Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

I’m Not Talkin’ Bout the Linen


Nepali Woman Hanging Sheets to Dry by Flickr User Matthew Ramsey, CC License = Attribution

Nepali Woman Hanging Sheets to Dry by Flickr User Matthew Ramsey, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In one of the greatest misheard lyrics of all time, we get the title of this post from the song I’d Really Love to See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley. The line actually says, “I’m not talkin’ about movin’ in.” It’s a song with a catchy tune but sort of a sad set of lyrics. The guy misses his ex, and to get her to consider spending time with him, he tries to assure her that he’s not talking about anything permanent.

But in tonight’s Torah reading from Exodus 29:38 through Exodus 29:46, the end of the chapter, God speaks a message directly opposite this song. There are details about the lambs that are to be offered in the morning and the evening every day, details about the grain offering of flour and olive oil, and details about the drink offering of wine. There are no more details about the fine-woven linens, so even though it’s based on a misheard lyric line, my title is correct.

The last half of the paragraph in today’s reading is the one that got my attention though. The offerings are given to draw the Spirit of Adonai with their pleasing aroma. At the place of offering, Yahveh says He will meet with the people, and the glory of His presence will consecrate the meeting place. Then, it says, God will live with Israel and be their God. He says that when He lives with them, He will be their God and they will know that He is the One who brought them out of Egypt. More importantly, it says they will know He brought them out of Egypt in order to live with them.

Yes, God is talkin’ about movin’ in. He does want to change their lives. He wants to be their God, and He wants them to know Him as their God. And because Yahveh is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I believe His message is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His purpose in delivering us from the bondage of sin is because He wants to move in. He says that He is a jealous God, and He has never liked being a stranger to those He created with love and with His own breath. He doesn’t just want to see us for one night, or once a week. He wants to move all the way into our lives, and then He wants to continually move IN our lives if only we will let Him.

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

Chariots of Mire


Pharaohs Chariots Image by Flickr User Nick Thompson, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Pharaohs Chariots Image by Flickr User Nick Thompson, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Maybe they ran in like Chariots of Fire thinking they were all that and a bag of chips, but the pride that pushed Pharaoh along with all his chariots and cavalry, made them nothing more than an army trapped in the muck and mire of the returning sea. In today’s reading from Exodus 14:26 through Exodus 15:26, we will see what God does when anyone tries to raise himself up as if he is greater than Yahveh Almighty, and we will see what God does for those who lift Him up as God and Lord, so He can deliver them from the miry clay at the bottom of the deepest sea of sin. His mercy endures forever!

So God tells Moses to stretch his arm out over the sea to bring it down upon the Egyptians, and he does it. The Egyptians try to flee, but they are swept into the sea, and not one of them is left. But Israel continues to walk on dry ground with the sea walled up on their right and left. On that day, Israel sees the might of God, and they believe in both Him and His servant, Moses. And they begin to sing what has been sung to a variety of tunes and names, but often known as The Song of Moses.

The first twenty verses of Chapter 15 are the lyrics of the song that begins with a praise to God because He is exalted and because He threw the horse and rider into the sea. I love what would be considered the second verse of the song…

Yah is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
This is my God: I will glorify him;
my father’s God: I will exalt him.

The rest of the song goes back and forth from praising God for who He is and for His strength and describing exactly what He did to the sea and to Pharaoh and his men. At the end of the song, it speaks of Moses’ sister, Miriam, picking up a tambourine and playing along with the praise song while leading other women who played tambourines and danced. Somehow, I can just hear the inspired singing and see the inspired worship as Miriam and Israel lift their praises up to Yahveh who has just given them life after what looked like impending death from all sides. This is a true revival praise service.

After the song, Moses leads Israel deeper into the desert, and suddenly the children of Israel are thirsty. The only water available is from the river of Marah, meaning bitter, and so named because the waters were too bitter to drink. The children of Israel, delivered miraculously only three days before, start whining again. Still, even with the whining, Moses seeks God who shows him a piece of wood that when thrown into the water makes its flavor sweet and drinkable.

Now I’m wondering if the children of Israel were like fish with short memories, or if whining was just their preferred method of asking God for favor. His word says we have not because we ask not, but I wonder if how we ask makes any difference. I know that God, like any good parent, wants to provide for His children, so I think we should come before His throne with confidence and trust that He will ALWAYS provide for us as we need. Of course, I also think we should ask realistically and with respect. In other words, it’s probably not wise to ask for all the gold in the world just because we know Our Father owns the gold in a thousand hills. 🙂

While Israel is stopped in the desert, God begins to give them His laws and rules of life. His ways, which are, and always have been, above our ways, were most certainly the best ways to live for those who wanted His peace and the best life. I love verse 26 in today’s reading, so I’m going to add it here in the words from The Complete Jewish Bible… He said, “If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your God, do what he considers right, pay attention to his mitzvot and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.” I know that when we do what He considers right, we will find similar promises for our lives now.

