Archive for the ‘Numbers 14’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Above:  Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Image in the Public Domain

The Extravagance of God and the Irrepressible Kingdom of God

MARCH 23, 2022


The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 28


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:17-27

Psalm 39

Luke 13:18-21


Numbers 13:17-27 and Luke 13:18-21 speak of the extravagant generosity of God.

Canaan, the Promised Land, is the bountiful territory overflowing with milk and honey in Numbers 13.  One finds similarly wonderful descriptions of the promise of the Jewish homeland after God has ended the Babylonian Exile later in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those were dashed hopes, as the narrative of the Old Testament indicates, but the hope for a better future free from deprivation and foreign occupation continues to inspire people living in difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous slave mentality and unreasoning fear of the Canaanites led many Israelites to oppose entering Canaan.  Many, according to Numbers 14:3, regretted ever having left Egypt, where they were slaves but at least the leftovers were nice.  God punished the generation which had left Egypt, the Book of Numbers tells us, by granting them their wish not to enter Canaan.  At least God was merciful enough to refrain from striking them dead or sending them back to Egypt.

The generosity–grace–of God–demands a faithful response.  What will we do with grace?  Will we even accept it and its accompanying responsibilities?  Human life is transient, as the author of Psalm 39 understood well, but it does offer many opportunities to function as an agent of God to others.

Cedar of Lebanon

Above:  A Cedar of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06183

Luke 13:18-21 provides two brief parables illustrating the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the first parable (verses 18 and 19) the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, the small beginning of a large, if not noble, mustard plant–a large shrub, really.  A mustard plant, which can grow to be as large as twelve feet tall, offers shelter to a variety of birds.  Implicit in the Lukan version of the parable is that Gentiles are welcome in the Kingdom of God.  The parable shocks by not invoking the image of a mighty, impressive cedar of Lebanon.  Such imagery would indicate a mature plant.  The imagery of a mustard plant, however, promises continued growth.  The Kingdom of God is present among us, but not fully; there is more to come.

Then again [Jesus] said,

“What can I say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole had risen.”

–Luke 13:20-21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The second parable is that of yeast which a woman hides in three measures (fifty pounds) of flour.  Most contemporary translations I consulted render a certain Greek word as “mixed,” but the proper meaning is “hid.”  The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), and the New American Standard Bible (1971 and 1995) render that word properly as “hid.”  The 1958 and 1972 editions of The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) use “covered up,” which makes the same point.  The woman in the parable seeks to conceal the yeast by hiding it in flour, but the yeast permeates the flour instead.  The parable contains the element of hyperbole, for baking 50 pounds of flour, enough to feed 150 people, at one time, is perhaps improbable.  The hyperbole points to the extravagance of God and the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.

Nobody among mortals can conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God.  That lesson comforts me.  Secularization of society and religious persecution are powerless to conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast pervading the whole.  The blood of the martyrs waters the church, which has, in certain times and at certain places, gone underground yet remained alive.  The lesson here is about what God does, often despite what certain people do.  God is sovereign.  We can accept or reject that reality, but we can never change it.







Devotion for Tuesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise--Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Fidelity and Spiritual Community

MARCH 15, 2022


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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 14:10b-24

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

1 Corinthians 10:1-13


Remember the marvels God has done,

the wonders and the judgments of God’s mouth,

O offspring of Abraham, God’s servant,

 children of Jacob, God’s chosen.

–Psalm 105:5-6, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Yet the generation of Israelites who left Egypt as free people retained a slave mentality.  Members of that generation witnessed many astonishing acts of God on their behalf yet reacted fearfully when they learned that they might have to act faithfully, to do something, albeit with divine assistance.  They feared to enter Canaan, so their desire not to go there became their punishment from God.

As a cliché tells us, be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

St. Paul the Apostle, engaging in the tradition of interpreting biblical stories metaphorically, used accounts from the Torah to encourage Christians at Corinth to live faithfully, to refrain from sin as much as possible, and to cease from grumbling.  The Apostle, convinced that the end of evil times was near, wrote:

If you think you are standing firm, take care, or you may fall.  So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance; God keeps faith and will not let you be tested beyond your powers, but when the test comes he will at the same time provide a way out and so enable you to endure.

–1 Corinthians 10:12-13, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage contains two major points.  First, people ought to avoid spiritual complacency.  That is always excellent counsel.  Second, “you,” as in

So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance…,

is plural.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians 10 addresses a congregation, not an individual.  The plural nature of “you” in this passage is clear in the Nouvelle Version Segond Revisee (1978), in which the pronoun is the plural vous, not the singular tu.

The walk of faith is one a person takes as part of a spiritual community, not as a rugged individualist.  One depends on the other members of the spiritual community, to whom and for whom they one is responsible, and on God, on whom one depends entirely.  One’s strength is in God and spiritual community, not in oneself.