Big Sister and Little Brother

Although Moses was the most humble person in all the world, Miriam and Aaron started complaining, “Moses had no right to marry that woman from Ethiopia! Who does he think he is? The LORD has spoken to us, not just to him.”

The LORD heard their complaint and told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the entrance of the sacred tent. There the LORD appeared in a cloud and told Aaron and Miriam to come closer. Then after commanding them to listen carefully, he said:

“I, the LORD, speak to prophets
in visions and dreams.
But my servant Moses
is the leader of my people.
He sees me face to face,
and everything I say to him
is perfectly clear.
You have no right to criticize
my servant Moses.”

The LORD became angry at Aaron and Miriam. And after the LORD left and the cloud disappeared from over the sacred tent, Miriam’s skin turned white with leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he said to Moses, “Sir, please don’t punish us for doing such a foolish thing. Don’t let Miriam’s flesh rot away like a child born dead!”

Moses prayed, “LORD God, please heal her.”

But the LORD replied, “Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face. So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back.” (Numbers 12:1-14)

Just who did Moses think he was? Zipporah had been Moses’ wife when he returned to Egypt. Whether she had died, whether Moses had divorced her, or whether Moses was adding a second wife to his household is unknown. For some reason, Miriam and Aaron thought Moses had no right to marry the Ethiopian woman. By claiming that God spoke to them, too, they meant to imply that God agreed with them.

God told Moses’ siblings that they had no business claiming to be speaking for God when they weren’t. God told them that he and Moses spent a lot of time together, the implication being that he didn’t spend that kind of time with them.

Moses’ sister Miriam was singled out for punishment. Perhaps she was the ringleader. In any case, God gave her leprosy which turned her as white as snow. Perhaps she had objected to Moses’ nuptials on the basis of his future wife’s skin color. So God turned her exceptionally white since she seemed so fond of that color. Her punishment was only temporary. God healed her within a week.
God will protect his own. If God is for us, who can be against us? Even our closest families members can’t stand in God’s way.

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Symbols

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:8-16)

Symbols matter. Our lives are full of them. Stop signs. Green lights. The letters that spell out words. Moses raised the staff that had been his tool as a shepherd—that had become a sign of God’s work in his life—over his head while the Israelite’s fought. That uplifted staff served as a symbol of God’s watchful care over his people during their first battle. Aaron and Hur joined together with Moses, demonstrating unity of purpose with God in the fight against their enemies.

The staff was not magic, nor were Moses’ hands. It was God who was at war against the Amalekites. Moses didn’t credit Joshua, the staff, Aaron, Hur or himself for the victory. It was God who had saved the people that day in answer to the prayers symbolized by their upraised hands holding Moses’ staff.

God told him that the job was not yet done, however. The day was to be commemorated and remembered, because a time would come in the future when the last of the Amalekites would be relegated to history. The fulfillment of God’s promise came during the reign of Israel’s first king, Saul.

Symbols and commemorations help us remember what God has done in our lives. They prepare us, giving us the strength to face what our futures hold.

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There Was No Golden Age

Every so often I read articles about the early church where the author carefully explains how we have fallen from the perfection of the first century church, and relating how messed up the twenty-first century church is by comparison. There once was a Golden Age, but we have long since abandoned it–or so these very serious authors assure us as they list off the past virtues and the current sins.

Poppycock.

The people who made up the first century church were first and foremost, people. People with the same virtues and vices that afflict us today. Their knowledge of the Bible, their faith, their love, their devotion to one another and to the faith, their concern with truth, their theology was no better than ours. Their chronological nearness to the Christ who walked on Earth does not make them more spiritual or any nearer to God than us. God is not time bound, after all. We have no less of God’s Holy Spirit sealing us until the day of redemption, no less of the Spirit filling our hearts and minds, no less of Jesus in our midst where two or three have gathered in his name. We do not need to return to the first century in order to live properly in the twenty-first. We instead need only to accept who we are, where we are, and live as the Christians we are in the place—spatially and temporally—where God has put us: part of our world even as we are not quite of it. As Peter wrote, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4). We have everything we need; God has fitted us to our present world. The truth of Peter’s words are not dependent upon how comfortably far from, or fearfully near we were born to the Apocalypse. We belong to God as much as any Christians anywhere or any time. We are not perfect. No Christian ever was. Or ever will be, this side of eternity.

