Archive for the ‘Numbers 11’ Tag

Devotion for the Eleventh and Twelfth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Obligations

MARCH 6 AND 7, 2023


The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world through

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 21:4-9 (11th Day)

Isaiah 65:17-25 (12th Day)

Psalm 128 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (11th Day)

Romans 4:6-13 (12th Day)


Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in the ways of the LORD!

–Psalm 128:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The story in Numbers 21:4-9 is a good place to start this post.  It sent me scurrying to commentaries.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) tell me of the Rabbinic discomfort with the sympathetic magic in the account.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2011), makes the connection between the bronze serpent and the incident concerning the snake in the court of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10).  Friedman also refers to 2 Kings 18:4, in which King Hezekiah orders the destruction of the bronze serpent, to which some people had been burning incense.  Volume 2 (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible says that the bronze serpent was an example of spiritual homeopathy or at least an example thereof, one which

rests on a sound basis in human experience


wounds heal wounds.

–page 243

The best, most helpful analysis, however, comes from Walther Eichrodt, as translated by J. A. Baker:

The terrifying power of God, who will turn his weapons of leprosy, serpent and plague (cf. Ex. 4.1-7, Num. 21:6ff; 11:33) even against his own people leaves men in no doubt that the covenant he has created is no safe bulwark, behind which they can make cunning use of the divine power to prosecute their own interests.  The covenant lays claim to the whole man and calls him to a surrender with no reservations.

Theology of the New Testament, Volume One (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1961), pages 44-45

Thus this post continues a line of thought present in its immediate predecessor in order of composition.  God calls the blessed people to function as blessings to others.  The faithful, redeemed people of God have a mandate to cooperate with God in reforming society for the common good and divine glory.  In the Bible righteousness and justice are the same thing.  Hence we read prophets’ condemnations of economic exploitation and judicial corruption as opposites of righteousness.  To live in the household of God is to have both privileges and duties.

One task for those with a slave mentality is to abandon it and to embrace freedom in God.  I know that eating the same thing repeatedly gets old rapidly, but at least the Israelites were not starving.  God does provide; gratitude is in order, even if manna is crystallized insect feces.  Often our mentalities stand between us and God, whose manna does come with the condition of servitude to the source.  What we receive from God might not be what we want or expect, but it is what we need.  May we accept it gratefully and accept the obligation to serve God and leave our world better than we found it.








Devotion for the Thirty-Ninth, Fortieth, and Forty-First Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Lazarus and Dives

Numbers and Luke, Part III:  The Kingdom of God

MAY 17-19, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 10:11-36 (39th Day of Easter)

Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35 (40th Dayof Easter)

Numbers 11:24-29; 12:1-16 (41st Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–39th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–40th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–41st Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–39th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–40th Day of Easter)

Psalms 96 and 138 (Evening–41st Day of Easter)

Luke 16:19-31 (39th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:1-19 (40th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:20-37 (41st Day of Easter)


Numbers 10:11-12:16 constitutes a unit in that book.  The narrative tells how the Israelites moved to the desert of Paran. they moved in a particular order but not without grumbling.  Manna could not compare with Egyptian food, apparently.  And even Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.  The narrative says that God afflicted the people with fire or their murmuring until Moses convinced God to stop, and that God afflicted Miriam with a skin disease which rendered her ritually unclean for a week.

If I were to decide whether to stand in awe or terror of such a deity, I would choose the latter option.  That terror would also be appropriate in Luke 17:22-37.  And Dives, the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31, should have learned terror of God in the afterlife, yet did not.  He still thought that the could order Lazarus, the poor man, around.

The Kingdom of God is among us.  In one sense it has always been present, for it is where God is.  Yet the Incarnation inaugurated the Kingdom of God via Jesus.  That Kingdom has not gone away since the time of the historical Jesus any more than it went away after the Crucifixion or the Ascension.  The full reign of God has yet to arrive on the planet, of course, but the Kingdom of God remains present via the Holy Spirit and the people of God, regardless of national, ethnic, or racial origin.

The Kingdom of God remains present in many ways.  It remains present anywhere the people of God work for the benefit of their fellow human beings.  It remains present anywhere one person corrects a fellow or sister human being in Godly love.  It remains present wherever people forgive and/or reconcile.  (Reconciliation is a mutual process, but one person can forgive another in absentia.)  It remains present wherever a person of God chooses not to hold a grudge.  It remains present wherever people of God care actively and effectively for the less fortunate.

May we remember that the shape of a society, culture, or subculture is what people have made it.  So, where injustice exists and persists, we humans are responsible.  May we, with God’s help, correct injustice and forge better societies, cultures, and subcultures.  This will not constitute God’s full reign following the apocalypse, but it will be an improvement on the present arrangements.







Fiftieth Day of Easter: Day of Pentecost, Year A   30 comments

Above:  Tree of Jesse, from the Recipian Bible, 12th Century C.E.

(The doves around Jesus’s head represent the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.)

“For the Common Good”

MAY 28, 2023


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 2:1-21 or Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21

John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

The Collect:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Apostle Paul provided a partial list of manifestations of the Holy Spirit:

  1. the utterance of wisdom
  2. the utterance of knowledge
  3. faith
  4. healing
  5. the working of miracles
  6. prophecy
  7. the discernment of spirits
  8. tongues
  9. the interpretation of tongues

And he cautioned people to use them for the common good, not building up oneself.  A spiritual gift ought not to become an occasion of the illusion of spiritual spirituality over those who lack that gift, he wrote, for the variety of gifts is essential to the proper functioning of the church.  And the greatest gift is love, or charity as some Biblical translators render the original Greek word.

(An Aside:  Some of my coreligionists insist that to pray one needs a “prayer language.”  My prayer language is English, which God understands very well.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

  1. wisdom
  2. understanding
  3. counsel
  4. fortitude
  5. knowledge
  6. piety
  7. fear of the Lord (see paragraph 1831).

And the Catholic Catechism lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory,: identifying twelve of them:

  1. charity
  2. joy
  3. peace
  4. patience
  5. kindness
  6. goodness
  7. generosity
  8. gentleness
  9. faithfulness
  10. modesty
  11. self-control
  12. chastity (see paragraph 1832).

I believe that each of us enters this world with much potential to do much good.  We can fulfill this potential if we obey God, making wise decisions which liberate us to live into our divine vocations.  Trying to decide wisely does not guarantee success, of course, but that is at least better than not caring at all.  And our vocations from God might not be what we think they are.

As I survey world history I wonder how much better the world would be if more of us had spent more time nurturing joy, patience, kindness, generosity, fortitude, and other great virtues.  Leaving one’s corner of the world (or, on a grander scale, the world) is insufficient to grant salvation; only God can do that.  But this is a noble and achievable goal God empowers us to complete.

One might say, however, “What does it matter?  The world is a screwed-up place, and will be so for a long time.”  Yes, the world is screwed-up, but it can be less so.  I do not think of the world as the enemy camp, the bastion of Satan (in whom I do not believe anyway, although I accept the reality of evil).  Instead, I think of the world as my neighborhood, for which I am partially responsible.  I am partially to blame for its screwed-up nature.  If I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.  And I want to be part of the solution.  I can do my part, you can do your part, another person can do his or her part, et cetera, and together we can accomplish much good.

Empowered by God, may we do so.