Often when trials beset us, we instinctively retreat into ourselves in a spiral of self-pity. One of the remarkable qualities of Pope Francis is his ability to do just the opposite–to proclaim with joy and conviction God’s word. Here’s a brief outline of the talk that Fr. Timothy Schehr, Professor of Biblical Studies at the Athenaeum, recently gave to the Student Theological Forum here on God calling Moses to do something similar.
Reflections on Numbers 11
Fr. Timothy Schehr
Presented to Student Theological Forum
Athenaeum of Ohio
January 13, 2014
Within days after setting out from Sinai for the Promised Land the people of Israel begin complaining. It starts with a few misguided members of the community yearning for the bounty of Egypt. They are tired of the manna God provides on their journey. In a short time the craving of these few influences the entire community. Overwhelmed by their demands Moses complains to God. The weight of Israel is too much for him to bear. He cannot imagine how he could ever meet their demands for earthly food. The great leader even goes so far as to beg God to take his life.
God directs Moses to choose seventy people he admires and bring them to the tent of meeting. There God distributes Moses’ spirit on them. God’s purpose is to teach Moses what he should be doing with the spirit that he already possesses. And what it that? It’s proclaiming God’s word instead of complaining about his burdens.
Moses learns the lesson. He no longer focuses on himself but instead wishes God would place the divine spirit on all the people. Thus God has corrected the thinking of both Moses and the people. Now they are on the right track again and can proceed to the Promised Land.
- Note that the change in Moses exhibited by his words. It is typical of biblical narrative to reveal characters by their words.
- Note God’s investment in the welfare of Moses and the people. God uses elders whom Moses respects to give him the correction he needs. Hearing it from them will dispose him to accept what they have to say.
- Biblical narrative has as its chief purpose instructing readers in spiritual matters.