Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Scout it Out


Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, CC License = Attribution

Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Many years ago, I was a “Girl Scout,” but I wasn’t in it long enough to figure out why we were called scouts. Maybe it had something to do with preparedness. Hubby always says he could not be a scout in the military because he doesn’t pay enough attention to little details. Me, I might pay too much attention to the little things. In a recent TV western I watched about Bat Masterson (the man who became a legend in his own time), a scout made all the difference in catching the bad guys who got ambushed after the scout had passed, so it’s a pretty important position to hold.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:1 through Numbers 13:20, we begin a new portion, Parashah 37, This one is called Shlach L’kha in Hebrew and means “Send on Your Behalf,” It tells of the men whom God is gathering from the ancestral tribes to go before the rest of the people to scout out the land of Canaan. Moses chooses leading men from among the people of Israel, one from each tribe (listed in the link), and sends them out from the Paran Desert.

Many of the names listed should sound familiar, including Joshua and Caleb, but until this reading, I was unaware that Moses renamed Joshua from Hosea. As I understand it from teaching I’ve received so far, his original name means “salvation,” and his new name means “God’s salvation.” What a name to give someone who is about to scout out the promises of God for a whole nation of people.

So Moses sends the men on their recon mission, and he tells them to take notice of things like the people who live there, if there are just a few or a lot of people, and if the people are strong or weak. He also tells them to take notice of the land. He says to see if the land is good or bad, fertile or unfertile, whether it has many cities or just a few, and whether the cities are open or fortified. As a last order, Moses tells the men to be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit from the land, and he sends them out right after the first grapes have begun to ripen.

I’ve heard a lot of messages about this story, and usually they have been about it being a lack of faith to send scouts ahead to claim a land that God has already promised. But in reading it more closely, the scouting of it is God’s idea. I believe it is all about proper prior preparation, and it is actually an act of faith to find out what movements and tools will be needed to claim God’s promises. God does not expect us to walk by ignorant faith when we have His wisdom to guide us and light our way. Luke 14:28 (CJB) puts it this way…

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Don’t you sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough capital to complete it?”

And we read in Psalm 127:1 of the Common English Bible (CEB)

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
    the guard on duty is pointless.

God is not only the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but we’re also promised in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a great work within us is sure to finish it within us. That means that even our scouting and recon missions can be done in faith because we know that He is the One who started it all, promised it all, and will finish it all. Truly, He is the Alpha and Omega in and of all things.

May 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Grave Situation


Flooded Graves in Mexico by Flickr User bigdadventures aka David, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Flooded Graves in Mexico by Flickr User bigdadventures aka David, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

The dictionary says that when grave is used as an adjective, it means things like “serious,” “solemn,” and giving cause for alarm. I would say that makes walking in a way that causes God to be either hurt or angry is a grave situation, especially on the definition of solemn. I think it would do us well to take more time for self-examination to check not only our behaviors but the attitudes and motivations behind them.

In today’s reading from Numbers 11:30 through Numbers 12:16, we read about some people that most certainly should have taken things a lot more seriously. If you read yesterdays Scriptures or post, you know that the people were complaining over a lack of meat, so God promised so much quail that it would come out their noses and they’d be sick of it. Today, the wind comes in and brings with it piles of quail.

As the reading continues, it says that while the meat was still in the people’s mouths, God becomes angry and strikes them with a plague that kills all those who were greedy. Because so many died there, the place was called in Hebrew, Kivrot-HaTa’avah meaning “Graves of Greed,” Yesterday, it said the greedy ones were the strangers that lived with the community of Israel, so I don’t know if they were the only ones to die, or if it was all who gathered in the piles of the birds. It is against God’s law to eat animals that are dead by reasons other than men killing them for their meat, so if the birds came in on a wind already dead, they would not have been okay to eat. The strangers would not have known that, but if any children of Israel gathered the birds, they would have known, so that could be what kindled God’s anger.

Now we switch chapters and we go to Miriam and Aaron talking against their brother, Moses, for marrying a Kushite woman. In their criticism of him, they start asking why he thinks he’s so special because he hears from God. They state that God likely speaks to them as well. So God comes down in the column of cloud and calls Miriam and Aaron to the Tent of Meeting. He explains that He does in fact talk to men who are prophets, but that He mostly talks to them in dreams and visions. He goes on to tell them that Moses is the only one who is faithful enough to Him that He talks to him face to face.

When they walk away from the meeting, Miriam is suddenly completely white with leprosy. When Moses sees it, he begs God not to let Miriam die as a baby born with parts of its body rotting away from the time it leaves the womb. God agrees to take away the plague from her, but He says that since she would have to be put out of the camp for seven days if someone simply spit on her, she must be put out of the camp for a week because of the leprosy as well. After she comes back in, the community is ready to move on, and they travel to the Paran desert.

Like I said yesterday, when I read about things that cause God to get angry, I feel a strong need to examine myself to make sure I am not wrapped up in the same types of sin. I know I have an advocate in Christ and His blood over me, but I figure that if something made God angry at one time, He doesn’t feel any less affected by it just because there is a blood covering over it. I think about the song that says, “Does He still feel the nails every time I fail? Does He hear the crowd say ‘Crucify,’ again? Am I causing Him pain; then I know that I must change. I just can’t bear the thought of hurting Him.”

Even if I could get away with every type of sin that is available on this earth, I don’t want to do anything that would hurt my Lord and Savior. I don’t want to do anything that would drive even the slightest bit of wedge between me that my Wonderful Creator. I don’t want to allow anything into my life that would open up even a tiny crevice for the enemy (who is an enemy both of me and of God) to find a camping spot in me. I know I’m not perfect, and I know I fail daily, but I do not want to excuse my failures–only humbly beg God to forgive me because I don’t deserve it but gratefully receive it. It is truly a grave situation when someone who claims to love Yahveh Almighty can commit sin that hurts Him without feeling broken when He confronts their behavior. May I never get to that point, and if you agree with me, may you never get there either. As King David said in Psalm 51:17 (NLT), “…You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Amen.

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheap Talk and Whine


No Whining by Flickr User Rachael Voorhees, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

No Whining by Flickr User Rachael Voorhees, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

When I read in the Scriptures of people whose whining upset Yahveh, my first reaction is to look at myself and check to see if I have been hanging out at the complaint department window too much myself. It’s easy to do, especially in our current culture of constant comfort seeking and bad attitudes caused by lack of rest and improper diets. Add to those things the media blitz of commercials advertising the stuff we can’t possibly live without any longer, and whining becomes almost second nature.

In today’s reading from Numbers 10:29 through Numbers 11:29, we see a few different personalities from the people of Israel, and some of them are not pretty. The reading begins with Moses trying to convince Hobab, the son of Moses’ father-in-law, to travel to the promised land with Israel. He wants to go home to his own people, but Moses convinces him that he’ll be blessed because of the promises God gives to Israel. In the next verse, the people are heading in that direction, so I guess he convinced him. I don’t think the Midianites served the God of Israel, so this may have been the first recorded act of proselytizing.

As the journey begins, the Scripture talks about Moses reaction to the movements of The Ark of the Covenant. When it was lifted to move forward, Moses would shout a praise to The Lord and a blessing that His enemies would be scattered. When it was set down again to rest. Moses said, “Return, Adonai of the many, many thousands of Israel!” But while Moses was shouting praises, the same could not be said of the others on the journey with him. Instead, the people complained so much that they stirred up God’s anger until He broke out against them with fire and consumed the edges of the camp. Oh, if only they had taken Moses’ example and spent their time praising their deliverer.

Some of the complaining from the people came from the mixed crowd with whom they were traveling. The strangers became greedy for comfort and got the people complaining about the provision of mannah. The people started crying and whining about the lack of meat and spices until God finally told them they would have a full month of meat, and they would eat so much that it would be coming out of their noses–and they would hate it. When they should have be content with God’s provision for them, they were ungrateful and wishing they were back in their bondage.

By now, Moses was beginning his own whining, but it did not appear to be the type that made Adonai angry. Moses asks God why He is allowing the burden of all the people to rest solely on him, especially if He is pleased with all that Moses is doing. God understands and tells Moses to choose seventy leaders of Israel with whom he can share his burden. God takes some of the burden off of Moses and places it on the seventy elders who begin to prophesy whenever God’s Spirit rested on them.

As we get to the end of today’s reading, we find two men in the camp named Eldad and Medad, and the Spirit of God comes to rest on them, so they begin to prophesy in the camp. A young man runs to tell Moses about it, and when Joshua hears about it, he tells Moses that he should make them stop. But Moses tells Joshua that he wished all of God’s people were prophets and that God would put His Spirit on all of them.

I can understand Moses sentiments in the last paragraph. After hearing the people whine and complain and seeing what that brought upon the people, Moses would want them all to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit for their own protection as much as to relieve him of some of his burden. When I see people follow after the things of the soul (the mind, will, and emotions) instead of after the things of the spirit, I get frustrated and wish more people would seek God from the depths of their hearts. The things of the soul can imitate the spirit (which is how we get false prophets), but we’re told that the “soulish” man won’t receive things from God. It is far better to let God’s Spirit take over our spirit-man and be led by God’s truth, and then we will be sensitive to the moving of God, so we can lift up genuine shouts of praise to Him instead of spending our prayer times caught up in the “why me” syndrome or in depressing cheap talk and whining.

May 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Travel Policies for Israel


Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have great travel memories all the way back to times as a small child when most of my car travel included long naps in the backseat. I still love the atmosphere of a truck stop early in the morning just before the sun comes up because I remember that first stop on a drive we started at about 4am. That time of day, the idling truck engines create a steady hum, and in the late spring and early summer, there is is just enough crispness in the dew-filled air to chill you awake. That first stop on a long trip is also still charged with excitement about both the journey and the destination.

In today’s reading from Numbers 10:11 through Numbers 10:28, we read about the beginnings of travel for the community of Israel. I don’t know if they had any camels, but I imagine a camel ride would be preferable to a very long walk. The journey ahead would take the children of Israel from the Sinai Desert to the Paran Desert as the pillar of cloud led them. This was Israel’s first journey, and the Scripture says they followed according to all of God’s words to Moses. In other words, they adhered to God’s corporate travel policies.

