Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Church Camp


Church Campground by Flickr User Jimmy Wayne, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Church Campground by Flickr User Jimmy Wayne, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve never been much into camping, myself, but I suppose if home means camping, being asked to camp around the church is not quite the big deal it would be to me. I have gone to church camp a couple times, and it wasn’t too bad because of having a cabin, but I still prefer my own home and bed.

In today’s reading from Numbers 1:20 through Numbers 1:54, we’ll read about a whole group of people that God wanted to set up a church camp for Him. The portion starts out with talking about the census that God had just asked the leaders to do in order to find suitable soldiers for His service. The numbers are pretty impressive for a group of people forming an entire community in the middle of the desert. You can read the whole list by clicking above, but the total comes out to 603,550 men who were twenty years or older and fit more military service. That doesn’t include the women and children, or any disabled people.

But the part that got my attention came after the counting. The list of men is divided by tribes, and we see that the tribe of Levi is missing. That tribe is reserved for all the work necessary to keep the tabernacle operational and in a holy state. The Levites are in charge of everything associated with the tabernacle, and God even says that if anyone else tries to involve themselves in it, they will be put to death. God commands that the Levites camp around the tabernacle, so that no anger will come upon the community of Israel.

The reason I took note of that last part is in comparing it to the modern church. There are many who claim to be “called” to work for God, but without the connection to a bloodline as they had back in the Old Testament, how do you actually know? I read that part about putting to death any non-Levites who try to involve themselves, and I wondered if there is any correlation to those now who camp out in church leadership without an invitation from God. What risk does a person take if he calls himself a prophet, or she calls herself a prophetess, and they have not truly been called to that position?

I love being used of God for His work, be it as a foot soldier on a small mission, or in ways that can influence many lives. My sister and I just talked about the great feeling of being used even as a link in a chain of events that can lead a soul to Christ. That’s why I created my website at http://www.41soul.com to focus on the idea of being used by God even if it was only for the purpose of saving one soul. I think, whether we are called to soldiers in the community (body of Christ), or to be in leadership positions over the community, we must take heed to do all we do in total obedience to the leading of The Holy Spirit, and if we are called to devote our entire lives to “camping in the church,” we must remember it is to bring joy to the community–and to protect the community, not to have authority over the community or to receive praise from them. God is the only authority, and He is the only one that deserves praise.

May 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Desert Draft


Sinai Desert by Flickr User Vyacheslav Argenberg, CC License = Attribution

Sinai Desert by Flickr User Vyacheslav Argenberg, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Isn’t the desert beautiful where it touches the mountains? Even without any greenery, there is a certain beauty that belongs only to the desert. When I lived in the desert in Arizona, I loved to open the window at night and let in the cool breeze. The crisp, clean smell of desert air is just so fresh and energizing, it made me almost want to stay up all night to enjoy it. It was so much better than the overheated midday sunshine that made it hard to do anything but run for shade. That heat really made me wish for a draft. But that’s not the kind of draft we’re studying today.

With today’s reading from Numbers 1:1 through Numbers 1:19, we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 34 is titled in Hebrew B’midbar, and it means “In the Desert.” God is back for another meeting with Moses, this time in the tent of meeting in the Sinai Desert. He is looking for leadership, and He is instituting a draft of soldiers for His army. He tells Moses to do a census of the whole assembly of the people by clans and families. As part of the census, He wants the names of all those who are twenty and older and are subject to military service for Israel.

God tells Moses that Aaron is to help him do the census, and then He says that they should pick leaders from every tribe to help as well. If you click on the highlighted link above, you can read for yourself the breakdown of each of the tribes and the men God chose from each one to help with the task.

Those in the list to help with the counting were leaders in their families and leaders among the people. They were apparently more aware of their surroundings and their history since God was calling on them to give the genealogies of their tribes. They were to give Moses the names of those qualified to be soldiers, plus the totals of all the people. And Moses did exactly as God directed him.

We know from biblical history that Israel will fight in some pretty major conflicts, and we know that God gives them amazing victories–even up to our last century. When God knows there is a battle in our future, He prepares an army ahead of time to fight in His service when needed. We can tell from the signs of the times that there are some battles brewing now, so I’m certain God is already doing His own census as He looks for soldiers to stand up with Him in these last days.

The draft into God’s Army may not be the same as it was back there in the desert, but it is still important to be fit to be chosen to lift up God’s power and light in this dark world. We become fit for service to our King by confessing and forsaking sins that would hold us back from giving our all. Whatever our calling in Him, we must walk upright with integrity, maturity and strength in whatever we do. When God comes through to count those He can depend on, will you be among the numbers willing to sign up for His draft?

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Is Finished!


Finished Work of the Cross by Flickr User Corrie Ten Boom Museum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Finished Work of the Cross by Flickr User Corrie Ten Boom Museum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

When we say something is finished, we may mean it is hopeless, or that we’re giving up. We can be finished with something before it is even complete. But when God says something is finished, it is all the way done, complete, finalized, and has nothing to be added to it. When Yeshua said these words on the cross, He was completing the task of paying the price of salvation for all who lived then, all who lived before, and all who will live until the end of time here on earth.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:29 through Leviticus 27:34 (the end of the chapter, and the end of the book of Leviticus), we finish another week of the year. As the portion begins, it makes the statement that any man condemned to die cannot be redeemed, he must be put to death. The statement here makes a bit more sense in The Amplified Bible where it explains that redeemed means freed from having to die as sentenced.

When Yeshua, under Jewish law, was condemned to die, there was no way to turn it around and free Him from the obligation of the cross. He was going to go there no matter what. But, because His perfect blood fulfilled the law, He set us free from having to pay the wages of our sin that condemned us to death, and therefore, we can be redeemed from it. Halleluyah! The law that was our curse became our blessing because our High Priest finished all that was necessary to fulfill the requirements that left so many in bondage.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been angry as I’ve watched reenactments of the crucifixion. Sometimes, I have wanted to jump through the screen and beat the ones who issued the death sentence to The Savior. I’ve also felt great frustration in watching the Jewish priests as they did nothing to stop the false condemnation, and in watching the people use their chance to free him to free a murderer (Barabas) instead. Now, however, on reading this, I can understand why the condemnation had to stand. They had to keep the laws intact in order for The Messiah to fulfill them.

