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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Holiness - what a terrible, difficult concept

Below is a page from my journal.  I keep a notebook.  Each day, I read through a chapter or a few verses from the Bible.  Then, I write reflections.  This is not refined writing, but rather my immediate, raw comments.  I am currently in the book of Numbers, one of the places in scripture I rarely go.  I found today's reading difficult.  Here's what I wrote after reading Numbers 4:1-5:10.

In chapter 4, we see the specific details of three clans' work in the Tent of Meeting, the Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites.  Each grouping is assigned specifc tasks with the seemingly most serious assigned to the Kohathites.  Their service concerns the 'most holy things' (4:4).  The Kohathites carry the covered vessels for worship.  If they touch the holy things directly (by intention or by accident), they will die (4:15).  The Lord makes a point of telling Moses not to let the Kohathites die off from among the Levites (4:18).  Even looking at the holy things will bring death (4:20).

How completely troubling is this?  A point is made to preserve the Kohathites, but seemingly, only because of the holiness of their task.  It's OK if a few Kohathites die, but they as a group must not die off.  If's OK if other groups die off, but not the Kohathies.  Their task is too holy.

O dear God!  Please tell me I am too sensitive and I am reading thing wrongly.  As I read through Numbers, I am made aware of how unaware I am of your Holiness, and how much I don't understand the importance of holiness.  I am a pastor of a church, but I read Numbers, and I feel far from you, distant, and unknown.  I am supposed to be a spiritual leader, but as I read Numbers, I am aware of how much of a gentile I am, and how Holy Other you are.

In Numbers 5:1-13, the exile of lepers from the community, I wonder about Jesus and lepers.  He didn't kick them out.  He healed them.  In the mission of your holiness, O God, the mission that is running through Numbers, where is the compassion for lepers?  Are these poor, suffering people a defilement and nothing more?  God, what am I missing?  This seeming troubling and cruel.

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