offering

Day 148-150

Numbers 31

return of balaam(deep inhale)

Ahem.

He dies.

Over the course of the invasion of Midian by the Israelites, there is a quick, almost throwaway line about Balaam being put to the sword. Doops. As C.S. Lewis wrote, and as I have previously quoted, some men serve God as sons while others serve as tools. It seems like this tool outlived his usefulness.

In other news, the Israelites burn the towns and rape the fields, or something. Or maybe they plunder the fields, steal the towns, and rape the livestock. I think I’m getting my war stuff mixed up.

But seriously, they put all the men and boys to the sword, kill any woman who is not a virgin, and take all the virgins.

It is interesting to note that anyone who killed another human, even in what might be called a “righteous war,” is considered unclean and must be cleansed. At times, it seems, force may be necessary, but that makes it no less distasteful.

Articles must also be cleansed with fire or water, as appropriate.

The commanders, it is written, did not lose a single man in the battles, and so they return to Moses and Eleazar and offer them gold articles as an offering to the Lord. The articles are taken as a memorial for the Israelites.

A point of note in this chapter: the Lord is given His tribute, which is entrusted to Eleazar the priest. The Levites are given a portion of the tribute as well. It is important in our victories to give credit, to pay tribute, to the Lord and to those who lead us as His servants. The Levites abdicated their worldly inheritance in exchange for their divine obligation. Even though those who serve God must renounce certain worldly pleasures, in time they will be given their own rewards, as appropriate for their service.


Numbers 32

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this chapter, and Mr. Henry’s concise commentary is little help.

Basically, a couple of the tribes request the recently conquered land so that they may build cities and have fields for their livestock. They would rather live there than in Canaan, and Moses goes off on them for this. He condemns them thus in Numbers 32, verses 14-15:

“…a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”

Matthew Henry does make a good point here:

“If men considered as they ought what would be the end of sin, they would be afraid of the beginning of it.”

Moses outlines the consequences of the sin of these tribes and they quickly attempt to find a solution. They offer to send their armies out ahead of the other tribes, and vow not to return to their lands until all of Canaan is in the hands of the Israelites. Moses warns them of the consequences of not keeping their word, but allows them to make this vow.

Here’s what I don’t get. They deny the inheritance, the Promised Land offered them by the Lord. And yet, by making this vow to support and to lead ahead of their brother tribes, they seem to be doing fine.

What I’m wondering is, is this a case like Balaam, several chapters ago, where God finally just gives them what they want and allows them to sin, regardless of how detestable? Or is this something else, some kind of alternative?

It seems to me closer to the first one. If they don’t want the Promised Land of Canaan, then God isn’t going to force them to take it. There is no one dragging us to heaven. We have to seek it and (most of all) accept it for ourselves.


Numbers 33

This chapter features a summary of the travels of the Israelites. I’m glad this exists because let me tell you, this journey has been really hard to follow. I think someone knew that people wouldn’t want to keep track of everything, and so here outlined it. Huzzah!

I feel like there is another quick point I can make here: there are things that are not in the Bible because they do not relate to the relationship between man and God. The Bible is not a textbook; it does not explain the mechanisms by which the world operates nor the methods by which God interacts physically with the world. The miracles are important; the methods maybe not so much. It is important to remember that miracles are possible; the opening of Balaam’s mouth by God was just as miraculous as His giving a voice to a donkey.

The travels of the Israelites are probably important. Matthew Henry explains that the Israelites were led forward and backward, all over by the guidance of the Lord.

“The way God takes in bringing his people to himself is always the best way, though it does not always seem to us the nearest way.”

The Israelites are commanded, when they go into Canaan, to destroy the temples and crush the idols, and to drive the people away. God warns (Numbers 33:55) that anyone left

will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.”

It is important to note that this is metaphorical; we must eradicate all traces of our sin, and especially of outward temptation. We must guard ourselves carefully against temptation, lest it threaten our inheritance, lest it threaten the gifts that God has for us.


Good day to you all. Peace be upon you.

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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 135

Numbahs! Numbahs everywhere! So this was supposed to be yesterday’s, and then I’ll also do today’s… and by the time I’m done, tomorrow will be today, but then I’ll do that today’s post later.

Capisce?


