Get out your pruning shears! (John 15:1-2)
When Wendy and I first moved to Northern Ireland in October 2017 we brought very little of our possessions with us. Financially, shipping all of our possessions across the world was just not worth it. And so, when we heard the news that our initial visa had been accepted and I had permission to come and work in Northern Ireland, we very quickly began to sift through all our possessions to determine which ones we would keep and which one’s we would have to give away or donate to charity.
Arriving in Northern Ireland with very little stuff was in a way quite liberating. Obviously we needed some essentials, which my Mom had collected from various charity shops in preparation for our arrival. And we also received some generous gifts from a few congregation members that helped us to begin to create a home.
But having left many of our possessions and our furniture behind in South Africa, made us realise that one’s happiness does not ultimately depend on one’s stuff. It was a period in which we experienced the truth of the teaching of Jesus that “one’s life does not consist of the abundance of one’s possessions” (Luke 12:15), and that in fact having less possessions can indeed be freeing and liberating.
Now since our first arrival in Northern Ireland, five years and 3 months have passed, and as happens in life, during that time the number of our possessions has once again begun to grow. Our good intentions of wishing to live a simpler life have slowly been eroded away. Up until recently I should say! Because a few weeks ago Wendy sprung into action and began a program of clearing out! Items that we have not used in 4-5 years have all come under her scrutiny and a few trips to drop things off at the charity shop have already taken place.
My specific weakness is with books! Wendy’s desire for clearing out some of the unnecessary stuff has made me begin to look at some of the books on my shelves in my study. I have not quite got there yet, but I can see that the time come for me to look critically once again at the number of books on my shelves.
Talking of books on my book shelves, I picked up one the other day, called the Rules of Life by Richard Templar. Rule 46 is entitled Prune Your Stuff Regularly. If I was an evangelical Christian, I might have thought that God was speaking to me at that moment! And indeed maybe God was.
Richard Templar writes the following words of wisdom:
Collecting clutter, clutters your home, your life and your mind. A cluttered home is symbolic of cluttered thinking.
He goes on to say that pruning your stuff on a regular basis gives you a chance to get rid of anything that is useless, broken, out of date, un-cool, uncleanable, redundant and ugly. He says that having a good clear out refreshes you, revitalises you, makes you conscious of what you are collecting – and anything that makes one more conscious, is indeed a good thing.
He suggests that one of the keys to living with success and clarity about our purpose in life comes in the ability to prune stuff, clear the clutter, and to sort the wheat from the chaff… which is a phrase that in fact comes from Jesus (Matt 3:12).
He suggests that often those who are having trouble getting lift-off in their lives are often those still running on the tarmac of their lives clutching black plastic sacks full of useless stuff.
As Wendy and I discovered when we first moved to Northern Ireland, there is indeed an unburdening effect that comes with pruning. As Richard Templar writes: You have more space in your home, a feeling of being more in control and you get rid of that slightly overwhelmed feeling that comes with having piles of stuff accumulating everywhere. But this also doesn’t mean that you have to live in a completely spotless house full of designer furniture and minimalist styling. Trying to live in the midst of perfection can be as emotionally overwhelming as having too much stuff.
All Richard Templar is suggesting is that if you want to find our what’s holding you back in life, starting by looking in the cupboard, under the sink, under your bed, in your wardrobe, spare room, or garage.
And it is a message that not only applies to our stuff. It is a message that could just as easily apply to other dimensions of our lives. Is it possible to become overwhelmed in life by having too many things in once’s diary, especially things that are just no longer life-giving?
Is it also necessary sometimes to consider doing a clear-out of some outdated thinking and beliefs that if we examined them closely we would realise are no longer serving us as they once did?
We all need a clear out, sometimes of our external world, sometimes in the way we fill our diary, but also sometimes of our internal world.
Today is interestingly, the first Sunday in Lent. Lent is traditionally a period in which Christian are invited to do some introspection, to consider our lives more closely, to turn from certain attitudes and behaviours that undermine or get the way of our relationship with the Divine and the abundant, joyful life that is our birthright as children of the Divine.
