Numbers 18:29 - Numbers 23:23
Have you ever read the scripture in first Nephi that talks about the people who were bit by the fiery flying serpents and wondered what that was all about?
For years I was intrigued by the phrase in chapter seventeen which reads, "and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished." (1 Nephi 17:41)
In essence, all the people had to do to be healed from these bites was to look. But it was too simple. Too easy. Instead, they perished.
I always wanted to know more of that story. I wanted to understand more of the details.
...I don't want to be the person who becomes disillusioned by the simpleness ––the person who forgets to look. Every time I read that verse in the Book of Mormon I want to know how to avoid that mistake.
One of my favorite parts of this daily journey so far is the fact that what I am learning from the Old Testament is strengthening my understanding of what I have read previously in the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Today what I am reading in Numbers 21 is strengthening my testimony of what I have read before in 1 Nephi 17, and in Alma 33. My eyes are being opened, and I am gaining a deeper understanding through knowledge I didn't have before. The Old Testament is teaching me to look at things in a different way.
It is teaching me to look.
In today's reading that lesson is taught twice.
First, we are taught about the people "who were much discouraged because of the way." (Numbers 21:4) I know what it is to be discouraged because of the way. In those moments we lose sight of the goal, focusing instead on what is getting us down.
In the midst of this discouragement the people began to murmur. It wasn't new murmuring, it was the same complaints they stumbled upon every time:
Why did we leave Egypt? To die in the wilderness?
I read this familiar line, "and our soul loatheth this light bread," (Numbers 21:5) and it breaks my heart to think the people were so discouraged they again began to loath the miracles and daily tender mercies of the Lord.
Because of the murmuring the Lord sent fiery flying serpents among the people. Those who were bit, died. As they became humbled from this plague they begged Moses to ask the Lord to take away the serpents.
The Lord's answer for healing was simple. Easy.
But Nephi tells us they didn't. Because of the simpleness. Because it was too easy.
In our day the promise is the same. "Look to God and live." (Alma 37:47) But how often does the simpleness, or the easiness of that suggestion fall by the wayside? How simple, or easy, is it to become distracted?
In case we missed the lesson the first time, the book of Numbers teaches it again. This time through the story of Balaam.
Balak offered Balaam money and cattle and great honor if he would curse Israel. But the Lord made it clear that was not what He wanted Balaam to do, "thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed." (Numbers 22:12)
Balaam knew he shouldn't go, and yet he rose in the morning, saddled his ass, and went.
The Lord wasn't happy with his choice. An angel of the Lord stood in the way so that he wouldn't be able to proceed.
But Balaam didn't look.
The ass saw the angel and would not proceed. After much struggle between the ass, and the rock and the hard place, and the narrow way, finally the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel standing in his way.
His response is important, "I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way..." (Numbers 22:34)
I knew not.
Why didn't he simply look?
Today I am taking counsel from Nephi and the lesson I learned today from Numbers...
"And the labor which they had to perform was to look."
Today I am going to look.
...for healing, for direction, for counsel, for answers, for miracles, for daily tender mercies...
for whatever it is the Lord wants me to see.