Jehovah’s Witnesses

Day 151

This is the Mew of project days. If we were going by the Hebrew calendar, which features 30-day months, I’d be just over five months. And honestly, that’s about right anyway. It was just in my mind because I had a conversation about end-time prophecies with a Jehovah’s Witness friend of mine, and he was explaining some of the Biblical rationale behind the significance of the year 1914. It involved the Hebrew calendar. So that’s that.

Anyway, on to today’s news.


Numbers 34

We’re down to three days ’til Deuteronomy. Huzzah!

Numbers 34 outlines, literally, the boundaries of the land that God has granted to Israel. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this chapter, so I turned as I do to Matthew Henry’s commentary.

“Canaan was of small extent; as it is here bounded, it is but about 160 miles in length, and about 50 in breadth; yet this was the country promised to the father of the faithful, and the possession of the seed of Israel. This was that little spot of ground, in which alone, for many ages, God was known.”

So this is what confused me. This issue raises questions.

If God eventually through Christ wants to save all men, then why did he not reveal himself to all mankind? I don’t really like the Calvinist view that some are simply condemned to Hell no matter what. To me, that presumes that free will is nothing but an illusion, as those who make the choice to accept God/Christ have already been predestined to do so.

I mean, let’s presume we’re talking about sometime between 1000-2000 years BC. In China, the dynasties are already in full force; there are millions of people the world over that are essentially denied salvation due to God’s selection of the Israelites as His chosen people. Why? Is every single one of the people in the world so corrupted? Then why send Christ later, to give everyone a chance?

I’m not going to get into Revelations for answers; it’s too far off. But in terms of ideas related to Heaven and Hell, I’ll post these helpful links.

The first is related to the Jewish tradition, the second and third are from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their beliefs may be a tad unorthodox but damn if they don’t know how to cite the Bible. As for me, I’m not sure how I feel on this yet. The only thing I can say is that a full and complete denial of salvation to a huge part of the world sounds unthinkable.

I did find this, an article about the Seven Laws of Noah. Apparently, gentiles are not only not obligated to follow Jewish law, they are in some sense prohibited from following it, as they are not God’s chosen people. But according to the Noahide law and interpretation from various Hebrew scholars, the intention was that even gentiles had the chance to be righteous by following the law. Apparently, it was important to recognize God as the reason behind the law as well.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll revisit this theological discussion at several points throughout the course of this project, and maybe by the time I’m done I’ll have a satisfying answer.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

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Day 138

Woo! Even though it’s day 138, this is post 100! I used only the finest graphical arts programs to generate appropriate banners for this momentous occasion.

 

 

post1002

post1001

Woo! Post 100!

Of course, that means somehow I missed 38 days of proper updates. Woo…

I’ve gotten to the point where I prefer doing my blog to doing work. That doesn’t seem to be too much of a surprise. Work is stressing me out. Plus I went to urgent care today for some weird issue only to pay them $50 and get billed later for some X-Rays for them to tell me that it’s [best guess] and it’ll go away on its own. Whee.

Anyway, it’s taking me like 2 hours to write this post because I’m distracted.

Let’s get on with…


Numbers 21

Oh goodness, it’s long.

But! After having read it, it’s not too bad. Full of Israeli military conquests. A little odd/appropriate considering recent real-world news.

However! The part that I found interesting about this chapter has to do with serpents!

As some of you may know, I sort of have a thing about snakes.

indiana-jones-snakes

Not quite like this.

When I had my first intense religious experience, serpent imagery was involved. I still think about it to this day. So in this chapter, when the people of Israel speak out against God, having just made a vow and been granted military victory over the entire land of Canaan (which seriously took like 3 verses, talk about anticlimactic), they speak out against God and he plagues them with “fiery serpents” (NKJV) or “poisonous serpents” (Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation).

The people start getting bitten by these snakes and they begin to die. So the people take some initiative and apologize for all this and ask Moses to intervene. God tells Moses to make an image of the serpents and “set it on a pole” (Numbers 21:8), that those who look upon it will not die from their snakebites. So he does, and the people do.

Now I don’t know if this just seemed really obvious or what, but the serpent on the pole is totally Jesus, you guys. Guys. Guys. Seriously.

So get this. God sends the serpents to punish the people, and depending on your doctrine, sin is effectively punishment, is it not? So the serpents are representative of sin, but where does sin come from? People. Without people there is no sin. So we have a whole “man’s inhumanity to man” thing going on.

Or alternatively, sin is not technically punishment but just the direct consequence of disobedience to God. In which case, snakes are the direct result of disobedience to God.

Either way, so the snakes are like the pain caused by sin, and sin is caused by people, and so the snakes are sort of like sinners and punishment rolled up into one scaly yet smooth metaphor. But! Moses makes a perfect image of one of these snakes (eh? eh??) and puts in on a pole (EH?!) and the people look to it (EHHHH?!?!) and are saved. Get it? Get it?

