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Posts Tagged ‘Moses’


Monday, June 8, 2020

the bread of lifeNumbers 11

A Prayer for the Discontented

The Hebrew people have escaped slavery and tyranny.  They have followed Moses out of bondage and moved toward freedom and promise.  When the journey becomes too long and too arduous they grumble and complain.  They who had been hopeful and even joyful at the prospect of change and newness are now disgruntled, unhappy and even resentful.  They complain to Moses who does what all faithful do . . . he takes his problem to God where all solutions lie.

We see a reprise of this story later in the New Testament.  As the kingdom work begins to build, Jesus assembles seventy-two disciples to go out into the world when the harvest is plenty but the workers few.  (Luke 10)  Still later when the fledgling Church begins to form, the disciples add to their ranks in order that they accomplish the work they see before them because it would not be right to neglect the ministry of the word of God. (Acts 6)  The work becomes arduous, even difficult, and so the apostles ask for help.

Jesus tells us that we are to knock at the door we wish might open to us.  He reminds us that we are to seek so that we might find.  (Luke 9 and Matthew 7)  We are never left alone to deal with our stumbling blocks and in fact these obstacles become doorways and windows onto our best potential as creatures of God.  They are reminders that God is always present, always abiding.  These “problems” in our lives are actually openings to a deeper relationship with God.

As we journey through life we often find ourselves needing more than manna; we discover that the taste of the daily quail has somehow soured and rather than sustain us these birds have now become the root of our discontentment.  We are tempted to ask for more than manna and quail and we do not see that this further complicates our problems.  We do not see that we must ask God to show us solutions to our problems that lead us to grow and mature in Christ.  So, rather than carry our burdens on our own, let us tell God that some of our load is too much to carry, and when we do we will find that from the depths of his descent into darkness Jesus returns to free us from all that enslaves us.  Jesus arrives to carry us forward.  Jesus abides with us always, just as has been promised, to bring us to our best selves. 

When find that we have begun to settle into our discontentment as a kind of familiar unhappiness, let us ask ourselves these questions.  What do we seek more than the manna we receive daily?  Are we willing to open ourselves so that our too-heavy load might actually be an answer to a prayer that is shared in God’s light?  Are we willing to give up the habit of our discontentment for the promise of freedom offered by God?

And let us pray . . .

Kind and loving God, you sustain us through all turmoil even though we may not see you.

Just and merciful God, you transform our suffering even though we may fail to call on you.

Patient and wonderful God, you allow us to grumble and complain even when we need to celebrate with you.

Loving and generous God, show us how our discontentment may lead us back to you.  Amen.


Image from: http://www.newbeginningscctampa.org/Bread_of_Life.html

Adapted from a reflection written on April 23, 2011.

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Sunday, June 7, 2020

concordpastorNumbers 11

The Discontent of the People

Everyone is complaining in today’s Noontime, both prophet and people.

I cannot carry this all by myself . . .

Would that we might have what we used to have when we were slaves . . .

God hears these cries for help and he responds . . . but his response is tailored to the petitioner and the petition.  God hears that although the people are being sustained by the manna, they hunger for more.  God also hears the weariness and frustration in Moses’ voice.

What does God do?  As always, God acts.  And God acts in accordance with a plan that offers us more than we can actually see from where we stand.

First, God asks that Moses assemble 70 elders in order that some of the Spirit he has bestowed on Moses be transferred to his chosen helpers.  Second, God sends quail to add to the people’s diet.  This caring and compassionate God answers all petitions . . . but there are further lessons to be learned.

We see Moses intercede for his people and we see how he learns and benefits from his interactions with God.  This humble and open man is rewarded with the chance to share his burden.  In this way, the Spirit moves among many and lightens the heavy load.

On the other hand, the meat – which lured the people from the camp – becomes loathsome to the people.  They come to see this “gift” with which they have sated themselves for what it is: a symbol of their faithlessness and their rejection of God’s gift of grace.   We all know the saying: Be careful what you ask for.  In today’s story, the people at first are happy with the remedy they have sought . . . more meat has arrived.  Later they see their thinking as an example of how they have focused on the obstacle as a problem to be removed rather than as an opportunity to draw closer to God.  (Mays 173)

Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, also present our own solutions to God rather than petition for God’s help that will also best suit our personal growth.  Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, ask for more than the manna God sends us.  Sometimes we, like the Hebrews, forget that we grow best when we grow in God’s plan rather than in spite of God’s plan.  We, like the Hebrews, have become accustomed to being discontent . . . and forget to celebrate God’s providence that constantly sustains us.

