Day 61: Complaining in the desert
Numbers 11:4-35 Much of this chapter contains material also found in the Book of Exodus (cf. Ex 16; 18:13-26). The seventy elders, the priesthood of Aaron, and the Levitical priesthood are types (TYPOLOGY!!) of the one priesthood of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. As the Prayer of Consecration for the Ordination of a Bishop reads in part:
“God...from the beginning,
Foreordained a nation of the just,
Born of Abraham;
He established rulers and priests
And did not leave his sanctuary without ministers”
(Rite of Ordination of a Bishop, no. 47)
Deuteronomy 10:14-16 The All-powerful God chose to give everyone a capacity to share in his everlasting life by freely responding to his love. This was especially the case with his Chosen People and, later, with the baptized faithful of his Church. Circumcise...your heart: Circumcision involves the surgical removal of the male foreskin, which was a sign of commitment to the Old Covenant. This act is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of a purification of the heart and the quest for holiness taught by Christ. In Christian tradition, the image of circumcision is often related to the SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM by which we are made children of God. (CCC 218)
Ch 10:18 As the recipient of fullness of Revelation and the teachings of the Apostles, the Church today continues to transmit the Deposit of Faith, instructing the faithful in the way to salvation and holiness (CCC 2419)
Psalm 33 This hymn of praise tells of God’s glory reflected in his creation. God is the Lord of history and thus exercises his providence over human affairs. His lordship is articulated again in the verses about his dominion over the stormy sea. Rough waters are a symbol of chaos and evil, so God’s control of the seas bears witness to his OMNIPOTENCE. (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, August 8, 2001)
By the word...of his mouth: In this verse some of the Church Fathers interpreted “word” and “breath” as indicative of the Son and the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus used this psalm as an example of how all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are equally involved and responsible in the creation of the universe as is inferred earlier in the Old Testament. Elsewhere in Scripture we find references to the divine Persons of the Trinity, as in the “breath” in the creation narrative in Genesis and the prominence of the “Word” in the prologue of John’s Gospel. The Church prays this psalm at Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B. (CCC 292, 316, 703)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
In Exodus 16, Israel had cried out in hunger, and God miraculously fed them with manna.
Now after a year of eating nothing but manna, Israel complains, “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Nm 11:4-6). (Hey!! What about the baklava??)
In the gift of manna, which Exodus 16:31 described as tasting like “wafers made with honey,” (I dunno, kinda sounds like baklava to me 😋)Israel received a foretaste of the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Now, however, Israel despises the manna and refuses to see it as a promise of what lies ahead.
Instead, they long for what lies behind.
Rejecting God’s provision, they pine for the food of Egypt.
God’s original provision of manna was in response to Israel’s complaint of hunger.
In contrast, this new complaint is not out of hunger or need but rather out of a disordered desire for what they have left behind and a failure to hope in what the manna signified, the blessing of the fruitful land of God’s promise.
Not able to hope in what is yet unseen, Israel walks by what they know.
This route is a return to bondage and a rejection of all God is doing for them.
Not surprisingly, God’s anger is sparked by Israel’s ingratitude.
Rejecting the gift of manna, the people crave meat.
God responds, and a great wind blows, bringing an abundance of quails (Nm 11:31).
But in the midst of their meal, a “very great plague” breaks out.
The very mention of a plague recalls God’s mighty wonders against the hard-hearted Egyptians.
How can Israel, God’s firstborn son, now experience such things?
The answer is simple: when Israel crossed the Red Sea, God promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would not afflict them with plagues as he had the Egyptians, “for I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex 15:26).
Israel is acting like the Egyptians and, as a result, plagues are now turned upon them—and there is nowhere to hide in the wilderness.
Moses, understandably, begins to buckle under the weight of Israel’s ingratitude.
He begs God for assistance, and God promises to pour out his Spirit upon seventy elders of Israel who will help Moses in the task of leading the people.
This tradition is the origin of the custom in Jesus’ day of having a senate of seventy leaders over the Jews, known as the Sanhedrin (which means “the seventy”). (OOOOH so that’s where that name came from! 😁)
This is the group before which Jesus will be tried. (Ohhhh the irony….😒)
More importantly for Numbers, Moses comments that he wishes all the people of Israel could receive God’s Spirit, just as these seventy do.
All the tragedies and failures of Israel in this story serve to underscore what Moses perceives: Israel needs God’s Holy Spirit to follow God.
That gift will be a long time coming.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
Numbers 11 is a big chapter
The Exodus is the WATERSHED EVENT in the history of the people of Israel
Being released from slavery in Egypt and heading out into the wilderness
The Israelites are complaining and rebelling
They aren’t just complaining like in the Book of Psalms
They aren’t just complaining like in the Book of Lamentations
This is a different kind of complaining
It’s similar to a child asking his/her parent “Please can I have this? Why can’t we go wherever?”
It is the COMPLAINT OF REBELLION
Think about this
The people of Israel are being fed EVERY SINGLE DAY
Yes, it is manna for breakfast, lunch, and dinner manna manna manna
How did the Israelites respond to this?
