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Don’t Strike The Rock! Learning About Consequences From Moses

Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them…

And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.

Numbers 20:8, 11-12

Too Extreme?

Do you ever wonder at how God doles out discipline? Like when He stopped his meekest man Moses from entering the Promised Land simply because he struck a rock? How sometimes divine judgement seems too severe for the crime?

Moses had been told to strike a rock before (Ex. 17:1-7). And God himself had called his people rebels. I’ve written about these rebels before. So what’s so wrong with Moses doing the same?

After all, Psalm 106 tells us that the people sorely provoked Moses. They angered God too. And it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.

Can we really blame Moses for lashing out?

Who Can Blame Moses?

Moses was God’s servant, His pick among all the men on earth to lead His people out of slavery. The “Man of God”- as Psalm 90 calls him- brought the Israelites out of Egypt through the Sea and for 40 years led them through the wilderness. You’d expect that Moses would be the one to bring them to the Promised Land.

He was not. Because God did blame Moses. He found fault in Moses and held him responsible. That’s what blame means.

Numbers 20:12 makes that clear: Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. The offense was serious enough in God’s eyes to ban Moses from leading Israel into Canaan Land.

But you’re in good company if you’ve struggled with this. Scholars have called it “one of the most difficult problems in the Old Testament.” Articles have been written to explain. Nineteenth-century pastor Alexander MacLaren asked “Was his momentary failure not far too severely punished?”

Like banning dessert for a year because a son stole a cookie. Or denying a week at camp for a minute of sassy talk.

But God said it and I believe it. Surely the Judge of the earth will do right.

And I still want to understand why.

Still a’fighting, and a’struggling?

So, this time on my way through Numbers, I paused to ponder why. I did some work- and had some fun- studying this out. Here’s what I found.

The first thing is really a side note. But I think it’s important because misunderstanding it trips many of us up.

We think that when we are converted our old demons will suddenly die. Then we lose heart and grow faint when they don’t. We forget that as long as there’s life, there’s a fight.

W. A. Criswell explains,

If you are hotheaded and tempestuous before you were saved, you’ll have that same tendency to burn up, to be hotheaded after you are saved…

Moses was a tempestuous man.  He had a fiery and a burning spirit… Moses had it back there in the land of Egypt when he saw that Egyptian wronging that Israelite slave, and he killed him with his bare fists [Exodus 2:11-12]. And it comes out again here.

Now what happens to you when you’re saved is by the side of that burning spirit, God will put a spirit of grace and intercession by which you’re able to command and to control that volatile spirit.  But you’ve still got it…And on the inside of our souls there goes civil war all the time, a’fighting, and a’struggling all the days of your life.

Now it comes out again here in Moses.  Moses had…such high hopes for the [next generation] that when they fell back into that old way of their fathers, of murmuring, and finding fault with God- Moses was irritated.  His spirit burned within him.

To us it seems so forgivable. To us it seems a harsh punishment for a weakness in Moses’ temperament.

I ask again. Why this divine decision? 

Why Was God So Hard On Moses?

Because instead of doing what God said- “Speak to the rock, and water will gush out” [Numbers 20:8]-Moses dishonored God and disobeyed.  “He lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock,” [Numbers 20:11]. 

Let’s don’t miss God’s mercy in his judgment: Despite the people’s grumbling, despite the disobedience of Moses, God gave water abundantly, to his rebel people and their animals.

Still came the consequence: “Because you did not believe in Me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them,” [Numbers 20:12].

God barred Moses from entering the land because he did not believe the Lord or uphold the Lord as holy.

Disbelief and Disobedience: Partners in Crime

For the record, disbelief and disobedience go hand-in-hand. They did for the Israelites in the desert (see Hebrews 4:1-11) and they do for us today. “Take heed, brothers, lest there be you an evil, unbelieving heart, that turns away from the living God” [Hebrews 3:12].

Moses overtly disobeyed God [Numbers 20:811].  That was the first sin. 

