Today, a friend and I discussed the difference in serving God out of obligation and out of love. A religious spirit can make you get everything perfect on the outside, but your works will not be with any heart. It’s more like an arranged marriage. But a spirit of love will gently push you to uphold God’s law because you desire to bless and please the One who has been so good to you.
In today’s Infinite Supply, Chip Brogden speaks about the loving Spirit who created the law…
The Spirit of the Law
“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Legally they were on solid ground. But to her accusers, Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And when they all left, being convicted by their own conscience, He said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:12). We must conclude that however good the Law was, it did not represent God’s highest, or God’s best.
Jesus represents the holiness and purity of the Law but emphasized the part that had been too long overlooked: grace and humility. He came to address the deeper issues of the heart, and in so doing, showed us what God really intended from the beginning. He did not destroy the Law, He superseded the Law! Thus He fulfilled the spirit of the Law – even if it sometimes appeared as if He did not follow the letter of the Law.
Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden
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Of course, the One who created the law would most certainly know best His purposes behind it. As the author says, He supersedes the law. It’s our interpretations and perspectives on it that cause it to be grievous and chaotic. But the Spirit behind the law will lead us in keeping the spirit of the law as He intended–as a clear dividing line between unholy and holy.
Romans 2:29 (NKJV) adds some clarity to the thought…
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
When we keep the spirit God input into the law by His Holy Spirit, we will seek to please Him instead of men’s ideas of holiness and perfection. We will desire to be holy (separated from sin) because we love God too much to want to be unholy (separated from God). He wants to draw near to us, so He gave us laws to help us learn how to make room in our lives for His presence.
Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, we let Him down and make it hard for Him to find a place for His presence, so He pours out His mercy through the blood of Yeshua. That’s the dividing line now. We choose either outside of His mercy or under His blood because His blood is what makes us holy so He can dwell with us. So The Holy Spirit of The Law is greater than the letter of the law because mercy through the blood of Christ is more powerful than all the works we can do in and of ourselves.
How about starting with some trivia tonight? First, what’s the name of the horse in the pictured TV show? And do you remember the name of his humans? How about this: what trick did they use to get the horse to “talk” on command? I’ll give you the answers in the comments tomorrow, or you can click on the picture and read the comments at Flickr to find out the names of the actors and their characters. Oh, but I will tell you the trick for the horse’s mouth movements. I’ve heard they used peanut butter, but I’ve also heard they used chewing gum.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:10 through Deuteronomy 11:21, we will read about good times to talk too much. We begin with Moses talking about gardening in the new land. He tells the community of Israel that the new land won’t be like Egypt where they had to use their feet to run the irrigation systems. (And now I’m curious and want to know the history of Egyptian irrigation. 🙂 ) In the new land, because of the hills and valleys, the ground will absorb the rain more easily. Plus, God has His eye on this land and gives it rain to bring forth more vegetation. He wants the land and the people to be prosperous.
Moses then shares the promises of God that if the people will keep all of God’s laws, He will give the land its rain in the right seasons, including the extra rains in early fall and late spring. These rains will help bring in plentiful wheat, new wine, olive oil, and grass for the livestock. In this same promise, however, is the warning that if the people turn aside to worship other gods, Yahveh Almighty will shut up the sky, and there will be no rain. If that happens, the ground will not yield its produce, and the people will quickly perish in the land.
So Moses tells them to store up all the good words of God in their minds and hearts. They are to talk about them when they get up in the morning and when they go to sleep at night. They should discuss them when they sit down at dinner. Moses advises them to bind them on their hands and foreheads, and he says for them to write them on their door frames and gate posts. He says to diligently teach them to their children, and to talk of them while at home and while traveling. Remembering the laws of God will help both these people and their children to live long in the land that The Lord promised to their ancestors as a possession for as long as their is sky above the earth.
You know who wouldn’t be accused of not talking about it enough? Mr. Ed. (Oops, I gave you another answer.) Mr. Ed loved to talk even when no one was listening. And when he couldn’t get his human host to hang around the barn long enough, he would just make a phone call and talk to someone. He loved to talk.
I was reading all these places where Moses was telling the people to talk, and I imagined myself getting up in the morning to talk about God, speaking to my husband about Him before bed, and talking to the boys around the dinner table. And then I imagined them all saying, “Aunt Crystal, you talk too much.” I have been accused of talking about God too much, but He is the center of my universe, so I just can’t help it. The days when stress tries to pull my thoughts and words away from Him are my hardest days. Oh, but those days when I think about Him, sing about Him and to Him, and take moments (many moments) to tell others about Him; those are my best days.
Mr. Ed (or actually his voice actor) spoke from a script. Well, so do I. My script is Scripture, and it tells me to talk about God every chance I get. My Heavenly Father loves to be remembered and praised, and He has done more than enough to be worthy of that. He wants all of us thinking about Him and talking about Him from morning to night.
Just imagine if we focused our talk directly on The Creator instead of on His creations. We talk about Him more than we talk about His people. We praise Him more than we praise His miracles or great works. We uplift what He has already done more than we beg Him to do more for us. We humble ourselves and desire Him as we talk of how pleasant it is to keep His word in our hearts, thoughts, and actions. We cherish His presence. He has promised that if He is lifted up above the earth (first on the cross, now above all our ways here on earth), He will draw all men to Himself. If all men were to turn to Him instead of false gods or doing things their own way, I don’t think even horses could talk too much about the wonderful ways our world would change.
