Do you remember the days of youth when personal decisions were not totally our own? We had to ask an adult for almost every plan we wanted to make. We often thought how we couldn’t wait to grow up, so we could do things without asking.
As adults, we don’t have much more freedom than we did in youth because we have a whole new lineup of authorities that want us to get their permissions. On one hand, people will tell us to follow our hearts, and on the other, some will try to make us feel guilty for acting without seeking their opinions. Of course, we should seek opinions when our actions will affect others, but sometimes we’ve got to listen more to a “Higher Power.” In the Infinite Supply for November 16th, Chip Brogden speaks of Paul’s call to ministry and what permissions he needed to move forward.
No Permission Needed
“When it pleased God… to reveal His Son in me…I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me.”
Paul did not seek credentials, ordination, or affiliation with a human organization. He did not wait for anyone to confirm the call on his life. He did not seek for hands to be laid on him. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ was renegade enough, but to preach the gospel to the Gentiles was a departure from the norm for the Christians at that time. It would later prove to be quite controversial and divisive. Prudence would dictate that it would be better to check with the other apostles and get their opinion and feedback before striking out in a new direction. Yet, Paul says once he obtained revelation he had no need to confer with flesh and blood.
Why? Because he was a maverick, an independent spirit, a rebel? No, it is only because the Revelation of Jesus is sufficient guidance. Flesh and blood cannot add to or take away from the Revelation.
Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden
©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears. Share this message with your friends!
Have you ever felt called or inspired by God to make a move in a particular direction? In any of those times, did you second-guess that call and seek the opinions or permissions of others first? I know I have, and sometimes it has stopped me from moving in obedience to God. I remember a time when I even stopped myself from praying for a girl in public because I was afraid my pastor at the time would not approve. I regret that, but I also know that time is in God’s hands, so I trust He sent someone to her in my place.
In our walks with God, there should always be balance. That means, we will have things that require permission, and maybe opinions. It also means there will be times when we must move forward in faith to what God speaks to our spirit. Sometimes, what He speaks might be to wait or stop, but whatever we do, obedience to His Holy Spirit is what matters most. As Chip says above, obeying God without seeking permission from men does not make us rebellious to people, it just makes us fully obedient to God.
God’s ordination is far more valuable than any ordination or permission, but if we’re not sure we’re hearing from Him, we will need to seek flesh and blood for confirmation. Here’s how Paul states it in 2 Peter 1:10 (NKJV)…
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.
Never stumble; wow. What a promise. But if we are His sheep, we will know our Shepherd Yeshua’s voice, and we can be sure of His calling to us when He speaks. If we are sure we’ve heard from The Lord (if so, our direction should also line up with Scripture), we can move as He leads. May our hearts and actions say as the song below, “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.”
I have been a subscriber to the Infinite Supply newsletter since 2009, and it has been a source of strength to me more than once. For November, I will share Chip’s posts and add my commentary. He gives reprint permissions as long as I include the copyright (below). I am doing this in case I decide to go forward with writing for National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) which demands nearly 1700 words per day. It will be more for me since I’m already starting a day late, but I’m not yet certain about my plans. If nothing else, I may at least try to do some work on my original novel every day this month, so that will still need extra time I don’t normally schedule as a daily activity.
From my Infinite Supply Newsletter by Chip Brogden of The School of Christ–November 1st…
Today, Chip’s subject is from Matthew 6:13…
The Glory is His
“Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.”
There is a Remnant of called-out ones who have seen the Glory of the Son and WILL seek the interests of God’s Only Begotten One. In a time when men solicit the glory and honor and power from one another, there is a Holy Nation of priests and kings who will give the Son the glory He deserves, declaring, “YOURS IS THE GLORY, we will render to You, and to You alone, the glory due Your Name.”
Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears. Share this message with your friends!
This is a shorter one, but I love how the author always brings out some deeper nugget of truth from even just a short Bible verse. Of course, if you view the longer books and articles, there is even more depth, so I highly recommend a visit to his site, a subscription to his Infinite Supply newsletter, and whatever free downloads and PDF studies he offers.
As for today’s message, making sure God gets the proper glory can sometimes be difficult. Notice that I said proper glory. Some people brag on themselves and append all the bragging with some sort of “Glory to God” statement that makes it appear they are giving God the glory. Some others never make the work of their hands known for fear they will take away from God’s glory. Where we want to be is in balance between the two, and while wrestling with this human flesh, that’s not always easy.
How do we market ourselves and promote the products of the creative gifts God has given us without saying something positive about ourselves? We can’t. But, if we don’t speak up, or employ others to speak up for us, won’t we be hiding our talents under a bushel? And how do we justify self-promotion with the Scripture from Proverbs 27:2 that says to “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.”? I believe all those questions are answered by what is going on in our hearts.
Does your heart seek to uplift God and give Him the glory because you know He alone deserves it? Are you so enamored with God’s provisions and blessings on your life that you can’t imagine your life without Him? That you know you wouldn’t even breathe in and out without Him? Do you feel awkward if you promote yourself because you know you walk in obedience to God and only function in His gifts because He is leading you? If you answer yes to these things, then you should be fine. Remember, He judges on our hearts. Other men may believe us or not, and even our own hearts may deceive us, but He knows the truth from the depths of our souls.
And so much for shorter writing by starting with reblogging someone else’s work. 🙂 Well, maybe I wrote a little less. Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think if you visit The School of Christ or subscribe to Chip’s newsletter. Also, I’d love your thoughts on whether I should start a new NaNo novel or work on my Cloudy Days on Sunshine Street novel every day for the month of November. God bless you all as you seek to glorify Him and walk in obedience to His Holy Spirit.
Trivia comes from the Latin word trivium and means “The place where three roads meet.” Currently, we define trivia as pieces of information and details that are unimportant or meaningless. Somehow, a place where one must decide which of three roads to take doesn’t seem unimportant or meaningless, so I’m not sure how the root word could lead to the current definition. Decisions on a path to follow are definitely not trivial to me. How about you?
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:44 through Deuteronomy 32:52, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all who read along and study with me and with God’s holy word. As we complete this week, we also complete the Song of Moses as God has been dictating to him throughout the entirety of Chapter 32. This song/poem is God’s testimony against the people of Israel who will follow after false gods in the future. When future generations read the writings, they will not be able to say that their ancestors were ignorant of the costs of their actions.
Moses speaks the words to all the people of Israel and to Joshua the son of Nun who is called “Hoshea” here for some reason. When he finishes speaking, he tells the people to take the words to heart. He says they should use them to direct their children to be faithful and obedient to the words of Torah. He tells them, “This is not a trivial matter for you; on the contrary, it is your life!” He says the obedience of God’s word will grant them a long life in the land they are about to inherit on the other side of Jordan.
When Moses finishes speaking to the people, God begins speaking to him. God tells Moses to go up to the top of Mt. Nebo to be gathered to his people in death. He tells Moses that He will be able to look on The Promised Land, but he will not be able to enter it. God explains that it is the same for Moses as it was for his brother, Aaron. Both of them had to die instead of being able to enter the land of promise because their disobedience failed to demonstrate God’s holiness among the people of Israel.
All of the Torah that God gave to Moses shows that God’s word and God’s will are not trivial things. Obedience is not trivial. Holiness is not trivial. The plans that God has made to have a people that would follow Him are not trivial plans, and His plans for an eternity with these people are not trivial. God is a dreamer. His word tells us that our hearts have not even conceived how great God’s plans are for us.
We humans may think we are big dreamers. We may even think we have great imaginations. I know I love many of the imaginative thoughts that occupy my mind. Oh, but what we create in our minds or on this earth cannot be compared to all that God has created and still plans to create. Our biggest ideas are trivial compared to God’s smallest ideas. Isaiah 55:8-9, in The Complete Jewish Bible, puts it this way…
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Sometimes, we may think it’s difficult to keep walking in the ways of The Lord, but His word tells us that it’s the way of the transgressor that’s hard. Matthew 11:30 (CJB) says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He knows our battles on this earth, and He wants to help us through them, but He will not bless us if we are not holy and obedient to Him because it can harm us. Like hardened soil that only builds a harder crust from the rain, if God blesses us when our hearts are hard toward Him, it can make it more difficult to reach us later. It is when we break up that hardened (fallow) ground (by repentance) that His blessings can penetrate and grow what He has planted in us.
When we come upon a choice in life, especially a choice of which path to take, let us seek God and His perfect will for us. Seeking God’s path for our lives is important because only He sees the ends of our directions and the results of our decisions. His grace makes a way on to God’s path, and His mercy gives us the strength to keep walking in it. If we seek Him, we will hear His voice. As it says in Isaiah 30:21 (CJB), we will hear a voice that says, “This is the way; stay on it.” This should convince you that seeking and following God’s will is not such a trivial pursuit.
Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)
Vision gives us reason to go forward like a finish line gives a runner purpose to keep running. Vision tells us where we should be headed and helps us establish our purpose in life. Without reason, life is simply chaotic. It has no destination, no purpose, and no finish line. How can we know which way to go without a destination? And how can we reach our destination without a map that shows us how to get there?
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:15 through Deuteronomy 30:20, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. As we conclude the chapters for this week’s portion, we find Moses presenting Israel with a choice. First, he tells them to look at him, so I’m guessing he’ll be animating his hands to signify the two choices he will present. “On one hand,” says Moses, “there is life and good. On the other hand, there is death and evil.” Since they are likely between the two mountains and within hours of the shouts of blessings and curses, he may even be pointing to each mountain as he illustrates that Israel must choose one hand or the other.
As Moses continues, he tells them it’s not really a choice in what they do but a choice in what end they will achieve. Because he wants them to achieve life (just as God wants for them and for us), he orders them to follow God and His ways. He tells them that if they obey God’s commandments, laws, and rulings; God will extend their lives, increase their numbers, and bless them in the land they are about to enter. He lays out the direction, the finish line, and the prize.
Moses then shows the “prize” if Israel chooses the other option. He tells them that if their hearts turn away from Yahveh Almighty, they refuse to listen, and they prostrate themselves before false gods; they will perish, and they will not live long on the other side of Jordan. Verses 19 and 20 offer a summary with some familiar words for us…
“I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him — for that is the purpose of your life!”
At the end of the last verse, Moses tells them that their decision is the foundation that will determine how long they live in the land promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
While vision is necessary to move forward, God’s vision is what we need to move forward in the right direction. Without God’s vision, we are forced to choose from among innumerable ideals, thoughts, and destinations. Some may move us in a general direction of good; some may only look good but lead straight to destruction. To guarantee that we are not blind followers of blind leaders, we must make certain our vision is directly from God. Without His vision, we are certain to perish.
God has set before us His finish line, His destination, and His prize. Unlike most of the races people run in this life, the prize isn’t reserved only for the fastest or the first to cross. All we must do to obtain God’s prize is get across the finish line. If we stay on the path God has chosen for us and mapped out in His holy word, we will reach the destination He has prepared: an eternity in His presence and glory. We may falter, but we can get back up. We may fail, but we can repent. But, no matter what, if we keep God’s goal and vision in mind, if we don’t quit, and if we just keep running to the end, we will have achieved the purpose for our life.
Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) to you, my readers, and may you walk humbly before God Almighty today and always. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful classic poem (video with narration) called The Race…
When you’re married, sometimes you speak in a language that only belongs to you and your spouse. For me and my husband, that can mean all sorts of things, but one of the things it sometimes means is backward talk. For example, instead of saying, “I understand,” one or the other of us might say, “I stand under.” I’m also fond of saying, “KO” instead of “OK.” I don’t know why.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:9 through Deuteronomy 29:11, we begin a new week and a new portion. The Hebrew title for this portion, Parashah 51, is Nitzavim, and it means “Standing” in English. This portion also begins another leap-year reading, so a few of the sections (like today’s) are extremely short. Since we have only three verses today, I’m going to paste the text here on the blog. I’m going to use the Easy to Read (ERV) version since the link above takes you to The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). In the ERV & others, the verses are actually Deuteronomy 29:10-12…
Today all of you are standing here before the Lord your God. Your leaders, your officials, your elders, and all the other men are here. Your wives and children are here and also the foreigners living among you—the people who cut your wood and bring you water. You are all here to enter into an agreement with the Lord your God. The Lord your God is making this agreement with you today.
Moses has gathered every person who is ready to cross over into The Promised Land, and he is asking them to stand before God whether they are leaders or followers, men or women, adults or children, Hebrews or foreigners, masters or servants. The instruction from the throne of God to the people who will live in His promise applies to every person there, and every person there is expected to enter into an agreement of obedience to God’s requirements. It’s a Landlord/tenant agreement of the highest order.
So God asks us not only if we understand His laws, mitzvot, and rulings, but He also asks if we are willing to stand under them. Mercy follows closely on the heels of those who humble themselves before God and His requirements because God knows we are making our best efforts even when we fail. But, while mercy is a free gift to “whosoever will” receive it, Scripture also tells us in multiple passages that God resists the proud and arrogant but gives His grace to the humble. I like the way the Phillips New Testament quotes James 4:4-6…
“You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy. Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (Emphasis mine.)
It’s not always easy to be humble and yielding to God’s law or any law, but obeying Him is trusting Him. Trusting God is not just a thought process, but it will be followed by visible evidence. If He says, “My umbrella is over here,” we will move near Him to get beneath it for protection from the storm. If we truly believe that God has only our best interest at heart, and we trust that He will cause all we experience to work for the good, we can obey Him. Then, even before we understand what He is asking of us, or wanting for us, we can choose to humble ourselves and stand under His rulings–which also puts us under the shadow of His protective wings. Do you stand under?
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge.
His truth is your shield and armor. (Psalm 91:4–God’s Word version)
It all started with a moth. Well, maybe it didn’t all start there since the term bug had already been in use to define issues that made technology unworkable, but the moth in the system in 1947 did make the term more accepted and widely used. In software, one tiny blip of code can throw off everything to where the program refuses to perform as planned. No one likes their systems, or any of their electronics, to become buggy, but if you’d like to read a bit more about bugs and their origins in electronics, visit the Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_bug.
In today’s very long reading from Deuteronomy 28:7 through Deuteronomy 28:69 in The Complete Jewish Bible (through Deuteronomy 29:1 in other versions like The Amplified Bible), we learn that no one likes their crops and trees to be buggy either. Moses continues the words from yesterday’s promises to Israel, beginning with more blessings. The first one promises that enemies who come against Israel will come at them one way but flee seven ways. God will command blessings on Israel as He establishes them to be a holy people to Himself.
The reading lists an abundance of blessings and prosperity upon the people, their lands, their offspring, their livestock, and the offspring of their livestock. It focuses on the blessing as a result of the people keeping God’s laws, so that all the world would know He is God and they are His people. God says He will make Israel the head and not the tail. God adds that all the people of the earth will see that Israel is called by God’s name, and they will be afraid.
