Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ignoring Your Kinsfolk

But the Benjaminites would not listen to their kinsfolk, the Israelites. Judges 20:13b NRSV

Israel is trying to do the right thing by purging the evil Gibeans from among them. However, the tribe of Benjamin refuses to listen. It is unclear if they were also evil or were merely being stubborn. I have a feeling it was the latter.

Sometimes we can be particularly willful when it is our own family doing the asking. Why should we listen to them? What can our own kinsfolk possibly know or realize that we don't? Who are they to tell us what to do?

There are times when not listening to our family can be a positive thing. However, because they know us fairly well, we should be wise in giving heed to what they are saying to us. Sometimes just listening can be healing for us in our relationship with them and God just may be speaking to us through them. We can only open our ears and pray about it.

What have your kinsfolk been saying to you lately?

God, my family has been telling me this: ____________________________________________. Help me to hear them. Give me discernment, God, so I can know what to do with this. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, February 27, 2010

40 Years

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. Judges 13:1 NRSV

Someday I am going through the bible and marking all the places where 40 days or 40 years are mentioned. The flood, the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus in the wilderness and this passage will be among them. I understand how important the number 40 is in the bible!

At this point in the book of Judges, God is really ticked off by the evil that the Israelites were doing. God then decides that only a killing off of the current generation - that is what happens to the Israelites in the wilderness after all- will do. So, God places them under the control of the Philistines. God is trying to teach God's people a lesson. God is trying to get them to grow up. God is trying to help them to see what God has done for them and how much God really wants to be in a relationship with them - a relationship that they say they want but don't follow through.

Lent is a period of forty days - not including Sundays- leading up to Easter. This should be an important time for us! We need to be looking at where we have done evil. We need to see if we have ticked God off with our behavior. We need to re-establish our relationship with God.

God does want that special relationship with us. That is why God sent Christ Jesus who gave up his life for us and our relationship with God.

God, where have I been doing evil in my life? Where do I need to make amends with you and others? Forgive me and help me to become closer to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, February 26, 2010

I Wasn't Listening

"...and I said to you, 'I am the Lord your God; you shall not pay reverence to the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live.' But you have not given heed to my voice." Judges 6:10 NRSV

Oh, sorry, what did you say, God? Were you talking to me?

You want me to do what?

When did you tell me this? I must have missed it.

I need to stop what? And do what?

I haven't been paying you reverence? But wasn't I in church on Sunday....? Oh, right. I forgot. My mind must have been elsewhere.

Where were we again? Oh, yes. Please do continue.

You say I haven't been listening to you? Really? I thought I was a very good listener.

But I haven't been acting like it, you say. Hmmm. I guess I need to work on that.

Okay, no guessing. I need to act like I've been listening to you. No acting -- I need to do as you say.

Open my ears, Lord. Help me to hear you. I want to listen to your voice. Let me take what you say to me to heart.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, February 25, 2010


But the Benjaminites did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived in Jerusalem among the Benjaminites to this day. Judges 1: 21 NRSV

From the first chapter of Judges, it is clear that the tribe of Benjamin is not the best. They have not cleared out the people in their lands which will make the susceptible to foreign gods. In fact, their behavior will eventually cause them to become completely wicked by the end of this book. They will end up fighting against all their Israelite kin and losing.

This is a very interesting story of a tribe that came from one of Israel's favorite sons and later will produce King David.

I would say that the book of Judges is clearly anti-Benjaminite.

This tribe is not the only tribe that has turned to foreign gods. The tribe of Benjamin is probably not the only tribe that has done evil things is the sight of God and neighbor. However, they do become easy targets. And they end up suffering and causing others to suffer even when their kin try to put things to right at the end of Judges.

This brings to mind our human inclination to point fingers and find someone to blame. How much easier it is to put the responsibility for our problems on someone else! Yet, during Lent we reminded to stop the pointing unless it is at ourselves. We are to look at our own hearts, our own actions, and our own sins. Lent is a time to think in terms of anti-me.

God, we spend this season of the church year taking a close look at ourselves. But you don't leave us there, wallowing in our blame and shame. You also want us to accept the forgiveness you have for each and every one of us. Open us to your mercy. Thank you, Lord! In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Incline Your Hearts to God

Then Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him." And they said, "We are witnesses." He said, "Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." Joshau 24: 22-23 NRSV

Joshua did not make the people choose to serve God. He only told them to be their own witnesses and they accepted this. It is the people who swear to serve God, and to forsake foreign gods. The people say that they will obey God and be God's people. Yet, Joshua has to tell them to carry out what they have said they will do. "If you are going to swear and be your own witnesses, then stop adopting the foreign religions and worship practices among you!"

