Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Cringing Enemy, Trampling Victor


Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, 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 read the article at “Got Questions dot org” at the link I gave in yesterday’s post, you know that the tribe of Asher had a future that sounds much like our own future. God gave Asher power and strength to take out the enemy’s of Israel that occupied the land of their inheritance. Asher backed down and did not drive out the Canaanites. That left Asher in bondage that God did not intend. As Christians, we often back down while trying to be harmless as doves, and we too can end up in bondage. We let enemies in our gates because we think our Christian example will win them to The Lord.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:27 through Deuteronomy 33:29, we’ll finish the chapter, and we’ll read about the power given to all Israel. I thought the blessing for Asher was to continue, but Moses tricked me and switched gears. 🙂 Anyway, it’s only three verses, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

The God of old is a dwelling-place,
with everlasting arms beneath.
He expelled the enemy before you
and he said, ‘Destroy!’
So Isra’el lives in security;
the fountain of Ya‘akov is alone
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the skies drip with dew.
Happy are you, Isra’el!
“Who is like you, a people saved by Adonai,
your defender helping you
and your sword of triumph?
Your enemies will cringe before you,
but you will trample down their high places.”

Moses sure knows God well. He captures God’s power and authority, but he also captures His parental and protective love. I find comfort just in the words about God’s “everlasting arms” being beneath the dwelling place of Israel. Because Israel is safe with God, and because God made the first strike against the enemy, He enabled Israel to finish the job and destroy all that was left standing against them.

With authority over the enemy, Israel can live securely in places of abundance and pleasure (grain and wine). Israel is happy under the cover of God’s blessings and dwelling in His salvation. God is Israel’s defender, and Moses speaks this blessing to Israel beautifully. He calls Yahveh Israel’s “sword of triumph” and promises God’s authority over Israel’s enemies. Moses says the enemies will cringe before Israel, but Israel will trample the places where they worship false gods (high places).

I almost named this post Crouching Enemy, Trampling Victor because I wondered whether “cringe” was really the right word in the Scripture. However, when I looked it up in other translations, the cringing is right but there’s more to it. In the Amplified Bible, it reads this way…

Your enemies shall come fawning and cringing, and submit feigned obedience to you, and you shall march on their high places.

It appears the fawning and cringing and acting like they’re in obedience is to save their own lives, not to crouch as if ready to pounce. Maybe the enemy here hopes that if they play the game right, God and Israel will let them worship their false gods without interruption. Obviously, they are wrong because God will never allow people to worship that which represents His enemy.

It’s interesting this should be the Scripture portion for today as our family has just had another major upheaval this very day. If you’ve been following me, you’ll remember the nephew that was in a coma due to an overdose on heroin and morphine from snorting a pill called Opana. You know that God did a great miracle and brought him out of it, and he came home with us 8 weeks later. While he was in therapy and all of it was real to him, he was grateful and knew it was God who brought him through. He even mentioned getting saved.

But, the question is, was he grateful or was he “fawning and cringing in feigned obedience” to get all we offered? Having lived with us before, he knew our rules, but today he tried to sneak out early in the morning. He said we had too many rules about his not spending hours on the phone with strange girls he met on dating sites. He didn’t like that we found out he was getting high again. And who was there to help him? Why, the mother who brought him into the world of drugs and demons to begin with.

Yes, I’m talking about the mother who caused so many problems when he was in the hospital. Read the old posts starting on March 13th to catch some of the details. This mother, whose first words to her comatose son were to call him an idiot, has encouraged him to leave a good future for a bad one. The mother of his baby won’t bring his daughter around him if he’s using drugs or living with his own destructive mother, so now he won’t be seeing his daughter. If his mother takes his disability money, he won’t be able to pay his child support, and he’ll do the five years in prison that is currently on diversion. He definitely won’t see his beautiful daughter then.

So, now you’re back up to date on that situation. We’ve been wounded, but through prayer and friends, we are at peace. We are sheltered in God’s everlasting arms, and we know He is the victor & all things work together for the good. We’re sorry this young man could receive a miracle directly from the hands of a loving God and turn it down for freedom to party and get in trouble. Why should we think free rent, food, transportation, and lots of love would be enough for him when the cross was not? But God will trample the places of the false gods that wish to kill, steal, and destroy any good God wants in his (or any) life. We pray he gets away from the enemy’s camp before it happens. If not, he will be one of the cringing enemies in the way of a Trampling Victor.

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

Big Kitties and Pedicures


Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original product at Zazzle.

Have you ever seen those cute little poodle pedicures? I think they’re especially nice when you see a standard white poodle with hot pink or red nails. Apparently, you can now get something similar for kitty cats when you don’t want them to scratch your furniture. Because most people know you couldn’t hold a cat still enough to apply nail polish, someone came up with colored caps they call “Soft Claws.” I’m guessing I would still have to trim quite a bit from the nail tips first though. You’ll notice the “spikes” on the kitty above. That’s my Midnight kitty modeling for a mouse pad at my Zazzle store.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:22 through Deuteronomy 33:26, we have a few more tribes addressed by Moses in his final blessing to Israel. He speaks greatness to the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, and Asher, though the blessing for Asher is not complete and will continue in tomorrow’s reading. Again, the post is short and filled with lots of little blessings, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Dan he said:

“Dan is a lion cub
leaping forth from Bashan.”

Of Naftali he said:

“You, Naftali, satisfied with favor
and full of blessing from Adonai,
take possession of the sea and the south.”

Of Asher he said:

“May Asher be most blessed of sons,
may he be the favorite among his brothers
and bathe his feet in oil.
May your bolts be of iron and bronze
and your strength last as long as you live.

“Yeshurun, there is no one like God,
riding through the heavens to help you,
riding on the clouds in his majesty.

Dan, the lion cub, speaks of youth. Old lions mostly just roar to scare the prey while young lions capture and subdue. It seems like a short blessing, but it is a blessing filled with promise and power for a long time. Moses blessing to Naphtali seems simple enough in giving them beach-front property, but there’s so much more to it that I didn’t even catch at first. Moses blesses this tribe with enough favor from God to be satisfied. No lacking in His favor, no want to try and earn more favor, just the perfect amount of favor to bring comfort and satisfaction. Oh that we could all know this kind of favor from Yahveh.

Asher gets the bulk of the blessing, and they will not only be blessed by God but by the other tribes. Instead of just a simple foot-washing when they visit their brothers, they’ll receive a pedicure. Now, I’m not sure what they used bolts for, but if they were for houses, they’d have strong ones. If the bolts were for weapons and/or shields, it sounds like Asher was being blessed to be victorious in wartime. What’s interesting in that is how later in Asher’s history, the tribe backed down and failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land. There’s some great info about this tribe in an article at “Got Questions dot org.” It’s called “What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Asher?” Just click the title to visit.

