Today’s Old Testament reading from the book of Numbers is a stern warning about lacking trust. We have a tendency to excuse a lack of trust in ourselves and in others, but clearly, for God, not trusting Him is an offense. I’ve often heard people say that it’s normal to have doubts – but that is akin to saying that it is normal to sin. Even if sinning happens frequently, or doubting happens frequently, that doesn’t make it okay – it might be normal, but it isn’t natural. Normalizing doubt puts us on the way of unfaithfulness. We see that Joshua did not lack trust – even when his countrymen were backing away from the challenge it would represent to take the land by force. Joshua’s name is actually the same as Jesus – Yeshua – and St. Eusebius says that Moses was actually the one who changed Hoshea’s name to Yeshua or Joshua. The name means, Yahweh saves whereas Hoshea means, “The salvation of God.” A slight difference, and perhaps one that Moses created unintentionally since he had a speech impediment. The weakness of men who continue to place their trust in the Lord calls down the strong salvation of God.
The same trust is made apparent in the woman of today’s Gospel. She recognized in Jesus that same bread which we heard about in Sunday’s Gospel. The bread of God is the one that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. She imagines herself as a dog waiting for a crumb of that bread to fall – if it gives life to the children of the master, a mere crumb could restore the life of slaves. The humility and trust of that woman gains for her what she hungers for, the true bread come down from heaven.
And the same [Moses] by divine inspiration foresaw the name Jesus very clearly and again also endowed this with special privilege. The name of Jesus, which had never been uttered among men before it was made known to Moses, Moses applied first to this one alone. He knew that Joshua, again as a type and a symbol, would receive the rule over all after Moses’ death. His successor, at any rate, had never before used the title Jesus. He had been called by another name, Auses, which his parents had bestowed upon him. Moses himself proclaims Jesus, as a privilege of honor far greater than a royal crown, giving him the name because Jesus, the son of Nave, himself bore a resemblance to our Savior, who alone, after Moses and the completion of the symbolic worship transmitted by him, received the rule of true and pure religion.1
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
For my part I am afraid to examine the secrets of this mystery, for I see comprehended in it the calculation of sins and punishment. If each sinner is assigned punishment for the sin of one day and according to the number of days he sins must spend so many years in punishment, I fear that perhaps for us who sin daily and spend no day of our life without offense, even ages and ages will not suffice to pay our penalties. In the fact that for forty days of sin those people were afflicted in the desert for forty years and not permitted to enter the holy land, a kind of similarity to the future judgment seems to be evident. At that time the number of sins will have to be calculated, unless perchance there is the balance of good works or of evils which a man has suffered in his life, as Abraham taught concerning Lazarus. However, it is within the power of no one to know these things perfectly, except him to whom “the Father has given all judgment.”2
- ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY 1.3. Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (pp. 222–223). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 108.2. Lienhard, J. T., & Rombs, R. J. (Eds.). (2001). Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (p. 225). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.