So Christmas is finally over.
I say finally, because Christmas with my family seemed to take a week this year. In actuality it could even be a month. Because we weren’t actually going to see my little sister and her family at Christmas, there were gifts (Coconut Ice – perfect) sent my way early December.
Still, as I’ve said, Christmas isn’t about the gifts. What was great was that it did take so long, from extended family, right through to some of my best friends, I count Christmas as being finished as of Tuesday night.
Now that Christmas is over, we start to look forward towards the new year. 2011′s only two more days away now. It’s time to start planning new years resolutions, and seeing how long we can make them last. I’m simply not going to actually tell anyone what mine are this year – that way if I don’t actually achieve them, then there’s no disappointment; and if I do, then I can jump up and down about it later.
The Nazirite is a ‘character’ of the bible who’s always fascinated me. It goes back to the obvious: Samson, from being a child. I didn’t really get the whole Delilah thing as a kid, all I did get was this super strong hero warrior who killed hundreds with his bare hands.
Samson was like Chuck Norris.
But I guess from there, my fascination with the idea of a Nazirite’s always been something that’s stuck in my head.
I do find it interesting that the ascetic lifestyle’s been one that I’ve slowly been drawn closer to over the past six months. I gave up smoking before I even came back to God; but it was most certainly still a part of the process. Then in September God told me quite clearly to stop drinking alcohol. At first I thought it was a temporary thing but as the months have gone by, most of the time I wonder whether it might be permanent – and occasionally I hope it isn’t; like when my brother-in-law offers me a whiff of the high-grade scotch whisky on his shelf.
Since going to Perth, I’ve been challenged to give away coffee. I’ve replaced the occasional hot beverage with chai or green tea, and still probably get at least a minor fix of caffeine through the green tea and other things each day. However, eventually I’m wondering whether I’ll just end up on water.
Which is okay – kind of. I still remember the taste of whisky or coffee, or the feeling of having a cigarette, and find myself wanting to partake and enjoy. However God’s will is God’s will, and I’m not about to bend from that if I can help it.
Not, though, that I’m saying I’m taking the vow of a Nazirite, either. Although I can’t help thinking that it would probably actually be a very powerful experience; dedicating and separating yourself to God for a period – imagine being solely dedicated to God for a whole year; following the law and vow of the Nazirite. It would be a pretty powerful experience.
That level of dedication is extreme, and I notice that the passage does clearly state that there’s an end to the vow of the Nazirite. I feel that speaks something to us, to remember that we are actually dedicated to God, but we are also expected to live this life that we’ve been given. If it was all just about being solely separated from the world and dedicated to God, then why live in the first place?
We have a mission and a plan to fulfil here in our lives, a plan that God has for us. It’s all well and good to try and get closer to God, but he has other things for us to do too. Eventually we need to shave our head, give up the dedication and go out into battle in the real world.
Something completely bland to a lot of people to start off with tonight. Some talk of Cricket.
If you’re not into Cricket, skip ahead.
I, personally, love cricket. I think that it’s one of the greatest games that the world has. I’ve always loved it, and probably always will.
This summer, though, I am so sick and tired of hearing news reports talking about Ricky Ponting’s captaincy on a day-to-day basis; as though his future relies on each day. To an extent, yes, it does, but there’s a point where the writing’s on the wall no matter who you are. What I’m over hearing, though, is this attitude where one day Ponting is on the edge of oblivion, then after the Perth test he’d salvaged it all, and now again, after the first day’s failure in Melbourne, it was all over once more.
To be honest, it’s probably not far away. Ponting’s career has been illustrious and great – he is, in my view, the second greatest batsman Australia has ever seen, only behind the great Don Bradman himself. Everyone has their twilight, though, and Ponting is in his. I just hope that he can get some sight and form back in the near future so as not to go out the way Bradman did – a duck in the final innings. Ponting deserves to go out on a high.