The last three lines are simply a declaration from Moses to Israel. He takes every opportunity to uplift God and let Israel know that God is there to help them. As He says, there is NO ONE like Yahveh, and He who rides on the clouds in majesty comes through the heavens just to help you. That’s a huge blessing that applies to us now just as it did Israel then. We have a God who was willing to leave the comforts of Heaven to robe Himself in flesh and shed His own blood for us. Greater than that, when that earthly temple was destroyed, He Himself raised it up on the third day to give us victory over death and the grave. I like big kitties and pedicures, but victory in Yeshua is truly the greatest blessing any of us can receive. HalleluYah!

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

Treasures in Sand


Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, 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.

Sand is not just dirt. It is filled with treasure whether by what is buried in it, what can be made with it, or what can be made from it. I love to search the web for creative sand sculptures, and I also love glass work. I find it amazing how blown glass is made from super heated sand and pigments for color. And in case you haven’t seen it, there is some great sand to glass art done by God (with lightning) in the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:18 through Deuteronomy 33:21, we will read more of Moses blessings on a couple more tribes of Israel. It’s another short set of verses, so I’ll post the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Z’vulun he said:

“Rejoice, Z’vulun, as you go forth,
and you, Yissakhar, in your tents.
They will summon peoples to the mountain
and there offer righteous sacrifices;
for they will draw from the abundance of the seas
and from the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Of Gad he said:

“Blessed is he who makes Gad so large;
he lies there like a lion,
tearing arm and scalp.
He chose the best for himself
when the princely portion was assigned.
When the leaders of the people came,
he carried out Adonai’s justice
and his rulings concerning Isra’el.”

What do you suppose Moses meant when he spoke to Zebulun of abundance from the seas and hidden treasures of the sand? Was he saying they would be fishermen? Was he telling them they would find buried treasure or become seashell merchants? Whatever they became, we know that God can bring treasure from anything if we walk with Him, and in our world today, we live in the midst of great treasure. So much of what we have used to be something else, and God opened the door to teach men how to use it for their blessing. His gifts to us include glass from sand, pigment from plant life, and clothing from animals and plants.

The blessing to Gad is one of power and makes the tribe princely and like the king of the jungle. But, Moses doesn’t stop there. These princely leaders with the strength of lions are blessed to use their power the right way. They carry out the justice of the Lord, and they enforce God’s rulings over Israel. I guess Gad would be the “PLPD” otherwise known as the “Promised Land Police Department.”

I’m still blessed in seeing what was important to Moses before he went on to his eternity with his Creator and Friend. I love that he first made sure Israel had an understanding of their history and of God’s laws to them. From there, he wrote the song of prophesy which would be against them if they didn’t learn from their history and if they disobeyed God’s laws. Now, though, Moses is giving them great blessings of abundance for their future. Maybe it was because of his face to face conversations with God, but somehow, I think these blessings are about Moses seeing through God’s eyes. Where most men just saw a people not much greater than dirt, Moses knew God had made Israel His own treasure in sand.

P.S. Here’s a clip from Sweet Home Alabama with Melanie in the glass shop. At 12-33 seconds, look at the lightning glass…

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

Only the Best for God’s Kids


Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, CC License = Attribution

Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, 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.

We all want the best of everything in life, but those of us who truly care about others don’t want them to have the worst either. So, most of us either become highly competitive or totally non-competitive. The fact is, life is filled with bests and worsts. There are best-case and worst-case scenarios, there are best-in-show designations, and there are bests in our gardens. We have the best of the times and the worst of times, and we have ratings from best (five-star) to worst (one-star). The middle-of-the-road average is just not acceptable to most of us, so the idea that everyone can have the same thing in a world of bests and worsts is pure fantasy. So, since it won’t work that way, then we should see the value in following a God who wants His children to have only the best.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:13 through Deuteronomy 33:17, we will read Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph. It includes a blessing for the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh–his children by non-Hebrew wives while he lived in Egypt. It’s short enough that I will go ahead and paste the Scripture here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Of Yosef he said:

“May Adonai bless his land
with the best from the sky, for the dew,
and for what comes from the deep beneath,
with the best of what the sun makes grow,
with the best of what comes up each month,
with the best from the mountains of old,
with the best from the eternal hills,
with the best from the earth and all that fills it,
and the favor of him who lived in the [burning] bush.
May blessing come on the head of Yosef,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
His firstborn bull — glory is his;
his horns are those of a wild ox;
With them he will gore the peoples,
all of them, to the ends of the earth.
These are the myriads of Efrayim;
these are the thousands of M’nasheh.”

Simply the best, and only the best, of everything from crops to gold to the favor of God. Now THAT is a blessing! If someone said these things to us these days, we’d be saying something like, “From your mouth to God’s ears,” and we’d hope for it all to come true. That said, I see this as a reason to bless our brothers and sisters in Yeshua as much as possible, and let the greatest blessing we offer be one of a deeper walk with our Creator.

If you’re like me, you might sometimes withhold blessing others with your lips for concern of sounding like you carry the apostate messages of our current generation. We don’t want to speak the blessings of God above the God of the blessings like so many “prosperity preachers,” but prosperity in the perfect will of God is not a sin. God says He gives us the ability to make wealth to bless others, so speaking blessings on our brethren for the sake of lifting the needy and spreading the gospel is a good thing. Speaking it only for selfish gain and benefits is what we must avoid.

Readers, I bless you now with the wisdom of Yahveh Almighty to know when to speak blessings and how to speak them–both toward others and toward yourselves. May you have only the best of what God has to offer in your lives that you may draw closer to Him as you walk through this life with Him. And, may you always remember that when all else seems to fail, if you have God in your life and heart, you have the best already.

P.S. Just for an off-the-path side note: If you grew up on Dukes of Hazzard, you probably remember “Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane” as one of the quirky characters. Well, the actor who played him, James Best, was born in Kentucky and raised in the cute little town of Corydon, Indiana, where I live now. I also remember him from a number of old episodic shows like Twilight Zone and Bat Masterson. Click here for his Wikipedia page just for the fun of it. 🙂

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

Riding on Daddy’s Shoulders


On Daddy's Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, CC License = Attribution

On Daddy’s Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, 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.

The memories of being small enough to be hoisted up onto someone’s shoulders are vague, but they’re still in my mind. When I see a child on his or her daddy’s shoulders, I associate it with feelings of comfort and security. It’s just like the feeling of waking up just enough to know I was being carried from the back of a car to my own bed. Although my childhood was filled with many traumatic events, those times when I felt protected and comforted offer a balance I need–even now.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:8 through Deuteronomy 33:12, Moses is still offering a final blessing to the tribes of Israel before he dies. Today, he will begin with a blessing to the tribe of Levi. Because Levi is required to execute judgments for Israel, Moses tells them to let the balance of those judgments (the urim and the tumim) rest in the hands of God.