Tomorrow, manna becomes the Bread of Life in Christ . . .


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 173. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 23, 2011.

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Exodus 32: The Golden Calf

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Golden Calf

Even as a child I was impressed with how quickly Aaron slid from one role to another: loyal brother, facilitator of the making of the Golden Calf, loyal brother once again.  He appears to get by unscathed and I remember thinking that he must not be very bright, and this is why God let him off so easily.

Some scholars say that Aaron went along with the crowd because it would have been impossible to go against the unhappy throng.  Others point out that Aaron presents an argument we hear often even today; You know how prone the people are to evil.  They said to me, “Make us a god to be our leader; as for Moses . . . we do not know what has happened to him”.  He further argues, “They gave [the gold jewelry] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out”.  I was amazed, when I first heard this story, that there seemed to be no consequence.  Yet Aaron rallies, aligns himself with Moses and the others who want to stand with him rather than against him, and he escapes the violent death that awaits those who remain against Moses.  A coup takes place, blood is spilled, the Hebrews muddle on through the desert.

I am thinking of the many golden calves I have seen erupt from the fires of anger and jealous, fear and anxiety.  I am also thinking of how many times I have been asked if I am for or against and how I have answered.  I am also thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:30, Mark 9:40 or Luke 11:23: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does gather with me scatters.  And I am grateful for God’s generous mercy.

As a child I knew I lived in the black and white world my parents had created for our family.  In that world the most frequent – and most dreaded – punishment for infractions of rules was the dreaded three word sentence, “We will talk”.  Sometimes we waited days or even weeks until Dad or Mother would nod and say, “Now”.  We would have worried and gnawed over all of the arguments we might present for our innocence and we had thrown out all that were false.  We ended up with the unvarnished truth.  During the waiting time we would have sorted through the varied outcomes of the impending conversation.  And in the end we were so eager to unload our conscience and to confess to our waywardness that we provided our own best castigation.  We came to see that we had been wrong.  We admitted openly how we had strayed. And we were anxious to enter into and complete any penalty we were to suffer.  It was a wonderful form of coming to terms with what it was we had done, why we had done it, and how we ought to be dealt with.  My husband and I used similar strategies with our own children when golden calves appeared in our home and we met with the same success in raising ethical, thoughtful, merciful children.  God’s generosity and mercy cannot be outdone.  God’s love and patience cannot be matched.  And for this we ought to give thanks.

Each time I see the adulation that surrounds a golden calf in my family, community or workplace, I pray for the kind of patience my parents taught us.  I ask God to bring me wisdom, good timing, and the fortitude to witness to falsehood in a way that will be effective.  And I pray for the good counsel and right thinking of the Holy Spirit.  When I allow God’s waiting time to pass, I find I have more success than if I lunge forward on my first impulse with my first reaction.

The people we read about today become unhappy about their circumstances and so they create an immediate world of superficial happiness as they revel and play around an idol of their own making.  They quickly learn that there is a price to pay for self-centered thinking . . . and that golden calves often leave us standing against our God.


a re-post from October 28, 2012.

Image from: http://abwbibleperiod8.wikispaces.com/Ch8A+The+Golden+Calf

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Luke 20:20-26: Mercy

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gustave Dore: Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount

In today’s Noontime we listen to Jesus as he gives us a homily and we watch as Jesus puts himself at great risk by speaking to and about the power structure that governs his society.  Much like Moses, Jesus descends from the summit to gather his leadership; Jesus draws together his apostles and disciples.  Moses leads the former slaves to a promise; Jesus aligns himself with the disadvantaged, and speaks aloud the message of hope and rescue that he brings from God.  And it is this way that he forms his kingdom from the rejected and deprived.

