prayer

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.

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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 107

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

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

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

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

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


Leviticus 17

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

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

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

— Leviticus 17:16, NKJV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 54

Ohhhhh, I am behind on everything! No time to waste!


Exodus 4

God starts pulling out the miracles on this one. Moses is still expressing his doubts that the people should listen to him, so God turns his rod into a serpent (and back again) and also tells Moses to tuck his hand into his clothes. When Moses draws his hand out of his bosom, it is white as snow, appearing ill. He repeats the process and the hand returns to normal. Ta-da!

Still Moses expresses his doubts. “I am slow of speech,” he says, in Exodus 4:10, and God just tells him, “Look, I made your mouth. I’m the one who decides who is mute or deaf or blind. If I say you can do it, just do it.”

Moses: “Couldn’t you just send someone else?”

God: “Oh, for My sake…” God rubs His eyebrows and sighs. “Look, you don’t always have to take everything so literally… I just… Fine. I’ll spell it out for you: You tell your brother Aaron what to say and he’ll do the talking. He will be your mouth.”

Moses finally gets the picture, and having been told by God that no one in Egypt still has it out for him, he bids farewell to Jethro and returns to the land of his birth. God warns Moses that He will “harden [Pharaoh’s] heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exod 4:21). This one I had to look up.

Matthew Henry makes the point that

“Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the oppressed Israelites; and now God, in the way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart against the teaching of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues. But whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses must tell him, Thus saith the Lord.”¹

I find this part super interesting because a point of contention in the past between myself and my partner is the way that people understand/accept or fail to understand/accept God. What I’ve heard from her and from other Christians in the past is a belief that everyone, every single person, essentially will have God revealed to them and has a choice to make. I agree and I disagree.

The teachings of Christianity have been around for over a thousand years now, but there were not always central churches. Those grew and came later. Once things got organized, people went around farther and farther to spread the word. My point is, a thousand years ago in the middle of Africa or China, or North America for that matter, what experience did anyone have with the God of Abraham?

There is an old joke or apocryphal story that goes like this:

A missionary travels to a remote village to spread the gospel. He talks with everyone there about Jesus, telling them that if they do not accept Jesus into their hearts, they will burn in hell for all eternity. Before the missionary leaves, the tribal elder asks, “What if we had never heard about Jesus? Would we still burn in hell?” The missionary replies, “No, I suppose you would go to heaven for all eternity,” to which the elder replies “Then why the hell did you tell us!?”

The article that I paraphrased this from is from a blog called 500 Questions and they all pertain to God and Christianity. Seems pretty interesting, and I may have to check it out. But anyway.

Do I believe that we can all experience the numinous, that we can all experience awe and come face-to-face with infinity? Truly, any human being that has looked to the stars at night has probably felt this feeling, no matter where they are in the world. When we gaze deeply into a pool of water, focus our attention on a flower or a lover, when we turn our attention inward and lose the boundaries between ourselves and the world… we experience what Christians call the Holy Spirit, we perceive the feeling of God.

But I don’t think that this is enough if we accept the belief that God has specific rules and desires for us. If God wants us to behave a certain way, then why do we have so many different cultures with different beliefs? Why do we have polytheism and ancestor worship and whatever else? And what is to become of these people? The article I mentioned cites several verses that seem to answer this question but I do not know them in context.

If we accept the Bible as literal, through-and-through, then we have problems. Specifically, John 14:6.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him. So what of all those people that never got the chance to hear about Jesus? It would not be fair to condemn them to an eternity in Hell if they didn’t get the memo. And if they’re not going to be condemned to Hell specifically because of their ignorance then why tell them about Jesus in the first place?

The author of 500 Questions makes this point in his article:

“If the ignorant are excused from sin and wrath, then the first rule of Christianity should be ‘Don’t talk about Christianity,’ because it only brings condemnation.”

