Week 17: Numbers

Israel told the old, old stories with a stubborn hope that the God of Covenant would keep the covenant and rescue them once again.

Numbers does what it says: it names and numbers Israel. Numbers is another origins document naming the original members of this newly called out tribal people, a people who eventually will become the nation and kingdom of Israel . .

Like many ancient peoples, the story of Israel was preserved first by their storytellers. Genealogies and oral histories of events and were handed down from generation to generation until they finally were written down.

This founding story of the Exodus from slavery and the covenant with Yahweh became Israel’s Scripture during another painful time centuries later, a time of exile in Babylon and alienation from their God. The exiled people knew full well they had broken covenant and had brought this tragedy upon themselves. As they recounted and retold the stories of their ancestors, surely they recognized Israel’s faithlessness in light of the covenant faithfulness of the one who had called them. Israel told the old, old stories with a stubborn hope that the God of Covenant would keep the covenant and rescue them once again . . .

The testimony and witness of God’s own people is that—from the very beginning of time to the end of history—God is ever acting on behalf of the promises, redeeming all kinds of people, and creating a cosmic community grounded in hope and grace. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:10; see also Hos 1:8–10).

As I write this in 2021, Christian Nationalism has infected some streams of American Christianity and the church’s witness has suffered even more as some misguided people conflate “American” with “Christian.” The church of Jesus Christ is not national. Authentic church transcends every boundary and border; reaches across every difference and divide.

Faithful Christian witness gives testimony to the now expanded community of God called into being as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Not just for people like me and my tribe, God’s amazing grace and mercy is for everyone . . .

The witness of the church must be loud and clear: We all have been incorporated into mercy and it is God who has done this.

Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle. Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace (pp. 215-221). Resource Publications. Kindle Edition.

Living in The Story readings for Week 17

Numbers 17-36

Psalm 39

Psalm 97

1 Peter

2 Peter

Luke 5-7

Author: Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and developed Living in The Story while doing doctoral work at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. Charlotte also blogs about intersections of faith, politics, and culture at CharlotteVaughanCoyle.com.

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