The next few verses talk about tithing. The word says that if a man tithes of his land, that land will be holy to God. The same goes if he tithes from his animals. If he tithes on his animals, he is not to examine the animals at all, but one tenth of his flock as it walks under the herdsman’s staff will belong to God and become holy to him. And if a man wants to redeem any of his tithes, he is to add twenty percent to its value.

The last verse finishes the laws and commandments given by God to the people of Israel through His speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God was finished giving laws, Moses was finished receiving laws, but the people were not finished learning the laws. Some laws had to be relearned because they were forgotten. Some laws had to be taught to the new children who were born after the laws were given. And some laws had to be relearned the hard way by watching the punishment on someone else who had forgotten. But the day came when no one was required to learn the laws anymore, not because they were bad laws, but because they were no longer necessary to cleanse people from unrighteousness. When Yeshua hung on the cross and said, “It is finished,” He concluded all the work necessary to cleanse us, so when our lives on this earth are finished, we can dwell in unending joy with our Creator.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When A Gift is Not A Gift


The above video should catch the fancy of those of you who like Tim Burton animations (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”) as it has a similar feel. It’s a creative telling of the story of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5:1-10. The story reminds us that when we choose to serve God without giving Him our whole heart, we will miss out on the future He has planned for us.

In His love for us, God has chosen to give us an eternity we don’t deserve for a price He paid. It’s a lot like when a child goes shopping with his mom to get his father a gift from money the father earned. The father gratefully receives the “gift” from his child because he cherishes the act of giving from the one he loves.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:22 through Leviticus 27:28, we read more about those who want to consecrate things like fields and animals to The Lord. In this portion, God tells Moses how to value a field a person gives when the giver is not the tribal owner but the owner by purchase. In that case, the value is based on the amount of years until the year of jubilee because at that time, the field will go back to the tribal owner. The new owner cannot give something that doesn’t belong to him, so he can’t give the field for life since he only owns it until jubilee.

The next part of the reading deals with those who want to consecrate an animal to The Lord. Now, it should seem common sense that you cannot give something to God that already belongs to Him, but apparently common sense wasn’t necessarily common back in Bible days anymore than it is now. God tells Moses to make sure people understand that they cannot dedicate an animal to Him that is a firstborn because God already owns everything that is first from the womb. God will, however, accept as a gift an unclean animal from the flock, but the value will not be as high.

This whole reading made me think about those who take the credit for those things which belong to God, and take pride in the works and gifts they “give” Him. But salvation belongs to The Lord. Even the very idea of salvation belongs to God. As it says in Philippians 2:13 (ERV), “Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” In addition, our lives belong to The Lord; miracles belong to The Lord; and, in truth, everything belongs to The Lord. No matter what we do or what we give, we cannot boast or brag.

There was a minister I once heard of who listened for people to say, “Oh my goodness,” and was ready with the response, “…is as filthy rags.” Since hearing that story, I think of it anytime I notice someone making the same statement. It reminds me that His word tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags, especially if we try to perform good works apart from the mercy found in the blood of Christ. Because of grace, God receives each of our gifts to Him as if there were no better gift in the world. But in all truth, we have nothing to give Him that does not belong to Him already. Since that is the case, let us go ahead and give Him our hearts, our love, and our obedience that we may bless Him.

Ananias and Sapphira had the opportunity to give everything for the work of The Lord, but they were more interested in receiving honor for themselves than in honoring God through their giving. Their gifts, then, were not truly gifts because they brought no glory to God. Our gifts may not be gifts since they are His already, but He receives them as gifts because we use our free will to honor and praise Him, and to show Him our love, and that’s what He cherishes from us more than anything else.

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow


Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution

Field at Sunrise by Flickr User Moyan Brenn, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I remember sprouting a lima bean in a wet paper towel when I was in one of my lower elementary grades. I also remember that I found it fascinating. I think most people who take the time to see how God makes things grow are in awe of His handiwork. I am especially in awe at how, just as His Word tells us in John 12:24, it takes the death of the seed to make the plant grow and bring forth fruit. Sometimes, we only look at things at the point of death or hopelessness, and we forget that even out of that, God can bring new life.

Today’s reading from Leviticus 27:16 through Leviticus 27:21 doesn’t talk about anything growing, but it does talk about the fields where the growing is done. It’s basically about people who want to consecrate a field to The Lord. God informs Moses that the priests are to value the field according to its production using a standard measure of barley. Later, if the person wants the field back, he can redeem it for the value plus another one-fifth of the value, unless someone else purchased it. If it has been sold, then on Jubilee when the new owner vacates it, the land will become a permanent possession of the priesthood, and it will be holy to The Lord.

So, a field consecrated to The Lord will either be redeemed for a greater value than when it was consecrated, or it will become perpetually holy. Because God takes possession of it, He brings new life from old. If that can happen with a field, what then can happen with a soul? How many times have we prayed over a person and dedicated them to the work of God from their youth. And then they grow up and make bad decisions that go against everything we hoped and dreamed they would do for The Lord. But if we let go and trust them into God’s hands, He can add value to them or draw them to Himself as His permanent possession.

I write this at the end of a long day with a lack of sleep, but I am happy for the day because the works done in its hours have been necessary due to the work God has done in our lives. A few weeks ago, you may recall my writing about the nephew who was in a coma due to a drug overdose. If not, you can read the post “When Brothers Weep” for more information. At that point, and based on all the tests, we prayed for a miracle but were fairly certain that we had a long road ahead even if he ever woke up. Our tasks today were part of that road–which it turns out will not be as long as anticipated.

Beyond the test results and expectations, our nephew Joshua is out of both the hospital and the in-patient rehab facility, walking with a walker, thinking and remembering with almost perfect cognition, and in the process of amazing his out-patient rehabilitation workers. His biggest deficit is neuropathic pain in one foot that keeps reminding him that he just took his body through something from which it should not have recovered. And yet it has. And we are praising God for the opportunity to encourage him to use his second chance to become what God created him to be and to share his testimony with others.

My husband and I took Joshua and his three brothers to church when they were very young, and we prayed over them more than once. We had dreams of their dedication and service to God. We didn’t get to keep them in our custody very long, but we loved them as if they were our own, and it has caused us great pain to see these “fields” misused and under attack of the enemy because their mother makes herself more available to the enemy than to God. But today gives me hope of change and hope that those prayers from so long ago will be answered. Those prayers came before all the attacks of the enemy that have sought to bring these boys down, and maybe it’s those prayers that have stopped the enemy from being able to fully take their lives. Maybe these boys that we dedicated to God will each find their way to Him, increased in value and perpetually holy, before their ends come and/or before the end of life on this earth. I am going back to that prayer and that dedication and asking God to make it so. You, my friends and readers, are welcome to join me. Thank you.

