So Stephen Hawking, physicist and cosmologist, has died after a surprisingly long life considering what he gallantly suffered through and despite his universally acknowledged brilliance in his area of work and interest. So it is with all of us—Death is lord! Human history (whatever one’s philosophy or theology) makes the point that when Death comes calling we go with him.

A young Bertrand Russell (agnostic or Stratonician atheist depending on one’s view) said this:
“Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy that rejects them can hope to stand…”
I’m not interested in discussing the ethical ramifications of that view. I just wish to say that if empirical science is the only voice to be heard then “unyielding despair” is an appropriate description of the human condition. All love and longing dies, all those beloved to us perish, all the longings for “justice” for the beaten and battered and butchered are just that, “longings”; longings never fulfilled and they die too. Yes, but what about “life after death”? Empirical science offers no support for that.

My suspicion is that the pervasive atheism that’s around is not the theoretical kind but the practical kind. Whether there is a God or not—He does nothing! Or He does so little that what Woody Allen said sounds right, “Whatever else we can say about him we have to admit he’s ‘an underachiever’.” Something like that. But even that response is the response of someone who has the time and interest to think about the “God question”. Practical atheism is like gentle misty rain; you walk in it and get soaked before you’re even aware of it.
Humans (there are exceptions, of course) are compelled to stay busy. They must eat so they must work, they must sleep, they must go places and come back from them, they must be educated to be employable, they must care for their children, they must wrestle with illness, bear with fierce disappoint and rejection, live by social and legal rules, and so forth. And for those in places like Syria, Yemen, Sudan and countless other hell-holes at home and abroad, things are even “busier”. They don’t have the time or energy to spare to reflect on the “God question”. Millions of them are in practice atheists; not because they have made a decision about God and jettisoned Him but because He obviously leaves them to fend and provide for themselves. Of course in times of down in the depths weariness and in anguish they wish there was someone who would throw in His divine weight to help them with a task to great for them to handle. They come across humans who seem to care, humans who pitch in and try to alleviate if not obliterate the injustice or ease some the simply unavoidable trouble in life. It’s true they know a lot of evil doers and abusers, self-serving politicians, financiers, war-mongering thugs who make a living out of promoting and sustaining war. But as they look around with life-weary eyes they now and then come across humans who care and live to help. But of God there’s no sight! Of an all-powerful and all-loving God there is less than no sight. But again, even those who “make it” tolerably well in life have to work, sleep and keep-up and God if there is one, God who seems uninvolved gets scant attention. Without His help people have to make their way through life and then…they die! Good men and women as well as evil men and women. They all die!
Russell again, “…no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…”
There’s the philosophy of Russell and Hawking. Two brilliant mathematicians and atheists now dead! Their views shared by pantheists like Michio Kaku and Einstein and other atheists like Steven Weinberg soon to be dead.
Universal Death has the last word so they say!

And there stands Jesus of Nazareth with His consummating word; Jesus who was alive, became dead and is alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18). Immortal, glorious, the new and last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45 and entire context) with whom a new and glorious humanity begins and in whom Death and Sin that reigns through Death (Romans 5:14, 21) are defeated. And everyone who comes to the water, in faith and trust, in being baptized into Him and rising from the watery grave in joy-filled trust do in the very act bear witness to His triumph and so proclaim UNYIELDING HOPE (Romans 6:3-6; 1 Peter 1:3; 3:21). And now they live to proclaim hope to the world!
There’s a new world coming, new world saturated with LIFE that is brimful of life; a world in which Sin in any of its forms has no place whatever and Death is like a dream that passed with the coming of the morning.






