Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

In The Beginning, God…


The Beginning of Time by Flickr User Trey Ratcliff aka Stuck In Customs, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The Beginning of Time by Flickr User Trey Ratcliff aka Stuck In Customs, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

First, God. Then, God created. That’s the necessary order for the best possible world because without God and His wisdom, creation would be soulless. But God didn’t want soulless creatures that operated like programmed robots, so He created man in His own image. Like God, we have a soul, a spirit, and a body. As it says in Colossians 2:9, For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. And because we are like Him, we can communicate with Him even from our human bodies while living in this temporary world.

Somehow though, today’s world has gotten wrapped up in the pursuit of knowledge instead of operating from the soul God gave us. But, if knowledge and thinking were enough for a good life, we would have no problem sharing our population with androids, and men would not try so desperately to humanize artificial intelligence. We know from the soul God gave us that life requires more, yet we keep trying to shut out that voice of reason as if what brings pleasure in the flesh should have priority. And even when we conquer the flesh, we often prioritize thoughts and feelings over the wisdom of God’s Spirit.

So, here I sit, working on my 402nd post for this blog and desperately wanting to make sure that I write from the leading of God’s Holy Spirit more than my own thoughts and ideas. At the same time, I must trust that because my creativity is also in God’s image, my ideas can come from Him too. I don’t write for readers nearly as much as wanting to write out of obedience and leaving readers in God’s hands. I guess that’s why I might be something of a perfectionist when I write.

Torah season has started again, but I’m not going to do daily updates on portions. I will, however, post a link to the weekly portion in The Complete Jewish Bible at BibleGateway.com for those who want to follow the annual reading schedule. I actually got a week behind, so you can read the full first week’s portion as part of today’s Shabbat (Sabbath) before sundown on Saturday, October 25th. That portion is Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 6:8. The divisions are written in the CJB, and there is a page with the divided readings and links available at Hebcal.com. The name links to the first portion with a list of links to all other portions.

Another great place to learn about the Torah and Hebrew roots of the Christian faith is Hebrew4Christians.com. Save the following links for your year of reading Genesis through Deuteronomy…

Now, speaking of current reading, for this week, the portion is called “Noah” in English and is Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 11:32. With the seven divisions, this can be seen at http://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/noach. And with all that information, I’d say my readers have a chance at a good beginning for their Torah year. I hope you will join me and my husband this year, and please stop in now and then to tell me what you’re getting out of the readings for yourself and your family.

In closing for the day, I want to say that it is because of God’s original plans and designs at the beginning that we get the new beginnings we experience each day. I believe His plans were to make humans in His image for good communications and interactions with Himself, but we sought flesh and soul over His Spirit. Still, even though we pushed Him behind the stuff we have too often made more important than Him, He comes in with mercies that are new every morning. It’s hard to imagine being loved so much that all we have to do is earnestly desire Him and He’s there with open arms no matter what came before, but that’s the truth. And that truth is shown beautifully in the song He Was There All the Time, so enjoy this video. View it at YouTube to find the lyrics in the video description section…

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Elephant Never Forgets


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

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

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

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

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

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

Crossing Jordan


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Israel–Part II


12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

As I’ve read these prophesies of Jacob to his sons, I’ve thought much about the power of words, but there’s more than words involved. Jacob may have had special feelings toward the children of Rachel, but these were all his sons, so I’m guessing that whatever he spoke to them was spoken with parental love. We are told in multiple Scriptures that God chastens those who He loves, so even the words that seem painful to the receivers are from a father’s heart. And so it is with those of us who call Yahveh our Father. Sometimes, He may give us words that promise futures we may not want to go through, but we know we never go through those futures alone, and we never go through them without promise that they will yield some type of fruit to the glory of God.

Four more sons are discussed in today’s reading from Genesis 49:19 through Genesis 49:26. The sons discussed in today’s reading are Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Joseph. When you read these verses, and yesterday’s verses, in the Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll notice that most of the brothers get their own paragraphs, so it’s easy to tell which ones Jacob spoke of more than others. Of these four brothers, the first three get very little prophesy, but Joseph gets a lot.

In brief, Jacob says that Gad will be attacked, but he will attack in return and be victorious. Asher will produce plenty of food, including that which is considered for royalty. Naphtali is a free-running deer that produces beautiful fawns. Also, it’s possible that the prophesy of Naphtali is that rather than fawns, he will produce great writings. Of course, I like that one for a prophecy. 🙂

The rest of the writing focuses on Joseph. It says he is a fruitful branch by a well whose leaves reach over the wall. I see this as a tree planted by the water, so that speaks of strength, and a bearing a lot of fruit if the branch would hang down over a wall. Since Ephraim is said to represent “the church,” this could be prophesy of those of us reading this who are believers and servants of God now. How cool is that?

It goes on to talk about Joseph being attacked unfairly but that he was separated from his brothers to become a prince among them. Jacob even speaks the blessings of The Lord upon Joseph as being greater blessings than those that were upon his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Considering the later prophesy when Ephraim will be united with Judah, I’d say Jacob’s words were certainly true.

I will go back and add the details for yesterday’s brothers now, but I wanted to get this post done and added before midnight.

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part I


12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

Today’s reading from Genesis 49:1 through Genesis 49:18 covers the prophecies from Israel to the first seven of his sons. Those written of here were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Isaachar, and Dan. Not all of the prophecies for the futures of these sons look like blessings, so I imagine that some of them were hard for Jacob to speak to them. It’s always hard for parents to tell their children the truth, but the lack of truth will do more harm than good, so it’s one of those necessary things. Of course, speaking the future as something negative and without hope may not be the best way to encourage someone either, so it goes back to a saying I heard many years ago, and something I suggest people apply when editing writing for others: Honesty without compassion is cruelty. You’ll have to read it for yourself to decide if the words are honest and compassionate or just honest.

I am actually finishing this post a day later because it was important to me to spend time on the phone with my uncle from Arizona. He was celebrating his 65th birthday, but we also had a lot to talk about concerning his son, my first cousin, who is younger than me but has suffered first from a bad bout of “Valley Fever” (a fungal lung infection that required multiple surgeries), and then suffered two strokes. He’s younger than me, and strokes don’t run in the family, so we think they were side effects of the Fluconozole they put him on for the infection, but regardless of the cause, he has been hospitalized since March. Please keep Chance Robertson in your prayers, not only for physical healing, but that he will use these events to make God the most important part of his life. My uncle has a neighbor who has been bringing Scriptures to him since he has been able to read again, and my uncle is in a place where he prays a lot and says he is willing to change in whatever ways God directs him. That is a great change and blessing to my heart, and it brings me right into what was going on with Jacob and his sons.

I’m sure Jacob would like to have said nothing but good to each of his sons, as any parent would like to do with their children. And I’m sure that even with the news that didn’t seem so good, he would like to have said that each of them would have an opportunity to repent and get it right. Of course, we don’t really know if there was more said, and it is my hope that those who made bad decisions did so with open eyes and minds if they chose to reject God.

So, in brief, Jacob said that Reuben was his first born and the strength of his first offspring, but because he had no self-control and climbed into his father’s bed with one of his concubines, he lost ground and would not have the full strength he should have had. This is the one that bothers me the most because I always hurt for those bad decisions that have consequences that cannot be taken back. All the repentance in the world cannot remove a child conceived by an illicit sexual relationship, and really we should look at the fruit of every sinful seed we plant in this light. We do not receive the true price for our sins (the wages of sin is death) if we give them over to Christ, but they still bear fruit we need to consider. In this case, Reuben missed out on strength he could have had.

Jacob also speaks to Simeon and Levi of losing out because of their uncontrolled anger. They plotted together to kill a man in anger (for raping their sister), but it also says they were cruel and killed animals. Yikes! Their price is being scattered and divided.

Next we get 5 verses on Judah. Remember that our Messiah Yahshua (Jesus) is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Verse 9 speaks of him as a lion’s cub, a lioness, and a lion on a mountain with prey. The next verse says he will lead and rule until “Shiloh” (meaning Messiah or the peaceful one so the word might actually be another use of “Shalom”) will come from him. It goes on to say people would obey this leadership. Verse 11 seems prophetic of Yahshua in that it says his colt will be tied to a vine (see Mark 11:2 just before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem). It goes on to say that his clothes will be washed in wine and in the blood of grapes. Of course, I’m not sure of the ending words to him of his eyes being darker and more sparkling than wine & his teeth whiter than milk.

The word to Zebulun is that he would be a harbor for lost ships; to Isaachar that he would be a strong donkey crouching between sheepfolds (maybe the Messianic Jews, but I can’t say since I’m not a trained scholar); and to Dan that he would be a judge of his people and a horned snake in the path. Maybe someday, if I remember once I’m in God’s presence for eternity, I’ll ask what some of these prophesies represent, but in the meantime, I’ll be satisfied to receive only what God thinks I need to know. Still, I will search because of what it says in Proverbs 25:2 that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search it out.

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

Raise Your Right Hand if You’re Sure


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Lord is My Own Personal Shepherd


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I Get Carried Away


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Work as a Slave for Food


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Egypt Thinks You’re Smelly


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob’s Bucket List


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children Go Where I Send Thee


Maze of Bushes by Daniel Kuperman

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Tell the Truth


Pink Fractalius Rose with Text, (C) All Rights Reserved, Crystal A Murray

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and Your Words are truth. Text of 2 Samuel 7:28a from the Amplified Bible. Image of Pink Fractalius Rose from my sister’s rose bush by Crystal A Murray.

My childhood memories include many associations with television. Maybe it was often a background sound, but a few things were more than background. Game shows fill that slot. I don’t remember much about To Tell the Truth, but as a trivia buff, I enjoyed the information I found on it at Wikipedia. Today’s reading is, of course, about telling the truth. The short passage runs from Genesis 44:31 through Genesis 45:7 and takes up with the last half of the sentence from yesterday where Judah is telling Joseph about how close his father is to his brother Benjamin.

