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…
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.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says to the children of Israel that He gives them a choice between life and death and between blessing and curse. He follows that choice with the encouragement that they should choose life so that they and their descendants can live.
Obviously, if they choose death, they won’t be alive to bear descendants, but I think there’s even more to this. Remember that among the cursed behavior of these people, they were offering their children to the fires of the false god of Molech. Women actually self-aborted to give their babies to this worthless statue because they thought it would benefit them somehow. So, by choosing God’s blessings instead of continuing to live under the curse of serving false gods, their children received a benefit from God Almighty and from life itself.
I am happy tonight that as of today’s election, we have a majority of conservative senators in power. This means, we have a majority of those who support life for the unborn, life for our military, and life for our allies in Israel. Somehow, more people went to the voting booth and chose life, and I believe God is pleased with the USA–at least for today.
Chip Brodgen’s Infinite Supply newsletter is about life today. It’s about The Tree of Life…
The Cross: The Tree of Life
“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life.”
Like Adam, we can choose to eat from either tree, but we cannot eat from both. Adam sinned when he fell into the flesh and yielded to his Self-life. He rejected the Tree of Life in favor of something that was “good… pleasant… and desirable” (Genesis 3:6). The Cross does not look like a Tree of Life at all. It is neither good, nor pleasant, nor desirable. It looks like death. Perhaps this is why Adam did not eat from it first.
But God’s End is not death, regardless of appearances: God’s End is Life out of death, which is resurrection. To eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life is to glory in the Cross of Jesus Christ and find Life out of death. It is becoming popular to preach and teach about the Cross these days, but how many are eating of its fruit? Can we really see the Cross as the TREE OF LIFE, and are we eating its fruit? We will know a true disciple of the Lord, not by words, but by fruit, and the Cross is the Tree of Life from which this fruit comes.
Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden
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So, from the beginning, free will has never meant that we have a right to choose bad behaviors and still end with good results. It has always been simply that we have a choice between life and death, blessing and cursing. I like the point the author makes about not being able to eat from both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge that brought death. When Adam and Eve chose the tree of death, they were blocked out from the Tree of Life. And, even that was God’s mercy. If they ate from the tree that gave life after choosing from the one that gave death, they would have spent eternity in the state of death. But, once we have overcome through the blood of Yeshua, we will have the chance to eat from the tree that assures us eternal life in that state of overcoming.
Right now, with all the offerings on life’s plate, it may seem hard to know which ones to choose each day. So many of them are in gray areas in our minds because the enemy has strong sales tactics. But, if we can separate what we choose to only two subject headings–life and death–it should be easy to simply choose life.
First, God. Then, God created. That’s the necessary order for the best possible world because without God and His wisdom, creation would be soulless. But God didn’t want soulless creatures that operated like programmed robots, so He created man in His own image. Like God, we have a soul, a spirit, and a body. As it says in Colossians 2:9, For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. And because we are like Him, we can communicate with Him even from our human bodies while living in this temporary world.
Somehow though, today’s world has gotten wrapped up in the pursuit of knowledge instead of operating from the soul God gave us. But, if knowledge and thinking were enough for a good life, we would have no problem sharing our population with androids, and men would not try so desperately to humanize artificial intelligence. We know from the soul God gave us that life requires more, yet we keep trying to shut out that voice of reason as if what brings pleasure in the flesh should have priority. And even when we conquer the flesh, we often prioritize thoughts and feelings over the wisdom of God’s Spirit.
So, here I sit, working on my 402nd post for this blog and desperately wanting to make sure that I write from the leading of God’s Holy Spirit more than my own thoughts and ideas. At the same time, I must trust that because my creativity is also in God’s image, my ideas can come from Him too. I don’t write for readers nearly as much as wanting to write out of obedience and leaving readers in God’s hands. I guess that’s why I might be something of a perfectionist when I write.
Torah season has started again, but I’m not going to do daily updates on portions. I will, however, post a link to the weekly portion in The Complete Jewish Bible at BibleGateway.com for those who want to follow the annual reading schedule. I actually got a week behind, so you can read the full first week’s portion as part of today’s Shabbat (Sabbath) before sundown on Saturday, October 25th. That portion is Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 6:8. The divisions are written in the CJB, and there is a page with the divided readings and links available at Hebcal.com. The name links to the first portion with a list of links to all other portions.
