Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Greater Than; Less Than; No Equal


Equals Sign by Flickr user Colin Jagoe, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Equals Sign by Flickr user Colin Jagoe, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab with access to the original image and the user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Here are a few questions to think about… 1. What is the opposite of light? 2. What is the opposite of good? 3. What is the opposite of love? More than likely, your answers are dark, evil (or bad), and hate. Now, a new question… What is the opposite of God? If your answer is satan, guess again. I’ll tell you the answer by the end of this post, but you may get it out of today’s reading from Exodus 7:8 through Exodus 8:10 (8:6 in Complete Jewish Bible since there are more verses in chapter 7).

Our reading begins with God speaking to Aaron and Moses about what miracles to perform in front of Pharaoh. They do as Yahveh commanded, but Pharaoh is unimpressed because he is able to call out magicians to perform the same “trick” with turning a stick into a serpent. Well, except for the fact that Aaron’s serpent ate up all the magicians’ serpents. Still, Pharaoh stayed hard-hearted as Yahveh told them he would be. Even in the face of the miraculous, Pharaoh could not see God as greater than him nor himself as less than God. It’s the same fatal mistake made by the angel Lucifer when he thought he was equal to God.

The next miraculous work performed by Aaron and Moses turns all water in Egypt to blood. The water in the river turns to blood, kills all the fish, and makes the river stink with their death. Even water in jars and buckets turns to blood. The whole land of Egypt is filled with blood, but Pharaoh is so hard-hearted that he actually has his magicians perform the same feat. Now why didn’t he have his magicians make him some pure water to drink? I guess hard-heartedness comes bundled with idiocy or something.

Never-the-less, even after seven days of drinking blood, when Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to let the people go to worship, he still refuses to let them, so the men warn Pharaoh of the coming plague of frogs. At God’s word, frogs come up from all over the place and swarm the land and homes of all Egypt. And, again, Pharaoh has his magicians do exactly the same thing. Political logic is just illogical. Demonstrating power just for power’s sake has no wisdom. This is why it is so important to make sure that we who believe in the miraculous do not worship the miracles themselves, nor should we worship those whom God uses to perform His great works. Worship should be saved for Yahveh Almighty and Him alone. Not the miracles, but the God OF the miracles. See the wisdom here?

Finally, Pharaoh gets it enough to realize that he needs Moses to intercede with God for the frogs to be taken out of the land. He promises that if Moses will intercede, he will allow the people to go worship. Moses tells him that he will not only intercede, but he will allow Pharaoh to choose the time. Pharaoh requests the frogs be taken from all but the river by the next day. And I love Moses’ answer to Pharaoh’s request: Moshe said, “It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that Adonai our God has no equal.”

And just in case you haven’t quite grasped my point from the question at the top, the answer to what is the opposite of God is NOTHING. In order for satan (ha satan meaning “the adversary”) to be the opposite of God, he would need to be as purely evil as God is good; as purely hate as God is love. But God has no equal even in the opposite sense. God is greater than all, and absolutely nothing or no one is greater than–or equal–to Him. And yet, He cares enough for us to create for us, walk with us, talk with us, listen to us, lay down His own life for us, and prepare an eternity for us. Hallelu-Yah!!

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December 31, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Profit of a Prophet


God's Billboard by Flickr user Kevin Hale aka roundedbygravity, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

God’s Billboard by Flickr user Kevin Hale aka roundedbygravity, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab and view original plus access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

We know from Scriptural promises that EVERY word of God has profit, and that no word of God that is spoken will return to Him without accomplishing what He intended. So, if you are one chosen to speak God’s words, you know that what you are required to speak is both profitable and has power to affect change. In today’s reading from Exodus 6:29 through Exodus 7:7, God again tells Moses to tell Pharaoh EVERYTHING He has commanded him to speak. And Moses once again tells God that he is a terrible speaker and doesn’t think he will speak in a way that will make Pharaoh believe him.

As I read this today, I noticed that the profit of a prophet is not whether or not the listener believes in what the prophet has to say, but instead it is in the value of the spoken words. In these verses, as in some from the past few days, God even tells Moses that Pharaoh will not listen to anything he and Aaron will speak to him. But, even though Pharaoh will be hard-hearted, God says He is sending in Moses to be like God to him and Aaron to be like a prophet for Moses. And not only in words, but God has commanded Moses to perform miraculous works and still says that Pharaoh will not heed them.

God’s words and God’s deeds are important to speak and perform regardless of what those who listen do with them. The profit is there in a true prophet of God, but fear of not being listened to has caused many to speak pretty words to see if they can get more listeners instead of speaking the words of true value even when they don’t sound pretty. The words God gave Moses and Aaron were not pretty for Pharaoh, but for those who believed in the power and deliverance of Their Creator, they were just what they needed. In today’s reading, God even calls the sons of Israel His army and says He is sending them to bring His people out of Egypt with great acts of judgment. The bullies WILL have to pay a price for their bullying.

But the best profit that will come from these words, the profit that should come from any words we claim to speak for God or in His name, can be found in verse 5… then Egypt will know that I am God! Even what some call the “Five Fold Ministry” has one major task; to equip God’s people to work and do service that will build the body of believers in Messiah. We read today that Moses and Aaron did everything exactly as Yahveh commanded them to do even at 80 and 83 years of age.

If we are part of the body of Christ, we have a task to speak God’s word and do His work to build more believers into the body. Share with me what God has put on your heart to share with others. And with that, I’ll leave you with this thought: When all else fails, read the Word of God, and if that doesn’t work, try following it. 😉

December 30, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m My Own…Cousin? Uncle? Grandpa?


Okay, so today we get a bit more genealogy, and I’ve said since the beginning that those would be the days when I might have a little trouble coming up with witty or spiritually deep commentary. This reading from Exodus 6:14 through Exodus 6:28 covers some of the grandchildren of Israel and leads us on the path to Aaron and Moshe who would be used for God’s purposes to set His people free. A paraphrase of verses 27 & 28 might even say, “Yes, THAT Moses and Aaron.”

And that’s about all that is here except the part in verse 20 where the father of Moses and Aaron married his own father’s sister, aka their aunt. I tried to piece it together using my own cousins and their children to see what the relationships might have been, and I think the boys would’ve been their own cousins but maybe each other’s uncles too. I had trouble imagining my family members marrying each other, so I’ll let you, dear readers, figure this one out for me. 🙂

In the meantime, just to make this a little fun, take a listen to this cute video by one of my favorite comedians, Ray Stevens. It’s called I’m My Own Grandpa, and it’s fun, but it can be kind of difficult to follow, so I found one with a diagram on it that makes it a little easier. Enjoy!

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deaf by Discouragement


Covering His Ears by Flickr User Sharyn Morrow aka massdistraction, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Covering His Ears by Flickr User Sharyn Morrow aka massdistraction, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Remember the old commercials that said, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”? I remember that even if I didn’t understand it when I heard it as a young child. I learned what it meant later, so I did understand by the time I heard a song by Carman where one lyric line said, “Because when God talks, even E.F. Hutton listens.” Well, in today’s reading from Exodus 6:2 through Exodus 6:13, we find people that are not listening so well…even to God.

We are now at the beginning of Parashah (portion) 14. The Hebrew word for it is Va’era and it means I appeared. It begins after Moses speaks to God asking why He allowed Pharaoh to treat the people so badly after the request to leave for three days to worship, and God’s answer that Moses would now see exactly what Yahveh had planned for Pharaoh. Now God goes on to say that He is the God who spoke and made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but that He had never revealed His memorial name to anyone before Moses.

Yahveh tells Moses to tell the people that He has heard their groanings, and that He will set them free from the slavery of the Egyptians. He says they will be His people, and He will be their God. But then it says the people are too discouraged to listen.  I’ve seen it in movies where a person is so distraught or worried that they are kind of “losing it” and won’t pay attention to anything that is going on around them. Usually it takes someone slapping them to snap them out of it. God doesn’t tell Moses to slap the people, but He doesn’t just accept their discouragement or refusal to listen.

Moses then argues that if the people won’t listen, surely Pharaoh will not listen either, especially to someone like him who is not a good speaker. But God commands both Moses and Aaron concerning their approach to both Pharaoh and to the house of Israel, and He tells them exactly what will happen in order to free Israel from slavery.

God always has a plan to set people free, be it us or those we love. Sometimes we are too discouraged to listen or to listen well. Sometimes those we love and care about are too discouraged to listen. But if we keep the communication with God open, we are promised that when we seek and search for Him with our whole hearts, we WILL find Him. And we know that once we find Him, there’s a much better chance that we will find the knowledge we need to follow His plan for our deliverance from whatever has us or those we love in bondage. Let us be encouraged, and let us continue to listen.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The High Cost of NOT Knowing God


High Cost of Living by Flickr User Brandice Schnabel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

High Cost of Living by Flickr User Brandice Schnabel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab to original image and user’s photo stream.

There are a lot of ways to not know God. For one example, we can imagine a husband and wife who live together more like roommates than spouses. They know each other in basic ways, but they don’t know each other’s heart. For another example, we can imagine neighbors who live on the same street, maybe even right next door to each other, but they cannot tell anyone else much of anything about their neighbors. In reference to God, there are people that don’t know anything about Him even if they have heard about Him their whole lives. Maybe they even go through the motions of serving Him, but there’s no depth, so their relationship with Him is based on their life circumstances rather than vice-versa.

