Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Sinai Poisoning


Mt Sinai by Sunrise by Flickr User Yann Pinczon du Sel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Mt Sinai by Sunrise by Flickr User Yann Pinczon du Sel, 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.

There are a lot of ways you can die in the desert. You can get sun poisoning, you can die of dehydration, or you can cross paths with a desert critter that bites and poisons you. None of these types of deaths sound in the least bit pleasant, and thankfully, most people who live in, or pass through, a desert won’t face a desert-related death. Personally, I loved living in the high desert of Kingman, Arizona, but I also loved having a cool house and cool water to get relief on the hottest days.

In today’s reading from Numbers 26:52 through Numbers 27:5, our reading begins with God telling Moses how to divide the land between the tribes of Israel. Because He is a fair God, He says to give the larger plots of land to the larger tribes, and the smaller pieces of land to the smaller tribes. The reading also goes through the ancestors of the tribe of Levi who will not get any land of their own because they are set apart for the priesthood.

There is a quick rundown of all the clans numbered in the recording of the Levites who now number 23,000 in the count of men who are one month old and older. The clans include Gershonites, Kohathites, and Merarites, along with the sub-clans of Libnites, Hebronites, Mahlites, Mushites, and Korahites. There were still Korahites because Korah’s sons were not killed when the followers of Korah were swallowed up by the earth for their rebellion against God and Moses. And the Kohathites are from Kohath, an ancestor of Amram. Amram married Jochebed and fathered Aaron, Moses, and Miriam.

The current census as taken by Moses and Eleazar the high priest is a registration of all the people now living in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan river from Jericho. The reading points out that not one person who was registered in the previous census taken in the wilderness of Sinai was still alive–except Joshua and Caleb. As God prophesied to the previous group of people, they all died in the wilderness without seeing The Promised Land.

The reading concludes with a group of five sisters whose father, Zelophehad, was a descendant of Manasseh but had passed away without leaving any sons to carry on his name. The daughters go before Moses and Eleazar to plead their case for their own piece of property. They state that their father did not die in the rebellion with Korah, but died in the desert due to his own sin and did not leave any sons. Moses and Eleazar promise to take the matter before God to seek an answer for them.

There are many ramifications that follow both faithfully serving God and disobeying Him. The Sinai wilderness proved to be a giant graveyard for those who refused to trust in the Word of The Lord. Maybe all those incidents of rebellion, like that of Korah and those that followed him, were the times God gave the people over to their reprobate (condemned) and fleshly minds, so their behavior would help fulfill the prophesy that they would die out there. Maybe all those places where I was reading and saying how I could not believe people could be so stupid were just areas where I was seeing what it looks like when God sears a conscience with a hot iron.

Thankfully, the end result of failing God is not always to end with a troubled mind, but what about those who have been given mercy after mercy, grace after grace, and proof after proof of God’s love and power yet still choose to walk opposite His desire and will? In today’s Proverbs (Chapter 30 for the 30th day of the month), it speaks of how churning milk produces butter, and pushing angry words produces strife. We could add that drinking poison produces death, and purposeful rebellion against Yahveh Almighty produces the wages of sin. We could also add that confession and repentance of our sins produces God’s everlasting mercy and grace, and puts our sin and its wages under the blood of Yeshua. It’s all simple mathematics (you get out what you put in) and chemistry (God is better than “poison control”), and we can trust that God will be fair and balanced and faithful to His word. HalleluYah!

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

Here Come the Sons


This post is one of those difficult ones because it’s almost pure genealogies. I tried looking for images of sons of sons, and almost used one of Lego Star Wars(tm) stormtroopers training their little ones, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work for a post. The image is cute, though, so I’ll share it at the end. So, finally, I found an ApologetiX video about Israel called Here Come the Sons with lyrics, and it’s almost perfect. It’s back to the original sons, so it doesn’t include Ephraim and Manasseh, but the others in the family tree are included.

In today’s reading from Numbers 26:5 through Numbers 26:51, we see the results of the census that was mentioned in the last paragraph of yesterday’s portion. This census is once again for preparing the community of Israel for the battles they will need to fight as they enter The Promised Land. The numbers of descendants of the various tribes of Israel are given by tribe, and I believe these numbers are only those twenty and over who are suitable for soldier material. They total 601,730, so if that is just the battle-ready of the community, there’s still a pretty large group of people considering this is now the second generation.

As I read through and found a few where there were no sons, and the census listed the daughters, I thought about a song written and performed by some friends of mine, Zeb and Joy Son. It’s called She’s Somebody’s Daughter, He’s Somebody’s Son, and it’s about soldiers being more than just bodies in a uniform. You can get it from them on CD, but I don’t think it’s available anywhere online. If you want to contact them, check out the website for Christian Country Cowboy Church of LaGrange, Kentucky, where Zeb & Joy are the parsons. They have a few videos on the YouTube channel for “christiancbchurch,” so you might be able to find the song on one of them.

As with the song mentioned above, the men (and maybe women) mentioned in the census here are more than just bodies being prepared for war and/or redemption. Each one of the names, clans, tribes, etc., has a place in the heart of Our Creator, Yahveh Almighty. He has hopes and plans for them that include an eternity with Him, and He has those same hopes and plans for us and our children.

Sometimes it feels like we’re in this life alone, whether we feel alone with our trials or alone with our victories, but God has every hair counted as He watches and cares for each of us. I cannot stress strongly enough how much God loves us and wants only the best for us. Just because we have to fight for something doesn’t mean He doesn’t desire for us to have it. It’s no different than having to shop for, prepare, and consume our food in order to be filled. Those things that matter to us are worth working and fighting to obtain.

The sons of the sons of Israel have a long legacy of work behind them that has led to their approach to the land which God has promised to them. They still have a lot of work to do, but they will find it worth it. Those of us who are serving God in this day and age have a long legacy of sacrifices that brought us the freedom to seek and find God–especially in the USA, and we also still have a lot of work to do because there are still so many left to reach with His gospel. But, as each new soul steps into a walk of faith on this earth that will lead to an eternity of blessing, we know that our walk, and the walks of the forefathers of faith, is worth the journey.

Oh, and here’s that cute image I spoke of above…

Training Future Soldiers by Flickr User Kristina Alexanderson, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Training Future Soldiers by Flickr User Kristina Alexanderson, 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.

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

Blessings and Shalom


Shalom Cups by Flickr User W Keown, CC License = Attribution

Shalom Cups by Flickr User W Keown, 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.

I decided sometime ago to include “Blessings and Shalom” in my e-mail signature for personal messages. Sometimes I also include it for professional messages, but not always. Sometimes I add “Love with blessings and shalom” to the signature because I want to communicate my love, but I also want to speak God’s blessings and peace. In all cases, what I am wanting for the recipient is a taste of God’s presence and God’s peace that passes all understanding. I truly believe in Yeshua’s admonition to His disciples to go into every home with a pronouncement of “Shalom” that peace would find rest with those who live there that seek it.

In today’s reading from Numbers 25:10 through Numbers 26:4, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 41 is called Pinchas and is the Hebrew for Phinehas (Phineas), the son of Eleazar the high priest who is the son of Aaron the former high priest. At the end of the last portion, we read how Phineas stopped the plague against Israel by running his sword through the bellies of an Israelite and a Midianite prostitute who were openly defying God’s law.

God talks to Moses and says that Phineas has deflected His anger against Israel by being as zealous as He (God) is, and that deflection kept God from destroying Israel in His zeal. Because of that, God gives Phineas His covenant of shalom and His covenant of a perpetual priesthood in his bloodline. God says that because Phineas was zealous on behalf of Him, and because he made atonement for Israel, the office of priest will now be in his family forever.

The reading then gives us some history about the two people killed to make the atonement. The Israelite was a son of a leader from the tribe of Simeon, and the Midianite woman was a daughter of a leader of a clan of Midian. In other words, both of them should have known better, and actually they probably did know better and were acting out in defiance, which is why they paraded themselves in front of the tabernacle before going into the tent to commit adultery.

God tells Moses to treat the Midianites as enemies and attack them. As I studied a bit deeper into this, it appears that Balaam may have gone back to Balak and told him that he couldn’t curse the people because God controlled his tongue, but he could tell Balak how to make the people curse themselves. This is shown in Revelation 2:14 where it says Balaam taught Balak to trick the people of Israel by causing them to eat food that was sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual sins.

It’s one thing to blatantly advertise sins to the world, but to parade them to Christians to try and sway them away from God and toward the flesh because you want them to be cursed is not something God takes lightly. He calls the whole thing the “incident at Peor” and future Scriptures will deal harshly with the Midianites, and Balaam, on account of it. Of course, this lines up with the prophesies of Balaam who spoke that he was able to see these things with open eyes, but when God’s Spirit was no longer speaking through him, apparently he went back to being a blind leader of the blind.

The reading ends with the beginning of a new census of the people and tribes of Israel. God wants Eleazar to count the entire assembly who are twenty years of age and older and subject to military service, and number them by their ancestral clans. So Moses and Eleazar call to all those twenty and older who came out of Egypt, and they gather them in the field by the Jordan river across from Jericho.

As of yesterday, I was thinking that Balaam had started as an unbeliever and become convinced of God by walking in His presence. I mean, he spoke God’s words, he saw God’s angel, and he even witnessed as God made his donkey talk. But after all that, it turns out that Balaam was worse than a donkey–he was an ignorant beast. He didn’t learn anything from all his experiences. He was a man whose own mouth spoke words that would bring blessings and peace, and yet he chose instead to play around with curses and chaos.

If we want God’s shalom in our lives, it takes more than just talking about it. We can pronounce every blessing in the Holy Scriptures from our mouths, but if our hearts are far from God, they will also be far from His peace. I bid you, my readers, blessings and shalom, from my heart to yours, and I pray that you are a true seeker who longs for the presence of Yahveh Almighty from the depths of your soul. I’ve heard it said that the Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not just cake for special occasions. The same can be said for God’s peace and His blessings. May those of us who have even an inkling of thought toward God let it become a head over heels love toward Him that will have us walking in His blessings and shalom every moment of our lives and right into eternity with Him.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I See Something You Don’t See


Vision of Eyechart with Glasses by Flickr User Ken Teegardin, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Vision of Eyechart with Glasses by Flickr User Ken Teegardin, CC License = Attribution, 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 photographer also asks that attribution be given to http://www.seniorliving.org

When we go to the eye doctor, we all look at the same chart (more or less), but we don’t always see the same thing. Some of us see more clearly than others, and some of us can see just as clearly with assistance. Some cannot see well even with glasses, bright lighting, or other means of help. And yet, if we are not blind, we are all able to see.

In today’s reading from Numbers 24:14 through Numbers 25:9, we conclude another week’s portion, and we finish the banter between Balak and Balaam. No matter how plain Balaam has made things in the past week, Balak has just not been able to see that Israel is a blessed people, and that Balaam will not be able to curse them just because Balak has power and desire for that to happen. Today, however, Balaam will see things as if God gave him the best prescription available. He will take a look into the future.

Balak is done with Balaam, so Balaam tells him he has one more important pronouncement to make about what Israel will do to Moab in the latter days. I suggest reading today’s section in the Amplified Bible as it clarifies a few things, especially concerning actual cities referenced in the prophesy. So, Balaam says he once was blind but now has opened eyes. He says he now hears God’s words, knows God’s wisdom, and sees what The Lord sees. He begins telling of a future that seems quite distant. The commentary mentions that it may refer to King David or to the Messiah, but it also looks as if it could be in our latter days as well.

Balaam says he sees a man that he cannot see: A star that will step forth from Jacob, and a scepter that will arise out of Israel. He will be a ruler that will destroy the enemies of Israel, and even those who were first and strongest before will be no match for Him. It is a prophesy of great victory for Israel and great defeat for her enemies, and as soon as Balaam is done speaking it, he just goes home. Balak leaves and goes his way too.

But the reading continues with Israel deciding to start whoring around with the girls and gods of Moab. It’s not enough that they prostitute themselves among those who do not serve Yahveh Almighty, but they actually accept the invitation to bow down to their gods. Their behavior causes God’s anger to blaze against them to the point of a deadly plague that kills some 24,000 people before it is over. In addition, God tells the priests to kill the leaders of these people and hang them directly in the sun to absorb some of God’s anger.

