Changing God’s mind

There are several instances in the Bible when people intervened in God’s plans. They spoke up about the situation and God changed God’s mind. 

Genesis 18:16-33

(Abraham bargains with God, where God agrees to save Sodom and Gomorrah if there are just 10 righteous people there.)

16 The men got up from there and looked out over Sodom, and Abraham was walking with them to see them off. 17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham? 18 Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen[i] him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious. 21 I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to Me. If not, I will find out.”

22 The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? 25 You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find 50 righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord—even though I am dust and ashes— 28 suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?”

He replied, “I will not destroy it if I find 45 there.”

29 Then he spoke to Him again, “Suppose 40 are found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it on account of 40.”

30 Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find 30 there.”

31 Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?”

He replied, “I will not destroy it on account of 20.”

32 Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?”

He answered, “I will not destroy it on account of 10.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

Genesis 19:17-22

(Lot convinces the angels of the Lord to let him escape to a different place.)

17 As soon as the angels got them outside, one of them  said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop anywhere on the plain! Run to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords—please. 19 Your servant has indeed found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness by saving my life. But I can’t run to the mountains; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die. 20 Look, this town is close enough for me to run to. It is a small place. Please let me go there—it’s only a small place, isn’t it?—so that I can survive.”

21 And he said to him, “All right, I’ll grant your request[i] about this matter too and will not demolish the town you mentioned. 22 Hurry up! Run there, for I cannot do anything until you get there.” Therefore the name of the city is Zoar.

Exodus 4:10-17

(Moses gets the Lord to agree to let Aaron do all the talking with Pharaoh, instead of himself.)

10 But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant—because I am slow and hesitant in speech.”

11 Yahweh said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? 12 Now go! I will help[e] you speak and I will teach you what to say.”

13 Moses said, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses, and He said, “Isn’t Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, he is on his way now to meet you. He will rejoice when he sees you. 15 You will speak with him and tell him what to say. I will help[g] both you and him to speak and will teach you both what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you. He will be your spokesman, and you will serve as God to him. 17 And take this staff in your hand that you will perform the signs with.”

Exodus 32:11-14

(The Lord wants to destroy the Israelites because they were worshipping a golden calf and not the Lord.  Moses convinces the Lord to spare them.)

11 But Moses interceded with the Lord his God: “Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He brought them out with an evil intent to kill them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from Your great anger and relent concerning this disaster planned for Your people.13 Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel—You swore to them by Your very self and declared, ‘I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented concerning the disaster He said He would bring on His people.

Numbers 11:11-17

(The Lord told Moses that he had to lead the people, but it was too much for him, so the Lord gave authority to 70 elders to help him.)

11 So Moses asked the Lord, “Why have You brought such trouble on Your servant? Why are You angry with me, and why do You burden me with all these people? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth so You should tell me, ‘Carry them at your breast, as a nursing woman carries a baby,’ to the land that You swore to give their fathers? 13 Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying to me: ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me. 15 If You are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now. If You are pleased with me, don’t let me see my misery anymore.”

16 The Lord answered Moses, “Bring Me 70 men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the tent of meeting and have them stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there. I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself.

Numbers 14:11-20

(The Lord gets angry because the Israelites are complaining and ungrateful and threatens to kill them all. Moses intervenes, again.)

11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise Me? How long will they not trust in Me despite all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with a plague and destroy them. Then I will make you into a greater and mightier nation than they are.”

13 But Moses replied to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from them. 14 They will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people, how You, Lord, are seen face to face, how Your cloud stands over them, and how You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 If You kill this people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of Your fame will declare, 16 ‘Since the Lord wasn’t able to bring this people into the land He swore to give them, He has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

17 “So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: 18 The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now.” 20 The Lord responded, “I have pardoned them as you requested.

Numbers 16:18-24

(Moses prevents God from wiping out the entire community when it was just a few who were rebellious.)

18 Each man took his firepan, placed fire in it, put incense on it, and stood at the entrance to the tent of meeting along with Moses and Aaron. 19 After Korah assembled the whole community against them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lordappeared to the whole community. 20 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this community so I may consume them instantly.”

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and said, “God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You vent Your wrath on the whole community?”

23 The Lord replied to Moses, 24 “Tell the community: Get away from the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

Numbers 16:41-50

(The Israelites are angry again, the Lord wants to kill all of them again, and Moses and Aaron intervene again.)