What we need to remember, though, is that Australia has had it easy for the past ten to fifteen years. It’s not just Ponting, the whole team needs to relearn how to play test cricket. We’re being beaten this summer by an English team who are simply in better form, and playing better test cricket. Our batsmen are not trained to carve out an innings slowly, most of them want to score quickly, and that’s not always the way to play. We’re not the far-and-away world champions any more, and therefore we need to actually discover how to play the real game again. The days of Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Lee, Warne and McGrath are over, so we need to discover where we are now.
This one’s interesting. We’re back into some of the rules and regulations of life in the camp of Israel at the moment.
First we go through the information about people who are unclean again. Skin diseases and so on mean that you need to stay outside the camp. The traditional term is leprosy, but not necessarily in the same way that we view leprosy today. I guess it’s fair enough, something like chicken pox, for example, can be pretty rough on a person even today, and is highly contagious; imagine what devastation it could have brought back then.
Then we go through making restitution – which I’ll come back to.
Third is this segment about, basically, if a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful.
Now I don’t necessarily know what life must have been like back then, whether the differences in culture meant that people were more or less suspicious of a cheating spouse. However, I have known some people in my life who are amazingly jealous, and no matter how much convincing you try to give them, they just don’t seem to be able to trust their partner. Even if that partner has never actually given them reason to doubt.
What I also find myself wondering – and I get that this time it is related to culture and a very male-dominant society – why is this test only applicable to the wives?
The portion of this passage that really stood out to me was the middle section, about making restitution.
“Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty.’” ~ Numbers 5:6
This is a point that I think many people realise, but not so many people really get, if that makes sense. Doing wrong against a fellow human being, is to be unfaithful to God. This comes back, again, to the recognition that God is Love.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind; and that the second is like it, to love our neighbour as ourself.
The biggest thing that God is about, is Love
God’s love is required not just towards him, but also towards one another. In the Israelite time under the law, restitution had to be made if wrong had been done.Even if there was no one to actually pay the restitution to, then it was to be paid to God. God is love, he is also just – a person wasn’t going to get out of their responsibility just because there was no one there to accept their payment. It was consistent across the board.
I do just want to come back to God’s love, though. I’m finding it amazing as I’ve read through these books of the law so far, just how strongly it shows God’s love. I think I often had a misconception of the law, that sort of separated it from God’s love. To use the points that I raised tonight about God being love, but also being just – I think I almost viewed the law as only God’s justice, and his love didn’t come into being until after Jesus died.
This is so clearly not the case. The law spells out so obviously and so frequently that God’s comes from love.
Well, good morning Boxing Day.
Christmas is still going for me. I’m on the road this morning to Launceston for a family barbecue this afternoon.
Yesterday was great. Lunch with some extended family – was good to catch up with Steve, whose blog inspired me to actually undertake this epic journey through the bible as well. I owe Steve and his wife Donna thanks; too, they’ve been a very important and special part of my life over the past four or five months that I’ve been on this journey, not only through the bible but with my relationship with God, too. We’ve been in touch via Facebook and email, so it was really great to actually see them in person.
Then came dinner with my sister and her family and in-laws. Also a great night. Relationships with the in-laws aren’t always as easy to form as other friendships, perhaps because you’re sort of forced into a relationship with people you don’t really know, and in some cases might not even consider associating with if you’d just met one another on the street. Last night was the most comfortable I’ve felt with my brother-in-law’s family. It’s nice when those relationships start actually tightening and getting stronger.
I hope that everyone else had a wonderful Christmas.
And today: Day 1 of the Boxing Day test. Come on Australia!
Numbers 3 & 4:
Here we have the census of the Levite clan; who weren’t included in the previous census because their responsibility was to God.
A couple of things that I find interesting:
1. Why are there so few Levites in comparison to all the other tribes?
2. The Levites are taken in place of the Israelite firstborns.
What I really brought out of this, though, wasn’t to do with those two points. As the title of this entry suggests, what I really took from here was the idea of service in the House of God.