His second sin was disbelief. “Because you did not believe in me,” God said. Just speaking to the rock wasn’t enough. Moses took matters into his own hands. He took his rod and struck twice. He didn’t believe that to speak to it was good enough.

But there’s one more layer that helps me understand why this particular sin, striking the rock twice, was so offensive to God.

God has great care for his types. (And that Rock was Christ.)

If I read one commentary on Numbers 20, I read a dozen, and every one brought out this point home:

When Moses struck the rock, he “broke the type.” 

That might sound confusing. Let me explain.

Do you remember God’s direction to Moses? “See that you make every thing according to the pattern showed to you on the mount” [Exodus 25:940Hebrews 8:59:23]. When the tabernacle was erected, did you hear the refrain?

It went like this, “Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.” The curtains and veil and lampstand and altar and basin and table- all were to be “just so,” as the God commanded. Because each of these things had a meaning that extended past itself.

They were types, or pictures of the person or the thing represented or prefigured. So when God barred his meekest man Moses from entering the Promised Land it wasn’t simply for striking a rock.

It was for striking the Rock. Because the rock was a type. The Rock was a picture of Christ.

Struck Only Once

God had told Moses to strike the Rock once before [Exodus 17:6]. But he was not to strike it again.  Because the Rock represents God’s beloved Son, the Suffering Servant, our Jesus Christ.

Christ was struck once. He died once [Hebrews 9:27-28], never to die again.  Scripture is so clear on this point.

 Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust.”

 Hebrews 10:10, “[W]e are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Hebrews 10:12, “But Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…”

Christ was struck for us once and for all. Our Prince of Glory died  once on that wondrous cross.  And that type is precious to God. 

As Criswell said, “God has great care and great store for His types.” 

Does God Still Discipline His Children?

Moses was disciplined for breaking faith, for his sin. But do believers still face consequences when we break faith?

Last week I sat around a table with several Christian ladies. When the subject of suffering came up, one quickly said, Well, I know suffering can’t be from God because God doesn’t punish his people. 

Really?

If by punish she meant God’s holy wrath- his retribution, not restitution- she is definitely right.

But if she  meant the Hebrews 12 corrective, fatherly discipline, “that for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant,” she was quite wrong.

Sin Has Consequences

John Piper’s description clarifies,

There is an infinite difference between the painful things that come into our lives and discipline us—designed for our good that we may share God’s holiness as loved children—and that terrible experience of pure retribution where we simply bear what we deserve and experience God’s justice forever. 

I think the lady at my table did what many of us do.

She conflated- combined- two ideas into one that really are not the same. She joined the false idea- that God’s children will never suffer on earth because of their sin- with the glorious truth that God’s children will never- here or hereafter– never suffer the wrath of God.

Jesus took that- He was struck for that- once and for all. He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The record of our debt was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:15). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Hallelujah and amen!

But this incident with Moses shows us in heart-achingly, vivid color that this side of glory, sin still has consequences.

For Our Instruction, That We Might Have Hope

When Canaan was so close Moses could taste it- it’s gargantuan grapes and pomegranates and figs-Moses pled with God to reconsider. So he could just to cross the Jordan.

But he couldn’t.

And there’s something we are supposed to learn from that. Because whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope

The Child’s Story Bible is succinct:

This was a bitter disappointment to Moses.  He begged God to let him cross the river so that he, too, could see the longed-for promised land.  God did not give Moses what he asked for.  “Be satisfied with what I have decided,” God said to him. “Do not speak about this any more.  Climb this mountain, and I will show you the land. Then you are to die here on this mountain. For you are not to cross the river.” (Deuteronomy 3:26)

Remember too, how David could not build the temple because he had shed so much blood? How his first child with Bathsheba died? 

I think we’re supposed to learn from Moses-and David-to take heed lest we fall, because even for God’s blood-bought children, sin still has consequences in this life.

But even their examples, Scriptures says, are meant to give us hope.

Glory Awaits

The Good Lord does not forget His saints. There’s more to the Moses story.

W.A. Criswell again.