As they traveled, they moved by companies and leaders, and the divided movement allowed the Levites to take down and carry the tabernacle according to God’s direction. The descendants of K’hat who carried the tabernacle were ahead of the other tribes, so that the tabernacle could already be set up by the time the rest of the community of Israel arrived. You can click on the above link to read the exact divisions of camps and leaders as they traveled in the orderly fashion directed by their travel agent, Moses, according to all the instruction He received from God.

While I still love going places, travel is not as easy for me with having to carry a CPAP machine, get someone to care for my kitty cats, and the general issues with age and pain. But I imagine things were quite a bit rougher for a people that had to carry their entire house and home with them as they moved along. Still, I wonder if they got excited to see where God was going to take them next. They knew their stops were temporary because they knew their final destination was “The Promised Land,” but each step along the way must’ve held some excitement as they knew it was getting them closer to home.

Even with the enjoyment I find in traveling, seeing new sites, visiting with those I love, and finding fun things to do along the way, there is nothing like getting back home and back into my regular routine. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it well when she said, “There’s no place like home.” For believers in Messiah who trust in the promises we will receive after He comes back for His own, we know that our stops in this temporary life are steps to move us closer to that place we long for, that place we will one day call “home” for eternity. In the meantime, if we move forward according to God’s travel plans, we can enjoy the journey.

As I finished this post, I thought about an old song by Johnny Cash called “Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home” and I’ve found it here sung by him and June. It even includes his notes about writing it. Enjoy…

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blow the Trumpet in Zion


Wake Up! The alarm is going off, and the time has come to arise.

I use an alarm on my phone that allows you to type in whatever message you like, so you can remind yourself of why you have set the alarm. Unless I need to put in a specific reminder, the default message reads, “Wake up, Sweetie.” I did it that way on purpose because I’m not one who likes to be startled awake. Sometimes, it’s hard to pull myself out of sleep mode and realize the alarm is not just in my dream, but a gentle reminder works better for me than a loud blaring alarm.

In our reading today from Numbers 9:15 through Numbers 10:10, we read about the alarms God says to sound before His people. But first, the reading starts out talking about the cloud of God’s presence over the tabernacle. I almost named the blog “I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now,” but since the majority of the reading talks of sounding the alarm, I decided to use that as a title–and an excuse to include the inspiring praise video.

God showed the children of Israel when to move and when to stay by the cloud of His presence. If He settled on the tabernacle, the community knew to stay. If the cloud lifted from the tabernacle, the community knew it was time to travel. Whether the cloud stayed for a week, a month, a year, or just overnight, the people camped for as long as it was there. And as soon as the cloud lifted, the people rose up with it.

In addition to knowing God wanted them to travel, the people learned to find the exact time to travel by listening for the sound of the trumpet. God told Moses to make two trumpets of hammered silver. He told Moses they would be used both for summoning the community and for telling Israel when to break camp and move on. When the alarm was used for summoning the community, one blast meant that only the leaders were to gather at the tabernacle, and two blasts meant the entire community was to assemble before the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

God told Moses to sound different alarms for different events. Some alarms told which camp was to begin traveling. Some proclaimed war with an oppressive enemy. Some proclaimed celebration, like the alarm that was sounded at the beginning of each month, called Rosh Hodesh in Hebrew. And some were sounded along with the sacrifices offered before God. The call to assembly was not to be one of alarm. All trumpet calls were to be given by the sons of Aaron, the priesthood, according to the permanent regulation of Yahveh.

Alarms aren’t always fun to hear when they first go off, especially if they are used to wake us from sleep, but sometimes they can signify a great day ahead. We set our alarms for regular events, like going to work, but we also set them for special events, like weddings and graduations. Our purposes in setting alarms may often be different, but our reason–that is to get up and move toward a specific event–is always the same.

God’s word has both warning and inspiration, and both require us to move from wherever we are to wherever He wants us to go. Let us hear the alarm He sets in our hearts, and let us wake up to whatever He is calling us to do, whether it is to sound the alarm to the lost around us, or to sound the alarm to ourselves that we will wake and watch with Him. Blow the trumpet in Zion: The Messiah has come to save and deliver us, and He is coming again to take us home. Halleluyah!

May 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Failure to Lunch


Seder Plate by Flickr User Dara Skolnick, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Seder Plate by Flickr User Dara Skolnick, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In many areas of my life, I’m a totally disorganized person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like organization. I like knowing that our local Christian writer’s group always meets on the 2nd Saturday of the month. I like knowing that the free country music concert night for Christian Country Cowboy Church is always the last Friday of the month. Most of the time, those certainties make it easier to join my fellow writer and Christian friends for some enjoyable fellowship. I like to meet with smaller groups of friends as well for things like lunch at a local restaurant, but I’ve also been known to totally forget a lunch date because I don’t have a repetitive certainty to keep it in my mind.

In today’s reading from Numbers 9:1 through Numbers 9:14, God talks to Moses about the people’s celebration of Passover, Pesach in Hebrew. Since we celebrated Passover early last month, I talked a little about it during my posts at that time. It is a holy celebration created for the purpose of learning to observe God’s teachings and not forget all He has done for His people. There are a lot of observations that make up the retelling of God’s deliverance of Israel, including the seder meal. The image above is of a beautiful seder plate with some of the food items visible, including the horseradish with beet juice that represents the bitter herb called maror in Hebrew.

The portion today talks of following all the observances for this feast on the fourteenth day of the first month, beginning at dusk. God tells Moses that the people are to observe it according to all the regulations and rules. Those regulations and rules include being clean in order to celebrate, so the reading talks of those who were made unclean by a corpse and therefore would be unable to observe the Passover.

God tells Moses that for those who are unclean, and for those who were away on a trip during Passover, that they can celebrate their Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month instead. He tells them that even though they are not celebrating at the regular time, they are still to observe it by keeping all the regulations and rules. He also tells them to keep it with the use of matzah and bitter herbs. I’m not sure if this means they are supposed to keep the entire week of unleavened bread that follows on the heels of Passover, or if it is because that feast is passed that God is telling them to make sure to use unleavened bread with their Passover meal.

I realize through this teaching that God does not want anyone to miss out, and He does not want anyone to fail–even at having dinner (or lunch). He likes organization, so He set up these feasts on specific days (which vary on our Christian calendar) to make sure people would be more likely to keep them. But because He knows our form, He knows that things happen, like a death in the family, that can change everything, so He created an option for those who could not stick to the original way of doing things.

But the reading says a couple of interesting things about the option that God created. First, as I mentioned, it says to keep it all the same regulations and rules. That means that when God gives us a break on something, He doesn’t expect us to come back and try to make up for our failure with a half-hearted effort. We should be grateful for the chance to have a “do-over” and put our best effort in play to show our appreciation.

The next thing God says about using an option to observing things exactly as He arranged them is that if a person is clean and in town, they are required to celebrate the feast on the actual feast day. To me, this says that if we can, we are required to keep our behaviors lined up with God’s will. His mercy is not an excuse to slack in our efforts to walk according to His word. We don’t get to just say something like, “Hey, I don’t feel like doing Passover this month, so I’ll do mine with those who observe it next month.”

If we fail to lunch (or celebrate Passover dinner, or observe any holy day or feast or law) at the appropriate time, we have mercy through the blood of Yeshua. We can be forgiven if we forget to meet for lunch with a friend, and we can be forgiven if we forget to light our Sabbath candles until well after sunset, but just because we can be forgiven doesn’t mean we should make habits out of these things. If we don’t at least feel conviction, how can we honestly repent?

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Close Enough to Perfect


Not Always Perfect by Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Not Always Perfect by Former Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I remember an old Hemphill’s song that was mostly sung for children but can easily apply to any one of us doing our best to live for God while we dwell here on earth. It included the chorus lyrics…

He’s still workin’ on me,
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me.

I’m not perfect by any means, but I am thankful that line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, God is still building and making me closer and closer to His perfect image. There will come a day when I (and all of God’s people) will be like Him, when we see Him as He is, but until then, we can be thankful that He knows our forms, and that He gives us a mercy that is new every morning.

In today’s reading from Numbers 8:15 through Numbers 8;26 (the end of the chapter) we see a people that are also not yet perfect, and we see a God who is perfect. We also see a people who are not holy enough to approach a perfect and holy God without dying in His presence, but because God wants His people in His presence, He creates a proxy of people that can come before Him on their behalf.

The Levites are once again cleansed and presented before God as an offering, and they work in and around the tabernacle to keep the rest of the community of Israel from coming too close to God’s perfection. Because the Levites are accepted by God in the stead of all the firstborn of people and animals that belong to Him, they are an acceptable offering so that He will not cause any plagues to come upon the people of Israel.

The community of Israel obeys the orders of Yahveh that are given to Moses concerning the Levites. They cleanse them and present them as an offering, and God accepts them. Then the Levites do their service as ordered by God. The Levites told to serve are all those between twenty-five and fifty years of age. The Levites older than fifty are told to assist in the tabernacle services, but they are not to do any actual work in the tabernacle.

I’m grateful that God established the Levitical priesthood to make sure that He could always have a people to whom He could draw near, but I’m even more grateful now that Yeshua has become my permanent high priest, so that I can always draw near to My Creator. I need to walk in God’s presence to make it through the troubles and trials of this world, so having a proxy tribe to step in for me is not close enough to “Perfect” (God’s perfect presence) for me.  Because of Christ, I do not have to fear getting too close to the tabernacle in an unholy state that would bring me plagues because His cleansing blood perfects me and allows me to come boldly before God’s throne of grace. I will be perfected in His presence one day, but until then, being able to walk in His presence each moment of every day of my life is close enough to perfect for me.

Now, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song mentioned above, He’s Still Workin’ On Me…

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Razor Burn


Clean and Shaven by Flickr User Stefan Ray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Clean and Shaven by Flickr User Stefan Ray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have cats. Not just one cat, and not just one color of cat. That means I also have hair on stuff. Not just one hair, and not just one color of hair. My cat’s hair likes to travel with me wherever I go. If I wear dark colored clothing, I wear light-colored cat hair with it. If I wear light-colored clothing, I wear dark cat hair with it. But I love my kitties, so I carry a lint roller. But there are times I wish I could just take a razor and shave off all their cat hair, so maybe I wouldn’t run late to all the places because of forgetting that I needed extra time to try to get all the hair to stick to the roller instead of me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 8:1 through Numbers 8:14, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 36 is called, in Hebrew, B’ha’alotkha, which means “When You Set Up” in English. In this reading, God is giving Moses more information on setting up the tabernacle, and He begins by talking about the menorah. We get a description of the menorah, how it is a work of hammered gold, and then God tells Moses to make sure to have Aaron light the lamps in such a way that the light shows in front of the menorah.

