Bless us?

Does this sound selfish to you?

Psalm 67:1-7
    To the choirmaster: with Stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

    May God be gracious to us and bless us
        and make his face to shine upon us,  Selah
    [2] that your way may be known on earth,
        your saving power among all nations.
    [3] Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you!
    [4] Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
        for you judge the peoples with equity
        and guide the nations upon earth.  Selah
    [5] Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you!
    [6] The earth has yielded its increase;
        God, our God, shall bless us.
    [7] God shall bless us;
        let all the ends of the earth fear him!

It says “bless us” but really looks to see good things happen to all people, even those not like me, maybe even my enemies.  The interesting question is how God’s blessing to us/me is of benefit to another.


Readers Digest

My parents used to get Readers Digest.  The idea was to take interesting articles from other places and condense them for folks too busy to read.  That is what Deuteronomy 1-4 is like, Moses is giving a digest of the events from the Exodus to the end of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  If you had trouble following the flow from Exodus through Numbers, here is a summary.

The theme is Obedience.  We might think it was easier to know what to obey at that time – they had Moses, and the Pillar of Cloud, and the Tabernacle and various wonders to give them direction.  (We have no note for the record, that they seemed confused and they grumbled about their leaders frequently.)

We do not have such direct guidance.  How are we to proceed?  There is a change from the initial miraculous to the less spectacular keeping of the laws and wisdom of the scriptures. 

What do you think?  Is it harder or easier today to follow the Lord?

Textual Criticism

The end of Mark’s gospel creates an interesting case study in Textual Criticism.  If our desire is to read the bible, then we have to find the best and most reliable copy to read.  At the end of Mark 16:8 most modern translations indicated that there are varied endings to Mark’s gospel.  The most ancient copies end at verse 8, but that seems abrupt.

Mark 16:8
    And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 That abruptness, probably explains the two endings that you may find in your copy of the bible or in the footnotes.  The short version is rarely used as it has very few, and quite late sources.  It appears clearly to have been made up to create a better ending.  The long ending of Mark, which may be in your text, with a note of explanation, goes from verses 9 to 20.  Some think these are scripture – either because they are original, or because the church has always accepted it.  Others say it is not really part of Mark, citing the old manuscripts and the style of the piece along with the abrupt transition from verse 8 to verse 9.  A final theory is that the last page of Mark was somehow lost to history.

We hold that Mark ends at verse 8, leaving open the door to the long lost last page.

It appears that the readers find the abruptness of the women running away in fear and trembling to be unsatisfactory.  So the long ending provides a kind of summary of Jesus appearances.

What if Mark intended to communicate that absolutely jarring unexpected character of the Resurrection of Jesus.  Easter is in our day a matter of bunnies and chocolate eggs.  The first witnesses to the Resurrection were scared witless.

The suspense leaves the reader asking – what next?  The reader will decide that the women did talk, sooner or later, because we have heard in Mark and the other gospels, their story.

Also, the words “fear” and “trembling” are often associated with how people respond to the revelation of God’s holiness and majesty.

As the old spiritual goes:

Somtimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. 

Were you there when he rose up from the dead?


Almost There

OK, so you are finding the reading up through Numbers a hard push!  So are we.  But remember, when you feel that way on the elliptical machine at the gym, don’t quit.  Just today at the gym, FRESH READ was down another pound.  That is 4 down and 11 to go this year.

Here are four passages in Numbers to Ponder –

Rebellion – Numbers 13-14.  This is a vivid reminder that rebellion leads to wandering aimlessly – like Jacob at Laban’s, or like the Prodigal Son in the far off land.

Aaron’s Staff – Numbers 17:1-13.  This is an interesting question of how leadership is determined.  In the church it is usually a debate between those who elect, those who replace themselves, and those who claim divine approval.

Water from the Rock – Numbers 20:1-12  This is a repeat miracle, from a previous water from a rock experience in Exodus.  However, why was Moses treated so harshly for “smiting” not “speaking” to the Rock?

The Bronze Serpent – Numbers 21:4-9.  Of course this is referred to in John’s Gospel (John 3:14-15) in the two verses before the most famous verse in Scripture.  Is this an example of how we can apply scripture to ourselves?

a worksheet is here, with fun pictures, in Word – 09numbers2.doc

Hot Temper?

Mark 11:1-25 includes the curious incident of the fig tree.  Jesus entered the city, inspected the temple area and left. 


He saw a fig tree with a lot of foliage, and inspected it for fruit.  There was none, so he cursed it.  Later, after clearing the temple area of the money lenders (think tourist trap sales bazaar) the tree was found to be withered from the roots.

Now, is this the case of Jesus showing a hot temper? 

Or is this something else?

The best explanation is to look at the context of the fig tree cursing.  It is sandwiched around the temple visit and purification story.  The two are related.  Jesus looked carefully at both.  He was disappointed by both, for their lack of fruit.  He passed sentence on both. 

The fig tree is a sort of parable for the people at worship, or the institution of worship at that time.  It appeared to be all leaves (activity) and no fruit (prayer – v. 17, forgiveness – v. 25)