Day 61 (March 2): People complain to Moses, Moses complains to God, God gives Moses help, God sends meat, Miriam and Aaron become envious, scouts explore Canaan and see giants, scouts show fear

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  Today, Rob has an awesome answer for doubting Thomases.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.  Let us know if you have any comments to share.

Numbers 11-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 11:1-9): I guess I can envision fire, since we have seen God use fire a lot in our reading thus far.  However, I have heard folks say not to believe all the stories in the Bible as fact.  That it’s a wonderful book put together to either teach us how to live in society or that God did dictate it, but the stories are made up.  We’ve had the flood, the plagues and other miraculous events.  I can believe those.  I have always believed the manna from heaven, but frogs, gnats, locusts and floods are all something that can naturally happen.  Food from heaven does not.  Any words of the wise for doubting Thomases?

A. Well, honestly, there’s a fundamental “leap” that is required for stories such as this one.  Here’s the way I tend to think about such matters, which include things like the manna, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc.: the Bible makes NO claim that these are ordinary events.  It doesn’t say, “The Israelites got food from heaven, just like we do today.”  The story is describing the unique action of God in this particular circumstance.  They are, by their very definition, miracles: particular places in history where God chooses to intervene in human history for His own purposes.

So the fundamental question to ask yourself is this: Is there a God?  Is there a Being who created the heavens and earth out of nothing?  The Bible purports itself to be the recordings of interactions between this Being, which we call God in English and the Hebrews call Yahweh, and particular people in a certain period of history, roughly 1500 BC to 100 AD.  The distinction is crucial: if you believe that God did create everything that we see around us, then literally ALL of the other miracles of the Bible pale in comparison to the first one: the creation of life itself.  If you fundamentally believe that God exists and the Bible is an accurate portrayal of who He has revealed Himself to be — not merely what we have “created” him to be — then you should be able to see that such a Being is capable of much “smaller” miracles by comparison.  I see no reason, frankly, to split hairs on “which” miracles are the real ones: either there is a God who is capable of performing such signs and wonders, or there isn’t.  I really don’t think there’s a way to soft sell this: the miracles of the Bible hang together, and picking and choosing which are the “true” ones goes against the very spirit of the message of Scripture.  That, to me, is the true leap involved in faith, whether I believe the Bible speaks truthfully about the character and actions of God.

Don’t forget what Jesus told the original Doubting Thomas (in John 20): you believe in me because you have seen me [alive after I was dead], blessed are those who have NOT seen with their own eyes, and yet believe.

O. (11:10-15):  I love this passage!  Here the Israelites are whining, which reminds me of children.  I tell my youngest that to ask properly without whining.  It sounds sooooo much better.  Same here.  The Israelites should have asked instead of complaining and whining, which is the action we see in Moses.  He takes it as long as he can without grumbling, but then finally has had it and simply puts his case to God.  God grants him his wish.  In 11:21-22, Moses doubts God, but he never blames God for delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Q. (11:26-30): Why was this scene significant?  Joshua was worried that the elders who had just received the Spirit would become more powerful than Moses?

A. Not so much that they would be more powerful than Moses, but that they might lead people away from him as the true leader.  Joshua is concerned about potential revolt, but Moses isn’t worried: in fact, he wishes that the people would show more manifestations of the Spirit of God.

Q. (11:31-35): Did the people know that God would be outraged from gluttonous behavior?

A. There’s a few theories about what happened here.  The text seems to imply that everyone who ate the provided quail died, but I’ve heard other interpretations that the catch here is that the meat began to rot, and only those who ate the quail for days and days (the truly gluttonous) were the ones killed by it.  I’ll leave it to you to decide.

O. (12:8): I love this message.  Don’t question God’s wisdom, reason and loyalty.  Also, extend this to your own life, including friends and family.  If someone has a close relationship, we should not be jealous of it.  More importantly, if God chooses someone for something, honor and respect it.  Do not be jealous of it.  It’s not His plan for you.

Q. (13:25-33): Why did most of the men who explored Canaan say it was a land that would devour anyone who lives there?

A. They were scared, and the implication is that they lacked faith in God to do what He had promised: to drive out the people who lived there, even the “giants”.  In their panic, the scouts spread rumors about what they had seen, including that some of the people there were giants who would devour them (though this might refer to ritual cannibalism).  So basically, in their fear, the 10 fearful scouts are trying to prevent the people from entering the land and, in their mind, being conquered.  The easiest way to do that: to proclaim that you’ve seen unconquerable people who will squish you like bugs if you challenge them.  The people will pay dearly for this fearful decision.  In the end, an entire generation will be lost before the people are ready to enter the Promised Land.

Day 37 (Feb. 6): Food from God, water from a rock, team work defeats Amalekites, Jethro share wisdom with Moses, the Lord prepares Moses for giving laws

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Exodus 16-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 16:19-20): In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites to “obey his commands.”  But, in 16:19-20, they are breaking God’s rules already.  God must be frustrated!  This is just a start of a long, long journey, right?  And they are complaining already?

A. I once gave a message where I talked about the only sure thing when it came to the relationship between God and humanity is that we break our promises.  Only God is faithful; it is simply beyond us.  Which is why we need His grace and mercy so badly.  Wait until you see what they will do while Moses is away…

Q. (16:25): Is keeping the Sabbath the Lord’s Day still a law or is it one that has been replaced by the new covenant?  Also, can you explain in a nutshell what the “new covenant” is?