Moses speaks of the past and future of the Levites, and he testifies that they chose the word of God even over family. Because they put God first, they will teach God’s law to all the children of Jacob, and they will offer incense and sacrifices in the temple of The Lord. With this prophesy, Moses also begins to request a blessing for Levi. He asks God to bless Levi’s possessions, to accept the work he does, and to crush his enemies that those who hate him would rise no more.

Next, Moses changes his attention to the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest of all the children of Jacob/Israel. He calls Benjamin “The Lord’s Beloved” and says God protects him day by day. He says Benjamin lives securely between the shoulders of Adonai.

Because God is everywhere, maybe the idea of dwelling between God’s shoulders is exactly what it says, but I lean more toward thinking it’s an analogy for safety and security. It’s that place above the world, hoisted on daddy’s shoulders, where the rider can see better even if he’s little. Yahveh, through His mercy and grace, gives us the privilege to call Him Abba Father. He would most certainly be the kind of daddy that would lift His littlest one up on His protective shoulders.

Another awesome things about the shoulders of God is found in Isaiah 9:6. Here is that verse from the New Living Testament

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Do you see that? The government is on His shoulders. That means His protective laws and boundaries are right there in that place where He, as our Father, puts His children. I’ve said before that if we read this verse in order, we’ll find that He becomes our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace only AFTER our government is on His shoulders. There is a great blessing in obedience to a Loving Father who cares for us. When we follow His word and walk in His presence every day, there’s no better place than riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

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

Moses and His Sunrise Serenade


At every time and in every place
    from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets—
    may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people. (Psalm 113:3 VOICE)

A serenade seems to be the perfect way to use song for a blessing. It comes from the word “serene” and usually means a song sung in the open air–often from a man to his lover. The big band leader, Glenn Miller, called many of his songs serenades. Having watched the movie, The Glenn Miller Story, and having seen the beautiful love he had for his wife, I’d guess they were likely all tunes he wrote for her. Sunrise Serenade is one of the most famous, and you should recognize the tune on the video above where you will also find beautiful sunrise and sunset images. (By the way, I would highly recommend this movie starring James Stewart and June Allyson.)

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:1 through Deuteronomy 33:7, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 54 is V’Zot HaBrachah in Hebrew and means “This is the blessing” in English. In this portion, Moses will bless the tribes of Israel before his upcoming death. He begins here by blessing the Lord and speaking of his love, his power, and his holiness. And, since we’re talking about sunrises, Moses makes an interesting statement here in speaking of God as if He is the sun. He says, “Adonai came from Sinai; from Se‘ir he dawned on his people, shone forth from Mount Pa’ran.

I think Moses was a poet at heart since now he speaks again in a poetic form. He speaks of God truly loving His people, and He says God is holding all His holy ones in His hand. He sees them sitting at God’s feet and receiving His instruction. And then Moses begins speaking the blessings to the individual tribes. He speaks of all Israel in Jacob and blesses them with an inheritance and a king. He says the leaders will gather all the people together. He asks God that Reuben would live and not die even though his numbers have become few. And finally, for today’s reading, Moses blesses Y’hudah (Judah) this way…

“Hear, Adonai, the cry of Y’hudah!
Bring him in to his people,
let his own hands defend him;
but you, help him against his enemies.”

We know that Judah received these blessings and brought forth our Messiah from their tribe. God Himself helped Judah against his enemies, especially since those set against that tribe are against the tribe of King David and King Yeshua. God robed Himself in flesh to help fight those enemies with His own blood, so we have victory against those enemies now by simply resisting evil in The Name of Yeshua.

We have so much to be thankful for in all the battles God has won for us since the beginning of time. He has proven His love for us over and over, and He is worthy of the song of our love toward Him. We can serenade our loving God in praise for His mercy and grace in our lives. We can lift Him up in our hearts from sunrise to sunset and every moment in between. May the people who love and follow Yahveh Almighty bless His name in their hearts and with their praise throughout our every moment. Each day when we rise, may we offer Yahveh our own Sunrise Serenade.

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

The Lord of The Dance


Do you know what it takes to get God dancing? The simple answer is…US! God loves His people so much that when we are blessed, He is happy. I mean, for how many years has He been preparing a place for us that where He is we may be also? He wants our company, and He wants our happiness. Why do you think it is not His will for any of us to perish? If He didn’t want our company, He would be happy to let us pay the wages for our sin. But, no, because He has such a longing to spend eternity with us, He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:7 through Deuteronomy 30:10, we continue on yesterday’s reading of the prophesies that will come to pass when Israel has experienced both God’s blessings and His curses and it brings her back to herself. When Israel examines herself and returns completely to God, we arrive at today’s passage which begins with a promise from God to put all the curses on her enemies. When Israel returns to listen to God and obey His commands, then God will rain all the curses upon those who have hated and persecuted her.

Now, it really starts getting good. God promises that He will give Israel more than enough for everything she sets out to do: “The fruit of your body, the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your land will all do well,” He says. And then the passage declares that The Lord will once again rejoice over His people just as He once rejoiced over their ancestors. Can you see God dancing here?

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to dance. What better time to dance and rejoice than when God is rejoicing? The reading goes on to explain the atmosphere that makes God rejoice. The caveat to all the blessings God promises is simply that the people must pay attention to The Lord, God Almighty, and obey the commands written in His word. When they turn to Him with all their hearts and all their beings, He will rejoice with great joy in the privilege to pour out blessings upon His children.

There are a lot of Scriptures that include dancing; mostly for good purposes. Unfortunately, there are references to wrong dancing when people danced before false gods or sacrifices they prepared for false gods, but Miriam and the women of Israel danced before God in celebration of the defeat of Egypt. and David danced before God in praise at the return of The Ark of The Covenant. If our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, then if He dances, we will feel that in our spirits.

There is a wonderful new interpretation to the old Footprints poem. It includes God rejoicing with one of His children. Since the author has been found and a copyright attributed, I will link you to the page with the full poem and author info. Just go to… http://www.wowzone.com/prints2.htm

Of course, we can refuse to dance when God moves us, and then we will get to the other new version of Footprints. It’s called “Butt prints in the Sand.” Yes, it’s a bit humorous, but it’s also an important way to take a look at ourselves and the level of trust and obedience we have in Yeshua, so we can follow Him in ways that will make Him rejoice. 2 Corinthians 13:5 puts it this way…

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the life of trust. Test yourselves. Don’t you realize that Yeshua the Messiah is in you? — unless you fail to pass the test.

