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Day 147

Numbers 29

Moses outlines the festivals that followers of the Lord are commanded to celebrate. Interestingly enough, celebration was the topic at last Sunday’s sermon, which… took place on the day after I was supposed to write about Numbers 29.

The problem with the sermon, as well-meaning as I believe the pastor to have been, is that it sounded a lot like “if you’re somber or sad, then you’re not being a good Christian.” This is a little too close to what has been called prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel. To quote Wikipedia,

“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity.”

It is also noted that followers and preachers of the prosperity gospel view poverty and sickness as spiritual ailments or curses that can be alleviated through faith. My partner has had some very negative experiences with churches that follow prosperity theology.

Poverty and illness are curses? Yeah, I mean it’s a damn shame to be sick or poor, and I believe that dedicated faith can lead to greater willpower and desire which can in turn lead to financial success. However, I don’t think that God’s plan for people involves or guarantees financial well-being. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor.

Can poor personal habits and a lack of direction lead to poverty? Yes. But I don’t think that physical, material wealth has much to do with faith in Christ.

I see this situations as teaching surrender to God and His will, as opposed to undesirable curses. Does being poor debilitate a person? Damn right it does. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and sitting around that poverty line is depressing. It emotionally and spiritually drains you. Or it can.

But regardless, God can and will give you the strength to work through it, if you ask. “Thy will be done, in all things.” I seriously hate the phrase “Let go and let God,” but it’s important to ask that His will be done, that He may guide you to it.

Can the principles in the Bible teach you to be rich? Probably? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’m willing to bet that if that’s the motivation one has while reading it, one will find a variety of implementable tips or lessons for financial success.

And just to be clear, I have no problem with people who want to be rich. I myself am determined to achieve some measure of wealth, to surpass my parents and my family, to provide for my own family and possible future children.

However, I think we, especially as Christians, have to see wealth as a means and not an end. Wealth as an end is idolatrous. But with wealth, one can do many things and help many others. We should seek to do our best as Christians even in poverty, but if we are wealthy, then our goal should still be to serve and glorify God.

Bill Gates is probably my favorite example of a wealthy person who does amazing things with his riches. Go to the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read the 2014 annual letter. If that doesn’t restore some of your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will.

Wealth and power are responsibilities. Health and stability may be gifts if God intends them to be, but they may make us complacent.

“[A]s there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Numbers 29, the Israelites are commanded to celebrate, but every day of these festivals and celebrations involves sacrifices and offerings to God. Even, or especially, in our celebrations, we are told to humble ourselves to God, to supplicate ourselves before Him, and to glorify Him in all things.

In sorrow and in joy, do not forget the Lord.


Numbers 30

Oh my goodness, I went and looked at Matthew Henry’s unabridged commentary. It made my head hurt a little.

Numbers 30 concerns the making of vows, oaths, and pledges. Basically, at its core, this chapter states that a man who makes a vow must not break his word.

That’s a quote, by the way: “[H]e must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

This chapter also outlines how fathers and husbands have the power to override vows made by their daughters and wives, respectively. I think this is meant to be indicative of the Biblical position of fathers/husbands as the heads of households, which I think is intended to correlate with how God (the Father) is meant to be the head of the Church, both as a collective and as the singular body of worship that one human being offers.

Now, I don’t have the book in front of me, but I am reminded of the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. If I recall correctly, he talks at some point(s) about the importance of keeping one’s word or speaking the truth. Or maybe I’m thinking of The Four Agreements, in which I know for a fact the author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the importance of what he calls “being impeccable with [one’s] word.”

“Impeccable,” by the way, comes from a Latin word, meaning “not liable to sin.” An impeccable word is free of sin.

The way I see it, breaking vows erodes the strength of one’s soul. You make a habit of being disingenuous, of saying things that you have no intention of following through upon, of being careless in word and in deed. There is some Biblical support for this, I think:

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

— Ecclesiastes 5:5

Keep those words and deeds in line, dear readers! Keep that soul strong, exercise the power of your will, that you may have more dedication to offer to God.

Peace be upon you.