It is as if the people speak with their mouths but their actions are far from what they speak.

What have you promised to do? Have you taken a look at your wedding vows lately? How about what you promised to do when you joined your church? Are there any other covenants that you have signed your name to in the last year or so? Somehow, I think our eyes tend to glaze over when these sorts of promises are read to us and we just click on "Agree."

You know, God doesn't make us promise to pray for our church or give our tithes and offerings. God doesn't put a gun to our heads when we say we are going to cherish our spouse. When we agree to do something, especially in front of witnesses, we need to do as we say.

Yet, every Lent, you and I both need to hear Joshua's words: "Then put those other things away and incline your hearts to the Lord."


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quit Slacking!

So Joshua said to the Israelites, "How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?" Joshua 18: 3 NRSV

Okay, let's have a show of hands of all of you out there who have at least one gift card that you have yet to go and spend. I am thinking that pretty much all of us raised our hand. And I would also guess that we have each had a gift card expire on us because we had not used it.

Why is that?

If we are given cash, I don't think we would let it sit around for years before we used it! 

Are we too lazy? Do we really not like receiving gifts?

Perhaps, like the Israelites, we are being slack. Or is it being slackers?

In any event, their were seven tribes left and the land lay subdued before them. God had given the land into their hands - they had seen this happen with their own eyes and knew it to be true. Yet, they all sat around waiting for the expiration date to come around. Joshua has to get them moving to accept God's gift.

What gift has God given to you that you are letting expire? Perhaps it is the day to get it off the shelf and use it.

God, you give us many good gifts and we seem to be pretty lazy about using them. Forgive us, God, and help us to use these gifts. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Small Details

And Caleb said, "Whoever attacks Kiriathsepher and takes it, I will give my daughter Achsah as wife." Othniel son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. Joshua 15: 16-17 NRSV

In the midst of these long explanations of the taking over of the territory and the division of the land into the clans and tribes, there is this small detail about Caleb who was promised his own portion. In addition, it mentions a woman - also very odd for this Old Testament book. So, when we see these sorts of details in scripture, we need to be paying close attention.

We won't see Achsah again but we will see her cousin, now her husband, Othniel. Othniel becomes the first named judge in the book of Judges. He is already making his mark as an important person because of his bravery in defeating the people of Debir. And having a wife who is the daughter of Caleb will also not hurt Othniel's rise to power.

Certainly his wife is also no shrinking maiden. She demands that her father give even more to her as a present - probably adding to her dowry. "Don't just give me lands but give me water, too!" she says. She obviously knows that it is not land that provides but water sources for the livestock on that land.

Perhaps this additional present insured Othniel's place in the governing of Israel.

What small detail of your life has influenced the future?

God, you are in the details. Thank you. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Leadership

As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. Joshua 11: 15 NRSV

When you are a leader, especially a new one, you want to make your mark on the world. You want to do something that sets you apart, that makes you known, and that solidifies your power base. You want to build on your predecessor's work but you also want to be different. That is leadership 101 in today's world.

God, however, is different. God has certain commandments that God would like you to follow, just as all those who have come before you have followed. God wants obedience. God is not interested in your fame or notoriety. God wants you to be like all the other leaders whom God has called. God is looking for servants with good hearts, not new leadership.

Joshua did has Moses commanded him. Moses did as God commanded him. Joshua did not strike out and decide to change the way the Israelites did things. Joshua was not looking to make his mark on the world. Joshua was looking to be obedient to God.

God, you remind us with today's scripture that you ask us for obedience, not new leadership. May we listen to you and follow your commandments. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, February 20, 2010

We Have Sinned

"Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings."  Joshua 7: 11 NRSV

For us, sin is a personal thing. During this season of Lent, we look at our own lives, taking stock of what we have done wrong and asking for forgiveness and renewal.

But in today's reading, sin affects the whole community. One man covets, steals, hides and takes away from God. This causes the people of Israel to be defeated by the men of Ai.