As many of the people were weeping at the door to the Tent of Meeting, one Israelite comes walking into the community (maybe even into his own home and family from the way it reads) with a prostitute from Midian. Phineas, the son of Eleazar who is the son of Aaron, gets up from the crowd, follows the man into his tent, and runs his sword through both of them at once. Their deaths are what finally bring an end to the plague.

These words of prophesy are best read directly from the Scriptures to absorb their beauty. It’s much like when God gives you words and visions of His beauty, and you just can’t seem to share them in a way that speaks the beauty to others the same way God spoke it to your heart. My sister speaks of a sunset she once watched as she felt the presence of God speaking to her heart about His love for her, but all she could tell me is what she actually saw. His love note to her was left for her spirit to interpret and to bring her a blessing.

There will be things each of us sees as God leads us through this life. Some of what He gives us, He will give with interpretation to make it clear to others in the same way Yeshua later clarified some of His parables to make certain His disciples and followers could understand them. That’s like getting a pair of glasses to read the eye chart. Other things, He may speak to our hearts, and they will only be for us.

Balaam saw what Balak could not see, but that did not make it untrue, and it has come to pass to prove itself. If you see something I don’t see, or if I see something you don’t see, we should test the spirits to see if they are from God, and we should always check His written word. That applies no matter if the person is a writer, a big-time preacher, or a neighbor teaching a Bible study. When Paul taught the Bereans, they searched the Scriptures to make sure he was telling them the truth. We should do the same.

The word of God is alive–it can breathe new things into our spirits and our understanding each time we read the writing, but that takes reading the writing. We receive faith and vision by hearing God’s word and seeing it with the understanding He gives us through His Holy Spirit. And, one day, we will all see the same thing when we see The Lord as He is, and what a wonderful day that will be.

And here’s a nice little video about that day–A Gaither gathering singing What A Day That Will Be

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

Third Time’s Not Always a Lucky Charm


Charms Cereal by Flickr User Chris Metcalf, CC License = Attribution

Charms Cereal by Flickr User Chris Metcalf, 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.

Persistence should be a good thing, but when it gets mixed with stupidity, it’s just plain annoying. There are people who persist on pushing their ways on others whether it makes sense or not, and when someone tries to explain the problem, they just don’t get it. Ya know, like the woman who got drunk, stole a horse, and then when caught, blamed the horse and said she was sober, but the horse was drunk. Really, it happened even if it sounds impossible. Just look up “stupid criminals” and you’ll be amazed at the persistence of stupidity in some people.

In today’s reading from Numbers 23:27 through Numbers 24:13, Balak is at his insistent best again. As if it wasn’t enough for Balaam to tell him he could only speak the words from God, and then to speak words saying that Israel is blessed by God and cannot be cursed, Balak asks Balaam one more time if he will curse Israel. He takes him to another mountain where he can clearly see the community of Israel camped out below, and he tells Balaam that maybe he’ll be able to curse them from this new locale.

Balaam has Balak do the usual act of building seven altars and sacrificing one bull and one ram on each altar. This time, however, Balaam doesn’t go to seek God to see if it’s okay to curse Israel, but God speaks through him anyway. The Spirit of God moves upon Balaam, and he speaks an abundant and beautiful blessing over Israel that ends with the well-known statement, “Blessed be all who bless you! Cursed be all who curse you!

After the blessing, the portion says that Balak blazed with fury against Balaam. He clapped his hands together and yelled that he called on Balaam to curse Israel and all he did was bless them three times. Balak then accused The Lord of stealing the reward that he was going to give Balaam in exchange for the curse. But Balaam calmly answered that nothing had changed, and that he told Balak’s servants from the beginning that he could not disobey God even for a palace filled with silver and gold.

I am amazed at how calmly Balaam dealt with the stupidity of this guy. Balak’s accusation against God reminds me of those many who excuse their not serving God by saying that He takes away their right to have fun or be free or whatever. It’s senseless. Without God, we have NOTHING good AT ALL in our lives, so even the fun or freedom to get into trouble people think they have by not serving Him would not exist if He didn’t wake them and the world up on a daily basis.

I want to break away from the blessing and curse direction for a moment, and just give you a little example of how much we receive in this life. There’s a momentum that is built by provision on top of provision, and it gets us to our own provisions over and over again throughout our days. God is our ultimate Provider, and He uses others to help that process along.

Think about a simple cup of coffee and the amazing steps from the coffee bean bush to your cup. You have the people who plant it, pick it, haul it, cook it, haul it again, package it, brew it, etc. Then there are the people who build the harvesting equipment, the trucks for hauling, and the ovens for cooking. If you have it in a paper cup, you’ve also got all the manufacturing that goes into that, and if you bought your cuppa in a restaurant, you’ve got your barista, your managers, your building owner, and so forth.

It’s not so simple now, huh? What you’ve just seen should demonstrate that God is absolutely and totally in control even when we don’t see all the steps He takes to provide for us in this life. Every person involved in our provisions are given breath by God. All that grows is given life by Him.

Balaam couldn’t curse Israel if he wanted because God was protecting them from his magic to the point of using him to do the opposite of what he planned. Balak couldn’t pay Balaam enough because God stepped in and interrupted his plans and processes. The third time of requesting a curse against Israel didn’t work like the charm either of them planned. They should have learned from this that it’s better to walk in God’s blessing than to even try to play games with God or those He loves. If not, they’re in for a wild ride because when God is running the show, there’s no “third time’s a charm” or “lucky seven,” there’s only blessings or curses.

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

America Bless God!


Firework Flag by Flickr User Beverly & Pack, CC License = Attribution and America Bless God bumper sticker by Flickr User Zen Sutherland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Firework Flag by Flickr User Beverly & Pack, CC License = Attribution
America Bless God bumper sticker by Flickr User Zen Sutherland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the 1st user’s full photo stream at Flickr. For the bumper sticker image, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/zen/2254935

God bless America, land that I love. That’s the beginning of the song written by Irving Berlin in 1918 (the year my grandfather was born), and revised by him in 1938–the same year Kate Smith made it famous. I remember the first time I heard her sing it. I was mesmerized, and I tried many times to belt it out with the same power and vibrato she sang with that made it her signature song. I loved all the words to the song, but especially the next line that said, “Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from above.”

In today’s reading from Numbers 23:13 through Numbers 23:26, we are back on another mountain top with Balak and Balaam, and Balak is again asking Balaam to curse Israel. Again, Balak built seven altars and sacrificed a bull and a ram on each of them. And, again, Balaam told him to stand by the burnt offerings while he went to see what God had to say about things. And, yet again, God met Balaam and put the words in his mouth that Balaam should say when speaking over Israel.

I won’t put the whole poetic pronouncement, but here is its beautiful beginning from the Complete Jewish Bible

“Get up, Balak, and listen!
Turn your ears to me, son of Tzippor!

19 “God is not a human who lies
or a mortal who changes his mind.
When he says something, he will do it;
when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it.
20 Look, I am ordered to bless;
when he blesses, I can’t reverse it.

In summary, it goes on to say that there is no guilt or perversity in Israel, and God is their King who brought them out of Egypt and gives them the strength of an ox, so that no magic will work against them. Israel rises up like a lioness, and like a lion that will not lie down until he eats up his prey.

Balak says to Balaam, “Obviously, you won’t curse them. But at least don’t bless them!” (This part cracks me up. Balak is missing the whole point of the words God put into Balaam’s mouth.) And Balaam tells Balak one more time that he can only speak what God, Himself, leads him to say. So, because Israel belongs to God, God will not only refuse to let someone curse His child, but He overcomes the desires to curse by offering even more blessing.

I love the power and authority in verse 19, and the promise that God is who He says He is, will do what He says He will do, and will fulfill ALL His promises. His blessings are in high demand even from unbelievers because they are not like the unstable blessings that men heap on each other. We can trust that what God says, He will do, and if He says He will bless something, consider it done.

So, should we continue to ask God for His blessings on our country? Absolutely! But, as we do, let us realize what the magnet is that draws His blessings toward us. Here’s what it says in Proverbs 11:10-11

When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
    and when the wicked perish, there is joy.
By the blessing of the upright, a city is raised up;
    but the words of the wicked tear it down.

Ask God for His blessings, but let that request come AFTER you have spoken in such a way that your life is seen as righteous in His eyes. Do not live by wicked words and deeds that will tear down our nation. We see the results of that all around us. Men somehow believe that by thinking of themselves they will heap blessings on their own heads, but by leaving God out of the equation, they are only drawing the rewards of the wicked. Put God first. Remember that JOY stands for “Jesus, Others, You” in that order. We have a promise that by the blessing of the upright, an entire city can be raised up. Imagine what can happen for our country if ALL those who believe will bless God in everything we say and everything we do–every day we live. I say, again, “America, bless God!”

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

You Are The Words You Eat


Taste and See by Flickr User John Britt, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Taste and See by Flickr User John Britt, 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.

There are no sweeter words than those used to uplift God Almighty. Those can be words of praise directly to Him, words that encourage His children, words that influence people to serve Him with a whole heart, or words that He gives us to use for His purposes. He is the one who created words and gave them power, so when we use them as He intended, we bless Him, others, and ourselves. If He could create the entire world with words, what can we do with the words He puts in our mouths?

In today’s reading from Numbers 22:29 through Numbers 23:12, we are walking with Balak, Balaam, and the princes of Moab. Balak is taking Balaam to the top of a high hill where he can look down and see just a part of the children of Israel. Balaam tells Balak to build seven altars and to offer a ram and a bull on each of them. Balaam will do anything to get his way, so when this man who has power from God Almighty tells him to build altars and sacrifice on them, that’s exactly what he does. Balaam then tells Balak to stand by his burnt offerings while he goes to talk with The Lord for advice on the next move.

When God meets him, He puts words in Balaam’s mouth, and He tells Balaam to back and speak exactly as The Lord tells him. Balaam obeys and goes back to where Balak and the princes of Moab are standing by the burnt offerings and begins his pronouncement of the words God gives to him. The words read like poetry if you want to click the link to read them yourself, but to summarize them, the words say…

“Balak brings me from the eastern hills to curse Jacob and denounce Israel, but how can I curse whom God has not cursed and denounce whom God has not denounced. From the hills I see a people who will not dwell alone or consider themselves a part of the nations. Who has counted the dust of Jacob or the ashes of Israel. May I die as the righteous die and my end be as theirs.”

At the end of Balaam’s speaking, Balak has a fit. He yells at Balaam and tells him he brought him there to curse the people but instead he blessed them. Balaam’s answer is simply, “Mustn’t I take care to say what The Lord puts in my mouth?

Certainly, after God spared his life, Balaam has realized that the words of God are sweeter than any other words. The words God put in his mouth for Israel were most definitely sweeter than whatever words Balak would have had him to say. When we let words fly out of our mouths in reaction to something hurtful said to us or some hurtful thing done to us, we may have our say, but the words are bitter in our mouths and can make us bitter and angry people. Instead, let us bless and not curse those made in the image of God, so we have a sweet aftertaste that can linger and stay with us.

I want to add a note here that I’m not saying every word that comes out of our mouths should be sweet according to our human definition of sweet. In the third chapter of John, we have a prophet who’s calling men vipers and hypocrites and warning them of hell to pay. And yet, in John 3:18 it says, “And with many other warnings besides these he announced the Good News to the people.” You see, those harsh warnings were considered “good news” (KJV = exhorted) because it meant John was more concerned with their salvation than what they thought of his strong words. If the words are from God, they may not sound sweet even when they are sweet.

God’s written word tells us in more than one place just how sweet it is. In Psalm 34:8a we read, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” In Psalm 119:103 we get, “How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.” And, in Ezekiel 3:3 it says, “And He said to me, Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.

The precious words of God taste so much sweeter than if we must eat our own words of bitterness and hatred and unforgiveness. If we must eat our words, let them be good ones that are put there by our God.

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

Donkey Talk Blues


I think it’s been a while since I shared from my favorite band, ApologetiX–That Christian Parody Band. The song in the above video is called Donkey Talked With Him and it’s a parody of Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones. It uses music to tell the story of Balaam’s donkey saving his life, and if you click on the link with the title, you can read the story of how ApologetiX came to write this particular parody. The words in my title are in the song, and I just couldn’t pass up using them for this post, especially since it’s quite a bit later than usual, and I’m getting sleepy. (I haven’t been to sleep yet, so it’s still in my Monday, so even if you found it posted on Twitter on Tuesday, you’ll notice I’ve backdated it as Monday’s post.)