I’m a fan of the show America’s Got Talent, and the one thing I notice about the majority of acts that get closest to the finish line is their amount of practice. If getting there truly matters, some of these people will drop almost everything else in their lives to become dedicated to the perfection of their talents. The strong men and weightlifters are not my favorite categories, but I have to admire the perseverance they have given to get to where they could lift and support at the levels they demonstrate. Imagine someone coming out in a leotard and demonstrating how strong they are by lifting a toothpick with a gumdrop on each end. Yeah, I wouldn’t be convinced either. 🙂
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 10:12 through Deuteronomy 11:9, Moses talks to Israel about the value of serving and loving God with everything they’ve got to offer Him. Moses says, “…fear Adonai your God, follow all His ways, love Him and serve Adonai your God with all your heart and all your being.” He then tells them that The Lord asks them to obey these things for their own good.
Moses points out that all the earth and everything on it, plus the sky and the heavens beyond the sky, all belong to God. But God found favor in the ancestors of the current generation, and He chose them and their descendants to love and bless. Moses encourages them that to honor this great love, they should circumcise their hearts and be stiff-necked no longer because they serve the God of gods and the Lord of lords. His love is so great that He helps the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners, and He desires for His people to do the same because they were once foreigners in Egypt.
As Moses continues, he reminds the people that he is talking to them and not to their children because their children have not seen the greatness of God as He delivered them from Egypt. They did not see God open the earth to swallow the grandsons of Reuben when they created an uprising against Him and against Moses. But these people have seen the mighty hand of God, and they know how God has turned only seventy that went down to Egypt into a multitude like the stars in Heaven. And God asks that this multitude would honor and respect Him by following all His laws, so they will be strong enough to go in and posses the Land of Promise and dwell there for a long time.
I notice that Moses keeps referring to the blessings of keeping God’s law. He says that God only gives the law for their own good. He says that keeping the law will make them strong, and living according to God’s law promises a longer life. Sometimes the laws of doing right, can seem heavy. Staying moral and upright when sin comes in to tempt you and tries to tell you that you’re living a boring life (especially when you’re young) can be a battle. Being forgiving when someone has done you wrong can be difficult. Doing things God’s way, especially in faith and without question, can be as hard as swimming against the current when you’re fighting your own fleshly desire to have complete understanding before you move forward.
But just because life is hard and weights are heavy, we cannot quit. We all know that professional weightlifters do not start out lifting the heaviest set. They work up to higher amounts through repetition and practice. What seemed heavy for them at the beginning may seem light to them now. We, too, must continue to push ourselves and to practice until we build spiritual muscle that enables us to lift more and more as we work to become strong in The Lord.
Too much of the world wants to feel sorry for those who have a bit more weight to lift in this life, and they want to take the weight away, but it only creates weaker people. All the helpful do-gooders would be more help and do more good if they would become spotters rather than taking away the weights altogether. When we see someone who has it hard, we can give him a boost, but we should not steal his chance to become a strong person by doing his job for him. We should encourage, pray for, and watch over those in need, and then we will be blessed in helping them become strong in this life and in The Lord.
Yeshua told us to take up our own cross each day because He knew the blessing of spiritual muscle-building, and He knew we would receive help to bear it simply by asking for it. As each of us lifts the weightier matters in life and in things of The Spirit, we will reap the rewards of perseverance and faith. Let me encourage you now. Keep on pressing toward the mark of the high calling in Christ, and may we all rejoice when we cross that finish line with the power and strength God desires for us. It will be worth the weight.
Tithing is one of those subjects that brings defense from those both pro and con on the subject, so I will only tell you of my personal experience. When I was a new follower of Christ, I heard a message about tithing and how God would come through for me if I put Him first. I was working a minimum wage job at a truck stop, and my check barely covered rent and food. The payday after learning about tithe, I knew that if I paid it, I would be short on rent, but I chose to pay it anyway and prayed that God would make my manager understanding.
I paid the tithe on a Sunday, and I got a knock on the door Monday afternoon from the manager who I thought was there to collect the rent. As it turns out, he was there to inform me that he would no longer be living on the premises. He was looking for a resident who would manage the property in exchange for free rent plus pay for general duties around the property, and he wondered if I was interested. I asked when I could start, and he told me I would start immediately and that I could keep whatever rent I was prepared to pay for that week.
In today’s reading from Numbers 15:17 through Numbers 15:26, we learn about God’s command of tithe on the bread made from the produce of The Promised Land. God advises the people that when they bake their bread, they are to set aside from their first dough a cake to offer as a gift to God. He told them they should set aside this portion for The Lord from their first dough throughout all their generations.
I know the instruction to make a cake was more of a pancake than a fancy cake as in the image above, but I love looking through pictures of beautiful cake designs because I truly admire the creativity and talent of the bakers. I looked for images with a search for “cake gift” and boy did I find some amazing designs. You can click the highlighted search term if you want to see some of them for yourself.
So, back to the reading, which then switches gears to speaking to the people about what to do if they make a mistake in observing all the laws and commands that God has been giving through Moses. God tells them that the whole community is to come together to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as a fragrant aroma to The Lord. He tells them they are to offer it with the grain and drink offerings in keeping with the rule and to add a male goat for a sin offering. It goes on to say that the priests will make atonement for the people, and the whole community, including any foreigners living with them, will be forgiven because it was a mistake.
