Leviticus 17

This chapter explains a lot, its a bit of a key to the whole book.

First sacrifices were happening anyway. People were sacrificing or dedicating the animals they killed to eat off in the fields and in their far flung homes to goat demons etc.  The superstitions were there.  We saw how easily they fell into worshipping the bull they made. So the temple system viewed in that context centralises and focuses existing practices on the true god, who is present at that location. How often does God revealed 2.0 upgrade the existing spirituality of people?  Christians could learn from this… meet them where they are, channel the shared instincts towards the spiritual.

Second, respect for blood.  Its a form of respecting God’s creation of life. Last chapter I called sacrifice pagan like and ghastly.  But I eat meat, animals die for my plate, and these people faced the reality of killing the animals for their plate in a way I am shielded from.

By respecting the blood, and giving it to God, they are respecting that it is a life a god created life they are taking for their dinner.  Vegetarians can argue whether god intended us to be carnivores, but he did at least make some animals need to eat others.  Its the way of some things.  But within that, there is still a respect for life.  To eat an animal that is not drained of its blood is called bloodshed… it is true killing of the beast.  God wants the blood returned to him, either at the altar or into the dirt.  Modern buzzword would call this mindful meat eating.

Again, it is an upgrade of existing practises, our creator meeting people where they are guiding a people in how to acknowledge him and what is important to him.

I really like the no barriers way of looking at spirituality – christianity is the true path, but God acknowledges the urges in all spirituality.

 

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1 Samuel 12

Samuel’s coronation address. It’s so real, he is very old and makes no bones about having been opposed to having a king. His coronation message: god is king.

He reminds everyone of his record for honesty.

He recites the history of Israel, jumping from Moses to Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and the most recent (last chapter) delivery from the ammonites. This underscores his theme that the peoples faithfullness to God is their salvation, not the status of their leaders.

Then he performs a miracle, calling down thunder and rain at will. It is the harvest season and the weather is clear which makes it a very freakish weather event. He explicitly makes it a demonstration of their sin in wanting a king other than God.

It works and the people ask for his intervention to stop God killing them on the spot.

He says that is not going to happen today, but pleads with them to serve God with all their hearts. Having a king will make no difference to the judgement that will come if they are not faithful. Both they and their king will be swept away.

That’s some coronation speech. 

The kingship winds up having more lows than highs, too. It follows the same depressing trajectory as judges but on a grander scale.

We are all caught in a circle of sin and rebellion. This pattern where we promise to be faithful to God but fail over and over.  God has much more right than us to be cynical of it.

But one response to our own cynicism is to delegate out our responsibility. To trust an earthly king in the form of an ideology, a charismatic leader, a movement. Like Israel’s king, we can have them but they can’t supplant God. They won’t save us. We must be faithful in God as our king.

Genesis 11

The story of the tower of babel is one of my favourites. Genesis reads like my first bible story book, separated by genealogies. Creation, Noah, tower of babel.

It is a tribute to the massive energy of humans that God is impressed, even concerned, by the tower. As high as it is though, he has to come down to see it.

On balance God thinks it’s better to have that energy diluted, so he breaks communication. It is a comment on man’s propensity to sin. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching on earthly authorities, how they are established for our protection, so we don’t kill each other in opportunistic anarchy.

God had to keep reigning in his broken creation to give us space to know him. Left to our own devices, unfettered, in dense concentrations like cities, we achieve marvels, but also have the propensity to destroy each other.

Of course as the modern world has progressed, both the height of buildings and the brokenness of communication is being challenged by our ingenuity again. I am actually incredibly inspired by suggestions that the internet is probably the greatest anti poverty tool ever invented. Google, with hubris, initially called their translation service babelfish, after Douglas Adams (and genesis).

But it’s worth also fearing, the internet hasn’t stopped the world being thrown into the greatest refugee crisis we’ve ever known. The humanist view says better understanding and communication will inevitably improve the world. This story is more cynical. John Lennon wondered if we could imagine no war, just a brotherhood of man. We can’t, it seems.

Father the sadness of the broken world is overwhelming. The reality of how much we need you makes all the silliness of our culture seem all the more shallow. Help me be a burning light for you.

And then we get carefully set out the family line of shem and of terah, all leading to Abram.  Not much to comment here, except that the lifespans are getting shorter the further away from Genesis we get.  We are in an era where they are getting longer. People will routinely start living past 100 again.  Perhaps they will eventually meet up with these biblical figures, which here are around 200.  And of course, we are looking at a family line of Gods interaction with the world.  The family line tht will see the Israelite nation founded and chosen by God, and eventually bring forth the messiah.

Genesis 1

First chapter of Genesis. A great place to start the bible. There is nothing no definition. Just water.

It’s very womb like, it takes us to the mystery of how every life starts. Why do cells start to think?

We are being imprinted like an empty brain getting is first impressions.

Light comes first, out of the darkness, which is monumental, but also indistinct.

