Friday, April 25, 2003

We've had some arguments with teenage daughters about radio stations and TV shows. When is it reasonable to pick out the good stuff and just turn off the bad, as opposed to chucking the whole thing and leaving the TV off completely?

I think this ties in with the book of Judges. If you will forgive an illustrative short story....

Three Israelite brothers, Moesh, Tulax, and Jesh moved to a small valley to farm. They worshipped God, held the feasts, and gave tithes to the Levites, and tried to do what God wanted. In this valley lived a few pagan families who worshipped several different gods: one of fire, one of harvests, another of rain, and so on.

Moesh thought that some of the pagan women were very pretty, but he remembered that he was not supposed to marry a pagan woman, so he married another Israelite from several valleys away, and they started a family. Sometimes he traded food with some of the pagan families, and sometimes they got together for dinner. He noticed that his neighbor Sulla would always splash a little of his drink out onto the floor before he drank any. Moesh asked Sulla why, and Sulla said that this was what they always did--it was one of the customs of the country. When Moesh ate at Sulla's home, everybody splashed a little out of their drink, from the grandfather to the baby (who splashed a lot!). The only one who didn't was Moesh, and he felt a little uncomfortable.

One evening he sloshed a little bit himself when everyone else did, though he tried to make it look like an accident. The next week he did it again, and pretty soon he was splashing a little out just like everyone else.

When their families ate together, Moesh's son BarMoesh noticed that his daddy was splashed a bit of milk out on the floor with the Sulla family, and asked why. Moesh told his son "That's nothing, its just the way they do things here." So, BarMoesh cheerfully splashed his milk too, and not just with the Sulla family, but sometimes when he was alone as well. He asked his friend BenSulla one day why: he'd never thought to ask before. BenSulla said "Oh, that's just so it will rain."

When BarMoesh grew up he married and had children of his own, and at every meal and every time they drank water outside they splashed a little on the ground first--just to make sure the rain would come. One day his son Mobat asked his friend Sulbat about splashing, since Sulbat seemed to know more than he did. Sulbat told him that the splashing was an offering to Ba-el, the rain god; and that every year you were supposed to sacrifice a sheep on an altar in the hills as well. Since Mobat knew the splashing was all right, and helped the rain come, because his daddy said so, he supposed that the sacrifice in the hills was OK too. And so, when Mobat grew up, he took a sacrifice to God at the tabernacle and another one to Bael in the hills. But the altar to Bael was closer, and it even had a statue of Bael he could look at, so he liked it better.

Tulax (remember, Moesh's brother), when he moved to the valley, also saw the pretty women, and decided that one of them was too pretty, and too good a cook to pass up, so he married Murpa. Murpa was a very nice woman, and she loved their children, but she insisted on keeping some of her family's customs, such as going up in the hills once a year to an altar that Tulax needn't bother going to and always putting the chicken head in the fire. Tulax wanted peace and quiet in the house, so he let Murpa do what she wanted.

Murpa told their children BarTulax and Melpa stories about people, and about the land, and about the spirits in the stream, and about the gods. Tulax told them about God and how Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, which always impressed the children, but Murpa told them most of what they heard, so when they grew up they thought there were many gods. So they went to the tabernacle with their father, but they more often went to the altar in the hills with their mother, or offered a chicken to the fire god themselves.

When BarTulax and Melpa grew up and had children of their own, they told their children about all the gods and spirits they knew, but the real God was only one, and He seemed a bit far away, so their children didn't pay much attention to Him.

Jesh saw the pagan women, but he knew he wasn't supposed to marry one, so he eventually found a wife several valleys away. He made friends with his neighbors, and traded food with them, and sometimes ate with Sulla. Sulla would splash a little out of his cup before drinking, and Jesh asked him why. Sulla said it was just the custom of the country. Jesh asked, "Why is it a custom?" Sulla said, "Well, it is to make sure it rains."

Jesh asked "Why does that help make it rain?" Sulla said, "It is a little offering to Ba-el to remind him that we need rain."

Jesh said, "I can't do that; I can only worship God." Sulla didn't say anything.

But after that, Jesh felt more and more uncomfortable eating with Sulla and his family, and so he tried to only meet with them at times when they wouldn't be eating. Sulla thought Jesh was being standoffish and unfriendly, but Jesh wouldn't eat with the Sullas, nor would he let his family eat with them anymore.

When Jesh's children asked Jesh why the Sulla family splashed milk before drinking it, Jesh explained that the Sulla family was worshiping an idol, and that he wanted his family only to worship God. When Jesh's children grew up and had children of their own, they told them the same thing, and told them the stories of Moses bringing the Israelites out of Egypt.

So, three Israelites came to the valley. One was a compromiser, one was disobedient, and one was faithful. The grandchildren of the compromiser became idolaters. The children of the disobedient man became idolaters, and their children as well. Only the grandchildren of the faithful man were still faithful. It was so easy for the compromising man to compromise, and so easy for the disobedient man to give in to his pagan wife, and so easy for the children to worship nearby idols; that it is no wonder that so many of them became idol worshippers.

No comments: