Archive for the ‘Numbers 13’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 12, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Wickedness

JULY 24, 2022

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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 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

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Genesis 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

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The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/wickedness/

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Devotion for Proper 27, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree

Image in the Public Domain

Curses and Punishments

NOVEMBER 8, 2020

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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 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

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Numbers 14:1-27 or Malachi 1:1; 2:1-10

Psalm 73:12, 15-23

Hebrews 12:1-9, 22-24, 28-29

Mark 11:12-33

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What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Larger Catechism, quoted in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Book of Confessions (2007), 195

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We read of the opposite behavior in today’s readings, with pious material in Psalm 73, if one consults the complete text.  Priests are supposed to lead people to God.  A fig tree is supposed to show evidence of figs in development outside of fig season.  People are supposed to trust God, especially after witnessing dramatic, mighty divine deeds and manifestations.

The two-part story of the cursed fig tree bookends the Temple Incident, as scholars of the New Testament like to call the Cleansing of the Temple.  The literary-theological effect of this arrangement of material is to comment on corruption at the Temple just a few days prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.  One does well to apply the condemnation to corruption anywhere.

Perhaps we usually think of punishment as something we do not want.  This makes sense.  In legal systems, for example, probation, fines, and incarceration are forms of punishment.  Parents sometimes punish children by grounding them.  However, the punishment of which we read in Numbers 14 (comprehension of which depends on having read Chapter 13) was to give the the fearful, faithless people what they wanted–never to enter the Promised Land.  As an old saying tells us, we ought to be careful what we wish for because we may get it.

What do we really want and what do we really need?  May God grant us what we really need.  May we be grateful for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/curses-and-punishments/

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Devotion for Proper 26, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Blindness

NOVEMBER 1, 2020

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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 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

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Numbers 13:1-2, 17-32 or 2 Kings 5:1-17

Psalm 71:1-12

Hebrews 11

Mark 10:46-52

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Proper faith is optimistic, not foolish.  It acknowledges difficulties and trusts in God.  Proper faith casts out improper fear.

The story of blind Bartimaeus (Son of Timaeus, literally) is instructive.  In the context of the Gospel of Mark, it immediately precedes the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mark 11).  One may state that Bartimaeus to follow Jesus at a very difficult time.  The character’s physical blindness functions as a commentary on the spiritual blindness of the Apostles earlier in Chapter 10.  One may conclude that, for Jesus, healing physical blindness was easier than healing the spiritual blindness of people around him.

The most basic commandment of Jesus to take one’s cross and follow him.  The details of that order vary person to person, depending on who, where, and when one is.  The principle is timeless, though.

May God forgive all of us for our spiritual blindness and heal us, so that we may follow him as well as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/spiritual-blindness-part-iv/

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This is post #950 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  The Sinai Peninsula (Gemini 11, 1966)

Image in the Public Domain

Consequences of a Slave Mentality

AUGUST 4, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Numbers 13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Send men and let them scout the land of Canaan that I’m giving to the children of Israel.  You shall send one man for each tribe of his fathers, every one of them a chieftain.

And they came back from scouting the land at the end of forty days.  And they went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and all the congregation and showed them the land’s fruit.

And they told him and said,

We came to the land where you sent us, and also it’s flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  Nonetheless:  the people who live in the land are strong.  And the cities are fortified, very big.  And also we saw the offering of the giants there.  Amalek lives in the land of the Negeb, and the Hittite and the Jebusite and the Amorite live in the mountains, and the Canaanite lives by the sea and along the Jordan.

And Caleb quieted the people toward Moses and said,

Let’s go up, and we’ll take possession of it, because we’ll be able to handle it.

And the men who went up to him said,

We won’t be able to go up against the people, because they’re stronger than we are.

And they brought out a report of the land that they had scouted to the children of Israel, saying,

The land through which we passed to scout it:  it’s a land that eats those who live in it, and all the people whom we saw in it were people of size! And we saw the Nephilim there, sons of giants ffrom the Nephilim, and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.

And all the congregation raised and let out their voices!  And the people wept that night.

