Deuteronomy 16

The festivals chapter, I always love this (we’ve had it a couple of times by now in the Bible)

Passover, beginning and end of harvest. Everyone is to celebrate, foreigners, the needy, all in. God commands partying!

And the a fair legal system. 

Evangelicals have at times undermined celebrating. Harvest festivals are seen as quaint or irrelevant. But a simple connection between our gratitude, and pleasure in God’s Bounty is a great thing!

Deuteronomy 11

The listeners are the linking generation.

They’ve seen God’s acts: the sea, the water from the rock etc etc. 

They are the ones who must remember God’s character for the next generation in the New land.

It’s a multi chapter sermon on the love God command and it’s flip side: if they don’t love God, the land will be taken from them.

Moses has, with example after example, and with increasingly inspirational rhetoric, encouraged and warned the people about keeping God in their hearts. 

It’s sad in context to recall how literally the Israelites would take the commands to keep the law on their gates and foreheads, considering it’s an impassioned plea about keepin’ it real. 

The first thing they are to do in the holy land is climb two mountains and on one proclaim the blessing of loving God, and on the other the curse of not loving him.

Leviticus 9

It worked! 

They have the tabernacle, they have the priests. 

They do the sacrifices: one for the priests’ sins, one for the people’s sins, a fellowship one, because they are gathering to meet God, a grain one. 

They follow the rules. It is blessed. 

The lord consumes the burnt offering with fire. The people experience his presence and fall down in worship. 

It is a picture of the kingdom. Where they have come from, from slavery, from disrespectful disobedience. They have come into blessing. It is a place of god’s love, and we are aware of the price of it, sin demands death.

Snapshot, freeze Israel. Don’t do anything. 

Exodus 39

The priestly garments. Yes, they are just like God specified on the mountain. The fringe of alternating pomegranate tassels and bells is a great detail.

Moses inspects everything, this amazing collection of items lovingly made to god’s specification from freely offered materials, and blesses it. The climax of almost 10 chapters describing their effort.

Live by his word and be blessed, eh?

Exodus 25

“I’m Christian but I’m not religious” Belief good, religion bad. It’s a common attitude. But as an exercise in practical psychology, i think it is an unachievable standard, a recipe for madness.

Here, in the longest direct communication by God so far I’m the Bible, speaking directly to Moses on a mountain, God designs the bits and pieces of a religion. 

Ark, table and lampstand.

He’s still at it. Jesus turned passover into Easter, and the supper into communion, commanding us to eat the bread and drink the wine when we meet together. Johns gospel is structured around Jesus’ transformation of a series of religious festivals.

I was fascinated in this chapter by the detail of god’s design brief. I mean, he’s the creator so you should expect him to be creative. 

And he uses natural forms. Well of course, that’s his style. The lamp stand is to be one piece like an elegant tree, sweeping from base up to flower branches and buds.
And the artisans did their best and got their best gold and made it all as good as they could and as close to god’s instructions as they could. To God perhaps it looked like kiddie art, about as accurate, fine and utterly loveable as a child’s drawings​ of their parents for mother’s day.

And they got the message that God is important, holy, worth our best, interested in us, enjoys our labour. 

And they got structures for expressing their love for him, something tangible to return to after the crushing failure of their sinful greedy natures. 

Life is a spiritual journey, our battles are spiritual. Religion gives us a symbolic landscape in which to journey and fight. 

Genesis 50

Massive happy ending, a bit of a rarity for old testament books. Joseph buries his father up in Canaan as he requested. 

He forgives his brothers again, emphasising the nature of god’s grace. They did indeed mean him harm but it was all part of the mighty plan, so who is he to hold a grudge. The brother’s do feel truly guilty for what they did.

Joseph lives a long and happy life. 

Genesis 49

Jacob gathers all the sons as he dies. And doesn’t pull any punches giving each a blessing that recalls their strengths and weaknesses in poetic form. 

The first three are strong, but Reuben the first born’s future will be constrained because of his incestuous relationship with Jacob’s concubine.

Simeon and Levi are strong but their bloodthirsty revenge for their sister Dinah back in chapter 34 still stains them. 

So he goes on though them, a clearly messianic prophesy for Judah. He will hold the “rulers scepter” until the one comes who owns it and claims the obedience of nations.

Joseph gets the greatest blessing, the best among brothers, blessed by the almighty, and rightly so. No one can call it boasting now.

And he dies. The one who walked a crooked path to his faith, who struggled with God. The embodiment of the contradictions of genesis, of humanity.

Genesis 41

The epitome of the “old testament story”. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and goes from jail to 2ic in charge of all of Egypt.

One mention of God: as the source of the dream and the interpretation. But he is directing everything.

Everyone in my immediate family is in some kind of pain. And some kind of rebellion against God. Reverse it father, reverse it!

Genesis 27

Coming back to genesis after a hiatus. I realise why I had to stop for a bit, it’s depressing. Once man leaves the garden, its downhill.

Everyone here is awful. It’s a famous story about Jacob cheating his blind old father Isaac to get the oldest son’s birthright.

Everything is wrong. Isaac the father already knows God promised Jacob would be the vehicle of god’s blessing. Yet he wants to give his own blessing to essau. He attempts to hide his cantankerous willfulness from Jacob and God.

Essau is not a holy or disciplined man, he can’t keep away from the local girls despite god’s command, and he impulsively sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Now, late in the piece its important to him again.

Rebecca and Jacob are deceitful, lying and cheating to make sure god’s plan is done rather than trusting him. They act unbelievably poorly, Jacob co-opts god into the lie!

I may not have been enjoying genesis but by golly it is true.

God faces this kind of moral soup from us every day. No one is pure. He must act in our world to save some from the quagmire in love.