The Tabernacle was God’s meeting place with the Israelites. It was the place where He could come and dwell amongst them; speak with them – via Moses or the Priests; associate with them; relate with them. It still comes back to the relationship. He wanted to be with them.
The Tabernacle, though, needed to be maintained. Not only did it need to be maintained, but it needed to be taken care of; stored and packed away properly and transported properly when the Israelites were on the move. At this point, it seems, they were still camped around Mt Sinai; but they were just that – camped. They were always going to be on the move again.
The House of God, today, is not a building. Sure, we refer to it as one, and the buildings have their place, but ultimately the House of God is in our hearts.
However, the ‘local church’ is our place of fellowship, accountability, friendship, relationship, family, all those sorts of thing.
I find myself wondering how the Levites felt about their part in things at this point. They weren’t to be part of the army; their role was to look after the Tabernacle.
I think sometimes we get caught up with an image of what we consider to be a ‘good job’ or a ‘bad job’. Going back to my involvement with local churches in my youth, I remember that one of my regular duties was to man the overhead projector. In the days before computers and TV projectors, we had to use them for putting the words up on the walls. I was actually good at it – and when I say I was good at it, I mean that there were people who weren’t. I never understood how people would get confused as to which way around to put the words on the screen.
But that wasn’t an exciting job. I also would play guitar, sing, and look after the sound desk at different times too. Singing and guitar were great, overhead projector and manning the sound desk, not so great.
So I wonder if there were Levites going, “Man… Are you serious? I have to fold the curtains?!” When their job was assigned to them in service. I wonder if any of them questioned why God would have them born in to the tribe of Levi, while their friends were all, say, from Judah and got to train with swords to be part of the army. Or even narrower, I wonder if there were Gershonites wishing they could be from Kohath, so at least then they’d get to look after the holy stuff instead of just carrying the curtains.
Service really needs to be done out of a heart of love; but it also comes down to where you are, as well. Sometimes, yes, you have to start at what you consider to be ‘the bottom’ in order to work your way up, demonstrate trustworthiness and reliability before you can be released into other things. Ultimately, it comes down to if you love God, then it doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re doing – because like everything else, it comes back to Him.
It’s Christmas Day!
In Tasmania it is. Once again, Christmas eve has turned to Christmas day while I’m out with friends looking at houses decorated with lights for the season.
Which I actually enjoy. The last three years, now, I’ve spent driving around Hobart with some friends, looking at light shows, talking to people, just hanging out. It’s become a little tradition, which is good. We used to hang out all the time, but as the years have gone by things change, people start to drift apart, so it’s nice to come back to something regularly, even if it is just once a year, and actually get back together again.
With tomorrow – well, today – being Christmas, I guess there’s one particular topic to talk about. Jesus.
In all the gifts, the reindeer and santa, the lights, the food, the drink, the chocolate, the holiday and everything else that goes along with Christmas, it’s very easy to forget exactly what it is that we’re celebrating here. We have the Carols by Candlelight tradition, but how many people really pay attention to the words of the Christmas Carols? Even I struggle with this. I was waiting for a bus this evening and singing, Hark the Herald Angels Sing while standing at the bus stop, and I realised just what the words were saying.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Glory to the new born king
Peace on Earth, and Mercy Mild
God and Sinners reconciled
Not too long ago I was thinking about reconciliation. To reconcile, according to Merriam Webster means:
1. To restore to harmony or friendship
4(b) . To account for.
Today we celebrate the most amazing gift that has ever been given. The ability for us to be reconciled with God. Our sinful nature was accounted for through Jesus, and we are able to live in harmony and friendship with God, the most high and creator of all things.
I had a conversation with a colleague this afternoon; and mentioned that on New Years Eve I’ll be on air on Ultra 106five doing a countdown-type show of 20 of the biggest hits of 2010. She asked what station that was, and I told her it was the local Christian radio station. She asked me, “Oh, are you religious?”
So I said no.