Judah is desperate, and he tells Joseph that his father will die if he doesn’t bring Benjamin home. He explains how he guaranteed the father that nothing would happen to his little brother and that he will bear all responsibility if he doesn’t return him safely. He then begins to beg Joseph to keep him as a slave and let Benjamin go home to his father. He tops it off by saying he could not go home without the boy because he could not bear to see his father in such anguish.

Now, Joseph cannot take it anymore. He makes all the Egyptians go away from him, and he weeps so loud that everyone in the house can hear him. He finally tells his brother who he is and asks them if they’re telling the truth that their father is still alive. The brothers are so dumbfounded by Joseph’s announcement that they cannot even speak to answer his question. He asks them to come closer, and he tells them again who he is and that he is the brother whom they sold into slavery. But he also tells them not to be upset at themselves for their betrayal of him because he says it was all in God’s plan to take care of them through the famine so their family line could continue.

That’s where the story ends for today, but I can imagine how much relief filled everyone’s heart because of that one truth. Of course, it was a big truth, but never-the-less, holding back on the truth even for good reasons can be quite the burden. Have you ever given someone a Christmas or birthday gift early because you just couldn’t wait to see their reaction? Anticipation is it’s own wonderful gift, but sometimes it can get just a little too overwhelming. I love all that God did to ensure the survival of the tribes of Israel, but I also imagine that the waiting game got pretty hard to play sometimes. Actually, it’s still hard when God says to wait, but if we are walking in His perfect will, it will always be worth it in the end. And that’s the truth.

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boldly Before the Throne


Violin by Irena Romendik

Black and White Violin Image by Flickr User Irena Romendik aka “voidit”
Click image to see original and full photo stream.

Today begins Parashah (portion) number 11, and today’s reading is from Genesis 44:18 through Genesis 44:30. I will warn you, first, that the last verse is incomplete, so it’s kind of an odd reading, but if you click the link to read yourself, you can view the whole chapter and see where it goes from there.

Judah pulls Joseph aside and with all due respect, he asks to speak to him privately. He tells him he appreciates his position and that he knows he is as powerful as Pharaoh, but he has an important thing to say, so he becomes bold enough to approach. We read in Hebrews 4:16 that we ourselves can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and with confidence. Knowing that a king has power over life and death should make us approach with respect, which is why the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And then the rest of wisdom is when we learn to follow that respect with the confidence to accept the grace and mercy of Christ to deliver us from sin and into eternal life.

Well, Judah may not have been seeking eternal life for himself, but he was seeking mercy and grace on behalf of his father. He explained to Joseph how his father had two sons that mattered greatly to him and how one was gone, and the father thought torn to pieces never to be seen again. And then he explained how the father said that if he lost Benjamin as well, it would send him old and gray to his death. The verse that does not finish says, in effect, that Jacob and Benjamin’s souls are knitted together.

The message I see in this, beyond the coming boldly I mention above, is that we can also come boldly to the throne room on behalf of others we do not want to die in their sins. Before reading this, I was thinking a lot today about the poem, The Touch of The Master’s Hand by Myra Brooks Welch. In case you have not heard of it, I’ll paste it below. It is one of the most meaningful pieces of writing I have ever read, and it brings me to tears each time I read or recite it. When you read it, you’ll understand why going boldly to God’s throne on behalf of another would bring it to my mind. And you’ll also understand why I can sing with meaning the line from the song that says, “If you had known me, before I knew Him, you’d understand why I love Him.”

​​The Touch of the Masters Hand by Myra Brooks Welch (1921)

Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
thought it scarcely worth his while
to waste much time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars twice;
going for three…” But no,
from the room, far back, a gray-haired man
came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
and tightening the loose strings,
he played a melody pure and sweet
as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
with a voice that was quiet and low,
said; “Now what am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice;
and going and gone,” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand,
what changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
“Twas the touch of a master’s hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune,
and battered and scarred with sin,
is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
much like the old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
a game – and he travels on.
He’s going once, and going twice,
He’s going and almost gone.
But The Master comes, and the foolish crowd
never can quite understand
the worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
by the touch of The Master’s hand.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before There Were Soap Operas


CC Attribution to Mike Licht of NotionsCapital

Soap Opera in the Kitchen by Flickr user Mike Licht of NotionsCapital dot com
Click image to visit his Flickr page.

Before daytime dramas on television, we had Bible stories. I know, that sounds kind of funny, but I think some writers might have a hard time competing with some of the family drama that has been recorded in The Word of God. Today’s reading from Genesis 43:30 through Genesis 44:17 has some pretty dramatic events and emotions.

We start out with Joseph running out of the room so his brothers will not see him cry. He goes to his room and weeps over seeing his youngest brother, and then he washes his face and returns to have dinner with everyone. And then we get into the divisions of people at the dinner table. Joseph, I’m guessing because of his position, eats by himself. The brothers eat at their own table. And the Egyptians that were part of the meal ate by themselves because they considered it an insult to sit at the same table with Hebrews. It was like a dinner from Westside Story with the gang members from The Jets at one table, The Sharks at another table, and the police chief sitting by himself.

Now, at the table of brothers, each was amazed at the food set before him, but Benjamin got five times the amount of food as anyone else. There’s no mention of what effect this had on the brothers or on Benjamin, but I know I would have been wondering what the deal was with that. Never-the-less, everyone ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves.

After dinner, Joseph did as before in sending the brothers away with their money and the grain they came to buy. This time, however, he also told his servant to place his silver goblet in Benjamin’s pack. After they were partly down the road, he sent the servant to question them about the missing goblet. They were so sure they did not take it that they said the thief could be put to death, and the rest of them would remain as slaves if it was found with any of them. When it was found with Benjamin, the other brothers tore their clothing as a sign of grief. And then they all loaded up their donkeys and returned to the city.

When they arrived back in Joseph’s presence, they fell on their faces, and he confronted them. He tried to tell them that he had mystical powers to reveal things, but they replied that God had revealed it that they should pay for their bad behaviors. Joseph told them it was not all of them that would have to stay, but only the one who actually took the goblet. He sent the rest of the brothers home to be with their father.

As sands through the hourglass, these are the days in the lives of Joseph and his brothers. We are ending the portion with this reading and we begin a new portion tomorrow. I don’t know how long this story will stretch out, but at least I know it won’t be as long as the usual soap opera story line. So, stay tuned and remember that the stories are real, the people are real, and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. But in these stories, God will make a way and be glorified, and if we have more questions, we can ask the cast members all about it when we get together in our home in Heaven. Shabbat Shalom Y’all!

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

Family Dinner Fit for a King


Dining Room CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike

Dining Room by Flickr User Christopher Lancaster
CC Copyright = Attribution/Share Alike
Click on image to view original and others by this photographer

In today’s reading from Genesis 43:16 through Genesis 43:29, eleven brothers–including the youngest brother Benjamin, have returned to Egypt. As soon as Joseph sees that Ben is with them, he orders his household manager to prepare a meal and instructs him that all the brothers will dine with him at noon.

Once the brothers are taken into the house, they are certain it is because they have been found out for having the money from the original purchase, and they are scared. They confess everything to the house manager and tell him they have brought it all back along with the money for the new purchases they need to make. The manager then tells them that it was a gift, and it was he who put the money back into their packs. He then brings them their other brother, Simeon, from the prison.

The manager gives them water, washes their feet, and feeds their animals, so they are ready to meet Joseph. When Joseph comes in to join them, they bow down before him, and he begins to ask them about their father. While still prostrated before him, they answer his inquiries and tell him their father is well and is still alive. He then asks about Benjamin and blesses him by saying, “May God be good to you, my son.” And that is where the story ends for today, but I know the best part of the story is yet to come.

Because I am a visual thinker, I cannot really read this story without imagining myself there. I may not always imagine myself as one of the guests or something–maybe just an invisible guest in the room. But I can anticipate the emotions these guys must have gone through with not knowing who Joseph really was or why they were invited to a royal dinner. I’m certain they had mixed emotions between fear and excitement. I know I used to make believe that I would be in school, and someone would come in with a note for the teacher that I had a truck waiting outside the school gate filled with beautiful clothes and the truth that I was actually a princess instead of just a short kid who got bullied and called “teacher’s pet” because I got good grades. I was certain that if people could know who I really was, they would never make fun of me again. As it turns out, I am a princess. I am the daughter of The King of The Universe. So, I guess I can say dreams really do come true, and one day I, and all those who have given their hearts to Christ will have the chance to dine with our King.

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

Give to Get


Giving Blesses by Flickr User Pictoquotes

Giving Blesses Both the Giver and the Receiver by Flickr user Symphony of Love (aka pictoquotes)
Click the image to view the original and other images by this photographer.

At one time, I subscribed to a marketing newsletter all about the concept of what the author called “Give to Get” marketing. It talked of things like when banks would offer new toasters and blenders to get new customers. That type of marketing now might be a free e-book download to encourage the purchase of an author’s new release. People always seem more willing to buy if they first know that you are a giver.

For me, however, I read that marketing newsletter more in the interest of how it applied to real life than to sales. And from what I see in today’s reading from Genesis 42:19 through Genesis 43:15, Jacob was a fan of giving to get as well. in the story, Joseph has told the brothers to leave one of them in jail and let the others go back and get the youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. They discuss it amongst themselves, and they do not realize that Joseph can understand the Hebrew language they are speaking because they are using an interpreter. In verse 24, we read that Joseph had to turn away from them to hide his tears over their discussion of how they deserved the current situation because of what they did to their brother Joseph.

They leave Simeon and start the journey back home, but at camp they realize that all their money has been restored. They don’t know that Joseph requested it to be that way, so they think it is more punishment. By the time they get home, Jacob is truly scared that if he lets his sons return with Benjamin, he will then have lost three of his sons. But eventually, the famine is too great to fight anymore, and since Joseph had told them they would not see his face anymore unless their brother was with them, Jacob agrees to send him. Reuben and Judah both promise him they will give up their own sons in the promise of returning Benjamin safely.

