God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4 - Numbers 21-22: Israel is a Roving, Whining Bunch

Today’s Reading: Numbers 21-22

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Israel is a large roving group of people. They're also a whiney group of people.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The king of Arad took some Israelites hostage. The people pledged to destroy Arad if God helped them.
The people complained to God about the wilderness. God punished them with snakebites and had Moses build a bronze snake to heal the afflicted.
Israel defeated other inhospitable kings.
Balak, king of Moab, wanted Balaam, a priest of God, to curse the Israelites. Balaam confers with God and goes. God is angry. He sends an angel to kill Balaam three times. Balaam's donkey protects him. Balaam punishes the donkey. The donkey speaks to Balaam and shows him his wrong. Balaam apologizes.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The people of Israel do not learn from their mistakes.

These people really do not understand that they are in the wilderness because of their own mistakes. Moses has to once again defend the people and save them from their own inability to accept their fate. God has Moses create a bronze snake to protect them (remember the snake—it will come up again in a few months). At least they help us understand God's patience. God is very, very patient.

There is something going on in Balaam's story that we do not understand.

I'll admit it. I do not understand this story. First, there is a non-descendent of Abraham who is a priest. God tells Balaam to go with the emissaries then gets angry and sends an angel to kill Balaam for going. That's really strange. Then Balaam's donkey not only saves him—it talks to him. And Balaam acts as though it were normal.
This is a very strange story.

Balaam is not an Israelite but is a priest of God.

This part of the story sounds normal to us today. We are used to God working through people from around the world. However, the people reading this at the time it was written would have found the story strange and mildly insulting. Israel considers all other cultures beneath them because they are God's Chosen People. This small part helps them (and us) realize that God doesn't work that way. God will use all people willing to set things right on this earth for His purposes regardless of their religious identity. We do not decide who God works through or how this is done.
Is your church a whiney group of people? Leave a comment in the section below or on the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ Facebook page. Or better yet, if you are whiney, don't.
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