Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 19-March 16

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.

People are murmering. The Israelites have been following Moses, and by now, they have complained, rebeled, argued or spoken against their wilderness leaders four times. In response to this fifth grumble, God moves to punsih folks with snakes. As one author remarks, "It's one thing to grumble against Moses and Aaron. It's another to complain about God."1 Never mind that Moses has led the people out of slavery. change is difficult and things just look better in retrospect. Moses prays, God responds, and Moses makes a bronze serpent to remind folks to have faith in God.
It's unsettling to think about God punishing or further scaring fearful people. Perhaps it makes sense to reflect upon this passage as we consider what causes fear in us, individually and collectively. How do our fears become our idols, and how does God respond to our fears, here in the wilderness called Lent and as we journey to the cross?

God of love and God whose power evokes wonder and fear, keep us focued on what is possible through you. Center our hearts and minds on your wisdom and strength and allow us to rely on it as we move trhough difficult or fearful times. Amen.

1. Barbara Brown Taylor in Feasting on the Word,Year B., Vol. 2, p.99.
snake picture from msnbc.

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