All these promises are given to any who will walk straight in the paths of God and not turn to the right or the left of their own ways or the ways of false gods. If the people disobey, they still have promises, but they’re not the kinds they want; they’re curses! Through Moses, God tells Israel that if they are not watchful to keep His commandments, He (God) will send curses, rebuke, and confusion in every thing to which Israel puts her hand. The curses will devour Israel until it is destroyed, and she has become the tail and not the head.
The abundant curses include consumption, fever, inflammation, sword, drought, mildew, and all the boils and diseases of the Egyptians. Israel will plant vineyards and fields and never consume them; build houses and never live in them; and have other nations eat the fruit of her labors. In addition, their animals will be slain before their eyes, and their children will be taken by others. The people will become blind, but when they can see, they will be driven to insanity by what they view, and that view will include constant bugs living in all their trees and produce. Eventually, Israel will come at an enemy one way and run from the enemy seven ways.
God tells Israel that all these curses will be signs and wonders to warn other nations, and Israel’s descendants, that Israel is in bad shape because she did not follow the Lord with heartfelt joy and gratefulness for all the abundance God gave her. Her promises of uncountable seed will turn to a nation of few people, and she will be scattered. She will be a slave to false gods, have no assurance of life, become hopeless, and never be satisfied–always wishing in the evening that it was morning, and in the morning that is was evening. Eventually, she will end up in bondage in Egypt again.
There are more curses than blessings, and much of this appears to be prophesies that have already come to pass for physical Israel. I know that God never gives up on His promises, so I trust that He has ways to deal with those that have been blinded to The Messiah, but in the meantime, we who are grafted into Abraham’s seed should take these prophesies to heart as well. Like Paul said in Romans 11:21, if God didn’t spare the natural branches, what makes the grafted-in branches think He will spare us?
The curses of God are the opposite of the blessings, but that also means that the blessings are the opposite of the curses. We don’t have to be cursed! If we seek first the kingdom of God and ALL His righteousness, and if we serve Him with gratefulness and joy, we have an abundance of blessing to lean on, including that He will protect us from any enemy that comes against us. God’s programs and systems are perfect, written and designed without any bugs, but mankind has brought in corruption in the form of sin. Fortunately, God also designed a failsafe in the Holy Blood of Christ, so He can “debug” our lives and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Repent, and turn your life-program over to God. Let Yahveh Almighty be your Systems Engineer today–and forever.
Even if I find the perfect flat rock for stone-skipping, chances are, there will be more splat than skip. I guess it’s all in the wrist, and I don’t have enough of whatever it is. One time, as a teenager, I recall getting one to skip a bunch of times, but that was a rare and wonderful thing.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 27:1 through Deuteronomy 27:10, we will read of God’s laws regarding skipping stones. I’ll bet you didn’t know it was in the Bible, but God told Israel not to do it. Really. He told them not to skip setting up standing stones on which He wanted them to record the words of His Torah. (I’ll bet you were wondering just where I was going with that, huh?)
So, Moses and all the leaders of Israel stand before the crowd and tell them to observe every law they were being given that day. To help with the observation, they tell them that, after they cross the Jordan into the land that God is giving them, they are to set up standing stones, put plaster on them, and write the words of Torah on them.
After they set up stones, God wants them to build an altar out of stones and without the use of any tools. His command is that they build the altar of uncut stones and offer burnt offerings on it. They should also offer peace offerings there, and they should eat and be joyful in the presence of The Lord. The next verse restates that they are to write the words of Torah on the stones very clearly.
Next, it is Moses and the high priests that speak to Israel. The first thing they say to them is, “Be quiet and listen, Israel!” They continue with a reminder that today is the day Israel becomes the people of The Lord. Because of that, they should listen to God and obey all the laws and commands Moses gives them on that day.
I wonder how people would react if Scripture actually said we could not skip stones. I mean, it’s not like God would be asking something that difficult, but could we just obey even though it doesn’t seem to make any sense? For me, the hardest thing to do is follow commands that don’t seem to have logic or reasoning behind them. For the sake of obedience, I have done so before, and sometimes it has turned out to be just a man’s interpretation or idea. But, I still believe God rewards an obedient heart and spirit.
God is merciful and He knows our form, so our task is to do our best to honor Him in everything we do and think. He sees when that includes obeying some man-made law because we are told it is required of us. For example, there is at least one church I know of that teaches it is a sin to wear the color red. (I know some Louisville Cardinals fans that would be very upset with that one. 🙂 ) Those who attend there likely follow the rule with their whole hearts because they want to please God, so God will recognize their lawfulness.
Have you given in to things you later found out through spiritual maturity were not necessary? If so, did it make you decide you would never listen again to commands of men? I hope not. I hope you see that God blesses your obedient heart and spirit. I hope, instead, that you use your experiences to gain perspective, and that you seek God’s wisdom to gain discernment. If we do our best, I believe God will lead us in His path as we learn here a little, there a little by seeking Him and studying His word. And if some blogger comes along telling you not to skip stones, pray about it–and then read the rest of the post.
Oops, I forgot. Oh, I meant to do that, but it slipped my mind. Doggone it; I totally spaced that one. Ugh!
Any of these sound familiar? I’m known for having a good memory, but I get frustrated because sometimes I remember the most mundane details and forget the most important tasks. At times, it feels as if my mind is so full of things to remember that it just has to let some of its content fall out to make more room. It’s like those days when you head to a certain room with a certain task in mind, and when you get there, you stand in the middle of the room just hoping you’ll remember why you’re there. Oh well, a little extra exercise was good for you, right?
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 8:11 through Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses gives the community of Israel some important things to remember, and some extremely good reasons to remember them. He begins by telling them to be careful not to forget The Lord. How could they forget Him? By not following the laws and rules (mitzvot–Hebrew plural for laws) Moses is passing along to them from God.
Moses tells Israel that if they forget God, they will become arrogant. They will live in fine houses, eat and be filled, and have plenty of cattle and flocks, and they will forget Who made it possible for them to have all their goodies. They will start thinking that they gained all their wealth by the power of their own hands when it was God who gave them the ability to earn the wealth and to live comfortably. The Lord is giving them all they will have in order to keep the promise He swore to their ancestors, but pride and self-reliance will make them forget–and with dire consequences.
Moses tells Israel that if they forget The Lord and go after other gods to serve and worship them, they will perish the same way the nations are perishing that God is driving out before Israel’s eyes. Like the other nations, Israel will suffer for not acknowledging Yahveh Almighty as their Creator and Provider, especially after all Israel has seen Him do since He brought them out of Egypt.
The Scripture here reads as if Moses is shouting, “Listen up, Israel! Today is the day of your salvation!” He tells them that on this day, they will cross the Jordan River and go into the new land to dispossess nations bigger and greater than themselves. With all that’s at stake, Moses wants to make sure Israel pays attention and remembers that God Himself is going over the Jordan before them, and He is marching through their new land as a consuming fire to drive out the current inhabitants and make the land ready for His chosen people.
Maybe there’s no comparison here to forgetting why you just walked into the kitchen, but there is a comparison to forgetting who your Provider is as you consume the generous blessings He showers on you. That kind of forgetfulness is arrogant and prideful. And, since pride goes before destruction, it’s not a place we want to be. Whether a blessing has come to us by the power of our hard work, or it has shown up in some miraculous gesture or gift, the source is still Yahveh Almighty, the Father of Lights from whom comes EVERY good and perfect gift that enters our lives.
As I read this portion, I thought of those who try to work or will good into their lives by way of deeds or rituals. Even if they give God the credit in the end, if people think they can pray certain words or perform some ritual behaviors in order to get God to answer them, they are taking credit for something that is beyond their abilities. God doesn’t tell us to ask for our needs because it is necessary for Him, but He tells us we have not because we ask not to increase our faith in how important we are to Him. He wants us to know that He is listening and paying attention to even the smallest details in our lives.
We must not forget to remember that God is God and we are not. Sometimes God says, “No,” but only because He knows there is something better in our future. God is more interested in our faithful obedience to Him than in any work or deed we might do to “win His approval.” God is our Provider, God loves us, God wants to give us good things, and God desires to communicate both ways with us. I think of it like this: It’s all about God, and it’s not about me–except to God.
Also don’t forget to remember: God will not be manipulated, so whether it’s by our sacrifice in a fast, or our pious position in a prayer, our gifts to God should be without strings attached. What we do in words and deeds is to change us, not God. We should give what we give to Him out of thanksgiving and humility for what He has already done, and out of an obedient spirit that yields to His leading for what He wants us to do through Him. In that way, we will not forget to remember who we are in Him, who He is to us, and who we are together with Him.
Amen, and blessings on your week ahead.
Imagine sitting down to write a short story, and just as you are writing the final scene, the words jump off the paper and shout, “No, the story can’t end this way!” Maybe you would argue and tell the words to get back onto the paper because you are the writer, and you know what you’re doing, but after you got the words back where they belonged, you’d call a friend to make sure you weren’t going crazy. You would need someone to convince you that you haven’t gone off the deep end because you know that it’s the creator that should have control and not the creation. Should it seem that much different with God as our Creator?
In today’s reading from Numbers 28:16 through Numbers 29:11, God is still in a conversation with Moses about all the things the people should do as they continue to live as God desires. This section covers the special feasts and holy days through the year. I’m wondering if God is just giving a primer here to make sure the people know that even in a new land, He is still their God. And they also need to know that their service belongs to God and not to a man, even though they are to respect Moses and other men whom God will call to lead them.
Each feast day is set for a specific day of the Jewish year, and each feast has certain rituals and sacrifices that God wants His people to perform. The sacrifices often use the same offerings as the daily sacrifices, but they are done in addition to the two daily offerings and not in place of them. The festivals God wants the people to recognize are all said to be holy convocations, meaning they are to be done as a community, and for God, as a holy community.
So why does doing all this worship need to begin with brokenness? Because, in order to just be obedient and do as God directs us without questioning either His motives or His methods, we must be humble before Him. It’s even more than not leaning to our own understanding. It’s realizing and trusting that God is not only in control, but He is wise with His control, so we let go of the understanding within ourselves that makes us question Him. We become broken in His presence, so we will need Him to put us back together His own way.
We have a number of repeated Scriptures that remind us who is the clay and who is The Potter, and they all reiterate the need for The Potter to be the one in control. Here are a few of them…
How you turn things upside down! —
Is the potter not better than the clay,
Does something made say of its maker,
“He didn’t make me”?
Does the product say of its producer,
“He has no discernment”?
Woe to anyone who argues with his maker,
like potsherds lying on the ground!
Does the clay ask the potter, “What are you doing?”
or, “What’s this you’re making, that has no hands?”
20 Who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me this way?” 21 Or has the potter no right to make from a given lump of clay this pot for honorable use and that one for dishonorable?
We are surrounded by a world of people who think they have all the answers within themselves or within whatever rituals they prescribe to themselves to make life bearable. And those of us who put our trust in Yahveh Almighty know that our answers and rituals often end in failure, but when we trust God through to the end of something, we always find success. Those who resist God usually do so because they refuse to be broken; maybe because they’re afraid to be broken. Brokenness is a scary place to think of going until you have experienced it. When you put your whole being into the Hands of One you can trust with all the pieces, you look forward to the blessing you will find when you humble yourself and let Him make you a new vessel as He sees fit to create.
Persistence should be a good thing, but when it gets mixed with stupidity, it’s just plain annoying. There are people who persist on pushing their ways on others whether it makes sense or not, and when someone tries to explain the problem, they just don’t get it. Ya know, like the woman who got drunk, stole a horse, and then when caught, blamed the horse and said she was sober, but the horse was drunk. Really, it happened even if it sounds impossible. Just look up “stupid criminals” and you’ll be amazed at the persistence of stupidity in some people.
In today’s reading from Numbers 23:27 through Numbers 24:13, Balak is at his insistent best again. As if it wasn’t enough for Balaam to tell him he could only speak the words from God, and then to speak words saying that Israel is blessed by God and cannot be cursed, Balak asks Balaam one more time if he will curse Israel. He takes him to another mountain where he can clearly see the community of Israel camped out below, and he tells Balaam that maybe he’ll be able to curse them from this new locale.
Balaam has Balak do the usual act of building seven altars and sacrificing one bull and one ram on each altar. This time, however, Balaam doesn’t go to seek God to see if it’s okay to curse Israel, but God speaks through him anyway. The Spirit of God moves upon Balaam, and he speaks an abundant and beautiful blessing over Israel that ends with the well-known statement, “Blessed be all who bless you! Cursed be all who curse you!”
After the blessing, the portion says that Balak blazed with fury against Balaam. He clapped his hands together and yelled that he called on Balaam to curse Israel and all he did was bless them three times. Balak then accused The Lord of stealing the reward that he was going to give Balaam in exchange for the curse. But Balaam calmly answered that nothing had changed, and that he told Balak’s servants from the beginning that he could not disobey God even for a palace filled with silver and gold.
I am amazed at how calmly Balaam dealt with the stupidity of this guy. Balak’s accusation against God reminds me of those many who excuse their not serving God by saying that He takes away their right to have fun or be free or whatever. It’s senseless. Without God, we have NOTHING good AT ALL in our lives, so even the fun or freedom to get into trouble people think they have by not serving Him would not exist if He didn’t wake them and the world up on a daily basis.
I want to break away from the blessing and curse direction for a moment, and just give you a little example of how much we receive in this life. There’s a momentum that is built by provision on top of provision, and it gets us to our own provisions over and over again throughout our days. God is our ultimate Provider, and He uses others to help that process along.
Think about a simple cup of coffee and the amazing steps from the coffee bean bush to your cup. You have the people who plant it, pick it, haul it, cook it, haul it again, package it, brew it, etc. Then there are the people who build the harvesting equipment, the trucks for hauling, and the ovens for cooking. If you have it in a paper cup, you’ve also got all the manufacturing that goes into that, and if you bought your cuppa in a restaurant, you’ve got your barista, your managers, your building owner, and so forth.
It’s not so simple now, huh? What you’ve just seen should demonstrate that God is absolutely and totally in control even when we don’t see all the steps He takes to provide for us in this life. Every person involved in our provisions are given breath by God. All that grows is given life by Him.
Balaam couldn’t curse Israel if he wanted because God was protecting them from his magic to the point of using him to do the opposite of what he planned. Balak couldn’t pay Balaam enough because God stepped in and interrupted his plans and processes. The third time of requesting a curse against Israel didn’t work like the charm either of them planned. They should have learned from this that it’s better to walk in God’s blessing than to even try to play games with God or those He loves. If not, they’re in for a wild ride because when God is running the show, there’s no “third time’s a charm” or “lucky seven,” there’s only blessings or curses.
Would you sell your soul for any price? For a palace filled with gold and silver? For fame? For power? It’s easy to say we would not sell our souls for something that is not being offered to us, but what if we were struggling and an offer was made? If you were starving to death, you could be tempted to sell your soul for a morsel like Esau did when he gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew when Jacob offered it to him. Until that moment, he may not have valued it like he should, but that doesn’t mean he would have been willing to sell it.
