Have you ever gotten lost? Have you been so lost that it felt like you were going in circles, stuck in an endless loop of hopeless twists and turns that never get you where you wanted to go? I’ve been there on foot, and I’ve been there in a vehicle–at night, in a bad neighborhood. Getting lost is no fun. Being lost from God is no fun either, but God in His mercy allows us to rearrange our paths. As author Allison Gappa Bottke puts it, God Allows U-Turns.
If your path is filled with the chaos of uncharted turns and bumps and misdirections that keep ending you in places of frustration and hopelessness, make a change and rearrange. (I just couldn’t help but to make that rhyme. 🙂 ) To illustrate some rearrangement, I’m going to rearrange some verses from Proverbs Chapter 4. Using the New King James’ Version, I’ll list them in no particular order as bullet points. See what the verses in the following order might tell you about your own path of life.
- Ponder the path of your feet.
- Let your eyes look straight ahead
- Do not turn to the right or the left.
- Remove your foot from evil.
- Do not enter the path of the wicked.
- Do not walk in the way of evil.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.
- The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.
- But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
And from Isaiah 30:21…
- Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
There’s plenty more in Proverbs 4, so I recommend reading all of it. As a matter of fact, I find a lot of inspiration in the idea of reading the entire chapter of Proverbs on whatever day of the month it is. So, since this post was started on December 4th, I took a visit to Proverbs 4, and all those verses about paths are what jumped out at me. With a little rearrangement, I love the wisdom and promise that’s presented.
To continue with the message about your path, here’s a little bit from some of lessons I’ve gleaned as I’ve walked before Yahveh Almighty.
Many paths will visualize before you on your life’s journey, but only one path will lead you where you want to be in the end. It begins with a narrow gate, so no one but you can fit to walk through it. You don’t get through on the coat tails of a preacher or a parent; or even a friend or loved one. You get through it by using a key of mercy and grace provided when you walk through the blood of your Savior, Yeshua.
Once you’ve chosen to walk through the narrow gate, you’ll be on a straight path. It’s not as narrow as the gate, so you’ll have friends to encourage you and walk with you. Fellowship with them and make it a joyful walk. God will light that path for you, and His Holy Spirit is always there to comfort you on your journey. Trust Him to guide you. Seek His wisdom and understanding because the way that seems right to man doesn’t have the promise of God’s way. Look carefully, watch your step, train your eyes on the prize, and listen for that still, small voice that tells you the way to walk.
And here’s one bit of caution… Take heed of anyone who tries to lead you off the path onto another path. God’s path is always the straight one. Because God’s path is straight, even if it looks like it’s a long way off, the end should always be a clear vision ahead of you. Without that vision, you can be turned away and perish, so keep your eyes trained on the goal, and keep pressing forward. Don’t give up, and you’ll cross the finish line and receive your reward.
If you are on a path that doesn’t have a promise of eternal life at the end, ponder your steps and seek God. If you are still breathing in and out, it’s not too late to rearrange your path and follow God.
While the apostles sat in chains or endured torture, and while they were on their way to martyrdom, do you suppose they ever got weary? Do you suppose they were tempted to give up hope? I can’t say what was in their hearts, but something in them kept pushing forward, or we wouldn’t have the word delivered to us in this day. Maybe The Lord gave them a glimpse of what their sacrifices would be worth, and it rested their souls enough to keep hoping–even to the point of singing praises in the midst of their bondage.
Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter comes with a dose of encouragement to remember that God IS on the throne and in control. He will cause ALL things to work together for the good.
In Due Season
“In due season we shall reap…”
The good news is that even if the Ekklesia has been underground, it is still growing and developing. When the season is right it will burst forth and once again those who have eyes to see will indeed discern the blade, the head, and the full grain in the head. In fact the blades have already broken ground in several places and we are even beginning to see some grain taking shape. If you have traced the recovery of the Heavenly Order so far then you know there have been many obstacles and hindrances to God’s Will over the last six thousand years or so of the history of mankind.
So far God has defeated everything that rose up to challenge His Purpose in Christ. Not only has He defeated it, but He has actually used evil to bring about good and further increase His Son. The Scriptures provide us with every expectation and assurance that God will continue to do the same with our generation. He is very much an active part of world affairs, whether they be secular or sacred.
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!
As time moves closer to the end, we may struggle to contain our fears and not grow weary. We’re bombarded by warnings of a future with no freedom and a lack of provision. We know our coming days may include a loss of the free ability to spread the gospel, and we may face battles similar to what the apostles faced in Bible days.
These days, though, it seems our focus is more on our personal struggles. I know I’m not alone in having bad days when the car won’t start, hair won’t cooperate, and the rain keeps coming down. I believe it is the enemy that pushes us to think about our own lives losses, so we’ll focus on ourselves and struggle against personal weariness. I’m certain members of the early church faced personal struggles too, but we rarely read about those things. What we do read of is what Chip talks about; God’s defeat of everything that rose up to challenge His purpose in Christ. God will comfort us in personal battles, but I think we have even more assurance of His deliverance when it comes to battles in working for Him.
As we press forward into the future, we can remember the Scriptural encouragement to not be weary in well-doing. That’s the Scripture used above that ends in the promise of reaping in due season. The whole verse reads…
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
In Hebrews 12:3, we have this reminder…
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
Most of our Scriptural encouragements are about comfort in weariness of serving The Lord, so that tells me we should keep our focus on Him, so we’ll see the comfort when it comes our way. I’ll close with King David’s Psalm of promise to those who keep working even through their weariness. Psalm 126:6 says…
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
No one wants to feel weak because weak equals powerless and powerlessness usually equals fear. It seems we’re bombarded daily with reminders of how powerless we are. We vote one way and the outcome is opposite. What used to be religious freedom, like businesses having the right to refuse services, is being whittled away. We can’t control gas prices, government decisions, pesticides and preservatives in our foods, or what’s being taught in public school classrooms. And just when we think we can control our own health, some new virus or other threat is discovered and we’re all warned to be on the lookout.
But there is a way to have power even when we must deal with weakness. Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter has an encouraging message by author Chip Brogden.
Power Through Weakness
“God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”
1 CORINTHIANS 1:27 ESV
The Wisdom of God teaches us differently. This Wisdom tells us that the weak things are chosen to overcome the strong things, and power works concurrently with weakness.
God desires to give you power, but that power only comes through weakness. Any power not obtained through weakness is illegitimate, no matter how spiritual it appears. The only legitimate power is granted to those who have been made weak. Power is birthed in weakness. Many exude a certain “power,” but there is not the corresponding weakness. Hence, the power only gives them an occasion for boasting. To remedy this, God has ordained that all who would have His power must first be weakened and made empty – we refer to this as being “broken.” The purpose of weakness and suffering is to open the way for His Power. The instrument God uses to weaken us is the Cross. Therefore, the Cross is power through weakness.
Source: Embrace the Cross 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!
The cross is the one way I think we can imagine and accept weakness because the cross comes with promise instead of powerlessness. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 1:25 (ERV) that God’s strength is dependable because…
Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. Even the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
When we repent and lay ourselves in surrender at the foot of the cross, we have God’s wisdom and strength. Ask those who serve God in love for their testimony, and you’ll likely find it filled with surrenders that begin face-down and end face-up. We often fall beneath the loads of life, but when we land at the cross and in the arms of The Lord, He lifts us up higher than we can imagine. King David, in Psalm 3:3 (AMP) said of God…
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
He lifts our heads. He turns our faces toward Him. If you serve Him in love, look back on your own testimonies, and you’ll find these promises to be true. We can trust His strength and that it will come through for us even when we’re battle-weary because He assures us He will never leave or forsake us. And because His strength is so much greater than our own, even when we are weak, if we have The Lord, we can say we are strong.
For some reason, the older I get, the more I like fresh bread. Maybe it’s because I grew up on bagged loaf bread and didn’t go out to eat much, so I didn’t know how good fresh bread and butter could be. Oh, but now, yum. My favorite treats at restaurants are not the desserts, but the slice-it-yourself breads that places like Outback restaurants bring on request. There’s just no comparing the fresh flavors with the stuff in the bag full of preservatives.
Yeshua told the disciples that He had bread they didn’t know of. Here’s what He says in John 4, verses 32 and 34, when they suggest that He eat something…
But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
Our Lord was satisfied to work for our salvation, and it fed Him. He passed that mantle to the disciples and then to us. We may not be satisfied by man’s bread alone, but we are promised we can live on God’s bread. In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter, author Chip Brogden talks about the hidden manna of God…
Hidden Manna, Secret Name
“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
The manna is HIDDEN and the name is SECRET. The Lord is doing a work, but that work is, for the most part, hidden and secret. If we are always looking for something out in the open and in plain view then we will miss the deeper workings of God below the surface.
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!
We’re told in the Old Testament that the manna God gave the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness was bread from the angel’s food, and that it tasted like wafer cakes with honey. Imagine baking up some of that. Now imagine that God has something in store that has been hidden and is even better.
