Thoughts for Tuesday 26th May, 2020

Psalm 99; Numbers 16:41-50; 1 Peter 4:7-11

 Tuesday 26 May - Rev. Jerry Eve

 Our Old Testament reading is one that meets our current crisis head on. It’s the story of an epidemic. The chapter begins with a rebellion against Moses and Aaron’s leadership that’s quashed by God, as God sends an earthquake to swallow up some of the rebels, and fire to burn the rest.

 These rebels (and there were hundreds of them) had not been happy that Moses hadn’t yet been able to bring them ‘into a fertile land’ (verse 14). And this was a feeling that persisted. For, despite how horrific it must have been for the rest of the Israelites to witness such carnage, the Israelites, we’re told, continued to complain against Moses. This time, God sends a plague instead.

 And if it wasn’t for a ritual of purification that was hastily arranged and performed by Moses and Aaron, everybody might have perished, and not just the 14,700 who did lose their lives (on top of all those who God had killed).

 And I put that last bit in italics, because I just can’t believe that God ever sends thunderbolts of lightening, or their equivalent, on anyone. God is Love. And, as Christians, I believe we would by straying into very dangerous territory indeed at this time if we were to suggest that God was anything but Love. The cause of this virus, and its spread, is a combination of natural causes and human behaviour; and has nothing to do with anything divine.

 Five chapters later in Numbers 21, for the same reason, we read that God sends poisonous snakes instead; when, Moses’ response is to make a bronze snake, put it on a pole, and then lift it up so that people, if they’d been bitten, could look at it and be healed. And, while there are those who claim that the origins of the World Health Organisation’s emblem lie in Greek mythology, Numbers 21:4-9 seems a much more likely source to me.

 Either way, though, I do have major problems with these two stories, and not just because I don’t believe in a God of destruction at all; but another problem is: isn’t what Moses was advocating (in both cases) examples of idolatry? How does a bronze snake differ from a gold bull-calf? (Exodus 32)

The second story is the one that is most well-known to us, and that’s because of John 3:14-15:

 “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Our prayer today isn’t a prayer as such, but some wise words about prayer suggested for us by Jim Hamilton:

 “Once a man was asked, ‘what

did you gain by regularly

praying to God?’

 

The man replied, ‘Nothing . . .

but let me tell you what I lost:

anger, ego, greed, depression,

insecurity, and fear of death.’

 

Sometimes, the answer to our

prayers is not gaining, but losing;

which ultimately is the gain.”              Amen.

 


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