“Would that we were back in Egypt”
“When we were slaves we got to eat fish for free”
No they didn’t, they were slaves
The food they got to eat in Egypt was AT THE PRICE OF THEIR FREEDOM
They were a NON-PEOPLE in the midst of the Egyptians
And now, here they are, GOD’S PEOPLE AND FREE and are getting fed every single day
And they are basically saying that they WISH THEY WERE STILL SLAVES!!
How much is that like us?
If I become Catholic, will I be happy?
If I go to Confession, will I feel better?
If I give my life to Christ, will things go well for me?
These things are all great, we all want to be happy, feel better, and have things go well for us
NONE OF THOSE THINGS have EVER been the Promise of those who BELONG TO THE LORD
Health and Wealth have NEVER BEEN THE PROMISE of those who belong to Jesus Christ (nice try, prosperity gospel!!)
Jesus says, “Come after me if you want to be my disciple, you have to DENY YOURSELF, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME.”
BUT YOU WILL BE FREE
YOU WON’T BE A SLAVE
You’ll have life and you’ll be able to BELONG TO THE LORD AND BE HIS
But you WILL HAVE PROBLEMS
But you WILL HAVE STRUGGLES
But take heart
Jesus has overcome the world
We still sometimes say we were happier when we could eat garlic and onions and melons and leeks (AND BAKLAVA!!)
We can trade our FREEDOM for ANYTHING
We can trade our FREEDOM for COMFORT
We can trade our FREEDOM for BAKLAVA!!!
Moses is able to share the burden with the 70 ELDERS
The elders receive the Holy Spirit that has come upon Moses
The young man and Joshua come to Moses and receive the Holy Spirit and begin to prophesy
Moses’ response was “Would that EVERY ONE OF THE LORD’S PEOPLE WERE PROPHETS”
And here we are
When you are baptized, you are anointed a PRIEST, PROPHET, and KING/QUEEN
You are a KINGDOM PRIEST
You are a PROPHET OF THE LORD
You are a KING/QUEEN
This means at your Baptism, God sends the Holy Spirit to anoint you
We have to ask ourselves, “Am I exercising my blessing, my anointing of being a PROPHET OF THE LORD?”
Deuteronomy is Moses summing up the story so far in the Desert Wanderings
Today he tells the story of the second set of tables of the Commandments
The ESSENCE OF THE LAW
“Many many times, the Lord has set his heart IN LOVE upon your fathers and chosen their descendants after them. You above all peoples. He has set his heart in love upon you.”
This is the word God speaks over each one of us today
God has set his HEART IN LOVE UPON YOU
That’s why these Commandments exist and have been given to us
That’s why you and I and everyone here have been invited into being part of this Bible in a Year Podcast
GOD HAS SET HIS HEART UPON YOU
It is through the Jewish people that God has been able to bless the entire world
God has expanded that blessing from his Chosen People, the Israelites to ALL OF US
This is why we keep the Commandments
This is why we pray
This is why we are opening our hearts and our minds to his Word today
WE ARE NOT THE ONES WHO FIRST LOVE GOD
GOD IS THE ONE WHO FIRST LOVES US
GOD LOVES YOU…..GOD LOVES YOU
GOD LOVES YOU
GOD has set his heart IN LOVE UPON YOU
Let’s pray for each other
Pray for Fr Mike
Have some baklava 😋😋😋
Prayer by Fr Mike: “Father in Heaven, we thank you and we give you praise. We know that in the challenges of life, you are there. And the challenges where we rely upon our own strength and on our own wisdom, you call us ever more deeply and ever more resolutely to rely upon your strength and to rely upon your wisdom. Yes, God, you ask us to use our own. The strength we have and the wisdom we have, you have given them to us as gifts and yet, you know that on our own we are bound to fail. And so, you offer us your strength. You offer us your wisdom. And you give it to us for free. It is your gift of grace. And so this day we accept your gift. This day we accept the gift of your strength and your wisdom. We ask that you please transform our hearts and help us. Set us free from what binds us and give us the power to lift up those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
A sign of Jesus as the "New Moses": Moses appoints Seventy Elders into his governing hierarchy over Israel, following the prior appointment of Twelve Leaders. In the Gospels, after appointing twelve to be his apostles and gives them priestly ministries in Luke 9, he commissions Seventy disciples with the same priestly ministry in Luke 10- another sign that he is the New Moses, he is building his Church the New Israel, where it's governing heirarchy and priestly heirarchy will converge into one.
A sign of Jesus as the "New Moses": Two men, not of the seventy elders are given the gift of prophesying, and Joshua wants Moses to forbid them, but he does not. Likewise in the Gospels, John runs to Jesus about a man not of them casting out demons in Jesus' name, and Jesus is not against it.
The Israelites constant complaining about their freedom, wishing they could go back to Egypt (even taking miraculous God-given bread from heaven for granted!!) should serve as a reflection in the mirror for us today: How often do we as Christians struggle with ungratefulness for the blessings we have? How often do we struggle with sinful habits today? (Can you give these up for Lent?) How often do we wish we could just return to sinful pleasures we once ran to? How often do we get mad at God that those pleasures have to be wrong? How often do we take the Eucharist for granted?
Moses calls on the Israelites to circumcise their hearts. In his letters, Paul also speaks of circumcision of the heart, tying it to it's fullfillment in Baptism. (note: the greek word in Colossians 12 where it says "and you were buried" is a passive participle more accurately translates to "putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.")