In today’s reading from Exodus 5:1 through Exodus 6:1, God has sent Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel to speak with Pharaoh and request that the nation of Israel take three days to celebrate a festival and worship God. Since Pharaoh does not know God at all, (though remember that God knows him and predicted his reactions), he takes this request as a way for people to just get out of their work. As payback, he tells the slave masters to stop giving them straw for their bricks but to expect the same output even with them having to collect their own materials.

When the foremen of the people went to complain to Pharaoh, he told them they were just lazy, and that’s why they wanted time away to worship God. I’m guessing they knew nothing of God’s plan because when they came out from Pharaoh and saw Moses and Aaron at the side of the road, they began to accuse them of causing their troubles. So, even though they were depressed because Pharaoh kept making their lives harder, they didn’t know or trust God enough to deliver them and actually accused His messengers of making things worse. But in truth, Pharaoh was likely going to keep making things worse for them anyway since that what he had already been doing. But they had somehow allowed themselves the false mindset that if they just kept their mouths shut and did the work, all would be fine for them.

I see this happen in so many ways these days, and I have participated in it myself. I fear speaking out sometimes because I think that it will keep the peace, but that means I am making my service to God subject to my circumstances. But if I am trusting God and His word, my service to Him, and my beliefs about Him, should not change based on the opinions of others. No matter what I do or say, there are those who don’t know God that may turn my blessings into an excuse to be jealous of me like Pharaoh did just by seeing the growth of the Israelites. With them, I could say something like, “God loves you and wants you to have these blessings as well,” and they could hear it as, “You’re saying I don’t have blessings because God hates me.”

For people who don’t know God and won’t take the time to seek Him, the high cost is that they miss out on the blessings He wants them to have. And if I allow the opinions of others to change me, my high cost could be missing an opportunity to share God’s word with someone who would listen and may have already been seeking Him. Even Moses went back and accused God of making things worse and not rescuing His people, which should not be surprising since he didn’t trust God enough to help him speak. But that is so much like all of us. We might fear the kind of backlash that could come against us for speaking our hearts. We saw it in the recent attacks against Phil Robertson. But there have been some surprises in those who have stood for Phil’s right to free speech, and God can use Phil’s willingness to stand in spite of opposition to win the heart of someone who needed to see that there is stability in serving God.

Today’s reading, and this week’s portion, ends with God telling Moses, “Now you will see what I am going to do to Pharaoh.” Let us be more willing to pay the low costs of knowing God–that is a short life that could include some tough circumstances, rather than the high costs of not knowing Him at all. We can be encouraged that John 15:18-21 reminds us that if the world hates us, it is because it hated God first and that we are chosen out of it by God rather than left to be a part of it. And we can keep our hope in the promises of eternity that kept Paul the Apostle strong. As he said in 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NLT), “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

God’s Family Album


Family Memory Album by Flickr User Sandie Edwards--CC License = Attribution

Family Memory Album by Flickr User Sandie Edwards–CC License = Attribution
Click image to open original in new tab and access user’s full photo stream.

“And here’s the picture of my firstborn son, Israel…,” might be a statement God would make if He was showing off His family album. But there would be some differences. The image above talks of the treasure of sweet memories, but Our Creator doesn’t only remember the sweet things. Like a bruise gives away that we’ve been injured even after the event, the bruises on the spirits of God’s people let Him know that His children need some defense against the bullies in their lives. Israel had plenty of bullies, and God saw every one of them and made plans to deal with them.

In today’s reading from Exodus 4:18 through the end of the chapter at Exodus 4:31, Moses the chosen deliverer is still being prepared. He requests to leave his father-in-law, Jethro, to go to his kinsmen in Egypt and let them know what God has shown him. God also told him that those who sought to kill him for killing the Egyptian are all dead, so he is safe to return. Jethro approves, so Moses gets his family together and heads out in obedience to God.

As God describes the future to Moses, He tells him to perform every wonder that was shown to him before Pharaoh. And then He tells Moses that Pharaoh is stubborn and will say the people can go but will change his mind. It also says that God will harden Pharaoh’s heart, but I believe it is because God already knows the stubbornness in Pharaoh and knows that any softness would be temporary at best. Still, God tells Moses to be completely honest with Pharaoh about his future, right down to telling him that because Israel is God’s firstborn and Pharaoh has been a bully, that God will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn if he does not allow Israel to go and worship God.

Now, Moses knows God’s ability and how serious He is, and yet because his wife, Zipporah, is unhappy with the idea of circumcision, Moses gives in to her. This reading talks of God seeking to kill Moses because of it. The Amplified Bible says God used a would-be-fatal illness, and it is because of seeing how sick her husband is that Zipporah finally submits and circumcises her son. But she’s pretty angry about it and throws the foreskin at Moses’ feet as she calls him “a husband of blood.” But the obedience was enough to turn Moses’ health around, and it certainly confirmed to Moses just how serious God was so he could convey that to Pharaoh.

The last paragraph talks of God sending Aaron to Moses before they go to talk to the elders of Israel. It’s hard for me to tell if that’s why Aaron was coming along the first time, or if this is another time. Either way, the elders believed what the men had to say, and when it sunk in to them that Yahveh, Their Creator, was paying attention to their struggles, they felt God’s love and they bowed down and worshiped Him.

I wish I could capture in an album or book all the times God has brought to my memory the times He has shown me how He was paying personal attention to me. There would be many; some simple and some pretty grand. My sister remembers a special sunset where she knew God brought her attention to it to remind her that He was there for her. I asked God once to remind my husband that He was listening to him in big and little ways, and the day I asked that, we went to a service at a Messianic Jewish temple. I was asked to light the candles for the service because the person who was to do it that day was unable to make it. As I was lighting them, God reminded my husband that as a young man he had prayed for a wife that would light candles in the temple. I understand why the elders bowed down and worshiped when they learned that God was still with them. Feel free to share your own experiences of meeting God personally.

December 26, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

De Do Do Do De Da Da Da


I haven’t had to speak very many times, and I’ve been told far more often that I should speak because God has given me so many wonderful testimonies that bless others, but I think I know how Moses felt in today’s reading from Exodus 3:16 through Exodus 4:17. Even when others tell you that your speaking is great, you feel like you just stood up in front of everyone and babbled like a baby–or spoke nonsense like the title of the 1980’s Police song I used above. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In yesterday’s reading, Moses discovered the burning bush and the voice speaking from it. Today, we hear more of that conversation. First, God tells Moses that he is to gather the leaders of Israel to tell them that God has heard their groanings and that He plans something better for them. He promises that Israel’s leaders will pay attention. Then God tells Moses to go to the Egyptian leaders and request a three-day leave of absence to go into the desert to worship Yahveh. He goes on to tell Moses that the king of Egypt will not do the right thing until he is forced to do so by the wonders of God, but that he will eventually let the people go.

Moses first excuse to God was that the Egyptians would not listen to him or believe that he was speaking for Yahveh, so God asks the question of him, “What’s that in your hand?” Moses tells him it’s just a staff, and God turns it into a snake which He then tells Moses to grab as He turns it back into a staff.

Now, I want to break away for just a moment here to share a little inspiration. I started a writing project back in 2006 called “Good Morning Christian Writer” that was to contain devotions written specifically for Christian writers. Each devotion contained a story and a related writing exercise. Yes, I still plan to get back to the project which was sidelined by two neck surgeries and all else that comes with putting something on the back burner. Anyway, one of the submissions was from a woman who used that question from God to Moses as related to Christian writers and their writing instruments. From the moment I read it, that has been an inspiration to me, and I just want to pass on to all of you who are writers to ask yourself the same question. When you do, remember that God can turn a staff into a snake and back again, so instead of looking at what is in your hand (be it pen, pencil, computer, a talent, money, etc.), look at how God can use whatever you hold.

Even after witnessing God’s wonder, Moses was still a bit concerned about people believing him, so God had him stick his hand in his coat. When he pulled it out, it was leprous. Then he had him put it back in again, and when he pulled it out, it was healed. So once Moses was sure they would believe the words were from God, he challenged God as to whether he was the right messenger for such a task. He told God that he talked slow and basically that he got tongue-tied. And that’s what the song in the above video is all about. It’s called You Aint Been Nothin’ Yet, and it’s a parody of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. It poses the possibility that Moses stuttered, so he says to God, “I ain’t b-b-b-been n-n-n-nothin’ yet.” It’s a cute one.

But God didn’t think Moses excuse was cute, and He got a bit angry. He asked him who made his mouth and who gave men the ability to speak. Never-the-less, since Moses’ brother was just on his way to meet him, God told him that Aaron could speak for him. He said Aaron would be like his mouth, and he would be like Aaron’s God. He then tells him to go and to take the staff because he would need it.

I’ll close with a note that the last part speaks to me both in God’s message to Moses that He is the one who enables man to speak, and in that He provided a speaker already on his way because He knew ahead of time that Moses would doubt himself. We don’t know when Aaron came on the scene, but I’m guessing he was an older brother that was born before the Hebrews were forced to give up their baby boys. The fact that he was alive and that Moses knew him even after being mostly raised in an Egyptian palace and then moving to Midian tells me that God planned for the two of them to minister together. He knows plans we cannot even imagine, but in our humanity, we still question God just like Moses did. I guess that’s why Paul said he had to die (repent) daily, but it’s also why God’s Word says that His mercies are new every morning. Hallelu-Yah!

