Old School Willy Wonka

What You’ve Missed…
A lot.
* Jacob’s sons graduate from brotherly rivalry 101  [giving Indian burns, punching each other in the shoulder (two for flinching!) and just causing your basic, run-of-the-mill emotional scarring inherent in all brotherly relationships] and move onto graduate level stuff like LEAVING THEIR BROTHER JOSEPH TO DIE IN THE WILDERNESS, and later, SELLING HIM INTO SLAVERY.  (To be fair, he did constantly mention how he had dreams that they would all bow down to him in the future.)
* After becoming a slave in Egypt, Joseph is falsely accused of rape and is thrown in prison.  (Let’s see…being hated by his brothers, becoming a slave, and then thrown into prison under false pretenses?  Can you imagine the prescription drug problem this guy would have today?)
* God uses Joseph to interpret the dreams of two fellow inmates. (One goes on to prosperity, and the other is impaled on a pole.)
* Joseph becomes the original Charlie Sheen in Wallstreet (is this too dated a reference?) rising straight to the top of the power/wealth chain when he gives Pharaoh some pretty sweet insider information, and Pharaoh appoints him to be in charge of the entire kingdom.
* Because of famine, and because Joseph is the man with the plan (and food) his brothers come to him (not recognizing him), bowing at his feet (ring a bell?) begging to buy food for their families back home in Canaan.
* In retrospect, maybe you should just watch Act I of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  It’s filled with lavish musical numbers, elaborate stage sets, and fantastically flamboyant costumes.  Other than that, it’s exactly the same as what you just read.

Day 16
Daily Reading: Genesis 42-45:15

Alright, so Joseph’s brothers took brotherly harassment to a new level.  But it’s turning out the Bible knows how to spin one heck of a great story, and Joseph is about to take the idea of “getting even” to new heights.  Joseph wants revenge, but he’s not out for blood, and it should be mentioned he seems slightly bi-polar.  So what’s his approach?  Mind games.

Phase one kicks off with some serious interrogation.  After grilling his brothers he accuses them of being liars and spies.  For phase two, Joseph throws them all in jail for three days.  Then he demands they go back home, and return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin.  He ties up his brother Simeon, and holds him as ransom.  But just to keep them on their toes, he fills up their grain sacks, and secretly returns the money they used to purchase the grain, which they find later, and which really stresses them out.

Their father Jacob starts freaking out, refuses to let Benjamin go to Egypt, and plays the famous dad card telling his idiot children that they will be the death of him.  As the famine continues their grain runs out again.  (Let’s pause quickly and remember their brother Simeon has been tied up in prison, completely disregarded by his family this whole time.)  So Jacob relents and sends his sons with Benjamin back to Egypt.

Phase three of Joseph’s mind games includes him inviting his brothers to eat in the palace.  (They’re pretty much convinced they’re in serious trouble.  You know that crazy intense scene in Inglorious Basterds where the movie theater lady is dining with that General, and she has to pretend to be enjoying herself, even though she’s pretty much convinced he’s just toying with her and planning on destroying her life completely any minute?  It’s like that.)

After eating, Joseph initiates phase four, where he gives his brothers more grain and sends them on their way, but not before stashing his silver cup in their luggage, and instructing his servant to stop them, and accuse them of stealing from him.  Everything goes according to plan and upon returning to the palace under the charge of theft, Joseph declares the one who stoles the cup will now be his slave.  After hearing his brother Judah cry out for mercy, Joseph breaks down and reveals himself to his brothers.  Then he weeps loud enough that everyone in the palace hears him.  (This is my favorite part because this Bible “hero” is clearly a regular dude, with some emotional instability, who is looking for a little personal justice, thinking it will bring him peace.  Now this is a guy I can relate to).  Finally he invites his whole family to come to Egypt to live with him.

