This is my 24th blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late. Would you like to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree? See below for how you can go into the draw to win this wonderful prize.
Yesterday, I reflected upon God drawing us into His Presence, so that He might break us open to pour Himself in. One of the ways, He has been breaking me open, is by putting me face-to-face with judgements He has enacted on men and women in the Old Testament.
A few months ago, I decided to put my One Year Bible Study aside and start reading my The Message Bible from the beginning, reading the contextual introduction, but not relying on any study notes directing me to see something in particular. I had experienced the power of the Word in partaking of the Community Bible Experience, where we read through the whole New Testamant in the weeks before Easter and I heard God speak through the words into the depths of my soul. And after this experience, I yearned to understand the full story of the Bible, by reading right from the beginning, rather than the Bible split up into separate passages from different books.
In my yearning to believe with all my heart, to fully trust the God who had both allowed me to fall into a pit and had drawn me out in His unfailing compassion, rather than skipping over bits that upset me, I let those passages sit and sink in the most. I read and re-read them, before then turning to wrestle with God over them, much like Jacob did in Genesis 32: 24 – 30:
But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
One of the many passages I wrestled God over is where He disciplines Miriam and Aaron in very different ways in Numbers 12:
Miriam and Aaron talked against Moses behind his back because of his Cushite wife (he had married a Cushite woman). They said, “Is it only through Moses that God speaks? Doesn’t he also speak through us?”
God overheard their talk.
Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth. God broke in suddenly on Moses and Aaron and Miriam saying, “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting.” The three went out. God descended in a Pillar of Cloud and stood at the entrance to the Tent. He called Aaron and Miriam to him. When they stepped out, he said,
Listen carefully to what I’m telling you.
If there is a prophet of God among you,
I make myself known to him in visions,
I speak to him in dreams.
But I don’t do it that way with my servant Moses;
he has the run of my entire house;
I speak to him intimately, in person,
in plain talk without riddles:
He ponders the very form of God.
So why did you show no reverence or respect
in speaking against my servant, against Moses?
The anger of God blazed out against them. And then he left.
When the Cloud moved off from the Tent, oh! Miriam had turned leprous, her skin like snow. Aaron took one look at Miriam—a leper!
He said to Moses, “Please, my master, please don’t come down so hard on us for this foolish and thoughtless sin. Please don’t make her like a stillborn baby coming out of its mother’s womb with half its body decomposed.”
And Moses prayed to God:
Please, God, heal her,
please heal her.
God answered Moses, “If her father had spat in her face, wouldn’t she be ostracized for seven days? Quarantine her outside the camp for seven days. Then she can be readmitted to the camp.” So Miriam was in quarantine outside the camp for seven days. The people didn’t march on until she was readmitted. Only then did the people march from Hazeroth and set up camp in the Wilderness of Paran.
I sat there reading this and saw a God who punishes women more harshly than men. In the back of my mind I thought of all sorts of ways women in the Bible are placed beneath men and this seemed to confirm to me that God does not love women as much as men, as I saw Aaron being left unpunished and Miriam being given leprosy and removed from her community. I was angry at God as I read it, telling Him: “See, you don’t really love us, do you?”.
And yet, my heart yearned for Him to tell me otherwise. And so I sat there re-reading it and looking for His Truth to bring peace to my heart. It is then I saw what I had failed to see before. Aaron is actually punished just as severely and if not more than Miriam. He is made to watch Miriam come down with a disfiguring disease and be removed from those she loves, including him, her brother, and in those moments he is made to feel helpless, powerless to protect and unable to comfort the one he loves. He also knows that He has had a part to play in the punishment inflicted and no doubt shame and guilt must have covered him because of this and his pride must have been sorely dented in his inability to protect, provide and comfort.
Having been through so many of these feelings myself in my life, especially in watching my Mum suffer, I am able to empathize deeply with the plight Aaron found himself in. Essentially, I came to see that God was punishing them both severely for the disrespect they showed both their brother Moses and Himself as the Lord above All, who had instated Moses as His earthly leader and mouthpiece. But I also see Him as showing compassion to Miriam, Aaron and Moses, by restricting their suffering to seven days, much like God has shown compassion to me in my sinful life, by promising me that my earthly separation from my mother and her broken-by-cancer-ravaged body are temporary sufferings that will fall away when heaven’s doors are opened wide.
I am also certain that this painful discipline brought them all closer to God, as they saw both His powerful hand at work, as well as His compassionate heart that yearned for restoration. They must have, like me in my journey of faith have:
- been filled with awe,
- made keenly aware of their own inadequacy and sinfulness, and
- felt His compassionate love cover them in relief and peace.
There are many other passages I have wrestled with in the past months. Some I have been able to wrap my human brain around, others I have had to surrender in the wrestling, as God has repeatedly turned me to to the book of Job to remind me that my ways are not His ways and that He is in the business of redeeming that which is broken and undone. And it is when I look up into the indescribable tapestries of skies that my mind and my heart still to hear His voice (Job 38):
Where were you when I created the earth?
Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
“And have you ever ordered Morning, ‘Get up!’
told Dawn, ‘Get to work!’
So you could seize Earth like a blanket
and shake out the wicked like cockroaches?
As the sun brings everything to light,
brings out all the colors and shapes,
The cover of darkness is snatched from the wicked—
they’re caught in the very act!
“Have you ever gotten to the true bottom of things,
explored the labyrinthine caves of deep ocean?
Do you know the first thing about death?
Do you have one clue regarding death’s dark mysteries?
And do you have any idea how large this earth is?
Speak up if you have even the beginning of an answer.
“Do you know where Light comes from
and where Darkness lives
So you can take them by the hand
and lead them home when they get lost?
Why, of course you know that.
You’ve known them all your life,
grown up in the same neighborhood with them!
“Have you ever traveled to where snow is made,
seen the vault where hail is stockpiled,
The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness
for times of trouble and battle and war?
Can you find your way to where lightning is launched,
or to the place from which the wind blows?
Who do you suppose carves canyons
for the downpours of rain, and charts
the route of thunderstorms
That bring water to unvisited fields,
deserts no one ever lays eyes on,
Drenching the useless wastelands
so they’re carpeted with wildflowers and grass?
And who do you think is the father of rain and dew,
the mother of ice and frost?
You don’t for a minute imagine
these marvels of weather just happen, do you?
“Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters,
or distract Orion from his hunt?
Can you get Venus to look your way,
or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play?
Do you know the first thing about the sky’s constellations
and how they affect things on Earth?
“Can you get the attention of the clouds,
and commission a shower of rain?
Can you take charge of the lightning bolts
and have them report to you for orders?
And it is in then, like David, I hear my heart say (Psalm 8: 3 – 4):
I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
And I marvel at this great Love He chases us with, every single day.
Strangely, it is in the voicing of my doubts, in the wrestling with God, that I have been drawn closer to Him. I think this is because He has shown me that it is safe to be me, the me who both doubts AND yearns for His Love. And in turning the real me to His Loving Gaze, just as He did to Thomas in the New Testament, He is teaching me to own who I am, both the broken me in desperate need of Him and the whole and righteous me through Christ.
Did you know that all the photos of skies and trees on my blog are photos I have taken in the last year, as I’ve walked, run and biked in our neighborhood? Isn’t God’s Love just amazing?! Want to step into more of that awe-inspiring love? Visit a fellow 31 Day writer at Writing…Apples of Gold as her words and photos help you to slow to feel God’s great love for you.
DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!