Day 145

So we’re only about eight (8) days away from the end of Numbers, and then I’ll move on to Deuteronomy. Very exciting. I think I’m going to start reading ahead at some point. It’s difficult right now because, honestly, as I’ve said before, these chapters get really tedious.

I’ll hit the highlights of Numbers 22- 28.


Numbers 22

I had to consult Matthew Henry on this one.

So Balak wants to destroy Israel but fears he cannot for their army is to strong. So he calls on this guy named Balaam, that Balaam might curse Israel and allow Balak, king of Moab, to triumph against them. Balaam prays to God and God tells him not to go with the messengers, because the people of Israel are blessed, and he shall not curse them. Balaam accordingly tells the messengers that he shall not be going with them, and that is that.

Balak, however, does not take “no” for an answer, and sends more messengers to Balaam. Balaam suggests that they spend the night, that he may speak again to God about this matter. This time, God tells him to go with the men if they call him.

So Balaam rises in the morning and goes with the men. His path is blocked by an “Angel of the Lord” which the donkey can see but Balaam cannot. Three times the donkey does not proceed forward and three times Balaam strikes the donkey. At this point, God, in one of his interesting moods, opens the mouth of the donkey and she speaks to Balaam. He takes this surprisingly well, all things considered, and argues back as to why he was justified in beating the animal.

At this point, his eyes are opened to the Angel before him, which tells him that the donkey had the good sense to not press on, and it’s a good thing too, because the Angel would have slain him. Balaam tells the Angel that he admits his sin and will turn back. The Angel says, no, go on ahead this time, for realsies, but only say what God tells you to say.

The thing that confused me here is that Balaam asked God if he could go, and God said yes. But, as Matthew Henry explains, Balaam already knew what God’s will was. He asked again in hopes that he could disobey it with permission. From Matthew Henry:

“He had already been told what the will of God was. It is a certain evidence of the ruling of corruption in the heart, to beg leave to sin. God gave Balaam up to his own heart’s lusts. As God sometimes denies the prayers of his people in love, so sometimes he grants the desires of the wicked in wrath.”

But, even though God did grant Balaam leave to go, God does not approve of the sin. Henry puts this best, so I’ll just leave this quote here:

“We must not think, that because God does not always by his providence restrain men from sin, therefore he approves of it, or that it is not hateful to him. The holy angels oppose sin, and perhaps are employed in preventing it more than we are aware. This angel was an adversary to Balaam, because Balaam counted him his adversary; those are really our best friends, and we ought so to reckon them, who stop our progress in sinful ways. Balaam has notice of God’s displeasure by the ass. It is common for those whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil, to push on violently, through the difficulties Providence lays in their way. The Lord opened the mouth of the ass. This was a great miracle wrought by the power of God. He who made man speak, could, when he pleased, make the ass to speak with man’s voice. The ass complained of Balaam’s cruelty. The righteous God does not allow the meanest or weakest to be abused; but they shall be able to speak in their own defence, or he will some way or other speak for them. Balaam at length has his eyes opened. God has many ways to bring down the hard and unhumbled heart. When our eyes are opened, we shall see the danger of sinful ways, and how much it was for our advantage to be crossed.”

And far from turning away from sin, Balaam is pushed toward glorifying God, because he will not only not curse Israel, he will bless them in the name of God. As he does in…


Numbers 23-24

Matthew Henry makes some really good points here about Balaam’s attempts at divination and sorcery.

“With the camps of Israel full in view, Balaam ordered seven altars to be built, and a bullock and a ram to be offered on each. Oh the sottishness of superstition, to imagine that God will be at man’s beck! The curse is turned into a blessing, by the overruling power of God, in love to Israel. God designed to serve his own glory by Balaam, and therefore met him. If God put a word into the mouth of Balaam, who would have defied God and Israel, surely he will not be wanting to those who desire to glorify God, and to edify his people; it shall be given what they should speak. He who opened the mouth of the ass, caused the mouth of this wicked man to speak words as contrary to the desire of his heart, as those of the ass were to the powers of the brute. The miracle was as great in the one case as in the other.”

