Numbers 11

The negativity returns in complaints about how boring the manna is. They don’t like God’s catering. By the end of the chapter they will attribute a plague illness to God’s judgement on this attitude.

But before that God says “you want meat, I’ll give you meat” and more quails than they know what to do with arrive. The complainers barely start to consume the quail before the plague hits and their time has come.

One of those harsh things. Their discontent has built from a rosy and selective memory of their slavery “back in Egypt we had corn and leeks etc”

The transaction is a fascinating picture of Moses’ relationship with God. He feels the burden of representing them to god and god to them.  He’s exhausted, and god gives him a break.  He appoints 70 elders to temporarily give one off prophesy to the people… prophesy being telling the truth to the people, presumably about how ungrateful and unfaithful their attitude is being.

2 of the elders are not there at the commissioning and prophesy anyway, which seems to give the impression that they have a special blessing not being surrogates for Moses.  He dismisses concern for that.  He’s just happy that God’s truth is told, and not concerned for his own credit or glory.

They said he was a very humble man.  Remember, he had trouble speaking to the Pharaoh.  He also eschewed the wealth he was adopted into in solidarity with the people.  Not greedy, not lauding over them.

This chapter is a story of small minded self absorbed faithlessness and humble, god focussed faithfulness. In the concrete and literal manner of the old testament, one is rewarded and one punished by god.

Leviticus 22

Lots more rules about super holiness for priests.  There is an interesting blend of pragmatism and perfectionism.  The ideal is re-creation of eden, no blemishes, no contamination with things deemed unworthy.

If a priest’s daughter marries a non priest for example, she can’t come home for dinner any more because their food is offertory food, she’ll defile it. Perfectionism.

But if she is widowed or alone again, she can move back in. She’s got to eat. These little practicalities, merciful details run through it.

Apparently it was a very popular religion in the ancient world. Judaism grew and was attractive to the poor, outcasts and women – despite its sexist appearance from our perspective, it was a relatively good deal. The moral code was appealing. Its one of the reasons the romans finally destroyed the temple, it was seen as a threat to the empire.

I’m in a bit of a depressed, or at least transitional, state. Birthday. 55, Feeling like I’m facing the latter part of my life.

Father I do accept your law is good. Its hard work picking though these ancient, culturally strange texts. But you are good, I know that.

 

Exodus 5

Sometimes you have to admit you are in slavery.  

We are told to turn the other cheek, to cope. 

But if the truth is that your situation is a disaster that will destroy you, coping is dishonest, enabling a lie.

Moses makes everything much worse by confronting Pharaoh. He digs his heels in and makes life far worse, impossible, for the people. 

They hate Moses, he’s disillusioned by God. We understand why he was so unwilling to obey God’s command to speak for them.

But it’s only making real what was already there. The Israelites are in a dead end death trap. Appeasing their masters will just keep them there. 

This had to happen. In life things often have to get worse so they can get better.

It’s called faith. And praise be, God doesn’t really need it to save us. 

Exodus 2

Nothing to see here? Have faith!

Everyone knows the story of Moses’ birth, rescued from the river, bought up by Pharaoh’s daughter. But after that his life seems to go nowhere. 

He doesn’t use his privilege strategically. He feels for his countrymen, but expresses it as an impulsive murder of an Egyptian and has to run away. He marries a foreign girl with seemingly no intention of returning. 

The chapter ends with God, in parallel to Moses’ apparently dead end life, contemplating the suffering and chosenness of his people. 

Nothing is apparently happening, as it is often in life. But much is about to. That is what faith is for.

Exodus 1

Genesis ended on a high with Joseph 2ic in Egypt and his family, the kernel of the nation of Israel in a privileged position.

But Joseph’s generation passes, and as the people thrive and the regime changes, xenophobia, or more specfically the world’s first anti semitism policy takes hold.

They are enslaved and cruel policies are introduced to have the baby boys killed.

God inspires and rewards kindness on the part of midwives charged with implementing the infanticide. Israel continues to thrive.

The entire Egyptian population are encouraged to throw Israel’s male babies into the river on sight.

I love how god is in the kindness and mercy of the individual midwives’ passive protest. That is who I believe in.

Esther 7

Haman’s downfall is completed. Esther, offered the Kings request up to half the kingdom asks merely for her life along with her people. She has tied her fate to theirs. Haman is exposed, and then the story turns to high farce as Haman’s desperate pleas to the Queen for mercy are mistaken by the king for molestation.

The reversal of fortunes is completed: after Mordecai got the honor designed by Haman for himself, Haman got the ghastly death he designed for Mordecai: impaled on his own ridiculously huge stick.

Too neat? Too literary? Some scholars argue this book conforms to a literary genre of narrative history that dressed up history to make a good story. Herodotus uses similar devices.

On this theory, it’s like we are watching the Hollywood bio pic of Esther’s life. The basic outline is real, but the facts have been edited and organised to tell a good story.

Historically a few Kings and queens around the time fit the facts.  It’s not so much an issue of could this story have been true, is a matter of which influential Jewish Queen was it?

There is certainly no doubt that the Jewish people went from the verge of destruction to being restored in a rebuilt Jerusalem because of the good favor of successive Persian Kings. I sure think God had a hand!

And I just love the story of Esther, the woman who was heroic and saved the nation.

 

Ezra 8

Ezra lists the people who came with him. Then there is a description of the sacrificial system being re-established.

When he first assembled the people, there are no temple priests or attendants, so he puts out the call and gets about 40 of the priestly clan and 220 attendants. It takes a lot of people to run the temple. But it’s essentially a slaughter house, quite a bit of work I suppose.

He sees gods hand in bringing the people to him. Rather wonderfully they fast and ask God for protection on the journey, because in Ezra’s enthusiasm to depict to the king that it is a blessed project, he said he would not need protection of a horse guard, because God would be his protection. It’s rather sweet that he confesses to momentary second thoughts… he was ashamed to ask for it after that. God indeed protects them. I like that sort of “fake it till you make” it trust thing.

He trusts 12 leading priests with the gold articles to guard. I see it is a journey of some considerable danger from bandits, given the treasure they are carrying. They make it, after 3 days rest a sacrifice is given and the letters of kingly protection go out to the region.

It is a chapter full of grace and blessing, human fear and faith, and godly guidance.

May I trust you day by day father.

I met with the minister of our church to voice my concerns about things yesterday. It was good and made me feel heard. I don’t think he is a person who changes quickly, but it started a conversation, as they say.  Will it work out? Fake it til I make it, eh?