Holy Crap

What You’ve Missed…
* Not much.
* The Babylonians capture Israel and force the rich Israelites to move to Babylon as captives.  Everyone else was allowed to hang around and starve and be poor and stuff.
* A description of heavenly beings that sound more like aliens than angels.  If people knew angels in heaven really looked like this, Angels in the Outfield would’ve been the scariest horror movie ever made.


Days 228 and 229
Daily Readings: Ezekiel 3-9, Jeremiah 27-28

What I have come across in the past two days of reading is so bizarre, I actually asked a co-worker to cover for me tonight so I could write this post.  Let me just say I find myself reading the book of Ezekiel for the first time, and it is EFFING WEIRD.

It starts off with a crazy vision of freaky looking flying things covered in eyes, with four different faces, hands, and wings (these are heavenly, holy beings by the way), flying all around the cosmos and cruising around on crazy monster-truck tires.  (No, really…that’s an accurate description.)  Alright, is this the inspired word of God, or someone writing about the craziest drug trip of their life?  Think that’s a ridiculous question?  Then clearly, you haven’t read it for yourself.  I had to double check and make sure I wasn’t trippin’ after I finished reading.

My point?  Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven won’t prepare you for the freakshow that may actually be awaiting you when you arrive.

Moving on.

God starts speaking to Ezekiel (who is part of the group that has been exiled to Babylon) and I guess God is tired of just trying to talk to his people.  So He has Ezekiel put on a few demonstrations.

Demonstration 1:
God has Ezekiel build a diorama of the city of Jerusalem under attack, and has him act out the attack, in order to show Jerusalem how intense the fighting will be with Babylon.  Pause.  Imagine a man out in a public area close to your house, with a giant ping-pong table size model of the city, jumping around, pretending like there’s a war going on (complete with mouth made sound effects like explosions and gun fire, screaming and wailing, etc.)  And then imagine this guy saying, “God says war is coming!  Listen to me!”

Then God takes it up a notch.

“Son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a razor to shave your head and beard.  Place a third of your hair at the center of your map.  After acting out the siege, burn it there.  Scatter another third across the map and chop it with a sword.  Scatter the last third to the wind…”  (Ezekiel 5:1-3)

So now imagine our crazy ping-pong table friend cutting off his hair (with a sword), lighting it on fire and chopping it up saying, “God says war is coming.  You need to start obeying God.  Listen to me!”

Uh, YOU listen to ME weirdo.  You’re creepin’ us out, alright?  So please meet with all your personalities and get them all to agree that you need help.  Lots of it.  The kind offered in a padded room, wearing a straight-jacket, while heavily sedated.

This…this is the guy God uses to speak to His people.  Clearly God never took any public speaking or marketing courses.  (God, I know I slept through most of college, but they still gave me a communications degree…so, just let me know if you need some pointers.  Which, uh, I think you might.)

Demonstration 2:
“Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself…I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days – one day for each year of their sin.  After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days – one day for each year of Judah’s sin.  Meanwhile, keep staring at the siege of Jerusalem (the diorama).  Lie there…and prophesy her destruction.  I will tie you up with ropes so you won’t be able to turn from side to side until the days of your siege have been completed.”  (Ezekiel 4:4-7)

So now our crazy friend is laying down, on his left side by his public ping-pong diorama, for over a year.  I can’t sit still for 10 minutes.  Ezekiel just lays there for over a year?  And the whole time he’s continually telling everyone who walks by they’re going to be destroyed?

This reminds me of all those uber weird people who permanently hang around the White House with all their uber weird displays, full of uber weird pictures of deformed kids and victims of war and stuff, creeping out all the tourists, looking all homeless and cracked out.  This is what Ezekiel was like.  He was one of those people.  God told him to do it.  And when I think about it…I don’t like it.  Those people give me the jibbly-jibblies.  I don’t want them as the heroes of my Bible.

But apparently at this point in history God wasn’t interested in what I wanted.

Demonstration 3:
“Now go and gather some [ingredients] and mix them together…Use them to make bread for yourself during the 390 days…While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread…This is how Israel will eat defiled bread in the Gentile lands to which I will banish them!”  (Ezekiel 4:9-13)

Uhhhhhhhhhh, what?  So, not only is Ezekiel camped out in public on his side for a year, telling everyone they’re going to die, but he has to eat bread cooked over crap?  Really God?  This is the way you want to get your point across?  Adding ANOTHER layer of ridiculous on top of a pretty solid ridiculous foundation?  That’s your plan?  AND you’re going to make this poor guy eat poop bread?

How is ANYONE supposed to heed Ezekiel’s warnings?  You’re setting him up for failure.  People are just going to point and laugh at the guy.  The only reasonable conclusion anyone watching him could come to is that the dude has completely lost it.  People are going to avoid him, spit on him, and probably throw some nasty crap at him (which actually helps him make more delicious poop bread, really).  Why God?  Why be so bizarre?  It’s…well…off-putting.  I know you’re trying to make a point, but, a bald headed freak who eats poop bread while telling everyone they’re going to die in a horrible war?  That seems like the worst way to go about it.  I don’t know anything about being a prophet…but I’m not following your logic on this one.