So, in today’s reading from Numbers 22:21 through Numbers 22:38, Balaam gets up with the servants of Balak and heads out to meet the King of Moab. Now, yesterday, God told Balaam that if these guys summoned him, he should go, but today this behavior stirs up God’s anger against Balaam. I can only think there was something in Balaam’s heart about his decision to make this journey, something that made it more than just obedience to what God had spoken to him the night before, that could make God rise up against Balaam.

The Angel of The Lord stood in Balaam’s path, but Balaam couldn’t see Him. Balaam’s donkey, however, noticed the Powerful Being and the sword in His hand and decided to run out across the field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road, and this time the Angel stood in a narrow path that went through the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. The donkey went to the side and crushed Balaam’s foot between herself and the stone wall, so Balaam beat her again. When the Angel of God stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or the left, the donkey lay down under Balaam, so he hit her with his staff.

After the last beating, God opened up the mouth of the donkey, and she began asking Balaam why he was beating her. Balaam, seemingly unimpressed and not at all surprised that this animal was talking, spoke back to the donkey about her behavior. He even told her he wished he had a sword because he wanted to kill her. She continued her side of the conversation with some logical reasoning about her faithfulness to him and how she’d never done anything like that before. As the truth dawned on him, God opened Balaam’s eyes, so he could also see the Angel standing there with the drawn sword.

God asks Balaam why he beat his donkey when she was only trying to save his life. He tells Balaam that He had come out against him and would have killed him for opposing him if she had not stopped it from happening. Balaam hung his head and bowed before God, and he repented and confessed his sin. He told God that if what he was doing was displeasing, he would turn around and go home, But God told him to go on, and reminded him again to only do what He directed.

When Balaam got to Balak’s palace, Balak asked why he had not come sooner. He wondered if Balaam thought he would not be able to pay enough. Balaam told Balak that he had come to him as he asked, but he could not speak to his requests unless God told him what to say. He told Balak he would only be able to speak whatever words God put in his mouth to speak.

When all was said and done, Balaam did the right thing and became willing to fully obey God and His word and to communicate that to the King of Moab, but it took a near-death experience for him to make that decision. How close to death do most of us have to be to make a decision to fully follow God in every word and deed of our lives? I hope it doesn’t take nearly dying at the hand of God for most of us. His ways may not always seem clear right off, but if we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, we will hear His voice, so we can follow Him instead of giving Him or us the “donkey talk” blues.

Well, it’s late, so I’ll sign off for now, but I can’t leave you without adding one more video from YouTube. Many years before ApologetiX, I listened to the humorous telling of the Balaam story by Don Francisco. The last line is the best, so be sure and listen to the whole thing even though you already know the story. Enjoy.

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

Would You Sell Your Soul for a Palace of Gold?


Mysore Palace by Flickr User Ashwin Kumar, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Mysore Palace by Flickr User Ashwin Kumar, CC License = Attribution, 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.

Would you sell your soul for any price? For a palace filled with gold and silver? For fame? For power? It’s easy to say we would not sell our souls for something that is not being offered to us, but what if we were struggling and an offer was made? If you were starving to death, you could be tempted to sell your soul for a morsel like Esau did when he gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew when Jacob offered it to him. Until that moment, he may not have valued it like he should, but that doesn’t mean he would have been willing to sell it.

In today’s reading from Numbers 23:13 through Numbers 23:20, we continue the story where Balak wants Balaam to curse the people of Israel. The first servants Balak sent came back with the report that Balaam would not go along with the plan. Balak does not accept that answer, so he finds princes that are higher in status than the first group and sends them to beg Balaam to come with them for whatever price he wants. Balak’s fear has made him desperate, so he hopes to persuade Balaam with a higher reward for his services.

Balaam says he has made the decision to serve The Lord no matter what. He answers the servants that even if Balak gave him a palace filled with silver and gold, he would not go against the word of God in any matter great or small. He then tells the servants to spend the night while he again seeks God. When God comes to Balaam to speak to him this time, He tells Balaam to go with the men that summoned him, but only to do what He says and nothing else.

We’re not given any reason to think Balaam would have a reason to sell his soul, so if he goes with the men, we know that–at least at this point in time–he is going in obedience and with the right heart. But most of us know the story doesn’t end that way, so what do you suppose might change for Balaam?

Right plans and right ideas can sour and go in a wrong direction in an instant. The girl who starts out singing praise for The Lord, and walks through the door that leads to fame and fortune, may do so because she honestly believes it’s just a way to spread the message to more people. But then, a contract or a new group of friends takes her to places and decisions that turn her away from God, and she finds herself on the edge of selling her soul without even knowing how she got there.

For now, Balaam still has the right heart and mind about the matters. For now, many who desire fame or fortune to do more and greater works for God have the right hearts and minds about the matters. Let us keep each other in prayer that should doors open to expand our territories, we will keep a humble heart and remember that it’s all about God. Let us also pray that for any child of God who truly loves The Lord with a pure and whole heart, no door would open that could lead to soul theft, and if a door does open, pray for God to pour out wisdom and discernment to keep His child from buying into any lie the enemy might send.

Our souls–ALL of our souls–are worth more than many palaces filled with silver and gold. Let us keep them with every ounce of care and diligence they deserve.

And somehow, this post made me think about an old song called Guns and Wars also known as I Wish We’d All Been Ready. I found it on YouTube by DC Talk. Lyrics are on the YouTube page. Enjoy…

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

Futuristic Science Fiction


I Can See the End But It Hasn't Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I Can See the End But It Hasn’t Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, 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.

If you could know your future, would you want to? Would you want to know exactly what person you were going to marry, when you would get married, how many kids you would have, whether or not you would work in your dream career, etc., all before it happened? We all worry about our future (even though we’re not supposed to be anxious about anything), but somehow, I think knowing everything ahead of time would make it boring. We build our strength in our struggles to make the future come out the way we hope.

In today’s reading from Numbers 22:2 through Numbers 22:12, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now on Parashah 40, titled Balak after the main person in the beginning of the story. Balak, the son of Zippor, is the king of Moab, and he’s been watching the battles between Israel and the Amorites. Now, the Amorites had already defeated Moab in previous wars, so when Balak saw Israel defeat them, he got real afraid real fast. Now, he’s running to the leaders of Midian and trying to provoke them with fear by telling them the Israelites will eat up everything in their land the way the oxen eat up a field of grass.

So Balak decides to get out a message to this guy he knows who apparently lives in the land of his people, the Moabites. He tells the elders to take money and to take the message that a people has come out of Egypt who cover the earth, and now they have moved in right next door to him. He sends this message to a guy named Balaam who is a teller of the future and who has favor with God, so that whoever he blesses is blessed, and whoever he curses is cursed.

Balak tries to put the same fears that he feels into Balaam. He tells him to curse the people because he says there are too many for him to fight, and he says that if the guy will curse them, maybe he will be able to drive them off. Balaam asks the men to stay the night and wait for an answer. He says he can’t promise he will do it because he has to talk to God first and see what He has to say about the situation. By the way Balaam asks God about it, I’m thinking he doesn’t know who the people of Israel are, but when he asks God about it, God tells him not to go with Balak’s servants and not to curse the people because they are a blessed people.

Balak let fictional fears of the future control him instead of turning to the real God for help. He turned to a man who knew the real God, but he didn’t seek God for himself. Had he done that, God would have told him about that blessed people and how a future Moabitess (Ruth) would be in the bloodline of their (and our) Messiah. He would have had reason to care for the people and offer praise to God instead of fearing the people and hoping to manipulate God.

Too many people live as Balak did. They don’t want to see The Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls, or The Holy Bible on the school bookshelf. They fear what these things might mean instead of seeking God to find out what they do mean. They miss out on the peace we have by serving a God we know watches over and cares for us. We don’t know the future either, but we trust the One who created it. We know His plans for our future are only good and include an eternity in His presence. As the hymn says…

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

It’s not science fiction to trust our future to a God so big He can watch over all the world at once and yet count every hair on each person’s head. He will walk with us each and every day of our lives straight into eternity, and that’s all the future we need to know.

Enjoy this version of the song I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Alison Krauss (includes lyrics)…

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

When War is Your Only Option


War and Peace by Flickr User Jayel Aheram, CC License = Attribution

War and Peace by Flickr User Jayel Aheram, 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.

I had a wonderful day at the conference, and there was so much to learn from so many people that are willing to share because they value this calling from God to write as He leads. Liz Curtis Higgs, our keynote speaker, is as much entertaining as instructive, and she is humble enough to tell on herself in humorous ways that make us laugh with her.

But, as much fun as training can be, in the real field of life, the training is not just an exercise but is often real war, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Of course, we all want peace, and we all want life to be comfortable, but we also want to stay young forever while gaining in the wisdom and authority that comes with age and not gaining in the pains and responsibilities. But that’s not reality anymore than the idea that all things will be at peace just because we want them to be.

In today’s reading from Numbers 21:21 through Numbers 22:1, we finish out our week and our 7th section of the week’s portion with another attempt on the part of Israel to pass through a land owned by a rival king. Israel does the right thing by sending a request to the king and promising to stay on The King’s Highway without entering into any of the fields or vineyards of the city or kingdom.

Most would say that Israel was being a peacemaker, but Sihon, king of the Amorites, didn’t care. He mustered all his people, and they went out to fight against Israel. Of course, because God is on the side of Israel, they defeated the Amorites by a force of arms and took control of all his land up to the river near the people of Amon. Israel did not fight the well-defended territory of the Ammonites but stayed in Heshbon and the cities they defeated.

While Israel was staying in the land of the Amorites, Moses sent men to recon Jazer, and they captured its towns and defeated the Amorites that lived there. Then they turned and went along the road to Bashan where Og, the king of Bashan, came out against them with all his people. God told Moses not to be afraid and said he had given them to Israel just as He had given them Sichon, so they defeated all of them until no one was left alive and took control of that land as well. They stopped to camp in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan River, opposite Jericho, and that’s where the portion ends.

When I saw the mention of the Jordan River, I immediately thought of all the references we give in Christianity where death is compared to crossing “the chilly Jordan.” Somehow, that made me realize that God was giving all these life-giving victories to a people who would not even enter into The Promised Land. So, other than needing someone to raise the next generation who would enter, God didn’t necessarily need these people and could have let them die in all these battles. But He did not let them die because they were still His people, and He still loved them.

I think of all the times I am certain I have disappointed God, but He has delivered me in spite of myself. Just today, someone prayed with me about my uncertainties in things like writing, reading, singing, etc., and the part that meant the most was the reminder that if I have chosen to serve God, all my steps are ordered of Him–even in those places where I am uncomfortable. Israel dealt with all the stuff we do these days: discomfort, hopelessness, depression, and war in response to their call for peace. God continued to order the steps of Israel and give them victory in spite of themselves. Even when war is our only option, if God is our only Captain, we can face the enemy with confidence that He is ordering our steps and giving us victory.

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

Snake Eyes


Snake Eyes by Flickr User purpletwinkie (Scott), CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Snake Eyes by Flickr User purpletwinkie (Scott), 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’m not a gambler, and I’ve never played craps, so I’m not certain about the significance of rolling two ones, but I’ve always heard that “snake eyes” was a bad thing. Having lived in the southwest, the kind of snake eyes that doesn’t show up on a roll of dice can definitely be a bad thing. Note: I typed the original version of this on my Kindle Fire from the hotel at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, so it didn’t have an image, tags, etc. I’m updating those things now that I’m home from that wonderful event.

In today’s reading from Numbers 21:6 through Numbers 21:20 the people get to deal with the truly scary kind of snake eyes. After yesterday with all of Israel’s whining and accusations against God and Moses, God decides He has had enough. He sends a bunch of poisonous snakes into the camp, and they bite and kill people until a group comes to confess that they were wrong to falsely accuse God and the leadership He has chosen for them.

In order to save the rest of those who have been bitten, God tells Moses to make a bronze replica of the poisonous snake and put it up on a staff in the midst of the camp. As the people look on it, it works like an anti-venom and the people are healed, so they are able to move forward once again.

