Monday, March 1, 2010

project 4:4: weeks 7 & 8, or failure catches up with me

Rather than wallowing in the self-loathing because I never posted my project 4:4 entry from last week, I'm just going to combine it with this week's and pretend like I meant for it to happen that way.

On Wednesday of last week when I still hadn't posted the 4:4 post, I claimed that it wasn't an exciting week of reading and blamed Leviticus.  But I was at least half-wrong.  The first part of the week's reading came from the end of Numbers and Deuteronomy and included portions Moses's farewell address, which I think is some pretty awesome stuff.  It had just been so long since I read it, and my head was so full of rotten tv that I couldn't remember it.  Oops.

I love the idea of the farewell address so much.  Moses has been the leader of these people for forty years, and as they are finally about to embark on this journey into the Promised Land, he has to send them on without him.  He takes them back and reminds them of where they've been and Who's been with them, and exhorts them to remember and live accordingly as they enter this new phase.  The folks he's addressing now are a younger generation than those original complainers, as we've waited forty years for them to die out.  But there are people in this crowd who will still remember Egyptian slavery, God's mighty deliverance through the plagues and Red Sea parting, the covenant made in the desert, the voice of God speaking to them.  But there is also an even younger generation hearing these words who won't have the same first-hand experiences, and Moses lays the burden of passing on this story to all generations.  And there's some beautiful language thrown in, just for me.  Deuteronomy six is definitely one of my favorite passages in the Bible, for just that reason.

All through the Daily Bible readings so far, we've skipped most of the law-giving information because F. LaGard has chosen to put it all together in one place, and we've finally reached that place in our reading.  He's grouped similar passages under whatever type of law it is.  So far we've covered the laws concerning religious observances--feasts, holidays, various kinds of offerings (and there are a lot of them), and priestly law.  We've covered ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness, Nazarite vows, and the consequences for not following all of these laws.  I'm still reading about the law this week too, so I'll have more to say about it later also.  Lucky readers.

There was one particular day's reading that really stuck out for me this time:  In Wednesday's reading, we examined the priesthood, and I ran across a passage that is difficult for me.  In Leviticus 21:16-24, we learn that descendants of Aaron who are disabled in various ways cannot serve as a priest.  Call me a product of the 20th/21st centuries, but this troubles me.  I can understand that some physical limitations might prevent people from fulfilling the duties of a priest, but several of the things listed certainly wouldn't--and the "defects" mentioned seem, for the most part, entirely beyond the control of these men.  It's sad to me, and I think it doesn't help that the some of the terminology used is very similar to the descriptions of unblemished nature of the animals that are to be sacrificed.  I can understand the idea of God demanding an animal sacrifice without defect.  Giving to God animals that have little value or are not useful does seem to go against the idea of sacrificing the best or firstfruits, so I get that.  But this priest thing is different to me.  These are people, God's people, who are being excluded from God's service, when birth into the Levite tribe should ensure their place as a part of the tabernacle work.  What should I do with this passage?  How do I make this idea fit into this picture of God-relationship that I'm forming through this reading?

I haven't looked ahead yet, but so I don't know when I'll get this law business taken care of so that I can get back to the story, but I'm trying to be patient.  I understand why the law is important and detailed and all that jazz.  I've talked about that before--that I appreciate the fact that God cares about the details of their lives.  He knows what's best for them, and this whole law business is supposed to result in holiness, so I can't overlook it or rush it or be impatient with it.  But in my tired and draggy and impatient and utterly human way, I'm ready for some action.


