Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dry Ground

continued from the prior post

Elijah lived shortly after Solomon died and the kingdom was split in two. He wore animal skins for clothes and lived alone in the desert, slept under trees, or in caves, that sort of thing. Tell me who was like Elijah in Jesus' day. John the Baptist? Yes, good. Elijah and John both may have been Nazirites like Samuel and Samson.

In Elijah's day the king was named Ahab; he had a pagan wife, and let the people worship Baal, the baby-eating false god that their pagan neighbors worshiped. We think we're too smart for that nowadays, but people still kill their babies. What's that called, killing babies before they are born? Abortion? Yes. So the LORD sent Elijah to speak to the king. What's your job if God speaks through you? A prophet. Yes. Elijah said said to Ahab, "As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."  If there would be no rain until the king and people got right with God, then there'd food? Right, a famine. Naturally everyone from the king on down would want to wring Elijah's neck like a chicken, so God said, "Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself." That is, get out of Israel! By the way, this book I'm reading from is all about Israel's Kings, so its! Yes. 1st Kings,  there's a 2nd Kings too.

Elijah fled Israel and went to a pagan city called Zarephath. People there were starving too. "...and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink." And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." And she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

"And Elijah said to her, "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son." Now I'd've told Elijah to get lost, my child & I would eat first, but "...she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by Elijah." Because she was generous, Elijah worked a miracle: they were able to eat for the next 3 years of drought.

Later on, the widow's son got very sick, "and his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him." What's that mean? He died. Yes. And he said to her, "Give me your son." And he took him from her bosom, and carried him up into the upper chamber, where he lodged, and laid him upon his own bed. (Elijah was staying with them)  And he cried... "O LORD my God, let this child's soul come into him again." And...the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived." These miracles are extra special because they were done for pagans, when Chosen People were still starving. Why'd Elijah work these miracles? 'cause she was good to him? Yes, being charitable outweighed being pagan.

Tell me about the first miracle. Umm...he made a lot of food? Yes. Who else miraculously made a lot of food? Oh, Jesus!  Yes, he made pizza...ha, bread and fish! Oh yeah, you're right. And the next miracle, raising the widow's son from the dead? Jesus did that too!  Who'd he raise...y'all know this [on the board]...L-a-z...Lazarus!  Yes. Because of Jesus' miracles, some people wondered if he was...Elijah? Yes.

After 3 years God sent Elijah back to Samaria, Ahab's capital. What would you call someone who lived in Samaria? Umm...a Samarian? Close, a Samaritan, like in Jesus' parable...the Good Samaritan!  Yes, good. In Samaria, Elijah had a praying contest with 450 pagan priests who worshiped baby-eating Baal. They lost, and Elijah slit their throats in a creek. The people returned to the LORD, and the drought ended.

Now as Elijah grew old, God directed him to choose as his successor a young man named Elisha. Elijah "found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth."  The 12 oxen represent the 12 tribes, who descended from Israel's....12 sons. Yes. When you see 12 of anything in the Bible it refers to the nation of Israel united, not separated. So, how do you think Elijah showed that Elisha would be in charge? He laid hands on him!  Like Isaac and Jacob, great guess, but no! Another guess?  Put oil on him?  Another great guess, no again! Let's see, I need an Elisha volunteer, get up you're the volunteer. OK Elisha, what are you doing? Umm...farming? Oh, like planting little peas? You're plowing, bossing around a dozen huge oxen, show us that, grab some reins, be in charge, yeah, that's it. Now, "Elijah passed by him and threw his coat upon him." [I take off my coat and put it on Elisha's shoulders] Elijah shows that he's picking Elisha and also protecting him a bit, since Elisha's young and isn't a prophet yet. Elisha is Elijah's protégé, that's a French word for "protected one."

"And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." I'm impressed. I would have made excuses, but Elisha drops his old life right there, and follows Elijah. Who was it that dropped everything and followed Jesus? Peter? Yes. I bet Peter knew this story about Elisha and thought to himself, "Wow, I'm just like Elisha." And when Elijah left Earth, who'd he put in charge? Elisha. And when Jesus left? He put Peter in charge! Yes!

After Elisha learned the prophet business, it was time for him to take over from old Elijah. On the day that Elijah would leave Earth, they had to cross a famous river we haven't mentioned yet, where Jesus would later  be baptized...the Jordan river? Yes, good! As they traveled to the Jordan, Elijah told Elisha 3 times that he didn't have to make the journey. And 3 times Elisha said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." Tell me about the 3 times. It's a covenant! Yes, an oral contract- for what? For Elisha to be the next prophet? Yes.

Back when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, they had to cross the Jordan to enter Canaan, the Promised Land. But before that, what water did they cross to leave Egypt? The Red Sea? Yes, good; did they swim? No, Moses split the water so they could walk. Yes, Exodus says "the people of Israel walked on dry ground." And 40 years later when they got to the Jordan, they carried the Ark of the Covenant in front. When the Ark got to the river's edge, guess what happened. The water split? Yes, "And while all Israel were passing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan..." (Joshua 3:17)

When Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan, "Elijah took his mantle, and rolled it up, and struck the water" like so [I do this with my coat] and...the water split! Yes: "the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground". Notice how each event is described in the same way, "crossing on...dry ground!"  Yes. This is how the Bible writers show events are related, by using the same words or similar phrasing. We'll see more of that this year.

Once they were on the far side, "behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Wow....did Elijah die? No, God took him to heaven. Yes. Quick now, remember Enoch for me. He went up to heaven, too. Yes, so here are at least two people who went straight to heaven without dying. Their body'n'souls...didn't separate! Right!  

But when Elijah whooshed up to heaven, his cloak came off. Elisha "took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan [I do so]. "Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him, and...hit the water! [I do so] And...the water split and he walked over! On...dry ground!   Yes. "Now when the sons of the prophets who were on the other side at Jericho saw him, they said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha." How did they know that? Elisha had the coat. Yes. Remember Moses' stick: was it magic? No. Right. It was just a physical medium of God's power, like Isaac's hands, or the Ark, or Elijah's...coat. Yes, which still worked on the water even after Elijah was gone, because Elisha had faith. If some pagan had come by and whacked the water all day with the cloak, he'd just get worn out from slinging a wet coat.

Y'all remind me about leprosy. It's a disease that eats up your body. Yes, your nose dies and falls off, your fingers & toes fall off, eventually you die. The Bible's full of lepers that no-one wants to be around. Everyone was scared to death of touching a leper. Well, when Elisha was older, he healed an important pagan leper. The story starts off like this: "Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was...a mighty man, but he was a leper."  Naaman is a general in Syria, a country that still exists next to Israel. He's got money, power, camels, iPods. But he's caught leprosy, his lips and ears are falling off, and his wife won't kiss him anymore. How about that, girls? Ewww! Uh-huh...y'all never disappoint me.

"But Naaman's wife had a slavegirl from Israel, who said the prophet Elisha could cure Naaman's leprosy." With nothing to lose, Naaman took a pile of money with him and traveled to Israel. "So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha." Hey, old man in the shack, get out here! Don't make me wait! But "Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan river seven times.....and you will be clean." Naaman has a fit! He says, "I thought that he would surely come out to me, and wave his hand over the place, and cure me." Naaman wants some respect! Elisha should come out of his little hut and take care of business instead of handing out instructions to a general! Seven times!? And Naaman objects to having to bathe in that brown Jordan water: "The rivers of Damascus are better than all the waters of Israel. Could I not wash in them, and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage." This trip isn't working out....who does this Elisha think he is? Naaman's puffed up like a frog, he ain't doin' nuthin' stupid! I guess he'd rather be a leper. "But his servants said, "My father, if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, wouldn't you do it? All the more now, since he said to you, 'Wash and be clean,' you should do as he said." Alright! Alright already! "So Naaman went down and immersed himself into the Jordan seven times."

"So what do you think happened? He wasn't a leper anymore! That's right! "His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." So Naaman got himself some humility, did as he was told (everyone hates to do as they're told) and his disease was miraculously washed away by the water. So what does this remind you of? Baptism? Yes, it foreshadows Baptism. Baptism is the Greek word for "immerse" in the sense of washing.

