February 16, 2015

Numbers - The book of Numbers plunges us into the mess of growing up.  It gives us  a realistic feel for what is involved in being included in the people of God, which is to say, a human community  that honors God, lives out love and justice in daily affairs, learns how to deal with sin in oneself and others, and follows God’s commands into a future of blessing.  And all this without illusions.

Many of us fondle a romanticized spirituality in our imaginations.  The “God’s in his heaven/all’s right with the world” sort of thing.  

When things don’t go “right” we blame others or ourselves, muddle through as best we can,  often with considerable crankiness, and wish we had been born at a different time - “Bible times” maybe! when living a holy life was so much easier.  

That’s odd because the Bible...nowhere suggests that life is simple or even “natural.”  We need a lot of help.  We need organizational help...and we need relational help..we need help getting along with each other.  

Wise discipline is required to become the people of God...this book is essential in training our imaginations to take in some of these less-than-romantic details by which we are formed into the people of God.

Numbers 1-2 - God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai at the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month in the second year after they had left Egypt.  Number the congregation of the people of Israel by clan and families, writing down the names of every male, 20 years and older. Pick one man from each tribe who is head of his family to help you.  
Reuben -     46, 500                Joseph -    40, 500 - Ephraim -        
Simeon -     59, 300                                  32, 200 - Manasseh       
Gad -          45, 650                  Benjamin -     35, 400            
Judah -       74, 000                  Dan -             62, 700            
Issachar -     54, 400                 Asher -          41, 500
Zebulun -     57,  400                Naphtali -      53, 400 

The sum total who were able to fight in the army was:  603, 550.  The Levites, however, were not counted by their ancestral family along with the others. 

God spoke to Moses and Aaron.  He said, “The People of Israel are to set up camp circling the Tent of Meeting and facing it.  Each company is to camp under its distinctive flag.  
-    To the East toward the sunrise are the companies of the camp of Judah.  The tribe of Issachar next to him, then tribe of Zebulun is next to them.  
-    To the South are the companies of the clan of Reuben, the tribe of Simeon with camp next to them and the tribe of Dan next to them.
-    The Tent of Meeting with the camp of the Levites takes its place in the middle of the march.
-    To the West are the companies of the camp of Ephraim, Manasseh and then Benjamin.  
-    To the North are the companies of Dan, Asher and then Naphtali.  

Hebrews 13 - Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love.  Be ready for a meal or a bed when it’s needed.  Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!...

Honor marriage and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband.  God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.  

Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things.  Be relaxed with what you have.  Since God assures us, I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you’” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help: I’m fearless no matter what.  Who and what can get to me?  

Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God.  Take a good look at the way they live and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.  

There should be consistency that runs through us all.  For Jesus doesn’t change---yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself...The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life....

So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is--not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus.  This “insider world” is not our home.

Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good, share what you have with others.  

God takes particular pleasure in the act of worship--a different kind of “sacrifice”-- that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.  

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders.  Listen to their counsel..contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery.  Why should you want to make things harder for them?  

Pray for us.  We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but its‘ hard going and we need your prayers.  All we care about is living well before God...  

Grace be with you, every one.