Tuesday, March 20, 2012

my notes for The Story, Chapter 6 (excerpts from Numbers and Deuteronomy)


-Primary Topic: Israel's response to the law and God's response to them-- patience and mercy, but then judgment in the face of Israel's "unbelievable" unbelief (all w/ app. to us)
-vs. what should have happened from their gracious deliverance out of Egypt by God and his mercy in the Golden Calf incident
-how it affected Israel's quality of life
-their/our mission as his reps; they set out for battle, but ultimately didn't have the faith to get in

Numbers 11-12: Rebellion and Response
-Chs. 11-12's journey to the southern tip of Canaan-- a 150-mile, 11-day trip (Dt 1:2)-- delayed a bit here...
--> to this point, things had been looking good with arrival in Canaan on the horizon-- no trouble since Ex 32, a lot of obedience in Chs. 1-10, and God's law, tabernacle, and presence at hand, but…

11:1-23 (skim)
-1a's "Now the people complained..." --> 1b's God’s "anger was aroused...fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp"
-to whom: "in the hearing of the Lord"
-implies loud enough to reach Heaven
-complaining to each other vs. going to the source and/or to God
-->  5's "We remember [the stuff] we ate in Egypt at no cost"; 18b's "better off in Egypt"
            -likely in the mode/habit of complaining, as slaves (difficult to break that)
-remembering not well enough; only half of the story of their past-- "at no cost"?! had eaten fish often as slaves?!
-w/ app. to sin and our pasts: exaggerate B's, downplay/ignore C's
-remembering the wrong (vs. right) stuff
-temporal vs. eternal-- their stomach vs. being redeemed and access to the Promised Land?!
-immediate gratification vs. contentment
-focusing on past connections to Egypt; Thomas' "Here was a redeemed people, brought out of Egypt and on their way to the 'land of promise', but with their thoughts, their ambitions, their appetites, fed by the memory of that from which God had redeemed them!...Have you been weaned from the things of Egypt?"

--> 11-15’s Moses’ questions (skim)
-11's 2 Q’s about Moses & God: why did you do this to me? what did I do to you?
-12's 3 Q's about Moses & Israel, incl. compare Israelites to infants—act like babies!
-13a's specific Q about "meat for all these people"—wrong to take burden on himself
-14's despair: "burden is too heavy" overstates the case greatly-- what about God?!
-15b's proposed (harsh) remedy: "put me to death right now"
à people's lukewarm grumbling vs. Moses' honesty, passion and ability to take things to God; import of an intimate, personal relationship with God
-19-20,23’s big-time sarcasm!

12:1-2 (read)
-1's Miriam and Aaron...
-given their relationship to Moses: his sister (Ex 2:4's bail-out) and brother—family?!
            -given their past: Miriam’s servant’s heart (Ex 2:4) and Aaron’s recent chastening
-given their position: prophetess (Ex 15:20) and high priest
-1's Miriam and Aaron "talk against Moses"-- why?
-1b’s "his Cushite wife"
-Cush as 1st son of Noah's son, Ham
-maybe Zipporah (Ex 2), but probably a new wife (Hab 3:7)
-African? a different race/ethnicity; prob. darker (w/ app. to racism and inter-racial marriage, or more generally, picking on differences)
            -if so, leprosy (white) as ironic punishment!
-2's Moses' supposed monopoly as God's vessel vs. "hasn't God also spoken thru us?"
-ironically, true: Miriam as prophet; Aaron as Moses’ mouthpiece
-but here, general jealousy or recent empowerment of the 70 (both w/ app.)
-given God’s response, reason #1 as probable pretext behind latter's substance
-w/ app. to us carping-- get to our real issues; and fielding criticism-- try to discern/anticipate issues

Numbers 13-14
à were the spies a good/bad idea?
-first, note Dt 1:21-23's spies as the people's idea—after Moses had said it was time to go in; approved by Moses and here, by God (also implied by Dt 9:23?)
-positive spin: Moses not acting on blind faith or testing God; the import of assessing B & C—“count the costs”
-negative spin: land "given" to them and they already had God's guidance
-MH's "They would not take God's word that it was a good land, and that he would, without fail, put them in possession of it. They could not trust the pillar of cloud and fire to show them the way to it, but had a better opinion of their own [spies] than of God's wisdom..."
-sometimes we know and stall for time or tread water instead of taking action
-sometimes both options look good and we sit in the intersection rather than taking one fork in the road
à the more you think about it (and the more info you get), the tougher it gets (me with high dive and Zach; bungee, rappelling, etc.)
-->  not initiated by God, but in 13:1, approved by God—probably "OK"
-w/ app. to us finding the balance between these two
-see: greater importance in what ones does with the info; as such, MH concludes: "Yet...if the spies had done their duty, and the people theirs, it might have been the confirmation of their faith, and of good service to them."