P.S. Merry Christmas once again–and don’t forget to read the story I posted yesterday where I used the titles of Christmas carols and songs to create a humorous tale.

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Wandering Kings–A Fun Story with Christmas Carols and Songs


Merry Christmas, Everyone. Here’s a fun story as my gift to all of you. I wrote it as a challenge for our local writer’s group. I’ve also included it as an attachment at the end in case anyone would like to download and/or print it. Enjoy…

Christmas Graphic

THREE WANDERING KINGS

(by Crystal A Murray)

We three kings knew we had a long journey ahead. We started on a silent night, but it turned out that many joined us along the way. We happened upon Good King Wenceslas, who asked us where we were going. Since we weren’t exactly sure yet (at this point we were just following the yonder star), I just hem-hawed around and finally answered, “Oh…little town of Bethlehem, I reckon.”

We continued on down the road when one of our road mates stopped and said, “Do you hear what I hear?

I answered, “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel; tell us what you heard.”

And then Melchior spoke up and said, “I didn’t hear anything, but I saw three ships come sailing in as we passed the harbor.”

“If you already saw the ships,” I said, “then it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

“Well then,” said Melchior, “go tell it on the mountain, so everyone will know!”

“But who will tell Grandma?” asked one of our younger travelers.

“We will,” announced a group of teens who had joined us. As they ran out of sight, I heard them singing what sounded like, Hi ho, hi ho, to Grandmother’s house we go. It reminded me so much of my childhood that I could practically see our old homestead decked out with the holly and the ivy, and I could smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Oh those memories of days spent rockin’ around the Christmas tree were so wonderful. I hate that it all had to end when Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

I was almost crying when someone broke into my thoughts. “I think I just heard the silver bells.”

“You mean you heard dinner bells,” I joked because I knew we were all starting to get hungry. Never-the-less, we trudged along until it dawned on us–well, it wasn’t morning yet, so no dawn, but it came upon the midnight clear that the star was leading us to a barn in the middle of a field.

As we approached the barn, someone shouted, “Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella,” and we all sprang forward to view the baby who had been tucked away in a manger. At that, the little drummer boy who was traveling with us began to play a special tune that sounded more like sleigh bells or jingle bells than a drum. (I don’t know how he did that.) Anyway, it was magical and made me wonder, what child is this that can turn even the sound from a child’s toy into such beautiful orchestration. And that’s when I heard the bells on Christmas day, and then we all exclaimed together, “Oh holy night!” Continue reading

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Humor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Resident Bush


Okay, I’ll admit it, I used to love the Candid Camera show. I love seeing people’s reactions when something that should not talk suddenly has a voice. My grandfather has had a variety of talking toys throughout my life, and the talking skull was almost always good to make someone jump out of their seat. (Of course, the farting Indian–Chief Running Out of Water, since we lived in Arizona–was quite fun too.)

Anyway, of all the tricks, I don’t think anyone ever pulled off what Moses went through in today’s reading from Exodus 3:1 through Exodus 3:15. He was out tending sheep for his new father-in-law, Jethro, when he looked across the desert and noticed a bush burning. As he watched it, the bush did not burn up like he would’ve expected, so he decided to go check it out. Before he got up to it, a voice spoke from the midst of the burning bush telling him not to come any closer and to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.

I would hope I would’ve been barefoot and face down in an instant if that happened to me, but we don’t read what Moses did at that point. We do read that God continued to speak to him. He told him He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He heard the pain of His people crying out to Him. And then He told Moses that He was sending him to Pharaoh so he could lead God’s people out of Egypt. Okay, if I was on my face, now I think I’d be standing up again, and I think I’d have a puzzled look on my face while I said, “Who, me?” with a giant question mark showing in my features.

Moses did say, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to lead the people out of Egypt?” And God told him that He would be with him and that the sign he was doing the right thing was that they would worship God right there on the mountain where he stood.

I guess Moses got the idea that he was going since the next thing he asked was who should he say sent him. God told him to say that I Am Who I Am had sent him and then went on to give Moses His actual memorial name. I’ve been using the name Yahveh in much of my writing, and I explained previously about the name and the Tetragrammaton, so I won’t repeat it, but I do want to include a video here by my favorite Christian parody band, ApologetiX. In this video, they use YHWH and Yahweh instead of YHVH and Yahveh, but that’s because of our Americanized alphabet where “v” and “w” were at one time interchangeable, so it really is the same thing. Of course, I think their song might have been easier to sing with the “v,” but it’s still enjoyable to watch them parody YMCA by The Village People, and the person who did the YouTube video included lyrics and some cute play-acting. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas Eve to everyone.

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labor Strike


Strike Baby by Flickr user Nina Bargiel — CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike Click image to view original in new tab and access user’s full photo stream

Strike Baby by Flickr user Nina Bargiel — CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike
Click image to view original in new tab and access user’s full photo stream

What would you do if you went to visit a relative at his or her job and, just as you walked up, you witness the boss beat up your relative? I mean, really, think about it. Now, at least in the U.S.A,, we can usually call the police, file a lawsuit, or something that will at least bring some kind of justice. But what if you knew that the only justice that could truly work would be to get rid of the offender?

In today’s reading from Exodus 2:11 through the end of the chapter at Exodus 2:25, we see this exact scenario in the life of Moses. He knows he is a Hebrew, so he goes to visit his kinsmen. If he just breaks up the fight, or beats up the offensive Egyptian, it will betray the fact that he is a Hebrew. If he leaves the situation alone, he has to bear the pain of watching his kinsman being treated unfairly. His solution was to wait until he found the offender alone, and then kill him and hide his body in the sand.

Unfortunately, things must not have been as private as Moses assumed, so when he corrected two of his kinsmen for fighting, they asked him if he would do the same thing to them as he had done to the Egyptian. I guess some people heard their proclamations since the next thing we know, Moses is facing a death threat and must go on the run. He ends up in Midian just as seven daughters of a priest from Midian show up to water their sheep. Field shepherds try to run off the girls, but Moses saves them and waters their sheep for them.

When the girls get back to tell their father, he insists they bring Moses to their home and feed him dinner. Eventually, he marries one of the daughters, Zipporah. She gives birth to Gershom, meaning “stranger” because Moses was a stranger in a strange land. Of course, I’m not sure here why he was a stranger since the girls and their father thought he was an Egyptian. I guess he was in a land where he was a stranger regardless of whether he was Hebrew or Egyptian.

As today’s reading comes to an end, the fearful pharaoh dies, but the people are still in bondage, and they cry out to God. God hears their cry and remembers His covenant for them as made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m thankful that God hears the cry of His people and that He is faithful to remember His promises to us.

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Delivered to Deliver


Moses-Aic by Flickr user Brionv CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Moses-Aic by Flickr user Brionv CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open in new tab with access to full photo stream.

How many times have we heard the question, “What am I here for?” Do you suppose Moses ever asked the same question? In today’s reading from Exodus 1:18 through Exodus 2:10, the Hebrew midwives who were told to kill the male Hebrew babies use the excuse that the Hebrew women are quick (lively in one translation) and deliver their babies before the midwives are able to arrive. Scripture tells us that God blesses them to be parents of strong children because of their integrity. But Pharaoh decides then that they should just throw the living boy babies in the river.

As our story progresses, we see Moses delivered multiple times. First, he is delivered as a newborn. Then, for three months, he is delivered from being discovered as his mother hides him to keep Pharaoh’s people from killing him. When his mother places him in a basket of reeds and hides him in the river, he is delivered from being alone as his sister, who works as a handmaid for Pharaoh’s daughter, keeps watch over the floating basket. And then he is delivered from the water when Pharaoh’s daughter finds him, and from death when she takes pity on him. He is delivered from being an orphan when his big sister offers to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the infant and goes to get Moses’ own mother for the task. Finally, he is delivered from being raised in ignorance of his true identity by having his mother and sister around to speak the truth to him about his heritage as a Hebrew.

The story has a long way to go before we will see Moses act as a deliverer for his people, but we are told in today’s reading that his lineage comes from the tribe of Levi, and we will learn later that this is the tribe of the priesthood. And what are priests called to do? They help people in becoming delivered from the bondage of sin. So deliverance was in his DNA as well as in his history.

Deliverance is also in our DNA through our salvation and new birth in Yahshua. In 1st Peter 2:9 (NKJV–italics mine) we read, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Just like Moses experienced an abundance of deliverance to become a deliverer, we who have been delivered (saved) from sin through the grace and mercy in the Blood of Christ were also delivered for a purpose. We may not all do the same job, but we all can do whatever we are called to do for the same reason–to help deliver others from an eternity of separation from the presence of their Loving Creator.

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Brick in the Wall of Oppression


Ancient Brick Wall Ruins from Flickr User "Institute for the Study of the Ancient World" CC License = Attribution

Ancient Brick Wall Ruins from Flickr User “Institute for the Study of the Ancient World” CC License = Attribution
Click the image to open a new tab and visit this user’s photo stream. There are some fascinating images there.

So, I was thinking maybe ApologetiX had a video that had something to do with the slaves in Egypt, but I haven’t found it yet. Oh, but I will have plenty to share as we move along in our studies. I just have to remember when I get to the right subject matter. One we will not get to is their parody of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall which is done as “God Will Kick in the Wall.” I didn’t share it since it’s about Jericho, but the title seemed fitting anyway since today’s reading from Exodus 1:1 through Exodus 1:17 covers just that subject.