Because Christianity is not about religion. What I said to her was that religion is all about what we can do to get closer to God; Christianity is all about what God did to get closer to us. I don’t follow a religion, but I do have a relationship with God; because he reached out to me. Jesus came to reach out to each one of us. That little baby, whose birth we celebrate with Christmas, was the greatest gift of all. The gift of reconciliation; of salvation; of grace; all these and more.
I know I’m going to struggle with these first few chapters of Numbers, it’s just all detail. A part of me wonders what it’s all doing there, to be honest.
But the history, the reality is always good. Sometimes the details make it all just seem a little more real. It’s easy to read the stories, and because we live in a world of movies, books, novels, fiction and so on, the reality of the story itself may not sink in. Imagine actually being there when these events were actually occurring!
We get to find out names through these types of chapters. Putting names to the people and the events that were happening just adds an element of reality. It’s easy to get caught up in the story, without actually clicking to just what God’s done as those events unfolded.
This goes into the layout of the camp. I actually stopped and went back to Genesis as I read this, because I noted that all of Rebekah’s children were camped together. Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin are all in the west of the camp – interesting, given that throughout Genesis, East had this common theme of being the direction people went when they weren’t walking or following God’s will. I just find myself wondering if there is any continued focus on the “East” in that context.
That’s me done for the night, though.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! Hope that it’s a wonderful and blessed day for you all!
I had a rather interesting experience today.
The computer server at work has been having difficulties for the last two weeks. We’ve been going through no end of issues with our computer systems in general. Today, once again, our server started having issues and causing mayhem in the office. People were unable to access email, save files, all those bad things that lead to them asking me what’s going on.
…Which actually makes me feel kind of warm, needed, even if it is to fix problems.
Anyway, after about half an hour of just nothing working, the decision was made to take the server offline, reboot, and refresh it. So while it was shutting down, I prayed over it as well.
It came back up online with no problem, and quite quickly. I called our IT provider that afternoon to ask how things were going, and they were shocked that it was “flying along now”. I told one of my colleagues when it was rebooting that it would be fine, because I’d prayed for it. He came back to me and said things were running faster than he’s seen them in the four or five months he’s been with the company. So I just said, “I told you so.”
God’s amazing. Last night I was talking to a friend about John 14; where Jesus says that he will do anything that we ask of our Father in his name. Today, I was at Koorong when I saw a statement: “Faith is not believing that God can do something, it’s knowing that he will do it.” (or something along those lines). This is all in the week after I spent time talking to a friend over last weekend, in which God revealed to me that I don’t struggle with the belief that he can do anything; I struggle with the belief that he will do it; and that goes back to issues in the past, I know that. It also probably goes to my own mindset as well, I struggle with my analytical mind that focuses on the natural order of things.
God created the natural order – which means he’s the one who can change it if need be. What we need to get a hold of, is that he will do it.
Interesting thing I discovered tonight. In Hebrew, the book of Numbers isn’t actually called Numbers. The Hebrew title actually translates along the lines of “In the Desert” or “In the Wilderness”
Numbers starts off with a census, though. And what a census. The Israelite nation was huge – this is a massive number of people for a nomadic nation. Or at least I would think so. My vision of a nomadic people would be sitting in the matter of hundreds, at best, up and rising and moving each morning; laying their tents out each night, all those kinds of things.
So God grabs a few helpers for Moses and Aaron in counting the people. I don’t blame him – I just wonder why he only picked one person from each tribe to help count.
Now comes the interesting part, though; and I feel a little let down by the text here. It does say that the names, clan and family of every male over the age of 20 who could serve in the army was to be recorded. Can you just imagine having a hold of that document today? We’d have this hugely detailed record of just who the Israelites were, at least when it came to families and relationships. Being interested genealogy, as I’ve mentioned before, that would just be amazing to see.
But what an army this must make. In total, over 600,000 men. Apparently this brings the estimate of the people to between 2 and 2.5 million people for the whole nation – and that’s why I get astonished to picture them as a tent-dwelling semi-nomadic nation. It’s a lot easier to have 2 million people stay still than it is to have them wander around in the desert.