13:26-29 (read)
-26's "reported to them...and showed them the fruit of the land"
-27's "it does flow with milk and honey!"
-28's "But..."
-28a's "the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large"; 28b's "We even saw descendants of Anak there"
-29's Amalekites in Negev (Ex 17); Hittites, Jebusites (Jerusalem), Amorites in hill country; Canaanites near the sea and along the Jordan
à a solid report with perhaps some editorial content with 28’s “but”, but so far, so good…
à key: what are we going to do with the "but's"? this is life!
à can/could respond in one of two ways...

13:30-33 (read)
-30's Caleb's confidence (in the face of implied opposition, since he “silenced the people), but 31-33's "but...": the 10 spies argue "we can't..."
-32a's "bad report" (vs. 26-29’s objective report)—because of its details and the editorializing
1.) perspective exaggeration: 32b's "the land devours", "all the people are of great size", "we seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes", Nephilim exaggerates Anak (Dt 2:10-11)
2.) speculative exaggeration: 33's "we seemed like grasshoppers to them" (vs. Josh 2:9-11 later)
3.) huge omission: no mention (or implication) of God; all their own effort
à and employing faith/reason, if the Canaanites were stronger than Israel—so what!
1.) the Canaanites were not stronger than the God of Israel; they were grasshoppers to him
2.) the Canaanites were not stronger than the Egyptians—and God had already defeated them
3.) God had promised them empowered victory over the Canaanites
-->  in effect, saying God was impotent and unfaithful—unable and unwilling make good on His promises
à their bad evaluation of the situation rooted in a lack of faith and poor reasoning (Rom 12:2)
-->  comparing C&J to the others:
-not good/bad spy as much as faithful/faithless
-same circumstances and same qualitative assessment, but different evaluation of God-based strength and outcome-- and both equally confident in their assessment!
-LAB's "[They] could not agree with the majority, for that would be to disagree with God."
-->  what would the people do?

14:1-4 (read)
-1-2a's what everybody did:
-1's "raised their voices and wept aloud", 2a's "grumbled" vs. Moses and Aaron (i.e., "speaking" to self/others vs. taking their complaints to M&A or praying)
-on their weeping, MH's "They fall a crying, yet know not what they cry for. It would have been time...to cry out when the enemy had beaten [them] up...and they had seen the sons of Anak at the gate of their camp. But those that cried when nothing hurt them deserved to have something given them to cry for."
-2b-4's what everybody said
-2b's "if only we had died in Egypt or in this desert!"
-ironic and incoherent: they're safe at this point and MH's "They wish to die, for fear of dying." (vs. II Kings 7:3-4)
-3a's "why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?"
-sheer speculation-- and given God's promises and past provision, the question should have answered itself in faith and reason
--> instead, 3b's "our wives/children will be taken as plunder"
-a true concern, just an excuse/decoy, or more crazy talk?
-a pathetic sight; MH's "Unbelief, or distrust of God, is a sin that is its own punishment. Those that do not trust God are continually vexing themselves."
-what this implicitly says about their belief in God's character (Jer 29:11?!), God's choice of a leader, and His word (putting more confidence in man's)

14:5-10 (skim)
-6's Joshua and Caleb "tore their clothes" and beyond that, 7-9 for their attempt to persuade them (Dt 1:29-31 for Moses' attempt)
-10a's "But...the whole assembly talked about stoning them" (!...; I Sam 30:6)
-can’t we agree to disagree or dismissing J&C as crazy? Kill the two most courageous guys we have?
-when it is seen as necessary that all dissent would be quashed (w/ app. to Jesus and Pharisees)

14:18-25 (skim)
-13-19’s plea from Moses
-20's God: "I have forgiven them as you asked" (Ps 78:38a, 106:23; Mic 7:18-20)
-21's "Nevertheless...", 23a's "not one of [these] men will ever see the land"-- mercy and justice, forgiven but still consequences (Ps 99:8)
-24a's exception: "But..." Caleb
-->  for his intercession and service, Moses gets 39 more years of this...great!
-->  Caleb and Joshua get 39 years as well; really bad things happen to really good people...