I don’t know from His words when He considers us having overcome to where we will receive this promise of hidden bread. It may be when we receive that indescribable refreshing after we have overcome a battle on this earth. It may be something that has a description that hasn’t yet entered the heart or mind of man. Whatever it is, though, I do know that if God is reserving it for those who overcome, it’s the good stuff.
Just like the wine at the wedding of Cana, He may be saving the best for last. Maybe it’s because it’s taking a while to bake, but if it’s the best we’re ever going to have, it will be worth working and waiting for.
Sometimes I need to play Pollyanna and to find the good in every situation. It’s not a matter of simple desire, it’s a matter of survival. As a deep feeler, when an abundance of negativity surrounds my days and weeks, I just need to play the glad game. If you haven’t seen the movie or heard the story, click the video above for a clip about Pollyanna’s game. It was something her father taught her before he passed away, and it helped her survive the tragedy of his loss. It wasn’t well-accepted by her bitter aunt and the employees who inevitably picked up on the bitterness that riches could never fix.
Since I became a follower of Yeshua, my glad game is a little different from Pollyanna’s. I still try to find something to be glad about in situations that would otherwise make me sad, but I try to find that reason in Scripture or in a promise from God. Maybe I’ll remind myself that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Or, maybe I’ll just think about how grateful I am to know that Yeshua will never leave or forsake me, so whatever I go through, I will never be alone.
I think King David played the glad game too because he said things like…
- I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:2 NKJV)
- I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble. (Psalm 31:7a NKJV)
- Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:11 NKJV)
- Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:8 NKJV)
- The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:10 NKJV)
- But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. (Psalm 68:3 NKJV)
- Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! (Psalm 90:14 NKJV)
- Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness. (Psalm 96:11 NKJV)
- This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
- The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. (Psalm 126:3 NKJV)
Maybe believers should just call it The King David Game when we look for reasons to praise God because it sure looks like he had a handle on the idea of being glad in God no matter what. He even wanted his broken bones to rejoice.
The hardest part of playing Pollyanna is when we face tougher and tougher circumstances that threaten to make it impossible to find something good. My personal version of the game is in my challenge at my website, For One Soul. But, even having this message, it’s not always easy. There have been times in my life that were so hard, even my husband said, “And don’t tell me it might be for one soul because I don’t want to hear that now.” King David talks about feeling like the heavens were brassed over and about watering his couch with tears. There are days when all the encouragement in the world doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
A problem that can arise while playing Pollyanna is when it becomes difficult to accept negative truths. We may try to believe the best about someone when they have clearly crossed a line into darkness or deceit. Or, we may tell people that something is okay when it’s not just because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Me, I only want to give five-star (or whatever is the best) reviews on things because that’s what I hope to get, but that’s not reality. Only God is good enough to always get a top rating every time. But, if I give top ratings to everyone, then people may even have a hard time believing me when I uplift God as best of all.
So, let’s go ahead and play Pollyanna when we need to balance the darkness and pain around us. Find a reason to play the glad game and to rejoice in God, maybe even by looking for where God will make things work for one soul. But, let’s also keep it honest. It’s a lie to say we are whole when we are broken, but it’s the truth to say we are whole in God because we know He is the Potter who will repair us. It’s the truth to say life is hard, but God is good. And when it gets really tough, we can remind ourselves that what we go through here are light and temporary afflictions. Paul even tells us in Romans 8:18 (NKJV)…
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
With that promise, I think all of us can get away with playing Pollyanna’s glad game a little bit more often. HalleluYah!
I remember the first time I saw a futuristic attraction at a Disney(R) theme park. So many cool inventions and ideas, and what did I remember the most? The TV phone. I mean, it hadn’t been that long since we got our first touch tone phone (and The Pushbutton Telephone Songbook, Vol. 1 to go with it 🙂 ), and here they were telling us we could talk to each other face to face on the phone. Wow! And while I never saw, in person, The House of the Future shown above, I did see it in books and thought the concepts were amazing. (The attraction was demolished in 1967, and even the story of the demolition is interesting. Learn more at the Yesterland site and at Wikipedia as well.)
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:12 through Deuteronomy 29:14 (Complete Jewish Bible) we’ll read just three verses again, and these are about God’s plans for a home of the future. I’ll paste the text from the New Living Testament (NLT) which has the same verses as Deuteronomy 29:13-15 because the CJB tries to match the Tanakh…
By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But you are not the only ones with whom I am making this covenant with its curses. I am making this covenant both with you who stand here today in the presence of the Lord our God, and also with the future generations who are not standing here today.
I consider those of us who are now of the seed of Abraham, and those of us who have become the seed of Abraham by being grafted in with a circumcised heart, as the audience to whom God was referring when He says, “…future generations who are not standing here today.” We are blessed and privileged to be able to step into the promises of God’s covenant to His people. As it says above, by entering into that covenant, we are established as God’s people.
When we read the news of wars, terrorist groups, spreading diseases, etc., we may be tempted to feel hopeless about the future. We may wonder if we’ll ever get to the innovations being dreamt up by Disney’s current Imagineers. But, even if we never get to some of the futuristic ideas now being created, we have a futuristic hope planned by the greatest “Imagineer” and Creator ever. He wants us in His “Home of the Future” attraction with such desire that He paid our admission price for us, and it was a huge price. More than an E-ticket* attraction, this one cost Him His all.
*Before one-price park admission, patrons used to buy ticket books with rides designated by the letters “A” through “E.” Of course, A-rides were the lightest and slowest, or kids’ rides while E-rides were the ones everyone wanted to go on. It seems there was also a park admission, but I don’t remember for sure. As an FYI, the Monsanto House of the Future above was actually a free attraction and didn’t require any lettered ticket.
Think about this: If Heaven was a theme park with pre-paid admission, and the throne of God was an E-ticket attraction, would we be willing to pay something more than just accepting His gift of salvation to go before His presence? Do we desire to fall at His feet and worship Him enough to lay down our own will and ways and walk in obedience of His word? As it says in the last verse of the song This is Just What Heaven Means to Me (made popular by Vestal Goodman of “The Happy Goodmans”)…
And when at last we see the face of Jesus Before whose image other loves all flee, And when they crown Him “Lord of All” I’ll be there, For this is just what Heaven means to me.
And that’s my idea of a home of the future.
Do you remember this old family sing-along song? If so, I’ll bet you have some verses for it that I’ve never heard, and I’m certain I have at least one you’ve never heard because I think my family added some verses for their own fun. What I didn’t know until I looked it up tonight at Wikipedia is that it was an old African spiritual song that refers to the return of Christ and the rapture. The original includes verses like “King Jesus, He’ll be driver when she comes,” and “She will take us to the portals when she comes.”
Our family just sang it for the fun of it and for the sound effects at the end of each line. For example, at the end of the first (title) verse, we’d all say, “Hi, Gal!” And after the six white horses verse, we’d shout, “Whoa, Bill!” After singing about how we’d all have chicken and dumplins, we’d say, “Yum, yum.” And my favorite was always the sort of sawing sound we’d make when we sang about killing the old red rooster. The most fun was at the end when we would try to make all the sounds, one after another, and in the right order.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 5:19 through Deuteronomy 6:3 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Deuteronomy 5:22-6:3 (in the Amplified Bible and other versions), we begin this section as Moses reminds Israel of God’s words to them from the midst of the mountain covered by fire. Now, they have all gone around the mountain, and they have much to remember, including the words God etched in stone with His own hand.
Moses tells the current generation how their forefathers sent tribal leaders to Moses requesting that only he go up and speak to God rather than them. The people bring up that most who had ever heard God’s voice no longer remained alive, and the elders tell him that people have decided they don’t want to take a chance of God speaking to them in their imperfections and it costing them their lives. When Moses arrives to communicate their message to God, He tells Moses He has heard it. He also tells Moses that it is a wise decision, and that He desires the people always have that kind of respect and reverence for Him, so things will go well for them and for their children forever.
God then tells Moses to have the people go back to their tents. Afterwards, Moses is to come back and stand near God while He tells him all his commands and laws for them to do when they possess the land of promise. Moses tells the people to be watchful to do exactly as The Lord commands and not to turn to the right hand or the left. He says that if they follow God’s ways, it will go well with them, and they will live long in the land.
At the chapter change, the writing changes to where it seems more in the present tense as Moses tells the people, “These are the laws and commands of God for you to obey in the land you are going to possess.” He tells them the laws are written that they will fear The Lord and obey all his rulings in every generation–parent, child, grandchild–as long as they live. Verse 3 from the Complete Jewish Bible reads with authority but also as a blessing…
Therefore listen, Israel, and take care to obey, so that things will go well with you, and so that you will increase greatly, as Adonai, the God of your ancestors, promised you by giving you a land flowing with milk and honey.