In Euripides’s Alcestis the Spartan king, Admetos, is to die unless he gets a substitute. His wife Alcestis offers herself as his substitute but the thought of losing her is driving Admetos crazy. Hercules (Heracles), son of the gods and a regular guest at Admetos’s house comes to visit, notes the gloom and misery everywhere, learns of the situation and goes out and rescues her from Death.
The poet Robert Browning zeroes in on the reputation of Hercules as a helper of humankind against the forces that are too strong for it. He makes the point that this going to humanity’s defense is one of the authenticating marks of genuine godhood and has the chorus singing this:
Gladness be with thee, Helper of our world! 
I think this is the authentic sign and seal 
Of Godship, that it ever waxes glad, 
And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts 
Into a rage to suffer for mankind, 
And recommence at sorrow: drops like seed 
After the blossom, ultimate of all. 
Say, does the seed scorn the earth and seek the sun? 
Surely it has no other end and aim 
Than to drop, once more die into the ground, 
Taste cold and darkness and oblivion there: 
And thence rise, tree-like to grow through pain to joy, 
More joy and most joy,—do man good again.

Browning stresses not only the theme of suffering to help humanity, he stresses the gladness of heart in which the enterprise is undertaken. It isn’t a grim, reluctant, foot-dragging approach to the matter (Heracles “strode” off to effect the rescue). And it was “for the joy set before him” our Savior despised the pain and loss barring His way. Only a blind theology gives the impression that God has a hard time loving sinners! Only a blind Ecclesiology and Pneumatology teaches the blessed Church of the Lord Jesus Christ that it is to be the enemy of sinners. What nonsense! What a blatant denial of the Incarnation, Cross & Resurrection!
P.T. Forsyth insisted that the coming of God as the weak and wounded Jesus Christ is not only not surprising, it would be astonishing if He had not come in Jesus Christ, in a rage to suffer on humanity’s behalf. In this, Forsyth doesn’t have in mind only the tender side of God, His gentle love and compassion though he does have that in mind; he’s thinking of God’s infinitely holy character that hates all that stands between Him and the human family He has Fathered (Acts 17:29). If God was moved in love, it was a holy love. Christ doesn’t come simply blessing, being sweet, talking kindly and taking us in His loving arms—He comes sharing the suffering of the judgment that holiness must bring upon Sin in order to deal with it!
The forgiveness of sins, the reconciliation of the world is achieved through love’s judgment on Sin—the word of the cross says that! And it’s love judgment on Sin on behalf of sinners! Romans 11:32.
And it had to be God’s Incarnation, God’s cross or it wouldn’t be the love of God that worked the rescue. And it had to be a representative human in and through whom reconciliation was accomplished because a repentance worthy of the nature of Sin must come from humankind if we wish to live in immortal glory. In the cross Jesus repents for us. I don’t mean he repents so that we don’t have to—I mean what R.W. Moberly and McCleod Campbell have taught us, that He alone could give humanity a repentance which gives complete homage to the righteousness of God and to which we can (by faith in Him) add our “amen”. Our repentance is His for His mind alone knows the nature of Sin and denounces its very existence, denounces its usurping His life-bringing place in human hearts (see Romans 8:3 where He condemns Sin that made its home in humankind).
Those who are His do not see what He and He alone has done and draw the conclusion that they don’t need to repent since He has done it or equally bad, nod some tame approval of it and stroll our way home, hands in pockets. There is nothing “legal” about this! It’s “relational”. Those who are His  are part of Him (1 Corinthians 6:15; 12:12)!!! Part of Him, telling again through suffering and joy and speech the Story of His own once-and-for-all doing for humanity and for them, them who are sinners like everyone else!
“Nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to Thy cross I cling/Naked come to Thee for dress/Helpless turn to Thee for grace…” is true in every syllable but we still “cling, come, turn” to such a Lord Jesus. By faith we offer Him as our representative; Him, who did for us what we could not for ourselves. And in offering Him we offer back nothing other than God’s being and doing, Himself as the Lover of humanity and of each of us in particular. but we offer! We offer in repentance and faith that which the gracious God works in us (Romans 2:4; Philippians 1:29; Acts 18:27). It’s that that we freely offer in and through Jesus Christ but we do offer it! The Christ into whom we are baptized is not “any old Christ”—we become part of a Sin-killing, Life-bringing, Righteousness-embodying Lord Jesus. We don’t just smile approvingly and wish Him well—we become one with Him, for Him, for ourselves and for the world!
It was God and it was God in Christ who came to our rescue. The motivation for this coming/sending of God is that God “so loved the world” (John 3:16-17). We can’t take it all in. We can’t take it all in because we have neither the intellect nor the purity of heart. We’d have to be God to take it all in—it’s a God thing!

