Numbers 9

The first month of the second year out from Egypt the Israelites celebrate Passover, still done and transformed to the Lord’s supper for Christians.

It’s an extraordinarily long tradition. I think it should give pause to those who say the whole thing never happened.

The fate of the Egyptians is the fate of us all. There but for the grace of God. The passover is framed as what God didn’t do to the Isralites – and they symbolically gave their first born to his service in return.

Then the story tells of how life continued at the call of God. The cloud of his presence would stay over the tabernacle until it was time to move on. Could be a day, could be a year. Talk about being aware of his presence and guidance.

A number of my peers, in their 50s and early 60s are positioning themselves for retirement, changing jobs moving on. It’s quite an age for a shake up.

The Christians among us have usually lost a lot of the drive of ambition at our age, and I do believe some of them are being directed more by a desire to serve God than earlier in life. I ache to do more music. Is that a call to service? Or a phantom unfulfilled earthly ambition that I should let go? I thought of that as I accepted to be a warden at my church last week. The cloud moved and settled on warden. It’s not mine to direct.

The Israelites would wander 40 years in the desert. Exodus had a one year timeline, Leviticus was a month or so. Numbers spans something resembling life.

They start by being ready for the battle, military preparation to take the holy land. Then, guided by God, life.

Exodus 27

The altar and the courtyard for the tabernacle. Comments ditto the last two chapters… God is a theatrical and detailed designer. This is a tent for his presence, a theology he blew alert when Jesus died and the curtain of the temple was turn in two from top to bottom. Now I am a tent for his presence.

It’s strange to contemplate a religion of Jehovah that did not have a theology of the spirit. Of course the Israelites would also have the cloud guiding them by day and the flame by night. But but indwelling. 

Our church architecture today keeps some notion of being a holy place, quite misleading, but shows how resonant the concept is.

Exodus 16

Mana and quail. The lord provides. Manna, slightly sweet honey flakes, every morning for breakfast, quail, take away chicken, for dinner. For 40 years. With a cloud to guide them by day and fire by night.

I believe it. The phrase “the lord provides” just instantly filled me with comfort. And I’ve been going over 50 years. 

It’s poignant though, after a week with three deaths in it. I’ve been feeling spiritually numb. I’ll go to my uncles funeral today, it will be a great Christian celebration of a long Christian life, the least complex, in a way, of the deaths.

Thinking a lot about my family, all my children seem damaged and in pain. 

It’s a promise, a comfort, but also something of a plea. The lord provides.

Genesis 45

Joseph reveals himself. He’s full of praise for God, his planning, so there are no recriminations directed at his brothers. Though as he sends them off to fetch their father and households, he tells them not to argue on the way. 

Such a happy ending. Though in the back of my mind I’m remembering that the next book is exodus, where the nation of Israel are shaves in Egypt trying desperately to leave. There has already been mention of how the Egyptians detest the Israelites. 

We still have a long long path until the Messiah comes. 

Still, this is a great lesson in how, as the old hymn says “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year”.

I’m 54. Lots of years left, most likely. What has God for in store for me?

Genesis 41

The epitome of the “old testament story”. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and goes from jail to 2ic in charge of all of Egypt.

One mention of God: as the source of the dream and the interpretation. But he is directing everything.

Everyone in my immediate family is in some kind of pain. And some kind of rebellion against God. Reverse it father, reverse it!

Joshua 11

This chapter deals with the conquest of the north. We have a sense of desert here. It says “for it was of the lord that he hardened their hearts”. None of the kings of the north made peace with the Israelites. They were all destroyed.

Reminds me of exodus… alternating references to pharaoh have him hardening his heart or God doing it. Free will or predestination? Constantinople or Istanbul?

There is a conflicting feeling of relief when you get to the last verse, which after a long period of battle, says that Israel rested from war.

Phew, don’t have to read about killing any more! Ouch, what does that mean?

Hooray for hymns and songs.

To everything there is a season. A time to kill and a time for peace.

Guide me oh thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.

I wonder if I’m coming down with the flu. My brain is not working as it generally does.

Esther 10

A three verse wrap up of the career of Mordecai. He stayed in his position, was the premier Jew and greatly respected as number two to the king. Presumably he had less ego than Haman.

He and Esther are both great examples of serving God in your life, knowing your opportunities.

I’m feeling miserable before God today, like a fraud and a sinner. I need to humbly claim his forgiveness yet again and seek to live a useful self disciplined but effective life for him.

Esther 5

Esther sees the king, her fear that he won’t see her is unfounded, he advances the sceptre. She invites Haman and the king to banquets on two successive nights. I expected her to raise the Jewish issue straight away, but she’s got a crafty plan. She’s a politician, Esther.

Is it too post modern to view her as a feminist hero?  Certainly there are lots of feats in Esther, and they have their own story to tell. Commentators note that this is Esther’s feast, in contrast to the Kings feast which was Vashti’s downfall. Esther has taken control.

After the first Haman sees Mordecai and is all the more enraged at his non regard because he has been favored by Esther’s banquet. He thinks his stocks are ever on the rise because of the exclusive King/Queen time.

He is persuaded by his family to kill Mordecai more spectacularly than the rest of the Jews, on an impaling stick as big as his ego. A 75 foot pole is set up for the purpose.

Haman is built up to get the most spectacular schadenfreude in the Bible. You will almost feel sorry for how his fate will turn over the next few chapters. Unless that is, you forget he was planning arbitrary genocide.

Esther was almost fully assimilated into Persian culture. But the pull of her ethnicity and her god are stronger. Once you believe God is behind history its hard, in the crunch, to unbelieve. 

Esther 2

The search is on for a beautiful young virgin for the king of Persia. Scene moves to Mordecai’s house, and his notably beautiful cousin Esther. They are both displaced Jews.

Esther is taken into the King’s harem. Turns out she is really good at what you need to learn… She takes the eunuch’s advice as to what to say and how to behave. After a year of beauty school, she is the King’s chosen.

I find this a wonderfully mind blowing story about serving your purpose on earth by doing what you do do well. Esther is a born beauty queen.

Meanwhile Mordecai is all ears, obviously concerned about Esther he becomes a palace obsessive, hanging round and hearing what he can. In addition to scraps of info about Esther, he uncovers a plot to kill the king, which Esther brings to the King. The plot is foiled and Esther’s stakes go sky high.

There is still a sense of “where is god going with this?” It’s in the Bible so you bring to it the expectation that it must be about him. So god is at work in the petty and relatively unholy daily activities of those who never give him a second thought? I love it. Like the old hymn says, god is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.