Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Day 78: Faithfulness and Fear

Numbers 23, 24, 25 and Mark 16

Numbers switches from a talking donkey to God speaking directly to Balaam about God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel. God will not abandon them, even when, as we learn their faithfulness is in question. In Mark we see the faithful women going to the tomb and being filled with fear.

Numbers 23

Balaam is asked by Balak to curse the people of Israel. God, however has other plans. Balaam shows faithfulness to God by sharing God’s word even at great personal risk. He gives two oracles that proclaim God’s favor for the Israelites.
When do people ask you to deny God or ask you to go against God’s purposes?

Numbers 24

This time Balaam’s preparations for speaking with God are different. The sacrifices are still ordered, but Balaam does not approach God thinking he can coerce God into cursing the Israelites. He returns with words that Balak does not want to hear.
These words in favor of Israel anger Balak and he sends Balaam on his way without any of the promised rewards/payment for his speaking with God. Balaam then warns that no one will crush the Israelites because the Lord is with them. After Balaam leaves, Balak leaves dejected as well.

Numbers 25

In this chapter we get a glimpse of the lack of faithfulness on the part of some of the people of Israel. God here tells Moses that all who have brought the religion of the Midianites into the people should be impaled. This word impaled can mean crucified or exposed. Moses does not make a public gathering, he tells the chiefs that these individuals are to be executed. But we have no language suggesting this was carried out by Moses or the chiefs.
Then we zoom in more closely and are told the story of one man taking a Midianite wife with Moses’ full knowledge and Moses does not stop it from occurring. It needs to be stated here that Moses himself had married a Midianite woman, so not all of Israel held the idea of intermarriage to be a bad thing.
This passage is really used as a way to elevate Aaron’s family, aka the priesthood, over Moses and his family. This is one of the times you see the priestly sector trying to step into the role of leadership in all things, not just worship.
We are told that the people are wailing at the tent of meeting. We then learn it is because of a plague that is seen as God’s judgement against Moses’ inaction. Elaezar is praised for killing the man and his wife and credited with ending the plague that killed 25,000.

Mark 16

The resurrection account in Mark 16 is unique. The women, three named here Mary, Mary mother of Joses and Salome, come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They worry over the size of the stone. They are met by a young man, some say it might be the same young man who ran naked from the garden of Gethsemane, not an angel. He tells them of the risen Lord. The women are terrified and said nothing to anyone. The women here would be the first to actually keep the Messianic secret pushed throughout the gospel of Mark. Only we know that they told someone, or else we would not have an account of the event!
The other endings of Mark were added later by communities that had been influenced by other Christians and letters or perhaps even other Gospels. These endings are in line with what has become fairly “orthodox” Christian thoughts surrounding the events following the resurrection of Christ.

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