The next section talks of pulling the Levites out from among the rest of the Israelites to prepare them for the service of the tabernacle. The first thing God tells Moses to do after separating the Levites is to cleanse them, and then He gives instructions on exactly how to cleanse them. They are to completely shave their bodies, and then they are to wash their bodies and their clothing. After they are cleansed, they will bring sacrifices, and then Aaron can present them to all the people.

As I searched for pictures to represent the clean shave, I came across a number of different types of shavers and razors. Suddenly, I thought about how much those Levites might have appreciated some of the shavers we use today. I wonder just how much they had to deal with razor burn after shaving desert-toughened skin with a straight-edge.

And that leads me to another type of cleansing where the Word of God which is sharper than a two-edged sword is able to shave off the layers of sin that threaten to keep us separated from Our Creator. His Word will cut as deeply as necessary to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, so we can be free. But sometimes, even when we know something is bad for us, we resist allowing God to cut it away. But if we will trust God and allow Him to coat us with the oil of the Holy Spirit, we can freely get rid of our five-o-clock shadow of sin instead of resisting until we end up with spiritual razor burn.

May 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chuck Wagon Gang


I have a lot of old gospel favorite songs and a few favorite groups, but the one that covers both is called “The Chuck Wagon Gang.” I grew up listening to their album titled “Hallelujah” with songs such as “If We Never Meet Again,” “Happy and Free,” “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” and–the one I sang most with my sister and my mom–“I’m Bound for the Land of Canaan.” The history of this group can be found here, at their official website, and it spans over 75 years.

Today’s reading from Numbers 7:72 through Numbers 7:89 (the end of the chapter) brings a close to our week and the portion. It covers the last two days of offerings which were brought in by the leaders of the tribes of Asher and Naphtali. After twelve days of offerings, there were wagons and wagons of gifts for the priests to use in the tabernacle and for their own living. (It’s the reference to covered wagons at the beginning of the description of the caravan that led me to share my favorite group because of the name.)

The reading gives a breakdown of the total items offered if you want to read it yourself. In summary, there were silver vessels, gold vessels, bulls, rams, lambs, and goats. All this was given as offering in dedication of the altar after it had been anointed.

The reading concludes with what could almost be an introduction to the next chapter as God calls Moses into The Holy of Holies to speak with Him. The voice of Yahveh spoke from above the ark cover over the Ark of the Covenant from between the two angels.

Since there’s not much more to say on this subject with it being the third day of it, I will close now and bid Shabbat Shalom to all my readers. Blessings to you, and I hope you enjoy the music. I have been unable to find a good video of “Canaan Land,” but here are a few other Chuck Wagon Gang song videos I really like…

Jesus Hold My Hand

Looking for a City (Live Recording)

Church in the Wildwood

And here’s a 38 minute video with a variety of songs

I’ll keep looking for a link to somewhere you can hear “I’m Bound for the Land of Canaan.”

May 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is Just


Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball

Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball
Click the book cover image to open a new tab/window for the book page at Amazon.

God is just. No matter what we may see, feel, imagine, or think, that is an absolute fact. Sometimes it feels like He is far away, maybe even ignoring us, but He always knows what He is doing, and He will always answer the right answer in the right time. This world has so much injustice, which by definition means justice is not done, so we may wonder what God is doing as we watch the innocent suffer and the criminals prevail, but there is an eternity of true justice in our future if we trust God.

In today’s reading from Numbers 7:42 through Numbers 7:71, we get a little more of a glimpse of what our future world might be like as we see more of Israel’s leaders bringing gifts for the wilderness tabernacle. I say it’s a glimpse of our future world because right at this moment of our reading, we’re only seeing the well-oiled workings of people in obedience to Their Creator. In addition to obedience, these men are gathering love offerings to help keep the ministry moving forward, and the offerings are abundant.

For just a quick rundown, yesterday’s reading covered days one through five in the list of those bringing gifts to the priests, and today covers days six through ten. Yesterday’s givers included representation from the tribes of Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, and Simeon. Today’s givers include representation from the tribes of Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and Dan. On both days, the gifts included silver, gold, grains and oils for sacrifices, animals for sacrifices, and much more. And, again, I recommend reading the linked passage above for complete details.

Now, I’m going to go in a totally different direction here and use something from the reading to jump off into a quick book review. One of the leaders of Israel, the one from the tribe of Benjamin, is named “Avidan.” That is the name of the main character from book one of the Family Honors trilogy by Karen Ball. Avidan means “God is Just.”

I’ve read all three of the books in the trilogy, and they are some of my favorite books. The three books are about three siblings in the Justice family, and each sibling gets the focus of one book, though all the siblings show up in all the books. The characters all became so real to me that now, years later, I still want to find the little town in Oregon where they lived and try to meet all three of them. 🙂

Book one is called Shattered Justice, and it focuses on the story of Avidan, aka Deputy Sheriff Dan. Dan is the law in a small town that has its share of big problems. He faces more than most of us could deal with, and it shatters his sense of justice. In a “Job-like” storyline, we watch Dan go through his trials in very human ways as he struggles to find the help he knows God promises his children. As readers, we get to see the people God sows into Dan’s life to give him strength to face each new trial and an uncertain future, and we get to watch Dan discover why these people are there as he needs them.

I’m struggling to figure out what to tell that won’t be considered spoilers, though knowing things ahead of time does not hinder the reading. I read the books out of order since book two, “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” was the first one recommended to me, and I read it before realizing it was part of a series. The affect it had on my reading of book one was simply that I was prepared to cry at any moment because I knew bad things were going to happen, but the story still surprised me with just how they happened.

I want to just say, “Trust me, this book and series is worth reading,” but I know people want reasons for that, so I’ll just add that if you have ever experienced struggles that seemed impossible to get through, read this great piece of fiction with realistic events and emotions to find hope. By the time you get to the end of Dan’s struggles to come back from blaming and rejecting God, you will see how, even in the face of tragedy, God is just.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Welcome Wagon


Ghost Ranch Welcome Wagon by Flickr User Angi English, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Ghost Ranch Welcome Wagon by Flickr User Angi English, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What a marvelous array of images you get when doing an image search for the words “welcome wagon” on Flickr. I was torn between the one above, one that showed a wagon that said “Needles, California” on it (because I’ve been there, and I can tell you stories), and the one with the words “Welcome to Calaveres County” because of the tie into a famous writer. I decided on the one that actually said “welcome wagon” in the description, plus it’s a beautiful image.

In today’s reading from Numbers 7:1 through Numbers 7:41, we will read about all kinds of welcome wagons. Knowing that the term actually means “a wagon full of necessities for new residents to make them feel welcome” makes the details in the reading just that much better.

We begin with Moses as he finishes putting up the tabernacle. He consecrates and anoints all the furnishings and articles used in tabernacle service and is greeted by the leaders of the clans of Israel bringing him an offering. They brought him six covered wagons (a wagon for every two leaders) and twelve oxen. Moses receives the offerings and then directs them to be given to the appropriate Levites. He divides up the wagons to the clans based on their tabernacle service, so he gives 2 wagons and 4 oxen to Gershon, 4 wagons and 8 oxen to Merari, and no wagons or oxen to K’hat because their service only uses the holy things of the tabernacle.

The rest of the reading details the gifts received by five of the twelve tribes, and it appears they each present their gifts on a different day. The next two days of reading will details the gifts from the rest of the tribes. You can read the Scriptures for yourself if you want to see exactly what each tribe gave, and I will add notes if anything about their gifts speaks to me somehow. I do recommend that visitors click the links I provide for Bible reading because you can do so without leaving my blog, and the readings may speak to you in ways it does not speak to me.

I do find it amazing how the whole community of Israel pulled together with offerings to make sure the operations of the tabernacle were fully provided for. Of course, unlike our churches and fellowships now, the tabernacle represented their place of salvation, so it was important to keep it operational to keep the people free from sin. The tabernacle was a place where representatives met with the presence of Yahveh to keep Him from being angry with the community, so it was also necessary for going forward with day to day life.

For us now, we have The Holy Spirit (called The Ruach HaKodesh in Hebrew) dwelling within us and willing to walk with us through our daily lives. We no longer have to gather around a building or bring offerings to a priesthood in order to be free of our sins because Yeshua became our High Priest and allows us to bring our confessions and sacrifices directly to Him. That is why we can now come boldly before His throne–to GIVE Him our repentance and offerings to show we are serious about it. It actually hurts me to hear preaching that tells people to come boldly to GET something from God because I know the people are missing out by having a “taking” spirit instead of a giving one. God’s “welcome wagon” has always worked on a “give and it shall be given” basis, and if we give Him our hearts, He will give us more than we can conceive.

May 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Purity Testing & The Nazarite Vow


Testing Lab by Flickr User USDAgov, CC License = Attribution

Testing Lab by Flickr User USDAgov, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

It sure seems hard to find anything or anyone that is truly pure anymore. Even when you find shows that are “pure” for the most part, you must endure commercials that are not. It’s like trying to find pure seeds that have not been affected by the farm next door that is growing genetically modified crops. Everything around us seems to be seeking to bring us out of a state of purity and into a state of chaos.

In today’s reading from Numbers 5:11 through Numbers 6:27 (the end of the chapter), we have a long reading with God telling Moses how to have the priests deal with matters of impurity. I chose the image of the lab above because it reminded me of what the office of the high priest might look like today if God still wanted purity testing done. It’s a pretty detailed process that God lays out, but it’s interesting to read about.