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

At The Water’s Edge


Red Sea Parting Graphic by Flickr User Amboo Who?, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Red Sea Parting Graphic by Flickr User Amboo Who?, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new window to access user’s original image and photo stream at Flickr.

Almost 30 years ago, I wrote a song based on this story. While I never spent time with other writers on this, working on editing and such, the words and ideas from the rough draft fit the theme. So, without digging out my old tablets, here are the words to the best of my memory…

As the Jewish nation stood before the Red Sea,
Pharaoh came in after them, although he’d set them free.
All at once the children of Israel began to cry,
Moses did you just lead us out here so that we could die.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So Moses said, “Hush all ye children and wait upon the Lord.”
And then he held up his staff, and the sea rolled back at God’s word.
So the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry land,
And Pharaoh was killed by the sea and the mighty power of God’s hand.
(CHORUS)
And God will part the waters… of sorrow before your eyes,
And you can cross your troubles… on land that He makes dry.
And when you reach the other side and climb to higher ground,
You’ll find God’s washed away the things… that tried to drag you down.

There was a third verse I can’t seem to remember, but I know the last line in the verse said something about, “And at the water’s edge, everything can change.” Even without remembering the rest of the verse, that one line has come back to me to give me strength and encourage me multiple times. I know that when things look the most impossible, sometimes it’s just the darkness before the dawn, or God planning on showing off like He did in today’s reading from Exodus 14:15 through Exodus 14:25.

As we begin today’s verses, Adonai is asking Moses why he is crying to Him when all he needs to do is stretch his staff out over the sea, divide the water, and send Israel across on dry land. I love the matter-of-fact way this is worded, and I’m thinking that Moses was thinking, “Hmm, why didn’t I think of that?” I mean, unless God had already told Moses exactly what he was going to do, I’m certain Moses knew God was going to do something, but I doubt he had an idea of exactly what that was going to be or that he had the freedom to just lift his staff and make things happen.

So God tells Moses to go ahead and do this thing, and that He will win glory through it at the expense of Pharaoh and his army. He says the Egyptians will know that He is The Lord, He then sends both the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud behind Israel’s camp to separate them from Egypt’s camp. He kept it dark for Egypt and light for Israel all night long. Then Moses lifted his staff, and God caused a strong wind from the east that made the sea go back. The waters were divided, the sea floor became dry, and the children of Israel walked on dry land between the two walls of water.

As the story for today ends, Pharaoh decides that if Israel can do it, so can he, and he leads all his horses and chariots into the now-dry sea to pursue them. Just before dawn, Scripture says God looked through the pillars of cloud and fire at the Egyptian army and through them into a panic as He removed wheels from their chariots, so they could only move slowly and with great difficulty. They figured out that God was fighting for Israel and tried to turn back, and we’ll see what became of that in tomorrow’s reading.

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen just how well Jim Carrey does at acting out how messed up men would be if we tried to harness the powers of God, or even if you have and really like this movie like I do, have a little fun with this video clip from Bruce Almighty

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

If You Can Read This, You’re Too Close


Tailgating Costs Lives by Flickr User Max aka landotter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Tailgating Costs Lives by Flickr User Max aka landotter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

So I’m one of those who gets really frustrated by tailgaters. I’ve even thought of creating a bumper sticker that says, “Consider doing a random act of kindness; get off my tail.” And I really like the matter-of-fact statement on the back-end of the truck in the picture. It’s too bad Pharaoh didn’t have this truck as a warning too. Maybe he would have realized the danger of his tailgating mistake before it was too late.

In today’s reading from Exodus 14:9 through Exodus 14:14 (yep, it’s very short today), we see all the horses and chariots of Egypt pursing the children of Israel. Pharaoh’s cavalry and army overtakes Israel as they are camped by the sea, and when the people see them, they begin to cry out against Moses. “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Did you have to bring us out to the desert to die? We told you to leave us alone, so why didn’t you just let us stay slaves?”

Arghh! If I was Moses, I think I would have been so frustrated, I might have asked if they wanted a little cheese with that whine. After all, they were the ones who cried out when they were in slavery, and they were the ones who asked God to save them. God heard their cry, and the first thing He had Moses say to them was that He was sending Moses as a response to that cry. But now they’re accusing Moses as if it was all his idea and as if they had no part in the decision-making process.

But I understand, they are in great fear. Suddenly their hope at freedom has been deferred, and they have become heartsick. They think everything they’ve endured will end in death, so they’re thinking it might have been easier to keep their mouths shut and stay slaves. But God knew Pharaoh’s heart, and He knew things would have continuously gotten worse for His children, so He stepped in to save them. And Moses does not seem to be frustrated. Rather, he encourages them to stop being so fearful. He tells them to remain steady in their trust that Yahveh IS going to save them. He goes so far as to tell them that God is going to take care of things that very day, and that while they see the Egyptians now, it will be the last they see of them.