The people go through a variety of cities until they reach Be’er meaning “well.” God tells Moses to assemble the people there, and He will give them water. This time, instead of whining, the people begin singing a song of praise to The Lord. The words include the line “Spring up, oh well” which we sing these days in the chorus to the hymn I’ve Got a River of Life. From there, the people traveled to the Pisgah range where it overlooks the desert, and that’s where today’s part comes to an end.

I see all this traveling, resting, thirsting, drinking, whining, and praising, as similar to all of us as we each go about our daily living. We have all those issues, and sometimes we even have bad events that poison our days and longer. But it is when we look the troubles right in the eye, that we can deal with them and be healed, and it is when we begin to praise God for ALL our provisions, that we can find the song in our hearts.

The snake on the staff has become a symbol for healing as we see on many medical buildings with the winged staff wrapped in two snakes. (Read about the Rod of Asclepius and the Caduceus to learn that the winged staff is used incorrectly.) Healing, even by trained medical professionals, always starts with a diagnosis. The first step in all 12-Step programs is to admit there is a problem, and from there, healing can begin. God assigned the poisonous snakes when they were slinging around false blame instead of taking responsibility, and He sent them healing when they admitted their failures.

Some things in life are definitely a gamble, and gambling never has guaranteed results. Sometimes, life gives us a bad roll, and only God can walk us through it. If it’s ever more serious, and we are poisoned by some trouble in life, we can look at it for what it is, admit our part in the responsibility instead of just blaming it on someone or something. From there, we can walk forward to the place of freedom and provision where God wants to lead us.

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

Passing the Baton


Passing the Baton by Flickr User Carsten Senkfeil, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Passing the Baton by Flickr User Carsten Senkfeil, 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.

My husband and I have often talked about what Sam Walton might do if he were alive to see Wal-Mart these days. He started out with so many ideas for making his store stand out above the rest, and they weren’t all about being a super store. For one, he wanted to make sure his store carried “American-made” goods to support the country he loved. But what Sam started can barely be seen anymore as the store has cut corner after corner to almost forcibly draw in customers who don’t have the financial ability to shop where they want but instead shop where they feel they must.

In today’s reading from Numbers 20:22 through Numbers 21:5, we read about the passing of a baton of leadership and ministry as ordained by God. As the people arrive at Mt. Hor, God tells Moses and Aaron that Aaron is about to pass away because he cannot go into the promised land due to the disobedience involving the rock and the water. He has Moses and Eleazar take Aaron to the top of the mountain where Aaron dies and Moses takes his priestly garments and places them onto his son, Eleazar who will now be the high priest.

When Moses came down with Eleazar in the high priests garments, the people knew Aaron was dead and the whole house of Israel mourned for thirty days. A Canaanite King that lived in the Negev desert heard that Israel was approaching, and he attacked them. The Scripture doesn’t say if they were still in mourning, but it does say that all of Israel sought God to make things right. They promised God that if He would hand the people over to them, they would go in and completely destroy their cities. Both kept their vows, and Israel destroyed the Canaanites and all their cities and renamed the place Hormah meaning “total destruction.”

The people kept going forward but were forced to detour around Edom, so their tempers became short and they started throwing accusations around again. It was the same as before with complaining about the area, the food, etc., and saying how they wished they were back in Egypt again. It says they threw their accusations against both God and Moses. They couldn’t complain against Aaron now, and I guess Eleazar was off the hook–at least for now.

In most races, it seems the baton is passed about the way it is in the picture. The front-runner holds it behind him, and the follow-up runner is responsible for knowing where it is in order to grab it. If the front runner tried to turn around, he would likely stumble and possibly trip his follower, so he has to keep his view on the point in front of him while the follower keeps his view on the baton.

When Eleazar took the baton of the high priest, he had to know what all would be required from watching his father go before him, and he had to make that choice with full knowledge of the task he was undertaking. It’s very similar when we pass along the baton of salvation. It’s not so much what we say that matters because we can’t be running backwards either. We’ve got to be pressing toward the mark for our high calling in Yeshua and extending an invitation to all who would follow us toward Him. It is our actions in the race, the direction we’re running, and the prize we’re seeking that will speak louder than any message we can preach in words.

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

Broken Beyond Repair


If There Were A Garden by Flickr User Lee Ann Petropoulos, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

If There Were A Garden by Flickr User Lee Ann Petropoulos, 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.

There is something about mosaics that really catches my attention, especially the ones made from broken pieces of glass or ceramics. Maybe it’s the whole idea of something crushed and broken becoming something beautiful that attracts me, and maybe it attracts me because I feel like that represents my life. It gives me hope that anything put into the Potter’s Hands has a hope. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

In our reading today from Numbers 20:14 through Numbers 20:21, we will read about a continuing sibling rivalry and the end result of a broken and unrepaired relationship. As the Israelites are traveling, they come to the border of the land of the Edomites. Moses sends a message from Kadesh to the King of Edom that begins with a salutation including “from your brother, Israel.” The request is a simple one asking that Israel would be allowed to pass through the land, and stating that Israel will stay on The King’s Highway and not come off it go through fields or vineyards.

The king returns the answer as a resounding “No” and accompanies it with a threat to attack Israel with the sword. But the people ask again, this time promising the same promises plus the added promise to pay for any water the people or livestock might drink. The hateful King didn’t even take time to answer this time but came out against Israel with many people and much force until they turned Israel away.

It took me two reading to notice the statement about the brother, so I looked up the story of the Edomites and found that Edom was the son of Esau and chose to retain the sibling rivalry as if they were “The Hatfields and The McCoys.” If you’ll recall, Jacob brought gifts to Esau to rebuild their relationship, but apparently, the message didn’t get passed along to future generations. I found a great history of the Edomites at a site called “Got Questions.” I wholeheartedly recommend a reading of their article, “Who Were the Edomites.”

When something is left out of God’s hands, it can very easily in on a similar note as the rivalry between the Edomites and the Israelites and be broken beyond repair. But if we see God as the Potter, and we trust that He knows both how to create and how to re-create, we know He can turn that which is damaged to that which becomes beautiful. God even tells Israel something similar to this in the book of Jeremiah, Chapter 18, verses 1 through 6 (New Living Translation)

1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.

The whole chapter is encouraging for Israel, and these words can be encouraging for any child of God. There’s a beautiful scene in the movie “Joshua” where the visitor (Joshua) takes some pieces of broken and crushed glass and makes a whole new object from them. I love when something with God is not broken beyond repair, and I cannot thank God enough for all the repairs He made in me. Many years ago, I wrote a chorus for the Messianic Synagogue I attended. I’ll close with the words to that chorus…

MY POTTER IS YAHVEH by Crystal A Murray

My Potter is Yahveh,
He is my Maker,
He’s my Creator,
I am His clay.
My Redeemer is Yeshua,
And when I am wounded,
I can run through the Lamb’s blood
to my Potter, Yahveh.

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

I Go to the Rock


Sunset Splash by Flickr User Justin Brown, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Sunset Splash by Flickr User Justin Brown, 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.

So many religious theories have people looking within themselves for salvation. But if the answer was simply within ourselves, would there be so many lost people? The answer we all want is one that is bigger than us. Anyone who has ever tried to depend on a human when the world was falling apart around them knows humans can only do so much. We need something and Somebody outside of ourselves that has proven to be dependable, and then we can have faith and trust. Our Heavenly Father will prove Himself to anyone who seeks and searches with a pure heart, and anyone who finds Him will learn that He is the Rock of Our Salvation–steady, unmovable, and dependable.

In today’s reading from Numbers 20:7 through Numbers 20:13, Moses is face to face with another situation that requires moving a rock. As happened before, the people of Israel are thirsty, and there is no water around. The last time this happened, God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff, and water came pouring out of it. This time, however, God tells Moses to speak to the rock and tell it to produce water.

Now, Moses knows that God is dependable because he has seen it first hand over and over again. He is frustrated with the whining of the people who have also seen it but refuse to put their trust in The Almighty. For whatever reason was in his mind or heart, Moses fell back on what he knew worked from the former event instead of trusting God’s direction for his current situation. He hit the rock instead of speaking to it. The water still came forth, but Moses lost something precious in the process.

God speaks to Moses and Aaron and tells them that because they didn’t trust in Him, it would cause the people of Israel to not regard Him as holy like they should. Because of this, Moses and Aaron will not be escorting the people of Israel into The Promised Land. The place where the water flowed was then named Meribah Spring meaning “contention” because it where the people and Moses strived against the Lord instead of trusting Him and seeing Him as holy even though He was showing Himself as Holy among them.

There is a song with the same title as this blog, and the lyrics to the chorus are…

I go to The Rock of my salvation,
I go to The Stone that the builders rejected,
Run to The Mountain and The Mountain stands by me.
When the earth all around me is sinking sand,
On Christ The Solid Rock I stand.
When I need a shelter, when I need a friend,
I go to The Rock.

Scripture in the New Testament refers to the Old Testament when it says, “The Rock that followed them was Christ.” The full verse from 1 Corinthians 10:4 in The Amplified Bible says…

And they all drank the same spiritual (supernaturally given) drink. For they drank from a spiritual Rock which followed them [produced by the sole power of God Himself without natural instrumentality], and the Rock was Christ.

If we turn to Him, we know we have a trustworthy source of salvation, strength, deliverance, power, authority, protection, and so much more. He will free those in bondage who seek Him; He will comfort those in misery who turn to Him; and He will give eternal life to those who are willing to die to this flesh and doing things their own way and let Christ live within them. Instead of turning to yourself, or some other human, for answers that cannot be found in humanity, go to The Rock that has proven Himself faithful since the beginning of time on this rock we call Earth.

And in case you’ve never heard it, here’s the song mentioned above…

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

Sin or Zen in the Tzin


Zen Image by Flickr User Matthew Kebbekus, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Zen Image by Flickr User Matthew Kebbekus, 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.

Zen is one of those things that has a real definition and an urban/cultural definition. The real definition is one of eastern religion tied to Buddhism, but the way it is used in current culture is typically devoid of anything “religious.” People say things like, “Find your zen,” and it simply means the equivalent of “just go to your happy place.” It usually means anything along the lines of peace, simplicity, balance, calm, or a general lack of chaos. I kinda like the definition from The Urban Dictionary:

One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts. “Sun is warm, grass is green.”

In today’s reading from Numbers 19:18 through Numbers 20:6, we continue from yesterday on what someone should do if they enter into a tent or field with a corpse in it, or if they touch the bone of a dead person or a grave. Because they have touched with is unclean, they cannot just be free to interact with the rest of the community until they have gone through a cleansing ritual. A clean person must sprinkle the water (mixed with the ashes of the red heifer as seen in yesterday’s post) over the unclean person on the 3rd day and again on the 7th day. The person will be clean after seven days. If they refuse to be sprinkled, they will remain unclean and must keep separated from the people, and God says this is a defilement of His holy tabernacle.

As all these things are being taught and being dealt with, the people are continually moving around and/or stopping in various deserts. This time, they have headed to the Tzin Desert and are stopping in Kadesh. While there, Miriam passes away and they bury her. Also while there, the community becomes upset because they have no water. They are smart enough to know that burial follows death, but they don’t seem to be able to figure out that prayer should be the natural response to need. Instead of finding their “zen” by trusting God, they begin to whine and complain against Moses and Aaron–again.

Even a little whining might be okay, but these people do a few things wrong at the complaint window. First, they take what should be taken to God to men. Then, they accuse Moses and Aaron of bringing them to the desert just to let them die. As if Moses and Aaron made the decision where to take them, and as if their wandering has nothing to do with their own behaviors. Above all, they show God disrespect by complaining about their current situation and wishing they were back in the captivity from which He saved them. Instead of finding balance by being grateful for their freedom, all they can think about is figs and pomegranates.

As the reading ends, Moses and Aaron do what the children of Israel should be doing; they fall on their faces before Yahveh Almighty. It is that act of desperation and humility that brings in the presence of God, and it will be the same for you and me. As the Scripture says in James 4:7 (NLT), “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Note that the “humble yourselves” (submit in King James Version) comes before resisting the devil. If we want “zen” instead of sin, we need to humble ourselves before The Lord, If we want peace and balance, we need to know our place in Him and in His will for us. Humility lets us look upward to God and see His wonder. His wonder brings us into a place of praise, and praise brings us into a place of peace.