And God is there, the hovering spirit, the creator. God made it, God did it, it’s God made life.

Prayer/Meditation break: God was there before I knew what light was. He is in control. I’m not foolish to trust him, even though there is no pattern or poetry discernable at the moment. I seen the light!

Its a song with a refrain: God made it, and it was good.

Emphasis on WAS good, as our globe becomes exposed to higher and higher temperatures, and the activities of humankind generally seem to do as much bad as good.

I started reading Genesis as a new start book, looking for optimism.  I intend to read John’s gospel as well, both of them start with the light.  The creation story told twice.  But the arc of Genesis is not optimisitc, it is tragic.  If I remember rightly it ends with a story of numbing brutality and nastiness, the story of sodom and gomorrah.  But John’s is the messiah story, so perhaps both together will chart a path of saftety through a cruel world.

Its not the best idea to read the bible as a book to fill your needs, like a therapy book, but I think I do need that at the moment.

The vault to separate the waters, which is called sky, and comes after light but before land is hard to understand.  It is the sky as roof to the world, but how it separates the waters is difficult to conceptualise.  It seems like an understanding of the sky pre-solar system, pre knowing the earth is a ball.  Worth remembering when considering the people for whom this story is literal science rather than poetry.

The third day, land and vegetation, brings the refrain that “it was good”.

Patterns

It is the natural human state to believe in God. Every culture has independently stumbled across the idea of God and made it central to their community.   I imagine this story being told to children from the moment they could understand language to explain how the world came to be.  It still is for many children, and other cultures have variations.

I love the way the elements are introduced like a newborn would get the patterns of life.  Children would still be in this process, assimilating the patterns of life, when they heard this story, so it would make perfect sense to them, it is at their experience level.

Reading the story again takes me back to my own uncomplex state, my own creation.

Dividing the creative act into days, and definng the initial elements by simple binaries or separations: darkness, light. Water, sky. Water, land, Day, night.  It is making patterns, bringing meaning into focus: light, then types of light.  The types of light then define time: moon and stars by night, sun by day.  The patterns of binaries stack onto each other and create layered meaning.

The creation of life brings objects into focus.  They are staged in a crescendo of complexity: vegetation.  Seeds and fruit, it is good.  It conjurs up a lush visual and also a practical connection to food.  It all comes from God, it is good, we are loved and cared for by a divine being, there is meaning beyond ourselves.

Fifth day brings fish and birds.  And God didn’t just make them, he made them to make themselves so the sea would be teeming with them and the sky filled with them: abundance.  This is a blessing, goodness from God.  What a huge theme, the theme of God’s overflowing abundant blessing. It is central to his nature as a creator, he creates things that create, resources are beyond our needs.

Then animals.  The order does seems to reflect meaning for people: the crawly things, wild animals then livestock. Multiple subdivisions… each “according to their kinds”, and it is all by God and all good.

And at the apex, men and women, the ones in the image of God. The image of God is male, the image of God is female. Equality is asserted!  They rule the other animals and subdue them.  It is given to us, it exists for us. Seeds and fruit for food, green plants to feed the animals.

It is all very good, seventh day he rests.  New pattern: the week.  The seven day pattern has stuck, its really quite mind blowing.  This pattern here in this ancient text is still a pattern by which our lives are divided.  People mock creationism, saying how ridiculous it sounds to make the whole of it in 7 days, without questioning where the idea of 7 days even came from in the first place.

I noticed that when adolescents rebel against their parents there is an irony – they become more like them the more they try to make their own way.  Because the very structure of their thought processes, their language, their understanding of meaning is so strongly influenced by their parents, the way they process these new found emotions and desires is reflective of the parents they are hating on.  Likewise I think humankind can’t escape their createdness in the image of God through the very act of denying him.

This passage is a huge reason for my belief in God. It makes sense in ways I can’t bring into my conscious state, it makes sense of the natural inclination of people to believe there must be a God. How did patterns come out of chaos?  Why do we gain endless comfort from finding patterns? Why do we have a concept of good?  How are things different (why is dark not light and light not dark?)  It is all given a context and an explanation: God made it.

Prayer/Meditation: Praise God! Praise God praise God!  Have confidence in the purpose of my existence. Have confidence to present God as an answer to people who are struggling.  Its actually almost impossible not to believe in God, atheisim is a complex artifice of a mind in denial.

Return to the start, remember your creation.  I’ve written a lyric for maybe a song about the creation story being everyone’s experience.  When it says male and woman are the image of God, it strikes me that parents are the first god to a baby.

just one cell, floating in a watery night
grew my brain, grew my eyes, one day saw light

one tiny baby, waters all gave way
the sky is up, earth is down, night follows day

create me, make me
Mother god
wrapped in your succour and love endlessly

teeming through infinity, teach me, help me grow
flowers and trees, birds and bees,
teach me to know

Two sleepy people play with me at dawn,
again again, again again, a new day is born,

create me, make me
stroke my busy head to peace, sing rest to me