Numbers

So, while mowing the yard (where some of my best thinking can be done – along with the shower, of course), I came up with a great start to a sermon on Numbers (unfortunately, it won’t go in my paper, but I figured I should get it out of my head so I can actually write the paper). ¬†I blame this on my dad who put it into my head to write a paper like a sermon. ūüôā

Does anyone out there collect stamps or coins? ¬†My father and I used to collect both, and we’d look up the history and value of the items, make sure they were as clean as possible and store them carefully. ¬†And each time we added a new one, we’d go back over some of our favorites, or we’d keep track of how many of which type of thing we had. ¬†And each time we met new people who were interested – either other collectors, or soon to be collectors – we would drag them out and show and tell. ¬†It was a labor of love.

The book of Numbers begins and ends with a census. ¬†God wanted a count of how many people in each family there were, how many soldiers or people who could become soldiers, and among the Levites, how many male children from age 1 month and up. ¬†According to the Tanakh, Moses, who was tasked with collecting these numbers, wasn’t all that comfortable with going into the tents of those where mothers might be nursing, and God told him not to worry about it – you count yours, and I’ll count mine. ¬†And in Numbers, Chapter 3, verse 16, it says: ¬†“So Moses counted them according to God’s word, just as he was commanded.” ¬†They figured that God’s word let Moses know how many babies were inside.

Numbers is a book about God’s love. ¬†The Bible in its entirety, of course, is about God’s love for His creation, but Numbers keeps track of us. ¬†It reminds us¬†where we¬†came from, who our¬†family is, what our¬†history says. ¬†It tells us of a parent’s loving discipline for those who are unfaithful – to God, to each other, to their own promises. ¬†It sets standards and laws for a¬†people who had been enslaved for so long, they weren’t quite sure how to interact as a free people anymore, to become the great nation that God wanted them to be. ¬†And it taught them that consequences can be quite harsh when you choose to disobey those laws.

The first generation of those wandering in the desert for 40 years all died before reaching the promised land because of their unfaithfulness. ¬†And the second generation, somewhat,¬†learned from their ancestors’ mistakes, and remained mostly faithful. ¬†There’s a difference of 1820 men between the first census and the second. ¬†That’s actually more¬†people, as there were associated wives and children under 20 with them. ¬†But God counted each one as precious to Him, and brought them into the promised land – showing His own faithfulness to His word and¬†grace to the Israelites.

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Commands from God

Okay, so I’m at the rest of the Pentateuch¬†now, having to do with laws. ¬†I don’t know if it’s something¬†I’ll write on for the class, but there’s an interesting law that came up, and interesting interpretations within textbooks:

11 If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, 12 you shall cut off her hand; show no pity. (Deut. 25:11-12)

So, one textbook is a bit incredulous that this was a common enough practice that it actually had to be made into a law.  Which is a bit funny, I suppose.  How often does something need to happen before it makes it into the law?

Another textbook, “The Strange and Sacred Scripture: ¬†Wrestling With the Old Testament and Its Oddities”, suggests that this is a law because being fruitful and multiplying was a command of God, and to prevent that from happening would go against God. ¬†Okay, that makes sense, and would justify the consequence – if you had modern science at the time. ¬†So to my way of thinking, this law would¬†have to have come from God, simply because humankind (if you catch me saying mankind, please correct me – the professor wants us to use this term) had no idea that’s where babies came from at the time. ¬†God, in His infinite wisdom, knew, but we didn’t.

Wonder what would happen if we went through each of the laws this way. ūüôā ¬†What does God know that we have not yet discovered?