If a man becomes jealous of his wife because he thinks she cheated on him, he is to bring her to the high priest for a test of her purity. The husband comes in with a sacrifice for his own spirit of jealousy, and then the wife meets with the priest who performs a ritual to see if she really has been unfaithful. The ritual involves water, a clay pot, and some dust, and if the woman is found guilty, she receives a curse that her private parts will shrivel and her abdomen will swell. I think that would be enough to keep a woman faithful, don’t you? Read it for yourself if you want to see the details of the ritual.

The next part of the reading concerns men who want to take the Nazarite vow. This is the same vow that Samson took, and it includes not cutting the hair, not drinking any wine or other alcohol, and not ever touching anything dead. Again, it has a lot of details, which is why the reading is so long, but it’s actually quite interesting. It is in my plans to go read it in The Message Bible as well, to see how he deals with it in a more poetic type of writing. But there is a poetic end to the reading that some of you may be aware of. It is called the Aaronic blessing and it goes like this from The Complete Jewish Bible…

24 Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.
[May Adonai bless you and keep you.]
25 Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekka.
[May Adonai make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]
26 Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.
[May Adonai lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’

And just a quick note before I close tonight: Most of the images we see of The Messiah have Him with long hair because of this Nazarite vow. The confusion comes in the crossover of the words “Nazarite” and “Nazarene.” Yeshua was a Nazarene because He was born in Nazareth, but He did not take the Nazarite vow as evidenced by His touching the young girl to raise her from the dead. So, if you didn’t know this already, you can say you’ve learned something today. And with that, may the blessing above be upon all of my readers and followers, and upon the whole community of those who love Our Almighty Creator, Yahveh. Amen!

May 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paying Our IOUs


IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, CC License = Attribution

IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

If someone hurts you, even unintentionally, isn’t it nice to get an apology that says the person really cares how the hurtful behavior affected you? And if that hurt cost you something, isn’t it even nicer when the person who did the hurting makes an effort to make restitution? Knowing how nice that is, I’m sure you can agree that when you make apologies and restitutions for your own poor behaviors that you are doing more than just making up for a wrong, you are becoming a blessing.

In today’s reading from Numbers 5:1 through Numbers 5:10, God is giving Moses more instruction for how to keep the community of Israel peaceful. God wants to make sure the camp will not be defiled because that is where He lives among the people, and making restitution for wrongs done to others is one way to keep the camp a pleasant place for Our Creator to dwell.

The reading begins with instructions on putting the diseased outside the camp. Now, I don’t think God felt He might catch anything, so His instructions for keeping people on the outside until they were healed was for the benefit of everyone else in the camp. If a lot of people became diseased, or better said “in a state of dis ease,” there would be chaos in the camp instead of peace. Better to not have people running around with anxiety and rejecting every person with a suspicious spot on his or her skin.

The portion goes on to talk about actual restitution by telling Moses to make sure that all debts against another are paid. It says that if a man or woman commits a sin against another human being, that person incurs guilt for breaking faith with Yahveh. When that happens, the person must confess his wrongdoing and make full restitution for his guilt plus add twenty percent to give to the victim of his sin. This restitution is in addition to the ram offering of restitution, and it’s so important, that if the victim has no family to receive the restitution, it is still to be paid but given to the priests.

The last statement given for keeping the camp at peace is a reminder that whatever the people of Israel consecrate to the high priest belongs to him. It is his property, and he will decide how to divide it among the rest of the priests. This means that if we promise something toward God’s work, it belongs to that ministry even before we give it, so we should keep our word. I admit that I have too easily made promises out of heightened emotion without checking with my husband or my calendar first, but I hope I have kept those promises and paid those debts because I don’t want to be spending someone else’s money or time as my own.

As for restitution, I know we often think of the blood of Christ as paying for all of our debts in full, and in a very big way, that is totally correct–in the way of paying for the wages of sin that would be death. But I think God wants us to make restitution when we can for more than the reason of just paying our debts. It says above to make restitution in addition to the sacrifice, and I think it’s because it helps the doer of the deed pay attention, so he won’t repeat the misdeed. It also adds a tangible freedom to the spiritual freedom we receive in Messiah. And, as I said above, it can help the sinner become a blessing to the person he sinned against.

I just rewatched The Passion of The Christ movie yesterday, and it still brings me to tears when I see what all Yeshua went through for me. I know that if no one ever sinned, from Adam to me and beyond, He would not have had to go through the torture, the disrespect, the false accusations, the pain and the death He suffered. I know I have gained multiple debts in my life–especially when I was young and had no understanding of how my actions affected others, and I know He bore those things all the way to Calvary, so I could be free of them.

As the lyrics say, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away.” He did that for me. And now, because I am thankful for all He did, and because I love Him with all my being, I want to keep myself clear of debts–current and future, to the best of my ability. If I sin against someone, or if I hurt someone, I want to make it up to that person and be a blessing. As Forrest Gump might say, “Life is like a box of chocolates; if you eat the ones that belong to someone else, you should buy them another box.” 🙂

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Clans Go Marching One by One


Let’s start with a little bit of fun today…

The clans go marching one by one,
The little one stopped, there was work to be done.
The clans go marching two by two,
Each clan has an assigned task to do.
The clans go marching three by three,
Descendants of K’hat, Gershon and Merari.
The clans go marching four by four,
The last of these will guard the door.
The clans go marching five by five,
Worker bees in God-ordained hives.
The clans go marching six by six,
No non-Levite was in the mix.
The clans go marching seven by seven,
They pack the bread not made with leaven.
The clans go marching eight by eight,
Some lift, some carry, some serve and wait.
The clans go marching nine by nine,
With God’s direction, the tribes align.
The clans go marching ten by ten,
From thirty to fifty years old were the men.

Today’s reading from Numbers 4:34 through Numbers 4:49 (the end of the chapter) again tells of the census counts from the descendants of the sons of Aaron. These counts, however, only cover the men from ages thirty to fifty who are able to work in God’s service. Based on reading stopping at the breaks marked “A” (Ashkenazi) and “S” (Sephardic), you’ll notice an overlap from yesterday. I read to 37 to stick to the pattern I started with, but since 34-37 include census information, I’m backtracking a bit.

Much of the information is similar to yesterday’s reading concerning which jobs will done by which tribes. I combined some of the information from yesterday and today in my little parody above, so all that’s left to be added are the actual numbers. The men who could serve from the clan of K’hat totaled 2,750. Those from the clan of Gershon totaled 2,630. And, those from the tribe of Merari come in with 3200, so our total from the three clans is 8,580 men between the ages of thirty and fifty who would work in the service of Yahveh’s tabernacle. According to God’s order to Moses, the Levites counted each man, and then assigned the men to specific services and works.

Counting people to do specific works for God makes me think of the following verses from 1 Corinthians 12:15-26

15 If the foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If it were all hearing, how could it smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as he wanted them. 19 Now if they were all just one part, where would the body be? 20 But as it is, there are indeed many parts, yet just one body.21 So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”; or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary; 23 and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity; and the parts that aren’t attractive are the ones we make as attractive as we can, 24 while our attractive parts have no need for such treatment. Indeed, God has put the body together in such a way that he gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it, 25 So that there will be no disagreements within the body, but rather all the parts will be equally concerned for all the others. 26 Thus if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness.

I love how The Complete Jewish Bible says that last line, that all parts will share in the happiness. I know that if we all did things God’s way, the whole body of Christ would participate in the happiness created by our obedience. If we all take our marching orders and do our assigned services with praise, we will soon find we are not marching alone but with the presence of God because He dwells in the praises of His people. Now that’s a beat I can march to.

And just for a tad more fun, here’s a video of The Ants Go Marching…

May 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncommon Corps


Old Corps-New Corps by Flickr's United States Marine Corps Official Page, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial.jpg

Old Corps-New Corps by Flickr’s United States Marine Corps Official Page, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial.jpg
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Some things are good common, but some things are better uncommon. For example, sensibility is good to have as a common thing, as is courtesy. Believing that the Bible is the word of God is a good common doctrine. Trusting in common that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (in that order), sets up a secure foundation. But thinking that every person who serves Christ will do so in exactly the same way, and not build different houses on the one foundation, is not a necessary commonality. God made each of us with different strengths, so we can each do the jobs He has set in our paths to do.

In today’s reading from Numbers 4:21 through Numbers 4:37, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 35 is titled in Hebrew Naso and it means “Take.” Just as the previous portion talked of taking a census of the clan of K’hat, this portion gives details on the census of the clans of Gershon and Merari. The clan of Gershon will have the responsibility to carry and transport the parts of the tabernacle. The parts include the curtains, tents, and all types of coverings. The Gershon families will carry out their service under the direction of Aaron’s son Ithamar and under the supervision of Aaron and his sons.

The clan of Merari will be in charge of carrying the framework of the tabernacle. They will carry the posts, crossbars, frames, sockets and tent pegs plus all accessories having to do with the tabernacle. The Scripture states that the Merari clans will be in the corps, doing the work of serving in the tent of meeting. Their service will also be directed by Ithamar, the son of Aaron.

I find it interesting that the corps services for the tabernacle involve the framework. How many times do we work on the outside decor and coverings of things and not the foundations and frames? For a moving temple, the foundation would have been the framework that held it up; the parts that no one sees under all the coverings and tents. But the foundation and framework truly are the most important things. The wilderness tabernacle took an army of supervised families to do the service required. The corps of the Christian community then is an army of those who work to keep the community building on the truth of God’s holy word.

For those who wish to be in God’s “uncommon corps” of saints, we must uplift the Word of God in all of our own words and deeds. We must yield to the service He has called us to do, and we must not compare ourselves with others because it is unwise. But we will have some things in common. A bird cannot swim, and a fish cannot fly, but they are both created by God for whatever their purpose. What we should have in common is our love for God and His Word along with gratefulness and humility for the grace and mercy in salvation through the blood of Christ. But, it is those common bonds we share as servants of The Almighty that place us into God’s not-at-all-common family.

May 17, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go


Are you the type that likes to make a list of items to pack before you get ready to travel somewhere? I know I make a list because there are too many things I’m just afraid I can’t live without if I forget them. But even with the best lists, I still showed up for one of my writer’s conferences without certain essentials, and boy was I glad that Wal-Mart sold Fruit of the Loom products. 🙂

The song in the video above says…

I am on my way to that New Jerusalem
Where the sun will never go down.
Every day I’m making preparation
Packing, getting ready, getting ready to go, I’m packing up getting ready to go.

