Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Leaving No Man's Land

Well folks, it's New Year's Day here in Australia and in my Bible time this morning, I turned to the last verse of Numbers. [What else would you read on New Year's Day??]

In this 4th Episode of Famous Last Words, I'm tempted as always to do some background digging into the text, and to construct a well-thought-out symposium on the verse...

But maybe 'cause it's New Years Day [and I'm worn out from celebrating last night, I may have had one too many root beers with my boys! :)] - maybe it's because as I read it, I had the sense that the meaning for me was a fairly obvious and simple one. So I'll keep this entry more from the gut...

Numbers 36: 13:

These are the commands and regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.

When I read this, I immediately thought "This is much the same verse as the one finishing Leviticus." Then I read it again and realised, "No, boy, this is a verse about being on the verge of something new."

It's also about being at the end of something painful and bad. Here are the Israelites, at the end of 40 years of wandering in No Man's Land. My study Bible put it nicely (ok, so I did a LITTLE background reading!)...

"The lesson of Numbers is clear. While it may be necessary to to pass through wilderness experiences, one does not have to live there. For Israel, an eleven-day journey became a forty-year agony."

How many of us live in No Man's Land - the lifestyle, the situation, the choices that represent NOT God's will for us, NOT His Promises or plans, NOT even the best option we had available, but the results of deliberate decisions to withdraw from Him in some way.

The following considerations may sound harsh. But they are things I ask of myself first and foremost. I invite you to meditate on these thoughts too...

Perhaps it was that in the time that He had planned to "sideline" you, to put you under pressure which would purify, you actually chose the warm embrace of "sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:25]. Now that time has extended to years.

Perhaps it is that you wandered away from whole-hearted allegience to Him.

Perhaps you let the deceptiveness of worldly scientific "reason" undermine your faith. My 11 year old son said to me this morning, "I can understand why people find it hard to believe in God. They say, if God created us, who created Him? It's too hard to understand."

I didn't shout him down, because I think that's healthy that he's beginning to wrestle with these ideas. What I did say in the conversation that followed was "It is hard to understand. And personally I find that a wonderful thing, that I can't understand everything about God. I like mystery. And by the way, I think sometimes those people are hypocritical saying that's a reason to not believe in God, because they believe in other things they don't understand." I didn't even have to explain that last statement, I say the light dawn and he said "Oh yeah."

Perhaps some lunatic waving the "spiritual warfare" banner hurt you deeply. Or a man or woman using their position in a church community to insult or guilt-trip you offended you deeply. Or a prayer you prayed wasn't answered the way you wanted it to.

Or perhaps, it's just the longterm neglect of your soul, of your relationship with the Lord, of your actively putting it all into practise.

Whatever the case, right now, Divine mercy is available for you and I. You're standing at the Jordan, the boundary between No Man's Land, and the life God wants for you. A new "land", a new season, a new context, a new level - it's all waiting on the other side.

The river represents the decision to act, the decision to move forward. The Commandments given at the river were the sign to Israel that it takes submission to God - acquiescing to His will and His ways - to move into living in constant nearness to Him.

Lord, afresh today, I acquiesce to You. You are Father. You are King. I see at the start of a calendar year, there are 12 months of possibility stretching before me. But I want them to be about You and not about me.

I know that standing across the Jordan from Jericho is an indicator that moving forward will mean battle. All I know is that I don't want to live in No Man's Land, in wilderness! Guide me again, renew my knowledge of Your will, command me. Speak, for your servant is listening.


If this devotion was helpful, please feel free to visit the other posts in the series by clicking Famous Last Words. And don't forget to visit the sister post to this, written by Yehudi01 who joins me in this project, writing from the Jewish perspective.


Jeremiah said...

Happy New Year, man. God bless!

Yehudi01 said...

Pete, great insight...I really appreciated the image of 40 yrs in the wilderness as a season of sin in our lives and the desire G-d has to bring us out of that and into something new and amazing...
A wise man once said, "Good on ya, mate!"

Pete Aldin said...

Jeremiah, and to you my "heretical" friend.


Daniel, great to see you've picked up the Aussie lingo. You'll blend right in here, I'm sure! And yes, when He brings us out of something poor or sinful, while painful, it's always to something "amazing"... Blessings!

Yehudi01 said...

Shabbat shalom, my friend! I have an opportunity for you to perform a great mitzvah...there is a friend of mine who is in a desperate situation financially in Israel. He was a victim of the French Hill suicide bombing in Jerusalem, and is living on the front lines in Yesha. Please go here: http://esseragaroth.blogspot.com/
and read the second post regarding accepting Christian help. If G-d puts it on your heart to help, I know he would be tremendously blessed, (especially from a Christian!) [wink] Have a great weekend, and I'll talk to you soon!
Chapter 2 should be done this weekend.

Pete Aldin said...

I'm a bit late seeing this! Shall do, Daniel!