You know, as I think about this, Joseph is like a real life Willy Wonka.  He’s in charge of a crazy place.  He’s (probably) wearing some weirdo outfit (just think about how the pharaohs looked).  His favorite gift to give to his guests is a few rounds of mental torture.  He’s an emotional wreck (I’m reading in between the lines for Mr. Wonka here, but I think it’s still pretty obvious) and he eventually invites a family to move in and live with him in his fantastical palace.  The only difference is they replaced grain with chocolate and a silver cup with golden tickets.  Oh, and they added orange midgets.

Yup.  This is indeed some crazy stuff.

Get Ready to Rumble!

What You’ve Missed…
* God tells Jacob to go back to his homeland in a dream that features a lot of horny goats.
* Laban (the father-in-law) gets all angry and yells at Jacob who gets all whiny and yells at Laban.
* The men resolve their differences the same way my brothers and I did on long family car trips…they drew an imaginary line between themselves and agreed not to cross into each others’ territory.  (I hope it worked better for them, because that line only lasted about three seconds in our family.)
* Jacob and his thousands of animals, thirteen children and four wives, all head home.  (Speaking of long family trips…this sounds miserable, and without a Stuckey’s in sight.)

Day 12
Daily Reading: Genesis 32-35

In sixth grade I took nine weeks of Latin.  I don’t remember much of anything during that time, mostly because I spent that period punching myself in the face because of the horror that is Latin.  The rest of the time I was lost in thought puzzling out how some of my classmates had found a way to start growing facial hair.  However, in the few seconds I did pay attention, I remember the teacher telling us all about the Greek gods…and how they came down to Earth to mess with people.  They would sleep with them, fall in love with them, torture them or even fight them.  I remember thinking it was ridiculous that people used to actually believe that stuff.  Well, just like the rest of middle school, turns out the joke was on me.

Apparently Christianity has its own crazy story of God coming down to find someone to pick a fight with.  One night Jacob is hanging out all alone when out of nowhere a dude walks up and just starts fighting him for no reason.  Apparently this is the cultural norm at the time because Jacob goes along and wrestles the guy all night long without ever asking what they’re fighting about.  As morning approaches the mystery attacker realizes he isn’t going to win.  So what does he do?  He pulls out the mother-of-all pressure point moves and touches Jacob’s hip, wrenching it out of its socket.  If this were me you’d better believe I’d immediately be in the fetal position, which, let’s be honest, I probably already would’ve been in anyway…but not Jacob…the dude isn’t even phased.  He continues to wrestle so hard, he gets other guy cry “uncle”.

Short story even shorter, turns out the guy was God.  (Did you catch that?  Jacob got God to cry “uncle”.  I can barely handle a pair of jumper cables, and this guy got God to cry “uncle.”)  God goes on to bless Jacob and gives him a new name saying, “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Gen. 32:28)

So let me get this straight.  Jacob is doing his thing, and God walks by and just…jumps him?  He’s sees Jacob and decides to just start wailing on him?  And even though he clearly has Mortal Kombat fighting capabilities, he lets Jacob win?  Then He gives him a blessing (along with a serious limp)?  Why?  What is God doing here?  It all just seems so…unnecessary, so…bizarre.

And why is the Bible so casual about the whole thing?  This is God, the Almighty Creator, allowing himself to literally be manhandled by some regular Joe Schmo.  Why is the author not having his mind completely blown?  This is THE Pay Per View fight of the millennium, and it comes across as an amusing anecdote that probably turned Jacob into the ultimate one-upper.

And if this was God in the form of a man…was it Jesus that was wrestling?  Could He just not wait a couple more years for WWE and simply had to come on down to get His wrestle on?  Was the point to show us He can dominate us whenever He wants, but that His real desire is to interact with us?  To roll around in the dirt, gettin’ into the nitty gritty with us?

I just don’t know what to do with this, other than be glad it wasn’t me because the last time I was in a fight was with Duane Terry in seventh grade where we both threw one punch, we both missed, and we both decided to call it a draw.  And that was the best I could do against an uncoordinated seventh grader…let alone God.