In today’s reading from Numbers 23:13 through Numbers 23:20, we continue the story where Balak wants Balaam to curse the people of Israel. The first servants Balak sent came back with the report that Balaam would not go along with the plan. Balak does not accept that answer, so he finds princes that are higher in status than the first group and sends them to beg Balaam to come with them for whatever price he wants. Balak’s fear has made him desperate, so he hopes to persuade Balaam with a higher reward for his services.
Balaam says he has made the decision to serve The Lord no matter what. He answers the servants that even if Balak gave him a palace filled with silver and gold, he would not go against the word of God in any matter great or small. He then tells the servants to spend the night while he again seeks God. When God comes to Balaam to speak to him this time, He tells Balaam to go with the men that summoned him, but only to do what He says and nothing else.
We’re not given any reason to think Balaam would have a reason to sell his soul, so if he goes with the men, we know that–at least at this point in time–he is going in obedience and with the right heart. But most of us know the story doesn’t end that way, so what do you suppose might change for Balaam?
Right plans and right ideas can sour and go in a wrong direction in an instant. The girl who starts out singing praise for The Lord, and walks through the door that leads to fame and fortune, may do so because she honestly believes it’s just a way to spread the message to more people. But then, a contract or a new group of friends takes her to places and decisions that turn her away from God, and she finds herself on the edge of selling her soul without even knowing how she got there.
For now, Balaam still has the right heart and mind about the matters. For now, many who desire fame or fortune to do more and greater works for God have the right hearts and minds about the matters. Let us keep each other in prayer that should doors open to expand our territories, we will keep a humble heart and remember that it’s all about God. Let us also pray that for any child of God who truly loves The Lord with a pure and whole heart, no door would open that could lead to soul theft, and if a door does open, pray for God to pour out wisdom and discernment to keep His child from buying into any lie the enemy might send.
Our souls–ALL of our souls–are worth more than many palaces filled with silver and gold. Let us keep them with every ounce of care and diligence they deserve.
And somehow, this post made me think about an old song called Guns and Wars also known as I Wish We’d All Been Ready. I found it on YouTube by DC Talk. Lyrics are on the YouTube page. Enjoy…
Growing up as a “Valley Girl” in Southern California, I had a lot of neighbors who moved to California from Mexico and Tijuana. Their culture, at least in the twentieth century, was consumed with color and flair. I used to love the cars that had colorful fringe and beads sewn all the way around the perimeter of the headliner. I have always liked things like clothing and pillows with fringe attached, things with tassels, and other similar fancy edgings.
Fringe usually means that little something extra that makes all the difference, whether it’s a row of dangling threads and beads or a two-week paid vacation as a hiring bonus. A job might come with fringe benefits when salary alone is not enough to attract the kind of employees the company wants to hire. A business might offer fringe benefits to customers as an incentive to return or to choose one business over another. Whatever the extra (fringe) is attached to, it generally adds value or beauty.
In today’s reading from Numbers 15:27 through Numbers 15:41 (the end of the chapter), we complete this week’s reading, and we will learn that God, too, likes fringe. If you read yesterday’s post, you know I talked about the sacrifice required when the community committed a sin by mistake. Today, the reading begins with a little more on the requirements to be set free from the sins that a person might commit by accident, and it repeats the fact that there is one law, and all requirements are the same for both the community of Israel and the foreigners that live with them.
The reading then takes a more somber turn as it talks about those who do not fail by mistake but who sin on purpose. It says that any person, whether citizen or foreigner, that does something wrong intentionally is blaspheming God because he has had contempt for God’s word and disobeyed His commands. It says he will be cut off from his people completely, and it says his offense will remain with him.
That sounds harsh, but a person who does something intentionally against God does not likely have a thought in his heart about repentance or of being sorrowful for his wrong doing. We’re told in Proverbs 28:13 that to obtain mercy, a person must both confess and forsake his sins. But how can a person confess and forsake something that he doesn’t believe or care is wrong? And with the population of psychopaths and sociopaths that fill our prisons, I can certainly understand why God would want that type of people to be cut off from the rest of the community.
As our portion continues, we learn about a man who went out to gather wood on the Sabbath day. We don’t get the back story here, like whether he was sick on all the days leading up to it, or if it got colder than he expected and gathered for during the work week, or if he was simply lazy and didn’t care about God’s Sabbath or about entering into it. I’m guessing the lack of back story is why the people took him to Moses who sought God for an answer rather than just executing judgment. As it came out, God told the community to stone the man to death, so God must have known the man could have behaved better and chose not to.
And now we will see how much God likes fringe. He tells the people that He wants them to begin sewing fringe, called tzitzit in Hebrew, on the corners of all their garments, and to add a blue thread to each corner. I’ve always heard the fringe was for the corners of the prayer shawl, but this reading makes it sound as if the fringe was to go on all garments. I even looked it up in other translations. God wants the fringe on the garments to constantly remind people to obey God’s commands. It says that by looking at the fringe, they will not go around wherever their eyes and hearts lead them to prostitute themselves. God wants faithfulness, and He reminds them here that He is The Lord who brought them out of Egypt for the purpose of serving Him.
So, we get to escape an eternity of darkness, emptiness, and existence without The Lord of Love by choosing to give our lives to God and to serve Him. We escape the penalty of sin that is death. But we get so much more both now and in eternity. We get fringe benefits of serving God that go beyond mercy and straight into grace. Those benefits may be answers to prayers that are not about life and death matters, wisdom that leads us right when we need it, or a special touch of God’s presence to comfort us when we are lonely or sad. I find fringe benefits in serving God every day, even if some days I don’t notice them until after the fact. There is truly no comparison to walking with God or to the joy of dwelling in His presence.
And I’ll close with this–maybe silly–thought: As I read this, I began to wonder if this was maybe the first use of fringe. God certainly has a way with decorating. I mean, look at the beauty in nature, including the many flowers with fringed edges. There are even some birds that have fringed edges on their wings. So, did God invent fringe, or is He just good at knowing where to put it? Either way, I’m thinking that with God as the decorator, if I actually have a mansion in Heaven, I’m really going to like it. And if I get a bunch of stuff with fringed edges, that’s a benefit I’ll happily enjoy.
And with all this talk about fringe, especially in cars, how can I not include the video for the part of the movie “Oklahoma” that has the song, “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”? So, here it is…
I have great travel memories all the way back to times as a small child when most of my car travel included long naps in the backseat. I still love the atmosphere of a truck stop early in the morning just before the sun comes up because I remember that first stop on a drive we started at about 4am. That time of day, the idling truck engines create a steady hum, and in the late spring and early summer, there is is just enough crispness in the dew-filled air to chill you awake. That first stop on a long trip is also still charged with excitement about both the journey and the destination.
In today’s reading from Numbers 10:11 through Numbers 10:28, we read about the beginnings of travel for the community of Israel. I don’t know if they had any camels, but I imagine a camel ride would be preferable to a very long walk. The journey ahead would take the children of Israel from the Sinai Desert to the Paran Desert as the pillar of cloud led them. This was Israel’s first journey, and the Scripture says they followed according to all of God’s words to Moses. In other words, they adhered to God’s corporate travel policies.
As they traveled, they moved by companies and leaders, and the divided movement allowed the Levites to take down and carry the tabernacle according to God’s direction. The descendants of K’hat who carried the tabernacle were ahead of the other tribes, so that the tabernacle could already be set up by the time the rest of the community of Israel arrived. You can click on the above link to read the exact divisions of camps and leaders as they traveled in the orderly fashion directed by their travel agent, Moses, according to all the instruction He received from God.
While I still love going places, travel is not as easy for me with having to carry a CPAP machine, get someone to care for my kitty cats, and the general issues with age and pain. But I imagine things were quite a bit rougher for a people that had to carry their entire house and home with them as they moved along. Still, I wonder if they got excited to see where God was going to take them next. They knew their stops were temporary because they knew their final destination was “The Promised Land,” but each step along the way must’ve held some excitement as they knew it was getting them closer to home.
Even with the enjoyment I find in traveling, seeing new sites, visiting with those I love, and finding fun things to do along the way, there is nothing like getting back home and back into my regular routine. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it well when she said, “There’s no place like home.” For believers in Messiah who trust in the promises we will receive after He comes back for His own, we know that our stops in this temporary life are steps to move us closer to that place we long for, that place we will one day call “home” for eternity. In the meantime, if we move forward according to God’s travel plans, we can enjoy the journey.
As I finished this post, I thought about an old song by Johnny Cash called “Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home” and I’ve found it here sung by him and June. It even includes his notes about writing it. Enjoy…
In many areas of my life, I’m a totally disorganized person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like organization. I like knowing that our local Christian writer’s group always meets on the 2nd Saturday of the month. I like knowing that the free country music concert night for Christian Country Cowboy Church is always the last Friday of the month. Most of the time, those certainties make it easier to join my fellow writer and Christian friends for some enjoyable fellowship. I like to meet with smaller groups of friends as well for things like lunch at a local restaurant, but I’ve also been known to totally forget a lunch date because I don’t have a repetitive certainty to keep it in my mind.
In today’s reading from Numbers 9:1 through Numbers 9:14, God talks to Moses about the people’s celebration of Passover, Pesach in Hebrew. Since we celebrated Passover early last month, I talked a little about it during my posts at that time. It is a holy celebration created for the purpose of learning to observe God’s teachings and not forget all He has done for His people. There are a lot of observations that make up the retelling of God’s deliverance of Israel, including the seder meal. The image above is of a beautiful seder plate with some of the food items visible, including the horseradish with beet juice that represents the bitter herb called maror in Hebrew.
The portion today talks of following all the observances for this feast on the fourteenth day of the first month, beginning at dusk. God tells Moses that the people are to observe it according to all the regulations and rules. Those regulations and rules include being clean in order to celebrate, so the reading talks of those who were made unclean by a corpse and therefore would be unable to observe the Passover.
God tells Moses that for those who are unclean, and for those who were away on a trip during Passover, that they can celebrate their Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month instead. He tells them that even though they are not celebrating at the regular time, they are still to observe it by keeping all the regulations and rules. He also tells them to keep it with the use of matzah and bitter herbs. I’m not sure if this means they are supposed to keep the entire week of unleavened bread that follows on the heels of Passover, or if it is because that feast is passed that God is telling them to make sure to use unleavened bread with their Passover meal.
I realize through this teaching that God does not want anyone to miss out, and He does not want anyone to fail–even at having dinner (or lunch). He likes organization, so He set up these feasts on specific days (which vary on our Christian calendar) to make sure people would be more likely to keep them. But because He knows our form, He knows that things happen, like a death in the family, that can change everything, so He created an option for those who could not stick to the original way of doing things.
But the reading says a couple of interesting things about the option that God created. First, as I mentioned, it says to keep it all the same regulations and rules. That means that when God gives us a break on something, He doesn’t expect us to come back and try to make up for our failure with a half-hearted effort. We should be grateful for the chance to have a “do-over” and put our best effort in play to show our appreciation.
The next thing God says about using an option to observing things exactly as He arranged them is that if a person is clean and in town, they are required to celebrate the feast on the actual feast day. To me, this says that if we can, we are required to keep our behaviors lined up with God’s will. His mercy is not an excuse to slack in our efforts to walk according to His word. We don’t get to just say something like, “Hey, I don’t feel like doing Passover this month, so I’ll do mine with those who observe it next month.”
If we fail to lunch (or celebrate Passover dinner, or observe any holy day or feast or law) at the appropriate time, we have mercy through the blood of Yeshua. We can be forgiven if we forget to meet for lunch with a friend, and we can be forgiven if we forget to light our Sabbath candles until well after sunset, but just because we can be forgiven doesn’t mean we should make habits out of these things. If we don’t at least feel conviction, how can we honestly repent?
If someone hurts you, even unintentionally, isn’t it nice to get an apology that says the person really cares how the hurtful behavior affected you? And if that hurt cost you something, isn’t it even nicer when the person who did the hurting makes an effort to make restitution? Knowing how nice that is, I’m sure you can agree that when you make apologies and restitutions for your own poor behaviors that you are doing more than just making up for a wrong, you are becoming a blessing.
In today’s reading from Numbers 5:1 through Numbers 5:10, God is giving Moses more instruction for how to keep the community of Israel peaceful. God wants to make sure the camp will not be defiled because that is where He lives among the people, and making restitution for wrongs done to others is one way to keep the camp a pleasant place for Our Creator to dwell.
The reading begins with instructions on putting the diseased outside the camp. Now, I don’t think God felt He might catch anything, so His instructions for keeping people on the outside until they were healed was for the benefit of everyone else in the camp. If a lot of people became diseased, or better said “in a state of dis ease,” there would be chaos in the camp instead of peace. Better to not have people running around with anxiety and rejecting every person with a suspicious spot on his or her skin.
The portion goes on to talk about actual restitution by telling Moses to make sure that all debts against another are paid. It says that if a man or woman commits a sin against another human being, that person incurs guilt for breaking faith with Yahveh. When that happens, the person must confess his wrongdoing and make full restitution for his guilt plus add twenty percent to give to the victim of his sin. This restitution is in addition to the ram offering of restitution, and it’s so important, that if the victim has no family to receive the restitution, it is still to be paid but given to the priests.
The last statement given for keeping the camp at peace is a reminder that whatever the people of Israel consecrate to the high priest belongs to him. It is his property, and he will decide how to divide it among the rest of the priests. This means that if we promise something toward God’s work, it belongs to that ministry even before we give it, so we should keep our word. I admit that I have too easily made promises out of heightened emotion without checking with my husband or my calendar first, but I hope I have kept those promises and paid those debts because I don’t want to be spending someone else’s money or time as my own.
As for restitution, I know we often think of the blood of Christ as paying for all of our debts in full, and in a very big way, that is totally correct–in the way of paying for the wages of sin that would be death. But I think God wants us to make restitution when we can for more than the reason of just paying our debts. It says above to make restitution in addition to the sacrifice, and I think it’s because it helps the doer of the deed pay attention, so he won’t repeat the misdeed. It also adds a tangible freedom to the spiritual freedom we receive in Messiah. And, as I said above, it can help the sinner become a blessing to the person he sinned against.
I just rewatched The Passion of The Christ movie yesterday, and it still brings me to tears when I see what all Yeshua went through for me. I know that if no one ever sinned, from Adam to me and beyond, He would not have had to go through the torture, the disrespect, the false accusations, the pain and the death He suffered. I know I have gained multiple debts in my life–especially when I was young and had no understanding of how my actions affected others, and I know He bore those things all the way to Calvary, so I could be free of them.
As the lyrics say, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away.” He did that for me. And now, because I am thankful for all He did, and because I love Him with all my being, I want to keep myself clear of debts–current and future, to the best of my ability. If I sin against someone, or if I hurt someone, I want to make it up to that person and be a blessing. As Forrest Gump might say, “Life is like a box of chocolates; if you eat the ones that belong to someone else, you should buy them another box.” 🙂
The above video should catch the fancy of those of you who like Tim Burton animations (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”) as it has a similar feel. It’s a creative telling of the story of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-10. The story reminds us that when we choose to serve God without giving Him our whole heart, we will miss out on the future He has planned for us.
