in an attempt to suppress their growing population.

Instead they whine about having to eat manna!

Here is God miraculously providing food for them out of thin air, but they want more. How ungrateful can you get? Really. Get it together Israel!

Then I remember myself…

The reality is that the Israelites were wandering through the desert on a promise that they would eventually settle into the land God promised to them. This journey was not just days, weeks, months, or years; it was decades.

God has put so many amazing blessings in my life. All of my basic needs are met and so much more. And yet how quickly do I occasionally allow a spirit of stress, anxiety, frustration, and ungratefulness to set in on some days?

The Israelites should have been overcome with thankfulness every single day at their good fortune and had no right to grumble! However, when comparing situations, I have infinitely less reason.

Perspective.

I truly believe that one of the most powerful things we can do as marketplace missionaries is demonstrate a spirit of thankfulness. We have a society that relishes complaining. Without consciously realizing it, we have collectively fallen into the habit of embracing the feeling indignation, outrage, and dissatisfaction. When people see us, as Christians, break this mold and living lives of thankfulness and peace; it is an incredibly foreign and attractive thing to observe. It is hard to not be attracted to someone who always seems thankful for their blessings instead of stressing over needing more. You have to stop and ask, “Why? Where does this spirit of thankfulness come from?”

I want to walk through life with the mindset that David expresses in Psalm 40 today when he declares:

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

When we make the conscious decision each and every day to count our blessings, remember the amazing work God has done in our lives, and are unafraid of telling others of the wonders God has done; a spirit of thankfulness is only natural.

Today I will embrace living out Psalm 40 instead of Numbers 11. Today I will choose a spirit of thankfulness!

Thought to ponder

When have I recently fallen into a whiny attitude that looks more like the Israelites and how can I refocus my mind on the incredible blessings God has put in my life?

 

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