Thomas' analogy of Egypt, Wilderness, Canaan to "three categories of men" (Ch. 3, SLC)
-saved from Egypt's bondage by faith in the blood of a Passover Lamb
-Red Sea as a picture of baptism (I Cor 10:2; the enemy buried while God's people pass through to a new life)
-given the Law—not saved by good works, but to do good works (Eph 2:8-10)
-meant to go to the fruit and fight of the Promised Land-- sanctification
-vs. wandering in the wilderness (desert, same ol' manna; neither the meat of Egypt nor the fruit of Canaan)
-->  Thomas: "[The Israelites] lived in self-imposed poverty! Every day they spent in the desert was a day they could have spent in Canaan-- for God had given them the land! They would not believe, however, that the God who brought them out was the God who could bring them in!"
-analogy to carnal Christian-- living in the flesh vs. spirit and fruit/fight (Gal 2:20; faith required for J and S)

14:36-45 (not in “The Story”; skim)
-36-38’s 10 spies "were struck down and died of a plague"—an immediate judgment
-executing leaders would avoid future trouble from them
-cause-and-effect sets incentives for others (Eccl 8:11)
-underlines LR judgment of the people
-stricter judgment on them as leaders (Jas 3:1)—for leading people into sin; for misrepresenting God, His land, and His promises
-40's "early the next AM..." and set out for the Promised Land
-acknowledge sin and immediately set out to sin again
--> MH's "They now desire the land which they had despised, and put a confidence in [an expired] promise which they had distrusted."
-44's "Nevertheless...in their presumption" (vs. Moses and God)
--> 45's beating administered by Amalekites and Canaanites
-->  parallels to acting in the flesh, redoubling wrong efforts (doing something/anything), trying to "make it up" to God (guilt blinds them), self-confidence (misplaced belief)

20:1-13's rebellion (Ex 17:1-7's water at the rock sequel; read 20:9-12)
-1’s Miriam dies
-2b's "people gathered in opposition to M&A", 3a's "quarreled with Moses" with 3b-5's std. complaints, blindness, etc.
-8's God's instructions to Moses: "Take the staff and speak to that rock...and it will pour out its water"
-staff picked up but not used (vs. Ex 17)-- meant to be a reminder and an encouragement—oddly, would end up as a temptation!
-9's initial obedience (again)—OK so far..., but 10's strange speech for Moses: "listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?"
            -talk to the rock vs. talk to the rockheads!
-"you rebels": signals anger and frustration (esp. in light of his sister’s death!); smacks of self-righteousness
-"we bring"?!
-11a's disobedience: "struck the rock twice" (with Ex 17:6)—and raised arm as anger/power
-striking twice:
-implies anger and lack of control (wishing he was smashing skulls instead?)
-didn't work first time as a signal of inappropriate method or even as allowing Moses an op to repent
-striking vs. speaking: acting independently, out of the flesh (w/ app. to ministry, force of habit, etc.; Rom 14:23); strike (vs. speak) implies out of Moses' power
-11b's but still success: "water gushed out"
-why punish them for Moses' mistake? w/ app. to God often gets beyond our mistakes
-12's failure "to trust in God enough..." and "to honor God as holy in the sight of the people"
-->  severity?! if anybody deserved to go to Canaan...(Dt 3:26-27)
-MH's "that God judges not as man judges concerning sins" (Is 55:9-10)
-just one thing wrong-- fall short of J under the Law; no special treatment for the "righteous" (Rom 3:23, 6:23)
-higher standard for leaders (Jas 3:1)
-signals severity of the crime (revisited)-- pride, unbelief and Thomas' Ch. 10 argues that this is a picture of re-crucifying Christ instead of relying on the Spirit (Jn 4:14 and 7:37-38's "springs of [living] water"; and esp. I Cor 10:4's "they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ")

21:4-9's Bronze Snake (skim here, but pick up Jn 3:14-15)
-6's "the Lord sent venomous snakes" to bite/kill Israelites
-->  8-9's answer from God: "make a (bronze) snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live"
-creative punishment and cure
-interesting picture of external bite and internal venom
-leaves (vs. removes) the snakes (or their bites), but provides a cure/antidote
-runs counter (although doesn’t exactly contradict) the 2nd C. (Ex 20:4!)—and prohibition's good reason (II Kings 18:4)
-required an act of faith vs. just talk or automatic healing; required faith in proper thing—where and to whom one looked
-->  Jn 3:14-15 (in context!) and parallels for us:
-problem: bitten by poisonous snakes/sin—and recognizing the problem
-outcome: spiritual and physical/spiritual death
-solution: looking to snake/Christ lifted up on a pole/cross
-a plan devised by God
-solution in a similar form to that which was the problem
-faith and knowledge of sin/wound are implicit
-bronze as judgment; snake as sin; pole as tree
-refusal to accept will/would result in death; MH's "If they slighted this method of cure, and had recourse to natural medicines and trusted to them, they justly perished."
-so easy...how many needlessly died?
-barriers to embracing solution: peer pressure, required submission and obedience to authority, reliance on natural methods instead, can't accept gifts, can't accept that one is wrong and incapable of fixing