Even if you make the point that there are “natural laws” or our conscience or whatever that gives us a sense of right and wrong, even this is a product of culture and time. To the ancient Greeks, homosexuality wasn’t even a thing, for example. Hell, even in America, prior to the 70s and 80s there was no grand polyamorous or promiscuous homosexual subculture to be condemned by modern conservatives. In other parts of the world and in other times, people learn values, morals, and ethics according to their culture and what they are taught by their parents and their society. Hell again! Americans pledge allegiance to their country and the flag every day in schools and I’ve heard some people from other countries who see this common ritual as horrifying, smacking of blind nationalism.

Do I agree that everyone can find peace, love, and acceptance within themselves? Absolutely. Different cultures have different styles of prayer and meditation, but overall I feel that we all reach out or reach in to the same transcendental states. Our experience of these states and the feelings we find within are subjective, shaped by our experience and our worldview.

And what happens if we feel this feeling in a church? In a forest? In a mosque? What are we to believe?

And beyond that, what if we never feel this feeling at all, or only very faintly because we are lost, alone, and have just been beaten down and s*** on our entire lives? Or what if we have been broken more slowly, sat in front of a television from a young age, never finding joy in the natural world or the vast infinite potential within ourselves?

I’m going to share with you the most sacrilegious song I can think of because it helps illustrate my point. In my world, God has a sense of humor, so I apologize if in yours He does not. Not much I can do about that. Warning: serious language and blasphemy!

In this song, people living in Africa sing about all the things that trouble them, and finish by shouting “Hasa diga Eebowai!” We (and the horrified Mormon missionaries) learn that this means “F*** you, God!” See what I mean about sacrilegious?

But the thing is, even though this song is played for comedic effect, there are people who feel this way! You’ve probably met some of them. There are people who are angry at God, who resist God, who deny God for various reasons. How, pray tell, is a person like that supposed to accept a kind and loving God?

In my view, this lack of acceptance of God comes from a misunderstanding of the very concept of God. I’ve said it before: God is not a genie who grants wishes. I don’t even see God as a person, certainly not the Caucasian bearded male of old European art. Now, Jesus was a person, yes… but that’s another part of the Trinity. The same and different, I get it.

If God is a force, an eternal infinite Being that resides within all of us and everything, then honestly we have no problems. This view of God, my view of God, leads to peace and acceptance of what is. There are no “shoulds” and “should-nots” in my world. In the human view, could the world be better? Yes, of course. We have so much suffering and so many hurt and downtrodden and victimized people…

However!! (I had a point a long time ago, and I’m getting back to it, I swear.) JUST LIKE GOD HAD HARDENED PHARAOH’S HEART, knowing that Pharaoh would bring more suffering, this was a natural consequence of Pharaoh’s actions. Pharaoh was not about to suddenly and miraculously have a change of heart; the Israelites had to endure their trials and things had to happen the way they did and so on and so on down the line until Jesus and so on until TODAY! (See? Told you.)

BUT! Just as God is the impetus for all the events of the universe, these events and all the participants are of and within God. God hardens the heart of the Pharaoh even in the face of miracles, Old-Testament-style turning rods into snakes and s***.

If Pharaoh’s heart can be hardened against a miracle, then so too can the hearts of men be hardened against God through no fault of their own. It is simply the way of the world.

The “eternal punishment” of these people is that they shall burn in the fires of their own jealousy, anger, and fear for the entirety of their lives. They will find misery and will be unsure and unknowing of their place in the universe; they will resist life and all its wonders.

However! Those that learn, understand, and accept God will find peace in the Now, will find acceptance of the present moment and their circumstances, and will be blessed with a worldview where everything is indeed perfect, a life that some would call “Heaven.” The human part of me sometimes rejects or resists my circumstances, but the spark of infinite “divine” awareness flows with these moments and finds the silver linings where the human mind sees only clouds.