Another great place to learn about the Torah and Hebrew roots of the Christian faith is Hebrew4Christians.com. Save the following links for your year of reading Genesis through Deuteronomy…
Now, speaking of current reading, for this week, the portion is called “Noah” in English and is Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 11:32. With the seven divisions, this can be seen at http://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/noach. And with all that information, I’d say my readers have a chance at a good beginning for their Torah year. I hope you will join me and my husband this year, and please stop in now and then to tell me what you’re getting out of the readings for yourself and your family.
In closing for the day, I want to say that it is because of God’s original plans and designs at the beginning that we get the new beginnings we experience each day. I believe His plans were to make humans in His image for good communications and interactions with Himself, but we sought flesh and soul over His Spirit. Still, even though we pushed Him behind the stuff we have too often made more important than Him, He comes in with mercies that are new every morning. It’s hard to imagine being loved so much that all we have to do is earnestly desire Him and He’s there with open arms no matter what came before, but that’s the truth. And that truth is shown beautifully in the song He Was There All the Time, so enjoy this video. View it at YouTube to find the lyrics in the video description section…
I think everyone goes through dry spells at one time or another. We may feel a bit dried up in our creativity, or we may experience a dryness in our emotions where we just sort of exist for a time without being deeply moved. People have dry spells in business where things just aren’t booming and growing quite the way they desire. What we really don’t want, though, is to end up in a total drought. It’s okay to have to cross the beach to get to the ocean now and then, but an ocean without any water at all is a desert, and it can be pretty hard to survive there.
And speaking of deserts, our reading today from Deuteronomy 29:15 through Deuteronomy 29:28 (in The Complete Jewish Bible; verses 16-29 in non CJB versions) is winding down Israel’s journey through the desert before they cross into The Promised Land. It begins with Moses reminding the people of their journey from Egypt and how the lands they passed through were filled with those who built idols to false gods. Moses tells them to not let there be among them–a man, woman, family or tribe–who heart turns away from Yahveh Almighty to serve the false gods of those other nations.
As Moses continues, he increases his passion against the false gods by saying there should not even be a root of that evil in Israel because it is bitter poison and wormwood. However, he also tells them that if there is such a root, the person who adheres to it has no truth in them. Instead of yielding to warnings of the curses in God’s Torah, that person will tell himself he is fine as he is, even though he will continue to stubbornly do things his own way instead of God’s way. The deluded person will go so far as to tell himself that, event though he is “dry” (sinful), he will be added to the “watered” (righteous).
Now Moses gets fierce. (I can imagine him becoming quite animated and getting his “preacher voice” going.) He tells Israel that God will not forgive that hypocritical person but will blaze against him in fury. He will rain every curse down on him and blot out his name from under Heaven. When the next generations, and foreigners from distant lands, come upon the scene of destruction, they will ask what brought about God’s frenzied and furious anger, and the people will answer, “It’s because they abandoned the covenant of Adonai, the God of their fathers.” They will also tell them, “They went and served other gods, prostrating themselves before them.”
The next part in the passage sounds as if it was written after Israel was removed from the new land and scattered. It says that The Lord, in His fury and anger, threw them out into another land, and it adds, “–as it is today.” I’m not sure when these writings were put in print, but I’m thinking this is long after Israel both entered and exited their place of inheritance. It’s not something to take lightly because we know how much God loved these people and only wanted to give good to them. In the last few verses, Moses reminds the people that there are hidden things that remain with God but revealed things that belong to God’s people and their children forever, so that they can keep the words of His Torah forever.
Like so many other passages in Israel’s history, I can see the development of Christians in their walk before God as well. Those hidden “things” in God are likely another word for understandings since there isn’t actually a Hebrew word for “things” or “stuff” or other words like them. God has a bundle of understanding that He longs to share with those who love Him, so they (we) can follow Him in obedience. As it is written in the 27th verse of the 10th chapter of John (Amplified Bible)…
The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.
If we are His sheep, we hear His voice, so we should be listening and following Him. Even though we may cross through deserts, He will lead us from stream to stream, so we can refresh ourselves in Him. We have promises that will help us through the dry places like…
- Ephesians 5:26 (CEV), He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water.
- Psalm 51:2 (AMP), Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin!
