Friday, January 26, 2007

Walking through the Bible

I've looked forward to this post for several weeks now. In the bible reading program I'm with online all the people have to listen to my comments as we read along and now I've started a collection of them. You all might not enjoy these posts nearly as much as I will, but this is *hopefully* going to be a regular Friday thing.

Exodus 3:4 - So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

Obviously this is from the section where Moses saw a burning bush. And as spectacular as that had to have been, that part isn't what fascinated me. It's the way the verse is phrased. "When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look". The way it's phrased leaves me speculating about how many other people have seen their own version of a burning bush and never 'turned aside to look'. There are other -- more accurate -- ways to interpret this verse, but I appreciated my interpretation as it reminded me to look; to turn aside, stop what I'm doing and look. And then I might hear God speaking.

Exodus 3:21 "And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed.

You can find this verse fulfilled in Exodus 11:3 & 12:36 using the same word 'favor'. But 12:33 says "And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For the said, "We shall all be dead." Call me crazy, but 'hurry and get out of here before we die' doesn't sound like favor.

Exodus 4:24,25,26 And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!" So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!" -- because of the circumcision.

This verse seems almost typical of some of the strange verses in the bible except I've always found myself reading it and saying "What!!??" It's not the verses themselves that get me, but how they're crammed into normal verses. The verses above these have Moses talking with God and he's telling him all the things to tell Pharaoh. Then pow, God's trying to kill Moses, his wife starts hacking at her sons foreskin with a sharp stone, and screaming at Moses that he's a husband of blood to her. Then, BAM, God's talking to Aaron and telling him to go meet up with Moses. Every time I've read these verses, I always end up rereading them because I'm sure I must have missed something.

Exodus 5:22&23 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, "Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have you delivered Your people at all."

It's at that point in the conversation after the whole plan seems to have fallen apart that I start asking "Did you really send me at all?" At least Moses was 100% sure of his calling. But few verses make Moses more real, more human to me than these.

Exodus 7:20,21,22a And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the Lord commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments;

"Did so" what? They turned the waters into blood also? If all the waters in the rivers, and according to vs 19 that I didn't quote any pots that were holding water, the water in those turned to blood as well. There seemed to be no water in the land. Later verses say that people began to dig around the river to get water because they could not drink the water of the river. If all the water became blood... what did the magicians turn to blood? It mentions something along those same lines several times with the plagues. With the frogs, frogs were everywhere. In the house in the ovens, in bowls, in your beds, and on people. Then the magicians go and prove they can do it as well.
If frogs are everywhere, how do you know someone actually did magic and brought more frogs? And, if you're a king with a frog problem in the land, should you really be trying to get your magicians to bring you more frogs?

Exodus 9:24,25&33 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. Verse 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the Lord: then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth.

I hate to get picky with the scriptures. I remember vividly how disappointed I was when I was a child and someone pointed out to me that the clouds above my head were not actually God's footprints, and that the verse calling them that was figurative not literal. And while I know that the scriptures don't give you step by step what happened a lot of the times, I wonder if there's more to this story or if it's a miracle in itself. There was a huge hail storm...hail was striking man and beast; hail that was so heavy they'd never seen the likes of it and Moses strolled out of the city. How did he not get hit by hail?

Exodus 13:17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."

I wonder how many times God's had to take me the long way around something because He knew I'd give up if He took me a shorter route that'd face an obstacle? The children of Israel still had to face war (Exodus 17:8-16) so it's not like this long route was problem free. It also makes me wonder how the story would have changed if they had had great courage and God had taken them through the short cut. What would my life be like today if I never had to be led the long routes?

Exodus 14:8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.

Not much to say on this, but here God says they had boldness... just before that He was making decisions based on them changing their minds. People always talk about the lessons to be learned from the awful children of Israel, but if you think about the bad things you hear and then you think about 40 long years. I don't imagine I would have done any better than them at all. In fact, probably a lot worse. At least they had boldness.

Exodus 17:7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

Oh come on, who hasn't asked that!

Exodus 21:20&21 And if a man beats his servant or his maidservant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.
Exodus 21:27 And if he knocks out his servant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

I don't think I'll ever understand that.

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