I’m not sure Ezekiel did either.  I love his response after finding out he has to cook his bread on a crap fire.  (Though he never seems to object any of the other stuff…which I find surprising.)

“‘Then I said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, must I be defiled by using human dung?  For I have never been defiled before…I have never eaten any meat forbidden by law.’”  (Ezekiel 4:14)

Basically he’s saying, “Yeah….uh, I really, really don’t want to eat poop bread God.  Look, I’ve followed all of your laws in the past and pretty much have a perfect record.  Can’t you cut your homeboy a little slack on this one?”  I love it.  Clearly even this guy has his limits.

And God’s response is just as great as Ezekiel’s.

“‘All right’, said the LORD.  ‘You may bake your bread with cow dung instead of human dung.’”  (Ezekiel 4:15)

Ha ha.  I bet Ezekiel just sat there thinking, “Holy shit.”

And it was.

God Calls It Quits

What You’ve Missed…
* Jeremiah cries over Israel’s disobedience.
* God tells Jeremiah to take off his underwear, and after reading about God telling Isaiah to do the same, I’m starting to think Magic Mike might be the holiest movie in theaters right now.
* Jeremiah cries some more.
* God forbids Jeremiah to marry.
* Jeremiah continues to cry, breaking women’s hearts everywhere, who will never receive a rose from the world’s most sensitive bachelor. (Author’s note: No actual, historical evidence has been found to support the idea of Jeremiah being a heartbreaker. But we’ll keep looking…)

Day 225
Daily Reading: Jeremiah 31, 49-51

What I didn’t include in the re-cap above are the following verses God spoke through Jeremiah:

“I have abandoned my people, my special possession. I have surrendered my dearest ones to their enemies.”  (Jeremiah 12:7)

“So this is what the LORD said to his people: ‘You love to wander from me and do not restrain yourselves.  Therefore, I will no longer accept you as my people…’”  (Jeremiah 14:10)

“‘You have abandoned me and turned your back on me,’ says the LORD.  ‘Therefore, I will raise my fist to destroy you.  I am tired of always giving you another chance…I will destroy my own people, because they refuse to change their evil ways.  There will be more widows than the grains of sand on the seashore.”  (Jeremiah 15:6-8)

Basically it’s the end of the line for the Hebrews.  They ain’t ridin’ on friendly, little Thomas the Tank Engine that’s for sure.  “Minding the Gap” isn’t going to do anything for anyone at this point because Israel is cruising full speed on a Japanese bullet train.  A bullet train to hell.

Okay, maybe that’s somewhat of an exaggeration (not to mention an awesome horror movie tagline, which I would like to copyright and sell to any interested parties).  However, God does seem to truly be at the end of his rope here, ready to call it quits.  Ready to not simply abandon His people, but fully destroy them.  That’s some intense talk.

What confused me though was noticing I still had quite a bit of the Old Testament remaining in my Bible.  How could this be the end of the Jews if there were still hundreds of pages to read?

Turns out, God STILL shows some compassion.

“‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”  (Jeremiah 31:3)

“‘Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?’ says the LORD. ‘I often have to punish him, but I still love him.  That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.”  (Jeremiah 31:20)

WHAT!?  God, you JUST said you were going to destroy them, because you were tired of giving second chances.  Your words, not mine.  What’s the deal?  It seems like you’re changing your mind quicker than Lady Gaga changes, well, everything.   I don’t mean to be rude, but God, it seems like you’re going back on your word quicker than a Kardashian reneging on their wedding vows.  What’s the deal here?

If you’re wondering whether God spoke back to me, He didn’t.  (And if you’re wondering if He smote me for such blasphemous questioning, He didn’t do that either.  Surprised?  Yeah, me too.)

It’s here I’m left scratching my butt, trying to figure out how God works.  Yes Jeremiah goes on to explain God heard Israel crying out with an apology for turning away, repenting, and asking to be reunited with Him again, (Jeremiah 31:18-19) but still, God said no more second chances.  Yet, God relents, and not only has mercy on His people, but goes so far to say He will bless them, bringing them happiness, joy and rest.

I’m about as confused here as I was the first time I tried to French kiss Jeni Herring in seventh grade.  At the end of it all (which was probably about three seconds honestly), I just stood there, feeling really awkward, not having the slightest clue what to do or say.  Unlike God, it was soon thereafter when Jeni decided that she preferred actual kissing to being slobbered on by an over eager nerd, and called it quits for us.

But I know God hasn’t left me.  (Then again, he hasn’t been on the receiving end of my “particularly salivary” make-out style.)  And that’s the point.  He didn’t turn his back on Israel either.  Even when He said He would.  He says no more second chances, and then gives them another chance!  He says it’s over for good, and then decides to stick it out.  What am I supposed to do with that?  It’s honestly incredibly frustrating.

I mean, I guess it comes down to the fact God just does what He wants?  Maybe.  Or that His bottom line is the whole “everlasting love” deal He mentions?  Maybe.  Or that He is more like a parent than we realize, and even though He’s at His wit’s end (can an infinite being have a wit’s end?) with his kids’ behavior, He still finds himself charmed by them, being overwhelmed by how much He loves them, to the point that He changes His mind?  Maybe.