The family of Levi, though, are set apart. They’re not to serve in the army, they’re not to be counted in the same way, and they’re the ones who are to camp around the Tabernacle, to set it up and pull it down. So we still have twelve tribes, with Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh splitting into two tribes; and a thirteenth tribe dedicated solely to the Lord’s work.
I’m not overly good at finishing things.
I’m great as an ideas person, and great at planning, managing, delegating, the actual oversight of a project. One thing that I tend to struggle with, though, is the end.
It happens even with my writing. I just find it difficult to actually get to the end of something. I remember when I was in – I think it was grade 8, we had an English project to write a short story in class. I started writing, and didn’t stop, so I took it home and kept writing that night, only to still not actually finish it!
Today, though, a few work projects have reached points where I can see that they’ll be finished very soon; and it’s a great feeling. Some of these have been going for months now, so it’s really rewarding to look at them and realise that they’re actually nearly complete.
Now I just need to do that with a book.
I struggled to understand this chapter. Most of the chapters that I’ve read through so far have given me some sort of clear message out of them, I’ve really felt an interpretation of the passages. I’m not a theologian, I haven’t gone back to the original Hebrew, translating every word literally and analysing what’s going on. All I’ve been doing – and am continuing to do – is just share what I feel God saying to me with each passage.
When I first read this chapter, though, it didn’t really seem to make sense. God talks to Moses about people making a special vow of dedication to the Lord, and then the monetary values of different people; before saying that if a person is unable to pay the value, then the priest has to evaluate the worth according to what they can afford.
So my initial reading had me thinking that what it was saying, was that a person actually had to pay to dedicate someone to the Lord. That they actually presented someone they were dedicating to the Lord, and paid as well.
Come to think of it, that really doesn’t sound logical. My brain should probably have picked it up sooner.
So what’s actually being said, is that a person who has been dedicated to the Lord can be redeemed, ie. Purchased, back into their family.
It doesn’t really explain what situations might lead to one dedicating themselves to the Lord, or what would cause the need for them to be redeemed. I guess there could be a myriad of examples, though. I’ve just had the thought that maybe a second or third son of a household dedicates himself to the Lord, when his brother or brothers both died, his father comes to pay the ransom and redeem him so that the family farm can stay in the family?
That’s just a hypothetical, but the type of image that came to mind.
My old friend, Merriam Webster states that the word Redeem has several different meanings; but they all centre around buying, or paying a price for.
To buy back: REPURCHASE
To free from captivity by payment of ransom
To release from blame or debt
To atone for
To offset the bad effect of
Remember the old song, My Redeemer Lives? Or, There is a Redeemer? Just two of many more songs which talk about Jesus as the redeemer. He paid the price, the ransom. Jesus Christ is our redeemer, the one who freed us from captivity, by paying the ransom for for sin. He released us from blame, from the debt that we should be due to pay.
A 25 year old man might have been worth 50 shekels to redeem from service of the Lord, but the price was much, much higher when it came to releasing us from our indebture to sin.
And so ends Leviticus. The coming 32 days may be the most challenging of this Bible Journey so far, perhaps even of this entire challenge. Still, I’m determined to finish.
Today was cold.
So cold, the weather forecast was that there would be mountain snow here in Hobart. Mountain snow. In December.
Why is it snowing?
Tasmania just doesn’t get it. I still want to go back to Perth. Perth at least remembers that its summer.
In other news, I’m also tired. I went for a drive with some friends last night – a very late drive, because we wanted to see Christmas light displays around Hobart – so obviously we had to wait until dark.
It was actually rather disappointing. Every year, these days, there are less and less houses being decorated. I can’t help wondering what are the main issues. Is it the power cost? Electricity is now too expensive to drive several thousand little lights (and big ones)? Do people no longer have the competitive edge – one person in the street stopped doing it, so suddenly no one else had to compete with them? Or do people just stop caring?