The last verse today has Moses telling the people that God will do the battle for them, so they can all calm down. Or, for other encouraging words, Moses could have used the keep calm, and carry on meme. Theirs would have been, “Keep calm, and let God carry on.”

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

Ready or Not (Ready)


Ready or Not by Flickr User Greg Westfall, CC License = Attribution

Ready or Not by Flickr User Greg Westfall, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream on Flickr.

So, if you’re one of those who stays up late, you might be wondering why you didn’t see the blog before midnight. First, I was out at a wonderful planning meeting for the next year in our Christian writer’s group, Louisville Christian Writers. Well, the meeting didn’t go that long, but it was followed by the kind of fellowship that makes you wonder why everyone doesn’t get how great it is to be a Christian. But then, it’s those times when we visit with friends who cherish the presence of God the way we do that help us get through those times that make it a bit harder to be a Christian.

Anyway, I’m going to change the time of this to show a post by 11:59pm on January 11th, just so it will archive correctly. But so it doesn’t look like a lie, here’s my confession. After getting home at 5 til midnight, I forgot for about 20 minutes. Then I was like “EEK, I forgot!” and quickly plugged in and started my laptop only to have it get part way and refuse to totally boot about three times. I finally got it going, and since then I have struggled with the picture to go with it. I wanted to use something about being battle ready, but no pics or videos really fit what today’s reading from Exodus 13:17 through Exodus 14:8 was really saying.

As our newest portion begins (Parashah 16, Hebrew B’shallach meaning After he had let go), God is leading the newly delivered Israelites away from the land of the Philistines because He thinks they may see war and turn around to go back to Egypt. Combining this with a few verses later where the Scripture says the people of Israel went up from Egypt fully armed, and then the last verse of today’s reading that says they went out boldly, I was thinking, “Boy, there are a lot of messages just in this.” But the one that really strikes me is that when God saves and delivers us, He gives us a full armor and His Spirit gives us the tools we need for boldness. Many people even start out going boldly to others to share what they have gained and from what they’ve been set free. Still, when we see things get tough, signs of war like God knew the Israelites would see in the land of the Philistines, do we consider going back into bondage just so we won’t have to fight?

As the reading progresses, we have Moses keeping his promise to carry the bones of Joseph, and we are told of the pillars of cloud and fire that follow Israel by day and by night to guide and protect them. And then God tells Israel to repent–literally. He tells them to turn around and backtrack, to go the opposite way they were traveling. But God does it for a purpose. He wants Pharaoh to think the children of Israel are lost and wandering in the desert so Pharaoh will come after them. And He plans to use that against Pharaoh and his armies to show Egypt that He, Yahveh, is truly the Lord.

Pharaoh fell for the trap and began to question why they were so stupid as to let their slaves go. Actually, it says Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart. Yeah, I guess as soon as they had to make their own cup of coffee, they were reconsidering the loss of all those obedient and subservient people. So Pharaoh prepared 600 of his chariots and his people plus all the other chariots in Egypt along with their commanders. And God made Pharaoh hard-hearted so he pursued Israel.

And so we come to an end with Israel leaving Egypt boldly but God knowing their hearts might shrink if they see war, so we can’t be sure if they were ready. And then we see Pharaoh following after Israel, also boldly, but for stupid reasons. And we know Pharaoh isn’t ready for what is to come, but he doesn’t know that yet. Ready or not, God’s got a plan, and He’s got a place within it for whosoever will make themselves ready to follow Him. Will that be you?

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

Graveyard Shift


Night Watchman by Flickr User Brian Hawkins, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Night Watchman by Flickr User Brian Hawkins, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr

I was just talking to my husband today about how much I used to like to work the graveyard shift. I worked in the travel store of a truck stop off Interstate 40, so it was like day in the middle of the night there. It was lit up, it was noisy with talk and diesel engines running outside, and if families were traveling late, the sleepy kid chatter was even fun to listen to. I loved the busyness that kept me going through the night, and I loved getting off work just in time to see beautiful desert sunrises. During the warmest months, I’d get my grocery shopping done and then go swimming in the pool at my mobile home park before anyone else was even awake yet. I think that’s why I’m still a bit of a night person.

Imagine my joy when I first read about Yahveh being a night watchman. In today’s reading from Exodus 12:29 through Exodus 12:51, the end of the chapter, we begin reading with the midnight strike against the first-born of Egypt. In that sense, God was also working the graveyard shift, and the cry of grief that arose from every house in the land was loud and horrendous. Every home was touched by death. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the middle of the night, and I guess he knew better than to keep his promise that the next time Moses saw his face would be his death. Instead, Pharaoh told Moses to get the people, the animals, and everything they planned to take and just get out of the land. The Egyptians pressed Pharaoh to push them out quickly for fear they would all end up dead.

