Our son is turning 6 in a few days. My wife asked him to write a gift list. It’s now taped to our bathroom mirror. You can see it here. I don’t know what the first item is. Looks like “blalhit”, followed by puppy, Legos, Fit bit (Pretty sure his sister told him to put this), and $30. I like the artwork. It thrills a parent’s heart to give their children gifts. But we know in a few moments, the feeling of appreciation will fade. Like flakes in a snow globe, our flurry of gratitude for material things whirls about, but soon settles back down to the bottom.
There is a never-ending wellspring for continual gratitude in the gospel, the good news. With this in mind, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” This gift is indescribable, inexplicable, and impossible to estimate. It is the old, old story that never gets old. It is the golden thread running through Scripture. The gospel is the theme of more sermons, songs, hymns, and books than any other subject. After 2000 years we still hear, read, and sing about it with ever increasing joy. No matter how hard we try, our deepest desire to fully appreciate this gift is never satiated. We wake up each morning wanting to say thanks again, and again, and again, forever and ever.
Throughout the Old Testament we come across historical events that foreshadow the work of Christ, and help us better understand and appreciate this gift. In the second chapter of their wilderness journey we come across one of these memorable moments in Numbers 21:4-9.
After failing to take the Promised Land, God sent them back in the direction of the Red Sea. As they journeyed in what had to feel like the wrong direction, they came to the land of Edom. The shortest route was through Edom. Moses sent messengers requesting permission, vowing not to touch any of their vineyards or crops. But the King denied their request. As they traveled around instead of through they became discouraged, impatient, and angry. Numbers 21:4-5 describes this moment, “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses…”