Read: Numbers 27: 1 – 23
Focus: Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Numbers 27: 15 – 16
Confession time – the second part of today’s reading is a hard one for me; I have always struggled with how this goes down. My reaction to this reading has always been an emotional one. Look at how Moses gave up his entire life to lead the Israelites. He endured all of their whining and complaining; their backbiting and plotting. He did all of this, and in the end, because he made a mistake, he doesn’t get to enter the promised land. It isn’t fair.
Because of that view, I have been struggling a bit the past few days while trying to write today’s devotional. For the past three days, I’ve had a blank page, but now I’m down to the wire. When I told Sherri I was struggling to write something useful, my lovely bride wisely offered that maybe I needed to see it from a different perspective – God’s instead of my own. I prayed earnestly this morning (as I like to think I do before I write any of these), but in today’s prayer, I asked God to help me see this verse through His eyes and not my own. Help me to look past my own biases and determinations of what’s fair and instead view it through His eyes. Through prayer, God gave me a Bible verse to meditate on as I considered Numbers 27. Isaiah 55:8-9:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways
and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
WOW!!! That gives a different perspective. As I mediated on Isaiah 55:8-9, I started to see Numbers 27 in a different light. Some thoughts came to mind that I will share below.
The Bible gives us many characteristics of God. It says He is love (1 John 4:8), He is true (John 14:6), He is good (Mark 10:18), He is just (2 Thess 1:6), He is merciful (Romans 3:22 – 26) and gracious (John 3:16), He is wise (Romans 16:27) and the source of all wisdom (James 3:17), He is unchanging, He is slow to anger (Numbers 14:18) and quick to forgive (1 John 1:9), etc. But I’m unaware of where it says He is fair (at least using the word “fair” as we use it – for example in some translations, “fair” is used in Romans 3:26 for the Greek word díkaios; however, that word is better translated as righteous or impartial). That’s because fairness, as we think of it, is a human characteristic; it’s determined by emotions and how someone feels. It changes based on the circumstances and who is involved. It’s a word used by politicians and talking heads on TV to elicit emotional responses. It’s a word we use when something doesn’t sit right with us. I might think it’s unfair if something bad happens to a friend, but if the exact same thing happens to someone I don’t like for doing the same action, I might see that as that person getting what they deserved. Justice is different than fairness – it’s impartial; it’s the same consequence for the same action regardless of how much or little I like someone. In other words, justice is outside of human emotion.
So when I take my notions of fairness off the table, I’m able to look at today’s passage in a different light. I can see God’s righteousness and justice at play. I can His immutability (meaning He is unchanging). However, I can also see something new – I can see His grace and mercy. Nowhere in the reading does it tell us that Moses felt he was being treated unfairly by God. Instead, we are told that even while withholding entry into the promised land, God still gave Moses a chance to witness the promised land with his own eyes. We are also told that Moses made a final request to God (to choose a new leader for the Israelites), and God granted Moses’ petition. What I think or feel about something being fair or not just doesn’t matter, because it’s not about me. As Moses teaches us in this passage, it’s about God, His Kingdom, and His will for His people.
Moses died without setting foot in the promised land, but he died in peace because of His faith in the promise of future redemption that God offered. Moses knew God was merciful and gracious, so he had faith that he would be with God in the true promised land. Hebrews 11 lays this out for us very clearly.
God still offers that same promise to us. As we are told in Romans 6:23, “the wages (consequences) of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You answer prayer and help me to understand Your word. Please forgive me for applying my biases to You; please forgive me for my doubts and fears. Please search my heart and where there are attitudes and beliefs that stand in my way of knowing You better, please remove them. Let nothing stand in my way of loving and following You. In Jesus’ name… Amen.