Much like the way I reworded The Ten Commandments in yesterday’s post, this gives the “why” in fulfilling the laws of God. As God shows in His comments to Moses about desiring the people to always have respect and reverence, He wants things to go well for us forever. He is creating both a new Heaven and a new Earth because He wants an abundance of people to join Him for eternity. His arm is not too short that He cannot reach to the depths of sin to pull a person toward Him. No matter how far away someone has gone, remember that God wants them for His own. He wants to reward those who come to Him, and leave their temporary sin, with blessings that will last an eternity. He desires to see many waiting there with joy and praise when He comes around the mountain of return to bring His people home.
Did you know there are six verses to the song Amazing Grace? In most churches and hymnals, we only sing four of them, but there are some beautiful words in what would be verses five and six (with the “ten thousand years” verse still remaining last). The words from the fourth verse line up perfectly with today’s reading, and they are…
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Today’s part of this week’s portion is from Numbers 17:25 through Numbers 18:20 (In The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 17:10 through Numbers 18:20 (in The Amplified and other Bibles). Whatever the verse number, the last few verses in chapter 17 fall after we see that God has chosen Aaron as a priest over Israel, and He has shown the people by making Aaron’s staff blossom with flowers and ripe almonds. God tells Moses to put Aaron’s staff back into the tabernacle and keep it there as a sign against the rebels to stop their grumbling against Him if they want to live. The people cry in fear that anyone who comes near the tabernacle will die and that all is lost.
From there, the chapter changes to a conversation between God and Aaron. Maybe Aaron was feeling a bit fearful after all the uprisings against him and Moses, and when even the deaths of thousands didn’t settle people down. Whatever the cause, God spends the next twenty verses speaking to Aaron about his job as priest and about all He (God) plans to share with him while he performs his duties.
God first tells Aaron that he, his sons, and his father’s line, will be responsible for the tabernacle, and especially for anything that goes wrong in the sanctuary and in their service as priests. The tribe of Levi, Aaron’s kinsmen, are to be available to work with Aaron and his sons in their tabernacle service around the tent, but they are not to come near the holy furnishings or the altar. God then tells Aaron that He has taken the Levites from among the people, and they are a gift to The Lord for Aaron to help him in his service to The Lord. In addition to God sharing the Levites with Aaron, He tells Aaron that He trusts him in decisions regarding the services, and that if an unauthorized person tries to perform priestly duties, he will die.
God goes on to tell Aaron that He is sharing sacrifices and offerings with him, and that Aaron is in charge of all contributions to God. God tells him that all wave offerings belong to him and are okay for all in his family who are clean to eat. The best oils, grains, and wine, and all the first produce of the land that people bring to God are available for Aaron and his family perpetually. Everything in Israel which has been consecrated unconditionally will belong to Aaron.
God speaks to Aaron about the firstborn of people and animals, and He tells Aaron that everything firstborn will now be his. Firstborn of humans and unclean beasts must still be redeemed, and firstborn that are brought for sacrifices still go on the altar, but Aaron and his family can eat the meat. All contributions of holy things from Israel will belong to Aaron, aka the priesthood, and God sets this up as a permanent regulation, an eternal covenant with salt for Aaron and his descendants.
The final verse says that while Aaron and his descendants will have no land or inheritance with the people of Israel, God Himself will be his portion and inheritance. Now, just sit back and imagine that. First, God says that everything given to Him now belongs to Aaron, and then He adds that He will be Aaron’s inheritance. Since we are considered a chosen generation and royal priesthood, that means that God is also our inheritance and our portion. By His amazing grace, He provides all we need; from our daily needs to our eternal needs.
It’s not always easy to take our minds off the hard work we do ourselves to earn the rewards we earn. Because we are the bodies doing the work, we may forget that He is the one that enables our bodies to do the work. He is the one that enables us to live in a place where it is possible to be paid for the work we do. He enables us to live in a society where what we earn can be used to purchase things we need and desire. There are people and countries where these things are not so, even in our advanced society here on earth, so each day we wake up with the blessing to make life work as we like, we must remember to thank God for sharing of His abundance with those He loves–you and me.
How much does it cost to make a promise? Well, that depends on what the promise is. It’s easy to make a promise for something like having lunch with a co-worker on a particular day of the week. It’s much harder to make a promise that you will always be there for someone no matter what because that is promising a lifetime. Whatever it costs you to make a promise makes the difference in how much that promise is worth.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:1 through Leviticus 27:15, we read of the vows men make to God and their values. In the first paragraph, God talks to Moses about people who make vows to God, promising to give Him an amount equal to the value of a human being. I’m not certain exactly what this means, so I won’t try to explain it, but the rest of the paragraph goes on to assign values to people. The values are different for men, women, male children, female children, elderly men, elderly women, etc. And then it talks of a person too poor to be evaluated.
The next paragraph talks of the values of animals, and the types of animals of the quality used for sacrifices have the highest values. Unclean animals have their values set by the priests and based on their good and bad points.
The last two verses talk of the value of a house, especially if the owner has decided to declare the house as holy to God. When a person consecrates his house as holy for Yahveh, the priest sets the value of it. Then, if the person wishes to redeem the house, he must add 20% of the value to take it back.
Even without knowing what these verses actually mean, I am struck by the fact that different people have different monetary values. I don’t know if those were values as if they were slaves, or if it’s like when we see those diagrams that show the value of a human being based on how much they will make or contribute to their life on earth. I do know, however, that regardless of the monetary value, each and every person who has ever lived, and who will ever live, has the same value to God in that we are each worth dying for. His word says that it is not His will that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to salvation, and that He laid down His life for “whosoever will.”
The great mystery is that God values each one of us so much that He created the world for us, gave up His throne to walk this earth for us, shed His own blood for us, and went back to Heaven to prepare a place in eternity for us. For God, the price of His promise is not just the value of one human life, it is the value of all human life. And for some reason, He valued the totality of human life above His own flesh and blood. That means His vows and covenants with us are priceless, and His love for us cannot be measured. If He loves us enough to lay down His life for us, may we love Him enough to raise up our lives for Him.
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.
I love to sing karaoke, and yes, I’m a country girl, so my favorite tracks are usually a country flavor. I’ve always liked the Lynn Anderson song, Rose Garden because I feel like it tells a truth about life in general and not just relationships. It’s true we can’t have just sunshine and no rain, or we’d be dry as deserts and nothing could grow. And there are a lot of people to whom we would love to gift the world on a silver platter, but if it took that, or promises of the moon, to get them to love us, we wouldn’t really want them in our lives. Fortunately, God wants our commitment to Him, but He doesn’t require perfection to receive His wonderful gifts.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:3 through Leviticus 26:5 (that’s right, only 3 verses), we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 33. The Hebrew name is B’chukkotai and it means “By My Regulations.” In the reading, God shows Israel a simple demonstration of cause and effect. He shows how doing things His way will yield the results they really want to see. Since it’s so short, here’s the complete reading for the day from The Complete Jewish Bible…
3 “‘If you live by my regulations, observe my mitzvot and obey them; 4 then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing time will extend until the grape harvest, and your grape harvesting will extend until the time for sowing seed. You will eat as much food as you want and live securely in your land.
See, He does promise a garden, and He promises the rain to water it. And, while much of what He promises is simple common sense, such as reaping what we sow, doing things God’s way is also sensible because He’s the original Creator. He knows how things are supposed to work based on the way He created them to work. A modern world example would be that we must click the “start” button to shut down Microsoft Windows(R). It doesn’t seem like a normal or sensible response, but it is the way that works because it is the way the creators built it.
So, as the song says, “Smile for a while, and let’s be jolly: Love shouldn’t be so melancholy. Come along and share the good times while we can.” We can praise God for the sunshine and for the rain; for the seed-time and for harvest; and for all our going forth and coming in because He walks with us through every moment of it. God may not have actually promised us a rose garden, but He does promise a garden of provision to sustain us in this life and a garden of eternity to give us hope. As He promises in His holy word, He will never leave nor forsake us, and He will be with us always–until the end of time.
Heir of salvation; purchase of God. What an amazing promise. We’re not just heirs of promises in this life only, but because we have been bought with a price, we have become joint heirs with Christ to receive promises that will last for all eternity. Romans 8:16-18 (NKJV) says it like this…
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:47 through Leviticus 26:2, we read more about slavery. This time, God talks about a member of Israel who has become poor and has had to sell himself as a slave to a foreigner among them who has become rich. It doesn’t say, but I imagine this would happen if the person is indebted to the foreigner and cannot pay him.
It would seem pretty hopeless to be sold to someone who would not care for you as family, so God tells Israel that if this happens, the person in slavery may be redeemed by someone in his family. If there is no one in his family to redeem him, he will still be set free at the year of jubilee, but if someone can redeem him, they will pay for the amount of years he would have worked between the time of redemption and the time of jubilee. The cost of redemption is the same as if he were being paid wages as an employee.