As Jacob sends his sons back, he sends them with double the money to make sure they will pay for the first supplies in case it is an oversight. And then (this is what amazed and blessed me) he tells them to make sure to bring gifts with them. He tells them to bring spices, perfumes, oils, honey, almonds, pistachios, and whatever goods they have to bless the man in charge of the food. In other words, he wants to give something to the man in charge in order to have a better chance to get his son(s) returned to him. And today’s reading ends with all of them, their gifts, their double portions, and their youngest brother standing before Joseph.

The giving first idea is so much better than today’s idea of entitlement. It’s better than demanding. It’s better than playing on people’s sympathies. How much more are you willing to help someone who says he will mow your lawn for 5 or 10 bucks than someone who just comes to your door asking for money to feed his family? Even God is all about give to get. He made a world to put humans in. And when we did not deserve it, Scripture tells us that God FIRST loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we are truly following a WWJD concept, we will also give first. Let’s see, how does the chorus of that Sunday School song go?

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Because I Reverence Yahveh


Torah Scroll image from wynnie at Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cream Always Rises to the Top


Yesterday, we read that Pharaoh remarked that he could find no one else like Joseph. Today, we read in Genesis 41:39 through Genesis 41:52 that Pharaoh puts Joseph in a leadership position so high up that he gives him his signet ring. He tells him that no one in Egypt will lift a hand or a foot without permission from Joseph. He even goes so far to declare that only when he is ruling from his throne will he, himself, rule over Joseph.

That position is a long way up for a boy who was unjustly thrown into a well and sold as a slave. And it’s a long way up from being unjustly accused and then forgotten and left in a dungeon. Through it all, Joseph gave credit and glory to Yahveh Almighty, and now it is His will to have him in a position where people praise him and bow before him. And the respect that people offered Joseph caused them to give freely of their produce, so it will save their lives in the long run.

In the last part of today’s reading, we find that Pharaoh also gives Joseph a wife. Through this wife, Joseph has two sons who eventually become that split 12th tribe of Israel. Joseph names the first son Manasseh which means “forgetting” and says it is because he can now forget the cruelty done to him by his family. He names his second son Ephraim which means “fruitful” and says it is because he is bearing fruit in the land of his affliction.

I notice that the two sons’ names point to Joseph’s past and future. He is able to forget his past where evil was done to him and hope for his future where he will bear much fruit. Forgetting the past and gaining hope in the future is significant of repentance and forgiveness. And since Egypt often represents sin when used in Scripture, there is a lot of depth for a son of Israel to represent repentance. In addition, we also have the prophecy from Ezekiel 37:16-28 where God tells the prophet to write on two sticks the names of Judah and Ephraim and then hold them in one hand until the sticks unite and become one, and they will have one King. That will be the ultimate fruit from Joseph’s sojourn into the land of Egypt.

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Goes the Leadership, So Goes the Nation


Today I was privileged to have my husband read to me while I drove back from taking one of my great-nieces back her mother. Sometimes, it seems like I hear much more by being read to than I do by reading to myself. Today’s reading is from Genesis 41:15 through Genesis 41:38, and it continues where we left with Pharaoh bringing in Joseph as a dream consultant.

The first thing I noticed here is how Joseph immediately turned things around when Pharaoh said he was told Joseph could interpret dreams. Joseph said, “It isn’t in me. God will give Pharaoh an answer that will set his mind at peace.” I love that. Here is Joseph’s chance to show off to someone who could really take him places politically, but Joseph stays humble and gives all the credit and glory to God.

So Pharaoh shares all the same information that we read yesterday about the two dreams with fat and skinny cows and with healthy and withered corn. After sharing it, Joseph tells Pharaoh that both dreams were the same dream but that God gave him two dreams because the thing was already settled and getting ready to happen shortly. He explained to him that the immediate future would bring seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of terrible famine that would completely devour everything brought forth during the years of abundance.

The next thing I noticed was how Joseph suggested that Pharaoh handle things. He advised that Pharaoh should take up a twenty percent tax during the years of plenty that would take care of the lack during the years of famine. That extra collection of produce would be stored up to keep people from starving and dying when the going got rough. Joseph also knew that taking in extra could lead to misuse, so he told them they needed someone both discreet and wise to take charge of the collection, storage, and distribution. Pharaoh and his advisors were impressed and said, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!

How I wish we could have governments in our world that would have this kind of wisdom. A government that would even listen to dreams and visions, or one that would seek someone who obviously has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, seems impossible now. I wonder if God gave a dream to someone in charge back before the great depression of 1929. I wonder if God has tried to give advice to our leaders about the various wars with which they have aligned themselves. If we would quit listening to human wisdom–that passionate side-taking about being for war or against it, for weapons or against them, etc., and listen for the direction of The One who sees and knows the future, how much more of a future might we have, and how much better might it be? And then I have to look at myself and ask, “Have I been praying enough for the leaders of our land (and the leadership around the world) that God would send them dreams and that they would heed them?” I confess I have not prayed as I should, but I intend to change that. I hope there will be others to join me in this.

December 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Dream the Possible Dream


Neon Starburst Dream Mandala by Crystal A Murray

Neon Starburst Dream Mandala by Crystal A Murray
This image is manipulated from an image from inside an actual oil-based kaleidoscope. After running the image through a variety of photo editors and adding the text in the middle, it represents something similar to a woven dream catcher.

As we begin a new week, we also begin a new portion. Believe it or not, we’re already up to Parashah 10, Mikketz which means “at the end.” Being at Portion 10 also means I’ve been at this for 9 weeks now. For me, that’s a record as far as dedication to a writing task goes, so I’m happy with my efforts even though some days I felt like I wrote a bit shallow due to difficulty in either the subject matter or my available time. At the same time, this is the first time I have attempted to do NaNoWriMo and participated without winning. That makes me feel kinda down, but I am happy that given the choice between sharing fiction and sharing my heart, I stayed faithful to sharing my heart by keeping up this blog even when I couldn’t work on my novel. Thank you to those who come to visit me faithfully and who understand the struggles of writing in spite of all else that life requires.

So, that brings us to today’s part of the portion. We’re reading Genesis 41:1 through Genesis 41:14 where the dreamer this time is Pharaoh. It’s about two years after the last part of Joseph’s story where he correctly interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer. Pharoah falls asleep and sees the Nile River and cows are coming up out of it. A total of seven cows come out of the river, and they are all fat and healthy. They walk out and begin to eat the grass on the shore. But then, another seven cows come up out of the river, and they are sickly and thin. They devour the seven healthy cows, and then Pharaoh wakes up. When Pharaoh falls back to sleep, he dreams again. This time, he sees seven full and ripe ears of corn grow from one stalk. After they grow, seven thin ears that look like they’ve been devastated by a storm grow from the same stalk and devour the seven good ears.

When Pharaoh wakes up fully from his sleep, his dreams have him feeling totally out of sorts. I’ve had those kinds of dreams and restless nights, and it makes you sort of feel like you go through your day with your head disconnected from your body. It’s an awful feeling for me, and I’m sure it was an awful feeling for Pharoah. Even with all that power, he couldn’t control that. What he could control was that he had dream-interpreters to consult, so he called every magician in the kingdom trying to get an understanding of his crazy dreams. But no one could help him.

Now the cupbearer realizes what he has forgotten and feels bad about it. He goes to Pharaoh and tells him about this young man in the prison who was able to correctly interpret the dreams of him and his bunk mate. Pharoah requests the man be brought to him to see if he can interpret his dreams. Scripture says that they brought Joseph quickly from the dungeon, and Joseph changes his clothes and shaved to prepare himself. This portion ends with them bringing Joseph before Pharaoh.

What amazes me in this story is God’s timing and Joseph’s faith. God knew exactly when to give the dreams to Pharaoh, and Joseph trusted this was something from God because he prepared himself to life outside the dungeon by changing into clean clothes and shaving. Joseph was still blessed in the midst of a dungeon, and he never gave up on God’s deliverance. So many of us would feel rejected and forgotten by God if we were in the same situation, and many of our Christian friends might even accuse us of sin or of lacking in faith because of what they see us going through. But all of that would be basing things on our timing and our own human understanding. But God’s thoughts and ways are above our own, and we are told that with Him, ALL things are possible. It doesn’t say that all things will LOOK possible, but that they ARE possible. That means they are possible when they look impossible. If only we could all look at the future instead of whatever dungeon life has us going through now. That should give us strength to make it through until God’s will leads us in a new direction in God’s time.

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

Lost (and Forgotten) in Translation


Forget-Me-Not by Flickr User dawnzy58, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Forget-Me-Not by Flickr User dawnzy58, 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 don’t know if there are different colors of flowers in the “Forget Me Not” family, but I thought blue was an appropriate color to represent how it feels to be forgotten by someone you really wanted to remember you. There are times when being forgotten is just a thing of time and distance, but there are times when whatever transpired between you and someone else leaves a permanent etching on your heart, and you hope it has done the same for the other person. The rejection of finding out you have been forgotten can be heartbreaking.

Since this is the last section for this week’s portion, I bid you Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), and may you find rest in God today and always. Our reading today is a whole chapter; Genesis 40:1 through Genesis 40:23, and in this reading, Joseph is still in prison, but now he has some new roommates. Pharoah’s chief baker and his chief cupbearer have both somehow offended Pharoah and are sentenced to time in the same prison as Joseph. Joseph is the one in charge of them.

When Joseph comes to get the men one morning, he finds both men looking rather sad. As it turns out, they have both had dreams that left them confused as to their meanings. Joseph tells the men that interpretations belong to God, and that if they’ll share what they have dreamt, he will interpret for them.

The cupbearer had dreams of vines that grew in three days and of pressing the juice into the Pharaoh’s cup, so Joseph tells him that he will be restored as the royal cupbearer. He then asks the man to not forget him when he is restored, but to let Pharaoh know that he is innocent of all charges and does not belong in prison. Then, because the interpretation for the cupbearer was good, the baker shared his dream about baskets of bread on his head and birds eating them. Joseph told him it meant he would be hanged and that birds would eat his flesh. Yikes! I’ll bet he was sorry he asked.

