|Queen Esther John Everett Millais (1829-96)|
The alternative OT lesson comes from the Book of Numbers and connects more directly with the Epistle and Gospel. It too recounts a very human episode, one of those many occasions when, in the course of their wilderness wanderings, the Children of Israel complain about living conditions (this time the lack of fresh meat) and accuse Moses of having led them to disaster rather than liberation. Moses expresses to God the kind of exasperation that many clergy have felt about the congregations committed to their charge – Why have you given me sole spiritual responsibility for these people? In response to Moses’ complaint, God appeals directly to seventy elders who might assist him. But the impact is short lived. Only two take up the task of prophet. And yet Joshua complains about them! They are threatening Moses’ special position.
|Young John Wesley Preaching -- John Russell (1745-1806)|
Of course, some, perhaps many, who take up the message will indeed get it wrong, or they will preach it badly. But the Epistle (from James) wants us to see this not as a threat, but as an opportunity –‘if anyone among you wanders from the truth’ then ‘whoever brings back a sinner from wandering . . . will cover a multitude of sins’.