It’s been a long haul. Forty years long. Lot of miles covered, but not much distance . . . round and round she goes. And graves? They’ve left a lot of graves in their wake. An entire generation has fallen, never having set foot in the land that was promised them when they left the bondage of Egypt. But their children and young people, now adults themselves, have filled their ranks. And they’re ready to move in.
And what struck me this morning as I was reading in Numbers 21 is the return of singing.
And from there they continued to Beer; that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Sing to it!”
(Numbers 21:16-17 ESV)
There was singing when they left Egypt. Singing which also occurred by a body of water, the Red Sea. They had just walked through it on dry ground. Their enemies, not so much. There they sang to the LORD who had triumphed gloriously by casting horse and rider into the sea. Then, having seen again the mighty hand of God act on their behalf, they were moved to song and the camp was filled with joy. He was their victory. He was their salvation. And He would be their song (Ex. 15:1-2).
And there was singing at the foot of Sinai (Ex. 32:18). The mount that rumbled and was covered in cloud. The place where Moses had ascended to meet with God. But there the singing was directed toward idols. There the celebration was before an inanimate statue made from gold, fashioned by their own hands. There the singing brought judgment and wrath. And there, if I’ve done my e-concordance work correctly, the singing stopped. None recorded since then. Not until Numbers 21. Then the singing returned.
It’s not that God hadn’t shown Himself mighty since Exodus 32. Not that God hadn’t miraculously met their need after leaving Egypt. But, by and large, it never seemed enough for the sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What prevailed was a spirit of discontent, a disquieted and grumbling undertone, an attitude of ingratitude. As such, in addition to everything else they suffered because of their propensity to murmur, it seems there was no singing. Lament, perhaps . . . but we find little joy, little praise, very little worship.
But here is a new generation in Numbers 21. They are closing the book on forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They are heading in a straight line towards the land promised to Abraham, the circling has stopped.
They’ve seen some victory on the way as they defeat the Canaanite king of Arad (21:1-3). And, while they’ve also slipped back into to their old ways, becoming impatient and grumbling about a lack of food and water, and paying the price with fiery serpents among them . . . even through that, they’ve learned of the dynamic of faith as they believed the LORD and simply looked upon a lifted up bronze serpent in order to be saved (21:4-9).
So you sense a new day is dawning as you read Numbers 21. And when they came to the well at Beer and saw the water God had provided, . . . provided apart from them whining and complaining and demanding it, . . . provided because God is good and they were His people, and that’s what a good God does for His people, . . it’s then that singing returns to the camp.
Singing. Worshiping. Lifting voices in thanksgiving and praise. Seems like a pretty natural response to a pretty supernatural situation. Songless saints, it would seem to me, are those lacking an appreciation for God’s great provision for them. Maybe they don’t recognize it . . . or have become bored with it . . or have failed to remember it for some time.
” . . . whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~ Jesus
(John 4:14 ESV)
But to stand before the Well. To know that living water has been provided by the hand of God. To be invited to drink deeply. And then to drink deeply. That, my friend, is a reason to return to singing.
Sing to Him because of His ever present provision and grace. Sing to Him for His ever due exaltation and glory.