I’m not saying it’s the reason why, but I do think that as a society we’re becoming more apathetic. Apathetic and egocentric. It’s sad, but the whole, “look after number 1″ syndrome seems to get more powerful all the time.
Throughout Leviticus there has been talk of consequences. These are the things that will happen if people break God’s law, and how they should be punished.
What, I think, tends to elude a lot of people’s focus is that there are also consequences for doing good; for doing the right thing.
I think we all know the misrepresentation of God – An old man up in the clouds, glowering down on the world, ready to smite and strike people down for their sins.
What about the God whose up there wanting to reward us when we’re doing well? When we do the right thing?
I’m guaranteeing there are at least some people who think that image is patronising. I know, because I struggled with it the moment I wrote it; the idea of actually being blessed when we do something right seems to bring a feeling of being patronised. I’m not exactly sure why, and maybe it is just me, I accept that if it is.
God details some very extreme punishments against the people if they turn away from him, and continue to ignore his punishment and discipline. If they continue to turn their back on him then they will suffer all sorts of torment.
But you know where the heart of God really is? Verse 40 onwards.
“Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.” ~ Leviticus 26:44-45
That’s the true heart of God. He doesn’t reject, even after detailing this continued turning away, ignoring him, to the point where the Israelites were going to lose everything. If they were to turn back to him, then he would welcome them back into his arms. He would remember the covenant he made with them – for their sake. He isn’t remembering the covenant that he made with them for anything to do with him; or so that he can be seen to be so wonderful – but Glory, Glory to Him for his amazing love that does so.
Ultimately, though, he remembers the covenant for their sake. He loves them, and he wants them to come back to him, he wants them to be loved, he wants them to be welcomed into his arms. It’s for their sake.
Just like what we are given through the Grace of God, and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus died for our sake.
So… Apparently I’ve actually caught and overtaken Stephen. Just noticed that today.
An extremely close friend was texting me today, and in amongst things, said she loves me. For a moment, my mind went to a reply along the lines of, “If you keep saying that, I might start to believe you.”
How much do we really believe that people love and care about us? I know that I’ve struggled with it, the thoughts of not believing that someone loves me wasn’t actually that difficult to conceive; especially in the mindset I was in at the time. I think that a lot of people actually struggle with being loved, even more than they struggle with loving others. It seems to be a human thing to actually think that we have to only receive what we deserve.
I remember being told in the past by a girl I liked, that she didn’t want to be with me because I deserved better than her. I was shocked, and totally confused. Why would that matter? Shouldn’t I be the one who gets to decide who I ‘deserve’? Since when does ‘deserving’ have anything to do with love and relationships? And even if she was right, shouldn’t it then be the case of just feeling lucky rather than saying no?
If we can’t accept love from other people, because we think we don’t deserve it; then how are we ever meant to accept God’s love in our lives?
I love the concept of the Year of Jubilee.
I really do. Just imagine how much freedom would be released throughout the world right now, if every debt was suddenly released. If all the governments of the world united together and said, “Right, in 2011 we’re having a year of jubilee. All property is to be returned to its original owner, all debt is to be cleared, and we’re just going to start over.”
Imagine the release. It really would be a year of jubilee. The entire population of the world would celebrate.
I’ve heard once before a claim that if all the money in the world was to be gathered up and distributed evenly to everyone, we would all be millionaires. However, I’ve also heard predictions that it would only take a few years for the money to be pretty much back in the same places as it was before. I’d be willing to take the chance though.
I think the point of the Year of Jubilee was, apart from the restoration of the land – both to the people and itself – was to just keep things balanced. If we actually applied some biblical economics to the world today, I think there’d be a major shift in the way the global community works. People wouldn’t be able to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth, and perhaps, if they couldn’t accumulate so much, they wouldn’t worry about it so much. Perhaps it could break the hold that money – and more importantly, greed – has over modern society.
On another topic that I just alluded to, comes the restoration of the land.