In today’s reading from Numbers 4:1 through Numbers 4:20, we come to the end of the “In the Desert” portion, and it’s time for the Levites to pack up the tabernacle and get ready to go where God leads them. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that there are parts and pieces to God’s tabernacle that are especially holy. Packing them takes a bit more finesse to keep from exposing them to anything or anyone not meant to interact with them.

To start, God has Moses take a new census of the Levites from the clan of K’hat (sons of Kohath aka Kohathites) that are between the ages of thirty and fifty. They will help get the tabernacle, and especially the articles of The Holy Place ready to travel. God gives an exact list of the items, how to disassemble them, how to wrap them, and how to pack them. Most of the items will be covered with cloth and fine leather (or possibly porpoise or dolphin skins). The cloth will be blue, purple, or scarlet, depending on the item to be wrapped.

Because the Levites that are doing this work are not all priests, if they look on the things of God, they risk being killed–or at the very least being separated from the community. To prevent this, God instructs Moses what to do for those in the clan of K’hat to avoid the risk. Aaron and his sons will be the ones to move and touch the holy items and wrap them to prepare them for packing.

Aaron and all his sons are to remove the sheet that separates the Especially Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. Aaron’s son Eleazar is in charge of all the oils. He will prepare and wrap the oils for the menorah, the anointing oils, the holy incense, and all that is used for the daily offerings. After the priests cover the holy items and bring them out, the other Levites will be able to pack them up without looking at or touching the holy parts and risking their own deaths.

If you’ve ever packed up for more than a trip, like packed up a house to move, you know that all things are not packed with the same level of care. Books, CDs, DVDs, and the last remaining VHS tapes can be packed as much as you can stuff in a box and still be able to carry. Clothing can be folded, or if you’re in a hurry, stuffed in a bunch of suitcases. (I know I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. LOL) Oh, but your fine china, and the blown glass that was passed down to you from Grandma, will be treated with extreme care and caution.

God wanted his house packed up carefully and with the utmost respect. He did not want to risk any holy items being treated as if they were just some old plastic-ware from the kitchen. His items were a part of Him, and they represented Him to the whole community of Israel. So what does that say about us now? We are God’s current tabernacle. We are what God has poured His Holy Spirit into as fine vessels made holy by His presence. There will come a day when we will move to the New Jerusalem. Now, it’s time for us to live like we’re on our way and get packed up and ready to meet Christ when He calls us home. Let us remember our value to Him and pack carefully.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

License and Registration Please


Registration by Flickr User NHS Confederation, CC License = Attribution

Registration by Flickr User NHS Confederation, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

“License and Registration, Please.” Aren’t those just some of the scariest words in this life? They usually mean we have done something wrong, or that we have some unfixed issue with our vehicle that we will be forced to deal with now. But how much scarier will it be when a government official can come to your door any time he wants and ask that question? As much as I don’t want to think about it, that day may come for the USA, and it may be here sooner than we think. But until it does come, I will thank God for every day my freedoms are mostly intact.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:40 through Numbers 3:51 (the end of the chapter), we read more about the census God has asked be taken for the community of Israel. In this chapter, all the males from one month and older have been numbered, and God wants Moses to register all those who are firstborn. From the counting and registration, the total number of firstborn males comes in at 22,273.

You may remember from yesterday that the total number of Levites ended at 22,000. Well, since the Levites are to belong to God as a redemption for all the firstborn males of Israel, there’s a difference of 273 that have no one to redeem them. But all must be redeemed, so God tells Moses what he needs to do for their redemption. God has Moses take 5 shekels for each of the 273 males that is not redeemed by a Levite, and then He tells Moses to give the redemption money for the extra people to Aaron and his sons. Moses, of course, did just as God ordered him to do.

Maybe it’s from watching too many post-apocalyptic movies and/or shows, but the idea of each and every person being registered sounds scary to me. Of course, if it was God asking for the registration, it wouldn’t seem so bad because I know He only has plans for my good and never to harm me. But I don’t know that about the U.S. government–or any government in the world. But even with the fear out there that ungodly governments could acquire information and abuse what it finds, I know that I can trust being in the hands of a God whose only desire is my redemption. And besides that, I’m already registered with Him since even the very hairs of my head are numbered.

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Priests, Preachers, Pastors, and Parsons


There are many ways to minister to our fellow man, and only a small portion of them include being up behind a pulpit. Those in front of the crowd do get noticed more than the mammas on their knees begging God to have mercy on their wayward children, but are they one bit more important? Granted, we need confident speakers to spread the good news across the airwaves, but we also need the missionaries who are willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience to carry the good news around the world. And we need the home missions preachers who survive on a small budget to bring the gospel to the streets and towns where others fear to tread.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:14 through Numbers 3:39, we see the breakdown of the census for all those within the tribe of Levi. They are the servants for the tabernacle, and they each have duties that are to be done with complete obedience to God’s commands. We have three sons of Levi who are the fathers of the clans of the Levites, aka “the preachers.” The people from each clan will camp around the tabernacle, and each will have specific duties in the care of God’s house.

The children of Gershon (about 7500 males a month and older) are told to camp behind the tabernacle, to the west. They will be in charge of the tabernacle itself including all the coverings inside and out, the screens at the entrances, the curtains that surround the courtyard, and all the fixtures and ropes used for these items and for maintenance.

The children of K’hat (about 8600 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the south. They are to be in charge of The Holy Place. They are responsible for the ark, the table, the menorah and altars, the curtains, and all the utensils used by the priests when they serve in The Holy Place.

And, the children of M’rari (about 6200 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the north. They are assigned responsibility for the frames of the tabernacle. That includes maintenance for the crossbars, the posts, the sockets and fittings, and the posts that surround the courtyard with their sockets, pegs, and ropes.

Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons who were in charge of The Holy Place were to camp at the front of the tabernacle, in the east, toward the sunrise. They were told to carry out all their responsibilities on behalf of the people of Israel, and anyone else who tried to do the job without being called to that responsibility would be put to death. But there were plenty to do the job since the total number of Levite males a month or older was 22,000.

Now, I know there weren’t televisions, fancy church buildings, and all that we have today back then, but I just can’t equate the jobs this tribe of preachers has been asked to do with anyone who is up doing it for accolades from the crowd. If anything, I’m guessing there were more than a few of the boys who were sorry they were born into the tribe of Levi due to all the work it required. But for those who did the job from their hearts, the rewards of knowing The Almighty Creator was pleased with them was likely pay enough.

In answer to the song title in the video above, no, I don’t believe Jesus would wear a Rolex. Some televangelists, pastors, etc., have jobs outside their preaching positions that enable them to afford a comfy life, so I can’t say they don’t deserve it anymore than I can say a doctor who barely survived internship shouldn’t find some luxury once in private practice. But I definitely have concerns about the ones who use the funds from the flock to pay themselves as if they are a higher shepherd than The Shepherd to whom all our allegiance should be given. And the free-spending on things like gold faucets for a yacht makes it more clear to me why some religions make those in ministry positions take a vow of poverty.

Yeshua asked one man who wanted to follow Him if he was okay with the idea of sleeping on a stone. He pointed out that even though He was The Messiah and The One in charge of the ministry, He Himself did not have a pillow to lay His head on. I am thankful for some of the outreach that is done with the funds going into the big ministries, but I wonder how much could be done if more funds went to actual needs and less into the art of attraction.

The video, and the requirements we read for the Levites, should prompt us to ask this question about all whose ministries we follow and support: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) if He were walking around in human form and ministry these days? Are all these who say they are called to minister for God camping around the tabernacle and keeping up the care of God’s house, or are they camping out in their own comfortable houses while starving sheep foot the bill?

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sons of the Preacher Man


Hamburg Famous Street Preacher by Flickr User Marnie Pix, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Hamburg Famous Street Preacher by Flickr User Marnie Pix, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I grew up listening to the Dusty Springfield song, Son of A Preacher Man, but I didn’t really listen to all the lyrics. I loved that the preacher’s son was the only one that could ever reach the girl singing because at that point in my life, I believed there was something special about preachers and their families. In a way, I guess I sort of still do, but it’s not exactly the same. Then, it was anyone who had the position of preacher or the prefix of reverend. Now, it’s more about respect for the genuine calling of someone who would dedicate his or her whole life and family to reaching others with true love of Christ.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:1 through Numbers 3:13, we’ll read about the sons of Aaron, one of the original preacher men. All four of Aaron’s sons served in the priesthood, but two of them were killed for getting egotistical about it and making it more about themselves than about The Creator. (This is a stern warning to those preachers, pastors, prophets, prophetesses, etc., these days who might think their position is one of anything other than servant-hood to The Almighty.)

God tells Moses to summon the entire tribe of Levi, so they can learn their duties as Israel travels. They are to be in charge of the tabernacle, all its furnishings, and all the continued duties of the priesthood. Anyone who is not of the tribe of Levi who tries to work in the priesthood is to be killed.

The word then goes on to tell us that the Levites are actually in the position of firstborn to God. The reason they do not have a division of the lands and possessions of the community of Israel is because they have become owned by God in place of His taking the firstborn of all the people. Because the firstborn always belongs to God, the Levites belong to Him in their stead.

In learning this, I can now see why God told King David not to harm Saul even though he deserved it. He told King David not to kill Saul because he had been anointed of God, and even with Saul’s failures, the anointing apparently doesn’t wash off. It is also why we must be careful how we treat all humans because, as Scripture says, they are made in the image of God…and that doesn’t wash off either.

Children of preachers, often called PKs (for “preacher’s kids), have frequently been looked down on because people could see the truth of the private household in their lives, and their lives have too often reflected the opposite of what was seen in the pulpit. While I agree that it’s good for truth to come out, it hurts me to see such disrespect toward the calling of God–even if that disrespect is earned. I haven’t even watched the show on Lifetime network called “Preacher’s Daughters” because I expect, with the general attitude of the network, that it will be looking for faults in the children of preachers. I could be wrong, but I just don’t want the world to have yet another reason to seek answers in anything but God and His holy word.

