awe

Day 132

Shucks. The power just went out, and with it goes my internet access.

Just now, for a moment, some people in the apartment complex went outside, heading out into the lightning-filled sky to escape the darkness of their homes.

For a moment, I looked at the angry sky, and I understood why man fears God.

For a moment, I wondered how the world would end.

Lightning struck hard in the distance, and I could hear the distant thunder rumbling in waves toward me. Lights flickered and the power came back on. I’m back inside now, and behind me, electrical discharges cascade across the sky while trees thrash about in the wind. I can hear the excited voices of the neighbors and their young girl as they discuss the storm.

I feel very small. But it’s somehow more than that. I feel very mortal.

The power just went off and on again. Darn router is going to keep resetting.

Meanwhile, my partner sleeps in blissful ignorance. She’ll figure it all out tomorrow, or perhaps when I come to bed.

Numbers 15 is interesting, and I found the contrast between “unintentional sin” and “presumptuous sin” to be interesting: when unintentional sin is committed, the community gets together to make a sin offering, but when someone commits a presumptuous sin, he shows that he has “despised the word of the Lord… [and] that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.” (Numbers 15:31)

I feel as though I have been a disobedient child. I’m not sure how to make it up to my “Father” or to myself, and at this point in my life, my rebel heart is particularly strong. The old animal urges never really go away, do they?

I’m glad I’m going to church in the morning.

That’s all I’m going to talk about tonight. I’d rather not be tied to this computer, staring into this screen. The world is out there.

I’m going to put this away for a while after I’ve updated, and I’m going to sit outside, in awe of the power of God.

Tonight, when I sleep, I will dream a dream of thunder.

Peace be upon you.

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Day 59

The Love Letter

So here we are, finally catching back up to my schedule. This last week has been a very trying time physically and mentally just because of work and life’s demands.

I was listening to the radio yesterday, a Christian station, and I caught an on-air sermon or some such thing where the pastor/minister was talking about reading the Bible. He said that all too often we read the Bible out of obligation or because we feel we have to put on a show rather than reading it because we so desire to know God. He said that we should read it like a love letter, poring over every word and every nuance, reading one, two, or three times until we analyze and understand the meaning.

I feel like hearing that is what I needed to get back on track, to dive back in to this project. I feel like every time things start to get away from me, God comes back and gives me a sign. I am gently reminded and redirected, and so I resume my task.


Jehovah’s Witnesses

Also, while I was catching up this morning, the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by to talk to me. They’re a pleasant, devout bunch. The only thing that gets me is that to them, the only answers are in scripture. I can see that there is indeed an ability to find answers in scripture, and that everyone can find answers in scripture, but to think that the only way we can know God is by the Bible is beyond me. Is it not written in the book that “God is love”? True, without some conception of God and some expansion of our minds and experiences it is difficult for us to know the true and all-encompassing love that is God, but I think it is possible. Is it necessary to acknowledge Him by name? By one name only, Jehovah, or by a title or epithet such as God or Lord?

God has many names and many titles and they have changed throughout the years. He may be Jehovah or Yahweh, or Adonai, YHWH, or G-d (I think) if you’re Jewish. He may be the Father, or he may come to us as the Son of Man. He is the Holy Spirit as well. He is El, El Shaddai, Elohim… He has many names. In the NKJV, when God reveals himself to Moses he is called “I AM,” and to the Jehovah’s Witnesses he is “I Will Become.” It is hypothesized that Jehovah, or the Hebrew rendition יהוה is related to the word for “to become,” or perhaps “to be” or “to exist.”

I feel like I brought this up in Exodus 3, but one wonderful rendition of God’s name is “He Causes to Become.” God is the Supreme Force, the Supreme Being that causes all things to be, to become what they are. A quick Google search of the word “become” reveals this as the primary definition:

be·come

verb

1. begin to be.

With God, we can begin to be. We no longer will sleepwalk through life, living half-dead, but we can become. We can realize the truth and beauty of the present moment, of everything that is. And everything that is is with God. And all that is is God.

“And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.”


Exodus 9

This same business starts all over again. Plague five consists of a pestilence on Egypt’s livestock. Plague six consists of boils and sores on man and beast alike. Plague seven consists of thunder, hail, and fire. All animals and people left out were slain.

Pharaoh admits his wickedness and entreats Moses and Aaron to take the plagues away. Moses tells Pharaoh that he will indeed take away the plague, but he knows that Pharaoh will not release the Hebrews from bondage. I wonder about the use of the word fear, here. I imagine the Pharaoh does “fear” God in an English sense, but it seems to me that Moses means more than just that kind of fear; Pharaoh has no respect for God, no awe, humility, or veneration for God.

“Beatings will continue until morale improves.” Pharaoh has not yet learned his lesson, and worse things are to follow.

Let us not harden our hearts and subject ourselves to plagues. Do not resist God, for that is to resist love and life. Be humble, act with confidence and do what must be done in any situation. Respect and be humble, for God is always watching.

Peace be upon you. Go with God.

