09 February 2010

Feb 9

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we learn how Aaron and his sons must be consecrated before they can serve the Lord. It seems odd that Aaron and his sons become the line of priests. Why not Moses and his sons? Was it because the priests had to be good public speakers, and that was Aaron's role? Was it because Moses had not circumcised one of his son's properly?

Priests are consecrated by the sacrifice of a bull and two rams. These animals must be without defect; God is picky about that. The blood of these sacrifices gets smeared on the altar and on the priests. For example, the second ram undergoes the following process:
slaughter it, and apply some of its blood to the right earlobes of Aaron and his sons. Also put it on the thumbs of their right hands and the big toes of their right feet. Splatter the rest of the blood against all sides of the altar. Then take some of the blood from the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his sons and on their garments. In this way, they and their garments will be set apart and holy.
Such rituals show that the God of the Old Testament is a primitive God, very similar to other primitive Gods. God wants bloody sacrifices and enjoys the smell of burning meat. Once again, I am surprised that people expect that reading the Bible would make any non-believer think more highly of the Christian God. There are moments of inspiration (we get one later today even), but they are far outweighed by these moments.

New Testament

Plot advancement! The disciple Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus to the priests for 30 pieces of silver. The reasons behind Judas' betrayal are glossed over. Why would he betray Jesus? The standard explanation is that he was an evil person, but I feel like the story must be more complicated than that. (Unless, as is not unlikely, the betrayal story is complete fiction; then Judas is just a plot device.) The story has not paid much attention to Judas, so we cannot glean much information about his personality. However, we have seen a lot about Jesus' personality, and what we have seen indicates that he can be harsh, impatient, and moody. Perhaps Judas had come to the conclusion that Jesus really was a dangerous lunatic and was not so much betraying Jesus as turning him in.

After Judas agrees to betray Jesus, the disciples gather for the Passover supper. Jesus reveals that one of them betray him, and they all wonder (or pretend to wonder, in Judas' case) the identity of the betrayer. When Judas asks Jesus if he is the betrayer, Jesus more or less indicates that that is the case.

During the meal, Jesus blesses some bread, saying
Take this and eat it, for this is my body.
He then blesses a cup of wine saying,
Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.
As discussed above, the idea of a God who needs bloody sacrifices to give forgiveness comes off as primitive (and, to be honest, kind of disgusting). Also, I know different denominations disagree as to whether the bread and wine were symbolically or actually Jesus' body and blood. In my opinion, if the transformation was not symbolic, it is icky.

After supper, Jesus prays,
My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.
And prays again,
My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.
And prays a third time, saying the same things. For the first time in the Book of Matthew, Jesus appears less than confident and self-assured. He seems afraid and humble. I actually feel sympathy for him.

Psalms and Proverbs

The Psalms often mention God's earthly protection for those who prove faithful to him. Yet reality shows that the faithful receive no more protection from hardship than the rest of us. It seems like modern Christianity, realizing this, has revised this protection to be spiritual and eternal, not material and finite. However, this flies in the face of the protection described here.

Today's Proverbs reading continues to present the nature of wisdom. Forget for a moment the hypocrisy of those Christians who claim to have wisdom while disdaining two vital tools of wisdom, critical thinking and the scientific method. If you can move beyond that, the text presents some enjoyable sentiments.
Common sense and success belong to me [wisdom].
Insight and strength are mine.
Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees.
Rulers lead with my help,
and nobles make righteous judgments.

I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.
I have riches and honor,
as well as enduring wealth and justice.
My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver!

...

The Lord formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.
The last two quoted lines give one of those rare glimpses of a deity that seems worthy of this wonderful universe we live in.