Both of Joseph’s interpretations from the Lord came true for the men, but the cupbearer was so lost in the happiness of being returned to his position instead of being hanged that he completely forgot about Joseph. And we will have to wait for the next portion to find out just what it takes to get Joseph out of the dungeon where he has been forgotten and abandoned once again.

The sad thing in this story is that Joseph experienced what Our Loving Creator and Savior has too often experienced. How many of us have made promises to Him about things we would do “if only” He would do some special thing for us. And then, when we have received what we so desperately wanted, we get so lost in the joy of the gift that we forget to go back to our promises to The Giver. It’s the reason God had to keep reminding Israel, “Forget me not for all my benefits.” I think we have all experienced this, so next time you feel forgotten as a giver, let it remind you to never forget that God is your ultimate provider and giver, and that it is an honor to praise and lift Him up for all His providence.

November 29, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sexual Harassment


First, before I get into today’s Torah commentary, let me pass along a blessing to you that your Thanksgiving providence will be with you throughout the next year, and that you will always know and trust Yahveh Almighty as your Creator and Provider. I had a wonderful day with friends and family (and food, of course) at Joe Huber Family Farm and Restaurant. I still feel stuffed, and I didn’t even eat any stuffing because I’m a potato person. Stovetop Stuffing never would have used me in their stuffing vs. potatoes commercials. Comment if you remember those though, and tell me how you would vote.

Okay, so on to today’s reading from Genesis 39:7 through Genesis 39:23–the end of the chapter. I actually think this should have included verse 6 where it talked about Joseph being a good-looking man since that’s where everything in today’s reading branches off from. Potiphar’s wife noticed him and asked him over and over to sleep with her. Now, I don’t know if it counts when it’s the boss’s wife, but this was most certainly a case of sexual harassment. It got so bad that Joseph did everything he could to stay away from her.

One day, none of the other employees were in the house, and Joseph had to go in to do his day’s work. But Mrs. Potiphar was there, and she set in after Joseph again. This time, however, she became hands-on with him. He told her that it would not only be a violation of the trust her husband placed in him, but it would also be a sin against God for him to sleep with her. Finally, to get away, he had to take off his robe and leave it in her hands. Unfortunately, this gave her the perfect tool for revenge against Joseph for his rejection of her.

Mrs. Potiphar set Joseph up by screaming until she got the attention of others and then telling the story that Joseph tried to rape her and that she took his robe when he ran away due to her screaming. Her husband believed her and had Joseph locked away where the king’s prisoners were kept. I’m guessing it was much like some of our minimum-security prisons now because the warden paid little attention to Joseph and pretty much let him have his freedom there. Eventually, even the warden saw that God was with the man and gave him reign over the other prisoners.

Yahveh was with Joseph even in his imprisonment, and His presence was noticeable even to others. I believe God knew the heart of Potiphar’s wife, and He used her predator personality to put Joseph in a situation where He could bring about a blessing that would change the world for Joseph and many others. Somehow, through it all, we are not reading that Joseph fought for his innocence, his personal rights, justice, or his desire to be treated fairly. Somehow, I’m guessing the presence of his God was enough for him, and maybe God was even comforting him by letting him know that all would work toward a good end. I wrestle with the need for balance, justice, and equity in my life, but Joseph found his in The Lord. I’ll file this in my lessons to take to heart. How about you?

P.S. Here’s another ApologetiX video that encapsulates the life of Joseph–including today’s story portion. It’s called “Somebody Sold Me” and it is a parody of the song “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers

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

Joe Somebody


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribe that Needed A Lion


The story from today’s reading in Genesis 38:1-30 (the entire chapter) is all about Judah. Since our Messiah is The Lion of the tribe of Judah, it would seem he should be the son whose offspring naturally lead toward the aspects from which would come a king. Unfortunately, it does not come out that way.

First, even though he prevented murder, Judah participated in the sale of his brother as a slave. Then, he went to another country and married a foreign girl (which generally meant the worship of false gods in the family). He had three boys, and two of the three were evil in the sight of the Lord.

We’re not told what the evil was in the life of the eldest, but we are told that God took his life. After he died, Judah sent the next brother to the widowed wife and asked that he raise up children to his brother to keep his lineage. The younger sibling did not want to create children that he could not call his own, so he practiced birth control and prevented the pregnancy. The disobedience was evil in the site of God, so He killed that brother as well.

A little note here: This is the Scripture often cited incorrectly as “It is better to spill your seed in the belly of a whore than to waste it on the ground.” No such Scripture actually exists in any texts we know of today, but similar statements have been made in scholarly texts. Just an FYI for those who have heard it and wondered if it was something actually in the Bible. I believe the sin here was in the disobedience of the father and in the disrespect and dishonor of the brother.

As the story goes on, Judah tells the widow Tamar to go back to her parents and live as a widow until his youngest son grows up enough to father children with her. But then Judah is so afraid that son might die as well that he never sends him. Finally, the woman takes off her widow’s clothes, dresses like a prostitute, and covers her face so she is not recognizable. Judah finds her and thinks she is a prostitute, so he gets her pregnant. But she is smart and makes sure to take something of his to show who is the father of her child. Later, when the order is given for her to be killed, she displays the items and he realizes what happened. He calls her more righteous than him because of his broken promise to her in not sending the younger son.

The last paragraph tells the story of the twins she delivered. This is the story where the first boy stuck out his hand and a midwife tied a scarlet string on it just before he pulled it back in. The other son was born and then the one with the ribbon, but the second born was considered the first because of putting out his hand.

The human foibles I’m reading here shows me just how weak we are and how God can bring strength out of weakness. It even explains to me why Yahshua selected disciples mostly from a band of misfits. And of course, that gives me hope in His ability to use this misfit, and any of the rest of you who have ever felt unqualified to be whatever He has called you to be. I’m sure as the story continues, we will see more craziness, but I am certain from what we’ve read already that this tribe was in desperate need of a King and a Messiah. We all need Him.

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

Cisterns and Brothers


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

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

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

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

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

Feeding Pearls to Pigs


Cute pig staring through fence. By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

Cute pig staring through fence.
By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

This is the beginning of another full portion for the week. As of Saturday as Sundown, we are in Parashah 9: Vayeshev (meaning “He continued Living”) and includes text from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 40:23. Today’s portion comes from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 37:11 and tells about Jacob/Israel in the land of Canaan and then goes right into the story of Joseph.

So Joseph seemed to have a penchant for making people angry with him. First of all, they already had reason to find fault with him out of jealousy because they knew their father loved him the most. The Scripture says it was because he was the son of his old age, but I’m pretty certain Jacob’s love for him was greater due to his Jacob’s greater love for Rachel. And if the love itself wasn’t enough to make all the other brothers jealous, then there was the infamous “coat of many colors.” In one text I read, their theory was that the coat was a prayer shawl with the family lineage sewn in, but I can’t be sure.

So then, at seventeen years old (which the Scripture says is still just a boy) Joseph was out in the field helping to care for the sheep. While there, he was working with his father’s servant girls, and he brought a bad report about them to his father. After that, and maybe because he was feeling so confident in his father’s love, he started this habit of telling his brothers about dreams that didn’t make them look so good. in the first of these dreams, he said they were all out in the field bundling wheat when his wheat stood up on its own, and their bundles bowed down before his. Of course they teased him with saying things like how great a king he would be while he bossed all of them around. He did a similar thing when he told them about a dream where even the sun, moon, and stars bowed down before him. Even his father didn’t like the idea of hearing how he might bow before his son, but at least he took it to heart.

So, a very good friend of mine once taught me well on the meaning behind casting our pearls before swine. Or, as I listed in the title, trying to feed pearls to pigs. She said that God gives us special treasures. Sometimes they are dreams and visions. Sometimes they are simple truths. Sometimes they are deep revelations and truths. But always, we should not share every single thing He shares with us just because we know it to be true. We must wait for God to direct us to share our treasure. If we don’t wait,  it can end up becoming a situation where whoever we share it with shows our treasure little to no value and, in a way, dirties or trashes what was once a special treasure.

See, pigs would see no value in pearls since they will basically eat anything. They would not look at pearls as pearls–if they ate them at all. They would not see anything as treasure but only more slop. If we want our special moments and revelations to remain special, we must be careful to reveal the treasures we hold in our hearts, especially the ones we have received from our Creator, only to those who God directs. Though Joseph had wonderful visions of the future, his brothers did not treasure his dreams and only devalued them by teasing and taunting him. What God reveals to us should never be hidden under a bushel, but it must be shown to the right people at the right time. As it says in Proverbs 25:11, a good word spoken in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s Reigning Men


Image

Elaborate Throne image by Flickr user Cliff1066

This is one of those readings where it’s pretty much genealogy, so I was trying to find a fun way to say that. Thus, the play on the song title, and an image of an elaborate throne by Flickr user Cliff1066. And today’s reading spans Genesis 36:20 to Genesis 36:43

I don’t have a lot to say about today’s reading, except that it’s got a few interesting parts where people became kings by dethroning other kings–sometimes by birth order and sometimes by murder. Oh, and one guy discovered some hot springs while taking care of his father’s goats.

Okay, so that last part was a bit more interesting, but mostly because I just got back from a stay at French Lick Springs Villa where I learned some stuff about hot springs and the restoration of the resorts built around the villa. Next time I go for a stay of any length, I hope to actually be able to spend some time in one of the hot springs spa treatments because then I will know if they really make you feel that much better. If you have experienced a dip in a hot spring, please share your experience.

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

Son of My Pain


Today’s reading is a bit of a long one from Genesis 35:12 through Genesis 36:19, but the bulk of the story is in chapter 35 with 36 being mostly the genealogies of Esau. Before that point, though, we read about Jacob’s travels after meeting with God again at Bethel. While they were traveling toward Bethlehem, Rachel went into labor and had a very hard time delivering. As she was giving birth, she named the child Ben Oni for “Son of my Pain”. And then she died during the birth.