Day 15

Today has been a hell of a day. I drew my medicine card just now, after the end of it all, and it came up as a Contrary Blank. I don’t always know what that means, but today it feels like it has to do with the fact that no single card can encompass the day I’ve been through.

Good Fear and Bad Fear

The most interesting part of my day happened during work: I was out at a park when I ran into an awesome black grandmother who was there with her four grandchildren. We got to talking and I asked what she was reading; it turned out to be the Bible. Fitting, no?

Anyway, so I asked her why and I told her about my project. She said that she wanted to understand the Word for herself, that she wanted a deeper connection, and she wanted to understand what God wanted from her. I rephrased this as, “Give it to me straight, Lord!” She laughed.

We both were distracted but I did get to talk to her a little bit more and she told of a friend who I think was an atheist. This friend or acquaintance or whatever asked her why people were supposed to fear God. This wonderful woman said that for her, there were two kinds of fear: the good and the bad. She said that the good kind of fear was the fear of God, that which keeps people in line, so to speak. The bad fear was the fear of man, the fear that we have about our material life, the fear that drives us away from God and confounds our mind with mortal concerns. I told her I was going to quote her on this.

I of course decided to do my research and was richly rewarded. I immediately found this website, which has a wonderful breakdown of the different meanings of the Hebrew word yirah (יִרְאָה). According to this site, “there are three ‘levels’ or types of yirah.”¹ The first is what we normally think of as fear, or what the woman above called “bad fear.” This is the fear that leads us to do things or not do them only because we are worried about punishment or being cast out. The second type is what the grandmother called “good fear,” and “concerns anxiety over breaking God’s law.”¹ The Chofetz Chaim, “a holy book on the Jewish ethics and laws of speech,”² tells that

“even though the fear of God’s punishment may deter us from sin in the short run, by itself it is insufficient for spiritual life, since it is based on an incomplete idea about God.”¹

This is awesome, to me. This brings me to the third type of fear. I’m just going to leave this here:

“The third (and highest) kind of fear is a profound reverence for life that comes from rightly seeing. This level discerns the Presence of God in all things and is sometimes called yirat ha-rommemnut (יִרְאַת הָרוֹמְמוּת), or the ‘Awe of the Exalted.’  Through it we behold God’s glory and majesty in all things. ‘Fearing’ (יִרְאָה) and ‘seeing’ (רָאָה) are linked and united. We are elevated to the level of reverent awareness, holy affection, and genuine communion with God’s Holy Spirit.  The love for good creates a spiritual antipathy toward evil, and conversely, hatred of evil is a way of fearing God (Prov. 8:13).”¹

Reverence. Awe. These are the highest level of feeling that we are called to have in the name and in the honor of God. It is not fear in the human sense, but a seeing, a unity, a sense of presence and communion. This is what we need as a whole, is a “spiritual antipathy toward evil.”¹ It is clearly not enough to abstain from evil most of the time. We must actively do good, and cultivate our love of God and goodness so that there is no longer room for evil in our hearts and souls. Just as I vowed to not lash out against others in anger, so too do humans need to make a vow against evil. But we need to have the confidence and power to make such a vow. That power and confidence obviously can come from the Lord, but… I’m getting into a Catch-22 situation. The cycle of evil and suffering must at some point be broken. We are not perfect and we may not be able to leave it forever or in totality, but we can damn sure try.

Genesis 15

After all I’ve said above, I don’t feel the need to delve too deeply into Gen 15. Matthew Henry makes plenty of good points, some of which I will touch upon here and the rest can be found here by an interested reader.

Gen 15 begins with God coming to Abram in a vision; God tells Abram, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

Your eternal reward.

Your eternal reward. ³

At this point, Abram is having what seems to be a crisis of faith, perhaps this time motivated by the fear or concern that he will not be able to do what God asks, especially since he can have no children. God tells him not to worry, and says that He can prove it. Abram listens to God and makes a sacrifice of several animals; vultures come to eat the animals, but Abram drives them away. Here, Matthew Henry writes:

“A watch must be kept upon our spiritual sacrifices.”

— Matthew Henryª

We have to be attentive to God, and drive away distractions. After this, Abram falls into a deep sleep, where God speaks to him and lets him know about the future. God tells Abram that his descendents will suffer, but will suffer only material injury while enjoying spiritual wealth in the form of divine blessings. Abram wakes up to see “a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between [the sacrifices]” (Genesis 15:17). God makes a covenant with Abram, and Matthew Henry here says that “it intimates that God’s covenants with man are made by sacrifice…. And we may know that he accepts our sacrifices, if he kindles in our souls pious and devout affections.”ª

I really want to continue with this, but I have here reached the end, essentially, of Genesis 15. I have some things to say, but I will say them tomorrow. My partner is waiting in the other room and has no idea what I’m doing. She might very well find out soon just what exactly I’ve been up to.

Blessings to all of you, and peace be upon you. Good night.

 

¹ http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Eikev/Yirah/yirah.html

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chofetz_Chaim

³ http://therewillbefilms.tumblr.com/post/11388120758/your-eternal-reward

ª http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=15&com=mhc