So, in summary of the last two days of Torah reading, if we as the grafted-in seed of Abraham receive the prophesy given to Israel, then we have some wonderful promises right along with her. If we examine ourselves, come back to God and His word, learn from all the blessings and curses we’ve experienced, and turn to God to love and obey Him with all our heart and being, we can trust that He will rejoice. When He rejoices, maybe He will dance. And when He dances, maybe we will dance with Him.

And that brings me to one more video, a beautiful Messianic worship song by Paul Wilbur called Dance With Me

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

The Real Prosperity Gospel


The Prosperity Gospel poster by Flickr User Brett Jordan, CC License = Attribution

The Prosperity Gospel poster by Flickr User Brett Jordan, 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.

Anybody want to know the secret to real prosperity? Of course, who wouldn’t? Certainly, no one actually wants to be less than prosperous, right? Then again, I suppose that depends on the definition of the word. What if God said that true prosperity, the stuff He promises to give us just because He knows the good plans He has for us, has little to do with money or possessions? Would everyone still want it?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:1 through Deuteronomy 29:8 in The Complete Jewish Bible (29:2-9 in The Amplified Bible and other versions), we complete another week and another portion of Torah. That means, it’s time for me to wish all my readers Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), and may you prosper in all things even as your soul prospers.

Moses summons Israel to remind them of what they have seen in The Lord. He tells them they saw what God did in Egypt to Pharaoh, his servants, and his land; great testings, signs, and wonders which Israel saw with their own eyes. But then, Moses tells them that, in spite of all they’ve seen and heard, God has still not given them hearts of understanding, eyes to see, or ears to hear. For whatever reason, they still just don’t get it.

As Moses goes on, he reminds them how they fared as he led them through the wilderness for 40 years. He talks of their super durable clothing and shoes, and then he reminds them how they did not eat bread or drink any intoxicating liquor because God wanted to make sure they never forgot that He is The Lord. Moses reminds them of the battles they faced when they first arrived to where they are now. Two kings came out against them, but with God’s help, they defeated them both and gave the land to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

In the final verse for the passage and the portion, Moses says, “Therefore, observe the words of this covenant and obey them; so that you can make everything you do prosper.”

We’re nearing the end of the Torah and of Moses’ life, and while Moses pours out instruction and reminders, he also pours out blessings. I find a lot of instruction and inspiration in that last blessing. First, Moses is telling this group of people who have no understanding and cannot truly see or hear, that they are to observe and obey. Observation should need eyes and ears, and obedience should need understanding, but since God has not yet given these things to them, they must observe and obey on pure faith.

I looked up the word “prosperity” in Strong’s Concordance to see what Moses meant in this blessing, and it turns out that the word means pretty much the same in all places it is used. It means to do well and have success, but the full definition expands that to becoming circumspect–intelligent enough to look at things from all angles. Some other words in addition to intelligent include expert, prudent, skillful, and understanding. The prosperous person should be able to teach, instruct, consider, and to guide wittingly. Interestingly, it also says those who prosper will behave themselves. That last definition sure doesn’t describe rich, self-indulgent, party-animal types, does it?

In addition to biblical prosperity meaning something more like abounding in God’s character than abounding in His riches, I also noticed that Moses told the people that they would make everything they do prosper. They, themselves, are responsible to bring that prosperity into their own lives, and it is apparently possible for anyone since these are the same people listed earlier as pretty much ignorant, blind, and deaf. The instruction for bringing themselves this prosperity? Observe the words of God’s covenant with them, and obey. Simple. Put God first. Trust and obey. Seek first the kingdom of God.

In 3rd John 1, an elder of the church writes to Gaius and sends him blessings of prosperity as well. Like the blessing I spoke above, the writer says, in verse 2, that he wants Gaius to prosper in health and all things even as his soul prospers. That he considers prosperity to be like the Strong’s definition is evidenced in verse 4 where the writer says, “Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing that my children are living in the truth.” Truth is found in God’s word, and living in it is observing and obeying. Those things will prosper your soul, so they will also prosper your health and other areas of your life. So, just as Israel, we bring ourselves to biblical prosperity by living in God’s truth; observing and obeying His Holy Scriptures.

God is not a respecter of persons, so the gospel (good news) must be able to work for all mankind. A false “prosperity gospel” cannot be equally applied to the rich and to those who have no ability to increase in riches. This true prosperity gospel can be preached to everyone: From the rich to the poor, the old to the young, the free to the slave, and even from the genius to the ignorant. The message will work for anyone who follows God, whether they live in the bush or the big city, a cave or a mountain top, a mansion or prison cell. That makes it real, and that makes it truly good news; a real prosperity gospel.

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

A Blessing and A Curse


Time is Too Slow...by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, CC License = Attribution

Time is Too Slow…by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, 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.

How many things on this earth can bring both a blessing and a curse? Time most definitely fits that description. When it runs out too fast, it can send people to their knees as they beg for more. When one has lived a long and prosperous life, he may go to his grave singing praises to God for all his days on earth. Fire is another thing that fits. When it warms us or allows us to cook, it’s a great blessing, but when it burns or causes pain or loss, we may wish it never existed.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:26 through Deuteronomy 12:9 (the portion changes at 10, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ll add verse 10 tomorrow) we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 47 is called Re’eh in Hebrew and means “see” in English. It begins with the sentence, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” Moses continues with a description of the blessing and the curse and how Israel can receive the one they want.

The blessing, Moses tells them, comes from honoring and keeping all the laws of God that he is giving them before they cross into The Promised Land. The curse comes if they don’t listen, and especially if they turn aside to follow other gods. The blessing is to be kept on Mount Gerizim, and the curse on Mount Ebal. Both mountains are west of the Jordan River, where the sun sets in the land of the Canaanites. I find it interesting that they are both in the new land of promise, and both are in close proximity to each other.

Moses tells Israel to be watchful to keep the ordinances of God, and then he tells them of the laws concerning how they are to deal with the people in the land they are getting ready to take possession of. He tells them they are to destroy every place, whether high on a mountain or under a tree, where the nations before them have worshipped other gods. He also tells them to break down and crush their altars, graven images, and pillars that are built to other gods, and he tells them to burn all the poles they set up to honor the false gods. He tells them to totally exterminate the names of the false gods from the new land.

After telling them to destroy all that is against God, Moses tells the people to make sure not to treat Yahveh Almighty that way, but instead, they are to come to the place where He designates for His Name, and there they will worship Him. He will choose the place, and they are to seek it out. When they find it, they are to bring all their sacrifices and offerings there. And then Moses tells them something that sort of shocked me. He tells them that life will be very different for them on the other side of the Jordan River because they will no longer be able to live doing things their own way as each sees fit. While I thought they were already under the law, apparently they were not. Moses tells them that they weren’t yet required to change things because they had not yet arrived at the rest and inheritance God promised them.

