Bringing the Supernatural into the Natural
In this portion the Israelites are in the process of the last stages of wilderness living, the Land is in sight and plans are being laid to take it. Who should get what parts? Who would live where and what were the overall boundaries of Israel going to be? If they were ever to become a nation state Israel needed territory; a functioning homeland where produce could be made, traded and taxes raised, where an eventual monarchy could be established and a central Temple focus could be created in the very place where G-d has put His Name.
One thing the Israelites had learned was that G-d was ever present and powerful in their community and individual lives. He was actually visible in the Mishkan, truly ‘with’ them in a tangible way. The bottom line was always that they knew G-d was there, as real as the air they breathed. Their understanding of reality included G-d as first cause and Lord; events happened because He willed it to be so, or didn’t happen because of sin or judgement or because they were simply ‘asking amiss’. They recognised that actions had consequences and personal choices would and could affect outcomes. They had a ‘relational’ world view, one where events were directly related to one another, cause and effect, action and reaction. This is a profoundly spiritual worldview.
But in this day and time we have a problem: the fact is we have forgotten what it is to live with a living and ever present G-d. Our secular humanist society and culture has so effectively excluded G-d from having any role or part to play in anything that it has now become the NORM that atheism is true! From the standpoint of faith this is incredible. It has bred a culture where personal responsibility is diminished, blame is given to external forces outside our control (bad upbringing, social factors, poverty) and crime (sin) is seen almost as the inevitable result of these factors. The criminal therefore becomes the victim, not the perpetrator! Everything on its head! A spiritual worldview teaches responsibility for your actions.
But into all this comes absorption as an issue. We tend to see it as the culture around us absorbing us as in assimilation, but actually the reverse is true, we absorb the culture. It changes us far more than we change it. The prevailing attitudes and belief structures, anti-faith paradigms that form our world, nations and communities get absorbed very quickly.
Yet we talk about the supernatural as different from the natural world. Why? The ancient Israelites knew no such dichotomy. The natural world included G-d’s actions with the people, nation. They had a holistic view that included direct intervention from G-d. They expected G-d to act, expected answers to prayer, expected favour and blessing when they acted in obedience, and vice versa! But now we push this into the realm of the ‘supernatural’. We have absorbed the lie that G-d’s actions are not part of the normal natural universe. G-d’s ways and dealings with us are as natural as the air we breathe, yet we fail mentally, psychologically and spiritually to comprehend this, let alone base our lives on this reality. That would be ‘faith’, the kind that G-d expects. Secular humanism has done a grand job, lowering our faith expectancy and reducing the power of G-d in our lives. When G-d answers a prayer we get excited! This should be so normal we would just accept it and be surprised if it didn’t happen!
G-d is intimately involved in the affairs of mankind. More so than we ever see, and we need to realise just how wrong our own understanding of the world is.
Is our G-d a bolt on extra, a sop to a cold and otherwise mechanistic fatalistic universe, or is He the foundation stone, the One who holds our lives together and gives it complete meaning?
We need to re-evaluate our lives and practise the presence of the Living G-d in our midst, despite what our prevailing culture says. Let us not absorb so much that we never look to see G-d at work, but rather expect to see it every day as normal!