Numbers and Luke, Part V: Illusions and Attachments as Idols   1 comment

500-bill-1918

Above:  A United States $500 Bill from 1918  

$500 in 1918= $7,470 in 2011 (Consumer Price Index)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 14:1-25 (43th Day of Easter)

Numbers 14:26-45 (44th Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–43th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–44th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–43th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–44th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:18-34 (43th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:35-19:10 (44th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Numbers 14:1-25

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 18-19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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I found Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah (2001) helpful in understanding what happened in Numbers 14.  (Aside:  If you, O reader, do not have a copy of that excellent book, you might want to purchase one.)  The spies/scouts have returned from their mission.  Some have warned in dire tones of the dangers there.  As Friedman pointed out and I did notice, they had not mentioned God.  But Caleb was more optimistic, ready to go back with the rest of the population.

In Numbers 14 the community laments the possibility of going to Canaan.  Dying in the desert seems preferable.  Even returning to Egypt, where they had been slaves, seems better than going to Canaan.  Caleb and Joshua try to calm the people, to no avail.  God, angry, threatens to destroy the faithless people, but Moses talks God down.  Instead, God decrees, the people will get their wish:  they will die in the desert.  This does not make them happy either.  And those who, against divine instructions, go up against the Canaanites and the Amalekites without God’s blessing and the Ark of the Covenant perish.

As Friedman stresses, the problem was a slave mentality.  The faithless people had not had to act before.  The Egyptians had acted upon them and made decisions for them.  God had liberated them and provided them with manna and quail in the desert.  (They did have to eat.)  But resettling Canaan would require effort.  It would require them to decide then to act.

An entire generation’s experience is not easily reversed.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 475

The faithless Israelites clung tenaciously to nostalgia (for slavery, oddly enough) and to a slave mentality.  The rich man in Luke 18:18-23 clung to his wealth, which blinded him to his total dependence on God.  Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:1-10) preferred an attachment to Jesus to one to wealth and the illusion of independence.

Illusions and attachments can be the most difficult idols from which to divorce ourselves.  An idol, of course, is anything which distracts us from God.  Statutes of pagan deities are obvious idols, but concepts can be less obvious and more powerful ones.  We depend entirely on God.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps.  Yes, we have an obligation to cooperate with God, but we cannot save ourselves.  And grace–that which we do not do–requires much of us.  It requires us to decide then to act.  It is free, not cheap.

Which illusions and attachments are your most powerful idols, O reader?  I must recognize and confront mine.  May you do the same to yours.  And may we succeed via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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One response to “Numbers and Luke, Part V: Illusions and Attachments as Idols

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for the Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary) | LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS

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