Sunday, June 11, 2006

Numbers

Over the last week or two I've been working through Numbers in the company of Raymond Brown's BST. I've not yet finished, so these are some thoughts on the road...

Mo said I was brave when he noticed. He may have a point, but this is a remarkable book. Its notable for its title - Numbers. Hardly something that makes it appealing, unless like Rosemary you're a maths geek. Alternative titles are available however. One could call it something like in the wilderness or And God Said.

In the wilderness locates the events. These are the wanderings of God's people in the desert. They could have entered into the promised land, but they declined the opportunity. And then attempting to God in their own strength fell under God's punishment. And the inheritance would wait for the next generation.

And God said captures the events also. God is always speaking in the book. And everything rests upon whether or not they listen to what God says. Frequently they didnm't listen to his clear and simple words. I found myself thinking how stupid they were to disregard what God says. But then I remember that I also am a fool who easily thinks he knows better than God.

The book carries some strange events. Many die at God's hands for their rebellion against his word. Such events seem obscure and remote to us. But this is our God. This is our Creator, the one who spoke the Universe into existence. These are not words to be trifled with. He is not a God to be mocked, and yet so often I do.

Numbers sends me to the Word incarnate. The one who is the ultimate revelation from God. The one whose glory was revealed as he was punished in our place for a purpose. Not just to forgive us, or acquit us, but for the purpose of bringing us to God.

Being God's people, in God's place is a great hope, and yet we live in a generation that thinks otherwise. Pete Lowman reflects at bethinking.org:
...the news media do indeed reflect the world, but they reflect it selectively; the selections and prioritizations are based on assumptions ('these are the kinds of things that deserve to be recorded') that themselves constitute a belief-system. And by continually flooding us with summaries of 'how the world is' that are based on that system, they train us, day after day, to accept its scale of priorities. EU budget: important. People choosing heaven over hell, being 'born again', possibility of God calling a decaying UK very directly back to Himself, maybe even a last warning: marginal.
As Israel faced the prospect of going to battle for the Promised Land several thousand years ago it was daunting. On the one hand they had reports of its appeal, but also of the might of its inhabitants. They had God's promise that it would be their land, and yet they choose not to listen to his word... condemning themselves to his judgement, and to live in the wilderness... when they could have known glory and joy.

I continue to read what God says in Numbers... pray that I would listen. At the start of Relay 3 Anna reminded us that God is still God and the gospel is still true... and further, that God's Word is more sure than that the morning will come:
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

1 comment:

  1. On the news media thing... As a devoted reader of the Economist I often have to remember to be discerning, because its prime measure of a countries success or failure is always economic growth. Love of God and neighbour barely registers as of any importance.

    I guess it is unsurprising if you imagine God is remote - probably both powerless and mute - whereas is clear that money talks. However as the Pentateuch is so clear on: God is sovereign, and also has plenty to say.

    Good post.

    ReplyDelete