Going Deeper 03.10.2021

The first reading for Lent 4... Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Honestly, Numbers is right at or near the top of my least favorite books of the Bible.  Not only is it filled with censuses and genealogies, but also with story after story and story of the same cycle we see in this text.  Israel complains/rebels - God and/or Moses get angry - punishment is meted out - people say they are sorry - God relents from punishing.  

However, what bothers me isn't really the boring parts or the redundant stories.  I am concerned that if people take this out of context, they will be misled into thinking that this cycle represents how things are to be understood.  In other words, obey God and be blessed, disobey and be punished... then say you're sorry and all is good... until you mess up and make God angry again.

What is missing is the background last Sunday's text covering the giving of the Ten Commandments provides, which sets obedience within the context of a covenant.  The primary motive for obedience has always been gratitude and love for the Creator/Rescuer/Savior, not fear of punishment or a desire for reward.  This latter perspective leads to the development of a religious approach to things, with the focus on rites and rituals we do to keep God happy so that He keeps blessing us. 

A secondary motive for obedience is a type of wisdom which understands that living increasingly obedient lives makes our lives--and those of everyone around us--better... more joyful and meaningful.

Bottom line: we love because He first loved us, and this love is shown in both worship and service.

With You in His Service,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"