On Death and Dieting (and The Karate Kid)

What You’ve Missed…
* Balaam died.  No word on that awesome donkey of his though.
* God tells Moses he’s going to die soon.  I wonder how awkward that conversation was.
* We finished the book of Numbers and now find ourselves in Deuteronomy, where Moses is giving an incredibly long farewell speech, mostly reminding the people of everything that’s happened over the last forty years.  My high school history teacher had a hard enough time keeping the attention of 35 young adults who were confined to desks in a small classroom.   How the heck does Moses speak to a million people in the middle of the desert?

Day 74
Daily Readings: Numbers 25, Deuteronomy 2-3, Deuteronomy 9

Rather than focus on one crazy or bizarre aspect of the Bible today, I want to quickly hit on three.  And seeing as it’s Monday, and you’re probably in the middle of getting some serious work or procrastination accomplished, I’ll go ahead and get this party started.

One.  There is a dude in the Bible named Phinehas, and that dude is a serious badass.  Basically at this point in the story some of the Israelite men have gotten a little too friendly with the local Moabite women, yeah, that kind of “friendly”, and have as a result, defiled themselves and all of Israel.  God tells Moses to have these men executed in broad daylight.  I’ll let Scripture speak for itself here.

“Just then one of the Israelite men brought a Midianite woman into his tent…when Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron saw this, he jumped up and left the assembly.  He took a spear and rushed after the man into his tent.  Phinehas thrust the spear all the way through the man’s body and into the woman’s stomach.  So the plague against the Israelites was stopped…” (Numbers 25:6-8)

Yeah.  That’s a scene straight out of 300.  (I wonder if he had beautifully sculpted abs as well.)  Also, this might be the quickest “quickie” in the history of mankind.  Forget Elvis.  Phinehas is a man who knows how to take care of business.
Two.  Speaking of badasses, Israel as a whole also knows how to throw down.  As God continues to bring His people to the Promised Land, he has them conquer a few nations in the process.  Actually, “wipe out” is probably a better phrase.  Why?  Because the Israelites took some advice from that bad guy karate teacher in The Karate Kid whose hobby (and profession) is to train suburban kids to fight each other in ancient hand-to-hand combat.  His advice and personal motto which the Israelites adopted?  “No mercy.”

“Then King Sihon declared war on us…But the LORD our God handed him over to us, and we crushed him, his sons, and all his people.  We conquered all his towns and completely destroyed everyone – men, women, and children.  Not a single person was spared.” (Deuteronomy 2:32-35)

Did you get that?  The good guys, God’s chosen people, killed everyone.  Even children.  They didn’t take prisoners.  They didn’t have pity on the handicapped or the weak.  For any sports fans out there, let me put it this way; the Israelites showed up to play.

Oh yeah.  They did this more than once.  No mercy indeed.  Score one for the Cobra Kai.  (Author’s note: The new Karate Kid movie makes me weep for the future.)

Three.  So the book of Deuteronomy recaps a lot of what’s happened, and in Chapter 9 Moses recounts the deal with the golden calf idol.  Now, I don’t know if the guy is bragging or what, but he throws in some info we didn’t seem to get the first time around.  I would like to share this information with you now.

“I was there (on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments) for forty days and forty nights, and all that time I ate no food and drank no water.”  (Deuteronomy 9:9)

I was pretty impressed with this, until a few verses later when Moses mentions how he came down the mountain to find the people sinning by worshiping the idol they’d made.  It was what Moses said next that completely shattered my brain.

“Then, as before, I threw myself down before the LORD for forty days and forty nights.  I ate no bread and drank no water because of the great sin you had committed…” (Deuteronomy 9:18)

By my reckoning, Moses didn’t eat in between these two events, which means, Moses didn’t eat or drink anything for eighty straight days!  I can hardly make it from breakfast to lunch without a snack, and this guy goes eighty days without anything!?!  That’s almost three months!  Three months without food or water!  Is that even scientifically possible?  I mean, clearly it happened, and I believe it…it just blows my mind. (I’m open to the idea that it is possible Moses had a li’l somethin’ somethin’ to eat on his way down the mountain…but still…even one meal in 3 months is pretty much the same as no meals in 3 months.)

Just thinking about it makes me hungry.

Real hungry.  Lunch couldn’t have come at a better time.

A Heavenly Beat Down

What You’ve Missed…
* You know that scene at the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where Indy almost falls into the bottomless abyss that opens up when that uber hot German lady tries to take the Holy Grail out of the temple?  Well, that actually happened…except instead of the Holy Grail being the cause of everything, it was a rebellion against Moses. And instead of one hot German chick and a few Nazis losing their lives, it was lots of men, women, children, babies and all their possessions.
* Oh yeah, and God followed that up by immediately unleashing his fire on 250 men burning incense, incinerating them immediately.  And I thought “finishing moves” in Mortal Kombat were over the top.
* God’s not into any kind of golden calf idol, but He does have Moses create a bronze snake statue, which He uses to heal people who have been bitten by poisonous snakes. I never knew the hair of the dog mentality had such Godly roots.

Day 65
Daily Reading: Numbers 22-24

So the Israelites are trekking through the desert when they come upon an area called Moab. Now according to biblical numbers, it looks like the Israelites were adding up to be more than a million people at this point. That’s a fairly large group to be wandering up to your border, uninvited. (Imagine if one-million Mexicans came up to the U.S. border…wall or no wall, Obama’s taking us to DefCon 1 and mobilizing a ton of Army dudes to go and “maintain order”. Let’s hope for his sake he’s wearing a solid pair of Depends during this whole thing.)

