Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Grease is Not the Word


Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.

In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.

Now, if anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word Meshiach and Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.

After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.

When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.

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

As You Wish


So who among my readers is a fan of The Princess Bride? If you have seen it, then you already know what the line “As you wish” actually means. If you haven’t seen it, or if you have forgotten, watch the provided YouTube clip for understanding. Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, go get it right away because it’s one of those movies everyone should see at least once. 🙂

In today’s reading from Exodus 39:22 through Exodus 39:43 (the end of the chapter), we get the details for the final pieces of the vestments to be worn by Aaron and his sons for their services as priests to God. At the end of the description for each new piece, we get the same statement: “As Adonai had ordered Moses.” That statement could also be said like this: “As the Lord wished.”

From verse 33 to verse 41, we read that the tabernacle is now complete, and the craftsmen bring all the pieces to Moses. There is a list of all the pieces that have been created to make the project complete. And then, in verses 42 and 43, it all culminates with a statement of victory which I will let you read for yourselves…

42 The people of Isra’el did all the work just as Adonai had ordered Moshe. 43 Moshe saw all the work, and — there it was! — they had done it! Exactly as Adonai had ordered, they had done it. And Moshe blessed them.

Yes, they had done it! Each piece of furniture; every utensil; all the priest’s garments; the finely woven linen; the artistically embroidered curtains; and every bit of gold, silver, and bronze; all used and put together exactly as Adonai had ordered Moses. Moses carried the instructions to the people, and the people carried out the instructions from God. They had done it exactly as God had ordered.

Imagine the whole thing going something like the movie. The people, like the princess, make their request. They cry out, “Yahveh, save us!” And Yahveh Almighty answers them from His heart, making a plan of deliverance and mercy and grace. They may not have heard Him say the words, but everything He does for them is the same as if He had answered, “As you wish.” Though they struggled with doubts and human weaknesses, and–like Princess Buttercup did to Wesley–they pushed God away at times, when they realized who He was and began to walk in obedience, their actions returned the answer of “As you wish” back to God.

And now, that completed tabernacle is more real than ever for Behold, The Tabernacle of God is among men. When we find ourselves in bondage to sin and paying the price of sinful behavior, we cry out to God for deliverance. He answers, “As you wish” and offers mercy and grace in the blood of Yahshua our Messiah. We may not always accept it right away, and we may struggle even after we realize what that means to us, but He knows we long for His righteousness in our hearts. The struggle continues, and maybe there are times when we reject Him and push Him away completely. But one day, we will find ourselves on our knees–ready to surrender to Him. He will knock on our heart’s door, and we will answer, “As you wish, Lord.”

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

A Vested Interest in Israel


Cute Vests by Flickr User TheUglySweaterShop, CC License = Attribution

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

I love when a title can be seen in multiple ways, and even more when all the ways can be true. Based on the definitions of the word vest, it can be a garment worn to the waist, and the priest in the camp of Israel will wear the garment. It means to bestow power or authority on someone, and God definitely bestowed a lot on the priests of the tribe of Levi. And, it can mean to have a personal stake in something or someone. Both God and the priests have a vested interest in Israel and in the mercy and grace that are represented by the priesthood and the tabernacle practices.

In today’s reading from Exodus 39:2 through Exodus 39:21, we get to see the details of the vest that the artisans are making for the high priest. The parts of the vest, such as the breastplate, are made from gold; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; and finely-woven linen. And, yes, the first item in that list is actually gold, not just gold yarn. The reading says that they hammered the gold into thin sheets and then cut the sheets into threads in order to work them into the yarns and linen.

Can you imagine gold thread that is actually made from gold? Elvis Presley could imagine something close since he had a famous suit made from gold lame’ which was a yarn made with metallic ingredients. A famous tailor to the stars named Nudie Cohn created that suit, and many other famously outrageous outfits. You can read about him at Wikipedia, but since there are no pictures, I found a Pinterest page with lots of fun images, including Elvis’ suit and Nudie’s famous car. I actually got to see the car in person when I was a little girl living in Southern California. There were coins in the dashboard, the doors opened by pulling triggers on pistols, and there was a huge set of bull horns on the front of the car.

So, getting back to the original celebrity designer, God issued detailed instructions for the designs that would cover the priests in His service, and then He anointed skilled men to create them. He did all of this to represent the value of Israel to Him since the high priest was a representation of God Himself. And the part I find the most moving in this story is that God wanted the breastplate fastened down with gold chains, so it would ALWAYS be over the heart of the priest. Need I say more?

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

Stone Soup


Do you remember the children’s story called “Stone Soup”? It’s one of those stories that seems to have stuck with me from childhood forward. I’ve always believed in the idea that anything can be accomplished if only people will stop being selfish and will pull together as one. We have Scriptures that tell us that, like where Paul talks about all the members of the body being one, and we teach our kids to sing songs like “If We All Will Pull Together,” but when it comes down to it, it’s a struggle to find people who will share for the greater good.

In today’s reading from Exodus 38:1 through Exodus 39:1, we read more about the furnishings and utensils created by Bezalel and Oholiab. Yesterday, we read that the people of Israel actually gave too much, and the craftsmen had to tell them to stop bringing their offerings. Today, we actually get a breakdown of the donations and offerings the people brought in. I won’t give you the entire breakdown, but the metals given weighed in at the following amounts: Gold equaled 1930 pounds, silver equaled 6650 pounds, and bronze equaled 4680 pounds.

Now, while all of those above numbers sound like a lot of metal, (and they would be a lot of metal when it came time to carry the tabernacle from one location to another), today’s reading also does a quick census and tells us that of men 21 years old and over, there were over six-hundred-thousand. It goes on to say that the silver offering only came to about one-fifth of an ounce per person. From this we can see that when everyone comes together to give for a common cause, the needs will be more than met, and it may not even cost that much from each individual giver.

I think the thing that makes me the saddest here is that the government has gotten too involved in our giving. Their ways of forcing us to give by over-taxing to pay for things we may or may not believe in has caused people to pull even more into themselves instead of being the givers God created us to be. Even the Egyptians were giving people and sent Israel off with much of the gold they’re probably now giving. Now we’re at a point where we can’t really fight it, so at the least, I think it’s time for Christians to begin praying that our giving (no matter how compelled) will somehow be used to provide for the needs God wants taken care of. And let us pray above all else that God will be glorified in us and in our giving.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If I Had A Hammer…


Golden Menorah Candlesticks by Flickr User Zeevveez, CC License = Attribution

Golden Menorah Candlesticks by Flickr User Zeevveez, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr where you can see images of the full golden menorah from Israel.

…and I used it on a piece of gold, I do not think it would come out looking like the beautiful designs you see here on this golden menorah in Jerusalem. I could hammer in the morning, I could hammer in the evening, I could hammer all over this land, and I could not create something like this because it is not my calling. Of course, most any tool in my hand would be useless toward creating beauty from scratch unless that tool is used for writing and the beauty comes out in words. Though not every piece of my work can be considered artistic, I am thrilled when something I write captures a readers heart in the same way an artisan craftsman captures someone’s eye.

In our reading today from Exodus 37:17 through Exodus 37:29 (the end of the chapter), we read more about the craftsmanship used to build the tabernacle furnishings. The details in the golden menorah are so clear, it’s like you can close your eyes and truly envision the finished product. In verse 22, we read that the whole menorah is one piece of hammered work made from pure gold. That’s a lot of gold, and that’s a lot of hammering. And, in my estimation, that’s a lot of beauty.

Maybe Aaron had seen some of God’s artisans at work, and that’s where he got the idea that he could say someone could pour gold in a fire, and a fully formed figure would pop out of it. Sometimes, when you watch a truly talented person engage in his or her creative calling, the process seems so smooth it could appear to be automated. I imagine it might have been a little like that for those who got to watch Oholiab as he worked under God’s anointing. Whether he was making the menorah, the altar of incense, or the utensils and dishes for use with the furnishings, he probably worked with a creative flair that was magnificent to view as the finished pieces became more and more real.

In addition to not being creative with a hammer, I also am not creative with sand and dirt. My God is though. He made millions of creatures, so different and yet so alike in many ways, with just dust and wind. How could I ever doubt that with a touch of His creative Spirit, any man can create any number of amazing things? I need to remember that when I begin to doubt myself because of my human failures. It’s not the tool that matters, and it’s not even who’s wielding the tool; it’s the God who blesses the whole work from beginning to end. Except the Lord builds the house, all who labor will labor in vain. Oh, but if the Lord is the Master Builder, you’re going to get a master-built piece.

And speaking of sand, let me close by including a video of an anointed artisan who crafts amazing images with just some dirt and light. He is Joe Castillo, and if you watched the 2012 season of America’s Got Talent, you saw him complete a number of images with that smooth and almost automated ability of one whose creative calling comes directly from God. And, while there are other sand artisans, you’ll be pleased to know that Joe has his focus on Christ, and you can find out more by visiting his website at http://www.joecastillo.com/about_us.html

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

Made to Order


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving What We’ve Got


Giving by Flickr User Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Giving by Flickr User Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I got thrown for a little bit of a loop tonight as I began the new week’s study and portion. This is apparently the first portion that would be doubled for normal years, but is actually separated for leap years, and on the Jewish calendar, 5774 is indeed a leap year. Apparently, there are 7 leap years for every 19 year cycle, and I spent almost too much time trying to learn what all of it meant, so I could share accurately with you, my beloved readers.

Well, in all I sought, I also found out that the portion is read in full on the dates I’m finding, meaning that if I am dividing it by 7 days, I would read it the 7 days prior. That means we’re actually sort of a week behind. So, though it is a leap year, I am going to read this leap year special portion as if it’s a full year, and that should put us back on track. It’s okay, though, because the subject matter pretty much stays the same–at least for the first half of the week. 🙂

So, without further adieu, I bring you the beginning of Parashah (portion) 22, with the Hebrew name of Vayak’hel meaning “He Assembled.” The reading will be from Exodus 35:1 through Exodus 35:29, and it begins with a strong reminder to work for only six days, and to rest on the Sabbath to remember it is a holy day. I say strong reminder because this one says that if anyone does any work on the Sabbath, he should be put to death. Yep, that’s pretty strong.

The assembling in the title is about Moses bringing the people together to share with them what God showed him on Mt. Sinai. He will tell them the details of building the temple, including calling together the craftsmen who God anointed to create certain portions. Before actually giving them the descriptions, however, Moses first asks for an offering. He does not demand anything, cajole anything, use any kind of guilt or manipulation, or any other tactic to collect an offering. Instead, Moses asks for God-directed offerings. I love the way it actually states it in “The Complete Jewish Bible” where it says in verse 5… anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for Adonai.

The rest of the reading goes through the items and craftsmanship that will be needed for the temple, and it asks for each thing with a request something to the effect of, “let it be given by the one who feels God is telling him or her to offer it.” How pleasant that true giving comes from listening to God as He speaks to our hearts. He knows our hearts anyway, and whatever He judges for us in this life will come from what He sees our hearts give more than what He sees our hands give. He will tell us what we can give, and He will tell us what He wants us to give. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, above all, with no guilt.

To bring this home, I’ll share it this way: I have never been your average “Suzie Homemaker” type of girl. I won’t show up with pies, casseroles, cleaning gloves and mops, if you are in need. I’m much more likely to send e-mails out to a prayer chain, or call people, or call businesses to make arrangements, or Google some information for you. I asked God why I was not strong in the gifts I saw in most women, and He basically told me that I could not be strong in everything. I must do what He calls me to do regardless of how the rest of society (including a church society) thinks I should do things. And the same goes for any one of you who is reading this. Be thankful for both your strengths and your weaknesses. Let God tell you what to give, how to give, and when to give. Let your gifts be one-hundred percent inspired by God that your rewards may be one-hundred percent returned to Him in praise.

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

Light Painting


Light Painted Face by Flickr User Beo Beyond, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Light Painted Face by Flickr User Beo Beyond, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Believe it or not, there is a whole genre of artistic creation that falls under the heading of “Light-Painting.” You would be amazed at what people can create with cameras and light. There are entire groups at Flickr dedicated to light-painting, though I couldn’t share most of their photos due to copyright restrictions. But, if you’d like to see at least one, take a visit to the “Light Junkies” group by visiting… http://www.flickr.com/groups/lightjunkies/pool/ where you’ll find over 100,000 photos to amaze you. Another type of light-painting is achieved digitally by photo manipulation software. I enjoy the one called “Fractalius” and you can see some of what it creates by visiting the Flickr Fractalius group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/fractalius-photo/pool/ with about 6000 very cool photos.

In today’s reading from Exodus 34:27 through Exodus 34:25, we complete another Torah portion as are invited in to see Moses back on the mountain top with Yahveh, This portion brings another week comes to a close, so Shabbat Shalom to all of you. And, by the way, if you click the link to read the portion yourself, you’ll find links to the recommended readings from the rest of the Old Testament and from the New Testament if you’d like to do more study.

So Moses has gone forty days and nights with nothing to eat or drink. He is totally engulfed in the presence and the words of his Creator. God has Moses write down all the laws and commands that were previously written, and then God inscribes something on the tablets Himself. I was a little confused from the reading if God wrote the title, The Ten Words, or if He actually wrote down what we call “The Ten Commandments.” Either way, imagine being called as a scribe for God, and then having God write with His own hand on the cover of your book. I have a friend who is called as a something of a modern-day scribe, and I can just imagine an indescribable level of excitement if that happened to her. (Yes, Debbie, I’m talking about you. 🙂 ) (Note: click on her name if you’d like to read about Debbie and find information about her books that tell stories of God’s “Miraculous Interventions-tm” in human lives.)

Now Moses comes down from the mountain with the two tablets and doesn’t realize that God has done a little light-painting of His own. Moses face is glowing and sending out rays of light from his skin. At first, people were afraid to approach him, but he called them over, so he could present the tablets of testimony and pass on all the orders God gave him on Mount Sinai. Once he finished speaking to them, it says he put a veil over his face that he would leave on until he went into the tent of meeting to speak again with God.

See, I love the idea of God doing light-painting on His creations. There are times when the glow of the sunshine almost seems to paint the surrounding view and make it glow. On my kaleidoscope set at Flickr, I make the following statement:

I believe God sees the people of His creation in the same way we see a kaleidoscope image: all different yet all beautiful and even more beautiful when light (especially God’s light) shines through them.

