God’s Word is rich beyond measure. We are so blessed that we can feast upon God’s Word daily. But sometimes I get a little lackadaisical in my approach to the Word. In my haste to complete the perfunctory three chapters per day (and five on Sunday), I can overlook some very profound truths and admonitions from the Lord. Slow down, Tom! It’s quality, not quantity. “Lord, speak to me!” But there are also times when I come across some verses that I can’t completely understand and I end up scratching my head. “Lord, what does this mean?”
Case in point: My wife and I have recently been reading through the Book of Numbers together. In chapter 9, the Lord revealed to Moses that He would lead Israel through the wilderness to the Promised Land by the pillar of cloud during the day and by the pillar of fire during the night. There obviously could not be a more perfect guide than the Lord God Almighty.
Yet in chapter 10 we read that Moses entreated his brother-in-law*, Hobab, to act as a guide for the Israelites:
“And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the Lord has promised good to Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you.” – Numbers 10:29-32
Why would Moses ask Hobab for his help as a guide when the omniscient Lord God Almighty was already leading the Israelites? Was Hobab, a Midianite, even a follower of the Lord at that point? One commentator suggests that, in His providence, the Lord sent Hobab to Moses and the Israelites because of his practical knowledge of wilderness survival, e.g. locating water wells and oases, camp protocol, etc.
So couldn’t the Lord, the perfect guide, have led the Israelites to the very best possible campsites? Why would they have needed Hobab? Here’s three possible interpretations of the passage that I came across:
(1) By turning to Hobab for help, Moses was doubting in the care of the Lord. Moses was trusting in the arm of flesh rather than the Lord. This passage is recorded in God’s Word to show us, once again, that even Moses had his failings and was an imperfect sinner. (2) Moses saw Hobab, a seasoned veteran of wilderness living, as a help provided by the Lord to assist the Israelites in their journey. (3) Moses was only flattering Hobab in an effort to persuade him to accompany the Israelites so that he might eventually also trust in the Lord.
Anyone have an opinion on this passage? We probably won’t resolve this one conclusively this side of eternity.
*Bible scholars are still debating whether “Hobab” refers to Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, or his brother-in-law, although recent scholarship seems to favor the latter view.