Assuming the Worst

“The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered.”
Deuteronomy 1:27

The twelve leaders had returned from scouting the promise land. Two of them raved about the beautiful land, saying it was indeed everything God had been promising, and they encouraged the community to press forward and claim the land that had been promised to them!

But the other ten didn’t see that. All they saw were obstacles and enemies. They incited fear and rebellion, causing the nation to cry out, “The Lord must hate us! That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt — to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered.”

Do you see what’s going on here? Instead of hearing the good news that the land ahead of them was everything God had been promising them, they believed the worst.

As I’ve said before, I’m on a journey of reading through the Bible in chronological order, with the help of The Bible Recap as a resource and a guide. I’ve now read Genesis, Job, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. And through these books I’ve gotten to see a lot of God’s character. And this is specifically why the verse I’m talking about today struck a chord with me. Because of all I’ve seen in these five books so far, God isn’t out to get us. He doesn’t play with us like toys. He doesn’t create these complex evil schemes to destroy us.

So to see the Israelites claim “The Lord must hate us!”…it simply stopped me in my tracks.

God didn’t hate them. In fact, he felt the very opposite and had done nothing but act in that manor. Yet all they could see was their own fear. And all they could do was act out of that fear.

Had they learned nothing since Egypt?

…Have I?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Because as soon as I was surprised by their reaction, I was convicted of my own reactions to the way God works.

God doesn’t hand a good life to us in a pretty basket. And what he was asking of the Israelites wasn’t pretty or easy either. He told them, in a matter of words, Before you is the land I have set aside for you. But you must go in and drive out those who live there now. You must go to war with them and destroy themeven though they are more numerous and stronger than you.

But he also said, in a manner of words, I will go with you and I will give you victory.

But they didn’t believe his promise of victory. Even though they had witnessed miracle after miracle after miracle, they still doubted his power. They still doubted that he cared for them.

I don’t think we need to see more miracles. I think we need to trust him. Clearly, miracles alone won’t keep us close to God. And I think the reason may be that we beg God for a miracle in times of desperation and agony, but as soon as we are satisfied we no longer need him.

It’s time to take a leap of faith and trust God. Time to cultivate a relationship with him that continues through the good and the bad. One that never ceases to acknowledge him and ask him for daily wisdom and guidance. For confidence and courage!

If we live one desperate moment to the next, we’ll only see the trials. We will assume that God has evil planned for us. But if we live in reverence we’ll see that he actually has a master plan at work that has a long term vision that reaches far past today.

He is worthy of our trust. He is trustworthy.

I dare you, as I’m daring myself, to assume the best. God is for you, not against you. Submit to his ways, his timing, his plans. And when he say go, go! When he says stay, stay. And when he sends you out against a foe that is bigger and stronger than you, march in confidence.

God doesn’t need to prove himself to us. But we need to prove to him that we can take orders and trust his word. And if we can do that, we will look back and see provision after provision, miracle after miracle, and a depth of relationship that will last into eternity.

How do you move a 100ft cliff?

I’ve heard all throughout my growing up years, as well as now into my 30s, that prayer is a conversation with God. But even though people have told me this over and over again, I’ve always had a hard time accepting it that way. Whenever I sit down to pray, verses like Matthew 6:8 come to mind, which says, “…your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

But I keep finding myself asking, “If he knows, why pray? Why spend the time and effort?”

I’ve known for a long time that prayer has been hard for me. It’s been a known struggle. Every morning when Luke and I sit down to pray together, it’s mostly Luke doing the praying because I just can’t seem to find the desire to do so myself. I do sometimes when something very specific is going on, but even then it’s been hard.

I didn’t realize until very recently, however, why.

That is, until I read this section of scripture…

One day a petition was presented by the daughters of Zelophehad—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Their father, Zelophehad, was a descendant of Hepher son of Gilead, son of Makir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph. These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. “He was not among Korah’s followers, who rebelled against the Lord; he died because of his own sin. But he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord replied to Moses, “The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father.

“And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters. And if he has no daughter either, transfer his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. But if his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan. This is a legal requirement for the people of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” – Numbers 27:1-11

Let me tell you what’s happening here. The families inheritance was to go to the oldest son, but this man, Zelophehad, had five daughters and no sons. When he died, his name was going to disappear and these sisters were going to be left with nothing. So the sisters brought this issue to Moses, and Moses took it to God.

Notice what God says. He says their claim is legitimate and that they must be given the grant of land that would have been given to their father. Then he goes on to give instructions for the rest of the nation, saying that if a man has no sons, his inheritance goes first to the daughters.