In His love for us, God has chosen to give us an eternity we don’t deserve for a price He paid. It’s a lot like when a child goes shopping with his mom to get his father a gift from money the father earned. The father gratefully receives the “gift” from his child because he cherishes the act of giving from the one he loves.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:22 through Leviticus 27:28, we read more about those who want to consecrate things like fields and animals to The Lord. In this portion, God tells Moses how to value a field a person gives when the giver is not the tribal owner but the owner by purchase. In that case, the value is based on the amount of years until the year of jubilee because at that time, the field will go back to the tribal owner. The new owner cannot give something that doesn’t belong to him, so he can’t give the field for life since he only owns it until jubilee.
The next part of the reading deals with those who want to consecrate an animal to The Lord. Now, it should seem common sense that you cannot give something to God that already belongs to Him, but apparently common sense wasn’t necessarily common back in Bible days anymore than it is now. God tells Moses to make sure people understand that they cannot dedicate an animal to Him that is a firstborn because God already owns everything that is first from the womb. God will, however, accept as a gift an unclean animal from the flock, but the value will not be as high.
This whole reading made me think about those who take the credit for those things which belong to God, and take pride in the works and gifts they “give” Him. But salvation belongs to The Lord. Even the very idea of salvation belongs to God. As it says in Philippians 2:13 (ERV), “Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” In addition, our lives belong to The Lord; miracles belong to The Lord; and, in truth, everything belongs to The Lord. No matter what we do or what we give, we cannot boast or brag.
There was a minister I once heard of who listened for people to say, “Oh my goodness,” and was ready with the response, “…is as filthy rags.” Since hearing that story, I think of it anytime I notice someone making the same statement. It reminds me that His word tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags, especially if we try to perform good works apart from the mercy found in the blood of Christ. Because of grace, God receives each of our gifts to Him as if there were no better gift in the world. But in all truth, we have nothing to give Him that does not belong to Him already. Since that is the case, let us go ahead and give Him our hearts, our love, and our obedience that we may bless Him.
Ananias and Sapphira had the opportunity to give everything for the work of The Lord, but they were more interested in receiving honor for themselves than in honoring God through their giving. Their gifts, then, were not truly gifts because they brought no glory to God. Our gifts may not be gifts since they are His already, but He receives them as gifts because we use our free will to honor and praise Him, and to show Him our love, and that’s what He cherishes from us more than anything else.
You’re walking down a country road at dusk. No one is around, and the only sounds you hear are the birds and the light rustle of the breeze blowing through the trees. All at once you hear a loud crunch, and you jump and start running. You never look back to see that it was simply a loose branch that fell into a pile of dried leaves left over from winter.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:10 through Leviticus 26:46 (the end of the chapter), we will see what might make a whole community of people jump and run at the sound of a leaf. The reading actually starts with a paragraph of promises. God tells Israel they will have such an abundant harvest, they will need to throw away food from last year to make room for this year’s harvest. He says He will put His tabernacle among them and not reject them, and that He will be their God, and they will be His people. He reminds them how He broke the bars of the yoke of slavery from Egypt, so they could be free and walk upright before Him.
But the remaining paragraphs paint a grim picture for those who do not want to keep the laws and commands of Him who set them free. God basically says, (in paraphrase), “Because you do not value the freedom I’ve given you, and you do not honor Me for giving you that freedom, I’m going to show you a life of what it’s like to live without the peace and true freedom of My presence.”
The warnings are numerous. God tells Israel that if they reject His covenant and worship other gods, He will bring terror upon them. The terror will be so bad that the sound of a driven leaf will frighten them. More than once He tells them that they will flee when no one is chasing them, and they will stumble and fall as if they are running from the sword. In addition to terror, He will bring them wasting disease and sickness that saps their strength. And He promises them the opposite of the promise of harvest when He says they will plant seeds, but their enemies will eat the crops.
A few different times in the reading, He breaks to say something like, “If these things don’t make you listen to me…,” and concludes with a warning of punishments that are seven times worse. Those worse punishments include such things as not being satisfied with bread, cities laid to waste, desolation of lands, and the inability to rest. (Unfortunately, this sounds like many metropolitan areas in the United States.) He goes on to warn them that when He turns His face against them, they will eat the flesh of their own children.
Finally, however, He tells them that if the uncircumcised in heart will humble themselves and turn to Him, and confess their sins and the sins of the ancestors, He will remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the lands they left will lie desolate without them, He will not forsake them while they dwell in the lands of their enemies, and He will not loathe them to the point of breaking His covenant with them. Instead, He promises that, for their sakes, He will remember the covenants He has with His people.
There is so much more in the actual reading, but it’s hard to read because the warnings are so grievous. I can hear the pain of a Creator who gave His children everything only to have it completely rejected. His laws are not grievous, but the breaking of them certainly can be.
For each of us who has been delivered from our own Egypt–from the bondage of slavery to our sins or ways of living that did not glorify our Creator, we have the promises of His covenant with us no matter what land we now dwell in. And because He paid the debt we owed for that deliverance with the blood of Yeshua, that covenant has been sealed for us forever. We have the greatest peace and the least fear when we walk according to His life-giving laws instead of walking according to the ways of the flesh where there are no good promises. We can choose to fear a loving God, and let that fear keep us fenced in on a land of spiritual prosperity, or we can reject God and end up in some desolate place where even the sound of a leaf can startle a man to death.
If I were to ask you if you honor the Lord with holiness, you would likely begin to look at the works you do for Him to decide how to answer. But I believe holiness has everything to do with our hearts, and only has to do with our works insomuch as they follow the thoughts of our hearts. Holiness begins in our hearts and with a commitment to give to God that which He should have because He is worthy. Holiness is the change of heart that makes us see God as worthy of our belief, our obedience, our trust, and our praise.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:16 through Leviticus 22:16, we start with Yahveh telling Moses to tell Aaron the following: “None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.” And then the teaching goes on to explain all the types of defects that would prevent a descendant of Aaron from working in the priesthood. I would not be able to bring offerings into the holy place because I have stunted growth. My husband could not bring offerings into the holy place because he has a cataract. We could both eat the bread of God, both the holy and the especially holy, but we could not offer it to God with our defects because that would profane God and His place of holiness.
Moses tells these things to Aaron and to all of Israel, and then he goes to Aaron to deepen the lesson. He tells him to have his sons keep themselves separate from the holy things of God, so they will not take a chance of defiling them by approaching them in an unholy state. If they do, God will cut them off from their people. For us, this means that we should not try to come into “the church” by doing all the right stuff without first repenting and being covered with the holy blood of Christ to make us clean. Like the verse above says, our salvation is a gift from God, and that alone should be enough to bring us to our knees before we strap on the apron of good works.
The teaching goes on to explain more ways in which a descendant from Aaron (member of the tribe of Levi) can make himself or herself unclean, and that uncleanness can prevent both doing the work of the tabernacle and partaking of the holy food. Even a daughter who has married outside of the tribe is no longer able to partake of the food, but a widow or divorcee with no child that comes back to live with her father may share in the food. Also, while an employee or tenant may not partake of the holy foods, a slave that lives in the home of a Levite may eat them.
I see all of this teaching as a simple commandment to not put the cart before the horse. We don’t do the works of God with unholy hearts that are not committed to Him. That means we don’t get brownie points for going to church on Sundays and hoping it will erase the demerits we earned during the rest of the week. We don’t get a pat on the back from God because we donate to good causes or give ourselves to service if we are doing those things in the sin of pride and arrogance instead of with a holy love for our Creator.
Holiness is a changed state of heart and mind that will have us proclaiming the glory of God in wondrous new ways. Here are just some of the verses from King David’s song in Psalm 96 in which I can see his holy heart…
1Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised…
6 Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
I especially like that last verse because I see holiness as something beautiful and wonderful. It is an acknowledgement that God’s holiness is so majestic that all we can do is tremble in His holy presence. Hallelu-Yah!
Do you measure up? Or, do you measure down? In other words, do you try to see people as better than they are, and give them the benefit of the doubt when you notice their failures? Or, are you quick to find faults and failures and to condemn someone who commits them to a hopeless end? There are a lot of Scriptures that refer to measurement with the most quoted being Matthew 7:2 that says (in CJB)… “For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.” So, we should be merciful in our judgment toward others (looking more to have compassion than to condemn to everlasting torment) if we want mercy given toward us, but that is not the only measurement in our lives.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:33 through Leviticus 19:37 (the end of the chapter), God teaches Israel about measurements that are both literal and figurative. This short portion begins with the literal in explaining to the community how to treat a foreigner in their midst as if he or she were native-born. God reminds the people how they were foreigners in Egypt, so they should love the foreigners as they love themselves.
This is the second time in this chapter where God has reminded Israel to love her neighbors as she loves herself. And Jesus quoted this statement as one of the two foundations on which all other laws are to be built. As servants of Christ, we must realize that at one time, all of us were foreigners to life with God, so while keeping ourselves in line with God’s word, we need to be gentle in bringing others along to walk that line with us. If they are true seekers, they may stumble, but they will keep learning to walk for God if we continue to teach in mercy. Even those raised in “church,” until they become familiar with all Christ did on the cross, and make a decision to serve Him because they love Him, they are still foreigners to His mercy.
In the latter verses of today’s portion, God gives Israel (and us) the rules for just measurements. He says to be honest in ALL that is measured; to be honest when measuring length, width, or capacity. He says to use an honest balance-scale, honest weights, honest dry measure, and honest liquid measure. And, after stating these rules, Yahveh once again reminds Israel to keep all His commands because He is God, and He is The Lord.
The measuring stick for everything we do should be honesty toward The Lord. He should always be our purpose. We can do all kinds of right and righteous works for the wrong purposes and the wrong reasons. Maybe we preach a message for the purpose of building up attendance in our churches. Maybe we give because of all the promises that if we give it will be given back to us overflowing. Maybe we sing to be heard, dance to be seen, and volunteer to be lauded. Whatever our reasons behind the works we do, God measures the honesty of our works by looking at the purpose in our hearts.
Good works are still better than bad works, and God will bless them because He measures up, and He gives us the benefit of the doubt as we grow in Him. But as we continue to seek and to learn, and as we continue to mature in the fruits we produce for God, let us measure ourselves against the holy word of God, and let us continually strive to make sure that God Himself is at the center of every purpose for every good work we do. And, let us remember that–as God said to Israel–He is The Lord.
Having been raised in the southwestern United States, I have had the privilege of tasting wonderful fruit, like strawberries, that was actually sweet without having to add sugar. The difference in eating fully ripened fruit instead of that which was picked early and artificially ripened with ethylene gas is indescribable. I’m sure you can imagine how much more flavor would be in any crop allowed a full stay in rich soil and sunshine.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:23 through Leviticus 19:32, the reading begins with instructions for planting fruit trees. In these instructions, it says that the fruit from the trees will not be edible and is forbidden to eat for three years. In the fourth year, it becomes holy for use in worshiping God. But in the fifth year, Israel may begin to eat the fruit, and that will cause the trees to produce even more fruit for them.
I don’t believe God compared the works we do for Him with fruit for no reason. His word says in Matthew 7:15:20 that we will know false prophets from true ones based on the fruit they bear. Comparing that with the instructions for letting a tree mature before eating its fruit, I would say that a true prophet will also bear mature fruit. Evidence of that is demonstrated in the story of an apostate preacher (Todd Bentley) who said God stuffed gifts into him (in a vision) without training him because he needed to teach right away. Now, even many who at one time believed the man was called of God have found out that he was running on his own power instead of on God’s anointing.
The rest of the verses for this portion give sensible advice including that Israel should not practice divination or fortune-telling, should not debase their daughters by making them prostitutes, and should not seek out spirit-mediums or sorcerers to be defiled by them. They are also told not to cut gashes in their skin when someone dies, and they are told not to tattoo themselves. In addition, they are to stand up and show respect for the elderly, and above all else, fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord.
As I read all these things, I wonder if that Scripture about there being nothing new under the sun is being played out before my eyes. Either the people who lived in the land before Israel, or some of the children of Israel, were doing things like cutting and living by horoscopes. Maybe a little of both. Now, we can pick up magazines on current culture and find advertisements for many of the things God forbade for Israel. We can read news stories where instead of respect for the elderly, people beat them because they are old and weak. It’s a scary world anymore outside the church and–unfortunately–inside many churches.
Maybe the obedience in waiting for physical fruit to mature is even more important than whatever scientific reasons are behind it. Outside the church, if people would learn to wait, anticipate, and mature before running headlong into life, they would make fewer bad decisions that affect their entire lives. In the church, if believers who want to be used of God would first study to show themselves approved before God, they would become–as the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:15–workers that do not need to be ashamed and can accurately teach the word of truth.
I remember learning in some class in school about butchers who would place a thumb on the scale when weighing out meats, and how this would charge the customers for more than they received. Later, I saw a few different movies where people would catch a merchant using lighter weights to make it appear the seller’s trades were not as valuable. Two different verses in Proverbs tell us what God thinks of those who try to tip the scales in their favor. Proverbs 20:23 says, “Adonai detests a double standard in weights, and false scales are not good,” and Proverbs 11:1 says, “False scales are an abomination to Adonai, but accurate weights please him.”
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:15 through Leviticus 19:22, we get some examples of scales that are tipped out of balance in the eyes of God. One thing important to Him is how we judge others. He says in our portion for the day that we should neither show favor to the poor nor deference to the mighty, but we should always judge with justice. I believe the current economy in the USA is a good example of what happens when judgment is not done with justice. The poor have developed an attitude of entitlement–because of their history, because of their weaknesses, because of this and that, and the rich have learned how to buy their own way by greasing the palms of those in power. It has created an angry and bitter middle ground where many now hate all above and below them. But we can’t judge with justice if we don’t acknowledge Who determines what is truly just and balanced.
Another verse of wisdom from Proverbs 6:19 says, “A false witness who lies with every breath, and him who sows strife among brothers,” are among the things God hates. This speaks to the next Levitical law that says not to go around spreading slander among people. But there is balance needed here too. While God doesn’t want us sharing damaging thoughts about our brothers and sisters, He also doesn’t want us ignoring a neighbor who is being hurt by someone’s damaging ways. Israel is told not to stand by idly if a neighbor’s life is at stake. And that could also mean a neighbor’s spiritual life and soul as well.
Verse 17 really got my attention where it says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly.” The reason for the ruling is what grabs me. It says, “…so that you won’t carry sin because of him.” Carry sin? Can that happen from hating a brother? I think that’s answered in yet another verse from Proverbs. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better open rebuke than hidden love.” I think we carry sin (and pain) when we do not speak what’s in our hearts, and then we allow it to fester and turn to bitterness.
