Tuesday, March 19th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 19th: Numbers 14:10b-24; Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
In the story from the Book of Numbers, God becomes so angry with His people that He is prepared to destroy them and start anew. Moses will then not only remain the law-giver. Moses will replace Abraham as the new father of God’s people. It is the intercession of this one man who changes God’s mind. Moses pleads Israel’s case before the bench of God’s judgment, and God relents.
It is most definitely not only the Jewish people who fail God repeatedly. There is a lesson here for all people of faiths. The honesty of this story’s self-awareness needs to be respected and repeated.
There is far too much religious arrogance in our world today that arises from a suspected perfection, and it is leading to prejudice and violence. I for one have had enough of zealots who cannot convince others to believe by word and example and who must resort instead to violence. What a perfect example of the weakness and impotence of such people and the fantasies of their god.
Rather than an embarrassing line of religious extremists jumping at the chance to imagine and even implement God’s fury, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Christian white nationalists, Muslim terrorists, Jewish extremists, Hindu nationalists, whatever, Holy Scripture gives us the compassionate example of Moses turning down the divinely sanctioned chance to seek revenge. Moses pleads for God’s mercy on the very people who had attacked him and his leadership.
This story, shared among people who recognized honestly that they were not always faithful, must have been reassuring. And its lesson is meant for all of us who are part of the one People of God. It is reassuring to be able to believe that the fate of the many may be swayed in God’s court by the charity of even a few, hopefully, prayerfully, a few of us.
Let us remember Paul’s words today: “Now these things occurred as examples for us.” Let us not join in the glee over judgment and rapture because maybe that glee is a sign that such people are not on the right side of judgment and rapture. Rather, let us pray for others, even others who disagree with us, as did Moses. Let that be an example for us. May we be compassionate believers, and may that religious example help others to be like Caleb who was privileged by God to march into the Promised Land.
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