I was reading along in the book of Numbers, and in chapter 27 there is a story about five daughters who come to Moses with a petition. They are the daughters of Zelophehad (I know, right!?!?!?) and they ask Moses and other leaders to consider something that they think is unfair. I had to look into this, and so here is my take on this story. The text reads:
27:2 These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 3 “Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. “He was not among Korah’s followers, who rebelled against the Lord; he died because of his own sin. But he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.”
We can hear the question in the minds of Zelophehad’s daughters: “Does God make inheritance contingent upon pedigree rather than faithfulness?” Now, let me pause to say that when the girls claim that their dad “died because of his own sin” they are not referring to any particular rebellion, like Korah’s actions, but they are referring to natural consequences given the notion that sin leads to death and all persons die because all persons sin. And now we move on. If the answer to their question was yes, then the manner of distributing the land contradicted the condition for entering the land.
You see, Zelophehad was a member of the generation that was told by God that they would die in the wilderness, but while Korah’s descendants and other families, whose patriarchs actively rebelled against God would enjoy an allotment of land, Zelophehad’s family would not. Why? Because of a legal oversight preferring sons over daughters, which struck at the heart of God’s covenant with Abraham, which promised not only land but also the continuing relationship of God with Abraham’s children (Gen 15:18; 17:7). So Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirza placed the notion of legal ancestry through males against their faith in God’s promise and obedience to the covenant. Moses and the leaders act in their favor! The text reads:
27:5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord. 6 And the Lord replied to Moses, 7 “The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father.
So what do we learn in this passage? God could not simply reject the daughters because life circumstances did not give a son to their father. The certainty of the covenant did not depend on favorable life circumstances for the patriarchs but on the faithful character of God. The book of Numbers presents these daughters as examples of true Israelites.
I wrote this with help from: D. Ulrich, The Framing Function Of The Narratives About Zelophehad’s Daughters, JETS 41/4 (December 1998) 529–538
The world is infatuated with beautiful people. We have science to explain what makes a person beautiful or handsome. Researchers have even studied human features from different regions of the world to help us know what it is we appreciate about the different types of people on this globe. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, the male physique was the ultimate symbol of beauty and thus physical competition was created to show off the sculpted muscular humanity. For our American culture, the female body has become an obsession and this plays out in other arenas like beauty pageants... (I’m done talking about this)
In Jewish tradition, there was one tribe who was known for the beauty of their women and the talent of their women. That tribe was Asher. These women were so sought after that the Jewish leaders allowed the high priest to take them in marriage. If there were a king looking for a Jewish girl to marry, he would not have to wonder into the region of Asher very far to find a suitable royal companion.
So, when we meet Anna in Luke 2, we should be surprised by the description, it really shouldn’t make since to us at all. Let’s read it:
Luke 2:36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37a and then had been a widow for eighty-four years.
Ok—But maybe you have already asked the question I have in my mind. If she is from the tribe of Asher, a tribe known for beauty and for talent, then why would she choose to spend 84 years by herself as a widow. The text tells us…
37b She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Now, the natural thing for Anna, once her husband died at age 21, would have been to look for a husband (or really to have a man look for her, which I’m certain happened given what we know about her).
And perhaps this is what Anna had discovered, that the only way for redemption, or salvation from this life was for God’s promise to be true. Perhaps another man would heal her broken heart, perhaps some children would give her purpose as a mother. However, only the Messiah could make the world right, and only God’s promise was big enough to heal the nations.
And so Anna sought after the promise of God. Everyday, ceaselessly in the temple praying and fasting like a person who is morning for the dead, and like a person who can’t “get over it” who has lost it all. She was a fixture in the temple; hoping God would hear her.
Anna doesn’t teach us how to be a mother, or a wife, she teaches us how to be a disciple of Jesus, trusting that God’s promises are true even when every experience might ask us to question it.
There is little doubt that music moves people. There is something about the combination of lyric and rhythm, pitch and sound that connects to our innermost thoughts and feelings. Here are some thoughts about the effect of music:
“Music can change the world because it can change people.”
“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”
― Martin Luther
“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.”
― Colbie Caillat
I don’t really want to the question the idea of music’s power, but I want us to think about what it is that our music is persuading us of…or moving us towards. Let me explain. As we think about what we fill our hearts and minds with on a weekly and daily basis, what does our music applaud? Does the music we most often listen to speak highly of sex? How about sexual acts? How about sexual acts in the club with random hook-ups? How about the power of love? How about the pride of our nation? How about the life of luxury? How about the life of leisure? How about the city life? How about the country life? How about escaping your life? How about the violent life? How about the peaceful life? How about money? How about being unique and different? How about being angry? And the list goes and goes…
Does the music you listen to affect the way you engage the world—there is little doubt that it does…so, from a minister’s perspective let me say that our worship through music sets us on a particular trajectory, or in a particular frame of mind and heart. Now, I’m not trying to argue that love is evil or that we shouldn’t have some level of national pride…but I am trying to assert that music does have power and that power must be acknowledged and accepted…and perhaps even cautioned against!