I hate that the stuff in the above verse had to happen, but I also know that people had a chance to do things God’s way and chose against it. From creation forward, wayward branches of people broke off and chose to serve false gods for their own selfish desires, But God Almighty is the only one that truly reigns over the earth, and He is the only One we should serve.

As the story continues, the people took their unleavened dough and packed it up to head out of Egypt in a hurry. They traveled from Rameses to Succoth, and a mixed multitude went with them. It appears that it was there where they baked matzah for the rest of the journey. It had been 430 years to the day since Israel first moved into Egypt.

I love how verse 42 reads from The Complete Jewish Bible: This was a night when Adonai kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and this same night continues to be a night when Adonai keeps vigil for all the people of Isra’el through all their generations. It made me cry the first time I read it, and it still stirs me to think that the God of Creation chooses to keep watch over His people on the night of the their deliverance. I believe this is why the altar experience is so moving because I believe God still keeps vigil over people when they are delivered from sin and death.

The last of the reading goes on to explain how Passover is to be kept for all the generations, including how to treat the foreigner who lives in your home. The foreigner must become circumcised to celebrate, just as we must become circumcised in heart, choosing to do things God’s way instead of our own, in order to partake of all He has for us. Oh, but it is so worth it.

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

Who Do You Think You Are?


DNA Strand by Flickr User Polygon Medical Animation, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

DNA Strand by Flickr User Polygon Medical Animation, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click on image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

I haven’t watched the show yet, but my mom thinks the show Who Do You Think You Are is the greatest. It apparently tells the genealogy of celebrities, and I could see how finding out if someone you admire is in your family line could be interesting. I’m actually surprised that hubby, who loves doing genealogical research, hasn’t tried to watch it, but it could just be our busy schedules. Never-the-less, I ask the question because I wonder which of the patriarchs I might be connected to if I were able to trace my DNA all the way back to the Torah.

In today’s reading from Exodus 12:21 through Exodus 12:28, we find Moses and Aaron giving instruction to the children of Israel on how to select and prepare the Passover lamb. If you click on it, you’ll see the Hebrew word for Passover, which is Pesach. As an interesting note here: the Greek word for the same, used in the New Testament, is Pascha. In many translations, it is written in English as Easter, but the actual word there should be Passover. You will see how this is important as I continue.

So, after the lamb is slaughtered, each household is to dip leaves in the blood, and use that blood to paint the top and sides of the door of the house. After they apply the blood, they are not to go out until the morning. When the death angel comes into Egypt, He will “Pass Over” the houses where the blood is applied, and the first-born children in those homes will not be killed.

As this instruction is given, the children of Israel are told this will be a law to be observed by them and their descendants FOREVER. And this is where the genealogy comes in. Do you know whether or not you are a descendant of any of the children of Israel? Should the descendants of Israel still be adhering to that law since forever isn’t over yet? Now, consider this, since “forever” includes “eternity,” does that mean Passover will be celebrated in Heaven?

Here are my answers to the above questions…

  1. I don’t know if my DNA goes back to them or not. What I do know is that all who consider themselves saved in Christ are also now considered to be children of Abraham. That would make us all descendants of Israel.
  2. I believe that if God says “forever,” He means “forever.”
  3. There is Scripture that points to observing Sukkot in eternity, so I could see the observance of Passover, but I imagine it will be done in quite a different way since we have one final Passover Lamb in Yahshua HaMashiach.

I believe the original Passover was done as a physical type and shadow of what was finalized by the death of Yahshua, and I also believe that to fully understand that, we should understand the original feast and law. If I told you that a particular piece of candy tasted just like a real cherry, but you had not tasted a real cherry, then how would you know? Again, I urge readers to find a Messianic Passover Seder to attend this year, but if you cannot find one, there are places online to view and download the booklet that gives the teachings from the dinner celebration. I will add those when we get closer to this year’s feast time.

Our reading today ends with a reminder to the children of Israel to remember these things when they have come into the new land and provisions from Yahveh Almighty. The people bowed in worship, and they did all that Moses and Aaron taught them to do. May you, my friends, be blessed as you study and apply God’s Holy Word to your own lives and families.

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

Just So You Know


So Pharaoh has told Moses that he better never see his face again, and that the next time he sees his face will be the day Moses dies. And we think that’s the end of the conversation. But not so. Moses has much more to pass on in warnings from Yahveh. I could just hear Moses saying, “Okay, I’m leaving for good, but before I do, just so you know…” And I say this because of the context of their conversation in today’s reading from Exodus 11:4 through Exodus 12:20. But before we jump into that, here’s a fun video from Everybody Loves Raymond when Ray tells Deborah that she gets her way by saying, “Just so you know.” That part is near the end of the video.

So Moses’ last words to Pharaoh were his strongest yet. He speaks as God spoke to him saying (my paraphrase), “At about midnight, I’m coming down there to exact justice. Every first-born will die, including yours, Pharaoh. Even the firstborn children of the servants and animals will die. And the cry of Egypt will be strong, but not a peep will be heard from the children of Israel, so you, Pharaoh, will realize that I distinguish between my people and Egypt.”

And then Moses went on to talk for himself. He told Pharaoh that the servants would come before him and bow themselves while telling him to please leave their land. And he said he would leave after that happened. It appears that God was speaking to him at the same time and reminding him that Pharaoh would not listen, but that it would enable God to perform even more miraculous works to show His power.

And then the reading switches gears to Yahveh talking to Moses and Aaron and giving them instructions on what was about to happen. God explained to them that the month they were in would begin their new year. He then told Moses to gather the community and teach them what to do to avoid the death angel when it came to Egypt.

Now, the timing is a little off here as I read it because it started with midnight but the instructions now include choosing a lamb on the 10th of the month and keeping it until the 14th. Of course, it did not say “midnight tonight,” so that could add confusion. Maybe God had even told Moses to tell Pharaoh that “some midnight” He would show up, and not to tell him exactly when. I guess that would make more sense because it would prevent Pharaoh from attempting to stop the Israelites from doing their part.

Anyway, if you read the Scriptures for yourself, you will find all the instructions from choosing a lamb from the sheep or goats, killing it, eating it, what to eat it with, etc. There are a lot of details in the Passover celebration that point to Christ, and if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend attending a Messianic Passover Seder for an enriching and enlightening experience.

The teaching then goes into the instructions for the feast of unleavened bread. The call to eat matzah (unleavened bread) instead of hametz (leavened bread) is so strong that God says whoever eats the hametz, even if they are foreigners or visitors, would be cut off from Israel. All leaven is to be cleaned from the homes and tables as the festival if celebrated. Of course, since leaven is compared with sin, it would make sense that God would want His people to begin a new year cleansed from all unrighteousness–even to the point of not having those engaging in it living on your property. His gift to us is that we can start over, we can start clean, and we CAN be free to go and sin no more … just so you know. 🙂

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

The Next Time Ever I See Your Face


Hidden Fireman by Flickr User Ardin Hasa aka Ardinnnn :),  CC License  = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Hidden Fireman by Flickr User Ardin Hasa aka Ardinnnn :), CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab to view original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Do you remember that funny song with sort of an Italian lingo called “Shaduppa You Face“?  The lyrics didn’t make a lot of sense, but I can just see Pharaoh hollering at Moses and saying, “Ah, Shaduppa you face, Moses.”

In today’s reading from Exodus 10:24 through Exodus 11:3, Pharaoh calls in Moses to tell him that he and the women and children can go ahead and leave to worship God. I guess that plague of darkness had him pretty freaked out. I’ve been on a few cave trips where they introduced what they call TCD or Total Cave Darkness, and it’s not fun to put your hand right in front of your face and see nothing. But even three days of total darkness wasn’t quite enough because, once again, Pharaoh has restrictions.

“What are you planning to take with you?” he asks. First it was the who he wasn’t satisfied with, and now it’s the what. And when Moses tells him they need to take the cattle, and that not one hoof will be left behind, Pharaoh tells him it isn’t necessary. Of course, that was now the only cattle Pharaoh had since he allowed everything else to be destroyed by plagues, so I’m guessing Pharaoh was even more defensive than before.

Moses tries to explain that they need the livestock to worship Yahveh, and that they will not know which ones are chosen for sacrifice until they are out there, but Pharaoh refuses to relent. Beyond that, he gets angry and tells Moses to go away and not to ever see his face again. He warns him that the day he sees his face will also be the day he dies. And Moses basically says, “Okay, if that’s how you want it,” and leaves.

Now God tells Moses that He is going to bring one more plague on Egypt, and that it will be so bad that Pharaoh will actually throw the people of Israel out. God then tells Moses to have the people of Israel go to their Egyptian neighbors to ask for gold and silver jewelry. The people willingly give what they have because God has given Israel favor in the site of the Egyptians. Moses is even thought of as a great man by the servants of Pharaoh.

It’s too bad Pharaoh’s servants couldn’t pull enough weight to convince Pharaoh of the value of Moses, but then again, I guess that goes to show that it is truly God who gives us favor in the eyes of man, and He did not give Moses favor in Pharaoh’s eyes. I believe God chose to keep Pharaoh hard-hearted because He knew what was in the depths of Pharaoh’s heart. His word says He will have mercy on some, and He will harden some. I love the way it’s stated in Romans 9:14-18 in The Message Bible. Hover over, or click, the previous verse to link to Bible Gateway and read it yourself. And remember that even our desire to serve God is from Him, so none of us can boast in ANY part of our salvation or deliverance.

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

He’ll Leave A Light On For You


Candle with Shadow Cross by Flickr User John Harvey aka monkeyc.net, CC License = Attribution, Noncommerical, Share Alike

Candle with Shadow Cross by Flickr User John Harvey aka monkeyc.net, CC License = Attribution, Noncommerical, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab with access to original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.
User graciously allows derivatives on this image, so I was able to frame it and add the Scripture verse.

Light is such a welcoming feature that a famous U.S. motel chain created the slogan, “We’ll leave a light on for you.” Few people like to walk into a place with no light, especially if that place is unfamiliar. And in all truth, that’s why we have God’s Word. It is God’s way of bringing us from darkness into His marvelous light. For those who are living in darkness and do not understand it, God’s light can be blinding at first, so we who live and walk in His light do well to remember to bring it up gently. We can also remember that in total darkness, it takes very little light to illuminate an entire room.

In today’s reading from Exodus 10:12 through Exodus 10:23, we will see that God is the Creator of light, and He can take it away just as sure as He can send it. In the beginning of our reading, Moses is instructed to stretch out his hand. When he does, God causes a wind to blow from the east that brings in more locusts than Egypt has ever seen. When it is all said and done, not one green thing remains in all the land.

Pharaoh rushes to bring in Moses, and this time he actually confesses that he has sinned against God and against Moses. He asks for forgiveness of his sin “just this once” and begs Moses to intercede for God to remove this plague. God sends a west wind and drives the locusts into the Sea of Suf, but Pharaoh does not let the people go. As an answer, God begins plague number nine. He tells Moses to raise his hand to the sky, and it brings in a thick darkness over all the land of Egypt. It was so dark that people could not see each other or go anywhere for three days. But the people of Israel had light in their homes.

I love that last line because it can be taken in more than just a literal sense. When the people of Egypt chose to be disobedient to God, even their trusted sources of light (I’m guessing that would’ve basically been candles in those times) did not seem to work. When people now choose to live in disobedience to God, their sources of light–knowledge, power, money, things, beauty, etc.–won’t illuminate their way either.

How many stories do we read of those we would think have everything who end up descending into hopelessness and ending their lives by suicide? There’s a whole set of books by Patricia Fox-Sheinwold that covers stories of celebrities whose lives came to a tragic end instead of a natural one. Many of the stories are about suicide. This tells us that no matter what else people have or do not have, we all need God in our lives and in our homes if we want true peace and light. If we seek God with our whole hearts, we can be sure He WILL leave a light on for us, so we can find Him.

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

Leftovers Again


Leftovers for Dinner by Flickr User Avi and Elina Flax, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Leftovers for Dinner by Flickr User Avi and Elina Flax, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab with access to original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Well over twenty years ago, I read a story in Reader’s Digest from the Life In These United States section. It was a story of a mother who was talking about how much television was beginning to influence her family. She served leftovers for dinner, and one of her children complained loudly, “Aw Mom, reruns again?” For some reason, it was cute enough that it pops into my mind almost anytime I think about leftovers.

In today’s reading from Exodus 10:1 through Exodus 10:11, Pharaoh should have thought about his leftovers with gratefulness. In this new portion, Parashah 15 titled “Bo” in Hebrew and meaning Go, Yahveh is talking to Moses about going to Pharaoh with another warning. He encourages Moses by reminding him that the great works He is doing in front of Egypt will be stories Moses can pass on to his children and grandchildren, so that future generations will know that He is God.

The warning to Pharaoh is that if he does not allow God’s people to leave for worship, God will send, as plague number eight, so many locusts that they will eat up every growing thing that is left over from the hail damage. He warns it will be worse than anyone in his generation, or in previous generations, has ever seen, and that it will fill all the houses of Pharaoh and his servants. Moses gives his message, and then he turns his back and leaves.

After he’s gone, Pharaoh’s servants begin to beg him to reconsider. They basically ask Pharaoh how long Moses must be a thorn in their side, and Pharaoh relents and calls Moses back in to tell him the people can leave. But, he does add one caveat. He asks who they will take with them, and when Moses tells him it will be men, women, children, livestock, etc., Pharaoh tells him there’s no way they can all go and assumes it’s a trick. He tells them that only the men can go, or no one can go. And then Pharaoh drives the men out of his presence.

Because Pharaoh did not know God, he did not understand that it is not up to mankind to question God’s request or try to make changes to God’s will. He opened the door to allow even more loss into his life, and the hardness of his heart would cost him a greater price than he could ever have imagined. It would do us all well to take this lesson to heart and to use it to teach others that they do not have to lose everything before they turn to God. Resistance will not change God’s mind no matter how much those in sin might think it will. It’s as simple as this: God is God, and we are not.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hail or No, We Won’t Let You Go


Leaves and Hail by Flickr User Michael J, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Leaves and Hail by Flickr User Michael J, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

What is it about stubbornness that makes so many people hold onto it so strongly? I mean, Pharaoh has had far more than three days of trouble. All he had to do was let the people go for three days, but because he remained stubborn and hard-hearted, he is getting ready to suffer yet another plague. And we can be pretty sure that he is blaming all of these plagues on God, on Moses and Aaron, and/or on the people of Israel. But all the blame and justification in the world will not change the fact that a simple act of obedience, and maybe a little compassion from Pharaoh toward Israel, could have stopped all of Egypt’s troubles.

In today’s reading from Exodus 9:17 through Exodus 9:35 (the end of the chapter, and the end of this week’s portion), God is having to issue yet another warning to Pharaoh. This time He tells Pharaoh that He is getting ready to send a terrible hail storm on Egypt that will be worse than anything they have ever seen. But, this time they actually have another way out. Anyone who brings their slaves and animals inside and out of the field will not lose them. But every human and animal left out in the field will die from getting pelted by the hail stones. Those among Pharaoh’s servants who believed Yahveh brought their slaves and animals inside.

When the storm begins, it comes with thunder and fire as well. From the way it’s worded about flashing up, I’m guessing the fire is lightning, but I can’t be sure. The storm destroys plants and kills animals and people, but in the land of Goshen where God’s people stayed, there is no storm at all. As I’m typing this, I’m imagining Goshen to be in the eye of the storm and thinking how this would be like saying they were being watched by God as the storm was going on around them. If we trust in God, we too can have the promise of His eye watching us and of His protection in our midst. If we keep our eye on Him, then we do not have to fear no matter how severe we see the storms raging around us.

Now this next part almost made me laugh. Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron with a confession. He says, “This time I have sinned.” What? This time? So he’s not only stubborn and hard-hearted, he’s an idiot too? Maybe the plagues are finally starting to wear him down, but why would a person need to be scraped along the bottom before he decides to look up? And why, when he does finally look up, does he look through half-closed eyes instead of confessing and forsaking all his sins so he can be set free from them? It makes no sense to me, but then pride never has made sense since–from the time Lucifer used it at the throne to this moment. It always comes before destruction, but we humans continue to push the boundaries anyway.

Still, after Pharaoh pleas for deliverance, God does stop the storm. Moses even gives Pharaoh the good news that the crops which had not yet blossomed would still come up for him. And yet again, when Pharaoh is no longer uncomfortable, he hardens his heart like a big piece of hail, and he changes his mind again about letting the people go–just as God told Moses would happen. And this is the end of the week’s portion, and the news of the seventh plague. Shabbat Shalom.

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

Oh The Games Pharaoh Plays Now


The Games People Play by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The Games People Play by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Image from our messy game closet at our old house. It was up in a closet I couldn’t reach well, so I basically had to toss most of the games up there. The new closet of games is a little better. 🙂

Sing with me…

Oh the games Pharaoh plays now,
Every night and every day now,
Never meaning what he says now,
Never sayin’ what he means.
La la la la la la la la…

If you don’t know the song for the tune, here’s a link to a YouTube video of it…

So, in today’s reading from Exodus 8:19(23) through Exodus 9:16, we have the continued warning from God to Pharaoh about the fourth plague, an abundance of bugs (some say flies) that would swarm Egypt yet be spared from God’s people. All this if Pharaoh did not release the people to go worship, which, of course, he didn’t. So God kept His word and sent the swarms of bugs just when He said He would. I even contemplated a title for this post of “Vex and Bugs and Stock with Boils” but since hubby didn’t figure out the connection to “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” I wrote the parody title instead.

Anyway, Pharaoh summons Moses and tells him the people can worship, but they must do it right there in the land. Moses wisely explains that the animals they would sacrifice would be an abomination to the Egyptians, so it would not be a good idea for them to stay in the land. Pharaoh concedes and says they can go out to worship, and Moses warns him to stop playing games if he doesn’t want to see more plagues. Of course, as soon as Moses prayed, and God took the plague of insects away, Pharaoh recanted and refused to let the people go.

In Chapter nine, Moses takes God’s word back to Pharaoh to warn of a plague that would hit only Egypt’s livestock. After all of them died, and none belonging to Israel died, you’d think Pharaoh would wake up, but he didn’t. That was the little-talked about plague number five.

When Pharaoh would not obey God’s commands or warnings, Moses followed God’s direction to begin plague six. He blew some kiln ashes into the air where God turned them into infected sores on all the men and animals. This time, the magicians couldn’t even stand in the presence of Moses because of the sores, let alone try to work any of their magic. Of course, Pharaoh remained hard-hearted.

As today’s reading comes to an end, Moses comes with a warning that God Himself will now send plagues that will infect Pharaoh and all his top officials. It’s hard to tell if they had been under the previous plagues. Never-the-less, God’s word to Pharaoh is that He could have sent such severe plagues that Pharaoh and all his people would’ve been wiped off the face of the earth, but He chose to let them live, so that they would see that God has no equal. He warns that He will now show them a power that will cause His name to resound throughout the whole earth. Not that He ever did, but I think we can safely say that Yahveh Almighty does not play ANY games.

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

Petrified Heart


Petrified Forest Logs by Flickr User Morten Rand-Hendriksen CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Petrified Forest Logs by Flickr User Morten Rand-Hendriksen CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve always thought petrified wood was the coolest stuff. Of course, I like a lot of things in rock form. I mean, I even own my very own box of rocks, and I don’t think they’re dumb at all. 😉 Petrified wood actually looks like wood, but time and weather hardens what once was wood into a stone substance. It’s just like Pharaoh’s heart. It might look like a real heart, but it has been petrified by his fear of losing control until it has become impossible to touch and soften, even by the Hand of God.

In the last few days’ readings, we’ve seen where God was the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but today we read that Pharaoh himself hardens it. I said from the beginning that I guessed God only hardened it because He knew Pharaoh’s heart to begin with. That shows quite well in today’s reading from Exodus 8:7 (11) through Exodus 8:18 (22). (Parentheses are verse numbers in versions other than The Complete Jewish Bible.)

As the reading begins, Moses is seeking God to get rid of the frogs as he told Pharaoh he would do. God answers by killing all the frogs which the people then sweep out of the houses into big heaps until the towns stink. But as soon as Pharaoh found some relief from the plague, Scripture says he hardened his own heart and refused to keep his promise to let Israel go to worship. God tells Moses to have Aaron strike the dust of the ground so it would turn to lice, and pretty soon there was lice on every living creature in every home.

As usual, Pharaoh tries to get his magicians to do the same, and this time, they are unable. I wonder if it’s because only God is able to create something from the dust of the earth–especially something living. This time, even the magicians claim that the miraculous work is the finger of God, but Pharaoh is hard-hearted again just as Yahveh said he would be.

God tells Moses to go out to Pharaoh the next morning and again request that he let the people go to worship. He says for Moses to warn Pharaoh that if he doesn’t do it this time, there will be swarms of insects in every part of the land except the land of Goshen where God’s people dwell. By that, Yahveh says, all will know that Pharaoh will then know that He is God right there in the land. And what Scripture does not say is that also by that, Pharaoh will know the he is NOT the god of that land. It’s too bad Pharaoh didn’t know that the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Because we have the promise that with God’s touch, a heart of stone can become a heart of flesh, if Pharaoh would’ve learned to fear God instead of things of man like pride and control, even he would have had hope.

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

Greater Than; Less Than; No Equal


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real Profit of a Prophet


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deaf by Discouragement


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The High Cost of NOT Knowing God


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Family Album


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De Do Do Do De Da Da Da


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resident Bush


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

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

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

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

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

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

Labor Strike


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivered to Deliver


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Brick in the Wall of Oppression


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Elephant Never Forgets


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

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing Jordan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I Get Carried Away


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Work as a Slave for Food


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Egypt Thinks You’re Smelly


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob’s Bucket List


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children Go Where I Send Thee


Maze of Bushes by Daniel Kuperman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because I Reverence Yahveh


Torah Scroll image from wynnie at Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cisterns and Brothers


Or maybe the title could be Cistern and Brethren. There were no sisters in today’s reading from Genesis 37:23 through Genesis 37:36–the end of the chapter. But there were plenty of brothers. There were many evil brothers, and there were brothers who each in their own way tried to stave off the evil of murder. If you’ll remember from yesterday, Reuben suggested dropping Joseph in the cistern instead of killing him. Today, Judah suggested that instead of killing him, they should sell him to a band of Ishmaelites headed to Egypt. He told them it wasn’t right to kill someone who was a brother, and they agreed.

But when Reuben came back to rescue Joseph, he found that Joseph was no longer in the cistern, and he tore his clothes. He returned to where his brothers were having dinner and said, “The boy isn’t there. Now where can I go?” I don’t know if this gave away that he was going to rescue him or not, but their solution was to dip the robe they tore off him (a definite sign of their jealousy of the relationship he had with their father) into goat’s blood and present it to their father. They asked the father to identify if the robe belonged to Joseph, and I’m guessing they knew it would lead to the conclusion he drew–that his son was torn to pieces and eaten by a wild animal.

I doubt the brothers even thought about the effect of their selfish act on their father. Scripture says he mourned so deeply that he refused to be comforted. It says all his children tried to comfort him, but he told them he would go to his grave in mourning. Getting him out of the way did not get them any closer to their father and may even have caused even more of a division as he pushed them away.

The way things went between the brothers and their father reminds me of the quote… Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours glow any brighter. When I first saw it, I was preparing a church bulletin, and I found it in a book of clip art. It was accompanied by a drawing of a person holding a candle behind his back while blowing on the candle of someone else. The idea that it would not glow any brighter behind his back, or in effect “under a bushel,” seemed to make it more impactful. We do not make ourselves look better by making someone else look worse, and it hides our true light under a bushel of deception and manipulation. I guess it’s too bad those brothers didn’t have a book of virtues, or clip art, or some little instruction book to look at, but at least their bad decisions were recorded for us to learn from.

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

   

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