Women’s Rights [The Daughters of Zelophehad]

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*** NOTE: The entire section of “Observation” and about 80% of the Application section is copied and pasted into my post today. The research and interpretation are brilliant. I include some of my own comments at the end of the Application section. To see the entire article, click here. ***

S (Scripture): Numbers 27:1 The daughters of Zelophehad, Hepher’s son, Gilead’s grandson, Machir’s great-grandson, and Manasseh’s great-great-grandson, belonging to the clan of Manasseh and son of Joseph, came forward. His daughters’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chiefs, and the entire community at the entrance of the meeting tent and said, 3 “Our father died in the desert. He wasn’t part of the community who gathered against the Lord with Korah’s community. He died for his own sin, but he had no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name be taken away from his clan because he didn’t have a son? Give us property among our father’s brothers.”

36:1 The leaders of the households of the clans of Gilead, Machir’s son and Manasseh’s grandson, of Joseph’s clans, approached and spoke before Moses and the chiefs, who were the leaders of the Israelite households. 2 They said, “The Lord commanded my master to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the Israelites. But my master was also commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. 3 If they are married to someone from another Israelite tribe, their inheritance will be taken away from our household and given to another tribe into which they marry. Then it will be taken away from the lot of our inheritance. 4 At the Israelite Jubilee, their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they married. Then their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of our ancestral tribe.”

O (Observation): (This entire text is from MyJewishLearning.com)

We might expect that women, heirs to Egyptian slavery and then put under law that frequently favors men, might react by keeping silent, by accepting as natural the rule decreed for them to follow. We might expect women in those days to stay close to their tents, remain out of sight, and not go far from their families. So how and why did Zelophehad’s daughters write a new chapter in history? First, they dared to “go out” from their living place, from their social space, from the destiny imposed on them.

Let’s imagine the scene: the Israelite camp is formed of tribes, each of whom has a determined place, with the Tabernacle in the middle; and in the center stand the main authority figures, all of them men: Moses, the priest Eleazar, and the chieftains. Imposing as this structure may have been, the five sisters decide to claim their rights. Together, they go out of their tents, without being called by anyone, to the place where only the high-ranking men congregate, to the place where the Tablets from Sinai rest in the Ark, to the place of holiness and authority, to a place where women did not have authority. These men must have been overwhelmed when they saw such a startling, unprecedented situation!

[Zelophehad’s daughters] know that the continuity of family name depends on inheritance of the land; and they realize that the current law is not adequate, for it does not take into account the unusual circumstances of a man without sons. They possess the acumen to recognize this omission–in God’s law! But because they consider God’s law to be just, or to aim to be just, they show no hesitation in pointing out the unfair nature of the present situation with complete confidence and supporting their claim with compelling arguments.

[Moses] takes the case to God, who responds by unequivocally supporting the sisters’ demand and even by promulgating a new and permanent law to secure inheritance for any daughters in such circumstances (27:6-8). Thus, the sisters’ claim leads to the law of inheritance’s being changed forever.

A (Application): (Almost all of this text is from MyJewishLearning.com); my own comments are below the horizontal line at the end.

The achievement of Zelophehad’s daughters was a landmark in women’s rights regarding the inheritance of land, from those days up to now. In addition, however, the story of these five women offers a compelling lesson for all those who believe that their destiny is fixed or that divine justice has abandoned them. It encourages us to think differently— and provides a message of hope for all those faced with obstacles. Perhaps the most important legacy of Zelophehad’s daughters is their call to us to take hold of life with our own hands, to move from the place that the others have given us–or that we have decided to keep because we feel immobile–and to walk, even to the most holy center, to where nobody seems to be able to go.

After all, nothing is more sacred than life itself and the fight for what we believe is worthy. Thus, this parashah inspires us to discover that we too have the ability to know what is right for ourselves and what our rights ought to be. When we believe in our capacity to shape our history, to the point of being able to change even a law that came from the Revelation at Sinai, then we pay a tribute to Zelophehad’s daughters.

Back to me, now… : )

In the ELCA, in 2018, we have seen a high number of female bishops being elected. This is exciting news! We are so happy for this continued strengthening of female leadership in the ELCA. And in case you don’t know, our current Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, is also our first female to hold that position.

We hope for fair and equitable treatment for all of God’s people. We hope for stronger pushes for equal pay for men and women, especially our younger female cohorts who seem to be trending downward in pay, causing the divide in pay to be ever-increasing. Not good!

We will continue to pursue God’s will in seeking fair treatment to all people. This text is a good reminder that God’s law is meant to protect and bring life to all who believe in the Lord. May it be so.

P (Prayer): Lord, we give you thanks for listening to our please for hope and justice. Amen.

“So How’s That Working Out for You?”

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S (Scripture): Numbers 14:1 The entire community raised their voice and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt or if only we had died in this desert! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to each other, “Let’s pick a leader and let’s go back to Egypt.”

10b Then the Lord’s glory appeared in the meeting tent to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people disrespect me? And how long will they doubt me after all the signs that I performed among them? 12 I’ll strike them down with a plague and disown them. Then I’ll make you into a great nation, stronger than they.”

19 Please forgive the wrongs of these people because of your absolute loyalty, just as you’ve forgiven these people from their time in Egypt until now.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will forgive as you requested. But,

25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley, tomorrow turn and march into the desert by the route of the Reed Sea.”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 How long will this wicked community complain against me? I’ve heard the Israelites’ dissent as they continue to complain against me. 28 Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as I’ve heard you say, so I’ll do to you. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this desert. None of you who were enlisted and were registered from 20 years old and above, who complained against me, 30 will enter the land in which I promised to settle you, with the exception of Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, and Joshua, Nun’s son. 31 But your children, whom you said would be taken by force, I’ll bring them in and they will know the land that you rejected. 32 Your bodies, however, will fall in this desert, 33 and your children will be shepherds in the desert for forty years. They will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies fall in the desert. 34 For as many days as you explored the land, that is, forty days, just as many years you’ll bear your guilt, that is, forty years. This is how you will understand my frustration.” 35 I the Lord have spoken. I will do this to the entire wicked community who gathered against me. They will die in this desert. There they’ll meet their end.

O (Observation): WOW! Some extremely harsh words from a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing. God gives the people a land…but they’d rather be back in Egypt…enslaved. So they complain to God…and God leaves them to their own devices. God is the one who saves and who lets people choose for themselves how they will live. Of course, choosing one’s own personal desires can cause harm to one’s self and the community.

But instead of focusing on missing the mark, perhaps we have a lesson on faith and trust in the Lord. Let us focus on this: when God provides vision, God also provides provision.

A (Application): I think Israel’s problem can be summed up by a question that Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”

This question comes when this television personality / counselor speaks to his guests and they share how they decided to heed their own advice, rather than seek wisdom from others. “So how’s that working out for you?”

You wanna provide for yourself? Go for it.

You wanna be enslaved? Let me know how that goes.

What are we doing that goes against God’s call in our lives?

Where is God leading us that we are too scared to follow?

Remember, where God provides VISION, God provides PROVISION! Go for it! Trust in the Lord! God will provide…whether we go straight into our call…or even if it takes “40 years” to get there.

P (Prayer): Lord, call us onward and provide. Amen.

Bound Together for Ministry

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S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

A Liturgical Lesson

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S (Scripture): Numbers 6:22 The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 Tell Aaron and his sons: You will bless the Israelites as follows. Say to them:

24  The Lord bless you and protect you.

25  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

26  The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace.

27 They will place my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

O (Observation): This 3-fold blessing is not something that some church leader made up a few years ago. This is a blessing handed down from God to Moses for Aaron and the other priests to use to bless the Israelites.

This is a big deal.

A (Application): We use much scripture in worship as a Lutheran congregation of the ELCA. More than you might think.

As we change some of our liturgy based on the church liturgical calendar, we incorporate the worship texts throughout each season into the words of our prayers and blessing or in our confession and forgiveness, and more.

The hymns also reflect certain scriptures, and typically reflect the season of the Church calendar and messages given through the sermon.

But when we need a tried and true blessing…we can go all the way back to Moses and Aaron.

P (Prayer): Lord, as you provide the words of blessing, help us to know we are in your ever-loving care. Amen.

Jubilee! (Old Testament style)

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S (Scripture): Leviticus 25:8 Count off seven weeks of years—that is, seven times seven—so that the seven weeks of years totals forty-nine years. 9 Then have the trumpet blown on the tenth day of the seventh month. Have the trumpet blown throughout your land on the Day of Reconciliation. 10 You will make the fiftieth year holy, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It will be a Jubilee year for you: each of you must return to your family property and to your extended family. 11 The fiftieth year will be a Jubilee year for you. Do not plant, do not harvest the secondary growth, and do not gather from the freely growing vines 12 because it is a Jubilee: it will be holy to you. You can eat only the produce directly out of the field. 13 Each of you must return to your family property in this year of Jubilee.