Trick question #1: Suppose Naaman decided the water was just a symbol, and instead of getting in the muddy water, he just stood beside the river and went through the motions of washing [I do so], would that have worked? Ha! No! Why not? He had to use the water! Yes. The water was part of the miracle. The water wasn't just a symbol. God worked through the water. It was the medium.

Trick question #2: Naaman's leprosy was washed away; were Naaman's sins washed away? Ummm, no? No, they weren't. Jesus hadn't been born yet, so there were no Sacraments. No spiritual cleansing for Naaman. By the way, what river did Naaman immerse, or baptize, himself in? The Jordan. Yeah. Remember the guy named John who baptized people, what's he called? Ha, John the Baptist! Yes, what river did he baptize in? The same one, the Jordan! Yes...imagine that. Also remember that Naaman was a pagan, but he was still healed because he believed enough to obey Elisha.

Years passed, and Elisha worked other miracles we aren't going to cover in class. "So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year." Moabites are just another bunch of pagan troublemakers. "And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha"  I imagine the men who were burying him panicked and just threw him into the grave. "and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet." (2Kings 13)  Now look at this bone; [I have a chicken thighbone] pretend it's one of Elisha's bones. Is it magic? No. What is it? A thing like Moses' stick. Yes and...the coat? Yes, Elijah's coat. A medium. Trick question: if Elisha's dead, why do his bones still work miracles? 'Cause God makes the miracle, not Elisha? Yes. God worked through Elisha both alive and dead. Have y'all ever heard of relics [on the board]? No? They're bones or bodies or clothes of saints that Catholics honor. Where are the saints? In heaven? Yes, but their bodies are...buried? Yes, they're still on Earth, but we still have reverence for their bodies or clothes the way we would have reverence for Elisha's miracle-working bones or Elijah's cloak.

OK, that's it for Elisha; next week we'll cover Isaiah, who had a lot to say about Christmas.

Class over!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Days

Y'all remind me, we were talking about...Mr. Slingshot...David! Yes. We were discussing his sins, which were? He fooled around with the man's wife! Yes, Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. And then? David got him killed! Yes. David broke some commandments, which are…thou shalt not kill! Yes, number 5, and…thou shalt not commit adultery, number 7. Y’all wouldn’t think about that at your age. That’s a body sin, something you do: committing adultery. What’s adultery? It’s having married love with someone you aren’t married to. And David also committed a soul sin, he coveted his neighbor’s wife, commandment number 9. What’s covet? To want something real bad? Yes, something that isn't yours.

But God forgave David; how was David sure about that? Nathan told him. Yes. But to get forgiveness you have to atone, do penance. David’s sins were very serious and couldn’t be fixed like a broken window. So David and Bathsheba’s penance was that their baby died a few days after he was born. God took their firstborn as atonement.

Tell me some of David’s talents. He could sing and play the harp! Yes. And he also wrote songs called Psalms [on the board]. Psalm is a Greek word for “play a harp, play a lyre” so we know they were meant for singing. By the way, words that start with “Ps” come from Greek. We sing Psalms at Mass: the choir sings one part, then we sing a response. We call them Responsorial Psalms. Anyway, David wrote the 51st Psalm right after his affair with Bathsheba; here’s a bit of that:

“A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my sins. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” The washing bit is what the priest quietly says at Mass when he washes his hands. If you sit up front you can hear him quoting David.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” This is how I feel before I go to confession: my sins hang over me all the time, I want to get rid of them. I imagine David felt the same way.

“7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” What’s purge [on the board] mean? To throw up? Oh, like people who binge and purge so they won’t gain weight. Good guess, but not exactly: purge means to clean something inside out so thoroughly it hurts. So what happens in Purgatory? Huh? What happens in Purgatory? Your sins get cleaned? Yes, perfectly cleaned, purged, after which…you go to heaven? Yes. And David wants to be sprinkled with a hyssop brush as a symbol, an outward sign of God washing, purging his sins.

Then David says, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. 12 Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” David wants to feel like I do when I get out of confession: brand new.

“16 For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. 17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” See, David knows killing and burning animals doesn’t mean much to God. What God really wants is for us to sacrifice our pride, to be humble and contrite. What’s contrite? Sorry? Yes, like when we pray an Act of…Contrition! Yes.

Not all of David’s songs are sad. I like Psalm 128 because it’s about family:

“1 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” This is exactly like my house, when my beautiful wife is at the other end of the table, and my beautiful children are at the sides. They’re beautiful, both boys and girls, and even though the youngest one is 19.

“ 4 Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. 5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel!” And here again, it’s like my life, when I play with my grandchildren!

Thanksgiving dinner always makes me think of this Psalm. As y’all get older you should pay attention to the Psalms and see if there are some you especially like.

Now being a King, David would sit on a stool in a shack, right? Ha, he had a throne in a palace! Oh. Yes, that’s right. And who would sit beside him? Bathsheba! Ha! Trick question! No! His momma sat next to him; she was called the Queen Mother. What commandment would David be obeying by having his mother be sitting at his right hand? Honor you father and mother? Yes, what number is that? The fourth? Yes, good. Sometimes people would want a favor from David, and would ask his mom to ask David for them. Why is that? ‘Cause his mom is nicer? Maybe…another reason? He has to do what she says? Well, let’s say he would want to honor her wishes. You could still ask David directly for something, but still, if his mom asks too that can’t hurt. This reminds me…someone tell us about the wedding Jesus went to. They were at the wedding and they ran out of wine. Yes, who was there? Jesus and Mary. Yes. And when the wedding party ran out of wine, did they bug Jesus? No they got Mary to do it. Yes, so the same way that people might talk to David’s mom, people would talk to Jesus’ mom that same way, even now by praying to her. And let's Jesus a King? Yes. Of...heaven? Yes, so in heaven we have God the Father sitting on a throne, and to his right is...Jesus, yes, and to his right is...Mary! Yes, who is...Queen Mother. Yes, good.
So David dwelled in…a palace! Yes, and God dwelled in….a tent! Yes. David felt bad for God: “Now when the king dwelt in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies round about, the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent." David wanted God to have a nice house, too, a temple. But “the LORD came to Nathan, "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the LORD: When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name.” So we see God expects David to have another son. And did God just tell David all this directly? No, he told Nathan. Yes, Nathan was the intermediary, the medium between God and David.

And after their first baby died, David and Bathsheba did have another son who became King after David; who? Solomon! Yes, good. Solomon became King after David died…who sat beside Solomon in the palace? His mom? Named…Bathsheba! Yes. What was Solomon famous for? Being smart? Yes, wisdom; somebody tell the wisdom story. Two women were arguing about a baby. What about the baby? Who it belonged to, they both told Solomon it was their baby. And? Solomon said to cut in half and give each of them a part. Then the real mom said to give it to the other lady instead. What did Solomon do then? Give it to the real mom. Yes, he figured out who the real mother was; she loved the baby more than herself.

Well, as Nathan prophesied, Solomon built God a permanent house, a temple, which was much bigger and more spectacular than that old Meeting Tent. But even so, the plan was still like the Meeting Tent, just bigger and sturdier. Look at this plan. It doesn't show all the many washbasins, tables, candles and lampstands a big Temple would have because it still works like the Meeting Tent:

See, it’s still the same: people come up to the altar with offerings, Levites receive them, priests wash their hands and offer the sacrifices, incense burns, and in the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest goes, God dwells in his Ark, the tabernacle, the…little house! Yes, which is guarded by…cherubs! Yes. Just like in church. Yes, what? Are there cherubs in church? Excellent question, yes indeed there are, but you have to look carefully to see them. Later on this year we’ll talk about it, but I don’t want to give it away right now.

Israel’s happiest days were when the Temple was new and Solomon was King. Israel was rich, and had beaten all her enemies. But things were never so good again. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was a terrible king, and Israel was split into two parts, Israel in the North, and Judea in the South. The people who lived in the South, around Jerusalem, are called Jews. We won’t talk about Israelites anymore. And after the split, both kingdoms were conquered by a series of much bigger enemies, including Persia (which is Iran today), Assyria (Syria), Babylon (Iraq), and Greece. And who was running things when Jesus was alive? Romans! Yes. It was a thousand years from David to Jesus, and almost two thousand more years after Jesus until Israel became independent again after World War 2. And they’re still fighting for the land with Philistines, Palestinians.

