Being a mom is so much harder than I ever imagined. I remember foolishly thinking that parenting would come naturally, and that, since I had good parents, I would just be a good parent. Imagine my shock when I found my children not to be sweet little moldable lumps of clay but feisty and strong-willed little individuals who don’t simply do what I ask immediately upon request, or stop being naughty when I admonish them.
I have a litany of examples of my kids gleefully breaking every rule I could come up with. They have tested my patience, caused me to blow my top and at times, broken my heart.
But that same heart absolutely bursts with love for them every day.
The same kids who have screamed at me, disobeyed me, and accused me of just about everything under the sun, are also incredibly kind, loving, considerate, compassionate, intelligent and side-splittingly hilarious. I wouldn’t choose any other three kids in the whole world to be mine.
Being a parent has helped me understand God so much better. Time and time again, things I read in the Bible remind me of my parenting journey.
As with my kids, God’s children are willful, disobedient individuals who yell and kick and scream and accuse Him of everything under the sun.
Reading through the book of Numbers in my chronological reading plan, I am again reminded of this parent-child disrespect-met-with-love aspect of our relationship with God.
Let me set the scene: (beginning in Numbers chapter 22)
Israel is nearing the end of their 40 year exile from the promised land. It’s like their time-out in the desert for disobeying and mistrusting God’s plan for them to enter and settle in Canaan. They defeated the Amorites and traveled around Eden. As they neared Moab, Balak, the Moabite king, became understandably nervous. He saw how Israel had summarily defeated the Amorites, and he was scared. So he reaches out to the prophet/sorcerer Balaam, and asks him to put a curse on the Israelites. A lot of back and forth takes place, there’s a divine encounter and a talking donkey. Just read it, it’s fascinating.
Long story short, instead of cursing Israel, Balaam blesses them. Listen to the words he speaks:
“When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke his message: “The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly, the prophecy of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: “How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel! “Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. “Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. “God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse them? “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”
Numbers 24:2-9 NIV
For context, Balaam is speaking about and blessing the same group of people who God had sent Moses to free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. God performed ten miracles, including the first Passover, and parted the Red Sea for them to escape while bringing that same sea rushing down on the pursuing Egyptians.
These are the same people who, when Moses took a little too long chatting with the Almighty God on Mount Sinai, took a lot of the gold God had provided them with and smelted a cute little golden calf to idolize.
In addition to that, the Israelites had refused to obey God’s direction to March into Canaan, and refused to believe He would actually deliver them from the Canaanites.
God provided them with manna to eat, and they demanded meat. They complained about their circumstances and reminisced about being slaves in Egypt. They accused Him of leading them into the desert to die of starvation and thirst, so God brought forth water from a rock. They mounted not one, not two but at least four attempted mutinies against Moses and Aaron.
Make no mistake, God punished them for these things. He sent plagues, and snakes, and in one memorable scorched-earth moment, God literally opened the ground beneath their feet to swallow up entire rebellious families.
But when Balak wanted them to be cursed? God responded as a loving parent would talk about their child.
“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!”
Israel, imperfect, rebellious, ungrateful Israel. He could have given them over to the Moabites and been like, “Go ahead and curse these wretched kids, they never listen anyway.” But He didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. God said Israel was “Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters”.
While reading through Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers I have been struck time and again, shocked by how often the people either disbelieved, disobeyed, or engaged in outright rebellion.
And then it occurred to me, I am part of Israel. I disbelieve His promises, complain about His provision, and rebel against His laws.
But, as a member of the body of Christ, I still take part in His inheritance. That means that, even in my sins, these verses are representative of how God feels about me, too. I am loved completely, despite my rebellion and my flaws. It’s true about you too, if you are a believer in God and a follower of Christ. In spite of your sins and your rebellion, when God talks about you, He says your tents are beautiful. He blesses those who bless you and curses those who curse you.