February 21, 2015

Numbers 12-14 - Miriam and Aaron talked against Moses behind his back because of his Cushite wife.  They said, “Is it only through Moses that God speaks?  Doesn’t he also speak through us?”  God overheard their talk.  Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more than anyone living on Earth.  God broke in suddenly on Moses, Aaron and Miriam saying, “Come out you three to the Tent of Meeting.  He called Aaron and Miriam to him and said,

”Listen carefully to what I am telling you.  If there is a prophet  of God among you, I make myself known to him in visions. I speak to him in dreams.  But I don’t do it that way to my servant Moses, he has the run of my entire house,  I speak to him intimately, in person, in plain talk without riddles.  He ponders the very form of God.  So why did you show no  reverence or respect in speaking against my servant, against Moses?”  

The anger of God blazed out against them.  And then he left.  Miriam had turned leprous.  Aaron pleaded with Moses and Moses prayed to God to heal Miriam.  God answered Moses instructing him to have her quarantined outside the camp for 7 days.  Then she can be readmitted to the camp.  The people didn’t march on until she was readmitted when they moved from Hazeroth and set up camp in the Wilderness of Paran.

God spoke to Moses, “Send men to scout out the country of Canaan that I am giving to the People of Israel.  Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each one a tried and true leader in the tribe:
Reuben - Shammua        Issachar - Igal            Zebulun - Gaddiel        Asher - Sethur
Simeon - Shaphat,        Ephraim - Hoshea -son of Nun    Manasseh - Gaddi        Naphtali - Nahbi
Judah - Caleb         Benjamin - Palti            Dan - Ammiel        Gad - Geuel
Moses gave Hoshea, son of Nun a new name - - Joshua -(God saves).  He then sent them out with instructions re what to observe and report back with ....After 40 days of scouting out the land, they returned home.  

They presented themselves before Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the People of Israel.  They showed them the fruit of the land.  Then they told the story of their trip...It does flow with milk and honey!...The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified.  Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak.  

Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, “Let us go up and take the land--now.  We can do it.”  But the others said, “We can’t attack those people, they’re way stronger than we are.”  They spread scary rumors among the people of Israel...

The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long.  All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron...”Why don’t we just head back to Egypt?  And right now!”...”Let’s pick a new leader, let’s head back to Egypt.”  

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in front of the entire community, gathered in emergency session.  Joshua and Caleb ripped their clothes and addressed the assembled People of Israel....”If God is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land...and he will give it to us.  Just don’t rebel against God!  And don’t be afraid of those people...They have no protection and God is on our side.  Don’t be afraid of them!”   But, up in arms now, the entire community was talking of hurling stones at them.

Just then the bright Glory of God appeared at the Tent of Meeting.  Every Israelite saw it.  God said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me like dirt?  How long refuse to trust me?  And with all these signs I’ve done among them!  I’ve had enough--I’m going to hit them with a plague and kill them.  But I’ll make you into a nation bigger and stronger than they ever where.  

But Moses said to God, “The Egyptians are going to hear about this!  You delivered this people from Egypt...If you kill this entire people in one stroke all the nations that heard what has been going on will say that God couldn’t deliver...  

God said, “I forgive them, honoring your words.  But as I live and as the Glory of God fills the whole Earth--Not a single person of those who saw my  Glory, saw the miracle signs I did in Egypt and the Wilderness, and who have tested me over and over and over again, turning a deaf ear to me--not one of them will set eyes on the land...No one who has treated me with such repeated contempt will see it.  

But my servant Caleb --this is a different story.  He has a different spirit.  I’ll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it...yet every one of you twenty years and older who was counted in the census, this whole generation of grumblers and grousers.  Not one of you will enter the land and make your home there, the firmly and solemnly promised land, except for Caleb and Joshua...

Your children will live as shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years, living with the fallout of your whoring unfaithfulness until the last of your generation lies a corpse in the wilderness.  You scouted out the land for forty days your punishment will be a year for each day, a forty year sentence to serve for your sins - a long schooling in my displeasure....

So it happened that the men Moses sent out to scout the land returned to circulate false rumors about the land causing the entire community to grumble against Moses --all these men died...in a plague confronted by God.  Only Joshua and Caleb were left alive of the men who went out to scout out the land.

When Moses told all this to the People of Israel, they mourned long and hard.  But early the next morning they started out for the high hill country saying, “We are here, we’’re ready--let’s go up and attack the land that God promised us.  We sinned, but now we’re ready.”  

But Moses said...”Because you have left off obediently following God.  God is not going to be with you  in this.”  But they went anyway, recklessly and arrogantly they climbed to the high hill country.  But the Chest of the covenant and Moses didn’t budge from the camp.  The Amalekites and Canaanites came out of the hills and attacked and beat them.

Romans 3 - So what difference does it make who’s Jew and who isn’t, who has been trained in God’s way and who hasn’t.  As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference--but not the difference so many have assumed.  

First, there’s the matter of being put in charge of writing down and caring for God’s revelation, these Holy Scriptures...

God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth... But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms God’s right doing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out?...The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic NO!  How else would things ever get straightened out if God didn’t do the straightening? 

So where does that put us?  Do Jews get a better break than others?  Not really.  Basically all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners...They’ve all taken the wrong turn: they’ve all wandered down blind alleys...This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place!....

Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God.  What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sins.  

But in our time something new has been added...The God setting things right that we read about has become Jesus- setting-things-right for us.  And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him.  for there is no difference between us and them in this...

God did it for us.  Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself.  A pure gift.  He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be.  And he did it by means of Jesus Christ...  God set things right.  He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness....

God does not respond to what we do, we respond to what God does.  we’ve finally figured it out.  Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace not by proudly or anxiously trying to  run the parade...

God is the God of outsider non-Jews, as well as insider Jews...God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it both those who follow our religious system, and those who have never heard of our religion.  

But by shifting  our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping  of the rules and ways God commanded?  Not at all.  What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.