God had some better thing for [Moses], and He has some better thing for you, in God’s will, in God’s time, in God’s purpose. He may interdict it now, maybe take it away from us now, maybe the dregs of bitter disappointment we drink in the cup now, but some day, some time, some hour, somewhere, God has some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40] as He had some better thing for Moses [Matthew 17:1-3].

Moses bore God’s discipline for his sin. Rather than speak to Rock he disbelieved and disobeyed and struck the Rock- representing Christ- not once but twice.

Though he was sorely provoked, Moses wasn’t given a pass. He died on the Mountain. He did not enter the Promised Land.

But when the-Rock-who-was-Christ walked this earth and was transfigured on the mountain, you do know who was granted the privilege of standing with him in His glory, don’t you?

Because some day, some time, some hour, somewhere...

You know.

And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness…

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 

1 Corinthians 10:4-5, 11-12

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Go Bold

And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying
“O LORD GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?    Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.” 

But the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me.  
And the LORD said to me, “Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and…look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan.” 
Deuteronomy 3:23-27

How do you handle NO? Does self-protection keep you from asking? Do you resist requesting to avoid the dreaded monosyllable? 

Stop, Mom, please!  Can we stop and talk to Emma and Isaac?  Please, mom?

That request interrupted our drive home a few nights ago. The boys had spotted their friends’ whole family out in the yard. I wasn’t in a particularly friendly mood. Besides, it was dinnertime.

But Christ’s love compels, and I turned around. Maybe they’d like to come to Vacation Bible School with us, I said off-handedly as we pulled up the driveway.

After reintroducing myself, I got the scuttlebutt on the boys’ school. We discussed 20-inch bike tires needed by our lengthening sons. After a few more minutes we said good-bye. Then, as we reached the van, Gabe blurted (at about 75dB),

Mom, aren’t you gonna ask them to come to VBS?   

I hadn’t sensed an openness during our visit, and honestly, I didn’t want to risk the NO. But.

Ohhh…yes, okay.  (Followed by an awkward about face toward the house.)  

Hi again. Gabe reminded me that I wanted to ask if Isaac and Emma could come to Vacation Bible School with us next week. I mumbled times and places; they smiled and nodded. Would you be interested?  

Then: No thank you.

My friend Lisa is insightful. She intuits the counter-intuitive.

So being meek and making such bold requests can go together? Moses was the meekest man on earth. Yet he dared to ask God to change his mind. 

Prima facie, making bold requests is not meek. The Bible study group had been discussing the meek acts of Moses. Among them were some mighty big favors. Like asking his brother-in-law to stay and play wilderness scout for 40 years. Asking God to relent of the punishments he’d decreed for Miriam and the Israelites is very bold.  His requests were fearless and daring, pushing brash.

Atop the gutsy list was Moses’ plea to God to reconsider his own punishment. He had struck the Rock, profaning the LORD before the congregation (Numbers 20:10-11). God’s just decree was heart-wrenching: despite 40 years guiding this beloved, provoking people, Moses would not lead them into the Promised Land. Joshua would.

Canaan was so close Moses could-probably had-tasted it; it’s gargantuan grapes, pomegranates and figs. Then with arms outstretched, he’d seen the Amalakites fall. The kingdoms of Sihon and Og had already been conquered. Just across the Jordan.

The Child’s Story Bible is succinct:

This was a bitter disappointment to Moses.  He begged God to let him cross the river so that he, too, could see the longed-for promised land.  God did not give Moses what he asked for.  

“Be satisfied with what I have decided,” God said to him. “Do not speak about this any more.  Climb this mountain, and I will show you the land. Then you are to die here on this mountain. For you are not to cross the river.” 

What a blow! If meekness is strength under control, this must be its pinnacle. In the face of bitter disappointment, the meek man of God managed his emotions. Moses didn’t stomp off in self-pity. He went bold to God, trusting the Judge of the earth to do right. Then, he took NO.