The keystone of Jesus’ sermon is in the difficult teaching which many of his followers cannot accept: that he requires us to change our behavior.  Rather than launch weapons and force at our enemies, rather than gather up allies to join us in the shunning or destruction of one who crosses us in any way; we are called by Jesus to love our enemies into goodness.  In this sermon Jesus expands upon the Law as presented to and then by Moses.  Whereas the Old Law focuses on the rules of the Sinai covenant that unite the Hebrew people to hold them together, apart from the world, the New Law asks that we now focus on building our capacity to tolerate, accept and even advocate for the destitute . . . and those who harm us.  We are asked to see that these are the people who make up this new kingdom . . . these wounded and ousted people are our neighbors . . . these people are us.

God does not return like behavior, curse for curse, blow for blow.  He does not walk away when frustrated.  He does not turn away in disgust.  He does not curse us in anger.  He does not plot in hiding.  Rather, in spite of the fact that we reject him in that we refuse to love our enemies, he loves us all the same.  He waits infinitely and patiently for us to return to him.

Jesus knows how difficult all of this is for us; yet he lays down before us the thorniest challenge we will ever meet.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

And so we that God show us mercy . . . and that God show us how to act in mercy ourselves.

Lord, grant us mercy.  Mercy in the face of ugliness.  Mercy against cruelty.  Mercy before deception.  Mercy rather than retribution.  Mercy after all.  Mercy before for all.  Mercy for all.  Mercy in all.  Mercy in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 13, 2012.

Image from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/manifesto/0_preface.htm

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Deuteronomy 32: The Song of Moses

Second Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019

Moses

Yesterday we considered our Lenten Journey and how we might create for ourselves and our loved ones a physical sign of this promise of fidelity to the Living God who is Alive Among Us. Today we spend time with Moses’ words as he calls the Israelites to conversion and urges them to consider a change of heart and habit.  Moses calls his people, and he calls us, to a love that will endure forever. He calls us to love as God loves.

From commentary: In the style of the great prophets, the speaker is often God himself.  The whole song is a poetic sermon, having for its theme God’s benefits to Israel (vv 1-14) and Israel’s ingratitude and idolatry in turning to the gods of the pagans, which sins will be punished by the pagans themselves (vv 15-29); in turn, the foolish pride of the pagans will be punished, and the Lord’s honor will be vindicated (vv 30-43).  (Senior 222)

Who are these gods of the pagans to whom we turn?  Our obsession with immediate and empty gratification?  Our desire to put ourselves first and others last?

Jesus reminds us that in the Kingdom the world is turned on its head. The meek will inherit, the first will be last, what is empty will be full.

Where do we see our own foolish pride?   In the pumping up of self?  In the building of self rather than the building of Kingdom?

Jesus lays out for us the life and work of his disciples so that we might see that we are to act in servant leadership with salvific love. 

How is this foolish life punished?  The unwise are destined to become enslaved by the chains they put on others.  The reckless eventually find themselves enveloped in the same dangerous plots they weave for others.

Jesus shows us that forgiveness and compassion are the tools he uses to engender a love that endures forever and cannot be outdone. 

Moses makes a final appeal to the people, asking that they take to heart all the warning.  Let us too, take up the counsel to root out our foolish pride and banish false gods.  Let us climb our own Mount Hor to see the Promised Land from a distance . . . and then let us ask the Living God for safe passage in this journey of conversion of the heart.


A re-post from March 19, 2012. Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.222. Print.   

For more on The Song of Moses click on the image above or go to: http://www.revelation-today.com/song1.htm

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Deuteronomy 31:24-30: Alive Among You

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

We have spent the past few days looking at how the Israelites struggle to remain faithful to Yahweh, the Living God who led them from slavery to freedom, from the desert to a land of promise.  We can see ourselves in these stiff-necked people as we turn to and away from God as the season suits us.  We read the story of how an unassailable enemy eventually falls once the Israelites turn themselves over to Yahweh’s ways.  And we can see ourselves being delivered from adversaries we once thought unbeatable.  The Israelites are such simple and predictable people that Moses knows they will fall away from the covenant they have entered into; and so he tries to prepare them for the days when they will yield to temptation. We too, know that we will be lured by the many attractions the world holds for us . . . and so in our Lenten journey we may want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how to best cleave to the promises we make to this amazing God who persists in loving us into goodness.

Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.  The Law of the New Covenant, the New Testament, is not complicated.  It is brief, universal and compelling: Love one another as I have loved you.  Perhaps this weekend we can write out a simple promise to love God by loving others – even and especially our enemies – and put it in a special place that we will see each day as a reminder . . . a witness to ourselves.  A new ark of a new promise made in a new hope of conversion.

I already know how rebellious and stiff-necked you will beAnd the Living God loves us despite these faults.

Even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the LordAnd the Living God who loves us so fiercely has returned as the Christ to save us.

Assemble all your tribal elders and your officials before me, that I may speak these words for them to hear, and so may call heaven and earth to witness against you.  Perhaps we can gather our family or a group of trusted friends and agree together to turn ourselves toward the goal of living the law of love.  Perhaps we can support one another in our hope of softening our stiff necks, in our Lenten journey of conversion.

We are blessed to have the Lord always among us each day, all day.  As New Testament people we experience Eucharist with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the abiding protection and love of the Living God.  Let us take a moment today to think about the passage we make from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, the passage that we call Lent.  And let us pause to give thanks to the God who loves us so well . . . and who is always alive among us.


A re-post from March 16, 2012. 

If you are able, spend some time today with the  A Journey of Return – Repentance reflection on this blog.  Tomorrow we will ponder the words of Moses’ prayer: The Song of Moses

For more on The Ark of the Covenant click the image above or go to: http://bible-blog.org/what-is-the-significance-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant.php

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Joshua 23: A Final Plea

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Jericho

It is clear that Joshua understands his people when we read today’s Noontime scripture.  He has brought them from the edge of the wilderness into the fertile land that God has promised them.  He has led their troops, solved their squabbles, and he has kept them faithful to God as they live side by side with pagan peoples.  He has one final plea.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a time for reflection and introspection. Today we have an opportunity to consider that we stand before Joshua, a man who knows our story. Let us listen well.

Strive hard to observe and carry out all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, not straying from it in any way or mingling with these nations while they survive among you.  We might recall here the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat in Matthew 13:24-30 that we considered in our Continued Progress NoontimeGod does not call us to wipe out all who oppose or stifle us; rather, God asks that we learn to grow amid those who would pull us from our steady progress toward God.  Joshua calls likewise to us today, encouraging us to follow the voice of God, to grow in wisdom.  When we allow God’s wisdom to counsel us rather than succumb to our own petty fears and whims, we will have responded to this final plea.

At your approach you have driven our large and small nations, and to this day no one has withstood you.  One of you puts to flight a thousand because it is the Lord, your God, himself who fights for you, as he promised you.  We so quickly take credit for our successes and blame God for our failures.  It seems we cannot withstand the truth of our own existence.  When we remember the so many big and little triumphs of our lives in the light of God’s goodness instead of the brightness of our own effort, all anxiety, resentment and envy melt away.  We cease to compare our circumstances to those of others; we see our lives for what they are: a continuing response to – or a willful turning away from – God’s call.  Joshua asks us today to consider the origin of our security and achievement; and he reminds us that God alone governs all.  When we admit that God’s strength and fidelity are gifts we receive without even asking, we will have demonstrated our own willingness to respond to this final plea.

If you ever abandon God and ally yourselves with the remnant of these [pagan] nations while they survive among you, by intermarrying and intermingling with them, know for certain that . . . they will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes.  Joshua worries, of course, that his people will disappear into the societies that surround and live side by side with them.  He knows how easily we can be convinced that daily prayer and faithful worship have little effect upon us.  He understands our weaknesses because he has managed the in-fighting and back-stabbing that happens when people come together in a common cause.  He also understands our strengths because he has led a stiff-necked and cantankerous people successfully by following God’s counsel rather than the shallow wisdom of oracles; he has deferred to God’s plans and put away his own.  Joshua recalls the covenant they have agreed upon with God and that it invokes reward or doom; he reminds his people that God always keeps his promises. When we willingly turn away from the siren call of the idols that clutter our lives, we will give witness to our own commitment to God, and we will have answered this final plea.

This chapter closes with a description of God’s Wrath and before we become frightened by these images let us remember that Christ comes to fulfill the Old Testament Covenant and to replace it with a new Law of Love.  When we remember that the God of wrath we see described here is actually the God of Love that Christ shows us . . . we will have little trouble – and much reward – when we respond to Joshua’s final plea.