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

A Red Heifer or A Red Herring


Red Heifer Calf by Flickr User Peretz Partensky, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Red Heifer Calf by Flickr User Peretz Partensky, CC License = Attribution, 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.

We don’t know for certain why a “red herring” is representative of a trick or fallacy, but most of us are at least familiar with the idiom. According to the Wikipedia article, a red herring may be intentional or unintentional, but it is always misleading. An intentional use of one might be as a diversion tactic, as a false path that shows up before the real path a person should be on.

In today’s reading from Numbers 19:1 through Numbers 19:17, we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 39. In Hebrew it’s called Hukkat and it means “Regulation.” The regulation it deals with in today’s section concerns the red heifer. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to have the people bring them a young red cow that is without fault or blemish and has not yet given birth. He tells them to give the cow to the priest, Eleazar, who will prepare it for sacrifice. This sacrifice is to be completely burned to ash in the presence of the priest who will then wash but remain unclean until evening.

A temple servant will do the actual sacrifice in the presence of the priest who will watch it burn. Then, while the cow is burning, the priest is to throw cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet yarn on it. The servant who burnt it can then wash but will also be unclean until evening. Finally, another temple servant will carry the ashes to a clean place outside the camp. He too will wash his body and clothes but will be unclean until evening.

The purpose of the ashes is purification for those who touch anything dead. If someone touches any kind of corpse, no matter whose dead body it is or how the person died, he will automatically be unclean for seven days, and he must cleanse himself on the third and seventh days with the ashes mixed with water. All who enter a tent where someone died are unclean for seven days, as are people who enter a field with a dead body whether it was killed or died naturally. Anyone who touches the bone of a dead person or a grave is also unclean.

God says that anyone who refuses to be cleansed is defiling the tabernacle because if he does not get sprinkled with the mixture of ashes and water, his uncleanness will stay on him. Uncleanness separates a person from his people and his God, so in His mercy, God ordained ways to separate men from their uncleanness.

Before writing this post, I did a little research since the red heifer is now considered a pretty important part of current prophecy. Those who are working to build the third temple have been looking for the perfect red heifer to be able to offer that ritual cleansing. Supposedly, there were none for some 2000 years, and the first was born in 1997. One was born in Israel in 2002, but all that have been born since 1997 have been disqualified for one reason or other.

According to The Temple Institute site, there were only nine red heifers ever sacrificed, and there is prophecy that says the tenth red heifer will be ushered in by The Messiah Himself. Since they do not know Yeshua as their Messiah, this is exciting news for them. There is even a man in the U.S. that is raising red cattle and shipping them to Israel in hopes of ushering in Bible prophecy about the third temple, though I’m not certain if he is doing it to bring on The Messiah or His second coming.

But what if all this current red heifer stuff is just a red herring to distract people from following the true Messiah? I do not think I can put it as well as the writers of an article about “The Tenth Red Heifer” at Hebrew For Christians. Their article sums up why Christians do not need to be influenced by prophecy of a tenth red heifer because Messiah fulfilled the shadow that was given by the original. The idea of the tenth heifer and timeline of Messiah is a fallacy that diverts them from the true Messiah.

While the births of these red cows may not fulfill a prophecy that has already been fulfilled, they most certainly could signal that times are indeed changing. It is possible that the thing which is a red herring for some could actually be a sign for us that our redemption draws near.

(Note: To make sure people know I’m being honest, I will tell you that this post wasn’t completed until after 3am. However, it’s still my day since I haven’t gone to sleep, and I backdate to 11:59 the previous day, so the archives will show that I have in fact done one post for each day. I’ve done this for a few where I didn’t finish until after midnight, but this one, as many on the 2nd Saturday of the month, is quite late due to my writer’s meeting. Still, I love my fellow Christian writers and the visiting we have after the meeting, so it’s worth it to me.)

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

Unequal Pay for Unequal Work


Money by Flickr User Robert Huffstutter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Money by Flickr User Robert Huffstutter, 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 never been what you might call a “women’s libber,” but I do feel that people deserve a fair wage for fair labor. When I was too young to understand it, I might have said that women should get paid the same as men if they do the same job, but with age and maturity, I have learned what doing the same job means. In truth, if a woman can do a man’s job–for example, lift exactly the same amount of weight in and for the exact amount of time, then sure, pay them what they’re worth. But It’s not about just holding claim to the same position. It’s about actually doing the same job with the same endurance and the same lack of risk. There may be muscular women out there that can lift and endure without risk, but for the most part, women are built differently and should not take risks just to “prove” themselves. We don’t typically see men with big bulky hands gluing tiny porcelain pieces together either, so just because the bull can fit in the front door of the china shop doesn’t mean you should employ the bull to repair the dolls.

In today’s reading from Numbers 18:21 through Numbers 18:32 (the end of the chapter), we complete the portion for the week, and we read more about the job of the Levites in the camp of Israel. God is still speaking to Aaron, and He tells him that the tenth of all donations, fruit of the land, etc., will belong to the descendants of Levi forever. It is their inheritance, and it is their pay for the service they will perform in the tabernacle. It is also why they do not have an inheritance of land as the other tribes of Israel have.

In the next verse, God talks about the value of the tenth that is going to Levi. He says it is the best of everything. It is like the best grain from the threshing floor and the best grape juice from the wine vats. It is a gift to God that He is passing along to the Levites. In addition, the Levites who receive the tenth are to set aside a tenth for God as well. They are to set aside the best of the best because it is a gift to God. This holy portion will be given to Aaron because he is the high priest. He and his family are able to eat this holy portion without guilt because it is in payment for the work they do for God.

God sharing what is given to Him shows how much He values the work that is done in ministry for Him. Sharing the holy portion, and the best of the best, shows that He feels the work done in keeping a holy place of sacrifice for His people is valued as the best of the best jobs. Ministry for God is not just a little thing. The sacrifice was not just a barbecue. The cleaning of the furnishings was not just a maid job. The emptying out, cleaning, and refilling of the water vessels was not just a job for the pool guy. These duties were sacred and not equal to simple tasks, so God paid for them with sacred and holy pay.

We have ministry duties today as well. We have the blood of Christ to take care of the tasks that formerly required a tabernacle and an altar of sacrifice, so Yeshua gets the highest praise for now taking care of these duties, but that does not mean God isn’t pleased when we minister to others. There is a payment of peace in the spirit that cannot be compared with any financial pay, and God showers it upon us when we determine that doing for Him is above any task or inheritance we could receive on this earth. The pay does not get poured out simply because someone is in a position of ministry, but God overflows us with unequaled value of blessing when He sees us doing the priceless work of building His kingdom.

 

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

When God Shares His Amazing Grace


Did you know there are six verses to the song Amazing Grace? In most churches and hymnals, we only sing four of them, but there are some beautiful words in what would be verses five and six (with the “ten thousand years” verse still remaining last). The words from the fourth verse line up perfectly with today’s reading, and they are…

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Today’s part of this week’s portion is from Numbers 17:25 through Numbers 18:20 (In The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 17:10 through Numbers 18:20 (in The Amplified and other Bibles). Whatever the verse number, the last few verses in chapter 17 fall after we see that God has chosen Aaron as a priest over Israel, and He has shown the people by making Aaron’s staff blossom with flowers and ripe almonds. God tells Moses to put Aaron’s staff back into the tabernacle and keep it there as a sign against the rebels to stop their grumbling against Him if they want to live. The people cry in fear that anyone who comes near the tabernacle will die and that all is lost.

From there, the chapter changes to a conversation between God and Aaron. Maybe Aaron was feeling a bit fearful after all the uprisings against him and Moses, and when even the deaths of thousands didn’t settle people down. Whatever the cause, God spends the next twenty verses speaking to Aaron about his job as priest and about all He (God) plans to share with him while he performs his duties.

God first tells Aaron that he, his sons, and his father’s line, will be responsible for the tabernacle, and especially for anything that goes wrong in the sanctuary and in their service as priests. The tribe of Levi, Aaron’s kinsmen, are to be available to work with Aaron and his sons in their tabernacle service around the tent, but they are not to come near the holy furnishings or the altar. God then tells Aaron that He has taken the Levites from among the people, and they are a gift to The Lord for Aaron to help him in his service to The Lord. In addition to God sharing the Levites with Aaron, He tells Aaron that He trusts him in decisions regarding the services, and that if an unauthorized person tries to perform priestly duties, he will die.

God goes on to tell Aaron that He is sharing sacrifices and offerings with him, and that Aaron is in charge of all contributions to God. God tells him that all wave offerings belong to him and are okay for all in his family who are clean to eat. The best oils, grains, and wine, and all the first produce of the land that people bring to God are available for Aaron and his family perpetually. Everything in Israel which has been consecrated unconditionally will belong to Aaron.

God speaks to Aaron about the firstborn of people and animals, and He tells Aaron that everything firstborn will now be his. Firstborn of humans and unclean beasts must still be redeemed, and firstborn that are brought for sacrifices still go on the altar, but Aaron and his family can eat the meat. All contributions of holy things from Israel will belong to Aaron, aka the priesthood, and God sets this up as a permanent regulation, an eternal covenant with salt for Aaron and his descendants.

The final verse says that while Aaron and his descendants will have no land or inheritance with the people of Israel, God Himself will be his portion and inheritance. Now, just sit back and imagine that. First, God says that everything given to Him now belongs to Aaron, and then He adds that He will be Aaron’s inheritance. Since we are considered a chosen generation and royal priesthood, that means that God is also our inheritance and our portion. By His amazing grace, He provides all we need; from our daily needs to our eternal needs.

It’s not always easy to take our minds off the hard work we do ourselves to earn the rewards we earn. Because we are the bodies doing the work, we may forget that He is the one that enables our bodies to do the work. He is the one that enables us to live in a place where it is possible to be paid for the work we do. He enables us to live in a society where what we earn can be used to purchase things we need and desire. There are people and countries where these things are not so, even in our advanced society here on earth, so each day we wake up with the blessing to make life work as we like, we must remember to thank God for sharing of His abundance with those He loves–you and me.

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

Best Buds


Aaron's Rod? by Flickr User Marilylle Soveran, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Aaron’s Rod? by Flickr User Marilylle Soveran, 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.

How cool would it be to be “best buds” with Yahveh Almighty? I mean, having Him in your corner when people falsely accuse you, and having Him to stand up for you when you’re facing strong trials would be great, wouldn’t it? What’s that you say? He IS in our corner when we’re falsely accused? He DOES stand up for us when we face strong trials? Ah, well then we can say He is truly our Best Friend, can’t we?

In today’s reading from Numbers 17:16 through Numbers 17:24 (in The Complete Jewish Bible), and Numbers 17:1-17:9 (in The Amplified and other Bibles), we’ll read about God standing in the corner of Moses and Aaron because they were His friends. In this portion, God tells the men to have the leaders of each tribe take a staff (or rod) and carve the name of his tribe into it. He says for Aaron to carve in the name of Levi. He tells Moses to have the leaders bring him the inscribed staffs, and Moses is to place them inside The Tent of Meeting where God will grow blossoms on the staff of the person He has chosen as a leader of Israel. God tells Moses that this is to prevent anymore uprisings from other leaders who would accuse Moses and Aaron of uplifting themselves to their leadership positions.

Moses and the people did as God commanded, and the next day, when Moses went into the tent, he saw that Aaron’s staff had sprouted not only flower blossoms but also ripe almonds. Moses brought out all the staffs back out from the presence of Adonai and showed them to the people, so they would know that God Himself has chosen Aaron as a leader of the people. Each man looked at all the other staffs before reclaiming his own, so all knew it was Aaron’s staff that budded.

Yeshua told His disciples that they were His friends if they would do whatever He commanded them to do. Like any good friendship, it goes both ways. In John 15:11-15, The Message Bible offers a sweet translation of the conversation between Yeshua and His followers…

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

These verses clearly show how to behave in a true friendship. Yeshua tells the men to love others the way He shows them love, and to lay their lives on the line for each other. We are His friends when we obey these same commandments because we invite Him into our lives by this behavior. When we show His love to others, it is a form of praise to Him, and He dwells in the praises of His people. It was His idea to robe Himself in flesh, so that we could better understand Him, and it is His idea to create a friendship with those who follow Him rather than making us His slaves. A slavemaster demands a response from his servants, but in Revelation 3:20 (NLT), we read of His call to us in a much nicer way…

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

He is still knocking today, and He wants to be best buds. Will you answer and let Him in?