About his rejection, Matthew Henry comments,

It bore hard upon Moses himself, when he had gone through all the fatigues of the wilderness, to be prevented from enjoying the pleasures of Canaan; when he had borne the burden and heat of the day, to resign the honor of finishing the work to another. We may suppose that this was not pleasant to flesh and blood, But the man MOSES was very meek; God will have it so, and he cheerfully submits

But why was he denied? What about Matthew 7?  You know: Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Why didn’t Moses win his appeal?  An “unanswered prayer,” post is forthcoming.  For now, let John Piper’s answer suffice:

I think the context here is sufficient to answer this question. No, we do not get everything we ask for and we should not and we would not want to. The reason I say we should not is because we would in effect become God if God did everything we asked him to do. We should not be God. God should be God. And the reason I say that we would not want to get everything we asked is because we would then have to bear the burden of infinite wisdom which we do not have. We simply don’t know enough to infallibly decide how every decision will turn out and what the next events in our lives, let alone in history, should be.

Back to Lisa’s question. Do meekness and bold requests go together? Were Moses’ appeals anomalies; deviations from his meek nature? Or were they part and parcel of it? 

I land on the latter. Here’s why:

The very act of submitting a request, knowing it may be denied is meek. Moses submitted requests. He accepted NO for an answer. This makes him submissive. Therefore, submitting requests, appealing, asking must be integral to meekness.

If I submit an article for publication, odds are it will be rejected. If I request a personal day, it could very well be denied. Big, bold requests get rejected, too: pregnancy, adoption, restored relationships. When they are, sometimes I’m weak without control. Pity parties and ice cream a aplenty. And sometimes, strength under control: spirit gifted power, love and self-control. 

Is it more meek to fear the no so much you don’t go? Or to go bold, willing to take NO? Which is more hopeful and faithful? Which exalts the goodness of God? Scripture is clear: Submit your requests to God. The righteous are as bold as a lion. Come boldly to the throne of grace. The righteous shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back my soul has no pleasure in him. Therefore since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

Go bold.  In hope. Take NO if you must. You’ll be in good company. Moses, Hannah, and Daniel. Hezekiah plead for his life, and God gave him 15 more years. David appealed for his son’s life, and on the seventh day the child died. David took NO. God will have it so, was good enough for him

It is hard to hope against hope. The urge to protect self looms large. In Allure Of Hope, Jan Myers describes the yearning that wells up. We are just afraid, that’s all. We intrinsically know that hope is a painful process. Yet we want to have the courage to respond in hope anyway. (p. 24) 

Hope in God’s mercy gave Moses courage to appeal his case. But it also empowered him to take NO. And hope in God’s future grace allowed him to transcend his disappointment and stay faithful in all God’s house. 

His exact response to the divine NO is not explicit. But read to the end of Deuteronomy, and you’ll find it. Moses finished strong. He encouraged, warned, blessed the 12 tribes without a hint of rancor.

Hear his love for the Lord who denied, for the people who provoked, in his last words:

“The LORD came from Sinai…he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand. Yes, he loved his people, all his holy ones were in his hand; so they followed in your steps receiving direction from you, when Moses commanded us a law…Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph!” (Deuteronomy 33:2-3, 29)

Then, the very day he delivered that stirring speech,

Moses went up from the plains of Moab…and the LORD showed him all the land. And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob…I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 34:1, 4-5)

Say, do you know who buried Moses?

  He [God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moab… 
Deuteronomy 34:9

Addendum: Not so fast, you say. Not all asking is meek and submissive. I agree.  I can think of at least two types of requests that are not inspired by faith, not full of hope, and certainly not meek.

1. Foolish people make bold requests. Like, when, on a whim, Son A asks,

Mom, could I just have $150 for a Millennium Falcon Lego set?  I really like it.

 Or off-handedly, Son B, asks,

Could I pleeeease have another [third] bowl of Caramel Sea Salt Truffle ice cream for dessert dessert dessert?

