Moses’ Anger — Bronze Serpent — Balaam

Numbers 17-27 and Psalm 26

God tells Moses to put staffs representing each tribe in the Tent of Meeting for God to show the people who He has selected to care for the Tabernacle. Aaron’s staff sprouts overnight, even produces almonds, so he is definitively selected as the leader of the Levites. No real surprise here, though chapter 17 ends rather abruptly: “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!” Really?

Chapter 18 provides confirmation of Aaron and the priesthood. In particular, I found this intriguing:

I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you…I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Numbers 18:6-7

As we work with those called to plant churches, as well as those that currently lead churches, this section is quite interesting. I know the modern church is not a Levitical priesthood, but in the metaphor of The Story, perhaps this is a glimpse into God’s Upper Story, his desire for those who serve the church apart from those who are ministered to by the church. Other than the part about, “anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death,” this is an interesting perspective.

Moses’ Mistake (Numbers 20:8-12)

If I read this passage alone, I don’t think it makes much sense — God’s response to Moses’ error would seem harsh. But having just read through Korah’s rebellion, the bitterness of the people, the incredible gift God has given to the Levites and in turn to Moses, the context for this verse has a bit of clarity.

God’s instructions:

Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water

Moses’ response:

Moses said to them, “Listen you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with the staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

The result:

Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them

Wow! God was pretty clear in his instructions, but Moses was fed up with the people, out of his mind with frustration and acted out in front of the entire group. God could have zapped him out of existence, but he showed mercy and grace, as always. Moses would continue to lead because the chosen people were more important than the chosen person. God’s story will prevail. They got the water they needed (though God could have refused that) and they continued on their journey with Moses as their leader. My guess is the next meeting in The Tent was not so cordial.

Balaam Blesses Israel

Though it wasn’t his plan, Balaam couldn’t help but do God’s will.

Balaam’s Donkey (Numbers 22)

Balaam did everything he could to resist the Lord, but his donkey was smarter!

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

The Lord allowed a donkey to convey the message to the pagan Balaam. Interesting to say the least! The theme of today’s reading seems to be, “God’s story trumps our story.” We know that intuitively, but here are concrete examples to learn from.

Zelophehad’s Daughters

Another interesting observation from this text is the inclusion of these women in the narrative. Zelophehad’s daughter stood before Moses and plead their case. This must have been unprecedented in a male-dominated culture, but Moses was wise enough to put this before the Lord.

and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.”

A new law is born. “If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter.”

Joshua Formally Chosen as Moses’ Successor

The rest of chapter 27 includes Joshua’s formal announcement as Moses’ successor. Joshua was a consistent and faithful servant and will be the right leader as the Israelites enter the Promised Land…soon.


Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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