During the thousand years leading up to Jesus, God spoke to his Chosen People through a series of prophets, just as he spoke to Saul through…Nathan? No, guess again. Samuel? Yes. And who did Nathan advise? David! Yes. Sometimes the prophets scold the Jews for worshiping false gods and generally ignoring the LORD; other times they say things about the future. They even work miracles. We’ll look at some of them for the next class or two, starting with Elijah.

continued in the next post

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mr. Slingshot

This post is also available at Amazing Catechists

Y'all remind me who we were talking about last week...Samson...after Samson, the other 'S' guy. Samuel? Yes. Samuel was dedicated to God by his mom Hannah before he was conceived. What's 'conceived'? When you first have the baby? Yes, and about 9 months later...the baby is born. Yes. Well, when Samuel was a little boy, his parents took him to the Meeting Tent at...Shiloh, yes, and he served God there, living with the judge and high priest Eli, and his adult sons. Eli was old, and mostly sat around while his sons ran things. But they were corrupt, what's that mean? They did bad things? Yes, they abused their position as priests. They'd steal meat from the sacrifices, and even take advantage of women who helped out around the Meeting Tent. Eli knew there was evil right in God's house, but never did much about it.

One night, "Samuel was lying down within the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. And the LORD called again, "Samuel!" And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." ...And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, Speak, LORD, for thy servant hears." So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears." And God told Samuel he was going to punish Eli and his sons. From then on, God spoke to Samuel, "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel." People whom God speaks through like that are called prophets. Samuel mediated God's messages to Israel.

Now here's a story for you: just a few years ago there was a married man in Lebanon, near Israel. He didn't like his wife anymore, and met another woman in an online chatroom. They fell in love and decided to meet at a cafe. The guy goes into the cafe...guess who is there to meet him? No guesses? An adult would get this: it was his wife! They were both cheating on each other in the chatroom! So the husband is furious at her, never mind his own sin, and yells, "Divorce, divorce, divorce!" and stomps out. In traditional Arab cultures a husband can divorce his wife by just saying it three times. Here's why: people got married and had contracts long before there were pens, pencils, paper or widespread literacy. What's literacy? When you can read and write! Yes. So most marriages and contracts were made by each person agreeing out loud three times to the contract. And to cancel a deal, you'd have to say so...three times! Yes, like that husband. When you say what a contract is instead of writing, it's an oral contract. They still count even if they aren't written down on paper.

Tell me, how many times did God call Samuel? Three times! Yes...why three times? 'Cause he was making a contract with Samuel? Yes, an oral contract. Remember oral contracts, we'll learn about an important one later on.

Back to Eli and his sons. At some point, Israel had just been defeated in battle by the Philistines. They decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the next day's fight. So Eli's corrupt sons brought the Ark to the army. The book of Samuel says, "When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "A god has come into the camp." And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness." Help, the Israelites brought their God Box, we're gonna lose! But the Philistines decide it's better to fight and die than be captured and become slaves. And Israel was defeated again, but much worse. The ark was captured, and Eli's sons were killed. Back at Shiloh, Eli was sitting by the Meeting Tent. A messenger ran up, told him the ark was captured and his sons killed. Eli is so shocked he falls backward, breaks his neck and dies. His pregnant daughter-in-law who is married to one of the dead sons, is so shocked that she goes into labor, has the baby right there, and dies.

This is bad news more than anyone could have imagined! How could God allow the Ark to be captured? But God was making the point that Israel couldn't misbehave indefinitely and then expect God to cut them tons of slack just because they were his Chosen People.

After God sent plagues on the Philistines like he did to Egypt, they eventually gave the Ark back to Israel, but it was never returned to Shiloh. God never dwelled in Shiloh again.

Now, after Eli died, Samuel became the last judge of Israel. But his sons were no good, just like Eli's; so the people pestered Samuel about getting a king. Finally God said OK, let them have an earthly king, but tell them what a bad deal it will be. So Samuel told Israel, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." A golden toilet would have been much cheaper.

God sent Samuel out to find a king. He found "a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." So he was tall and handsome...big deal, right? What was his name? Saul! Yes. And to show that Saul was king, does anyone want to guess what Samuel did? Lay hands on him! Great guess, but no: Samuel poured oil on his head, he anointed him. The Hebrew word for anointed is Mashiah [on the board]; how do we say it? Jesus was Mashiah...oh, Messiah? Yes. The Hebrews got the word Mashiah from the Egyptians, who anointed the Pharaoh with crocodile oil. Their word for crocodile is msha. What could be more interesting?

So Saul was Israel's first king. He was good in some ways, bad in others. For example, Saul wanted to offer his own sacrifices instead of letting the Levites do it...a big no-no. At least he was tall and handsome...must be a lesson in there somewhere. Anyway, God sent Samuel out to get a replacement for Saul. He said, "Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." Why did Samuel need oil? To anoint the new king! Yes. And this Jesse the Bethlehemite...where'd he live? Bethlehem? Yes. And if one of his sons would be king, then the king would be from...Bethlehem too? Yes; why do we care if this next king is from Bethlehem? 'Cause Jesus was born there? Yes, much later.

So Samuel visits Jesse on the sly, has a look at his sons, Jesse has seven of them on display. God tells Samuel they won't do. "And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here." And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." Tell me, who is this next king...the shepherd boy...David? Yes, good. But this anointing is secret from Saul.

Now the book of Samuel says "...the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him." Some people think he may have suffered from depression and migraine headaches, which are awful. "And Saul's servants said to him, " out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well." What's a lyre? Like a harp? Yes, good. One of Saul's servants recommended David. "And David came to Saul, and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him."

Now about this same time there was a giant Philistine soldier that all of Israel feared...yes? Goliath! Yes, tell the story. Nobody would fight Goliath, but David said he would. Yes, and he was too small to wear King Saul's armor; so what next? He killed Goliath with a slingshot! Yes, and used Goliath's sword to chop his head off! How about that, girls? Ewww! Boys? Cool! Uh-huh.

So David became very popular. Giant-killer, soldier, lyre-player, singer; an all-around great guy. As David grew into a young man, Saul became jealous of David and tried to kill him. David had go away and hide, until Saul and his sons were dead; then David became king.

David was very close to God, enjoyed God's favor for most of his life. He even talked straight to God, and God would talk right back:

David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" And the LORD said to him, "Go up." David said, "To which shall I go up?" And he said, "To Hebron."

David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" And the LORD said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah."

David asked, "Will Saul come down?" And the LORD said, "He will come down."

Then David said, "Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?" And the LORD said, "They will surrender you."

Whether or not David heard God speaking out loud isn't the point, although he may have. What matters is that David had God's ear, so to speak. He went straight to God and heard right back....Old Testament Instant Messaging.

David brought great victories to Israel, and captured Jerusalem, which became the capital city. David built himself a palace of cedarwood there, which must have smelled terrific.

David's life would seem pretty good at this point: a nice new palace, wives (he had a few), a new capital city. But one afternoon, David was on the roof of his palace, and saw a woman named Bathsheba taking a bath, and he wanted her for himself. He had an affair with her; unfortunately she was married to one of David's soldiers, named Uriah. So David arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. Then David married Bathsheba. David clearly committed some serious sins, including conceiving a baby with Bathsheba while she was married to Uriah. (2Sam 11)

How did David do that ? Do what? You know...the baby. I tell you what, ask your parents if you want to know the details- they conceived you, after all.

Now remember Samuel's successor, Nathan. Nathan was a prophet who had been authorized by God to be the King's keep him out of trouble, and to scold him if necessary. Nathan knew David needed to repent of these serious sins in order to rule Israel well, but it's not smart to just tell a King, "hey King, you super sinner, everybody knows how bad you are, you'd better repent or else!" Kings have big egos, they think they're so great, a King would just get mad...that's how John the Baptist lost his head, by the way.