I know God still anoints people to work in ministry for Him, though it seems to be getting more and more rare to find the ones that are in it for God instead of for themselves. So many worry more about building up a congregation instead of building up the Spirit of God in each congregant. Or they worry about building up a doctrine, a method, a theology, or a theory instead of worrying about building up the God who is above all doctrines, methods, theologies and theories. But it is God that must increase; not us, not any people, and not church congregations. And if the preachers will remember that, then it will also show in the lives of the daughters and sons of the preacher men.

 

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Saints Go Marchin’


What makes a saint? It depends on who you ask. Some will say a person can only achieve sainthood by doing great works, and then the church leadership votes them to that exalted position. Others will declare that all who serve God are saints. The classic jazz song above refers to all those who get to walk in when Heaven’s gates swing open wide. By the definition that those who serve God can be called His saints, all the believers in the community of Israel would qualify since the Scriptures keep repeating how they did everything just as God asked them.

In today’s reading from the entire second chapter of the book of Numbers, Numbers 2:1 through 2:34, we read of the division of people into tribes, clans, and families as they prepare to travel wherever God directs them. The people are set up by camps on the east, south, north and west sides of the camp, and each man is to travel under a banner with his clan’s symbol on it. The campers are to surround the Tent of Meeting but at a distance (except for the Levites).

When these saints go marching, they will march according to the direction of the leaders assigned to them, and those leaders march according to the directions they receive from Moses who gets them directly from Yahveh. That is why, even though each man does not hear from God for himself, when they follow these directions, the Scriptures are able to say that they did everything as God directed.

It takes a lot of faith to trust that these men are following the directions of a man who is hearing directly from God, so I’m thankful that God saw fit to include His Holy Spirit in our lives to give us personal direction these days. Of course, the children of Israel had the pillars of cloud and fire, and they were able to see certain evidences of when God was pleased and not. I wonder, though, if we could go back and ask them if they’d rather live in our day and age, would they choose the personal directing of God’s Spirit over the trusting of men?

It’s funny, though. I know there are some people who would rather have the Bible read to them on Sunday mornings, and maybe a few other times if they attend weekly studies, and that’s pretty much the end of their thinking about it. Then there are others who would rather search the Scriptures and study for themselves. The Scriptures tell us to study and to rightly divide (analyze) the word of truth, so I think that covers self-study and group study. I enjoy both. I love to study for myself, and I love to hear and read the perspectives of others. I tend to enjoy discussion more than lecture though because I retain conversations better, and my mind doesn’t wander as much.

Whatever way you learn best, just keep learning. God’s Word is alive, and it can change lives from the page or from the pulpit. We know from our readings, and from history, that God’s ultimate goal is to march ALL His saints into a place of eternity with Him, so whatever camp we march from, let us keep our destination and goal in mind. Let us, as Paul said, press toward the mark that is the high calling in Christ, and be numbered with the saints who will one day march through those heavenly gates.

May 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Camp


Church Campground by Flickr User Jimmy Wayne, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Church Campground by Flickr User Jimmy Wayne, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve never been much into camping, myself, but I suppose if home means camping, being asked to camp around the church is not quite the big deal it would be to me. I have gone to church camp a couple times, and it wasn’t too bad because of having a cabin, but I still prefer my own home and bed.

In today’s reading from Numbers 1:20 through Numbers 1:54, we’ll read about a whole group of people that God wanted to set up a church camp for Him. The portion starts out with talking about the census that God had just asked the leaders to do in order to find suitable soldiers for His service. The numbers are pretty impressive for a group of people forming an entire community in the middle of the desert. You can read the whole list by clicking above, but the total comes out to 603,550 men who were twenty years or older and fit more military service. That doesn’t include the women and children, or any disabled people.

But the part that got my attention came after the counting. The list of men is divided by tribes, and we see that the tribe of Levi is missing. That tribe is reserved for all the work necessary to keep the tabernacle operational and in a holy state. The Levites are in charge of everything associated with the tabernacle, and God even says that if anyone else tries to involve themselves in it, they will be put to death. God commands that the Levites camp around the tabernacle, so that no anger will come upon the community of Israel.

The reason I took note of that last part is in comparing it to the modern church. There are many who claim to be “called” to work for God, but without the connection to a bloodline as they had back in the Old Testament, how do you actually know? I read that part about putting to death any non-Levites who try to involve themselves, and I wondered if there is any correlation to those now who camp out in church leadership without an invitation from God. What risk does a person take if he calls himself a prophet, or she calls herself a prophetess, and they have not truly been called to that position?

I love being used of God for His work, be it as a foot soldier on a small mission, or in ways that can influence many lives. My sister and I just talked about the great feeling of being used even as a link in a chain of events that can lead a soul to Christ. That’s why I created my website at http://www.41soul.com to focus on the idea of being used by God even if it was only for the purpose of saving one soul. I think, whether we are called to soldiers in the community (body of Christ), or to be in leadership positions over the community, we must take heed to do all we do in total obedience to the leading of The Holy Spirit, and if we are called to devote our entire lives to “camping in the church,” we must remember it is to bring joy to the community–and to protect the community, not to have authority over the community or to receive praise from them. God is the only authority, and He is the only one that deserves praise.

May 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Desert Draft


Sinai Desert by Flickr User Vyacheslav Argenberg, CC License = Attribution

Sinai Desert by Flickr User Vyacheslav Argenberg, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Isn’t the desert beautiful where it touches the mountains? Even without any greenery, there is a certain beauty that belongs only to the desert. When I lived in the desert in Arizona, I loved to open the window at night and let in the cool breeze. The crisp, clean smell of desert air is just so fresh and energizing, it made me almost want to stay up all night to enjoy it. It was so much better than the overheated midday sunshine that made it hard to do anything but run for shade. That heat really made me wish for a draft. But that’s not the kind of draft we’re studying today.

With today’s reading from Numbers 1:1 through Numbers 1:19, we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 34 is titled in Hebrew B’midbar, and it means “In the Desert.” God is back for another meeting with Moses, this time in the tent of meeting in the Sinai Desert. He is looking for leadership, and He is instituting a draft of soldiers for His army. He tells Moses to do a census of the whole assembly of the people by clans and families. As part of the census, He wants the names of all those who are twenty and older and are subject to military service for Israel.

God tells Moses that Aaron is to help him do the census, and then He says that they should pick leaders from every tribe to help as well. If you click on the highlighted link above, you can read for yourself the breakdown of each of the tribes and the men God chose from each one to help with the task.

Those in the list to help with the counting were leaders in their families and leaders among the people. They were apparently more aware of their surroundings and their history since God was calling on them to give the genealogies of their tribes. They were to give Moses the names of those qualified to be soldiers, plus the totals of all the people. And Moses did exactly as God directed him.

We know from biblical history that Israel will fight in some pretty major conflicts, and we know that God gives them amazing victories–even up to our last century. When God knows there is a battle in our future, He prepares an army ahead of time to fight in His service when needed. We can tell from the signs of the times that there are some battles brewing now, so I’m certain God is already doing His own census as He looks for soldiers to stand up with Him in these last days.

The draft into God’s Army may not be the same as it was back there in the desert, but it is still important to be fit to be chosen to lift up God’s power and light in this dark world. We become fit for service to our King by confessing and forsaking sins that would hold us back from giving our all. Whatever our calling in Him, we must walk upright with integrity, maturity and strength in whatever we do. When God comes through to count those He can depend on, will you be among the numbers willing to sign up for His draft?

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Is Finished!


Finished Work of the Cross by Flickr User Corrie Ten Boom Museum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Finished Work of the Cross by Flickr User Corrie Ten Boom Museum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

When we say something is finished, we may mean it is hopeless, or that we’re giving up. We can be finished with something before it is even complete. But when God says something is finished, it is all the way done, complete, finalized, and has nothing to be added to it. When Yeshua said these words on the cross, He was completing the task of paying the price of salvation for all who lived then, all who lived before, and all who will live until the end of time here on earth.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:29 through Leviticus 27:34 (the end of the chapter, and the end of the book of Leviticus), we finish another week of the year. As the portion begins, it makes the statement that any man condemned to die cannot be redeemed, he must be put to death. The statement here makes a bit more sense in The Amplified Bible where it explains that redeemed means freed from having to die as sentenced.

When Yeshua, under Jewish law, was condemned to die, there was no way to turn it around and free Him from the obligation of the cross. He was going to go there no matter what. But, because His perfect blood fulfilled the law, He set us free from having to pay the wages of our sin that condemned us to death, and therefore, we can be redeemed from it. Halleluyah! The law that was our curse became our blessing because our High Priest finished all that was necessary to fulfill the requirements that left so many in bondage.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been angry as I’ve watched reenactments of the crucifixion. Sometimes, I have wanted to jump through the screen and beat the ones who issued the death sentence to The Savior. I’ve also felt great frustration in watching the Jewish priests as they did nothing to stop the false condemnation, and in watching the people use their chance to free him to free a murderer (Barabas) instead. Now, however, on reading this, I can understand why the condemnation had to stand. They had to keep the laws intact in order for The Messiah to fulfill them.

The next few verses talk about tithing. The word says that if a man tithes of his land, that land will be holy to God. The same goes if he tithes from his animals. If he tithes on his animals, he is not to examine the animals at all, but one tenth of his flock as it walks under the herdsman’s staff will belong to God and become holy to him. And if a man wants to redeem any of his tithes, he is to add twenty percent to its value.

The last verse finishes the laws and commandments given by God to the people of Israel through His speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God was finished giving laws, Moses was finished receiving laws, but the people were not finished learning the laws. Some laws had to be relearned because they were forgotten. Some laws had to be taught to the new children who were born after the laws were given. And some laws had to be relearned the hard way by watching the punishment on someone else who had forgotten. But the day came when no one was required to learn the laws anymore, not because they were bad laws, but because they were no longer necessary to cleanse people from unrighteousness. When Yeshua hung on the cross and said, “It is finished,” He concluded all the work necessary to cleanse us, so when our lives on this earth are finished, we can dwell in unending joy with our Creator.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When A Gift is Not A Gift


The above video should catch the fancy of those of you who like Tim Burton animations (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”) as it has a similar feel. It’s a creative telling of the story of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-10. The story reminds us that when we choose to serve God without giving Him our whole heart, we will miss out on the future He has planned for us.