May 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Price of a Promise is the Value of a Vow


Promises by Flickr User Christian Ditaputratama, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Promises by Flickr User Christian Ditaputratama, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scared of a Little Leaf


Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution

Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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.

May 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shalom, Jerusalem


Do you remember this old Sunday School song?…

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy — down in my heart (where?), down in my heart (where?), down in my heart.
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy — down in my heart (where?), down in my heart to stay.

The verse repeats with the repetition of “joy” being replaced by “love of Jesus, love of Jesus” and then by “peace that passes understanding.” Of course, there are a number of other possible lines as seen in the Wikipedia article about the song. But the verse I want to focus on is the one that talks about peace that passes understanding. That can be defined in the Hebrew word Shalom.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:6 through Leviticus 26:9, we read of God’s promises of Shalom to the children of Israel. Again, it’s a short reading of only four verses, so I’ll paste it here in the post…

“‘I will give shalom in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone. I will rid the land of wild animals. The sword will not go through your land. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before your sword. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand — your enemies will fall before your sword. “‘I will turn toward you, make you productive, increase your numbers and uphold my covenant with you.”

God’s peace is truly beyond understanding, and it is far more than what we consider peace these days. It is not peace as we understand it, where things must be in balance and comfort. And it is not an incomplete peace that can be broken by the enemy. It is peace that drives out all fear, all discouragement, and all unrest. The desire for this peace, and the claim of the covenant God made with Israel, may be the reason the word “shalom” is used as a greeting for both hello and good-bye, and I believe for bidding someone best wishes as well.

In Luke 10:5-6, Yeshua is giving instructions to the apostles and 70 other followers on how to minister His word as they go through the land. Upon arriving at each home, He gives them advice that we could all use as we enter into any home, business, or communication in each other’s lives…

Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you.

So, it’s a win-win situation. If we walk in carrying this peace that passes understanding, and if we then pronounce it upon the houses we enter, it will either find rest with those who seek God, or it will return to us, and we will have this peace. It’s the reason I first say “Shalom,” as the welcome message on my answering machine. This world is filled with so much chaos and trouble that we need this complete and wonderful peace from God’s throne just to make it through each day. I don’t know how those without God even continue in this life, and the idea of being without God’s peace would seem to me the very definition of Hell.

God is not a man that He should lie, so that covenant is still with us, and it is still with Israel. He desires that two-way conversation of peace and love with His people. He dwells in our praises because it gives Him a chance to rain down His loving presence on those He most desires to share it with–whosoever will receive it. No matter what you may be going through, lift your voice up to Him in praise, and receive His peace like a river that passes all understanding. And while you’re at it, join me in praying, “Shalom, Jerusalem, today and always” every time you can think of it. There will come a day when those prayers, and the wishes in the above video (from songwriter and singer, Paul Wilbur) will come true for Israel, and then we will all rejoice with great joy as she receives her Messiah, our Prince of Shalom, Yeshua.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

He Promised A (Rose) Garden


Mottisfont Abbey Rose Garden by Flickr User ukgardenphotos, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Mottisfont Abbey Rose Garden by Flickr User ukgardenphotos, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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

“‘If you live by my regulations, observe my mitzvot and obey them; 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. 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.

 

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Assurance


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.

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Slave by Choice


Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Slave Cabins in Tennessee by Flickr User denisbin, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There are a lot of definitions for slavery. These definitions include work bondage, and they also include excessive dependence or devotion to something. But for all of the definitions, the antonym is the same: freedom. So, if slavery is the opposite of freedom, why are so many preoccupied with it? From fashion styles, to jewelry, to names of entertainers, people like to don the persona of being a slave, but I imagine that would be different if they couldn’t undo it at will.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:39 through Leviticus 25:46, we read of those who are so poor, they must sell themselves and their families into servitude. But God speaks to those who would own them and reminds them that because they were slaves before, they must not treat their fellow countrymen as slaves. God tells the owners that If they purchase a poor person and his family, they must treat them as employees or tenants. At the year of jubilee, both the slave and his family will be free and will return to the land that is their ancestral possession.

God then tells the children of Israel that they may buy male and female slaves from the surrounding countries, and they may also buy the children of foreigners that live in their own land. In addition, they may bequeath those slaves to their children, and from those groups, they may always take their slaves. And then God reminds them to never treat their brothers from Israel harshly.

In the image above, the slave cabins actually look better than what some people live in now, especially if you compare them to those who live in cardboard boxes. I’m certain some extremely poor people would sell themselves in slavery in exchange for a real roof over their heads, especially with a private spot of land, fences, and front porches. The photographer states that the cabins were actually occupied until 1977, and a commenter asked who was in them. When the photographer said that poor blacks lived in them, the commenter replied that they should know they did not have to live that way since 1865.

The ignorance in the commenter’s statement tells me that she has never had to go completely without, and that she doesn’t understand being poor. Just because legal slavery was outlawed, does not mean that suddenly everything started flowing in a positive direction for the slaves. If they had good owners, there were probably slaves that would rather have continued working as slaves than to struggle with trying to prove themselves in a prejudiced job market. Some American families now can barely afford rent and utilities, let alone food, in our economy of low salaries and high prices, and if they thought they could have a guaranteed home and food, they might willingly work in slavery.

In addition to being a working slave by choice, however, there are also those who are slaves by choice in other ways. Usually, the “by choice” part is only at the beginning of their slavery, but when they realize the situation has begun to hurt them, it’s often too late. Whether they are slaves to an addiction, or slaves to human beings they feel they cannot live without, or slaves to jobs that hold them in bondage by promising they will not give them a good reference if they leave, they are not free.

And then there are those who make the choice to be a slave under duress. The old song Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford makes the statement, “I owe my soul to the company store” because miners went to work owing from the first day on the job. That slavery was made by choice by men who just wanted to feed their families, but the slave owners (mine owners) charged them for their clothing, homes, etc., by giving them first and charging them later, so they always owed, and never got ahead.

