We all want a perfect life. We don’t want troubles and trials, sickness and loss, or any of that stuff that brings us grief and heartache. If we could have it, we would gladly take Heaven on Earth. This desire is likely as old as creation’s move from a perfect garden to a world overrun by thorns and thistles. I believe we have this desire to keep our hope alive for a future eternity, and the story of The Savior’s birth that we celebrate during the Christmas season renews it.
Another of my favorite Christmas songs is Oh Holy Night. Since the first time I heard it, I cried at the imaginings of a world filled with darkness and having no hope; not hearing from The Lord through prophets or otherwise for around 400 years.
The first verse tells us the condition of the world on that holy night…
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
That third line, Long lay the world in sin and error pining, says so much. Imagine being in a world where even the church is infiltrated by the government. Our world….if we give in to mayors who demand copies of sermons and laws that demand we live up to government expectations instead of biblical ones. We wait now for a promised Messiah to deliver us from the certain end we are facing if things continue as they are. Servants of God then also waited for deliverance according to promises they had read in the books of the prophets.
The last line, Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth, gives us that first glimmer of hope for the deliverance the Messiah would bring. The end of the first verse continues that hope and can be sung with a more lively beat.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Can you hear it? The beat that would go behind that thrill of hope? That lively beat then leads to the acknowledgment of such powerful mercy and grace that it can bring us to our knees in praise. The song’s author must have felt this as he penned these words…
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born.
The rest of the lyrics from the video are on the YouTube page, and there are even more verses and versions in the history of both the song and the poem. Visit Wikipedia to learn more. Another beautiful story behind the song is available at Beliefnet.
He brought life into a dark world, and He brought hope into a world of hopeless emptiness. His word tells us that He came to break the chains of bondage and set the captive free. Even though we have wars and troubles in this life, we have a hope for our future eternity if we continue to run our race with patience and perseverance. All of this is because of that one Holy night. I’ll close with a final verse and chorus.
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O – Ho-ly – Night.
I don’t think I’ve used this video yet, but it’s one of the first songs I heard by ApologetiX, and as Larry the Cucumber would say, “I laughed; I cried; it moved me, Bob.” Just wait until you hear what they say the whale thought Jonah tasted like. Oh, and listen all the way to the end because they tag a couple funny lines on. If you want the full lyrics, there’s another video at the bottom with no images but all the lyrics.
So what do we know about Jonah–from the song or otherwise? We know he’s a minor prophet with his own book in the Bible. It’s a short book with four chapters that tell us a story of God’s abundant grace and mercy. It opens with God’s request to this Hebrew who is a faithful servant of God until God asks him to minister to the ungodly. He runs and says he’d rather die than to see God have mercy on Nineveh.
As Jonah sleeps on a ship at sea, God stirs up a storm, and even those who don’t serve Him figure out why. They don’t want to throw Jonah overboard because they don’t want his blood on their hands, but they do what they must to calm the storm. Just in case, though, they make an offering to God to repent to Him. In the meantime, it takes three days of Jonah floating in belly acids and darkness to figure out that God is also having mercy on him for his disobedience. He repents to God and declares that salvation belongs to The Lord, and God speaks to the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land.
This time, Jonah obeys God and preaches to Nineveh. He is okay with it as long as he is berating them for their sin and threatening them with disaster, but when they repent, he gets upset. Imagine that. Imagine preaching “Hell” to someone you’ve seen thoroughly disrespect God and seeing them seemingly get away with their behavior because the price of their sin is taken away. Hopefully, if we have experienced God’s grace in our own lives, we will be happy for those we can help get delivered from eternal damnation.
Jonah should be glad at their repentance, but he isn’t. God, however, is glad to be merciful to people He created, and their repentance is beautiful to Him. In one of Jonah’s tantrums, God tries to explain this to him by comparing the pity Jonah himself showed for a dying plant with God’s love for a dying people. I’m thinking that Jonah never really understood it, but the job he did to bring about repentance of the people of Nineveh mattered enough to be included in the gospels Matthew and Luke and the ministry of Yeshua.
In Matthew 12:41, Yeshua even said to the Pharisees that the people of Nineveh would rise up in condemnation against them because Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah and the Pharisees refused to repent even though Yeshua was the greater prophet.
God hasn’t changed, and His mercy hasn’t changed, so He sent the same message into the midst of people in sin, and He desired the same result. He even upped the ante and provided a perfect sacrifice to give them the best chance ever. The grace and mercy at Calvary were so great, it overflowed from those who rejected it to give whosoever will an opportunity to receive it now.