In His love for us, God has chosen to give us an eternity we don’t deserve for a price He paid. It’s a lot like when a child goes shopping with his mom to get his father a gift from money the father earned. The father gratefully receives the “gift” from his child because he cherishes the act of giving from the one he loves.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:22 through Leviticus 27:28, we read more about those who want to consecrate things like fields and animals to The Lord. In this portion, God tells Moses how to value a field a person gives when the giver is not the tribal owner but the owner by purchase. In that case, the value is based on the amount of years until the year of jubilee because at that time, the field will go back to the tribal owner. The new owner cannot give something that doesn’t belong to him, so he can’t give the field for life since he only owns it until jubilee.

The next part of the reading deals with those who want to consecrate an animal to The Lord. Now, it should seem common sense that you cannot give something to God that already belongs to Him, but apparently common sense wasn’t necessarily common back in Bible days anymore than it is now. God tells Moses to make sure people understand that they cannot dedicate an animal to Him that is a firstborn because God already owns everything that is first from the womb. God will, however, accept as a gift an unclean animal from the flock, but the value will not be as high.

This whole reading made me think about those who take the credit for those things which belong to God, and take pride in the works and gifts they “give” Him. But salvation belongs to The Lord. Even the very idea of salvation belongs to God. As it says in Philippians 2:13 (ERV), “Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” In addition, our lives belong to The Lord; miracles belong to The Lord; and, in truth, everything belongs to The Lord. No matter what we do or what we give, we cannot boast or brag.

There was a minister I once heard of who listened for people to say, “Oh my goodness,” and was ready with the response, “…is as filthy rags.” Since hearing that story, I think of it anytime I notice someone making the same statement. It reminds me that His word tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags, especially if we try to perform good works apart from the mercy found in the blood of Christ. Because of grace, God receives each of our gifts to Him as if there were no better gift in the world. But in all truth, we have nothing to give Him that does not belong to Him already. Since that is the case, let us go ahead and give Him our hearts, our love, and our obedience that we may bless Him.

Ananias and Sapphira had the opportunity to give everything for the work of The Lord, but they were more interested in receiving honor for themselves than in honoring God through their giving. Their gifts, then, were not truly gifts because they brought no glory to God. Our gifts may not be gifts since they are His already, but He receives them as gifts because we use our free will to honor and praise Him, and to show Him our love, and that’s what He cherishes from us more than anything else.

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow


Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution

Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I remember sprouting a lima bean in a wet paper towel when I was in one of my lower elementary grades. I also remember that I found it fascinating. I think most people who take the time to see how God makes things grow are in awe of His handiwork. I am especially in awe at how, just as His Word tells us in John 12:24, it takes the death of the seed to make the plant grow and bring forth fruit. Sometimes, we only look at things at the point of death or hopelessness, and we forget that even out of that, God can bring new life.

Today’s reading from Leviticus 27:16 through Leviticus 27:21 doesn’t talk about anything growing, but it does talk about the fields where the growing is done. It’s basically about people who want to consecrate a field to The Lord. God informs Moses that the priests are to value the field according to its production using a standard measure of barley. Later, if the person wants the field back, he can redeem it for the value plus another one-fifth of the value, unless someone else purchased it. If it has been sold, then on Jubilee when the new owner vacates it, the land will become a permanent possession of the priesthood, and it will be holy to The Lord.

So, a field consecrated to The Lord will either be redeemed for a greater value than when it was consecrated, or it will become perpetually holy. Because God takes possession of it, He brings new life from old. If that can happen with a field, what then can happen with a soul? How many times have we prayed over a person and dedicated them to the work of God from their youth. And then they grow up and make bad decisions that go against everything we hoped and dreamed they would do for The Lord. But if we let go and trust them into God’s hands, He can add value to them or draw them to Himself as His permanent possession.

I write this at the end of a long day with a lack of sleep, but I am happy for the day because the works done in its hours have been necessary due to the work God has done in our lives. A few weeks ago, you may recall my writing about the nephew who was in a coma due to a drug overdose. If not, you can read the post “When Brothers Weep” for more information. At that point, and based on all the tests, we prayed for a miracle but were fairly certain that we had a long road ahead even if he ever woke up. Our tasks today were part of that road–which it turns out will not be as long as anticipated.

Beyond the test results and expectations, our nephew Joshua is out of both the hospital and the in-patient rehab facility, walking with a walker, thinking and remembering with almost perfect cognition, and in the process of amazing his out-patient rehabilitation workers. His biggest deficit is neuropathic pain in one foot that keeps reminding him that he just took his body through something from which it should not have recovered. And yet it has. And we are praising God for the opportunity to encourage him to use his second chance to become what God created him to be and to share his testimony with others.

My husband and I took Joshua and his three brothers to church when they were very young, and we prayed over them more than once. We had dreams of their dedication and service to God. We didn’t get to keep them in our custody very long, but we loved them as if they were our own, and it has caused us great pain to see these “fields” misused and under attack of the enemy because their mother makes herself more available to the enemy than to God. But today gives me hope of change and hope that those prayers from so long ago will be answered. Those prayers came before all the attacks of the enemy that have sought to bring these boys down, and maybe it’s those prayers that have stopped the enemy from being able to fully take their lives. Maybe these boys that we dedicated to God will each find their way to Him, increased in value and perpetually holy, before their ends come and/or before the end of life on this earth. I am going back to that prayer and that dedication and asking God to make it so. You, my friends and readers, are welcome to join me. Thank you.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Price of a Promise is the Value of a Vow


Promises by Flickr User Christian Ditaputratama, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Promises by Flickr User Christian Ditaputratama, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How much does it cost to make a promise? Well, that depends on what the promise is. It’s easy to make a promise for something like having lunch with a co-worker on a particular day of the week. It’s much harder to make a promise that you will always be there for someone no matter what because that is promising a lifetime. Whatever it costs you to make a promise makes the difference in how much that promise is worth.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:1 through Leviticus 27:15, we read of the vows men make to God and their values. In the first paragraph, God talks to Moses about people who make vows to God, promising to give Him an amount equal to the value of a human being. I’m not certain exactly what this means, so I won’t try to explain it, but the rest of the paragraph goes on to assign values to people. The values are different for men, women, male children, female children, elderly men, elderly women, etc. And then it talks of a person too poor to be evaluated.

The next paragraph talks of the values of animals, and the types of animals of the quality used for sacrifices have the highest values. Unclean animals have their values set by the priests and based on their good and bad points.

The last two verses talk of the value of a house, especially if the owner has decided to declare the house as holy to God. When a person consecrates his house as holy for Yahveh, the priest sets the value of it. Then, if the person wishes to redeem the house, he must add 20% of the value to take it back.

Even without knowing what these verses actually mean, I am struck by the fact that different people have different monetary values. I don’t know if those were values as if they were slaves, or if it’s like when we see those diagrams that show the value of a human being based on how much they will make or contribute to their life on earth. I do know, however, that regardless of the monetary value, each and every person who has ever lived, and who will ever live, has the same value to God in that we are each worth dying for. His word says that it is not His will that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to salvation, and that He laid down His life for “whosoever will.”

The great mystery is that God values each one of us so much that He created the world for us, gave up His throne to walk this earth for us, shed His own blood for us, and went back to Heaven to prepare a place in eternity for us. For God, the price of His promise is not just the value of one human life, it is the value of all human life. And for some reason, He valued the totality of human life above His own flesh and blood. That means His vows and covenants with us are priceless, and His love for us cannot be measured. If He loves us enough to lay down His life for us, may we love Him enough to raise up our lives for Him.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scared of a Little Leaf


Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution

Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

You’re walking down a country road at dusk. No one is around, and the only sounds you hear are the birds and the light rustle of the breeze blowing through the trees. All at once you hear a loud crunch, and you jump and start running. You never look back to see that it was simply a loose branch that fell into a pile of dried leaves left over from winter.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:10 through Leviticus 26:46 (the end of the chapter), we will see what might make a whole community of people jump and run at the sound of a leaf. The reading actually starts with a paragraph of promises. God tells Israel they will have such an abundant harvest, they will need to throw away food from last year to make room for this year’s harvest. He says He will put His tabernacle among them and not reject them, and that He will be their God, and they will be His people. He reminds them how He broke the bars of the yoke of slavery from Egypt, so they could be free and walk upright before Him.

But the remaining paragraphs paint a grim picture for those who do not want to keep the laws and commands of Him who set them free. God basically says, (in paraphrase), “Because you do not value the freedom I’ve given you, and you do not honor Me for giving you that freedom, I’m going to show you a life of what it’s like to live without the peace and true freedom of My presence.”

The warnings are numerous. God tells Israel that if they reject His covenant and worship other gods, He will bring terror upon them. The terror will be so bad that the sound of a driven leaf will frighten them. More than once He tells them that they will flee when no one is chasing them, and they will stumble and fall as if they are running from the sword. In addition to terror, He will bring them wasting disease and sickness that saps their strength. And He promises them the opposite of the promise of harvest when He says they will plant seeds, but their enemies will eat the crops.

A few different times in the reading, He breaks to say something like, “If these things don’t make you listen to me…,” and concludes with a warning of punishments that are seven times worse. Those worse punishments include such things as not being satisfied with bread, cities laid to waste, desolation of lands, and the inability to rest. (Unfortunately, this sounds like many metropolitan areas in the United States.) He goes on to warn them that when He turns His face against them, they will eat the flesh of their own children.

Finally, however, He tells them that if the uncircumcised in heart will humble themselves and turn to Him, and confess their sins and the sins of the ancestors, He will remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the lands they left will lie desolate without them, He will not forsake them while they dwell in the lands of their enemies, and He will not loathe them to the point of breaking His covenant with them. Instead, He promises that, for their sakes, He will remember the covenants He has with His people.

There is so much more in the actual reading, but it’s hard to read because the warnings are so grievous. I can hear the pain of a Creator who gave His children everything only to have it completely rejected. His laws are not grievous, but the breaking of them certainly can be.