  1. On disabled priests:
    There's an interesting statement given to those about to be swallowed by the earth during Korah's rebellion. God points out that it was their hunger for more than they were alloted that has led to their destruction and says that they should have been satisfied with the roles that he had assigned to them. Sometimes I think that our modern ideas about how we can be/do/become anything we want fly in the face of the Bible's emphasis on tribal, familial, gender, or social roles and responsibilities placed on us by forces outside of our control. Sometimes I get mad at the Bible if it seems to say that somebody can't be what they want to be or what they're capable of just because they're not the firstborn, or not a Levite, or not a man, etc. "Can't the Bible just acknowledge that all men are created equal?!" I want to yell. Other times I sort of wonder if our modern obsession with "equality" is really all that it's cracked up to be. If our efforts towards equality force us to abandon roles that we may be uniquely called to or suited for in favor of roles society deems to be successful maybe we're losing something. Maybe by learning to fulfill our duties as we receive them we learn something important about God and grow in virtue. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that statements like that ring pretty hollow coming from a middle-class white male with no glass ceiling in sight. I think I'll ask my friend Danny who is an Old Testament scholar about this. He has impaired hearing so maybe he's wrestled with it some himself.

    You didn't mention anything about Leviticus 19, but I found that chapter to be really powerful right in the middle of the Law section. The repeated phrase, "I am the Lord" and the commands that point to the heart of the Law and the heart of God really hit me hard.

    I feel the same way that you do about Moses' farewell address. It's so sad and beautiful and cinematic. I can just see that young crowd standing listening to the aging prophet who has been their leader and guide for their entire lives. He must have seemed so ancient and wise and powerful and yet saddened and humbled, like a father giving away his daughter at her wedding. I like to try to imagine which parts of the story Moses retold with a tear in his eye and which parts made him smile. I rather imagine that his voice, which had never been strong to begin with, cracked once or twice during that speech. And then I imagine him walking up that mountain and looking over to the promise land before laying down to sleep with his fathers rest with his God. I love that it's that Moses' death, like his life is a story of hope and anticipation, a waiting story, a faith story. There are only about three narratives in Scripture that always bring a tear to my eye, and this is one of them.

    Also, Deuteronomy 6 is great. I had my OT class learn the Shema in Hebrew.

  2. This is to let you know I am a reader and I am not imaginary. I am real. If you prick me, do I not bleed? if you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you do not blog, I cannot begin my day with a smile.

    There are two types of blogs. The first is where the blogger discusses her online discoveries(this is considered the traditional blog.) The second is where the blogger has a web diary and shares their thoughts, dreams, impressions of the day or week or how ever often they blog.

    It is refreshing to see Ellen does not go the traditional route but is willing to give her readers an insight into the windwills of her mind. Round, Like a circle in a spiral
    Like a wheel within a wheel
    Never ending or beginning
    On an ever-spinning reel
    Like a snowball down a mountain
    Or a carnival balloon
    Like a carousel that’s turning
    Running rings around the moon
    Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
    Past the minutes on it’s face
    And the world is like an apple
    Whirling silently in space
    Like the circles that you find
    In the windmills of your mind.

    You might consider contacting…by-women. Your witty and entertaining blogging style should make them consider adding you to their must read blogs by women.

    It is refreshing you are willing to share the inner workings of your mind with the blogosphere.

    Keep up the great work. I look forward to seeing how those windmills keep turning in your mind.

    Lt. Zachary Garber

  3. I am a reader and I am not imaginary. If you prick me do I not bleed? If you tickle me do I not laugh? If you do not blog, I do not smile?

    There are two types of blogs. The more traditional blog is the one where the blogger writes about their online discoveries. The other type of blog is where the blogger discusses her dream, her thoughts, her impressions of the day, of the week , or how ever often she may blog.

    It is refreshing to see Ellen has taken the less traditional approach and is letting her readers see how the windmills of her mind works. Like a circle in a spiral
    Like a wheel within a wheel
    Never ending or beginning,
    On an ever spinning wheel
    As the images unwind
    Like the circle that you find
    In the windmills of your mind.

    You should consider contacting…by-women. They would change it to 101 must read blogs after they read Ellen has an opinion.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the inner workings of the windmills of your mind with the blogosphere.

    Keep writing and I will keep reading.