What sins have you committed? Which ones do you think affect your own community? The congregation with whom you worship? Your family? Your workplace? Ask God for forgiveness and a way to restore your relationship with anyone that has been affected by your own shortcomings.

God, reveal to us our sins and mistakes. Help us to be aware of how our faults can have far reaching consequences - beyond our relationship with you. And forgive us, Lord, forgive us. In the mercy of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, February 19, 2010

Be Strong and Courageous

"I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1: 9 NRSV

Joshua must have needed a whole lot of encouragement as he took on the leadership of God's people following Moses' death. God tells him three times to be strong and courageous! In addition, the people (verse 18) also tell him to be strong and courageous. Maybe it wasn't that he was fearful but that he was going to need all the strength and courage to cross the Jordan and take over the promised land.

Where in your life do you need courage and strength? Has there ever been a time when you have lacked that fortitude? Would it help for God to encourage you? Would you find the support of others to be helpful in these times of need?

I have had times in my life where I have shown great courage and strength. However, there have been just as many times where I have been truly timid and afraid. The difference is knowing that God is with me. When I know that God is with me "wherever I go" and I am certain that I am going in the direction that God wants me to travel, then I have courage and strength.

Let's ask God right now for God's presence so that we can be strong and courageous.

God, help us not be frightened or dismayed but to be strong and courageous. Guide us, Lord, and be with us wherever we go. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Trifling Matter

Sorry to those of you who read this early in the morning - I forgot to put the Bible verse!

He said to them: "Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess." Deuteronomy 32: 46-47 NRSV

This verse sounds so British, I am wondering what the nationality of the translator(s) for this section is! I also can't help but hear Moses as a parent speaking: This is no trifling matter for you, young man/woman!

But Moses is giving his death-bed speech, including teaching a song to these people he has been shepherding for so long. He is like a parent to them. He really does want them to take all that has been said and taught extremely seriously. Moses wants them to do well in the promised land.

As a parent, I get frustrated when I see my son not taking things seriously. I do realize that he is still a child but there are things I want him to take seriously. Hopefully not playing with guns or matches would be among these. Also, talking to God is another. Perhaps I do want more seriousness than he is able to give at this age - I need to be more flexible about such things as returning the garbage cans to the driveway and cleaning his room. 

I am sure Moses and God has been somewhat flexible before this. But the Children of Israel had now reached the promised land and received a complete set of instructions. They had come of age. Time to take all of God's commandments very seriously indeed.

You and I need to examine ourselves to see what parts of the Christian life have been for us "a trifling matter." What aspects of being Christ's follower have we, well, fudged a bit on? Is there something that we have not been as serious about?

This is no trifling matter but our very life.

God, you want us to do well. You love us so much. Give us discernment and an obedient heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our Own Stubborn Ways!

All who hear the words of this oath and bless themselves, thinking in their hearts, "We are safe even though we go our own stubborn ways" (thus bringing disaster on moist and dry alike) the Lord will be unwilling to pardon them, for the Lord's anger and passion will smoke against him. All the curses written in the book will descend on them, the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. Deuteronomy 29: 19-20 NRSV

"This doesn't apply to me!"

What a horrible thing to say to yourself in church or any other spiritually led setting.

Yet, how many times have I heard of upstanding church-goers doing appalling things? We are good at keeping our secret lives...well, secret. We keep dark stuff away from prying eyes and think all those rules and regulations don't really apply because no one else knows.

God knows.

You can't hide your deepest secrets from God. God knows your heart. God knows how you really feel. God sees beyond that outward, clean appearance straight into your soul. If you bless yourself without really being honest with God, God will know.

I am not trying to frighten as much as I am trying to remind us all of God's awareness of what we are truly about and who we really are.

God, you know me. The real me. Forgive me. Thank you for loving me and not blotting my name out from under heaven. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Treasured People

Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. Deuteronomy 26: 18-19 NRSV

God wants to have a treasured people, a people that God sets above everyone else, a people to whom God gives fame and honor, a people who receive praise because of what God has done, a people that are set apart, holy to God.  

However, this gift of being a treasured people is not free. God asks for a commitment. This is in the form of a covenant. You agree to do these things and God agrees to do these other things. It should be a mutual bargain, rather than an exchange. In fact, God does two things - goes ahead and lets the people into the promised land and at the same time realizes that the people are not going to fulfill their part of the covenant. God wants them to follow his instructions. God wants them to be a treasured people. But God fully expects them to fail. 