God is the ultimate Light Painter, and I will gladly be one of the subjects He uses to show Himself to the world. How about you?

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

Israel Gets Roomies


Handshake Warning by Flickr User Guillaume Brialon, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Handshake Warning by Flickr User Guillaume Brialon, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I remember the days of renting a room in someone’s house because it was too expensive to get my own place. There are always drawbacks to that set up, like a lack of privacy, a bit less freedom, and a shared bathroom. But there are also benefits, not the least of which is how much less it usually costs than trying to keep up even a small apartment on your own. One place I rented, however, was almost perfect. The owner was a strong woman with unbending house rules. She assigned kitchen shelf space, refrigerator space, and quiet times, and she made sure all renters knew that she was in charge of the thermostat. We had three very different people types (an atheist in her fifties, a Catholic organist in her eighties, and me–a Pentecostal in her twenties), but we all got along perfectly because of the house rules.

In today’s reading from Exodus 24:10 through Exodus 24:26, Israel is getting ready to move toward the “Promised Land” and God lays down the rules. The first thing He does, though, is to remind them of who He is and of what He will do through them if they observe His commands. See, like the homeowner in my rental situation, God has already worked with and seen a variety of living situations–including those in the future since He can see through all times, He knows what works, and He knows what doesn’t work. So He tells Israel that He is going to do awesome things through them, and all they have to do is trust Him to know what works.

The first thing God knows will not work is a land filled with people who worship false gods. In their idol worship and lifestyles void of The True God of Creation, they have no value of human life, and they worship gods made of stone and metal that have no power. Yahveh promises to drive all these people out, so they won’t be a snare to them within their own borders. He tells Israel the kind of people they are, and He warns them not to imitate them in any way. In a paraphrase, God says, “Don’t even go to dinner with these people. If you do, you’ll end up eating stuff they sacrificed to idols, then your sons will marry their daughters, and then their daughters will get your sons to prostitute themselves before their idols the way they themselves do.”

God is a jealous God, and He knows He is the only One who is truly looking after Israel’s best interests. He also knows that Israel is made up of human inhabitants, and that by trying to befriend these people who worship false gods, Israel risks many things in addition to stirring up God’s jealousy. If the people of Israel get too close to the people of the land, they may feel sorry for them and refuse to do their part in pushing them out of the land God wants to consecrate for Himself and His people. And, if there are any people who might change their ways, how will they see that there is a different way to become, and a True God to serve, if the people imitate them instead of standing strong in their obedience to Yahveh?

So, after some stern warnings of “do nots” for Israel to remember with their temporary roommates, God reminds Israel of what He wants them to do. Oh, but He does issue one last (and huge) do not first. He tells Israel not to build any metal gods, so now they have no excuse to ever again create and worship a golden calf.

Now, onto the “to do” list, which mostly includes keeping the feast days He has created because they all represent Him in some way, and they will help Israel to remember what is important. The first of these feasts is The Feast of Unleavened Bread. It will remind them of their deliverance from Egypt. We now know it also represents deliverance from sin which is why leavening is to be cut out because leaven represents sin and pride.

Between the feast reminders, God reminds the people that the first born will always belong to Him. Each one is to be redeemed with a sacrifice, and no one is to come to God empty-handed. I think this is God’s way of saying that He is first, and He created all things, so whatever is first is special as a reminder of these things. The sacrifice is our way of giving Him thanks for being our Creator and Leader. And then He reminds them to keep the festival of Sabbath, which is held on the last day of the week. He wants them to keep it even during planting and harvesting, because like there is always a first, there is also always a last. And in this I believe that God uses Sabbath to remind us that just as He is our first, He is also the last. In the New Testament, He says He is our rest, and He also says He is the Alpha and the Omega.

The last verse of today’s reading reminds Israel to bring the best of their first fruits as an offering to God. We should always bring our best to God, and we should always bring what we have to Him before offering it to the thankless world around us. Whatever we have belongs to Him first anyway, and only He promises to do awesome things through us by bringing His gifts back to their source. If Israel will live by God’s rules, and not be swayed by the ways of their new roommates, they have a promising and prosperous future ahead of them. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so do we.

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

Be Kind, Rewind


Be Kind, Rewind by Flickr User Charles Hope, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Be Kind, Rewind by Flickr User Charles Hope, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Be Kind, Rewind, isn’t something most of our younger generation is likely to hear anymore since video cassette tapes have been replaced by DVDs and Blu-ray discs. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past that a random act of kindness was simply to rewind the movie you had just rented before you returned it to the rental store. Audio cassettes were still in use then too, and this reminds me of the time I found an LP record of Queen’s greatest hits for my husband and decided to play it for my nephew. I think he was about 13 or 14 then, but I figured it would be good for him to hear the music his uncle grew up on, and I was pretty sure he would like it. I was right. As soon as it got to the end, he told me he liked it, and he asked me how to rewind it. 😉

In today’s reading from Exodus 34:1 through Exodus 34:9, we have God telling Moses to meet Him on the mountain top, so they can rewind their earlier activity of inscribing God’s laws onto stone tablets. If you can see God as having a sense of humor, you should be able to laugh at the way He speaks to Moses in verse 1… “Adonai said to Moshe, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones; and I will inscribe on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” In future readings, God will make more statements about “the first tablets” and “the ones you broke.” I don’t know if it’s just the way the scribes wrote it, or if God really did say these things to Moses more than once. I think the latter, and I think it was to remind Moses that even he got fed up with how the people acted when there was no one around to watch them.

So Moses climbs the mountain with the two new stones, cut like the first, and goes to meet God as He requested. This meeting was to include ONLY Moses, to the extent that God didn’t even want the animals grazing near the base of the mountain. When Moses gets up there, God descends in the cloud to meet him, and the first thing He does is pronounce His memorial name–Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH aka Yahveh, also written in modern language as YHWH aka Yahweh)–just as He had done with Abraham. This is a big deal, and it speaks of just how Yahveh felt about Moses.

Next, God repeats His name again, and this time He frames it with a statement that He, Yahveh, is The Lord who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth, showing grace to the thousandth generation. He goes on, I believe as a precursor to the laws He is about to give again, and tells Moses that He is God who forgives offenses, crimes, and sins, yet does not exonerate the guilty but causes the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be visited on future (even to the third and fourth) generations.

I want to point out here that I’ve heard people make statements about the unfairness of God visiting effects on future generations, but it’s just the law of the harvest in action. If I plant bad seeds, it is not only me that is affected. Everyone who eats the bad plants, or who can’t eat because crops won’t grow, will be affected. The ground can be affected and cause future crops to not grow. And even when people don’t care enough for themselves, they will often change for others, so God was just using the same psychology as social service workers who threaten parents with a loss of their children if they don’t change their own behaviors–such as drinking or drug use. And while negative effects are visited to the third and fourth generations, as God says at the first, His mercy is given to the thousandth generation.

When God finishes speaking, Moses bows his head and prostrates himself before God. Moses then speaks and asks God that if he has indeed found favor in His sight, would He please stay with the people of Israel. He admits that the people are stubborn, but he asks that Yahveh will pardon their offenses and sin, and that He will take them as His possession once again. So, we started with God telling Moses to be kind, rewind, with the tablets, and now we have Moses asking God to be kind and rewind in His forgiveness and favor of Israel.

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

Hide and Seek


Hide and Seek by Flickr User Aftab Uzzaman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Hide and Seek by Flickr User Aftab Uzzaman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
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What would you do if God gave you the opportunity to actually see Him walking near you? Even though most of us realize that we, ourselves, are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, we rarely think of God’s actual presence dwelling with us because a spirit doesn’t seem quite the same as a physical being. So, if suddenly He came by and told us we could see Him physically, I think we would all have the mixed emotions of a kitty cat ready to pounce–excited to go forward (seek) but unsure and ready to run at the same time (hide).

In today’s reading from Exodus 33:17 through Exodus 33:23 (the end of the chapter and another super short one), Yahveh is telling Moses that He will do as Moses has asked and continue to walk with Israel. God reminds Moses that He is doing so because Moses has found favor in His sight, and because He knows Moses by name.

So, here’s Moses having this very personal conversation with The Creator of the Universe who is telling him that He knows him by name, but Moses wants more. He asks God to show him His glory. And since God does not get upset with Moses, I’m guessing this continuous seeking is okay with Him. As I’m typing this, I have a purring kitty cat meowing at me and digging at my arm to reach over and pet him each time I stop to type, and even though I must continue, I am actually quite blessed at knowing he wants more of me and my attention. I’m guessing from this that God was blessed by Moses’ seeking more of Him.

God tells Moses He will pass by him. He leads Moses to a rock where He says Moses can stand to watch the event, and then He tells Moses that He will hide him in a cleft of the rock until He has passed by to where Moses can only see Him from behind. He reminds Moses that if no man can see His face and live, so in actuality God is showing mercy to Moses here. Maybe that’s why just before telling Moses about hiding his face, He says He will show favor to whom He will, and He will show mercy to whom He will.

It’s a little difficult to find more of a story in such a short reading, but still, I can find a number of treasures in these words. Standing on the rock is a sure and stable place, while hiding in the rock is like safety from surrounding storms and attacks. God placing His own hand over Moses is a personal and powerful type of protection for him. God speaking His name as He walks by is an assurance of who He is and that He is to be trusted. And I’ve heard an interesting theory that Moses seeing God from behind represents the history that God gave him to record in the first five books of the Bible, aka The Torah that we are studying now. Now it’s your turn to tell me in the comments what the words in this passage mean to you.

Oh, and just because of the Scriptures covered today, I must share this old hymn (Rock of Ages) as sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford…

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

If God is Around, It’s Okay to be Square


Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
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As I was looking for pictures of square pegs, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to get a square peg into a round hole is to make the square smaller. Maybe that’s why people who consider themselves to be “fitter-inners” are often found belittling those they consider to be squares. But if you have to become less of what you are to fit in with someone else’s idea of success, I say, be happy to be a square peg.

In today’s very short reading from Exodus 33:12 through Exodus 33:16, we follow up with God telling Moses that He will no longer travel with the people of Israel because their stiff-necked behaviors might make Him destroy them. Now remember, Moses talks to God face to face as a man talks to a friend, so while most of us would not dare to speak to God the way He is doing, Moses has proven his respect to God and his love for Him, so he gets away with it.

So, in my own paraphrase, here is Moses’ conversation with God…

Moses: You tell me to move on with these people, but you haven’t told me who is going with me as a support system since You aren’t going with us. But then again, You told me that You know my name, and that I have found favor in Your sight, so here’s my suggestion. First of all, if what You say about how You see me is true, then show me Your ways of righteousness and truth. Grant me an understanding of You, so I can continue to find favor in Your sight. And, above all else, I ask You to please keep seeing Israel as Your people.

Yahveh: Don’t worry yourself, Moses. I have decided to go with you after all.

Moses (as if he hasn’t heard what God just said to him): Because if You don’t go with us, I don’t even want to move on. I mean, how else will people know I have favor in Your sight? How else will they know You favor Israel? There is no way unless You go with us. Your presence–that’s the thing that sets us (me and Israel) apart from all the other people on earth.

So, what if the whole world decides that Israel is nothing but a bunch of square pegs with a bunch of square traditions? That’s what’s coming in their future. Is it their adherence to law that sets them apart? No, it’s not. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Rather, it was always God’s presence that made them the people they were. That’s what was proven while Moses and the elders were up on the mountain. God’s presence was up there on the mountain, and the people were just people then. And their humanness led them into sinful behavior, even though they had a leader in Aaron (albeit one who was slacking in his duties), and they had the history with God as their deliverer. They needed God’s presence right there with them to be a truly set apart people in all their ways. And as the people of God go, that has never changed.

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

Don’t Blame Me; It Wasn’t MY Fault!


Not My Responsibility by Flickr User Jean Browman aka cheerfulmonk, CC License = Attribution, Noncommerical, Share Alike

Not My Responsibility by Flickr User Jean Browman aka cheerfulmonk, CC License = Attribution, Noncommerical, Share Alike
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Remember this round from school days?

Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
You stole the cookies from the cookie jar.
Who, me?
Yes, you.
Couldn’t be.
Then who?

Even in our playtime, no one ever wanted to really take the blame. Whether it was because we didn’t really believe we would get caught, or because we truly thought that if we denied it people would drop the case, Now, as then, it doesn’t seem to be customary to confess our wrongdoings unless there is just too much solid proof. And even when there’s just no denying it because we have been caught red-handed, we still don’t take full responsibility. Instead, we try to create an excuse that makes it someone else’s fault.

In today’s reading from Exodus 31:18 through Exodus 33:11, we get to see what the people of Israel have been up to while Moses and the elders have been up on the mountain learning about God’s plans to show mercy on them through His law and through sacrifice. They’ve gotten bored. They’ve decided that they no longer trusted Moses to be in God’s favor and think God has killed him. And in believing their leader is gone, they’ve also decided they no longer have Yahveh as their God, so they call on Aaron to create a god for them to worship. If only they had known that though Moses couldn’t see what they were doing, he was aware of God’s anger toward them, and he was pleading for their souls to the very God they had abandoned.

So, imagine you’re like Moses, and you’ve just spent hours pleading with a judge to have mercy on a family member because you just know his or her behavior was a one-time thing. You want the judge to give the person another chance, and the judge agrees. You head to where the person lives to share the good news, and instead of gratefulness, you find a wild party going on. Wouldn’t you want to just scream, drive everyone out, and the beat the living tar out of the offender for not recognizing the absurdity of his or her actions? Moses sees these people dancing and singing around a golden calf, calling it their god, thanking it for delivering them from Egypt, and suddenly, his anger blazes into a raging flame. He throws down the tablets of commands he has just been spending so much time receiving and crushes the golden calf into dust. After he sprinkles the dust on the water, he makes the people drink it.

Now Moses confronts Aaron who was supposed to be watching the people. The Scripture says that Aaron allowed the people to get out of control. Remember that all this time, God has been telling Moses about the job Aaron was chosen to do as an anointed high priest. With that anointing, Aaron should have cared more for the people’s souls, and not given in to their whining voices. Now, when Moses confronts Aaron, what does he do? He pulls the infamous not me routine and blames all the behavior on the people–and in a way on God. He says he told the people to bring him gold to make them a god, and when he threw the gold in the fire, out popped a golden calf. Really, Aaron? Do you actually think anyone is going to believe that?