Silly, not meek. And not of faith. Sons A and B didn’t honestly think Mom would deliver. Or foolish because they don’t really know what they’re asking.  Like when James and John’s mom asked if her boys could sit beside Jesus in his kingdom.
2. Presumptuous people also ask favors. They assume. Their requests are demands, and may be disguised by tag questions.

You don’t mind watching the kids, do you?  or

You wouldn’t mind if we borrowed your tent [canoe, camper], would you? or

You can read this book before book club, can’t you? (Guilty as charged.)

And so submissive requests morph into brash entitlement. Like Rachel envying Leah’s fertility. Give me children or I’ll die, she told JacobNot so meek.
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Moses and Mike

Meekness is a lens to view the world and the Word. I saw two powerful portraits of it in the last 24 hours: Mike and Moses.

Mike and his wife have been family friends for almost three decades. They attended my graduation party and our wedding ceremony. They even babysat baby Sam as I sat in on church meetings.

Last year, Mike’s progressing ALS mandated a big move. He and his wife relocated a full day’s drive from southeastern Wisconsin to live near their daughter.

My parents went to visit Mike and his wife in western Iowa last weekend.  Mom and Dad stopped by a day later.

How is Mike doing?  I wondered.

 Dad didn’t use the word meekness in his answer, but he described it to a tee.

“Mike is getting weaker. He always uses his wheelchair now. He’s got a lift when he needs it. Mike welcomes each new limitation.”  

He paused a moment, reflecting.

“I think he takes them as a sort of adventure. He sees God’s gracious hand at work in the deal they found on a mobility van, the grand view they have of a huge cornfield. And Diane has the walk in closet she never had in WI.”  

Mike has been and remains a consummate gentleman.  And he maintains his sense of humor.

“My eating isn’t a pretty sight,” he told my parents before lunch on Sunday.  

His left hand gently pummeled the top of the fork in his right hand. The extra force was needed to impale his chicken.

God’s strength, perfected in Mike’s meekness.

This morning Moses’ meekness was on display. A few chapters in the book of Numbers gave ample evidence for his “meekest man” moniker (see Numbers 12:3).

1. After nearly a year at Sinai the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle. Finally, the tribes can set out by companies, Judah first. At this point, Moses asks his brother-in-law to come along. Hobab refuses. Mr. Meek doesn’t drop it. His Midianite relative knows the lay of the wilderness land better than he. Moses knows he needs help and he’s not too proud to ask.

Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you. (Numbers 10:31-32)

The meek ask for help. And you

2. Now he’s got Hobab as a trusty scout. But the burden of the Israelites weighs heavy. Moses knows his weakness and asks for help again. God answers in wondrous fashion: as they are assembled at the tent of meeting, some of Moses’ Spirit is placed on 70 elders.  As evidence of this divine gift, the men prophecy.

Meanwhile, back at camp and out of the sacred environs, Eldad and Medad also prophecy. This arouses Joshua’s jealousy. He tells Moses to stop them! (Numbers 11:28)

A show of mighty meekness, without a hint of jealousy, Moses responds to Joshua

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!   (Numbers 11:29)

The meek don’t hoard God’s gifts. And you? 

3. Soon after, Moses faces another round of jealousy. This was a baser type; jealous of-not for-Moses. And, it was from the lips of his very own brother and sister. Aaron and Miriam already had big roles in God’s redemption story, but they wanted bigger parts. So they put a self-righteous cover on their even uglier jealousy.

They spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife.” And they said, “Has God only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”  And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12:1-2)

Then, the LORD himself becomes at once defense attorney and head prosecutor.  He calls out the envious siblings.  Hear my words, God says:

“Moses is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly…and he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the LORD’s anger was kindled against them and he departed. (Numbers 12:7-9)

And when he did, Miriam was leprous. Aaron immediately confesses their sin to Moses and appeals to him on Miriam’s behalf. Moses forgave, and in an astounding act of meekness

Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her – please.” (Numbers 12:13)

The meek are quick to forgive?  And you?