I thought this was interesting especially since the Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that Jesus was not hung on a cross but hung on a large pole (EH?!?!?!?!) called a “torture stake.” But yeah, these people look up to an image that is representative of God’s grace and are saved. They do not pray to the image, though, and this is an interesting point. That would be a sin.

I think this is why Protestants pray to God in Jesus’ name. Jesus is the image, the manifestation, of God’s grace. But all the praise and glory is still given to God. I think Jesus would have it no other way, since even He submitted to the will of the Father, even though they were sort of the same “Being” or “essence” or what-have-you.

Insert obligatory “God is in Christ and Christ is in us therefore God is in us therefore we are with God in some spiritual unity but yet created separately from Him physically to be forever distant so that we would seek Him but also be seeking the perfected version of ourselves which is in Him and only He can give us” thing that I do.

Anyway, as far as the rest of the chapter goes, like I said, Israel cuts a bloody swath across the Middle East and wrecks everybody’s s***.

Then they kill some king named Og. Really? This guy’s got like, a caveman name.

Anyway, peace be upon you!

Day 136

Hey, check that out! I come back and the fan (???) had blown the pages of my Bible back to Genesis 40, which talks about Joseph and his whole dream-interpretation thing in Egypt, which coincidentally I just talked about with the Jehovah’s Witnesses this morning! I think they think they’re getting closer and closer to converting me. I don’t see that happening, and I don’t think God does either, but I do enjoy the talks.

Man, I feel like I had some really profound revelation earlier today but I can’t remember what it was! That’s going to irritate me.

The best I can remember is that there is another verse 3:16 that I learned about today, as opposed to the popular one from John. The JW showed me this today, and I’ll quote from their translation:

“All scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”

— 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I like this verse because it almost makes the origin of the Bible irrelevant as the subject of argument. All scripture is inspired of God. Done and done. But not only that! Because it is so inspired, it is beneficial in many ways. I have heard Christians liken the Bible to an owner’s manual for life. I can see that. It just takes time and patience to learn how to read it.

Alright, down to business.

Numbers 19

God’s commandment here is to slaughter and burn a red heifer so that it’s ashes can be used for purification. There is a whole step-by-step process on how to do this right.

This chapter is some very interesting fodder for people who talk about old religious prescriptions as having healthy and practical purposes: in this case, God discusses the fact that handling a dead body makes one unclean, or that if a person dies in a tent, anything stored in an open container is now unclean. This sounds like the kind of thing we know from modern medicine: dead people rot and carry diseases.

I wonder if the ashes of the cow somehow had a soapy or cleansing effect. Perhaps I’m reading too much into things.

Anyway, I’m seriously falling asleep in the chair, so I’m going to bed.

Sleep well, and peace be upon you.

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 49

I can’t find my Bible again. I honestly don’t know where that darn thing keeps ending up! I do have access to the Internet (obviously) and I do have the New World Translation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s something! But I do want to find my NKJV before my camping trip.

I worked with one of my clients yesterday; he’s only nine but he’s a really good kid. I don’t know what it is about him but I get a really good vibe, a really powerful vibe. He’s one of the only clients and indeed one of the few people I’ve ever met that seems totally contented in the silence of his own mind. I feel like I could learn a lot from him, even if he doesn’t consciously realize it. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s a good listener, and I’ve found that the latter is much more important than the former.

We went hiking and it was wonderful, the sun was setting, the wind was blowing, and it was growing cold and dark. We didn’t stay for very long since it got a little creepy for him (and me too, admittedly), but it was a good experience and I got a few photos and an inspiration for some writing, which is always a bonus. I do need to start carrying a “real” camera with me, and not just using my phone all the time. This thing is great during the day but in any kind of low light, the picture quality is terrible.

Without further ado…

sunset over cityscape

Ghosts of the Mountain

City lights
From mountainside
Flicker as
The sunset dies
The wind behind
I close my eyes
I’m falling…

I crossed paths with one of the old guardians
His time had come, and yet
He had never relinquished his post
Never abandoned his duty
Instead, while flesh had failed him
He could see what the others could not
And the shadows that danced out of sight
Were clear to him in death
His own slender bones
Seemed a mocking crown
And though his roots grasped at dust
He stood fast
Watching the comings and goings of the night
The crescent moon watched as well
And when I called for silence
Even the wind obeyed.

shadowwatcher


Genesis 49

Honestly, after writing that business, I have really no desire to break down Genesis 49. The point is, I read it, Jacob says something to each of his sons on his deathbed, and in the end he passes away.

One interesting takeaway from Gen 49 is that Jacob is described as blessing his sons, “each one according to his own blessing” (Gen 49:28). The interesting thing is that with the first three, Reuben followed by the brothers Simon and Levi, the things Jacob says would not be considered “blessings” in a modern sense.

But this is the life that these children have been granted; Jacob merely observes the truth and probably speaks with a spirit of prophecy. In this sense, in the sense that Jacob reveals truth, then indeed these are blessings, because he, with his wisdom and knowledge, sheds light on the lives and futures of his sons, even the less righteous ones. Truly, with knowledge and awareness of themselves they are blessed.

Tonight is my last night that will be spent reading/analyzing Genesis. I’m going to knock out Genesis 50, the closing chapter, and be off to bed.

Farewell, all. Peace be upon you.

 

Day 14

Holy crow, yesterday felt like three days. I worked a solid eleven hours, mostly outdoors, and I can feel a slight crisp on the skin of my face.

I slowly struggled out of bed just now to eat a slightly dried chocolate muffin that I got from a church’s coffee shop. I might have to check out this church in the future; it seems like a pretty nice place. I’ve never consistently gone to church in my adult life, and I only once attended a Mormon service, sort of out of obligation.

Just as recently I had a vision of death, two nights ago I fully connected with my Spirit Council again and was shown something else. Anyway, I wrote a short poem about what happened. It doesn’t have a name.

I have seen the face of my anger
It is a swirling burning thing.
Crimson light bleeds from it
Like an image of an angry sun.
Into the four corners of my life does it spread
A profane cross of impotent rage
Fueled by the fear that hides in my heart.

I haven’t written poetry in a while, and I’m not terribly satisfied with it, but the whole point of this project is to “Learn by Doing.” I’m not only writing when I feel like writing because I’m often unmotivated and tired and too busy seeking other pleasures. I was listening to the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and he wrote that if he ever procrastinates writing something, he doesn’t ever use it and throws it out. I’m just not like that. I’m busy rekindling my writer’s spirit, and it’s going to take time and practice before this becomes a habit, before it becomes a burning need that I cannot ignore.

I wanted to tell you about my Left today, but I think I will save descriptions of my spirit animals for a later date. Although, without meaning to, I have already introduced one.

Genesis 14

I read this chapter today and didn’t think a whole lot of it. It describes a war between a handful of kings, but Abram and Lot get caught up in this mess. Long story short, at one point, Lot gets snatched up (it seems) while he is in Sodom, and the armies take his stuff.

Then, someone comes and tells Abram, “Hey, so these guys up and kidnapped your nephew, Lot.” Abram mans up and arms his servants and chases the offending army as far north “as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). That’s a pretty damn long way.

Abram saves Lot and heads back home; it would appear that on his way or upon his return, he is met by a) Bera, the king of Sodom and b) Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Melchizedek is a very interesting character, if he be a character at all. He “brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Firstly, he brings bread and wine, which most of us associate with Jesus Christ and the idea of body and blood. Secondly, while Abram and his family have been described as being the righteous ones, Melchizedek, who has no ancestry mentioned thus far, is a holy man, a “priest of God Most High.”

There are a lot of odd mysteries surrounding this name and this person. Some identify him as Shem, descendent of Noah. The Dead Sea Scrolls identify Melchizedek, if not this Melchizedek, as a divine being, sometimes giving unto him the name Elohim, traditionally associated with God. Even his “name” itself may mean “the king [of] righteousness,” from malki tzedek, which contrasts with a mention in the Dead Sea Scrolls of a “Melchi-resha,” which means “king of evil,” the name for an angel of darkness. ¹

Jehovah’s Witnesses – An Aside

I was just interrupted from my work by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to my house frequently because I invite them back. Today they invited me to their annual event commemorating the day on which Christ gave His life that we may all live. They also talked to me for a while, and I told them about my project. They told me to pay attention when I get to the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame), because he has something to say about interpretation. I want so badly to look ahead but I am reading this Bible chapter by chapter and I will wait. The gentleman today brought his wife, who seemed like a charming lady, and she slipped a hint as to what Joseph says, but I will not yet mention it.

What I will mention, though, is John 17:3.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

— Jesus Christ, John 17:3

The Witnesses told me essentially that it is Good to study the Bible, that by reading it and learning of it, we can know God and Jesus, and thus gain eternal life. The gentleman said that everything in the Bible tells us about God. Interesting when contrasted with the ideas of, say, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which believes that

“The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.”²

Perhaps God is knowable for practical purposes but a Holy Mystery in totality, the way Albert Camus describes man in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can know God and seek union with Him enough to be saved and to know, sense, or feel what He wants for us. But the nature of God? The essence of God? The spiritual form of God that exists in contrast to the material? At least in this lifetime, in these bodies, it cannot be understood.

The King of Sodom

There are but a few verses left in Genesis 14, but before reading about Melchizedek, they were the only thing that interested me. The king of Sodom offers to trade Abram: Abram gives him back the people (his people? Previous subjects? I’m not super clear on this) in exchange for stuff. The stuff is really unimportant; the important part is that Abram says no. Abram vows in the name of God to not take even “a thread [or] a sandal strap” from the king (Genesis 14:23).

Abram remembers God’s promise and realizes that he has no need for these material things. Abram chooses the people because he knows that God has plans to make him rich in spirit, a wealth to which material substances cannot compare.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Trinity