Description of Life at Nashotah

¬† ¬† ¬†Nashotah House is completely awesome, and fortunately, everybody in the faculty and staff seem to have good senses of humor.¬† Chapel is held at least twice a day, sometimes three (if someone volunteered to do the Compline), and to hear 40 or more voices singing in harmony with a pipe organ played by an absolute master is heaven itself. ūüôā ¬†The services were said or sung per a schedule, and there are some really talented singers there studying Church Music.¬† I’ve got a copy of a Compline service that is chanted that I want to practice – I’m going to propose having a Compline service twice a week at 7pm.¬† No idea if there will be any interest, but it’s worth a try.¬† Once we sat in a seat, that’s where we were assigned for the duration – which put me among gorgeous tenors and basses, but also made me the only woman on my side of the church.
¬† ¬† ¬†The class I’m taking right now is Old Testament, taught by Matthew Lynch, who was a business major who went to Israel for a year’s exchange as an undergrad, and came out an Old Testament scholar going for his Ph.D. in Theological Studies.¬† He did his master’s level in Germany, and now he is a dean of studies¬†at a seminary in England.¬† Despite all that, man, he’s young.¬† He’s got a 4-year-old.¬† He’s interesting and challenging.¬† His stated goal is that we learn to be concise; hence his 500-word assignments.¬† I now have a sign on my computer that says “ONE idea per paragraph.”
¬† ¬† ¬†I learned as much from the other students (there are 8 of us – 2 women) as I did from the professor – at least half of whom are from traditions that don’t allow the ordination of women. <grin> ¬†There are topics that get avoided around campus. ¬†Interestingly, we did become very familiar to one another very quickly, so it was nowhere near as uncomfortable as I had anticipated.¬† Of course, 6 hours a day in the same class will probably do that. ūüôā
¬† ¬† ¬†Superficially, everything is beautiful – they’ve definitely got some construction issues that should be addressed, but given that they have a maximum of 60 students residential, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.¬† Water takes about 5 minutes to heat up, and I was told that hot water is not necessarily always guaranteed. <g> ¬†There are chipmunks, squirrels and even ran into a bunch of baby frogs!
     Then there was the ride on the one-ton bell.  That was unique.
¬† ¬† ¬†So, at this point, we have a weekly post and reply to someone else’s post due, with our final paper (2000-2500 words) due at the end of this quarter.¬† As I have a truly unhealthy fascination with poetry (mine is unfortunately all rhyming couplets, but it is a method God has communicated with me before, so I continue), and have just discovered that Hebrew poetry is completely different than western poetry (which is important, because I have a project to rewrite Psalm 119 as an acrostic in English, only to discover that I’ve got to go back and re-edit because the important part is parallelism), I’m going to do mine on the book of Micah, which is entirely poetry.¬† I’ve got Jan Fokkelman’s book on Introduction to Hebrew Poetry on its way, and checked out far too many books from the library (next time, the bag needs to be able to roll…) on both poetry and Micah.
¬† ¬† ¬†Having posted my first post, and seen what two others in my class posted, either I’m right on the money, or I completely misunderstood the assignment.¬† I guess I’ll find out. ¬†First paper ended up as an A (he assigned the draft due the first day, with discussions and then turning in the final by the last day), thank goodness.¬† As you can see – one idea per paragraph is pretty foreign to me. ūüôā

So *Much* to Learn

So, one of the really interesting things I learned this past week was about Hebrew poetry, and that the main identifying marker is actually parallelism. ¬†Now, there are different types of parallelism, and I won’t get into it at the moment, but basically, for example:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1-2)

I put the “same” things in the same marked up portion. ¬†There’s a lot of repetition in Hebrew poetry, sometimes being explanatory, sometimes being antithetical, sometimes sympathetic, etc.

So, one of the several reasons I have for being interested in this is because I love poetry to begin with – but this is a completely different set of “rules”, if you will, than any I have attempted to write before. ¬†So, in order to both learn more,¬†and do the work for my class, I’ve decided to do the final paper for the class on Micah, which is almost entirely done in poetic form.

The other difficulty is that I’ve been working on rewriting Psalm 119¬†in order to make it an acrostic in English, rather than Hebrew. ¬†The problem there is that I did so without actually understanding that Hebrew poetry is completely different from western poetry; it’s not that it just doesn’t rhyme in English – it was never meant to rhyme at all. ¬†But I had no idea about the parallelism. ¬†Now I’m going to need to go back to what I’ve rewritten and ensure that the parallel meanings have remained the same.

Anyway, I will be getting assistance from a few books the professor recommended, one of which I’m actually waiting to arrive from Amazon (as the only copy was checked out of the library). ¬†I’m hoping that I can learn more about this over the next couple of months to be able to do Psalm 119 justice.

Brief Update on Costly Loss of Lament

So as I’m sitting in chapel, it occurs to me that both mercy and grace come into the answer to the lament poetry. ¬†We have no right to either of these, and yet, we ask for, and in some cases expect, grace from God without having done anything to deserve it. ¬†Which is sort of the definition of grace.

