Tuesday

4 June 2019

Numbers 11:24-35

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord ... (v.24)

Psalm: Psalm 137:1-7

Background

Today’s reading takes us to the least well-known of the five books of the Torah. Several curious and colourful stories are woven together here. The people have tired of manna, bland and boring apparently, and they demand meat. They get what they want in the form of a sudden glut of quails, but no sooner is the birds’ flesh in their mouths than it all goes disastrously wrong. Second, there is the spirit passing from Moses to a large group of elders. The young Joshua objects, wanting the spirit kept safely in his mentor’s control. Moses, however, resists this exclusivity.

Grounded in worldly realities of food and power, disease and disagreement, these stories explore people’s relationship with the Divine, not least the tensions between obedience and freedom.

Singing the Faith 382 explores various characteristics of the Holy Spirit: confirmer of faith, advocate pleading for God’s help, bringer of truth, renewer, life-giver, possessor of the faithful for the whole Trinity. It’s quite a tour de force.

Psalm 137 is the best-known and loveliest of the communal lament psalms, taking us into the experience of exile in Babylon. Verses 8 and 9, violent imprecations invoking evil on the enemy, are omitted from today's reading. Horrible though they are (albeit by no means unique in the psalms), it is arguably a mistake to ignore them. For one thing, it facilitates a simplistic understanding of Scripture as no more than just the text on the page, excluding, for example, the Spirit’s role as interpreter.

 

To Ponder:

  • What in your everyday experience of ordinary things speaks of God to you?
  • Do you think we should exclude Biblical texts like Psalm 137:8-9 which offend? If not, how do we deal with them?

Bible notes author

The Revd Alan Bolton

The Revd Alan Bolton is a Methodist minister serving in the Connexional Team with responsibility for the Church's complaints and discipline process. He is also a musician and was a member of the group producing new music resources for Methodist worship.

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