Accepting God requires a subjective understanding of God; God must be taught to people in a way that makes sense to them. When I talk to God, when I pray and when I listen, there is both humor and seriousness. I see the absurdity of life, the lack of provable objectivity in the universe, the limitations of science and of faith and God has met me halfway. He has presented himself in a way that I understand and accept. Some Christians say that this will eventually happen to everyone. To me, that is unknowable. All I can say for certain is that it has happened to me.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=2&c=4

Day 32

I was digging through some old posts today, looking to see if I’d talked about a particular idea yet, and I remembered my Medicine Cards and decided to draw one. After some shuffling and deliberation, I fanned through the deck and drew forth… Contrary Blank. Same as last time.

We’ll see what I draw forth tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post was more the kind of thing I envisioned when I started this blog, as opposed to a breakdown of verses and chapters. But when it comes to the long view, I am still in the earliest stages. My first month of this project is behind me, and many more months yet lie ahead.


Genesis 31

In Genesis 31, Jacob leaves the house and land of Laban for his home. He takes his wives and children, all his flocks and servants, and steals away before Laban is aware. This chapter also seems to indicate (through a vision that Jacob received in a dream) that it was God’s will that Jacob would come to possess the largest flocks and the best animals. God knew that Laban had cheated Jacob, had “changed [his] wages ten times,” and Laban lost much of the greatness of his flocks for having wronged Jacob (Genesis 31:7).

Laban catches up with Jacob and accuses him of stealing his idols. Jacob denies this and tells him to search for the man who took them and feel free to kill him. Jacob does not realize that Rachel, his wife, took the idols, but Rachel conceals them from her father and he comes up empty-handed. Jacob rebukes him for this false accusation, and together they come to an understanding. They make a pillar and a covenant, which basically amounts to “You stay on that side, and I’ll stay on this side, and we’ll leave each other alone.”

It is interesting to note that one of the names or titles of God is “the Fear of Isaac,” used in Genesis 31:42 and again mentioned in 31:53. I analyzed the use of the word “fear” back on Day 15, and interested readers will return there to see the three levels of meaning, the last being akin to “reverence” or “awe.”

In the end of this chapter, Laban leaves and returns to his home, leaving Jacob in peace.


Genesis 32

Jacob witnesses the angels of the Lord at his camp, and recognizes that God is with him. He knows that in the past twenty years that Laban kept him, Esau has become a leader of men in the land of Seir. Jacob sends a message to his brother, asking for his brother’s favor and telling Esau of his time with Laban. The messengers return, telling Jacob that Esau is coming with four hundred men.

Jacob divides his forces and flocks, and is afraid. He prays to God that night, humbling himself before the Lord and praising God for His assistance. He prays that God will deliver him from his brother Esau.

Jacob takes huge numbers of livestock and sends them as tribute to Esau. He tells his servants to let Esau know that Jacob is sending these gifts, and in this way he hopes to appease his brother’s anger.

I find this interesting because a common point of theological contention between myself and my partner is the idea of condoning behavior by association. My partner is a passionate and outspoken woman, and not known for her willingness to compromise on matters of importance. She is not afraid to share her opinion, and to me is representative of Christians who know that they will bear their faith like a cross. Many of them know that they will be condemned by the world, and take this as a point of pride. I cannot say if my partner feels this way, or at least in the way that I explain it.

Carl Sagan once said,

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.”

I say also, the fact that some good people are condemned does not imply that all who are condemned are good people. Some Christians go out into the world expecting to be condemned, expecting to be put down or ridiculed, expecting to be criticized, and to them this is proof of their faith. I see the reasoning, but I don’t always agree. Some criticism can be valid, and good criticism (or being a good listener to criticism) can open doors for new understanding.

My point is, instead of being vocal or critical, expressing details that make me different from one another, information that sets me apart from others, I focus on what brings us together first. Once rapport and respect have been established, once a person has been understood, then it is possible to show how your beliefs or your ideas relate to them, showing them the value that they might find.