Instead of yelling at King David, Nathan tells him a sad story:

"O great King, let me tell you about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had lots of sheep, more than he needed, but the poor man had only one little lamb. It grew up in his family along with his children; it was like another daughter to him. (I pretend to cradle a dear little lamb.) Then one day the rich man needed a sheep for a feast, but being a bigshot, instead of using one of his own, he took the the poor man's lamb instead." (2 Samuel 12)

King David blew his top! He yelled, "that selfish jerk is gonna pay for that big time! That's outrageous! He treated that poor guy like dirt!" But Nathan said, "That rich man is you! God's given you so much, but you stole Uriah's wife Bathsheba, and then had him killed to try to cover up your sins!"

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Did God already know David's sins? Yes. In fact, did God know David's sins before David was even born? Yes. And David's a smart guy, he would have known that God was aware of his sins, right? Right! And of course, David knew he had sinned by having, umm, married love with a woman he wasn't married to, and getting her husband killed. So why hadn't David repented? Well, he just put it off. Yes. He could do what I like to do, just tell God he's sorry, what the heck, God knows all his sins anyway. He didn't have to admit it to anyone else, so he kept his pride. I like to keep my pride, too. Just like Adam and Eve.

But David acknowledged his terrible sins to Nathan, who was God's authorized advisor and scold. Instead of saying, "Interesting story Nathan, but I haven't killed any lambs, stop wasting Royal time," and later on going straight to God to apologize and seek forgiveness, he 'fesses up to Nathan, "
I have sinned against the LORD." Now, tell me: did God know David's sins? Yes! And did Nathan know David's sins, at least a few really big bad ones? Yes! And did David know David's sins? Yes! And could David go straight to God for all sorts of stuff, as we saw earlier? Yes!

So....why did David bother to confess to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD"? Because God went through Nathan, David has to? Yes, genius daughter! And think of it this way....have you ever been mean to your Mom? Yeees.... And were you sorry right away? Yes! Did you 'fess up right away? No, it's embarrassing! Yes, you wanted to hang onto what Adam & Eve hung onto, your...pride! Yes, we all love our pride, ourselves, instead of loving others. What's the opposite of being prideful? Being humble! Yes.

Back to your Mom- when you felt sorry, did she know you were sorry without you saying so? Yes, she can tell. So if you apologize, you're just telling her what she already knows. So why does she want you to say you're sorry out loud? It makes her feel better. Yes, but there's another reason. When you tell her you're sorry, what does she say say back? She says that's ok, she forgives me. And how do you feel? Better. Yes, you humble yourself by saying that you did something wrong, and you're sorry; it's hard. But your apology allows your Mom to say she forgives you. It wouldn't be right for her to say it first, although she probably would want to because she loves you. You're humble; Mom's merciful. And after you say you're sorry and she says you're forgiven, how else might her body show you're forgiven? She'll hug me. Yes, and how do you feel? Happy. Yes, often we're happiest after we've just repented and been forgiven, in spirit and....physically! And what 2 things make a person, by the way? A body and a soul! Yes, they go together, bodynsoul. So if your soul is sorry, what else should be sorry? Your body! And one way your body shows it is? By saying you're sorry. Yes, out loud, just like King David. It's humbling.

Now back to King David. David didn't just privately confess to God. He confessed his sin to God through Nathan, who was God's physical representative. He physically humbled himself before another person, because being a bodynsoul his spirit had to confess to a spirit, and his body had to confess to.....? another body! Yes, and since Jesus wasn't around yet, God wasn't physically what did David do? He confessed to Nathan. Yes. And what does your Mom do after you say you're sorry? She forgives me! Yes. So guess what Nathan did after David confessed? Umm...he forgave David? Yes! Plain as day, Nathan said, "The LORD has put away your sin..." Trick question: how do you know if your Mom forgives you for something you do? Umm, she says I'm forgiven? Yes, the words go right out of her mouth and into your ear. Next trick question: how did David know his sins were forgiven? Nathan told him right in his ear! Yes! But David didn't sin against Nathan...who said Nathan could speak for God? Umm, God said so? Yes, God appointed Nathan, and gave him that authority. We know this because the Bible says that God would tell Nathan what to tell David. So when David heard the words from Nathan, he could believe them. Nathan mediated God's forgiveness.

This story about David and Nathan should remind you of how Catholics confess our sins to God. Can we pray straight to God like David? Yes! But when we want to confess our serious sins, and be forgiven, what do we do? Confess to a priest. Yes, just as David confessed to Nathan. And how do we know we're forgiven? The priest says so. Yes, just like Nathan. And how do we know the priest can do that? He speaks for God. Yes...just like Nathan. He's got authority from Jesus' Church.

When I was a kid the priest would say: "May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." The words are a bit different now, but the priest still speaks for Jesus so you can hear the words go right into your ear, just as Nathan spoke for God in the Old Testament. We and David are forgiven, body and...? Bodynsoul! Yes, bodynsoul.

By the way, after you are forgiven your sins, the priest usually wants you to do something......oh, penance. Yes. David had a penance too, but that's a story for next week.

Class over!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Arks & Nazirites

Y'all remember from the last class that all the wandering Israelites lived in ...tents! Yes, and that God dwelled among them. So he also needed...a tent! Yes, it was called the Meeting Tent. It was a very expensive tent which they took down and set up every time they moved. God told Moses, "..make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst...according to all that I show you concerning the pattern of the Tabernacle." God means that the Meeting Tent is patterned after his sanctuary, his temple, in heaven. And Tabernacle is a Latin word which means "little house." Have y'all ever heard of a "tavern"? Yes, people drink beer there.  Mmm, yes they do...well, a tavern is a kind of house, and a tavernacle, or as we say, tabernacle, is a little house. Is there a little house, a tabernacle in church? Yes! Who dwells there? God! More specifically, please. Jesus! Yes. Churches have a lot in common with the Meeting Tent, as we'll see.

God gave Moses very particular instructions to Moses about how to make his Tent and the things that went in it. The Israelites provided "gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen, goats' hair, tanned rams' skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense." Wow, that's quite a list! Let's look at a plan of this fancy Tent:

Do y'all know how to look at a plan? We're looking down at the Tent, but I took the roof off so we can see inside. Notice over to the left of the Altar, there are two people handing a sacrifice to a priest, we're looking at the tops of their heads....get it? Yes!  OK. First, that line around the outside with the dots is like a big curtain that's held up by poles, which are the dots. That curtain separates the God's dwelling, his holy place, from the people, who pitched their tents all around the outside. Let's imagine I've sinned, and am going to get atonement and forgiveness. I walk in the left side, which is the people's space. I have a lamb. When I come up to the front of altar, I stop. A Levite priest or an assistant comes around to the front, and takes my lamb. Now, what's that behind the altar? A washbasin. Yes, why do the priests wash their hands? So they're clean when they make the sacrifice? Yes, like at Mass.

Now most of the activity at the Meeting Tent is in this outdoor area, it's holy, but not so holy that regular sinners like me can't come in a bit. But the smaller area to the right is roofed over, and called what? Holy Space. Yes. Inside, the incense is burned, and bread is displayed, they are both continuous offerings; and of course being indoors, some light is needed...the candles, yes. Only priests, Aaron's sons get in here. No people, no assistants. See, the further in you go the more holy it gets, and the fewer people have access. Now the back half is even more holy, called...Holy of Holies? Yes. Ony one person can go in here, the high priest. At first he was Aaron; later on he was a descendant of Aaron. This Holy of Holies is where God dwelled. What's a veil? What a woman puts on her face so you can't see her. Yes, good answer. When especially will a woman wear a veil? At her wedding. Yes, why? So you can't see her! Yes, so you can't see her beauty; but why aren't you supposed to see her beauty? OK, after the bride and groom take their vows, what does the groom do? He kisses her!  Yes, what does he do first? He lifts the veil. Yes, that symbolizes that only he has access to all his wife's beauty. The veil on the plan does that, too. It limits access to God to the High Priest, just one person. People were too sinful to just stand around staring at God's dwelling. What's in the Holy of Holies? The ark and cherubim? Yes. Remind me, what's an ark? A container! Yes, in this case, it's a box for which God gave specific instructions [I draw while I read]: "make an ark of acacia wood; two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height." A cubit is an Egyptian measure about from my elbow to my fingertips, so it's not all that big; about like a breakfast table. "And you shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without..." This is no ordinary box. "And you shall cast four rings of gold ...two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark by them." See, this way men could carry the ark without touching it.  "Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold..." The mercy seat goes on top of the ark like so... "And you shall make two cherubim of cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end...The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings...toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be." OK...there we go...isn't that a great picture? Not really. Hey, use your imaginations, pretend it's terrific.

