Living with Plan B

plan BJust an aside about when things don’t go according to plan…………I didn’t get the job I was going for. Thought you might like to know. And actually, that feels OK. It’s made me realise how much I love my current job and how hard it would have been to leave. It’s made me appreciate what I have and how fortunate I am to feel that way. Of course, it feels a little disappointing, but I really enjoyed the process and the preparation and it helped me with my confidence as I approached my 50th birthday. I asked for God’s will to be done and I feel a peace that it was and an excitement for what is to come!

And then today – I have an important day at work and Andy has been violently vomiting (most likely food poisoning)…and it’s Jordan’s birthday and there are lots of plans in place. And I can’t get my head round a Plan B. There is no Plan B. And I am panicking about not ruining Jordan’s birthday or my event at work or my night out tonight or our trip to Manchester tomorrow…..when none of these things can be changed by worrying and fretting and giving in to frustration (why today of all days? All the days he could have picked to be ill that wouldn’t have mattered and he picked today! I know, as if he ‘picked’ it…..).

Talking of a change of plan, the Israelites had been on the verge of entering the Promised Land and now God has made them turn back to spend another 40 years wandering in the wilderness. 40 years! I guess my problems seem pretty minor in comparison! And the first thing recorded in Numbers after that is God telling Moses about supplementary offerings that are to be made –

 After you enter the land I am giving you as a home…..  Numbers 15:2

Surely that is still a long way off! Talk about rubbing salt into the wound!

fragrant offeringThe offerings are specific varying fractions of hins and ephahs of the finest flour, olive oil and wine. This is to continue for generations to come. Any foreigners bringing offerings to the Lord have to bring offerings of the same standard. These offerings are to be ‘an aroma pleasing to the Lord’.  The writers of the New Testament grew up on this teaching and practice. That is why Paul talks about fragrant offerings in his letters ( and we sing about them in some of our worship songs!) –

walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:2

I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.  Philippians 4:18

Whatever we give is to be the right proportion of what we have – generous, meeting a need, the finest we can bring, the best we can be.

The passage then goes on to reiterate what to do if a whole community sins unintentionally, if an individual sins unintentionally, and if an individual sins defiantly. The consequences vary. Motivation matters.

lobley hillI live in a very special community. It’s called Lobley Hill. I say it’s special but I guess there are other communities dotted around like this one. It is special because it is still a community. My group of reluctant runners can go out and bump into an awful lot of people that they know (some of us feel that is not such a good thing!). Lots of people have lived here all their lives. I have ten really good friends who live within walking distance of my house. It is a good place to live. But thinking about unintentional community sin is not something that crosses the minds of individuals within this community, I would imagine. This community is great at standing up for issues that will affect the community adversely – we stick together to protect ourselves eg. when the bridge across the main road was taken down, when the lollipop man was removed from outside the school, when there were plans to create a hostel (for undesirables) just down the road……..but what are our unintentional sins? How good are we at supporting the lonely, the elderly and the single parents in our community? How good are we at keeping our streets clean? What do we offer for our young people to do instead of hanging around Beggars Wood or outside the shops? How good are we at supporting the new community initiatives offered by the Community Centre? How good are we at welcoming the new mum into our group in the school playground? or the new neighbour whose English is not that great? How often do we offer to help with the Home School Association?  There are unintentional wrongs in every community – negligence and ignorance are not excuses for inaction.

And then the passage moves on to a practical example – a man gathering wood on the Sabbath is deemed to be a Sabbath-breaker and is taken outside the camp and stoned to death. Harsh but fair, you cold say. Keeping the Sabbath holy was one of the ten basic commandments. There was no good reason to break the command. The individual may have felt it was pointless and meaningless and unnecessary but it was one of God’s commandments and breaking it was an act of defiance towards God.

tasselsThen we have an answer to the question that often gets asked around here as we have a large Jewish community here in Gateshead – why do the men have tassels hanging down outside their clothes?

‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’  Numbers 15:38-40

The tassels are to help the people remember. God is helping them. This reminder will stop them from getting into all sorts of bother. Remember my commands. Remember what I have done for you. Remember who I am.

Forgetting is not an excuse. Ignorance is not bliss; it is inexcusable. The stakes are high – they’ve already just seen that in being sentenced to another 40 years in the wilderness and in witnessing the stoning of the Sabbath-breaker.

God wants the people to enjoy life in all its fullness. The tassels will help them to remember this.

God wants us to enjoy life in all its fullness. His rules for living are not pointless and meaningless and unnecessary. They enable us as individuals and as communities to truly live life to the full. We need to remember God’s commands. We need to remember what He has done for us. We need to remember who He is.

Tassels may not be your thing – but what could you find that would help you to remember?



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