Numbers 18

Sometimes I just want to write these like crappy middle-school essays: “Numbers 18 is a very good chapter. I liked Numbers 18 because it has Aaron and Moses. Aaron and Moses are brothers.” Etc., etc.

So the deal here is that God tells Aaron that hey, his line pretty much has to bear all the responsibility for the tabernacle and will “bear the iniquity associated with [their] priesthood.” (Numbers 18:1) And God gave to his family the Levites to do all the heavy lifting.

God describes here that the service of the Levites and the priesthood are “gifts.” It should be seen as a Good Thing when God entrusts us with responsibility. The work will not always be easy but the benefits are excellent: God gives the hard tasks to those He trusts.

Also, speaking of benefits, God outlines all the fringe bonuses to taking on this extreme level of responsibility. Aaron and his sons, as priests, get this laundry list of stuff that they get from all the tithes and offerings and what have you. The catch here is that they don’t get any land as an inheritance, since all the duties and offerings and such are that inheritance.

God then reminds them to make sure to always offer the best parts, the consecrated parts to God, and then to keep what is left. Because seriously, God will fry you if you mess this up. There is no room for error.

See you at Numbers 19!

 

Day 109-115

Welcome back, all. Given that it has been a week since I last updated this blog, part of me wanted to just say, “Ehhhh, make it a weekly update!” But the thing is, I need to strive for daily updates. If all I shoot for is a weekly update, I’ll end up going two weeks without updating, or three, or a month. And then what? And then the whole project goes to s***.

So here I am, after a long day of work and paperwork. I’m very tired. If I weren’t so tired I would probably do a series of updates but I’m really just not feeling it. I barely wanted to do this but I promised myself and my partner and I suppose God that I would get it done tonight. I’ve put it off long enough.

Oy, but these chapters are so long!


Leviticus 19

God reiterates a few of the Ten Commandments (maybe all of them) and adds a bunch of other things for Moses to tell the people. Among them:

  • No shaving sideburns (Lev 19:27)
  • No gossiping (Lev 19:16)
  • No tripping blind people (Lev 19:14)
  • Leave some food unharvested so that poor people can eat too (Lev 19:10)
  • No idols, seriously guys, we went over this (Lev 19:4)
  • No tattoos (Lev 19:29)
  • No turning your daughter into a hooker (Lev 19:29)
  • Another man’s b**** ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’ (Lev 19:20)

And so on. Be honest, be polite, treat people nicely, because I am the LORD your God who will smite the ever-loving s*** out of you if you don’t.


Leviticus 20

This is the point where I looked up who exactly this “Molech” fellow was. Apparently he was some old Middle Eastern god back in those days and people apparently sacrificed their kids to him. YHWH says that’s a no-no. God then gives a whole list of people that you can’t have sex with. No sisters, no half-sisters, no aunts, no women on their periods, no mother-daughter combos, no daughter-in-laws… You know, I just realized a lot of this was geared toward men as the transgressor. The only verse that has a woman as the subject of the rule is Leviticus 20:16, where God says that women shouldn’t have sex with animals.

Thanks for the tip! Of course, in the end, everyone gets put to death anyway.

If only they’d had some kind of choice…

Also, C. S. Lewis at one point talked about the comparison between God’s love for man and a man’s love for a woman. In Leviticus 20:5-6, God talks about people “prostituting themselves” with mediums and “[committing] “harlotry with Molech.” One of the ways we can understand God’s love is to look at the love between the sexes. First sign I’ve seen of it in the scripture; thought it was worth pointing out.


Leviticus 21

In Leviticus 21, God talks to Moses and gives him information for Aaron and the priests. “Do not defile yourselves” is pretty much the key here. No dealing with dead bodies, no dating divorced women, gotta marry a virgin, no uncovering your head or shaving your beard… burn your daughter alive if she’s a prostitute, you know, standard stuff.

Also, no fuggos, no cripples, no dwarfs or eunuchs, no acne scars, no weird eyes, no lanky dudes… Apparently “any man [descended from Aaron] who has a defect shall not approach [the altar/sanctuary].”

Harsh, man. Harsh. I feel like modern political-correctness-/equality-Nazis* would have a field day with this chapter.


Leviticus 22

Here are some more rules about how to properly make sacrifices, and what kind of weird crippled “defective” animals work for which sacrifices.

Also: Eeeew, bugs! Unclean.

Also also: Semen! Unclean.

