"May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before the, and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD my not be like sheep which have no shepherd."Numbers 27: 16-17
There are many ways one can read scripture, just as there are many ways to spend a day at the art museum. One can quickly scan each page and move to the next, as if one wants to view every room in the museum. One can spend the day looking at a masterpiece of a book or chapter. One can move closely to observe the brushstrokes of an author. Or one can hone in on one detail and marvel at its complexity and simplicity.
I am someone who likes broad strokes and nuances, but I also like minute details if they seem out of context or scream out to me like Horton's little Who.
In our reading today, Moses calls the LORD by the name, God of all the spirits of all flesh. This phrase consists of three Hebrew words.
The word God is elohim, the plural version of the word God (el) which speaks to the plural nature of one God. It is used often, but is first used in Genesis when God was creating the heavens and the earth. "Let us make humanity in our own image." This plural form used as a singular noun has been used to describe the Triune God, the God of trinity.
The word spirits is the plural form of the Hebrew word ruah, which is translated as spirits or breath. Once again from Genesis, we remember God's breath/Spirit not only was moving over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2), but also "breathed" into the nostrils of the dust creature the "breath" of life (Genesis 2:7).
The word flesh is the Hebrew word basar. Interestingly, in its root form, it not only means flesh, but has the more complex meaning of "one who shows forth," "a messenger of tidings," and "one who preaches or declares."
Thus, one could hear this name of God as The Triune God who breathes life into all declaring God's glory.
It is good for all of us to remember we are not the only part of creation breathing the breath of God. All of creation serves as
"messenger."All breathing creatures are declaring their creator. As creation breathes and is sustained only by the breath, the Spirit of God, it preaches from hilltop to hilltop about its Creator.
I wonder if the flip side is also true. We are given breath for the sole purpose of declaring God. Rob Bell, a contemporary theologian and preacher, said that the name YHWH is the sound of breath. Thus the name of God is the first thing we utter as we take our first breath at birth, and is the last word on our lips as we die.
Today, LORD, let me listen to your Breath in all of creation and may I hear your proclamation through your Spirit all around me.