Instead of the negative name, Jacob (who knew the power of names) named his son Benjamin instead which means “Son of the Right Hand” or “Son of the South.” He then buried Rachel in Bethlehem and set up a memorial stone on her grave. That site is the place of her memorial and grave to this day, according to Scripture, and I think it may actually still be there as of this writing.

It is just after this event with Rachel that we read of a sudden change of reference from Jacob to Israel. Even though he had been given the name change and had the name restated by God in a second meeting, Scripture was still referring to him as Jacob until this point. I don’t know if the change had to do with the birth of his last son, the death of the love of his life (who may have always called him “Jacob,”), or the death of his father, Isaac, who was buried by him and Esau as part of today’s reading. But from this point on, it appears he is always called by the name that represents him as one who prevails with God. For everything he has been through, that is actually a huge statement.

Now, before I totally finish up here, I want to share another piece of ApologetiX fun. (Can you tell how much I like this band?) The video below is a parody of “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard. It is called “Sweet Oholibamah” which is the name of one of Esau’s daughters. I tried to find a video with lyrics but was unable, but there may be some lyrics on the ApologetiX website.

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

Circumcision of Truth


Today’s reading has some pretty sensitive topics, but it’s still a part of biblical history, so we will trudge on together. Our complete reading is from Genesis 34:1 through Genesis 35:11, and it begins with the story of a man, Hamor the Hivite, who has fallen in love with Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob. Now, Hamor’s son, Shechem, was also in love with Dinah and demanded that his father go get her for him.

Before Shechem shared his intentions with his father, Hamor apparently tried to win Dinah’s affections and did not succeed, so he raped and humiliated her. And then I’m wondering if maybe he thought he could hide the situation is why he was willing to go to Jacob to ask for Dinah’s hand. But Jacob knew what had happened to Dinah, though since his sons were not available, he held his tongue. When Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, came in, Jacob told them the situation, and they made plans for payback.

hen Hamor offered the women of his village in exchange for the women of Jacob’s people, the boys told them they would accept the offer only if all their men would become circumcised as the men in Jacob’s family were. When Hamor brought the news to his men, he told them he thought it was a good idea because the intermarriage of the families would mean they would inherit all the riches of Jacob’s people. Both camps, it seems, circumcised the importance of truth from their lives and communications.

Finally, when Hamor’s people got circumcised physically, the sons of Jacob waited about three days until the men were in excruciating pain. Then, they took advantage of the pain and weakness of the men and attacked and killed them. After they did this, the rest of Jacob’s people and servants plundered the Hivites and took their cattle and possessions. But Jacob was angry with them and told them it was going to cause all the other people around, such as the Canaanites and Perizzites, to join forces and attack him.

God came to Jacob and told him to go back to Bethel and make his home there and to build an altar at the place where he first met God. Jacob told his people to get rid of all their false gods (I’m amazed that he knew they had them and didn’t make them get rid of them before) and to get ready to travel to Bethel. As they traveled, God put a fear on all the people of the lands they passed through so they would not harm Jacob or his people. Finally, Jacob built the altar God told him to build, and God met him once more. This time, he said he would not only be named Israel, but from that point on should also be called Israel.

In Chapter 35, verse 11, (in the Amplified Bible) we read, “And God said to him, I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you and kings shall be born of your stock.” What a promise from a God to His people–even after they had failed to put Him first in their worship and their behaviors. I think I’ve said before how I didn’t think God showed mercy in the Old Testament, but this is one of those wonderful stories that shows He truly did show mercy in wonderful ways since the beginning. And I imagine that we only know a piece of it with this recorded history, but I’m so thankful for what He has revealed to us.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God, The God of Israel


Yesterday, we saw formerly feuding brothers reunited out in the midst of the desert. Today we read from Genesis 33:6 through Genesis 33:20, the end of the chapter. And today, we see the women and the children that have caught up to Jacob, and all of them bow down before Esau. After introductions, Esau asks the meaning of all the droves that were sent first before Jacob and his family. Jacob tells him he sent the droves to find favor with him, and Esau answers that he has plenty and that Jacob is okay to keep his possessions. Jacob then asks Esau to take the gifts if he (Jacob) has found favor with him. So he does.

After the family reunion, Esau suggests they break camp and all head back home together. Jacob suggests that Esau go first, and then says that he will walk slowly with the small children and nursing cattle, so no lives will be lost. Esau agrees, and even offers to leave some of his people with Jacob to help him. Jacob stays for a while and builds himself a house and builds shelters for his cattle. That’s when he named that place “Sukkot” which means shelters.

After Jacob traveled on farther, he camped outside the city of Canaan. While there, he bought a parcel of land on which to pitch his tent, and in addition to his tent, he also built an altar for God. At the altar, he named the place El Elohei Israel meaning “God, The God of Israel.”

The way today’s reading ends shows miraculous hope and change. Jacob, the supplanter who originally talked to his father’s and grandfather’s God like he was a stranger to him, is now Israel who claims that this same God is His God–The God of Israel. I think I may try to approach God in this way myself, looking to Him and calling Him “The God of Crystal.” I think it will personalize things and remind me just whose child I am. Let me know if you try it and how it makes you feel about your relationship with Him.

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

Brothers United


Today we get to see what Jacob will do differently after meeting God face to face. It’s a short reading from Genesis 32:31 through Genesis 33:5, and it starts out with Jacob naming the place of his wrestling Peniel meaning “The Face of God.” He so named it because he had met Yahveh Almighty face to face and lived to tell about it.

But something more than Jacob’s name changed during his encounter; something even more than the limp he walked away with from the touch to his hip muscle. As we continue in the reading, we find Jacob setting out again toward his brother, Esau, knowing that he was still going to meet both him and the 400 men he had with him. But where Jacob was previously hiding behind all the other groups, now we see Jacob pushing his wives and slave girls and children behind him and racing in front of them despite the possibility of dangerous consequences. Jacob had somehow gained confidence, and it would seem he trusted God to answer his prayer to be reunited with his brother as family instead of as an enemy.

When Jacob saw Esau, he fell on the ground and bowed before him. When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to him and hugged him and wept on his neck. They were more than reunited, they were united like they had never been since birth, and maybe even since growing together in Rebekah’s womb. And when Esau asked about the women and children who were walking behind his brother, Jacob humbly acknowledged that they were gifts of God. In the Complete Jewish Bible, Jacob answered, “The children God has graciously given to your servant.” Jacob was truly no longer a supplanter, but was happy to see Esau as not only his brother, but as his older brother to whom he owed respect.

P.S. NaNo has been slow going of late, but I am at 24,319. Also, I just remembered today about a video by ApologetiX that uses the song “Takin’ Care of Business” and turns it into “Jacob’s Name is Israel.” I’ll be adding it to yesterday’s blog after I post today’s.

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrestling With God and Prevailing Against Sin


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

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

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

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

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

When Jacob Prayed


Today we begin a new portion: Parashah (portion) 8, the Hebrew “Vayishlach” meaning He Sent. It runs from Genesis 32:4 to Genesis 36:43, but today’s reading is simply from Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 32:13. Jacob is on his way back to the home of his birth in obedience to what God directed. He knows Esau still lives there, and he is sure Esau is still angry, so he sends men ahead of him to let Esau know that he is coming to him with gifts of cattle and flocks as a peace agreement.

The men came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming out to meet him, but they also said he was bringing 400 men with him. This made Jacob fearful and distressed, so Jacob created a two-fold solution. First, Jacob split his people and possessions into two camps. This way, he said, if Esau comes to destroy a camp, one camp of people will still get out alive. That was good preparation, but the second solution was the best.

Jacob prayed a beautiful prayer to God. He first reminded God that it was His idea for Jacob to return, so he showed he was being faithful. He then showed humility and thankfulness by telling God that he knew he was not worthy of the love and faithfulness He had shown him since he first crossed the Jordan with nothing but the staff in his hand. And then he asked God to please deliver him from the wrath of Esau and to keep His promise to make his seed abundant. He even repeated God’s promise to him and to Abraham and Isaac as it had been given to them by God.

I believe that prayer showed a relationship with God that was built on more than just a “gimme” game. I love the faithfulness, thankfulness, humility, and praise that came before the requests. And as we continue into this portion, we will see the wonderful things God did as a result of that prayer.

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

The Watchtower of Angels


This post will be kind of short and fast because I had a rather difficult time getting connected to the internet–even from my phone. But I think I’ve got something now, so we’ll see what I can do. The reading today is from Genesis 31:43 through Genesis 32:3, and it continues on with yesterday’s story where Laban met with Jacob after chasing him down because he thought someone had his gods.

Well, today, he is trying to say that everything Jacob has belongs to him–including his daughters and cattle. But I think he’s saying it more like a protective daddy since after saying it, he makes a suggestion that he and Jacob make a commitment about caring for his daughters. They set up stones to represent the place of the deal. Laban gives it an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives it a Hebrew name. But one meaning for the place is also The Watchtower.

As part of the deal, Laban says his gods will watch him, and Jacob’s God will watch him. He then tells Jacob that if he hurts his daughters, God will be watching out. Later, as Jacob continues on his journey, he sees angels in the camp and declares it as God’s camp. He then gives it another name; Machanayim–meaning two camps.

In closing this, I’ll just say that I think we all live in two camps, and I believe that angels camp near us often. I also believe that God watches us, though not from a distance as the song declares. I’m thankful that even in unfair situations like Jacob went through, God can bring truth and His presence into the situation.

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

Don’t Go Takin’ My Gods


Think Elton John & Kiki Dee singing, (but with slightly different lyrics)…

Don’t go takin’ my gods,
I won’t go takin’ your gods;
And Jacob I looked in your tent now;
Tell me what did you see?

And, as we read in Genesis 31:17 through Genesis 31:42, when Jacob took off from Laban’s house unannounced, he took the wives he had worked for plus all his children and livestock, and Rachel took Laban’s gods. Laban was apparently pretty ticked off, so he pursued Jacob and his caravan but before he caught up with them, Yahveh Almighty sent him a dream not to say anything to Jacob good or bad. Well, Laban didn’t exactly obey, but he did believe God enough to not bring harm to Jacob. He did, however, decide that he should search through all of their belongings to see if he could find his gods.