We are now into Parashah (Portion) 13, titled “Sh’mot” in Hebrew and meaning Names. It begins with the names of sons of Israel who came with him to Egypt. It then goes on to talk of the death of Joseph, his brothers, and all those of their generation. Their descendants were fruitful, multiplied and grew strong and filled the land. And eventually, a new pharaoh came into power that new nothing of Joseph and his family and became fearful of their power and numbers. He was certain that if they continued to enlarge, they would join with Egypt’s enemies and fight against them.

To keep them from multiplying, Pharaoh decided to keep them busy. He assigned them strong taskmasters and harder and harder jobs. When that didn’t work as he planned, he did all he could to make their job harder on them. But the more the Egyptians oppressed the people, the more they grew and expanded.

Now, I have to stop here for a moment to bring up a relevant point about current news. This whole thing of A & E suspending Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson because he honestly answered a question in an interview is both frustrating and expected. It’s expected because in the last days, good will be called evil, and evil will be called good. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t make logical sense that someone asks a question, says he or she wants an honest answer, but then makes a mountain out of it because the answer does not agree with his or her personal views. Political Correctness should be called Political Appeasement because it cannot be correct without honesty, and it cannot promote honesty if every person doesn’t get the same right to freedom of speech and opinion. It’s not like Phil beat up and fired a camera man because he disagreed with his lifestyle choices, right? Oh, and Cracker Barrel taking away the merchandise when they had their own issues back in the early 90s of refusing to hire homosexuals (far more than just speaking an opinion here) because they didn’t represent families? Come on. Anyway, as far as relevance goes, I am hoping that this will actually do more to expand and grow the message of the Bible and of truth-believing people, and I’m praying that God will use it to bless the Robertson family and show that those with God are more than those that are against Him.

Now, back to the reading. The last paragraph says that in a last-ditch effort to stop the growth of the Hebrew people, Pharaoh begins to demand that the Hebrew midwives kill all boys born to the Hebrew women. But because the midwives were God-fearing, they obeyed God instead of Pharaoh and let the boys live also. May we also defy the law of the land when it says to disobey our Creator and Savior. And each time we endure hardship, like the Jews having a harder time building bricks, maybe we are just putting another golden brick into the walls of our mansions. (Note: I’m not sure about the interpretations of mansions in Heaven, but it is nice to think about as a comfort anyway.) May all my readers keep God first and keep their hopes and dreams alive until God makes them come true both in this life and in eternity!

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Elephant Never Forgets


Elephant Self Portrait by Flickr User Cybjorg CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives

Elephant Self Portrait by Flickr User Cybjorg CC License = Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives
Click on the image to open the original in a new tab and to access this user’s full photo stream.

It is said that an elephant never forgets, and after many studies, men are pretty convinced of that. Well, Yahveh Almighty does not forget either. He remembers His promises to His children, and He remembers His plans for us. In today’s reading from Genesis 50:21 through Genesis 50:26 (the end of the chapter), we learn about Joseph’s last days and hours. In those times, Joseph comforts his brothers by promising to care for them and their offspring, is privileged to meet his great-grandchildren by Ephraim and his grandchildren by Manasseh and meets with all his brothers to give them an oath that God will always remember them.

After Joseph dies at 110 years old, they embalm him and place him in a coffin in Egypt. Though he asked his brothers to carry his bones up from there, the reading does not tell where they actually buried Joseph. I’m guessing because it’s not time, or it just wasn’t important for the portion which ends with the encouragement to Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. I think this is a great encouragement on which to end our week, and from which to wish you all Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace). May you trust in the promises God has given you, and may you remember that He loves you and will never forget you. Amen!

P.S. Here’s an interesting Wikipedia page I found on elephant cognition… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_cognition

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crossing Jordan


The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives

The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives
Click image to open original in new tab and access this user’s photo stream.

As you can see by the image, I’m not talking about the television show, but since I recognized the title, I at least looked it up. It looks like an interesting premise for a show, so if anyone has seen it and thinks I should check Netflix for it, let me know. 🙂

But I think I did learn from today’s reading of Genesis 49:27 through Genesis 50:20 why we associate death with crossing the Jordan River. Before I get to that part though, there were only 11 sons covered in the last two posts, so we do have one more son’s prophecy; the youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob’s words to him were that he was a ravenous wolf that would devour prey during the day and divide the spoils by night. After saying that, he concluded what Scripture calls blessings on his twelve sons. Well, honesty can be a blessing because it can make you aware when you’re heading down a dangerous path, but for it to truly be a blessing, the receiver will have to see it that way and determine how to use it as such. Like a wet paint sign that can keep you from getting stained by touching the stuff, once you see the truth, you must make a decision to use it for the best outcome.

When Jacob finished speaking, he gathered his legs underneath him and drew his last breath. Joseph ordered the physicians to embalm him, which took 40 days, and then the Egyptians mourned him for 70 days. When all was said and done, Joseph told Pharaoh of the promise he made to take his father to be buried in the cave with Abraham and others, so Pharaoh sent him, his family, and most of his servants to carry Jacob back to the land of Canaan beyond the Jordan river. That they were crossing Jordan to bury someone is what made me think that this is why we associate death with crossing the chilly Jordan, but I’m not sure, so it’s just my thought.

After they crossed into Canaan, the residents of the land saw that the Egyptians were weeping bitterly over the loss, so they named the place Abel-Mizrayim meaning “mourning of Egypt.” I know they had paid mourners and such back then, but it seems that this mourning was very real even though the Egyptians did not know Jacob that long. I’ve heard it said that the best way to live is to care so much about others that when you die, even the mortician is sad that you’re gone. I think Jacob lived that way.

Once the burial was done, they crossed back over Jordan, and Joseph and his brothers returned to live in the land of Goshen in Egypt. When they got back though, Joseph’s brothers started thinking that with their father gone, Joseph would surely try to make them pay for what they had done to him. They apparently did not believe what he said to them the first time, so he restated to them that even though they meant what they did for evil, God used it for good. He reminded them that he was not God, and it was not his place to take vengeance on them. Hopefully, then, they repented to God for their behaviors with the same trembling and humility with which they went to their brother. That’s a good thing to do before crossing Jordan in the spiritual sense.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part II


12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

As I’ve read these prophesies of Jacob to his sons, I’ve thought much about the power of words, but there’s more than words involved. Jacob may have had special feelings toward the children of Rachel, but these were all his sons, so I’m guessing that whatever he spoke to them was spoken with parental love. We are told in multiple Scriptures that God chastens those who He loves, so even the words that seem painful to the receivers are from a father’s heart. And so it is with those of us who call Yahveh our Father. Sometimes, He may give us words that promise futures we may not want to go through, but we know we never go through those futures alone, and we never go through them without promise that they will yield some type of fruit to the glory of God.

Four more sons are discussed in today’s reading from Genesis 49:19 through Genesis 49:26. The sons discussed in today’s reading are Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Joseph. When you read these verses, and yesterday’s verses, in the Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll notice that most of the brothers get their own paragraphs, so it’s easy to tell which ones Jacob spoke of more than others. Of these four brothers, the first three get very little prophesy, but Joseph gets a lot.

In brief, Jacob says that Gad will be attacked, but he will attack in return and be victorious. Asher will produce plenty of food, including that which is considered for royalty. Naphtali is a free-running deer that produces beautiful fawns. Also, it’s possible that the prophesy of Naphtali is that rather than fawns, he will produce great writings. Of course, I like that one for a prophecy. 🙂

The rest of the writing focuses on Joseph. It says he is a fruitful branch by a well whose leaves reach over the wall. I see this as a tree planted by the water, so that speaks of strength, and a bearing a lot of fruit if the branch would hang down over a wall. Since Ephraim is said to represent “the church,” this could be prophesy of those of us reading this who are believers and servants of God now. How cool is that?

It goes on to talk about Joseph being attacked unfairly but that he was separated from his brothers to become a prince among them. Jacob even speaks the blessings of The Lord upon Joseph as being greater blessings than those that were upon his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Considering the later prophesy when Ephraim will be united with Judah, I’d say Jacob’s words were certainly true.

I will go back and add the details for yesterday’s brothers now, but I wanted to get this post done and added before midnight.

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part I


12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

Today’s reading from Genesis 49:1 through Genesis 49:18 covers the prophecies from Israel to the first seven of his sons. Those written of here were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Isaachar, and Dan. Not all of the prophecies for the futures of these sons look like blessings, so I imagine that some of them were hard for Jacob to speak to them. It’s always hard for parents to tell their children the truth, but the lack of truth will do more harm than good, so it’s one of those necessary things. Of course, speaking the future as something negative and without hope may not be the best way to encourage someone either, so it goes back to a saying I heard many years ago, and something I suggest people apply when editing writing for others: Honesty without compassion is cruelty. You’ll have to read it for yourself to decide if the words are honest and compassionate or just honest.

I am actually finishing this post a day later because it was important to me to spend time on the phone with my uncle from Arizona. He was celebrating his 65th birthday, but we also had a lot to talk about concerning his son, my first cousin, who is younger than me but has suffered first from a bad bout of “Valley Fever” (a fungal lung infection that required multiple surgeries), and then suffered two strokes. He’s younger than me, and strokes don’t run in the family, so we think they were side effects of the Fluconozole they put him on for the infection, but regardless of the cause, he has been hospitalized since March. Please keep Chance Robertson in your prayers, not only for physical healing, but that he will use these events to make God the most important part of his life. My uncle has a neighbor who has been bringing Scriptures to him since he has been able to read again, and my uncle is in a place where he prays a lot and says he is willing to change in whatever ways God directs him. That is a great change and blessing to my heart, and it brings me right into what was going on with Jacob and his sons.

