yirah

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.

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Day 43

THE END IS NIGH!

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

Time to play catch up.


Genesis 42

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

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

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

Favorite Quote:

“Do this and live, for I fear God.”

— Joseph, Genesis 42:18

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


Genesis 43

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Quote:

“If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

— Israel, Genesis 43:14

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

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.

Day 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