Verse 19 simply tells God’s people to observe His regulations, and then the reading continues with instructions to not allow livestock to mate with another kind, to not plant two different kinds of grain in a field, and to not wear clothing made with two different kinds of thread. God knows what He made to go together and what should be kept apart. He knows when one species, grain, or type of thread could weaken or destroy the other. And our result of not observing those things when they were simple is to live now without even knowing if the corn syrup in our candy bar is made from genetically modified corn. (By the way, I’ve been told that most corn by-products these days are GMO, so I’ve got to wonder exactly what all that “franken-fruit” and “franken-vegetable” stuff really does to our systems. Don’t you wonder too?)
Let me close now with something interesting I’ve learned recently. Did you know that there is no Hebrew word for “fair” or “fairness”? So balance may not mean exactly what we think it means in our human understanding. There are Hebrew words and descriptions for justice, so we can trust that God does believe in balance by justice, which is why He couldn’t just let us “get away” with our sins simply because He loves us. Too often, that’s what we do–we let people off the hook for their behaviors because we love them, and somehow we don’t think it’s fair for them to pay for their misdeeds. But God knew the price needed to be paid, so He robed Himself in flesh to pay the cost of justice and bring things back into a right balance. Every time a new soul commits his or her life to Christ, and every time we make a genuine effort to live according to God’s word, I believe we are bringing balance by tipping the scales in God’s favor.
If our salvation is all by glory and grace, and if we are not to boast in any good works, why is it so important for us to be holy? If works and holiness won’t get us into Heaven, why should we try so hard to please God? And if no matter what we do, how well we believe, or how hard we try, some things will not go our way but will work out only for God’s will in the end, why should we keep acting in faith? The answer to all these questions is the same: because we love and serve a holy God.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:1 through Leviticus 19:14, we begin a new portion for our new week. Parashah 30 is titled in Hebrew K’doshim and it means “Holy People.” The second verse says, “You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” And everything else builds from there. Every law, every ruling, every direction and teaching all point to the same purpose; be holy because Yahveh, your God, is holy. That sentiment is repeated in The New Testament in 1 Peter 1 where verse 15 (AMP) says, “But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”
The next verses have a few repeats of statutes given in “The Ten Commandments,” but there are a few more details as well. For example, in edition to telling Israel not to turn to idols, this says for them not to cast metal gods for themselves. It goes on to tell them to make sure that all their peace offerings bring acceptance to them. Next God tells Israel not to harvest their crops all the way to the corners, and not to pick up dropped grapes or ears of corn. Those remaining bits of harvest are to be left for the poor and the foreigner.
As the reading continues, God reminds the children of Israel not to steal from, lie to, or defraud each other, and not to oppress or rob their neighbors. He also says not to withhold pay on the day the work is done, so apparently that is the same as oppressing your neighbor. I can see how it would be more kind to receive your pay the day you work for it, so you can be the one to bank it for interest instead of your boss. I know lots of wait staff who prefer their tips in cash, so they won’t have to wait to receive them on their paychecks.
On the topic of being kind to each other, God reminds the community members to never speak a curse against a deaf person or put an obstacle in the way of a blind person. I find it a little sad that God had to tell people that though. It would seem that not being unkind to someone who struggles would be common sense, but with so many physical weaknesses being signs of sinfulness, maybe the people felt judgment against those who bore such weaknesses. Maybe it even made them feel justified in their cruelties. Still, to me, kindness seems like something that should not have to be taught.
Above all else, God reminds Israel not to swear by His name falsely since that would be profaning His name, and He reminds them that they should fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord. That’s a wrap-around of what our reading started out with. So, if we remember that Yahveh is our God and our Lord, and we remember that He is holy, we should automatically desire to be a holy people as a way to honor our Holy God.
I believe people who don’t know God fight His laws simply because they are of God. But for those of us who know Him, that should be reason enough to not fight them. It is reason enough for me, as someone who serves Him because I love Him, to adhere to a lifestyle of holiness because He is a Holy God. I don’t want to look for whatever I can get away with because I have His mercy and grace on my life. Instead, I want to please Him because He showed me that mercy and grace in spite of the fact that I did not deserve it.
In truth, the laws of God would serve all humans well. I mean, why should the world get offended by the idea of putting “The Ten Commandments” in public places when most of the rules given there would only serve to make life better for all of us? Is there anyone who likes to be lied about or lied to? Is there any parent who does not desire respect? Is there anyone who wishes for themselves or someone they love to be murdered? I don’t think so. What God calls being holy to Him is mostly just a matter of taking care of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us where we have an influence. Those who don’t serve God may call things like this “random acts of kindness,” but those of us to love Him know they are a way to get in touch with the holy part of Him that dwells in us.
That holy part of God that lives in His believers is what cleanses us to make us fit for the building. It’s also what smooths us to where we can be fitly joined together, and it’s what binds us together in Him. His power gives us the energy that makes us living stones. When we come together according to His plan, His light within this temple of living stones will shine out from us to draw in the lost and confused or our world. More than our “good” behaviors, His holiness set free within us and governing our desires is what makes us a holy people and a holy temple. What better living offering can we give to a Holy God?
P.S. On the subject of the holy temple, I want to link you to a long but worthwhile article by Chip Brogden from The School of Christ. It’s called “Escape from Churchianity” and it explains how the church (the ekklesia) is to be a holy temple of Christ that is built of living stones. You can read it for yourself at http://theschoolofchrist.org/articles/escape-from-churchianity.html where you will find other great articles and books as well.
Sadness and sorrow are strong emotions that can change moments, days, weeks, and longer parts of our lives. When the sorrow is generated by a painful situation involving someone we care about, it can affect everything from appetite to moving forward in our daily routines.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 10:16 through Leviticus 10:20 (the end of the chapter), we read about the effects of sorrow on Aaron and his remaining sons after two of his sons were killed for offering strange fire on God’s holy altar. I found it just a little harder to understand from the Complete Jewish Bible, so I recommend also reading from another version as well. Here’s a link to read today’s portion from The Amplified Bible…Leviticus 10:16-20.
So Moses is checking up on the rituals he has trained the new priests to perform, and he is concerned that he cannot find the meat from the sacrificial goat. The priests were supposed to eat the meat in a holy place as their portion of the sacrifice, but Moses discovers that they have burnt it up as waste instead. He asks them why they did things their own way instead of God’s way, and why the blood was not brought into the holy place as Moses commanded.
The response from Aaron is basically something along the lines of, “After what happened to the other two members of our family, we were all depressed and had no appetite.” And then he asks Moses if God would have been pleased with them if they had gone ahead and eaten in spite of what they had just been through. Upon seeing that perspective, Moses is pacified and understands the sorrow of the men.
I understand the pain of these brothers and father too. When I see a perspective that shows me the sorrow of others, I have to fight feeling sorrow myself–even for something as far back as a story in the Old Testament. I cry so easily that I wept when I thought of my kitties going under anesthesia for being fixed and not having anyone there who could explain in kitty cat language what was happening to them. Today, when I heard the family members weeping for their relatives who were passengers on the lost Malaysian Airlines jet, I immediately felt their pain and began to cry. I am highly sensitive to the emotions of others, and that can be both a good and bad thing at times.
While the brothers and father in our Bible story were experiencing common mourning, what I have described about myself is a bit less common. There is a great article (lens) on “Squidoo” that describes it perfectly. It’s called The Empath Within–Are You A Highly Sensitive Person, and it explains what it means to be empathic rather than just empathetic. It helped me to understand why something like a trip to Walmart can make me feel so emotionally drained, and it has to do with the sensations I feel from the huge mix of emotions there. I highly recommend the article.
So, why am I tying the sorrow of today’s story to my own empathic spirit? Because it’s a great segue to explain to my readers why the world sometimes feels like too much for you to bear. If you’re like me, when there’s a lot of pain around you, it makes it hard to complete even basic tasks. You’ll understand if you click on the article above, and you’ll even get a bit of a better understanding of me as a person.
Of course, the hardest thing of all is feeling stuff the rest of the world either doesn’t feel or won’t admit to, or maybe feeling things differently than the rest of the world thinks I should feel them. For example, while I am hurting over my nephew who is still not waking up, I feel more sadness for some of my Facebook friends who are battling cancer because I know they did not bring it onto themselves. Yes, I want Joshua to be healed, but if I had to choose only one person to receive a miracle, I would hand it to my friend, Judy Sliger, who is at the end of anything doctors can do in her battle with ovarian cancer. That brings its own kind of pain because I want to take on everything for everyone, but no one other than Our Savior was ever built for that task, so I’m left with fighting guilt.
I will ask you, my lovely readers, to continue to pray for my nephew. I ask above all else that you pray for God’s most perfect will to be done, and that you pray for God to be glorified in the situation. I would love to know that God is somewhere with him in that comatose state, and that he will wake up as a servant of God who is ready to tell the whole world about it. And I also ask you to pray for the many on my heart for the cancers and sicknesses and pains they are going through.
I will end today’s post with this: Judy is one I have known and met as we worked together to plan the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference some years back. She has written a book about her struggle with cancer. So, if you want to support her, or if you know anyone else who is fighting a terminal condition, I encourage you to consider purchasing her book. You can visit by clicking on this title… Take Heart: Prayers for the Terminally Ill. (This is a direct link to the paperback with no affiliate link embedded.) Thank you, and may your days ahead be blessed with more positive emotions than negative ones, and more and more of God’s presence as you continuously draw nearer to Him.
Proverbs 16:17 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; he who guards his way preserves his life.” With all we are seeing as consequences for the use of drugs, and all I have been learning from the doctors, the idea of doing things God’s way to preserve our lives is making more and more literal sense. We have a relative that completely looks past what our nephew did to bring on the consequences, and she refuses to acknowledge her own part in it or to repent of her continuing sins. Yet, she continues to claim that there will be a miraculous healing just because she is claiming it in Jesus’ name. But is there communion between holy and unholy just because the unholy uses a holy name?
Today’s reading from Leviticus 9:24 through Leviticus 10:11 shows that God is picky about the purity of what is offered to Him and whether or not our offerings are given with a spirit of obedience. After the offerings and blessings that brought forth the presence of Yahveh, we see His Spirit consume the offerings with fire. The people shout and fall on their faces in His holy presence.
But the next thing you know, two of Aaron’s sons (apparently he had four sons who were becoming priests based on this reading), march up all big in their britches and try to put on a show. They take unauthorized incense in their censers and try to light it from the holy altar of God. Not smart! As the fire of God’s presence comes down upon the altar, it consumes these boys who gave an offering other than what God had commanded to give. (Some versions use the term strange fire.)
Oh, but shouldn’t God be merciful just because they were offering something to Him? After all, they were called by God to be priests, right? In today’s theology, it would seem that anything done in Jesus’ name (or by a person who calls himself or herself a pastor or a prophet) is supposed to win God’s favor. Yes, we are made holy by the blood of Christ, but we still have to be led by the Spirit if we want to be free from the curse of the law. It’s all about our hearts, and if our lips are simply declaring the word of God while our hearts are far from Him, then we are an evil tree that cannot bring forth truly good fruit. But if we are sincerely following God, we will walk on His “high above sin” way, and we will bear good fruit.
As the reading continues, God declares that He will be glorified before all the people, and Aaron keeps silent, Then Moses calls Aaron’s other two sons and tells them not to perform any of the rituals of mourning, so that God will not be angry. He tells them to let the community of Israel mourn for them instead. And then he tells them to stay by the entrance to the Tent of Meeting because if they go out while God’s anointing oil is on them, they will die. They are also given a warning to never enter God’s presence having consumed wine or other intoxicating liquor because they must be able to know the difference between clean and unclean, holy and unholy.
The last statement makes me wonder if the first two of Aaron’s sons were intoxicated, and that’s why they couldn’t tell the difference in which incense to offer. If not, I’m guessing they just had disobedient spirits. We don’t get to see a lot of information about them, but we know they had been anointed and consecrated as priests for God, we know they were dressed in holy garments, and we know they had been in the presence of Yahveh. But none of those things compared to the moment they decided to follow after their own ideas instead of being led by God’s Holy Spirit. Living God’s way is about abandoning our own thoughts and ways because we love and trust God, and because we know that His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways. His way really is the high way.
A seed doesn’t grow just because you plant it. It must be planted in ready soil. And, if the seed is to grow to maturity, the soil must be maintained for growth. Maintenance may come in the form of watering, weeding, and/or nutrients, but rarely does something left to itself grow to the best it can be. This is only part of the law of the harvest, and since we are made from earth, it’s important that we understand the part the harvest plays in us.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 9:17 through Leviticus 9:23, we continue the events of the eighth day from the beginning of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests for Yahveh. They offer a grain offering, and a portion of it goes up in smoke on the altar. Then they bring peace offerings and wave offerings as Moses directs them. And then Aaron comes down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, and he blesses the people. After he blesses the people, Moses and Aaron go back into the Tent of Meeting, come out again, and bless the people once more. AND THEN (my emphasis), God’s glory appeared to all the people.
If God planned to show His glory to the people anyway, why didn’t He just meet them as soon as they had all gathered? If it was because of sin, then why didn’t He meet them as soon as the offerings were completed? I believe this all comes back to the law of the harvest. Just because soil looks ready, doesn’t mean it is. Only those who work with soil for a living would know if it is actually ready for the specific seed to be planted. God knew the order of things that would make His people ready to receive His glory. He knew which offerings should be completed, and which blessings should be spoken over the people, to prepare them for God’s holy presence.
These days, we have preachers who just bless people because that’s what the people want to hear. There are many who never go into a holy place with God to consult Him before dishing out blessings, and they don’t give the blessings for the purpose of God’s presence as much as for the thanks of the people. In what way does telling someone that God is about to bless them with a big house and a new car prepare them to commune with God? I imagine what they called blessings in these Scriptures were something more along the lines of, “The sacrifice has been accepted, and you are purified to receive God.” And after Moses and Aaron came out from meeting with God, they might have said something like, “God has looked upon your hearts and sees your desires for Him, so now He will meet with you.” I mean, truly, can you think of a better blessing than that?
Even under the blood of Christ, there is a plan and a pattern. If there was not one, then we would not even need the written word beyond the story of crucifixion and redemption. The blood of Our Savior is the sin offering, but where are we in the other offerings and sacrifices? I believe WE are to give ourselves as an offering to God to allow Him to prepare us for His presence. We bring sacrifices of confession, humility, repentance, and accountability. We may offer a sacrifice of praise as our wave offering. And in all the sacrifices and praise we give, and in all the blessings we receive, we should strive for those that are holy and acceptable to Yahveh, and for those that prepare us for God’s holy presence in every moment of our lives.
I’m going to keep this short because it has been a difficult day in our family. While I study God’s word and try to learn more about what He would have me to be and to do for Him, and where He would have me to go for Him, there are those who are certain their own ways will yield them something far greater than God’s way. My nephew is one of those, and we spent today in the emergency room with him having overdosed on a mix of serious drugs. He has a three-year-old daughter that may or may not ever know her daddy again. Physically, he should pull through, but we won’t know until tomorrow if he will have any brain damage from the time he was gone before they revived him.
