Sunday, March 14, 2021

God the Teacher

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 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.


John 3:14-21

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

I, like many people, feel that God the Father of the Old Testament is much like a Father of young children, teaching by setting down rules, boundaries, and teaching how to do things.  Compared to God the Father of the New Testament who develops more of an adult relationship with us, his children.  I see both of these teaching methods reflected in the above readings: Numbers: Old Testament and John: New Testament.

In this Old Testament reading we are taught how to repent from sin and pray. All of this is taught through the use of a serpent or snake.  There is a parallel to yoga here. Kundalini Yoga uses the idea of a snake coiling to represent the energy in our bodies rising via the spine or chakras. Medical Doctors also use two snakes intertwined in the Staff of Hermes as their logo. Snakes are not always the enemy. In the Numbers reading today we do find snakes biting and killing. The Israelites believe it a sign of their sin and ask Moses to ask God for help.  God then teaches. In simple, childlike terms, he has Moses create a Gold Serpent to be used as a single point of meditation.  In yoga a single point of meditation is called Dharana. This meditation could be considered the beginning of learning to pray for forgiveness of sins.  The single point of meditation is the sin itself, in Numbers this is represented by the golden serpent. Focusing on that that troubles us, rather than ignoring it, takes it’s power away and allows us to move, with mindfulness, into a new space of forgiveness. Some might even call this Kundalini rising.

In the New Testament reading John builds on this idea of forgiveness of sins.  In the most famous John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This reading goes on to compare a world in sin or evil to darkness, and truth to light. The belief in God that we first see in the Israelites in Number, that belief that sent them to Moses for further instruction is present here too only it goes further into eternal life.

Literally just prior to reading these scripture readings a question was posed by one of my college students on life after death. My reply was as follows, “For me as both a scientific minded and spiritual minded person, and one that has experienced cadaver dissection, I cannot believe that all our thoughts, consciousness, personality, etc. All that energy, all the koshas suddenly end with death. It has to go somewhere. I believe in the possibility that there is more than we can see. And although I will be cremated eventually on death, I have strong feelings about waiting at least three days to give the whole time to transition (I haven't decided about donation yet).” God teaches us in marvelous ways.  


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