Jacob was so sure that no one in their party took the gods that he said whoever had them could be put to death. I’m guessing this scared Rachel pretty good, so she sat on the saddle bag where they were hidden and said she couldn’t move because it was her time of the month. It kept Laban from searching, so it kept her from being found as a thief.

So I was trying to think of a good title for this, and I suddenly imagined Laban and Jacob arguing to the sound of Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart. I think I mentioned a few days ago how much I like parody. But as funny as that is, as I continued to write, I suddenly realized how some people rewrite God and His creation into their very own parody. Like Laban, they have seen the mighty works and wonders of The One and Only God, but somehow they look for concrete and touchable things to prove what they have seen, so they make stone gods in parody of The Real God who is unseen. In today’s day and age, they worship the creation instead of The Creator, and parody the real power of The Almighty with a false worship of gifts and miracles and, worst of all, men.

It’s a parody because it’s a play on the real thing without truly being real. It’s a parody because it’s a comedy of errors in not exalting Yahveh Almighty to His rightful status. It’s a parody because of the silliness and foolishness of people thinking they have power that doesn’t belong to them instead of worshiping The One in Whom resides all power. But it’s a parody that is not funny, and it’s one that will end horribly when men go to Jesus with the conversation that is shown in Matthew 7:22-23 (Amplified Bible):

22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? 23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].

I still love parody, and it thrills me that ApologetiX has figured out how to parody things that were otherwise not of God and turn people’s eyes toward Him. May we never take the wonderful things God has done for us and parody our love for Him by showing love for what He does more than for who He is.

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

What You See is What You Get


Okay, just a little give away to my age here, I remember when Flip Wilson had his own television show, and when he did a skit as a character named “Geraldine.” I was still pretty young, but as I recall it, Geraldine’s famous line was “What you see is what you get.” In the above video, they switch to the Geraldine doll at 37 seconds and then at about 1:08, you’ll hear the line. I felt the video of the doll was a cuter way to share, but you can always do a search if you want to hear the real skit.

These days, it’s usually abbreviated WYSIWYG and pronounced “wissy-wig,” and it usually relates to something technical. But whether it is about technology or a girl pretending to be unpretentious, it still makes the same basic statement: What you are able to view with your eyes is exactly what you will be able to take home with you. In today’s reading from Genesis 30:28 through Genesis 31:16, we will take a trip back to Bible times when Jacob used the idea of WYSIWYG to make himself rich.

See, his uncle Laban had been gaining off of Jacob’s hard work and genetic providence since he came to visit. He took far more than his fair share, and Jacob knew it was time to take his wives and go home, but he needed some type of inheritance to support them with. When Laban wouldn’t give him a rightful due of livestock, Jacob made a deal with him. He told Laban that he would feed and care for his animals and that when they bred, he would take all those that were streaked, spotted, and speckled. Laban agreed, and then he took away all the streaked, spotted, and speckled animals so that when they bred, there would be less chance of them breeding the ones he promised to Jacob.

Now, Jacob had been given a dream by God. Yahveh told him he saw the unfairness of his uncle and told him exactly what he needed to do to fix things. He advised him to cut branches from poplar trees and peel the bark away until the branches were streaked, spotted, and speckled. He then set the branches up at the feeding troughs since that is where the animals went to mate. Upon breeding, all the babies came out with the designs instead of plain, because they birthed just what they saw as they mated. This meant all the newly born livestock went to Jacob and his family per the agreement with Laban.

When Jacob was ready to go back to his homeland, he ended up going with everything that he had worked for and that rightfully belonged to his wives. God saw the inequality, and God created a way to balance things out. And, yes, Jacob had to listen, he had to obey, and he had to do a little work to help bring that balance, just as we often have to do when God gives us the tools and direction to bring balance into our own lives. We need to pay attention to His direction, and we need pay attention to what we place before our eyes. But if we will turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face, then WYSIWYG will mean wonderful things for us.

P.S. Barely any NaNo words in the last two days (none today), but I hope to make up for them at our upcoming retreat. Sitting now at 22,802 words.

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

Lives Without Love


When I read more about Leah today, from Genesis 30:14 through Genesis 30:27, I feel heartbroken for her. She has had four children, she has had two in proxy through her servant girl, but she still feels unloved. When her son collects some mandrakes from the field (thought to be translated from Hebrew meaning “love plant”), Rachael asks Leah if she can have some to help with her infertility. Leah gets upset and accuses Rachael of trying to steal her son as she has done with her husband. So Rachael makes a deal with Leah to exchange some of the fruit for Leah to have her husband back in her bed with her.

After all is said and done, Leah conceives and bares three more children, two boys and girl. She gives Jacob Isaachar (hired/reward), Zebulun (dwelling) and Dinah. When she named Zebulun, she said, “Maybe now that I have given him six children, my husband will live with me.” Finally, after Leah had her three new babies, Rachael finally conceived and gave birth to Joseph meaning “may He add” and hoping this was the end of her infertility and disgrace.

Both of these women had so much pain. Leah was unloved and lonely, and Rachael was infertile and felt rejected by God. But they were sisters. They could have loved each other and been there for each other through everything they went through. Leah could have cared for her sister’s infertility and invited her to help raise her nephews and nieces, but she was so bitter about the fact that her husband really wanted to be with her sister (and had actually married her in ceremony) that she did not care for her sister’s pain. I wonder if she had drawn closer to her sister, would she have felt less lonely? And I wonder if Rachael had cared more for her sister’s inability to change how their husband felt about her, and her inability to change the looks she was born with, would Leah have tried to spend more time with her. It seems that bitterness and envy made both of them lonelier and restricted both of them to lives without love of one kind or other–be it without a husband in the dwelling or without a child to raise.

Hebrews 12:15 talks about the root of bitterness and the torment that comes with it. I think feeling like you are living a life without any love in it would certainly fall under the definition of torment. But since the chapter ends with Jacob finishing his work for Laban and asking to return to his homeland with all his wives and children, maybe there is hope that once they all live together, the sisters can find love for each other again.

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

This Time, I Will Praise God


SPOILER ALERT! FIRST, read today’s commentary before you watch the video! This is the video I promised I would look for back when I told you this story was upcoming. It’s by my favorite parody group, ApologetiX, and this is their official video for the song, “Downer of a Sister” which is a parody of the song “Chop Suey” by System of a Down. If you would like to read the lyrics and learn more about this amazing band who writes and sings Christian parodies of songs from a variety of genres, visit this song’s lyrics page on their site at http://apologetix.com/music/song.php?freebie=true%20&song_id=383 Once you watch the video, I would love to hear your thoughts about this song, and other ApologetiX songs you may have listened to, in the comments below. Thanks.

Now, today’s reading comes from Genesis 29:18 through Genesis 30:18, and it continues the story of Jacob’s love for Rachael. Jacob loved Rachael so much that when Laban asked him to work for seven years in order to have her as his wife, he worked happily and said the years were like only a few days. And then the wedding and feast were set in order.

On the wedding night, Laban snuck in Leah because she was the first born, and Jacob did not know until the next morning that he had slept with (and therefore married) the wrong sister. He was angry at Laban, but Laban explained it was just the way they did things. He promised he would give him Rachael at the end of the marriage week if Jacob would promise to stay and work for another seven years. He wanted Rachael enough that he agreed to the request.

When he took Rachael as his wife, he was much more in love with her. Yahveh Almighty saw that Leah was unloved, so he made her fertile and Rachael unable to bear children. Leah bore 4 sons to Jacob before she gave birth no more, and each time she was certain that having the children would cause her husband to love her. She named her first three sons Reuben (see, a son), Simeon (God hears), and Levi (companion). But when she had a fourth son, she turned her praise toward God instead of hoping that her husband would love her, so she named him Judah, meaning praise.

Rachael was still infertile, so she gave her handmaiden to Jacob who bore him two more sons, Dan (he judged) and Naphtali (my wrestling). Leah, unfortunately still struggling to feel loved, then gave her own handmaiden to Jacob who also bore him two sons, Gad (fortune) and Asher (happy).

I truly feel compassion for both of these women. I am sad for Leah in feeling unloved, and having plenty of experiences to push her to feeling that way. I wish, for her sake, that she would have been able to have a relationship with God the way people these days are able to, with His Spirit of Comfort able to dwell within us, but somehow, she did know that it was God who was hearing her needs, and that is why she named her children as she did. I think when she named the last one Judah, she was giving praise directly to God, and maybe that’s why the lineage of our Messiah comes through that one.

I also felt bad for Rachael because of being childless. I know that feeling from my own childlessness. I know there is comfort in having children by proxy, and I love the nephews I was privileged to raise for a few years from the depths of my heart–even when they have hurt me. But I also know that there is a part of me that will always wonder what it would have felt like to have known a maternal bond from conception and birth. And yet, as Leah when she had her fourth child, I can still say, I will praise God.

Oh, and just to keep with the NaNo updating, my word count today is 22,731

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

Kissing Cousins


We know from the past few days that Jacob was on his way to live with Abraham’s family to find a new life away from Esau, and that he made one little detour to talk to God and worship Him. Now, in today’s reading from Genesis 29:1 through Genesis 29:17, he has arrived in his family’s homeland. The first thing he finds is a group of shepherds gathering around a well with a rock covering it up. He asks them why they are not watering the sheep they have with them. They tell him that they are waiting for all the rest of the sheep from all the pastures because the rock is too heavy to move back and forth more than once.

Jacob asked the men what family they were from, and when they told him they were from Haran, he asked them about Laban and was happy to realize he had found his mother’s family. About that time, Rachael showed up with a bunch of sheep to be watered. Jacob got so excited that he kissed her and then rolled away the stone and watered her sheep for her. She took him home to Laban, and all the relatives hugged and kissed each other and were very happy to be united with their own flesh and blood.