We knew this stuff before but God reiterates for the priests.

Also also also, the whole thing about this chapter is in regards to who among the priests can eat the holy offerings. The answer is “only the clean ones.” So don’t go profanin’ yurselves, now, ya hear?

*spit*

This chapter reminds me of a joke:

A Catholic priest, a Reverend, and a Rabbi are discussing their income.

The Priest says: “I draw a circle on the ground, take the offering, and throw it up into the air. Any money that falls outside the circle is for the Lord, and the money that falls inside the circle is for me.”
The Reverend says: “I do things almost the same, except the money that falls outside the circle is my salary, and the money that falls inside the circle is for the Lord.”
The Rabbi says: I do things quite different. I take the offering, throw it up into the air, and pray: “Lord take whatever You need, and feel free to send back the rest.”

Get it? Because Jews.


Leviticus 23

“You shall make a grain offering again after seven Sabbaths and fifty days to the day, but feel free to sacrifice all the rams, bulls, and lambs you want, for lo, the LORD your God is watching His carbs, but truly I say to you, on protein, there is no restriction. And make sure to sacrifice some wine, for I am the LORD your God and I do enjoy a good red.”

— Leviticus 23:skiddoo


Leviticus 24

Burn the lights using fresh olive oil. Here’s how to make some little cakes. Don’t kill animals, and if you do, you have to find a replacement. Don’t kill people, except that guy who killed a guy. Him you need to stone to death.

This chapter is also the source of the famous “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” bit.


Leviticus 25

“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.”

— YHWH, Leviticus 25:23

Seriously passed out in the middle of writing. I need to go to bed.

I love you all. Peace be upon you, and good night.


*Like grammar Nazis, but different.

Day 98-105

“It came to pass on the eighth day that the writer finally updated In Excelsis Deo.”

Welcome back, people. I’m alive, and mostly well. I’ve been very busy, apparently too busy for my duty to myself and to God. It feels bad to write that, sort of.

Here’s the thing: I struggled back and forth with doing

A) a series of rapid-fire, single-post updates, or

B) one giant update with everything in it.

I obviously went with option B. My first thought was that I’d just write every post and make each update individually so that I wouldn’t feel as bad about “copping out” and cramming everything together in one big update. But then, I thought, if I feel bad about writing one big update, then maybe I should just do it and accept my shame. Then I thought, what if I’m being prideful about my shame, and parading it around by admitting it, the way people do when they talk about how humble they are?

“Oh, I’m so ashamed of myself! Look at how low I’ve brought myself before God! Look how devoted I actually am! More than you, I bet!”

It’s like I’m ten layers deep into self-aggrandizement. It’s like Asshole-ception.

So I decided to just say “f*** it” and go for it. It’s true that I goofed up, but apparently (partly due to the nature of this blog) I can neither sin nor be forgiven in silence. Part of the point of this blog is to explain my thought process (often in wondrous streams of consciousness) as I read the Bible and (ideally) move closer to an understanding of God and what He means in my life.

But I was struggling with this last night, because all day yesterday I put off this update. I recorded this little gem on my phone, describing my feelings:

“Is this one reason that people give up? That people lose faith? Because they don’t feel they’ll ever be good enough? They feel like they’re just too imperfect, too weak, too animalistic, and that it’ll never change? That they’ll never ever be satisfied? That they’ll never be good enough? Is that why?

I don’t know. Because I know it’s hard to reconcile that with the idea of infinite forgiveness. I don’t know what to tell you.”

I mean, it sucks. This is something I’m seeing, especially in our modern society, where suddenly no one has to feel bad for who they are. That’s good, sort of, but we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. I once heard some quote about — ah, f*** it, it’s worth looking up:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

— Isaac Asimov, The Cult of Ignorance

So now what we have is a combination of that as well as what C. S. Lewis mentioned when he wrote that we are (paraphrased) “reducing all virtues to kindness.” So there are two things at play: we reduce all virtue to kindness, thus discounting the possibility of submission, faith, etc., as being virtuous, and then we have this attitude that Isaac Asimov described above.

People want to have the right to not be ashamed of themselves, to not feel guilty. To that I say, well, don’t feel guilty. We can’t help what we are, so there’s no sense feeling guilty about it. But shame? Here’s how I see it, and I’m sorry if I’ve written this before.

