Pastor Kathleen Kelly,
In the first lesson for today's Daily Office readings, the Israelites attempt to expand their territory and get handed their lunch. God declined to help because a few scofflaws captured "devoted things" in the prior battle. Reading this alone could leave one confused about what devoted things are and why this was such a big deal.
The first tool for resolving Biblical confusion is to read more of the story. In the chapter right before this, God demands that the Israelites devote all the spoils of their conquests to destruction. Why destroy perfectly good resources? Now is time to deploy the second tool for resolving Biblical confusion. Consider how God's actions differ from usual human response.
Usually, to the victor go the spoils. But God was not giving Canaan into the Israelites' hands so they could sate the human lust for more stuff. God was hoping they would model life lived fully trusting in God's favor and guidance. Through them, the whole world could see how God intended life to be.
The rest of the Old Testament shows moments when this hope was realized and more moments when it wasn't. So, God took on the mission of modeling life as it was meant to be in Jesus. In today's Gospel, Jesus' closest disciples fall asleep three times when asked to pray in his hour of utmost need. He still accepted the cross for them, and for us. Such love beyond imagining is how life was meant to be.
May we receive and share it.
Agony in the Garden
by Andrea Mantegna, c. 1490