Good morning! In today’s passage (Numbers 22-24) we get a delightful, whimsical extended narrative of Balak, Balaam, and Balaam’s ass, complete with angels and talking animals. It sounds nothing like the “fire and brimstone” stories we’ve read recently. I can readily imagine this being told around the campfire, a happy story about how the enemies of Israel conspire to bring about its destruction, but instead make for blessing instead.
Community United Church of Christ (Saint Paul Park, Minnesota)
Scripture: Mark 10:32-52
Our black cat Amos loves to be high up off the ground. There’s something about height that’s reassuring to him. When he was a kitten he used to climb up our bookshelves, the higher the better. We finally broke that habit, but he’s still frequently on top of the table, desk, or file cabinet, no matter how much we try to discourage him otherwise. Recently he’s discovered that I’ll permit him on my shoulders, because I made the mistake of doing that once, and now he can’t think of anything else. So now every morning he has a routine when I’m getting ready for the day: he hops up onto the nightstand, then to the back of the bed, and carefully balances there waiting for an opportunity when I’m walking by to leap onto my shoulders. It wouldn’t be so bad, except he has a full set of claws and he knows how to use them. Still, I indulge it often enough, because there’s nothing like having a soft, warm and purring mantle of fur on your neck in the wintertime. And besides, it’s hard to discourage him when this is his natural inclination. Amos instinctively seeks out the high places of comfort and security. Maybe cats are more like people than we realize.
Good morning! Today in Numbers 20-21 we continue to see narratives of Hebrew disobedience and divine judgment, only this time they impact the destiny of Moses and Aaron. We also see the beginning of Hebrew conquests.
Good morning! Our sojourn in the wilderness with the Israelite people continues today in Numbers 17-19, where we read several stories that emphasize the importance of Aaron and the other priests, as well as other ritual observances and statutes.
Good morning! Both Numbers 15 and 16 today show what happens when people break the divine commandments, and the punishments seem to far outweigh the transgressions. We’re given opportunity here to continue wrestling with the ancient Hebrew understanding of God’s ultimate holiness and unapproachability on human terms.
Good morning! Today in Numbers 13-14 we get a first encounter between the Israelite tribes and the inhabitants of Canaan. The reaction to early espionage reveals the lack of Hebrew resolve, causes God to reconsider helping these people, and consigns the Israelites to a full forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Good morning! Starting today (Numbers 11-12) and going for fifteen chapters, we’ll be traveling in the wilderness with the Hebrews until they are on the cusp of Canaan (the final ten chapters). This middle third of Numbers generally describes rebellions against Israelite leaders through the wilderness. A common theme is the anger and judgment of God against mistrusting Israelites, while in Numbers 12 we perceive how the writer(s) of Numbers want us to understand the relationships between Miriam, Aaron and Moses.