One of my favorite television marketing campaigns from years ago was advertising hamburgers—Wendy’s, I think. They featured a hapless taste-test pollster whose customers just wouldn’t cooperate. He began by asking a lady a very leading question: “Would you rather have this big juicy burger with the fresh onions, or would you prefer this little burger with the reconstituted onions?” Inevitably, and to the dismay of the pollster, the customer chose the reconstituted onions, the frozen processed patty with meat fillers, the stale bun…you get the idea. Try as he might, the pollster could not get people to choose the obviously better hamburger.
I think this must reflect how God feels sometimes, when he offers his people an amazing inheritance and they settle for less than what they could have had. I wonder how many times I’ve done that? I think we settle for less when we try to choose our own portion, or somehow believe we don’t deserve God’s best (as though anyone could actually deserve it). I see some of this truth in today’s reading.
Jeff McQuilkin is today’s guest blogger. Long ago, we played together on the same worship team in college. Twenty-four years later, he serves as my church’s worship leader. He’s also a gifted writer, music critic, and blogger. You can read his blog Losing My Religion by clicking here.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 32. Toward the end of Israel’s forty-year wanderings in the wilderness, the tribes of Reuben and Gad (plus the half-tribe of Manasseh) see plenteous grazing land for their livestock just across the Jordan, outside the “promised land”, and tell Moses they prefer to settle there. At first Moses is furious, because it sounds quite a bit like the kind of attitude that cost Israel forty years in the wilderness the first time! But when Reuben, Gad and Manasseh pledge to send their men across the Jordan to help the other tribes fight to occupy their land until they possess their inheritance, Moses relents, and the land across the Jordan becomes theirs.
Numbers 33:1-39. Essentially, this is Moses’ log of Israel’s stopping places during their years in the wilderness, ending with the death of Aaron. To decrease the monotony of reading this passage, try reading it aloud, trying to pronounce all the names of the different places. Mildly entertaining. (Now I’ve done it; I’ve gone and said something snarky. Now Mike won’t ask me to do this again!) J
Quick note from Mike: Wait until tomorrow and you’ll see!
Luke 4:31-5:11. The beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, documentations of deliverance and healing, and the calling of the first disciples.
Psalm 64. A prayer of David as he asks God to deliver him from enemies who secretly conspire against him.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
I’m the kind of person who looks for practical ways to apply the truths of the Bible. This is speculation, but it seems to me like these tribes of Israel jumped the gun by choosing their own land. Yes, they were large tribes with lots of livestock, and Canaan was a small parcel to divide among so many tribes. But I can’t help but wonder what their lives would have been like had they waited and allowed God to choose their inheritance for them, rather than just determining for themselves what was best.
There’s no indication of God’s reprimand of these tribes for their choice to settle across the Jordan—but at the same time, that is not an indication of his favor either. In fact, throughout Scripture, it seems that sometimes God relents and gives us what we demand, even if it wasn’t his perfect plan (like Israel asking for a king, for example).
Just because God allows it does not mean it was his best. Sometimes we forfeit something much greater by settling for something less—because for whatever reason, we don’t think it will get any better. I want to learn from this, and learn to let God reveal my portion, rather than decide for myself what his best is for me.
Almost as if by contrast, we see in Luke 5 how the early disciples literally abandoned everything to follow Jesus. There was apparently just enough in Jesus’ voice, or in his eyes, or in the works he did, to tell these men that any earthly portion they had with their fishing boats paled in comparison to what Jesus was offering. The disciples were a ragtag bunch of misfits, but I have to hand it to them on this one, because it was the exact opposite of what their forefathers had done. Rather than choosing their own portion, they leaped headlong into what God had for them, without any knowledge of the outcome. As a result, they embarked on an adventure they would never have had otherwise, and Jesus used them to change the world.
And that’s what a better story is, isn’t it? We can choose for ourselves, and settle for our own contentment, or we can let God choose our portion, and perhaps make a difference in our world.
- How did these passages speak to you today?
- Can you think of times in your life when you chose for yourself rather than waited on God, and came to regret it?
- Why do you think we do this? Is it because we don’t trust God with our best interests, or fear, or something else?
- How can today’s passages shape your journey starting today?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.