Day 36--'glogger' John Weiler on Numbers 8-10
February 4, 2021, 10:00 PM

Day 35 Numbers 8:1 -10:36 Guest Blogger John Weiler, Christ Church, Duanesburg


It has been said that BIBLE is an anagram for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. That’s kind of cute until you think about it for more than a minute.

In actuality, it is blithe, reductive and woefully misses the point.

But it does remind me of Beetlejuice.

In Tim Burton’s 1988 movie, the newly deceased Maitland’s receive a book as their only welcome to their limbo-like afterlife. Throwing the Handbook for the Recently Deceased aside in frustration, Adam Maitland declares, “It reads like stereo instructions!”

The Book of Numbers can read like that.

To be sure, there are instructions; a lot of instructions. In these three chapters alone there are specific instructions on lighting for the tabernacle, how to shave a Levite, how and when to sacrifice cattle, what to do if you miss Passover should you be out of town on business or are just too gross to attend, God’s smoke signals, and a full codification of trumpet calls.

To the modern reader, this is frustrating; dull even. How does this advance the plot? What has it got to do with my life in the 21st Century?

Rest assured, soon enough in our story, the Israelites will return to very human form and complain about their present hardscrabble lot, looking back to the Bad Old Days in Egypt with unreasonably selective and rosy lenses and forward, if at all, with trepidation instead of faith and hope.

As we all do.

But for the moment, let’s pause and consider what weaves throughout this instruction manual. Let us consider, among the lists and protocols for antiquated worship, ritual cleanliness, tutorials on sin offerings, how to break camp and when, and how to heed a trumpet; let us consider where it all points.

As so much in the Bible does, it points forward even as it illuminates the past.

Concepts and images skip like smooth stones across millennia of narrative, history, philosophy, prophecy and poetry, from age to age to age through our present days and to the last.

There is much that points forward, beckons us beyond, threads the skein that draws God’s will throughout. So much that points to Jesus.

Consider the seven lampstands before the menorah; consider Christ, Light of the world, before the seven lampstands in the first chapter of Revelations.

The Levites were ritually cleansed, a holy, anointed priesthood declared by God to be the firstborn among Israel, a people set apart to be a beacon to the Nations. Christ is the firstborn of the resurrected whose sacrifice cleanses us and now we, brothers and sisters, we are his priesthood to be that beacon in direct spiritual lineage.

Remembrance of the Passover feast Moses took such great pains to impart is fulfilled by final Paschal Lamb. “Blessed is the Lamb who was slain.” And we remember that meal every Sunday.

When the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled over the tabernacle, the people pitched camp and tarried. And the moment that cloud lifted, they pulled up stakes and moved on. And so, we travel through life, whether we admit it or not, at God’s pleasure, not our own; but I would suggest that as much as we see our own will in it, God so often directs us elsewhere to tarry, to move on by His will, not ours.

And as the Children of Israel mobilized at the trumpets' call, so we will come to our promised land, the City of God, at the last peal of the last trumpet.

Settle in. Read the manual. Pause and reflect.

Winter's long anyway.

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