So now, in today’s reading from Leviticus 8:22 through Leviticus 8:29, we read about the ram of consecration, This offering required that Moses anoint Aaron and his sons with blood from the ram by putting it on their right ears, the tips of their right thumbs, and the tips of their right toes. After that, the blood was splashed on all sides of the altar. After these things, when the animal was burnt up, it was one that was a sweet smelling offering to God.
I see the places the blood was applied as representing what the priests would listen to, what they would do (with their hands), and where they would go (with their feet). As a member of God’s royal priesthood, I believe that being consecrated to God means listening to Him, do what He would have me to do, and going where He would have me to go. It may not always be easy, but it is always simple. And even when it’s hard, it’s a lot easier than ending up in the hospital or the graveyard.
I have an old Bible message on cassette that talks about the difference in being clean and in just covering something up with deodorant. It’s like the air freshener ad that says it doesn’t just mask odors, but it actually cleans the air you breathe. Given the choice, I’m certain we all would rather breathe clean air than dirty air that is just sprayed with perfume. The preaching tape goes on to compare real prayer from a sincere heart to shallow praise, and it says the latter is like spraying perfume in stinky shoes. But God looks on the heart, and in the heart, so while people may be fooled by a good dose of deodorant in the form of praise, worship, good works, etc., God will not.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 7:11 through Leviticus 7:38 (the end of the chapter), we learn about the law for sacrificing peace offerings to Yahveh. If a peace offering is given to also give thanks to God, it is to be combined with a thanksgiving offering. For this type of offering, one part of each thing offered is to be given as a gift to The Lord. The meat that goes with this offering is to be eaten on the same day, unless it is for a vow or from a voluntary offering, and then the left over meat can be eaten the next day as well. This part tells me that some peace offerings are compelled, and some are free-will, so maybe that’s the difference in praise that we offer because we’re truly thankful for something and praise that feels more like a sacrifice.
Now, this next part is pretty common sense to me. It says any of the meat left for the third day will be disgusting and should be completely burned up. It also says that, regardless of the type of offering, no meat should be eaten on the third day, or the person who eats it will bear the consequences of doing so. Me; if I don’t have refrigeration, I don’t even want to eat meat later in the evening, let alone meat that is three days old. And I imagine the consequences here would be in the form of digestive troubles.
As for the days when eating the meat of the sacrifice is okay, I think this next part is very important. It says that any clean person may eat of the sacrifice. It also says that neither the person making the offering, nor the offering itself, should touch any unclean thing. I relate this to what I said above about being clean and not just deodorized, and I believe it is saying that God wants a pure sacrifice from a pure heart. I think it’s a perfect type and shadow of our need to lift up holy hands to God. We should approach God with a clean heart and clean hands, so that our sacrifice of praise will be completely acceptable to Him. We can be sure He will be able to smell if we have a sweet-smelling aroma, or if we’re just trying to cover things up with a strong dose of perfume.
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.
I’m sure there are some celebrants who might think the idea of celebrating Mardi Gras forever is a great idea, but I’m one of those who only likes the colors and the music and wants nothing to do with the idea of being in the midst of it. In truth, however, I could have named this “Fat” plus “any day of the week” because it’s not really about the celebration.
In our reading today from Leviticus 3:1 through Leviticus 3:17 (the entire chapter), we read some more about the requirements when bringing an offering to The Lord. The offerings covered here are those brought at peace offerings. Now, I’m not certain exactly what that means according to God. I don’t know if it was a way to ask Him for peace, or if it was a way to bring peace between the one giving the offering and someone else. I’ll just say that it’s one of those things that I will need to study more before I can even think to teach it to others.
I can say from the reading that the requirements are very similar to the offerings for atonement, including that whatever is offered needs to be without defect. Of course, which one of us would like someone to give us a gift that is from the “bottom of the barrel” so to speak? I know it did not make me happy when I once drew a white elephant gift that ended up being a cookie tin–and the crumbs were still in it. So, for The One who has given us everything, it is right to give–and to want to give–our very best.
And one new thing is added to the requirements this time. When giving an offering from the flock or herd, God says to make sure to offer all the fat to Him. He says, for now and for all future generations that the fat belongs to Him, so we are never to eat fat or blood. There are a lot of ideas of what that means, such as that we should only eat lean and fully cooked meats. Again, it’s one of those things I would have to study more to be able to say. I do know that I’m one of those who likes fattier cuts of meat, so it would be hard for me to accept that everything being cleansed does not change that all fat belongs to God, but if I were sure of it, I would change that. I’m certain lean meats are healthier as well, and well-cooked meats have fewer bacteria. And maybe that’s exactly what this last rule is for, a way to help us keep our temples healthier to be able to have more years to worship God. I’d love to hear what some of you think about these things that puzzle me. In the meantime, may you find many bright and colorful blessings and you walk with, and serve, Yahveh Almighty–on Tuesday and on every other day of the week.
Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.
In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.
Now, if anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word Meshiach and Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.
After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.
When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.
I love when a title can be seen in multiple ways, and even more when all the ways can be true. Based on the definitions of the word vest, it can be a garment worn to the waist, and the priest in the camp of Israel will wear the garment. It means to bestow power or authority on someone, and God definitely bestowed a lot on the priests of the tribe of Levi. And, it can mean to have a personal stake in something or someone. Both God and the priests have a vested interest in Israel and in the mercy and grace that are represented by the priesthood and the tabernacle practices.
In today’s reading from Exodus 39:2 through Exodus 39:21, we get to see the details of the vest that the artisans are making for the high priest. The parts of the vest, such as the breastplate, are made from gold; blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; and finely-woven linen. And, yes, the first item in that list is actually gold, not just gold yarn. The reading says that they hammered the gold into thin sheets and then cut the sheets into threads in order to work them into the yarns and linen.
Can you imagine gold thread that is actually made from gold? Elvis Presley could imagine something close since he had a famous suit made from gold lame’ which was a yarn made with metallic ingredients. A famous tailor to the stars named Nudie Cohn created that suit, and many other famously outrageous outfits. You can read about him at Wikipedia, but since there are no pictures, I found a Pinterest page with lots of fun images, including Elvis’ suit and Nudie’s famous car. I actually got to see the car in person when I was a little girl living in Southern California. There were coins in the dashboard, the doors opened by pulling triggers on pistols, and there was a huge set of bull horns on the front of the car.
So, getting back to the original celebrity designer, God issued detailed instructions for the designs that would cover the priests in His service, and then He anointed skilled men to create them. He did all of this to represent the value of Israel to Him since the high priest was a representation of God Himself. And the part I find the most moving in this story is that God wanted the breastplate fastened down with gold chains, so it would ALWAYS be over the heart of the priest. Need I say more?
Do you remember the children’s story called “Stone Soup”? It’s one of those stories that seems to have stuck with me from childhood forward. I’ve always believed in the idea that anything can be accomplished if only people will stop being selfish and will pull together as one. We have Scriptures that tell us that, like where Paul talks about all the members of the body being one, and we teach our kids to sing songs like “If We All Will Pull Together,” but when it comes down to it, it’s a struggle to find people who will share for the greater good.
In today’s reading from Exodus 38:1 through Exodus 39:1, we read more about the furnishings and utensils created by Bezalel and Oholiab. Yesterday, we read that the people of Israel actually gave too much, and the craftsmen had to tell them to stop bringing their offerings. Today, we actually get a breakdown of the donations and offerings the people brought in. I won’t give you the entire breakdown, but the metals given weighed in at the following amounts: Gold equaled 1930 pounds, silver equaled 6650 pounds, and bronze equaled 4680 pounds.
Now, while all of those above numbers sound like a lot of metal, (and they would be a lot of metal when it came time to carry the tabernacle from one location to another), today’s reading also does a quick census and tells us that of men 21 years old and over, there were over six-hundred-thousand. It goes on to say that the silver offering only came to about one-fifth of an ounce per person. From this we can see that when everyone comes together to give for a common cause, the needs will be more than met, and it may not even cost that much from each individual giver.
I think the thing that makes me the saddest here is that the government has gotten too involved in our giving. Their ways of forcing us to give by over-taxing to pay for things we may or may not believe in has caused people to pull even more into themselves instead of being the givers God created us to be. Even the Egyptians were giving people and sent Israel off with much of the gold they’re probably now giving. Now we’re at a point where we can’t really fight it, so at the least, I think it’s time for Christians to begin praying that our giving (no matter how compelled) will somehow be used to provide for the needs God wants taken care of. And let us pray above all else that God will be glorified in us and in our giving.
Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be possible to make antiques to order, unless the place is one of those that makes things for restaurants that hang stuff resembling real antiques on their wall. I do know that I would want to go into this store because of the sign though, so it is good advertising.
According to a few dictionary definitions I found, made to order can mean something is made to someone’s personal specifications and requirements, or it can mean it’s just perfect for the situation. In today’s (very long) reading from Exodus 35:30 through Exodus 37:16, I think it means both of those and more.
Most of today’s reading centers around a guy from the tribe of Judah named Bezalel. He is a grandson of Hur, one of the two guys who helped hold Moses’ arms up, so Israel could defeat her enemy. Bezalel is a master craftsman who has been endowed by God to make everything from clothing to jewelry to gold dinnerware. He is like a machine who takes in what Israel donates and comes out with a perfectly-designed temple according to the design God showed Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Bezalel hires a helper, Aholiab, from the tribe of Dan. Together, they will both design and create the temple coverings, curtains, furnishings, and all that is needed for temple worship. The Bible says that God filled them both with wisdom of heart and ability to do all manner of craftsmanship. In addition to being gifted with wisdom for creativity, God also gifted these men to teach others, so they would not have to build the entire tabernacle on their own.
In a sense, in addition to building a “made to order” tabernacle, God also made these men to order (train) other men in how to create according to God’s plans. I don’t know if it works this way for all those who are gifted with wisdom in creativity, but I am thankful for those Christian writers who go beyond the gift of their own writing and share tips and tricks with others. There are a few whose teachings I have learned from, and whose lessons feel as anointed as their creative works. I learn well from them. There are more than I can list here, but if you want to know some of the people that inspire me as writing teachers, let me know and I’ll share some in comments.
As for the rest of the passage, please click the link above to read the details about all that these men and their helpers created. You’ll find they sound much like the details given to Moses on the mountain because they are determined to line up to that blueprint. I can only imagine the designs, but knowing what God can do when He works within a willing vessel, I imagine them to be spectacular and beautiful. I expect them to be that way because of the times when God works in my life to bless whatever efforts I put my hands to. Whether He guides me as I write or sing, or when I design a new kaleidoscopic or abstract creation, if I feel God guiding whatever part of me in engaged in the work, it always comes out better than the results when I struggle to do things on my own.
I remember the days of renting a room in someone’s house because it was too expensive to get my own place. There are always drawbacks to that set up, like a lack of privacy, a bit less freedom, and a shared bathroom. But there are also benefits, not the least of which is how much less it usually costs than trying to keep up even a small apartment on your own. One place I rented, however, was almost perfect. The owner was a strong woman with unbending house rules. She assigned kitchen shelf space, refrigerator space, and quiet times, and she made sure all renters knew that she was in charge of the thermostat. We had three very different people types (an atheist in her fifties, a Catholic organist in her eighties, and me–a Pentecostal in her twenties), but we all got along perfectly because of the house rules.
In today’s reading from Exodus 24:10 through Exodus 24:26, Israel is getting ready to move toward the “Promised Land” and God lays down the rules. The first thing He does, though, is to remind them of who He is and of what He will do through them if they observe His commands. See, like the homeowner in my rental situation, God has already worked with and seen a variety of living situations–including those in the future since He can see through all times, He knows what works, and He knows what doesn’t work. So He tells Israel that He is going to do awesome things through them, and all they have to do is trust Him to know what works.
The first thing God knows will not work is a land filled with people who worship false gods. In their idol worship and lifestyles void of The True God of Creation, they have no value of human life, and they worship gods made of stone and metal that have no power. Yahveh promises to drive all these people out, so they won’t be a snare to them within their own borders. He tells Israel the kind of people they are, and He warns them not to imitate them in any way. In a paraphrase, God says, “Don’t even go to dinner with these people. If you do, you’ll end up eating stuff they sacrificed to idols, then your sons will marry their daughters, and then their daughters will get your sons to prostitute themselves before their idols the way they themselves do.”
God is a jealous God, and He knows He is the only One who is truly looking after Israel’s best interests. He also knows that Israel is made up of human inhabitants, and that by trying to befriend these people who worship false gods, Israel risks many things in addition to stirring up God’s jealousy. If the people of Israel get too close to the people of the land, they may feel sorry for them and refuse to do their part in pushing them out of the land God wants to consecrate for Himself and His people. And, if there are any people who might change their ways, how will they see that there is a different way to become, and a True God to serve, if the people imitate them instead of standing strong in their obedience to Yahveh?
So, after some stern warnings of “do nots” for Israel to remember with their temporary roommates, God reminds Israel of what He wants them to do. Oh, but He does issue one last (and huge) do not first. He tells Israel not to build any metal gods, so now they have no excuse to ever again create and worship a golden calf.
Now, onto the “to do” list, which mostly includes keeping the feast days He has created because they all represent Him in some way, and they will help Israel to remember what is important. The first of these feasts is The Feast of Unleavened Bread. It will remind them of their deliverance from Egypt. We now know it also represents deliverance from sin which is why leavening is to be cut out because leaven represents sin and pride.
Between the feast reminders, God reminds the people that the first born will always belong to Him. Each one is to be redeemed with a sacrifice, and no one is to come to God empty-handed. I think this is God’s way of saying that He is first, and He created all things, so whatever is first is special as a reminder of these things. The sacrifice is our way of giving Him thanks for being our Creator and Leader. And then He reminds them to keep the festival of Sabbath, which is held on the last day of the week. He wants them to keep it even during planting and harvesting, because like there is always a first, there is also always a last. And in this I believe that God uses Sabbath to remind us that just as He is our first, He is also the last. In the New Testament, He says He is our rest, and He also says He is the Alpha and the Omega.
The last verse of today’s reading reminds Israel to bring the best of their first fruits as an offering to God. We should always bring our best to God, and we should always bring what we have to Him before offering it to the thankless world around us. Whatever we have belongs to Him first anyway, and only He promises to do awesome things through us by bringing His gifts back to their source. If Israel will live by God’s rules, and not be swayed by the ways of their new roommates, they have a promising and prosperous future ahead of them. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so do we.
The world around us is filled with creativity. Most of it is God’s direct action on molecular structure, but because He made man in His own image, He has also passed on some of His creative genes. In return, we have the pleasure of filling our worlds with the crafts and creations of others. Whether the person doing the creating is the one who comes up with the idea or the one who adds the final touches, they are given the gift of creation by The Master Creator.
In today’s (slightly lengthy) reading from Exodus 30:11 through Exodus 31:17, we are beginning a new portion on the give and take that provides for the crafts used in tabernacle service. The Hebrew name for this parashah is Ki Tissa, and it means “When you take.” It begins with God’s order of a census of the people and a charge for their atonement to be collected at the same time. God explains that the price of atonement will be the same for everyone ( half a shekel), and it will be used to fund the operating costs of the tabernacle.