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

Boss; Da Plague, Da Plague


In yet another give-away to my age, let us harken back to that adorable little guy, Tattoo, that made the great announcement to his boss when he spotted the plane to “Fantasy Island” about to land. The boss of the island, Mr. Roarke, was basically the “god” of the island, and while people paid handsomely to enact their greatest fantasies, he was in charge of how those fantasies played out much like an author decides on the final plot for his or her characters. I don’t remember any specific episodes, but I remember how often things didn’t go exactly as people expected, and I remember that no matter how they went, most people learned some type of valuable lesson from their experiences.

In today’s reading from Numbers 17:9 through Numbers 17:15 (in The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 16:44 through Numbers 16:50 (in The Amplified and other Bibles), we’ll read about “The Boss” over the community of Israel. Yesterday, we saw that after Korah and his family and followers were killed, many of the Israelites began to falsely accuse Moses and Aaron of killing God’s children. Their false accusations didn’t sit well with Yahveh Almighty, so in today’s portion, He tells Moses and Aaron to get away from the rest of the community while He destroys them.

Moses and Aaron are good leaders, and they are not satisfied with the destruction of the people even when they would’ve been justified because of their attacks. Instead, these priests fall on their faces and beg God to–once again–spare the lives of the people. Moses knows what will get God’s attention, so he tells Aaron to grab a censer, put fire from the holy altar in it, and lay some incense on it. Moses then tells Aaron to hurry and go out to the people to make atonement for them because the anger of God has already gone out to them, and the plague has already begun.

Aaron did just as Moses directed and ran to the middle of the assembly where the plague was raging full speed ahead. He added the incense to make atonement for the people, and the plague began to slow down. As Aaron stood between the dead and the living, the plague stopped, but many were already dead. When it was finished, there were 14,700 dead in addition to those killed in the Korah incident. When the plague stopped, Aaron returned to The Tent of Meeting and to Moses.

There are plagues in the world that can enter “the church” because of the sins of the people, and it is prayer for God’s mercy that makes all the difference. The greatest leaders are the servant leaders who will stand in the midst of the people and offer praise to God that makes atonement because they care for the people and want the plague stopped. These are the ones that, like Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island” may not preach the fantasy message the spoiled people want to hear, but they will preach hard and true messages that will draw people to the God of Truth.

I hunger for the kind of preaching that hurts when it touches the things in my life that shouldn’t be there. I may not like the pain right when it happens. I may even bristle and feel a resistance at the first hearing, but good teaching from a caring teacher will find its place in my soul, and I will seek to get right with God. I call for all who consider themselves priests, prophets, preachers, teachers, or ministers of any kind to take up the cause of ringing the bell and calling out to those who would be lost, “Da plague, da plague; beware of da plague.” Even those who fight it at first will eventually receive it and apply it to their lives and gain the wisdom that will draw them closer to their Wonderful Creator. Proverbs 19:20 states it well…

Listen to advice, and accept discipline,
    so that in the end you will be wise.

May there be more teachers that are willing to stand between the dying and the living and give the advice and discipline that brings wisdom–and life.

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

Imitation is not Flattery to God


Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, 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.
I recommend a visit to Flickr to view this image in full size. It’s actually very cool what the guy has done here, and apparently it’s an imitation of another artists style, but I think the guy did a great job. I thought it was perfect for this post because you can’t sit on a chair made with words , and you can’t depend on imitation service to Christ.

When we call someone a copycat, it’s not usually a compliment, and yet, there’s the quote that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, is margarine a compliment to butter? Is polyester a compliment to silk? Most of the time, we use imitations of things not because we think the imitation is as good as the real thing, but because we have some reason (usually cost) for not using the real thing, and we are looking for an acceptable replacement. Me, I’m satisfied with cubic zirconia in my jewelry because it often has more sparkle than I could find in any type of diamond that would be affordable for me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:20 through Numbers 17:8 (in the Complete Jewish Bible), or to Numbers 16:43 (in the Amplified and other Bibles), we will find out what happens to people who imitate the things of God without being chosen to perform them.

The first thing we see is that Yahveh is angry enough with Korah and his followers that He is ready (once again) to destroy the whole community of Israel. He tells Moses and Aaron to step back while He comes down to take care of business. And, (once again) Moses saves their lives by presenting a perspective to God that turns His wrath around. This time, Moses asks God if all should pay for the sin of one.

With that question, God tells the community of Israel to get away from the tents and families and belongings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. As the people move away, the troublemakers come out and stand in the entrances of their tents with their families. Moses speaks out that if the men die natural deaths, the people can know that God did not send Moses as a leader for them. Moses goes on to tell them that if, however, God does a new thing and brings the men alive into Sheol (the place of the dead), the people can be sure that God is with Moses and has chosen him.

As soon as Moses quit speaking, the earth opened up beneath Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and swallowed them up completely. It also swallowed up all who sided with them and all their belongings before it closed up again. The community of Israel ran away shouting that the earth might swallow them too, and then the fire of God came down and destroyed the 250 elders that brought up fire in their censers. I’m guessing the fire in the censers part was based on the fact that the 250 elders were imitating an act of the priesthood, and back then, God did not put up with apostates in the camp, so He dealt with the trouble immediately.

God spoke to Moses and said to take up the censers that the 250 used for incense and hammer them into a covering for the altar of sacrifice. He said they were holy because they were used on God’s altar, and covering the altar with them served as a way to keep them holy as well as making them a warning to others of Israel who might consider trying to imitate the priesthood in the future. No ordinary person, not descended from Aaron, is allowed to offer incense at the altar of God if he does not want to suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

After all that was done before them, the community of Israel began to accuse Moses again. This time they said that Moses killed the people of God. (I did a mental “I could have had a V8” slap on the head when I read this.) However, as the community gathered against Moses and Aaron, they looked in the direction of the temple and noticed the cloud of God’s presence descending on it, and the glory of The Lord appeared. Moses and Aaron then went to the front of the Tent of Meeting to meet with God.

From all of this, I would guess that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery to God. He is interested in real people, real hearts, and real lives being dedicated to Him. Our position doesn’t matter to God except that He wants us to fulfill the demands of the position to which He has called us. In Malachi 1:6a, God speaks a message to the priests that can be applied to all of us…

The Lord All-Powerful said, “Children honor their fathers. Servants honor their masters. I am your Father, so why don’t you honor me? I am your master, so why don’t you respect me?”

I actually recommend a reading of the whole 1st chapter of Malachi for an interesting perspective on how we as people treat our Wonderful and Almighty Lord God. It’s eye-opening and heart-breaking. It reminds me of my own salvation experience, and what God spoke to my heart the night I gave my whole life over to Him. To keep it short, I’ll just say that I was not at church because I wanted to be, but I was there because someone manipulated me, and I could only have my way if I agreed to attend. The preacher did something he had never done before (or since) in asking everyone in the building to pray where they were because of a baptism they were having that night. As everyone knelt around me, I was the only one standing, so I got down by my seat to imitate what everyone else was doing.

Like I said, God doesn’t like imitation, so He used my own prideful behavior “against” me (though it turned out for me) by having all the women in the church gather around to pray with me. I thought to myself, “Oh, Crystal. What have you gotten yourself into now, and how are you gonna get out of it?” And then came a voice as audible as if He was in the room in human form, and God spoke these words, “You’re not rejecting these people or all the other people who have hurt you in your life. You are rejecting me, and I haven’t done anything to hurt you.” I broke at those words because the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt God even if I wasn’t purposefully walking according to His will.

I have served God to the best of my ability since that date back in July of 1983. I have failed Him many times, and I used to keep the Malachi 1:6 scripture printed on a card at my desk to remind me to always keep my attitude filled with honor and respect toward God. I cannot put into words how much I love Him, or how humbled I am by the fact that He loves me. When I try to make myself useful to Him, I usually fall flat on my face. Maybe my motivations aren’t right, or maybe I’m stepping outside of His calling for me when that happens, but I don’t like it. Oh, but when He chooses to use me for something, the feeling is indescribable. When it comes to God; keep is honorable, keep it respectful, and keep it real.

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

What’s the Point of Pointing the Finger?


Finger Pointing by Flickr User Chris Owens, CC License - Attribution

Finger Pointing by Flickr User Chris Owens, 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.

Accusations are hard to deal with when you’re guilty. I think they’re even harder to deal with when you’re innocent. In both cases, I’ve tried the retaliatory quote of “Don’t point at me because when you point one finger at me, there are three pointing back at you,” but people who are riding on the arrogance of being an accuser don’t care to look at themselves as they should. It’s very rare that you run across an accuser who is also wise enough to be led by the Holy Spirit. Wise people examine themselves, but fools stay wrapped up in their own foolishness, and we’re told in Proverbs 26:4 that it is worthless to argue with them.

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:14 through Numbers 16:19, we are still dealing with the party of fools that the lead fool, Korah, has stirred up against Moses. He has accused Moses of making himself a dictator simply because God chose to speak to him and make him a leader. As the reading begins today, they are still tossing out accusations about Moses not bringing them to a land flowing with milk and honey or to possessions of vineyards and fields. They even accuse Moses of gouging out the people’s’ eyes and treating them as if they’re too blind to see what he is doing to them.

Now Moses is boiling over with anger. He tells God not to accept the grain offerings these people bring, and he adds that he has never done anything wrong to any of his accusers. Then Moses goes back to Korah and tells him that he better show up the next day for a meeting with God. He told Korah that he and each of his 250 followers were to show up with their own fire-pan and their offering of incense in it, and he added that Aaron would be there with his fire-pan full of incense as well.

I guess Moses’ anger must have let Korah know he was serious because the next day, Korah and all 250 Levites who followed him showed up at the entrance to The Tent of Meeting with their censers and incense. And after they had gathered, The glory of The Lord showed up before the whole assembly.

If accusing the innocent is folly, what’s the risk of accusing a God-chosen man in the presence of Yahveh Almighty? We should find out tomorrow what God did with the assembly before the tent, but somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be good. That spirit of accusation is an old one that belongs to the enemy of our souls, and we can read about his end result in Revelations 12:10-11

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,

“Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship,
and the authority of his Messiah;
because the Accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them day and night before God,
has been thrown out!

They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood
and because of the message of their witness.
Even when facing death
they did not cling to life.”

How awesome and amazing is that for a promise? God’s victory, power, and kingship flow to us, and together we are able to overcome the accuser because of the blood of Messiah Yeshua. HalleluYah! We don’t even have to point a finger at the enemy because the three pointing back at him will defeat him by his own accusations, and he will be thrown into a bottomless pit forever. Be comforted in the face of accusations by knowing that God’s presence will show up and will deal with those who falsely accuse you according to His power and His perfect will. Amen.

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

Rebels Without A Good Cause


Rebel Without A Cause by Flickr User Melo McC, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Rebel Without A Cause by Flickr User Melo McC, 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.

Rebellion seems to be a cause in itself these days. People will create a cause to rise up against something even when that something makes sense as it stands. Sometimes, people will even create a cause for something that totally doesn’t exist. If you’ve seen the movie “Wag the Dog,” you have seen how a Hollywood filmmaker can create a cause from scratch, and with the right emotions, can even create a huge amount of support for it. And in case you don’t believe this can happen in real life, you would be amazed at the amount of people who rose up to protect the “Naugas” due to an advertising prank by the makers of the “Naugahyde” material used for furniture. There’s some funny history of it (and the ability to adopt a Nauga) at http://www.nauga.com/history.html

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:1 through Numbers 16:13, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now at Parashah 38 with the Hebrew title of Korach which is “Korah” in English. If you’ve ever read stories from the Old Testament, you’ve probably heard of the rebellion of Korah already, and you likely know how it ends, but I’m certain God will show us some great truths as we study it through the week.

Korah is one of the Levites, a son of Levites, a grandson of Levites, and just basically a great man within the tribe of Levi. Remember that the Levites have the job of camping near the tabernacle to protect the rest of the community of Israel from the anger of God, and to do the work required for the tabernacle. So Korah gets a following of 250 strong Levite leaders to stand with him, and together they go out to confront Moses and Aaron.