I can see a correlation in these proclamations from Moses to Israel. In life, before we begin serving God, we are not under the same set of directions as we are once we have entered into His rest. Those who are not yet serving Him are not expected to honor His word the same as those of us who have claimed Him as our Lord, but that doesn’t take them off the hook for their sin. The wages of sin are death. This makes it clear why we should present reasons for people to leave their lives of sin and live for God. We can’t condemn them for living opposite a word they do not yet trust, but we can’t let them feel okay and comfortable living in opposition to God either.

Brenda, a friend and fellow writer, says it well when she explains why all people on earth are not the children of God. She points out how ridiculous it would be to invite a stranger into your home just because the person says he or she is family. You need proof. God wants evidence that people truly want to be in His family too. I imagine that some of the people God and Israel are driving out of the new land are nice people. They might have been the sort of people the media would now do stories about, telling the world how we must be kind to them because they are humans and have rights like the rest of us. But God Almighty was looking at their hearts and how they were sold out to false gods.

The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword as it divides the false from the truth. God loves all people and desires to see all people saved, but that doesn’t mean that He’s suddenly okay with people rejecting Him–whether they do it on their own or in His holy name. His mercy does not make allowance to keep sinning, it makes allowance to repent before it’s too late.

God’s mercy is a blessing, but for those who refuse to even try to seek Him, that mercy will become a curse when they miss out on it because of their rejection of the gift. Scripture tells us in Acts 17:30-31 (English Standard Version) that there were times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent before the Day of Judgment in Christ. Even those already living in the land of promise had to make a decision about whom to serve. Even those of us already claiming to live according to God’s promised blessings must choose Him each day. Salvation is more than accepting God one time and then forgetting our promise, it’s about refusing to reject Him for the rest of eternity. Let God’s mercy be a blessing and not a curse to you by keeping your heart wrapped up in His gifts every day.

August 9, 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

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

Made to Order


Antiques Made to Order by Flickr User tuchodi, CC License = Attribution

Antiques Made to Order by Flickr User tuchodi, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be possible to make antiques to order, unless the place is one of those that makes things for restaurants that hang stuff resembling real antiques on their wall. I do know that I would want to go into this store because of the sign though, so it is good advertising.

According to a few dictionary definitions I found, made to order can mean something is made to someone’s personal specifications and requirements, or it can mean it’s just perfect for the situation. In today’s (very long) reading from Exodus 35:30 through Exodus 37:16, I think it means both of those and more.

Most of today’s reading centers around a guy from the tribe of Judah named Bezalel. He is a grandson of Hur, one of the two guys who helped hold Moses’ arms up, so Israel could defeat her enemy. Bezalel is a master craftsman who has been endowed by God to make everything from clothing to jewelry to gold dinnerware. He is like a machine who takes in what Israel donates and comes out with a perfectly-designed temple according to the design God showed Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Bezalel hires a helper, Aholiab, from the tribe of Dan. Together, they will both design and create the temple coverings, curtains, furnishings, and all that is needed for temple worship. The Bible says that God filled them both with wisdom of heart and ability to do all manner of craftsmanship. In addition to being gifted with wisdom for creativity, God also gifted these men to teach others, so they would not have to build the entire tabernacle on their own.

In a sense, in addition to building a “made to order” tabernacle, God also made these men to order (train)  other men in how to create according to God’s plans. I don’t know if it works this way for all those who are gifted with wisdom in creativity, but I am thankful for those Christian writers who go beyond the gift of their own writing and share tips and tricks with others. There are a few whose teachings I have learned from, and whose lessons feel as anointed as their creative works. I learn well from them. There are more than I can list here, but if you want to know some of the people that inspire me as writing teachers, let me know and I’ll share some in comments.

As for the rest of the passage, please click the link above to read the details about all that these men and their helpers created. You’ll find they sound much like the details given to Moses on the mountain because they are determined to line up to that blueprint. I can only imagine the designs, but knowing what God can do when He works within a willing vessel, I imagine them to be spectacular and beautiful. I expect them to be that way because of the times when God works in my life to bless whatever efforts I put my hands to. Whether He guides me as I write or sing, or when I design a new kaleidoscopic or abstract creation, if I feel God guiding whatever part of me in engaged in the work, it always comes out better than the results when I struggle to do things on my own.

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

Another Brick in the Wall of Oppression


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raise Your Right Hand if You’re Sure


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Lord is My Own Personal Shepherd


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Somebody


Today’s reading from Genesis 39:1 through Genesis 39:6 appears to be one of the shortest yet at only six verses. But it covers an important turn of events in the life of Joseph and in the future of the house of Israel. While Joseph’s brothers considered him long gone and forgotten, Yahveh was watching over their brother and making plans they could never have imagined might become quite important to them one day.

The Ishmaelites who had purchased Joseph from the brothers carried him to Egypt and re-sold him. The man who bought him, named Potiphar, was an officer of the Pharoah and captain of the guard. One translation says he was the chief in charge of executions. Okay, so that’s not a boss you want to make angry, right? But, of course, because of the blessings of God, Joseph not only did not make his new boss angry, he greatly impressed him. Potiphar did not take long to see that everything in his care prospered because of Joseph.

When Potiphar realized that God was with Joseph and caused all he did to be blessed, he put him in charge of all his possessions. The brother who was a nobody and sold as a slave was still a slave, but suddenly he was more than a slave. Joseph became a somebody in charge of all his master’s goods and all that was in his care. The text says that Potiphar never even had to worry about anything with Joseph in charge, so he thought nothing of any of his affairs except what he had to eat. The text ends with a simple statement about Joseph being handsome and well-built.

Now, imagine hiring an employee like a maid, secretary, cook, etc., and suddenly having your household increase and prosper. Most people put out ‘nanny-cams” to make sure those in their employ are not stealing from them or snooping in areas where they don’t belong. I don’t think there are many who find themselves becoming more prosperous for the sake of their employees, especially these days when it’s even hard to find someone who has the ethic to make an effort to work every minute for which they are paid. So, we would surely notice if everything around that new person increased abundantly.

I imagine most of us would be trying to figure what that person was doing right to bring all that good into his or her life. I also imagine that we would be following the person around and hoping that at least some of that might rub off on us. If we found that it was not luck but rather the blessings of The Creator of the Universe, I would hope we would all be seeking Him because of the example set before us. And for those of us who are the employees and servants of others, I hope we can bring visible blessings to those we serve that God would be glorified and uplifted by the blessings we share with others.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrestling With God and Prevailing Against Sin


As we continue into today’s reading from Genesis 32:14 through Genesis 32:30, we read the rest of Jacob’s plan for meeting with Esau and trying to appease his anger. He chooses a bunch of animals and then puts them into groups heading toward Esau. He tells the men who head up each group of animals to tell Esau that they are a gift for him and that Jacob is nearby in the next group. Jacob’s intention is to watch and then move backward a group at a time until he is sure Esau will accept him without killing him. At the same time, he sends his two wives, two slave girls, and his eleven children across a stream with his possessions.