41 The next day the entire Israelite community complained about Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!” 42 When the community assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting, and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the Lord’s glory appeared.

43 Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this community so that I may consume them instantly.” But they fell facedown.

46 Then Moses told Aaron, “Take your firepan, place fire from the altar in it, and add incense. Go quickly to the community and make atonement for them, because wrath has come from the Lord; the plague has begun.” 47 So Aaron took his firepan as Moses had ordered, ran into the middle of the assembly, and saw that the plague had begun among the people. After he added incense, he made atonement for the people. 48 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted. 49 But those who died from the plague numbered 14,700, in addition to those who died because of the Korah incident. 50 Aaron then returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, since the plague had been halted.

Joshua 10:12-15

(God listens to Joshua and changes how the Sun works.)

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 And the sun stood still
and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.

Isn’t this written in the Book of Jashar?

So the sun stopped
in the middle of the sky
and delayed its setting
almost a full day.

14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man, because the Lord fought for Israel.15 Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal.

Judges 6:11-15

(Gideon is bold and asks for a sign from the Angel of the Lord to prove to him that he is being sent to defeat the enemies.)

11 The Angel of the Lord came, and He sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the wine vat in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 Gideon said to Him, “Please Sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the Lord brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not sending you?”

15 He said to Him, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

16 “But I will be with you,” the Lord said to him. “You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.”

17 Then he said to Him, “If I have found favor in Your sight, give me a sign that You are speaking with me. 18 Please do not leave this place until I return to You. Let me bring my gift and set it before You.”

And He said, “I will stay until you return.”

Numbers 27:1-11

(Daughters, who would have been excluded from the inheritance laws, get Moses to ask God to change the laws for them.)

The daughters of Zelophehad approached; Zelophehad was the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh from the clans of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. These were the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and the entire community at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness, but he was not among Korah’s followers, who gathered together against the Lord. Instead, he died because of his own sin, and he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan? Since he had no son, give us property among our father’s brothers.”

5 Moses brought their case before the Lord, 6 and the Lord answered him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters say is correct. You are to give them hereditary property among their father’s brothers and transfer their father’s inheritance to them. 8 Tell the Israelites: When a man dies without having a son, transfer his inheritance to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative of his clan, and he will take possession of it. This is to be a statutory ordinance for the Israelites as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Ezekial 4:9-15

(Ezekial gets God to change God’s mind about what kind of fuel to use, because the first kind isn’t kosher.)

9 “Also take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Put them in a single container and make them into bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the number of days you lie on your side, 390 days. 10 The food you eat each day will be eight ounces by weight; you will eat it from time to time. 11 You are also to drink water by measure, a sixth of a gallon, which you will drink from time to time. 12 You will eat it as you would a barley cake and bake it over dried human excrement in their sight.” 13 The Lord said, “This is how the Israelites will eat their bread—ceremonially unclean—among the nations where I will banish them.”

14 But I said, “Oh, Lord God, I have never been defiled. From my youth until now I have not eaten anything that died naturally or was mauled by wild beasts. And impure meat has never entered my mouth.”

15 He replied to me, “Look, I will let you use cow dung instead of human excrement, and you can make your bread over that.” 

(All Bible translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Able disable

          Figuring out the learning disability of a kindergartner is like being a mechanic figuring out what is wrong with the car. Kindergartners aren’t able to tell you what their problem is in regards to reading and writing. To be honest they have difficulty telling you what obstacles they have with a lot of things but that is a topic for another day.

          Children in general have difficulty explaining and expressing themselves and that is why more and more parents are sharing sign language with their infant children so that they can better express themselves.

          But as a tutor I am more interested in children’s ability to express themselves and to receive information in written form. A child who has dyslexia or ADD might not know it but it often shows up in how they behave and what their completed assignments look like. If a child is repeatedly turning letters upside down or backwards that is a good sign. But if a child simply cannot read easy words (and by easy I mean two letter words at six months into the school year when all of their peers can), then it is a sign that something else is going on. You can’t ask them what their disability is because they don’t know they have a disability. Therefore you can’t find a way to fix it or work around it because even you don’t know exactly what the problem is.