“We should have the good sense to look ahead, to dream for something bigger and better, so that when we look at ourselves, we are not content with our current state.”

I wish I could say that more fluidly right now, but oh well. You get the gist of it. By aiming for righteousness, by submitting to God’s will and finding the Good that He works in everything, we can look at the way we are now in comparison to what we will become (so to speak), and we can be ashamed of ourselves. Again, no sense in feeling guilty! But I see now that shame can be a very Good thing.

But people don’t want to feel that. Comfort in life may be an incredible burden disguised by our society as the greatest blessing. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, to not be discriminated against. And you can find that in God. But here’s the problem: people also want to be told that who they are is okay. God will not tell you that. God says, “I love you for who you are, no matter what, but I love you so much that I want you, I need you, to become better. I cannot bear to see you the way you are now. I love you and I cannot bear to see you suffering in your sin and imperfection.”

We have to love ourselves enough to want more. Being content with our sins is not self-love, maybe self-acceptance at best. But that is only the first step. If we love ourselves as God loves us, we will strive to be better and better, but we will realize, as I did above, that we hit a wall. We can only go so far in these human bodies. This is why we must turn our eyes above.

As a quick aside, I’m surprised more Christians don’t believe in evolution. To me, the idea that we struggle against our animal natures on the path to God is perfectly in line with Christian theology. Divine souls though we may be, we are confined to animal bodies governed by physical laws.

In the Bible, Adam was created to be supposedly “perfect.” The first sin was disobedience, which granted knowledge that led to self-awareness and shame. The ego is the source of sin.

The way I see it is this: humans evolve, but are still essentially animalistic. They are in awe of the world around them because it does not make sense. It appears in many ways to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Humans, though having small and “crude” tools, essentially rely on the patterns of earth and sky for their sustenance. And then that changed.

Perhaps in the end it was a fruit: an apple, or perhaps as some have suggested, a fig. Something as simple and innocuous as all that. A person ate the fruit, and found smallish bits inside of it, seeds, that fell to the ground. At some point, some one put two and two together: food could be grown on purpose. Suddenly, Man could rely on himself. This is the turning away from God, from nature, from a state of ignorant bliss. Man thought that he knew how to game the system. Man thought he would no longer struggle, no longer hunger and thirst.

But now rules have to be established. People have to work long hours in the fields and grinding grain. Irrigation has to be controlled and monitored lest floods break out. People want to own land, own livestock, own workers or slaves. There needs to be a sense of order. Rulers have to enforce rules. People gain power and abuse it. Over-farming occurs. Lush fertile land reduces into barren desert. The land turns away from Man, the very earth spurns him. Man is brought low and is ashamed.

Some men find God and turn to him, appealing to a higher power, looking for the answer they cannot find by themselves. Some curse God for their misfortune and decide that they can make it work on their own without His help. And so it goes…


Leviticus 8

Alright, now these are going to be rapid-fire updates. Here goes nothing!

Moses takes Aaron and his sons, dresses them up in the prescribed priest’s clothes, they sacrifice some animals, and Moses consecrates Aaron and his boys with oil. Here’s a bunch more rules that you have to follow, the end.

(I know this is half-assed. Deal with it.)


Leviticus 9

Moses explains some things to Aaron about making atonement, not just for himself but for the people of Israel. They sprinkle lots of blood around the altar, several times, I believe. Aaron blesses all the people, comes out from the tabernacle, the Lord appears in all his glory, and consumes the burnt offering in fire. Everyone is awed and falls on their faces.


Leviticus 10

Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, decide to make an offering or some such thing that was previously forbidden by the Lord. He fries them.

Aaron is understandably upset about this, but Moses basically tells him, hey, look, God said “if people are going to try and come to Me, they need to do it properly and respectfully.” In my opinion, this is so that people will not constantly be making excuses, misinterpreting God’s word and trying to do His work while in reality committing sin against Him. I could see how this would be applicable today.

So anyway, there’s also a thing in here about not getting drunk in the tabernacle so that no one goofs up the sacrifices.

At the end of this chapter, two of Aaron’s sons screw up an offering. Moses rails against them and Aaron explains:

“Look. My boys are grieving. I am grieving. Sorry we were stressed out and couldn’t do it right, but we tried our best to keep the spirit of the offering. I was supposed to be rejoicing over this gift of food, but I am not in the right mind to do so. Do you really think God would have wanted me to eat it and disobey him thusly?”

