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Psalms that make you go hmmmm….

Psalm 82 (JPS) – A Psalm of Asaph.

God stands in the devine assembly;
among the devine beings He pronounces judgement.
How long will you judge perversely,
showing favor to the wicked? Selah.
Judge the wretched and the orphan,
vindicate the lowly and the poor,
rescue the wretched and the needy;
save them from the hand of the wicked.

They neither know nor understand,
they go about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth totter.
I had taken you for divine beings,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
but you shall die as men do,
fall like any prince.

Arise, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are Your possession.

Any thoughts?

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Let’s see… where was I?

So the holidays are over, and it’s high time I got back on track with the whole posting thing. I’ve been reading semi-regularly and am currently about halfway through Nehemiah.

Since I didn’t get around to posting much over the past few months, I covered a lot of reading without saying much.  I’ll do a quick recap from what I can remember… I think my last mention was of First Kings…

  • Chronicles and Kings complement each other and basically cover the same (very long) chunk of history.  Kings is insanely hard to follow because it keeps jumping back and forth with each generation between the royal lineage of Judah and Isreal.  Chronicles only follows Judah, so it’s a little easier to follow.  When I get the chance, I would love to go back and actually do a timeline to lay out the rules, cuz I think it’d be interesting to see.
  • Comically enough, this read through is the first time it actually DAWNED on me that Israel and Judah were two separate kingdoms and had two separate lines of kings… how on EARTH did I miss that the first two times I read the old testament??  I’m aghast, but it really does make the rest of the Bible make a LOT more sense! lol.

Let’s see, what else…

  • Some REALLY cool stuff happened in the stories of different prophets — peppered here and there through the four books — a lot more than just the few things we hear taught about.  I’ll have to go back and make a list of them at some point. 
  • I developed a much greater respect for Solomon – I always had a kind of mild disdain for him, not quite sure why.
  • There’s a very beautiful prayer for the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kings 8 — very much worth the read, it made me cry – I think it’s repeated somewhere in Chronicles too.
  • Reading about Elisha and Elijah this time around gave me the distinct impression that Elisha was like a puppy dog following Elijah around … :)
  • not much I can think to mention about Ezra right now
  • I’m about halfway through Nehemiah, and all I have to say right now is that the wall of Jerusalem was one ENORMOUS wall lol.

I’m trying to get back on a daily or bi-daily posting schedule from here on out, here’s hoping I manage :)

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What an ass!

Balaam’s, that is. A loyal ass indeed.

I finished Numbers today, but I’m starting in Numbers 22. I imagine most everyone has heard the story of Balaam and his ass, but it gets glossed over most of the time and shrunk down to a silly story about a donkey talking.

So here’s the full story:

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Fatherly love and a little blue ribbon…

Yikes, I’ve gotten really bad at this posting regularly thing. I’ve gotten kinda bad about reading too, I’m still reading more than I used to but I’m very far from every day. Once again I’m going to try to start doing it again, mostly selfishly because I was doing better and getting more done when I was keeping up, but also because I felt like I was getting closer to getting to a place where God can actually use me for something.

Anywho, I’m in Numbers now. I’ve discovered I have to read the old testament in my old trusty KJV bible because it has pronunciation guides on all of the names, and without those I find myself just skimming past everything I can’t pronounce, how silly is that?

Most people seem to think Numbers is boring. I have to vehemently disagree. I’ve always loved Numbers… it might be my love of math and numbers tricking me, but I don’t think so.

Numbers is full of mundane lists where it first describes in detail a commandment and how it’s supposed to be handled for each tribe, then describes in detail how the commandment is carried out for each of the 12 tribes then gives a summation besides. Those can get annoying, especially when you’re tired. I think most people read the first one then skip to the end. I can’t bring myself to do that for fear there will be a small difference in one account that I’ll miss. I think it’s better that way, because after you’ve read through a few of those long accounts, you notice the other things more.

