The Lord Your God or the Lord Our God
God consistently thus far has said that he is the god of the Israelites. When he talks of people living with the Israelites, he does not say he is their god. When he talks of the Canaanites, Jebusites, Hevatites… He does not say he is their god. He has chosen a people to be assigned to him. Through small mentions of the other groups of people, it appears everyone has their own god.
It makes it sound like there is no converting to the religion. You can follow his rules, you can live with his people, but you cannot become one of them. This seems very depressing as it appears that you are either one of his chosen people or you are not. If you are not you may be destroyed if he gives your land to HIS people.
If this is true, then reading the Bible has almost no point for me. As far back as I can trace in my genealogy I have no Jewish descent, at least not in a paternal lineage. And if I have no Jewish heritage then I am not one of God’s chosen people. I do not have access to anything they have access to. Of course there has been no speak of eternal life or entering the kingdom of heaven, but I am assuming that is coming sooner or later.
Instead it appears that I am condemned to be judged as one of fellow non-Israelites. I am to go about my life and be killed because I am a part of a group of people who God dislikes.
Hopefully God will give access to others at some point in the Bible.
Bible Read: Joshua 4
God the Thought Cop
As Joshua is leading his troops into the land of Ai they are defeated in their first attempt. 36 of the Israelites die in battle and they are pushed back into the desert.
When Joshua pleads to God as to why this happened he is told it is because someone among them has sinned. Achan had taken some gold from the city they destroyed before and God was punishing him as they were to burn and destroy everything. Achan is stoned to death.
I really dislike the idea that one sin is typically punished by death. I especially dislike that a single sin which is not harmful to anyone else is not only punished by death, but the death of 36 other men who did nothing wrong, or at least nothing wrong that has been revealed to the reader.
I don’t think I will ever get the guilt by association decrees that God continuously hands down, but the punishment for the victimless crime is another hard one.
I guess the point is that destruction of another person’s life is not that big of a deal. It is not as important as the destruction of one’s own faith and morality. From the perspective of God, I kind of get it. If he is trying to have the perfect behaving society, maybe, but it just feels cruel.
It all reminds me of 1984 and the thought crimes that are talked about. If you think about something that you shouldn’t you are punished. In the book, people have to be careful not to show visual clues that they are thinking the wrong thing or the scanners all around will pick it up and they will be imprisoned for rehabilitation.
I never considered that the Bible could be a historic dystopia book, but that is the way it seems to be coming together.
Every time I tell someone that I am being discouraged by the Bible, they tell me to read the New Testament. I will get there, hopefully not completely discouraged by then. It does give me a bit of hope that there is more love and harmony in the latter half of the Bible.
Bible Read: Joshua 8
I Shall Smite the Wicked
The people of the Old Testament are constantly being punished for doing the wrong thing. Anytime the Israelites become blasphemous they are punished by God through death, disease, and oppression. Anytime the Israelites are good, God gives them land and power over others through war, death, and oppression.
I’ve tried to make peace with this idea. But, what keeps coming up as a constant question is “Does God still do this?” Looking at the rules of the Old Testament, people today are horribly blasphemous. We in general do not sacrifice every time we do wrongs. We as a whole have issues with adultery, creating idols, and coveting.
It seems clear to me that if this was biblical times we would be demolished by God. We are likely somewhere near the levels of decadence of Sodom and Gomorrah. We quite possibly are at the levels of sin that the world saw before the great flood.
And today we see great tragedies and atrocities against people. The big question… Is this the work of a jealous and vengeful god? Today we attribute everything to nature or psychology. We say that hurricanes and earthquakes are the work of the natural processes that are not created as punishment for bad morals. We claim that wars, oppressions, and horrific attacks are the result of crazy people who have essentially lost their mind.
What if these people are being guided by God as a punishment for our terrible behavior? Could the tsunamis, hurricanes, and meteorite strikes be a message from God? Could September 11th, mass shootings, and beheadings be people who are carrying out the message of God trying to get our attention?
I have heard before that science is the work of the devil. If these terrible events are the work of God, it would be fairly clear that science is a blasphemous idea. Even when God sends a message, we ignore it and claim that it is not him.
It all seems to be a vicious cycle. You do bad things, God punishes, you claim it was not God, and God punishes again. There is nothing that makes people become better. Maybe we should look at the horrible things that seem to happen more and more often and look at who we are as a people and attempt to repent. Maybe what we need is to look at where we have gone wrong and try to find morality again. Maybe we need to stop blaming chance.
Bible Read: Joshua 20
-Only the Good Die Old-
Early on in the Bible people live for hundreds of years. As you go through the stories people start to live less and less years. At the end of Joshua, he lived for 110 years.
I find it interesting that as we slowly move closer to today, people start to live a more reasonable life. People today could live to 110, but most live to around 80. I don’t know why people may have lived fewer years as the Bible goes on. I don’t know if anything changed in the food or something, but I do find it interesting.
I think today it is logical. We process our foods, we ingest large amounts of things that are not good for us. We even have altered the DNA of vegetables to be easier to grow. I am surprised we live as long as we do.
It makes me wonder if the better someone is the longer they will live. I think it is a fair assessment to say that people in the Bible lived holier lives than us, and maybe they were rewarded for it. Maybe we are punished for it.
But is it worth it? Billy Joel was fairly forthright with his opinion in his song Only the Good Die Young. “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” I guess he would prefer today compared to ancient biblical times.
Bible Read: Joshua 24
Status Report Day 34
The book of Joshua continues the pattern of about half the Bible being boring and full of useless detail. We get a dozen or so chapters of story with Joshua taking over the lands across the Jordan. Then we get a dozen or so chapters telling us which lands go to which clans of which tribes.
The amount of war, death, and destruction that is included in the Bible has been discouraging. I think of war as hatred and I think of hatred as evil. With that type of association, the Bible does not do much to make feel like Christianity is a positive influence.
I keep falling back to the idea that the Old Testament is not a historical document as much as it is a book that was created to explain to people why the world sucks so much. Looking at the Old Testament as a fictional explanation as to why horrible things happen is much more uplifting than to look at it as a true documentation of how God treats people.
Regardless, I am continuing with my mission to read the Bible.
After Exodus I watched birds fly in formation and felt an appreciation for God and how beautiful the world is. Today I saw another formation of birds which still a beautiful sight, now I wonder how long God will allow such beauty exist while the people continue to be ignore him. Gone is the appreciation of the amazing world around us and it is replaced with fear and sadness.
1. Is the Bible supposed to be so depressing?
2. When will the war and hate stop being so prominent in the Bible?
Bible Read: Joshua