Many of the Old Testament readings from Numbers trouble me. Lots of people were killed for disobedience to God. Lots. I just couldn’t get my head around the large numbers of dead, so I left the passages alone, didn’t comment on them here.
I have learned something new the last few years, which is that one reason God punished Israel and Judah is that they failed to look out for the widows, orphans, poor, immigrants – the “least of these” as Jesus said.
God’s care and concern for those in need demonstrates to me that the mass killings weren’t any capricious act. Somehow, it all fits. God cares and that’s part of why he disciplines.
The Psalm today speaks to God’s caring nature:
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
I don’t believe God takes any delight in the deaths of the disobedient.
In fact, he has a tender heart towards those of us who feel crushed, defeated, broken. And it’s no abstract thing, either.
Witness this passage from Mark:
They went to a place called Gethsemane… He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,”he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14: 32-36
Jesus understands our crushed spirit and our broken hearts, because he suffered the same on our behalf. Only not the same. He suffered far more than we can start to comprehend or could ever suffer ourselves without being utterly annihilated:
- the weight of all our sins’ just retribution,
- a criminal’s death on the torturous cross,
- separation from his beloved Father.
Back to that conversation with my friend yesterday. We both feel loss, denied that which we had counted as our “right” (a normal life, whatever that is). We talked about how Jesus gave up his rights and lost far more FOR US, how the Father suffered as He watched his Son suffer (so he understands my friend’s suffering).
Oh, Lord, thank you that you care for the broken hearted and the crushed in spirit. Make this truth real to me and let me sense your closeness. Amen.
Today’s Readings: Numbers 29:1-30:16, Psalm 34:15-22, Proverbs 11:30-31, Mark 14:27-52. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.