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God’s Way

Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, “Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died.”

So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God.

And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son. I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’ ”
On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted him and was about to kill him. But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the LORD left him alone. (Exodus 4:19-26)

There’s God’s way. And then there’s God’s way. God told Moses it was safe to go back to Egypt.

Apparently Moses’ wife Zipporah, a Midianite, had resisted circumcising their son. So, on the way back to Egypt, God threatened to kill him. Why? Centuries earlier, God had told Abraham that those who were not circumcised had broken God’s covenant and would be cut off from their people (Genesis 17:14).

Moses was about to become the leader of the people of Israel. In returning to Egypt, Moses and his family were making the choice to be part of Israel rather than part of Midian. Circumcising their son was a rite of conversion for Zipporah. It was also a choice for their son, doubtless a grown man when Zipporah circumcised him. Moses had been forty years old when he left Egypt. He was eighty years old now that he was returning. He and Zipporah had been married for a very long time. But Zipporah was not happy about having to circumcise her son. She felt like she was paying a new dowry—this time in blood—just to remain Moses’ wife and to keep her son.

God will make sure you do what he wants, whether you like it or not.

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It’s Up to God

You don’t light a lamp and put it under a clay pot or under a bed. Don’t you put a lamp on a lampstand? There is nothing hidden that will not be made public. There is no secret that will not be well known. If you have ears, pay attention!

Listen carefully to what you hear! The way you treat others will be the way you will be treated—and even worse. Everyone who has something will be given more. But people who don’t have anything will lose what little they have.

Again Jesus said:

God’s kingdom is like what happens when a farmer scatters seed in a field. The farmer sleeps at night and is up and around during the day. Yet the seeds keep sprouting and growing, and he doesn’t understand how. It is the ground that makes the seeds sprout and grow into plants that produce grain. Then when harvest season comes and the grain is ripe, the farmer cuts it with a sickle. (Mark 4:21-29)

God’s kingdom is obvious and inevitable. Jesus had been teaching crowds using parables. At the end of a long day, while Jesus was alone with his disciples, they asked him about them. He explained that although most of the people in the crowds didn’t understand about the kingdom, he did not intend for the good news to remain hidden. Instead, the kingdom of God was like a lamp that would bring light to all of them, everywhere.

Jesus warned his disciples to consider very carefully what they were hearing from him. They might gain insight from his words, or they might become even more confused. For a time, all the disciples were mostly confused about what Jesus was actually saying and doing. But only one of them, Judas, would never understand and would finally lose everything. Even the little he gained from his time with Jesus was taken from him in the end.

And so, what is the kingdom of God like? Jesus said that it grows all by itself in our hearts. We don’t have to be anxious about it. We don’t have to exercise to make it happen. It just grows, like the grain in a farmer’s field. He plants it, but he doesn’t send the rain, bring the sun, or make it sprout. Likewise, we will become what we are by God’s power and do what he intends.

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Dragon Contents

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Lazarus

There was once a rich man who wore expensive clothes and every day ate the best food. But a poor beggar named Lazarus was brought to the gate of the rich man’s house. He was happy just to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. His body was covered with sores, and dogs kept coming up to lick them. The poor man died, and angels took him to the place of honor next to Abraham.

The rich man also died and was buried. He went to hell and was suffering terribly. When he looked up and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side, he said to Abraham, “Have pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch my tongue. I’m suffering terribly in this fire.”