O (Observation): God’s people are still receiving instruction on what it means to be God’s people. What does it look like to live and work together. Surely, over time, folks working together would need to lean on one another for certain communal work, and some would be sick or in really challenging circumstances and would need to be in debt to another for at least a time.

The establishment of a Jubilee year was God’s way of bringing folks back (every “7 weeks of 7 years”) to the original setup God has established for God’s people.

God’s people would be re-established according to what God gave them, not according to their actions or successes or failures. That is grace!

A (Application): We are still working our way out of my student loan debt. Have a sizable chunk to go. We had a mountain of credit card debt, too, but thanks to a consumer credit company (a good one) who coached us through the difficult choices we had to make to get out of credit card debt. It worked! We made fairly steady income, but we had to really focus on our spending.

I hate being in debt. I can’t stand it. I know that sometimes we feel there is no other way…but to get back into debt for a car or eating out, etc. That is a challenge for me now.

We have come to accept debt as a way of life. Sometimes we choose debt. Sometimes – due to health care needs or challenges around us – we are brought into this by no means of our own.

How do we have compassion and work with those in challenging circumstances? Do we say “Sorry! You gotta handle this.” And when we say that, the sick person goes without treatment, the poor go without food, the imprisoned go without visits.

Is the Jubilee concept a thing? Can it be? Perhaps in your own life, you have sought forgiveness…help…assistance. Have you become indebted to someone? How does that feel? Have you named the difficulties and started moving towards reconciliation? Has grace been experienced in that interaction?

Well, with corporate America the almighty dollar rules. Very little forgiveness of debt. Almost no assistance to avoid debt to begin with.

What would a great Jubilee look like? What would a Jubilee look like just in your own circles? What would a Jubilee look like where you are the one giving the grace? What would it look like if you received the grace?

P (Prayer): Lord, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And.

How Absurd!

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S (Scripture): Mark 6:33 Many people saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.

O (Observation): The crowd recognizes that Jesus has some significant power and teaching for them. They wish to receive his wisdom and his healing.

As 5,000 had gathered, they hadn’t made dinner plans. Jesus’ disciples wish for them to be sent away to get their own dinner. Jesus makes sure they eat : )

Jesus asks the disciples to gather what they have, he blesses it, and all 5,000 are fed!

I love how Jesus takes what the disciples ALREADY HAVE and blesses THAT. With that blessed bread and fish, all are fed. The disciples never had to look further than what they already had…and Jesus uses PRECISELY that possession to bless the crowd.

A (Application): How are you already equipped for ministry? What is it about you that God has blessed and used for the good of others? Your money? Your pen? Your voice?

Think back to Moses and Aaron. They were not asked to take a huge test or scavenge for weapons or anything. They were simply to speak on God’s behalf. Even the staff Moses had…God used.

How far do we have to go to think about what God can use in me? In you?

Are we afraid? Do we doubt? Perhaps. That would make us normal. If we believe…that makes us weird…that’s absurd. Which may be the idea all along.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you bless what has already been given to us. Amen.

God Leads the Way

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S (Scripture): Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God didn’t lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though that was the shorter route. God thought, “If the people have to fight and face war, they will run back to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the Reed Sea desert. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took with him Joseph’s bones just as Joseph had made Israel’s sons promise when he said to them, “When God takes care of you, you must carry my bones out of here with you.” 20 They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 The Lord went in front of them during the day in a column of cloud to guide them and at night in a column of lightning to give them light. This way they could travel during the day and at night. 22 The column of cloud during the day and the column of lightning at night never left its place in front of the people.

O (Observation): A reminder by Joseph – “When God takes care of you” – has multiple applications here. First, God has rescued God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Second, as they are set free, so too are they protected with a pillar of cloud by day and lightning by night (though I’ve always read “fire” at night… interesting to ponder).

Joseph knew of God’s promise of old. Moses knows God’s promise for the future.

A (Application): So, what is your pillar of cloud by day and pillar of lighting by night? Have you sensed God’s comfort in any way? God’s protection?

What do these things look like for you?

For me, the protection comes in the form of a caring family, trusted colleagues, and the plethora of continuing education options available to me. I am protected…and that also includes ways that I cannot yet see.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your protection. Help us to see it all around us. Amen.

Please, Lord…Send Someone Else!

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S (Scripture): Exodus 4:10 Moses said to the Lord, “My Lord, I’ve never been able to speak well, not yesterday, not the day before, and certainly not now since you’ve been talking to your servant. I have a slow mouth and a thick tongue.”