My girlfriend has, multiple times, quoted a verse or statement about Christians “being in the world, but not a part of the world” or something along those lines. I understand the meaning but I cringe a little on the inside when I hear it. I understand that there is this idea of higher levels of existence, of moving on to Heaven, away from earthly suffering, but to me it sounds so much like creating deliberate distance between oneself and others.

This world has so many wonderful things and wonderful opportunities. There is beauty and joy that can be found, love that can be experienced. There are 7 billion people on this planet, each with different stories and experiences; with so much to learn and do, why would we not want to be a part of it? Why would we not want to join our fellow man in seeking brotherhood and peace? While the message of her statement relates more (I think) to not getting caught up in material things, it sounds like it is used as reasoning to keep oneself separated from other people, and that to me is irreconcilable with who I am and what I do.

Yes, I understand not wanting to condone something indirectly. I have a very close friend who is slowly destroying himself with nicotine and alcohol. Do I think it is okay? Not in the least. I love this bastard to death, but I haven’t yet found something to say or do that will help him change. So do I condemn him for this? Do I focus my attention on telling him the wrong he is doing or the sin he is committing? Or do I recognize that there are underlying needs that are not addressed, that there is underlying emptiness in his heart, and shall I not fill it with my love and friendship for him? Shall I not stand by his side and carry him, even when his injuries are his own doing?

God does not prevent us from harming ourselves. We as a collective species of humanity are very self-destructive, but God does not reach down out of the sky and stop us. We have chosen our lot in life. But God is always present to give us love, to show us both our humility and our worthiness. We get angry, we fight, we get hurt, and we weep… but no matter our shortcomings, God is present to comfort us, to let us rest in the love that He embodies.

My goal, and this is the first time I have worded it this way, is to be an ambassador for God, to show others that His love is the Truth and to show that one doesn’t need to become a pious monk with a stick up his ass to commune with God. God has a sense of humor, and this is apparent if one can recognize the jokes. God wants us to love, laugh, and smile. We are meant to be happy, or at least content and at peace, rather than dour and disagreeable. It is my opinion that being condemning and contrary does not inspire others to join one’s cause. Being open, friendly, accepting, and loving above all else is of the utmost importance. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

Before I get back to Genesis 32, I want to share two videos. The first is from the Christian movement Got a Hug that focuses on expressing and showing love. The second is from a group called The Marin Foundation and the website loveisanorientation.com, which seeks to bridge opposing worldviews.

These videos depict the work of Christians who attend gay pride parades to demonstrate love and acceptance to members of the oft-persecuted LGBT community. Shouting down fire and brimstone and exhorting people to change does not work. Meeting people where they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but coming from a place of love is a much better way to show people that your cause is true and just. In my eyes, some of the most obnoxious types of people are those who believe themselves to be above others because of their beliefs, and would rather look down on others than associate with them, teach them, or (worst of all) learn from them.

All that now said, let us get back to Genesis.

Jacob sets out one evening, after having sent his tribute to Esau, and he sends his wives and servants over the brook to the other side. When he is left alone, a man (Man in NKJV) wrestles with him all throughout the night. Once day breaks, this wrestler dislocates Jacob’s hip with a touch, but Jacob maintains his hold. Jacob seems to recognize this “man” with whom he wrestles, and Jacob says that he will not let go until his opponent blesses him. This mysterious Man blesses Jacob, granting him the new name of Israel, meaning “Prince of God,” for he has “struggled with God and with men, and [has] prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob asks for his opponent’s name, and I can just picture the Lord smiling as He says “Why is it that you ask about My name?”

Matthew Henry writes that this wrestling match between God and Jacob is a way for us to understand the nature of prayer.

“When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer.”¹

I can attest to this, for at times when I have prayed, it is not a simple task but a long and arduous process. Answers and understandings are not always forthcoming, but we must press on if we are to have resolution. When Jacob is finished, the sun is rising; Jacob’s troubled heart is at peace, and he is filled with righteous purpose.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=32