Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Rabble Among Them

It’s all about who’s doing the driving ...

“Now the rabble that was among them [Israel] had a strong craving,” the book of Numbers tells us.

The King James translation of this verse is a lot more fun. It reads, “The mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting.” There’s something more than a little amusing about the “fell a lusting” archaism, though the story that follows about this mixed multitude is far from humorous.

Craving led the “mixed multitude” that traveled with Israel to complain, which led to the Israelites around them complaining, and before too long the camp of God’s people was full of weeping and wailing.

Over their diet, of all things. Their very temporary diet. They were on their way to a land of milk and honey, after all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Calf Exercises

How do you go from “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” to “Up, make us gods who shall go before us” in such an insanely short period?

And yet, I cannot imagine this sort of treachery and double-speak was characteristic only of Israel. “These things happened to them as examples,” Paul tells the Corinthians, “but they were written down for our instruction.”

We’re still reading them today, so maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

A Cave Full of Fumes and a Law Etched in Stone

I have mentioned the first century Greek biographer Plutarch in a couple of previous posts as I am currently wading through his compiled Lives of famous Greeks and Romans, including everyone from Theseus (he of minotaur-killing fame) to Julius Caesar. Among the writers of antiquity, I find Plutarch especially of interest because he lived during the period in which the New Testament was written. He is more of a historian than an observer of the culture of his own day, and maintains a studiously neutral approach to his subject matter.

All the same, after about 1,000 pages, you start to get a feel for what makes a man tick: how he thinks about the world, what he values or dismisses, whether he is religious or not, and if so, what his beliefs mean to him and how they affect his life. Plutarch is no exception.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

My Christian Face

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

My father had a knack for identifying Christians in the wild. I don’t mean in the obvious places, like in church or at conferences, but on the street, in the malls, or wherever. He was pretty good at it. He may have made the occasional mistake over the years, but I didn’t catch any. So he would quite confidently go up to random strangers and say things like “Excuse me, but are you a follower of the Lord Jesus?” Almost invariably they were.

He said there was something distinctive about a Christian face.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

In and Among

“I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.”

You and I were saved for a reason: to have fellowship with God. To know, love, commune with, enjoy and be enjoyed by him forever.

Now, that may not be the reason you became a Christian or decided to live like one. Probably it wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t the reason I did. My reasons were all about me. I had been experiencing the consequences of a series of selfish, ill-advised choices, and I didn’t like them at all. But I had been brought up in a Christian home, and I knew the answer to my problems was obedience to Christ. So the day finally came when I hit rock bottom, gave up and said, “You win, Lord.”

That was pretty much the process. I wasn’t exactly looking for fellowship. I’m not sure I even knew what that was.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Falling in with the Many

“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”

Yes, it comes from the Law of Moses, and Christians are not under law. Nevertheless, there is a principle here that transcends time and place. It is worth observing and retaining.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Prototypical Enemy

Amalek is Israel’s prototypical enemy. Or perhaps I should say “was” rather than “is”. That requires a bit of explanation ...

Israel became a nation during its period of Egyptian slavery, so we can certainly number the Egyptians among Israel’s earliest mortal antagonists. But Israel fought no battles with Egypt. At the Red Sea, no Israelite even drew his sword. Instead, God fought for his people, and the nations were awed, just as God had anticipated: “The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.”

Who is absent from this list of trembling peoples? Amalek.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Infinite and Infinitesimal

“And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.”

Here we have a series of what can only be called anthropomorphisms. Okay, I suppose technically we could call them “verbs ascribing human actions to that which is not human”, but let’s take six syllables over fifteen. The point is that the writer of Exodus is using language we understand to describe processes we can’t possibly comprehend.

Consider ...

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Why Not Now?

We live in an age of instant gratification.

If I want a superior coffee experience, I have only to walk to the corner, or drive to my friend Rod’s house. If I want to know what’s happening across the world, five minutes with CNN will probably do it. If I want to feign expert knowledge of virtually any subject, half an hour of Googling enables me to pass myself off as conversant with all but the genuinely knowledgeable.