I’m no hippy, greenie or tree hugger. Not really, anyway, but I do care about the environment, about our land, about the animals and the trees and the plants that share this planet with us. I believe that when God gave us dominion over the Earth, he gave us responsibility over it as well, to manage and till the land properly; to care for it and raise it; to treat it like our own.
Again, greed took over though.
I read the first part of this chapter, about every seventh year not planting any crops and just letting the land fend for itself, and wondered just how different the world might be if we kept this particular idea also. The Earth itself doesn’t get a chance to recover from what we do to it, and instead of just letting the Earth take care of itself, humanity keeps trying to fix it. As though we know better.
God built this Earth, he built the laws of nature that surround the Earth and the universe. I think that chapter 25 of Leviticus is more than just a series of celebrations and inconsequential laws – I think this was God actually telling us how to take care of his world. How to take care of ourselves. How to live in harmony with the Earth and with each other.
God knows better than we do. We keep trying to fix things, but we don’t try to fix the problem – we keep trying to bandaid the symptom. Perhaps the solution to global warming and other problems that our planet is facing isn’t to try and fix it; but rather, to trust that God knew what he was doing. Perhaps we should just step back and try to integrate ourselves with the way God built the planet, rather than trying to integrate the planet with the way we’re building our society?
I have a confession to make. I struggle with giving as a love language. I seriously do.
Which makes things hard at Christmas time.
Last weekend at The Way Church, was a Christmas Carols service; and during the night they punctuated the singing with a little skit about a detective who had been hired to find the true meaning of Christmas. He started off in a Department Store with the cashier, then the store Santa; following that he went to a family Christmas dinner and then to a church. What I found interesting was the way they conveyed the family. They portrayed a family with a stressed mother who was freaking out about the fact that she had dozens of relatives showing up, all expecting to be fed, she had to cook and prepare for all of them, and then would probably have to clean up afterwards.
Her heart wasn’t in it, it was about something that she HAD to do. It was an obligation, a requirement, and therefore, a pressure that caused stress, irritation, frustration, anger, blame, etcetera.
That’s sometimes how I feel about gifts. Not all the time, but sometimes. It’s not about the love behind the gift, it’s about the gift itself. Giving sometimes feels like an obligation – especially at Christmas time in today’s society. Christmas is all about the gifts. Even in church tonight, part of the farewell from the Pastor was a hope that everyone gets great gifts.
Sorry, gifts aren’t Christmas.
Christmas is about Love. God gave us Jesus, yes. Jesus gave his life, yes. But the essence of Christmas comes down to perhaps the world’s best known bible verse.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
Before God gave, he loved. God so loved the world that he gave…
I love giving out of love; this is something that I’ve realised in recent months, that I am actually a lot more generous than I probably previously realised. The difference is, though, that when you’re giving out of love, rather than obligation, it’s all so much easier.
God gave out of love. Jesus gave his life out of love for us. That’s what this season needs to be about, not gifts – love.
So I had to do the title with this chapter. For those who don’t know what I’m on about, there’s a comedy sketch that I found quite funny in the past from Eddie Izzard.
So the chapter’s weird, it’s like we get this strange little interruption. First it’s all on topic, oil and bread to be set before the Lord. It’s more tabernacle rules about how to lay out the bread in the Tabernacle. This bread was holy bread, specifically there for the priests to eat in a holy place. Incense needed to be burned, oil lamps needed to be lit, and then they had a specific recipe for the special Tabernacle bread.
Then suddenly we just cut into an actual story, as opposed to the last 24 chapters of rules, regulations, guidelines and directions.
I do find it interesting that this person was the child of an Egyptian father and an Israelite mother. I wonder, was the father with them? Was the mother alone? What is the backstory of this character who doesn’t even receive a name in the bible (only his mother is named).
The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) ~ Leviticus 24:11
I’ve always wondered exactly what defines blasphemy. This particular character blasphemes “the Name” with a curse. The Name, I’m assuming, being the unspoken Hebrew term for God. So does it mean that he cursed this person by God’s name? I don’t know.