    Lt. Zachary Walter Garber

  4. I had those same modern politically correct thoughts when I read it. But then I was thinking about the people of that time. Job's friends were certain that he had sinned, because that much bad stuff could only happen to a sinner. And centuries later the apostles asked whose sin caused the man's blindness. So any defect in a priest would be seen as unholiness. God also knew that he would be competing against false gods and their priests, so his priests would have to be above reproach.

  5. Among the many things mentioned in today’s reading, there is a limitation for who can serve as a priest before the Lord. Lev. 21:16-24 tells us that no descendant of Aaron who has a defect may not serve as a priest in the tabernacle. Along with wanting sacrifies that are without defect God required that those who served as priest before Him be without defect. I believe this to be a continuation of the aspect of the best is given to God. Those who did not have any defect in them, those who were without blemish.

    Question: Why do you think that it would be important for those who serve as priest be without any blemish? What message do you think would be presented if just anyone served?

    Additonally, Shane had a politically correct thought or thoughts? Who knew?

    The Higher Rock

  6. I have a confession to make. I almost skipped over Leviticus 21 and 22, thinking that there wasn’t much of importance to the 20th century Christian. Was I ever wrong!

    It would be easy to come to the hasty conclusion that these two chapters are irrelevant and hardly worth our time. After all, this is the Old Testament, and we are New Testament saints. This is the Book of Leviticus, and these chapters pertain to the Aaronic priesthood. Furthermore, these chapters deal with ceremonial defilements, which do not carry over into the New Testament. Now if the defilements were sins such as murder, lying, idolatry, that might be another matter … And so our text may seem about as relevant as a speed limit for a horse and buggy on Central Expressway.

    There are three compelling reasons for the relevance of these two chapters and for our study of them in this lesson. First, an understanding of Leviticus 21 and 22 will greatly enhance our understanding of the New Testament.

    I have found that I can better understand the particular individual I am working with by learning something of his or her background. Attitudes and behavior which are beyond my comprehension often “fit” when I discover the kind of childhood the individual has had and some of the experiences and turning points which have shaped the person’s outlook.

    The same can be said for the scribes and Pharisees in the New Testament. From the moment our Lord began His public ministry, He was adamantly opposed by a very powerful, hostile group of Jewish religious leaders—the scribes and Pharisees. Among their number were the priests. Indeed, the priests were instrumental in the crucifixion of our Lord: “Now when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away, and delivered Him up to Pilate the governor” (Matt. 27:1-2).

    The fundamental difference which quickly arose between our Lord and the scribes and Pharisees was the definition of holiness. The scribes and Pharisees had a distorted perception of the Old Testament definition of holiness, which to them was attained by human effort, by avoiding external ceremonial defilement and by observing the prescribed rituals of the Law of Moses. Thus, they concluded that Jesus, who mingled with sinners, who touched lepers, and who challenged their interpretation of the Law, could only be a sinner, operating in the power of Beelzebub. Ultimately, playing their version of holiness and their interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures to their ultimate conclusion, they found Him worthy of death.

    This opposition to our Lord did not end with His death, burial, and resurrection. It persisted on, attacking the church, both from without and from within. The Book of Acts records a number of these attacks. The epistles, such as the Book of Galatians, show that the problem was a persistent one, one which the apostles took most seriously.

    Sorry I may have hijacked your blog, but you gave me a lot to think about. Obviously you're not a golfer.

    Jeffrey Lebowski, AKA The Dude

  7. Dear Anonymous commenter(s?): You didn't hijack my blog. You made my day by commenting and interacting with me and the imaginary readers around here.

    All these priesthood-related comments (Mac & Shane's too) have been helpful in terms of putting this text in perspective for me, so thank you. I'm sure I'll need your help again before I'm finished with the law.

  8. Here's how it is: The Earth got used up, so we moved out and terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. The Central Planets, thems formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. She's a transport ship; Firefly class. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher for some reason, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, took his genius sister outta some Alliance camp, so they're keepin' a low profile. You understand. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is.

    Glad I could be of assistance.

    Mal Reynolds


what do you think?