A new piece of furniture is presented today–the bronze laver, or wash basin. Not many are certain of its original design, but I like the image I saw with spigots in the bottom to fill a trough for washing feet. The priests could also wash their hands in the flowing water before it filled the bottom trough. As I mentioned in the “Altar Ego” post where I talked of the brazen altar, no minister could come up to these bronze-coated furnishings and not see himself in it. I think it’s especially important to take a look at yourself when you are getting ready to wash. That works spiritually as much as it does physically.
The last part of Chapter 30 talks of the aromatic spices, oils, and extracts that are to be used to create the anointing oil and the incense for the altar of incense. The oil, which is used to anoint all the furnishings and instruments of the tabernacle, is not the same oil as is used for putting on people–such as anointing to heal the sick. God is specific about its ingredients, and He says no other ingredients should be used for this particular anointing oil, and this oil is not to be used for any other purpose. It is so holy that making it without God’s instruction, or using it contrary to His purpose, will cause a person to be cut off from his people. In like manner, God gives specific instructions for creating the incense, and He says that anyone who makes it to use as perfume will be cut off from his people.
So, in the last two days, we’ve learned much about being holy to Yahveh. He wants us to do our ministries to Him with complete dedication to Him and Him only. We don’t offer praise just to look good to others, and we don’t minister just to be uplifted by others. I am sad to say that we have a strong apostate spirit in this generation, and there are those who dub themselves prophet, prophetess, reverend, etc., for unholy purposes. I won’t give names, but if you want to read some “tell it like it is” revelations about those who use God’s holy things–like anointing and praise–in ways other than God has designed them, have a look at some articles by my friend and fellow Christian writer, Brenda, who writes the blog, Redeemed Hippies Place. Do not even visit, though, unless you are one who can take hard truth with no fluff. And if you are interested in some more strong reading about being holy and separated for service to Our Creator, be sure to pick up the book called “Holy to Yahveh” by Terrye Goldblum Seedman. You can find her articles and information at http://yahveh.com/, and her book is under the store label.
Please take time to read the Scriptures I post for yourself. I have created all links to open in new windows/tabs, so you will not lose your place here. The remaining part for today’s reading covers some specific artisans, and it deals with the requirements for keeping Shabbats/Sabbaths. I have covered that some, and I will cover more of it later, but for now, I just encourage you to go read these things for yourself. I’ve given links with plenty to read this time, so I’ll close for now. And please leave me comments on your thoughts about the Scriptures, and about the readings at the other links I’ve provided. Many blessings on your week.
I have always loved to sing, and more than that, I have always loved to sing songs that I could feel in my heart. When I stand with a congregation to sing praise songs to God, I look for the deepest meaning I can find in the song, and I try my best to sing it to Him directly. It’s a struggle for me to sing something I cannot feel. I have often stood crying when it seemed the music around me was just cluttered noise. Sometimes I would cry because I felt the presence of God by seeking God in the midst of whatever was going on around me, and sometimes I would cry because I was hurting over the shallowness I felt in what should have been the holiest time of our fellowship together.
Long before King David and the Book of Psalms he filled with praises toward Yahveh Almighty, God taught men how He wanted praise to be delivered to Him. In today’s reading from Exodus 30:1 through Exodus 30:10 we learn about the Altar of Incense which represents praise. Beyond offering a regular sacrifice twice each day, God also commanded the priests to offer fragrant incense twice each day. He gave instructions for an altar that would be used specifically for this purpose.
The most important instruction about the Altar of Incense is where God said to locate it. He said to put it in front of the curtain by the Ark of the Covenant. Remember that the priest, and only the high priest, could go into the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year. Many layers of drapery separated that area from the rest of the tabernacle. But, while men could not go beyond the curtain, the smoke that ascended from the incense would be able to penetrate the material to reach the ark that represented God’s presence.
Because this smoke went directly into God’s presence, God was very specific about what to burn on the altar and how to burn it. Unholy things cannot dwell in God’s presence, so anything not created by God’s exact instructions was considered “strange fire,” and should never be put on God’s altar. He said to offer no grain offerings on it and to pour no drink offerings on it. In addition, God told Aaron to put the blood of atonement on it once per year to keep it holy because, according to God, that altar was especially holy to Him. Imagine, something that represents praise being called “especially holy” to God then and throughout all the generations of His people.
Since we are now able to come boldly before the throne of God and into His presence, it might be easy to forget just how holy praise is to Him. We sometimes sing songs because they sound good or because a certain singer or band does a good job with their performance. I know how hard it is to lead music and remember that it’s not about performance at the same time. But I also know the experience of how I’ve heard my own voice, as if it wasn’t even coming out of me, somehow sound better than any practice or performance because my heart went to a place of true worship as I sang.
While we often start services with praise because we want to change the atmosphere by ushering in the presence of God, I love the times where we sing to change ourselves and usher our own spirits into His glorious presence. Since the smoke of incense rises, and since incense represents praise entering God’s presence, I feel like praise is a way to rise up out of our flesh and actually send a part of ourselves into the holy presence of our Holy Creator. Sometimes, it may even take a sacrifice–a break away from our own thoughts and ways–but to me, there is no greater joy than to lead my heart into a place of worship that God can receive as a holy and acceptable offering to Him. And on that note, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song Heart of Worship by Matt Redman.
Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’m writing from the road tonight because I’m pretty sure we won’t make it back home before midnight. I will edit later for links and such though. Edit: I was right. It’s almost 3am, and I’m just trying to do a quick edit before I go to sleep. I changed images since the one I uploaded with my phone somehow took the whole page width, but I’m sticking with something filled with light since the Torah (T-OR-AH) is filled with light. (OR is Hebrew for light.)
When I planned this series of blog posts, I wasn’t thinking of sharing the Torah content as much as just sharing how something from the reading affected me. Then, the natural teacher side of me kicked in, and I started trying to summarize the text to help readers gain understanding of God’s holy and wonderful word. I hope you are all blessed by my efforts however long or short.
Today’s reading covers Exodus 23:26 through Exodus 24:18 (the end of the chapter and the end of the week’s portion). It’s a wrap up of the rulings God has been giving Moses, and in this one, God calls the total rulings His Torah. Refer to my first post on this subject for meaning behind the word Torah, but in brief, it is God’s word, and it contains God’s light and truth.
Having read much earlier today, I don’t remember the particulars so much, but the part that stuck out for me was on reading what Moses and the seventy elders of Israel got to see. While most of the camp of Israel was only able to see God as fire on top of the mountain, Moses, Aaron, a couple other leaders, and the seventy elders were invited higher up and were able to see an image of God Himself. As they looked, they saw His feet standing on a piece of transparent crystal that looked like the sky.
I cried as I read the description and imagined being able to gaze upon such a wondrous site. I can’t put into words how very much I am in love with My Creator. And I can only imagine how it will feel to look in His loving face one day and to know I have an eternity to thank Him for all He has done for me.
There’s an old song by The Oakridge Boys called When I Sing for Him. It talks about how good it feels to sing praises to God, and then the music crescendos, and the singer belts out, “When I sing for Him in person, HalleluYah; when I move to my new home, HalleluYah; oh the angels will be singing, HalleluYah Amen; when I sing….for….Him!” As a singer, I can imagine standing on that stage in front of God, looking at Him standing on the sky-blue piece of crystal, and hearing the words, “Well done, my true and faithful servant.” It’s too precious to me to even describe.
Have a blessed Sabbath, and when you can find a quiet place and time, take a few minutes to imagine yourself singing in person to your Creator and Savior who loves you. I promise, it will bring you a special touch if joy and peace. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the song I mention above. Only in watching it can you truly see how powerful it is.
Do a Flickr image search of the word angel, and you’ll get a huge variety of images that you may or may not consider to be angelic. We have so many ideas in our minds of what it means to be an angel, from believing that good people (especially children) die and become angels in Heaven, to believing they are all beautiful and have halos and feathery wings. I won’t say I’m any kind of specialist in angels, but I do know they are placed in service of humans, and I know they desire to look into this thing we know as grace because their obedience is compelled rather than free will. But even though they are assigned to serve and protect us, they are still worthy of respect for their God-given powers and their position in God’s realm.
As a quick note here: I have learned through study that the word halo comes from the Greek word helios and concerns sun worship. If you put the sun behind the head of a person, the ring surrounding their head looks very much like the halos we put on the heads of all we would consider to be angelic, including images of Jesus Christ. This is just a little commercial break for your information since we’re talking about angels. Now, back to our regular programming. 🙂
In today’s very short reading from Exodus 23:20 through Exodus 23:25, Yahveh is speaking to His people about the angel He is sending before them to guide them and to guard them. God tells the people to pay attention to him, to listen to him, and to not rebel against him. He adds that the angel will not forgive them of any wrongdoing because God’s name dwells in him. In this sentence, I’m thinking it might actually mean, don’t expect the angel to forgive you just because God’s name is in him. I say that because of new testament Scripture that says God alone is able to forgive sins.
The reading goes on to encourage the people that their guardian angel will be an enemy to their enemies and a foe to their foes. God tells them that when the angel leads them to lands inhabited by their enemies, God will make an end of those enemies. Then God reminds them to not worship any of their gods or follow in their practices, but rather they are to smash their statues to pieces. I’m thinking here that this was God’s way of telling the people that they did not need to fear what their enemies might do to them, since people are generally very protective of gods they worship–even false gods–because they believe those gods are looking out for them and providing for them. Destroying them is the same as destroying their hopes. But, because they are false gods, and because Israel serves the true God and is being protected by His angel, they can stand for Yahveh even to the extent of destroying that which is false.
As the reading comes to an end, Yahveh reminds Israel of His provision for them. He tells them to serve Him and Him alone, and that He will bless their food and water. He goes on to tell them that He will even take sickness away from them. He gives them plenty of reason to trust Him, follow His lead, be obedient, and not fear any of their enemies. We have these same promises and provisions, but like Israel, we often back down and fear standing on something that might offend those who worship false gods. Of course, it is often confusing to determine when to stand against wrong by doing something like destroying that which is false and trying to be harmless as doves, but if we can become more sensitive to God’s voice, maybe we can stand more strongly. Lord help us to know what strongholds You have given us direction and strength to stand against and to tear down.
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.
If a person who has been known to be mean for years suddenly starts turning nicer with age, many will say they know their time is short and they’re trying to get ready to meet their Maker. And then there’s the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Somehow, whether it’s age, illness, or some other reason that brings a person closer to thinking about his or her own mortality, when people think they are near death, they often start thinking about being prepared to meet God.
In today’s reading from Exodus 19:7 through Exodus 19:19, God tells Moses that, in three days, He is coming down to talk to Israel and Moses is to get them ready to meet Him. Of course, this is following God’s recent words to them (through Moses) that they are His special treasure and chosen people, so I imagine the thought of meeting Him wasn’t nearly as frightening as it would be for someone who has always lived life as if God didn’t exist.
For Israel to be ready, God wanted them to wash their clothes and make their way to the base of the mountain. They were told to be careful to stay at the foot of the mountain, not to touch the mountain, to refrain from touching any women, and to wait for the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn that sounds like a trumpet) before coming up onto the mountain. If they violated these things before the third day when God said He would descend in a cloud, they were told they would die.
On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning as a thick cloud descended on the mountain. When the shofar blasted, it was so loud that it made all the camp of Israel tremble. God came down upon the mountain in fire, and the smoke ascended up from the mountain like smoke from a furnace. Between the smoke and the shofar which blasted louder and louder, the whole mountain shook violently. And then Moses spoke, and God answered him, and the people were able to hear them as God promised they would. He planned this, so the people could trust in Moses from then on.
As I read this passage, I thought about the term God of Thunder, so I looked it up. It has been used for song titles, video games, and numerous gods throughout history. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has heard that thunder was either God or the angels going bowling. But the thing that sets Yahveh apart from all the other power-wielding gods is that, while they are gods of thunder (and other ethereal phenomena), Yahveh is the God over all of it. He created the thunder and the lightning, and He controls the thunder and the lightning. It is His idea that the lightning also brings nitrogen to help things grow and adds ozone to protect us from harmful rays of the sun. He is THE TRUE GOD OF THUNDER both now and forevermore.
And all of this made me think of the verses from Matthew 8:24-27, while Yahshua was out on the boat with His disciples…
24 Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. 25 So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.27 The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”
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.
There are two words that often make me feel frustrated when I hear them … fair and deserve. We read in Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:12 that because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. In other words, because people refuse to do things God’s way, the justice that God (as Love) brings to the human heart will be reduced. This means that it is because of sin that life is unfair, and people either get things they don’t deserve or don’t get things they do deserve. But for every person who cries out for fairness, there is an unfair moment on the cross where Our Savior took what He did not deserve, so that we would not receive what we did deserve. Trusting Him to recompense our afflictions is trusting in real justice.
In the meantime, we’re all still human, and we will all feel at times as if we have not been treated with justice in this life. In today’s reading from Exodus 18:13 through Exodus 18:23, we find Moses being called on to settle disputes, and we find so many people lining up to get his advice that people surrounded him from morning until evening. That’s a lot of work for one person, and Jethro notices the same thing. He asks Moses what is going on, and Moses explains that the people come to him for God’s guidance. He tells Jethro that when the people have a dispute, he judges between them and then explains God’s laws and teachings to them.
Jethro begins to explain that it’s not a good thing, and that Moses will wear himself out if he doesn’t learn to delegate. (Boy do I understand this part.) Jethro suggests that Moses should represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. He adds that Moses should teach them God’s laws and show them how to live. But when it comes to judgment, Jethro tells Moses to choose men to govern the people in groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Whatever size group each leader should govern, these leaders should be competent, God-fearing, honest, and incorruptible.
Can you imagine if every person in a leadership position had to qualify with these characteristics? We have plenty in charge–of our country, our cities, our courts, our churches, and even our homes, that cannot qualify by even one of these characteristics, let alone all four. What a pleasant environment we would live in if all men and women in power were–at the least–honest. If they were also incorruptible, we could have a taste of fairness and equity. And if all were competent enough to make God and His word their true and supreme court, we could know real justice.
Jethro goes on to explain that if these leaders solve most of the disputes and only bring the difficult cases to him, Moses will have help with his heavy load, and life will be a bit easier for him. Jethro closes his advice-giving by telling Moses that if he does these things, and if God directs him to do these things, he (Moses) will be able to endure, and the people he is leading will make it to their destination peacefully.
Since I’m a bit like Moses in trying to do everything myself rather than delegating things to others, I can understand his need to hear this advice from Jethro. I’m certain they prayed for God to show them what leaders held the qualities that would make Moses able to trust them as his delegates of authority. I know that, even in the small scenario of my writer’s group, having officers and workers I can trust with group tasks brings us to a peaceful destination together. My helpers may never know just how much their work means to me, but from a leadership position, I can tell you it is priceless. If you are the type of person who works to help others, never judge your service by the size of the job but only by the sincerity of your motivations.