As I read through this, I could see the set up for the Blood of Messiah to make atonement for us in our sins against God. I know that Yeshua’s Blood was perfect blood, so it represented all the types of offerings that could be sacrificed for all types of sins. I rejoice in this, and at the same time, I feel the tug in my heart to once again check myself. I want to make sure that the ways I fail God are never with intention or purpose or with an attitude of just not caring.
In the Spirit of the law, which is even greater than the letter of the law, everything that has been said points to the law that Yeshua said was the greatest commandment: “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Love Him enough to want to give him a gift from your first fruits, first labors, and first dough (including the green kind.) Love Him enough to want to obey His commandments to the best of your ability just because you know it is pleasing to Him. Love Him enough to trust Him and have faith in Him. Love Him enough to study His Holy Word and draw as close to Him as you can in this life while keeping your eye on the promise that you will dwell with Him for eternity.
I’m a firm believer that God is the true owner of all things in my life. I even say that God owns the copyright to all my works, which is why I don’t keep them in hiding until I can get registered copyrights, though even without the registration, I know my works are copyrighted as soon as I create them. Still, I know some people fear theft of their intellectual works, so they don’t get them out there. But what if we lived as if we didn’t own any of it, and what if we lived as if all we have is given to us to share?
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:14 through Leviticus 25:18, we read about God’s idea of fair sales practices, and how He says to stay secure in our land. First, He says that when people sell to each other, they should never exploit each other. In context with the passage, this refers to land for sale between years of jubilee (every 50 years) since on those years, all land goes back to the original owners. Yesterday’s post introduced jubilee, but I didn’t comment on the last verse about owners returning.
So, because the land is not sold permanently, God explains here that if it is close to an upcoming jubilee, the price of the land should be reduced. If it is a long way off, the price should be raised. He tells them that what they are actually selling is not the land, but the amount of crops the purchaser will be able to produce. For this reason, and because He is The Lord and their God, He says for them to make sure not to take advantage of each other.
The last statement in today’s section says that if men will keep God’s commandments and obey all His rulings, they will be able to live securely in their land. Secure living: Can you imagine such a thing? No need for a Department of Homeland Security. No need for burglar alarms or spiked fences. No need for guard dogs (or attack cats :-)). Just living and doing whatever God has guided us to do each simple day of our lives. Can you imagine just how awesome this would be. I know I can.
I would love to be “anti-war,” and to have peace, love, and butterflies all the time, but I know it’s not realistic. The people who march for peace and rage against our soldiers and our right to defend ourselves might as well boycott ADT and all other home security companies because the message is the same… “We don’t want security forces; we want peace.” And I would love it if such could be true, but it can’t be true on this earth as it stands now. It could work if every person on the planet earth would do things God’s way, but they won’t, so we’re left with war between those who are lawful and those who make their own law to do whatever suits them. And because of war, we have to protect ourselves–or employ others to protect us–from those who live according to the wanton desires of human flesh instead of seeking God’s perfect will.
Did you notice that before men created a golden calf to worship, there was no law about not creating golden statues? The more men misbehave, the more laws must be created to rein them in. A child gets hit by a car, and new speed-limit laws are put in place to protect other children on that same street. Multiple accidents happen at an intersection, and a new traffic light goes up to better govern the crossing. The “Department of Homeland Security” was not created until November 25th, 2002. It was a direct result of the lawlessness that cost multiple lives on September 11th, 2001. Lawlessness creates a need for more laws, but lawfulness (especially to the will or Our Creator and Savior) brings security to our lives, our homes, and our lands.
What’s wrong with the above picture? Nothing? Look again. Actually, I really like what the photographer did with it. It’s a creative and beautiful treatment. We know from creation history that there are waters above the earth and below it, but even in a heavy downpour, I’ve never seen so much water in the heavens as to create ripples in the sky. And if I saw this in real life, I’d be running for cover. Even when presented as beautifully as this is done, we all know it’s not the way God made things.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 18:6 through Leviticus 18:21, we read about God’s designs and plans when it comes to human sexuality. The presentation goes into tomorrow’s reading as well, but the breaking point for today is at verse 21, so I’ll only discuss up to there. Of course, from the beginning, we know that God made Adam & Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply. And from the ark, we know that God had Noah collect a male and female animal from each species and told them to be fruitful and multiply. But somewhere along the line, people apparently got more interested in the being fruitful part than in the multiplying.
So now God is following up on His ruling not to imitate the behaviors of the former inhabitants of the land. He goes into great detail to explain that no one is to approach a close relative to have sexual relations with them. He not only says that fathers should not be with daughters, and mothers should not be with sons, but that neither should be with step-parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, etc. He even says that no one should be with a woman and her daughter.
I’ve known of brothers who would date each other’s girlfriends, and sisters who even stole the other’s boyfriends, but according to this, the code about not sharing that is kept among most siblings is also the way God wants things. God even says not to take a woman to be a rival of with her sister while the sister is still alive. And I can see how that would be even more important when everyone lives in a community as the camp of Israel is living.