In one of the commands, God says, “You will see to it that he is not treated harshly.” I’m not certain if God is talking to Moses or the priests here, or if this command is to all the community of Israel, but this tells me that God watches out for His own even when they are servants to unbelievers. As the reading continues, it explains one reason He watches over us this way: God says, in verse 55, “For to me the people of Israel are slaves; they are my slaves whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; I am Adonai your God.” Like we care for those things we have worked to purchase, God cares for all of us because He paid the highest price for us.
The final two verses, as the reading goes into the next chapter, have God reminding Israel of His commandments, and He reminds them once again that He is The Lord. They are not to make any idols to worship, and they are to remember His sabbaths. Because God owns Israel, He has the right to expect Israel to glorify Him in their daily lives, and that includes not worshiping false gods and giving time back to Him.
He also purchased us with a high price–the price of blood. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT) says it this way, “19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” We are owned and loved because God gave so much for us, and because He is our jubilee from the bondage of this life, we have a blessed assurance of a precious eternity with Him.
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.
What makes a home? The walls? The pictures on the walls? The people who live within the walls? In today’s reading from Exodus 19:1 through Exodus 19:6, the people of Israel have made a home by creating a camp at the base of the mountain of God. They have their deliverance; they have each other; they have their hope for the future; and–mostly–they have the presence of Yahveh.
The reading is quite short again, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s harder to pick things out of the long readings, or find a major point in the short ones. For this one, I guess the thing that stands out to me is how much Israel’s physical situation seems so much like our lives on this earth.
They were delivered from bondage, just as we who receive God’s salvation are delivered from the bondage of sin. They have hope of a promised land in front of them, just as we have hope of life in a new Heaven and new Earth one day. They have the presence of God leading and following them, and they have camped out at the foot of His mountain for protection and shelter, just as we have God’s Holy Spirit to lead us, and we can camp in His presence for shelter and protection.
In the reading, God tells Moses to remind the people what they have seen Him do to their enemies. He tells him to remind them that it was He (God) who carried them out of that bondage on eagle’s wings. And He tells Moses to remind them to keep God’s covenant in order to be His people, a chosen priesthood and a special treasure from among all people on earth. We too have been chosen by God to be His special treasure and royal priesthood, (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). What precious history and promises on which to build our base camp for this life.
And now, just for fun, here’s a video of Dailey and Vincent singing Camping in Canaan’s Land…
There’s an old Bluegrass song called Angels Gathering Flowers (see link below), so I came up with today’s title based on the content of our reading from Exodus 16:11 through Exodus 16:36 (the end of the chapter), that song title, and one of my favorite movie lines ever: Harold Crick (played by Will Farrell) in the movie Stranger Than Fiction brings a box of assorted bags of flour to a girl that runs a bakery and says, “I brought you flours.” God could have said that to the children of Israel as He shared what some have claimed was possibly the food of angels.
Our reading begins with Yahveh telling Moses to let the people know that He has heard their grumblings. I would add–again. He tells them that they will be eating meat that night and bread in the morning, and He says, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” And again I would add–again. How quickly they forgot. And how quickly all we humans forget between seeing the provisions of God in our lives. Thankfully, His mercy is new every morning because we so need it.
That evening, quails covered the camp, so they got their meat. The next morning, a fine white substance covered the ground like frost, and the people said to each other, “Man hu,” which was Hebrew for “What is it?” I pictured what they gathered making their hands look much like the hand in the above image, so I thought that was a great image for today. But, also, because the people said the food tasted like sweet honey cakes, I also found what appears to be a nice recipe for Gluten Free Angel Food Cake at the Taste of Home site. Please let me know if you make it and if it’s as good as the reviewers claim it is.
1-1/2 cups egg whites (about 10)
3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Assorted fresh fruit, optional
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Sift 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, flours and potato starch together twice; set aside.
Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
Gently spoon into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Cut through the batter with a knife to remove air pockets. Bake on the lowest oven rack at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and entire top appears dry. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around side and center tube of pan. Remove cake to a serving plate. Top with fresh fruit if desired. Yield: 16 servings.
The next part of the reading covers the rules about gathering this sweet bread. Israel is told to gather for each person according to his or her appetite. They are to gather for six days, and gather double for the seventh day. (I know yesterday’s reading made it appear it would double on its own, but I guess what was in the field was doubled, so the people could gather double.) If people gathered more than they needed and tried to save the leftovers, it would melt, go bad, and before it could be eaten, it would be filled with worms. But when they gathered for Sabbath, the leftovers did not melt of get wormy.
There were a few people who still tried to go out and gather on the Sabbath, but there was nothing to gather because God did not send anything. He told those people to go back to their tents and rest. I don’t know if they had eaten all they had and ended up with an unplanned fast day, but I know that God was quite frustrated with them. One way or the other, people learned to rest on the day Yahveh chose to be the day of rest–the seventh day of each week.
The reading closes with more description of the bread, and the knowledge that Israel ate the manna for forty years until they came to an inhabited land. It also speaks of God’s command for them to take about two quarts of manna and put it in a container to be kept throughout all of Israel’s generations. I would love to know if it’s still out there somewhere, still intact inside the true “Ark of the Covenant.” If it is, I’m sure it’s not melted or wormy. 🙂
And here’s a link to a video of a Bluegrass group performing the song mentioned above…
Remember the old commercials that said, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”? I remember that even if I didn’t understand it when I heard it as a young child. I learned what it meant later, so I did understand by the time I heard a song by Carman where one lyric line said, “Because when God talks, even E.F. Hutton listens.” Well, in today’s reading from Exodus 6:2 through Exodus 6:13, we find people that are not listening so well…even to God.
We are now at the beginning of Parashah (portion) 14. The Hebrew word for it is Va’era and it means I appeared. It begins after Moses speaks to God asking why He allowed Pharaoh to treat the people so badly after the request to leave for three days to worship, and God’s answer that Moses would now see exactly what Yahveh had planned for Pharaoh. Now God goes on to say that He is the God who spoke and made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but that He had never revealed His memorial name to anyone before Moses.
Yahveh tells Moses to tell the people that He has heard their groanings, and that He will set them free from the slavery of the Egyptians. He says they will be His people, and He will be their God. But then it says the people are too discouraged to listen. I’ve seen it in movies where a person is so distraught or worried that they are kind of “losing it” and won’t pay attention to anything that is going on around them. Usually it takes someone slapping them to snap them out of it. God doesn’t tell Moses to slap the people, but He doesn’t just accept their discouragement or refusal to listen.
Moses then argues that if the people won’t listen, surely Pharaoh will not listen either, especially to someone like him who is not a good speaker. But God commands both Moses and Aaron concerning their approach to both Pharaoh and to the house of Israel, and He tells them exactly what will happen in order to free Israel from slavery.
God always has a plan to set people free, be it us or those we love. Sometimes we are too discouraged to listen or to listen well. Sometimes those we love and care about are too discouraged to listen. But if we keep the communication with God open, we are promised that when we seek and search for Him with our whole hearts, we WILL find Him. And we know that once we find Him, there’s a much better chance that we will find the knowledge we need to follow His plan for our deliverance from whatever has us or those we love in bondage. Let us be encouraged, and let us continue to listen.
“And here’s the picture of my firstborn son, Israel…,” might be a statement God would make if He was showing off His family album. But there would be some differences. The image above talks of the treasure of sweet memories, but Our Creator doesn’t only remember the sweet things. Like a bruise gives away that we’ve been injured even after the event, the bruises on the spirits of God’s people let Him know that His children need some defense against the bullies in their lives. Israel had plenty of bullies, and God saw every one of them and made plans to deal with them.
In today’s reading from Exodus 4:18 through the end of the chapter at Exodus 4:31, Moses the chosen deliverer is still being prepared. He requests to leave his father-in-law, Jethro, to go to his kinsmen in Egypt and let them know what God has shown him. God also told him that those who sought to kill him for killing the Egyptian are all dead, so he is safe to return. Jethro approves, so Moses gets his family together and heads out in obedience to God.
As God describes the future to Moses, He tells him to perform every wonder that was shown to him before Pharaoh. And then He tells Moses that Pharaoh is stubborn and will say the people can go but will change his mind. It also says that God will harden Pharaoh’s heart, but I believe it is because God already knows the stubbornness in Pharaoh and knows that any softness would be temporary at best. Still, God tells Moses to be completely honest with Pharaoh about his future, right down to telling him that because Israel is God’s firstborn and Pharaoh has been a bully, that God will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn if he does not allow Israel to go and worship God.
Now, Moses knows God’s ability and how serious He is, and yet because his wife, Zipporah, is unhappy with the idea of circumcision, Moses gives in to her. This reading talks of God seeking to kill Moses because of it. The Amplified Bible says God used a would-be-fatal illness, and it is because of seeing how sick her husband is that Zipporah finally submits and circumcises her son. But she’s pretty angry about it and throws the foreskin at Moses’ feet as she calls him “a husband of blood.” But the obedience was enough to turn Moses’ health around, and it certainly confirmed to Moses just how serious God was so he could convey that to Pharaoh.