I’m sure Jacob would like to have said nothing but good to each of his sons, as any parent would like to do with their children. And I’m sure that even with the news that didn’t seem so good, he would like to have said that each of them would have an opportunity to repent and get it right. Of course, we don’t really know if there was more said, and it is my hope that those who made bad decisions did so with open eyes and minds if they chose to reject God.

So, in brief, Jacob said that Reuben was his first born and the strength of his first offspring, but because he had no self-control and climbed into his father’s bed with one of his concubines, he lost ground and would not have the full strength he should have had. This is the one that bothers me the most because I always hurt for those bad decisions that have consequences that cannot be taken back. All the repentance in the world cannot remove a child conceived by an illicit sexual relationship, and really we should look at the fruit of every sinful seed we plant in this light. We do not receive the true price for our sins (the wages of sin is death) if we give them over to Christ, but they still bear fruit we need to consider. In this case, Reuben missed out on strength he could have had.

Jacob also speaks to Simeon and Levi of losing out because of their uncontrolled anger. They plotted together to kill a man in anger (for raping their sister), but it also says they were cruel and killed animals. Yikes! Their price is being scattered and divided.

Next we get 5 verses on Judah. Remember that our Messiah Yahshua (Jesus) is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Verse 9 speaks of him as a lion’s cub, a lioness, and a lion on a mountain with prey. The next verse says he will lead and rule until “Shiloh” (meaning Messiah or the peaceful one so the word might actually be another use of “Shalom”) will come from him. It goes on to say people would obey this leadership. Verse 11 seems prophetic of Yahshua in that it says his colt will be tied to a vine (see Mark 11:2 just before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem). It goes on to say that his clothes will be washed in wine and in the blood of grapes. Of course, I’m not sure of the ending words to him of his eyes being darker and more sparkling than wine & his teeth whiter than milk.

The word to Zebulun is that he would be a harbor for lost ships; to Isaachar that he would be a strong donkey crouching between sheepfolds (maybe the Messianic Jews, but I can’t say since I’m not a trained scholar); and to Dan that he would be a judge of his people and a horned snake in the path. Maybe someday, if I remember once I’m in God’s presence for eternity, I’ll ask what some of these prophesies represent, but in the meantime, I’ll be satisfied to receive only what God thinks I need to know. Still, I will search because of what it says in Proverbs 25:2 that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search it out.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raise Your Right Hand if You’re Sure


Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial

Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial
Click image to view original and access photo stream in a new tab.

We used to play a game where we would pass around a sheet of paper with a list of slogans and see how many each person could get. For example, It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. How many remember that slogan was for Timex watches? Now, do you remember the old commercials that sang out, “Raise your hands if you’re sure.”? If so, you know it was for “Sure” brand deodorant.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:17 through Genesis 48:22 (the end of the chapter) goes back to Jacob laying his right hand on the head of the youngest son instead of the eldest. Joseph actually tells his father that he is doing things wrong. I’m guessing he thought it was a problem with either eyesight or senility. But Jacob assured Joseph that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that he was intentionally blessing the younger as if he were the older. He prophesied that in future blessings from the house of Israel, people would say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” That would make Ephraim first as if he were the oldest.

After the blessing, Israel reminded Joseph that he was dying. He then comforted him by saying that God would stay with him and bring him back to the land of his ancestors. He also told him he gave him a bit of extra land above what he was giving his brothers. He willed to him the land that he had captured with his sword and bow from the Emorites.

Jacob was sure about what he was doing, from the son he blessed as the eldest to the extra land he bestowed upon Joseph. I also find it interesting to remember that Jacob, himself, was the one who had to fight for his share as firstborn because of the wrestling match in the womb that allowed Esau to be born first. I would have expected Jacob to be hyper-sensitive to any child who is a firstborn not being treated as such, but maybe his unique experience actually enabled him to see that blessings going to a firstborn just because they were born first didn’t always make sense. Jacob did need to have the blessings of the firstborn to become the nation of Israel that God created him to be. And somehow he also knew for sure that Ephraim would lead best with firstborn blessings.

And now, just for fun, how about a few more slogans only this time without answers:

  • Just do it.
  • Finger lickin’ good.
  • Have it your way.
  • Reach out and touch someone.
  • Snap, Crackle, Pop
  • It’s the real thing.
  • It keeps going and going and going…
  • Be all that you can be.
  • Sometimes you feel like a nut.
  • Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • How do you spell relief?
  • Let your fingers do the walking.
  • The San Francisco Treat.
  • The best part of waking up is…
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • Good to the last drop.
  • M’m! M’m! Good!
  • You deserve a break today.
  • Bring out the best.
  • Hey Mikey, he likes it.

 

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lord is My Own Personal Shepherd


Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike

Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike
Scripture from Isaiah 40:11 from Complete Jewish Bible
Click image to open new tab to the original image and access to photo stream.

I can share all kinds of stories and Bible words with you, but the thing that carries the most strength is what God means to me personally. The most established scholar cannot compete with the actual testimonies of my life with God. Of course, there must be balance in that my testimonies about God should be supported by His word to show that I am actually following Him and not just my own ideas. If I am following Him as my Shepherd, I will go where He goes and try to imitate what He does.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:10 through Genesis 48:16 goes back to Jacob/Israel on his death bed as he prepares to bless the sons of Joseph. He was having trouble seeing, but Joseph brought his sons close enough to him that he could see and embrace them. He praised God for allowing him to not only see his son again but also to see his offspring.

Joseph guided his eldest, Manasseh, to Israel’s right hand and his youngest, Ephraim, to Israel’s left hand for their blessings. But Israel purposely crossed his arms and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh. He began his prayer for them with a beautiful statement that Yahveh Almighty had always been his own Shepherd.

I love the personalization in that. He not only proclaimed Yahveh as God of all the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and himself, but by proclaiming Him as a shepherd, he declared himself to be a sheep that needed guidance. And, because he and his family were a family of shepherds, Jacob also connected to God in similarity of occupation. He knew God as both above him and with him in all things. As a matter of fact, there is a Scripture in Deuteronomy that I want to share now even though we will eventually get there in the studies. It’s from Deuteronomy 4:7, and in the Amplified Bible it says, “For what great nation is there who has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is to us in all things for which we call upon Him?”

There are many Scriptures that proclaim God as a shepherd, including the one on the above picture. The most famous, of course, is David’s Psalm 23. To personalize that Psalm, back in 2004, I wrote my own version of the psalm as attributed to myself as a writer. I’ll close this with that parody.

THE LORD IS MY EDITOR, I SHALL REWRITE
By Crystal A Murray
 
The Lord is My Editor, I shall rewrite.
He lays me down in green pastures
   – Of fresh ideas.
He leads me by the quiet torrents
   – Of conflict and resolution.
He develops my characters and subjects.
He leads me from beginnings to middles…
   – And from middles to endings…
            – For the plot’s sake.
Yea, though my protagonist walks
Through pages of shadows of death,
   – He fears not the antagonist,
            – For a good ending is promised.
God’s red pen and word-processor;
   – They correct me.
God prepares new writers’ books before me,
   – In the presence of my Amazon “wish list”.
He anoints my printer with ink,
   – My paper tray overflows.
Surely, acceptance and paychecks
   – Shall be offered me,
            – For every story I write.
And I shall dwell in my home office
   – As a freelancer…
             – All the days of my writing life.

December 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Get Carried Away


Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User "The Hamster Factor" CC License = Attribution, Non Commerical, No Derivatives

Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User “The Hamster Factor”
Click the image to open a new tab with the original image and access to photo stream.

I never know what I’m going to find when I do a Creative Commons search for an image that will match my title or subject. The above image just tickled my funny bone, so I had to include it. I know people aren’t supposed to deface public signage, but this one is just too cute, and it sort of lines up with the reading today from Genesis 47:28 through Genesis 48:9 as it talks about Jacob being carried away to his death, and the line could look a little like a coffin. 🙂

We actually begin a new portion today, so now we’re up to Parashah 12, Vayechi, meaning “He Lived” in Hebrew. We read in this section that Jacob has now lived in Egypt for 17 years which makes him 147 since he was 130 when they arrived. He calls in his son Joseph to advise him that he will soon pass away and to ask him for a promise. He wants Joseph to swear that he will not bury him in Egypt but rather carry him back to Canaan to be buried with his family, and Joseph agrees.

The next part is a little confusing to me in that he claims Joseph’s two children, Manasseh and Ephraim as his own children. He says they are equal with the rest of his children for the sake of inheritance, and they are numbered among the twelve tribes to this day even though Joseph is not. I know there is some prophecy about it later, so I know it was the right thing to do, but there’s no information at this point to explain exactly how Jacob knew to do it. I can only imagine it has something to do with his vision of Yahveh back in Luz near the time he was there with Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He retells this vision to Joseph, and he tells him that all his future children will be his, but not the two.

The section ends with Jacob suddenly noticing that Joseph’s sons are standing there in the room with them. I might have been embarrassed to realize that someone I was talking about was standing there all along, even if I was saying good things about the person. I remember asking for prayer for a young man I met at a bus stop, and finding out that he had accepted my invitation to attend a service when the pastor pointed out the guy a few rows back slinking down in his seat. Oh well, at least he knew I cared enough to ask the church to pray for him, right?