The Prophet greater than Jonah is still here, and His blood still flows from Calvary. Listen to His heart as He looks over Jerusalem and weeps (in Matthew 23:37)…
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
The plan that started with Jonah still exists, and Yeshua still has love for Israel. Read all of Romans 11 for the whole story. I like the way it reads in the Contemporary English Version. Here are a couple verses from Romans 11 in the CEV…
- 1a) Am I saying that God has turned his back on his people? Certainly not!
- 11) Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous.
- 15) When Israel rejected God, the rest of the people in the world were able to turn to him. So when God makes friends with Israel, it will be like bringing the dead back to life.
- 25) I will explain the mystery of what has happened to the people of Israel. Some of them have become stubborn, and they will stay like that until the complete number of you Gentiles has come in.
- 28a) The people of Israel are treated as God’s enemies, so that the good news can come to you Gentiles. But they are still the chosen ones, and God loves them.
- 29) God doesn’t take back the gifts he has given or forget about the people he has chosen.
What a promise! God doesn’t forget, He doesn’t change, and He doesn’t stop loving us. He still loves His chosen ones, and He loves those of us grafted into the root of the chosen. I’m thankful for what Jonah started way back then because it opened a door for what is offered through the blood of Yeshua now.
And here’s the Jonah Jonah video with lyrics…
In the second chapter of Acts, those who heard the gospel message asked, “What must we do to be saved?” All who truly hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness will eventually ask that question, and we will receive the answer that we must repent. Later, however, we may look back on that repentance and remember how difficult it was. That may lead us to feel like we have worked for our salvation. That’s where Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and reminded them that salvation had nothing to do with works they had done. In Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) we read…
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter, author Chip Brogden talks about the grace that brought us our salvation.
Grace is a Man
“All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
1 PETER 5:5
The single requirement for grace is humility. But what is grace? Grace is more than just a theological term used to describe how we are saved. Grace is the power of God at work in my life to do what cannot be done in my own strength. Grace is energizing and proactive. When I have reached the end of myself then Grace Himself takes over and does what I am unable to do. In the first place, what I cannot do is save myself, and so I trust in the Grace of God, Jesus Christ, to save me. But Grace will not only bring me through the Gate; He will bring me down the Path. Grace does not just get me started in the right direction, but goes along with me every step of the way. For Grace is a Man!
Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden
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John 1:16-17 (NKJV) says even more to support Chip’s statement that Grace is a Man…
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Because God desires to spend eternity with us, He extends His grace to us to receive Yeshua. We don’t have to do anything to receive it other than to repent because Christ stands exactly opposite our sin. We must turn toward Him and away from our sins. When we become humble before the cross, God gives us grace to receive His message and desire to serve Him; We literally have His amazing grace for Grace.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And Grace my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear, The hour I first believed.
Remember the commercial where a couple at the movies trip over each other and end up mixing their snacks? One of them says, “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” Then the other one says, “Hey, you got your peanut butter on my chocolate.” And items that at one time would have been considered strange bedfellows were suddenly finding themselves mixed together in the form of a peanut butter cup.
The phrase “strange bedfellows” has been in use since the 1400s as a reference to unlikely or peculiar alliances or combinations. For example, in nature, if we see a friendship between animals that normally would be enemies, it strikes us as odd. There are some things that we know just don’t go together, like cats and birds. But strange bedfellows usually refer to things that might seem odd together but actually work, like pickle and peanut-butter sandwiches. (But you do have to toast the bread and used thin sliced dill pickle if you really want it to taste right. 🙂 )
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:8 through Leviticus 20:22, God again teaches Israel what He considers to be “strange bedfellows.” The difference here, however, is that if God says we should not be in a bed together, He means it. It’s not a matter of figuring out that something unlikely might actually work together because if it goes against God’s perfect will and design, it goes into the arena of disobedience to God and irreverence of God’s holy word.
The reading begins with a reminder that a man should not curse his father and mother or he would face death. From there, it jumps right into a long list of what God considers to be sexual sin. Obviously, these things are important to God because this is the second such list in the book of Leviticus. This list has a little more detail in that instead of just calling people who commit the sexual sins unclean, God goes a bit further and speaks of those that should be put to death.
The first sin listed is that of a man committing adultery with another man’s wife. This says that both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Next it says that a man who sleeps with his father’s wife disgraces his father, and both of them should be put to death. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. And if a man goes to bed with a man as he does with a woman, both men are to be put to death.