Not to be able to see that in the cross blinds us to the possibility of seeing it anywhere else in the world.
There is no authentic God but that God; the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!



       “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to                   try you, as though some strange thing has happened to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

Yes, but we do think it strange! We don’t think that way every moment but when serious pain or loss enters we cry out and want it to stop. The Hebrew writer voiced that sense of things for us when he said of Jesus (5:8), “Though He was a Son yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered.” Despite the fact that He was God’s Son He suffered—one wouldn’t have thought He would since He was God’s Son—but He did!
The Temptation narrative has Satan voicing the same thing. The particle can be rendered “if” or “since”—context determines. Either works here. “If you’re God’s Son you shouldn’t be going hungry; turn the stones into bread!” More than three psalmists (see 22, 44 & 88) speak our minds. The psalmists wonder how things could be going so bad with them when they were part of a covenanted people. They knew they weren’t sinless but they also knew that God knew they were sinners when He made a covenant with them. Psalm 22 and 88 are more individualistic than 44. When agony came on them they laid it at God’s feet (Job does the same thing and so does God who “put forth His hand” and took from Job all He had given him—42:11 with 1:11-12; 2:5-6).
Psalmists and prophets could understand that when the nation apostatizes God may well respond in severe chastisement (Psalm 106 & Amos 4 illustrate). In such circumstances we speak of it as “punishment” but there were those who were bewildered because they hadn’t walked away from God, had held Him to be their God since they were born (Psalm 22:1-10). “Why me?” they want to know. “What have I done that this should come on me? Don’t you love me?” These protests, this bewilderment triggered by anguish is not strange. It makes good sense! Peter can say all he wants about it not being strange but we don’t believe him or at least, we don’t understand him.
In the great movie Glory Thomas is a young black gentleman, well-read and sensitive to what is going on in the world (his father being a fervent abolitionist). He is a close and long-time friend of Robert Gould Shaw who came to be the colonel-commander of the first African-American division in the northern army during the civil war. Thomas is the first man to enlist when he heard his boyhood friend is heading up that company but he discovers that his boyhood friend has now become his commanding officer and will not permit friendly fraternizing. Thomas is stunned, it is experienced as rejection and we see it on his face. Half astonishment, half bewilderment and total disbelief. His face says it all: “What? Did I do something? What did I do? It’s me, Thomas, your dear friend since boyhood…”

He was the only black gentleman in the entire regiment that felt isolated and he felt isolated and mistreated precisely because he had had and still felt from his perspective a special relationship with the commander of the force. He was anguished not because the commander was treating him differently from all his fellows but because the leader was not treating him differently. After all, they had history, a long standing relationship—friendship must mean something. Through a long painful period he comes to understand why he can’t be given special treatment; but it is through and via a long agonizing period that he learns it. And there’s this: he bonds with his fellows who never knew the blessing of the intimacy, the warmth and friendship of anyone with such power as the colonel. His privileged place and comfort had robbed him of understanding of and fellowship with his brothers. The movie closes with the leader, Thomas and the entire company marching together in glorious unity of heart and purpose. But it was through pain! Anguish!

Yes, but, why through pain, why anguish?

(To be continued, God enabling)

(Holy Father, who through pain and anguish sought us, help us to understand that we might honor you and sing your praises in a strange land.)



Jesus took Himself very seriously. You know that. Make your own list of the things He said about Himself. I wish here to focus on His claim that the entire OT was really about Him (John 5:39-40, 46). In Luke 24:25-27, 44-49 He said it was all about Him, about His suffering and the glory that would follow. In the Luke 24:25 He rebukes His distressed followers for not taking into account all that the prophets foretold. (We need to take 24:44 into account when reading that rebuke.)