It was rather a message of “get over yourself – you’re there to learn”, so I need to realize that people much smarter and wiser than myself have done a great deal of study in these areas. ¬†Perhaps the answer for the future is to pray before disagreeing and ranting onto this blog about something I don’t agree with – God may have a few choice words to share that may shed some light on things that I haven’t yet considered. ¬†Then write it down.

Interesting Parallels

The professor pointed out that after Joseph died, the pharaoh did not know Joseph and did not trust the Jews, who had done as requested in Genesis, and had been fruitful and multiplied. ¬†In contrast, Pharaoh set himself up against the plans of God, setting limits on the Jews, enslaving and making them help to build the two cities that were showplaces of his kingdom. ¬†He treated them as a threat. ¬†It got me thinking about the Tower of Babel. ¬†When man sets himself against God, showing their hubris, God does things that further His own plans. ¬†With the Tower, He changed the languages and scattered humanity. ¬†With the Pharaoh, He sent plagues, and took His people back out into the wilderness. ¬†It seems that every time men get together in cities, they tend to forget about God and God’s might. ¬†Pharaoh certainly did. ¬†And like the tower, the cities were not finished because those building it, left.

It does make you look at the story of Esther and WWII in a different light as well.  The parallels in history are rather interesting to track.  Not that I can do my final paper on that (still have to choose a book in the Bible to write on), but thank God for this blog. *grin*

Commentary on the Costly Loss of Lament

Brueggemann’s article “Costly Loss of Lament” states boldly that the loss of lamentations among the church or by the church causes psychological and sociological harm to mankind. While I still have to do some research on Winnicott’s Maturational Processes and the concept of “False Self”, there are too many assumptions and a distinct limitation on the Divine that I simply cannot agree with.

When the author stated the “proper setting of praise is lament resolved”, my first question was why? Why can praise not come from joy? He later expounds that praise has been limited to joyous and thankful situations within both the life of the church and the liturgy, and apparently feels that this leads to the practice of denial, cover-up and pretense which sanctions the social contract.

Having studied law, the social contract, contrary to Brueggemann’s assertions, governs the treatment and contract between men, not between God and men. It assumes a level of incivility inherent in all men and governs their outward actions towards one another.

Apparently, comparing mankind to a child within a state of development whereby not asserting one’s own sense of authority and “omniscience” (wasn’t aware that was one of man’s gifts), if we do not question or challenge God, both to our state of existence and our unhappiness with the situation, all we are able to develop is a false faith, based on praise without reality. Now, being one who regularly asks questions of God, but out of a sense of need for my own edification, knowledge and understanding, and certainly not from a sense of challenging God, I have no idea where I’d stand in Brueggemann’s hierarchy of development. In his opinion, “lament helps to create enough distance from the parental aspect of God that one can have a mature, responsible faith.”

[As a complete and total aside, I apparently have more than a little problem with people who repeatedly use the term “Yahweh”, when they even acknowledge that the text uses “Adonai” or “Lord”. If you want to emphasize the tetragrammaton, then use it! And if you just want to piss people off by using a non-word, you’ve succeeded. I have to wonder if I’d have gotten so irritated with this article if he’d have used “Lord” or even “God” in place throughout.]

Throughout the article, Brueggemann never gives any credit or thought to the concept that God gave man free will, or that men generally create their own hells on earth through their decisions, actions and choices. Lamenting your lot in life, that often times, you’ve created yourself, and then expecting God to fix it is akin to whining to your parents that you’ve made bad choices, and would you fix it please? The “obligation” to fix things should not lie with God as a measure of mature faith, but rather should lie with yourself, as a measure of being a real-live, grown-up human. This, of course, does not mean that one cannot petition the Divine for assistance in that endeavor, and should generally be preceded by an acknowledgement of one’s own actions and choices that got you where you are.

When discussing Psalm 109, the author uses the term hesed to mean “steadfast love”. My understanding through my own studies with Jewish rabbis is that hesed is the attribute of masculine nature, yes, filled with love, but also still, silent and non-moving. It is the need for the inclusion of gevurrah that is actually acting upon things. Oddly enough, that is the embodiment of the feminine. So I need to look at that more fully.