God doesn’t operate that way. It’s a bit vexing at times, I must admit.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Inbox: Blaming the Buzzsaw

Concerning the judgment of the Egyptian firstborn in Exodus 12, Qman writes:

“I would say that many people would sort of be appalled at the fact that the Egyptian firstborn (mostly politically innocent; depending on age, this could be into young adulthood) had to bear the brunt of this whole affair. What would the conversation between God and that creature be when they met? God to firstborn: ‘Sorry I just had to kill you because your king had a major attitude.’ How would that go over?”

Good question.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hooks and Nooses

“[I]f you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

We often have more than one reason for saying the things we say. God could have said, “If you serve their gods, I will be offended.” That would certainly have been true. He could also have said, “If you serve their gods, you will find it useless.” This too is true. Inanimate carvings of wood and stone have no power to protect or deliver. He could have said, “You don’t understand that serving their gods is really serving demons.” Once again, entirely true. He could even have said, “If you serve their gods, I will punish you severely.”

This was most definitely the case.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

When God Says Things He Doesn’t Mean

Forget pancakes. Here’s a stack of problem verses to chew on instead:

“Take your … only son Isaac, and offer him … as a burnt offering.”

“ ‘Rise, go with them’ … But God’s anger was kindled because he went.”

Let me alone, that I may destroy them and … I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.”

Sometimes God says things he doesn’t really mean. Think about that a bit.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

That Wacky Old Testament (12)

“Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck.”

Well, that seems a little brutal, doesn’t it? “Hello, baby donkey. Nice to see you in the world. SNAP!”

What on earth is THAT all about?

Good question. Glad you asked.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When Waiting is Worth It

“O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Here we find Moses complaining to God that the Lord is not fulfilling his promises quite fast enough for Moses’ taste. Perhaps you may have voiced something similar once or twice.

We know how this particular story ends, right? God brings his people out of Egypt with a series of mighty, miraculous works, and makes a name for himself from one end of the known world to the other. The tale is still being told today.

Monday, May 28, 2018

That Wacky Old Testament (11)

A hundred years ago the social safety net didn’t exist. The earliest U.S. government assistance program was conceived in 1910 and most of the rest were enacted post-1935.

Sure, there have always been rich parents that coddled their children through adulthood, handing them fully-operational businesses to destroy or trust funds to bleed dry. And there may even have been a certain number of less-well-off parents willing to sacrifice their meager savings on a dissolute youngster who stubbornly refused to pull his weight and bear his family responsibilities.

But beyond the family level, no institutions existed to provide for the welfare of society at large. There was no taxpayer-financed crutch available to help failed or unfortunate citizens get back on their feet.

Good thing times have changed. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Unseen Footprints

Ignore the title. I promise there will be no sentimental poetry today. You can all breathe easier.

Circumstances are very much open to interpretation.

When an angel appears to declare to you the meaning of events you have just gone through or are about to witness, you can be 100% sure you’ve got cause and effect in the correct order and rightly attributed.

Otherwise, well, we’re kind of in the dark. Or at least twilight. Taken on their own, the meaning of even very unusual events can be ambiguous.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Dear Dr. Peterson,

I’ve been enjoying immensely your online lecture series on The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. Hearing you reframe these familiar truths and ancient tropes in the terminology of psychology and mythology — and occasionally in plain secular language, rather than religiously and liturgically — has lit up the OT landscape for me in a new way. As you mentioned in your fourth lecture, a hypothesis that works itself out in human experience on multiple levels is that much more likely to represent the real state of things.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (9)

“The law of the Lord is perfect ...”

Not only perfect, but more desirable than gold and sweeter than a honeycomb. So says the word of God, and I believe it. But perhaps we ought to ask ourselves exactly what the Psalmist intended to convey with the word “perfect”. Because when people today examine what the law of Moses says on the subject of slavery, or the role of women, or animal sacrifices, they seem to find an awful lot to quibble about.

They would argue — quite forcefully, I might add — that the law of the Lord is far from perfect. Primitive, even.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Action, Meet Consequence

Do children bear the sins of the fathers or not? In one sense, absolutely.