God wants us to be God's treasured people. What rules do you think God expects us to fulfill? How accountable have you and I been with what God asks of us? Can you see the consequences of failure? 

God, forgive us when we let you down. We want so badly to live up to the honor and holiness that you have planned for us. We want you to be our Treasured God! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, February 15, 2010

My sarcasm hides my frustration with this scripture!

If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn. Deuteronomy 21: 15-16 NRSV

Well, happy day after Valentine's! Those of you who are disliked by your spouse, take heart! God says your firstborn son cannot be overlooked in favor of your spouse's beloved other wife.

Oh, your husband only has one wife? And that's you? Well, then you have no worries...unless your spouse takes another wife whom he likes better than you. Just remember if he tries to disinherit your son, remember this very helpful scripture.

Wait, what's that about polygamy laws? Okay, then maybe if you consider this a helpful scripture for you ex-spouse. Is that better? You say you have no son? Perhaps in this day and age your daughter will fill in as the firstborn. No children at all? Hmmm, you do seem to be in a tight spot here.

What did you say? Something about not being loved by your spouse? Well, that is a tough one. We all wish to be well-loved, especially from our spouses and/or significant others. You aren't married at all? And no significant other? Perhaps tomorrow's devotional will be better suited for you - its about being a treasured people.

The best news is that, despite the lack of chocolate, flowers, spousal affection (or spousal remembrance of yesterday), a firstborn son or even a significant other, God loves you. And not just on Valentine's.

God, help us to remember your saving love for each one of us. You have given the gift that is priceless: Christ Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Open Your Hand to the Poor

Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11 NRSV

It is interesting that the more I read the Old Testament, the more I hear much of Jesus' teachings. Jesus himself said that we would always have the poor with us. This was in response to the supposed waste of the perfume broken on his feet (Mark 14:3-9). But Jesus was correct in saying that the poor are always with us. The sad part is that our compassion is often not.

Yesterday I spoke with a woman who owed over $600 dollars on her power bill - just from one month! She was having trouble getting help paying the bill. She had contacted the United Way, local churches in her own county, and was now branching into other counties and calling other churches. No one seemed to be able to help her.

We have rules, I explained to her, that state the person must live in our general area and we would be limited to helping with only $20 anyway. She said even that much would be helpful for her. However, right now we have no money in our fund.

I know of at least one church member that is in desperate need of money to keep them from loosing their home. I keep thinking our church is not wealthy enough to help. Our church has helped this person more than once in the past. Won't people be upset if we help again?

"Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land...."

God, we are stretched very thin. But our hands are tightly closed. Help us to be compassionate and open our hands. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Remember today that it was not your children (who have not known or seen the discipline of the Lord your God) but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm.... Deuteronomy 11:2 NRSV

You are the one who must acknowledge God's greatness.

Not your children. Not your spouse. Not your best friend. Not your co-worker. Not your Sunday School teacher. Not your pastor.


You are the one to acknowledge God's greatness and to see what God has done for you in your life as well as through Jesus Christ's sacrifice for you.

Yet, how often you and I look around and say, "So-and-so really needs to see what God is doing in her life!" Or we exclaim, "Why can't he just accept God's work in these circumstances that he has been through?" We think others need to see and recognize God's awesome power and influence without realizing our own blind-spots when it comes to God's wondrous work in our own journey.

God asks Moses to remind the people that they themselves should recognize who God is and what God has done for them. Without such recognition of their savior, they would easily fall from God's favor and God's commandments.

Take some quality time today to recall all that God has done in your life....and what God is continuing to do right now.

God, help us to see your greatness in our own lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, February 12, 2010


Deuteronomy 7-10

He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3 NRSV

How does one become humbled by hunger? A lack of food usually just puts me in a bad mood. Of course, I am also hungry all the time so I may not be the best person to answer this question. I am also far from being humble.

However, I don't think I have ever experienced true hunger - the hunger that comes from having nothing to eat and no means to procure any food. I have never been forced to eat shoe leather, insects, rodents or even manna. I can imagine that the feeling is close to both helplessness and despair. True hunger means that you are dependent upon circumstance to eat and will do anything to feed yourself.