So, where have we already seen a cherub in the Old Testament? Remember I called it a "kerub" guarded Eden? Yes, a kerub, a cherub, is one of God's bodyguards. If God's bodyguards both face inward like the picture, then what's between them? God? Yes, the LORD sits on the mercy seat, although not physically because God has no...body! Right! Exodus says, "There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark." Now, the ark is covered! Yes, because they put old magazines in it. What? Well, what would you put in a golden box? Nice things. Like pizza? No, like diamonds or something. Yes, precious, valuable things. The Israelites put Aaron's staff, a pot of manna, and the Commandments in what they called the Ark of the Covenant. They couldn't put God in the box, so they put his stuff in the box instead.

So all this had to be moveable while the Chosen People wandered in the desert. But once they settled down in the Promised Land, the tent stayed in one place called Shiloh.

Y'all may remember when Abraham arrived in the Promised Land, it was already occupied by pagans who sacrificed....their firstborn babies! Yes, and Abraham fought them for the land. And now that the Israelites have returned, they have to fight, too. Now, in ancient times who ran a country? Who was in charge? A golden monkey? Ha, no a king!Yes, all the pagan countries had kings. The Israelites wanted a king, too, but God said no, I'm your king, you don't need an earthly king. God gave them judges instead. A judge could make decisions and run things, but couldn't raise taxes to pay for, oh, a golden toilet for himself. For about 100 years there were judges; one of them, Deborah, was a woman. This Old Testament book about the judges is called...umm, Judges? Yes...that was a gimme.

In the book of Judges there's a married couple: a man named Manoah, and his wife. They were unhappy just like Abraham & Sarah...? They didn't have any kids. Right. Judges 13 says "And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean... No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines."

What's that mean: "No razor shall come upon his head"? Don't shave his head? Yes, don't cut his hair. And he's going to be a Nazirite [on the board]. This doesn't mean he's from Nazareth, it's the Hebrew word for "separated." It means he will devote his life to God's service. His long hair will be a sign of that devotion. And he would be strong, and fight the Philistines who were pagan enemies of Israel. The Philistines lived in Philistia, what we call Palestine, although Palestinians aren't pagan anymore.

So she tells her husband the news. Later, the angel visits them both, still looking like a man. "Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "Pray, let us detain you, and prepare a kid for you." And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "If you detain me, I will not eat of your food; but if you make ready a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD." (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.)" After all, who should they thank for their son? God? Yes, the LORD. "So Manoah took the kid with the cereal offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground."

Wow, they didn't know he was an angel 'til he took off!

Tell me, what's the deal with the flame going up to heaven? Huh? Why does it matter which way the fire goes? Well, it's going to heaven. Yes...what's going to heaven, exactly...not the flame...oh, the offering is going up! Yes...all by itself I suppose, a burned-up goat....why is the messenger going up? He's going back to heaven, too. Yes, so the angel and the offering are just going up separately, but at the same time to heaven, right? It's just a coincidence? Well...maybe the angel is taking the offering up. Yes, I think so. The messenger takes the offering up. The angel connects earth and heaven. And where's the offering starting from? Earth. Yes, be more specific please, listen: "when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar." Oh, from the altar! Yes. So the angel carries the offering from the altar up to heaven. Something like that happens in church. At Mass, have you ever heard, "may your angel carry this sacrifice to your altar in heaven"? Yeees... OK, when? When you're sitting? No, kneeling. Yes. Remember Manoah's sacrifice when we discuss the Mass later this year.

So Manoah's son grew up to be one of Israel's judges, and a strong, long-haired warrior...what's his name? Oh, Saul! No, good guess! Samuel! No again, but y'all are right about starting with an 'S'....Samson! Yes, good. And part of being a Nazirite, being dedicated to God's service was living apart, not getting married. Can you think of anyone today who's like that? Huh? Forget the hair for a second; someone who isn't married and is dedicated to God's service. Oh...Father Newman? Yes, good. And who is someone in the New Testament who also lived apart like a hermit, had long hair, and wasn't married? Oh, oh, John the Baptist! Wow honorary son, you nailed that one! Yes, John the Baptist!

Back to Samson, why was he so strong? Cause his hair was long! Yes, and the long hair meant...he... was....dedi...oh, dedicated to God! Yes, his dedication made him strong, not so much his hair. But he got involved with a woman he wasn't married to named Delilah, somebody tell the story...yes, go ahead. She tricked him into telling her how his hair made him strong, and she cut it off, and he was weak. Yes, someone tell more. Some bad people blinded him, but then he pushed their building down and killed them all. Yes.

Now there's one more Nazirite to learn about tonight. By now I bet you can guess why his parents were unhappy. No kids! Yes! Y'all are fast learners! This couple was Hannah and her husband Elkanah. Poor Hannah wanted a baby so bad. One day they took a trip to offer a sacrifice to the LORD at the Meeting Tent...where was it? S-h-i...Shiloh! Yes, Shiloh. While they were there, Hannah prayed, "O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy maidservant, and remember me, and not forget thy maidservant, but wilt give to thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." So she's doing the same deal as Manoah and his wife: give me a son and...he'll be a N-naz...look it's right there on the board...Nazirite! Yes, dedicated and separated. His name starts with an 'S' too, y'all already said it tonight. Samuel? Yes, good. This book I'm reading from is about name of the book is Samuel!  Oh dear, another gimme. OK, let's stop there, we'll learn more about Samuel next week.

Class over! 

Friday, October 22, 2010


                                   (This post is linked to Sunday Snippets & Amazing Catechists)

Continued from the prior post...

So when Moses came down from the mountain with the 12 bananas, 10 Commandments! yes, right, he was so angry with the Israelites' misbehavior that he threw the tablets down and shattered them. Then he lays into Aaron: "What did this people do to you that you have brought a great sin upon them?" And Aaron said, "Let not the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are set on evil." That is: it ain't my fault! And of course the people are running wild, out of control. Remind me please, how many sons did Israel have? 12? Yes. And from each son came a tribe; there were 12 tribes. One of Israel's sons was named Levi; his tribe, his descendants, were called Levites. Not Levi's, which are pants. Aaron was a Levite, not a pair of jeans. Well, "Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'" And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men." Man, that's harsh! But in those days just because God didn't require people to sacrifice their firstborns didn't mean he was a pushover. So the only tribe that was on God's side of this idol-worship were...Levites! Yes. "And Moses said, "Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day."

Class, remind me please, who was going to sacrifice Isaac? Abraham. Yes, and who killed the ram instead? Well, wasn't it still Abraham? That's right...just checking. Who sacrificed Abel's lamb? Abel? Yes. And who killed all those lambs at the first Passover? Moses? Wow, Moses ran around all night killing lambs? was the fathers or the grandfathers. Yes, an elder or a firstborn son. So being a priest wasn't a special job. If I fix a toilet at home, I'm not called a plumber, it's just something I do as the eldest man in the house. But if I make a mess and water sprays all over the place, my wife will say: "You made such a mess I don't feel good about you fixing leaks anymore...I...want....a....? Plumber! Yes, who I have to pay!

And it was like that for the Israelites after they made such a mess by worshiping an idol. God said, "All you Calf-worshipers can't be trusted to make a proper sacrifice anymore. From now on y'all have to pay the Levite men to do your sacrificing for you." That's why the book of Leviticus is full of blood'n'guts: the Levite elders offered sacrifices for a living. That's the blessing they received from God. While all the other 11 tribes had to work all the time, the Levites had it much easier.

It's too bad they messed up, because Moses had sacrificed some bulls to honor God's covenant with the Israelites just a month or so before they decided to worship the Calf. Exodus says, "And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he splashed against the altar." What a mess! "Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Like the rest of us, the Israelites were ready to be obedient as long as they were in a good mood.

“And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people…” [I walk around the class, and sling blood on all the kids while I talk] I suppose he used a hyssop brush like on Passover. So you Israelites are in the desert, and it’s dry, and Moses is going to sprinkle you from a bowl full of hot bull blood…why do you want to be sprinkled with that hot sticky stuff? No guesses? Why did the doorposts in Egypt need blood sprinkled on them? So the firstborns wouldn’t be killed. Yes, the blood marked the houses where a substitute had been sacrificed. So, Moses sprinkles the people to show…that the bulls were substitutes for the people? Yes. And the blood marks the people as part of the covenant, which is not like a contract, but like…a marriage! Yes. Trick question: if someone overslept that day, and didn’t get sprinkled, would they be included in the covenant? No! Right. They had to get the blood on their bodies.

While Moses sprinkles, he says, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." Does this sound like anything in Mass? The priest says that about the wine! Yes, good, he almost says this. The priest actually says what Jesus said at the Last Supper. He quotes Jesus. And who do you think Jesus was quoting when he talked about the blood of a covenant? Moses? Yes genius, and we’ll learn more about this later on.

Speaking of wandering in the desert, remember that wanderers are...nomads, yes,who live in...tents, yes, and so the Israelites made a very deluxe tent for God to live in among his people, the Meeting Tent, which in many ways is like our church. Well, to get things off to a clean start with the Tent, there was a purification event. Tell me, what tribe didn't worship the Golden Calf? C'mon...L-E-V- Levites! Yes, descendants of Isaac's son Levi. And because they behaved, God put them in charge of sacrifices and all the business of the Meeting Tent. And there was one high priest, Moses' brother Aaron. So we have the high priest, the Levites, and the people, who are all sinners. To have a clean start, do they need to take a big bath together? Huh? Do their bodies need cleaning? No, their souls. Yes, cleaned from...sin. Yes, good. Here's how that was done: the LORD said to Moses, "Take the Levites from among the people of Israel, and cleanse them: sprinkle the water of expiation upon them, and let them...wash their clothes and cleanse themselves." Anybody know what expiation means? No? That's OK, 6th graders don't know everything. It means to make up for something, to atone. So their clothes are clean...souls clean too? No. Right. But they're just getting started. "you shall present the Levites before the tent of meeting, and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. When you present the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites..." So all the Israelites lay hands on the Levites...why? To bless them? Good guess, but no. Priests can bless the people, fathers bless sons, but not the other way around. Here's the next bit: "Then the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bulls; and you shall offer the one for a sin make atonement for the Levites." [Numbers 9] Why are the bulls atone for...sin! Yes. So the people were trying to get rid of their...sins! Yes! How'd they move their sins away from themselves? Umm, they laid hands on the Levites? Yes, and how'd the Levites move their sins and the people's sins off of themselves? They laid hands on the bulls! Yes, geniuses! Then they killed the sin-full bulls and thus atoned for all those sins.

Remind me about the comedian on TV: is the TV funny? No, the man is funny! Right, the TV is a medium, it transmits invisible stuff so we can laugh at the comedian in the studio. And when Moses hit the rock, the medium was...the stick! Yes, and when Isaac blessed Jacob? His hands! Yes, they transmitted the blessing. And when everyone atoned for their sins at the Meeting Tent, the medium to move the sins to the bulls was...their hands! Yes. And if the people didn't want to touch other people's heads, could they have removed their sins? No! And if the Levites didn't want to touch a smelly bull could they have removed their sins? No! Right. All that physical stuff matters, because we have a soul and...a body! Yes. God works through his creation.

From then on, Israelites had to come to the Levites to atone for their sins. They'd tell a Levite their sins, he'd give them a penance, tell them what to offer, say a calf, or a bird, or a lamb. He'd kill it and offer it. There was a different atonement for each type of sin, or seriousness of sin. It could get pretty complicated. There's a book in the Bible that deals with all the details of sin, sacrifice, and atonement called Leviticus. It's named after the Levite priests, it's a kind of instruction manual. Here's an example, it's long and gross: "He shall bring the bull to the door of the tent of meeting before the LORD, and lay his hand on the head of the bull, and kill the bull before the LORD. And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD which is in the tent of meeting, and the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the door of the tent of meeting. And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall take from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the appendage of the liver which he shall take away with the kidneys ...and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of burnt offering. But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung, the whole bull he shall carry forth outside the camp to a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and shall burn it on a fire of wood; where the ashes are poured out it shall be burned."  How 'bout that, girls? Ewww! That's right.

And this is what Leviticus says, over and over, sacrifice after sacrifice: "the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven." Trick question: if I was a good Israelite, and the priests made atonement for all my sins, and they were forgiven, when I died would I go to Heaven? Yes...No! Well, which is it? No! Why? Cause Jesus hadn't died for our sins yet. Yes. The problem was that God was perfect and sinless, while even the high priests were sinners like the rest of us. So even though sinful people and sinful priests, including the high priest, did their best to make up for their sins, they couldn't do a perfect job of it. To do that you'd need a high priest who had no sin.

Thank goodness though, people who faithfully followed God's laws as best they could didn't go to Hell. They went to a place called Sheol, neither pleasant nor painful. Greeks had a word for that abode of the dead, anyone know it? Hades? Yes, good. Yes, what? Is that like Purgatory? Good question daughter, it's like Purgatory in that it's not Heaven or Hell, and a temporary place; but being in Sheol is different from being in Purgatory. In fact, Jesus visited Sheol, we'll learn about that later this year.

Now so far all the purification and sacrificing involves spilling and sprinkling and slathering...blood! Yes, blood, because God's people believed life was in blood, which makes a certain amount of sense. They had so much respect for the life in blood that they wouldn't consume blood: wouldn't drink it or even eat meat unless all the blood had drained out of the animal first. But this next bit of Leviticus adds something to that sacrificial blood.

Who knows what a leper is, not a leopard...c'mon, what's leprosy? A bad disease? Yes, an awful disease: parts of your body die and fall off, like your fingers, ears, lips, nose. Eventually you die, but in the meantime you are ugly and people are afraid of touching you. Leviticus says, "The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, 'Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease...he shall dwell alone...outside the camp." Poor people.

In Biblical times, lots of skin diseases were called leprosy, not just the worst type that we now call Hansen's Disease, where body parts fall off. Some infections might go away, might heal, but anyone whose skin ailment got better had to go to a priest to be declared clean, the way you'd need a doctor's note to return to school. There was a ritual for that. Leviticus says, "...take...two living clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet stuff and hyssop; ....kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water. He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet stuff and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water; and he shall sprinkle it seven times upon him who is to be cleansed of leprosy; then he shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird go into the open field." Y'all know about blood being sprinkled with a hyssop brush, but in this case the blood is being mixed with what? Water? Yes, the blood is sprinkled for...making up for sin...A-T-O- Atonement! Yes, and the water is Yes, we'd say cleansing in this case. So water and blood together atone and cleanse. After this sprinkling the healed person offers lambs and some oil. The priest sacrifices the lambs and put some of the blood on the person. Then he pours a handful of the oil on the person's head, and declares the person is clean. Even the house of a leper had to be cleansed: "for the cleansing of the house he shall...take the cedarwood and the hyssop and the scarlet stuff, along with the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times." Blood and water go together.

For centuries, the Levites sprinkled blood or water on people and things: marking them with the sacrificial blood, or by washing them clean with water. If you want to make something physically clean will sprinkling do a good job? No, that won't do anything. So why just sprinkle then? Why not really wash? Well, it would take too long, and people have their clothes on. That's right, and sprinkling's not about getting physically clean anyway, what's the point? Spiritual cleaning? Yes, and because we're made of a...body'n'soul! yes, if we want our souls made clean, we...sprinkle water on our bodies? Yes, genius! But in Moses' day the sprinkling was symbolic. It showed that the people wished to be clean from sin... the water didn't do anything. But Jesus changes that in the New Testament.