In the Gospel passage that is set for today, Jesus is pictured as radically pruning his life for a period of 40 days as he goes into retreat in the desert. It is there that he seeks to determine what is really important in his life, determining what his true purpose is in response to his spiritual awakening that happened in the moment of his baptism.
And he begins to find clarity of purpose when he returns to a life of utter simplicity. The cluttered thinking in his head becomes clear. The temptations that would make him veer off in a wrong direction become plain to him, and from this new found clarity, Jesus is ready to begin to engage again with the world, but now with a clearer sense of mission or purpose than he had before.
What overwhelms you in your life at this time? What kind of pruning may need to happen in your life today, or in the next few weeks or months? Do you need to prune some of the stuff in your cupboards or garage as Richard Templar suggests? Or is it the way you spend your time that needs to get pruned? Or do you need to carefully question or examine some old thoughts and beliefs that hold you back? Or maybe for you it is quite literally the roses in your garden that are waiting for you to attack them with your pruning shears.
In John’s Gospel we read these words of Jesus: John 15: 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”. What could these words mean for your today? Amen.
Reflecting on Joshua
This coming week marks the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the 24th February. Thinking back to a year ago, it is hard not to admire the courage of the people of Ukraine as their cities and homes and infrastructure have been bombed. I was particularly struck by the courage of Zelensky, who, when the US offered to evacuate him to safety, under great threat to his own life he chose rather to stay in Ukraine and lead his people in resistance. We will come back to the theme of courage a little later.
Over the last few weeks we have been doing short overviews of the first 5 books of the Bible. Last week, as we came to the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, in which the people of Israel stand poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses gives his final lengthy speech. He passes the mantle of leadership onto Joshua, he climbs a mountain to see the promised land from a distance and then he dies.
Today we turn to the book of Joshua which picks up the story from there as Joshua leads the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
As one reads the contents of the book of Joshua, one can’t help being struck by the brutality and ruthlessness of it as the Israelites begin their invasion at the city of Jericho by utterly destroying all that was in the city, slaughtering all the inhabitants, men, women, children, the elderly, oxen, sheep, and donkeys. There is some pretty brutal stuff in the book, not all of which would make for good bed-time reading for children, and a reminder that not everything in the Bible is worthy of being emulated in the literal sense and that many of the stories fall far below the values, the vision and the teachings of Jesus.
But thankfully, for most of Christian history, the story of the Book of Joshua has not primarily been read literally. Ratherfor much of Christian history it has been read allegorically, symbolically and metaphorically. And when one does so we begin to discover underlying themes that can speak to us today as followers of Jesus who comes to us not with the sword of violence but rather with the sword of love and truth as the prince of peace.
Firstly, the theme or metaphor of the Promised Land is a very powerful one in scripture. The phrase ‘Promised Land’ is able to capture and inspire the human heart as it expresses the deep desire and dream of every human heart for a fuller, more meaningful life, a life of greater joy, harmony and abundance. We all long for a better fuller, more meaningful life… and in this sense, every human heart has a longing for a Promised Land of some description.
But the real Promised Land is not always primarily a change in our outward circumstances, although sometimes a change in our outer circumstances may sometimes be necessary. If you are in a situation that is oppressive or abusive, then, like the Israelites who escape from Egypt, we may need to consider a change in our outer circumstances. But the real Promised Land is first and foremost an inner spiritual reality. It is firstly the Promised Land of the heart, a land flowing with the milk and honey from within where we discover the love and joy of God welling up from within. It is a love and a joy that is not dependent on having lots and lots of stuff or even los and lots of money. The message of Jesus has always been that the deepest happiness is ultimately an inner spiritual happiness, the Promised Land of the heart and the spirit and not in the abundance of our possessions.
Secondly in the story, we encounter the repeated theme of needing to take courage. The Israelites soon discover that entering the Promised Land is not just plain sailing. It doesn’t just come on a platter. The Israelites are met with opposition and they have to do battle with Canaanite Kings who make alliances and try to oppose the Israelites.