God goes on to say that if a man sleeps with a woman and her mother, all of them are to be put to death by fire, so that no depravity will exist in the community. If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the human and animal are to be put to death. If a man sleeps with his sister (or half-sister), God says it is shameful and they are to be cut off from the people and will bear the consequences, but this does not appear to include death. And, finally, it goes into men who sleep with their mother’s sister, their father’s sister, or their uncle’s wife. The consequence for a man who sleeps with his aunt, even if she is only related by marriage, is that the two of them will be childless.
Going back to the first command about killing both the adulterer and the adulteress, I wonder if Yeshua wrote this Scripture in the dirt when the men of Israel were about to stone the woman caught in adultery. At that moment, it wasn’t as much about His having mercy on the woman as it was about His showing the hypocrisy in the men. Why weren’t they casting stones at the man who was with the woman? If they were so holy and so apt to keep the letter of the law, the woman was not the only one who should have been facing a death sentence.
This story, in John 8:1-11, does not end with the men facing their hypocrisy and dropping their stones. It’s one of the places where the mercy of Yeshua shines brightly. He physically demonstrates the grace and mercy He has for all of us when He tells the woman that He finds no fault in her and that she is free to stop her sinning. He didn’t tell her that she was free from that one sin, or for one day only, but he set her free to stop sinning for the rest of her life. No more strange bedfellows for her because she who the Son sets free is free indeed.
Death is still the price for adultery (and all the sins listed in today’s portion), but just as Yeshua protected the woman from the price of her crimes, His blood will set us free from every sin listed in His word–Old or New Testament–because He has paid that price of death for us. He set the woman free from the bondage to her sin with the words “Go and sin no more.” He sets us free in the same way. May we let go of our excuses for sin, and instead may we climb out of the bed we have made with our weaknesses and walk in the mercy and grace that sets and keeps us free. Amen!
The second verse of the song, Amazing Grace, says…
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
In today’s reading from Exodus 20:15 through Exodus 20:23 (verses 18-26 in translations other than CJB), we see the people trembling at God’s presence on Mt. Sinai. The people are so afraid, they ask Moses to go talk to God alone and leave them out of it. But Moses tells them not to fear and explains that God only brings them fear to make them afraid to sin.
I guess we could compare this to all the dramatic stories parents tell their kids to keep them in line. You don’t really want the child to think there’s a scary snake in your closet that will attack and bite if the child opens the door; you just don’t want the child to peek in and see his Christmas presents before he unwraps them. The difference with God is that He can teach fear with truth instead of making up scary stories, but His purpose is still the same.
God’s word says the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Psalm 111:10). His laws can bring fear but only because of the price of breaking them. Even if we resist doing God’s will because we want things our own way, we fear disobeying because we don’t want to pay the cost. But God is okay with that because our fear protects us from living with the wages of sin. If we are afraid to rob a bank, we won’t have to risk the price of being shot in the act–or caught and imprisoned. That’s why 1 John 5:3 says (in paraphrase) that loving God means keeping His commandments, but keeping His commandments is not grievous or burdensome.
In the final paragraph of this week’s portion, God has Moses remind the people that because they have seen how He can come down and speak with them from Heaven, they have no need to create gods of silver and gold and worship them as if they are Yahveh. He tells them that if they wish to build an altar to Him, they should create it out of the earth. He does not want it created with tools because that would defile it by changing it from its natural state. And He does not want them to build steps to go up to it because it would make the people indecently uncovered.
Yahveh does not want the people (or us) building things and lifting them up as if they have power. That’s what they learned from those who worship false gods. Our God is personal and does not need a statue or cathedral to represent His majesty. And when it comes to earth, which I believe represents people, God wants our hearts as His altar. And I don’t believe He wants any of us to use some “cookie cutter” tools on ourselves in an effort to look like a better sacrifice. He wants us to yield whoever we are to His laws and His will to avoid the penalties of sin, but He knew even as He spoke to these people that The Perfect Sacrifice was on its way and would keep us from paying the ultimate price for sin–that being eternal death. The grace of God’s law creates fear that sets us free from having to fear death.
So your child is playing at the side of the street, and the ball bounces out of his reach. As “Little Johnny” turns and starts to run after the ball, you see a car speeding down the road in his direction. You holler “STOP!” Now, what do you want Johnny to do? Stop right then, or keep running for a bit while he thinks about whether or not you know what you’re shouting about? After all, you’ve told him things before and then changed your mind, right? Didn’t you promise just last night that if he didn’t quit playing with his food, he would go to bed without supper? But then you felt bad when he said he was hungry, so you went ahead and reheated his dinner in the microwave.