All of these forms of slavery are mingled with pain and sadness because they are all bondage instead of freedom. But we can become slaves by choice in a way that brings freedom. 1 Peter 2:16 states it this way: Submit as people who are free, but not letting your freedom serve as an excuse for evil; rather, submit as God’s slaves. Being a slave to God means being free in our souls even when we are not free in our bodies. Being free in our souls means we can praise God in all things because we trust more in the life we have promised in eternity than in the painful but temporary life we must endure now. And to put icing on the cake, we have the promise that we who have been set free by Christ are free indeed.

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Rich Off the Poor


Rich Poor Divide by Flickr User David Blackwell., CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Rich Poor Divide by Flickr User David Blackwell., CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

The following true story might make you angry, but remember that it makes God even angrier. There was a pastor who collected one-hundred percent of the tithe from his parishioners. He had quite a large church, so he made a lot of money. But that’s not the part that stirs anger. There were people in the church who were on fixed incomes and food stamps. One of these people, an elderly woman, received a monthly call from the pastor with his shopping list for her to tithe on her food stamps. While she shopped for steak and chicken for him so she could comply with the demands of her tithe, she purchased cat food to feed herself.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:29 through Leviticus 25:38, we read more about property ownership, but we also see more of God’s heart in how we should treat the poor. The portion begins with an explanation about buying property in a walled city. Unlike the ownership of fields that always require the right of redemption and revert ownership in the year of jubilee, the person who sells a property within a walled city only had one year to redeem it. If he doesn’t, the ownership passes permanently to the new owner, and will not be returned at jubilee.

The reading goes on to talk about the houses and cities owned by the Levites. In those cities, the houses will be redeemed at jubilee, and the lands can never be sold because they are under permanent ownership of the Levites as their possession. This means that if someone is truly called into ministry by God, they can trust that God will always provide for them. They do not need to ask people to charge up their credit cards or send in their gold fillings as an act of faith. They do not need promise riches in Heaven to their audiences in a bid to get them to sell their precious family heirlooms to prove they love the man who brings them the gospel. And they do not need to demand millions of dollars to keep God from killing them. (They do need to repent of serving a spirit of manipulation though.)

In the final part of today’s reading, God gives instruction on how to deal with those in the community who have become poor. First, God tells the people to assist the poor the same as they would assist a foreigner or temporary resident who lives with them. And then He tells the people to make sure they do not charge interest or make any money off of the poor, but instead they are to fear God. He reiterates the command to say that even if they loan the poor person money, or if they sell him food, they are not to charge interest or make a profit. And He reminds them once again that He is the God who delivered them from Egypt in order to give them their new land and to be their God.

Going back to the story at the beginning, I have to wonder if that preacher truly feared God. And I don’t just mean fear in being afraid of what God could do with his misuse of a ministry position, but fear as in respected Him and His holy word. The verse that talks about not making any money off the poor says that instead a person should fear God, so that tells me that the person who does not care about the poor is one who does not fear God.

We know that God cares for the poor, especially if He sees the demise of each little sparrow. He knows how we treat each other, and He knows what is in our hearts when we cross the path of a poor person. I feel shame for the preachers and pastors out there who receive tithe and offering from those who actually need support from the church more than they need to be paying into it. Letting people tithe to honor their own obedience to God is one thing, but that doesn’t mean the pastors have to keep the money. May each of us trust God to lead us in being better stewards of all God gives us and in learning how to deal with the poor that cross each of our paths in a way that blesses and glorifies Him. Amen.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Down on the Family Farm


Family Fun by Flickr User Sam Salt, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Family Fun by Flickr User Sam Salt, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to vieworiginal image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I was raised in the city, so I can’t tell you much about family farms, but I did hear some stories from my grandparents. Most of what I heard about getting up before sunrise, and getting kicked by cows because of trying to milk them with cold hands didn’t sound like much fun to me. But in those days when I slept under trees or lived out of my car, I think those not-so-fun tasks would have been worth it to have a real roof over my head if we still lived in the days when farms got passed along from generation to generation.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:25 through Leviticus 25:28, we have just a few verses, but they’re on an important topic. God provides for us even when circumstances make life difficult. This reading says that if someone becomes poor, and has to sell the family farm to survive, the next of kin must be given the right to buy it back. If that can’t happen, and the seller should become rich enough to buy back his own property, the new owner must sell it back minus the years it was under new ownership and giving profit to the new tenant.

Imagine if all of us who came from families that had farms at one time or other were able to have the promise that one day, we could come back to our land. As we continue our reading today, we see how that could be possible even if the poor farmer never finds a way to get enough money to redeem his family’s land. At the year of jubilee, the land will be returned to him no matter what.

I can see these promises as something that lines up with the biblical prophecies that Israel will be grafted back into her own root and redeemed to her land. Where Paul talks of this in Romans 11, (I recommend reading the whole chapter for inspiration) he says in verse 15 that when Israel comes back, it will be as life from the dead. What is the definition of revival? It can be defined as “bringing back to life something that has died.” It certainly will be a year of jubilee when God brings Israel back to their own “family farm.” Verses 26-27 of Romans 11 sum it up perfectly…

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

I’ll close with a video of some awesome Messianic worship songs. The first one, that even includes some of the words from the above verse, is called Awake O Israel and runs to 1:15 in the video. The other songs are The Zeal of God and I Lay in Zion. All the songs include lyrics. Enjoy!

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right of Redemption


Redemption Poster by Flickr User Sapphire Dream Photography, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Redemption Poster by Flickr User Sapphire Dream Photography, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

When you purchase an item, especially when it’s something from a salesman in your home, you usually have what is called a “right of rescission” where you have a chance to change your mind. It is often used when getting a loan as well, and most of the time, it is a “cooling off” period of about 3 days. It gives buyers a way out of their “buyer’s remorse” when they feel they’ve made a bad purchase decision.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:19 through Leviticus 25:24, we read about the opposite of rescission. It begins with God answering a question He was sure the people would ask about how they would eat during the years their fields were in Sabbath rest. He tells them He will bless the sixth year to make it produce for three years. That would make sure it provided for them in the 6th year when they both planted and harvested, in the 7th year when they ate from the harvest of the 6th year, and in the 8th year when they planted but still had to eat of the old harvest while waiting for the time of the new harvest.

After speaking to them of harvest, God reminds them again that their land does not belong to them, but it belongs to Him, and they are foreigners and temporary residents on the land. He explains that this is also the reason they cannot permanently sell their land but must always include the right of redemption.