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 makes the point that Jesus died and rose in keeping with the Scriptures. He does the same thing in Romans 1:1-4 and in Acts 26:22-23. Peter does the same thing in 1 Peter 1:10-11, 20. You’ll remember how Jesus trenchantly rebuked Peter in Matthew 16:21-24 when the disciple took issue with Christ’s talk of suffering and death. Peter thought it strange talk for a Messiah but he later learned better and told God’s new chosen People, “Think it not strange that you undergo great suffering—it isn’t strange; you are sharing Christ’s sufferings.” 1 Peter 4:12-14.

Two things (among others) are clear. First, the sufferings and death of Christ were a total surprise even to (perhaps especially to) His followers and Jesus understood that suffering & death were part of what He was appointed to. None of it surprised Him. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27, speaking of His suffering and death and more than that. Another conversation for another time, God enabling.

Secondly, that the apostolic gospel included the truth that His suffering and death were no chance events—they were foreknown and took place in accordance with God’s redemptive purpose. Peter to the crowd about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection in Acts 2:23-47, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you…crucified and put to death; whom God raised up…” The entire section needs to be read, including 2:38 where baptism is the Spirit-appointed way of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus via the God-appointed suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought and brings forgiveness to sinners.

The apostolic gospel stressed Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of  not just a verse or two here and there in the OT, but the entire drift of it. If Israel had known who they were and what their place in the desperately sinful and ignorant world was they would have expected to experience suffering and rejection—it came with the “job”. They were assigned to be the “covenant” and light-bringer to the world via their faithfulness (Isaiah 49) and they via their unfaithfulness became part of the problem and went after other gods. Yet there were those in the nation who remained faithful to God and were called to bring Israel back to God and so bless the world (again, Isaiah 49). Jesus (who is God being a man—David’s son according to the flesh, Romans 1:1-4) was and is the embodiment of all that Israel was to be, Abraham’s child (Galatians 3:16), was to bear rejection, suffering and death that was the fruit of the Sin of the world.

In His suffering and death He was exposing the evil world for what it was (John 12:31). Apart from God and His gracious work in human life there is only lies and deception, loss of honor and life, abuse and alienation from one another, cruelty and corruption. That is the “world” of which Satan is the prince and it ends with nothing but Death. The Godhead purposed that as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son, for humanity’s sake would share their agony and in that way expose such a world, experience its inevitable end (death) and then rise as its conqueror, as the Lord of a new creation that will be consummated at His return though such glory is currently hidden. (None of this has anything to do with God punishing Jesus.)

[To be continued, God enabling.]