(On a completely separate note…for some interesting reading check out Genesis 34.  It’s insane.  Two of Jacob’s sons wipe out all the men of a nearby town because the prince raped their sister.  The best part is before they killed everyone, Jacob’s sons made the men circumcise themselves first.  C’mon, that’s just mean.)

The Original Sister Wives or Baby Mama Drama

What You’ve Missed…
*Abraham turns 100 and his wife Sarah finally has the baby she’s been praying for and names him Isaac.
*God later tells Abraham to kill Isaac, his only son, as a holy sacrifice.  (I’d have a hard enough time sacrificing my dog if God asked.)
At the last minute God stops Abraham.  Turns out it was just a test, and Abraham passed.  (I immediately become grateful for the SATs for the first time ever.)
*Everything God promised to Abraham, he also promises to Isaac.
*Isaac marries Rebekah and has twins, Esau and Jacob, one of which may be an Ewok.
*To wrap things up, turns out Jacob is totally shady, and kind of a complete jerk, when he tricks his blind and elderly father by having Isaac give him God’s blessing which was supposed to be given to his brother Esau.  Also, his mom helped him formulate this whole plan. (I always had a feeling that a mother’s second child was always her favorite.)
Day 10
Daily Reading
Genesis 28-30:24

So Jacob is wandering around figuring out his life when God promises him the same things He promised his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham; tons of descendants, tons of land, blessings, yadda yadda yadda…Jacob seems pumped about the whole deal.

Later Jacob goes to visit his uncle Laban and ends up meeting his cousin Rachel who turns out to be a foxy, foxy lady.  Real foxy.  The Bible actually goes out of its way to tell us that this chick is not just beautiful, but has a bangin’ body.

“Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face.”  (Gen. 29:17)

Jacob knows what he wants, and he wants Rachel.  He agrees to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for Rachel.  Now, there are tons of fine women out there in the world today…and I don’t know a single dude who would work for seven years, without pay, to have one as a wife.  Clearly Rachel had it goin’ on!  So seven years passes and Jacob is ready to get busy.  He approaches his uncle and gets straight to business saying, “I have fulfilled my agreement, now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”  And so he does.

SURPRISE!  Turns out ol’ Laban pulled a fast one on his nephew and sent Jacob his oldest daughter Leah instead (who Jacob doesn’t really care for, probably because she had  “dull eyes”, which I imagine is the Bible’s polite way of telling us Leah was about as attractive as a cow).  A week later Laban gives Jacob Rachel as his second wife (and gets Jacob to agree to another seven years of work.  How hot was this chick?)

And it is at this point that the two sisters, Leah and Rachel, battle it out hardcore for their husband’s affection.  There’s more outrage happening here than Chuck Liddell could ever muster up in a UFC match.  And how do these two women fight for Jacob’s affection?  By having as many of his kids as they can.  Let the Great Middle Eastern Baby Battle Begin!

Turns out Rachel can’t have kids, and Leah can…giving Jacob four kids and taking an early lead.  But filled with jealousy, and not to be outdone, Rachel has Jacob sleep with her maidservant who produced two kids for Jacob.

Rachel – 2
Leah – 4

Leah seems to be hitting a dry spell, so she has Jacob sleep with her maidservant who gives him two more sons.

Rachel – 2
Leah – 6

God jumps in Leah’s corner, bringing her out of the dry spell and provides Jacob with two more sons and a daughter.

Rachel – 2
Leah – 9

Finally God throws a little compassion Rachel’s way and she becomes pregnant for the first time, giving Jacob a son named Joseph.

According to my count, the final tally is:
Rachel – 3
Leah – 9

Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!  And it’s Leah by six kids!

