Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 15th: Numbers 14:10b-24; Psalm 105:1-42; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is the Ides of March. On this date in 44BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated, bringing about the end of the Roman Republic and leading to the rise of Caesar Augustus and a long line of Roman Emperors. The death of one man on the Ides of March had implications for the history of a whole civilization.
In today’s first reading, this story is played in the opposite direction. The death of a multitude is averted through the life of one man. According to Numbers, Yahweh’s anger had grown so fierce against the people of Israel that He was prepared to destroy all of them. It was only Moses’ more rational voice that calmed Yahweh’s fury. Moses plays to Yahweh’s pride, saying, “‘Now if you kill this people all at one time, then the nations who have heard about you will say, “It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them that he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.”’”
Scholars attribute this account to the J-source of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, commonly known as the Books of Moses. J is the oldest contributor and J’s “Yahweh” is unconventional. J’s Yahweh is related, surprisingly, as all-too-human. Harold Bloom in his The Book of J calls J’s Yahweh “impish.” The God Yahweh is, just as surprisingly, relatable because of this.
For example, Genesis 1 is the P-author’s creation account and God is transcendent and so powerful that all God needs do is speak and it becomes reality. Compare P’s God with J’s Yahweh in Genesis 2, the God who experiments with creating companions for Adam and fails several times, then stumbles upon Eve so that Adam declares finally, “‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh ...’” (2:23)
There is something to be said about J’s Yahweh. God for J is most importantly relatable. God is powerful enough to annihilate a whole people, and God is burdened enough by pride that Moses can change God’s mind by playing to God’s pride, but anyone reading J can understand this God. This is the God in Genesis 3 who strolls through the Garden of Eden casually enjoying its beauty. J’s Yahweh has faults, human faults, but more importantly J’s Yahweh is available to a people in Numbers who are landless, wandering tribes surrounded by the unknown and the hostile. J’s Yahweh may create theological difficulties, but if understood in its context, J’s Yahweh worries less about theologians and more about the needs of real-world believers who need to be able to reach out to a God they can connect with.
We, likewise, live in uncertain and dangerous times. I am astounded that there are conversations about nuclear war as if such a possibility can be manageable, winnable and survivable. We need to remember that nuclear war is a civilization ending event at its best, and a human life ending event at its worst. You do not win or survive a nuclear barrage that involves 15 to 20,000 weapons. In such times as these, we need to be able to reach out to an accessible God. Theology, at this point, is not as essential as is spirituality, of being able to feel and be affected by faith. I don’t like to talk about God as so prideful that Moses can play God, but it is far more important to have Sacred Scripture share with us a God who is approachable.
I think this is fundamental to understanding Christianity and its core message that God is accessible in Jesus of Nazareth, and that this God is so invested in us that God in Jesus is even willing to face death on a cross for us, to give us God’s final testimony of the gospel of peace. So with faith in Jesus let us understand better what Paul says to us today in these times of grave uncertainty: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Children Sunday School 9:30-10:30am
Nursery care available during worship
Make a single or recurring contribution by clicking here