Get it? God opened the mouth of the ass. I’m glad I went to read from the commentary now because that’s actually pretty funny. Balaam’s ordeal here reminds me of a passage from C.S. Lewis:

“A merciful man aims at his neighbour’s good as so does ‘God’s will,’ consciously co-operating with ‘the simple good’.  A cruel man oppresses his neighbour and so does simple evil.  But in doing such evil he is used by God, without his knowledge or consent, to produce the complex good — so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool.  For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

This is one of my favorite quotes from Lewis. Also, the more I think about it, this raises a really interesting point. If at our best, highest states, our will is compatible and not only that but is in line with God’s will… see, this is what I mean about our souls being like extensions of God. We are divine souls trapped in animal bodies. Not divine in the sense that we are literally God, but divine in the sense that we are, at our core, in harmony with His Essence. Perhaps this is why there exists the idea of Hell, or destruction of the soul. I’ve thought as of late that if there is such a thing as Hell or (in my opinion) destruction of the soul, Nothingness, then it is not God who directly condemns our soul to this place. I think it is us. We choke this soul, we starve it, weaken it by depriving it of what it so desires most, what it needs, which is to return to the God and the Good from whence it came.

We condemn ourselves to death. I know not whether this is the truth, I merely espouse it as an interesting idea. I know not what condemns one to Hell, or how much or how little sin one must commit. I know not how many forms repentance can take, nor how many ways one may be unshackled from sin. But I do find the idea intriguing. Ultimately, Hell or destruction or Nothing or whatever it may be, if it be, I feel is a natural consequence, an inescapable state of mind/being than a direct divine condemnation.

But I’ll have to read further on that.

So anyway, Balak attempts to get Balaam to curse Israel three separate times, and three times Balaam blesses Israel. The third time, he doesn’t even try divination, but opens himself up to the Holy Spirit and speaks the words that God has given. Balaam is an important Biblical figure, I think, even though I have never heard of him. He’s an ass, clearly, but God uses Balaam’s voice to carry His word, and in the end, Balaam gives himself over to God. He seems to just go on his merry way afterward, so hopefully he goes and does good, and hopefully we will too.


Numbers 25

Israel starts consorting (as they, and we, are wont to do) with undesirable people, in this case, the Moabites. So God starts another mass killing/plague, and at some point in the middle of all this, Phinehas, son of Eleazar, see’s an Israelite man bring in and show off a Midianite woman. So Phinehas grabs a javelin, heads into their tent, and kills them both in one mighty thrust. It’s the kind of thing that you’d see in an action movie. I’ve heard one interpretation that says that the man and woman were having sex at the time.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.denofgeek.us/sites/denofgeekus/files/styles/insert_main_wide_image/public/02-commando.jpg

Death by aluminum pipe. Commando (1985).

Phinehas is a regular Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I’m hoping there was a one-liner involved.)

Also, the woman’s name was Cozbi?

https://i2.wp.com/www.nndb.com/people/674/000022608/cosby-medium.jpg
Look at it.
https://i2.wp.com/kvly.images.worldnow.com/images/24527103_BG1.jpg
LOOK AT IT!

Numbers 26

More genealogy and census stuff. They’re numbering all the men of Israel to figure out who is going to be able to go to war.

Oh, yeah! This chapter is why I remembered Korah, because in Numbers 26:9-11, it mentions some of his descendents and clarifies that not all the children of Korah died when he and his family were swallowed up by the earth. I forget whether I mentioned this back when it happened, but I feel like the moral of that story is that one person going against God and Goodness can bring down (get it?) their entire family.

Anyway, there’s a ton of Israelites, and the Bible is clear on the fact that aside from two guys, Caleb and Joseph, “there was not a man [among them] of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest when they numbered the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai” (Numbers 26:64). Because, if you recall, all of those losers were condemned to death and told that they would never make the Promised Land.


Numbers 27

Chapter 27 in Numbers describes some stuff about inheritance law for a man without sons.

Following that, God tells Moses that he will (eventually?) go up Mount Abarim and see the land that has been given to the children of Israel. However, at the mountain, he shall be “gathered to [his] people” as Aaron was as a result of Moses’ disobedience and rebellion at the waters of Meribah. Moses pleads that God will find a suitable replacement, that the people will not be “like sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:17).

God tells Moses that he shall inaugurate Joshua, son of Nun, and give him some of Moses’ authority, that Joshua may stand by Eleazar the priest, son of Aaron.