- 1 Corinthians 6:11 (CJB), Some of you used to do these things. But you have cleansed yourselves, you have been set apart for God, you have come to be counted righteous through the power of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and the Spirit of our God.
And, above all else, we have daily mercy to help us through even the driest times and places. We may go through a dry spell, but we don’t have to go through a drought. I’ll end with this wonderful praise from Lamentations 3:22-23 from The Message Bible…
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
How many things on this earth can bring both a blessing and a curse? Time most definitely fits that description. When it runs out too fast, it can send people to their knees as they beg for more. When one has lived a long and prosperous life, he may go to his grave singing praises to God for all his days on earth. Fire is another thing that fits. When it warms us or allows us to cook, it’s a great blessing, but when it burns or causes pain or loss, we may wish it never existed.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:26 through Deuteronomy 12:9 (the portion changes at 10, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ll add verse 10 tomorrow) we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 47 is called Re’eh in Hebrew and means “see” in English. It begins with the sentence, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” Moses continues with a description of the blessing and the curse and how Israel can receive the one they want.
The blessing, Moses tells them, comes from honoring and keeping all the laws of God that he is giving them before they cross into The Promised Land. The curse comes if they don’t listen, and especially if they turn aside to follow other gods. The blessing is to be kept on Mount Gerizim, and the curse on Mount Ebal. Both mountains are west of the Jordan River, where the sun sets in the land of the Canaanites. I find it interesting that they are both in the new land of promise, and both are in close proximity to each other.
Moses tells Israel to be watchful to keep the ordinances of God, and then he tells them of the laws concerning how they are to deal with the people in the land they are getting ready to take possession of. He tells them they are to destroy every place, whether high on a mountain or under a tree, where the nations before them have worshipped other gods. He also tells them to break down and crush their altars, graven images, and pillars that are built to other gods, and he tells them to burn all the poles they set up to honor the false gods. He tells them to totally exterminate the names of the false gods from the new land.
After telling them to destroy all that is against God, Moses tells the people to make sure not to treat Yahveh Almighty that way, but instead, they are to come to the place where He designates for His Name, and there they will worship Him. He will choose the place, and they are to seek it out. When they find it, they are to bring all their sacrifices and offerings there. And then Moses tells them something that sort of shocked me. He tells them that life will be very different for them on the other side of the Jordan River because they will no longer be able to live doing things their own way as each sees fit. While I thought they were already under the law, apparently they were not. Moses tells them that they weren’t yet required to change things because they had not yet arrived at the rest and inheritance God promised them.
I can see a correlation in these proclamations from Moses to Israel. In life, before we begin serving God, we are not under the same set of directions as we are once we have entered into His rest. Those who are not yet serving Him are not expected to honor His word the same as those of us who have claimed Him as our Lord, but that doesn’t take them off the hook for their sin. The wages of sin are death. This makes it clear why we should present reasons for people to leave their lives of sin and live for God. We can’t condemn them for living opposite a word they do not yet trust, but we can’t let them feel okay and comfortable living in opposition to God either.
Brenda, a friend and fellow writer, says it well when she explains why all people on earth are not the children of God. She points out how ridiculous it would be to invite a stranger into your home just because the person says he or she is family. You need proof. God wants evidence that people truly want to be in His family too. I imagine that some of the people God and Israel are driving out of the new land are nice people. They might have been the sort of people the media would now do stories about, telling the world how we must be kind to them because they are humans and have rights like the rest of us. But God Almighty was looking at their hearts and how they were sold out to false gods.
The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword as it divides the false from the truth. God loves all people and desires to see all people saved, but that doesn’t mean that He’s suddenly okay with people rejecting Him–whether they do it on their own or in His holy name. His mercy does not make allowance to keep sinning, it makes allowance to repent before it’s too late.
God’s mercy is a blessing, but for those who refuse to even try to seek Him, that mercy will become a curse when they miss out on it because of their rejection of the gift. Scripture tells us in Acts 17:30-31 (English Standard Version) that there were times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent before the Day of Judgment in Christ. Even those already living in the land of promise had to make a decision about whom to serve. Even those of us already claiming to live according to God’s promised blessings must choose Him each day. Salvation is more than accepting God one time and then forgetting our promise, it’s about refusing to reject Him for the rest of eternity. Let God’s mercy be a blessing and not a curse to you by keeping your heart wrapped up in His gifts every day.