And there are a lot of other things in the book of Numbers, that’s why it’s so interesting.

Here are a couple that caught my attention last night.

  • In chapter 12 Aaron and Miriam (Aaron’s sister) “spake against” Moses because he had taken an Ethiopian wife. Now, it doesn’t say what they said about that really, it doesn’t even say if they said it in the presence of anyone else or if they were just talking between themselves. It strikes me that perhaps it could have been some kind of racial issue, but I don’t know that for sure. It does say that in the process they said “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath He not spoken also by us?”

    Now, Moses had been using Aaron as his ‘mouth’ to the people ever since he went back to Egypt. God would tell him something, he would tell Aaron, and Aaron would talk to the people. Aaron had since been consecrated as high priest, and no doubt had communion with God. Miriam was known as a prophetess. (And for that matter, the previous chapter explains how God had just poured out His Spirit on the elders and over 70 of them had begun prophesying). So what Aaron said was true, God had spoken also by them.

    However, God was so aggravated by Aaron and Miriam that he felt the need to personally call them out. He called the three of them into the tabernacle, came down in the cloud, and spoke to them. He explained that for everyone except Moses if he wanted to talk to them He came in a dream or a vision, but with Moses he spoke face to face. He then asked them why they weren’t afraid to speak against Moses and left (at that time, the cloud only departed from the tabernacle when the Israelites were supposed to travel, but this time He just left in anger. Miriam was struck with leprosy and had to be put out of the camp for seven days (after which the Lord healed her). They didn’t begin traveling until after this time.

    I’ve gone on for a while about this one, but I think it’s a rather important glimpse of God’s character. When Moses beseeched the Lord on Miriam’s behalf, His reply was “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days”.

    Wow… God was comparing inflicting Miriam with leprosy with ‘spitting in his daughter’s face’ to shame her for her actions. This is both repulsive, and comforting at the same time. I’m not sure I like the idea of spitting in someone’s face as a form of discipline, but it is universal for “you disgust me”. God was disgusted by their attitude (and it’s worth noting that I imagine Aaron would have suffered a similar fate, except that he was High Priest, and all of Gods people would have suffered if the High Priest had been defiled with leprosy), but in his disgust he was still calling them children, and this is comforting to me.

  • Later (chapter 16 starting at vs 37), after someone had been found working on the sabbath, God set a tradition I don’t even remember hearing about before. God asked Moses to setup a tradition (that was to be long-standing throughout the generations) of putting a hem of blue ribbon at the bottom of all of their garments. This was to serve as a reminder to remember the statutes of God.

    I know that there are a number of reminders that God setup throughout the Old Testament, holidays and festivals, and various other things, but this one is incredibly simple, and yet very obvious.

    If everyone in the entire camp was to wear a blue ribbon on their garments they would have been immediately recognizable as a group. Like a person today can immediately recognize an Amish person by their dress, anyone would have been able to recognize an Israelite (yes, it’s possible that other people had blue hems on their garments, but seeing just a few together would make it obvious that they were Israelites).

    Why don’t Israelites wear blue anymore? When did they stop? I’m curious about this because I don’t even remember reading about it in the first place before.

    Imagine if all Christians did this today? Something as simple as a ribbon on the bottom of their garments would have really been a big deal in daily life. There’s the sense that people are always watching Christians to see if they do something sinful, but only people who know you hold the faith will know to watch. But if we all had to wear blue ribbon on our clothes, and were immediately recognizable, everyone around us would know who we were. How much more careful would you be? There would also be an immediate recognition of fellow Christians. After a while you might get used to wearing it though, and if you were in a Christian community you would probably get to the place where you eventually didn’t notice very much.

    Here’s the kicker though. True Christians DO have a marker, but it’s not visible. Ever had someone hate you for no reason, and find out later that it was because they resented you for being a Christian even though you never told them you were? Ever had some stranger come up to you in public and say “hey, you’re a Christian aren’t you?”.

    The marker we have is the Spirit, and most people seem to recognize it instinctively, even though they may not realize what it is they’re recognizing. I think we can get numb to it over time. I believe that people with a different spirit recognize it immediately. When a Christian does something not-so-Christian, even when he’s in a place where he doesn’t know anyone, there’s a pretty good chance that people are going to know, and their opinion of God is going to be influenced.

    Think about that… “that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye used to go a-whoring: That ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God.”

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Is Leviticus depressing?

I just finished reading Leviticus. I have gotten behind on my reading, and I was in the mood to read today, so I read almost the entire book today (I had read the first few chapters yesterday). I talked with a friend later who made the comment that Leviticus is a depressing book…

I honestly hadn’t found it depressing. I suppose perhaps I should have. The entire book of Leviticus is about laying out the sacrifices necessary to atone for sins, laying out the law on what is considered sinful, what makes one unclean, etc., etc. The book lays out the blessings that will follow if the laws are kept, and the punishments that will follow if they are not.

It is depressing on the one hand, because it makes our imperfection very obvious — there are so many things that we do without even thinking most times that are sinful and displeasing to God. Everywhere we turn is a stumbling block or a temptation. Certain sins required stoning, and there was even a point where some of Aaron’s sons were struck down by God for worshiping in a strange way that was not prescribed.

On the other hand, it isn’t depressing — for every sin done in ignorance there was a restitution laid out. Yes, it was expensive, but there were even alternatives for those who were too poor to afford the normal offering. When God’s people were keeping his commandments the blessings they were to receive were astounding, and it seems that a people that blessed, that able to see miracles up close and personal, should rightly be expected to keep a higher standard.

But knowing we humans will always screw up and fall short, it would certainly be depressing if it had ended there. Thank God for His mercy, and for the Ultimate Sacrifice.

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the first Bible college

As I was reading through Exodus (chapters 14 through 26 or so) today, it caught my eye that Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights when God gave him the commandments. All too often, we highlight the 10 commandments, then perhaps skip ahead to the scripture shortly after this to talk about the fact that the Israelites got restless and made themselves an idol and Moses broke the tablets…

But most of us never really realize that Moses was up on that mountain for 40 days and 40 nights getting instruction from God. God spent 40 days teaching Moses the rest of His law, showing him blueprints for the tabernacle and the ark and everything else.

This wasn’t the first time that God had spent an extended amount of time teaching Moses, either… Moses didn’t just see the burning bush then run off to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Moses spent quite a long learning from God and preparing before God sent him back to Egypt.

I’m tempted to write a expound on this, but I can’t seem to focus my thoughts on the subject, so I’ll leave it here for now :)

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obscure passage

Well I just read exodus, chapters 1 thru 14. I’ve heard this story so many times that not much impressed me this time around (I’m not doing an in-depth study, remember), except for the little aside in Exodus 4:24-26

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.
Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

Now, to understand the context… Moses was an Israelite and had been nursed by his own mother, but had been raised as Pharaoh’s nephew, so he most likely didn’t know much of the customs of his people. He had fled Egypt after killing a guard and had taken Zipporah as a wife. This passage comes a while after Moses had the conversation with God (from the burning bush), in which he had to ask what God’s name was, because he didn’t know what the Israelites called their God.

Moses would have been circumcised, because his mother didn’t put him in the bulrushes until he was well past the 8 day mark, but chances are he didn’t know much about it. This passage comes as Moses is taking his family back to Egypt to meet up with Aaron and start the job of getting Pharaoh to let His people go.

I don’t even recall having read this passage before, but the defining mark of an Israelite is the circumcision, and Moses’ son would not have been circumcised, as his father-in-law was a priest of Midian (quick edit, I originally thought Midian was a false god, but it turns out it was a place, and his father in law was actually a priest of God) and Moses probably didn’t know much about circumcision himself (quick edit, I’m assuming the priest fo Midian was not Hebrew, so would not have practiced circumcision).

