I’ll confess: I’ve never been to “Family Camp”. I’ve visited. I’ve camped. I’ve “familied”. I even serve at a church connected to 3 different camps (1 in particular, hopefully we can get to someday!). Over the years, we’ve connected to the ministries camp provide and this summer, logistics finally work out for us to attend one fully. I’m looking forward to how God’s Word, family time, nature-paced time, and worship with God’s people will breathe into us.
In Numbers chapter 11, we have one of the very first “Family Camp’s” in the history of God’s people. They’d left Egypt, and were traveling with a crew of well over 600,000. That’s quite a camp. The camp director, Moses, was hearing the complaints left and right. It’s a bit of a burden, trying to meet the needs of that many people, and lead them toward God at the same time. Specifically here, they’re not happy with the menu. Manna just doesn’t abate hunger the way a nice full kosher meal would. Carrying their burdens, Moses comes before God, and asks why he’s being punished. I wonder how many camp directors would echo his cries…”God, I’m not their parent! I didn’t give birth to them! Why is it on me to meet this need?”
God hears Moses, and calls him to get 70 Assistant Directors to share the burden with him. In a moment of paternal snarkiness, God pretty much says, “They want meat? I’ll bring a month’s worth! I’ll give ’em so much meat it’ll come out their nostrils!” (Promise it’s in there, read it.) The people weren’t just complaining about manna. They were actually entertaining the thought that things were better back in Egypt. The journey to the promised land was taking longer than anticipated, and even though miracles were happening regularly to care for them, they wanted immediate gratification.
So Moses gathers his assistants. They assemble around the tent, and God comes to share the Spirit Moses carries with each of them. They prophesy in that moment, and it seems to end. But there were two “dads” who didn’t leave camp, for whatever reason. They were registered, but stayed in the camp, and somehow the Spirit empowered them to prophesy as well. Instead of getting upset along with the son of a Nun, Moses is glad! He says, “If only all of God’s people had the Lord put His Spirit on them!” (Spoiler alert: God totally does that eventually!)
Then comes an all-camp activity that probably wouldn’t go over very well at most camps today: Quail Collecting. About 3 feet deep of quail seems to form a wall about a days journey all around camp. The LEAST anyone gathered was about 100 bushels of quail. I’m not sure if it came out their nostrils, but it was a lot of meat for sure. While the meat was still in their teeth, God’s anger came in the form of a plague that killed so many, the camp was renamed “Graves of Lust” (Try to market THAT camp to next years campers!).
God was writing a powerful story, on a scale large enough for it to be written down and told for thousands of years. Reminding us to have faith, even when it’s hard. Even if you want to go back in time, to before you stepped out onto this long, dusty road of the unknown. You stepped out, hand in God’s hand, believing He was guiding you. There is still Hope. There is still a promised land ahead. You may get impatient and frustrated…but keep your hand in His. As His people gather in Family Camps all around this summer, it’s a great reminder that we are not alone on our dusty roads. We gather as families, and as the family of God. May we encourage, pray with, and share each other’s burdens. There is Hope for us all, though we may have to travel a bit farther still. Let’s travel together…