Accidents aren’t always bad things. In the image above, the photographer was trying to set up for a sunset he planned to capture in a few moments when he accidentally hit the shutter and snapped the picture. Once he looked at it and realized how good it was (except for the lens flare in the middle), he shared the unedited masterpiece on purpose. When I finally gave my heart to The Lord, it was sort of an accident that I’m glad to say has become a purposeful walk in His presence for 31 years as of today. I was bribed to visit the church, and I only knelt down because that’s what everyone else was doing, so I accidentally got myself into a position to be prayed for by a group of women who gathered around me because they thought I was repenting. That accident quieted me enough to hear the voice of God, so He could speak to my heart.
In today’s reading from Numbers 35:9 through Numbers 35:34 (the end of the chapter), we read about accidental events that lead people to cities of refuge. I spoke of the cities yesterday but only of their existence, not their purpose. Today, God speaks to Moses to detail what people are able to live within the borders of those cities. Because in God’s law the next of kin can rightfully kill a person who has killed his or her relative, a location of safety needed to be set up for those who killed someone accidentally.
This portion of the reading gives examples of accidental killings such as shoving someone without being angry or throwing something that accidentally hits the person, and the end result is death. It also lists purposeful things that cannot be claimed as accidents, such as hitting someone with a piece of iron or a large rock. Even a person who strikes another with his own hand, if the hit is in anger and it results in death, the person is considered a murderer and eligible to be put to death.
If it is determined that a person killed someone accidentally, the killer is permitted to live in a city of refuge either until a trial or until the death of the high priest. If the killer comes out of the city before either of these events, he takes his own life in his hands because he makes himself subject to the next of kin avenger. If it cannot be determined that the death was purposeful, it will be considered an accident because in order to accuse someone of murder, there must be two or more witnesses. The testimony of one witness is not sufficient enough to put someone to death.
As the reading closes, God also warns people that if a person has actually committed a murder, no one is to take a bribe from them to say it was an accident and allow them to live in a city of refuge. The killer must be put to death. Also, no one must receive a bribe to allow a person to leave the city of refuge before the death of the priest. These things that would allow a killer to go free in any way cannot be permitted because blood defiles the land. A price must be paid for it, and it cannot be allowed to defile the land because the presence of Yahveh lives in the land with His people, Israel.
The statements about an avenging next of kin being required to balance the scales by killing the murderer tells me that God absolutely requires balance in all things. The chaos in our present society is due to the lack of that balance. We have killers and liars that get away with their crimes. We have people who represent justice who will change their rulings for the right amount of money. And, we have a whole lot of people with the mindset that if the excuse is good enough, or the procedure of apprehension and conviction doesn’t dot every “i” and cross every “t,” the person who committed the crime should go free. Yikes! Fortunately, when the law operates as it should, witness testimony is still considered the strongest proof just as it is here.
Let me mention here that while we have an “accuser of the brethren” that seeks to testify against children of God and try to get them condemned to Hell, we also have God’s justice system that requires two witnesses. I believe the other witness would have to be the accused. In other words, just because the adversary wishes for you to perish, if you stand against the accusations and curses, you stand strong in Christ. No one will be lost just because the enemy desires his soul. A person will have to give up his soul by refusing to repent and place his sins under the blood of Yeshua. At the judgment seat, those two witnesses (satan and the accused) will testify, so no one will be able to claim it’s an accident if his name is not in The Lamb’s Book of Life.
Today is the day of salvation. If you have never truly repented for the sin you were born into in this flesh, walk now into the city of refuge that was built for you on the foundation of God’s mercy. It is not His will for any to perish, so He provides a way for you to escape the death sentence that is the penalty for sin. It was no accident that Christ went to the cross for “whosoever will,” and it is no accident if you are reading this post and have not yet committed your life to God. Let all the accidents of your life–loss, pain, suffering, depression, unfairness, or whatever has plagued you in this life–be a catalyst for purpose, and may you turn today and walk forever in the mercy and grace of Yeshua HaMashiach. Amen.
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.
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.
