Greed is NOT good — Numbers 9-12

Today’s reading takes on silver trumpets, a beginning-of-the-day & end-of-the-day prayer, and not just one but two examples of greed (and how God responds to it). So, let’s dive right in.

Chapter 9 commands Israel to make, how to make, and how to use silver trumpets. On the surface of it, there doesn’t seem too much here for NT readers to learn; but doesn’t it teach us something about the need for God’s people to act in a unified way? There were over 600,000 men capable of going to war (not even to mention the women, children, and enfeebled) and coordinating that many people without modern technology would have been much worse than the proverbial “herding cats”. The trumpets and their appropriate signals were absolutely necessary to orchestrate the Israelite multitude. And the lesson I draw from it for myself is how important it is always is for God’s people to act or respond in accord with leadership — God’s or the congregational leaders’. American culture is so independence minded that we often feel completely un-obliged to follow or cooperate with the group or the leadership, unless it is totally convenient for us. There is great power — on many different levels — in unity. Remember, God actually said about the people of Babel, “…Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” Genesis 11:6, NAS95.

And did you notice the “opening” and “closing” prayer of Moses during times when they were following the cloud of God’s presence through the wilderness? There’s a song in many of our hymnals that comes from Numbers 9:35, “Let God Arise”. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start your day? Give us a little pep to our step, a little more courage to meet the day’s sometimes challenging events? But it works, of course, only if we’re actually going to follow Him through the day — like Israel followed Him through the wilderness. And then, at the end of the day, we could breathe the prayer, “Return, O LORD to the myriad thousands of Israel.” And by the way, “Let God arise…” takes on special meaning, when we consider that Jesus arose and defeated (scattered) the last enemies, sin and death.

But the reading today goes on to talk about a couple of incidents of greed — the people’s and Aaron’s and Miriam’s. In both cases they wanted to “look a gift horse in the mouth” — in the case of Israel, they wanted better food, and in the case of Aaron and Miriam they wanted more status and power. God had adequately provided for them, but God’s provision just wasn’t “good enough”, it wasn’t Egyptian cooking.

A friend of mine asked his girl to marry him and he gave her a ring. Not a really rich young man, he provided as nice a ring as he could afford. The young woman accepted his proposal, but later talked him into getting a better ring. My friend went along with it, but her greed definitely hurt his feelings.

This is not to say that God resents it when we ask Him for things; He invites us to offer Him our petitions. Nor does God want to discourage ambition or success; He expects us to use our talents to their best effect. But we, especially in America, have learned greed and even come to believe that it is sort of our right to get “better”, “more”, and “keep up with the Jones'”. On the other hand, Jesus taught contentment.

Finding the “sweet spot” between contentment and appropriate ambition takes more than a little discernment a lot of times, but we should take warning that if our “ambition” turns us to either do what God has forbidden (including covetousness or lust) or not do what God has positively commanded us (becoming, for example, too busy to come to church), we’ve crossed the line — it’s greed.

What things did you see in these chapters today?

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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