But Balak, the Moab king takes a different approach. He calls upon a known prophet in the area named Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. Balaam initially refuses, but eventually agrees to come check out the scene for himself, on the stated condition he can only do or say what God tells him to do or say. (I found it interesting this guy was a true prophet of God, yet not a member of God’s chosen people.  I guess I assumed in the Old Testament that God only worked with the Israelites.)

However, God isn’t too pleased that Balaam would be willing to go at all, so He blocks the road that Balaam is traveling on with an angel wielding a sword. Now, Balaam can’t see the angel, but his donkey sure can and his donkey knows this situation won’t end well, so it bolts off the road into a field.

Balaam beats his donkey for this.

As they continue, the donkey tries to ride by the angel, squeezing between it and a wall, injuring Balaam’s foot in the process.

Balaam beats his donkey for this.

As they continue, the donkey finally lays down in the middle of the road, refusing to go near the angel.

Balaam beats his donkey for this.

And it is here, dear reader, that the movie Shrek becomes less an animated work of fiction and more of a documentary film.

“Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak, ‘What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?’ asked the donkey. ‘You have made me look like a fool! If I had a sword with me I’d kill you!’ Balaam shouted. ‘Have I ever done anything like this before?’ asked the donkey. ‘No.’ admitted Balaam.” (Slight paraphrase of Numbers 22:28-30)

Okay. Two questions. One: In a joke only God would understand at the time, did He have the donkey talk like Eddie Murphy? (You know, slightly sassy yet completely endearing at the same time?) Two (and more importantly): Why doesn’t Balaam react at all to the fact that he is having a legitimate conversation with a farm animal? In the version of Old Macdonald I know the donkey makes an abrasive and annoying donkey noise followed by E, I, E, I, O…not “Quit hitting me you jerk,” followed by A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y.

Balaam doesn’t bat an eye at the fact his donkey just made a sound, reasonable, and calm attempt at conflict resolution. Instead he reacts like he’s all jacked up on steroids getting all huffy and defensive and making instantaneous death threats towards a harmless animal. And this guy is one of God’s prophets?

Anyway…Balaam finally sees the angel who says he would have killed Balaam and spared the donkey in a heartbeat. Balaam admits he was wrong, goes on to King Balak, and ends up blessing all of the Israelites instead of cursing them.

It just goes to show…when it comes to God speaking to His people, He can even use a real ass.

Just Say No! (To Tim Allen)

What You’ve Missed…
* God has the Israelites blowing trumpets every time they move camp, to call a meeting of the elders, during battle, during times of gladness and at annual festivals. That’s a lot of trumpet action. How did they not invent Jazz?
* The Israelites do the whole Locks of Love thing. Except instead of giving their hair to cancer patients, they burn it on an altar as a sacrifice to God. Close enough.
* God tells the Israelites to stone a guy who was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath day of rest. I bet the dude’s wife told their kids that he died fighting a bear or something. Death from picking up wood on the wrong day? No one wants that to be their legacy.
* Oh yeah…we’ve finished the books of Exodus and Leviticus. We’re in Numbers now.

Daily Reading: Numbers 14-15

I bet God is the kind of guy that loves movie previews.  (Yes, I have seen the new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises.  Yes it looks awesome.)  So, while the Israelites are hanging out in the desert, God tells Moses to send twelve men to scope out the promised land, giving them a sneak preview of what’s to come. More than a month later the men return with their report, stating the land is incredibly fertile and rich. But ten of the men start whining saying things like, “It’s scary out there,” or “We saw giants,” or “I want my mommy!” Okay…maybe not that last one.

Anyway, two of the men who actually have a spine, Caleb and Joshua, tell Moses the land is good and worth entering into, despite the dangers, because they trust God. But our good friends the Israelites, who seem to love a good mob mentality, don’t listen to Caleb and Joshua. They listen to the other dudes, and they start crying about the whole deal, complaining about life in the desert, all night long like a bunch of children who can’t stay up past their bedtime to watch some crappy Tim Allen movie on TBS.

However, God, like any reasonable parent, isn’t going to put up with it. (First of all, if I ever have kids that act this way, my biggest concern won’t be their behavior, but rather my lack of good parenting skills that has lead them to believe a Tim Allen movie is a great use of their time.  Obviously this doesn’t include Toy Story.  Obviously.) So how does God handle this group of adult crybabies? He grounds them. And how does He ground them? Like this:

“…I will bring them (your children) into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. But as for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31-32)

“Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years – a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.” (Numbers 14:34)

Daaaaaaaang. And I thought picking up trash for 4 hours outside the gas station where I got caught stealing when I was twelve was rough. (By the way, thanks Mom and Dad for making me do that. It worked.) But God wants to make an example of the ten men who started all the whining in the first place, so He simply strikes them down where they stood.

After seeing that happen (which at this point has to be something fairly normal for the Hebrew people, seeing as it seems to happen fairly often) and after hearing God’s punishment, the Israelites do the typical, “I’m sorry. I’ve learned my lesson. Now can we please forget about that whole punishment thing,” and decide to just go ahead into the promised land without whining about it this time. But God’s no softie, and as the Israelites move forward into the new country, God allows them to be attacked by the locals who chase them away.

And so starts the Guinness World Record for the longest grounding in history. God has His children think about what they’ve done as they wander around the desert for forty years. (You know anytime some kid complained about how their parents were punishing them for being bad, the parents responded with, “You think doing the dishes for a week is bad? You just be grateful that I’m not God. He’d make you do them for a lifetime.” I bet that shut those punks up pretty fast.)