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Text: Numbers 25:1-18
Today’s reading contains just about all the elements one could fit into a “difficult passage.” There’s forbidden sex. There’s idolatry and sacrifices to the wrong god. There’s a treatment of foreigners, and specifically foreign women, as inherently dangerous. There’s Divine wrath which demands public executions. There’s a respected leader, Moses, ordering his people to kill their fellow Israelites. There’s a plague that wipes out 24,000 people, many of them no doubt innocent. There’s violent vigilante justice by a zealous individual, Phinehas, which apparently brings resolution to all the above problems. Phinehas is rewarded by the Lord with “a covenant of peace,” for him and his descendants. To top it all off, there is a final command from the Lord for Moses and the Israelites to keep harassing these foreign neighbors. Forgive me if I’ve failed to name another feature of the story you find particularly troubling.
Welcome to worship. Today’s lesson has been rated R.
This is indeed a difficult passage.
But, as we are committed to doing during this series, rather than cut this page out of the Bible or pretend like it’s not there, we’ll confront the story head on, wrestle around...