In 2000, Britney Spears released a little song called, “Oops!…I Did It Again.” Not a hymn, obviously, but it was the first song that I thought about as I contemplated a passage in the Bible book of Numbers.
The Complaints Begin
To be fair, God gave the children of Israel a few freebies. Over in the book of Exodus we read complaints about “no water,” so God provides them with water – a tree thrown into bitter, undrinkable water made it sweet to drink.
Then, they complained to Moses, “you’re killing us out here in the wilderness since we have no bread or meat.” God steps up and gives them this daily bread called ‘manna.’ Note that daily part. And, for good measure He covered them up with quail. That’s what the Bible says.
And, again, the people grumbled and complained about “no water.” This time God tells Moses to take his trusty staff and go hit a rock. When he does, water flows out.
Grumble, complain, grumble, complain. You see how valid the words “I Did It Again” are.
Now, let’s jump over to Numbers. It’s beginning to get serious. Here’s a list:
- Who’ll give us meat? God gives more quail than I can imagine. While the meat was still in their mouths, He struck them with a plague and the place was named a graveyard.
- Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, complain about his leadership. Then, Miriam breaks out with leprosy for a week.
- After spying out the land God has promised them, 10 of the 12 spies say they can’t conquer it and the people complain. The 10 die by a plague and the people are made to wander, and die, in the wilderness for 40 years before the promise is fulfilled.
- Korah, Dathan, and Abiram along with 250 other leaders in the camp, confront Moses about his leadership. The 250 were consumed by fire while Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth along with all they had.
- The people complained that it was Moses and Aaron who were causing the people to die. After that a plague begins to run rampant among the people, only stopped by Aaron running through the camp with a burning incense censer.
They Did It Again
Finally, we arrive at the passage I was reading, Numbers 21. Once again the people spoke against God and Moses. “You led us into the desert to die. There is no food or water.” They even go a step further, “We are disgusted with this miserable food.” They don’t even want the food that God has gifted to them through the years. Ouch! Haven’t they learned anything? Surely someone could have said, “Oops, I did it again.”
God sends fiery serpents among the people. They bite and many of the people die. Finally, an “I did it again”: “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and against you; intercede with the LORD.” (Numbers 21:7 NASB)
Next we see a very unique cure. Moses, at God’s instruction, made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole. Then, the word to the people was “look and live.” You can read the story by clicking here.
I Did It Again
So, we look at the people doing the same thing over and over and over again – complaining. We don’t understand it. It never seems to end well. Why, oh, why couldn’t they learn their lesson? We don’t get it.
Oh… we DON’T get it! Is that not us? How many times have we complained about something just this last week? How often do we fail to trust God to provide for our needs? “Oops, I did it again!”
In the New Testament book of John, Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him.” (John 3:14-15 NASB) God provides for our daily needs. If He clothes the grass of the field and feeds the birds in the air, won’t He take care of His children? (Matthew 6:25-34) But, more importantly, He has taken care of our sin need. “Look and live!”
Like the children of Israel, we are going to mess up. We’re going to grumble and complain. But, may God help us say, “I did it again,” and ask for forgiveness for our sin. Then, we can look to Him and trust Him for our every need.
An Old Hymn
Here’s an old hymn I learned years ago:
1 I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
The message unto you I’ll give.
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.” [Refrain]
2 I’ve a message full of love, Hallelujah!
A message, O my friend, for you.
’Tis a message from above, Hallelujah!
Jesus said it, and I know ’tis true. [Refrain]
3 Life is offered unto you. Hallelujah!
Eternal life your soul shall have
If you’ll only look to Him. Hallelujah!
Look to Jesus, who alone can save. [Refrain]
4 I will tell you how I came, Hallelujah!
To Jesus when He made me whole:
’Twas believing on His name, Hallelujah!
I trusted and He saved my soul. [Refrain]
“Look and live,” my brother, live.
Look to Jesus now and live.
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”
“I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!” by William A. Ogden (1887)
Read more about this hymn at hymnary.org.