President’s Day Reading Catch-up
Days 13-17 – Numbers 33 – Joshua 24
Nothing like a long weekend to help you catch up on some reading, eh? Or, in my case, nothing like a long weekend with your family at a waterpark to wreck havoc on your good intentions. I feel like there is some kind of parallel between this weekend and the Hebrew people’s journey in the wilderness. Hear me out – they want to do the right thing, the thing God has called them to do, but something always seems to get in their way and distract them. They assume it’s going to be easy and, predictably, it never is. We’re still reading some difficult passages and truth be told, I’m looking forward to the end of this section.
This is a big chunk of the OT and by the time we finish it we’ll be out of the Torah and onto Joshua. That’s gotta mean something, right?
- Numbers 33 feels like a sitcom “clips” show. You know the episode I’m talking about? One of those shows that claims to be all new but it’s really just a collection of clips from the previous episodes. That’s what we’re dealing with here. A recap of what we just read in the previous 32 chapters. Actually, it’s helpful for me to reread this whole section. Nice to remind yourself how everybody got to where they are.
- Numbers 35 – Cities of refuge for those seeking asylum. I love this concept. Where are the places of security, refuge and sanctuary in our world today? Where do we allow the accused, the frightened, and worrisome?
- Again, I’m concerned with this approach to reading scripture. I know there are some subtle differences between the similar events that are retold in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, but for the life of me, I can’t pick them out while reading this much this fast. What I am discovering are the larger themes and ideas that permeate throughout the meta-narrative – God’s continual presence, call and response, the need for obedience, humanity’s shortcomings, and the ability to forgive – just to name a few.
- Moses is again reminded that he will not enter into Canaan. What must he have felt to know that his children and grandchildren would see the land he had longed for for so long? Is that a comfort to us? To know our children will experience great joy, even if we do not?
- Retelling the 10 commandments – Deuteronomy 5
- Best part of Deuteronomy – 6:4-9 – SHEMA!!! I may not remember much else from my seminary Hebrew classes than these wonderful verses. This sticks and it should stick. I want to remember these verses- To keep these words. To share these words.
- Big warning – Deut 8:19 If you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
- Hooray! More food laws! I was wondering if I should eat roebuck or the buzzard. Guess not.
- Deuteronomy 15:10 – Give liberally and ungrudging when you do so
- And here come the sexuality laws…Deuteronomy 22…this deserves more attention…in another post…on another day…
- Fun new law I just learned? Deuteronomy 23:24 – If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.
- Laws usually develop because of the actions of a community. I’d like to know the origin of this particular law and want to know how many times it occurred to warrant recording it in Deuteronomy 25:11-12 – If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show her no pity.
- Wrapping Deuteronomy up with another recap, this time set to a song. Way to go, Moses. I didn’t realize you had some music skills in addition to all the prophetic stuff!
- Moses’ eulogy is beautiful, fitting, and a nice conclusion to the Torah.
- It’s the turning point! We’re in Joshua!
- And let’s also welcome Rahab onto the scene. Her story is a pretty fantastic one – this foreign woman is responsible for giving the Israelites what they needed to come into the land and survive. She is one of many “women of questionable backgrounds” who proves to be part of the great story of all of God’s people. God chooses the most unlikely, even you and me. Her quick thinking and wise words make all the difference.
- Joshua 5:15 – Josh takes off his sandals in the presence of God’s holy messenger…very similar to Moses removing his shoes in front of the burning bush. Bottom line? Take off your shoes in the presence of the divine.
- Those sneaky Gibeonites tried to pull a fast one on Joshua. Didn’t seem to work out in their favor (Joshua 9).
- Joshua 12 is the list of kings defeated. That’s, um, a lot of war. A whole lot of war.
- Dividing up the conquered land – give it to the tribes, give the Levites their due, and make sure you set up cities of refuge. I think I got this section. Bring on Judges.
Posted in Bible in 90 Days, Genesis in Lent
Tagged Andrew Pomerville, Bible, Deuteronomy, Gibeonites, Joshua, Moses, Rahab, Reading, Robert Burns, Roebuck, The Bible in 90 Days, The Peoples Church of East Lansing, The Shema
Day 5 – Exodus 1-15
My image of Moses is, unfortunately, built on the pictures from the classic movie “The Ten Commandments.” Charlton Heston is the model I have for Moses. At least, he was until we watched the newest incarnation of this second book of the bible in the Hollywood extravaganza that was “Exodus” with Christian Bale in the Moses role. My wife, Rachell, loves Christian Bale. Anything he is in, including the vastly underrated “Reign of Fire,” and she’ll watch it over and over. Without any shame, I’ll admit that I was equally excited to see “Exodus” in the theater a couple of months back.
While I’m not trying to do a movie review, I do have to recognize the cinematic choices made in the new film that left an impression on how I see the first chapters of Exodus that I read today. You see, the choice in the movie to have God displayed as a defiant child has stuck with me. As I read today’s passages, I tried to see that picture of God and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Imaging God, the God of Exodus, pre-NT, is never an easy task for me. Most Christians can jump easily to the incarnational God we encounter in Jesus of Nazareth and use that image for God in all parts of the scripture. For me, that doesn’t quite suffice. It’s too easy of an out and my unimaginative brain can’t process it. So, I’m stuck with the images provided in children’s bibles, Hollywood, and campy religious artwork.