God designed everything about us with a perfect plan in mind. He designed our bodies to work a certain way, the harvest to work a certain way, the seasons to work a certain way, and procreation to work a certain way. I don’t know if He installed failure mechanisms to kick in when things don’t go by design, but I know they do kick in. Many of the diseases and issues we have these days can trace their lineages back to relatives that should not have slept together, or an infusion of contagions by animals that should not have been brought into human sexual relationships.
Like the picture above, some things not of God’s design may look okay on the outside, but only God knows what’s really changing on the inside. He knows about the crossed lines of DNA that should not happen. He knows about that hormone they call the “monogamy hormone” that He put in men to make them want to be with the same woman, and how the overly active sexual appetite of men these days is making them immune to it, and making men almost unable to be faithful. And all we have to do to make sure things go as He planned is to trust Him and obey His word–the written one, and the one He speaks to our hearts.
…and that ain’t what it takes to love God because apparently He doesn’t like them either. Well, at least He doesn’t like them on our dinner menu. 🙂 And I like them so little that I was getting pretty grossed out as I was looking for a picture to go with this post, so I went back to my search box and typed in “spider fractal” to come up with the above. That’s not quite as bad to me.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 11:1 through Leviticus 11:32, we get to see the beginnings of what God told the children of Israel would be a good diet for them. First, God gives Moses some attributes of clean animals, like those that chew the cud AND have a split hoof. And then He tells them some of the animals included under the headings of “clean” or “unclean.” He also makes sure they know that unclean animals are unclean if they are eaten, if their carcasses are touched, or even if a person touches something that touched the carcass.
Some of the items ON the menu include fish with scales (this doesn’t sound too bad) and winged insects (bugs–yuck) that have bendable joints. That means we can eat chocolate-covered grasshoppers if we want, but I don’t think I want. OFF the menu items include weasels, mice, lizards, and geckos. (I’m sure Geico is happy about that last one. LOL) You’ll have to click the link above if you want to read the entire list of clean vs unclean food for that time.
I added the for that time because I do believe that some foods probably could still be left off our plates, but in those times without proper refrigeration and cooking techniques. there were likely even more problems. Of course, we also need to remember that these eating standards were given prior to the discovery of germs. God knew about those things that men could not see, and even after that discovery, those who taught the new “germ theory” (teaching that something too small to see could be deadly) were often considered insane. Aren’t we glad we know better now? And aren’t we glad that God has always known better about these and all things? This is just another example of why we should trust Him now and always.
Are you guilty of guilt? That was the title of my first college essay. My argument compared guilt to conviction, and I received a high grade for my presentation–except for my excessive use of commas. On that, I’m guilty as charged. As I have matured in my walk with Christ, I have learned that I was lacking something back then. At the time, I thought guilt was not something from God at all, and that God only created conviction that made people want to change their sinful ways. Since then, however, I have learned that guilt is a byproduct of sin, and God put it there to help us want out of our sinful ways just as He allows us to have pain, so we’ll get our flesh out of the fire before we burn to death.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 5:11 through Leviticus 5:26 (or through Leviticus 6:7 in versions other than the Complete Jewish Bible), we read about sin offerings and guilt offerings (called trespass offerings in some versions). The guilt offering seems to be the one offered when a person goes against something God has declared as holy, or when a person sins against a neighbor. I’m guessing the latter would be considered unholy because the sin is done against someone who is made in the image of God.
The parts that stood out to me as I read this portion were the rules about making restitution. The offering to make atonement, and whatever acts of restitution were required, were to be done at the same time. In today’s church, that would mean we should be prepared to right our wrongs at the same time as we place ourselves under the blood of Christ. It’s not about showing up to the altar and asking for forgiveness while planning to fix the issue at some later date and time. Or, as my husband put it, it’s not about hollering up “Forgive me, Lord,” and going about your business, or telling everyone how your sins are under the blood of Christ, so it doesn’t matter.
A good example comes from the latter part of the reading where it talks about doing wrong to a neighbor. According to this, there’s no such thing as Finders–Keepers, Losers–Weepers, as we have stated with a sing-song voice since childhood. It says that if someone entrusts something to a neighbor, finds something that belongs to a neighbor, makes a promise to a neighbor, etc., and fails to do right by that neighbor, he is not only to make restitution in full, but he is to add one-fifth (twenty percent) to it. Furthermore, it says that the repayment should be done at the same time as the offering is brought to the priest.
The Lord does not change, so while we now have His blood to cover our sins, and we no longer have to pay the wages of sin that equate to death, we are not set free from doing our best to make things right. We are not saved by works, but we are still justified by them as far as consequences go–and maybe even concerning some of our heavenly rewards. There will be a trial by fire that will test our works, and the blood of Christ will get us across the threshold, but there must be something beyond the entrance if our works are being tested. But, even if there were nothing beyond getting a foot in the door of Heaven, why should we walk on this earth in the bondage of sin’s by-product of guilt? We don’t have to pay the price of death for eternity, and we don’t have to be guilty of guilt now. As Yahshua said to the woman caught in adultery when He set her free from death by stoning, “Go, and sin no more.” Now, He says the same to us through His written word (my paraphrase of Romans 6:3-7): Rise up, and walk in the newness of life. You are free to go and sin no more.
In the movie reel of my life (somehow, I really think God has one of these), I know I have tried and failed thousands of times. I have made promises that still go unkept, whether because I’ve forgotten or for some other reason. I’ve had all the best intentions, all the best plans, and all the best efforts, and still I have failed. I fail because I am human. We fail because we are human. God understands because He made us. He says in Psalm 103:14 that He knows our form.