Actions have consequences. My body and yours will not last forever because “in Adam all die”. The default mode of human existence is death, and every week, month and year on our march toward futility, decrepitude and (in some cases) eternal judgment drives home that reality.

Thanks, Adam. If it’s any consolation, I have no evidence from my own experience that I’d have done a better job as federal head of humanity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tefillin and Wonderbra

Sam the Eagle weighs in ...
God gave his word to man with the intention that it be used to address every moment of human existence in its every aspect.

To those who have never lived this exercise (and it is very much an exercise), that may sound a little tedious and even holier-than-thou. We’ve all met people who are “Jesus this, Jesus that” 24/7 and wondered what exactly they were trying to prove.

God meant, I believe, that we should come to think and live in fellowship with him at all times.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Inbox: The Finishing Stroke

Ever ask a simple question and get one of those answers that just won’t quit?

Having opened that can of worms before, I know the feeling of looking at your watch and realizing that you’ve inadvertently set yourself up for a reply on the scale of a Homeric recitation of ancient Greek epic poetry in dactylic hexameter.

Then again, sometimes it turns out the question wasn’t so simple after all. Or, in this case, that it provided the occasion to do an in-depth study that I trust may have had a few unexpected benefits.

In Exodus 32 God told Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book”. The simple question originally asked was, “What about those who repented (if any did)?”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Inbox: Booking It

In connection with the episode in Exodus 32 where God says, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book,” WD wonders, “What about those who repented (if any did)?”

Good question. I think this might be the first mention of such a heavenly “book” in scripture (assuming we take the reference literally), but similar language comes up in other places more than once. The Hebrew in Exodus is çêpher, an umbrella term for all kinds of written decrees, long and short, variously translated “book”, “letter”, “scroll” or “evidence”. The sense of the word is not merely a communication but a communication that has legal force.

That part we can all agree on. Don’t worry, it won’t last ...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Rabble Among Them

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Is Interesting ...

Well, it’s interesting to me anyway.

The giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai occurred on the third new moon after the people of Israel had left Egypt. God addressed them directly in a thick cloud from the peak of a fiery, quaking mountain amid thunder, flashes of lightning and the sound of a trumpet.

The people were understandably petrified.

Monday, May 16, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (4)

Bible Babble’s atheist webmaster appears confused by the second commandment:

“People seem to think the second commandment says you aren’t supposed to make a graven image of God, and that’s it. But you are not to make any graven images of anything in heaven, in the earth, or in the water. This would include no graven images of fish, moles, worms, birds, shrimp, ants, and all sorts of things. One must wonder why God was so worried about these things that he felt the need to put these ahead of murder and stealing.”

The apostle Paul saw it as his job (and the job of those he travelled and taught with) to demolish “every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”.

You know, I think this just may qualify …

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Quote of the Day (21)

The Ten Commandments begin with “You shall have no other gods before me”.

It would have been almost automatic for those who first heard these words to apply them primarily to the false gods served by the nations around them. Steve Shirley at Jesus Alive claims scripture makes reference to 34 separate pagan deities from Adrammelech to Tammuz and Tartak, and I have no reason to challenge him since doing so would be a lot of work for not much payoff. Suffice it to say there were plenty of options.

And yet none of these “gods” are giving Jehovah much competition these days.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Where Did the Sabbath Go?

Doug Batchelor’s sermons on YouTube begin with the words “Happy Sabbath”.

Batchelor is a Seventh-Day Adventist, so this should not surprise anyone. Wikipedia calls Seventh-Day Adventism “a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday ... as the Sabbath”.

“Very few people, after accepting Christ, dispute nine of the Ten Commandments, but the fourth they often see as a ‘personal preference’ or optional commandment. But it’s not just a recommendation from Moses; it’s the law of the Almighty.

The devil doesn’t care whether your sin is adultery or murder or Sabbath breaking, just as long as he can get you to sin and separate you from God.”

That sounds serious. So how come so many evangelicals don’t keep the Sabbath? Are we all casual about obeying God’s commands, as Batchelor suggests? Are we perhaps misinterpreting scripture?