When God made us, He gave us our temples to live in as temporary residents just as He put Israel in the Promised Land. Though He gave us free will, He reserved for us the right of redemption. Like the land He owned, He has already bought and paid for our souls and redeemed us for Himself. By paying for our sins before we ever asked, He has gone way too far to change His mind and rescind the contract, so once we accept His salvation, we can trust that God will not try to undo the contract.

The definition of redemption comes from the Latin word redimere and Old English redeem, and it means to “buy back.” The right of redemption we have in Christ to buy us back from our sins is not a contract He entered into lightly. After all, He paid the price with His own blood and life. We know He won’t have any buyer’s remorse because He knows exactly what He’s getting into when He makes us His own. Therefore, we should make sure we don’t end up with a case of seller’s remorse by taking care to not enter into our covenant with Him as if it’s a minor thing.

In fact, the covenant He wrote for us in His own blood is a major thing. But, oh what a pleasure to know that God first showed His love for us by redeeming us while we were yet sinners, and that He continues to show His love for us with mercy that is new every morning. And there is coming a day when He will claim His right of redemption over us once more, when we are redeemed from this temporary home to live in eternity with Him.

And with that, here’s a video of another older song I love to listen to and to sing. It’s called “Temporary Home” by The Heritage Singers…

April 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Home/Land Security


Spikes by Flickr User Steve Crane, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Spikes by Flickr User Steve Crane, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’m a firm believer that God is the true owner of all things in my life. I even say that God owns the copyright to all my works, which is why I don’t keep them in hiding until I can get registered copyrights, though even without the registration, I know my works are copyrighted as soon as I create them. Still, I know some people fear theft of their intellectual works, so they don’t get them out there. But what if we lived as if we didn’t own any of it, and what if we lived as if all we have is given to us to share?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:14 through Leviticus 25:18, we read about God’s idea of fair sales practices, and how He says to stay secure in our land. First, He says that when people sell to each other, they should never exploit each other. In context with the passage, this refers to land for sale between years of jubilee (every 50 years) since on those years, all land goes back to the original owners. Yesterday’s post introduced jubilee, but I didn’t comment on the last verse about owners returning.

So, because the land is not sold permanently, God explains here that if it is close to an upcoming jubilee, the price of the land should be reduced. If it is a long way off, the price should be raised. He tells them that what they are actually selling is not the land, but the amount of crops the purchaser will be able to produce. For this reason, and because He is The Lord and their God, He says for them to make sure not to take advantage of each other.

The last statement in today’s section says that if men will keep God’s commandments and obey all His rulings, they will be able to live securely in their land. Secure living: Can you imagine such a thing? No need for a Department of Homeland Security. No need for burglar alarms or spiked fences. No need for guard dogs (or attack cats :-)). Just living and doing whatever God has guided us to do each simple day of our lives. Can you imagine just how awesome this would be. I know I can.

I would love to be “anti-war,” and to have peace, love, and butterflies all the time, but I know it’s not realistic. The people who march for peace and rage against our soldiers and our right to defend ourselves might as well boycott ADT and all other home security companies because the message is the same… “We don’t want security forces; we want peace.” And I would love it if such could be true, but it can’t be true on this earth as it stands now. It could work if every person on the planet earth would do things God’s way, but they won’t, so we’re left with war between those who are lawful and those who make their own law to do whatever suits them. And because of war, we have to protect ourselves–or employ others to protect us–from those who live according to the wanton desires of human flesh instead of seeking God’s perfect will.

Did you notice that before men created a golden calf to worship, there was no law about not creating golden statues? The more men misbehave, the more laws must be created to rein them in. A child gets hit by a car, and new speed-limit laws are put in place to protect other children on that same street. Multiple accidents happen at an intersection, and a new traffic light goes up to better govern the crossing. The “Department of Homeland Security” was not created until November 25th, 2002. It was a direct result of the lawlessness that cost multiple lives on September 11th, 2001. Lawlessness creates a need for more laws, but lawfulness (especially to the will or Our Creator and Savior) brings security to our lives, our homes, and our lands.

April 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Shall Reap What You DON’T Sow


Early Harvest by Flickr User Ian Sane, CC License = Attribution

Early Harvest by Flickr User Ian Sane, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How many times have you gotten what you deserved? And how many times have you not gotten what you deserved? In the second question, that could mean not getting bad if you earned it with an evil deed, or not getting good you felt was coming to you. In all truth, this world is not fair. Innocent become victims, and criminals seem to get away with terrible acts. But in God’s economy, grace pays the way for many of us to reap benefits we have neither earned nor deserved. He paid the price for evil, so we could reap the same pay as if we had lived our lives sowing nothing but good.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:1 through Leviticus 25:13, we begin a new portion. Parashah 32 is titled B’har which means “On Mount.” In today’s part of the portion, God instructs Israel in giving their fields a sabbath rest. Every seventh year, He tells them not to plant anything, and He tells them not to harvest anything. Everything in the field is still available for their food, so they can gather it for meals, but they are not to fully harvest it.

After seven of these resting times in the fields, that is after 49 years, the fiftieth year is considered a year of jubilee, and it is another year of complete rest for the field. The year of jubilee is a year when everything and everyone is to celebrate freedom, and every person and animal will eat from whatever crops continue to grow in the untended fields and vineyards. The year begins with a blast of the shofar on Yom Kippur of that fiftieth year.

It’s not late enough in the year yet for me to tell what my untended garden will yield, but last year–our first year in our new home, we grew lots of tiny tomatoes that we didn’t plant. I called the old owner to ask if she planted them, and she said she did not. She informed us they were called “volunteer tomatoes,” and told us how blessed we were to have them come up on their own.

We read in the words of Messiah Yeshua that instead of worrying about our provisions, we should rest in Our Creator, Yahveh, and trust that He has it all in His hands. Luke 12:27-28 (NLT) puts it this way…

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

In God’s economy of grace and mercy, we are promised provision by His hand, and we are promised a prize in His kingdom just by letting go of our sin and trusting Him to guide and direct our lives. No other boss tells us that all we have to do is commit our loyalty to the company, and we’ll receive a paycheck, but God gives us a paycheck that He Himself earned simply because He loves us and wants to share eternity with us. We can praise Him for our wonderful provisions on this earth, but we can rejoice even more greatly in the provisions He has prepared for us where we will reap that we could never do enough good works to earn.

I have a favorite old song by Joel Hemphill called Consider The Lilies. This one is performed by Charlotte Richie with backup by singers from The Isaacs and The Martins. Enjoy!