The men have decided that Moses and Aaron have taken it upon themselves to decide that they are the only ones who can speak with The Lord God Almighty. They say that the whole community is holy, and they say that Moses has chosen to take too much upon Himself by thinking that he is the only one holy enough to commune with God. Korah tells them that since The Lord is with the whole community of Israel, Moses should not be lifting himself up above the assembly.

Moses handles the confrontation by telling Korah and the 250 leaders that only God should decide who is holy enough to meet with Him. He tells the men to bring an offering of incense to God the next day, and then they will see who God will accept to speak with. He also tells them that they are seeing the work they currently do for God as too small a thing if being chosen and set apart from the rest of the community is not enough for them, and if they will only be satisfied if they also have a part in the priesthood. And then Moses asks them why they would also point fingers at Aaron to show them where their hearts are really at.

After the conversation with Korah, Moses sends for two other leaders that were with him named Dathan and Abiram. The men send back a message that they will not come at Moses’ bidding. From the last two verses in our reading, you can hear the disrespect and accusations in their answer to Moses. Here’s what they say…

“But they replied, “We won’t come up! Is it such a mere trifle, bringing us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert, that now you arrogate to yourself the role of dictator over us?”

Their accusation makes me wonder if they are descended from the same people who accused Moses of trying to be a dictator when he stopped the two Israelites from beating up on each other back when things first began in Egypt. Back then, instead of listening to his logic that they should pull together as a people to stand against their tormentors, the men who were fighting just accused Moses of trying to be a dictator over them. Now it’s the same story, but on a different day.

To me, a cause should have a good cause, and not just good for me or for a few followers but good for the majority or whole of the people. Salvation is a good cause because it’s good for everyone, and it’s good for eternity. Atheism, however, is not a good cause because it leaves people without a support system that is above humanity, and it threatens their eternity. Whatever the cause, or the rebellion, the important thing is to make sure no one will be hurt.

The sign in the above image is a real sign. I believe it is in Chicago, and I believe it’s similar to one I took of my husband when we visited there. And the guy is likely standing there for the same reason my husband did–because we could see no reason for a sign that told people they couldn’t stand on a public sidewalk. But what if there was a reason? What if that particular area was known for having cars come up on the curb? Or maybe it was an area where a lot of overhead construction went on and debris could fly up. I don’t know if there is a cause for the city putting up such a sign, but since that photo on Flickr is dated December of 2013, it has been there for at least a few years. Maybe the city just wants to see how many people will rebel and purposely stand in that area just to say they did it.

Rebels and the spirit of rebellion have been around since the adversary challenged Yahveh Almighty for His throne. When their causes have been good, such as the fight against Goliath or the fights against Hitler in World War II, the victories meant freedom for people that were otherwise doomed. But when the causes are bad, such as the determination of the school system to fill the minds of students with everything they can find that opposes God, the results are a restless society with chaos and violence and total dissatisfaction. There is a time to fight, and there is a time to be content. Let God be the one to lead us in how we choose our causes, and we will be content with His peace whether we’re following Him into a time of battle or a time of rest.

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

Fringe Benefits of Serving God


NMAI_Woman's "Indian Cloth" Dress (Thimble Fringe) by Flickr User Lia, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

NMAI_Woman’s “Indian Cloth” Dress (Thimble Fringe) by Flickr User Lia, 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.

Growing up as a “Valley Girl” in Southern California, I had a lot of neighbors who moved to California from Mexico and Tijuana. Their culture, at least in the twentieth century, was consumed with color and flair. I used to love the cars that had colorful fringe and beads sewn all the way around the perimeter of the headliner. I have always liked things like clothing and pillows with fringe attached, things with tassels, and other similar fancy edgings.

Fringe usually means that little something extra that makes all the difference, whether it’s a row of dangling threads and beads or a two-week paid vacation as a hiring bonus. A job might come with fringe benefits when salary alone is not enough to attract the kind of employees the company wants to hire. A business might offer fringe benefits to customers as an incentive to return or to choose one business over another. Whatever the extra (fringe) is attached to, it generally adds value or beauty.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:27 through Numbers 15:41 (the end of the chapter), we complete this week’s reading, and we will learn that God, too, likes fringe. If you read yesterday’s post, you know I talked about the sacrifice required when the community committed a sin by mistake. Today, the reading begins with a little more on the requirements to be set free from the sins that a person might commit by accident, and it repeats the fact that there is one law, and all requirements are the same for both the community of Israel and the foreigners that live with them.

The reading then takes a more somber turn as it talks about those who do not fail by mistake but who sin on purpose. It says that any person, whether citizen or foreigner, that does something wrong intentionally is blaspheming God because he has had contempt for God’s word and disobeyed His commands. It says he will be cut off from his people completely, and it says his offense will remain with him.

That sounds harsh, but a person who does something intentionally against God does not likely have a thought in his heart about repentance or of being sorrowful for his wrong doing. We’re told in Proverbs 28:13 that to obtain mercy, a person must both confess and forsake his sins. But how can a person confess and forsake something that he doesn’t believe or care is wrong? And with the population of psychopaths and sociopaths that fill our prisons, I can certainly understand why God would want that type of people to be cut off from the rest of the community.

As our portion continues, we learn about a man who went out to gather wood on the Sabbath day. We don’t get the back story here, like whether he was sick on all the days leading up to it, or if it got colder than he expected and gathered for during the work week, or if he was simply lazy and didn’t care about God’s Sabbath or about entering into it. I’m guessing the lack of back story is why the people took him to Moses who sought God for an answer rather than just executing judgment. As it came out, God told the community to stone the man to death, so God must have known the man could have behaved better and chose not to.

And now we will see how much God likes fringe. He tells the people that He wants them to begin sewing fringe, called tzitzit in Hebrew, on the corners of all their garments, and to add a blue thread to each corner. I’ve always heard the fringe was for the corners of the prayer shawl, but this reading makes it sound as if the fringe was to go on all garments. I even looked it up in other translations. God wants the fringe on the garments to constantly remind people to obey God’s commands. It says that by looking at the fringe, they will not go around wherever their eyes and hearts lead them to prostitute themselves. God wants faithfulness, and He reminds them here that He is The Lord who brought them out of Egypt for the purpose of serving Him.

So, we get to escape an eternity of darkness, emptiness, and existence without The Lord of Love by choosing to give our lives to God and to serve Him. We escape the penalty of sin that is death. But we get so much more both now and in eternity. We get fringe benefits of serving God that go beyond mercy and straight into grace. Those benefits may be answers to prayers that are not about life and death matters, wisdom that leads us right when we need it, or a special touch of God’s presence to comfort us when we are lonely or sad. I find fringe benefits in serving God every day, even if some days I don’t notice them until after the fact. There is truly no comparison to walking with God or to the joy of dwelling in His presence.

And I’ll close with this–maybe silly–thought: As I read this, I began to wonder if this was maybe the first use of fringe. God certainly has a way with decorating. I mean, look at the beauty in nature, including the many flowers with fringed edges. There are even some birds that have fringed edges on their wings. So, did God invent fringe, or is He just good at knowing where to put it? Either way, I’m thinking that with God as the decorator, if I actually have a mansion in Heaven, I’m really going to like it. And if I get a bunch of stuff with fringed edges, that’s a benefit I’ll happily enjoy.

And with all this talk about fringe, especially in cars, how can I not include the video for the part of the movie “Oklahoma” that has the song, “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”? So, here it is…

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

Tithing On Your Dough


Gift Box Cake by Flickr User Ken's Oven, CC License = Attribution

Gift Box Cake by Flickr User Ken’s Oven, 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.

Tithing is one of those subjects that brings defense from those both pro and con on the subject, so I will only tell you of my personal experience. When I was a new follower of Christ, I heard a message about tithing and how God would come through for me if I put Him first. I was working a minimum wage job at a truck stop, and my check barely covered rent and food. The payday after learning about tithe, I knew that if I paid it, I would be short on rent, but I chose to pay it anyway and prayed that God would make my manager understanding.

I paid the tithe on a Sunday, and I got a knock on the door Monday afternoon from the manager who I thought was there to collect the rent. As it turns out, he was there to inform me that he would no longer be living on the premises. He was looking for a resident who would manage the property in exchange for free rent plus pay for general duties around the property, and he wondered if I was interested. I asked when I could start, and he told me I would start immediately and that I could keep whatever rent I was prepared to pay for that week.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:17 through Numbers 15:26, we learn about God’s command of tithe on the bread made from the produce of The Promised Land. God advises the people that when they bake their bread, they are to set aside from their first dough a cake to offer as a gift to God. He told them they should set aside this portion for The Lord from their first dough throughout all their generations.

I know the instruction to make a cake was more of a pancake than a fancy cake as in the image above, but I love looking through pictures of beautiful cake designs because I truly admire the creativity and talent of the bakers. I looked for images with a search for “cake gift” and boy did I find some amazing designs. You can click the highlighted search term if you want to see some of them for yourself.

So, back to the reading, which then switches gears to speaking to the people about what to do if they make a mistake in observing all the laws and commands that God has been giving through Moses. God tells them that the whole community is to come together to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as a fragrant aroma to The Lord. He tells them they are to offer it with the grain and drink offerings in keeping with the rule and to add a male goat for a sin offering. It goes on to say that the priests will make atonement for the people, and the whole community, including any foreigners living with them, will be forgiven because it was a mistake.

As I read through this, I could see the set up for the Blood of Messiah to make atonement for us in our sins against God. I know that Yeshua’s Blood was perfect blood, so it represented all the types of offerings that could be sacrificed for all types of sins. I rejoice in this, and at the same time, I feel the tug in my heart to once again check myself. I want to make sure that the ways I fail God are never with intention or purpose or with an attitude of just not caring.

In the Spirit of the law, which is even greater than the letter of the law, everything that has been said points to the law that Yeshua said was the greatest commandment: “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Love Him enough to want to give him a gift from your first fruits, first labors, and first dough (including the green kind.) Love Him enough to want to obey His commandments to the best of your ability just because you know it is pleasing to Him. Love Him enough to trust Him and have faith in Him. Love Him enough to study His Holy Word and draw as close to Him as you can in this life while keeping your eye on the promise that you will dwell with Him for eternity.

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

A Balanced Meal


New York Steak and Rice by Flickr User Cliff Hutson aka The Marmot, CC License = Attribution

New York Steak and Rice by Flickr User Cliff Hutson aka The Marmot, 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.

Has anyone here tried quinoa? I’ve been contemplating giving it a shot because I like rice so much, and I’ve heard that quinoa is a grain that is also a complete protein, yet it absorbs other food flavor and has a texture like rice. If things slow down, I want to try a Tupperware party where we use the new metal-infused steamer to cook chicken on one level and quinoa on the next to simmer in the chicken juices. I’m intrigued with the idea but a little afraid to try something so new to me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:8 through Numbers 15:16, we’ll read about a balanced meal request from Yahveh when people offer him a meat offering. He wants all bulls, rams, male lambs, and kids offered with a partnering of a grain offering of flour and a meat offering of wine. I don’t know if rice grows (or grew) in the area where they were dwelling, but if so, the fine flour God requested could just as well have been rice flour as wheat or some other grain. Who knows, maybe they even had quinoa in that desert place.

The reading goes on to tell Israel to apply the formula of meat offering to grain offering to drink offering for every sacrifice they make, regardless of how many animals are offered. He also says this is to apply to every citizen and foreigner throughout all their generations as a permanent regulation. He then reminds them that the same Torah and standard of judgment is to apply to both citizens and foreigners living with them.

Way back then, there wasn’t the division of Jewish and Christian believers like we have now, but there was a division between those who served the God of Israel and the many false gods people created over the years. But regardless of the God or god a person was raised with, in the House of Israel, the God was The God of Israel, and His laws reigned supreme. It didn’t matter if the land they dwelt in was formerly a place where other gods were worshiped, when Yahveh Almighty came on the scene, He became what mattered most because even those that did not follow Him knew of His power and authority.

In our current world and culture, we try so hard to create balance in giving others what we expect them to give us that we often put the authority and power of Our God in the back seat. Our government–one that was supposed to have been built on the blessing of Yahveh and His Word–tries to make us allow people to come into our homes and businesses and conduct themselves as they choose rather than as we choose, and it’s as out of balance as an offering given in a different way than what God requested.