Of course, this scenario plays out in millions of households day after day because love covers a multitude of sins, and we want our children to be happy. But if we are teaching them to not take our word seriously, then what will be our cost when it really matters, like when a car is headed right to part of the street where the ball bounced?
In today’s reading from Exodus 19:20 through Exodus 20:14, we see God laying down a way of life for this new people of His; this treasure He loves and wants to protect. He sees the future, and He knows that they must see Him as one who means and keeps His word if He wants them to listen when it matters the most. As God talks to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai, God tells him to warn the people to not force their way up the mountain to see Him. Even the priests, He says, must remain holy and must not force their way through.
In Chapter 20, it says, “Then God said all these words,” as it begins the count of what is typically known as The Ten Commandments. I used “suggestions” in the title because many people, even those who claim to love God, live as if they are just that. But unlike human parents, God does not make suggestions because that would make Him wishy-washy. On the other hand, even though He is strong on the rules, He is even stronger in His mercy. In the first commandment, as He states that people should have no other gods before Him, He says He is a jealous God who will punish those who hate Him up to the 4th generation, but He will show grace to the thousandth generation of those that love Him and keep His commandments.
The best analogy I ever heard for comparing God’s rulings to His grace is that of the criminal who ends up in court in front of a judge who was also his best friend. The friend thought he had it made when he saw who was on the bench, but he was greatly surprised at the turn of events. The judge, as a judge, issued the harshest sentence available for the crime. But, just as his friend stood watching in utter astonishment, the judge stood up, removed his robe, walked down from the bench, and–as a friend–paid the fine.
Most of us know the commandments, so I will end this by simply paraphrasing the remainder of them…
2. Don’t create any images you would call a god and bow down and worship them as you would Yahveh.
3. Don’t think of God’s Name as just another word in your vocabulary. Value it as you value Him.
4. Remember the seventh (Shabbat is Hebrew for “seventh”) day to keep it holy. God rested on that day and set it aside from the beginning of creation. (It was Sabbath before there were Jews, so it is not just a Jewish thing.) Bless it as God did by remembering to do what Yahveh did and resting from your human works as He did from His creative works. In other words, WWYD?
5. Honor your parents to live long in the promised land from God.
6. Do not murder. (Just a simple reminder to value life as something God made.)
7. Do not commit adultery. (A couple together represents God’s unity. If we bring others into the relationship, it defiles that unity. Even liberal physicians will tell you that you keep cells from former partners for years after. Purity is truly freedom.)
8. Do not steal. (If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it. Just like you don’t want someone taking from you something that does not belong to them. Simple.)
9. Do not lie against your neighbor. (Just like you wouldn’t want your neighbor to lie against you.)
10. Do not covet. (Wouldn’t you rather other rejoice with you over your blessings than curse you because you have them and they don’t?)
All of these commandments really bring about a simpler life. If we live by them, we will be living by the golden rule without even trying. Why should people want things to be any different than common care and love for fellow human beings? Me, I prefer the simple life of living in the light of God/Love in all things, so as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.
How many times have we heard the question, “What am I here for?” Do you suppose Moses ever asked the same question? In today’s reading from Exodus 1:18 through Exodus 2:10, the Hebrew midwives who were told to kill the male Hebrew babies use the excuse that the Hebrew women are quick (lively in one translation) and deliver their babies before the midwives are able to arrive. Scripture tells us that God blesses them to be parents of strong children because of their integrity. But Pharaoh decides then that they should just throw the living boy babies in the river.
As our story progresses, we see Moses delivered multiple times. First, he is delivered as a newborn. Then, for three months, he is delivered from being discovered as his mother hides him to keep Pharaoh’s people from killing him. When his mother places him in a basket of reeds and hides him in the river, he is delivered from being alone as his sister, who works as a handmaid for Pharaoh’s daughter, keeps watch over the floating basket. And then he is delivered from the water when Pharaoh’s daughter finds him, and from death when she takes pity on him. He is delivered from being an orphan when his big sister offers to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the infant and goes to get Moses’ own mother for the task. Finally, he is delivered from being raised in ignorance of his true identity by having his mother and sister around to speak the truth to him about his heritage as a Hebrew.
The story has a long way to go before we will see Moses act as a deliverer for his people, but we are told in today’s reading that his lineage comes from the tribe of Levi, and we will learn later that this is the tribe of the priesthood. And what are priests called to do? They help people in becoming delivered from the bondage of sin. So deliverance was in his DNA as well as in his history.