Some in our world are in for a tough life. They entered it as gentle children and are growing as gentle young adults and a harsh world, brutal in speech and hard, way too hard, is going to be sheer hell for them.
Countless among us feel deep anguish when they’re insulted or forced to “make the first move” toward a possible friendship when they simply don’t have it in them to do it. For these people it’s more than pain it’s absolute agony. They’re so built that the faintest breath of criticism or a hint of rejection slices them to the bone. We can dismiss them as people who simply won’t grow up or want to be pampered but that completely misunderstands them and it would grieve them all the more. It isn’t that they’re hypersensitive in that spoiled and self-centered way that we’re sometimes sure we see in people; those aren’t the ones I’m talking about—these came into our world with a greater capacity for feeling than the vast majority of us possess. They’re needy it’s true and I get it that we have many responsibilities in life that means we can’t help everyone—I think I do understand that. I just fear that we can do a bit better in making ourselves accessible, in gentling our speech or learning the look of honorable and warm glances and we’re too afraid of it costing too much. Yes, I think that has its own legitimacy and should be acknowledged. Some of us have plenty on our plates and find it beyond us (currently) to take more on.
But they’re shy and lonely and timid and will remain that way if they aren’t given some warmth in someone’s smile as they look for welcome and shelter and belonging.
But Tony Newley has taught us something we must earnestly and wisely and honorably consider.
“If she should come to you be gentle
For she’s so very very shy
Don’t ever act unsentimental
She won’t want to stay then
She’ll run far away then
If she should come to you remember
That she’ll believe your every word
And if she trust you she will give you her heart
So remember if she should come to you.”
If they come to us these needy and very shy people and are welcomed they will believe our offer of warmth and shelter and enrichment and when they trust us they will give us their hearts. They don’t know how to keep something in reserve; that capacity isn’t in them, and to people like that, if we break our promises, we break their hearts. To become impatient with them and curtly demand that they quickly gain a “get over it!” attitude is to add torture to torment. If we do that we don’t give them grief for just a few months—grief that will heal by and by; some tender and believing souls will never recover and they’ll carry the pain all their days and nights.
They’ll function but it will be a deeply sad pilgrimage; they will be robbed and so will countless others who could be blessed by the gifts of these who, stifled behind a curtain of fear, are marvelously skilled. The pain won’t always be excruciating but though it hides it’ll never be far away and without warning it will steal the sun from their sky and there’ll be very few really carefree days for them. Shy to begin with, they’ll ll be driven far within themselves; they’ll run far away from the possibility of rich life, too afraid and too deeply hurt to come out into the light again. So if one like that comes to you, and she trusts you, make no grand promises that you’re not going to move heaven and earth to keep. If someone like that comes to you and he opens his or her heart to you, don’t go in if you don’t mean to stay because people like these are ill-equipped for a harsh world. They die long before they die.
And it’s way beyond sad!
Look out for them, won’t you? You can’t help them all; don’t expect that of yourself. But one, a few, some—some who may one day when we’re all gathered around Him in a better world one, a few, some, might walk right up to Him and thank Him for bringing you into their lives.


There are those who dismiss the very concept of punishment as barbaric and should be outlawed. Perhaps they are right but it isn’t a topic I’m interested in at this moment.
I’d like also, for now, to bracket out discussion about “who has the right?” to punish. The question merits sustained discussion, of course, but it would take us to places beyond where I wish to go at present.
I wish to reflect a little on punishment. The subject soon goes beyond my competence but I wish to express what seems straightforward to most of us who have given the matter some thought. The reader will soon know when the debate should begin. I’ll start this little piece by saying some of the things we should mean when we use the word “punishment” and then make some comments on the points listed.

1) Punishment is something meant to hurt or generate some sense of loss. It can’t be meant to be reward.

2) Punishment is something purposed. It can’t be an accident.

3) It is inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It cannot be inflicted on someone known to be innocent.

4) It is carried out in response to wrong actually done. It cannot be a deterrent meant to keep an innocent someone from doing something wrong in the future.

5) The one who punishes must not only purpose to inflict some form of hurt or loss he/she must mean it to be punishment or it isn’t punishment. This is a point distinct from point 2 above.

Further comment:

Supposing a child knowingly does something wrong and the parents see fit to punish him; it cannot be something that rewards him for his wrongdoing. That is, the parents must not intend the boy to understand it as reward. The boy might not experience it as loss, he might even be happy he has been sent to his room but he mustn’t think that’s what the parents had in mind. However the boy in fact experiences it, the parents must mean it to be an expression of their opposition to the deed. Parental intent is central here.

We hear complaints all the time about how punishment is carried out in the judicial system. The protesters think that those who are imprisoned are being rewarded rather than punished. This makes the point that punishment is supposed to generate some form of loss. Whether prisoners in fact experience incarceration as “a hurt” inflicted that is what it is supposed to be.
Punishment cannot be an accident. A man steals a car, while driving off with it he hits an ice patch, goes off the road, wrecks the car and suffers a leg fracture and a dislocated shoulder. The police arrest him, he finally goes to court and his lawyer claims he has already been punished in that he was physically hurt.