God is saying that the people who hungered in the wilderness  and were fed by a substance they didn't even know existed became completely dependent upon God. They had to trust the God who gave the the words of promise and commandment would be there for them. They had to trust God's word before they were fed. Their dependence upon God was essential before their hunger would be satisfied. It wasn't up to them to be fed - by food or Word - but it was up to God.

On a scale of 1-10 - 1 being lowest, 10 being highest - how humble do you consider yourself to be? Anyone else out there need some hunger and some more dependence upon God for true humility?

God, you ask us to trust your Word first and trust that you will provide. Help us to be humble! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Covenant With Us

Deuteronomy 4-6

Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. Deuteronomy 5:3 NRSV

Do you ever read the Bible as though it was the story of someone else? Has it ever felt like "a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away?" Today's reading is a reminder that the Word of God is for the people of God who are alive right now. In this scripture, God points out that God's promises and love are for us, not just for a people who lived in the past. God wants us to claim scripture as our story, not their story.

Sometimes this is hard to accept. We must really open ourselves to God's Word and be willing to be changed by scripture. This is not trying to get scripture to give us the answers but allowing scripture to re-shape us into the people God wants us to be.

Painful? Yes.

Difficult? Yes.

Totally worth it all? YES!

God, you speak to each one of us personally through scripture. Help us to be open to You and hear Your voice in Your word. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not Trusting God

Deuteronomy 1-3

"...And in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place. But in spite of this, you have no trust in the Lord your God..." Deuteronomy 1:31-32 NRSV

Picture in your mind someone carrying a small child. The child is carried as something precious, someone that is loved. And the child trusts that the adult will not drop them. Moses speaks to the people, giving this image of God as a loving parent who carried the Israelites as though they were small children through the wilderness. Yet, despite the care God has given them, they still don't trust God's promises.

When has God carried you as though you were a child? Been through any wildernesses lately? What has God done for you to show you that you were loved and precious?

What challenges do you face today? This week? In the months ahead? Do these upcoming trials make you afraid? Or are you trusting that God will still be with you, holding you, leading you through this valley?

It is in our nature to lose sight of how much God loves us and provides for us. May we overcome our mistrust.

God, we trust you. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Clean House - Or Else

Numbers 32-36

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides; they shall trouble you in the land where you are settling. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them. Numbers 33:55-56 NRSV

These sections of Numbers in which God gives instructions of the complete destruction of the people of the land have always troubled me. I am constantly reminded of the occupation of modern day Israel into areas such as the West Bank - words such as settlement and occupation are words to my ears of injustice and unrighteousness. How can God want others thrown out of their houses that they built, farmland and orchards of years of harvest destroyed or taken over, buildings torn down and lives completely uprooted?

Many Christians say that this is simply Biblical. However, I think to be truly Biblical, the Jewish people would be less secular in their belief systems and all the people and animals in the towns they occupy should all be massacred. THAT is Biblical. I find this section of the Bible to be used as an excuse to take what is wanted - not as a  response to God's commands but for a people's own desires.

But before I throw that first stone, I must take a good, long look at my own life and my own actions.

How often do I use the Bible as an excuse to do what I want to do? How often am I capable of using Jesus' own words to get what I want, not what God wants? How often do I reflect my own desires rather than God's commandments?

God, save us from judging others when we have used your very words for our own ends. Help us fight injustice where we are with your guidance and direction. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, February 8, 2010

You Shall Not Work at Your Occupation

Numbers 28-31

Numbers 28:25 NRSV

Do you ever take a day off from your job?

I mean a day completely away from your work. No emails. No blackberry. No iphone. No facebook (if your co-workers are your friends). No twittering your office mates. No last minute phone calls. No surfing the internet for job-related information. No going by the office just to pick something up. And for the household CEOs among us - no housework! Do you ever take a day in which you do not work at your occupation?

My guess is many of us will say either no or sometimes. I strive to take a day of Sabbath for myself but I often get on the computer and, well, get back to work. It is hard to do for a preacher. But not impossible. And I have seen those of you with secular jobs do the same or worse. 60 work hours seems to be the minimum many of you work, 80-90 hours being the norm.

In this passage from Numbers 28-91, the words "you shall not work at your occupation" are repeated again and again when it comes to holy days. God has already given the commandment not to do any work (jobs, walking, household maintenance included) on the Sabbath but here God says not to do your job on these holy days.

I really don't know of many religions that want you to take a day off. Seems to me that God is saying something to us about work and its importance in our lives. God, not our occupations, should be our priority.