But all the excuses in the world were not going to change anything because God was looking on their hearts, and I’m guessing there were some that incited the people into believing the nonsense and giving up on God. He sent the true believers out to kill many of the unbelievers, and three-thousand people were killed that day. At the same time, Moses went back to the mountain to plead for God’s mercy one more time. God agreed to show mercy, but He still sent a plague on the people. He told Moses to continue to lead them to the promised land, but He also told them He could no longer walk with them because He would be too tempted to destroy them on the way.

As the reading comes to a close, Moses and Joshua set up a tent of meeting outside the camp since God will no longer walk into the camp. Whenever they go in to speak with God, the cloud of God’s presence resides over the top of the tent. The people, now being reconfirmed about God and His power, stand in the field watching Moses go into the tent, and when the cloud comes down, they fall on their faces and worship. While in the tent, Scripture says Yahveh would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend.

I guess that last line should be the goal for each of us. We can find God on the mountain top, or we can see His feet from someplace a little lower than the top, or we can see His presence from a distance and fall down to worship Him. But, oh, how precious would it be to speak with Him face to face as with a friend? The veil that once separated all but the high priest from the presence of God was torn, so we can have that now, but it is nothing to take lightly. I believe we must tear the veil of sin from around our hearts on a regular basis, and let God in to that deepest place each day. It’s not easy. Like Paul said, “I die daily.” But our daily dying out to sin means a daily resurrection to new life in Him. That’s why His word says in Lamentations 3:22-23 that God’s mercies are begin fresh EVERY morning.

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

Artisans and Crafts


Arts and Crafts by Flickr User Hansco, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Arts and Crafts by Flickr User Hansco, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
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The world around us is filled with creativity. Most of it is God’s direct action on molecular structure, but because He made man in His own image, He has also passed on some of His creative genes. In return, we have the pleasure of filling our worlds with the crafts and creations of others. Whether the person doing the creating is the one who comes up with the idea or the one who adds the final touches, they are given the gift of creation by The Master Creator.

In today’s (slightly lengthy) reading from Exodus 30:11 through Exodus 31:17, we are beginning a new portion on the give and take that provides for the crafts used in tabernacle service. The Hebrew name for this parashah is Ki Tissa, and it means “When you take.” It begins with God’s order of a census of the people and a charge for their atonement to be collected at the same time. God explains that the price of atonement will be the same for everyone ( half a shekel), and it will be used to fund the operating costs of the tabernacle.

A new piece of furniture is presented today–the bronze laver, or wash basin. Not many are certain of its original design, but I like the image I saw with spigots in the bottom to fill a trough for washing feet. The priests could also wash their hands in the flowing water before it filled the bottom trough. As I mentioned in the “Altar Ego” post where I talked of the brazen altar, no minister could come up to these bronze-coated furnishings and not see himself in it. I think it’s especially important to take a look at yourself when you are getting ready to wash. That works spiritually as much as it does physically.

The last part of Chapter 30 talks of the aromatic spices, oils, and extracts that are to be used to create the anointing oil and the incense for the altar of incense. The oil, which is used to anoint all the furnishings and instruments of the tabernacle, is not the same oil as is used for putting on people–such as anointing to heal the sick. God is specific about its ingredients, and He says no other ingredients should be used for this particular anointing oil, and this oil is not to be used for any other purpose. It is so holy that making it without God’s instruction, or using it contrary to His purpose, will cause a person to be cut off from his people. In like manner, God gives specific instructions for creating the incense, and He says that anyone who makes it to use as perfume will be cut off from his people.

So, in the last two days, we’ve learned much about being holy to Yahveh. He wants us to do our ministries to Him with complete dedication to Him and Him only. We don’t offer praise just to look good to others, and we don’t minister just to be uplifted by others. I am sad to say that we have a strong apostate spirit in this generation, and there are those who dub themselves prophetprophetessreverend, etc., for unholy purposes. I won’t give names, but if you want to read some “tell it like it is” revelations about those who use God’s holy things–like anointing and praise–in ways other than God has designed them, have a look at some articles by my friend and fellow Christian writer, Brenda, who writes the blog, Redeemed Hippies Place. Do not even visit, though, unless you are one who can take hard truth with no fluff. And if you are interested in some more strong reading about being holy and separated for service to Our Creator, be sure to pick up the book called “Holy to Yahveh” by Terrye Goldblum Seedman. You can find her articles and information at http://yahveh.com/, and her book is under the store label.

Please take time to read the Scriptures I post for yourself. I have created all links to open in new windows/tabs, so you will not lose your place here. The remaining part for today’s reading covers some specific artisans, and it deals with the requirements for keeping Shabbats/Sabbaths. I have covered that some, and I will cover more of it later, but for now, I just encourage you to go read these things for yourself. I’ve given links with plenty to read this time, so I’ll close for now. And please leave me comments on your thoughts about the Scriptures, and about the readings at the other links I’ve provided. Many blessings on your week.

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

The Sacrifice of Holy Praise


Altar of Incense by Flickr User Michael Arcand, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Altar of Incense by Flickr User Michael Arcand, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have always loved to sing, and more than that, I have always loved to sing songs that I could feel in my heart. When I stand with a congregation to sing praise songs to God, I look for the deepest meaning I can find in the song, and I try my best to sing it to Him directly. It’s a struggle for me to sing something I cannot feel. I have often stood crying when it seemed the music around me was just cluttered noise. Sometimes I would cry because I felt the presence of God by seeking God in the midst of whatever was going on around me, and sometimes I would cry because I was hurting over the shallowness I felt in what should have been the holiest time of our fellowship together.

Long before King David and the Book of Psalms he filled with praises toward Yahveh Almighty, God taught men how He wanted praise to be delivered to Him. In today’s reading from Exodus 30:1 through Exodus 30:10 we learn about the Altar of Incense which represents praise. Beyond offering a regular sacrifice twice each day, God also commanded the priests to offer fragrant incense twice each day. He gave instructions for an altar that would be used specifically for this purpose.

The most important instruction about the Altar of Incense is where God said to locate it. He said to put it in front of the curtain by the Ark of the Covenant. Remember that the priest, and only the high priest, could go into the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year. Many layers of drapery separated that area from the rest of the tabernacle. But, while men could not go beyond the curtain, the smoke that ascended from the incense would be able to penetrate the material to reach the ark that represented God’s presence.

Because this smoke went directly into God’s presence, God was very specific about what to burn on the altar and how to burn it. Unholy things cannot dwell in God’s presence, so anything not created by God’s exact instructions was considered “strange fire,” and should never be put on God’s altar. He said to offer no grain offerings on it and to pour no drink offerings on it. In addition, God told Aaron to put the blood of atonement on it once per year to keep it holy because, according to God, that altar was especially holy to Him. Imagine, something that represents praise being called “especially holy” to God then and throughout all the generations of His people.

Since we are now able to come boldly before the throne of God and into His presence, it might be easy to forget just how holy praise is to Him. We sometimes sing songs because they sound good or because a certain singer or band does a good job with their performance. I know how hard it is to lead music and remember that it’s not about performance at the same time. But I also know the experience of how I’ve heard my own voice, as if it wasn’t even coming out of me, somehow sound better than any practice or performance because my heart went to a place of true worship as I sang.

While we often start services with praise because we want to change the atmosphere by ushering in the presence of God, I love the times where we sing to change ourselves and usher our own spirits into His glorious presence. Since the smoke of incense rises, and since incense represents praise entering God’s presence, I feel like praise is a way to rise up out of our flesh and actually send a part of ourselves into the holy presence of our Holy Creator. Sometimes, it may even take a sacrifice–a break away from our own thoughts and ways–but to me, there is no greater joy than to lead my heart into a place of worship that God can receive as a holy and acceptable offering to Him. And on that note, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song Heart of Worship by Matt Redman.

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

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
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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

Holy Is As Holy Does


Holy Ground by Flickr User Roger Lynn, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Holy Ground by Flickr User Roger Lynn, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I grew up hearing the statement “Pretty is as pretty does.” It was a good lesson for teaching me to look beyond outward beauty, and it may be the reason I rarely thought of celebrities as any more valuable than non-famous people. Of course, even pretty behavior doesn’t guarantee a pretty heart, but the self-control required to maintain things like courtesy and respect can at least slow a person down to a point of being more reachable. In a culture that now seems to value wild unruliness over dignity and chivalry, it would be nice to see the quietness that would come from pulling people back to a place of more controlled character and virtue.

In today’s reading from Exodus 29:19 through Exodus 29:37, we read a number of duties and details for becoming holy. Just being selected as a generation of priests, or even for the position of high priest, did not make Aaron, his sons, or any part of Israel automatically holy. Just being washed, redressed, and anointed didn’t even do the job. And as if offering sin offerings, atonement offerings, and sacrifice offerings was not enough, today will add the “wave offering.” Yet, even all of these things together did not create any kind of guaranteed position of holiness.

As I read through the required works, including the seven days required for sanctification, two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that from days ago, none of these works are random. They are all prepared for in advance. The bread the men will eat today was put in a basket before the washing had ever begun. The clothing was created in advance. Because of the stringent requirements of perfection on the part of the animal sacrifices, there couldn’t just be a noisy stampede by the door while the priests grabbed the first critters they could get their hands on. Being holy is not just something to be, it requires becoming; constantly renewing those things that don’t fall into line the same way a lady would do in guarding her every step and word to fall in line with the behaviors of a true debutante.

Planning ahead takes planning ahead. I have never been very good at that. If I was, it wouldn’t have taken me years after starting my blog to become regular at posting on it. Still, if I had not already started it, that may have become an excuse for not moving forward, so I’m glad I had a place already prepared. I’m trying to learn to do better at planning ahead for my Sabbaths. There is even a word in speaking of biblical Sabbaths that means “Sabbath preparation day” rather than actual Sabbath, and that is the word used when they said they had to hurry up and get Yahshua crucified because “the preparation day” is coming. Unlike most of us Christians who run rampant getting ready for services on Sunday mornings, most Hebrews spent a full day preparing for their day of rest, so everything would already be taken care of ahead of time. Of course, this is also why I’m fairly certain that Yahshua was crucified on a Thursday, but that would be another whole blog post in itself.

The other thing I noticed was the last line that “whatever touches the altar will become holy.” I’m certain this relates to the first thing in that nothing was even allowed near the altar until it was prepared. The priests had to be washed, dressed, and anointed before approaching the altar. The animals had to be chosen, washed, and cut into whatever pieces were required for specific rituals before the remains were put on the altar. Even Our “Sacrificial Lamb” spent 33 years being human, and enduring human things like weakness and hunger, before He came to the altar of sacrifice. He had to learn obedience to parents before being considered mature, and He had to learn the value of manual labor before He graduated to miracles. He even had to go toe to toe with His enemy after 40 days of suffering in the wilderness before He was even ready to get baptized.

As I said above, we live in a world of wild abandon, and too many just want to throw themselves on an altar and become instantly holy. Maybe that’s why so many fall to their knees in moments of emotion but run back to their old and familiar ways when the going gets rough for them. If I could teach anyone anything of true value it would be that Yahveh Almighty is worth the preparations and sacrifices required to be holy to Him. Feeling His presence and love surround you and separate you from the distractions and clamor of your worldly needs and desires is more valuable than any reward the world has to offer. As the song of the same title says, “I keep falling in love with Him over and over, and over and over again,” and that love makes me want to do holy as much as I want to be holy for Him.

P.S. Just in case you’d like to hear that song, here’s a link for it at YouTube…

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

Dressed for Success


Christ the Anointed One by Flickr User Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Christ the Anointed One by Flickr User Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There’s just something about a uniform that evokes more trust than everyday clothing. For me, working for a company that gave me a uniform, even if it was just a vest to wear over my own clothes, made me feel like I was a part of something important. The first picture I ever saw of my husband was of him in a uniform. It didn’t have to be his dress uniform for me to know he was a soldier, and I felt a sense of pride in that even before meeting him. After getting to know him, I noticed that the uniform didn’t only affect me, but it affected his behavior as well. He knew when he was dressed in uniform that he represented more than just himself, and he cared that others saw that representation as perfectly as possible.

In today’s reading from Exodus 29:1 through Exodus 29:18, we step into the dressing room of Aaron and his sons. I’m going to try my best to compare the steps that prepared these first priests with the steps today’s servants of God should be taking. After all, we are called “A Kingdom of Priests” and “A Royal Priesthood.” See Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 1:6. I hope I can bring it all together, and I hope each of my readers will feel dressed for success after reading about this wonderful calling to walk before Yahveh as servants and friends.

In yesterday’s reading, we were told that Aaron and his sons were to be anointed, inaugurated, and consecrated to serve in the office of priest. I looked up the definitions of those three words and found the following: anoint = ceremonially confer divine or holy office by smearing with oil, and nominate or choose; inaugurate = begin, admit formally, or mark the beginning of office; and consecrate = dedicate formally for divine service, ordain or devote to service. Based on the definitions, I believe that lines up with the Scripture in Revelation 17:14 that says those who will minister on the side of Christ in the final war are His called, chosen, and faithful.

For Aaron and his sons to take their chosen offices, and for us to take our positions in service to God, I believe the steps are similar. They start with things that happen at the door of the tabernacle before anyone even approaches the Holy Place or The Holy of Holies. The first thing done to Aaron and his sons were that they were washed. They could not put on the ministry uniforms until they were cleansed. We usually hear our call to serve God outside the church as well. Maybe we see a good example, maybe we have a dream, or maybe someone ministers to us. Maybe we hear Christ knocking a number of times before we choose to open the door and walk through. Once we walk through, we often choose to get baptized to represent that we are washing away our old lifestyle, so we can be consecrated to God’s service.

After Aaron and his sons were washed, then they were dressed in the ritual vestments. Those uniforms, as I pointed out previously, covered them from head to toe. These new priests were completely washed and completely covered in a new image. When we make a decision to walk according to God’s will, we are told (in Romans 13:14) “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We are also reminded in Galatians 3:27 that if we have been baptized (washed) into Christ, we have put on Christ. Since the word baptism means “immersion” that means we have been dressed or uniformed–head to toe–in Christ, just as the priests were dressed in their vestments.

The last thing done to Aaron and his sons to prepare them for service was to have the anoiting oil poured over their heads. It was only after these new priests were washed, redressed, and anointed that the sacrifices could be offered in atonement for their sins. They placed their hands on the head of the sacrifice to be offered. I believe that gave them a connection to it. It wasn’t just some light message of an errand boy running up saying it was done. They were a part of the sacrifice as it was slaughtered. Once we have committed ourselves to Christ, and after we have been washed and dressed, it is time for us to become connected to Yahshua. When we have a relationship with Him, His atonement for our sins will mean that much more to us.

Let me break here by giving a quick example of how much more something means after a connection has been established. When I read Eli by Bill Myers, the crucifixion scene was done quite differently since it was shown in the 1970s instead of 33AD. I have never seen a live crucifixion, and other than biblical stories, I haven’t even seen them on television. But I have seen fights, and I have seen televised fights that included people being kicked when they were down. So when the author describes Jesus being kicked in the ribs with pointy-toed cowboy boots, I felt it to my core. I cried as much or more than I did when I watched the beating scene in The Passion.

After the initial offering of the bull, the remains were given as a burnt offering, and then the whole ram was also given as a burnt offering. I believe that last offering is the one that represents us burning up our old ideas and our old ways because it was only after the washing, the consecration, the new image, the anointing, and the first blood sacrifice that the second offering became a sweet-smelling aroma to Yahveh. It is after we have begun our dedicated service to God that the sacrifices we make in the form of good works, or things we give up for Him, are seen by Him as acceptable.

As with the priests, being anointed for ministry to God is only one step in our service to Him. It’s the step that says He has called us to do what He has already prepared us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.” (Red letter emphasis is mine.) After we are anointed and washed, we can dress for success in the uniform that is Christ. When we’re wearing that uniform, we walk as if we are consecrated, or “set apart,” for our anointing and calling. As we walk in that calling, we will have opportunities to fail, but like Aaron for his sons, our High Priest, Yahshua, is always making atonement for us, so we can continue to walk. Micah 6:6-8 puts it most simply, and here it is from The New Living Translation…

Micah 6:6-8

New Living Translation (NLT)

6 What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?

8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

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

Jingle Bells


Golden Jingle Bells Kaleidoscope by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Golden Jingle Bells Kaleidoscope by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view my original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr. There are other kaleidoscopes from the bells, and you can find the link to the original image from which this design was made.

I was looking for something with a picture of bells when I came across the above image from a challenge I had while in a digital kaleidoscope creation group back in 2008. I was torn between using an image and a song title, so in my search, I also discovered that there are a lot of songs out there with lyrics or titles about bells. So, just for fun I thought I’d ask, how many songs can you name that are about bells or have bells in the title? Here are some to get you started…

  • Jingle Bells
  • You can Ring My Bell
  • If I Had a Hammer (verse 3: If I had a bell to ring)
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Christmas Bells Are Ringing
  • Let ‘Em In (Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringin’ the bell)
  • Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead
  • Silver Bells
  • When They Ring Those Golden Bells

And the last one I’ve listed is the perfect segue into today’s reading from Exodus 28:31 through Exodus 28:43, the end of the chapter. The details for adorning the priest are now up to the blue robe that the priest will wear under the ritual vest. On the hem of the robe, the artisans are instructed to add blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates with golden bells between each of them. The bells will ring continually while the priest walks around and ministers in the Holy Place, so the people will know He has not gone into the presence of Yahveh with a sinful heart and collapsed in death.

So now my mind is all over the map with trying to figure out if the bells signified anything else besides the evidence of life. I know from a tour of The Tabernacle Experience when it was in Louisville that on the highest holy day, Yom Kippur, the people knew the importance of their sins being pushed forward a year, so they waited quietly, listening for the priests bells to make sure nothing interrupted this important part of his ministry. But, I also wonder if the bells were a type of music to God. Did He long for the sound of the bells that said one of His priests was about to enter His presence? Did He rejoice with the music of the bells as the priest went out to announce to the people the good news that their sins were forgiven for another year? Interesting things to think about, huh?

In addition to the adorned robe and vest, the priest is to wear a linen turban that includes a golden seal engraved with the words, “Set Apart for Adonai.” This reminder is needed because the high priest, Aaron at the time, goes in bearing the guilt of the people who have erred from God’s commands. It is both a blessing and a grave thing to be set apart for the Lord. It is a blessing because to be set apart means to be holy in God’s eyes. And it is a grave thing because, for the high priest, it meant he carried a very heavy burden until it was hoisted upon the altar. For our final High Priest, Yahshua our Messiah, it was a blessing to come to this earth holy enough to bear the weight of our sins permanently, but it was also said to be a curse to die upon a cross as He had to do to free of from our sin.

The priests were also to wear woven tunics and colorful belts to hold everything in place. And while I haven’t checked it piece by piece yet, I think there’s a connection to all these priestly vestments and the whole armor of God. Be my guest and see what you can come up with, and add your notes to the comments section.

Finally, the last paragraph talks about what I think is the very first pair of underwear. With both pomegranates and underwear in the same story, I momentarily thought of using the title “Fruit of the Loom,” but I decided against it because of the holiness that all the priests vestments represent. In this case, God tells Moses that the men are to wear linen shorts that they will not be found guilty in His presence, and so they will not die.

I am amazed at how God covered, literally, every part of the human form that our humanity and sin could be covered to allow for ministry and sacrifice. He desired to be connected to us so much that when these artistic coverings and the blood of bulls and goats were still not enough, He created a priest’s garment made of flesh and robed His Spirit head to toe to give us His life in our place. While He was still walking in that flesh, He stated that there was no greater love than that of one who would lay down his life for a friend. His word tells us that we are not just His flock as the people were like flocks for Aaron and other priests, but we were also Christ’s friends. Truly, there never has been, and never will be, a greater love.

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

The Heart of a Righteous Judge


Torah Breastplate by Flickr User MagnesMuseum aka The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Torah Breastplate by Flickr User MagnesMuseum aka The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been greatly affected by the admonition from Romans 12:1 to not judge because when we do, we must beware of doing the same thing. Even when directing my nephews for the short time I raised them, I always thought about how I could be accused of doing the same things I was now disciplining them for, so I would try to tell them that discipline did not mean I was judging them. People who do not serve God might call it “karma” or some other word, but I guess I’ve always felt that if I passed judgment over others, I was risking putting myself in a position to be tested by that very thing.

Unfortunately, what I’ve just described is not the effect God wanted that admonition to create. To the contrary, He actually wants us to judge, but to do so in righteousness and not with pride as if we’re better than others, or as if we don’t commit our own sins in our own ways. In today’s reading from Exodus 28:13 through Exodus 28:30, we read about an important piece of the garment for the High Priest of God. This piece is called “the breastplate of judgment” and it has some pretty cool aspects to it that can help us avoid the condemnation that follows in the other verses in Romans 2.

First, the design of the piece includes twelve beautiful stones. The artists are told to engrave one name of each tribe of Israel into each stone. Basically, these are the children of Israel’s birthstones. These stones, sewn into the breastplate and laying over the top of the vest of the high priest’s garment, will always be above the heart of the priest when he goes into the holy of holies to minister to God. This will keep the tribes of Israel over his heart, so he will judge with righteousness.

Beyond the breastplate, we have a couple extra pieces called the urim and tumim that will be covered in detail later, but these stones that rest on the shoulder of the high priest will help him in determining the truth for God’s children, so he can judge correctly.

As with the priests, it is God’s will that we judge, and that we do so correctly in righteousness. If we seek His help and direction, we can keep the right thoughts on our hearts when we are required to pass judgment. God has to judge between good and evil because evil cannot dwell with Him. We must judge between good and evil if we want to keep ourselves from evil, so we can dwell in the presence of God. That is why judgment begins at the house of God–our house/temple of God’s Holy Spirit. May God place His heart–the heart of a righteous judge–within us all that none of us would judge in pride or arrogance but only in obedience and righteousness in Christ.

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

The First Garment of Praise


High Priest Garments by Flickr User Michael Reeve, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

High Priest Garments by Flickr User Michael Reeve, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I was looking for an image of the garments for the High Priest among the Creative Commons images at Flickr. The one I found above was not only the right picture, but I really like the caption given by the photographer: What the Best Dressed Priests are Wearing. I think I read somewhere that it’s “Fashion Week” in New York, so a lot of people are thinking about “best dressed” celebrities and models to grace the covers of their magazines and news stories. But I have to agree with the photographer that the best-dressed ever were the temple priests.

In today’s reading from Exodus 27:20 through Exodus 28:12, we are beginning a new portion called Tetzaveh which is Hebrew for “You are to order.” In this reading, God orders the oil for the menorah, and then He goes into extreme detail for Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons who will serve as tabernacle priests.

The first thing I noticed here was that the garments were to set the priests apart for serving God, and they were to express dignity and splendor. Isaiah 61 talks about putting on the garment of praise to replace the spirit of heaviness in our lives, and it is speaking to all of us while also speaking to those it says in verse 6 will be named the priests of the Lord. Read all of Isaiah 61 for an uplifting and strengthening piece of biblical prose. And remember, we are all called a kingdom of priests for God. So, when we put on a new garment of praise for God, it expresses dignity and splendor to God, and He returns peace to us in spite of our heaviness. Awesome huh?

Then I noticed that God again calls for skilled artisans. He says, in verse 3, “Speak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon’s garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen.” So, for artisans to be skilled, it meant they had received their skill by the wisdom of God. To me, that means my creativity, and the creativity of other Christians, is a gift of wisdom. Our Master Designer placed that piece of His Creative Self within us that we may be set apart to serve Him with dignity and splendor. When you and I put our hands and heart in motion to praise Him through our creativity, God will see us adorned in that garment of praise, and He will declare us as best dressed for Him.

February 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Go for the Bronze


Olympic Medals by Flickr User  Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Olympic Medals by Flickr User Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

We don’t usually hear anyone cheer people who compete for Olympic medals, or other medals for that matter, to “Go for the bronze.” We tell them to shoot for the gold but be proud if they make silver or bronze. It’s the same with ribbons. We don’t usually encourage ourselves, or anyone else we know, to just be happy with a participant ribbon. But for some reason, when it comes to encouraging people to cross the finish line for Heaven, we think just getting there is enough. But if you’ll read 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, you’ll find an interesting dialogue about our works, and how they will be tried by fire. Our goal should be to build something that will withstand that trial to give us a greater reward.

So what does this have to do with today’s reading? Well, with the winter Olympics going on, I thought the title and image were a good way to showcase today’s reading from Exodus 27:9 through Exodus 29:19 with its instructions on building the courtyard for the wilderness tabernacle. The courtyard was important in that it surrounded and protected the Holiest of Holies. But, that’s just it; it surrounded the heart of the tabernacle. It was not, of itself, the heart or the most important part of tabernacle worship.

In the building details, we read of artistic tapestries of finely woven linen, bronze sockets, silver rings, and amazing dimensions of 150 feet in length by 75 feet in width. After all the details, we are told at the end of today’s reading that all equipment for service in the tabernacle, and all the tent pegs for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.

My take on all of this is that bronze represents a working metal and not a high value metal. Bronze is an alloy of copper, and as such has great metallic value. But it’s not the value of silver or gold. It can tarnish, but it can be shined up again to mirror quality. To me, this sounds a lot like those of us who walk as servants to Yahveh Almighty He is the gold, and we are mined from the earth and can be tarnished by sin but can be cleaned up to reflect the personality of our Savior Yahshua. So, in one way, we can go for the bronze by becoming converted from simple clay. At the same time, we can go for the gold by seeking as much of God’s presence as we can find on this earth, and by striving to dwell in the holiest places of the heavens.

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

Altar Ego


Altat at Christ Church by Flickr User Seetheholyland.net, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Altar at Christ Church by Flickr User Seetheholyland.net, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream with many more Holy Land images at Flickr.

I’m not sure if the close spelling between alter and altar are intentional, but I do find it interesting that we go to an altar in order to alter our futures. Through an altar built to Yahveh, we can alter an attitude, a destiny, or a focus. We can make decisions based on seeking God’s perfect will for our lives simply by using an altar to alter our commitments from self to God.

When I was a kid, I used to like a song by Tom T. Hall called “Me and Jesus.” The last two sentences in the chorus said, “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” I just liked it as a “Jesus” song with a fun rhythm, but with maturity in God, I now know how self-centered the thought process of that song was. While a man can make an altar out of a stone, and while we need a personal relationship with Christ, we also need humility to surrender to God and let Him run the show. Think of it this way: One word for self is the word “ego.” The letters in the word “ego” can stand for “edging God out.”

In today’s reading from Exodus 27:1 through Exodus 27:8, Moses receives the instructions for building the brazen (bronze) altar. Because the instructions include meat hooks, fire pans, and pots and shovels for removing ashes, this is the altar where sacrifices will alter the destinies of those who would otherwise be condemned by their sins.

Without an altar to change things, men just received the natural recompense for their actions until the sins of the day came to a point of destroying life on this earth. The corruption (moth, rust, dust, disease, etc.) so tainted the life God planned for those created in His image that He had to destroy the earth and all but eight people. But now, He is giving people a definitive set of rules and a way to receive mercy when those rules are violated. Just like the blood that was shed in the garden when God slayed an animal to cover the sins of Adam and Eve, there will now be an altar to receive the blood that will–at least temporarily–cover the sins of the people when a sacrifice is made for those sins.

As with other furnishings, there will be poles and staves to carry this altar from place to place as the tabernacle travels with the people. As with other brass-covered furnishings, the priests are not able to approach the altar without seeing themselves in the reflection of it. This may be similar to the reference in James 1:23-24 where it talks of those who are hearers of the Word but not doers. It says they are like men who behold themselves in a mirror, and then walk away and forget the type of man they just saw. Oh that, instead, we would all approach an altar seeing ourselves in honesty as we make ready to sacrifice and abandon ourselves to God’s perfect will for our lives. That’s an “altar ego.”

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

Screening God’s Calls


Answering Machine by Flickr User Jen R, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Answering Machine by Flickr User Jen R, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Back when people used answering machines more often than voicemail, it was easier to screen calls rather than just screening callers. If you were in the middle of something, you could listen to the message as it was being left and decide if it was something that could be handled later or needed an immediate response. But, while that works for people, it’s not a good idea to do the same thing with Yahveh.

When God reaches down into “miry clay” and calls us from our humanity to a higher place in Him, we really don’t want to miss out on the wonderful plans He has for us. He calls us because He loves us and desires for us to be closer to Him–to walk with Him both in this life and in eternity. Like a parent who knows what’s best for his child, our Heavenly Father calls to us because He has the best plan for us. Besides, while you can hold off on answering the phone since the caller cannot see you, we know from Scripture that God knocks on the door. 🙂

In today’s reading from Exodus 26:31 through Exodus 26:37 (the end of the chapter), we have more details on tabernacle construction. Most of them are finer details on things like the curtains and furnishings, but in this we learn where they are putting the Ark of the Covenant and placement of other furnishings. We also learn about the screen that will be placed between the “Holy Place” and the “Especially Holy Place” (often called The Holy of Holies). In this case, priests did have to screen God’s call to learn if they were called as high priests that could go into the holiest part of the tabernacle or not.

The above-mentioned screen is what is often referred to as the veil, and it is what was torn from top to bottom at the moment Yahshua gave up the ghost when He breathed His last breath on Calvary. I believe He, Himself, tore it apart as a follow up to His words, “It is finished,” meaning that the final sacrifice was done, so people could now come boldly before the ark. And, remember, the ark was topped by the mercy seat. Christ presents His own blood at the Heavenly altar that we may continually come boldly for a mercy that is new every morning. And I’m so glad that God doesn’t screen my calls.

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

Building Construction–Framers Wanted


During our December to January marathon of Christmas movies, the classic movie Lilies of the Field found its way to our DVR. We watched it just a week or so ago, and both hubby and I enjoyed it tremendously. I don’t know if I saw it as a little child, but if I did, it was long enough ago that the only thing I remembered was the main song. If you are a reader who has not seen this movie, I recommend it sooner rather than later.

In today’s reading from Exodus 26:15 through Exodus 26:30, we get another part of the “genealogy” of temple construction. I say it that way because, like the materials, the reading is pretty much consumed with details on how to build. There’s not much I can say here except to focus once again on the value of good instruction and teamwork. God definitely knows how to teach, and if Israel is paying attention, they should create a tabernacle that will line up with the design God showed Moses on the mountain.

As I type, I think I can find one more interesting thing here. God did the main construction for our bodies as the temples for His Holy Spirit, so we often just feel like the snowball that has been started down a hill, and we just roll without direction. But we have work to do just as the wilderness tabernacle was made for a certain job. If we will be sensitive to God’s voice, He will teach us the details we need to do whatever He has created us to do as His sanctuary. We know His plans are for good, so we can trust Him. And He has said that His sheep will hear His voice, so we just need to turn down the volume on the voices of flesh and listen for His tender leading. And with another reference to the above-mentioned movie, can I get an Amen?

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

It’s Curtains for You, Israel


Hand Embroidery by Flickr User Celeste Goulding, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Hand Embroidery by Flickr User Celeste Goulding, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

It has been quite awhile since I was in a “home ec” class, but I know I liked the cooking ones better than the sewing ones. Maybe because I could eat my creations. 😉 Of course, I did get called to the principal once as a result of one cooking class. I made my first and only lemon meringue pie, and I brought a piece of it to my Spanish teacher. When the principal called me in, he asked if I was the one who gave pie to the teacher. I thought I’d done something horribly wrong until the principal told me the teacher gave him some of it, and he just wanted to know if I had any left and would bring some to him.

Well, Israel already had their cooking class back when God rained down manna for them. In today’s reading from Exodus 26:1 through Exodus 26:14, they get their sewing class. God gives them detailed instructions for making the curtains of finely woven linen for the wilderness tabernacle. He gives them measurements, amount of material, colors of yarn–royal colors of blue, purple, and scarlet–and even the color of the loops that will be used to hang the curtains. He tells them to use their artists to create embroidered cherubim (angels) in the drapes and to add golden fasteners, so the curtains can be joined as one complete unit.

After the linen curtains, God instructs Israel to make coverings with sheets made of goat hair. He gives strong details for making the coverings, but it is clear by the details that artistry is not of the same importance for the outer covering as for the inside drapes. This is what I was talking about when I spoke of the hidden beauty in an earlier post. And if goat hair isn’t enough to hide the beauty inside, Israel is then instructed to make more outer coverings of ram’s skins dyed red followed by dolphin or porpoise skins. That detail is given more clearly in the Amplified version of the last verse.

I think the thing I’m loving about the wilderness tabernacle is that everyone is working together with detailed instruction, and each person is to work within his or her own strengths. In my high school home economics elective, I was given the choice of “Threads” or “Grub,” so I could take the class I was most interested in. I tried the sewing one, and I think I remember making a blue corduroy pantsuit, but it’s long enough in the past that I don’t recall if I ever finished it. But I do remember that neither of those things was ever a strength to me like writing (especially poetry) and singing were. I am thankful, though, for everything God has allowed me to learn and experience in life. I’m even more thankful that He is a personal Creator that knows the strengths and weaknesses of those who walk with Him.

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hidden Beauty


Hidden Beauty--Poster & Quote by Crystal A Murray--All Rights Reserved

Hidden Beauty–Poster & Quote by Crystal A Murray–All Rights Reserved

I enjoy going on cave tours, and one of the most beautiful ones I have toured was called “Caverns of Sonora” in Sonora, Texas. The image above was just one of those happy accidents as it was one of the few that came out nice from my point and shoot camera. As I looked at it, I thought about how long it had stayed in the dark before men discovered it and added light. The beauty was the same, but only God was able to see it. And then I thought of the Scripture about God looking on our hearts and wondered how much undiscovered beauty there might be in people.

In today’s reading from Exodus 25:17 through Exodus 25:40 (the end of the chapter), we see the instructions for three pieces of furniture for the yet-to-be-constructed tabernacle. There are details about size and dimension, materials, and usage for the Ark of the Covenant, Table of Shewbread, and Golden Menorah. The beauty being built into each of these items is exquisite, but most of the time, only those who can go to the holy parts of the tabernacle will be able to see them. That means, the beauty is hidden from all but the priests and God.

There are many theories and articles about the meanings of the tabernacle furnishings, but I’ll tell you just a little about my thoughts on the three mentioned today. The ark, being the dwelling place of The Most High, would represent the human heart. It is the place where God’s testimony (the Torah/Law) will be stored along with a pot of manna (to represent trust in God’s provision), and Aaron’s rod that budded (to represent God’s power and authority.) We know it is good to hide the law of God in our hearts, and isn’t that where we also find faith and where we tap into power? The encouragement to “give it your whole heart” shows just how much is rooted there.

The table has bread which feeds God’s priests, but I believe it is also a reminder that we are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God. I believe it also represents the Bread of Life which is Yahshua our Messiah.

The Menorah, which is another of those words that includes the Hebrew OR for light, will bring light into the holy place. Again, Yahshua is The Light, and in the menorah, oil (which often represents the Holy Spirit) is used to give life to the light. 

Like I said, there is so much more that can be found in these furnishings, including the fact that the Mercy Seat sits above the Ark of the Covenant because God’s mercy sits above His law. We are able to see these things now because He has made us a Kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood, and we are able to come boldly before the seat of mercy because God tore the veil that once separated us from it. I could go on, but I’ll let you read it for yourself and search to find your own beauty in these things and in God’s Holy Word.

P.S. I have put this image and quote on a few items in my Zazzle store. I’d like to post a few more one day soon. If you are interested in seeing the different colors and styles, just click http://www.zazzle.com/crystalwriter/gifts?cg=196922414116128920 to visit. Thanks.

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

Make A Room for Daddy


Room Constuction by Flickr User Jeff Frisbee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Room Constuction by Flickr User Jeff Frisbee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve always thought that houses with “Mother-in-law quarters” were a nice idea for people who wanted to be closer to their parents in times of need but not have them living under the same roof. It offers the respect of privacy for both the full family and the addition, and above all else, it offers close proximity.

In today’s reading from Exodus 25:1 through Exodus 25:16, we begin a new portion, number 19, titled T’rumah which is Hebrew for “Contribution.” It’s all about the contributions the people of Israel will give to build the Holy Temple according to God’s command. It begins with the very important statement that the only acceptable offerings are those the people freely and wholeheartedly want to give. God knows what materials He requires for this new temple, but the thing He wants most is that all will be done with desire and not because people have to give. He still wants us to give in this way.

In verse 8, God says that He wants the people to make him a sanctuary. His reason, He says, is so that He may dwell among them. Of all the reasons we build churches and temples these days, do we ever think about the first temple to God Himself, and that it was built for the purpose of His dwelling among His children? That’s why He wanted it built with freewill offerings. He didn’t want the scenario where a child grudgingly allows a parent to live with him but hates every moment of it. He wanted to be wanted. Of course, after everything He did for them, it’s hard for me to imagine not wanting Him around, but if I look back to my days of living in sin, I can see how that could happen.

Specifically, this makes me think of a time when I was homeless due to some bad decision-making on my part. I was so embarrassed about my situation that when I spotted someone I knew passing through town (I was living in Las Vegas, and people who were on their way from Los Angeles to Utah for a big convention came through there during my lowest time), I ran the other way. They would have loved me, cared for me, fed me, and brought me back home–but I ran. I ran hard and scared. I was terrified. Maybe I was sure they would hate me if they saw the real me, or maybe I was just humiliated, but whatever made me run felt more like someone was after me to kill me than to love me.

I think that fear of the unknown contributes to all people who run from God instead of letting Him into their lives. That’s why it takes faith to let Him in. Israel had a battle with that, and God just kept looking for ways around it. He let them be taken into captivity, and then He got them out. He delivered them from their captors, and He allowed them to see the death of their tormenters. He gave them bread from Heaven, and He brought them up to hear His voice at Mount Sinai. Now He is having them build a sanctuary that will allow them to bring Him into their midst without the fearful images they saw when they tried to look on Him directly. Because it is impossible for sin to dwell in His presence, He has issued rulings to purify the people, and He will be putting these rulings in the ark He describes in verses 10-16, so they can always remember them. He does all of this just because He desires to dwell with His people. I think we should make room and let Him in.

February 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Total Torah Recall


Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
I love the light and colors that are displayed when I’m able to capture an image from inside my oil-cell kaleidoscope. This one has not been shared to Flickr yet.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’m writing from the road tonight because I’m pretty sure we won’t make it back home before midnight. I will edit later for links and such though. Edit: I was right. It’s almost 3am, and I’m just trying to do a quick edit before I go to sleep. I changed images since the one I uploaded with my phone somehow took the whole page width, but I’m sticking with something filled with light since the Torah (T-OR-AH) is filled with light. (OR is Hebrew for light.)

When I planned this series of blog posts, I wasn’t thinking of sharing the Torah content as much as just sharing how something from the reading affected me. Then, the natural teacher side of me kicked in, and I started trying to summarize the text to help readers gain understanding of God’s holy and wonderful word. I hope you are all blessed by my efforts however long or short.

Today’s reading covers Exodus 23:26 through Exodus 24:18 (the end of the chapter and the end of the week’s portion). It’s a wrap up of the rulings God has been giving Moses, and in this one, God calls the total rulings His Torah. Refer to my first post on this subject for meaning behind the word Torah, but in brief, it is God’s word, and it contains God’s light and truth.

Having read much earlier today, I don’t remember the particulars so much, but the part that stuck out for me was on reading what Moses and the seventy elders of Israel got to see. While most of the camp of Israel was only able to see God as fire on top of the mountain, Moses, Aaron, a couple other leaders, and the seventy elders were invited higher up and were able to see an image of God Himself. As they looked, they saw His feet standing on a piece of transparent crystal that looked like the sky.

I cried as I read the description and imagined being able to gaze upon such a wondrous site. I can’t put into words how very much I am in love with My Creator. And I can only imagine how it will feel to look in His loving face one day and to know I have an eternity to thank Him for all He has done for me.

There’s an old song by The Oakridge Boys called When I Sing for Him. It talks about how good it feels to sing praises to God, and then the music crescendos, and the singer belts out, “When I sing for Him in person, HalleluYah; when I move to my new home, HalleluYah; oh the angels will be singing, HalleluYah Amen; when I sing….for….Him!” As a singer, I can imagine standing on that stage in front of God, looking at Him standing on the sky-blue piece of crystal, and hearing the words, “Well done, my true and faithful servant.” It’s too precious to me to even describe.

Have a blessed Sabbath, and when you can find a quiet place and time, take a few minutes to imagine yourself singing in person to your Creator and Savior who loves you. I promise, it will bring you a special touch if joy and peace. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the song I mention above. Only in watching it can you truly see how powerful it is.

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

Follow the Angel of God


Angel with Lights by Flickr User Lois Elling aka CatDancing, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Angel with Lights by Flickr User Lois Elling aka CatDancing, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Do a Flickr image search of the word angel, and you’ll get a huge variety of images that you may or may not consider to be angelic. We have so many ideas in our minds of what it means to be an angel, from believing that good people (especially children) die and become angels in Heaven, to believing they are all beautiful and have halos and feathery wings. I won’t say I’m any kind of specialist in angels, but I do know they are placed in service of humans, and I know they desire to look into this thing we know as grace because their obedience is compelled rather than free will. But even though they are assigned to serve and protect us, they are still worthy of respect for their God-given powers and their position in God’s realm.

As a quick note here: I have learned through study that the word halo comes from the Greek word helios and concerns sun worship. If you put the sun behind the head of a person, the ring surrounding their head looks very much like the halos we put on the heads of all we would consider to be angelic, including images of Jesus Christ. This is just a little commercial break for your information since we’re talking about angels. Now, back to our regular programming. 🙂

In today’s very short reading from Exodus 23:20 through Exodus 23:25, Yahveh is speaking to His people about the angel He is sending before them to guide them and to guard them. God tells the people to pay attention to him, to listen to him, and to not rebel against him. He adds that the angel will not forgive them of any wrongdoing because God’s name dwells in him. In this sentence, I’m thinking it might actually mean, don’t expect the angel to forgive you just because God’s name is in him. I say that because of new testament Scripture that says God alone is able to forgive sins.

The reading goes on to encourage the people that their guardian angel will be an enemy to their enemies and a foe to their foes. God tells them that when the angel leads them to lands inhabited by their enemies, God will make an end of those enemies. Then God reminds them to not worship any of their gods or follow in their practices, but rather they are to smash their statues to pieces. I’m thinking here that this was God’s way of telling the people that they did not need to fear what their enemies might do to them, since people are generally very protective of gods they worship–even false gods–because they believe those gods are looking out for them and providing for them. Destroying them is the same as destroying their hopes. But, because they are false gods, and because Israel serves the true God and is being protected by His angel, they can stand for Yahveh even to the extent of destroying that which is false.

As the reading comes to an end, Yahveh reminds Israel of His provision for them. He tells them to serve Him and Him alone, and that He will bless their food and water. He goes on to tell them that He will even take sickness away from them. He gives them plenty of reason to trust Him, follow His lead, be obedient, and not fear any of their enemies. We have these same promises and provisions, but like Israel, we often back down and fear standing on something that might offend those who worship false gods. Of course, it is often confusing to determine when to stand against wrong by doing something like destroying that which is false and trying to be harmless as doves, but if we can become more sensitive to God’s voice, maybe we can stand more strongly. Lord help us to know what strongholds You have given us direction and strength to stand against and to tear down.

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

His Eye is on the Sparrow


Sparrow by Flickr User Abhilash Kumar aka Hitched Hiker, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Sparrow by Flickr User Abhilash Kumar aka Hitched Hiker, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Many years ago, when I was about 12 years old, I learned that my great-grandmother’s favorite song was His Eye is on the Sparrow. I learned it to sing for her funeral, though I did not truly understand what I was singing at that age. Now I can understand why it was important to her. The last line of the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” What precious and comforting words, and they were used to comfort people in anxiety when Yahshua spoke them in Luke 12:6-7.

In today’s reading from Exodus 23:6 through Exodus 23:19, we have more rulings, and today they all seem to be centered around what God has His eyes upon in our world. He has His eyes on the poor, so He tells people not to deny them justice. He has His eye on the innocent and righteous and says not to cause their death. He watches the wicked and says He will not justify them. And for all these He watches, God says not to take bribes because they subvert justice.

He has His eyes on the foreigner, and because He saw how His own people were treated as foreigners, (sometimes well and sometimes mistreated) He wants His own people to remember and treat guests right. He watches for the needs of the poor, so as He watches the harvest, He asks His people to gather for six years and leave the seventh for the poor and wild animals to gather. Of course, because of George Washington Carver, we have since learned how that helps the land produce better for the next six years, so God was watching out for the farmer even as He was caring for poor people and animals.

God even watches our work animals and for people who work for us (slaves in those days), and He requires that owners only work them for six days and then give them a Sabbath of rest.

The remaining part of the reading concerns how to uphold this wonderful Creator who watches over us. First, He says, do not ever call on the names of other gods (who are not watching them as He does), and not even to let the names of false gods pass over the lips of Yahveh’s people. Three times per year, we are to have feasts that directly honor our Creator. In these three feasts, we are to gather into His presence as we remember that He is The One who enabled the feasts. The three feasts are Matzah (the feast of unleavened bread) held right after Passover and at the Spring harvest time, the feast of First Fruits, and the festival of In-gathering (Sukkot) which is held at the fall harvest. They all represent God’s provision for us.

One of the last reminders in today’s text is the rule to bring the best of our first fruits into the house of Yahveh Almighty. While it doesn’t tell us exactly why, isn’t this a way we can offer our thanks to Him and honor Him as our Provider? I mean, if we offered the worst and the last, would that be fitting for someone whose eye is on everything and everyone, and who makes plans for us for our good? Yes, His eye IS on the sparrow, and because we are worth many flocks of sparrows to Him, we know He watches us. May we always bring our very best to Him in thanks for this.

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

WWID–What Would Israel Do?


Urban Legend by Flickr User John Flanigan, CC License =  Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Urban Legend by Flickr User John Flanigan, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

While I do not believe in what is known as “replacement theology,” I do believe that the Ekklesia (Greek word for the “church body” or “body of Christ”) is a flock just as Israel was, and the lawfulness of our hearts should be based on the laws God gave Israel to be a thriving community. We are no longer under the curse of the law, but that does not mean that law itself has no place in our lives. For example, the blood of Christ does not mean we are free to commit murder. God has always been drawn to people with governable hearts, just as He was to Abraham long before there was a Jewish people. We may be a new flock whose Shepherd is also our Messiah, but we have wonderful promises when our government rests on His shoulders.

In today’s reading from Exodus 22:27(28) through Exodus 23:5, the first instruction to God’s people is not to curse God and not to curse a leader of the people. If we love God, we have no desire to curse Him, so that ruling is pretty easy. The next though? A nephew listening to us read tonight was certain the Scripture had to be misinterpreted if it expected us to respect the current leadership of the U.S. It can be hard to draw the line between honoring the law of the land and honoring a person who makes laws against God. Many people point to Romans 13 regarding obedience to leaders, but since that reading also says that doing good will always win the approval of the leaders. it’s obviously not talking about some of the leadership we face now; leadership that would have a Christian businessman pay for an employee’s right to murder her unborn child regardless of the businessman’s own morals. Whatever we do or stand for should honor God above all else.

The next rulings include those concerning not delaying our offerings of things that would spoil, the importance of the firstborn to God, and the advice to not eat roadkill. It’s all sensible advice based on what we know now about bacteria and its contribution to deadly illness.

And then we have the ruling that lead me to choose the image above: Do not repeat false rumors. I almost looked for a video from Hee Haw of the girls singing, “We’re not ones to go around spreading rumors, so you better be sure and listen close the first time,” but I decided against it. Though when I looked for an image to go with the word rumor, I couldn’t find anything suitable, so I did the search for urban legend and found the one above that represents the oft-spread rumor of alligators and crocodiles in the sewers of New York. Cute one huh? 🙂

As we continue in the reading, we learn that God even watches over the courts and laws of our lands. He tells men not to perjure themselves by offering false testimony, not to allow popular culture to sway them toward offering testimony that would pervert justice, and not to favor a lawsuit just because a litigant is poor. All of that is summed up in God’s direction to not follow the crowd in doing wrong. Oh that these things could be read and obeyed by our current lawyers and juries.

Finally, the people are advised to return a wandering animal to its rightful owner, even if the owner is their enemy, and not to pass by an overburdened animal even if the owner hates them. This can be summed up in the reminder to be governed by God rather than by the emotions and offenses of our flesh. Really, all of these rulings can be summed up with Romans 13:10 which says (in CJB), “Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.”

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

Pulling Your Own Weight


Strongman Pulling Weight by Flickr User U S Army Korea Historical Archive, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Strongman Pulling Weight by Flickr User U S Army Korea Historical Archive, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

As I typed the title for this post, the first thing that came to me was, “No way could I pull anything that weighs as much as I do.” Thankfully, pulling my own weight is not literal and only means to take care of that which is mine to take care of. What is interesting is how this lines up with the thoughts that woke me today. Without reading this passage, I woke up thinking about how much better we tend to take care of things that don’t belong to us–like borrowed clothes. And then I thought about our own lives and bodies, and how they are borrowed in a sense. God’s word says that our bodies are the temple for His Holy Spirit, so that means we are actually caretakers rather than owners. Even more, it clarifies what Yahshua meant when He said He only said and did what His Father directed. Because He knew the purpose for His body on this earth, He yielded to that purpose. If we are of those asking WWJD (or WWYD), then we too should be yielding to the purpose of our lives and bodies on this earth. This certainly is stirring a lot of thought in my mind and heart.

So, in today’s reading from Exodus 22:4 through Exodus 22:26 (verses 5-27 in other versions), the rulings given are mostly about what people need to do to take care of their own business. For example, it talks of all the ways to make restitution if you allow something that does not belong to you to become harmed or lost. And people then took great responsibility for that which did not belong to them. That’s why, in 2nd Kings, the man who was chopping wood and lost the ax head in the water was so upset because he knew he could not afford to make restitution to the actual owner of the ax. In that story, Elisha prayed, and the ax head swam (or floated–depending on translation) through the water to him. As Wendy Bagwell would say, “It’s a fact with my hand up.” Click the link to read it for yourself.

After the verses about making restitution for things borrowed, things rented, etc., there are instructions for dealing with a man who desires to take a wife and the value of a bride. And then it goes into some more serious matters, such as the ruling not to allow a sorceress to live. It also says that anyone who participates in bestiality is to be put to death. At that time in history, no one could have known about strains of virus and bacteria that lived in animals without harm but would kills humans. We’ve had to learn the hard way with the spread of things like gonorrhea and AIDS caused by men who thought they could partner up with animals.

The next statement has brought much argument in Christian vs. Athiest circles because it says that anyone who sacrifices to any god other than Yahveh is to be utterly destroyed. But the verse right after it clarifies that this is only talking to those who claim to serve Yahveh because it says not to wrong or oppress a foreigner living with you (Israel) because you were once foreigners in Egypt. And it makes sense that if you are one who claims to be a child of Yahveh Almighty, you know His requirements, and you would be faithful to Him. Otherwise, it would be like allowing your parents to completely support you, but giving all your thanks and obedience to the parents of your next-door neighbor.

The last few verses talk of God’s anger toward those who abuse widows, orphans, and the poor. God tells the people that if they give a loan to a poor person, they are not to charge interest, and if they take the person’s coat for collateral, they are to restore it before sunset when the person will need it for sleeping. Knowing that in those days, and in that culture, there was no welfare and women could not work, means most of the poor were that way by no choice of their own–not even the types of bad choices that put many these days into poor situations. As the reading ends, it says that if the poor person without a coat cries out to God, He will listen because He is compassionate.

I will close by saying that I’m finding it a bit difficult to write on these subjects with all the rulings because there are so many all wrapped up in a few verses, and I don’t want to just type a list of rules. I’ve been praying and looking for the commonalities and the common sense applications while trying to keep things shorter than a novella. If you are reading to the ends of these posts, thank you for your perseverance, and please continue to pray for me as I try to bring my heart about God’s word plus cover all of what is taught in each portion. I appreciate each reader who stops by whether I am aware of your visit or not. Thank you.

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out of Balance


Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

In the Proverbs of Solomon, Chapter 11, verse 1, we read (from the Amplified version)…A false balance and unrighteous dealings are extremely offensive and shamefully sinful to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. I think people (made in God’s image) feel something similar. We need to see things in balance to feel like life is working as it should. We desire justice, and most people want to see fairness and equity in all parts of life. It is this need for balance that makes the blood of Yahshua necessary.

Without the blood of Christ, the balance of sin must be paid for with the wages we see in today’s reading from Exodus 21:20 through Exodus 22:3 (4 in other versions) of a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, etc. The rules given in the Scriptures from yesterday and today all lead to that same need for balance. Sadly, too many people think that evil does not need to be recompensed. They think that saying I’m sorry is a recompense for doing wrong. They think having a good excuse for evil doings is reason the evil should not require recompense at all. And, sadly, too many Christians think the blood of Our Savior removes more than just the wages of death, and that repentance should mean they earn a “Get out of jail free” card from a trip to the altar.

Of course, some wages do escape payment by the unmerited favor of God known as grace. I cannot tell you how many issues I should have paid for while I was living in a constantly sinful state. I did things that the laws of the land would have punished with jail time, and I’m certain I’m not alone in that based on many testimonies I’ve heard. But I would never dare to demand that God follow after me with a spiritual “pooper scooper,” cleaning up my messes just because I committed my life to Him. I believe that committing my life to Him makes me that much more responsible for learning what He considers to be a balanced walk of faith and obedience.

When God was giving these rulings to Israel, He was speaking to those who were supposed to be His people; those who desired to live in a way that uplifted and glorified their maker. That said, they had to be told how to keep those things in order. For example, the reading talks of the owner’s responsibilities if one of his animals gores a human being–especially if that animal was known for doing that, and the owner did not properly restrain it. Most of the reading covers common sense ways to keep balance even for those who do not claim to serve Yahveh, such as paying for an animal that falls into a cistern if you were the one to leave the top off of it.

If you decide to read the passage for yourself, refer it to the Scripture I used at first, and remember that God’s ultimate goal is to keep things in balance. Just like we need a balance of faith and works to keep from going in circles as if we were rowing with one oar. The world is balanced with seasons, and our lives are balanced by work and wages, sin and grace, and always by the governing of God who promises to make all things balanced and beautiful in time. (See Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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

A Good Rule of Thumb


Storytelling Rules of Pixar by Flickr User Alex Eylar, CC License - Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Storytelling Rules of Pixar by Flickr User Alex Eylar, CC License – Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s photo stream at Flickr, including his images of all the other Pixar rules of storytelling as acted out by Lego figures.

The rule above, and the other Pixar Rules of Storytelling, are great rules of thumb for creating a successful story. Rules, like ingredients in a recipe, are there to make sure that your end result is exactly what you plan from the beginning. A lot of people don’t like rules, but put one of them at a busy intersection with no lights or stop signs, and they’ll wish there were rules to keep everyone from crashing into each other. Many years ago, when Grissom was still a character on CSI, he mentioned that people liked sports because they represented a perfect community; the rules are the same for everyone, and the violations and penalties are acted on swiftly and exactly. Rules bring us peace.

Our newest portion, Parashah 18 is titled Mishpatim which is Hebrew for “rulings.” The full portion runs from Exodus 21:1 through Exodus 24:18, and today’s reading is from Exodus 21:1 through Exodus 21:19. It begins with the sentence, “These are the rulings you are to present to them,” and it goes into the beginnings of the rules Yahveh set forth in order for Israel to live in a peaceful community.

The first set of rules concerns the purchase of Hebrew slaves. I’m not a fan of what we equate with the word slavery, but I feel that if this is something God is governing, anyone who is obedient to Him, is going to treat his slaves as the human beings they are. I believe it is only out of sin that any man has ever treated another man as if he is less than human, whether or not the one doing the mistreatment would call his victims slaves, servants, employees, or any other name. Of course, all these rules follow the 10 Commandments, so if we are loving God first, how we treat others will reflect that.

After the rules about the treatment of slaves, this reading covers the laws that take place when a human hurts another human. It tells what to do when the victim is injured, and when the victim is killed. And it differentiates between the person that is victimized by accident and the one where it was premeditated. Verse 14 is quite strong in that it says if someone kills another person by premeditated planning, they should be taken to their death even if they are at the altar of God.

In these rules, even kidnapping and cursing your parents are causes for death, but fistfighting is apparently not a death penalty unless the person dies. The person who injured another is, however, responsible for caring for the injured person until he recovers. It would be nice if people kept at least that latter rule since it would mean we wouldn’t need all the crazy lawsuits to make it happen.

I’ll close now with a wish that all my readers will keep the law of love as the government over their hearts, so they would not even have to be concerned with these or other rules that come down in Scripture with harsh penalties. And I praise God for the mercy and grace He has given us in sending Yahshua to shed His blood to cover all the rules we do break. Amen.

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

Grace that Teaches Hearts to Fear


Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image (minus text & frame) and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

The second verse of the song, Amazing Grace, says…

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

In today’s reading from Exodus 20:15 through Exodus 20:23 (verses 18-26 in translations other than CJB), we see the people trembling at God’s presence on Mt. Sinai. The people are so afraid, they ask Moses to go talk to God alone and leave them out of it. But Moses tells them not to fear and explains that God only brings them fear to make them afraid to sin.

I guess we could compare this to all the dramatic stories parents tell their kids to keep them in line. You don’t really want the child to think there’s a scary snake in your closet that will attack and bite if the child opens the door; you just don’t want the child to peek in and see his Christmas presents before he unwraps them. The difference with God is that He can teach fear with truth instead of making up scary stories, but His purpose is still the same.

God’s word says the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Psalm 111:10). His laws can bring fear but only because of the price of breaking them. Even if we resist doing God’s will because we want things our own way, we fear disobeying because we don’t want to pay the cost. But God is okay with that because our fear protects us from living with the wages of sin. If we are afraid to rob a bank, we won’t have to risk the price of being shot in the act–or caught and imprisoned. That’s why 1 John 5:3 says (in paraphrase) that loving God means keeping His commandments, but keeping His commandments is not grievous or burdensome.

In the final paragraph of this week’s portion, God has Moses remind the people that because they have seen how He can come down and speak with them from Heaven, they have no need to create gods of silver and gold and worship them as if they are Yahveh. He tells them that if they wish to build an altar to Him, they should create it out of the earth. He does not want it created with tools because that would defile it by changing it from its natural state. And He does not want them to build steps to go up to it because it would make the people indecently uncovered.

Yahveh does not want the people (or us) building things and lifting them up as if they have power. That’s what they learned from those who worship false gods. Our God is personal and does not need a statue or cathedral to represent His majesty. And when it comes to earth, which I believe represents people, God wants our hearts as His altar. And I don’t believe He wants any of us to use some “cookie cutter” tools on ourselves in an effort to look like a better sacrifice. He wants us to yield whoever we are to His laws and His will to avoid the penalties of sin, but He knew even as He spoke to these people that The Perfect Sacrifice was on its way and would keep us from paying the ultimate price for sin–that being eternal death. The grace of God’s law creates fear that sets us free from having to fear death.

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

The Ten Suggestions?


Ten Commandments by Flickr User Glen Edelson, CC License = Attribution

Ten Commandments by Flickr User Glen Edelson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

So your child is playing at the side of the street, and the ball bounces out of his reach. As “Little Johnny” turns and starts to run after the ball, you see a car speeding down the road in his direction. You holler “STOP!” Now, what do you want Johnny to do? Stop right then, or keep running for a bit while he thinks about whether or not you know what you’re shouting about? After all, you’ve told him things before and then changed your mind, right? Didn’t you promise just last night that if he didn’t quit playing with his food, he would go to bed without supper? But then you felt bad when he said he was hungry, so you went ahead and reheated his dinner in the microwave.

Of course, this scenario plays out in millions of households day after day because love covers a multitude of sins, and we want our children to be happy. But if we are teaching them to not take our word seriously, then what will be our cost when it really matters, like when a car is headed right to part of the street where the ball bounced?

In today’s reading from Exodus 19:20 through Exodus 20:14, we see God laying down a way of life for this new people of His; this treasure He loves and wants to protect. He sees the future, and He knows that they must see Him as one who means and keeps His word if He wants them to listen when it matters the most. As God talks to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai, God tells him to warn the people to not force their way up the mountain to see Him. Even the priests, He says, must remain holy and must not force their way through.

In Chapter 20, it says, “Then God said all these words,” as it begins the count of what is typically known as The Ten Commandments. I used “suggestions” in the title because many people, even those who claim to love God, live as if they are just that. But unlike human parents, God does not make suggestions because that would make Him wishy-washy. On the other hand, even though He is strong on the rules, He is even stronger in His mercy. In the first commandment, as He states that people should have no other gods before Him, He says He is a jealous God who will punish those who hate Him up to the 4th generation, but He will show grace to the thousandth generation of those that love Him and keep His commandments.

The best analogy I ever heard for comparing God’s rulings to His grace is that of the criminal who ends up in court in front of a judge who was also his best friend. The friend thought he had it made when he saw who was on the bench, but he was greatly surprised at the turn of events. The judge, as a judge, issued the harshest sentence available for the crime. But, just as his friend stood watching in utter astonishment, the judge stood up, removed his robe, walked down from the bench, and–as a friend–paid the fine.

Most of us know the commandments, so I will end this by simply paraphrasing the remainder of them…

2. Don’t create any images you would call a god and bow down and worship them as you would Yahveh.

3. Don’t think of God’s Name as just another word in your vocabulary. Value it as you value Him.

4. Remember the seventh (Shabbat is Hebrew for “seventh”) day to keep it holy. God rested on that day and set it aside from the beginning of creation. (It was Sabbath before there were Jews, so it is not just a Jewish thing.) Bless it as God did by remembering to do what Yahveh did and resting from your human works as He did from His creative works. In other words, WWYD?

5. Honor your parents to live long in the promised land from God.

6. Do not murder. (Just a simple reminder to value life as something God made.)

7. Do not commit adultery. (A couple together represents God’s unity. If we bring others into the relationship, it defiles that unity. Even liberal physicians will tell you that you keep cells from former partners for years after. Purity is truly freedom.)

8. Do not steal. (If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it. Just like you don’t want someone taking from you something that does not belong to them. Simple.)

9. Do not lie against your neighbor. (Just like you wouldn’t want your neighbor to lie against you.)

10. Do not covet. (Wouldn’t you rather other rejoice with you over your blessings than curse you because you have them and they don’t?)

All of these commandments really bring about a simpler life. If we live by them, we will be living by the golden rule without even trying. Why should people want things to be any different than common care and love for fellow human beings? Me, I prefer the simple life of living in the light of God/Love in all things, so as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.

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

Prepare to Meet Your Maker


Golden Fractal Lightning by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Golden Fractal Lightning by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Made in multiple image programs. Click to view full size in new tab/window.

If a person who has been known to be mean for years suddenly starts turning nicer with age, many will say they know their time is short and they’re trying to get ready to meet their Maker. And then there’s the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Somehow, whether it’s age, illness, or some other reason that brings a person closer to thinking about his or her own mortality, when people think they are near death, they often start thinking about being prepared to meet God.

In today’s reading from Exodus 19:7 through Exodus 19:19, God tells Moses that, in three days, He is coming down to talk to Israel and Moses is to get them ready to meet Him. Of course, this is following God’s recent words to them (through Moses) that they are His special treasure and chosen people, so I imagine the thought of meeting Him wasn’t nearly as frightening as it would be for someone who has always lived life as if God didn’t exist.

For Israel to be ready, God wanted them to wash their clothes and make their way to the base of the mountain. They were told to be careful to stay at the foot of the mountain, not to touch the mountain, to refrain from touching any women, and to wait for the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn that sounds like a trumpet) before coming up onto the mountain. If they violated these things before the third day when God said He would descend in a cloud, they were told they would die.

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning as a thick cloud descended on the mountain. When the shofar blasted, it was so loud that it made all the camp of Israel tremble. God came down upon the mountain in fire, and the smoke ascended up from the mountain like smoke from a furnace. Between the smoke and the shofar which blasted louder and louder, the whole mountain shook violently. And then Moses spoke, and God answered him, and the people were able to hear them as God promised they would. He planned this, so the people could trust in Moses from then on.

As I read this passage, I thought about the term God of Thunder, so I looked it up. It has been used for song titles, video games, and numerous gods throughout history. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has heard that thunder was either God or the angels going bowling. But the thing that sets Yahveh apart from all the other power-wielding gods is that, while they are gods of thunder (and other ethereal phenomena), Yahveh is the God over all of it. He created the thunder and the lightning, and He controls the thunder and the lightning. It is His idea that the lightning also brings nitrogen to help things grow and adds ozone to protect us from harmful rays of the sun. He is THE TRUE GOD OF THUNDER both now and forevermore.

And all of this made me think of the verses from Matthew 8:24-27, while Yahshua was out on the boat with His disciples…

24 Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. 25 So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.27 The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”

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

Home Base Camp


Campsite by Flickr User mm-j, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Campsite by Flickr User mm-j, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

What makes a home? The walls? The pictures on the walls? The people who live within the walls? In today’s reading from Exodus 19:1 through Exodus 19:6, the people of Israel have made a home by creating a camp at the base of the mountain of God. They have their deliverance; they have each other; they have their hope for the future; and–mostly–they have the presence of Yahveh.

The reading is quite short again, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s harder to pick things out of the long readings, or find a major point in the short ones. For this one, I guess the thing that stands out to me is how much Israel’s physical situation seems so much like our lives on this earth.

They were delivered from bondage, just as we who receive God’s salvation are delivered from the bondage of sin. They have hope of a promised land in front of them, just as we have hope of life in a new Heaven and new Earth one day. They have the presence of God leading and following them, and they have camped out at the foot of His mountain for protection and shelter, just as we have God’s Holy Spirit to lead us, and we can camp in His presence for shelter and protection.

In the reading, God tells Moses to remind the people what they have seen Him do to their enemies. He tells him to remind them that it was He (God) who carried them out of that bondage on eagle’s wings. And He tells Moses to remind them to keep God’s covenant in order to be His people, a chosen priesthood and a special treasure from among all people on earth. We too have been chosen by God to be His special treasure and royal priesthood, (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). What precious history and promises on which to build our base camp for this life.

And now, just for fun, here’s a video of Dailey and Vincent singing Camping in Canaan’s Land

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

Freedom from Big Government


Fractal Butterfly in Purple Frame by Crystal A Murray (C) All Rights Reserved

Fractal Butterfly in Purple Frame by Crystal A Murray (C) All Rights Reserved

Playing on yesterday’s topic of God being our true Supreme Court, now I’m looking at how to be free from “big government” when it is run by mankind. It’s as simple as following Moses’ example of being more than just a hearer of the words taught to him by his mentor, but being a doer also. Our reading today from Exodus 18:24 through Exodus 18:27 is short enough that I’m going to just print it here.

Exodus 18:24-27

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

(iii) 24 Moshe paid attention to his father-in-law’s counsel and did everything he said.25 Moshe chose competent men from all Isra’el and made them heads over the people, in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 As a general rule, they settled the people’s disputes — the difficult cases they brought to Moshe, but every simple matter they decided themselves.

27 Then Moshe let his father-in-law leave, and he went off to his own country.

We will find as we read along in the Torah that more and more rules are required for one reason only; that men refuse to govern themselves. Part of governing ourselves requires listening to others with more experience as Moses did to Jethro because he already had experience as a priest. It also includes accountability, which is what was happening when Moses assigned competent men to watch over the people and settle their general disputes. Knowing where we stand as to when we should direct ourselves, when we follow advice from a mentor, and in all ways how to glorify Our Creator in all we do should be our highest goal. Maturity and personal responsibility allows us to fail, as we humans tend to do so often that we need new mercy every morning, and yet to face our failures in light of God’s grace.

Just imagine if all the world did what was right just because it was right and not only because they might be caught doing what was wrong. Imagine people who understand that if something belongs to someone else, it’s not yours to touch, take, or damage. Imagine people who value human life and know it is God who gives us each breath. Imagine if all people would see true freedom as doing things God’s way instead of toward the selfish pleasures of the short-lasting flesh.

I don’t know what our bodies will be like other than like Christ’s perfected and glorious body, but I imagine that if the new Heaven and new Earth have life anything close to how we see it now with bodies and people, the world might line up to these things I listed above. I could see that as a perfect world even with flesh that messes up now and then because our failures so often allow us to see God as the Only One who is perfect. With Yahshua as our Government, we have some precious promises that can be found in Isaiah 9:6. Following the prophecy that a child would be born and the government would be on His shoulders, we have the remaining prophecy that His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In other words, the blessing of our obedience to Him as our Governor is that we will see Him as wonderful, and we will have Him as our counselor, as our Mighty God, as our Everlasting Father, and as our Prince of Peace. Now that’s a big government I can live with.

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

Supreme Court Justice


Supreme Court by Flickr User Envios, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Supreme Court by Flickr User Envios, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window and view original plus access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

There are two words that often make me feel frustrated when I hear them … fair and deserve. We read in Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:12 that because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. In other words, because people refuse to do things God’s way, the justice that God (as Love) brings to the human heart will be reduced. This means that it is because of sin that life is unfair, and people either get things they don’t deserve or don’t get things they do deserve. But for every person who cries out for fairness, there is an unfair moment on the cross where Our Savior took what He did not deserve, so that we would not receive what we did deserve. Trusting Him to recompense our afflictions is trusting in real justice.

In the meantime, we’re all still human, and we will all feel at times as if we have not been treated with justice in this life. In today’s reading from Exodus 18:13 through Exodus 18:23, we find Moses being called on to settle disputes, and we find so many people lining up to get his advice that people surrounded him from morning until evening. That’s a lot of work for one person, and Jethro notices the same thing. He asks Moses what is going on, and Moses explains that the people come to him for God’s guidance. He tells Jethro that when the people have a dispute, he judges between them and then explains God’s laws and teachings to them.

Jethro begins to explain that it’s not a good thing, and that Moses will wear himself out if he doesn’t learn to delegate. (Boy do I understand this part.) Jethro suggests that Moses should represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. He adds that Moses should teach them God’s laws and show them how to live. But when it comes to judgment, Jethro tells Moses to choose men to govern the people in groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Whatever size group each leader should govern, these leaders should be competent, God-fearing, honest, and incorruptible.

Can you imagine if every person in a leadership position had to qualify with these characteristics? We have plenty in charge–of our country, our cities, our courts, our churches, and even our homes, that cannot qualify by even one of these characteristics, let alone all four. What a pleasant environment we would live in if all men and women in power were–at the least–honest. If they were also incorruptible, we could have a taste of fairness and equity. And if all were competent enough to make God and His word their true and supreme court, we could know real justice.

Jethro goes on to explain that if these leaders solve most of the disputes and only bring the difficult cases to him, Moses will have help with his heavy load, and life will be a bit easier for him. Jethro closes his advice-giving by telling Moses that if he does these things, and if God directs him to do these things, he (Moses) will be able to endure, and the people he is leading will make it to their destination peacefully.

Since I’m a bit like Moses in trying to do everything myself rather than delegating things to others, I can understand his need to hear this advice from Jethro. I’m certain they prayed for God to show them what leaders held the qualities that would make Moses able to trust them as his delegates of authority. I know that, even in the small scenario of my writer’s group, having officers and workers I can trust with group tasks brings us to a peaceful destination together. My helpers may never know just how much their work means to me, but from a leadership position, I can tell you it is priceless. If you are the type of person who works to help others, never judge your service by the size of the job but only by the sincerity of your motivations.

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

I Heard It Through the Desert Grapevine


Heard it Through the Grapevine by Flickr User Sonny Lazzeri, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Heard it Through the Grapevine by Flickr User Sonny Lazzeri, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Word spreads fast these days with all the different ways we can communicate at the speed of fiber-optic light. But what about the “old” days? I mean, I thought we were pretty clever when we were kids and could talk through cups or cans with strings attached. (Or at least we thought we could.) When hubby and I watch one of our favorite older shows, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, I’m always amazed at how fast the bad guys hear about the payroll coming through on a Wells Fargo stage or rolling in on a train car. I was enthralled by the episode where they tracked a coming tornado/cyclone just by using telegraph.

But in today’s reading from Exodus 18:1 through Exodus 18:12, I don’t know how word spread as well as it did. Somehow, though, the word of what happened with Pharaoh and his armies spread across the desert to Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. There was plenty of wine, so I’m sure there were grapevines, but I don’t think that’s how the word was carried. 😉 Still, the word spreading to Jethro is important enough that our full portion for the week, Parashah 17, is titled Yitro and is Hebrew for “Jethro.”

So Jethro hears about how God has delivered Israel and all He has done through Moses since Moses sent his wife, Zipporah, and his two sons back home to Jethro. He brings the family to see Moses in the desert where he was camped at the mountain of God. He had already sent word to Moses saying, “I, Jethro, am coming to see you with your wife and two sons.”

Moses goes out to meet Jethro and prostrates himself before him then kisses him. After checking on each other’s welfare, they enter the tent, and Moses tells his father-in-law everything God has done for him and for Israel in delivering them from Pharaoh and from slavery in Egypt. In verses 10-11, Jethro says, “Blessed be Adonai, who has rescued you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, who has rescued the people from the harsh hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that Adonai is greater than all other gods, because he rescued those who were treated so arrogantly.” And then Jethro brings a burnt offering and sacrifices to God, and Aaron comes with the leaders of Israel to share the meal with Moses and Jethro.

I’m not absolutely certain what type of priest Jethro was since he said the “now I know” part. I’m thinking that if he was already a priest of Yahveh, he already would have known that Yahveh is greater than all other gods. Never-the-less, God has always been big on wanting His good news to be spread, and I rejoice that Jethro learned and declared the truth. I believe God wants His truth carried to others by any means possible; cups, cans, telegraph, telephone, and–mostly–“tell a friend.” That’s where you and I come in with our testimonies. God’s Word says in Acts 6:7 (NLT), “So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.”

Now, I’d love to see some comments telling me what kind of grapevine you heard the good news through. Also feel free to share your favorite way to minister God’s word to others. I’ll share mine in comments as well.

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How to Care for a (Pet) Rock


Pet Rock in Cage by Flickr User Gary Crook, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Pet Rock in Cage by Flickr User Gary Crook, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Depending on your age, you might remember when everyone just HAD to own a pet rock. It came in its own little cardboard carrier, complete with a layer of straw for the comfort of your rock. There were no googly eyes on it, but your purchase included an entire booklet with all you could ever want to know about the care and feeding of a pet rock. It took me a while, but I found an interesting article with a picture of a real pet rock, info on the amazing marketing and profits, and even the full text of the companion booklet at http://wellingtonmarketingexperts.com/creative-marketing-for-the-pet-rock/

In today’s reading from Exodus 17:1 through Exodus 17:16 (the end of the chapter), we will see even more things you can do with a pet rock. The people were traveling through the desert and had no water to drink. They begin to grumble against Moses, demanding that he give them water. He asks why they are testing God and picking fights with him, and they just accuse him even more of bringing them to the desert so their children and livestock can die of thirst.

Now, here’s where rocks first come in. If you’re among the grumblers of Israel, you threaten to stone your leader to death. If you’re Moses, when the people cry out for thirst, you obey God and meet Him where He will be standing before you on a big rock in Horeb. And then, as directed, you strike the rock. If you’re Yahveh, you stand on the rock in front of Moses, and then, when he strikes it with his staff, you make water pour out of it for the people to drink. God then names the place both Massah, meaning “testing,” and Meribah, meaning “quarreling” or “contention” because of the quarreling of the people as they tested God by asking if He was with them or not.

And then our story switches to an enemy by the name of Amalek. He starts a fight with Israel at Refidim, and Moses tells Joshua to pick some men to go out and fight him. In the meantime, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climb a mountain to overlook the battle. When Moses raises the staff of God in his hand, Joshua and the soldiers have victory. But when Moses’ hands get weak, and he begins to drop his arms and the staff down, Joshua and the soldiers begin to lose. Now, we see another rock as Aaron and Hur pull one under Moses for him to sit on while they lift his hands in the air until Israel has complete victory over Amalek.

At the end of the battle, God tells Moses to write in a book and record all the events, so that they would be remembered. He then instructs him to share it with Joshua, so I’m guessing He was talking about the part Joshua could not see–the part that showed it was God who won the battle by the uplifted staff. God loves to show His power, and I believe He loves to show how He uses men to work with Him and with each other to bring about victory. This way, they can also trust the rest of God’s words that He will completely blot out Amalek from under the heavens., and that He will fight them from generation to generation because Amalek dared to set himself against the throne of God.

At this, Moses builds an altar to God (likely using yet another rock or two or three), and he names it Adonai Nissi meaning “God is my banner/miracle.” He declares that because Amalek dared to set himself against the throne of God. God will fight Amalek from generation to generation. And we can also claim God as our banner and miracle as we claim His promise to fight our enemies when they raise themselves up against the throne of God by attacking His children. We have Him to run to as our Rock of Salvation now and forevermore.

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

Gathering Angel Flour


Gluten Free Flour by Flickr User Andrea Nguyen, CC License = Attribution

Gluten Free Flour by Flickr User Andrea Nguyen, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

There’s an old Bluegrass song called Angels Gathering Flowers (see link below), so I came up with today’s title based on the content of our reading from Exodus 16:11 through Exodus 16:36 (the end of the chapter), that song title, and one of my favorite movie lines ever: Harold Crick (played by Will Farrell) in the movie Stranger Than Fiction brings a box of assorted bags of flour to a girl that runs a bakery and says, “I brought you flours.” God could have said that to the children of Israel as He shared what some have claimed was possibly the food of angels.

Our reading begins with Yahveh telling Moses to let the people know that He has heard their grumblings. I would add–again. He tells them that they will be eating meat that night and bread in the morning, and He says, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” And again I would add–again. How quickly they forgot. And how quickly all we humans forget between seeing the provisions of God in our lives. Thankfully, His mercy is new every morning because we so need it.

That evening, quails covered the camp, so they got their meat. The next morning, a fine white substance covered the ground like frost, and the people said to each other, “Man hu,” which was Hebrew for “What is it?” I pictured what they gathered making their hands look much like the hand in the above image, so I thought that was a great image for today. But, also, because the people said the food tasted like sweet honey cakes, I also found what appears to be a nice recipe for Gluten Free Angel Food Cake at the Taste of Home site. Please let me know if you make it and if it’s as good as the reviewers claim it is.

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups egg whites (about 10)
3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Assorted fresh fruit, optional
Directions
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sift 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, flours and potato starch together twice; set aside.
Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and entire top appears dry. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around side and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate. Top with fresh fruit if desired. Yield: 16 servings.

The next part of the reading covers the rules about gathering this sweet bread. Israel is told to gather for each person according to his or her appetite. They are to gather for six days, and gather double for the seventh day. (I know yesterday’s reading made it appear it would double on its own, but I guess what was in the field was doubled, so the people could gather double.) If people gathered more than they needed and tried to save the leftovers, it would melt, go bad, and before it could be eaten, it would be filled with worms. But when they gathered for Sabbath, the leftovers did not melt of get wormy.

There were a few people who still tried to go out and gather on the Sabbath, but there was nothing to gather because God did not send anything. He told those people to go back to their tents and rest. I don’t know if they had eaten all they had and ended up with an unplanned fast day, but I know that God was quite frustrated with them. One way or the other, people learned to rest on the day Yahveh chose to be the day of rest–the seventh day of each week.

The reading closes with more description of the bread, and the knowledge that Israel ate the manna for forty years until they came to an inhabited land. It also speaks of God’s command for them to take about two quarts of manna and put it in a container to be kept throughout all of Israel’s generations. I would love to know if it’s still out there somewhere, still intact inside the true “Ark of the Covenant.” If it is, I’m sure it’s not melted or wormy. 🙂

And here’s a link to a video of a Bluegrass group performing the song mentioned above…

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

If You Are Hungry, Just Challah


Challah by Flickr User Ceressa Bateman, CC License = Attribution

Challah by Flickr User Ceressa Bateman, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view original and access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Challah (pronounced holl-uh) is a Hebrew word and refers to the special Jewish braided bread that is eaten on Sabbaths and certain holidays. Click the word for the Wikipedia page. Also, Hebrew for Christians has a nice page with the blessings over the bread in both Hebrew and English.

The one thing I find refreshing in most Hebrew prayers that I have read is that all the praise goes back to God as the Originator. In other words, instead of saying something like, “Thank you for this bread,” the blessing over the bread says, “You receive glory because You bring forth bread from the earth.” It lifts God up as The Creator and Our Provider not just for the moment, but always and forever. I love seeing Him in this wonderful way.

As I read today’s reading from Exodus 15:27 through Exodus 16:10, I could not help but think of Yahshua, our true Bread of Heaven. He speaks to the disciples about this in John 6:28-33. The words from the New Living Testament say…

28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? 31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Today’s Torah reading lays a foundation for this when the children of Israel become hungry after some more time in the desert. They begin complaining to Moses and Aaron, and they even go so far as to say they wish Yahveh had just killed them by His own hand while they were back in Egypt. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I guess that’s what was happening here since they were having trouble remembering being slaves and instead just remembering sitting around pots of boiling meat.

Moses and Aaron try to tell them to take their complaints to God. God promises that He will rain bread down from Heaven both to provide for them and to test them to see if they will keep His commandments as to how to collect the bread each day. They are told that what they collect just before Shabbat (Sabbath) will double in volume, so they will not have to go out and collect on Sabbath.

As the reading comes to an end, God tells Moses to gather all the people together and say to them, “Come into the presence of God because He has heard your grumblings.” As Aaron spoke, there before them, God’s Glory appeared in a cloud. He not only provides for us, but He hears us, and He shows up for us. We just need to seek and search for Him with all our hearts, and His word promises that we will find Him.

January 15, 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

And Little Lambs Eat Ivy


Spotted Lambs by Flickr User Eva Mayer aka Eva Ganesha, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Spotted Lambs by Flickr User Eva Mayer aka Eva Ganesha, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream on Flickr.

I don’t know how many years I sang words that sounded something like “marezeedotes and dozeedotes and little lambsy divey,” but as a child, I did not understand that this song was about real animals. I really didn’t understand the word “akittleediveytu,” and why it then asked the question, “wouldn’t you?”

When I first read the Old Testament words from Exodus 13:1 through Exodus 13:16, it is also likely I didn’t understand all the types and shadows I was reading of that God had set up intentionally. Reading in this part of the Bible used to sound confusing to me, much like the words to the song, Mairzy Doats above. But now, I not only understand it, I personalize it.

Today’s story begins with God claiming that the firstborn of all creatures belongs to Him. Well, guess what? I’m a first-born child. Wow, that means I belong to Him! Of course, I love to read it that way, but it doesn’t mean I believe that my younger sister belongs any less to Him than I do. I know we are both redeemed by the blood of The Spotless Lamb that came in the form of Yahshua our Messiah and willingly laid down His own life for each of us–as well as for everyone who receives Him.

As God explains everything to Moses about lambs, redeeming firstborn humans with lambs, redeeming goats, etc., the thing He keeps repeating in this reading is that His people should never forget. He wants us to remember for ourselves by marking birth with redemption. He wants us to remember by wrapping His words around our hands and heads. This is likely talking of what we will see described later in the Torah, and what in Judaism is called “phylacteries,” but I’m certain there is also a type and shadow in this to make sure His words are written in everything we do and in everything we think.

More than once, God tells the people to pass these stories to their children, so that when they are living in the land of plenty that is promised to the seed of Abraham, they will know it came by way of a great deliverance by the Hand of God. And I don’t find it coincidental that He would tie that deliverance to physically cleansing the land and houses of all types of leaven (representing pride and sin) because it lines up with the New Testament Scripture in Ephesians 2:9 that says, “You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.

None of this is really any more of a mystery than the fact that mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. Serving God is as simple as it is beautiful even if it is not always easy. If we just remember where God should be in every part of our lives–FIRST–we will have a way to follow that will lead us on a path to eternity with Him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After I posted this, I found a video of the above song on YouTube, and it has an adorable slide show to go along with it…

January 10, 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

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