Jehovah

Day 63

Exodus 13

Here we get a lot more about Passover and unleavened bread and making sure your kids don’t grow up to be ungrateful heathens and so on. I think it is interesting that they say, after describing the whole bread thing, that

“This will serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial on your forehead.”

— Exodus 13:9

In John Wesley’s explanatory notes, he writes that this is a metaphor for “things which are never out of our thoughts.” I find it interesting that this is similar to the “mark of the Beast” in Revelations, as well as the whole idea of it as a metaphor for something else. I also find more interesting the fact that according to the JW New World Translation, “on your forehead” can apparently be translated as “between your eyes.” Many mystics and New-Age types talk about the “third eye,” and its supposed relation to the pineal gland, which happens to be located roughly “between the eyes.”

But my favorite part of this chapter is Exodus 13, verse 21, cited here from the NKJV:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

This image of God as a magnificent pillar of swirling clouds, or as a pillar of raging fire against the night sky is marvelous. I have stared deeply into a campfire in the dark of night and regarded the whole thing as an otherworldly, mystical experience. To me, this all rings true.

I cannot speak to the literal interpretation of this, and it is hard to take it metaphorically. All I know is that the image and the story are magnificent.

Good day, all. 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 58

Exodus 8

Here we see the next three plagues and we see also Pharaoh’s completely predictable reaction to repeated entreaties to “Let My people go.” The second plague that falls upon Egypt is a plague of frogs; Moses and Aaron work their magic via the power granted them by God, and the land is inundated with frogs.

frog_theme_for_kids

“You mean like the frogs that got f***ed by Joseph Smith?”¹

Pharaoh’s magicians, ever eager to prove that these strange miracles are not of God, summon up some frogs of their own. Pharaoh doesn’t seem to care this time, and is sick of picking frogs out of his fancy hat. He finally asks Moses and Aaron to send them away. If the frogs are removed, Pharaoh says, he will let the Hebrews go and sacrifice to their God.

Moses just asks for a time, and Pharaoh says “tomorrow.” Why he doesn’t say “Right f***ing now, please,” is beyond me. Moses and Aaron call to God and God wipes out all the frogs. The Egyptians pile the mass of dead frogs into rotting heaps. Compared to having frogs everywhere, this was apparently a relief. Although I don’t really know why they didn’t just start eating the frogs since annoying the Lord sometimes grants you an infinite supply of food. Perhaps they were poisonous frogs? Anyway.

Once the frogs are gone, Pharaoh proceeds to once again ignore the commands of Moses and Aaron. No more frogs, not my problem.

So Moses and Aaron send lice. With the power of God, they turn all the dust of the land into lice. This the magicians could not do. At this point even the sorcerers of Egypt are forced to admit that something strange might be going on. “This is the finger of God,” they say to Pharaoh in Exodus 8:19. But still Pharaoh’s heart was hard against these miracles.

Again Moses and Aaron visit Pharaoh, they go through the same old “Let My people go” shtick, and again Pharaoh denies their request. This time the land is swarmed with flies.

diabloitchies

As any Diablo II player can tell you, flies are no laughing matter.²

Finally, Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron. I can just picture him swatting flies away from his head as he tells them, “Fine! Just sacrifice already! You can do it right here!”

Moses and Aaron, completely free of flies respond: “No can do, Pharaoh. If we start doing our Jehovah business in Egypt, odds are we’ll get stoned to death. We need to go out of town for a few days first.”

Pharaoh: “Fine, whatever! Just get rid of these damn flies!”

Moses: “Alright, we’ll get rid of the flies. No more tricks, Pharaoh.” I think it’s funny that Moses tells Pharaoh to stop being deceitful when isn’t Moses lying about the whole worship/sacrifice thing? I thought this whole thing was a ruse to get the Hebrews out of Egypt (Exodus 3). I guess the point would be that God does work all things for good.

Moses heads out, asks God to take the flies away, and He does. Pharaoh, being relieved of his misery, once again hardens his heart and goes back on his word. The Hebrews will not be allowed to leave.


I think the most interesting lessons to be learned here come from Pharaoh’s actions. As Pharaoh hardens his heart against these “supernatural” miracles, so to do we harden our hearts against the miracles of the world… the miracle of a rising sun or a beautiful sunset, the miracle of rain falling from the sky and nourishing the land, the miracle of life and growth all around us, and the miracle of the human experience, that we are conscious, that we can create and act in this amazing world, that we exist at all! All of these things seem so normal to us that we hardly perceive them as miracles.

Also, the way Pharaoh constantly changes his attitude after the plague has lifted reminds me of a joke:

A guy is headed downtown and is late for a job interview. He is desperate to find a parking place, and so he rolls down his window and shouts to God, “If you find me a parking place, I promise I’ll never touch another drop of liquor.”
Just then, a car pulls out, leaving a parking place right in front of his building.
He leans out and shouts to God, “Never mind, I found one myself.”