Some people believe he was punished (say, by God) but that won’t do for our situation; it isn’t known that God punished him and it isn’t known that God punished him for that crime. Society can only function on this basis: the man committed the crime and society must deal with him and “dealing” with him will have to take some penal form. Punishment is not the same as suffering!!!!!
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone thought to be guilty of some wrongdoing. It may be the case that the one punished is in fact innocent but he is not thought to be innocent otherwise punishment isn’t punishment, it is some form of injustice. Punishment can only be carried out on the guilty if the word is to retain its rightful meaning.
We do not punish a paramedic for inflicting pain and suffering on the victim of an accident. The victim will no doubt scream when the medic carries out some extreme life-saving act but we don’t think of him as doing wrong when it’s clear he does what he does to save their life. It’s true there may be occasions when the medic is thought to have done wrong but putting the best face on the analogy we know that there’s a difference between inflicting pain for a good cause and doing wrong.
Punishment can only be inflicted on someone guilty of an actual wrong. Punishment is only just in the presence of actual guilt therefore it cannot be used as a deterrent. It may be used to deter the wrongdoer from further wrongdoing but he must have already committed a wrong for which he is being  punished. We may wish his punishment to act as a deterrent on others but punishment can only be justly inflicted for a crime actually committed. If we decide to subject someone to suffering that he might not do something wrong at a future date whatever else we are doing we cannot call it punishment. Trainee soldiers may be put through severe trials of numerous kinds to toughen them but where that is the case punishment is not what is happening.
We must not lay hold of a law-abiding citizen walking down the street and put him in jail or levy a fine as punishment to keep him from doing something wrong sometime in the future. We can’t deprive a young girl of her freedom by confining her to the house for a week (grounding) if she has done nothing to warrant such confinement. “What have I done?” she asks. The parents say, “You’ve done nothing wrong. We’re punishing you to keep you from doing wrong in the future.” Call the confinement what we will but if we call it punishment we are speaking in ignorance.
The one inflicting punishment must intend it to be punishment. This is not the same point as point 2. The above can hardly be controversial but I suppose this claim warrants more prolonged reflection and debate.
Suppose a young man who is mentally ill takes to hitting people with whatever comes to hand. He has already quite seriously injured some of his friends. Those who work in this area will confer on the matter and let us imagine that they finally think it necessary to isolate the young man—at least to place him in care where he will not be a threat to other innocents.
Suppose further than this young man is anguished by his loss of freedom and doesn’t understand why he is so deprived. He thinks he is being treated unjustly, he’s being punished; he may not have the capacity to use the words or understand the concepts but he has the capacity to suffer and his experience of suffering has been laid on him by the authorities.
Those who put him in this place of confinement and special care know that punishment is not the appropriate word. But more than that, they feel no desire to punish—not only do they reject the word, in this case they reject the concept. They feel only sadness for the young man and a commitment to those he has hurt and could hurt and if possible they hope to help “cure” the offender.
Though the young man experiences inflicted pain and loss it isn’t placed on him as punishment; there is no sense that he deserves it. I wish to make the point that to punish someone must in some sense be carried out with the intention to punish and because the one punished knowingly did the wrong.
It’s clear that one can punish another without vindictiveness or in a vengeful spirit but there’s more than that to be said. The word punish will always have its place in human society where there are standards and where those standards are knowingly broken and where for the protection of others the wrongdoer must be punished.

Nevertheless, it’s common knowledge that we forgive and forgive and forgive wrongs without punishing them, without feeling the need to punish or without wishing to punish. On these occasions we wish the wrong hadn’t been committed, we don’t approve of it but we don’t think in terms of punishing the transgressor. People in their millions practice this daily. They forgive.





George MacDonald’s character, Curdie, came to the king’s house because the princess had told him to report to her there. At the door he met the officious housekeeper (who seemed to swell and fill the door) who rebuked him for his comings and goings and the fact that he (as she saw it) made a mess of things while he was there. “Don’t you know this is my house?” she barked. Curdie politely replied that he didn’t know that because he thought it was the king’s house. She responded, he responded, she called him insolent and oozing pride she asked the poor ignoramus, “Don’t you see by my dress that I am in the king’s service?” Curdie, a young mine worker, wanted to know, “And am I not one of his miners?”

