On the night of his betrayal Continue reading “Shemot: The Vine and the Branches”
I have a thought for you about why the grain offering, another korban, does not get completely burned up on the altar. A couple of sources are coalescing to form this picture in my mind, so let me first pull them together.
One piece: Brad Scott’s teaching about the Word of God as good seed that bears spiritual fruit, obedience to the commands and an overflow of peace, love, and joy in the holy ghost, among other things. The wheat bears fruit. I wish I could link to it, but it was on a DVD a friend shared with me.
Another piece: Ben A.’s teaching about the korban animal offerings as symbolic of us bringing our animal nature–everything about us no matter how ungodly–to God and surrendering everything to Him to use for His glory.
Last piece: Cornelius in Acts 10 is told that his alms (charitable giving, a kind of fruit) has come up before God as a memorial.
So putting those three pieces together, at least until I find out I’m wrong, I’m thinking I can read the grain offering as symbolic of bringing to God the fruit that His own spirit bore in us, that is to say, offering to God the obedience He caused in us, the fruit of walking in all the ways He commands.
And, notice, God doesn’t take it all on the altar. Now, before you suggest that it’s because He hates our obedience to him, let’s remember that God calls it “a sweet savour.” I think He only takes a memorial portion of the grain offering because when we bear fruit in this world, when we obey His commands, God gets a handful of happiness out of that, but the bulk of that fruit is left down here where it brings goodness and mercy to other people. The commands are simply the fine print of how to “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The commands demonstrate love to other people.
Cornelius is my example: his fruit changed the world. Poor people had better lives because of Cornelius. So, sure, God was pleased that Cornelius bore fruit, but the bulk of his fruit remained here where it benefited real people with real needs just like the bulk of the grain offering remained to benefit the Levites.
That’s my take on it. How do you see it?
The angels call one to another “Holy, holy, holy!” with the same kind of call [vayikra] that God calls to Moses at the beginning of Leviticus.
According to some rabbis’ (yes, I mean more than one) teachings, the angels don’t call to one another to get each other’s attention. Rather, they call to one another so that they can be in one accord, in unity, lifting up the Lord together in fellowship and harmony with one another.
Have we made the golden calf mistake?
In talking with a friend about the golden calf incident, I was at a loss to explain how it might be relevant to us here and now. To her, it seemed like the Israelites were doing something strange and illogical. They were, I guess, but I would argue we’re not so different.
I heard a beloved rabbi call Abraham and Sarah the first two converts to Judaism, and although I thought it was kind of cute at first, the more I think about it, the more backwards that sounds. Sure, it’s anachronistic, but it’s also wrong.
Abraham and Sarah are not converts to a faith, they are faith, living faith. I need “faith” to be a verb to express what I’m getting at here: we see Abraham and Sarah “faithing” through their lives with God. They are faithful, and all of the faithful are Abraham’s children.
Being Jewish is not a necessary condition for being in covenant with God. Being a child of Abraham, though, is a necessary condition. It’s not a sufficient condition, obviously, since we know Abraham had other children and not all of Abraham’s children are in covenant even though they carry the sign of circumcision. The whole thing actually goes exactly the other way: whether you are ethinically Jewish or not, you have to convert to “Abrahamism”; that’s the goal.
Circumcision means you’re Abraham’s; it doesn’t mean you’re in covenant with God. Ouch. What a hard thing to write. Being Jewish doesn’t mean you’re in covenant with God, either. You cannot get into covenant with God through your DNA.
So now I have to address what the sufficient condition is for being in covenant with God. I’m tempted to say “trust and obey” and break into that song and leave it there, but that’s a cop-out.
You have to believe God is able to fulfill his promises and that he’s faithful enough that he actually will do what he said he will do. You have to believe. Believe. Good news! God is keeping his promises! He’s alive and he’s able and he’s working. Trust him!
And I have to believe that as you trust him, you will learn to obey him; he will teach you how to do that. He will engage in a cosmic game of Hide-and-Go-Seek: but don’t get the roles wrong! He hides, you seek. You hear his laugh, you seek. You find tears, you seek. It’s daylight, you seek. It’s pitch dark, you seek. You feel joy, you seek. You feel overwhelming despair, you seek. You seek him, and you will find that he is right there waiting and revealing and loving, one step ahead, always leading the way.
That’s being a convert to Abraham’s faith. That’s what we all, Jew or gentile, need to be.
As believers, we have to ask ourselves the question: should we circumcise or children on the eighth day, according to the command?
Of course we should because it is a command. But I have to believe there is more here. An old friend just had his infant baptized. My heart sank. Of course we shouldn’t baptize infants who cannot confess the faith. Well, then, what about these little boys? They cannot confess faith either; they don’t get a choice. Why do I object to infant baptism but not to circumcision?
Is the only difference is what God hath said in Genesis 17?
The strangest thought came to me as I read this covenant again: circumcision marks Abraham’s household. It’s a tracking device. How can Abraham be sure the uncountable descendents are his when, as I believe, he meets them? They’re all circumcised. It’s evidence that God fulfilled his end of the deal, evidence that is dependent upon Abraham and his descendents to fulfill their end of the deal in doing the cutting.
Shouldn’t it be the one who refuses to circumcise his child that is cut out of the covenant rather than the eight-day-old child who has no power over whether or not he’s circumcised? Theoretically, sure, it would make sense to punish the disobedient parent, but if this identifying theory is correct, not having the mark sets the child outside of the covenant, so being cut off from the household of Abraham is simply a fact of the uncircumcised state, not a punishment God inflicts on the child.
Even though there are ways baptism and circumcision are related in the Torah, perhaps this can help me make sense of why I reject infant baptism but accept infant circumcision: baptism is a choice and a cleansing and a status change. It’s something that comes from faith and obedience and love for God. A wet baby isn’t being born again, so it’s saying something’s being done that’s not. A cut baby isn’t being born again either, but that’s not the goal of the mark; the mark is distinguishing him as Abraham’s descendent: good or bad, godly or not, of Isaac, of Ishmael, or of his many other children.
I feel silly for saying this, but maybe–despite all the wonderful teachings I’ve heard to the contrary–circumcision is physical, not spiritual. (Duh.)And every new circumcised 8-day-old boy is one more grain of sand, one more star in the sky, one more promise to Abraham fulfilled.
Wow, he’s so utterly and inconceivably faithful–God, I mean. But also Abraham.