The power of music is why it is an important part of our worship of God. And while you might be a hip hop, country, rap, alternative, pop, or classical fan; I hope and pray we are all listening to songs that praise God. David sings this in Psalm 59:
16 But as for me, I will sing about your power.
Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
a place of safety when I am in distress.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.
May the songs of our God always be in our hearts, in our minds, and upon our lips! And may the songs of other, lesser things diminish in comparison to our great God. In the words of a contemporary song:
How great is our God!
Sing with me,
How great is our God!
And all will see,
How great, how great is our God!
Today I was reading in Luke chapter 1, it’s the story of the angel Gabriel coming to meet with Mary. The text reads:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
Did you catch that? Gabriel said, “Hello! You are the chosen one! God is with you!”
And it is reported that Mary was “confused and disturbed” by this…Hmmm…
I wonder why the idea that God was with her and that she was the chosen or favored one would create such a reaction in her. Well…how many Old Testament Jewish women do we know who were chosen by God to do great things for Him? How many really, really young women were there? How many really, really young women who were dirt-poor were there? Sure you might be able to name a couple or a few…but the truth is that young Mary was a product of her first Century, Jewish culture which would have seen her status as poor, her season of life as young, and her gender as female as reason why she was disadvantaged in being chosen by God.
For Mary, the words “favored woman” was so foreign to her upbringing. The idea that, “God was with her” would have turned her world upside-down because God was with the priests in the Temple, not a young girl from Bethlehem. She was confused…but let’s be clear that God wasn’t confused. God knew exactly what was happening and God had chosen her and was with her. We might even acknowledge that this, indeed, was a job that no man could even dream of doing, this was a woman’s calling and Mary was the woman called.
You know, you don’t have to be young, poor girl from Bethlehem to think that your experience, history, and societal value disqualifies you from being called by God. Maybe your family wasn’t supportive and while you want to know God better, you’re convinced that God doesn’t want to know you. Maybe you made mistakes in your teen and young adult years that have had their effects on you, and so you are beyond God’s reach. Maybe you have tried to dedicate you life to God so many times but there is a habit or hurt or hang-up that keep creeping in and so you thing God has just given up on you.
Well, Mary was well suited to be the mother of Jesus. She was female for sure. She was young and still a virgin, which I only mention to argue that God wanted Jesus to be born of a virgin to show the purity of the divine baby and to fulfill the prophecy. She was poor but the mother of the King of Heaven, which allows Jesus to be a King of the people and serve the people—not a kingdom of Israel or anywhere else. Mary was perfectly suited for her calling…and while the initial shock was intense, her response that followed this was one of faithfulness and gratitude.
So, two things for you to think about:
1. Often we miss our calling because we think it needs to be something that we are talented at or something that we feel we are strong at doing, but God doesn’t always want the talented as much as he wants someone who has been prepared for what he/she needs us to do. Don’t limit God with your perceived talents and abilities…
2. When God does call you, it might be so in tune with who you are and what God has done in you that it freaks you out at first. You might wonder: How did God know? (Ha) or I’m not sure about this? But God often calls us to help those who are walking through something that we have already been through…something we are perfectly suited for…
You have probably known at least one friend who has been in a bad situation. Perhaps you have been in one yourself. It seems like an easy decision to make—leave the bad situation and walk into a better one. However, those persons who are faced with abusive relationships, terrible work environments, and chemical/emotional addictions really have a hard time trying to view their world in a different way. What we know by experience—a new identity is hard to accept.
Often the church makes it seem so easy…some tell us to say this prayer and be changed, and we in Churches of Christ usually teach that one should be baptized and rise to have a new life. But is new life that easy? No, it isn’t easy. Baptism is a great start, but there is more to walking with Christ. In fact, those who have been changed by Christ have done so over years of trusting that God’s will, or plan for them, is better than the old familiar way they were living. Even in the pull to go back to the familiar way of life, there is something that holds them to the promise of a better life. But this doesn’t just happen in individuals, it happens in groups and among peoples.
Israel is a great example of this. Listen to the report in Numbers 14:
1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
Every time I read this I am struck with a “What in the world is happening?!?!?” If only we had died in Egypt! Nothing about this line of thinking is rational or even accurate…except if we consider the pull of the familiar against the fear of the promised.
And that is a dilemma that all believers face. Sure, our church would grow if we brought in a bunch of strange people who would totally change the identity of our church, the feel of our church, and the different smaller groups that make up our church…do we trust that God has more for us or are we content with a church that is familiar to us with familiar faces around us. Sure, you can leave your abusive spouse and strike out on your own where there will be more peace and the promise of healing from the pain, but can you take the step to trust that the transition will lead to something better for you. It won’t happen overnight, most likely the wilderness experience will be unfamiliar and uncomfortable…but on the other side of it is a place God wants you to be. God wants us to live freely in his promised place. It’s that pull of the familiar that leaves us to die in the wilderness, and if you need proof then read the rest of Numbers 14!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.