First, before I get into today’s Torah commentary, let me pass along a blessing to you that your Thanksgiving providence will be with you throughout the next year, and that you will always know and trust Yahveh Almighty as your Creator and Provider. I had a wonderful day with friends and family (and food, of course) at Joe Huber Family Farm and Restaurant. I still feel stuffed, and I didn’t even eat any stuffing because I’m a potato person. Stovetop Stuffing never would have used me in their stuffing vs. potatoes commercials. Comment if you remember those though, and tell me how you would vote.
Okay, so on to today’s reading from Genesis 39:7 through Genesis 39:23–the end of the chapter. I actually think this should have included verse 6 where it talked about Joseph being a good-looking man since that’s where everything in today’s reading branches off from. Potiphar’s wife noticed him and asked him over and over to sleep with her. Now, I don’t know if it counts when it’s the boss’s wife, but this was most certainly a case of sexual harassment. It got so bad that Joseph did everything he could to stay away from her.
One day, none of the other employees were in the house, and Joseph had to go in to do his day’s work. But Mrs. Potiphar was there, and she set in after Joseph again. This time, however, she became hands-on with him. He told her that it would not only be a violation of the trust her husband placed in him, but it would also be a sin against God for him to sleep with her. Finally, to get away, he had to take off his robe and leave it in her hands. Unfortunately, this gave her the perfect tool for revenge against Joseph for his rejection of her.
Mrs. Potiphar set Joseph up by screaming until she got the attention of others and then telling the story that Joseph tried to rape her and that she took his robe when he ran away due to her screaming. Her husband believed her and had Joseph locked away where the king’s prisoners were kept. I’m guessing it was much like some of our minimum-security prisons now because the warden paid little attention to Joseph and pretty much let him have his freedom there. Eventually, even the warden saw that God was with the man and gave him reign over the other prisoners.
Yahveh was with Joseph even in his imprisonment, and His presence was noticeable even to others. I believe God knew the heart of Potiphar’s wife, and He used her predator personality to put Joseph in a situation where He could bring about a blessing that would change the world for Joseph and many others. Somehow, through it all, we are not reading that Joseph fought for his innocence, his personal rights, justice, or his desire to be treated fairly. Somehow, I’m guessing the presence of his God was enough for him, and maybe God was even comforting him by letting him know that all would work toward a good end. I wrestle with the need for balance, justice, and equity in my life, but Joseph found his in The Lord. I’ll file this in my lessons to take to heart. How about you?
P.S. Here’s another ApologetiX video that encapsulates the life of Joseph–including today’s story portion. It’s called “Somebody Sold Me” and it is a parody of the song “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers…
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.
With all the shorter readings earlier in the week, today’s reading from Genesis 19:21 through Genesis 21:4 was a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in the story until I got to verse 37 of the first chapter in the reading. But let me start with the background.
The angels have granted that Lot would not have to run to the hills where he was afraid to go and have allowed him to go to a small city called Zoar. But, after Lot got there with his daughters (minus his wife because she turned back toward the destruction and became a pillar of salt), he became afraid that somehow people might know that he had favor to escape God’s judgment and would try to kill him. He ran for the hills he tried to avoid.
While he was hiding there, his daughters decided that, since all their brothers were now incinerated, it was their job to carry on the family name. They got their father completely drunk, and both of them went to him to become pregnant without him knowing about it. This has never been my favorite story. I don’t like that kind of drunkenness, and I think it’s pretty gross for the daughters to even make that kind of decision. But then I learned something particularly interesting in verse 37. It says, “The older bore a son, and named him Moab [of a father]; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”
So, why does it matter that the oldest daughter is the mother of the Moabites? Well, do you remember the sweet story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was a Moabitess. She had married one of Naomi’s sons and after becoming widowed, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. This is where we get that oft-repeated “where you go, I will go” statement made between friends. But Ruth also told Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” And this is where it gets good.
In Matthew 1:5, in the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus, you’ll find Ruth in the lineage of our Messiah, Jesus. So, we start with Abraham whose belief is counted to him for such righteousness that God even has mercy on a nephew who lived in the midst of a vile city. Then, after Lot runs and his daughters engage in incest with him, a child from that unholy union produces a lineage that includes a daughter who goes from curse to blessing and finds herself carrying the grandfather of King David. It is a beautiful and amazing story of mercy and redemption, and it encourages me that even from destruction, fear, and debased situations, God can bring His Perfect Light out from the midst of darkness. Wow!
