Bible Tuesday for Sunday, September 27, 2015
4The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 7Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. 8The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it. 10Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors?13Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”
16So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you. 17I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself. 18And say to the people: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wailed in the hearing of the Lord, saying, ‘If only we had meat to eat! Surely it was better for us in Egypt.’ Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you—because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” 21But Moses said, “The people I am with number six hundred thousand on foot; and you say, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month’! 22Are there enough flocks and herds to slaughter for them? Are there enough fish in the sea to catch for them?”23The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”
24So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. 26Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
My frustrated father used to employ a phrase I am sure you have heard once or twice, if not used yourself, “If you don’t stop your crying, I am going to give you something to cry about!!” While the irony flew right over my head, I sure knew a threat when I heard it.
God tells Moses, “They want meat?! Oh I’ll give them meat and they will eat and eat and eat meat until they vomit it out their noses!!!” Kind of scary to hear out of the mouth of the creator of heaven and earth…and we have to take this all in context.
Moses, with the meager help of Aaron and Miriam, led Israel out of Egypt by God’s might hand (clenched, raised right fist) and outstretched arm (left arm extended with hand open, beckoning a child to be enfolded in embrace). With the Israelites being such a rambunctious, rebellious bunch, Moses was burned out to the point of hospitalization for exhaustion. “Put me to death at once!” he pleads. God has better ideas: a). God will teach the Israelites that if they turn their backs on the one who saved them from slavery, consequences will ensue, which in this case includes nose puking, and b). God will anoint 70 tribal leaders who will arbitrate the disputes between their own tribal members and leave Moses to hear and proclaim the Word of the Lord.
In this story we hear of “prophesying” which the 70 tribal elders do when they receive some of the spirit which God bestows on Moses. What exactly is meant by “prophesying?” King Saul does the same thing when Samuel first anoints him as king of Israel. Various groups of Israelites “prophesy” throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (OT). This term in these contexts is usually understood not as receiving a word from God “Thus says the Lord…” like Moses or Samuel or Elijah, etc., receive, but that these folks fall into some kind of ecstatic experience. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, trance like states, speaking in tongues, spinning, and the like are understood to be signs of possession by a spirit. Whether a spirit of the Lord or of evil is usually found in the context. In this case, the prophesying of the elders is seen as proof that they have received the spirit of the Lord.
Psalm 19:7-14 (translation from The Jewish Study Bible)
The teaching of the Lord is perfect, renewing life; the decrees of the Lord are enduring, making the simple wise; the precepts of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the instruction of the Lord is lucid making the eyes light up.
The fear of the Lord is pure, abiding forever, the judgments of the Lord are true, righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, sweeter than honey, than drippings of the comb.
Your servant pays them heed; in obeying them there is much reward.
Who can be aware of errors?
Clear me of unperceived guilt, and from willful sins keep your servant, let them not dominate me; then shall I be blameless and clear of grave offense.
According to The Jewish Study Bible, Psalm 19 is used as a sort of call to worship during Jewish Saturday morning services, even to this day. It is divided into three sections. The section we have for this Sunday is a hymn on Torah, the Law of God. In the above translation, the Hebrew “torah” or “law” specifically “law of God” is translated “instruction”.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
In his letter to the churches, the writer of James give some formula for how the baptized should behave, both with the world and with each other. In this little passage we read all kinds of ideas which give pause to today’s baptized followers of Jesus.
1. Prayers of the faithful will “save” the sick. The writer couples this idea with “Anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven, therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Modern Christians tend to interpret this to mean that if the faithful pray hard enough, the sick will be as good as new…and then something about forgiven. In Jesus day, Jews and many people throughout the Roman Empire, believed that illness was a punishment from the gods or God for sins. Jesus challenged this notion in all four gospels, but James appears to be reverting to it here. Modern Christians tend to read “save” in the Bible as “go to heaven when you die” but Bible writers did not intend that interpretation. The word that is translated “save” is “sozo” which is most commonly translated “restored”. James calls for prayers for the sick which ask God to restore sick folks to their homes, families, jobs, lives. Certainly, the ultimate restoration is to be restored to sinless life face to face with God.
2. “If we pray hard enough, God will give us what we want.” This line of thinking implies that prayer allows the pray-er some kind of hold on God that God has to give you what you ask, as long as you are praying when you ask it. In the Lutheran tradition, this is anathema, or the opposite of God. Jesus states over and over again that we are to pray, and that if we pray in concord with the Holy Spirit, what we ask for will be given. You can pray for a Lexus until you are blue in the face but if it is not for the good of the Kingdom of God, it is not the will of the Holy Spirit, and you aren’t going to get it unless you earn the money yourself. The act of prayer, humbling one’s self to God (“Not my will by your will”) is to ask the Holy Spirit to align one’s self with God’s will so that what we seek is what God wants. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
38John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”39But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
42“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49“For everyone will be salted with fire. 50Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Salt-In Israel and Galilee, true salt in pure mineral form was hard to come by and expensive. The salt that most folks had was impure, having very fine non-salt particles in it. If it became moist in any way, the molecular structure of the salt would change, binding to the impurities, the result being that it didn’t taste salty anymore.
Millstone-To make anything into powder: grain for flour, minerals for concrete, one has to grind it. Two huge stone disks were laid one on top of the other with holes in the top one for getting the substance to be ground down between the two disks. Then one disk, aka millstone, was held stationary while the other was turned, or both were turned but in opposite directions. Millstones weighed several thousand pounds. The ones found buried outside V.S.Balbac & Son in Warren, IL are the size of tractor tires!
Hyperbole-In the same way that we use hyperbole to animate our speech, so did Jesus. One sister yells to another, “I’m going to cream you!!!” when she finds her diary pried open. Of course the offending sister is not so whipped that she becomes cream, but she runs screaming none-the-less. Jesus uses hyperbole too, most effectively in the above passage. Jesus did not intend that we read this as instruction for how to treat our bodies when we sin. If so, Christians would have no eyes, hands, or feet! As we read this passage, let us focus on what does cause us to stumble, and mislead others.
In the first verses of this passage, the disciples are indignant because someone they do not recognize is doing the works of God without their approval. They are indignant that they exclusivity on Jesus is being violated. They perceive a threat to their “specialness” in hanging with Jesus so they try to squelch it. So, what caused them to sin? Ego? Envy? Pride? The human drive to stand out in the crowd?
To this Jesus answers, “Be at peace within you.” Align yourself with the Holy Spirit and rest in that current.