11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives people the ability to speak? Who’s responsible for making them unable to speak or hard of hearing, sighted or blind? Isn’t it I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I’ll help you speak, and I’ll teach you what you should say.”

13 But Moses said, “Please, my Lord, just send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord got angry at Moses and said, “What about your brother Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak very well. He’s on his way out to meet you now, and he’s looking forward to seeing you. 15 Speak to him and tell him what he’s supposed to say. I’ll help both of you speak, and I’ll teach both of you what to do. 16 Aaron will speak for you to the people. He’ll be a spokesperson for you, and you will be like God for him. 17 Take this shepherd’s rod with you too so that you can do the signs.”

O (Observation): God was asking Moses to speak to the Pharaoh to tell the Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Moses was scared of this prospect. He was terrified to speak! Even with the signs God equipped him with. Moses still says: “Please, my Lord, just send someone else!”

The wise and mighty and great Moses…not starting his ministry off on a good note, is he?

But God promises Aaron, anyway. Aaron will speak. God still provides despite being disappointed in Moses.

A (Application): How many times have you quoted Moses? How many times have I?

Please, my Lord, send someone else!


God doesn’t always release me, but sometimes I am released. When I am not released, God sends me my “helper” like God sent sent Aaron to Moses.

I’m in good company. If Moses began with “not it!” then maybe my ministry ain’t so bad after all. Maybe I’m doing all right. Maybe it’s okay to be scared and afraid and not sure of myself. Because God is sure. That’s all I need. That’s all anybody needs.

What are you struggling with today? Where is God calling you to be a voice for the oppressed and distressed?

P (Prayer): Lord, provide for me, yet again. Forgive me when I try to avoid my cross. Amen.

Promises, Promises…

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S (Scripture): Matthew 17:1 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2 He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

3 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” 6 Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

O (Observation): The Transfiguration is a powerful story revealing God’s manifestation amongst the people: as the Law, the Prophets, and now, through Jesus. This ongoing story of God’s inbreaking into this world is put on display for Peter, James, and John. They see God clearly though the Law and Prophets, and in Jesus’ words and actions.

A (Application): I recently had a conversation with a Muslim acquaintance, in which he asked: “Do you see the Old Testament as important?” What a great question!

“Yes!” I told him. In fact, without the Old Testament, we might not understand the person of Jesus nearly so well.

The covenants God has made with Israel are fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The first promise (or covenant) is made from God to Abraham – a promise of many descendants and great rulers.

Then, the Law is set forth, with help from Moses. Later, God promises that God will build a house out of King David. And God promises to write the Law on the hearts of all of God’s followers (Jeremiah 31). Eventually, as all hope seems lost – the covenants almost forgotten – Jesus springs forth, of the line of Abraham, David, Jeremiah…down to Mary and Joseph.

Had I been more on my game when talking to my Muslim friend, I might have lifted up this passage (of the Transfiguration) as a great indicator of the succession of covenants and how important the Old Testament is as a witness to the sustaining power of God’s Spirit through the ages…to stick with us despite our failings as God’s people…to experience grace and forgiveness, unending.

And all of who God is shapes us! If my God is that forgiving, now I will embody forgiveness towards others. Instead of faith being a transaction or a belief in God, my faith is to be lived out is as if Jesus is alive in me. So, believing in Jesus is then a way of life, a way of seeing, a way of interacting, a way of hearing.

God has moved through the ancestors of the Old Testament, in the person of Jesus, and continues to live in me and all of creation, through the movement of the Spirit.

P (Prayer): Lord, grant us wisdom to witness the ongoing work of the Spirit in our world, in our very lives. Amen.

May I See Some ID, Please 

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S (Scripture): Psalm 103

6 The Lord works righteousness;
does justice for all who are oppressed.
7 God made his ways known to Moses;
made his deeds known to the Israelites.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
9 God won’t always play the judge;
he won’t be angry forever.
10 He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin
or repay us according to our wrongdoing,
11 because as high as heaven is above the earth,
that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him.

O (Observation):  God’s promise of justice and mercy is not empty.  Moses is proof that God’s people will not be abandoned.  Jesus Christ crucified and risen is proof that God’s people will not be abandoned.  

A (Application): God’s justice and mercy are dealt with compassion. God’s desire is not to punish us. Our identity is not in our sinfulness, but rather in God who is holy and who redeems us.  We are God’s forgiven sinners.   That is our identity. 

P (Prayer):  God, remind us that we are yours!  Amen.