Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Numerically speaking...

Ah the book of Numbers. I will begin with a confession--I have a love-hate relationship with numbers. I blame the hate part on seventh grade. They called it "new math" and it made absolutely no sense to me. I hadn't struggled with "old" math in sixth grade, but this new stuff quickly became the bane of my existence. Numbers that had been my friends became my enemies as I struggled to understand concepts that didn't seem rational to me.

And that brings me to one of the first things I want to say about Numbers 1 through 4 in the Bible. Numbers reveals God's insistence on order. As his instructions for the numbering of the children of Israel were carried out, he also positioned them in relationship to the tabernacle--in other words, his presence. And while we might have expected that he would position them by the size of their tribe or possibly by their birth order, that was not the case either--but there was purpose to his method.

Where we get into trouble sometimes is thinking that God should think like we think or do what we would do--and if reading through the Old Testament does nothing else it affirms that God's ways are higher and greater than ours could ever be. A big problem arises for us when we position ourselves in relation to other people rather than in relation to God.

It's tempting to compare ourselves to others because we can usually find less "spiritual" people to be the standard by which we measure ourselves. But God alone is the standard-bearer. Knowing that, it's imperative for Christian's to remember our position in Christ. Here's what Romans 8:17 says about that: And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

We are thrilled to imagine ourselves worthy to share in his glory, but it's a little less appealing to swallow the suffering part. Remembering that our Lord is a God of order is very reassuring. He is not random, he makes no mistakes, his equations are perfect. Listen, if he knows the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30) then I'm certain that even when I don't understand, I can count on God because he loves me so much--and that doesn't require any new math.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

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