As I read through today’s reading from Leviticus 4:27 through Leviticus 5:10, I looked at all the answers God gave for what to do in case of failure during the times of the tabernacle and priests. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, I don’t think He would have us discard any of it. As a matter of fact, The New Testament does not say that the old law is done away with. Rather, it says that it was fulfilled so we are no longer under the curse of it. What was the curse? It was that if we failed in one point, we failed in all of it.
I woke up one morning having an awake dream–maybe a vision. I saw a steel ring with bits of it missing and the word law in the middle of it. As I watched it, another steel ring came into view. This one had the word love written in the middle, and it had no missing pieces. As the vision continued, the ring of love settled into the ring of law and filled in all the missing parts. God’s law of love became the law and absorbed all the emptiness that keeping the works of the law could not fill in. I have never forgotten it.
But as for why all these commands were there to begin with….I believe God laid them out because He never wanted His people under a curse. He knew His children, and He knew they would fail, but He wanted to put every possibility of provision out there to make a way out of the bondage that comes with sin and failure. It’s like a mother, one many would call over-protective, giving her child an abundance of “just in case” scenarios to make sure the child is protected no matter what.
“Okay, honey, don’t answer the door; make sure the deadbolt is locked; the doorknob is locked; the chain lock is pulled; the intruder alarm is set; and your phone is charged in case you need to call us. I put the number where we’ll be on the refrigerator, but I also gave it to the neighbors on both sides in case you have to run out of the house to get away from a bad guy. Oh, and Aunt Sally will call you at 8 to check on you, and then Uncle Mike will call you at 9. Make sure you answer or they’ll call me to report you might be in trouble. Etc., etc., and, and, and.”
Does this seem like too much? God provided 613 total commandments to the Levitical priesthood. We have commandments in today’s reading that include when to sacrifice a goat, when to sacrifice a sheep, when it must be a female offering, and when a dove or pigeon can be used. He even provided for the unplanned sins, including those committed by making a promise (whether to do evil or good) and not keeping it. God has always wanted to make sure that we have ways out of our sins if we have a heart that is willing to step out of them through repentance.
And that is the most important part of it all… repentance. Whether it was following the Levitical commands back then, or stepping under the cleansing of Christ’s blood now, repentance is what makes the difference. Now, as then, a person must see his sin and failures as bondage (if nothing more than the bondage of being separated from his Loving Creator), and he must want to be set free. It’s not about finding reasons or excuses, and it’s not about trying to find some way to continue in sin. The blood–all the way back to the garden–has always been about repentance and being set free.
Be Kind, Rewind, isn’t something most of our younger generation is likely to hear anymore since video cassette tapes have been replaced by DVDs and Blu-ray discs. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past that a random act of kindness was simply to rewind the movie you had just rented before you returned it to the rental store. Audio cassettes were still in use then too, and this reminds me of the time I found an LP record of Queen’s greatest hits for my husband and decided to play it for my nephew. I think he was about 13 or 14 then, but I figured it would be good for him to hear the music his uncle grew up on, and I was pretty sure he would like it. I was right. As soon as it got to the end, he told me he liked it, and he asked me how to rewind it. 😉
In today’s reading from Exodus 34:1 through Exodus 34:9, we have God telling Moses to meet Him on the mountain top, so they can rewind their earlier activity of inscribing God’s laws onto stone tablets. If you can see God as having a sense of humor, you should be able to laugh at the way He speaks to Moses in verse 1… “Adonai said to Moshe, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones; and I will inscribe on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” In future readings, God will make more statements about “the first tablets” and “the ones you broke.” I don’t know if it’s just the way the scribes wrote it, or if God really did say these things to Moses more than once. I think the latter, and I think it was to remind Moses that even he got fed up with how the people acted when there was no one around to watch them.
So Moses climbs the mountain with the two new stones, cut like the first, and goes to meet God as He requested. This meeting was to include ONLY Moses, to the extent that God didn’t even want the animals grazing near the base of the mountain. When Moses gets up there, God descends in the cloud to meet him, and the first thing He does is pronounce His memorial name–Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH aka Yahveh, also written in modern language as YHWH aka Yahweh)–just as He had done with Abraham. This is a big deal, and it speaks of just how Yahveh felt about Moses.
Next, God repeats His name again, and this time He frames it with a statement that He, Yahveh, is The Lord who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth, showing grace to the thousandth generation. He goes on, I believe as a precursor to the laws He is about to give again, and tells Moses that He is God who forgives offenses, crimes, and sins, yet does not exonerate the guilty but causes the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be visited on future (even to the third and fourth) generations.
I want to point out here that I’ve heard people make statements about the unfairness of God visiting effects on future generations, but it’s just the law of the harvest in action. If I plant bad seeds, it is not only me that is affected. Everyone who eats the bad plants, or who can’t eat because crops won’t grow, will be affected. The ground can be affected and cause future crops to not grow. And even when people don’t care enough for themselves, they will often change for others, so God was just using the same psychology as social service workers who threaten parents with a loss of their children if they don’t change their own behaviors–such as drinking or drug use. And while negative effects are visited to the third and fourth generations, as God says at the first, His mercy is given to the thousandth generation.