April 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Little Light of Mine


This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, and I won’t hide it under a bushel. My life on earth was created for a purpose, and since I now walk with God, I believe that purpose is to declare the Light of Christ to those who wander in darkness.

Light is an important aspect of life. They say that just a short time in total darkness can drive a person insane. What does that say for people who walk without God? In John 8:12 we read…Yeshua spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.” So, without His light, we have no life. In the beginning, God spoke light. Throughout biblical history, light plays a huge role in showing God’s being, and darkness is a curse. In eternity, we’re even told we will have no need for light because The Lamb will be the light.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 24:1 through Leviticus 24:23 (the end of the chapter), we read about the importance of the light in the temple. The people were to bring the oil that kept the light burning, and the pure oil was to come from crushed olives. The priest would actually light the candlestick which sat just outside the curtain of the testimony.

Yeshua told His disciples in Matthew 5:14-15 that they were light for the world, and that a city set on a hill could not be hidden. He also told them that men do not kindle light and then put a bowl over it. If we have been saved by the Blood of The Lamb, we are that light of testimony now. Our testimony comes when we crush the ways of the flesh, and let our High Priest light Himself within us. To keep that testimony shining for the world, we do not hide it by going back to the works of the flesh.

As the reading continues. we learn of the 12 loaves of bread that are to be baked with fine flour and set on the holy table in the temple. The bread is to be set in two rows of six, and each row is marked with incense. I know that God never does anything without a purpose, so I’m certain there’s some meaning here, but I have not learned it yet. I can only think of the 12 loaves representing the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples, and the 12 gates of Heaven.

The next thing we read is actually pretty disturbing. A young man who is half Jewish and half Egyptian. (His mother is the Jew and this makes me think that this Scripture may be why you prove your Jewish heritage through your mother to this day.) The man gets in a fight with a neighbor, and during the fight, he curses the name of Yahveh. All who hear it take the young man to Moses for judgment. The judgment God sends down is that all who heard the curse are to lay hands on the man and stone him to death.

I know I get very uncomfortable when I hear people curse God, even when they don’t mean to be doing it. Even before I was saved, when I didn’t watch my mouth very well, I was never okay with using the words “God” or “Jesus” in foul language. And that’s just a casual language type of curse where people are not intentionally cursing God Himself, but are just slinging words around without thinking. It’s worse when I hear people say things about Him that I know are not true, or in any way disrespect Him. I would rather a person just say they don’t believe in Him, or not want to mention Him at all, than to put Him in a place of dishonor.

God is all about life and respect. The remainder of the portion talks of the value of life for both man and animal. It tells men what they should do if a man kills another man, or if a man kills an animal. But that was before the blood of Christ. Even though we do not take a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, or an eye for an eye anymore, God has no less respect for the value of life. I believe He still requires some type of restitution from those who would take a life and treat it as if it has no value, and I believe that applies to both the life of the flesh and the life of the soul. If there is no other reason to let God’s light shine before men, there is reason when we think of the value of a living soul made in God’s image. Even if your whole life is on this earth just to shine a light for one soul, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sukkot: The Real Manger Scene?


Mary & Steve in the Sukkah with the Lulav 10-09-2012

Mary & Steve holding the Lulav (4 Kinds of Branches) in Our Sukkah from 2012
To see the outsides and insides of some amazing sukkah designs, click on the image to go to a Flickr image search of the word, Sukkah. There are even some from the big building contest called “Sukkah City” which I think is in New York.

What if everything you’ve ever believed about Christmas was off by about 2-3 months? What if you found out that Yeshua’s birth was the fulfillment of one of The Lord’s feasts? And what if the fulfilling of that feast turned the holiday into a holy day, and brought all the joy of its celebration to you in abundance?

Today’s reading from Leviticus 23:33 through Leviticus 23:44 (the end of the chapter) gives us the information about the feast of Sukkot which means “booths,” and learning of this feast made the birth of Our Messiah more special to me than ever. I wrote a detailed article about it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/notes/crystal-a-murray/sukkot-why-would-a-christian-celebrate-a-jewish-feast/10150361954688703 and I covered a little bit about it on my first post in this Torah commentary series at https://crystalwrites.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/the-joy-of-the-word-simchat-torah/

Our reading today begins with Yahveh telling Moses to mark the 15th day of the 7th month. You’ll recall that he has just told Israel to mark the 1st through the 10th days of the 7th month, so this is all happening right after the highest holy day of the year, Yom Kippur. The year starts brand new, the sins are wiped clean, and now it’s time to celebrate by remembering exactly what God has delivered Israel from. Oddly, they are still living in tents in the wilderness at this time, but the holiday is being established, so they will never forget.

The reading explains exactly how God intends for them to celebrate this feast, including days of rest and days of sacrifice. The children of Israel are also required to dwell in a sukkah (Hebrew singular for “booth” or tent, which is why the holiday is also called “The Feast of Booths” and “The Feast of Tabernacles”). They are to dwell in this temporary shelter for seven days, and God says it is a permanent regulation, so that generation after generation will know that He is God, and that He delivered them from Egypt.

A sukkah is a temporary dwelling just like our bodies on this earth. Our Messiah chose to live in a temporary body as well, so that He could deliver us from our own type of Egypt–living in sin without Him. My other articles give more detail about Sukkot being the real manger scene, but I’ll try to sum it up in a few bullet points…

  • A sukkah is a shelter built outside a permanent shelter, and many businesses put them up as well.
  • Because Sukkot is one of the feasts where all people were to go to their homes, Bethlehem was filled with homecoming celebrants, so there would have been no room in the inn, but the sukkah would be acceptable for dwelling.
  • The top of the sukkah was open where starlight could have shined through.
  • Yeshua is called the “sukkah” or “tabernacle” of men, and this fulfills Revelation 21:3.
  • It would have been too cold in December for shepherds to have been in the fields at night.
  • Caesar would have been smart enough to hold a census when he knew people were headed home rather than trying to declare one and gather people together from all over.

There is so much more, but I’ll write more later this year when we’re actually having our own celebration of this day. This is by and far my favorite feast day to celebrate because it seems I see more and more of Messiah in the celebration each time we gather. We build our own sukkah in the back yard, and we invite friends and neighbors to join us in the celebration, as we did with our friends Mary and Steve in the above image. If you live in the Kentuckiana area and want to learn more, please let me know to send you an invitation and a map for Sukkot 2014–Lord willing and the rapture don’t come. In the meantime, may all your days be blessed with the holy presence of Our Wonderful Creator.