God, you ask us to put you first. But you know how often we place our jobs ahead of you. Forgive us, Lord, and help us get our priorities straight.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Another Census

Numbers 25-27

Among these were not one of those enrolled by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had enrolled the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. Numbers 26:64 NRSV

Wait, didn't we just take a census a couple of days ago? Well, we are really speeding through the Bible at this point but not that fast! The Bible doesn't cover the 40 wilderness years in real time. We get a snippet of what it might have been like (manna, quail, no water, complaints, etc.). I am getting tired of all the complaining, although I think I would have been pretty tired of the same diet as well.

The purpose of this census is to take account of the next generation, to prepare the people for war and to divide the promised land. The only ones still living at this time are Moses, Joshua and Caleb. Everyone else has perished in the wilderness.

I have often thought of the wilderness years as a time when God's people had to learn what it was like to be a free people. They had known only slavery. They still acted as slaves. They still acted as though they had no God and no savior. I think that the slavery mentality was too difficult for the adults to unlearn. So, in order to become the people God was calling them to be, they had to die out and let the next generation be the people of God.

Makes me wonder what in our lives we must let die in order to be the people God calls us to be.

God, you call us to be your people. You have saved us from slavery to death and sin, yet we constantly still act as slaves. Help us give up, to allow all that is in bondage within us die. Then we will truly be your people. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Word of God

Numbers 22-24

Balaam said to Balak, "I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say." Numbers 22:38 NRSV

Do you wait for the word that God puts into your mouth? Or are you quick to speak and slow to listen?

Balaam the prophet does not have the power to say just anything. He waits on what God will tell him to say. Not that he is perfect - look at what he did while riding the donkey! So even though he is promised untold riches if he curses the Israelites, Balaam can only do as God instructs.

Are you and I so plugged into God that not even the power of large amounts of money can make us stray and speak whatever comes to mind or is desired to be heard by others? Certainly saying what God wants us to say will create enemies, make us hated and may also lead to suffering. Jesus and his disciples come to my mind here. This is not a comfortable thought. Personally, I like to be admired and well-thought-of but that isn't going to happen if I let God tell me what to say.

Today try to only say what God nudges you to say. Stop yourself before you speak (or facebook/ twitter) only what you want to say. God is more than ready to give you the words. More ready than you are to hear and speak them.

God, you are giving us what we need to say today. Help us to listen and to be your mouthpiece. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snake on a Stick

Numbers 18-21

 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. Numbers 21:9 NRSV

Aaron has just died and his son Eleazar is now the High Priest. The people have been camping at Mount Hor and have just fulfilled a vow to God by defeating the Canaanites near Negeb. Now they are leaving Mount Hor but having had a taste of victory, they become impatient. "Why are we still traveling in the desert? Are you going to have all of us die just as our parents did in the wilderness? And this food of manna and quail - we detest it!" they complain.

Obviously, the people have made God mad. Certainly they have not learned their lesson that complaining and fussing will lead to certain suffering and possible death.

This time they are punished by what the bible says are poisonous snakes/serpents. Another translation could be fiery serpents. The Hebrew word for this is seraphim or seraphs. Remember seraphs? They are the same winged creatures surrounding God's throne in Isaiah's vision of heaven (Isaiah 6). So, are these poisonous serpents or angels attacking the people? Obviously, God is behind the attacks and it is going to take a very different treatment to save them.

Enter the snake on a stick. Or perhaps a fiery angel on a stick. Here are the people who aren't supposed to worship idols and Moses makes one to save them from God's wrath. All they have to do is look at this figure on a pole and be saved.

Makes as much sense as the continual unhappiness of the people God has saved and continues to save.

God, keep us from fussing and complaining when you have done so much for us beginning with giving your Son, Jesus, so that we may have eternal life. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't Follow Your Own Lust

Numbers 15-17

You have the fringe so that, when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them and not follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes. Numbers 15: 39 NRSV

Don't follow the lust of your own heart and your own eyes. Follow instead God's commandments.

Often this is easier said than done.

The lust of my own heart and eyes is continually before me. I can feel and see what I want and think I need. It is so much easier just to act on what I see and feel. How about you?

God has given you and me some commandments to put before our own desires. God wants to be first and only in our lives. God wants our devotion and our worship. God wants us to set aside a day each week just for God. God wants us to honor our parents and to love our neighbors. If we do these things, we will not follow our lusts.