With the gifts in front of him and his family across the stream, Jacob is alone for the night. Suddenly there was a man wrestling with him. Jacob refused to give up and continued to wrestle until morning. Scripture says that when it appeared the man would not prevail against Jacob, He touched him in his hip socket so that his hip was dislocated as he wrestled. And then Jacob said the words that gave away that he knew exactly who he was wrestling with. The man had asked Jacob to let him go because it was morning, but Jacob said to Him, “I won’t let You go until You bless me.”

Now, I love what God does here. He asks Jacob what his name is. Remember way back when Jacob was born, when Jacob stole the birthright, and when Jacob deceived his father? In all those things, Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name; supplanter. He tried to come out first, he stole the birthright, and he falsely gained his father’s blessing. Esau even pointed out how the name was fitting for him. Now God is asking Jacob to admit that he is as his name, one who steals what he wants–one who wrestles for his blessings. Like the first of the “12 Steps” in Alcoholics Anonymous (and related programs), God is telling Jacob that He will not bless him until he admits who and what he is. It works the same in repentance when we finally admit that we are sinners in need of God’s salvation. And I am certain I am not the only one who has wrestled to get to that point, but it is worth the wrestling if you fight until you subdue the flesh and press through to obtain God’s blessing. Paul mentions in Philippians 3 that he is pressing on and forward to a goal of something that lies ahead of what he has now. It’s a finish line where everyone who crosses, and not just the first one, is a winner.

So, after he said his name was Jacob, everything changed for him. After we admit we are in need of God (and not just at our first repentance but each time we wrestle with something that we need to let go of), everything can change for us as well. AFTER Jacob confessed the absence of God in his efforts and admitted that he was trying to do everything on his own, THEN God not only blessed him, but his blessing came with a name change. God changed the name of Jacob (supplanter) to the name of Israel (wrestled/contended with God). He put His title, EL, right into Jacob’s new name. Jacob was no longer one who had to steal positions and possessions or birthrights and blessings. He was now one who was blessed of God because He sought God’s blessing face to face.

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

The Curse in The Blessing


Our reading is from Genesis 27:28 through Genesis 28:4, and it tells the rest of the story from the deception that was begun yesterday by Jacob and his mother, Rebekah. Isaac showered great blessings on Jacob, including passing along to him many blessings from Abraham like “those that curse you will be cursed, and those that bless you will be blessed.”

But right after giving him the blessing, Esau showed up with the meat he had hunted for and prepared especially for his father. When Isaac realized what was done to him, he cried out because he could not take back his word even though he was tricked. Esau cried out and said that “supplanter” was a great meaning for the name Jacob because he had stolen from Esau twice. One thing I was apparently wrong about was that the blessing accompanied the birthright. I thought that when Esau gave up his birthright, it meant he was giving up whatever blessing would automatically go to the firstborn, but the way Esau has a fit and claims that Jacob stole both things, apparently they were two different blessings. Of course, I don’t know that Esau would have valued the 2nd any more than he valued the first, so I’m certain God allowed things to happen as they did to keep the blessing in a place of value.

Esau was so angry that he planned to kill Jacob as soon as they were done mourning their father. Rebekah heard him making his plans, so she advised Jacob to go back to his mother’s homeland to hide from Esau. She told him how much she despised the Hittite wives taken by Esau and forbade Jacob from marrying from among them and advised he go get a wife from her brother’s children. So, while Jacob had wonderful blessings from his father, he would be cursed to be in hiding until his brother’s anger waned away. We who know the rest of the story, though, know that even what could have been a curse in his running away will turn out to be a blessing in the end, even though Jacob will have to endure being tricked himself. Oh, and if I don’t remember when I get to that part of the story, someone please remind me to attach a funny video by the band, ApologetiX, that demonstrates that trickery. In the meantime, how about a cute video about Jacob and Esau called “Twins Came Out.”

Finally, at the end of his begging, Isaac did find a blessing for Esau as well. Isaac told Esau that he would reap the fruit of the earth, but that he would be a servant to his brother, and that he would live by the sword. He also told him, though, that a day would come when he would break loose from being his servant and in so doing, would break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck. Knowing what I know about the future of Jacob, I’m not certain that breaking that yoke off is truly a blessing. But, since God has opened the door to bring even Gentiles to His throne of grace, He has made it so that we can all partake of His blessings if we choose Him.

P.S. I was a bit low on word count for NaNo today and wrote only 1400 of my planned 2500 per day. I wrote after I posted this, so I’m having to come back and add this note later. But, you know, if I added all the words I wrote in e-mails to the writing group and comments on blogs to other writers I support, that would’ve made my word count–LOL. Anyway, today’s total is 16,106 so I’m still ahead of schedule for finishing with 50K by the November 30th deadline.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feminine Wiles


Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray

Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray
With 1 Corinthians 1:18 Encouragement
Click on image for Flickr page and more.

We have a slightly longer reading today from Genesis 26:30 through Genesis 27:27. It begins where yesterday left off with Abimelech spending the night and being blessed by Isaac. They all made a commitment to treating each other with blessings from that point forward, and while they were making the agreement, Isaac’s servants came to report the digging of a new well. Isaac named the well Beersheba, which meant “Well of the Oath.”

The end of Chapter 26 tells us that Esau was now 40 years old, and that he married two women that grieved his parents. Very shortly afterwards, Isaac began to realize that his time on earth was coming to an end, and he knew it was time to pass the blessing of the firstborn to Esau. He asked Esau to go out and hunt for his favorite game and bring it back for him to eat, so he could spend some time with him and give him the blessing that was due him as the firstborn. And, yes, that is the blessing that he gave up for a bowl of stew.

Now, we’re not told if Esau confessed his foolish trade, and we’re never told whether Jacob shared that information with his mother or father, but I’m thinking he at least shared it with Rebekah. And I’m thinking that is why Rebekah decided to use her feminine wiles and have a hand in how the blessings were dispersed. She overheard the plans between Isaac and Esau, so she made secretive plans with Jacob on how to trick his aging father who was almost blind.

In a quick summary, Rebecca had Jacob get some goats from the field, and she prepared them to taste like the game that Esau normally prepared for him. Then, she took the skins from the goats and put them on Jacob’s hands and on his neck. After that, she placed some of Esau’s clothes on him, so he would have the scent of his brother. When Jacob went in to present his father with the food, Isaac thought the voice sounded like Jacob, but through touching his skin and smelling the clothes, Isaac was mostly convinced that he was indeed talking with his eldest son. The rest of the story should be in tomorrow’s reading.