So often we call to God in our hour of need, and forget Him afterward. We make promises and fail to uphold them. For all those who would condemn Pharaoh (myself included) do not forget that every one of us is equally imperfect. We have all made mistakes, we have all made promises that we have not kept.

The beauty of God is that He is always present. C.S. Lewis wrote something that struck me as profound:

If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.

We are still in so many ways like children, children who need attention, love, compassion, and affirmation. God does not have to be there for us, and if He were as we are, many times He would not be there for us. We cannot always be present for our friends or our children. But God can be called upon always. It seems to me that God wants to be called upon always, for us to be fully conscious and accepting of Him throughout all the days of our lives.

More so than that, since I cannot claim to speak for the will of God, it seems to me that our very souls cry out to God, that our souls, our very being wants us to call upon Him, to open ourselves up to God, His grace and His forgiveness. But then, in a sense, our not our souls crying out for their own true essence?

“The boy reached through to the Soul of the World, and saw that it was part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.”

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


¹ The Book of Mormon (musical). 2011 Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone.

² Diablo II. 2000 Blizzard Entertainment. Image retrieved from http://diablo.incgamers.com/forums/showthread.php?786178-Scavenger-Hunt-4-Tournament-Grail/page11

Day 53

Exodus 3

Here we enter God’s abstract period. Moses brings the flocks up to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (Exod 3:1). God appears to Moses as a fire burning within a bush. Moses heads over to investigate the strange occurrence, and to see why the bush does not burn.

A “burning bush” at sunset. I thought I was going to have to wait much longer to share this picture.

Another shot of the “burning bush.” Zoomed in and touched up.

God speaks to Moses, and tells him to remove his sandals. God introduces Himself as “the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod 3:6). In the New World Translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, this whole episode is the point at which God introduces himself as “Jehovah,” as we shall soon see.

God tells Moses that He has heard the cry of the Israelites, and that He has chosen Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses isn’t sure what to make of this.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

— Exodus 3:11-14, NKJV

God gives Moses some other commands and gives him details of the plan. Anyone who wants to read all that, just go check out Exodus 3. I’d rather talk about…


The Name of God

I’ve always considered this to be one of the most interesting and possibly one of the most overlooked passages in the Old Testament. Moses imagines a scenario wherein the Israelites ask him, “Oh yeah? You’re so smart, what’s God’s name?”

In the New King James Version, and many others, God responds by telling Moses, “I AM THAT I AM,” or “I AM WHO I AM.” Then God clarifies that His name is “I AM.” I’m going to skip ahead a bit to Exodus 20 because I have a point I’d like to make. Exodus 20 is the chapter that introduces the Ten Commandments, one of which is

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…

— Exodus 20:7, NKJV

Now what did we just learn is [one of] the name[s] of God? “I AM.” This phrase, “I am,” is one of the most simple declarative statements that a being can make. It tells nothing and yet it tells everything, for it is a simple statement of the fact that one exists. Even though it seems simple, it implies a great deal, for it implies all that we do, say, and experience, for it wraps our very existence into three simple English letters.

But we are not to take the name of God in vain. If a statement conveying the fact of our existence is indeed a name of God… then it is not only the name but our existence itself that we must honor. The very fact that I AM, that I am here today, that I am writing this, that I am reaching out to you… this very truth of my existence is a recognition of God. And it is something that we can all say and recognize.

Do not take your life in vain, for God speaks His own name through your Being.

We are all manifestations of God. God who is the Spirit that flows through us, the Infinite Moment that allows us to live, and the Word that becomes us. Christ is known as the Word Made Flesh, but there is a little bit of Christ within all of us. Though we may not be the blesséd Son of God, we are all His sons and daughters. Just as we carry our biological parents with us in the form of genes and chromosomes, we carry the essence, the Consciousness that is God with us in our mortal forms.

Some Christians have said that we were created to honor and worship God, to give Him praise. This is true, but by living consciously, by experiencing the world and the life that we have each been given, we are honoring God. We are all manifestations of God, and our most basic statement of Being is God’s sacred name.

Everything in the universe, from stars to ants to atoms, is written in the Word. When we open our eyes or our ears, we read the Language of the World. When we touch, when we smell… when we move our bodies and let our emotions soar like eagles… we are experiencing the Language of the World, the Language of God, an infinite interminable sentence that relates every particle, every atom, every rock, plant, human, and star…

The Jehovah’s Witnesses observed that God’s name, written יהוה in Hebrew and often transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh, or Jehovah) appears to be related to the verb “to become.” To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, then, God’s name means “He Causes to Become,” and I find this also strikingly appropriate. Every moment that comes into being, everything that we experience is all manifested within God. We are but different reflections of the same thing, the same infinite force.

One of my favorite phrases that I have mostly forgotten until this moment is the Spanish “Vaya con Dios.”

“Go with God.”

Could it ever be any other way?