Monday, September 11, 2006

Exodus through Numbers

The dominant mode of God's authority in Exodus through Numbers is obviously the giving of the Law. Since the authority of the Law bears direct analogy to the authority of scripture as a whole, the details here will be very useful to the theme of my study.

When God is telling Moses to have the people prepare for God's coming on Mount Sinai, God says to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after" (Ex. 19:9). This is very interesting. The point isn't for the people to hear what God says but rather simply for them to hear that God is speaking to Moses. This is very good since they are afraid to listen (20:19). The people yield authority to Moses.

This is ambiguous for our current situation. Is the authority to be understood as being with Moses (the text) or leaders of the people? Obviously I have some opinions about this, but I'm going to defer the question for now and see what comes up.

The description of the tabernacle and its building has a bit of the character of "God said...and there was..." from Genesis 1, but the two events being separated by the incident of the golden calf adds a fascinating twist to this. God forgives his reprobate people, and they follow his commands precisely.

The incident of Korah's rebellion is nearly enough to make a Catholic of me. Korah's complaint -- "All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them" (Numbers 16:3) -- sounds an awful lot like the priesthood of all believers. Against this God affirms the authority of Moses.

But perhaps this is relevant not to a three-tiered church, but to my earlier question about the authority of Moses (i.e. in the text), in opposition to the authority of the people of God simply as people of God. In that context, it could be an argument against experience as a source of authority. That is, the people of God do not have their own authority simply because they are people of God. They are still subject to God's appointed authority whether that be Moses or scripture (or, I have to add as at least a possibility for discussion, the Church).

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