          That is part of my job as a tutor. I don’t just work with them to teach them how to read and write. Sometimes I work with them to determine how they are going to be able to read and write. My hope is to make it possible for them to skip past any obstacles they might have where it comes to reading and writing. I believe that if you can read and write you have gained the keys to the world.

          I believe being able to express yourself and gather information on your own are the most valuable tools you can have as a human being. Consider it this way – if a child has a club foot it is best that the deformity gets fixed early on so that it doesn’t hamper their ability to walk in the future. I believe that not being able to read or write is a problem that can be fixed. But consider if you have a child who is limping but you can’t figure out why. There’s no obvious sign of a physical problem. You’ve looked at their feet, their ankles, their knees, their back and there’s no good reason for why they are walking poorly.

          Encountering a child who has a learning disability but who also does not have English as her first language compounds the problem. It is also entirely likely that her parents are unschooled, which is common with immigrants from poor countries. The parents might not know how to read because they have never gone to school.  Thus, they were never able to read to their child, which will result in the child also being illiterate. But it might also be that she has inherited a learning disability from her parents as well.

What does it mean to be a “human being”?

I read a question from a lady on a friend’s post, trying to figure out when a fetus was a person.  To her mind, the moment conception happens, there is now a person, fully protected by law.  Thus, to her, abortion is murder.

The current earliest cutoff date for abortion in some state’s legislation is 6 weeks, which is the point when a fetal heartbeat is detected. This is one and a half months.

One way of thinking about it is viability.  Can the baby survive without medical intervention?

The earliest a baby has survived outside the womb is 21 weeks and 5 days. This is just shy of 5 and a half months. However, babies at that age need extreme medical intervention, which is very costly.  Can the parents afford that? Will insurance pay?

Interestingly, even babies born at 36 weeks (9 months) can experience respiratory distress and need to be in NICU.  They are often not able to survive on their own and need intervention.  The current “full term” date for a child is 39 weeks. 

So at what point is the child able to live without assistance?

Should the fact that children need constant attention from parents or guardians for many years be considered assistance? Children will not survive for the first several years of their life without someone else providing them food, shelter, and attention.

Children are not legally considered adults until a minimum of 16, when they can get a driver’s license, 18 when they can vote, and 21 when they can drink alcohol.

So at what point are they considered legally independent of their parents? Parents are not legally responsible for their children’s actions when they reach 18.

Consider the opposite end of the spectrum, where adults are on life support due to accident or illness.  When do you cease life support? Are they “alive” if machines are doing all the work?

Consider suicide, when people feel their life is not worth living.  Do they have the legal right to kill themselves?

Consider social welfare assistance – food stamps, subsidized housing – are these forms of “life support”?

At what point do you start to be human, and at what point do you stop?

Tomorrow

Tomorrow she would go through the green door.
Tomorrow, not today. This is how it must be.
Today, she had to pass it by, with its peeling paint and the missing name-plate. Whose name had been there before? Was it absent to make space for her? Who would answer these questions?
Today, she would finally stop to admire the climbing vines, the red flowers. She would smell deeply of their scent, accepting it as a gift, as incense, as an offering to her, or a blessing. 
Or a warning. 
She’d walked by this doorway every day for a dozen years.
Tomorrow, she would place her hand on the door, take a deep breath, and walk inside, knowing that she would never pass through that doorway again. 
Tomorrow marked the end of her old life. 
But just today, she would live as she always had.

New abortion law thoughts.

Georgia and Alabama have recently passed abortion laws that are in violation of federal law.

Here are some points to consider –

Unplanned pregnancy can create poverty. This is why there are so many food drives, baby supply drives, and school supply drives. Did you know that in America in 2001, over half the pregnancies were unintended? And half of those were from contraception that failed. (I’m sure there are more current figures but I suspect they are similar.) I challenge all my pro-life friends to propose a real solution.

On a related note: perhaps it is time for all women in America (not just Georgia and Alabama) to stop having sex with men. I wonder how long it will take for their partners to petition the government to provide free, 100% effective, side-effect free contraception.

What we need is perfect contraception, where there are no unintended pregnancies. That will solve this issue (and many others). Abstinence isn’t something everyone is capable of.

When every anti-abortion person is willing to adopt every unintended baby, then I will know they are pro-life. But as it is, when they say they will kill a mother who has an abortion, they are not pro-life at all. They are for forcing women to have children that they know they are unprepared for. They are creating further poverty on every level – children who are unwanted, growing up in homes where there isn’t enough time or money to afford them.