Jacob was so excited that he began working for Laban without requesting any kind of pay. Laban let him do so for about a month and then told him that it didn’t seem right to make a relative work that way, so he asked Jacob what his price might be. The chapter doesn’t end with saying what Jacob’s price was, but it does tell us about Laban’s two daughters. It says Leah, the oldest had weak eyes, but Rachael had beautiful features. Guess which kissing cousin Jacob was going to choose?

We are so used to all the ways in which we can communicate these days–be it from landlines, cell phones, computers, letters, or one day plane trips, that many of us at least virtually see our relatives far more often than they did in Bible days. But even with having so many years between family reunions, and being so excited about meeting Jacob, did you notice how easy it was for Laban to start him working and forget that he was a relative and deserved better than that? I guess it’s part of the human condition, and it reminds me of the time when God Himself had to remind his people to not forget Him for all the benefits He showered on them. Since it is the season when many will be gathering with family and friends for various holidays, I pray we will all be thinking of the value each of those people has in our lives, and that we will not forget these values just shortly after our welcoming kisses and hugs.

And that’s the best I could come up with today because my mind is actually on preparations for an upcoming writer’s retreat and then a whole lot of company. If I reread those Scriptures and God gives me something more, I’ll be sure to come back to share. In the meantime, I did get over 2000 words written for my NaNo novel today, so my total stands at 20,830 words.

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

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

Sun Rays in the Clouds by Crystal A Murray
St. Louis, Missouri, July 2011

This is a night where I am thanking God for another way to at least begin my post, and I’ll add that I’m thankful for the Nuance people who created the Swype keyboard since I can type so much faster with it.

So, tonight we begin a new portion since sundown was the beginning of a new week. We are at Parashah 7, called Vayetze and meaning He Went Out. The full portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through 32:3. Our first piece of this week’s portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through the end of the chapter at Genesis 28:22. In it, we read the story of Jacob and His meeting with Yahveh Almighty. We don’t get to see their full conversation yet, but the introduction has some great stuff in it.

Jacob lies down in a field to sleep, and he grabs a rock to make a pillow for himself. As he sleeps, he sees a ladder where angels are making journeys from Heaven to Earth and back. And then it says, “Suddenly, Adonai was standing there next to him.” He reminds Jacob that He is the God of his grandfather and his father, and then He reveals to him that the ground where he’s lying will be given to him and his descendants. He goes on to tell him of future promises like He gave to Abraham and Isaac; that his seed cannot be counted and that all the families of the earth will be blessed because of him and his descendants. And here, from verse 15, is my favorite part (and a part I am holding claim to for my very dear friends Mark & Debbie): “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Do you realize what that means? It means God is telling him that He will NEVER leave him since what He has promised him is untold numbers of generations in his future. It lines up with His promise from Matthew 28:20, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

When Jacob wakes up, he says, “Surely, God is in this place, and I did not realize it.”

Okay, so I have to break here for a minute for a song. I think in songs quite often, and I’m guessing it’s something I picked up from my grandmother who left this world back in 1988, and with whom I shared a birthday for my first 24 years. I heard she had a song for everything. Anyway, this Scripture makes me think about the song that goes…

Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place,
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can feel the brush of angels wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place.

So back to Jacob who declares the place the gateway to Heaven and names it The House of God even though it was originally called “Luz.” He then takes the pillow that he was sleeping on, stands it up, pours oil on it, and makes it into an altar for God. After setting up his altar, he makes a vow that if God will stay with him as a guard and provider, so he can travel in peace back to his father’s house, he will follow Him and will faithfully return ten percent of all God gives him. And that’s where this portion ends, but I have a last thought here.

The word tithe means tenth, so without God asking for it, Jacob has decided it is right to give back to God a tithe from all that God provides for him. This is the 2nd place since Genesis 1:1 where a tithe has been mentioned, and both were something men came up with as a way to say thanks in return for provisions. Later, we will read how that changed with it becoming a portion for the Levites, but I find it interesting that it was originally thought of by men as a type of “thank you” gift. I know the feeling of wanting to give back to someone who has freely given to me, and at that point, a tenth often doesn’t even feel like enough, so I can understand the idea of wanting to give back to God when He has been a faithful and loving provider. I can also understand the resistance of people who don’t want to feel forced into tithing to someone who they do not feel is giving to them and who is demanding that people give to them because they deserve it or because of their position, or whatever. Tithe belongs to God as a gift of thanksgiving, and when I look at it this way, giving feels much better. Actually, everything I look at from God’s perspective feels better.

P.S. Because this was our writer’s meeting day, my NaNo word count went way down. I’m incorporating the story I wrote for our writer’s exercise into my novel for this day just so I can have some kind of word count. My total for today is 18, 749, and that at least keeps me still on track for my personal goal.

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

Rebellion as Revenge


Tree Reflected in Lake at KFC in Louisville, KY

How people treat you, is a reflection of their character—not yours.
Tree reflected in still lake at KFC Corporate Offices in Louisville, Kentucky (By Crystal A Murray)

Today, we get to the rest of the current sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau. The reading is a very short set of verses from Genesis 28:5 through Genesis 28:9, and it talks about Esau overhearing as Isaac sent Jacob away with blessings and with the order to stay away from the Canaanite women.

So, what does Esau do? While Jacob is obedient to his parents and goes to the home of Laban, the brother of his mother (also known as “uncle” these days), to choose a wife, Esau goes to the house of Ishmael (I think he would have been a great-uncle), and finds a Canaanite wife. The story shows it as if he made that decision to spite his father for sending his brother away with blessings. And in his heart, I’m sure he blamed the need for revenge as the reason for his rebellion. But since he had already been rebellious in the types of wives he had chosen before, I would say the rebellion was already in his heart, and he just needed to justify it.

I’m sure we all have known, or have heard about, people like that. You know, those people who do nothing wrong on their own but only do what other people “make” them do? They make excuses, and they promise to make you pay a price if you confront their bad behaviors. Listen to the songs that try to make people (mostly impressionable youth, I think) feel bad for being snitches. They don’t encourage people not to do the things that could be snitched on, they just encourage others not to tell anyone if they witness a crime. Sure, of course it’s better to let people get away with a crime, so they’ll be free to commit even more crimes in the future, than it is to make them pay a price for their own bad behavior, right? I wonder, if someone had snitched on Trayvon Martin when his crimes were minor, would it have kept him from getting to a point where his defensiveness put him in a position to be killed? Or, did he make a decision, like Esau, and was going to choose lawlessness no matter what? If the latter, then someone coming forward as a witness could have prevented other victims, including the one who now has to live forever with the fact that he took a human life–whether it could be justified or not.

I’m sure I’m not alone in the following: I have become depressed when people blamed me for their mistakes.  Because I am a fixer, if I could not fix someone and stop them from doing the wrong thing, then when they blamed me, I took it on like it was the truth. I have done that for years and only recently found at least some relief from that bad habit after reading the following quote (as shown on the image above)… “How people treat you is a reflection of their character, not yours.

I think that quote is a perfect statement to describe Esau’s attitude in this story. He did already have that bad attitude, and it was likely that no matter what Jacob, Isaac, or Rebekah did, he would have made the same bad decisions until he made a heartfelt decision to get rid of the rebellion and struggle within himself. We can be what God designed us to be only when we keep the conversation between us and God alone. His word promises that if we will commit our works to Him (that is without blame or excuse), our thoughts will be established. Of course, when our thoughts are established, I guess we won’t be thinking about things like revenge anymore, right?

P.S. I was able to get my 2000 words in today and get my count to 18,118, but I hope I can make up for yesterday with a few extra words tomorrow.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Curse in The Blessing


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

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

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

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

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

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

Feminine Wiles


Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God is in Your Fan Club


Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ease on Down the Road


Red Dirt Road--CC License

Looking down a red dirt road,
CC image by Yeweny at Flickr
Click image to visit Flickr page

It wasn’t that many months ago that I had to make a major move after nearly 19 years of living in the same place. Many years ago, and without nearly as much stuff, I remember thinking what so many of us think, I never want to go through this again. Moving is just plain difficult. Well, imagine what it would have been like way back in Old Testament Bible times when moving may not have meant moving as much stuff as we deal with now, but it did mean moving lots of people (family, servants, etc.), and lots of animals. Plus, it meant huge changes to cultures and traditions in the places you wanted to set up house. And many of those we read about had to move many times over. Today’s short reading from Genesis 26:13 through Genesis 26:22 tells of just such a situation.

From the end of yesterday’s reading and into the beginning of today’s reading, we are told that God blessed and prospered Isaac more and more until he became quite rich. And then we find out that the Philistines began to envy him. They went through the land and put dirt in all the wells his father Abraham dug while he was living. So Isaac, trying not to fight, dug new wells. The first one he dug, God revealed a natural spring, so the envious Philistines claimed it as their own.

Okay, to tell you the truth, I’m getting a bit miffed with these guys now. It doesn’t seem right that Isaac is just doing what is right in God’s eyes and receiving a just reward as a result, but these people seem bent on making his life miserable instead. I mean, why couldn’t they have befriended him and shared in his blessings? That seems like common sense to me, but unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common, and I guess it never has been. And Isaac seemed to have a better attitude than I think most of us would these days. Instead of fighting, he just dug another well.

As we read on, we find that every time Isaac moved down the road and dug another well, these envious men started a fight over it and said it was their well. They didn’t want him to have what had already been dug (meaning they even buried their own blessings by filling in the wells), and then they fought over every new well he dug. At least as the well-digger, he had the right to name the wells, so he named them words that meant fighting and quarreling. Finally, though, he moved again, and this time he dug a well that no one fought over. He named it “Rehoboth” meaning room or wide open spaces and said, “Now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper.” The great attitude that Isaac had made me think of the title for this post which comes from the song of the same name. While I haven’t yet seen The Wiz, I have always liked the song. One line in it says, “Don’t you carry nothin’ that might be a load, come on and ease on down, ease on down the road.” I think Isaac did well at not carrying argument, resentment, or his own envy against these men who had set themselves up as his enemies.

