Num. 14-15; Ps. 90 (angry God)

The theme of an angry God continues, even in the Psalm that is included in today’s reading.  I think Numbers 14:18-23 provides some interesting stuff.

“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.

First, really? Slow to anger?  Second, have you really forgiven them is they never get to the Promised Land?  But more importantly, how powerful is this metaphor.  And, how important must it have been for those living in exile dream of returning to the nation’s former glory.  Centuries later, Jesus would remind his followers that those who reap do not necessarily get to sow.  This is the kind of reflection that is valuable to me.

Psalm 90 is credited to Moses in my NIV Bible.  And, what I think is a smidge unusual for the Psalms, it addresses God’s anger toward Israel.

Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I selected this passage for two things.  First, I think being mindful of our limited number of days is important.  Second, notice the age of humans described herein.  Recall, that one served the temple from 25-50.  I wonder if the Israelites, at least at the time the texts were written, lived to be 75 assuming they didn’t die in childbirth, etc.  Interesting.

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