Which is why the picture of a child sticks with me. God as a child is not the God I want to see. I want a God who is powerful, authoritative, and in charge in a way that I am not. As a 34 year old man, I want someone older, stronger, and better than me, not someone who resembles my children. Likewise, I want Moses to be the squarejawed Bale or the gun-toting Heston. Seriously, I want Moses, the prophet and messenger of God, to be equally obvious and intimidating. I want Moses to command the scene and those two over the top actors certainly do that.
The problem is in the scripture, because the Moses of Exodus does not claim the scene the same way as the actors who portray him. Far from it – he appears to doubt, dither, and worry. He cannot trust the words of God and he needs his brother to speak for him. He is much more human and fallible than the Hollywood versions of this patriarch of the faith.
Which do you see when you read?
G— and K—- (and other readers), what is your image of Moses? Who do you see? What about God? What is the sound of God’s voice in your heads?
- I’ve always wondered how the Israelite people allowed themselves (or were forced?) to be taken into slavery. They obviously started off with somewhat equal standing among the Egyptian people. If they were so numerous and potentially prosperous, how did this happen?
- Infanticide and the slaughtering of innocent children – this is not the last time we encounter this horrific act in the Bible. There are no words to understand this tragic response to a threat. Who does this?!?
- Fun, less destructive side note – Exodus 1:20 is the first example of “Elohim” as a title for God. Maybe that’s just fun to me?
- I absolutely love Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. Taking his sandals off because he’s standing on Holy Ground? What an incredible passage…Where are the holy places in our lives where we remove our shoes out of respect, awe, and wonder? Do we have any?
- The continuation of the story. It’s great to see Exodus flow out of Genesis. It’s a good sequel.
- Do people only believe when they see or experience signs and wonders? Are they more likely to believe? What about us, the people who don’t get to see staves turn into snakes and hands turn from leprosy to cleansed? What signs do we see in our lives?
- I know, I know, this may be a bit irreverent but Pharaoh’s line in Exodus 5:2 (Who is the LORD?) feels an awful lot like General Zod in Superman II saying, “Who is this, Superman?”
- Odd interlude talking about the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in chapter 6. Seems a bit out of place, eh?
- Ranking the plagues? Is that something people do?
- My dad used to go around the house saying, “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” I like this response to my children when I give them a negative answer to their requests.
- There is a shift from Pharaoh hardening his own heart to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. I love this image and this transition.
- The first Passover and all of the subsequent memories of that day…I’ve celebrated Passover with a Seder at various times of the past few years and I cannot think of a better way to remember the history of God. We’ll be having a Seder at The Peoples Church of East Lansing again this year on Maundy Thursday. At the end, we’ll be spoiled to enjoy the music of a local Klesmer band led by our very own church sound technician, Will Cicola!
- 430 years in Egypt before heading back home. To put that in perspective, Europeans have only been in the country we now call America for a bit more than 500 years.
- I wish I could write a song like Moses.
Posted in Bible in 90 Days
Tagged Andrew Pomerville, Bible, Charlton Heston, Christian Bale, Doubts, Exodus, General Zod, Hollywood, Incarnation, Plagues, Reading, The Bible in 90 Days, The Peoples Church of East Lansing, Who is this Superman?
Dreamweaver – Day 4 – February 4 – 90 Days through the Bible
My friend from Alma College, Chris LaCroix, was in the traveling Broadway company version of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I remember going to see Chris out in Brooklyn for a show. He played the Butler (or the Cupbearer Genesis identifies him). Rachell, my wife, and I were so excited to see our dear friend up there on a huge stage with a professional company. When his scenes came, we were overwhelmingly excited for him and I must admit, we paid extra attention. Chris, of course, was phenomenal and while we were a bit biased in our review of his performance, I was amazed by the role of the butler in the narrative. Joseph has one dream as a teenager and then no more. It’s the dreams of others that he interprets and makes sense of. Moreover, it’s the reaction of those who have their dreams interpreted that change the fortunes from Joseph.
Yet throughout the who process, Joseph gives credit and thanksgiving to God’s hand in the process. He has such a firm grasp of providence that necessarily believes God is acting in the good and the bad. There is such hope in that kind of faith, but man, is that a tough theology to realize at all times and in all places. I admit I struggle with that interpretation of God. I want to believe but doubts make it so hard at times.
If anything, the ending of Genesis is helping me appreciate the faith with have in God’s role in our families, our work, our community, and our world. My dreams include the desire to experience and feel God’s presence in all things…as well as the ability to give thanks.
- Joseph waits in the cell for another two years before Pharaoh has a dream that needs interpreting by Joe.
- “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Great answer, Joseph (Gen 41:16).
- Joseph’s new name is Zaphenathpaneah…I liked Joe better.
- I’ve never understood the trick Joseph plays on his brother. Revenge? Spite? Just teaching them a lesson? Fear of being known? Why do we do things like this to one another?
- Rueben is willing to sacrifice two of his own sons if Benjamin does not return? Would Jacob have been willing to go along with the murder of two of his grandsons?
- I am Joseph. With that one statement, everything changes. Amazing how recognition can lead to an epiphany can lead to a changed life.
- Joseph tells them God sent him to Egypt, not them.
- Imagine Jacob’s delight in knowing he had a chance to see his son, the son he thought dead, again in the flesh. Any of us who have lost a loved one imagine that moment, that hope. This is pure passion and ecstasy.
- “Few and hard have been the years of my life.” Well said, Jacob. Well said. (Gen 47:9)
Posted in Bible in 90 Days
Tagged Andrew Pomerville, Bible, Chris Lacroix, Dreaming, Dreams, Genesis, Joseph, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Reading, The Bible in 90 Days, The Peoples Church of East Lansing