OT: Numbers 21:10-22:20
Well, we're back to business as usual today, with the Israelites grumbling against God, and God responding by killing them. This time, it is with poisonous snakes. Once they repent, God always relents, and in this case, He provides a bronze snake for them to look at and be healed from their snake bites. After subconsciously and not-so-subconsciously mulling over this harsh relationship between God and His people for a few days, I can't help but appreciate more the holiness of God. You do. not. mess. with. a holy God. The end. That is the lesson I've kept learning. And it is a lesson that you have to learn to have any understanding of what Jesus did for us. He made everlasting peace between us and Yahweh! That is incredible! That is amazing! And my appreciation and awe of that fact have really deepened from reading Numbers this closely. (I am on a bit of an emotional roller coaster with Numbers, if you can't tell. My brain and my heart have been battling each other and the text, but I'm in a good place right now:)).
It also struck me today how God does not like impatience. Verse 4 says that "the people grew impatient on the way," and that's why they grumbled against God and Moses. In my life, I tend to get impatient when God takes me the long way. Reading the OT has really helped me see that the "long way" is God's favorite way. It has made me much more cool with it.
Oh, and lastly, BALAAM! I'm so excited; I love this story! It didn't get to the good part today, and so I'm not going to spoil it for you if you haven't heard it. Just wait for tomorrow--it's going to rock:).
Today, Gabriel gives Mary the news of Jesus' impending birth. It seems like he has a bit of a double standard, because when Mary questions him, he totally obliges with an explanation rather than striking her mute. But I've gotta say, I totally see how they are two different cases. Zechariah is a priest, for goodness sake. He is supposed to be close to God. And he was in a holy place at the time, and Gabriel gave him news that was both possible and happy. Mary was just a young woman who did not enjoy that close connection with God that priests were granted. Gabriel appeared out of nowhere, and told her news that was both impossible and probably scary. So naturally, she might have a few questions about the craziness of the scheme. I love the end of Gabriel's answer to her: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God" (36-37). Awesome.
And I love Mary's response: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (18). Amazing. I hope one day to have such immediate humility and obedience when presented with a task from God.
I also love the communion that Mary and Elizabeth get to enjoy, as well as the image of a Holy-Spirit-filled baby jumping for joy in his mother's womb. That's cool. So is Mary's song, which I think is called the Magnificat in...some place. Anyway, a couple of years ago, I heard a beautiful song written using her words, and I always sing it in my head as I read these verses.
Good times, all around. I loved today's reading. It was so happy. It was so....not Numbers:).
Some favorite verses today:
"Have mercy on my, O God, have mercy on me,/for in you my soul takes refuge./I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed" (1). I adore that last image, especially since my instinct in disaster is to curl up into a ball, close my eyes, and wait for it to be over. Clearly, that's normally not the greatest response, but I love that my soul can do that in the shadow of God's wings.
I also love verse 7: "My heart is steadfast, O God,/my heart is steadfast;/I will sing and make music." My heart is so often not steadfast, so I love these inspirations from people who do steady their hearts in troubling times. And I love the idea that worship is always a choice, even in the worst of circumstances.
It was interesting to note both the power of one's mouth and the power of knowledge in today's reading. The mouth of the godless and wicked can destroy a neighbor and a whole city. The mouth is quite powerful, apparently. But according to verse 9, what saves the righteous is knowledge. I love knowledge, so I like that verse!