The last paragraph talks of God sending Aaron to Moses before they go to talk to the elders of Israel. It’s hard for me to tell if that’s why Aaron was coming along the first time, or if this is another time. Either way, the elders believed what the men had to say, and when it sunk in to them that Yahveh, Their Creator, was paying attention to their struggles, they felt God’s love and they bowed down and worshiped Him.
I wish I could capture in an album or book all the times God has brought to my memory the times He has shown me how He was paying personal attention to me. There would be many; some simple and some pretty grand. My sister remembers a special sunset where she knew God brought her attention to it to remind her that He was there for her. I asked God once to remind my husband that He was listening to him in big and little ways, and the day I asked that, we went to a service at a Messianic Jewish temple. I was asked to light the candles for the service because the person who was to do it that day was unable to make it. As I was lighting them, God reminded my husband that as a young man he had prayed for a wife that would light candles in the temple. I understand why the elders bowed down and worshiped when they learned that God was still with them. Feel free to share your own experiences of meeting God personally.
What would you do if you went to visit a relative at his or her job and, just as you walked up, you witness the boss beat up your relative? I mean, really, think about it. Now, at least in the U.S.A,, we can usually call the police, file a lawsuit, or something that will at least bring some kind of justice. But what if you knew that the only justice that could truly work would be to get rid of the offender?
In today’s reading from Exodus 2:11 through the end of the chapter at Exodus 2:25, we see this exact scenario in the life of Moses. He knows he is a Hebrew, so he goes to visit his kinsmen. If he just breaks up the fight, or beats up the offensive Egyptian, it will betray the fact that he is a Hebrew. If he leaves the situation alone, he has to bear the pain of watching his kinsman being treated unfairly. His solution was to wait until he found the offender alone, and then kill him and hide his body in the sand.
Unfortunately, things must not have been as private as Moses assumed, so when he corrected two of his kinsmen for fighting, they asked him if he would do the same thing to them as he had done to the Egyptian. I guess some people heard their proclamations since the next thing we know, Moses is facing a death threat and must go on the run. He ends up in Midian just as seven daughters of a priest from Midian show up to water their sheep. Field shepherds try to run off the girls, but Moses saves them and waters their sheep for them.
When the girls get back to tell their father, he insists they bring Moses to their home and feed him dinner. Eventually, he marries one of the daughters, Zipporah. She gives birth to Gershom, meaning “stranger” because Moses was a stranger in a strange land. Of course, I’m not sure here why he was a stranger since the girls and their father thought he was an Egyptian. I guess he was in a land where he was a stranger regardless of whether he was Hebrew or Egyptian.
As today’s reading comes to an end, the fearful pharaoh dies, but the people are still in bondage, and they cry out to God. God hears their cry and remembers His covenant for them as made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m thankful that God hears the cry of His people and that He is faithful to remember His promises to us.
I never know what I’m going to find when I do a Creative Commons search for an image that will match my title or subject. The above image just tickled my funny bone, so I had to include it. I know people aren’t supposed to deface public signage, but this one is just too cute, and it sort of lines up with the reading today from Genesis 47:28 through Genesis 48:9 as it talks about Jacob being carried away to his death, and the line could look a little like a coffin. 🙂
We actually begin a new portion today, so now we’re up to Parashah 12, Vayechi, meaning “He Lived” in Hebrew. We read in this section that Jacob has now lived in Egypt for 17 years which makes him 147 since he was 130 when they arrived. He calls in his son Joseph to advise him that he will soon pass away and to ask him for a promise. He wants Joseph to swear that he will not bury him in Egypt but rather carry him back to Canaan to be buried with his family, and Joseph agrees.
The next part is a little confusing to me in that he claims Joseph’s two children, Manasseh and Ephraim as his own children. He says they are equal with the rest of his children for the sake of inheritance, and they are numbered among the twelve tribes to this day even though Joseph is not. I know there is some prophecy about it later, so I know it was the right thing to do, but there’s no information at this point to explain exactly how Jacob knew to do it. I can only imagine it has something to do with his vision of Yahveh back in Luz near the time he was there with Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He retells this vision to Joseph, and he tells him that all his future children will be his, but not the two.
The section ends with Jacob suddenly noticing that Joseph’s sons are standing there in the room with them. I might have been embarrassed to realize that someone I was talking about was standing there all along, even if I was saying good things about the person. I remember asking for prayer for a young man I met at a bus stop, and finding out that he had accepted my invitation to attend a service when the pastor pointed out the guy a few rows back slinking down in his seat. Oh well, at least he knew I cared enough to ask the church to pray for him, right?
So that’s it for today, but just to stick with the theme, here’s a link for a video of a group singing the song When I Get Carried Away. I love the tune, and the lyrics to the chorus are…
I’m gonna let the glory roll when the roll is called in glory. I’m gonna get beside myself when I get beside The King that day. I’m gonna have the time of my life when the time of my life is over. I’m gonna get carried away, when I get carried away.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3afLiU-jieM
For those who love trivia like I do, here’s an FYI for you. A fortnight is two weeks. So, weeping may endure for two weeks, or for two years, or for two generations, but since a thousand years is as a day with God, the important thing to remember is that whenever morning comes, joy will come with it. (See Psalm 30:5 for the exact Scripture.)
For Joseph and his brothers and their father, the weeping went on for a long time. In today’s reading from Genesis 45:19 through Genesis 45:27, Joseph is telling his brothers to load up their carts and donkeys with an abundance of provision for their journey back to Canaan. He also says he wants to make sure that there will be enough provision for their father to have bread as he makes the return journey with them. Of course, while he also gave each of his brothers a new set of clothing, he gave Benjamin seven sets of new clothing and even more provisions. I think he was happy to be reunited with his brother, don’t you? And finally, when he sent them on their way, he reminded them not to quarrel on their way back home. They were brothers after all.
When they arrived back home, the first thing they did was to tell their father that Joseph was alive. Obviously, he was reluctant to believe such good news. He had become accustomed to living in the grief of his son’s death. They told him Joseph was not only alive, but that he was also a ruler in Egypt. Even when they told him all that had transpired during their visit there, Jacob was afraid to believe such good news. The last verse says that it was only when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt that Jacob’s spirit began to revive.
God knows just how much good news means to His children. There is an abundance of Scripture that talks about things of hope and good news. Even the word for spreading the truth of God’s love for us and salvation through Yahshua, gospel, means “Good News.” Since we are in the season of celebration of Christ’s birth, may we remember that the purpose of that birth was to bring the hope (and good news) of salvation to the whole world; to whoever would desire it and seek it. And while weeping of earthly measure may last for a night or longer, we have the hope that joy will come in the morning, and someday, it will last for eternity.
Today we begin a new portion: Parashah (portion) 8, the Hebrew “Vayishlach” meaning He Sent. It runs from Genesis 32:4 to Genesis 36:43, but today’s reading is simply from Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 32:13. Jacob is on his way back to the home of his birth in obedience to what God directed. He knows Esau still lives there, and he is sure Esau is still angry, so he sends men ahead of him to let Esau know that he is coming to him with gifts of cattle and flocks as a peace agreement.
The men came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming out to meet him, but they also said he was bringing 400 men with him. This made Jacob fearful and distressed, so Jacob created a two-fold solution. First, Jacob split his people and possessions into two camps. This way, he said, if Esau comes to destroy a camp, one camp of people will still get out alive. That was good preparation, but the second solution was the best.
Jacob prayed a beautiful prayer to God. He first reminded God that it was His idea for Jacob to return, so he showed he was being faithful. He then showed humility and thankfulness by telling God that he knew he was not worthy of the love and faithfulness He had shown him since he first crossed the Jordan with nothing but the staff in his hand. And then he asked God to please deliver him from the wrath of Esau and to keep His promise to make his seed abundant. He even repeated God’s promise to him and to Abraham and Isaac as it had been given to them by God.
I believe that prayer showed a relationship with God that was built on more than just a “gimme” game. I love the faithfulness, thankfulness, humility, and praise that came before the requests. And as we continue into this portion, we will see the wonderful things God did as a result of that prayer.
Okay, just a little give away to my age here, I remember when Flip Wilson had his own television show, and when he did a skit as a character named “Geraldine.” I was still pretty young, but as I recall it, Geraldine’s famous line was “What you see is what you get.” In the above video, they switch to the Geraldine doll at 37 seconds and then at about 1:08, you’ll hear the line. I felt the video of the doll was a cuter way to share, but you can always do a search if you want to hear the real skit.
These days, it’s usually abbreviated WYSIWYG and pronounced “wissy-wig,” and it usually relates to something technical. But whether it is about technology or a girl pretending to be unpretentious, it still makes the same basic statement: What you are able to view with your eyes is exactly what you will be able to take home with you. In today’s reading from Genesis 30:28 through Genesis 31:16, we will take a trip back to Bible times when Jacob used the idea of WYSIWYG to make himself rich.