In our homes, if we have a family member that routinely violates the law and the respect of other household members, we will usually find that our households feel like places of chaos and unhappiness. Even when that family member no longer lives with the family, the strain is heavy. We call for interventions. If we pray, we call our prayer-warrior friends and ask them to bring the situation to God. We plead for God to have mercy on the soul of the disobedient one, but we also pray that somehow the rebellion will stop, so we can have peace. And in those situations where a positive change takes place, we are grateful for whatever it took to bring it about and for having our families back in order and harmony.
In today’s reading from Genesis 18:15 through Genesis 18:33, we learn the real reason the three men stopped by Abraham’s homestead; to bring peace to a chaotic situation. There was a cry of help rising from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People created in the image of God were in trouble. They were victimized. They were miserable. Like Abel’s blood crying to God from the ground, this creation was crying to The Creator from the depths of misery. And Yahveh God grabbed a couple of warrior angels and headed to earth to deal with it. As the story continues, God talks with the angels about letting Abraham in on the details of the mission. God said He wanted to include Abraham in His plans because of the strong future he had in front of him. Maybe God also thought it would be good to share with Abraham out of respect for his nephew’s family that still lived there–especially since the mission included the destruction of the city because of the abundance of wickedness.
Now Abraham, like any loving family member, begins to plead with God on behalf of the possibility of righteous men having to pay a price for the deeds of the wicked. He even says to God, “Far be it from You to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” Of course, he was likely imagining that Lot and his family were righteous since they were raised up that way, and maybe he even thought they were stuck in the depths of that horrible place. So begins the conversation between God and Abraham about just how many righteous men would have to dwell there in order for the city to be saved.
Eventually, Abraham brings the number all the way down to ten people. God tells him that even if there are ten righteous people there, He will spare the city. Of course, we know the outcome of that, so we can be sure there were not even ten righteous men living there. It was like the wrong side of the tracks on the wrong side of the tracks–all the wickedness gathered into one bad place. But even with all that evil, God would have been prepared to have mercy on them if He could have found ten people who could lift Him up as a light in the darkness. He is just that merciful. And He let Abraham pose scenario after scenario until even Abraham knew the situation in the place was hopeless.
There are days when I look at the behaviors of people that just don’t make sense, and I know God must be sparing this whole earth just for the righteous on its face. I know He is strained at the cry of the victims against those who kill, steal, and destroy for whatever evil reason they can justify–and often just because they don’t care. I know God grieves even more than I do over the pain of the righteous and the innocent as we live out these last days where men are calling good evil and evil good. And I know God longs to bring those who love Him to that promised place of eternity with Him. But, for now, we have to trust that He is sparing the earth because there are still enough righteous people who follow their Creator and will bring His light to a lost and dying world. Let us ask Him to continue to help us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. And if we have unsaved family and friends, we can praise God for His mercy as He delays His return and His judgment for the sake of the righteous.
Finish the sentence: I have been obedient in spite of… Think about the times when you have been challenged to believe something, but you acted on what you were told and did the right thing anyway. Especially think about the times when you marched forward to obey God in faith in spite of fear, a battle with unbelief, bad previous events, or whatever else. For Abraham (renamed at the end of the last section), he challenged God on a lot of subjects, but when it was all said and done, he still obeyed God. Somewhere, deep inside, even when he was challenged, he still believed. Back in Genesis 15:6, and then repeated in Romans 4:3, we are told that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Today, in Genesis 17:7 through Genesis 17:27, we read about God’s continued promises to Abraham to bless him. God tells him He will bless his land and his people through future generations. He renames his wife from Sarai, meaning “mockery,” to Sarah, meaning “princess.” It’s a wonderful bit of blessing and promise. But, when God tells Abraham that these promises are still going to come through his own seed and through his wife, Abraham falls on his face and laughs. That’s a big laugh. Abraham’s diary could have said ROTFLOL and truly meant it. 😀
Okay, so Abraham had good arguments for God, like wondering why the seed couldn’t come through Ishmael since he was already born, but the part that had him rolling on the floor with laughter was the idea that he could physically do what was needed to create a child when he was 100 and his wife was 90. Be honest, if your great-grandparents told you they were having a baby, wouldn’t you laugh? It reminds me of the salt and pepper shaker set where the old man scratches his head while looking at his gray-haired and pregnant wife. Her apron reads, “You and your once more for old times sake.” If you want to see a picture, someone is selling the set on eBay.