When God finishes speaking, Moses bows his head and prostrates himself before God. Moses then speaks and asks God that if he has indeed found favor in His sight, would He please stay with the people of Israel. He admits that the people are stubborn, but he asks that Yahveh will pardon their offenses and sin, and that He will take them as His possession once again. So, we started with God telling Moses to be kind, rewind, with the tablets, and now we have Moses asking God to be kind and rewind in His forgiveness and favor of Israel.
Many years ago, when I was about 12 years old, I learned that my great-grandmother’s favorite song was His Eye is on the Sparrow. I learned it to sing for her funeral, though I did not truly understand what I was singing at that age. Now I can understand why it was important to her. The last line of the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” What precious and comforting words, and they were used to comfort people in anxiety when Yahshua spoke them in Luke 12:6-7.
In today’s reading from Exodus 23:6 through Exodus 23:19, we have more rulings, and today they all seem to be centered around what God has His eyes upon in our world. He has His eyes on the poor, so He tells people not to deny them justice. He has His eye on the innocent and righteous and says not to cause their death. He watches the wicked and says He will not justify them. And for all these He watches, God says not to take bribes because they subvert justice.
He has His eyes on the foreigner, and because He saw how His own people were treated as foreigners, (sometimes well and sometimes mistreated) He wants His own people to remember and treat guests right. He watches for the needs of the poor, so as He watches the harvest, He asks His people to gather for six years and leave the seventh for the poor and wild animals to gather. Of course, because of George Washington Carver, we have since learned how that helps the land produce better for the next six years, so God was watching out for the farmer even as He was caring for poor people and animals.
God even watches our work animals and for people who work for us (slaves in those days), and He requires that owners only work them for six days and then give them a Sabbath of rest.
The remaining part of the reading concerns how to uphold this wonderful Creator who watches over us. First, He says, do not ever call on the names of other gods (who are not watching them as He does), and not even to let the names of false gods pass over the lips of Yahveh’s people. Three times per year, we are to have feasts that directly honor our Creator. In these three feasts, we are to gather into His presence as we remember that He is The One who enabled the feasts. The three feasts are Matzah (the feast of unleavened bread) held right after Passover and at the Spring harvest time, the feast of First Fruits, and the festival of In-gathering (Sukkot) which is held at the fall harvest. They all represent God’s provision for us.
One of the last reminders in today’s text is the rule to bring the best of our first fruits into the house of Yahveh Almighty. While it doesn’t tell us exactly why, isn’t this a way we can offer our thanks to Him and honor Him as our Provider? I mean, if we offered the worst and the last, would that be fitting for someone whose eye is on everything and everyone, and who makes plans for us for our good? Yes, His eye IS on the sparrow, and because we are worth many flocks of sparrows to Him, we know He watches us. May we always bring our very best to Him in thanks for this.
While I do not believe in what is known as “replacement theology,” I do believe that the Ekklesia (Greek word for the “church body” or “body of Christ”) is a flock just as Israel was, and the lawfulness of our hearts should be based on the laws God gave Israel to be a thriving community. We are no longer under the curse of the law, but that does not mean that law itself has no place in our lives. For example, the blood of Christ does not mean we are free to commit murder. God has always been drawn to people with governable hearts, just as He was to Abraham long before there was a Jewish people. We may be a new flock whose Shepherd is also our Messiah, but we have wonderful promises when our government rests on His shoulders.
In today’s reading from Exodus 22:27(28) through Exodus 23:5, the first instruction to God’s people is not to curse God and not to curse a leader of the people. If we love God, we have no desire to curse Him, so that ruling is pretty easy. The next though? A nephew listening to us read tonight was certain the Scripture had to be misinterpreted if it expected us to respect the current leadership of the U.S. It can be hard to draw the line between honoring the law of the land and honoring a person who makes laws against God. Many people point to Romans 13 regarding obedience to leaders, but since that reading also says that doing good will always win the approval of the leaders. it’s obviously not talking about some of the leadership we face now; leadership that would have a Christian businessman pay for an employee’s right to murder her unborn child regardless of the businessman’s own morals. Whatever we do or stand for should honor God above all else.
The next rulings include those concerning not delaying our offerings of things that would spoil, the importance of the firstborn to God, and the advice to not eat roadkill. It’s all sensible advice based on what we know now about bacteria and its contribution to deadly illness.
And then we have the ruling that lead me to choose the image above: Do not repeat false rumors. I almost looked for a video from Hee Haw of the girls singing, “We’re not ones to go around spreading rumors, so you better be sure and listen close the first time,” but I decided against it. Though when I looked for an image to go with the word rumor, I couldn’t find anything suitable, so I did the search for urban legend and found the one above that represents the oft-spread rumor of alligators and crocodiles in the sewers of New York. Cute one huh? 🙂
As we continue in the reading, we learn that God even watches over the courts and laws of our lands. He tells men not to perjure themselves by offering false testimony, not to allow popular culture to sway them toward offering testimony that would pervert justice, and not to favor a lawsuit just because a litigant is poor. All of that is summed up in God’s direction to not follow the crowd in doing wrong. Oh that these things could be read and obeyed by our current lawyers and juries.
Finally, the people are advised to return a wandering animal to its rightful owner, even if the owner is their enemy, and not to pass by an overburdened animal even if the owner hates them. This can be summed up in the reminder to be governed by God rather than by the emotions and offenses of our flesh. Really, all of these rulings can be summed up with Romans 13:10 which says (in CJB), “Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.”