The story of Joshua is a reminder that entering and claiming the Promised Land of God’s Love requires courage. It takes courage to confront our inner demons, our unhealed trauma’s, and our unexamined beliefs and the inner voices that undermine our deeper joy. It takes courage to be willing to grow, to be willing to face life’s challenges, to be willing to conquer our fears.
It got me thinking, where does courage actually come from? When we find ourselves at our lowest points in life, we find that courage is not always something we can drum up from within ourselves. Often in life, a little child can only take the risk that courage requires because he or she has the presence, the patience and the encouragement of a loving parent ready to stand beside them or help catch them, or perhaps pick them up when they fall. And so it is in the story of Joshua, the Israelites can only ultimately take courage because of the assurance that God it with them to ‘en-courage’ in other words, to put courage into them. And so, a large part of courage is about grace, having a cheer-leader on the side encouraging us. From a spiritual perspective our courage comes from knowing that there is a greater power, wisdom and presence with us and within us from which we can draw strength beyond ourselves. As Paul says in Philipians (4:13): “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. The Christ he is referring to is the Christ that dwells within each of us (Col 1:27).
Lastly, at the end of the book, after the land has been divided up and portioned out to each of the 12 tribes of Israel, Joshua gives his closing speech to the people of Israel, he encourages them not to follow the religious practices of the Canaanite in the land (which included child sacrifice), but to follow the One who had led them out of bondage in Egypt. In the midst of this speech he delivers these powerful words: “Choose this day whom you will serve!”
It is a challenge for each of us to consider. Who or what are we serving in life? Are we serving the wants and desire of our lower selves or the deeper desires our higher selves, the image of God within? Are we serving the promotion of life and love that brings benefit and value not just to ourselves, but to others as well? Or are we choosing a lesser or a more limited good that is not ultimately life giving to ourselves and others.
It reminds me of the 1979 song by Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re going to have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re going to have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re going to have to serve somebody
You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.
But you’re going to have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re going to have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re going to have to serve somebody
You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be working in a barbershop, You may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir
Exploring Deuteronomy: What’s it all about?
Today we come to the 5th Book of the Bible, the Book of Deuteronomy, which means 22nd law”, because in it we find a repeat of the 10 commandments and many other laws in the earlier books.
In the story so far, book of Numbers left us with the second generation of Israelite's poised to enter the Promised Land.
But before they do so, Moses gives his final speech to them, which is what the Book of Deuteronomy is all about.
In the first 3 chapters of the book, Moses gives a blow by blow summary of the events of the book of Numbers, reminding the people of Israel of their rebellions, but also of God’s ultimate protection of them. This includes protection from giants like the Anakim and King Og of Bashan who is described as having a bed post of iron over 13 feet long.
From Chapter 4 to chapter 11, Moses calls the new generation of Israelite's to be more faithful to God than their parents had been. He reminds them of the 10 Commandments and gives them the words of the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.”
It is a passage quoted by Jesus as the centre of his own teachings when asked by a scribe what he regarded as the greatest commandment. He joins it with the passage from Leviticus “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.
The middle section of the book is a restatement of many of the laws of Moses from earlier as well as a few new laws thrown in for good measure.
Some scholars suggest that some of the laws contained within it are of a much later time than the time of Moses and represents a reinterpretation of the Laws of Moses in light of the new challenges and changing circumstances of the people of Israel.
There are laws about worship, and also laws about leaders in Israel who are to be subject to the laws of God. This is in contrast to many of their surrounding neighbours whose Kings and Leaders were regarded as being Divine and therefore not subject to any law. But this was not to be so with Israel. There are also a variety of other laws governing various aspects of their lives.
Tim Mackie from the Bible Project suggests that these Laws should not primarily be compared to our own modern laws and culture, but should rather first be compared to the laws of the surrounding nations. I think this is a helpful suggestion, for when we do so we will have a better sense of the stirrings of God’s Spirit, light and grace among the people of Israel. But again, I do not believe that it means that these laws were dictated to Moses by God, but rather that in the midst of their religious wrestling a dawning consciousness of God’s wisdom, justice and love were slowly beginning to emerge, mixed in with many other laws that are really quite primitive and barbaric.