Yesterday, we read about God giving Abraham’s servant a sign that he was moving in the right direction, and through it, the servant found Rebekah as a future wife for Isaac. Today, we read in Genesis 24:27 through Genesis 24:52, and the story is almost exactly the same except that it is being retold by the servant to Rebekah’s relatives.
In verses 47 & 48, the servant begins to share his personal reaction to being shown a positive sign about Rebekah. He tells the family how he put the gifts of jewelry on her, and then he describes bowing before Adonai and worshiping Him for bringing him to the right place. In verse 49, he gives his audience the chance to make a decision about whether or not they will believe and adhere to the direction that has been shown to the servant and confirmed by the sign, and I love their response.
In verses 51 & 52, the two men respond by saying (my paraphrase), “Well, since this is obviously from God, we can’t say anything good or bad. Since Rebekah is here before you, take her and go, and let her become your master’s son’s wife…since God said so.” And at that point, the servant again bowed on his face to worship Yahveh Almighty.
If only we could all respond as calmly and without argument, right? I know I have thought for sure that God said things, but then I waited for a person to confirm what I knew in my heart. When I didn’t get the human support I felt I needed, I backed down only to find later that I should have listened to that still, small voice in my spirit. If only I would always understand that His ways and thoughts are above my ways and thoughts and, with or without human support or understanding, move forward in obedience just because God said so. There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end leads to destruction. And then… there is God’s way.
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 title for this post comes from the last verse of this reading from Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 6:22, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” (This verse from the Amplified Bible.)
I just spent an evening and a full day at a training seminar to learn about prayer and healing and ministering to others. I have about 25 pages of notes, and I saw some amazing things in the Power of God. Since I have walked as a follower of God, I can testify to multiple miracles, including one that is medically verified. And yet, I look at these chronicles of Noah, and I wonder, if it were me in his place, would I do ALL that God commanded me to do?
If we all told the truth, I’m sure we would all admit that it would be a struggle to exceed the boundaries of the natural things God wants us to do and take a jaunt into the supernatural. If we can’t see it or feel it, can it really be true? Then again, we can’t see love, but we somehow trust it is true. We can’t see salvation, but we know it is true, and often trust someone who says they’ve become saved just on their word. And salvation, the regeneration of the human soul, is the greatest miracle of all. Of course salvation wasn’t even part of the culture back then–except for Noah. The world had never yet seen a drop of rain, so just believing that God was going to destroy the earth with water was a stretch, but he did it. But then, to build a boat on dry land, build it the size required and believe it would float, and then trust that the animals from all over the earth would just find their way there and walk right in? Wow! Most of the world would have called, and probably did call, Noah a crazy man. But he obeyed in spite of their accusations.
Growing up, we had a record, and yes I mean a vinyl LP album, called “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!” I can’t tell you how many times we listened to it, but it was funny pretty much every time. The part we listened to most was the three skits where God calls on Noah to build an ark. Noah asks questions like, “Am I on Candid Camera?” and “Who is this really?” And while the story is written as a comedy, so much of it rings of truth when thinking about how humans react to that which is supernatural in God. To hear it for yourself, listen to this recording at God Tube… http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WL7YYLNX and let me know if it’s your first time hearing it, or if it brings back some great memories for you.
And after you listen to Bill Cosby, and/or read today’s Scriptures, ask yourself whether you would act like Bill’s Noah, or the Noah in the Bible who, rather than doing things his own way, did ALL that God commanded of him. No wonder he found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
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!”
THE POWER OF FAITH – Revision One
By Crystal A. Murray 05-16-12
(This is a revision of the line-numbered article as linked to in my first post. The revisions are extensive, so please consider reading it even if you have already perused the first post or the article as I wrote it for my Scribd documents. Thanks.)
This study on the power of faith is a result of studies I conducted while walking through my personal valley of decision some years ago. I began to study after seeking God’s wisdom about the current “movements” in the churches about things considered as being in the realm of God’s Spirit. What many called “revivals” were cropping up all over, and they were lauded by all kinds of Christian media. It seemed to be real and to have proven results, so I sought God as to whether I needed to visit one of these “faith healers” about a desperate physical need in my life.
I had always wondered about the depth and value of my faith, and whether it was truly enough to “move mountains” in my life. I battled with episodes of guilt for not having enough faith, such as when I did not receive a miracle healing to conceive children. At other times, it seemed my faith was huge—especially when I prayed for others, and people would come to me requesting me to pray for them because they thought my faith was so much better than their own. I sought God to ask that my faith would always be within His perfect will for my life.
For many years, voices have echoed inspirations to “act in faith,” or to “believe to receive,” or “name it to claim it.” They told me to come boldly before the throne of God and to remind Him of His promises in Scripture, and to proclaim as my own whatever I am asking for in faith. I’ve been told that I would only receive what I believed and even reminded to “fake it until you make it” to encourage myself in faith. As part of the revival movement that started all this, I was even advised that a way to strengthen faith is to exercise it. The suggested exercise as being taught by many at the time was to command one of my own fingers to grow, return to its original size, grow again, return again, etc. People were getting results with this, but I had to wonder if the results were actually from God.
After being introduced to these kinds of powers, and to other teachings I felt might border too closely to mysticism, I felt it necessary to seek God and His wisdom from the depths of my heart. I asked Him to show me, by causing my finger to grow, if this was of Him. No fingers grew, though I knew I had faith since I had experienced this exact phenomenon when I watched my leg grow nearly two inches.
An important factor in the leg growth situation is that the growth came after God specifically directed me to believe in Him for a miraculous healing in my back that day. The growth has since been medically verified, so I had no reason not to believe God could do this type of thing, but only needed to know if He would and if it was His will.
When my finger did not grow, I had to believe it was God’s way of showing me that “practicing” faith was not something He was directing me to do. Still, people who were seeing results from this practice warned me that if I didn’t have enough faith when I asked for healing, I would end up getting worse instead of better. This did not sound like the God I knew from Scripture or the God I knew from my personal testimony of His love toward me. I knew He had plenty of power to share, but I never wanted to think of Him like some kind of “genie in a lamp” type of god.
The more I sought to understand these things, the more I continued to hear about the wave of miracles that was spreading wildly through the churches. The biggest of these “shows” was coming out of Lakeland, Florida, with a man named Todd Bentley. I had no desire to find fault with these events, especially since it would have been in my best interest physically to find them as true and to seek healing through the miraculous rather than through surgical means. However, God was about to open my eyes to things I never expected to find. I won’t cover it all in this article, but I will cover the main points of Scriptures I found about faith as God walked me through them.
My first answer came with just one section of Scripture. From two verses, I understood how people like Todd Bentley, (and other last days’ seducers and apostates as warned of in Scripture), could perform the miraculous, even if it was not of God. However, even knowing this wisdom came from God, I felt it necessary to continue studying to make certain I had more than one Scripture on which to base my understanding. The following Scriptures and commentary are a result of that study.
(All Scriptures used are KJV. Scriptures are bolded with Jesus’ words in red.)
First, the Scripture that tells how people can work miracles and yet not be of God:
Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
But wait, didn’t they just say they prophesied, and cast out devils, and did wonderful works of God? Furthermore, didn’t they say they did all these things in Jesus’ Name? So how can He then say to them that He never knew them? The answer is in the word “knew” which is translated from the same referral to intimate knowledge as when Adam “knew” Eve and she bore him a son. Jesus was saying that He never planted His seed within them. They were worshiping the miracles rather than the Giver of the miracles; the creation more than the Creator; the power more than the All Powerful. Because they had faith, and because—as I will show later—faith works, those referred to in this Scripture (people we will likely see in the “last days”) were able to do good works in the right name, but their hearts were wrapped up in the works of the Lord rather than in the Lord of the work, so their righteousness became as filthy rags. The remedy to this is found in the next verse, a command from Jesus to His disciples.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God.”
Have faith in God and not in ourselves or a man. This is the beginning of an admonition to the disciples after they asked Jesus about the power He had over the fig tree. He is making sure they understand that it’s not just about power or faith in general, because (or verily)…
For verily I say unto you, “That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
Understand that faith in and of itself is so powerful that even if a man asks for an impossible thing like moving a mountain into the sea, faith will cause it to happen. God created faith with infinite possibilities–even the possibility to go against His perfect will if believers do not connect their will and their faith directly to Him. In reality, I don’t imagine God would want men running around changing nature and the ecosystem as He has created it, but because of the power of faith, they most certainly could do so.
Therefore I say unto you, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
Therefore, or because of how great the power is that is found in faith, when you have a desire, make sure you pray and THEN believe. Notice Jesus did not say, “if you pray” but rather “when you pray” because it was important for the disciples not to use the power of faith incorrectly. Those things desired should be asked in prayer to God, not just spoken like a man talking to a mountain. This goes back to Jesus’ very first statement, “Have faith in God.” He was giving them a command and then informing them of how to act on it. First, make sure the faith is in God, and then check your desires against that faith by taking it to God in prayer, and then you can have confident belief in it because you know it is His true will for you.
Here’s another look at the same scenario by a different writer:
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”
The mustard seed here is used as an answer to the disciples’ request for Jesus to “increase their faith.” He says, basically, that the amount of their faith had nothing to do with the works they could do. He used something small to drive home that even if it was a tiny bit of faith, they could do great things with it. It wasn’t about the size of the faith but the source of the faith. Jesus was telling them they didn’t need to ask for an increase in faith but rather a change in the use and purpose of their faith. The purpose was to use it in obedience to His command to have all their faith in God. The next part follows this reminder with a story that would seem to be unconnected.
“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, ‘Go and sit down to meat?’ And will not rather say unto him, ‘Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?’ Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.’ “
So why would Jesus follow the admonition about faith with the story about the servant doing what was commanded of him? Because, He was reminding them that having faith was a command. It was not something He was praising them for having, and it was not something they should praise themselves for having. They needed to be obedient and humble so that even when they operated in a power great enough to move a mountain they would say, “No big deal. We just did our duty.”
And let me add here that I am extremely uncomfortable with hearing someone say, “He’s a great man of faith” or “She’s a mighty woman of faith.” I believe this goes exactly against what Jesus was saying here about our obedience not making us anything more than unprofitable servants. When we use faith in Jesus, we are simply doing what He has commanded us to do. We are even reminded in Philippians 2:13 that God is the one who gives us the desire to serve Him, so we can’t even brag if we have a desire for faith, let alone if we carry it out. If He wants to see us more highly, that’s fine, but we should see ourselves as nothing more than obedient servants…
And here is a longer example from Matthew:
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could not we cast him out?”
And Jesus said unto them, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
In this example, we can see Jesus again telling the disciples that faith is so powerful, even a little bit can cause a mountain to be cast into the sea. And yet, He reminds them that demons only respond to that which is in the power of God. He goes on to say that He understands they may not be able to have that true and focused type of faith in God required to fight the enemy unless they subdue their flesh through prayer and fasting. This drives home that it’s more than just practicing faith over body parts, or proclaiming what we want to believe. It must be wholly wrapped up in God and His perfect will to be the kind of faith that pleases Him and yields the right results.
Furthermore, to have any kind of power in the spirit realm, we need even more to be sure we are working with God’s power and not our own “faith” which may not be motivated by obedience or love toward God. In Acts 19:13-16, the seven sons of Sceva had faith enough to get the attention of demons, (they were vagabond Jews so they knew the difference in God and the enemy,) but because they had no true relationship with God, and because they were not directed by God to cast out demons, they were overcome and wounded.
And here’s one more example after the disciples watched Jesus curse the fig tree…
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
Again, Jesus tells them if they have pure faith, they will not only be able to have power over the fruit of a tree but even greater things. And again, He follows it with the reminder that belief is not enough and that all things should be asked in prayer.
Important note here: Prayer is not the time to speak our beliefs, it is the time to make certain our beliefs are in God’s perfect will for us. Once we have that answer, we can go on to confident belief, which is the meat or evidence of things not seen until they come to pass. Jesus is giving the disciples an exact diagram here of how to have faith. And it works the same for us. Pray first and pray always. Or, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray without ceasing.
And this one does well in wrapping it all up for me.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
I believe it is first saying we should make sure our motives are correct, so we will do God’s will and not our own. We do not want to be like the world in trying to feel better about ourselves by judging someone else—especially not concerning something like faith that is a gift God gives to all of us. This thing we do where we pat people on the back because they appear to have “great faith” or condemn people because they don’t have enough faith is too much like the servants of flesh that unwisely compare themselves among themselves.
My idea of how Jesus might tell a parable that would explain the power of faith:
“There once was a man who wanted to see a demonstration of the power of God, so he prayed about it and asked God to use him. God handed him a cup of water and sent him to the desert with the command to splash it on a man he would find there. When he splashed it on the man, what do you suppose happened? ”
The disciples correctly answered, “The man got wet and it cooled him off.”
“Right,” said Jesus. “The water had the power to get the man wet and cool him off at the same time. If you have faith in God, you too can take a cup of water and splash it on any person or object and it will get that person or object wet. Even a little water will still cause whatever it touches to get wet. But always pray before you splash so you won’t be tempted to revel in it when a hot and dry man praises you for cooling him off.”
Since faith has power even apart from God, in the same sense that water gets someone wet even if God is not the one splashing it on, we must remember to think clearly about our use of it. In other words, if God gave us a cup of water, and we used it to get someone wet, would we brag about how they got wet because we were the ones that splashed it? If he gave me a smaller cup of water and you a larger cup of water, should you brag that you were able to get more people wet than I was? Would that change the properties of the water having the ability to wet things, or would it change who gave the water these properties?
We should never think, just because we obey God’s command and use what God has given us to perform something, that we are more highly valued than anyone else, or even that we have any greater power in God. Unlike what was done to Todd Bentley, our actions in faith do not deserve a special robe and ring, and a declaration from other “mighty men of the faith” that we have some special anointing. That is simply pride that goes before destruction, like the embarrassing truth that came out about Mr. Bentley cheating on his wife with one of the members of the ministry team.
The fact is, just like God made water with the properties to get things wet, He made faith and made it to yield power. The power of faith, like the wetness of water, will work whether or not it is God’s perfect will for us to “splash” it around. We are not special because we are able to use the gift of God’s faith, but by God’s grace we are able (and even commanded) to operate in His gifts–even in this mortal flesh. We should praise God for His grace to trust us with such power, but even when we rejoice in that, we must remember Jesus words to the disciples in the 20th verse of Luke 10: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
Final Notes: The remaining verses in Romans 12 list many gifts in the body of Christ and remind us that we are to use them as a duty, just as Jesus reminded the men when He talked about the servant. By having an obedient and humble spirit, we can remain joined as a body, yielding to our callings, preferring others above ourselves, instant in prayer, not influenced by “high” things, and compassionate. These things culminate with not being overcome by evil, (or subdued by empty worthlessness), but rather taking victory over worthless things by sticking to the right, the good, and the beneficial things. Have faith in God, not because of the power of faith but because of the power of God.
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