Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lentil Lessons

Today Mom and I went in to the City to get some grocery shopping done.  We had a long list of places we needed to go and things we needed to get.  One of our stops was Bulk Barn, a delightful store where you can get most anything in bulk.  We often order very bulk quanties of flour, sugar and oats from them, but today we were there for "small" bulk (no more than 15 pounds of any one thing).  One of the items on our list was lentils.  We found the lentil bin and it looked like it was almost full.  Mom held the bag while I scooped.  I scooped and scooped and scooped.  Every once in a while I'd glance up at the top of the gravity bin and notice that no matter how much I scooped it didn't appear to be going down at all.  Mom noticed to and warned me that when it decided to give, it would give all at once and we would be flooded with lentils.  They must be stuck further up.  I scooped until there were no more to scoop and still the flood of lentils hadn't come down.  We closed the bin and shook it and banged on it (gently of course, but with force) and still the lentils wouldn't come down.  Finally I looked closer at it.  The gravity bin had a false front.  No matter what we did, we were not going to get those lentils to come down.  The bin was empty.  The false front had led us to believe that there were more there than were really there.

As I thought about it more, I remembered how we had discovered we were out of lentils.  Early last week, when we were discussing supper plans, mom suggested that I make honey baked lentils, since we had a big bucket of lentils in the fruit cellar. I had seen the lentils down there as well so I agreed and we began prep work.  I went down the cellar and picked up the bucket labeled (very clearly in two spots) lentils.  I gave it a shake.  It didn't feel like lentils or make very lentil-like noises.  It sounded an awful lot like pasta (pasta makes a loud noise when it is in a plastic bucket, lentil hardly make any as far as I can tell).  I opened the lid and sure enough it was a bucket of rice pasta.  I checked rest the buckets and they all had what they said they had in them.  I came upstairs and reported my findings to mom.  The bucket was mislabeled, we did not have any lentils.  We thought real hard for about 30 seconds and then decided that split peas were almost like lentils and we would make honey baked peas instead (the "we" in this case being mainly me).  The peas were on the top shelf so I sent R down to get them down for me and he brought them to me and supper was saved.  The bucket labeled lentils had been a type of false front.

The more I thought, the more thoughts I had. This false front thing seemed like a theme that I was supposed to be thinking on more.  I started asking myself if I knew any Bible passages about lentils (when I get in a thinking mood it generally seems to be a good idea to look to the Bible).  I thought of one right away.  Way back in Genesis, there is a story of two brothers, Jacob and Esau.  They were twins and as different from one another as night and day.  Jacob was a mama's boy and Esau loved to hunt.  One day, Esau had come in from a long hunting trip and was very hungry.  He was a yougn man, so he was likely always hungry, but he was especially hungry on this day.  Jacob had spent all day in the kitchen cooking and had a pot of lentil stew simmering away over the fire.  The smell was amazing and Esau, believing he would soon die from hunger demanded a bowl of the lentil stew.  Jacob, being a nice twin brother, agreed to give it to him, on the condition that Esau swore to let him have the blessing reserved for the oldest child (aka, the birthright).  Esau was the older of the two twins, but not by much.  Esau, being young, foolish, and hungry agreed.  Esau sold his blessing for a bowl of lentil stew.   Many years later when their father, Isaac, was dying, Jacob dressed up like Esau and tricked his father into believing he was Esau so that Isaac gave him the blessing.  (Isaac either did not know about or did not approve of the selling of the birth right for a bowl of soup).  Once again, lentils were paired with deception and false pretenses.

I wasn't satisfied to stop there, so I opened up my super cool Bible search software that my parents got me for graduation (Thanks mom and dad!) and did a search on the term "lentil*".  The story from Genesis of Jacob and Esau and the birthright popped up, but so did a story from 2nd Samuel 23.  It was a more obscure passage (at least to my mind...I need to work on my OT history) so I had to spend some time reading around it to get my mind into the right place.  In 2 Samuel 23 the author tells of  King David's might men: Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazer son of Dodai the Ahohite, and Shammah son of Agee the Hararite.  If you were a king going into battle for the Lord, these are the people you wanted on your side.  They knew who was on their side (G-d) and they were prepared to take a stand for G-d, no matter what the cost.  The story that involved lentils spans all of 2 verses (11 & 12) and is short enough that I will put it here:
2 Samuel 23:11-12 (NIV)

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.
This time the lentils don't play any big role, they were just there.  And where the lentils were, Israel's troops believed the lie that G-d was not with them and would not help them concur the Philistines.  So they ran away scared.  Except of course for Shammah.  He believed G-d's truth and stood his ground (in the lentils) and fought the Philistines.

I'm not sure I 'm ever going to look at lentils the same way again.  I think they will serve as a good reminder not only of how tricky deception and false fronts can be, but that also, like Shamah, I can stand even when others believe the lies, because no matter what, G-d is on my side.

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