2020 Bible Challenge: Weeks 9 & 10

Numbers 9 – Deuteronomy 6; Mark 5 – 11

Friends,

How is the book of Numbers going? Besides the chapters with long lists of names (which takes me 30 seconds to get through), the book has a lot of interesting stories that are not very well known. Should we ask for a sermon series on the book of Numbers?

Here is one of the stories that caught my attention.

In Numbers 12 Aaron and Miriam challenge Moses’ authority and God addresses them. Although both Aaron and Miriam anger God, only Miriam gets punished with a skin disease.

It does not seem fair that Aaron gets away with just a scare. Miriam gets shut out of the camp according to the laws that we have just learned from Leviticus.

Verse 15 is very interesting to me because the people of Israel do not move until Miriam is brought back. Although punished by God, she receives support from the entire community. “And the people didn’t march until…” could also be translated as “so the people didn’t march until…”

Such brief stories about Miriam show us that she was respected and loved as one of the leaders, alongside Moses and Aaron.

I want you to pause at Numbers 14:18 and consider this description of God’s character. How does it fit with your own experience of God? If you’d like to share your thoughts on this, email me!

We also need to talk about Numbers 21 and 31 (also Leviticus 27:28-29). These are examples of the horrifying stories of God telling Jews to destroy everyone, including small children, to take possession of the land. We cannot reconcile these descriptions of God with Jesus from the New Testament.

These are the stories that keep people from reading the Old Testament; they have truly become stumbling blocks for many Christians. These killings are part of the holy war. Your Bible translations may use words like “complete destruction,” or “under the ban,” or “slaughter.” None of these describe the God of love and forgiveness who dies on the cross for the sins of all people. Nevertheless, they are in our Bibles.

I do not have an easy explanation for you.

The holy war in the land of Canaan is a part of the history of Israel. In these stories, God takes the side of the Jews and calls for the complete annihilation of the people who lived in those lands.

This is explained as a necessity to keep Israel pure and faithfully devoted to God. The only encouragement that I have for you is that such descriptions of God are contained only in the parts of the Bible that deal with this time period – the holy war in Canaan.

This is not a consistent portrait of God you will find across the Bible. So we will struggle through these texts together in the upcoming weeks.

There are a lot of parallels between God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the gospels. I wonder if you were reminded of God feeding the Jews in the desert when Jesus was feeding the crowd in the wilderness (Mark 6:30-43). You will notice more of such parallels because you are reading the Old and the New Testaments side by side.

The last curious thing that I have never spotted before is Mark 11:25. The gospel of Mark does not have a text of the Lord’s Prayer, but this is one piece of it that you will recognize.

Speaking of prayer, if you make it a habit to pray before or after your daily reading, you will also establish a spiritual practice of daily prayer. Two spiritual practices for the price of one – you are welcome!

Praying every day, no matter what you are feeling like or what’s on your mind, could bring a great sense of stability and safety. Life is so unpredictable, but God is the same and never changes. God’s presence is something we can rely on at every single point of our lives. That is what we call God’s grace – a priceless gift that we can receive freely.

I am looking forward to seeing you on March 8, if you can make it. Bring the verses and stories that inspired you and spoke directly to your life. Bring your questions and your concerns — we will figure it all out together. Thank you for joining me on this journey!

God bless,


Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodriguez
Associate Pastor of Grace Groups & Discipleship

 

Future Meet-Ups:

Sundays: March 8, April 5, May 3, June 7, July 12, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1, December 27, 2020
Room 350 | 8:00 – 9:00 am | Childcare provided

Mondays: (no meeting in March), April 6, May 4, June 8, July 6, (no meeting in August), September 14, October 5, November 2, 2020
1:30 – 2:30 pm | Room 154 | Childcare available upon request

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