Again from a modern Western perspective, some laws in Deuteronomy are extremely disturbing, like forcing a man to marry a young women whom he has raped and never being able to divorce her. On the one hand it does represent the man being forced to take responsibility for his actions, but it completely ignores how the woman might have felt about being forced into a marriage with a rapist that she can never get out of. Again as with Leviticus and Numbers there are laws commanding the stoning of transgressors, laws that are just too brutal for us to imagine being acted out.
There is also law instructing the Levites and Priests to make use of Urim and the Thummim and to keep them in their breastplates. These were two stones used for divining yes and no answers to help in solving disputes and making judgements between people. If you had to use them today, most evangelical Christians would probably regard you as engaging in some kind of voodoo or witch-craft, but there they are in Deuteronomy 33.
There is also a law that sounds a bit like it has been taken from the Islamic State instructing the cutting off a woman’s hand if she should try and intervene in a fight between her husband an another man and if in the process she “...putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets”. The instruction is: “Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her." (Deuteronomy 25:11-12).
And also on a similar theme and using euphemistic language we read: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 23:1) Now for an ancient people who practiced circumcision, without the tools and help of modern medicine, I imagine that quite a number of men could have found themselves in this unfortunate position of being excluded from the congregation from the Lord.
And yet despite some strange and sometimes terrible laws by our standards, there is also again, as with the book of Leviticus, wonderful light that begins to shine through as well as we see an ancient people beginning to wrestle with questions of fairness and justice and care for one’s neighbor as well as the poor, the widow and the orphan and even at times a care and a concern for foreigners based on the fact that they themselves once lived as foreigners in Egypt. And so we find:
Laws commanding the Israelites to show care and responsibility towards their neighbors and family members: “You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother.“ 22:1
Laws about not looking down upon or despising foreigners: “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. 23:7
Laws about caring for runaway slaves: If a slave has taken refuge with you do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose, Do not oppress them. (23:15ff)
Laws against not giving false witness and making sure there are at least two witnesses in a legal process. (19:1ff)
Laws about the Sabbath year, where every seven years, someone who had come upon hard times would have debts erased, property restored to give them a fresh chance at life, as well as laws about not being hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward a poor relative.
In the final section of Moses’s speech, he says to them that if the people listen to and obey all the laws he has outlined to them (both the strange ones and the not so strange), it would go well with them in the land they are about to enter. But if they failed to listen and disobeyed these laws, it would go badly with them, and they would even find themselves exiled from the land. He puts this in the language of blessings and curses and in the language of life and death.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice.”
If one ignores some of the strange and dodgy laws in Deuteronomy, one has to admit that there is a basic wisdom expressed in these words, that generally, a life lived responsibly, according to basic ethical values will on the whole bring a life of stability and blessing. But Moses’ words are also a simplification of a much greater complexity, because it doesn’t take living in this world too long to discover that sometimes good people suffer the most terrible fortunes and at other times crooked people prosper seemingly without consequence.
For the most part, much of the Old Testament operates with this simplistic theology of suffering. Obey and it will go well. Disobey and you will reap disaster.
Later Biblical writers, like the writer of the book of Job wrestles with these complexities and come to the conclusion that the question of suffering is much more complex.
The same is true in Jesus day. Most operated from this very simplistic notion that those who are suffering are being punished by God for doing something wrong. But Jesus challenges this notion on a few occasions, and in the end, he challenges this notion most especially through his own suffering and crucifixion.
The Book of Deuteronomy ends with Moses passing the mantle of leadership on to Joshua. He climbs a mountain so that he can see the Promised Land at a distance, and then he dies. And we are left with the questions ringing in our ears: Will the Israelite's choose life or will they choose death? But ultimately those questions are directed at you and me, the reader: In my life, in my living, am I making wholesome choices that are life-giving and life enhancing to myself and others? Am I choosing life or death in the choices I am making. And the same could be asked collectively, Are we making choices that are life-giving and life enhancing for our collective life on the planet? Or are we making collective short-term choices that in the long run will undermine our common life on this planet. And we hear the words of Moses exhorting us: “Choose life, that you and your offspring may live!”