So that’s it for today, but just to stick with the theme, here’s a link for a video of a group singing the song When I Get Carried Away. I love the tune, and the lyrics to the chorus are…

I’m gonna let the glory roll when the roll is called in glory.
I’m gonna get beside myself when I get beside The King that day.
I’m gonna have the time of my life when the time of my life is over.
I’m gonna get carried away, when I get carried away.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3afLiU-jieM

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Work as a Slave for Food


Signs by Flickr User Technosailor CC License = Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike

Will Work for Food signs by Flickr User Aaron Brazell aka Technosailor
Click image to view original & access photo stream in new tab.

While I never held a sign by the side of the road, I have been both homeless and hungry. In those days, it was a treat to find clean food at the top of a McDonald’s trash can, though now the smell of ketchup in the garbage is hard for me to deal with. Maybe it’s old vinegar, or maybe it’s old memories, but I’m thankful I survived those times without becoming a permanent slave to anyone.  And I’ve been homeless more than once, even during a time when I was working and sleeping in my car in the company parking lot. I’m thankful God has delivered me from all those times, but I’m also grateful I went through them.

As this week’s portion comes to an end, we find Israel living in the best part of the land Egypt. Our reading from Genesis 47:11 through Genesis 47:27 finds the family living in Ra’amses as Pharaoh promised. Joseph feeds and cares for his father and brothers and his entire family to the youngest of them.

And then we read why the above is so important. The famine in the land had become so severe that people could not even provide money to purchase food or grain any longer. Joseph tells the people to give their cattle and flocks to Pharaoh in exchange for food. Because they didn’t want to starve, they gave up all their animals. The next year, they found the same issue, only this time the only thing they had left was their land and their own bodies. They promised their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food and for grain to plant on their property to grow more food.

Eventually, Joseph acquired all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. As for people, they were reduced to slaves city by city. The only ones who did not have to sell their land or become slaves were the priests. They had always been provided for by Pharaoh, so it remained that way. But everyone else was so grateful for their lives that they gladly gave their all to Pharaoh and even promised twenty percent of their future prosperity to him forever.

I still hurt for anyone who is hungry and/or cold, and I know that while some things in our economy improve, others get tougher–like needing two forms of identification to get a job. You can lose a lot of financial ground while you’re trying to get the money together to order a birth certificate, wait for its arrival, and then get the money and time to go get an ID (and a social security card if you don’t have one). It’s harder still if you can’t prove an address to put on the ID. Sadly, however, I also know that there are people who make upwards of $3000 per day just by holding one of those signs, and I’ve tried to give food and work to some who have rejected it because they actually only wanted money.

I’d love to hear from readers who have experienced either side of homelessness or hunger. Do you have an inspiring story about someone who climbed up with a little help from strangers? I can tell you some amazing stories of provision from both men and from God, and I’ll be glad to share with anyone who asks. In the meantime, I’m thankful that I am able to sit here in a warm home and write this to you. It’s a huge leap from a patch of grass and using newspapers for blankets.

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When Egypt Thinks You’re Smelly


Image by Alkelda CC=Attirbution, Non Commercial, No Derivs

Shepherd and sheep dolls by Flickr user Alkelda.
Click on image to view original in a new tab and to access this user’s photo stream.

Sometimes, the negative opinions of others can play in our favor. In our reading today from Genesis 46:28 through Genesis 47:10, we see the family of Jacob arriving in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Judah went ahead as a guide, and Joseph loaded up his rig and went out to meet his father, Israel. They embraced and wept together for a long time, and Jacob declared that after seeing that Joseph was alive, he was now ready to die.

Joseph met with all his brothers and explained his plan to them. He said he would bring a few of them to Pharaoh, and that when they were asked what they did for a living, they should say that they were shepherds both now and from their ancestry. He explained that Egyptians consider shepherds disgusting, and that knowing they were a shepherding family would make certain they could stay in Goshen–I’m guessing away from the main part of town. So, Egypt’s abhorrence of shepherds would play in Israel’s favor to allow them to live from the fat of that land but away from the politics and prying eyes of the kingdom.

When the brothers and their father came before Pharaoh, everything went as planned. Pharaoh even declared that since they were professionals, they should be in charge of his flocks as well. With this, Jacob blessed Pharaoh and then he left.

I don’t know if I could make myself think of this story each time I deal with criticism, but it would be a good way to try to turn a negative into a positive. I’m always looking for the good thing that God will bring out of something because that is a way I comfort myself to make it through the hard times. To bring it out enough to bless one who may look down on me would take even more effort, but I’ll be taking this lesson to heart. As it says in Romans 8:28, All things work together for the good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jacob’s Bucket List


Image: What's on your bucket list? By Teresa Alexander-Arab

What’s on your bucket list?
Image by Flickr User Teresa Alexander-Arab
Click image to view original and access photo stream.

 

In the first verse of today’s reading from Genesis 45:28 through Genesis 46:27, Jacob is ready to go with the rest of his family to Egypt. He is excited and filled with life again, but he knows it’s short, so he tells them they must hurry up and go because he wants to see his son Joseph before he dies.

When Jacob goes to sleep that night, he has a vision of God calling out to him. God tells him that He is the God of his father, Isaac, and that He is still with him. God then tells Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt because it is there that He will make a great nation of him. And then God promises that after Joseph closes Jacob’s eyes for the last time, he will return to his homeland.

So Jacob and all his descendants; sons, son’s wives, daughters, and grandchildren, head to Egypt with all their possessions. Verses 8 through 25 list the genealogies of those making the journey, and the reading ends with giving us the number seventy as the total number of Jacob’s descendants moving to Egypt.

I love that Jacob was ready to go without a vision of promise from God, even though a vision is an important thing if someone wants to know where the finish line is at. But my guess is that no matter what was on Jacob’s bucket list before, once he found out his son was alive, everything else was scratched off and replaced with the desire to see Joseph. I laugh with people about things i should put on my bucket list, but I’ve never actually made one. Part of me thinks I’d be putting too much stock into human things instead of just trying to seek God’s will for my life. But if I were in Jacob’s position, seeing a child I thought was dead and have now found to be alive would definitely be worth making a list. Beyond that, I do have some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m still seeking for a clear vision and focus in the midst of all my desires. What about you?

Share some things on your bucket list, and maybe I’ll share some of my heartfelt desires that could qualify for bucket list items.

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

Sunrise by Flickr user Sean MacEntee.
Click image to view original and to access this photographer’s full photostream.

For those who love trivia like I do, here’s an FYI for you. A fortnight is two weeks. So, weeping may endure for two weeks, or for two years, or for two generations, but since a thousand years is as a day with God, the important thing to remember is that whenever morning comes, joy will come with it. (See Psalm 30:5 for the exact Scripture.)

For Joseph and his brothers and their father, the weeping went on for a long time. In today’s reading from Genesis 45:19 through Genesis 45:27, Joseph is telling his brothers to load up their carts and donkeys with an abundance of provision for their journey back to Canaan. He also says he wants to make sure that there will be enough provision for their father to have bread as he makes the return journey with them. Of course, while he also gave each of his brothers a new set of clothing, he gave Benjamin seven sets of new clothing and even more provisions. I think he was happy to be reunited with his brother, don’t you? And finally, when he sent them on their way, he reminded them not to quarrel on their way back home. They were brothers after all.

When they arrived back home, the first thing they did was to tell their father that Joseph was alive. Obviously, he was reluctant to believe such good news. He had become accustomed to living in the grief of his son’s death. They told him Joseph was not only alive, but that he was also a ruler in Egypt. Even when they told him all that had transpired during their visit there, Jacob was afraid to believe such good news. The last verse says that it was only when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt that Jacob’s spirit began to revive.

God knows just how much good news means to His children. There is an abundance of Scripture that talks about things of hope and good news. Even the word for spreading the truth of God’s love for us and salvation through Yahshua, gospel, means “Good News.” Since we are in the season of celebration of Christ’s birth, may we remember that the purpose of that birth was to bring the hope (and good news) of salvation to the whole world; to whoever would desire it and seek it. And while weeping of earthly measure may last for a night or longer, we have the hope that joy will come in the morning, and someday, it will last for eternity.

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children Go Where I Send Thee


Maze of Bushes by Daniel Kuperman

Maze of Bushes at Getty Museum by Flickr User Daniel Kuperman.
Click on the image to visit this user’s Flickr photostream.

If you haven’t heard it, look up the lyrics for the song with today’s title. It’s fun to sing. Anyway, today’s reading is from Genesis 45:8 through Genesis 45:18, and it brings us into the conversation with Joseph and his brothers. It begins with Joseph reminding his brothers that they are not responsible for his arrival in Egypt, but that it was in fact God who sent him there. He then tells them to go home to their father and tell him how much honor and favor he has been given there in Egypt. He lets them know that since there are still five years of famine left that all of them should move there to Goshen and allow Joseph to support them during the hard times. Then, after a few more episodes of he and Benjamin weeping on each other’s shoulders, he sits down with his brothers just to talk with them.

After Joseph makes the offer to bring his father, Pharaoh hears about it, and Scripture says he and his servants are pleased. Pharaoh tells Joseph to tell his brothers to load up their animals, return to Canaan, pick up their father and all their families and belongings, and then return to Egypt to live off the fat of the land.