Deliverance is also in our DNA through our salvation and new birth in Yahshua. In 1st Peter 2:9 (NKJV–italics mine) we read, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Just like Moses experienced an abundance of deliverance to become a deliverer, we who have been delivered (saved) from sin through the grace and mercy in the Blood of Christ were also delivered for a purpose. We may not all do the same job, but we all can do whatever we are called to do for the same reason–to help deliver others from an eternity of separation from the presence of their Loving Creator.
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.
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.
The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.
I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005
I follow Him…
…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet. He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”
I follow Him…
…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation. I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends. I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin, but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.
I follow Him…
…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy the veil of sin.
I follow Him…
…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.
I follow Him…
…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.
I follow Him…
…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.
I follow Him…
…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword … and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a 3rd-day’s sun.
I follow Him…
…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*
I follow Him…
…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…
…I will follow Him for eternity!
We have a long reading today from Genesis 15:7 through Genesis 17:6, and that means it is harder for me to boil it down–especially since it has two important story parts. I will focus this post on the first part, from Chapter 15, where we have a ceremony between God and Abram that most people likely read through without realizing its significance. To understand the importance of this ceremony, I first need to tell you about the meaning of the “Blood Covenant” which is what is being performed here in what is now known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” or “Covenant of the Pieces.” It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories because it gives us a glimpse into the future promise fulfilled by Jesus.
In a blood covenant, the sacrificial animals are cut in two pieces as a representation of the two parties or sides who are making the covenant. If either party breaks his agreement, the penalty is to pay in blood. At Wikipedia, I found an article explaining biblical covenants, and the writer there states it this way… “Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut”. It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.”
Now, here’s the understated thing about the covenant that I find very exciting: Each party walks through the pieces to symbolize his own keeping of the promise. This was a covenant between Abram (representing mankind) and God (representing Himself), and we see that before Abram was able to walk through, God put him to sleep. Both a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared in the midst of the pieces, which means that God Himself walked through the pieces as both man and God. By doing this, He promised that He would pay the price in blood if either side of the covenant was violated.
We know that God keeps His promises, but we also know that He understands the ways of man and knew we would not keep ours. That means He planned from way back to shed His own blood. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Italics mine.) Also, in 1 John 3:16a, the Bible says we know the love of God because He laid down His own life for us.
This was just a beginning of promises to Abram, who will be renamed to Abraham by the end of today’s reading, but I will cover the rest in a separate post due to the length of today’s post. For now though, it excites me to know that His plans for us–and me–have always been to do whatever it takes to make sure He can spend eternity with those He loves. He does this in spite of our rebellious behaviors and our rejection of Him. I guess that’s why in John 15:13-14, Jesus told the disciples that there is no greater love than that where a person would lay down his life for his friends. And then He called them His friends. Halleluyah! We have been granted the greatest love if only we accept it.
Something came to me about the readings for the last three days, and I want to bring it up before I jump into today. In Genesis 6:8, Noah found grace in the eyes of God. In Genesis 6:9, Noah was righteous & wholehearted, and he walked with God. In Genesis 6:18, God told Noah He would establish a covenant with him. In Genesis 6:22, Noah did all that was commanded of him. In Genesis 7:1, God says to Noah, “I have seen that you alone in this generation are righteous before me.” In Genesis 7:5, Noah did all that God ordered him to do. Can you see a pattern here?
Remember, this was before any of the levitical laws were given, so what do you suppose made Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? And that brings us to our reading for today from Genesis 7:17 through Genesis 8:14. Verse 17 tells us that the ark was lifted up above the earth. And that’s where I want to focus.
Noah, whose name actually means “rest,” had a spirit that was above (not obedient to) the flesh. He was, like the ark that he built, lifted up “above the earth” if you think of earth as representing flesh since that’s what we are made from. None of the Scriptures I found say anything about his wife, sons, or sons’ wives being holy, obedient, or finding grace in the eyes of Yahveh.
So, we can sum it all up this way: A man called Rest (and remember our Savior Jesus is The Rest wherein the weary may rest) was righteous. He built a vessel (like our Savior robed Himself in flesh) that would be lifted above the earth (like Christ was lifted up on Calvary and lifted above sin) to save those he loved from complete destruction. Now go back and read the story of Noah as if you’re reading the story of salvation, and ask yourself yesterday’s question…will you get in the ark?
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