Wrestling with Numbers
Readings: Numbers 21:4-9 & Numbers 15:32-36
The Book of Numbers is the 4th book of the Bible. It tells the story of the 40 years of wandering in the desert and therefore continues the story from the end of the book of Exodus. (The book of Leviticus was a kind of interlude that was meant to indicate to the Israelite's how they could draw close to a God who is Holy.
The book of Numbers begins with the numbering of the people of Israel in a census (hence the title Numbers). The Jewish name for the book is: “Into the Desert” and it more accurately describes the content of the book which tells of the 40 wandering of the Israelite's in the Wilderness before they finally enter the promised land. In those wanderings God leads them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
In the central section of the book we read of the Israelite's challenges, struggles and rebellions not just against Moses but also against God. The first major rebellion comes early on when scouts are sent into the Promised Land and all but two of them say it is too dangerous to enter. In God’s wrath at their lack of courage and faith, he condemns them to 40 years of wandering before the next opportunity to enter the Promised Land and that none of the first generation, including Moses would be able to enter the Promised Land but only those of the second generation would be able to do so.
And that is where the book ends, with another numbering of the people as the second generation from the Exodus now finally prepare to enter the Promised Land.
Again we are left with a number of questions? How historical is the book? Did it all happen just as it is written or is the purpose of the book more than a factual history of events in the past?
Clearly there are many Christians who would read Numbers as literal history, but again, there are some challenges to reading it in this way.
The first major challenge is the numbers of people recorded in the book. As with the book of Exodus, the number of fighting men in the book is recorded as 600 000, which suggests that at a minimum there were around 2 million Israelite's wandering around the Sinai peninsula. When compared to population levels of other parts of the middle east at that time there are many who would suggest that these numbers are almost certainly an exaggeration. Logistically speaking it would also be a little bit like the whole population of Northern Ireland wandering around the island of Ireland for 40 years (In fact the Sinai peninsula is only about 2/3’s the size of the island of Ireland).
Secondly, one is left wondering what kind of a God this is who in chapter 15:32ff orders someone who is found gathering firewood on the Sabbath to be stoned to death. It is an act of terrible brutality, not just condoned by what I would call the God character in the book, but in fact instructed by him. If God gave such instructions to the Israelite's in the past, how could we be sure that it is not God sanctioning the actions of the Taliban the next time they order a law breaker to be stoned to death? If we condemn such acts of brutality today, why do many Christians today not question such acts of brutality in the Bible? As I said last week in the reflection on Leviticus, it is quite inconceivable to me to believe that the God revealed by Jesus would ever order anyone, at any time to be put to death in such a violent and barbaric way. If as Paul writes in Colossians, that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, then this story is perhaps the first sign for me that not everything contained within the book of Numbers is literal history.
This raises wider questions about the nature of God portrayed in the book. The image of God in the book comes across quite often as uppity and cantankerous, being quick to lose patience and quick to strike out in anger and ready to walk out in his relationship with the Israelite's. On a number of occasions, Moses is portrayed as having to plead and intercede on behalf of the people of Israel that God should not abandon them or punish them too harshly, almost like a family member trying to plead with a husband or father who has lost patience with his wife and children and is ready to walk out on them. But in the New Testament, we read that God is Love, and in 1 Cor 13, Paul describes what love is like: that love is patient and kind. It is not easily angered etc… In other words there is a maturity about Love that acts with wisdom and consideration and that doesn’t just throw its toys out the cot when things don’t go it’s way. Again if in the New Testament Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”, then either God has changed and matured over the years or the descriptions of God given in the book of Numbers are not necessarily always accurate reflections of the true nature of God as made known by Jesus.
On a similar note, I must confess that I personally don’t believe in a God who condones the mass killing of women and boys as an act of war or the keeping of 32000 virgins as plunder after one’s enemies have been defeated as we read in Numbers 31.
And so for me, when I read the book of Numbers I don’t read it as factual history that is correct in all it’s details.