The Israelites, though, appeared to be uncertain how to deal with this at this point. I mean yes, God had said in the Ten Commandments not to take his name in vain, but unless I’m mistaken, there hadn’t been to this point, a definitive punishment for breaking that commandment. So they waited on God, and asked him what to do.
And the response is death. By stoning.
I find it interesting, also, that anyone who heard the blasphemy was to stand with the blasphemer and lay their hands on his head. Verse 15 says that the person who blasphemes will be held responsible. It’s like the people who heard it, who bore witness to it are required to remain involved through to the end. I wonder if this is to do, again, with how sacred ‘the Name’ was for the Israelites. That even hearing it, rather than just saying it, was taboo – and so resting their hands on the blasphemer’s head as they were stoned was like cleansing themselves of it, because the blasphemer was the one to take responsibility.
You know, responsibility’s a tricky issue when it comes to others.
I’ve been a strong believer in the idea that you aren’t responsible for how other people take you. I am myself, and I am how God made me – if someone else has issues with that, then so be it.
But our actions can directly influence, or directly effect other people. The above line ‘being yourself’ only goes so far. Actions that directly effect another person do fall under our responsibility. ‘Being yourself’ is not a right to offend or hurt other people. We need to be aware that other people are effected by our actions.
That’s what I took from that story, anyway.
Well, as if the week wasn’t already exciting enough.
I got to work this morning. Early again so that I can get some stuff done on the database before everyone else arrives. I’m there for long enough to switch my computer on, log in, open up and start reading the emails that I have. Then blank.
The power went out.
Apparently the entire grid crashed. Traffic lights were down – in peak hour traffic – the building was completely switched off. I heard that there was someone stuck on the top floor of our building – which to me says they were in the lift, since otherwise they could well have used the fire escape stairs to get up and down.
It’s just one of those weeks I guess. I’m actually getting more and more okay with it as the week goes on. Things just keep going wrong and I just keep smiling my way through it. There’s no point letting it get you down, because that’s not going to change anything.
Now if only I could apply that logic to every aspect of my life. Work’s one thing, applying it across the board’s another thing entirely.
Well, it’s party time!
God goes through and tells Moses all the celebrations and feasts that the Israelites should celebrate. I’m intrigued to know where they fit with the normal calendar. The reason being that most religious festivals in history were celebrated alongside seasonal changes.
But I love parties, and apparently God does too.
Which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.
He starts off with the Sabbath. Not necessarily a ‘festival’ so to speak, but a day specifically set aside for him. I love this idea, too. It’s not only a day for God, but it’s a day for the people. God’s not only telling them to come celebrate him, but he’s telling them just to take a day off.
“Chill out and relax for a day, spend that day with me.”
Then comes the Passover, and the feast of unleavened bread. First, a reminder of what God did to bring them out of Egypt, and then seven days of purification. Leaven was symbolic of sin, thus the purification.
Firstfruits comes back to the point from chapter 22, about giving God the best. God doesn’t just ask for the best, he asks for the first. He expects to be first in our lives, and so in bringing him the first of what is received, it’s a demonstrated action of placing God first; above even our own needs.
Now the feast of weeks, it follows on from the Firstfruits, but I’m curious… From reading this, I’m assuming that this was a communal giving. Seven male lambs, each a year old, and other animals as well. That’s a LOT of stuff to bring; and a LOT of stuff to cook. It doesn’t seem feasible that this could be the requirements of each person, does it?
Trumpets. Another day of rest, a day again, dedicated just to relaxing – with trumpets. Chilling out at a jazz bar sounds a good way to celebrate this feast.
The day of Atonement is perhaps my favourite. I love the concept of atonement, the purification of ourselves from our sins, making us holy and washed clean before God.
Finally the feast of Tabernacles. This was the major party, it would seem. Don’t you wish these days that we had week-long public holidays? Have an entire week off to celebrate, and give glory to God.