See, his uncle Laban had been gaining off of Jacob’s hard work and genetic providence since he came to visit. He took far more than his fair share, and Jacob knew it was time to take his wives and go home, but he needed some type of inheritance to support them with. When Laban wouldn’t give him a rightful due of livestock, Jacob made a deal with him. He told Laban that he would feed and care for his animals and that when they bred, he would take all those that were streaked, spotted, and speckled. Laban agreed, and then he took away all the streaked, spotted, and speckled animals so that when they bred, there would be less chance of them breeding the ones he promised to Jacob.
Now, Jacob had been given a dream by God. Yahveh told him he saw the unfairness of his uncle and told him exactly what he needed to do to fix things. He advised him to cut branches from poplar trees and peel the bark away until the branches were streaked, spotted, and speckled. He then set the branches up at the feeding troughs since that is where the animals went to mate. Upon breeding, all the babies came out with the designs instead of plain, because they birthed just what they saw as they mated. This meant all the newly born livestock went to Jacob and his family per the agreement with Laban.
When Jacob was ready to go back to his homeland, he ended up going with everything that he had worked for and that rightfully belonged to his wives. God saw the inequality, and God created a way to balance things out. And, yes, Jacob had to listen, he had to obey, and he had to do a little work to help bring that balance, just as we often have to do when God gives us the tools and direction to bring balance into our own lives. We need to pay attention to His direction, and we need pay attention to what we place before our eyes. But if we will turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face, then WYSIWYG will mean wonderful things for us.
P.S. Barely any NaNo words in the last two days (none today), but I hope to make up for them at our upcoming retreat. Sitting now at 22,802 words.
Today, we have another short reading of only seven verses. This one, from Genesis 26:23 through Genesis 26:29 is all about the blessings of Isaac and the promises God made to him. In verse 24, Yahveh appears to Isaac and lets him know he has nothing to fear because He is the God of his father, and that means He is the God of him. Yahveh reminds Isaac of the blessings He has in store for his future descendants because of the promises He made to Abraham. And at this point, Isaac builds an altar and worships God.
I don’t remember if Scripture tells us that Isaac ever built an altar to God before, and whether it does or not, I don’t know if he did. In trying to look back over the last few weeks, I don’t think he did, so I’m thinking this is beginning of Isaac’s personal relationship with his Creator. But here is what I find truly interesting about this event. When Isaac dealt with Abimelech before, maybe even expecting the king to defend him as he had done his father, Abimelech suggested he leave town. Now, since Isaac has talked with God, Abimelech and the commander of his army have shown up on Isaac’s doorstep to make sure things are right between them.
In verse 28, after Isaac asks them why they would show up after now after sending his family away (and not defending him against the lying herdsmen who were stealing the wells Isaac dug), Abimelech tells him how they want to make sure that Isaac will not treat them badly because they may have sent him away, but they did so in peace. I can just hear them tripping over their own tongues trying to make sure that Isaac will treat them as friends and not as enemies. And in verse 29, they give away the reason they are so concerned about how he will treat them. They say, “You are now the blessed of the Lord.”
Huh, so when they just thought he was the son of one favored by God, they didn’t defend him, and they sent him away. Their blessings toward him were simply to do him no harm. Oh, but now that they know God is in Isaac’s fan club just like He was in Abraham’s fan club, they want to make sure they’re on the right side of the blessed man.
It’s like people who think they’re special because they get the autograph of someone who is famous to others, as if they’ll be sort of famous by osmosis. I think these guys were thinking that if they befriended someone who was blessed by God that they would get blessed by osmosis. And the funny thing is, Abimelech did the same thing to Abraham, right down to asking for the same protection and bringing up how good they treated him. But if folks want to hang around Christians and treat them well to keep themselves out of trouble, at least that means they can see that we are blessed by Him and walking in His presence. After all, God’s word says He will bless a city for the righteous that live there, so I guess it is in people’s’ best interest to get near those who are blessed by God. But I think it’s even better if we can be the blessed and say, “Guess who is in my fan club? Yep, it’s God Almighty!”
And with that I will close with my report on NaNo that I have reached 12,613 words for day #5. And I’m hoping God is in my reading fan club and will help me turn this one into something because I’m liking what my characters are doing now. Oh, and pardon the use of my “punny” picture for this post. I just liked the idea of showing off my fractalized fan to go with the title. 🙂
Well, if you thought yesterday’s reading was short, wait until you see today’s. It’s a total of only seven verses from Genesis 25:12 through Genesis 25:18. It covers a brief genealogy of Ishmael, and it tells us that he had twelve sons who were tribal rulers. But the unspoken word in this story is that, like Abraham’s sons by Keturah, no one is forgotten. Remember that Ishmael was the boy who twice was left to die when his mother Hagar was sent out by Sarah and thought she had no hope in the desert. But out of hopelessness came hope. Hagar blessed Yahveh as a God who hears and as a God who sees. And when she acknowledged Him, He blessed her and gave her promises about her son and his future. And here we see the beginnings of those promises coming to pass.
It goes on to say that Ishmael lived 137 years. And I’m stating that to compare with the fact that he almost died twice in his youth, but also to say something else. If he were alive today, that would be a lot of chances to write a novel through National Novel Writer’s Month aka NaNoWriMo. For me, this is only my sixth time of writing a NaNo novel. But every time I have worked on one, it has been worth every ounce of effort and time. There is something about knowing a huge chunk of the world is pushing for the same goals and keeping the world of muses busier than ever. And it’s a great way to just write and create without boundaries and anxiety because you’re not as worried about the outcome as you are the process.
I’ll close with the update that I have written 2552 words today on my novel about a girl named Cameo and her muse named Kalida. The title right now is “A Muse in Mourning,” and it’s already going places I did not plan, so I’m hoping it will be a base draft for something more promising after editing. If you are registered at the NaNo site, be sure to look me up at http://nanowrimo.org/en/participants/crystal-writer and add me to your buddy list. If you are a Christian who writes for NaNo, request to join our Christian Wrimos on Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChristianWrimos/ and join us for some chat and maybe a word war or two. Oh yeah, and if you would like to share your NaNo activities with friends, Also, I have a word count shirt and a “Cooking up a Novel” apron at Zazzle that you can purchase if so inclined. I made everything there more for fun, but I get sales every now and again, and it’s nice when that happens. 🙂
…but you can’t make the girl give it a drink. Of course, Abraham’s servant knew that, so he prayed and asked the Lord to give him a sign that he was on the right path. Today we read in Genesis 24:10 through 24:26 a short but hopeful jumping off place for the rest of the story about Isaac and Rebekah (called Yitzchak and Rivkah in the Complete Jewish Bible).
The servant makes it to his destination, and he is near the home of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. He’s supposed to pick out a wife from the neighborhood and hope she is family, so he can bring the girl back for Isaac to marry. If it were me, I’d be a bit uncertain too. I mean, he knows that if he doesn’t find the right one, he is released from his obligation, but he also knows and cares for his master’s plan.
And here, I want to talk about signs for a moment. The New Testament tells us that an adulterous and sinful generation seeks after a sign, so I hear a lot of people suggest that God’s people should never seek a sign from God. But I don’t believe that particular text is talking about the kind of sign the servant is requesting in today’s study. His purpose in requesting a sign is to be pleasing to his master and maybe even to God. (The text leaves me a bit uncertain as to if the servant actually served Yahveh Almighty, but he definitely believed and prayed to “his master’s” God.) I think those referred to as adulterous and sinful are those who are looking for some mystical sign before they will give up their sinful ways to follow God. When God’s children ask for a sign to know we are pleasing to Him, it is out of our love for Him and our desire to do well.
Now, back to the servant. He says that when he sees a girl come to the well for water, he will ask her for a drink. He asks for a sign that if she gives him water and then offers to water his camels as well, he will know she is the one for Isaac and that God has shown him favor. When he sees the beautiful and single Rebekah, he starts his plan into action, and she immediately begins the task of providing water for the servant and all his camels. When he asks her whose child she is, she tells him she is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor, and in this she confirms that God has indeed blessed the servant in his task for his master.
Sometimes, it’s hard to know what sign to ask for because we might be concerned we’re asking for something that could happen anyway–like a girl offering to water thirsty camels. But if our hearts are pure in our requests, I believe God loves to show off and confirm His word and His directions to us. There is so much blessing to come out of the future of Isaac and Rebekah, so of course God would confirm His words and the desires of His faithful Abraham. We too have blessed futures that God wants to lead us into if we are willing to follow. And sometimes, if we need a reminder that we’re on the right path, I believe God will give us the confirmation we need to either keep going along the road we’re on or make a turn. May His perfect will be done in all things. Amen!