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Days of Wine and Rose-Colored Glasses


Hand Painted Wine Glasses by Flickr User Southern Lady's Vintage, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Hand Painted Wine Glasses by Flickr User Southern Lady’s Vintage, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Wine and roses are considered romantic, and someone who views the world through rose-colored glasses is said to see things too romantically and not realistically enough. So, if we pair rose-colored glasses with wine, we get a good-looking false reality. But false or not, it’s usually more comfortable there, so we rarely want to stop and examine our lives to see where we are headed, or if there is anything we should change. We are so interested in the headlong pursuit of happiness that we will stop to smell the roses (because they represent the romance of beauty and comfort), but we rarely stop to pray.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 23:23 through Leviticus 23:32, we read about the preparation and celebration of the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, which means “Day of Atonement.” Our reading starts nine days before this high holy day, on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei). We’re not told yet that this is Rosh Hashanah, meaning “Head of the year,” but only that it is a day of complete rest for remembering, and its start is signaled by a blast of the shofar (ram’s horn).

Rosh Hashanah, or as we often see on US calendars, “Jewish New Year,” is the beginning of a 10-day period of remembering and self-examination. These days, called “The Days of Awe,” are a time when people take off their rose-colored glasses and look for things in their lives that require repentance and forgiveness. They spend those first nine days with a focus on cleansing their hearts, forgiving each other, asking forgiveness from their neighbors, and trying to become blameless before the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” when they will wait to see if God has accepted the offerings of the high priest and forgiven the sins of the people.

On the tenth day of the month, God tells Israel to deny themselves and bring an offering to Him. This would be the realist of the days of reality; a day where fear and hope are equal partners. If a person does not deny himself (go without his desires, comforts, pleasures, etc.) on this day, he will be cut off from his people, so this is not the type of feast where you will find celebration. Instead, this is the day where all must bring forth real fruit of real repentance. It is a sabbath of complete rest, self-denial, and last ditch self-examination to strive for as much holiness as possible.

Like our salvation in Yeshua gives us at the time of our repentance, this ten-day period is a time when people have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate before God. It’s the time when the children of Israel would leave their gifts on the altar, and make amends with anyone they had given reason to hold an accusation against them. It didn’t mean they could do whatever they wanted for the rest of the year, but if they had wasted their days with not thinking about God and instead gotten lost in a stupor of wine and rose-colored glasses, this was their chance to stop the wild ride and try to make things right.

A current tradition for celebration of Yom Kippur is to wear all white to represent purity. For those of us who have been washed in the blood that makes us “white as snow,” we can have these days of self-examination every day. For each new day we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Yeshua, we get the opportunity to exchange our rose-colored glasses for crimson-colored glasses that allow us to see ourselves through the eyes of Our Loving Creator and Savior. And that’s a romance that will carry us throughout eternity.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where the Weary May Rest


 

Jesus is the Rest by Flickr User jubileelewis, CC License = Attribution

Jesus is the Rest by Flickr User jubileelewis, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Matthew 11:28 (CJB) says, Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We know from that verse that Yeshua is talking about Himself there, and that He has become all that we need when we are burdened with the sins of the flesh. He is the Passover Lamb that shed His blood for our salvation, and He is our Sabbath that we may rest in our deliverance and celebrate God’s grace and mercy.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 23:1 through Leviticus 23:22, we read about the beginnings of God’s appointed celebrations and commands that are fulfilled in our Messiah. I’ve said before that you cannot know whether an orange candy that says it tastes like a real orange lives up to its claim if you have never tasted a real orange. It’s good to know that Yeshua has fulfilled all the mitzvot (Hebrew for laws and commands) of the Old Covenant, but it will mean much more when you understand what those things were for Him to fulfill for us.

In verse 2, God tells Moses to remind the people that all the designated times He gives them are His times. In this portion, He talks about the festivals of Shabbat, Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. These festivals are holy, and they are times for celebrations. (And, yes, Sabbath is listed among The Lord’s feast days, and it is to be a day of celebration for us.) God gave Israel (and us) the feasts as ways to remember that He has provided all things for us. That’s why the feasts are permanent regulations, even to the point that we will enjoy them in Heaven as we celebrate that He not only gave us life on earth, but that He also gave us eternity. That’s also why man was not made for the Sabbath, but Sabbath for the man.

One thing I noticed about the Lord’s feasts in today’s portion is how the lack of them has affected our current society. For example, most people do not take a true Sabbath rest–one where they do no work at all. Some of the celebrations say not to do “ordinary” work, but the Sabbath rest says it is to be a complete rest, even in the homes. We say Yeshua is our rest, but do we take a complete rest even when we rest in Him? In other words, do we rest according to our idea of rest, holding on to those doctrines of men we think will make us holy to God? Resting in Him means letting go of ALL our own ways, not leaning on our own understanding, and trusting that His ways and thoughts are above our own. That kind of rest would cure all kinds of anxiety and depression if we truly grabbed hold of it, but in our current society, it’s hard to let go and rest as an individual when our families and communities do not rest with us. Still, if you’re with me on wanting to make an effort to rest more in Him, I recommend the book 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth.

The next holy day covered is that of Passover. We have just come through the season of celebrating Passover, and my husband and I went to two different Passover Seders during the week. I enjoyed parts of them both, but I longed for something more. One former Orthodox Jew mentioned how the seder used to take three hours not including the regular meal, and my husband and I both realized that the new “speedy” versions of most Seders meant we were probably missing something; especially since the more we understand about Passover, the more we understand about how Messiah fulfilled it.

The next feast is that of Unleavened Bread, and the teaching of it is part of the Passover Seder. I won’t tell you everything you can learn from a seder, but I will tell you about the bread. First, leaven (yeast) represents sin, and when put into dough (the flesh) it makes it rise up, so with leaven, bread is puffed up, and with sin, we are filled with works of the flesh instead of with Christ. So, for the week of this feast, all leaven is removed from the home. Symbolically, then, if Yeshua is our feast of Unleavened Bread, we would remove all sin from our body, so it may be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Also, instead of regular bread, matzah is served during the feast week. Click on the word for an up close image that will show you some very cool things about this bread: It is not puffed up, it has blood-colored stripes, and it is pierced. As part of the seder, it will be broken, hidden in a sack that is divided in three parts (a sack called an echad which means unity), and one of the broken pieces will be wrapped in linen and hidden (as in a grave) which will later be found by a child and “redeemed” (as in resurrected).