Adapted from a reflection posted on December 11, 2011.

Image from: http://www.biblebios.com/joshua/joshua.htm

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Exodus 18: A Task Too Heavy

Friday, March 1, 2019

J. James Tissot: Jethro and Moses

You are not acting wisely.  You will surely wear yourself out, and not only yourself but these people with you; you cannot do it alone.

We do not hear much about Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, but what we do hear makes much sense.  Only God is able to serve everyone all of the time; yet some of us act as if we are God.  We behave as if we have limitless energy and infinite empathy; and we forget that we must recharge ourselves.  We neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical heath in the service of others and we are surprised when our body, mind or spirit stalls.

Now, listen to me, and I will give you some advice, that God may be with you.

Some of us may have learned this lesson early in life or perhaps we have always had the knack for pacing ourselves.  Still, there are times when woes or sorrows or circumstances overtake us; and without our knowing how we sink into sadness or even depression.  When we ask more of ourselves than God does we will find ourselves undone.

We have often heard the phrase that God does not give us something we cannot handle and I have quietly disagreed with that, thinking of those among us who take our own lives.  The level of desperation is enormous for the besieged spirit that finds it can battle no longer.  There are tasks too heavy for us to take upon ourselves, and when this happens our only route of escape is the door that opens to Christ.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Once I was recovering from surgery and my neighbor came across the yard to bring me a dinner in a baking dish for my family and me.  When I politely said that she should not have gone to the trouble – knowing that she had her own family to feed with chores and work to tend to, she wisely replied: “You must allow me to do something for you otherwise you deprive me of my chance to do the right thing”. I remember her words every time I begin to say that I have a job handled, that I need no help, that I can go it alone.  And now we have the words of Jethro as well.

Why do you sit alone?

In the days that run up to a holiday, we can overwhelm ourselves with too many tasks that weary the soul and increase our burden.  When we celebrate a special day, we hope to experience hope and light; yet when we clutter our days with details that take away from the celebration we not only miss the rejoicing, we also sap our own energy.

The task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 

When we wake up tired or cannot sleep because we have over-taxed ourselves, we need to ask why we think we must work alone.  Do we find ourselves better than others?  Worse than others?  Outside of our comfort zone?  Overly concerned about details?  Unimpressed with the work of others?  Advent is a time to consider who we are, where we are, what we are doing and how we interact with God and others.  Today we have the opportunity to examine the tasks we have taken on to determine if some of them might be shared with others or with God . . . lest we find ourselves crushed by the weight of a task too heavy.


Image from: http://gorepent.com/2010/11/15/notes-for-exodus-chapter-18/

Adapted from a reflection posted on December 7, 2011.

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Sirach 45:1-5: The Old and the New

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Written on January 18 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Moses Pleading With Israel

“Moses manifested God’s power through miracles, God’s authority through the promulgation of the commandments and the law, and God’s mercy through the intimacy granted him by the Lord for his own faithfulness and meekness. The very personification of the old covenant, Moses was also a type of Christ, the Prophet and Legislator of the new.  God’s honor devolved upon him: Moses was actually God’s substitute in dealing with Pharaoh, hence God entrusted his own honor to Moses”. (Senior 867-868)

Power, authority, mercy, intimacy, faithfulness and meekness:

Here is a valuable lesson for us.

The sort of meekness that is the gracious humility shown by Christ is also the meekness that Moses demonstrated.  This meekness leads to faithfulness.

Jesus Teaching in the Temple

The sort of faithfulness that is constant and intentional is the fidelity shown by Christ to the father and to his flock.  This faithfulness leads to intimacy.

The sort of intimacy that shares and does not control is lived by Christ in every story we read about him.  This intimacy leads to mercy.

The sort of mercy that is compassion is personified by Christ.  This mercy leads to authority.

The sort of authority vested in Christ is the same authority we are granted when we follow Christ.  This authority leads to power.

This power is everlasting.  It comes from the father, is explained to us by the prophets, and is lived for us by Christ.

Moses is a personification of the Old Covenant, Jesus is the New.  God entrusts Christ’s honor to those who are meek, merciful and in intimate relationship with him.

Here is a valuable lesson for us.  Let us take it in today . . . and ponder it.


A re-post from November 1, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.867-868. Print.   

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