And tell me the business about the Israelites starving the desert? God gave them bread! Yes, what's that bread called? Manna! Yes, Manna. For 40 years they ate it, what did it do for them? Well, it kept them from starving? Yes. For how long? Umm...40 years? Yes, and after that did they all get old and die? Yes. So that food miracle, the manna, worked for a while. Even Jesus talked about manna, as we'll discuss later on. And let's see...what is a human made of? A body'n'soul! Yes, and what part did the miracle bread help? The body part? Yes. Unfortunately it didn't do a thing for...the soul part? Right. But this is typical of food miracles in the Old Testament: they help bodies, but not...souls. Yes. Jesus is going to change this, too.

Now, has anyone ever seen any sprinkling happen in church? I have! Tell us about it. Umm, the priest walks around with a bucket and a silver thing and slings holy water on everybody! Yes. That thing is called an aspergillum, it's the Latin word for little-sprinkler-thing. Has anyone ever seen a priest use a bundle of sticks, instead of the silver aspergillum, to sprinkle the congregation? I saw that at another church! Yes, good. It's very interesting. The bundle of sticks looks like a little broom or brush, and it slings more Holy Water than the silver sprinkler, too. I like the sticks because that's like hyssop brushes the Levites used to sprinkle blood and water all the time. Look at this picture in last week's newspaper, this is the priest at the Greek Orthodox church blessing a new building...what's he using? A brush like Moses had! Yes.

From now on in the Bible, we'll see the ritual use of water showing up in important ways. Sometimes by itself, sometimes together with blood. And we'll see people anointed with oil as well; watch for that.

Class over!

This series continues in the the next post,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Uh-oh: Desert Debauchery

continued from the prior post, "Prince of Egypt"

So the Israelites were thrown out of Egypt. Pharaoh didn't just say, ok y'all can leave, he said get out! Why was he so angry? No guesses? He wasn't just Pharaoh, but a father. Oh, because his son was killed! Yes, his firstborn. And the Israelites had prepared to leave, so within the day they were gone. The book in the Bible we're reading from is called Exodus, which is Greek for departure, or exit. Even though this Old Testament book was written in...Hebrew, the name is Greek. Why is it called Exodus? Because the people were leaving Egypt. Yes.

And by the time they got to the Red Sea, (I draw a quick map of the Nile, the Red Sea, Sinai & the Mediterranean coast) Pharaoh was having second thoughts: "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?" So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the people of Israel as they went forth defiantly."

And when the people saw Pharaoh's army coming, they started complaining to Moses:  "What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Now I know what Moses is thinking: stop WHINING! But God tells Moses:  "Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go on dry ground through the sea" (I do this with my rod). What happpens? The water splits apart! It does! Would it have parted if Moses hadn't used his rod? No! If Moses had prayed real hard? No!  Right. Moses had to actively, physically cooperate with God...Moses' way? No, God's way! Right. Once again, God's power goes through something physical, a part of his creation; in this case the rod, the stick. Tell me the rest. They cross over and the soldiers chase them but the water comes back and they drown. Yes, good. (Ex 14)

Now the people of Israel are heading back to Canaan, the land God gave to...Abraham, yes, their forefather. But they wander around for a long time, which the Bible says is...40 days! That's not so long. 40 years! There you go. Well, within a month or so of leaving Egypt, they ran out of food: "the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." What's Moses thinking right now? Stop...whining!  Yes. But God told Moses: "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day..." What's that bread called? Manna? Yes, manna. Question: if God didn't want the people to be hungry, couldn't he just think, "they shall not be hungry," and have that work? Well, God can do anything. why did he go to the trouble of putting miracle bread on the ground every morning? So they would know where it came from? Yes, God wanted them to believe not just spiritually, but...physically! Yes, 'cause we're a...body'n'soul! Yes, and they had to cooperate with God: pick up the bread and chew it and eat it. And "the taste of it was like wafers made with honey"...sounds pretty good!

But if they ran short of food in the wilderness you can bet they also ran short of...water!  Yes.  Exodus chapter 17 says: "...there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." I love that: it's all Moses' fault! Stop...whining!  Yes! And Moses said to them, "Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" Waah, waah, like spoiled brats. "So Moses cried to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel." And so? Water came out!  Yes. And why did the elders have to watch? So they could tell the people that Moses did it. Yes. So the people couldn't say it just happened by itself.

Suppose Moses didn't do the rod thing, but say, slapped the rock? No water! Yes...trick question: is the rod magic?! No! Right; think about TV. If someone is funny on TV, do you think, "Wow, the TV sure is funny?" Ha, that's silly! Oh yeah, why? Because the people are funny, not the TV. Right. The TV is just a screen that lets you see and hear the comedian. We call the TV a medium. A medium is something in the middle, like a medium-sized shirt. On one side is the comedian; on the other side is...the people watching the TV?  Yes, so between the audience and the comedian is...the TV!  Yes, it's the medium, it just carries the information. Think about a lightbulb and a power station, what's the medium there? Umm...wires?  Yes, the wire transmits...electricity?  Yes, power. When Isaac blessed Jacob, what was the medium? His hands!  Yes. Sometimes we talk about the news media, which means magazines, newspapers, the net, radio, TV. If there is more than one medium, we say media. God uses Moses' rod as a medium, and this year we'll see more examples of God using physical things, stuff, as media to transmit his power and grace.

So. Once the Israelites quit whining about being hungry and thirsty, they stopped for a while at the bottom of Mount Sinai, which nowadays is in Egypt. Moses went up to the top to visit with God...for a long time but not 40 years, which is too long...40 days!  Yes; and why on the mountaintop? OK, where is God usually? In heaven? Yes, which is under the ground? No, up in the sky! So then? Oh, the top is closer to God! Yes.

Apparently the Israelites got bored of twiddling their thumbs for 40 days, which reminds me of a saying: "Idle hands are the Devil's playground." Exodus 32 says:  "When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." And Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."  So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" Oh dear: does God the Father have a body? No. Is he a calf? Ha, no! But Egyptians worshiped make-believe gods, what sort of bodies did they have? One was a bird. Yes, Thoth had a bird-head...another? Umm...a crocodile? Yes; Egyptians had all sorts of animal-body gods. So the Israelites, having picked up some bad habits in Egypt,  decided to make up an animal for God.

After the calf was made, Aaron "built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Uh-oh, like the Devil's...playground! Yes! God saw them, and was angry that they would treat him like some bogus animal-god. He told Moses he would wipe them out and start over, but Moses pleaded with God not to. "You promised they would have the land of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, give them another chance." We would say that Moses interceded for the people. So God agreed not to kill them. As Moses came down the mountain he saw the calf, and the people drunk, running wild, and participating in adult misbehavior. What's adult misbehavior? Ask your parents. So Moses was angry, and threw something down, which was...the Ten Commandments!  Yes, which were written on...two stone tablets! Yes, they were shattered.

Next week we'll see how God and Moses dealt with all this idol-worship and sinning.

Class over!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Prince of Egypt

Still from Disney's lovely Prince of Egypt

Y'all remember last class we were talking about Mr. Laughter, what was his name? Isaac! Yes, and his two sons, Mr. Hairy...? Esau! Yes, and the Heel-grabber...Jacob! Yes, good. And Jacob tricked his Daddy and his brother so he got...the inheritance!  Yes. Years passed, Isaac died, and Jacob became a grown man. One night he was attacked by a stranger, and he wrestled all night with him. At dawn the stranger tried to get away, but Jacob wouldn't let him go until he identified himself. The stranger said he was an angel sent by God; and because Jacob had wrestled with God's messenger, his name was changed to I-s-r-a-e-l, which is Hebrew for "struggles with God."  The "el" on the end means God. Anytime you see a Bible name like Michael, Gabriel, or Daniel the el means "of God, with God," that sort of thing, and the first part of the name means something else. Do you remember who has already had a name-change in the Bible? Sarah? Yes, and her husband...Abraham. Yes. And when a name changes in the Bible that person gains authority and getting a promotion from God. And it can't change back.