Maybe it’s all of that.  Maybe it’s none of it.  Who knows?  (No, really, tell me if you do.  I’d like to know.)  Or maybe it’s like my ability to French kiss and I’ll just never get it.

It’s Getting Hot In Here

What You’ve Missed…
* Jeremiah narrowly avoids death by stoning, which counts as a good day for anyone.
* Jeremiah continues to speak prophecies to Israel, though they don’t seem to like it much. And really, neither does Jeremiah.  (He actually tried to quit.)
* Also, it turns out Jeremiah was not, in fact, a bullfrog.  Nor is there any record of him helping anyone to drink their wine.
* Israel turns into Bayside High when Mr. Belding, I mean King Nebuchadnezzar, takes over and becomes buddies with a local kid named Zack Morris, I mean Daniel, who becomes the coolest kid in school, I mean Israel.  The crazy stories that ensue are perfect for countless after-school re-runs, I mean the Bible.

Day 219
Daily Reading: Daniel 2-3, Jeremiah 7

Before we get to the meat of today’s reading, I’d like to comment briefly on something the Bible mentions that I have beef with; Being a vegetarian.  Apparently Daniel and his tree-hugging buddies only ate organic veggies, and were healthier than all the other young dudes in the kingdom.  Thanks Bible for that “slight nudge” and free guilt trip to lay off the Double Quarter Pounders and Grilled Stuffed Burritos.  No wonder my mom loves you.

Moving on.  So King Nebuchadnezzar (gesundheit!) gets bored and decides to make a huge gold statue for himself.  Well, that’s what it says anyway, though I doubt he lifted a single finger to actually help.  (What good totally-egocentric-iron handed dictator actually does any work?  None of the great ones, that’s for sure.)  But apparently sitting around looking at a gold statue isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so ol’ Nebs adds a new element to the equation.  He creates a law that says everyone has to worship the statue, and if they refuse, well, they become human bar-b-que.  (Alright Bible I get it.  Stick with the veggies.  Gotcha.  By the way…we are counting cheese as a vegetable right?)

So, as you Sunday school attendees know, three Hebrew guys refused to play along and were sentenced to be burned alive.  The names of those three guys?  The famous Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (whose real names are actually Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, but those are harder to say, and most of us have already memorized the other ones, which are catchier anyway, so let’s just go ahead and stick with those.)  Apparently, our boy King Nebulicious took it personally that these three dudes wouldn’t join in the idol worship.

“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage.  He commanded the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual … So [the soldiers] tied them up and threw them in to the furnace fully dressed…and because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the men in.”  (Daniel 3:19-23)

That’s hot.  Really hot.  Like, Toyota hot, hot, hot.  I’m no stranger to a good marshmellow roast.  In fact, I sort of think of myself as somewhat of a professional mallow roaster (I have the burnt knuckle hairs to prove it…except, they’ve grown back healthy…so uh, you’re just going to have to take my word for it) but even I recognize that even the hottest camp fire I’ve ever been around is Busch League Boy Scout stuff compared to this thing.  The dudes died just by getting close to it?  Really…is that even possible?  Did they catch on fire?  Did they just melt?  Did their ashes fall into a neat little pile like in a cartoon, or did they simply go Kansas and become dust in the wind?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I can’t even imagine heat like that.  I mean, come on…I’ll be honest.  If it were me, I can see myself being scared out of my tighty-whities and backing out of the whole thing (after totally peeing my pants of course.)

How committed to their God were these three guys?  Not only did they not back out, they went into the flames confidently.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power…but even if he doesn’t…we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:16-18)

Pardon my language, but those guys had balls.  Let me rephrase that.  Those guys had some serious faith balls.  They went willingly towards a ridiculously horrible death, simply believing God would save them.  They didn’t try to talk their way out, or work their way out, or even use the creative ingenuity God gave them (see Daniel 1:17) to figure out how to save themselves.  They literally just trusted God to do all the work.  Again, balls.

Turns out, God didn’t need them to say a special prayer, or atone for their sins the moment before death or anything, because He indeed did do all the work.

“‘Look!’ Nebuchadnezzar shouted.  ‘I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!  And the fourth looks like a god!’ … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stepped out of the fire…not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched.  They didn’t even smell of smoke!”  (Daniel 3:25-27)

So…what just happened?  I’ll tell you.  These guys just took bonfire partying to the next level by not just partying hard around a bonfire, but partying inside of it.  I mean, they even had a friend come over and hang out for awhile.  That blows all of your field party stories out of the water.  “Oh, you guys almost burned down Old Man Higgins’ field at your kegger last weekend?  I’d be impressed, except for the fact I almost burned down at the bonfire we had last month.  Yeah, I gave my buddies a high five.  IN the fire.”

I would now like to officially declare Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Biblical Ballers.  (No pun intended.)  You, gentlemen, just showed us what it looks like to be a dedicated follower of God.  If I wore hats, they’d be off to you.

After reading this, walking on coals seems like kiddie stuff.  Not that I’m willing to try it or anything.