Thoughts for Friday 21st August 2020

Psalm 124; Genesis 49:29-50:14; 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

 

Friday 21 August

 

I asked recently about the significance of the numbers used in the accounts we have of the feeding of the four thousand and the feeding of the five thousand. I don’t think we can always read too much into these, but it is helpful, I think, to know that forty, for example, when it is used as a measure of time, is thought by some to mean ‘ a long time’; and that seven (as in the story of Creation) is thought to mean ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’.

 

And so, here in our Old Testament reading, at Genesis 50:3 and 50:10, we have a lengthy period of embalming followed by just the perfect period of mourning for Jacob aka Israel.

 

Goshen is a place in the Nile Delta, and Atad means thorn, presumably because (in the same way that the name Busby comes from ‘a bushy place’) thorns grew there. It’s a word that is used elsewhere in the Bible, and one of those places is at Judges 9 where we have Jothan’s Story of the Bramble-King. It’s sometimes said to be the earliest parable, and I’ve often thought it deserves to be better known. It’s a bit like one of Aesop’s fables, but was told by Gideon’s youngest son after another of Gideon’s sons called Abimelech had put every other son of Gideon’s put to death. It’s told as a dire warning then against his half-brother:

 

Once upon a time the trees went out to choose a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ The olive tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my oil, which is used to honour gods and human beings.’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be our king.’ But the fig tree answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my good sweet fruit.’ So the trees then said to the grapevine, ‘You come and be our king.’ But the vine answered, ‘In order to govern you, I would have to stop producing my wine, that makes gods and human beings happy.’ So then all the trees said to the thorn bush, ‘You come and be our king.’

 

And the thorn bush answered, ‘Yes, if you really want me too.’

 

Paul could be a bit prickly at times as well, and here at 2 Corinthians 10 he demonstrates this by calling some people ‘stupid’ (see verse 12). He mentions boasting, and elsewhere in his epistles this is something he’s really quite good at. But here, I do like the reference he makes to a passage in Jeremiah 9, which I’d like to suggest we use as our prayer for today. So, let us pray:

 

The Lord says,

“The wise should not boast of their wisdom,
    nor the strong of their strength,
    nor the rich of their wealth.
   If any want to boast,
    they should boast that they know and understand me,
because my love is constant,
    and I do what is just and right.
These are the things that please me.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”

 

Amen.


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