Growing stories and words
Numbers 21: 4-9 (NIV)
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lordand against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Stories are like ideas that enter our minds and grow there. As we go about our lives we sometimes find unexpected wisdom from the stories we had forgotten were planted in our minds many years ago. In the same way negative words or phrases that we take in (and speak out) can plant themselves in our minds too. Like the Parable of the Sower, which spins its word throughout this month’s theme, these poisonous thoughts and ideas can strangle the wisdom and hope which tries to break through (the parable can be found in Mark 4: 1-20, as well as in Matthew and Luke).
In the passage from Numbers we read today, God seems to be making a literal comparison to teach an important lesson. The power of negative words can be strong, as strong as poison from a snake. No doubt those who complained about the food forgot all about that complaint when their lives were in danger. It’s all a bit dramatic but stories are, and our God — as we see so strongly in the Son sent to earth — is a storyteller.
God teaches a lesson in a way that leaves the people in very little doubt as to what has caused the problem. But God is there when they seek a solution. A flamboyant solution, full of drama, but then it is God.
God of the drama and the solution
We forget the power of our own words and our own stories
We sometimes let them grow like weeds and strangle our potential
We sometimes let them poison others
Please bring us healing and let the wisdom we have planted grow in us again
Bring us as much drama and flamboyance as will lead us towards you