Wednesday, February 22. Numbers 15 & Psalm 90

I am struck by the content of chapter 15.

After the rebellion of the people, and God’s harsh treatment of them through the Amalekites, I would have expected further narrative of Israel’s wanderings and rebellions.  That will have to wait for chapter 16 for this chapter goes back and reiterates laws concerning offerings, laws that might be better positioned after Leviticus 7 or Numbers 29.

It’s almost as if, in the middle of great tragedy, that God says: “Let’s review those sacrifices you are supposed to be making.”

Does it seem rather heartless to you?

Perhaps, but I rather expect that Israel just here is wondering whether God has abandoned her.  She has refused his promises, desiring to go back to Egypt or die in the desert, and God has directed her back toward Egypt through the desert, just as she desired.

And in her perplexity, God speaks these laws assuring Israel (at the beginning) she will yet enter the land of promise (15:1), and (at the end of the chapter) she will continue throughout generations to come (15:37), and God will continue to be Israel’s God (15:41).  In the middle, she must be scrupulous in keeping His law.  Accidents will happen, but deliberate rebellion will not be tolerated.

The Psalm in our reading is the only one in the Psalter attributed to Moses.  As you read it, imagine yourself as Moses, leading Israel in seemingly pointless wanderings for forty years.