I am amazed at how a group of people who find it offensive to eat at the same table with Hebrews would be pleased with the idea of filling their land with a whole family of them. This has to be from the obedient and honest spirit of Joseph. Because Joseph went where God sent him (even if it was initially done against his human will), and then the brothers went where Joseph sent them, the family line was provided for and continued all the way to our Messiah Yahshua.

P.S. In case you wonder why I would use a maze for the image to go with this post, I had once heard that mazes represented the journey of Israel through the wilderness. I could not find any information for that, but I did find some pretty cool info on the Wikipedia page about mazes. Enjoy.

December 9, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Tell the Truth


Pink Fractalius Rose with Text, (C) All Rights Reserved, Crystal A Murray

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and Your Words are truth. Text of 2 Samuel 7:28a from the Amplified Bible. Image of Pink Fractalius Rose from my sister’s rose bush by Crystal A Murray.

My childhood memories include many associations with television. Maybe it was often a background sound, but a few things were more than background. Game shows fill that slot. I don’t remember much about To Tell the Truth, but as a trivia buff, I enjoyed the information I found on it at Wikipedia. Today’s reading is, of course, about telling the truth. The short passage runs from Genesis 44:31 through Genesis 45:7 and takes up with the last half of the sentence from yesterday where Judah is telling Joseph about how close his father is to his brother Benjamin.

Judah is desperate, and he tells Joseph that his father will die if he doesn’t bring Benjamin home. He explains how he guaranteed the father that nothing would happen to his little brother and that he will bear all responsibility if he doesn’t return him safely. He then begins to beg Joseph to keep him as a slave and let Benjamin go home to his father. He tops it off by saying he could not go home without the boy because he could not bear to see his father in such anguish.

Now, Joseph cannot take it anymore. He makes all the Egyptians go away from him, and he weeps so loud that everyone in the house can hear him. He finally tells his brother who he is and asks them if they’re telling the truth that their father is still alive. The brothers are so dumbfounded by Joseph’s announcement that they cannot even speak to answer his question. He asks them to come closer, and he tells them again who he is and that he is the brother whom they sold into slavery. But he also tells them not to be upset at themselves for their betrayal of him because he says it was all in God’s plan to take care of them through the famine so their family line could continue.

That’s where the story ends for today, but I can imagine how much relief filled everyone’s heart because of that one truth. Of course, it was a big truth, but never-the-less, holding back on the truth even for good reasons can be quite the burden. Have you ever given someone a Christmas or birthday gift early because you just couldn’t wait to see their reaction? Anticipation is it’s own wonderful gift, but sometimes it can get just a little too overwhelming. I love all that God did to ensure the survival of the tribes of Israel, but I also imagine that the waiting game got pretty hard to play sometimes. Actually, it’s still hard when God says to wait, but if we are walking in His perfect will, it will always be worth it in the end. And that’s the truth.

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boldly Before the Throne


Violin by Irena Romendik

Black and White Violin Image by Flickr User Irena Romendik aka “voidit”
Click image to see original and full photo stream.

Today begins Parashah (portion) number 11, and today’s reading is from Genesis 44:18 through Genesis 44:30. I will warn you, first, that the last verse is incomplete, so it’s kind of an odd reading, but if you click the link to read yourself, you can view the whole chapter and see where it goes from there.

Judah pulls Joseph aside and with all due respect, he asks to speak to him privately. He tells him he appreciates his position and that he knows he is as powerful as Pharaoh, but he has an important thing to say, so he becomes bold enough to approach. We read in Hebrews 4:16 that we ourselves can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and with confidence. Knowing that a king has power over life and death should make us approach with respect, which is why the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And then the rest of wisdom is when we learn to follow that respect with the confidence to accept the grace and mercy of Christ to deliver us from sin and into eternal life.

Well, Judah may not have been seeking eternal life for himself, but he was seeking mercy and grace on behalf of his father. He explained to Joseph how his father had two sons that mattered greatly to him and how one was gone, and the father thought torn to pieces never to be seen again. And then he explained how the father said that if he lost Benjamin as well, it would send him old and gray to his death. The verse that does not finish says, in effect, that Jacob and Benjamin’s souls are knitted together.

The message I see in this, beyond the coming boldly I mention above, is that we can also come boldly to the throne room on behalf of others we do not want to die in their sins. Before reading this, I was thinking a lot today about the poem, The Touch of The Master’s Hand by Myra Brooks Welch. In case you have not heard of it, I’ll paste it below. It is one of the most meaningful pieces of writing I have ever read, and it brings me to tears each time I read or recite it. When you read it, you’ll understand why going boldly to God’s throne on behalf of another would bring it to my mind. And you’ll also understand why I can sing with meaning the line from the song that says, “If you had known me, before I knew Him, you’d understand why I love Him.”

​​The Touch of the Masters Hand by Myra Brooks Welch (1921)

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
thought it scarcely worth his while
to waste much time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
going for three…” But no,
from the room, far back, a gray-haired man
came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
and tightening the loose strings,
he played a melody pure and sweet
as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
with a voice that was quiet and low,
said; “Now what am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice;
and going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand,
what changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“Twas the touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune,
and battered and scarred with sin,
is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
much like the old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
a game – and he travels on.
He’s going once, and going twice,
He’s going and almost gone.
But The Master comes, and the foolish crowd
never can quite understand
the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
by the touch of The Master’s hand.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before There Were Soap Operas


CC Attribution to Mike Licht of NotionsCapital

Soap Opera in the Kitchen by Flickr user Mike Licht of NotionsCapital dot com
Click image to visit his Flickr page.

Before daytime dramas on television, we had Bible stories. I know, that sounds kind of funny, but I think some writers might have a hard time competing with some of the family drama that has been recorded in The Word of God. Today’s reading from Genesis 43:30 through Genesis 44:17 has some pretty dramatic events and emotions.

We start out with Joseph running out of the room so his brothers will not see him cry. He goes to his room and weeps over seeing his youngest brother, and then he washes his face and returns to have dinner with everyone. And then we get into the divisions of people at the dinner table. Joseph, I’m guessing because of his position, eats by himself. The brothers eat at their own table. And the Egyptians that were part of the meal ate by themselves because they considered it an insult to sit at the same table with Hebrews. It was like a dinner from Westside Story with the gang members from The Jets at one table, The Sharks at another table, and the police chief sitting by himself.

Now, at the table of brothers, each was amazed at the food set before him, but Benjamin got five times the amount of food as anyone else. There’s no mention of what effect this had on the brothers or on Benjamin, but I know I would have been wondering what the deal was with that. Never-the-less, everyone ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves.

After dinner, Joseph did as before in sending the brothers away with their money and the grain they came to buy. This time, however, he also told his servant to place his silver goblet in Benjamin’s pack. After they were partly down the road, he sent the servant to question them about the missing goblet. They were so sure they did not take it that they said the thief could be put to death, and the rest of them would remain as slaves if it was found with any of them. When it was found with Benjamin, the other brothers tore their clothing as a sign of grief. And then they all loaded up their donkeys and returned to the city.

When they arrived back in Joseph’s presence, they fell on their faces, and he confronted them. He tried to tell them that he had mystical powers to reveal things, but they replied that God had revealed it that they should pay for their bad behaviors. Joseph told them it was not all of them that would have to stay, but only the one who actually took the goblet. He sent the rest of the brothers home to be with their father.

As sands through the hourglass, these are the days in the lives of Joseph and his brothers. We are ending the portion with this reading and we begin a new portion tomorrow. I don’t know how long this story will stretch out, but at least I know it won’t be as long as the usual soap opera story line. So, stay tuned and remember that the stories are real, the people are real, and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. But in these stories, God will make a way and be glorified, and if we have more questions, we can ask the cast members all about it when we get together in our home in Heaven. Shabbat Shalom Y’all!

December 6, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family Dinner Fit for a King


Dining Room CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike

Dining Room by Flickr User Christopher Lancaster
CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike
Click on image to view original and others by this photographer

In today’s reading from Genesis 43:16 through Genesis 43:29, eleven brothers–including the youngest brother Benjamin, have returned to Egypt. As soon as Joseph sees that Ben is with them, he orders his household manager to prepare a meal and instructs him that all the brothers will dine with him at noon.

Once the brothers are taken into the house, they are certain it is because they have been found out for having the money from the original purchase, and they are scared. They confess everything to the house manager and tell him they have brought it all back along with the money for the new purchases they need to make. The manager then tells them that it was a gift, and it was he who put the money back into their packs. He then brings them their other brother, Simeon, from the prison.

The manager gives them water, washes their feet, and feeds their animals, so they are ready to meet Joseph. When Joseph comes in to join them, they bow down before him, and he begins to ask them about their father. While still prostrated before him, they answer his inquiries and tell him their father is well and is still alive. He then asks about Benjamin and blesses him by saying, “May God be good to you, my son.” And that is where the story ends for today, but I know the best part of the story is yet to come.

Because I am a visual thinker, I cannot really read this story without imagining myself there. I may not always imagine myself as one of the guests or something–maybe just an invisible guest in the room. But I can anticipate the emotions these guys must have gone through with not knowing who Joseph really was or why they were invited to a royal dinner. I’m certain they had mixed emotions between fear and excitement. I know I used to make believe that I would be in school, and someone would come in with a note for the teacher that I had a truck waiting outside the school gate filled with beautiful clothes and the truth that I was actually a princess instead of just a short kid who got bullied and called “teacher’s pet” because I got good grades. I was certain that if people could know who I really was, they would never make fun of me again. As it turns out, I am a princess. I am the daughter of The King of The Universe. So, I guess I can say dreams really do come true, and one day I, and all those who have given their hearts to Christ will have the chance to dine with our King.

