Faith of a New Generation

Scripture Focus: Numbers 26:2, 63-65
2 Take a census of the whole Israelite community by families—all those twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army of Israel.”
63 These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 64 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Reflection: Faith of a New Generation
By Erin Newton

We return now to the reason they titled the book, “Numbers.” The book opened with a census and now they count again. The author notes this generation was not part of the original group at Sinai. That generation died as a consequence of their rebellion.

A new generation grew up in the wilderness. Amazingly, the census total in Chapter 26 is only a few thousand less than the census total in Chapter 1—yet an entire generation was gone.

The pages between these chapters are filled with stories of rebellion, opposition, attempted mutiny, and disobedience. The earth opened and fire rained down. There were venomous snakes and a talking donkey. It was, to say the least, a tumultuous time.

The sins of the people resulted in a myriad of curses and disciplines. God did not turn a blind eye to corruption. There was a cost to their sin. Despite all the punishments, their numbers did not wither. The great nation promised to Abraham continued to flourish against the odds. Gordon Wenham highlights this truth, “God’s promises to the patriarchs may be delayed by human sin, but they are not ultimately frustrated by it.”

Delayed but not frustrated. These promises are not defeated by human sin because they are held and guarded by God himself. No human hand, no human sin, can thwart the promises of God.

The younger generation in the wilderness watched their elders rebel, complain, and sin until they were all gone. What could have been enjoyed by the elders passed on to the new generation.

There is hope and warning in this story. We cling to the hope of God’s steadfast promises. We observe and take to heart the warning that our sin can slow the progress of its fruition.

We do not know how the younger generation felt about entering the land without their elders. Perhaps they were encouraged to do things differently, to do things right. After watching the mistakes made by their parents or grandparents, they refined their faith and purified its practice.

Many young Christians today are openly critical of the faith of older generations. Young believers point to issues such as racism, hypocrisy, violence, political idolatry, misogyny, abuse, or apathy for the vulnerable.  

Identifying the spiritual and social flaws of the past is important. By such retrospection, new generations may follow God’s lead with faith refined. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 26 (Listen 7:47)
2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen 2:16)

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Hope Still Rises :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 69.29, 33
But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
   may your salvation, God, protect me.

The Lord hears the needy
   and does not despise his captive people.

Reflection: Hope Still Rises :: Worldwide Prayer
Prayer of Hope from South Africa

This prayer we feature today was originally published in a book of prayers prepared for a worship conference in Berlin in 1998.

In the years prior to that conference, Nelson Mandela began his first term as president and the end of Apartheid was in the immediate past. In 1995, the Rugby World Cup was hosted and won by the South African team. In 2009, the story was turned into an inspiring film starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. But as powerful as sports metaphors are and as inspiring as any movie might be, the struggle for greater peace and freedom in South Africa was just beginning and 1998 saw bombings in South Africa and attacks scattered over the entire continent.

Today, in Africa, peace and freedom are often in short supply. The problems lifted to God in this prayer, still exist in one way or another, popping up in one country, then another. Abuse, disease, rape as a weapon of war, and mass killings motivated by tribal conflicts or religious radicalization are still common events, even though they rarely make the current events section of Western newspapers. Often the chief victims of these events are women.

We join this prayer today for the people of Africa and for all people across the world experiencing oppression, violence, disease, and exile because of their religious beliefs.

May the church follow Christ’s footsteps as he moves to help those affected by these persistent signs of the sinfulness and greed of our world.

A Prayer of Hope
Oh, God,

You can do anything, anywhere, any time.
All knowing, all seeing God,
There is nothing hidden from you.

You see the women of Africa:
Who are refugees,
Fleeing their war-torn countries
With babies on their backs and luggage on their heads.

Some who are victims of human rights violations, abuse, infected with AIDS.
We put our hope in you, oh God.

For you hear even our unmentioned prayers
You watch not only the sparrow, but you see us too.
And your hands guide us all the way.

Above all, you offer us the gift of eternal life.

We praise your holy name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Thy Name, L. A. (Tony) Cupit, ed., Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world

Prayer: A Reading
Then he told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. “There was a judge in a certain town,” he said, “who had neither fear of God nor respect for anyone. In the same town there was also a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘I want justice from you against my enemy!’ For a long time he refused, but as last he said to himself, ‘Even though I have neither fear of God nor respect for any human person, I must give this widow her just rights since she keeps pestering me, or she will come and slap me in the face.’ And the Lord said, “You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now, will not God see justice done to his elect if they keep calling him day and night even though he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily.” — Luke 18.1-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 26 (Listen – 7:47) 
Psalm 69 (Listen – 4:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Numbers 27 (Listen – 3:08) Psalm 70-71 (Listen – 3:29)
Numbers 28 (Listen – 3:51) Psalm 72 (Listen – 2:21)

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Read more about Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Help us to share the blessings of knowing you with others and be at peace with you and with each other.