Even though Leah won the World’s Greatest Birthing Contest of all-time, Jacob still always loved Rachel more.  Which just goes to show that ladies, if you want to impress your husband, shootin’ out kids left and right may not be the best approach.   (Unless you’re a member of Sister Wives, in which case this is probably your favorite Bible story.)  I’d just suggest letting your husband play Xbox from time to time, and easing up on all that nose hair trimming commentary.  Oh, and more make-outs.  Dudes love the make-outs.

(Final note: As I look back over this story…I have come to the conclusion that all of Jacob’s fourteen years of hard work for one woman paid of in spades.  This guy ended up with women not only fighting to sleep with him, but offering him more women to sleep with on their behalf.  Maybe it’s time I re-examine my work ethic.)

Virgins, Incest and Old School Pimpin’

What You’ve Missed…
The first murder in history, taking the entire world population from 4 to 3.
* God regrets creating everything and destroys the Earth in a flood, saving only Noah and his family because of Noah’s righteousness, taking the entire world population from millions(?) to 8.  (We sure weren’t making existing very easy for ourselves huh?)
* The Tower of Babel; Greatest epic fail of the ancient world.
* God tells Old Man Abram that he will be the father of a multitude of nations, gives him the land of Canaan, gives him the name Abraham and gives us the Christian Hokey Pokey.  Oh yeah, and to seal the deal between them, God now wants the dudes to, well, “sharpen their pencils”.

Day 6
Daily Reading:
Genesis 18-21:7

If you like crazy sex stories, pay attention.  If you like crazy adventure stories, pay attention.  If you like crazy summer blockbusters with explosions, pay attention…because things are about to get ridiculous.

The setup: God has been hearing rumors that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are flat out ridiculous, (think Vegas…but on steroids and with way more perverts) and so He is going down to check things out and see what’s up.  Turns out the rumors are true.  Sodom and Gomorrah are jacked up.  How jacked up?  This jacked up:

Before they (a man named Lot and his two male guests who are angels) retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house.  They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?  Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” So Lot stepped out to talk to them saying, “Please my brothers don’t do such a wicked thing.  Look I have two virgin daughters.  Let me bring them out to you and you can do with them as you wish.  But please leave these men alone…(Gen. 19:4-8)

Ok…that’s just insane.  Forget sports, literature or philosophy…we’re talking about people whose favorite collective pastime is rape.  This isn’t a society that turns a blind eye to rape mind you, or even a society where it’s simply accepted.  This is a culture where rape is actively pursued.  (This is where I don’t know how to respond…)

And how does Lot (a righteous man mind you) protect his guests?  By offering his two virgin daughters to the sex crazed mob to, and I quote, “…do with them as you wish.”  What!?  What is happening here?  What kind of place is this?  Who are these people?  The “good guy” offers up his daughters as sex slaves to an entire city of sex maniacs?  I can’t imagine those two girls coming out alive.  Is this a story in the Bible or some crazy Rob Zombie porn flick?

Basically long story short the angels confirm this is the most ridiculous place ever and God’s going to blow it off the face of the map.  They warn Lot’s family to get the heck outta Dodge, telling them not to look back.  As the family makes their way to safety God reigns down fire and burning sulfur, completely destroying Sodom, Gomorrah along with other cities and villages, wiping out everyone and everything completely.  (It’s like that opening scene of Armageddon…except EVERYTHING is totally destroyed and EVERYONE dies…even that little dog riding in the bicycle basket.)

During the chaos Lot’s wife, like the Nazis in Raider’s of The Lost Ark, just has to see what’s going on, looks back and…turns into a pillar of salt.  One second she’s a living, breathing human, the next she’s an ingredient.

Talk about a page turner.  And it doesn’t even stop there!  Because Lot’s wife dies, and his daughters want the family line to continue, they both decide to sleep with their father by getting him so drunk he doesn’t even realize what’s happening.  (Side note: This may be the first time in recorded history that a woman had to get a man incredibly, incredibly drunk so he’d sleep with her.)  So, that happens and they both get pregnant, producing sons who go on to be the fathers of nations themselves.