December 5, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give to Get


Giving Blesses by Flickr User Pictoquotes

Giving Blesses Both the Giver and the Receiver by Flickr user Symphony of Love (aka pictoquotes)
Click the image to view the original and other images by this photographer.

At one time, I subscribed to a marketing newsletter all about the concept of what the author called “Give to Get” marketing. It talked of things like when banks would offer new toasters and blenders to get new customers. That type of marketing now might be a free e-book download to encourage the purchase of an author’s new release. People always seem more willing to buy if they first know that you are a giver.

For me, however, I read that marketing newsletter more in the interest of how it applied to real life than to sales. And from what I see in today’s reading from Genesis 42:19 through Genesis 43:15, Jacob was a fan of giving to get as well. in the story, Joseph has told the brothers to leave one of them in jail and let the others go back and get the youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. They discuss it amongst themselves, and they do not realize that Joseph can understand the Hebrew language they are speaking because they are using an interpreter. In verse 24, we read that Joseph had to turn away from them to hide his tears over their discussion of how they deserved the current situation because of what they did to their brother Joseph.

They leave Simeon and start the journey back home, but at camp they realize that all their money has been restored. They don’t know that Joseph requested it to be that way, so they think it is more punishment. By the time they get home, Jacob is truly scared that if he lets his sons return with Benjamin, he will then have lost three of his sons. But eventually, the famine is too great to fight anymore, and since Joseph had told them they would not see his face anymore unless their brother was with them, Jacob agrees to send him. Reuben and Judah both promise him they will give up their own sons in the promise of returning Benjamin safely.

As Jacob sends his sons back, he sends them with double the money to make sure they will pay for the first supplies in case it is an oversight. And then (this is what amazed and blessed me) he tells them to make sure to bring gifts with them. He tells them to bring spices, perfumes, oils, honey, almonds, pistachios, and whatever goods they have to bless the man in charge of the food. In other words, he wants to give something to the man in charge in order to have a better chance to get his son(s) returned to him. And today’s reading ends with all of them, their gifts, their double portions, and their youngest brother standing before Joseph.

The giving first idea is so much better than today’s idea of entitlement. It’s better than demanding. It’s better than playing on people’s sympathies. How much more are you willing to help someone who says he will mow your lawn for 5 or 10 bucks than someone who just comes to your door asking for money to feed his family? Even God is all about give to get. He made a world to put humans in. And when we did not deserve it, Scripture tells us that God FIRST loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we are truly following a WWJD concept, we will also give first. Let’s see, how does the chorus of that Sunday School song go?

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Because I Reverence Yahveh


Torah Scroll image from wynnie at Flickr

Torah scroll partly rolled out. By Flickr user “Steel Wool”
Click on image to open a new tab and view the original image with requested rights.

In today’s reading from Genesis 41:53 through Genesis 42:18, the prophecy of the abundance and famine is in full swing and famine is upon the whole earth. Egypt has plenty of food stored up for the people, and Joseph is in charge of sales and distribution. At the same time, Israel and his sons are feeling the effects of the famine, so he tells them to go to Egypt and get food for the family. However, he only sends ten of them and keeps Benjamin at home because he is concerned something might happen to him. Of course, something could have happened to any of them, so his keeping Benjamin at home is likely due to the fact that he is the only other son from his beloved Rachel.

So the brothers show up in Egypt, but they do not recognize Joseph even though he recognizes them. He begins to talk harshly to them and accuses them of being spies. They try to explain that they are all children of the same man, and they tell him there are twelve sons but that one is at home, and the other is gone. He tells them they must prove themselves, and he says that without proof he will not believe them to be anything other than spies.

At the end of today’s reading, he locks them up for three days, but then he lets them go with an order for them to obey him to stay alive. He then adds, “For I fear God.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you understand a little something about the history of the scribes who wrote down the old Scriptures.

In brief: First, they were perfectionists. If they made a mistake while writing the words, they didn’t have White Out or a backspace key. The rule dictated that they must destroy the scroll and start over. They reverenced the name of Yahveh so highly that they would not write the name on the scroll for fear some mistake might cause the scroll to be destroyed and the name with it. So, instead of writing the actual name of God, they would often just leave a space knowing that people could insert “The Name” while they were reading the words aloud. Later, they would write the Hebrew word for “The Name” which is where we get people calling God Hashem. In addition, they would sometimes use the label “The Lord” or “God” but because those labels could also refer to false gods, they would omit the vowels and capitalize the first letters. That’s why it is important to me to capitalize the first letter of not only God and Lord, but also He, Him, Himself, etc., when speaking about God. Even C.S. Louis capitalized the “E” in “Enemy” in the book Screwtape Letters because the demons were speaking of The Creator. So, when you see “G-d” or “L-rd” instead of God or Lord, it is just an extra attempt to make sure there is a difference in referring to The Almighty as different from all other gods people may worship.

I said all the above simply to refer to what I believe Joseph was actually saying in that last verse. Because they were visiting a land where people worshiped gods other than The Almighty, I believe he was letting them know that he knew who God truly was. I mean, imagine going to a place filled with people who do not believe as you do but needing something from them and pushing yourself to go through with it. Then, imagine having one among them let you know that you are not alone as a believer in that place. I’m guessing they were quite relieved by that statement, and I believe he actually said to them, “Because I reverence Yahveh.”

December 3, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cream Always Rises to the Top


Yesterday, we read that Pharaoh remarked that he could find no one else like Joseph. Today, we read in Genesis 41:39 through Genesis 41:52 that Pharaoh puts Joseph in a leadership position so high up that he gives him his signet ring. He tells him that no one in Egypt will lift a hand or a foot without permission from Joseph. He even goes so far to declare that only when he is ruling from his throne will he, himself, rule over Joseph.

That position is a long way up for a boy who was unjustly thrown into a well and sold as a slave. And it’s a long way up from being unjustly accused and then forgotten and left in a dungeon. Through it all, Joseph gave credit and glory to Yahveh Almighty, and now it is His will to have him in a position where people praise him and bow before him. And the respect that people offered Joseph caused them to give freely of their produce, so it will save their lives in the long run.

In the last part of today’s reading, we find that Pharaoh also gives Joseph a wife. Through this wife, Joseph has two sons who eventually become that split 12th tribe of Israel. Joseph names the first son Manasseh which means “forgetting” and says it is because he can now forget the cruelty done to him by his family. He names his second son Ephraim which means “fruitful” and says it is because he is bearing fruit in the land of his affliction.

I notice that the two sons’ names point to Joseph’s past and future. He is able to forget his past where evil was done to him and hope for his future where he will bear much fruit. Forgetting the past and gaining hope in the future is significant of repentance and forgiveness. And since Egypt often represents sin when used in Scripture, there is a lot of depth for a son of Israel to represent repentance. In addition, we also have the prophecy from Ezekiel 37:16-28 where God tells the prophet to write on two sticks the names of Judah and Ephraim and then hold them in one hand until the sticks unite and become one, and they will have one King. That will be the ultimate fruit from Joseph’s sojourn into the land of Egypt.

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Goes the Leadership, So Goes the Nation


Today I was privileged to have my husband read to me while I drove back from taking one of my great-nieces back her mother. Sometimes, it seems like I hear much more by being read to than I do by reading to myself. Today’s reading is from Genesis 41:15 through Genesis 41:38, and it continues where we left with Pharaoh bringing in Joseph as a dream consultant.

The first thing I noticed here is how Joseph immediately turned things around when Pharaoh said he was told Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph said, “It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer that will set his mind at peace.” I love that. Here is Joseph’s chance to show off to someone who could really take him places politically, but Joseph stays humble and gives all the credit and glory to God.

So Pharaoh shares all the same information that we read yesterday about the two dreams with fat and skinny cows and with healthy and withered corn. After sharing it, Joseph tells Pharaoh that both dreams were the same dream but that God gave him two dreams because the thing was already settled and getting ready to happen shortly. He explained to him that the immediate future would bring seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of terrible famine that would completely devour everything brought forth during the years of abundance.

The next thing I noticed was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh handle things. He advised that Pharaoh should take up a twenty percent tax during the years of plenty that would take care of the lack during the years of famine. That extra collection of produce would be stored up to keep people from starving and dying when the going got rough. Joseph also knew that taking in extra could lead to misuse, so he told them they needed someone both discreet and wise to take charge of the collection, storage, and distribution. Pharaoh and his advisors were impressed and said, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!

How I wish we could have governments in our world that would have this kind of wisdom. A government that would even listen to dreams and visions, or one that would seek someone who obviously has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, seems impossible now. I wonder if God gave a dream to someone in charge back before the great depression of 1929. I wonder if God has tried to give advice to our leaders about the various wars with which they have aligned themselves. If we would quit listening to human wisdom–that passionate side-taking about being for war or against it, for weapons or against them, etc., and listen for the direction of The One who sees and knows the future, how much more of a future might we have, and how much better might it be? And then I have to look at myself and ask, “Have I been praying enough for the leaders of our land (and the leadership around the world) that God would send them dreams and that they would heed them?” I confess I have not prayed as I should, but I intend to change that. I hope there will be others to join me in this.

December 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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