Janet and I were discussing the spelling of words this afternoon and we happened to start talking about the difference between walking in the “desert” and wanting “dessert”. My mind wandered back to my childhood when one of my early grammar school teachers taught us that “dessert” had two “s’s” because you always want a second helping. Through the years, I have remembered this little trick and it has helped me many times.
I am sure that one of my classmates from Sutherland Elementary School, some of whom are also readers of these posts, may remember which teacher it was – I have a sneaking suspicion that it may have been Miss Claffey, the librarian.
The Bible is full of stories about things that happened in the desert. After all, the people of God wandered more than 40 years in the desert and had numerous adventures. These events spoke to the presence of God but also brought up numerous time that the people of God rebelled against Him and Moses.
One of the most famous stories involves the people who rebel against Moses and God finally gets fed up. He sends venomous snakes among the people and many are bitten. Of course, they quickly beg Moses to intercede on their behalf and pray to God that He would stop the snakes. God instructs Moses to construct a bronze snake and place in on a staff – and all who look up at the snake will be saved. It’s an odd story.
On one hand, the people were quick to condemn Moses and yet, when they were being held accountable for their actions, they were quick to flip their position and once again ask Moses to help them. It seems that they only wanted to follow Moses and God when it suited them – when things got tough they lost their faith. When things really got bad, they wanted to be forgiven and for God to once again embrace them.
This repetitive process speaks to the lovingkindness of God – the Jewish people referred to it as “hosad” and it is where we get the term “hasidic Jew…” So what we have are these stories of the people of God wanting to do their own thing and periodically recognizing that it is the will of God, not their own wills, that is important. Then the whole process starts over again…
Many times, we, as Christians, suffer from the same problems. We find ourselves alone in the desert, longing to find our way but having trouble connecting with God. May I suggest that what we need to do is double down and pray harder, be patient and commit ourselves to God’s perfect timing for our lives. I will go so far as to say that we should want “dessert” – two helpings of God to get us through the difficult times.
Tonight’s verse is the climax of the story in the desert where God gives Moses the solution to the problem with the snakes. Notice that God does’t say that we will never get bitten by snakes – only that we can look up at Christ and be saved. Moses tells us, in Numbers 21:7-9, ” The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”
My encouragement this evening is to embrace our love of God and to be patient and tolerant when we are having a tough time. Nobody really enjoys time in the desert. My prayer is that we will always remember that we should always crave a second helping of God – the best “dessert” we could ever imagine. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…