25:1-13 (skim)
-1b's "men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women" (ironic given Ruth)
-->  catalyst: Num 31:16's Balaam's counsel (Rev 2:14)—clever but not so much (given man’s nature; I Cor 10:13) and ironic…
-a much more effective strategy; MH's "[Israel], having escaped the curse of Balaam, here sustains a great deal of damage by the counsel of Balaam"
-beautiful women were more dangerous to the Israelites than armed men-- subtle vs. overt attacks
-MH's "We are more endangered by the charms of a smiling world than by the terrors of a frowning world."
-6's galling sin
-7ff's Phinehas and Levite renaissance continued

Dt 4:32-40's conclusion—that’ll preach! (read)
-32b's "has anything so great as this ever happened?"
-33,36's unique in His revelation to them: they had heard the voice of God (delivering 10 C's at Mt. Sinai)
-34,37-38's unique in His redemption of them: they had been delivered from another nation (Egypt) by His power
-35,37's unique in His relationship with them:
-God's desire: 35's "[that they] might know that the Lord is God"; to provide 36's loving "discipline" and 38's "inheritance"
-God's motivation: 37's "love" (first mention in Dt; should motivate their/our love)—available to all—and "chose" (I Jn 4:10)
-see also: power and poetry of 32's flavor ("from the day God created man"; "ask from one end of the heavens to the other") and 34's litany of "great and awesome deeds"
-->  reasons/purposes:
-to know God: 35's "so you might know that the Lord is God"
-38's "to bring you into the [promised] land"
-in sum, 39-40's motivation for Israel to accept God's sovereignty (35,39's "besides Him there is no other"), to love and obey God, and to obtain His blessings
-->  for them, and for us—most evidently, through the cross

6:4-9's exposition on 1st C. (read)
-4's "The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (see NIVSB for alt. translations)
-known as the 'shema'; Heb. for 'hear' where hear = obey; has become the daily Jewish confession of faith-- their most important text in Dt
-5's "Love the Lord your God with all your heart/soul/strength"
-what do heart (emotions), soul (will/guts), strength (physical; perseverance), and mind (mental; import of forget/remember) each represent?
-->  4-5's fundamentals of the faith; 6-9's practice and perpetuation of the faith
-6's "these commandments...are to be on your hearts"-- to be accomplished by
-7a's teach: "impress them on your children"
-7b's talk: "talk about them when you sit at home..."-- all the time!
-mindset vs. event; about living life, not mere instructions (Ex 18:20's details)
-implies urgency, need for strategy, explain motives and dynamic dialogue vs. just giving rules and “laying down the law” (see also: we’re all teachers!)
-8,9's reminders and reading: 8's "tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads"; 9's "write them on the doorframes of your houses/gates" (w/ app.)
-can be taken fig. for act and think (11:18); often taken literally by Jews (see: Mt 23:5's "phylacteries"-- small wooden/metal boxes with scripture passages inside, bound to forehead/arm; 'mezuzot'-- same on doorframes)
-see: the import of external reminders (to us and others; e.g., WWJD bracelets, verses on buildings), esp. in the absence of a better internal-- the Spirit
-see: 9's symbolism of doors/gates; import of writing (exs. diaries, note-taking in sermons/lessons)
-again, talk/life imply a dynamic that will not as easily allow externals to be taken for granted
-see: emphasis on family education vs. church education, but import of both; priests were to educate, but family's role was large, esp. without copies of God's word readily available
-eventually accomplished by the Spirit and the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34, Ez 36:26-27; Col 3:16)

8:1-5's history as a motivation

9:4-6's foreshadowing of temptation to ignore or abuse grace

30:11-14's encouragement

30:15-20's blessings/obedience, curses/disobedience formula of Old Covenant (skim)
-on God and Israel's broad purpose, C.S. Lewis' "God selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was-- that there was only one of Him and that he cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process."
-vs. Habakkuk's Q, etc.
-->  but not immediate cause/effect—preserves God’s sovereignty (us controlling God through our behavior?!) and preserves/adds to free will vs. weakening incentives

34:1-12's death of Moses (skim; read 34:10-12?)
-->  bittersweet, but a triumphant, wonderful, poignant ending to a great life (what kind of music would accompany this as a movie scene?)
-seeing the impending fulfillment of an 80-year promise
-last moments spent in tremendous but appropriate intimacy with God (picture God pointing out all of 2-3's details)
-irony that a better Promised Land awaits him (an odd punishment!; Phil 1:21), but also points to the importance of earthly as well as heavenly things
-tension between God's mercy/grace and justice
-a reminder of the seriousness of sin and the size of the blessings we miss
-10-12's amazing epithet as the conclusion to our (long) study of the life of Moses
-10a's "Since then, no prophet...like Moses"
-10b's "whom the Lord knew face to face" (Ex 33:11, Num 12:8)
-11's "who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do"
--> 12's "no one has ever shown the mighty power (of God) or performed the awesome deeds (through God) that Moses did"
-->  see: Buechner on Moses (recounting esp. Ex 3-4)


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