This whole section spoke volumes to me about prayer. Had the sisters stayed quiet about their situation, they would have ended up with nothing. But their petition and reasons for wanting their father’s land was not only heard by God, he acknowledged their request and gave them what they desired.

It wasn’t until I read this passage that I realized I’ve had a flawed view of God. I’ve been thinking of God as ridged, set in his ways…knowing what’s going to happen with everything pre-determined and set on it’s course. I’ve been praying, but they have been passionless prayers. Praying has felt like standing at the bottom of a 100ft cliff and trying to push it to another location. Impossible. Honestly, I’ve wondered why I even try if God knows all and is directing everything anyway.

But now? I see that God hears our petitions. Not only that, he’s willing to act on them. If I stay quiet, so will he. If I engage him in questions and conversations? He’ll engage right back. These were five women, out of hundreds of thousands of people. But God heard them. Not only that, his answer benefited others in the nation who were in the same position as they were.

This is all pretty incredible to me, and has really given me a new perspective on prayer. God does listen. He can be moved to act on our prayers.

Prayer is no longer a listless shove against an immovable, insurmountable monolith. It’s a conversation with a flesh and blood God who sees, knows, cares, and understands. Who’s empathetic. Who wants the best for me.

Sure, I won’t always get what I want. But I believe that God knows better than I do what is truly good and helpful. And I know now that I will see change that would never have happened had I left it alone.

I didn’t expect to find this in Leviticus

I want to tell you about something I read recently that brought tears to my eyes. Surprisingly to me, it was in Leviticus 26.

Let me start by saying I’ve never read through the entire Bible. I’m pretty sure I’ve read every book by now at one time or another, but I’ve never read it straight through. But earlier this year I got a copy of The Bible Recap by Tara Leigh Cobble, which takes you through the Bible in chronological order. This has been really cool…partway through Genesis, we changed gears and I read the book of Job. Then came back to Genesis. Then in the middle of Exodus, I think it was, I read a Psalm that Moses had written during that period of time. It’s been so, so cool.

But I digress, although I could go on and on about how fruitful this has been for me.

Going back to Leviticus 26, it’s a chapter where God is laying out for the Israelites “Blessings for Obedience” and “Punishments for Disobedience”.

In the blessings portion, God is putting on the table everything you could hope for, pray for, strive for – and all he’s asking in return is obedience. He’s pretty much saying, My ways are perfect. I created you to live in a specific way – set apart for me. The world has rebelled against me and no longer follows me. I only ask that you do. That you choose to be different. In doing this, you will find life and find it abundantly.

In exchange for obedience, he offered bountiful provision, favor, peace, safety, and victory over your enemies. Read verses 1 – 13. It is truly amazing.

Again, surprisingly to me, it’s this next part that brought me to tears.

The next section, verses 14 – 46, goes over the punishment section. This is a list of warnings for those who rebel against God, those who openly reject him. Those who despise him. Those who refuse to live in his perfect ways. If you read this section, there are 6 levels of disobedience, each one worse than the last. But this is what got me…after each level, God offers the chance to return to him. If you rebelled and were punished, God offered the chance to return. If you continued to rebel, he still offered the chance to return…the level of rebellion and the level of punishment grow to astonishing heights, and yet still, he never gives up. He says, “But despite all this, I will not utterly reject or despise them while they are in exile…I will not cancel my covenant with them…” Will they pay for their sin and their rebellion? Yes. But do they have the chance to return? Yes.

This is what had me tearing up. It was proof, right in front of my eyes from God himself, that he does not give up. That his love never fails. That his mercies are new every morning. All those things that David sang about in his Psalms were playing out right before my eyes.

A weight lifted off my shoulders after reading this chapter, because I now have proof that it’s not too late for anyone. It’s not too late for me. It’s not too late for you. I try to live a life that honors God, but I know I fall short. I hate that I fall short. But falling short is something I’ll wrestle with until the day I pass from earth to heaven. I thank Jesus that he sent the Holy Spirit, who is now my guide and counselor. That even though I am not perfect, I have the Bible to guide me in being made more like Christ, and learning more every day who God is and what it looks like to live set apart for him.

If you’re feeling like you’re too far gone, stop. You’re not. Read Leviticus 26 and let it be a picture for you of all God wants to offer you, a warning for what a life of rebellion is like, and an assurance that he loves you with an everlasting, unfailing love that’s ready to accept you back at a moments notice.

Leviticus. Who knew?