I’m mostly certain that at least some of you readers have had the experience of giving from your heart to someone who was ungrateful and who did not value your gift or gifts. And it’s likely also true that each of you has given to someone who was grateful and made you feel wonderful in your giving. Giving to a grateful receiver is far more enjoyable than giving to a taker or is demanding or thinks he or she deserves what you have to give. Even God makes His salvation to whosoever will because it just feels better to give to someone who humbly receives and values a gift.

I know the plan between Rebekah and Jacob seems a bit unfair to Esau, but I have to wonder if God did not set all this up with allowing Rebecca to hear the plans, with keeping Esau in the field just long enough, and with making sure that the blessings were given to the one whose heart was closest to God. I believe Jacob was closer because of Esau’s lack of respect for the birthright, because of Esau’s marriage that grieved his parents, and because of verse 20 where Jacob, imitating Esau, makes the following statement: Adonai your God made it happen that way. I think this statement shows that Esau did not believe in or respect Yahveh the same as his parents or his brother. And I believe God wanted the birthright blessings that would affect the whole future of Abraham’s descendants to be given to the one who most valued and respected them.  We will learn later just what it meant for Jacob to carry the birthright into the future.

P.S. NaNo words today hit 14,888, but I’m running out of story, so I’ll gladly take prayers for some more creative ideas. Thanks.

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

When God is in Your Fan Club


Image

Fractalius Fan and Roses by Crystal A Murray–See the original in my photo stream at Flickr by clicking on the image.

Today, we have another short reading of only seven verses. This one, from Genesis 26:23 through Genesis 26:29 is all about the blessings of Isaac and the promises God made to him. In verse 24, Yahveh appears to Isaac and lets him know he has nothing to fear because He is the God of his father, and that means He is the God of him. Yahveh reminds Isaac of the blessings He has in store for his future descendants because of the promises He made to Abraham. And at this point, Isaac builds an altar and worships God.

I don’t remember if Scripture tells us that Isaac ever built an altar to God before, and whether it does or not, I don’t know if he did. In trying to look back over the last few weeks, I don’t think he did, so I’m thinking this is beginning of Isaac’s personal relationship with his Creator. But here is what I find truly interesting about this event. When Isaac dealt with Abimelech before, maybe even expecting the king to defend him as he had done his father, Abimelech suggested he leave town. Now, since Isaac has talked with God, Abimelech and the commander of his army have shown up on Isaac’s doorstep to make sure things are right between them.

In verse 28, after Isaac asks them why they would show up after now after sending his family away (and not defending him against the lying herdsmen who were stealing the wells Isaac dug), Abimelech tells him how they want to make sure that Isaac will not treat them badly because they may have sent him away, but they did so in peace. I can just hear them tripping over their own tongues trying to make sure that Isaac will treat them as friends and not as enemies. And in verse 29, they give away the reason they are so concerned about how he will treat them. They say, “You are now the blessed of the Lord.”

Huh, so when they just thought he was the son of one favored by God, they didn’t defend him, and they sent him away. Their blessings toward him were simply to do him no harm. Oh, but now that they know God is in Isaac’s fan club just like He was in Abraham’s fan club, they want to make sure they’re on the right side of the blessed man.

It’s like people who think they’re special because they get the autograph of someone who is famous to others, as if they’ll be sort of famous by osmosis. I think these guys were thinking that if they befriended someone who was blessed by God that they would get blessed by osmosis. And the funny thing is, Abimelech did the same thing to Abraham, right down to asking for the same protection and bringing up how good they treated him. But if folks want to hang around Christians and treat them well to keep themselves out of trouble, at least that means they can see that we are blessed by Him and walking in His presence. After all, God’s word says He will bless a city for the righteous that live there, so I guess it is in people’s’ best interest to get near those who are blessed by God. But I think it’s even better if we can be the blessed and say, “Guess who is in my fan club? Yep, it’s God Almighty!”

And with that I will close with my report on NaNo that I have reached 12,613 words for day #5. And I’m hoping God is in my reading fan club and will help me turn this one into something because I’m liking what my characters are doing now. Oh, and pardon the use of my “punny” picture for this post. I just liked the idea of showing off my fractalized fan to go with the title. 🙂

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

Like Father, Like Son


We have another very short reading today. This one runs from Genesis 26:6 through Genesis 26:12; just seven verses. And in today’s story, we have almost a repeat of the story between Abraham and Sarah, only this time it is between Isaac and Rebekah.

So what is it with these guys who look for a loophole to saying they’re married for fear their women will be taken, and they (the husbands) will be put to death? Was that an Egyptian custom back then? If so, I haven’t learned about it yet, but it sure doesn’t sound like a nice one. Whatever it was, Isaac did exactly as his father did with King Abimelech and told people that his wife was his sister. And then, just as happened with Sarah, the King spotted the two of them together acting more like lovers than friends, and he knew.

After seeing them, Abimelech confronted Isaac with the possibility that he could have brought a curse on his entire kingdom if anyone had slept with Rebekah. Then, since Isaac advised him of why he did it, the king declared to the entire nation that they were not to touch Isaac or Rebekah, and that the penalty for doing so would be death. And once that was done, Isaac went about his work, and whatever crops he planted that year yielded him one-hundred fold. And, again like his father, Abraham, it says that God blessed him.

These shorter readings do make it a bit harder on me to come up with much commentary, but I’m wrestling a bit more tonight because my mind is thoroughly in fiction mode from writing my NaNo story. I’m wanting to stop and describe the scene here and everything. But I think you, my dear readers, understand the gist of this little story anyway. So I’m thankful you stopped by to see what’s happening in the progression of the Bible story, and I’m thankful to say I have also surpassed 6400 words in my novel efforts. We will visit again tomorrow when we see how Isaac deals with men who get jealous of God’s blessings on him. Bye for now and may God richly bless you and your children and beyond.

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

The Gift in the Giving


Today, we begin Parashah (portion) 5 which covers Sarah’s life and spans Genesis 23:1 through Genesis 25:18. It starts with a bit of sadness for Abraham in today’s reading from Genesis 23:1 through 23:16. In our story, Sarah has passed away at the age of 127, and Abraham is looking for a proper place to bury her in a land that is not their home. Certainly, not having his own land on which to bury his wife is adding to his grief, so Abraham is looking for a plot to buy as his own. He has set such a good example, even as a foreigner in a strange land, that everyone on the council is willing to give up their own tombs to him, but Abraham keeps seeking for something of his own.

Finally, Abraham asks the men to consult Efron the Hittite about a piece of farmland he would like to buy and use for the burial. It appears that Efron was already among the councilmen present, so he speaks up and says he’ll give the land to Abraham for free. Of course, many of us would consider that to be a blessing from God, but sometimes it can be more of a blessing to pay your way and be a good businessman, so Abraham insists on knowing the value of the land. Efron figures out what he is asking and says, “A plot of land worth 400 silver shekels — what is that between me and you?” Then Abraham gets his message and pays for the land.