Israel had 12 sons. We're not going to learn all their names, but their descendants became 12 tribes of a particular nation...? Umm, Egypt? No, but a good guess. These 12 tribes were the descendants of.... oh Israel!  Yes, the whole nation was named ...Israel.  Yes. How about that for a name-change? Well, Israel's youngest son was Joseph, and being the youngest, he was the cutest. Most of his older brothers were grown men with beards and not cute. And old Israel loved Joseph so much he gave him a very nice present...a garment...a coat with colors?  Yes, and the brothers were jealous, they couldn't stand how their father doted on the kid while they had to work all day. So what did they decide to do? Make him a slave! Almost. First they decided to kill him but figured that was too mean, so they threw him into a pit. Later on a slave-merchant came along, bought Joseph, and took him to...Egypt!  Yes, good.  Then his brothers took his colorful coat, put some goat's blood on it and told Israel that Joseph had been killed by an animal. What did Joseph do to deserve being hated? Nothing. Right. What did Abel do to deserve being hated? Nothing. Right again. In both cases they were innocent lambs that are sacrificed.

Joseph was a useful slave in Egypt, and as an adult was such a good manager that he became the Pharaoh's right-hand man, what we might call the prime-minister.

Then one year there was a great famine in Canaan, where Israel and his extended family lived. What's a famine? When people starve 'cause there's not enough to eat. Yes, what usually causes a famine? It doesn't rain? Yes, there's a shortage of water. So Israel's family moved to Egypt. Why Egypt? Let me put it this way: why would there be water in Egypt even if there's no rain? Oh, the Nile river is there!  Yes. Well, all the family came to Egypt, and met with Joseph, who ran things for the Pharaoh. They didn't recognize him, but Joseph knew who they were, his rotten brothers and their families. But he let them live in Egypt. Eventually they all made up, and Israel was so happy to his son Joseph back. I bet he was as happy as Abraham when he didn't have to sacrifice...Isaac!  Yes. By the way, who has seen the movie "Prince of Egypt?" Me. Me too. I did. But not all of you. The movie covers what we're going to be talking about for the next couple of classes, in case you want to watch it for homework- be sure not to enjoy it!

So for centuries the Israelites lived in Egypt, but as slaves. Everyone worked for the Pharaoh. Hey, if you saw Prince of Egypt, what was the bad guy's name? Ramses. Yes...what was his job? He was the Pharaoh. Mmmm, that was what people called him. What was his job? Being the king, ruling Egypt.
Yes. Now if we were speaking to the king could we say, "hey Ramses, howya doin'? Sure is hot today in Egypt isn't it, Ramses?" Ha, that wouldn't be right. Why not? Well, he's the king. Yeah, so? So you have to show respect. OK, so one way we show respect for someone's authority is to show respect for his name. By the way, Pharaoh doesn't actually mean King. Egyptians had another word for king: Nisut. "Pharaoh" means "Big House." Why would Ramses be called Big House? Because he lived in a big house, a palace. Yes. And the point is that the Egyptians and the Hebrew slaves had so much respect for Ramses that they wouldn't call him Ramses, or even call him King, but only refer to him by where he lived. That's also why we don't call our parents, or priests, or other people with authority by their first names.

Well, the Israelites were so fruitful that...they had a lot of children!  Yes, so many that Pharaoh got nervous. He was afraid the Hebrews might take over Egypt. While the Israelites are in Egypt the Bible calls them Hebrews. So Pharaoh commanded that all the Hebrew boy babies be thrown into what river? The Nile, yes...which is the only river in Egypt, so that was easy. What had those babies done? Nothing. Right. Who can tell me another time that a King killed a whole lot of baby boys? Oh, King Herod!  Yes, good, we'll talk about Herod later this year. All these babies were...innocent...innocent victims!  Yes, like sacrificed...lambs!  Yes.

When Pharaoh gave this command, one Hebrew woman hid her newborn baby. But babies grow and get too big to hide, so what did she do? Put him in a little boat in the Nile, and a lady found him. Yes, but the Bible doesn't say boat, it says...ark! Yes, a container for valuable things, in this case...a baby!  Yes, it was a basket with tar on the outside to make it waterproof. Who found the baby? The Queen? Close, the Pharaoh's daughter, a princess. She adopted Moses, and he grew up as part of Pharaoh's family.

One day when Moses was a young man, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. Moses got upset, and killed the Egyptian. When Pharaoh found out, Moses had to flee Egypt. He got a job in the desert tending sheep, married his boss's daughter, Zipporah (I like that name), and minded his own business. But all the Hebrew slaves were still stuck in Egypt: "the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition." (Ex 2). And a covenant is a contract, but more like...a marriage! Yes, good.

So Moses was tending sheep one day, "And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." I'd be the same, I gotta see that!  "God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" Then he said, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Moses had to take his dirty shoes off to show respect. And God said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." God is reminding Moses that God has a long history with Moses' forefathers. Then God says, "the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt." (Ex 4)

Moses said, "Why me?" But God said he'd help, and tongue-tied Moses could let his brother Aaron do the most of the talking in Egypt. So Moses goes to Egypt. He and Aaron visit his childhood friend Ramses, who is the Pharaoh now. They say, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.' "  But Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should heed his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover I will not let Israel go." Having thousands of slaves is a good deal for Pharaoh, he's not giving that up. Now it'd be easy for Pharaoh to just kill Moses, but he wants to show his power. So he orders his bosses to make things harder for the Hebrews at work. Then the Hebrews will blame Moses and Aaron for their problems. 

So Moses is unhappy, and tells God, "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 thy name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered thy people at all."  That doesn't mean delivered like a pizza...what's it mean? Taken away from Pharaoh? Yes, delivered away. (Ex 5)

 So God worked through Moses to bring 10 plagues on Egypt, who knows some of them? The river became blood? Yes, and? Frogs? Yes...any more? No? Well, there was a plague of gnats, one of flies, diseases, boils, which are big pus infections that hurt like crazy- all kinds of gross stuff, but Pharaoh wouldn't let the Israelites go after 9 plagues. So God sent a tenth plague:  "Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go; when he lets you go, he will drive you away completely...About midnight I will go forth in the midst of Egypt; and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sits upon his throne, even to the first-born of the maidservant who is behind the mill; and all the first-born of the animals. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever shall be again."

But does God plan to kill all the Hebrew firstborn? No. Right, Moses tells the Hebrews: "Select lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the passover lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it."  Notice each family has to kill an unblemished lamb...what's unblemished? zits? Nice skin? Sort of. It means flawless: no broken bones, healthy, not mangy. The sort of lamb Abel would sacrifice, not Cain. Cain would get a cheap, scrawny lamb. So they get a good lamb, kill it, and eat it. By eating it, they make the sacrificed animal part of themselves.

Then Moses instructs: "Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood which is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to slay the Egyptians; and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to slay you." What's a basin? A big bowl. Yes, about handwashing size. When you kill a lamb like this, all the blood runs into the basin. Then the Hebrews had to spread it on the doorposts with a bunch of hyssop. Hyssop's a plant; if you tie a bunch of hyssop together it makes a broom or a brush. Question: why did they have to spread the blood on the doorposts? God told them to. Well, yes. But imagine you're the destroyer, the angel of death, floating over the houses going into each one and killing all the firstborn. Then you fly over a house with blood all over the doorway...what does that tell you? That something's already been killed there! Yes, genius! So what do you do? Go to the next house? Yes. You pass over the houses where something has already been killed. What is this event called? The Passover!  Yes! Jewish people still observe the Passover every spring. And tell me, who else in the Bible was able to spare the firstborn by sacrificing a substitute animal? Abraham! Yes, good. But suppose instead of sprinkling blood, the Israelites just stayed inside and prayed hard...would that work? No! Suppose they didn't want to mess the doorway up and left the basin full of blood on the porch? No! Killing a calf instead of a lamb? No! Right. For God to help the Israelites, they had themselves? Yes, they had to cooperate with God. Could they cooperate however they wanted to? No, the way God wanted them to. Yes, it's still like that, we have to work with God, to cooperate, his way, not our way.

So around midnight, "Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where one was not dead. And he summoned Moses and Aaron by night, and said, "Rise up, go forth from among my people, both you and the people of Israel..." And so the Israelites prepare to exit Egypt after 430 years. What's "exit" mean? To leave somewhere. Yes, to go out. Next we'll see what the Israelites did when they exited.

Story continues in the next post, Media.