4.  I saw one part of the portrait of meekness. Alone, it’s enough to land Moses the title of “meekest man on earth.”

Moses had sent spies out to the land. Now they’ve returned, yellow-bellied, except Caleb and Joshua. The faithless reports of giant in the land arouse such fear that all the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “Would that we had died in Egypt!” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:4) Ouch!

Stoning of Joshua and Caleb is averted by only as God’s glory appears before all the people.  And the LORD said to Moses,

How long will this people despise me? How long will they not believe in me, despite all the signs I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they. (Numbers 14:11-12)

 Were I in Moses’ sandals, I’m pretty sure I know how I’d have answered. Something like,

“Great plan, God. Go get ’em God. They deserve it.”

 Not Moses.

Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them…Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, “It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them. (Numbers 14:13,15-16)

In his defense of the rebels, Moses appeals to God’s character. He quotes the very name God revealed on the mountain months before (Exodus 34:6-7).  Moses asks God to save that wicked generation.

And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression…” Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. (Numbers 14: 17-19)

And God relented.

The meek appeal to God to have mercy on sinners? (Even insolent, hostile sinners.) And you?

Two portraits of the meek in the land. Moses and Mike: meek and mighty. They are the ones who inherit the land. This land, with verdant Iowa cornfields and spacious walk-in closets, manna and water from the Rock. And an even better land.

      And desiring a better country, that is a heavenly one.       
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, 
for he has prepared for them a city. 
Hebrews 11:16

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Our Dwelling Place

Lord, you have been our dwelling place, throughout all generations.   Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.                                                   Psalm 90:1-2 

Old house-an acre on the main drag.
New house-five acres in the hinterlands.

Old dwelling-two-story brick schoolhouse.
New dwelling-brown cedar ranch.

Old house-wood burning stove.
New house- natural fireplace.

Old dwelling- great big deck.
New dwelling- great big dining room.

Old house- built-in pantry.
New house- built-in bookshelves.

Old dwelling- 3 car detached garage.
New dwelling- 2 car attached garage.

Old house-plentiful perennials.
New house- plentiful hickories.

Old dwelling-friendly neighbors.
New dwelling- where are the neighbors?

Tonight is night 6 in the “new house.” A mere 3 miles from the “old house,” the “new” one inexplicably seems half a world away. Routines and patterns developed in 16+ years dwelling in any one place don’t fade in a week. Memories mingle.  Our married life begins in the hand crafted “master pad” Jim built. Sam’s first night after we picked him up at O’Hare. Bringing Gabe home from the hospital. Countless happy parties under the old maple on the deck.

I miss the sunshine and the neighbors, the roses, the deck.  I enjoy the spacious living/dining room (that doubles as a workout room and Lego Ninjago battle stage), the hiking path out back (notwithstanding ticks aplenty) and cool, quiet night air in our bedroom (skunk spray aside). All life’s choices bring trade-offs. Perfect moments-yes, by God’s grace.  But absolute unbroken perfection, absent this side of heaven.

More than once this week, my mind flashed back to a night seven years ago.

Days before their return to Ethiopia, our missionary brother and sister-in-law share dinner with us. Nieces and nephews wrestle with our one year old Sam, then we play a few hands of Rook, all delaying the inevitable.  Their six-month stateside furlough would conclude and three more years would interrupt our fellowship. When we can put if off no longer, we prepare for good-bye. We gather on the living room floor and Dan opens the Word.  He reads the prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Moses, whose own “old house-new house” move shrinks my own to an infinitesimally tiny hop. Moses,    who by faith chose to suffer the affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin for a season. I venture to guess, part of that affliction, may have been his lack of a permanent home.

Moses, whose 40 years of wilderness wandering, tent time travel, surely must have made him crave a more permanent dwelling. Moses, who the Lord spoke to face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, dwelt where I want to dwell. Wooded acres or sunny corner- no matter.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place. All of ours:  Missionary family and friends, who find new homes for the Kingdom’s sake, refugees from Syria, Nigeria, Egypt forced out, homesick college freshman living first days in dorms. Our dwelling place.

Moses’ and mine.

And I’m home.