Maybe it’s my female mind, but all the hidden messages back and forth did not make sense to me, so I had to ask my husband why men wouldn’t just come straight out and give a price and an exchange. He said that it enabled each man to make his offering without insulting the other. In a current world example, the exchange might go something like this…

A woman goes to get her hair done. The hairdresser offers to do her hair for free because she is the pastor’s wife. The woman says, “A workman is worthy of his wages, so please let me pay you.” The hairdresser answers, “But it’s only a 25 dollar style and cut,” and happily accepts that amount from her customer.

In the above scenario, both women are able to exchange their services freely, and it results in both women being more givers than takers. It appears Abraham had some good business sense and knew how much of a gift to God, others, and ourselves it is to have a giving spirit. And this is an awesome way that we, too, can be a blessing while we are foreigners in this strange land called life on earth. It gives clear understanding to why joy is spelled “J.O.Y.” and stands for Jesus, Others, You–in that order.

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The picture below contains a portion of a beautiful message (from 1902) called The Joy of Giving by Ellen G. White. Read the full article at http://www.whiteestate.org/message/Joy_of_Giving.asp or by clicking on the picture.

Pink Sunset with Portion from Joy of Giving by Ellen G White

Pink Cotton Candy Sunset at Panama City Beach, Florida, by Crystal A Murray
Text Overlay by Ellen G. White from “The Joy of Giving”

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

Promises of a Loving Creator


We humans think we have it all together sometimes. Just because all the parts are available, including the ability to think and create, we think because we build something, we are some type of creative geniuses. Here’s a little joke that gets the point across well…

One day, a group of scientists were discussing cloning, and they concluded that since they knew how to create humans, they no longer needed God. Upon sharing this news with God, He proposed that before they totally dropped Him out of their lives, they should have a man-making contest. The scientists agreed. God specified they had to do it from scratch–the old-fashioned way, and the scientists still decided it was something they could win.

Finally, the day of the big contest arrived. The timers were set, and the chosen scientist and God were at the starting line. When the whistle blew, the scientist reached down to the ground to grab a handful of soil. Just then, God shouted, “Hold it! Get your own dirt.”

Now, in today’s reading in Genesis 14:21 through Genesis 15:6, the King of Sodom is trying to bargain with Abram about which spoils of war he will keep and which he will give to Abram. But Abram tells the king he will not take anything from him because he wants to be sure the king cannot say later that he was the one who made Abram rich. Abram wanted every thing he gained to be known as a gift from His Creator. He trusted God for the promise of riches, and He knew that meant God would have to be his only provider. We may have many blessings from mankind, but the very source is always our Father God.

This story portion ends with Abram’s conversation with God about not yet having an heir. So, while Abram knew God was his provider, here we get to see his human side as he wrestles with trusting God for his future promise of children that would outnumber the dust of the earth. Abram begins to reason that maybe it is a servant’s child that will become his heir, but God tells him once again that the promise will come from Abram’s own body. He then takes him outside and compares his future promise with the number of stars in the sky.

God knows our form, and He knows that we often trust what we see, which is why we so often trust the creation over the Creator, but He is also kind and merciful as He tenderly reminds us who He is and that His plans for us are always for the good. I love how this little story shows Abram both at his best and at his worst, and it shows how God is ready to bless him in both of those places. God is always the Creator, and He always wants to create wonderful things in our lives if we will keep our sights and trust set on Him.

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

When A Lie is Not A Lie


Stories like the one in today’s reading from Genesis 12:14 through Genesis 13:4 may be one of the reasons why our court system has testifiers agree to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In this story, Abram has decided that his wife Sarai’s beauty could cost him his life, so he falls back on the fact that she is his half-sister. He has her tell the Egyptians that she is Abram’s sister and conveniently leave out the part about her being married to him. They pay him handsomely for sharing his “sister” with them, and they don’t question it until plagues hit their household. Somehow, I guess the word has already gotten around that you don’t mess with the things of God Almighty because they knew what was causing their plagues, and they immediately released Sarai to Abram and sent them both safely on their way with many blessings.

For me, the idea of telling a half truth, even for a good cause, is difficult. I am honest to a fault, and I have to find a reason and a justification before I can agree to something like what was cooked up between Abram and Sarai. I actually felt bad for the Egyptians and what they had to go through as a result of this half-lie. But as I study it and other Scriptures, I can see that there are times when the “letter of the law” is less important than the “spirit of the law.” For example, if you tell someone that you have plans that don’t include celebrating their birthday because you actually want to surprise that person with a party, in the letter of the law, you’ve told a lie. But in the spirit of the law, you were not leaving out truth for the purpose of hurting someone, so it wasn’t truly a lie. For the Egyptians, if they truly served God Almighty, Abram wouldn’t even have had to fear they would take his life just to take his wife for themselves. If they served the True God, and if they were God-minded and not self-centered pleasure seekers, they would have known to pray about everything rather than just thinking they could take something simply because they desired it.

It’s not always easy to know when to lean on the spirit of the law over the letter, but there are a few other biblical examples of it…

In 1 Samuel 21, King David acts like he is insane.

In Joel 3:10, the weak are to say they are strong.

There’s even a story where a prophet has to get beaten to look like he has been attacked before arriving at a particular city.

All of these things point to the same issue–do not speak lies or truth with the purpose of hurting others. Search your heart and pray before you speak at all times. Commit your ways to God, and from there, He will establish your thoughts, and thereby your words. Walk in the spirit of the law, and you’re less likely to violate the letter of the law unless there is just no other way around it.

October 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Will Make You A Name


Today begins portion three from Genesis, Chapter 12, Verses 1-13. I’m out again after having an incredibly blessed meeting with Louisville Christian Writers. And, again I know I won’t make it home on time, so I’m using the phone app. Yay for apps!

Anyway, yesterday I talked about men who used the gifts of God to make a name for themselves. In today’s story, we meet Abram, Sarai, and their families. We find a man who has caught the attention of God like Noah did, and God has decided He has great plans for this guy.

God begins to share His plans with Abram, including those to make of him a great nation. He says He will bless him so much that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. God even tells him that He will bless others who bless him.

The part that really caught my attention–because of the haughty men of yesterday’s story–is God’s promise to make a name for Abram. What an amazing blessing. For all the work we do trying to make names for ourselves and/or trying to leave a legacy, and here is Yahveh Almighty telling Abram how He wants to make a name FOR him. I see by this that it IS okay to have a name that is known by others–as long as it is God who makes that name for you.

Blessings to you all as you seek His perfect will for your lives.

October 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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