Moses does this.


Numbers 28

There is so much in here about sacrifices that I finally turned to Matthew Henry again. I would go read that if you are interested. Basically he talks about how in a modern Christian sense, offerings of animals have to be reinterpreted as offerings of prayer and praise. This chapter therefore indicates that we should pray and praise God in the morning and in the evening.

The Bible also describes offerings for the Sabbath day, the beginnings of the month, Passover, which falls on the fourteenth day of the first month which is followed on the fifteenth day by the feast, which lasts a week. Then God discusses the offerings for the day of the firstfruits, which I’m presuming has to do with a harvest.

Oy, I do love all this reading.

Good night, all! Peace be upon you.

Day 107

Using the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, I figure I’m up to at least 200 units and counting for the past twelve months. And that’s a conservative estimate. I’ve gotten three new jobs, quit three jobs, started a new close relationship, changed a number of my personal habits and responsibilities at work, changed my sleeping habits, changed them back, had my sleeping habits challenged and varied, had issues with my partner’s family, had issues with my family, lost touch with a bunch of friends… the list goes on and on and on.

In the past week I have shouted in anger, I have screamed in frustration, and I have cried in despair. These events are not mutually exclusive. My throat is sore right now.

The only response I got from God was “pray for patience.” I felt a calming in my soul, ever so slightly, at the words and feelings that came to me. But I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m angry. Now I see why Wrath is considered a mortal sin. It can consume you.

I was supposed to go to bed early tonight, can you believe it? The one night.

My birthday is coming up, and at this rate it is going to be but a temporary respite from all this. Even my three days off this past weekend did little to help me in the long run. There’s just been too much. I’m still not accustomed to this much chaotic change. I do not like it.


Leviticus 17

There’s a lot more in here about blood being the stuff of life and what is used for atonement and so don’t eat it, you guys.

But at the end, there’s something about being unclean from eating an animal that either died naturally or was killed by beasts that struck me:

“But if he does not wash [his clothes] or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt.”

— Leviticus 17:16, NKJV

I have seen some New-Age-spiritual-type beliefs that speak of water as a conductor of spiritual energy. I am reminded of that sort of idea from this passage and those like it.

I can picture now a “running off” of water from one’s body, and the cleansing effect it is supposed to have. I want so badly to wash away this anger… to wash away these tears, to wash away the sleep from my eyes. But I know, like a dumb animal or an obstinate child, I will return to them sooner than I would like. My brain, my body, my fragile animal vessel can only handle so much. My soul is tired… I want to sleep.

I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ confession in The Problem of Pain:

“You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess for I will tell you; I am a great coward.”

I am a miserable, wretched wreck right now. I have had revelations in the past about turning to God, and about Christ coming to us in the middle of the storm rather than making the storm go away.

I will tell you right now, for all I have said and done, for all I have read, though I know in the future I will appreciate what I have gone through… I will tell you right now: I have had quite enough. I have no interest in weathering this storm.

God forgive my blasphemy, but I would rather it simply went away.

Day 61

Oh, my life. I played therapist for a family for three hours tonight and I am exhausted emotionally and spiritually. On my way home I reached out to God and as always He reached back. It was a nice, comforting feeling.


Exodus 11

This chapter is nice and short, which is good, because I’m tired. God tells Moses that there will be one last plague, after which Pharaoh will definitely send the Hebrews out of Egypt. God tells Moses to tell the Hebrews to go ask for silver and gold from their neighbors. I can’t help but think they’re planning to “borrow” them and then skip town, but perhaps the implication is that they will receive them as gifts.

Anyway, at this point the Egyptian people don’t seem so upset about the Israelites and they seem to like Moses specifically. This may have something to do with all the crazy magic powers and him revoking all the horrific plagues. But your guess is as good as mine.

Moses tells Pharaoh that the firstborn of Egypt will all be killed, from royal to slave to animal. And Moses tells Pharaoh that this is finally what will force Pharaoh’s hand, and the Hebrews will finally get to leave. God knows that Pharaoh will not give in until this deed is done, and tells Moses as much. Pharaoh’s obstinacy is necessary that all future generations might understand the power of the Lord.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.