But we need constant reminders - such as this fringe on their garments - to follow God and not our base instincts. May we help one another to keep God, not our desires, before our eyes and hearts.

God, we want to obey your commandments and follow you. We often are distracted by what our hearts feel and what our eyes see. Keep us focused on you and keep sending other believers to help us stick closely to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Numbers 11-14

And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. Numbers 14: 33 NRSV

This is the day of complaints. In fact, I recommend that, even if you aren't reading through the Bible, that you read Numbers 11-14 today. There you will see the complaints.

Complaints from the people against misfortunes.

Complaints from the people against having nothing but manna to eat - and no meat.

Complaints from Moses about the burden of all these "children" who complain against him.

Complaints from Moses that God expects him to get all the meat. 

Complaints that two of the seventy who received the Spirit of the Lord were not in the assembly.

Complaints from Aaron and Miriam about Moses' wife and their own lack of power and influence.

Complaints from ten of the twelve spies sent to the promised land that the land was too fortified to take.

Complaints from the people that God had brought them here to die by the sword and their little ones become booty.

Complaints from God (!) that these people have continued to despise God despite all the wonders and miracles that God has done for them.

Take a moment today to list your complaints - perhaps in writing. Then take the same amount of time to list what wonders and miracles that God has done and continues to do for you. Follow this with a prayer to God, thanking God for all God is doing in your life and asking forgiveness for your complaints.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Perfect Obedience

Numbers 7-10

Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, resting upon it, the Israelites would remain in camp and would not set out; but when it lifted they would set out. At the command of the Lord they would camp, and at the command of the Lord they would set out. Numbers 9:22-23a NRSV

This is perfect obedience - staying as long as the cloud was over the tabernacle but leaving as soon as the cloud lifted from the tabernacle.

However, this obedience would not have been possible if the Israelites had not been extremely organized. Every tribe had a particular place in the march and stayed there while camped. You knew where you were located during resting and traveling. Also, everything was portable at a moment's notice. Even the holiest of the holy items had a particular place and particular Levites to carry them. In fact, the Levite tribe was broken down into clans with each given a specific job for the march and the setting up of the tabernacle.

This perfect obedience also had to be somewhat stressful. No one knew when the cloud would lift or if it would stay come morning. Even being well-organized would not have taken that stress away. This reminds me of being an on-call chaplain in a hospital several years ago. You never knew when that beeper was going to go off and what you would find when you got to the patient in the hospital. A similar feeling of stress must be felt by others who are in a helping profession: firemen, parametics, police, and emergency room doctors. You could have hours of nothing and then days of constant activity. For the Israelites, they just had to wait on God's leadership.

What about you? Are you waiting on God's leadership? Or have you given up from the stress and the lack of organization?

God, you want to lead us but we don't seem to have the patience you ask for. Help us to be perfectly obedient to you and your will. In Jesus' name. Amen

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, February 1, 2010

What Can We Learn from Today's Scripture?

Numbers 4-6

Numbers 5: 30-31 NRSV

Ugh! Don't get me started with this account of what happens to a woman accused of adultery. The law has already stated that a woman caught in the act of adultery would be stoned to death. But here it is only the husband's suspicion of what might be happening that causes the woman to have to swallow a compound that causes tremendous pain and can make her miscarry if she is pregnant. And if she does, she becomes an execration among the people. That is, totally abhorred. No mention of being killed but this is worse.

Okay, all this is done if the husband is jealous. No proof of adultery, simple jealousy. What if she is pregnant with his child? And innocent? Or not pregnant and has to be humiliated and tortured? If the man is so inclined toward jealousy, I would suspect that this won't be the last time he tries this.  And the man who has (supposedly) slept with her is not punished at all. Also, if the woman is jealous, there is nothing she can do.

What is the meaning of all this? Prevention of the husband claiming a child that is not his as his. That is this purpose of this law - to prevent the birth of bastards.

This is the Old Testament version of abortion. And it is done by the priest in front of the sanctuary.

As a sanctity-of-human-life supporter and female bastard I would really like to cut this part out of the bible.

God, I am not happy about this scripture. Why is it in the Bible? What are you trying to say with this part of the law? What do we do with scripture that is painful, cruel and disgusting? Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims