Day164 #BCaD

Numbers 19

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

In this chapter we learn about the importance of hygiene. Especially when you have been handling dead bodies.

Seriously though, many of these types of passages which describe ritual cleansing remind one how important hygiene must have been in those times. We probably cannot undo our knowledge and understanding of germs. From infancy we have been bombarded with warnings about germs.

We have seen magnified images of germs and dust mites. We know the science behind our immune system and the potential threat of viruses and bacterial infections. They didn’t. It just makes me wonder if chapters like this, came about in order to keep the Israelites clean and more importantly alive.

What is a Heifer?

A heifer is a female cow that has not yet given birth. A virgin cow if you like. In this chapter a red one¬†is burned so thoroughly that only ashes remain. These ashes are then used by the community as part of the purification process. I am not entirely sure if there is any science behind this one! Perhaps it is just for us to wonder at and be glad that we don’t have to go to the trouble of doing it!?

Lessons for Us in the Here and Now

There is a good deal of water used in this chapter. Holy water. It is used not only to wash in the traditional sense but also to bless or purify. It is bathed in, poured from vessels and sprinkled over things. In many parts of the Christian church, holy water is still used extensively. Sometimes the priest even has a kind of holy pastry brush which he or she dips into holy water and sloshes over a sometimes unsuspecting congregation! This is one of those chapters that is quoted in justifying such behaviour ūüôā

But seriously, let us remember to wash regularly. Even more seriously, let us remember to regularly wash away any sense of guilt that we may harbour. We may get dirty again but then we can wash again. As human beings it is impossible to stay spotless all of the time. That does not mean that we should give up trying to be clean. God offers us forgiveness through His son Jesus. This forgiveness is on tap (good pun).

We can access it every day. Every hour. Every moment. Let’s get clean.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=numbers19&version=NIV

 

 

 

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Day 163 #BCaD

Numbers 18

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=numbers+18&version=NIV

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The Responsibilities of Leadership

  1. Rewards

In this chapter God sets out what he expects from the tribes of Israel, especially the Levites. God describes the responsibility of leadership as a ‘gift’. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Yes there are rewards but only in return for hard work. Hard work both in terms of the physical toil of looking after the temple but also the emotional toil of being responsible for others and making decisions for their wellbeing.

2. Models of Leadership

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Do you hate the idea of ‘hot-desking’? I think most people do. Especially if you have worked through an era in which superior working spaces and one’s very own office were things that were the trappings of the more successful.

If someone said to you,’I want you to be in charge,’ what would you say? Perhaps you might say,’What’s in it for me?’ What would be on your list?

  1. A Pay Rise
  2. My own office
  3. A personal assistant (an attractive one)
  4. Health Insurance
  5. Pension Plan
  6. A Company Car
  7. Private toilet
  8. More Holiday
  9. Loads of gadgets
  10. Power to hire and fire
  11. Second home
  12. John Lewis expense account to furnish it
  13. Holiday home for your exclusive use
  14. Membership of Wimbledon
  15. Debenture at Wembley
  16. Unlimited clothing allowance
  17. Private Jet

The list is quite easy to write and could go on indefinitely! One thing is blatantly obvious. Everything on the list benefits me but has little benefit to anybody else.

Do you get the impression that Donald Trump relishes all the trappings of being president? I do.

As humans we have a natural tendency for self-preservation and even self-promotion. When it comes to leadership, we must temper that tendency. God gives us the perfect model for leadership in the person of Jesus. His words and actions outline how to lead and serve at the same time. Revolutionary then and revolutionary now.

As for me and my house, we believe that the responsibility of leadership is about making sure that everyone is ok. Leading AND serving.  For the many not the few.

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3. Humility

The taller the willow, the lower it bends. It’s not necessarily the easy or weaker option. It often takes great strength of character and an unshakable foundation of values.

 

 

 

Day 162 #BCaD

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Numbers 17

  1. Can We Trust Our Leaders?

What a pertinent and relevant question? The Israelites have just witnessed three entire families swallowed up by the ground and two hundred and fifty men burned to death outside the tabernacle. They want to know if this is God at work or some evil force. ‘Can we trust our leaders?’they ask. Moses yet again has to prove to them¬†that it is God at work.

All the leaders, all twelve of them, are asked to place their staffs into the Holy tent. The staff that flowers by morning is the one that belongs to God’s favoured leader.

In the morning it is the staff that belongs to Aaron that has sprung into life with buds and leaves and flowers and had even produced almonds!

I wonder if Donald Trump were to leave his staff in the tent over night, how it would look in the morning?

It might be tempting to ask Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

Unfortunately, we have to make our own minds up about our leaders. We have to examine them, scrutinise their words and actions and come to our own conclusions.

     2. By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

Just as Aaron’s staff flowered and bore fruit, Jesus says that it is by people’s fruit that you should judge their worth.

Matthew 7:

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Paul adds:

Galatians 5:22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. 

People often ask me, people sometimes ask me, somebody asked me once,* do you have to be a Christian to be a good person? They say/said,’I know lots of good people who are not Christian. There is a simple test that you can take as to how you measure up. All you have to do is insert your name into the following passage and see if the statement is true. Ready?

Here we go:

[your name] is patient, [                 ] is kind.

[                    ] does not envy, [                    ]does not boast, [                    ] is not proud.

[                    ] does not dishonour others, [                    ] is not self-seeking,

[                    ] is not easily angered,  [                    ] keeps no record of wrongs.

[                    ] does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.

[                   ] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

[                    ] never fails.                                              Corinthians 13;4-8

If you scored 100% please would you lead this country? Please?

If not, please would you lead the USA? Please?

Please?

¬† ¬† ¬†3. The Israelites Ask, ‘Are We All Going To Die?’

Yes.

*Flanders and Swann

Day 160 #BCaD

 

grace-family.jpgNumbers 15

  1. Grace Before Meals

Do you say grace before you eat? When I was growing up we said grace before our evening meal together. We all said it aloud. I think it went like this:

‘Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.’

It’s quite formal isn’t it? And you can probably guess that, as a small child, I was just thinking that ‘Bounty’ was a chocolate bar and was forever wondering how that all fitted together since we never had a Bounty bar for tea!

Saying grace before meals is important though. It does two important things. Firstly, it reminds us that God has provided food for us and helps us not to take that fact for granted and secondly it reminds us of others who do not have enough to eat.

In this chapter we see God reminding the Israelites to give thanks to God for food and drink. We hear this phrase again – ‘a fragrance pleasing to the Lord.’

We went to a dear friend’s house for Sunday lunch yesterday and she was explaining how she hadn’t cooked for a while and how lovely it was to smell delicious food in the house again. I am a signed-up member of Slimming World.What that wonderful institution teaches you, amongst other things, is to really enjoy and savour the food that you can eat. I love that. If you throw food down your throat as you are doing something else, you hardly notice that you have eaten and will probably try to eat something again pretty soon afterwards.

As we move into Advent, let’s remind ourselves of the pleasure of food and drink in a wholesome and appreciative way. Grab a recipe book, make a shopping list, cook something, give thanks for it and savour it.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+15&version=NIV

2. Stoning

A man found gathering wood on the sabbath is stoned to death.

3. Tassels

The Israelites are commanded to sew tassels of blue chord onto the corners of their garments. This is to remind them not to have lustful thoughts. Worth a try !

Day 159 #BCaD

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Numbers 14

The People Rebel –

  1. Those Were The Days!

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=numbers+14&version=NIV

Do you ever find yourself longing for the ‘good old days’? Simpler times? If you do, I wonder which time of your life you are thinking of in particular. It is worth taking a moment to reflect upon what made those times preferable to now.

Allow me to give you an example. I really enjoyed being 17 years old. There was something about the excitement of becoming an adult and the feeling that the future was full of opportunity. Would I want to go back to being 17 if I had the chance? No. Living in the UK or more specifically South London at that time was not great. There were violent protests, strikes, hatred, crime, vandalism, anger and riots. Things are better now in these respects. They are. It’s just that a part of your brain blocks out the negative and retains the positive memories. That is why people have a second child; they block out the pain of childbirth and the sleep deprivation. I have even heard parents say they miss their children being babies. WHAT !? This simply cannot be true. On any level.

In this chapter we see the people longing for the good old days of being captive in Egypt. They have forgotten how miserable they were under Pharaoh and they have forgotten that they are on their way to the promised land. It is the uncertainty that is getting to them. Yes it was horrible in Egypt but at least they knew where they were!

We can relate to these feelings can’t we? We too are travelling towards a promised land and sometimes the older you get, the more serious a prospect it becomes. Then you long for the old days when it didn’t seem so serious or indeed so close!

Have you ever had a health scare? When you make an appointment at the doctor’s and in the days leading up to that appointment your mind starts creating negative outcomes? Or waiting for results – one of the hardest things to endure sometimes. It’s the waiting that is the most difficult bit. Even if the news is bad, at least you know and your mind can begin to process it.

So what do we learn from the Israelites today? We learn to have faith in God’s ultimate plan for us. If we believe in God and that the Bible is ‘God-breathed’ we therefore MUST believe that God loves us. If we believe that God loves us then we MUST believe that He has a plan for us, however difficult things get.

To combine two popular phrases, ‘God wins in the end, if He hasn’t won yet, then it’s not the end.’

2. The Old Testament

If you get a chance to listen to Malcolm Duncan’s talk on ‘Did God Appoint Donald Trump?’ (link below) you will hear him explain how he used to prefer the parts of the bible concerned with Jesus and how he learned that the Old Testament is relevant and compelling as well. I used to think the same.

3. Did God Appoint Donald Trump?

Over to you Malcolm:

Day 158 #BCaD

Numbers 13

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  1. If you were asked, “Where is the land of opportunity?” what would your answer be? Many of us would say America. Why? Because they are always telling us that it is. Australia also claims to be the land of opportunity. Today, many argue that Africa is the true land of opportunity. I think that the idea of a ‘land of opportunity’ centres around the concept of a new beginning and a fresh start. When America was discovered it presented a tantalising opportunity for people to make a fresh start and create a civilisation liberated from the ‘baggage’ of European borders, traditions and politics.

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2. Moses explores Canaan and even though his scouts find it to be a land of ‘milk and honey’, they are afraid. They decide to scare the Israelites by making up stories about tough giants who already live there. We call this scare-mongering today.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=numbers+13&version=NIV

3. So, if you had the chance to start your own country, what would you do? What would be your values? Would everyone be equal? Would everyone have a duty to care for one another? How important would education be? How tough would you be in defending those values?

Guess what?

We do have an opportunity to do something. In a way we possess our own land of opportunity. Our personal values are our values. What are they? Do we treat everyone equally? Do we care for others? How important is education to us? How tough are we in defending these values?

Are we guilty of leaving it to others to uphold our values?

We have an opportunity to do something.

Donald Trump is now president-elect of the USA.

Don’t panic: Do something.

Oh and by the way, meet the next president of the USA. See you in 2020.

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