Boxing

Lizzie McPherson was young for a widow, but she didn’t let that stop her from her dream of being a boxer. Even when she sat for her formal photograph announcing her new status, she wore her new gloves as a sign to her friends and family of her intentions. Perhaps it was a warning.

Now that she no longer had to answer to a man, she was free to live as she had always wanted. As a maiden, she was under the authority of her father. As a wife, that role passed to her husband. She wasn’t allowed to make any legal decisions without their say-so. Sure, she could decide what she wanted to wear and what food to buy for the household. She was even allowed to pick out the books she wanted to check out from the local library. She understood that this was a rare exception, granted to her by the magnanimity of her spouse. He’d even signed a form, on file at the front desk, letting the librarians know she had free rein.

In the 27 years that branch had been open, only two other women had been granted that privilege. Had the others not known it was an option? Or did they not care? Maybe they were content to read the same old boring stories over and over. Sure, there were new books every week, but only the character names changed and the locale.

Lizzie wanted more. She wanted to be surprised by what she read. She wanted to be surprised by life. She didn’t want to know how the story ended until it ended. If it was predictable, why spend the time reading it? Life was too short for that. Lizzie was busy enough with all the chores required to run the homestead that she didn’t have time to waste on silly books.

James, her dearly departed husband, had moved them out to the wilderness the day they got married. Neither of them had set eyes on the parcel of land that had been allotted to them by the government but that didn’t matter. It was take it or leave it and no second chances with the land grants game. They decided that no matter what, they’d stick with it, come rain or shine, come harvest or famine. What other option did they have? The opportunities to start a life together were few and far between in their town – and the same was true all over.

Just too many people in too small a space. Only the elderly were staying there now, with no youngsters to fuss over and no jobs to go to, what with mandatory retirement. All their needs were taken care of, even food and personal care. They had no worries. Those were for the next generation, the ones trying to set up a family and get their household established. Marriage was the first of many hurdles to being a full citizen.

James took Lizzie out to the plot that very day, right after they’d shared the wedding cake with their family and friends. That act sealed the deal and cemented them as legally joined in the eyes of the law of the land. The plot was three hours away from the town they had known all their lives, and it had nothing on it. Their wedding night was spent in a canvas tent, without even a bed. Their wagon had just enough room for one or the other and they had thankfully agreed that shelter was more important than comfort, even on that night.

From that day onward she wore his clan tartan to tell one and all that she was claimed. Now, a widow, she wore it to fend off possible suitors. She was done with belonging to someone else, done with having to adjust herself to someone else’s whims. She’d had it relatively well with James, but she’d served her time. Now she could live as she wished. It was the best of all possible worlds.

Boxing wasn’t the usual pursuit for a lady, but she’d taken it up out of self-defense. The trouble began with her cousins at family picnics. The male ones, of course. They thought nothing of chasing her down and demanding a kiss, or worse. The adults, if they noticed at all between beers, laughed it off as childish games and told her to play along saying “boys will be boys”. It was then that Lizzie knew she’d have to take matters into her own hands. Literally.

She took up boxing secretly of course, but it didn’t matter. She was much more confident, much more certain of herself. Somehow the boys knew not to hassle her, and for many years she was single because no one had the gumption to tangle with her. This was fine by her. But then James came along. He didn’t ask her to stop boxing. He was proud of it, in fact. He was the first man that was able to befriend her, in part because he didn’t see her as a conquest but as a fellow person.

This was unusual to say the least. No man thought of a woman as his equal in those times. But James wasn’t usual. He was a s/he. S/he’d been raised as a girl until it was time to go to school. Then her parents changed her name and her clothes and nobody knew any better until Lizzie came along. This was why they got along so well. They were part of the same club, as it were. They didn’t agree on everything, of course. Nobody does that, no matter how much they have in common. But they got along better than many other couples, and in private, they even boxed. Maybe that helped too. 

The photographer tried to talk Lizzie out of wearing the gloves for her portrait, but she wasn’t budging. She no longer had to prove herself or make space for other people. It wasn’t that she was pushy, or that she had to have her way all the time. But she was done with shortchanging herself to make others feel rich. Perhaps boxing had taught her that. She wondered what else it might reveal to her about herself.

Written early April 2019