Today’s section runs from Genesis 23:17 through Genesis 24:9 and begins with the purchase of land for Sarah’s burial. Apparently, burying his wife has reminded Abraham of his own mortality. He calls in his longest term (aka most faithful) servant and makes a request from him about the future of Isaac. I’m guessing Abraham has been praying about a wife for him because he tells the servant what steps to take and assures him that an angel will go before him to bless him in his efforts.
The servant takes an oath (signified by placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh, but I haven’t yet learned what that practice means) that he will do all Abraham asks. Mainly, Abraham wants to make sure that his son does not marry into the foreigners of the land where they dwell as strangers, but he also does not want his son to go back and live in their homeland. He is dependant on this faithful servant to go to Abraham’s birth land and find a wife to bring back to him.
If I were to tell the story in a modern way to make it easier for myself, I would say that Abraham is like a life-long American missionary that has been told to claim a particular land for God. That missionary might have a son that is marrying age, so he has someone go back to the states to find an American wife for his son. He doesn’t want his son to go back to America yet himself because they still have much work to do, and he wants his son to stay until the word of God to them has been fulfilled. Abraham said it this way in Chapter 24, verses 6 & 7, “See to it that you don’t bring my son back there. Adonai, the God of heaven — who took me away from my father’s house and away from the land I was born in, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’–he will send his angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there.”
I imagine Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill the promise of giving that land to his descendants, so his descendant had to stay there until that was done. And maybe Abraham was even a little concerned that if Isaac went to visit another land, he might be enamored by something new and want to stay there rather than continue to stake out the place of promise. And I think this is a good thing for us to remember as well. Sometimes, it may seem like a long period of waiting to receive something God has promised us, but if we continue to have faith, trust God, and stake out the promise, it will be just as God has promised it will be. Bless God for ALL His promises and blessings!
In the last few days, we studied how Lot had many blessings as a relative of Abraham. When God blesses someone, He does it so well that their blessings cannot help but spill over to others. In today’s reading from Genesis 21:5 through Genesis 21:21, we read about God’s blessings on Abraham’s sons.
Now, I’m saying sons because at the beginning of the reading, Sarah has finally given birth to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise. She is amazed at the experience and even praises God for being able to nurse her son. She doesn’t even mind that his name means laughter since she now says that others will laugh with her in celebration of this great joy in her life.
Unfortunately, her happiness comes to a screeching halt when she sees the son of her handmade Hagar making fun of Isaac. She chased Hagar out once before because she was making fun of Sarah for being barren. Now, she demands that Abraham make her leave again because she cannot bear to see the other boy teasing her son. Abraham goes to God to find out what to do, and God tells him to listen to Sarah. But God also promises Abraham that He will be with the boy and make a great nation of him “because he is descended from you,” God says.
Even though there will come a time in the future where Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only son, God is faithful to extend the blessings and promises He has poured out upon him throughout his generations. Since those of us who are circumcised in heart toward God are now considered to be of Abraham’s seed (See Galatians 3:29), that means God’s promises and blessings come all the way down to us as well. Praise God that He is a promise giver and a promise keeper.
With all the shorter readings earlier in the week, today’s reading from Genesis 19:21 through Genesis 21:4 was a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in the story until I got to verse 37 of the first chapter in the reading. But let me start with the background.
The angels have granted that Lot would not have to run to the hills where he was afraid to go and have allowed him to go to a small city called Zoar. But, after Lot got there with his daughters (minus his wife because she turned back toward the destruction and became a pillar of salt), he became afraid that somehow people might know that he had favor to escape God’s judgment and would try to kill him. He ran for the hills he tried to avoid.
While he was hiding there, his daughters decided that, since all their brothers were now incinerated, it was their job to carry on the family name. They got their father completely drunk, and both of them went to him to become pregnant without him knowing about it. This has never been my favorite story. I don’t like that kind of drunkenness, and I think it’s pretty gross for the daughters to even make that kind of decision. But then I learned something particularly interesting in verse 37. It says, “The older bore a son, and named him Moab [of a father]; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”
So, why does it matter that the oldest daughter is the mother of the Moabites? Well, do you remember the sweet story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was a Moabitess. She had married one of Naomi’s sons and after becoming widowed, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. This is where we get that oft-repeated “where you go, I will go” statement made between friends. But Ruth also told Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” And this is where it gets good.
In Matthew 1:5, in the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus, you’ll find Ruth in the lineage of our Messiah, Jesus. So, we start with Abraham whose belief is counted to him for such righteousness that God even has mercy on a nephew who lived in the midst of a vile city. Then, after Lot runs and his daughters engage in incest with him, a child from that unholy union produces a lineage that includes a daughter who goes from curse to blessing and finds herself carrying the grandfather of King David. It is a beautiful and amazing story of mercy and redemption, and it encourages me that even from destruction, fear, and debased situations, God can bring His Perfect Light out from the midst of darkness. Wow!
Today’s reading begins Parashah (Portion) Four, which includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. Part 1 of this portion is Genesis 18:1 through Genesis 18:14, and it tells the story of when God stopped by Abraham’s house. It says that when Abraham looked out his door, he saw three men standing under the Oaks of Mamre, and he knew immediately who was on his property. The picture below from Wikemedia Commons, can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg.
So, here’s Abraham just going about his daily routines, having many of the same needs we all experience on a daily basis, and suddenly he looks outside and sees God. If that happened to you, what would you do? How many people do you suppose would say something like, “Oh, hey God. I’ve been meaning to talk to You. I’ve got this list of things I’ve been needing from You, and, well, since You’re here anyway.” I grieve that many would see it as the magic lamp is here. Let’s rub it.
But not Abraham. He ran–not walked–from his tent door and fell at his feet in humble worship. He asked these visitors to be his guests; to wash their feet, have some food and drink, and to rest before they traveled on. He was beside himself trying to give to them and do FOR them rather than trying to get something FROM them.
This has always meant something special to me. I have asked myself more than once if, when I am in the Presence of the Almighty, am I more concerned about what I can get or what I can give. So many altar services are all about coming forward to receive something from God. We have services and gatherings centered around gifts and getting. Even Christmas, a time when people claim to be celebrating the birth of our Messiah, is more about getting gifts from each other than giving gifts to the birthday child. And whether it’s in the natural or the spiritual, this taking more than giving breaks my heart. And I wonder, after all God has given us in creation and salvation, does it break His heart too?
See, Abraham knew that the Creator of the Universe didn’t have to bless him as He already had. He knew God didn’t even have to stop to visit. Thankfulness exceeded his desire to request things from Him. His biggest request was that he would find favor in God’s eyes, so that He would stay and visit for a while. In return, God reminded Abraham once more that his wife Sarah would be having a baby soon. This time, it was Sarah who laughed, and I love today’s final verse in response to Sarah’s laughter: Is anything too hard for the Lord? The Amplified Bible adds “or too wonderful.”
I want to go before the throne in thanksgiving and humble adoration proclaiming how great is my God and praising Him that He reigns supreme in my life. I want to praise Him because I know that NOTHING is too hard or too wonderful for Him. And I pray this blesses Him so much that he will want to stop by and visit often.
Finish the sentence: I have been obedient in spite of… Think about the times when you have been challenged to believe something, but you acted on what you were told and did the right thing anyway. Especially think about the times when you marched forward to obey God in faith in spite of fear, a battle with unbelief, bad previous events, or whatever else. For Abraham (renamed at the end of the last section), he challenged God on a lot of subjects, but when it was all said and done, he still obeyed God. Somewhere, deep inside, even when he was challenged, he still believed. Back in Genesis 15:6, and then repeated in Romans 4:3, we are told that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Today, in Genesis 17:7 through Genesis 17:27, we read about God’s continued promises to Abraham to bless him. God tells him He will bless his land and his people through future generations. He renames his wife from Sarai, meaning “mockery,” to Sarah, meaning “princess.” It’s a wonderful bit of blessing and promise. But, when God tells Abraham that these promises are still going to come through his own seed and through his wife, Abraham falls on his face and laughs. That’s a big laugh. Abraham’s diary could have said ROTFLOL and truly meant it. 😀
Okay, so Abraham had good arguments for God, like wondering why the seed couldn’t come through Ishmael since he was already born, but the part that had him rolling on the floor with laughter was the idea that he could physically do what was needed to create a child when he was 100 and his wife was 90. Be honest, if your great-grandparents told you they were having a baby, wouldn’t you laugh? It reminds me of the salt and pepper shaker set where the old man scratches his head while looking at his gray-haired and pregnant wife. Her apron reads, “You and your once more for old times sake.” If you want to see a picture, someone is selling the set on eBay.
So Abraham is basically saying to God, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” But here’s what’s so cool about it. God doesn’t get mad at Abraham and change His mind. He doesn’t threaten to give the promise to someone else. Because, as I’ve said before, God knows our form. (Thankfully!) But God showed that He too has a sense of humor by telling Abraham that he had to name is son, Isaac, the Hebrew word for laughter. He was not going to let Abraham forget that he doubted that all things are possible with God. But do you imagine that Abraham ever looked on the face of that precious infant, or growing boy, and felt bad about laughing? I imagine that instead, he chuckled a bit, smiled, and offered up a high praise to a God who is truly there for us in spite of our weaknesses, foibles, failures, and yes, even our laughter when we don’t think He can do what looks to be the impossible. May God give each of us a personal reminder that will help us continue to obey Him in spite of fighting whatever tries to stop us from it.