From my perspective, the book of Numbers firstly represents an ancient and often primitive people reflecting back over their past and asking the question ‘How did we make it through that period in our history?’ And in response to that question they told stories, (I would say) many centuries later about quails in the desert, pillars of cloud and fire, and water coming from a rock to communicate their conviction that if it were not for God’s providential hand they would never have survived.
That is a common human experience. Many of us have experiences of looking back and wondering ‘How did I get through that time in my life?’ often with a deep sense that somehow if it were not for a greater guiding and sustaining presence in our lives, sometimes with inexplicable co-incidences that happened on the way, we couldn’t have made it through alone.
Apart from this, the purpose of the book of Numbers, I believe, was intended to be for the Jewish descendants of the ancient Israelite's, a kind of extended parable meant to communicate certain moral or archetypal lessons to them rather than simply to record literal history.
What might some of these moral or perhaps archetypal lessons that might still be relevant to us today?
Firstly, the book suggests that living with a constant rebellious spirit and a lack of courage in life, can delay the attainment of our greater goals in life. According to the story, soon after of leaving Mount Sinai, the Israelite's are given their first opportunity to enter the Promised Land. Their courage fails. They don’t have faith that God will be with them. They rebel against Moses and attempt to replace him with a new leader who will lead them back to Egypt. The long and short of it, is that they are condemned to wandering the desert for another 40 years, (which is the ancient Hebrew way of saying that they ended up wandering in the desert a lot longer than they should have.) And so their progress is hindered by their rebellious and uncooperative spirit. I wonder how often that might be true also for us? How often do we become stumbling blocks to our own progress in life?
Secondly, it suggests that sometimes we can look back to the past with rose-coloured glasses. In the story the people grumble and complain and they long to go back to what they remember as the comfort and security of Egypt when in actual fact it had been a place of abuse and oppression. Do we live with rose coloured glasses trying to escape back to an idealised past or do we seek to live with courage and determination in the reality of the present, the only moment in which we can truly live.
Thirdly, I wonder if there is a lesson that suggests that failing to make time for rest will bring on an early death. If we go back to that barbaric and brutal story in chapter 15 when the God character in the story condemns a man to death by stoning when he is found gathering firewood on the Sabbath and begin to read it symbolically and metaphorically rather than literally is it possible that this story might become for us a kind of parable that suggests that life without rest brings a kind of a death in our lives. Many people today who work for long hours without a day off or a proper weekend face huge stress and health risks. In some ways it is the danger and the downside of what is sometimes referred to as the Protestant work ethic. If it becomes a badge of honour that we wear too proudly and is not balanced by rest, it begins to bear its own destructive consequences.
And that brings us to a fourth lesson, that our actions in life have consequences. And for me that is what those stories about God’s wrath and punishments were seeking to communicate. In life, all of our actions have consequences and part of our growth to becoming whole and responsible human beings is considering the consequences of our actions. I personally do not believe believe in a God literally sends a plague venomous snakes to punish and kill people as we read in Numbers 21, but I do believe that metaphorically speaking, we can often feel afflicted by what feel like metaphorical fiery snakes which are the consequences of actions that have come back to bite us. And that if we wish to be healed from our suffering, it needs to become an object of our contemplation like looking upon that Bronze snake which Moses lifts on a pole. We need to take time to ponder and look deeply into the causes of our suffering before we can be healed from it.
In closing, for many Christians from the earliest times, this image of the Bronze Snake being lifted on a pole by Moses, has been used as an early metaphor to interpret the death of Jesus, as we would find in John 3, suggesting that Jesus’ crucifixion is like that bronze serpent that has been lifted up and that somehow inexplicably the death of Jesus has the ability to bring healing and life to those who take the time to look upon it and meditate deeply upon it. When we take time to reflect deeply on Christ’s act of selfless, sacrificial love it has the power to transform and break open the hardness of our hearts. As we often sing: Love so amazing, so Divine demands my soul, my life, my all.
These are a few thoughts on the book of Numbers. They are certainly not a final word on the book. They are just my own reflections as I have wrestled with the book seeking to make sense of it in light of my own faith as one seeking to be a follower of Jesus. Other interpreters might bring forth other rich interpretations of it’s potential meaning and relevance for us today Amen.
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