As I typed the title for this post, the first thing that came to me was, “No way could I pull anything that weighs as much as I do.” Thankfully, pulling my own weight is not literal and only means to take care of that which is mine to take care of. What is interesting is how this lines up with the thoughts that woke me today. Without reading this passage, I woke up thinking about how much better we tend to take care of things that don’t belong to us–like borrowed clothes. And then I thought about our own lives and bodies, and how they are borrowed in a sense. God’s word says that our bodies are the temple for His Holy Spirit, so that means we are actually caretakers rather than owners. Even more, it clarifies what Yahshua meant when He said He only said and did what His Father directed. Because He knew the purpose for His body on this earth, He yielded to that purpose. If we are of those asking WWJD (or WWYD), then we too should be yielding to the purpose of our lives and bodies on this earth. This certainly is stirring a lot of thought in my mind and heart.
So, in today’s reading from Exodus 22:4 through Exodus 22:26 (verses 5-27 in other versions), the rulings given are mostly about what people need to do to take care of their own business. For example, it talks of all the ways to make restitution if you allow something that does not belong to you to become harmed or lost. And people then took great responsibility for that which did not belong to them. That’s why, in 2nd Kings, the man who was chopping wood and lost the ax head in the water was so upset because he knew he could not afford to make restitution to the actual owner of the ax. In that story, Elisha prayed, and the ax head swam (or floated–depending on translation) through the water to him. As Wendy Bagwell would say, “It’s a fact with my hand up.” Click the link to read it for yourself.
After the verses about making restitution for things borrowed, things rented, etc., there are instructions for dealing with a man who desires to take a wife and the value of a bride. And then it goes into some more serious matters, such as the ruling not to allow a sorceress to live. It also says that anyone who participates in bestiality is to be put to death. At that time in history, no one could have known about strains of virus and bacteria that lived in animals without harm but would kills humans. We’ve had to learn the hard way with the spread of things like gonorrhea and AIDS caused by men who thought they could partner up with animals.
The next statement has brought much argument in Christian vs. Athiest circles because it says that anyone who sacrifices to any god other than Yahveh is to be utterly destroyed. But the verse right after it clarifies that this is only talking to those who claim to serve Yahveh because it says not to wrong or oppress a foreigner living with you (Israel) because you were once foreigners in Egypt. And it makes sense that if you are one who claims to be a child of Yahveh Almighty, you know His requirements, and you would be faithful to Him. Otherwise, it would be like allowing your parents to completely support you, but giving all your thanks and obedience to the parents of your next-door neighbor.
The last few verses talk of God’s anger toward those who abuse widows, orphans, and the poor. God tells the people that if they give a loan to a poor person, they are not to charge interest, and if they take the person’s coat for collateral, they are to restore it before sunset when the person will need it for sleeping. Knowing that in those days, and in that culture, there was no welfare and women could not work, means most of the poor were that way by no choice of their own–not even the types of bad choices that put many these days into poor situations. As the reading ends, it says that if the poor person without a coat cries out to God, He will listen because He is compassionate.
I will close by saying that I’m finding it a bit difficult to write on these subjects with all the rulings because there are so many all wrapped up in a few verses, and I don’t want to just type a list of rules. I’ve been praying and looking for the commonalities and the common sense applications while trying to keep things shorter than a novella. If you are reading to the ends of these posts, thank you for your perseverance, and please continue to pray for me as I try to bring my heart about God’s word plus cover all of what is taught in each portion. I appreciate each reader who stops by whether I am aware of your visit or not. Thank you.
In the Proverbs of Solomon, Chapter 11, verse 1, we read (from the Amplified version)…A false balance and unrighteous dealings are extremely offensive and shamefully sinful to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. I think people (made in God’s image) feel something similar. We need to see things in balance to feel like life is working as it should. We desire justice, and most people want to see fairness and equity in all parts of life. It is this need for balance that makes the blood of Yahshua necessary.
Without the blood of Christ, the balance of sin must be paid for with the wages we see in today’s reading from Exodus 21:20 through Exodus 22:3 (4 in other versions) of a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, etc. The rules given in the Scriptures from yesterday and today all lead to that same need for balance. Sadly, too many people think that evil does not need to be recompensed. They think that saying I’m sorry is a recompense for doing wrong. They think having a good excuse for evil doings is reason the evil should not require recompense at all. And, sadly, too many Christians think the blood of Our Savior removes more than just the wages of death, and that repentance should mean they earn a “Get out of jail free” card from a trip to the altar.
Of course, some wages do escape payment by the unmerited favor of God known as grace. I cannot tell you how many issues I should have paid for while I was living in a constantly sinful state. I did things that the laws of the land would have punished with jail time, and I’m certain I’m not alone in that based on many testimonies I’ve heard. But I would never dare to demand that God follow after me with a spiritual “pooper scooper,” cleaning up my messes just because I committed my life to Him. I believe that committing my life to Him makes me that much more responsible for learning what He considers to be a balanced walk of faith and obedience.