So Abraham is basically saying to God, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But here’s what’s so cool about it. God doesn’t get mad at Abraham and change His mind. He doesn’t threaten to give the promise to someone else. Because, as I’ve said before, God knows our form. (Thankfully!) But God showed that He too has a sense of humor by telling Abraham that he had to name is son, Isaac, the Hebrew word for laughter. He was not going to let Abraham forget that he doubted that all things are possible with God. But do you imagine that Abraham ever looked on the face of that precious infant, or growing boy, and felt bad about laughing? I imagine that instead, he chuckled a bit, smiled, and offered up a high praise to a God who is truly there for us in spite of our weaknesses, foibles, failures, and yes, even our laughter when we don’t think He can do what looks to be the impossible. May God give each of us a personal reminder that will help us continue to obey Him in spite of fighting whatever tries to stop us from it.
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.
Today’s reading from Genesis 9:18 through Genesis 10:32 is a bit longer, and it is so because it’s another chapter that covers a bunch of genealogy. This time, it’s the genealogies from the sons of Noah from whom the entire earth was repopulated after the flood. But before it gets into the genealogies, this chapter tells a story of excess, drunkenness, and disrespectful behavior.
Noah was a farmer, so after getting off the boat, he planted a vineyard. From the fruit of his labors, he drank a bit too much wine (it is easy to go overboard when you have gone without something for a very long time) and passed out in his tent. I’m guessing his robes came undone, or the wine made him warm, and he stripped them off, but for whatever reason, he was laying there completely naked. What happened next changed the future of many people groups.
Noah’s youngest son, Ham, happened by his father’s tent. Instead of backing out and respecting him, he ran to tell his brothers all about it. Now remember, the sons who entered the ark were married men and their wives, so this was a full-grown married man running off to make fun of his father to other full-grown married men. I think there is likely much more to the story, but here’s what I see: The states of mind before the flood were not only lacking any direction toward God, but they were so selfish, they were immature. Learning to care for others instead of just yourself takes time and maturity, so selfish people often act childish by being demanding, having temper tantrums, and/or being just plain silly. I think Ham came on board with the mindset of those who had just been destroyed. Maybe all but Noah boarded that way, but I believe Ham “missed the boat” mentally and emotionally when he did not learn a lesson by watching the end result of that evil behavior. And that childish behavior caused problems from his son, Canaan, on down the line because Ham did not create a legacy of maturity and obedience that could be taught through the generations.
As with all of God’s stories though, there is always some good news to find. In this case, it was the two older brothers who walked backward with a blanket and covered their father’s nakedness instead of making fun of him. Were they mature because they were older, or had they matured as a result of the last year and the lesson learned from the destruction of mankind? It’s hard to tell, but in a literal way, they fulfilled Proverbs 10:12 where it says, “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions” (Amplified Bible). The immature son disrespected his father, and hated him enough to try to stir things up against him in the hearts of his brothers. But his brothers loved their father and chose instead to cover his transgressions. I also like the way this is stated in 1 Peter 4:8 (Amp)….”Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].”
We have a Savior who feels love toward us, so when given the choice to mock our sins and put them on public display for punishment, He chose instead to cover us–with His own body and blood. He took the public display, the mocking, and the punishment on Himself. And because mercy and love is more powerful than punishment and hate, we have the promise that His love covers our sins, not only unto the third and fourth generation (as it is with those who hate God), but unto thousands of generations of those that love God and keep His commandments. (See Exodus 20:6).
The reading for today is all in Genesis 9 and is a very short set of verses from 8 through 17. Noah, his family, and the animals are off the boat. Noah has offered the first sacrifice to show his thankfulness for their salvation. And now, with this family ready to replenish the earth, God has made a promise, and he has given a sign for that promise that we still see today; the rainbow.
I downloaded an image I really like by rwangsa at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwangsa/452128709/)…
You know, there are many gods out there that people try to please with various works, but most of them are just trying to get those gods to carry them to an eternal paradise. They will give it all for a promise that may or may not be true. But our God and Creator, Yahveh Almighty, has promised us so much more than an eternity in paradise. He has plans so awesome that He says they haven’t even found a way to enter into our thoughts or imaginations.
