fear of God

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.

Day 43

THE END IS NIGH!

The end of Genesis, that is. Genesis only goes up to 50 or so chapters, so in a few days I’ll be knee-deep in Exodus. Looking forward to it.

Time to play catch up.


Genesis 42

Jacob knows that Egypt has plenty of grain, but it seems that given what his sons did to Joseph, they exchange a series of worried glances when Jacob mentions Egypt. Jacob/Israel sends his sons to buy grain. Long story short, Joseph recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him. He accuses them of being spies and says that they must bring their youngest brother back with them, and that they must leave one of their number there. Benjamin, the youngest, was told to stay at home by Jacob, “Lest some calamity befall him” (Genesis 42:4).

After this demand, they realize that they are being punished, essentially, for what they did to Joseph in the past. It seems that their deeds have caught up to them. Reuben condemns them with several Biblically-worded I-told-you-so’s.

So Joseph holds Simeon there, he gives his brothers grain, and their money back, and the brothers go back and tell their father what happened. The brothers are worried that there is some kind of trick or trap awaiting them when they find all their money has been restored, and their father is afraid. Reuben promises that Benjamin and Simeon both will be safe.

Favorite Quote:

“Do this and live, for I fear God.”

— Joseph, Genesis 42:18

I spoke previously about the different meanings of the Hebrew word “yirah,” which is often translated as “fear.” Joseph’s point here seems to me to be that who shows respect and humility to God, and as such his word can be trusted.


Genesis 43

Israel is reluctant to send his youngest son with the boys, and so they refrain from returning to Egypt. Once all the grain is gone, they no longer have much choice. Israel gets upset at his children for having told Joseph that they had another brother, but it really wasn’t their fault. Judah finally convinces his father to send all of them, and Israel gives them gifts to bring to Joseph in hopes that he will be appeased.

Once they arrive in Egypt, Joseph has them taken into his house, and his brothers are afraid. They say in Genesis 43:18,

“It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”

They speak with Joseph’s steward and explain the situation and the misunderstanding, but he tells them there is no need to worry and returns Simeon to them before bringing them into the house. Joseph came out to meet them and spoke with them and then they sat to eat.

Joseph arranged them, “the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another” (Genesis 43:33). Joseph, knowing his brother’s ages, seats them accordingly. To them, this is shaping up to be some Twilight Zone business. Joseph serves Benjamin five times as much as anybody else, and they all eat and drink happily.

Favorite Quote:

“If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

— Israel, Genesis 43:14

Here we see Israel the father finally stop denying what needs to be done and turning his circumstances over to the grace of God. You know, for a family that has had so much interaction with the Lord, they sure do have their struggles with faith.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

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