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Brazen serpent

Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:13-16 What is faith? Often people consider faith to be a special quality that the religious happen to possess.  It’s like some magic elixir.  Apparently some people have lots of faith coursing through their veins, others have very little. But how does Jesus think of faith? When Jesus wanted to explain faith […]

Wilderness years

Numbers 14 The journey from slavery to the Promised Land should have been straightforward.  If the Israelites had kept the Mediterranean on their left they could have arrived within a fortnight. The LORD took them a different route, through the Red Sea.  The LORD is glorified – seen for who He is – when He […]

Spy out the land

Numbers 13 What will the future bring?  Blessings or curses? Wouldn’t it be nice to send someone on ahead to make sure the future’s bright? That’s what the Israelites do in the book of Numbers.  Let’s catch up with the story so far… In Genesis, Israel begins as the seed of Abraham then, with Joseph, they head down […]

God bless

Numbers 6:22-27; 2 Corinthians 13:14 Some people have only two uses for the name of God.  Either to carelessly curse, or to carelessly bless.  In either case the speaker “knows not what they do!” In its biblical setting, “God bless” was never said lightly.  In fact it was a distinct privilege of the priests.  In […]

Love thy neighbour

Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:34-46 What’s the law all about?  A supposed expert in the law asked Jesus that very question.  Jesus boiled it all down to ‘love’.  He quoted from two places in the Old Testament: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all […]

Scapegoat

Leviticus 16:1-10, 20-22 We don’t like the word “scapegoat”.  It sounds like bullying.  A group picks on a weakling, identifies all its maladies with this one individual and punishes the scapegoat for the sins of the community. That’s horrible. But it’s horrible because of the power relationship.  The strong sacrifice the weak. The original scapegoat […]

Unclean! Unclean!

Leviticus 13:45-46; Mark 1:40-45 I’ll never forget when Mark told me he was HIV positive.  The two of us were in a cafe in London and had just ordered all day breakfasts.  Many people had tried to help him off the streets and off the drugs but he’d finally succumbed to a dirty needle. He […]

Peace offering

Leviticus 3:1-17 When we think of a “peace offering” we picture guilty husbands hastily purchasing flowers.  Or meek penitents bringing gifts to their fuming friends.  The one giving the peace offering feels dreadful.  The one to whom the offering is made is tapping their foot saying “This better be good.”  And maybe, just maybe, they […]

Atonement

Leviticus 1:1-4; Ephesians 2:11-22 Can an ex-offender atone for his crimes? Can a sportswoman atone for her blunder?  Can a husband atone for his callous remark? If we answer ‘yes’ it’s usually because we think that the guilty party can make amends. But the Bible has a fresh angle on the question of atonement. Atonement […]

High Priest

Exodus 40:12-16 Federico Fellini has been called the ‘High Priest of Italian Cinema’.  Bill Hicks, ‘the High Priest of Stand-up Comedy’.  And Prince, ‘the High Priest of Funk, Soul and Rock n Roll’. It’s the idea of being an authority.  One who mediates the genre out into the world.  They are the go-to person when […]