“Ah, that goes for nothing,” she snapped. “I am one of his household. You are an out-of-doors laborer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I carry the keys at my waist. See!”
But Curdie checkmated her with, “But you must not call one ‘a nobody’ to whom the king has spoken.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. You understand that it isn’t that we’re all to function in the same place of authority with the same responsibilities. There are those that have been given authority over us and though often we don’t like that, there’s no community living without accepting the truth of it. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be prideful (do we not?) and if we’ve haven’t been given the most sought after job, the one that attracts the attention and gets the big money, we’re inclined to whimper (and other things) a lot. Well, why not? We should be treated with respect and when we are stuck in a lower level position our “personhood” is scorned and many of us won’t stand for that, will we.  (Is that not true—or am I mistaken?)
The sad thing is that some of us get the place we think we deserve and it doesn’t make us better. Like the officious housekeeper we balloon up and fill the doorways of life and are only content when we think we’ve surpassed the other “peasants” way below us. In that spirit it doesn’t matter to us, for example, that others would be better as rich people than we would be if we were made rich. It only matters that we are or get to be wealthy or prominent or acclaimed.
Apparently Curdie had no trouble with any of that. He had a pure heart and was perfectly content to be the king’s miner. He didn’t need to have the keys to buildings hanging at his belt, didn’t need to minister to vast congregations, nor did he need to drive a big fancy car or be the belle of anyone’s ball. He was more than at peace within himself. He rejoiced in the dignity of being one that the king had spoken to and needed nothing more.
(Sigh. What a lovely way that is. It makes me want to be a better man and while I can’t confess that I’m troubled much with jealousy, perhaps there’s more of it in me than I occasionally think there is. Of course I’m well aware that I’m greatly troubled with other things.)
You see the confrontation between Curdie and the housekeeper illustrated in reverse in Number 16 where the rebels weren’t as wise or as pure in heart as Curdie.

Korah, Dathan and Abiram attacked Moses and Aaron because those two exercised authority over the assembly at large and restricted the priesthood to Aaron’s family. The rebels said that these two took too much on themselves because all the people of God are holy and they wanted to exercise the priesthood (16:1-4, 10). Moses reminded them that this was God’s restriction but he goes on to remind these Levites that God had spoken to them and given them their own ministry (16:10). And that was where the problem was rooted. The leading rebels didn’t think their ministry was glorious enough—they wanted more. They thought they were being cheated, you see. They thought that having the priesthood keys at their belt would give them the dignity and recognition they deserved. Had they believed what Curdie knew, that no one to whom the King has spoken is “a nobody;” they would not have despised the privileged place God had already given to them. Though Curdie was a miner with a pickaxe in his hand he knew full well and with joyful contentment that he was one of the king’s servants and in this knowledge he glorified his ministry.

You understand it wasn’t simply that Korah and company were despising their position, they were exalting themselves (compare Romans 12:3-8) and thought they were being robbed. And they weren’t opposing Moses alone; they were opposing God (Numbers 16:11)!
It wasn’t a question about what God wanted. It was all about what these Levites wanted! It wasn’t an information problem; it was a heart problem. “I deserve and want more!”
Poor souls. They talked as though they were suffering like the colonies in their most awful moments suffered when France and Spain and Portugal and Britain were at their plundering worst. They talked as though they were African-Americans that were humiliated and robbed all those years under the worst face of White dominance in the USA or they were Irish during the centuries when England plundered and bullied them. Doesn’t it make you want to throw up sometimes when people (ourselves included?) blessed to the skies whine on and on about wanting more? Those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who take the lead in furthering a heart problem among the people of God have something to answer for as the entire Numbers 16 chapter shows.
I can easily imagine someone saying: “It occurs to me that this is a great chapter to use to defend the status quo. It’s a good chapter to use to keep people ‘in their place’.” Hmmm. That’d be another heart problem, wouldn’t it?].