Monday, 5 September 2011

Needles in a Haystack

I'm looking forward to Monday Bible Group tonight as i'm short on inspiration from this week's passages and need their help to spot the meaningful bits! We're trawling through Numbers, heading towards the end, but there seems to be very little actually going on. Doesn't help that for various reasons i read the entire weeks readings this afternoon rather than daily, but heh. Brief overview of the haystack and then the couple of needles i noticed...

More instructions for ritual cleansing before the strange account of Moses bringing water from the rock. Just goes to show the importance of following God's specific instructions and not just getting the general gist, as Moses failure to obey exactly to the letter means he misses out on the promised land.

Aaron, the first high priest has died, and his son Eleazar succeeds him and then the slaughter and divinely sanctioned killing begins. Arad, then Sihon & Og are the first to suffer at the hands of the advancing Israelites. Lots of problems with these accounts (and the many that will follow for me). Doing my best to extract some post NT meaning from these passages, i conclude that purity of land and community is really important for God who is displaying His holiness and awesome nature to these Israelites - not sure it cuts it really, but there we go.

Great story of Balaam's donkey and Balaam the wizard's prophecies and predictions before another census of all the people. Instructions on inheritance when there are no male heirs around, more offertory instructions, festival commands and lessons on the importance of keeping vows. The Midianites are then mercilessly slaughtered before Reuben and Gad ask for the land east of the Jordan. The reading for this week concludes with a fairly tedious list of all the places Israel camped in their forty years wandering round the desert. No descriptions though, just there, and there, and there...

Anyway to the needles...

1) Balaam - wizard, commandeered to the Lord's service to speak blessing over God's people even though his King hired him to put spells on them. After Balaam fails to curse the Israelites, his employer complains and Balaam replies, "...I can't say whatever I please, I must speak only what the Lord puts in my mouth."

Great line for preachers! Always good to be reminded that we don't bring before congregations a set of ideas and propositions, but our task is to speak into their midst and into their lives, the Living, current, word of God. Balaams attitude gives Him a great chance of doing so!

2) Joshua's commissioning - Moses' sees the potential for a leaderless people once he's died and remarks that without a successor to him, Israel would be like a 'sheep without a shepherd'. I hadn't realised that this was an OT phrase, i thought it had been made up by Jesus when he talks of labourers needed for the harvest field. For me, it makes the statement of Jesus all that more significant, He draws on a phrase well-known to His hearers, spoken by one of their heroes, Moses, to connect with the people of His time.

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