I was talking with a friend today, and we were discussing what we have with God that so many others do not have with their gods. The greatest thing we have of course is His Love. It’s not just an end game, but a gift He desires to shower on us in every moment. He wants us to trust Him so much that you will see many covenants He makes with His people throughout Scripture. This covenant in today’s reading is not only a promise, but a promise that comes with a sign both to us and to Him. He says that when we see it, we can remember His promise to us. And He says that whenever He brings clouds upon the earth, He Himself will see the sign and remember His promises. It’s like two best friends that tie a string around each others’ wrists or pinky fingers to remind the other that they will be best friends forever. God is our best Friend, a covenant Friend and a covenant God, who will be there for us…forever! Hallelu-Yah!!!
This is my first post from my phone app since I know I will not get home on time. I’m thankful I have this option.
Now, to continue on with the story of Noah. In today’s reading from Genesis 8:15 through Genesis 9:7, he and all living things from the ark are finally getting to come out and restart life on earth. I don’t imagine life trapped inside the ark for almost a year was pleasant. Yet, the first thing Noah did when he exited the ark was to build an altar and give an offering to the One who saved him and his family. There’s no record of what Noah thanked God for, but I imagine it was an extensive list. If I were Noah, just some items from my list would be…
- Thank You for looking at me with grace;
- Thank You for saving me from destruction;
- Thank You for being my Provider and sustaining me for all those months;
- Thank You for saving my family;
- Thank You that I know You Yahveh Almighty.
Whatever Noah thanked God for, that smell of his thankful offering went up as a sweet aroma to God and was pleasing to Him. And I believe that sweet aroma was more about the offering of thanksgiving that came from Noah’s heart and mouth than it was from anything that burned upon the fire. I believe this because of the new testament verses that tell us that the sacrifice of our praise goes up as a sweet-smelling aroma to God. I can compare this to how I respond to the smell of something grilling on a barbecue. Even when I’ve just eaten and am full, I could sit downwind of the aroma of a barbecue and just enjoy it as it wafts in my direction. If our praise smells even close to that good to God, no wonder He is enthroned on the praises of His people.
Not only was I out and about after reading today’s portion from Genesis 3:22 through 4:26 (end of chapter 4), I was driving, so I couldn’t do the entry from my phone app as I intended to do on days when I’m running. I just got home and looked at the clock, so time is short, which means I’ll have to keep this short. But I’m determined to make my best effort to write every day.
Yesterday, the Scripture ended with man and woman knowing they were naked and sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. And then God shed the first blood to cover them completely. It was only after I began studying the Hebrew roots of my faith and falling in love with the old testament that I saw God in a new and merciful light, and this is the first place I saw Him that way. I had always believed in God as the “Big Meanie” in the old testament who got nice when He robed Himself in flesh in the new testament. But now, I see Him wanting to visit with Adam and Eve, and feeling pain because of the sin that has now divided them. Scripture says that for God, associating with the flesh is “strife” ( see Genesis 6:3), and He will not have it that way forever.
So, here is God with the new creation, the ones He called “very good,” and it’s hurting Him to even visit with them. What does He do? He causes Himself a bit more pain by slaying yet another of that which He has created, so the blood can temporarily cover the sin and allow Him to fellowship with them once more. I believe He hurt over killing that animal even more than most animal lovers would hurt. I don’t think it was a small thing for Him with that sacrifice or any sacrifice He demanded later. But it was a necessary sacrifice in order for God to participate in the lives of those He made in His very own image.
As this reading begins, we have God setting up angels to guard the “Tree of Life” to make sure that mankind cannot touch it and eat and live forever. That is a huge act of mercy because had they eaten from that tree after being in the sinful state caused by their eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have been doomed to live in that terrible state forever. Imagine having a front row seat to all the darkness and evil in the world and having to sit and watch it forever. That would have been their fate if God had not intervened with His mercy. Yahveh God purposely caused the knowledge of evil to shorten their lives, so they would not have to live forever in hopelessness. Not only is that a great mercy from Him, it is still only the beginning of what He would do to give hope and a future to those who love Him. Amazing!
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