When God was giving these rulings to Israel, He was speaking to those who were supposed to be His people; those who desired to live in a way that uplifted and glorified their maker. That said, they had to be told how to keep those things in order. For example, the reading talks of the owner’s responsibilities if one of his animals gores a human being–especially if that animal was known for doing that, and the owner did not properly restrain it. Most of the reading covers common sense ways to keep balance even for those who do not claim to serve Yahveh, such as paying for an animal that falls into a cistern if you were the one to leave the top off of it.
If you decide to read the passage for yourself, refer it to the Scripture I used at first, and remember that God’s ultimate goal is to keep things in balance. Just like we need a balance of faith and works to keep from going in circles as if we were rowing with one oar. The world is balanced with seasons, and our lives are balanced by work and wages, sin and grace, and always by the governing of God who promises to make all things balanced and beautiful in time. (See Ecclesiastes 3:11).
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.
Playing on yesterday’s topic of God being our true Supreme Court, now I’m looking at how to be free from “big government” when it is run by mankind. It’s as simple as following Moses’ example of being more than just a hearer of the words taught to him by his mentor, but being a doer also. Our reading today from Exodus 18:24 through Exodus 18:27 is short enough that I’m going to just print it here.
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
(iii) 24 Moshe paid attention to his father-in-law’s counsel and did everything he said.25 Moshe chose competent men from all Isra’el and made them heads over the people, in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 As a general rule, they settled the people’s disputes — the difficult cases they brought to Moshe, but every simple matter they decided themselves.
27 Then Moshe let his father-in-law leave, and he went off to his own country.
We will find as we read along in the Torah that more and more rules are required for one reason only; that men refuse to govern themselves. Part of governing ourselves requires listening to others with more experience as Moses did to Jethro because he already had experience as a priest. It also includes accountability, which is what was happening when Moses assigned competent men to watch over the people and settle their general disputes. Knowing where we stand as to when we should direct ourselves, when we follow advice from a mentor, and in all ways how to glorify Our Creator in all we do should be our highest goal. Maturity and personal responsibility allows us to fail, as we humans tend to do so often that we need new mercy every morning, and yet to face our failures in light of God’s grace.
Just imagine if all the world did what was right just because it was right and not only because they might be caught doing what was wrong. Imagine people who understand that if something belongs to someone else, it’s not yours to touch, take, or damage. Imagine people who value human life and know it is God who gives us each breath. Imagine if all people would see true freedom as doing things God’s way instead of toward the selfish pleasures of the short-lasting flesh.
I don’t know what our bodies will be like other than like Christ’s perfected and glorious body, but I imagine that if the new Heaven and new Earth have life anything close to how we see it now with bodies and people, the world might line up to these things I listed above. I could see that as a perfect world even with flesh that messes up now and then because our failures so often allow us to see God as the Only One who is perfect. With Yahshua as our Government, we have some precious promises that can be found in Isaiah 9:6. Following the prophecy that a child would be born and the government would be on His shoulders, we have the remaining prophecy that His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In other words, the blessing of our obedience to Him as our Governor is that we will see Him as wonderful, and we will have Him as our counselor, as our Mighty God, as our Everlasting Father, and as our Prince of Peace. Now that’s a big government I can live with.
Genesis 18:19a has The Lord talking to the angels about Abraham and says, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment.”
The first time I read this Scripture, my only thought was, “Can God say this about me?” How blessed to have God testify to the angels that He has found a subject He knows well enough to know the subject’s future holds not only personal lawfulness, but also that the subject will teach lawfulness to others.
Today, my husband and I were in our Torah studies in Leviticus. (We’re a bit behind in the actual portion we should be reading, but we don’t want to skip around and miss valuable information.) For a few weeks now, we’ve been reading about the building of the wilderness tabernacle (also called The Tabernacle of Testimony and another topic I plan to write about). As I was listening to the words about all the laws concerning the tabernacle, sacrifices, offerings, etc., I remembered the words I had read earlier from Genesis and something hit me; these laws came well after God called Abraham a “law keeper.” And then I questioned in my mind, “I wonder what laws of God Abraham was keeping?” I understood, even as I asked, that Abraham was not keeping specific laws, but was keeping a lawful heart.
So, here we are in our current society looking to create law after law after law. Now, the focus is on gun laws (whether or not they violate our country’s foundational Constitution). But the gun laws, like the many other laws that are constantly in motion or discussion these days, are just a symptom. They will not create the answer so many hope they will, because they do not fix the real problem: they do not fix the need for laws in the first place–a need that comes from a general spirit of lawlessness.
How could Abraham have taught those of his household to keep the laws of God when there were none yet given? Because he was not teaching specific laws. He was teaching others to have a lawful heart, and to yield to the instruction of God from pure obedience. Later, it was necessary to create a priesthood and nearly 700 levitical laws to direct people because their hearts had become lawless. And, as so many have noted about these laws, and even many of the laws of our land now, they come with a big dose of bondage.
But imagine if we all strived to keep in our hearts the laws of yielding to a Higher Authority. We would automatically think of others before ourselves. We would not have to be instructed not to lie, steal, cheat, murder, etc. We would not purposely do things to others that we would not want someone doing to us. And if everyone lived that way, we would not need any other laws either from God or from man.
There is freedom in having a lawful heart because we do not need to fall under the bondage and condemnation of external law. Even though we will not be perfect, just as King David was not perfect and failed God multiple times, we can be called people after God’s own heart. And in that way, we will not only be able to say that we know Him, but He can testify to the angels, “I know that one!”
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