Praying for rain?

Several Middle Eastern nations have been asking their people, especially their religious leaders, to pray for rain recently, including Iran, Syria, and Israel.

Iran’s drought continues, although it is suffering a worsening rain of discontent and violent protests in the last few days.

Syria is also asking their people to pray.

Meanwhile, following prayer, Israel has had a downpour of rain and snow.

“Rain and snow cover Israel as cold front sweeps in – Israel News, Dec 25, 2017: Snow fell on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights and the first real rain of the winter season swept over Israel Sunday and on Monday morning. Central and northern Israel received between 30 to 50 millimeters of rain, according to the Water Authority, adding that rain even fell in the northern Negev.

Hmm. Do you think it may depend on whose God those prayers go to?

Mercy doesn’t always look like it

MtHarounOrMtHorWandering in the wilderness was mercy, really. The ten doubting spies who said we can’t do it, were telling the simple truth. They couldn’t do it. They had no faith to do it. They knew they’d never survive a fight with giants.

Well, they didn’t survive any way, not even to wander in the wilderness for forty years. They died of a plague.

Unfortunately, before the plague struck they persuaded many others they couldn’t do it, and of course then those people couldn’t either. The plague would have killed those unbelievers too, except for the intercession of Moses. Except for God’s mercy.

In God’s mercy, they didn’t have to fight the giants. But they weren’t allowed to ever enter the promised land. Instead, for forty years they were allowed to live out their lives, raise their families, build tent cities wherever they camped, tend to their herds and flocks. They didn’t even have to plant crops. Humans and animals were fed supernaturally, boring as they thought manna was, unless the animals found enough forage to survive on. I suspect they ate manna too.

Part of their time was spent attending and tending to the Tabernacle of Moses. Part of their time was spent assembling and disassembling that Tabernacle, carefully carrying it from place to place. Whenever God moved, they moved. Once at a new camp, they had to re-assemble the Tabernacle, then bring the animals and make the sacrifices, all the while repenting and praying and hoping for the best. Counting down the days, probably.

Eventually those unbelievers, whose clothes didn’t wear out, whose shoes didn’t wear out, who didn’t have to go to jobs, didn’t have to plow fields or plant grain, didn’t have to build houses or cities, didn’t have to wage war against the giants, died of old age and were buried in the wilderness.

Their children were allowed to enter the promised land, however. Of course they would have to confront a few unruly, uncooperative and combatant groups of people along the way, as well as dispossess the inhabitants once they got there. It’s a good thing they had Joshua to train them in warfare. A real good thing that Joshua — the warrior and spy — wasn’t one of those who had brought back an evil report.

The point of this story is, wandering in the wilderness for forty years was a mercy God showed to the unbelievers in response to Moses’ intercession. Sometimes mercy wears unfamiliar clothes.

Numbers 13-14
Deuteronomy 8


Ancient Israel Modern Israel

When Jesus grew up, his home town was Nazareth in Galilee. Where is that, exactly? As you can see on these maps (one of Ancient Israel and the other of Modern Israel), it’s in the northern section of the country, west of the lower part of the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth was one of those towns occupied by a mixture of people from many different places, not well thought of by the more elite. Being close to a trade route, travelers coming and going would stop here and some settled here. Some probably even intermarried into local families. Quite a lot is known about this little sort of disreputable town, home town of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

If you’re interested in learning more about the town in Jesus’ day, click on the link,

What interested me is how close Nazareth is to everywhere else in Israel. Now, as then, only a few miles stretch between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, just a few more between Nazareth and the main cities. Most people walked everywhere in New Testament days, but there were well traveled roads and many small communities, villages and towns along the way, no matter where you were going.

Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and thus Jesus learned carpentry. A great deal of the carpenter’s work was done outside or “on site,” whether someone needed a wagon wheel, a yoke for an ox, a fishing boat, or help constructing a building. Carpenters met many people, everywhere, thus as Jesus worked beside Joseph, he began meeting many people too.

Relatives of Joseph and Mary lived in the same area. The young cousins certainly knew each other, played together, learned together. Then as Jesus grew up he began to accompany the men to the synagogue. The entire family traveled to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover, along with many relatives and friends.

By the time Jesus began his ministry, he was already well known in Galilee, and probably in other parts of the country as well. What was he known for? His family relationships. His reputation. The quality of his carpentry work. The value of his opinions. His honesty, integrity, respect for his elders.

And when Jesus called his first disciple, he chose someone who already knew him; someone he already knew. We have the idea that Jesus just went around picking out this stranger and that one, and that somehow those picked were overcome with awe by this stranger calling to them and dropped everything.

No, I believe they were already well acquainted. Jesus’ reputation preceded him, and those men had no doubt been expecting him to start selecting students – disciples – and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had been praying within their own spirits, “Father, let him choose me, let him choose me!”

Also check out Peter, fishing-industry businessman