For each of us who has been delivered from our own Egypt–from the bondage of slavery to our sins or ways of living that did not glorify our Creator, we have the promises of His covenant with us no matter what land we now dwell in. And because He paid the debt we owed for that deliverance with the blood of Yeshua, that covenant has been sealed for us forever. We have the greatest peace and the least fear when we walk according to His life-giving laws instead of walking according to the ways of the flesh where there are no good promises. We can choose to fear a loving God, and let that fear keep us fenced in on a land of spiritual prosperity, or we can reject God and end up in some desolate place where even the sound of a leaf can startle a man to death.

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shalom, Jerusalem


Do you remember this old Sunday School song?…

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy — down in my heart (where?), down in my heart (where?), down in my heart.
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy — down in my heart (where?), down in my heart to stay.

The verse repeats with the repetition of “joy” being replaced by “love of Jesus, love of Jesus” and then by “peace that passes understanding.” Of course, there are a number of other possible lines as seen in the Wikipedia article about the song. But the verse I want to focus on is the one that talks about peace that passes understanding. That can be defined in the Hebrew word Shalom.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:6 through Leviticus 26:9, we read of God’s promises of Shalom to the children of Israel. Again, it’s a short reading of only four verses, so I’ll paste it here in the post…

“‘I will give shalom in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone. I will rid the land of wild animals. The sword will not go through your land. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before your sword. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand — your enemies will fall before your sword. “‘I will turn toward you, make you productive, increase your numbers and uphold my covenant with you.”

God’s peace is truly beyond understanding, and it is far more than what we consider peace these days. It is not peace as we understand it, where things must be in balance and comfort. And it is not an incomplete peace that can be broken by the enemy. It is peace that drives out all fear, all discouragement, and all unrest. The desire for this peace, and the claim of the covenant God made with Israel, may be the reason the word “shalom” is used as a greeting for both hello and good-bye, and I believe for bidding someone best wishes as well.

In Luke 10:5-6, Yeshua is giving instructions to the apostles and 70 other followers on how to minister His word as they go through the land. Upon arriving at each home, He gives them advice that we could all use as we enter into any home, business, or communication in each other’s lives…

Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you.

So, it’s a win-win situation. If we walk in carrying this peace that passes understanding, and if we then pronounce it upon the houses we enter, it will either find rest with those who seek God, or it will return to us, and we will have this peace. It’s the reason I first say “Shalom,” as the welcome message on my answering machine. This world is filled with so much chaos and trouble that we need this complete and wonderful peace from God’s throne just to make it through each day. I don’t know how those without God even continue in this life, and the idea of being without God’s peace would seem to me the very definition of Hell.

God is not a man that He should lie, so that covenant is still with us, and it is still with Israel. He desires that two-way conversation of peace and love with His people. He dwells in our praises because it gives Him a chance to rain down His loving presence on those He most desires to share it with–whosoever will receive it. No matter what you may be going through, lift your voice up to Him in praise, and receive His peace like a river that passes all understanding. And while you’re at it, join me in praying, “Shalom, Jerusalem, today and always” every time you can think of it. There will come a day when those prayers, and the wishes in the above video (from songwriter and singer, Paul Wilbur) will come true for Israel, and then we will all rejoice with great joy as she receives her Messiah, our Prince of Shalom, Yeshua.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

He Promised A (Rose) Garden


Mottisfont Abbey Rose Garden by Flickr User ukgardenphotos, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Mottisfont Abbey Rose Garden by Flickr User ukgardenphotos, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I love to sing karaoke, and yes, I’m a country girl, so my favorite tracks are usually a country flavor. I’ve always liked the Lynn Anderson song, Rose Garden because I feel like it tells a truth about life in general and not just relationships. It’s true we can’t have just sunshine and no rain, or we’d be dry as deserts and nothing could grow. And there are a lot of people to whom we would love to gift the world on a silver platter, but if it took that, or promises of the moon, to get them to love us, we wouldn’t really want them in our lives. Fortunately, God wants our commitment to Him, but He doesn’t require perfection to receive His wonderful gifts.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:3 through Leviticus 26:5 (that’s right, only 3 verses), we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 33. The Hebrew name is B’chukkotai and it means “By My Regulations.” In the reading, God shows Israel a simple demonstration of cause and effect. He shows how doing things His way will yield the results they really want to see. Since it’s so short, here’s the complete reading for the day from The Complete Jewish Bible

“‘If you live by my regulations, observe my mitzvot and obey them; then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit. Your threshing time will extend until the grape harvest, and your grape harvesting will extend until the time for sowing seed. You will eat as much food as you want and live securely in your land.

See, He does promise a garden, and He promises the rain to water it. And, while much of what He promises is simple common sense, such as reaping what we sow, doing things God’s way is also sensible because He’s the original Creator. He knows how things are supposed to work based on the way He created them to work. A modern world example would be that we must click the “start” button to shut down Microsoft Windows(R). It doesn’t seem like a normal or sensible response, but it is the way that works because it is the way the creators built it.

So, as the song says, “Smile for a while, and let’s be jolly: Love shouldn’t be so melancholy. Come along and share the good times while we can.” We can praise God for the sunshine and for the rain; for the seed-time and for harvest; and for all our going forth and coming in because He walks with us through every moment of it. God may not have actually promised us a rose garden, but He does promise a garden of provision to sustain us in this life and a garden of eternity to give us hope. As He promises in His holy word, He will never leave nor forsake us, and He will be with us always–until the end of time.

 

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Assurance


Heir of salvation; purchase of God. What an amazing promise. We’re not just heirs of promises in this life only, but because we have been bought with a price, we have become joint heirs with Christ to receive promises that will last for all eternity. Romans 8:16-18 (NKJV) says it like this…

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:47 through Leviticus 26:2, we read more about slavery. This time, God talks about a member of Israel who has become poor and has had to sell himself as a slave to a foreigner among them who has become rich. It doesn’t say, but I imagine this would happen if the person is indebted to the foreigner and cannot pay him.

It would seem pretty hopeless to be sold to someone who would not care for you as family, so God tells Israel that if this happens, the person in slavery may be redeemed by someone in his family. If there is no one in his family to redeem him, he will still be set free at the year of jubilee, but if someone can redeem him, they will pay for the amount of years he would have worked between the time of redemption and the time of jubilee. The cost of redemption is the same as if he were being paid wages as an employee.

In one of the commands, God says, “You will see to it that he is not treated harshly.” I’m not certain if God is talking to Moses or the priests here, or if this command is to all the community of Israel, but this tells me that God watches out for His own even when they are servants to unbelievers. As the reading continues, it explains one reason He watches over us this way: God says, in verse 55, “For to me the people of Israel are slaves; they are my slaves whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am Adonai your God.” Like we care for those things we have worked to purchase, God cares for all of us because He paid the highest price for us.

The final two verses, as the reading goes into the next chapter, have God reminding Israel of His commandments, and He reminds them once again that He is The Lord. They are not to make any idols to worship, and they are to remember His sabbaths. Because God owns Israel, He has the right to expect Israel to glorify Him in their daily lives, and that includes not worshiping false gods and giving time back to Him.

He also purchased us with a high price–the price of blood. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) says it this way, “19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” We are owned and loved because God gave so much for us, and because He is our jubilee from the bondage of this life, we have a blessed assurance of a precious eternity with Him.

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Slave by Choice


Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There are a lot of definitions for slavery. These definitions include work bondage, and they also include excessive dependence or devotion to something. But for all of the definitions, the antonym is the same: freedom. So, if slavery is the opposite of freedom, why are so many preoccupied with it? From fashion styles, to jewelry, to names of entertainers, people like to don the persona of being a slave, but I imagine that would be different if they couldn’t undo it at will.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:39 through Leviticus 25:46, we read of those who are so poor, they must sell themselves and their families into servitude. But God speaks to those who would own them and reminds them that because they were slaves before, they must not treat their fellow countrymen as slaves. God tells the owners that If they purchase a poor person and his family, they must treat them as employees or tenants. At the year of jubilee, both the slave and his family will be free and will return to the land that is their ancestral possession.

God then tells the children of Israel that they may buy male and female slaves from the surrounding countries, and they may also buy the children of foreigners that live in their own land. In addition, they may bequeath those slaves to their children, and from those groups, they may always take their slaves. And then God reminds them to never treat their brothers from Israel harshly.

In the image above, the slave cabins actually look better than what some people live in now, especially if you compare them to those who live in cardboard boxes. I’m certain some extremely poor people would sell themselves in slavery in exchange for a real roof over their heads, especially with a private spot of land, fences, and front porches. The photographer states that the cabins were actually occupied until 1977, and a commenter asked who was in them. When the photographer said that poor blacks lived in them, the commenter replied that they should know they did not have to live that way since 1865.

The ignorance in the commenter’s statement tells me that she has never had to go completely without, and that she doesn’t understand being poor. Just because legal slavery was outlawed, does not mean that suddenly everything started flowing in a positive direction for the slaves. If they had good owners, there were probably slaves that would rather have continued working as slaves than to struggle with trying to prove themselves in a prejudiced job market. Some American families now can barely afford rent and utilities, let alone food, in our economy of low salaries and high prices, and if they thought they could have a guaranteed home and food, they might willingly work in slavery.

In addition to being a working slave by choice, however, there are also those who are slaves by choice in other ways. Usually, the “by choice” part is only at the beginning of their slavery, but when they realize the situation has begun to hurt them, it’s often too late. Whether they are slaves to an addiction, or slaves to human beings they feel they cannot live without, or slaves to jobs that hold them in bondage by promising they will not give them a good reference if they leave, they are not free.

And then there are those who make the choice to be a slave under duress. The old song Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford makes the statement, “I owe my soul to the company store” because miners went to work owing from the first day on the job. That slavery was made by choice by men who just wanted to feed their families, but the slave owners (mine owners) charged them for their clothing, homes, etc., by giving them first and charging them later, so they always owed, and never got ahead.

All of these forms of slavery are mingled with pain and sadness because they are all bondage instead of freedom. But we can become slaves by choice in a way that brings freedom. 1 Peter 2:16 states it this way: Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for evil; rather, submit as God’s slaves. Being a slave to God means being free in our souls even when we are not free in our bodies. Being free in our souls means we can praise God in all things because we trust more in the life we have promised in eternity than in the painful but temporary life we must endure now. And to put icing on the cake, we have the promise that we who have been set free by Christ are free indeed.

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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