A. Like Passover, we are not required to keep the Law to have good standing with God (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides that).  This does not mean, however, the keeping a Sabbath is a bad idea.  Part of the understanding of the wisdom of Sabbath is that it is the gift of rest: we were not designed to be people who worked endlessly without rest (though we in the modern West frequently think we know better!)  This applies to each of the Ten Commandments (coming soon to a daily reading near you): there is wisdom in following them even today, despite our lack of obligation to do so.

Jesus described the New Covenant as the relationship between God and human beings who put their faith in His sacrifice (death and resurrection) to overcome their sin.  You hear about the New Covenant every time you take Communion or Eucharist: The body and blood of Christ broken and shed for the forgiveness of sins.  So rather than using the blood of animals to merely cover up sin (as the Law did, and frankly, still does), the power of the sacrifice of Jesus, our own spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19), removes the stain and power of sin from our lives in order to establish a new, better relationship with God.

Q. (17:9,10): Joshua comes into the picture?  I don’t remember reading about Hur?  Who is he?

A. Joshua does appear to drop out of the sky, doesn’t he?  It appears from this story (and the subsequent stories) that Joshua was already an established commander and representative of his tribe (Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons).  The writer appears to have no interest in introducing him to the reader.

Regarding Hur, it appears (according to 1 Chr. 2) that Hur is a son of Caleb (though the language is ambiguous — he might actually be Caleb’s FATHER!), who will be one of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land who is faithful (the other being Joshua).  Other than that, we have no information about who this person from the Bible.  There are apparently Jewish traditions that can provide some insight into who he is, and you can read about them on Hur’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hur_(Bible)).

Q.  (17:14): Joshua is gaining power.  God gives him a leadership role.  What does “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven” mean?

A. It appears to mean that Amalek’s race (the Amalekites) will not survive.  (Note that Amalek is the grandson of Esau — the rivalry continues!)  They will, however, continue to be thorn in the side of Israel even after the monarchy is established under Saul and David.

O & Q. (18:1): I can imagine what Jethro thought.  Moses told him that he had to go rescue his people from Egypt — all 2 million of them.  Now they are camped by a mountain.  I can’t imagine a picture of that many tents.  Any idea why Moses didn’t keep his wife and sons with him through the deliverance?

A. Perhaps he thought it was safer that way.

Q. (18:10-12): It’s wonderful to see two families coming together supporting one another and praising the Lord for all of their blessings.  Can you tell us from whom Jethro was a descendant?  They were obviously blessed.

A. He does not appear to be descended from any party we have established.  He was not an Israelite, but was a priest, and it appears he believed in his son-in-law’s God.

Q. Just a background question.  Does the Bible say anything about the relationship of Moses with Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him?  They had spent years together and then, poof, Moses fled.  I guess it’s not important to God’s message?

A. Nope.  She is not mentioned again.

O. (18:21): This verse made me chuckle.  Jethro tells Moses to select leaders who are “capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.”  I chuckle thinking of our legislators and all the pork barrel politics.  Oh, how things have changed.  Watch this video to see who used to lead our country: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlfEdJNn15E.  I’m not saying they are all bad now at all.  But, I think we have spiaraled down from where our country started, leadership-wise.

Q. (19:1): So this is the second time the Israelites have been in the Sinai wilderness?

A. No.  The story implies that Moses was called from Sinai, but only he was there.  The narration is telling us how long after they left Egypt that all those people you spoke of arrived at Sinai.

Q. (19:15): Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Bible times seem to be a lot less modest.  I guess if they are living in tents, things might be a little less private.  Today, many may be offended by pastors talking so freely of sexual intercourse, circumcision, etc.  Is there any Biblical reason why we are a bit more modest today?  I guess I’m just thinking of Christians, the media seem to talk about it, but it’s usually either jokes or dirty talk.  Is there any reason that we shouldn’t talk about things more freely?  To me, romance is a personal thing and talking more freely of it may welcome infidelity.  (On a side note, did anyone watch that very seductive commercial at the first of the Super Bowl?  We don’t watch any sports, except for the Olympics.  So, we thought we’d give our 4- and 7-year-old girls a taste of American fanfare.  We ordered pizza and were ready.  Then, I couldn’t have scrambled faster for the remote when that commercial with the French kiss came on the screen.  We quickly decided to watch a movie.  The last I was into football in my college years, the early ‘90s, I just remember funny commercials and beer commercials.  What’s up with a close-up French kiss?  My best friend watched with her 8-year-old son until half time.  She said Beyoncé wasn’t wearing much.  She said, “What are they teaching my son, that this is what everyone wears?”  She asked her son if he thought what she was wearing glorified God.  He said, “no.”  Comments, Rob?

A. The request to abstain from sex was part of the purification ritual (that will be something like a marriage ceremony — you’ll see).  Other than that, I have no comment.

Q. Is there any reason God choose Mount Sinai to speak to the Israelites?  Is Mount Sinai known today?  If so, how tall was it?  I’m just trying to get a picture of how long it took Moses to climb the mountain.

A. Sinai (or Horeb as it will be called later) appears to be a particular place where God chooses to make His presence especially known (Elijah will come for a visit in a few hundred years).  As with a lot of matters like this one, there is what is known as a “traditional” site for the mountain in what is now Saudi Arabia, and (as you can imagine) it draws people of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths (there’s a Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top).  You can read about it here and see some pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Sinai

A.  Look it up on youtube too.  There are different ideas of where Mount Sinai is.