After all of that, the story shifts back to Abraham who has now pimped out his wife Sarah to the local king in order to spare his own life. (He thought it better to say she was his sister than his wife, so the king wouldn’t kill him in order to sleep with her.  This is one of our Biblical heroes remember.  The man God chose to be the father of all Israel.)

So what have we learned?  Well, for starters mankind is pretty messed up and prone to overindulge just slightly from time to time.  People do crazy things, including Biblical heroes who are just as flawed as everyone else.  This doesn’t seem to stop God from rescuing and blessing those He is in relationship with.  Also, crazy sex acts have been around forever.

Who knew history was so…entertaining?  Unbelievable?  Crazy ridiculous?  I don’t know what the word is…I just know it’s way more intense than the Bible stories I heard growing up.

I’m making popcorn for tomorrow’s reading.

God and IKEA Confuse Me

Day 1
Daily Reading
: Genesis 1-3

One day and three chapters into the project and I’m more confused than when I tried to put my first piece of IKEA furniture together. What the heck? I thought I had a solid grasp of the creation story. However after reading it for myself, I have come to the conclusion that I am just a simple, simple little man. For starters, it seems as if God is more like a cross between Jackson Pollock and a crazy mad scientist rather than…well, rather than God. By that I mean, He comes across not only as extremely creative, but almost experimental in nature (literally).

The first chapter of Genesis describes God’s process of creation and a few times it seems God is deciding things are good as He stops to consider how things are going…not that He had a whole set of detailed blueprints from the get-go.

The land produced vegetation – all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:12)

He SAW that it was good. He looked at what He’d created, made a judgment call that it was good, and so continued on making more stuff. He goes on to have the same reaction to the sun, moon, and stars. Same for the sea creatures and birds. Same for wild animals and livestock. And not to feed your ego…but after making people and seeing all life operating in beautiful harmony that only Walt Disney could be jealous of, He declares it very good. He decides all this after seeing it, not before, like He’s just making it all up as He goes.  Like an artist deciding he likes the direction things are going.

It doesn’t stop there. Later He sees Adam is alone and needs a partner (Gen. 2:18)…and so God, who knows everything, brings Adam all the animals He made, but no suitable partner is found (Gen. 2:20). Wait, what? Doesn’t God know everything? Did he really think an animal would be the best companion for a human? They went through all the animals before God decided to make Eve? What? Why is the process of elimination entering the picture here? I mean, I know it took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to invent the electric light bulb…he’s human and experimenting. In Genesis we’re talking about the All-Knowing Creator. We’re talking about God. God who does everything exactly right the first time. This isn’t an experiment. Is it?

I’m imagining God saying, “Huh…none of these awesome animals I made are going to work? But there’s so many, and they’re so different. None of them are a good helper? Really? Interesting. Well, I’ll just make something else then. How about a woman…that might work.” And that thought really messes me up.

So maybe God really is a Creator. Someone who creates through process, someone who enjoys the process as much as the result. Maybe artists reflect God and how He works more than I thought.  Maybe God is incredibly creative…wildly creative even.  Not just inventive, but creative.

So much to think about, and I haven’t even brought up some of the questions I have from chapter 3.  [Was the serpent that tempted Eve the devil?  It doesn’t say he was.  Did God banish Adam/Eve from the garden because they disobeyed, or because He was worried they would live forever? (Gen. 3:22-23)  And does God worry?  And if God created us to be in relationship with Him forever why does it seem He doesn’t want Adam to live forever? ]

See what I mean? I’m only three chapters into this thing, and my pretty glass house of what I thought I knew and understood about the creation story has shattered all around me. So I’m left looking around helplessly for the only one who can help me rebuild that house. God himself. I can see why I need to ask His Holy Spirit to help me as I read His word. It’s just too much for my simple mind to comprehend on its own. And here I was proud of that college degree I earned.

So, in closing, day one of reading the Bible melted my brain. On to day two.