I don’t think so.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Inbox: Poor Image Management

One possible reaction to Exodus 32
Qman wonders how we can answer Bible students who find that reading about the judgments of God described in the Old Testament leaves a bad taste in their mouths and inclines them to think unfavorably of God.

It’s a good question and a common problem.

The more I read my Bible (and the older and crustier I get), the more tempting I find it to respond to questions about God’s character dismissively.

Not constructive. Got to work on that.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

On Being Distinct

The golden calf episode at Mount Sinai was a moral disaster for Israel.

Idolatry was bad enough, but national idolatry on such a scale so soon after formally accepting the privileges and responsibilities of being called by Jehovah to be a people uniquely his own gave the lie to everything Israel was supposed to stand for. It made a mockery of Israel’s promises and a joke of its testimony to the nations around it. God struck the people with a plague, and Moses struck them with the sword of the House of Levi, killing three thousand.

Basically, a disaster.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Calf Exercises

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Beyond Baseline Obedience

The specs for the Ark are so clear
even Hasbro made a model of it.
Words on paper are rarely enough.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the written word. I wouldn’t be blogging daily if I thought written communication isn’t effective and meaningful. It’s a tremendous blessing, and one for which we should always be thankful.

Still, when the original communicator is no longer on the scene, the limitations of words alone start to become evident.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Three Songs of Moses

I’m not sure I can easily picture the Moses of this 1861 Ivan Kramskoy painting “Prayer of Moses” breaking into song.

Can you?

Some Bibles, including my ESV, give Exodus 15 the title “Song of Moses”. Technically this is true, because we read that Moses and the people of Israel sang the words that follow to Jehovah after the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptians. We don’t actually read that Moses was the one who wrote it, though most scholars assume it and it seems likely.

But there are three “songs” in scripture attributed to Moses, and he may well have written more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why Not Now?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Under the Shadow

People do things. Things good or bad, generous or selfish, trustworthy or manipulative, wise or horrendously ill-considered.

Paul tells the Corinthian church that the people of Israel were examples. The things that they did in the desert on the way to Canaan and the things that happened to them as a consequence of their behaviour were written down to instruct us, “on whom the end of the ages has come”.

It seems reasonable to assume this is true of most of Bible history: it happened, not randomly but with divine purpose. And we can benefit from observing the mistakes and successes of those who lived thousands of years before us, avoiding the former and pursuing the latter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spiritual Economics

Economics is not science, but its study is most useful when it accurately maps observable human tendencies. At its core, economics is guesswork about what people tend to do in any given set of circumstances. Naturally it assumes rationality on the part of those it analyzes; a common sense that can be documented, predicted and acted upon to the benefit of the observer.

The Lord and the apostles frequently appeal to experience, observation, rationality and common sense to encourage sound judgment in the spiritual realm. Some familiar examples: “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?” or even “... the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light”. Each appeals to things that should be obvious to all to encourage proper thinking and conduct in the believer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Slavery in the Old Testament [Part 2]

Since the accusation has been made that God endorses slavery, I began in yesterday’s post to examine the subject of slavery in Israel to ask whether God, in fact, endorsed it at all. Let’s continue with a second relevant principle to bear in mind.

Two Principles Worth Considering (continued)

As established yesterday, the fact that God tells his people to obey laws in general does not mean they are good laws or that he approves of them.

But this case is different. The objection may well be raised that the Mosaic Law is not like ‘laws in general’ in that it came directly from God, and said exactly what he wanted it to say.

However, even the Law of Moses did not perfectly represent God’s will, preference or desire for his people. This may initially sound a bit heretical, but God was not ‘ok’ with some parts of Israel’s Law, especially when they were slavishly and literally followed rather than used as a guideline to discern a higher, more loving intent. Those who merely followed the letter of the Law doing the minimum possible would inevitably fall short of God’s real purpose.

Principle #2: The Law did not represent God’s perfect will.

The Law in its written form (the ‘letter’) represented whatever diluted version of God’s will that his people might reasonably and generously be expected to follow, given that they were a mixture of believers and unbelievers characterized by stubbornness, selfishness and rebellion from Day 1. And even so, Joshua told the Israelites who promised to obey the law that they wouldn’t be able to keep it.