This passage is rather obscure — it appears that the Lord was threatening to kill Moses until his wife circumcised his son, at which point he backed off and let him go. Perhaps it was necessary for his son to be circumcised before he went to work for the Lord, but a previous verse mentions him having “sons”, and this verse only mentions the one. Also, this passage seems to omit any dialog that happened that would have caused his wife to suddenly circumcise her son, so this whole passage remains a bit of a mystery to me…

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Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

Genesis 39-50

I read the end of Genesis today, starting where Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.

It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to brag about his dreams to his brothers, but all in all, Joseph was a pretty wise man. He was obviously hurt and upset over everything that happened to him becuase of his brothers selling him into slavery. He made this clear, and made them jump through hoops before even letting them know he was alive, but he had the power to enact vengeance and chose not to, instead leaving that to God, saying, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (50:19).

He recognized that God had worked all things together (even the bad things which He did not cause) in his life, for the good of all, and even if his brothers hadn’t lied to tryto protect themselves, I don’t believe he would have harmed them.

As for Isreal, even in his old age — as he was about to die — and even though he was nearly blind, he was clear enough in mind and spirit to bless his grandsons according to their future rather than according to their age. He was also clear enough to remember and bless each of his sons accordingly… even when that meant being brutally honest.

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What happened to you?

I read about 14 chapters of Genesis yesterday, and fell asleep when I went to blog about it. I didn’t really come across much that I felt like blogging about, so I’ll just mention some of the small things I noticed…

  1. When Abraham told Ambimilech that Sarah was his sister (she was his half sister, but she was also his wife!) he took her as his wife, but God prevented him from making the marriage official, and when he finally found out the truth his response was “what happened to you, that you would do this to me?”. That reaction is very amusing to me
  2. Poor Ambimilech… not only did Abraham put him in harms way by telling him Sarah was his sister … but years later Isaac did the same thing! Now, it could be a different Ambimilech I guess (perhaps they always named their king that), but it’s rather amusing either way — mainly because he learned his lesson with Abraham and figured out what Isaac had done before he tried to take Rebekah as his wife.
  3. Sarcasm was alive and well at least as far back as Esau — he came in from hunting, hungry, and his brother was cooking soup… when he asked for some, his brother asked for his birthright in trade. Esau’s response, while foolish, was also very sarcastic (paraphrased): “what good will my birthright do me if I starve to death?”
  4. When Jacob fled his father-in-law’s house and went off in the night to settle on his own, Rachel stole her father’s idols. I had always thought that Jacob found out about it eventually, but I didn’t see any record of that at all. Years later he does rid his household of idols, but there’s no indication that this had anything to do with the ones Rachel stole.

I’ll be having company for the next few days, and will probably not find much time to blog, but if I get a chance I will.

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But… but… but… but…

Ok I’m really tired, I’ve had less than 5 hours of sleep a night for 3 nights running, and about 3 hours sleep last night. I’m on my way to bed, but wanted to drop a quick entry before I go.

I read Genesis 14-19 today, and in my tired state, the one thing that stuck out was the passage in Genesis 18:23-33 where Abraham kept questioning God regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God had said that if he found 50 righteous, he would not destroy the place, and Abraham felt the need to keep whittling away at the number. But what about 45? But what about 40? But what about 30? But what about 20? But what about 10?

It reminds me of a 5 year old with a case of the “but why”‘s. Abraham already knew that God would do the right thing, but he was scared for Lot and kept quizzing God about it anyway. It’s even more amusing given the fact that it’s written out so tediously.

I remember talking about this scripture with a friend a while back and coming to the conclusion that in this case, God deemed Sodom and Gomorrah too far gone to spare — He didn’t find even the ten — but he did find a few, and took special care to go in and pull them out before inflicting his judgment — and this is precisely what He is doing for us now.

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