Abraham answered, “My friend, remember that while you lived, you had everything good, and Lazarus had everything bad. Now he is happy, and you are in pain. And besides, there is a deep ditch between us, and no one from either side can cross over.”

But the rich man said, “Abraham, then please send Lazarus to my father’s home. Let him warn my five brothers, so they won’t come to this horrible place.”

Abraham answered, “Your brothers can read what Moses and the prophets wrote. They should pay attention to that.”

Then the rich man said, “No, that’s not enough! If only someone from the dead would go to them, they would listen and turn to God.”

So Abraham said, “If they won’t pay attention to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even to someone who comes back from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)

Although the story of Lazarus and the rich man may give us some information about the nature of Hell, it was not the primary point of the story. Jesus was trying to teach the Pharisees and Sadducees a lesson. They believed that because they were rich and powerful, they were blessed by God. They believed the poor and weak were that way because God was punishing them for their sins.

Jesus wanted the Pharisees and Sadducees to understand that external circumstances revealed nothing about how sinful a person might be. Abraham’s warning, that even a resurrection wouldn’t convince those who wouldn’t listen to scripture, were directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus had already raised several people from the dead. Soon Jesus himself would rise from the dead. But all the miracles that Jesus ever did were not enough to convince the Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected him. God has given us his words and the words of his Son Jesus Christ. Today we must choose to believe based on those words alone.

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Vengeance

The men of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” So that day they called Gideon “Jerub-Baal,” saying, “Let Baal contend with him,” because he broke down Baal’s altar. (Judges 6:30-32)

Gideon’s father was right about Baal. And it also applies to Yahweh. He doesn’t need his followers to “avenge” him. He can take care of himself.

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The Kingdom

“In those days, after that tribulation:
The sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not shed its light;
the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the celestial powers will be shaken.

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near—at the door! I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

“Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—except the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming. It is like a man on a journey, who left his house, gave authority to his slaves, gave each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to be alert. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know when the master of the house is coming—whether in the evening or at midnight or at the crowing of the rooster or early in the morning. Otherwise, he might come suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Be alert!” (Mark 13:24-37)

We shouldn’t get our exercise by jumping to conclusions. Jesus quoted the book of Isaiah to describe the destruction that the Romans would bring against Jerusalem and its temple only forty years later. Isaiah had been describing what it was like when the Babylonians had come.

Since Rome was a new Babylon for the Jewish people, his disciples would have understood Jesus’ words as a prediction of a Roman invasion of their homeland. When Jesus told them that they would see Jesus coming “in clouds with great power and glory” they thought he meant that unlike when the Babylonians invaded, against the Romans the Messiah would prevail.

Jesus’ disciples misunderstood Jesus. Until they were enlightened by the Spirit at Pentecost, they looked only for a physical kingdom. They didn’t understand that Jesus spoke of a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of believers everywhere. Someday Jesus will come back and rule the earth physically, but that time was not then and it is not yet. But we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that with God in our hearts today, we already experience that kingdom of God.

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Perspective

Steven Pinker writes in his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, in chapter 6, The New Peace (location 6712 in the Kindle version of the book):

“This period [the first decade of the 21st century], even with thirty-one ongoing conflicts in that mid-decade (including Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, Sri Lanka, and Sudan), enjoyed an astoundingly low rate of battle deaths: around 0.5 per 100,000 per year, falling below the homicide rate of even the world’s most peaceable societies. The figures, granted, are lowballs, since they include only reported battle deaths, but that is true for the entire time series. And even if we were to multiply the recent figures by five, they would sit well below the world’s overall homicide rate of 8.8 per 100,000 per year. In absolute numbers, annual battle deaths have fallen by more than 90 percent, from around half a million per year in the late 1940s to around thirty thousand a year in the early 2000s. So believe it or not, from a global, historical, and quantitative perspective, the dream of the 1960s folk songs has come true: the world has (almost) put an end to war.”

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