Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Numbers 21:4-9
Our scripture this week challenges us to listen for God’s goodness in a passage that is uncomfortable. Some claim that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was an angry God and when Jesus came God became about Love, but that interpretation denies the eternal benevolence of God. In today’s passage we hear more about the Israelites whom God rescued out of slavery and is leading to the Promised Land. Last week God sent the 10 Commandments to help the people get back on track following a series of complaints and missteps. This week, we hear that the Israelites are, once again, complaining about God and feeling as though God is abandoning them. It would be easy to gloss over the arrival of the snakes only to focus on the anti-venom provided – but that does a disservice to the passage. In this passage we learn that the journey is what we make it to be. By complaining constantly and overlooking each blessing bestowed, the Israelites bring upon themselves more and more difficult hardships. However, God continues to provide the remedy for what ails them. Through this seemingly endless journey through the wilderness, the Israelites are starting to realize that the Promised Land is ahead of them, but might be for the next generation rather than those who started out of Egypt. God has made a covenant with the people – God has promised to take them out of slavery into the Promised Land; until the people trust God and the messengers God sends, they will not arrive. A covenant requires that both sides of the promise live into it, mutually.