And YHWH spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

How much farther for this bad congregation, that they’re complaining against me?  I’ve heard the complaints of the children of Israel that they’re making against me.  Say to them:  As I live–word of YHWH–what you have spoken in my ears, that is what I’ll do for you!  In this wilderness your carcasses will fall; and all of you who were counted, for all your number, from twenty years old and up, who complained against me, I swear that you won’t come to the land that I raised my hand to have you reside there–except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  And your infants, whom you said would become a spoil:  I’ll bring them, and they will know the land that you rejected!  And you:  your carcasses will fall in this wilderness.  And your children will be roving the wilderness forty years, and they’ll bear your whoring until the end of your carcasses in the wilderness.  For the number of days that you scouted the land, forty days, you shall bear your crimes a day for each year, forty years, and you shall know my frustratration!  I, YHWH, have spoken:  If I shall not do this to all the bad congregation who are gathered against me:  in this wilderness they shall end, and they shall die there!

Psalm 106:6-14, 21-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 We have sinned as our forefathers did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

7 In Egypt they did not consider your marvelous works,

not remember the abundance of your love;

they defied the Most High at the Red Sea.

8 But he saved them for his Name’s sake,

to make his power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up,

and he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of those who hated them

and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 The waters covered their oppressors;

not one on them was left.

12 Then they believed his words

and sang him songs of praise.

13 But they soon forgot his deeds

and did not wait for his counsel.

14 A craving seized them in the wilderness,

and they put God to the test in the desert.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 15:21-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Jesus then left that place and retired into the Tyre and Sidon district.  There a Canaanite woman from those parts came to him crying at the top of her voice,

Lord, son of David, have pity on me!  My daughter is in a terrible state–a devil has got into her!

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said, “Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.”

“I was only sent, ” replied Jesus, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

The woman replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs live on the scraps that fall from their master’s table!

Jesus returned,

You certainly don’t lack faith; it shall be as you wish.

And at that moment her daughter was healed.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sometimes I wish that biblical authors had noted the tone of voice in which a person, such as Jesus, spoke, when writing about certain incidents.  The story of the conversation between Jesus and the Gentile woman is such a case.  But some details in the account provide fascinating clues.

Most importantly, Jesus was in the district of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile central.  And he went there voluntarily.  If he had a serious attitude problem regarding Gentiles, he would not have gone there voluntarily.  It is also vital to note that he granted the woman’s request to heal her daughter, even after his comment about throwing table scraps to dogs, who were allegedly impure and unclean animals, not beloved furry family members, as many North Americans think of domesticated canines.  But the woman expected our Lord’s mercy and made her case for it to his face.  She had faith and was persistent in it, and she went away satisfied.  She passed the test.

The Gentile woman did not have a slave mentality.  But the generation of Israelites that escaped from Egypt did.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman makes the case for the existence of this slave mentality in his Commentary on the Torah.  Time after time the children of Israel had waxed nostalgic about Egyptian table scraps and complained about how God provided for them in the wilderness.  Mentally, they were still in Egypt, where they depended upon their overlords.  But YHWH offered them something far better–freedom.  Alas, they were not ready for it.  They were afraid of so much, mostly that they would die in the desert.  So they reacted fearfully.  Those actions had consequences, including their death in the wilderness.  Those who lacked a slave mentality were destined to reach the promised land.

This is what is really going on the the reading from Numbers.  The origin of the Nephilim is an interesting intellectual and mythological knot to attempt to untie, but it serves no useful devotional purpose for me today.  The Nephilim scared many Israelites; that is the important detail about them today.  The lack of faith and prevalence of fear in this matter constituted the last straw for YHWH in Numbers 14.  That is vital in this account.

At this time my mind turns to James 4:1-6.  It reads:

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it.  Or, if you do, your requests are not granted, because you pray from wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures.  Unfaithful creatures!  Surely you know that love of the world means enmity to God?  Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you suppose that scripture has no point when it says that the spirit which God implanted in us is filled with envious longings?  But the grace he gives is stronger; thus scripture says, ‘God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.'”  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

Humility, contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, is not beating one’s breast and considering oneself a worthless excuse for a human being.  That is low self-esteem.  No, being humble is having a realistic self-image in relation to God.  So a healthy ego–one neither too small nor raging out of control–is part and parcel of humility.  We humans bear the image of God, and therefore have inherent dignity others are obligated to recognize and respect.  The Gentile woman knew that she and her daughter had inherent human dignity Jesus was obliged to recognize and respect.  She insisted on this, and Jesus granted her request.  She asked–properly–for a just cause, and she received what she requested.  She was humble.

On the other hand, those Israelites with a slave mentality were not humble.  And neither did they expect the best, which they did not receive.  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They were responsible for what happened to them.

Which story more nearly describes you?  If the answer to that question is damning, you can rewrite the rest of your narrative.  The children of Israel had many such opportunities, and they wasted them.  Learn from these ancient accounts.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/consequences-of-a-slave-mentality/