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Numbers 31:21-24, Cleansing by Fire

Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today

Everything that can withstand fire, shall be passed through fire, and it shall be clean.
— Numbers 31:23

NL Daily Devotion for Friday, January 18, 2019


by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff

Maybe you’re old enough to remember…

When I was a small child, any time I got a splinter, my mom would get out a needle and a match, and then burn the end of the needle to sterilize it before using it to dig out the splinter. I guess now you’d boil or sterilize with rubbing alcohol. I’ve seen people try to get a splinter out with tweezers or even tape. But back in the day, fire was the cleansing element.

Fire has enough heat to kill bacteria. (You wouldn’t want to use the fire method to sterilize a needle you’re injecting, though, because bacteria from the air can still remain on it, but it’s good enough for a splinter.)

As a metaphor, cleansing through fire is frightening, but also rings true. Often, when our lives are messed up, the only way to clean them up is by walking through fire. For example, if you’ve done something terrible that hurt the people you love, the only way to heal the relationship is to move toward the hurt — engage in difficult conversations, apologize, make amends however necessary. Running from the problem just makes it worse. Moving toward the scary thing — walking through the fire — might be the only way to cleanse the relationship and your soul.

Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:

Numbers 31:21-24

Eleazar the priest said to the troops who had gone to battle: “This is the statute of the law that the Lord has commanded Moses: gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, and lead— everything that can withstand fire, shall be passed through fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless it shall also be purified with the water for purification; and whatever cannot withstand fire, shall be passed through the water. You must wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean; afterward you may come into the camp.”

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