One final thought: Maybe our land here in the United States was settled in a similar way. Men got tired of quarreling, so they set off for a new land where they could prosper. They still had to fight for it, whether fighting the original inhabitants, fighting those who wanted them back under their rule, or fighting the land and weather and illness. But they did make it a prosperous place, and they gave God praise for it. Now, we have envious people that want to “stop up our wells” and fight over what we claim through our original Constitution. Many have walked away and just gathered in states with like-minded folks who believe in the same history, but the envious have pushed to take over and take away our rights now in almost every part of our land. Sadly, we are probably going to have to fight another war within our own borders or ease on down the road and hope for another place to build a dream while the ungrateful destroy what our founding fathers built. But we must pray and ask God whether He wants us to fight or move. And when we get His answer, it might just be to wait because He has plans to ease us down the road into the New Heaven and New Earth where we will prosper and where we’ll never have to move again.

BTW, just to keep stepping stones on my daily word counts, my NaNo total for day #4 is 9487.

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

Like Father, Like Son


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

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

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

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

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

Sibling Rivalry To Die For


Today, we begin Parashah (portion) number six for the year. It is the Hebrew word “toldot” and it means “history.” Our verses today run from Genesis 25:19 through Genesis 26:5, and they begin the history of Isaac and Rebecca.

We learn from the beginning that Rebekah was childless just as her mother-in-law Sarah was. I’m sure Isaac had heard the stories of Sarah’s pain in that, and I’m sure he heard about the failed attempts to do things man’s way instead of God’s way, so he sought God on behalf of his wife. God blessed Rebekah and allowed her to become pregnant, but it was a hard pregnancy. Not only was she pregnant with twins (and without an ultrasound or a gynecologist to explain it all to her), but the twins inside her were already rivals. They fought so much that the story says she wondered if it was even worth living through.

Rebekah made it through her pregnancy, and the children became what the Lord told her they would right from birth. The first to be born came out covered with hair and not at all delicate, so he became his father’s favorite. They named him Esau. The younger must have been fighting to be born first and came out holding onto the heel of his brother’s foot. They called him Jacob, meaning supplanter, and he was happy to hang around the house and spend time with his mother rather than living the wild life of a game hunter. She was happy with that. And I’m sure she also remembered God’s words to her that the older would become the servant to the younger.

The word supplanter also means usurper. It is not necessarily a complimentary name as it describes someone who unlawfully takes or steals something that was not meant to be his. And since Jacob was not the warrior type, he had to grab what he wanted by more subtle and conniving means. You’ll see this played out more than once as we read his story.

So, Jacob not only likes to hang around the house, apparently he also likes to cook. And apparently he does a good job of it. So, he decides one day to go sit outside and make a stew that everyone around could smell. I imagine it was one of those aromas that makes your mouth water even when you have just finished eating. Oh, but to someone who is hungry… And Esau was hungry. He came in from hunting and was tired and hungry, and he smelled that enticing aroma. He probably thought that just by asking, his loving brother would give him what he wanted. Not so. Instead, Jacob told Esau that if he wanted some of his lentil stew badly enough, he would trade his birthright as the first-born son for a bowl of it. And Esau was somehow so hopeless that he said his birthright would mean nothing to him if he died of starvation, so he made the trade. Scripture tells us that this shows how little Esau’s birthright meant to him.

The first time I read all this, I felt sorry for Esau and a bit frustrated with Jacob. But now it makes me wonder if Jacob was supposed to be the first-born from the beginning, and the fight in the womb came from Esau being a bully and pushing his way to the front. I’ve seen too many take something they were sure should belong to them and then not respect it, so I know it can happen. And I know Esau could have sought God to sustain him until he was able to eat if his birthright meant anything at all to him. And now I’m ready to see all the blessings that come from one who values what he has and what he will do with the blessing of the first-born. Stay tuned.

P.S. I placed a NaNoWriMo widget at the top of my page, so you can always keep track of my word count. I was out most of the day, but I am happy to say that I added over 1800 more words to my count today. And I’m even feeling good about my character’s day of time travel.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not One is Forgotten


Well, if you thought yesterday’s reading was short, wait until you see today’s. It’s a total of only seven verses from Genesis 25:12 through Genesis 25:18. It covers a brief genealogy of Ishmael, and it tells us that he had twelve sons who were tribal rulers. But the unspoken word in this story is that, like Abraham’s sons by Keturah, no one is forgotten. Remember that Ishmael was the boy who twice was left to die when his mother Hagar was sent out by Sarah and thought she had no hope in the desert. But out of hopelessness came hope. Hagar blessed Yahveh as a God who hears and as a God who sees. And when she acknowledged Him, He blessed her and gave her promises about her son and his future. And here we see the beginnings of those promises coming to pass.

It goes on to say that Ishmael lived 137 years. And I’m stating that to compare with the fact that he almost died twice in his youth, but also to say something else. If he were alive today, that would be a lot of chances to write a novel through National Novel Writer’s Month aka NaNoWriMo. For me, this is only my sixth time of writing a NaNo novel. But every time I have worked on one, it has been worth every ounce of effort and time. There is something about knowing a huge chunk of the world is pushing for the same goals and keeping the world of muses busier than ever. And it’s a great way to just write and create without boundaries and anxiety because you’re not as worried about the outcome as you are the process.

I’ll close with the update that I have written 2552 words today on my novel about a girl named Cameo and her muse named Kalida. The title right now is “A Muse in Mourning,” and it’s already going places I did not plan, so I’m hoping it will be a base draft for something more promising after editing. If you are registered at the NaNo site, be sure to look me up at http://nanowrimo.org/en/participants/crystal-writer and add me to your buddy list. If you are a Christian who writes for NaNo, request to join our Christian Wrimos on Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChristianWrimos/ and join us for some chat and maybe a word war or two. Oh yeah, and if you would like to share your NaNo activities with friends, Also, I have a word count shirt and a “Cooking up a Novel” apron at Zazzle that you can purchase if so inclined. I made everything there more for fun, but I get sales every now and again, and it’s nice when that happens. 🙂

Apron:

http://www.zazzle.com/simple_nano_novel_apron-154200723324813416?rf=238233668200987035

T-Shirt

http://www.zazzle.com/nano_word_count_shirt-235435977536038317?rf=238233668200987035

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, NaNoWriMo, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary, Zazzle | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Outage


And I’ll bet you guys think this is the title for my latest post, huh? Well, actually this is just a placeholder while I wait for the power to come back on. I don’t want to have to go out driving in the storms to get a good enough signal to write my full post. So, hopefully I’ll have power soon. Blessings until then. ~Crystal

Okay, so power is back on, but I’m leaving the title the same because the reading is short, and there’s not much in it–especially about the power of God. Of course, when I look for it, I can find the power of God in most everything since I know I don’t even breathe in or out without Him. In that sense, there’s no power outage in this story or in any story. I mean, I almost burst into tears in my first computer class back in 2001. It was just a brief overview of an A+ course, but when the guy said that everything we see on the screen is just a series of ones and zeroes representing power turned on or off, I could suddenly see God working on His creation in binary arithmetic and saying, “Power on–Let there be light.” It may seem silly to some, but it amazes me to see God in everything.

So, today’s short reading is from Genesis 25:1 through Genesis 25:11, and it briefly tells the story of Abraham when he married Keturah. I would guess that this marriage was after Sarah died, but I find some questioning in my mind on this subject. See, Keturah bore Abraham six sons. But remember how Abraham laughed about having pleasure when he was old? So, did all his youthful strength come back to him after he created Isaac? Beyond that, it talks about the children of his concubines. Maybe there’s more history elsewhere, but I’m just wondering if Abraham had all these children after Isaac, or if they were just unmentioned before. The telling does say that Abraham gave all his riches to Isaac and sent the other children to the east with grants.

By the last verse, we read that after Abraham passed away (and was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the same tomb as Sarah), God greatly blessed Isaac. I’ve heard many messages about God’s blessings being given through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel whose story we have yet to read. Now, I’m wondering exactly what blessings/grants were given to all these other sons. I’m thinking of mighty armies and prosperous lands throughout the earth, and I’m remembering that God told Abraham that the whole earth would be blessed through him.

It’s funny how I can read this stuff each year and have thoughts on it as I read, but then when I decide to write the commentary, I see so much I never noticed before. Even when what I see creates a bunch of questions to which I may or may not get answers, I love that my heart is always stirred by the written Word of God. And now, I guess it’s like I said above, even if I’m not seeing specific readings about the power of God, there really never is a power outage.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When Blessings Flow


Flowing Waterfall

Flowing Waterfall by Crystal A Murray
At Papa John’s Corporate Park in Louisville, Kentucky

So many things in life are linked together. I love in today’s reading from Genesis 24:53 through Genesis 24:67 how the original blessing for Isaac multiplied to bless more than just Isaac. I believe that all started with the servant who took the time to praise God and acknowledge Him as the provider of the blessing.

First, the servant was blessed. He blessed Rebecca with jewelry, clothing, and a promise of a good future. Then he also blessed Rebekah’s family with jewelry, clothing, livestock, etc. The family blessed the servant and the men he traveled with. Rebekah blessed her family. Her family sent her away with blessings like, “Our sister, may you be the mother of millions, and may your descendants possess the cities of those who hate them.” And when Isaac saw her as they arrived near his tent, it says he took her to be his wife, and it comforted him from the grief he was feeling over his mother’s death.

The Bible has so many promises of blessings from God, and they are all set to multiply. He gives to us with the purpose of our sharing it with others, but we have to see it and be thankful for it before we will be able to let go and share. Oh, but once we let God take over, it can go so far. It’s like the boy who gave the two fish and five loaves of bread in John 6:1-14. What started as a small offering that fit into a lunch box filled thousands and provided 12 baskets of leftovers after Jesus touched it. If we will remember that old hymn, Count Your Blessings, and sing it to ourselves often, we can lift God up in a way that He can multiply the blessings in our lives. Sing with me…

Count your blessings, name them one by one.

Count your blessings, see what God has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one.

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

May the blessings flow abundantly into and out of your life, and may you never become stagnate in receiving but always give as freely as you receive. Amen!

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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