Moses realizes that Aaron is sincere in his desire to please God, and has done nothing wrong. As long we have that desire sincerely in our hearts, we will eventually begin to do right.

(Credit for this chapter goes to John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, because I had no idea how to interpret Lev 10:16-20.)


Leviticus 11

Here’s what you can eat, here’s what you can’t eat, here’s what dead animals not to ever touch, here’s how to clean yourself if you do touch them.

Taxonomy Bonus: Apparently bats are birds. (Lev 11:13-19)

Entomology Bonus: Apparently flying insects have four feet. (Lev11:20-25) This one I’m willing to chalk up to translation errors, but who knows.


Leviticus 12

If a lady gives birth, she’s unclean, she needs to be purified, etc. etc. Longer for a female than for a male, apparently.

This passage probably draws a lot of ire, but I interpret it like this: the whole blood and suffering thing that comes along with childbirth should serve as a reminder of our animal natures. Therefore, we should seek to “clean” ourselves afterward, reaffirming our commitment to being cleansed by God. Hell, wait til Leviticus 15, and men get theirs too.


Leviticus 13


Leviticus 14

Here’s the process for ceremoniously cleansing a leper or someone with a skin condition.

Also, if you get mold or whatever in your house, here’s how you guys deal with that. There’s only a moderate chance that you’ll have to tear down the whole house. Wash your clothes, don’t let them get moldy. Nasty.


Leviticus 15

This is the Biblical prescription for STDs. Enjoy that. Anything you sit or lie on or whatever is unclean.

If a man emits semen, he is a filthy animal and needs to wash. If he has sex (but only if he finishes?) then both need to wash.

If a woman is on her period, then for God’s sake, anything she sits on is unclean. If you have sex with her, you’re unclean.

If anyone’s unclean, separate them so that they don’t walk into the tabernacle and get fried.


And that’s the ball game!

Peace be upon you.

 

Day 92

(This would have gone up on Sunday, June 15, 2014. I’m going to go ahead and write it based on that day.)

So today was awesome. My partner’s brother got married, and it was a beautiful ceremony held at a vineyard in a little mountain town. Beautiful lights, dinner right at sunset, the whole thing was lovely. Oh, and an open bar.

(Lordy. A quick Google image search for “happy drunk” turned up like 7 NSFW pictures, and that was just in the most immediate results.)

It was interesting because the ceremony was a Christian one, and I was reasonably sure her brother was not Christian. I talked to him afterwards; he is not. But apparently the family of the bride is, and her mother overrode a great deal of their wedding decisions. He said that if it been his choice, he would have had either me, or a Buddhist monk. I would have been honored, but c’est la vie.

I really like officiating weddings because it is such a beautiful moment between two people. I suppose that’s the same reason I like attending weddings. That and all the free food/alcohol. But seriously, it is a beautiful moment in what one can only hope is a long and happy marriage. For the most part, barring family drama, everyone at a wedding is happy and joyous, especially at a beautiful venue like a mountain vineyard. The last wedding I attended, also the last one I officiated, was on a steamboat on a lake. We caught the sunset there as well and watched that orange light gleam down through the canyons.

Simply magnificent.

There must be some reason that God made me find so much joy and beauty in nature, but I’m not sure where that will go yet. I suppose out in the woods is where I found Him, so that’s as good a reason as any (and a better reason than most). It’s weird because out in the woods with my friends, I had no desire to write like this, but I did read the Bible. Perhaps a reminder not to get too caught up in the interpretation?

If I ever become one of those legalistic people who, as C. S. Lewis puts it,

“[are] so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ,”

then just put me down. He rails as well in the same breath at

“men… who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist.”

Maybe this is why I find comfort in absurdist philosophy; seeing the illogic, the impossibility of any concrete foundation… perhaps in a way this is my defense against becoming too moralistic or legalistic with my faith. Or perhaps I’m just being a prideful jackass who needs to shut up. 😛

Who knows.


Leviticus 2

Honestly, this chapter is about how you offer your baked goods to God. Let me tell you, it is quite possibly the most exciting chapter in the Bible.

Make sure to add oil and salt to your pita bread/cake/flatbread/whatever before giving it to God, kiddos!

Wowsers. Even my partner said some of this stuff was boring.

Peace be upon you.