In the comparison of Psalm 109 to Psalm 88, Psalm 109 doesn’t describe the experience of an overturned decision by God, but rather assumes it will/has happened (timelessness of God, again) and goes into a thanksgiving to God over it. Psalm 88, on the other hand, has no portion of thanksgiving because either the writer has stopped believing and trust God, or they have accepted that this is God’s (not man’s) judgment. They’re not happy with it and find no need to be thankful for it.

Lastly, the entirety of this article challenges the omniscience of God by stating that the created must cry out in order to move heaven to act. If we believe that God is both omniscient and outside of time, then we also must believe that God knows what is in our hearts and minds, knows how He will/has respond/ed and that Heaven will “move” when it is within the plans of God. No matter what man manages to do, God turns it into an advantage for advancing mankind.

The one aspect Brueggemann brings up that is an interesting concept is that of the laws governing guests. In Psalm 39, the author identifies himself as being a guest, and one that is temporally short in God’s eyes, on this creation of God. As a result, the laws of hospitality should apply, and God is therefore responsible for fixing the problems of His guests. That might actually be a concept worth exploring.

Augustine

I’ve always looked at the concept that God created everything, and at each step, pronounced it good from a rather Taoist perspective. ¬†If something is “good”, something else must be “bad”, else the good could not exist except in a rather one or two-dimensional space. ¬†This comes from the second chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away

However, Augustine has a rather different view of good and evil.  His Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope and Love is too long to paste here, but the gist is that the only completely, incorruptibly good entity is God.  All other good is less, and subject to corruption.  The corruption, or diminution of the total good is what is evil, but evil can only exist so long as some good exists, because evil destroys as it corrupts.  So, something may be almost entirely evil, but if there is even a kernel of good, it continues to exist.  If it is entirely consumed by evil, it becomes non-existent.  The corollary is not the opposite.  So, while evil cannot exist without good, good can exist without evil.

So, you have to wonder, as the serpent spoke with Eve, and after the fall, by Augustine’s view, if there mustn’t have been some part of the serpent which was good, because God didn’t destroy it – He cursed it to crawl and be at enmity with particularly women, but mankind in general. ¬†It continued to exist, in altered form, no doubt, but existence, nonetheless.

And see, the concept of good and evil, the destruction of the majority of mankind after God regretted creating us, the granting of free will – all of these things are things I’d love to explore for the stupid essay that I finished, but am terribly unhappy with. ¬†At the moment all I have to do is figure out the citations and where they’re supposed to be (footnotes or parenthetical phrases). ¬†But Augustine’s concept was new to me, and I found it interesting. ¬†Not that I necessarily agree with it, but it is interesting. ūüôā

99 Words

The irruption of the world is our first glimpse of God through the Word. It establishes the timelessness and omnipotence of the Divine by demonstrating that “creation is not an accident, but a deliberate act of Divine will.” The primeval history found in Genesis 1-11 forms the basis of a pattern seen both repeatedly throughout the entirety of the Bible, as well as foreshadowing the totality of mankind’s existence, through the creation, judgment and promise of God’s Word.

So, from the above, there are SO, SO many comments I want to be able to make, to explore, to spout off my thoughts and just explode in a blather of thoughts and directions is probably why the professor is limiting us to 500 words.  It took me an entire morning to come up with 99 words that say exactly what I want them to say.

Firstly, the concept of “themes” is confusing. ¬†There are the themes referenced in the book we’re assigned; themes created through Genesis 1-11 that go from creation, uncreation, recreation to creation, judgment, promise/covenant to creation, fall, judgment, expansion – lather, rinse, repeat; themes explored elsewhere of dominion, relationship, fruitfulness/growth, provision, limits. ¬†You can find themes in all sorts of manners regarding the first 11 chapters of the Bible. ¬†Just listing them uses up precious words of that 500 allowed… ¬†hmm, just noted the “limits” part of that theme – wonder if the professor is trying to get a point across. ūüôā

So, as you can see, I’m using one of the themes from the assigned book, and three of them from elsewhere that make sense to me, while including the Word in a christophany to foreshadow the actual basis for Christian belief.

Then we have the number of times I’m needing to bite my tongue at the author of the assigned book using the term “Yahweh”, which is not even a word. ¬†I’ve ranted on that before. ¬†I’ll probably do so again, repeatedly. <g>

And part of me wonders if the professor is wanting a mention of the literary themes.  500 words is just not enough. <g>