It’s not easy to stand for only our One God while refusing to bow to the gods of others, so some people try to create balance by creating things like “Chrislam” (a unification of Christianity and Islam) and saying we all serve the same god but by different names. But the fact is, if we do not adhere to the same foundations and laws, and if we do not abide by the same Word of God, we are not to be unified. If we serve the God of the Torah, and if we believe we have been grafted into the root of Israel, then we should be abiding by the laws of Yahveh in our hearts by keeping a lawful heart toward Our Creator.

Imagine the difference in just the United States of America if we applied all laws the same to all people. But we don’t. Instead, we make excuses for foreigners who “just don’t understand.” We give liberties to foreign leaders by allowing them to skate around personal responsibility while claiming “diplomatic immunity.” And, we pardon those who have skirted the laws we set for citizenship because we feel for whatever situation they are running from. We don’t have to boot them out, but we don’t have to let people just get away with everything either. God set the example even down to the details of how to present an offering that would be acceptable to Him.

We may not be able to change the laws ourselves, but we can govern our own homes, and we can vote in ways that bring spiritual balance to our country. We can stand for and support those businesses that have chosen to represent God in all their dealings both personal and business, and we can refuse to bring those that don’t under our roofs. For example, we may want to consider refusing to watch HGTV because of how they treated the Benham brothers simply because they stood for Biblical values. If we don’t bring balance according to God’s will and God’s plan, we will bring a false balance and a false peace that will end in sudden destruction.

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Desert Breakdown


Desert wreck with cactus for seats by Crystal A Murray. Taken 05-17-2010 in Seligman, Arizona, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Desert wreck with cactus for seats by Crystal A Murray. Taken 05-17-2010 in Seligman, Arizona
CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The one place you don’t want to break down is in the desert. It’s hot, there are bugs and snakes and scorpions. It’s dry. There’s little to no water. You could die out there. And did I say that it’s hot? Yep, there are some beautiful things about the desert, like the colorful flowers on some cactus, but it’s definitely not a place to get stranded.

In today’s reading from Numbers 14:26 through Numbers 15:7, we read about a different kind of desert breakdown. In this one, there was a huge breakdown of honor and respect between the community of Israel and Yahveh, their Deliverer. The community of whiners and complainers have gotten on God’s last nerve, so He tells Moses to give them the bad news of what their complaining has brought to them.

God makes a promise that all who treated Him without honor and respect would die in their journey instead of entering into The Promised Land. He tells Moses to let the people know that their carcasses would fall and rot in the desert. On top of that, He says their children will be forced to wander the desert with them until their parents’ carcasses turn back to dust. I don’t know exactly how long that would take with the desert heat and scavengers, but God tells them they will wander for a total of forty years because their punishment is to wander one year for each day the spies were on their mission. Forty days of recon have now turned into forty years of sunburn.

But even as God is issuing this justice to those who continually failed Him, He lets them know that His eyes have been on two men from the same generation, and those two men have not failed God. Joshua and Caleb will enter the land sworn to their ancestors because they have honored God as God and respected His word with trust.

After all of this is decreed, the people are sorrowful and want to make up for their misdeeds, but again they want to do it on their terms and without either respecting or honoring God. This part really must be read to be appreciated, so here are verses 39-43 from Chapter 14 in The Message Bible

When Moses told all of this to the People of Israel, they mourned long and hard. But early the next morning they started out for the high hill country, saying, “We’re here; we’re ready—let’s go up and attack the land that God promised us. We sinned, but now we’re ready.” But Moses said, “Why are you crossing God’s command yet again? This won’t work. Don’t attack. God isn’t with you in this—you’ll be beaten badly by your enemies. The Amalekites and Canaanites are ready for you and they’ll kill you. Because you have left off obediently following GodGod is not going to be with you in this.”

Still, even with the warnings, these disobedient people did things their own way, and the Amalekites and Canaanites attacked them just as Moses said they would. Those who lived in the hill country beat the arrogant Israelites all the way back to Hormah.

The beginning of Chapter 15 talks of the sacrifices that will acceptable to God when those who do enter The Promised Land get there, so I guess this change is just to show that it’s time to focus on those who will dwell there and not spend anymore time on those who will die in the desert. I almost feel more of a sadness over the end of God’s conversation toward these people than when He was angry and threatening them.

To me, the very definition of “Hell” is eternal separation from God, and there can’t be more of a dry place than one where His presence and voice are absent. Thankfully, because our Messiah is The Lily of The Valley and The Rose of Sharon (desert), we have an advocate who will deliver us even from the dryest desert breakdown. If we are broken under the burdens of our sin, we can turn to Him for redemption and salvation. His mercy will bring us cool comfort in the dryest places of our lives, and from there, He will continue to deliver us as long as we walk with Him and show Him obedient trust.

And, here, for a little contrast to the rusty old cactus-filled clunker above, is a mosaic I put together from beautiful cactus flowers I found around Flickr. If you click on the image, you can find links in the image description to view each picture in full size and by its original photographer…

Colorful Cacti & Cactus Flower Mosaic

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

Forgive? Yes! Forget? Not Necessarily.


Forgive Anyway Quote by Flickr User BK of Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Forgive Anyway Quote by Flickr User BK of Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, 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.

For as much of my life as I remember, I’ve heard that we should forgive and forget. Because of the latter half of this admonition, I’ve dealt with a lot of guilt whenever things happened that I just could not purge from my mind. I mean, how do you force yourself to forget something? But with both physical and spiritual maturity, I have realized that forgetting is not necessarily a requirement in an act of forgiveness, and forgiving when you still remember what happened may actually take more strength than trying to let go of something by simply erasing it from memory.

In today’s reading from Numbers 14:8 through Numbers 14:25, we read about the community of Israel needing to be forgiven by God. Yesterday, we saw their bad reaction to the return of spies from the Promised Land, and that they had started up again with whining to return to Egypt. Today, we see that they were so angry and frustrated with the hopelessness of facing giants in the new land that they were ready to stone Moses and Aaron, and maybe Joshua and Caleb–especially since Caleb was still trying to encourage them to be willing to fight with God on their side.

Just as they were about to take things into their own hands, the presence of God came down in a pillar of cloud to speak with Moses. He asked Moses how long the people would doubt Him in the face of all the signs and wonders He had used to prove to them that He had a plan. God even said He would destroy them all with sickness and disease, and then He said He planned to make a new nation from Moses.

But Moses began to plead with God to spare Israel and show them mercy. He didn’t beg for God to forgive them as much for their sake as for the sake of what the Egyptians would say about God if Israel was not able to enter into the Promised Land. He made the point that Egypt would hear about it because of God’s amazing deliverance of Israel from there, and that if He didn’t bring Israel to the end of the journey, the Egyptians would say He could not let them in. Moses reminded God that He had put up with them and this kind of behavior since Egypt and that He could endure it.

Imagine Moses encouraging The Almighty. He actually had a heart that wanted to protect God from being looked down on by unbelieving nations. He cared enough about God’s reputation to speak to Him as a friend who wants to protect another friend from harm generated by false accusations and slander. So when God said He spoke to Moses face to face as a friend speaks to a friend, He was seeing Moses as a true friend to Him as well as seeing Himself as a friend to Moses. How awesome is that?

As the reading comes to an end, God tells Moses that He has forgiven (not will forgive, but already has) just as Moses asked Him, but with a caveat. God says that He absolutely will not forget what the people have done after all He has had to put up with from them. He says that because they have seen His signs and His deliverance yet continued to test Him, not one of those who treated Him with contempt will see the land He promised to their ancestors. He does add, however, that because Caleb had a different spirit about Him, and because he fully followed Him, he would see the land. The chapter ends with God giving Moses a new direction for Israel to walk.

So, we can see that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting or letting someone get away with treating us badly. God withheld a blessing from those who treated Him with contempt, but He stills said they were forgiven. Considering God was ready to totally annihilate them more than once, just going without the blessing is still a big hunk of forgiveness. Israel may not have seen it that way, and they may have complained about their lack of that particular blessing, but because we see in hindsight, we know what kind of mercy God was showing them here even if He refused to forget their misbehaviors.

I prayed for many years about the guilt I felt regarding things I remembered being done against me. Some of it did need to be dealt with by a more sincere forgiveness. Some thoughts were simply memories in the same way I have remembered tastes and smells of foods that have made me sick. I have come to believe that remembering is not necessarily a bad thing, and it can save us from setting ourselves up for a fall.

Whatever the cause of an offense in our lives, we can and should forgive the offender. We should never hold bitterness because that will bring even more damage to the situation. If the offense was done by mistake and not with cruel intentions, and then we refuse to offer another chance, that means we’re being unforgiving. Refusing to let go of hurt, especially if the hurtful thing was followed with an apology or an act of repentance, also means we are not being forgiving, and it means we need to examine ourselves. However, just because we remember a wrong done against us, does not mean we are being bitter or unforgiving, and just because we think it’s right that a person pays for a wrong done (to us or anyone else) does not mean we are unforgiving. We should always look deeper to make sure we don’t harbor an unforgiving spirit that could create a wedge between us and our Creator, but we also need to remember God’s example in today’s reading. It is always good to forgive, but it is not always good to forget.

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

I Spy Games


Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, 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 spy with my little eye, something giant. Traveling is the most fun when you have people to travel with, and even more fun when you play travel games together. When hubby and I traveled with the boys, we played games like “I Spy,” “A to Z” where you have to find something beginning with all the letters in the alphabet, and any variety of word association games. Hubby and I still like to play the one where each person says the next thing that comes to mind from the previous person’s word or statement, and we don’t even wait for long trips to be an excuse to play.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:21 through Numbers 14:7, we’ve got the leaders from yesterday’s reading actually in The Land of Canaan to spy it out for God’s people to move in. They ran their recon mission from the wilderness of Zin to the entrance of Hamath, and then up into the south desert of Hebron. When they got there, they saw the wonderful fruit of the land of Eshcol (meaning “cluster”), and they cut a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on the shoulders of two men.

But then they spied the inhabitants of the land. Of course, giant fruit means giant people to eat it, right? They saw the sons of Anak who were likely descended from Nephilim (giants that were said to be half angels and half men), and they suddenly felt like grasshoppers by comparison. But God only sent them there to look at things, not to compare themselves until they saw themselves as too small to make a difference. Hmm, I wonder if I have ever done that? 🙂

Now they get back to Moses, and they begin to tell him of their journey. “It’s just like you said, Moses. It flows with milk and honey. And, wow, check out this fruit. But…” Ah, the “but” sentence. How often do we use it to excuse away a wonderful gift God has prepared for our lives? “But, what if I can’t succeed?” “But what if they don’t like me?” “But what if someone gets mad?” Of course, there’s a big difference in questioning things because you’re using wisdom to count the cost and questioning things because you’re scared to receive something promised to you by Your Creator.

Most people find it easier to see the glass as half empty, so when the travelers came back from their spy game with scary stories of giants and fortified cities, the children of Israel suddenly lost all hope in the promises of God. The people of the camp wept all night long because of their hopelessness. As if the fear of the unknown isn’t enough of a battle, to top it off with a good dose of discouragement made it just that much worse. Well, for most of them anyway.

Joshua and Caleb refused to agree with the other ten members of the jury. They chose to believe the word of God, and Caleb tried to quiet the people with encouragements. He said, “We ought to go up immediately and take possession of it; there is no question that we can conquer it.” But the people wouldn’t listen. Instead, they listened to the negative reports and began complaining to Moses that they wished they had stayed in Egypt. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people, and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and said to the whole community, “The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land!

God’s word tells us that God has only good plans for us, and that He will do far more than we can even ask or think, but if you’re like me, you struggle with knowing exactly what it is that He has promised. I trust God that His perfect will is better than whatever blessings I can conceive, but there are some that believe it is a lack of faith to just let go and let God. Truthfully, I have no problem claiming the promises of God if I am sure they are from Him, but my struggle is with the knowing. I’d love to believe that no one who serves God will ever have to deal with sickness or trouble, but that doesn’t line up with even what His own disciples went through. So I will make my requests to God with the humility of knowing that He has already done more for me than I deserve or can repay. I spy with my little eye that His word promises me an eternity where God will wipe away ever tear from my eye, and where pain, death, and sorrow will be no more, and that makes this race of life worth running to the end.

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

   

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