The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.
I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005
I follow Him…
…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet. He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”
I follow Him…
…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation. I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends. I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin, but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.
I follow Him…
…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy the veil of sin.
I follow Him…
…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.
I follow Him…
…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.
I follow Him…
…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.
I follow Him…
…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword … and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a 3rd-day’s sun.
I follow Him…
…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*
I follow Him…
…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…
…I will follow Him for eternity!
We have a long reading today from Genesis 15:7 through Genesis 17:6, and that means it is harder for me to boil it down–especially since it has two important story parts. I will focus this post on the first part, from Chapter 15, where we have a ceremony between God and Abram that most people likely read through without realizing its significance. To understand the importance of this ceremony, I first need to tell you about the meaning of the “Blood Covenant” which is what is being performed here in what is now known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” or “Covenant of the Pieces.” It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories because it gives us a glimpse into the future promise fulfilled by Jesus.
In a blood covenant, the sacrificial animals are cut in two pieces as a representation of the two parties or sides who are making the covenant. If either party breaks his agreement, the penalty is to pay in blood. At Wikipedia, I found an article explaining biblical covenants, and the writer there states it this way… “Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut”. It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.”
Now, here’s the understated thing about the covenant that I find very exciting: Each party walks through the pieces to symbolize his own keeping of the promise. This was a covenant between Abram (representing mankind) and God (representing Himself), and we see that before Abram was able to walk through, God put him to sleep. Both a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared in the midst of the pieces, which means that God Himself walked through the pieces as both man and God. By doing this, He promised that He would pay the price in blood if either side of the covenant was violated.
We know that God keeps His promises, but we also know that He understands the ways of man and knew we would not keep ours. That means He planned from way back to shed His own blood. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Italics mine.) Also, in 1 John 3:16a, the Bible says we know the love of God because He laid down His own life for us.
This was just a beginning of promises to Abram, who will be renamed to Abraham by the end of today’s reading, but I will cover the rest in a separate post due to the length of today’s post. For now though, it excites me to know that His plans for us–and me–have always been to do whatever it takes to make sure He can spend eternity with those He loves. He does this in spite of our rebellious behaviors and our rejection of Him. I guess that’s why in John 15:13-14, Jesus told the disciples that there is no greater love than that where a person would lay down his life for his friends. And then He called them His friends. Halleluyah! We have been granted the greatest love if only we accept it.
We humans think we have it all together sometimes. Just because all the parts are available, including the ability to think and create, we think because we build something, we are some type of creative geniuses. Here’s a little joke that gets the point across well…
One day, a group of scientists were discussing cloning, and they concluded that since they knew how to create humans, they no longer needed God. Upon sharing this news with God, He proposed that before they totally dropped Him out of their lives, they should have a man-making contest. The scientists agreed. God specified they had to do it from scratch–the old-fashioned way, and the scientists still decided it was something they could win.
Finally, the day of the big contest arrived. The timers were set, and the chosen scientist and God were at the starting line. When the whistle blew, the scientist reached down to the ground to grab a handful of soil. Just then, God shouted, “Hold it! Get your own dirt.”
Now, in today’s reading in Genesis 14:21 through Genesis 15:6, the King of Sodom is trying to bargain with Abram about which spoils of war he will keep and which he will give to Abram. But Abram tells the king he will not take anything from him because he wants to be sure the king cannot say later that he was the one who made Abram rich. Abram wanted every thing he gained to be known as a gift from His Creator. He trusted God for the promise of riches, and He knew that meant God would have to be his only provider. We may have many blessings from mankind, but the very source is always our Father God.
This story portion ends with Abram’s conversation with God about not yet having an heir. So, while Abram knew God was his provider, here we get to see his human side as he wrestles with trusting God for his future promise of children that would outnumber the dust of the earth. Abram begins to reason that maybe it is a servant’s child that will become his heir, but God tells him once again that the promise will come from Abram’s own body. He then takes him outside and compares his future promise with the number of stars in the sky.
God knows our form, and He knows that we often trust what we see, which is why we so often trust the creation over the Creator, but He is also kind and merciful as He tenderly reminds us who He is and that His plans for us are always for the good. I love how this little story shows Abram both at his best and at his worst, and it shows how God is ready to bless him in both of those places. God is always the Creator, and He always wants to create wonderful things in our lives if we will keep our sights and trust set on Him.
Maybe my title should actually be “Thanks Á la Lot” since the story, from Genesis 13:5 through 13:18 is the story of Abram and his nephew Lot, but I just couldn’t pass up the pun. 🙂
In today’s part of Torah portion three, Lot and Abram were both so abundantly blessed that they began to overrun each other. Their servants even started fighting with each other. So Abram, ever a fan of peace and family, decided that it would be best of they put some space between them. Because Abram was the one with the blessing, and because he was the elder, he could have chosen the land he wanted and given Lot the leftovers. Instead, he told Lot to choose whatever he wanted, and he would be the one to take what was left.
Lot decided to take for himself the land that looked the best. The well-watered plains of what we now called Jordan. He did not seem concerned about the inhabitants who already lived there–in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will see in later chapters how that should have been a top concern for him. Still, because Lot took Jordan, Abram took Canaan.
Starting with verse 14, we find Yahveh talking with Abram and making him some more promises. Now, in addition to the promise of making a name for him, God tells Abram to look around him and see if he can count the grains of sand because his family of descendants will be just as innumerable as the sand. With that, the Lord also tells him to look around at all his eyes can take in and to walk the length and breadth of it. Yahveh promises Abram it will all belong to him.
So, because Abram put love, peace, and family first, God added to his blessings. And Abram knew these things were gifts from the Almighty and built an altar of thanksgiving. To those who are the type to count their losses, having to give up land to Lot may have seemed like a sacrifice too great to pay. But because Abram knew where his blessings originated, he willingly did what was needed and was rewarded for a heart that counted blessings instead of troubles. And what was left for Abram to do after God rewarded him? Offer a sacrifice of praise for God’s abundant blessings on his life in spite of any loss–and he lost “a Lot.” (Sorry, I can’t help it. But laughter is good for us, so I hope my silliness makes someone smile.)
Today begins portion three from Genesis, Chapter 12, Verses 1-13. I’m out again after having an incredibly blessed meeting with Louisville Christian Writers. And, again I know I won’t make it home on time, so I’m using the phone app. Yay for apps!
Anyway, yesterday I talked about men who used the gifts of God to make a name for themselves. In today’s story, we meet Abram, Sarai, and their families. We find a man who has caught the attention of God like Noah did, and God has decided He has great plans for this guy.
God begins to share His plans with Abram, including those to make of him a great nation. He says He will bless him so much that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. God even tells him that He will bless others who bless him.
The part that really caught my attention–because of the haughty men of yesterday’s story–is God’s promise to make a name for Abram. What an amazing blessing. For all the work we do trying to make names for ourselves and/or trying to leave a legacy, and here is Yahveh Almighty telling Abram how He wants to make a name FOR him. I see by this that it IS okay to have a name that is known by others–as long as it is God who makes that name for you.
Blessings to you all as you seek His perfect will for your lives.
The reading for today is all in Genesis 9 and is a very short set of verses from 8 through 17. Noah, his family, and the animals are off the boat. Noah has offered the first sacrifice to show his thankfulness for their salvation. And now, with this family ready to replenish the earth, God has made a promise, and he has given a sign for that promise that we still see today; the rainbow.
I downloaded an image I really like by rwangsa at Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwangsa/452128709/)…
You know, there are many gods out there that people try to please with various works, but most of them are just trying to get those gods to carry them to an eternal paradise. They will give it all for a promise that may or may not be true. But our God and Creator, Yahveh Almighty, has promised us so much more than an eternity in paradise. He has plans so awesome that He says they haven’t even found a way to enter into our thoughts or imaginations.
I was talking with a friend today, and we were discussing what we have with God that so many others do not have with their gods. The greatest thing we have of course is His Love. It’s not just an end game, but a gift He desires to shower on us in every moment. He wants us to trust Him so much that you will see many covenants He makes with His people throughout Scripture. This covenant in today’s reading is not only a promise, but a promise that comes with a sign both to us and to Him. He says that when we see it, we can remember His promise to us. And He says that whenever He brings clouds upon the earth, He Himself will see the sign and remember His promises. It’s like two best friends that tie a string around each others’ wrists or pinky fingers to remind the other that they will be best friends forever. God is our best Friend, a covenant Friend and a covenant God, who will be there for us…forever! Hallelu-Yah!!!
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