If I go on to tell you anymore, this blog will get too long, but you can read all about the seder at the Hebrew4Christians site that also includes a downloadable Passover haggadah (story book) in PDF. Also, I recommend that next year, you find yourself a Messianic or Christian seder to attend, so you can hear the story. Oh, by the way, that’s what the seder dinner is all about. It is a way to tell the story of what God has done for his people in a way that is easy to remember. It has actions (like tasting bitter herbs) as part of the telling, so even the children can remember their Creator and Deliverer. Our current society depends almost solely on their own works to accomplish success in this life, and as they face failure after failure, they turn to things like drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex to help them forget their failures. When that doesn’t work, too many decide to take their own lives.

The last feast mentioned today is that of “First Fruits.” This harvest festival is the time when people say “Thank You,” to the Creator who “brings forth bread from the earth.” They wave sheaths of their harvest before Him, and they thank Him by given grain offerings. And have you noticed that in our current society, grain seems to be something that brings a lot of curses? How often do you hear the words “gluten free” these days? Gluten seems to be a curse on wheat. And MSG is also a wheat by-product. At one time, it was even thought that refined flour caused an overabundance of sexual urges in young men, so Dr. Graham created “Graham flour” and “Graham crackers” to include more of the wheat germ to stave off lust. Read more about Sylvester Graham at Wikipedia. In addition to wheat, we have corn meal and corn by-products (like high fructose corn syrup) that are blamed for all kinds troubles from diabetes to lethargy. But I wonder if it would be different if we were still bringing our grains before God to thank Him for being our Provider.

Today’s reading ends with a reminder to leave the corners of the field unharvested, so the poor can come harvest for themselves and be able to eat without depending on someone else to feed them. Imagine if our society created a system where every person (except those who are truly physically unable) would have to do some kind of work for his or her food. If they had to pick their own vegetables, clean around the farm where their beef was raised, or even pick up garbage and weeds in the cities where funding is running to short to hire people to do it, they would feel their provisions had more value, and they would be healthier. Imagine a world where people actually did things God’s way, and you will understand then how He is where true rest can be found.

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring Out the Best


Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

During my time growing up on the west coast, our family was pretty picky about the type of sandwich spread we used. Whether it was for a sandwich or a salad, we always used “Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.” Since I am typically alert to details, I always read the part on the label that said, “Known as Hellman’s East of the Rockies.” So, do you know what I did the first time I traveled east of the Rocky Mountains? I went into a grocery store to look for some “Hellman’s Mayonnaise.” so I could read the label to see if it said, “Known as Best Foods West of the Rockies.” And, sure enough, it did.

Such a little thing to get excited about, but it really was important for me to find out. Oh, and if you live east of the Rockies, like I do now, you may have heard the commercial jingle that says, “Bring out the Hellman’s, and bring out the best.” That makes so much more sense, though, when you hear it as, “Bring out the Best Foods, and bring out the best.”

In today’s reading from Leviticus 22:17 through Leviticus 22:33 (the end of the chapter), we read of God wanting us to always bring out the best for Him. This entire teaching covers the offerings brought before God whether for vows or for voluntary burnt offerings, and it gives the details of the acceptable and unacceptable offerings. In order to make the person giving the offering acceptable to God, the offering they gave had to fulfill the requirements that made it acceptable to Him.

Just as the priests who had defects could not give offerings to The Lord, people could not offer animals with defects like blemishes, uneven limbs, blind, injured, mutilated bodies, etc. Even if a foreigner tried to offer something less than perfect, ignorance would not entitle him to give a defective offering.

So, how many of you readers would like it if you gave your child all the ingredients to make a wonderful and tasty dessert, and after the child made it, he or she gave it to a bunch of friends and said you could only have whatever leftovers you could scrape off the pan? As the reading ends, God once again reminds Israel to keep His commandments because He is The Lord, and He is the One who brought them out of the land of Egypt to deliver them and make them holy. He gave them all the cattle and land from which to choose their offering, and He gave them the life of freedom that allows them to now offer gifts to Him, so He not only wants the best from them, He deserves the best from them.

Because of the grace and mercy we have from God through the blood of Yeshua, we might sometimes be tempted to think that God is not so picky anymore. After all, He accepts us just as we are, right? Yes, He does accept us, but only because He, Himself, brought out the best when He robed Himself in flesh to lay His life down for us. As the Lamb of Our Salvation, Christ had no imperfection, no blemish, and no sin. He was not even born of the sinful seed of man. He became the offering that was worthy to allow us to come to God broken, blemished, and damaged by sin. And His blood cleanses us and makes us whole in God’s eyes, so we can now offer ourselves to Him in the way He requires and deserves.

I hope this is enough to inspire and encourage people to keep themselves cleansed and holy before God. Let us not allow any of the desires of our sinful nature to drag us down to a place where we are covered with the muck and mire from which God delivered us. God gave us His best, now let us bring out the best for Him.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Holiness, Then Good Works


Salvation Poster by Flickr User Realistic Imaginations, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Salvation Poster by Flickr User Realistic Imaginations, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

If I were to ask you if you honor the Lord with holiness, you would likely begin to look at the works you do for Him to decide how to answer. But I believe holiness has everything to do with our hearts, and only has to do with our works insomuch as they follow the thoughts of our hearts. Holiness begins in our hearts and with a commitment to give to God that which He should have because He is worthy. Holiness is the change of heart that makes us see God as worthy of our belief, our obedience, our trust, and our praise.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:16 through Leviticus 22:16, we start with Yahveh telling Moses to tell Aaron the following: “None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.” And then the teaching goes on to explain all the types of defects that would prevent a descendant of Aaron from working in the priesthood. I would not be able to bring offerings into the holy place because I have stunted growth. My husband could not bring offerings into the holy place because he has a cataract. We could both eat the bread of God, both the holy and the especially holy, but we could not offer it to God with our defects because that would profane God and His place of holiness.

Moses tells these things to Aaron and to all of Israel, and then he goes to Aaron to deepen the lesson. He tells him to have his sons keep themselves separate from the holy things of God, so they will not take a chance of defiling them by approaching them in an unholy state. If they do, God will cut them off from their people. For us, this means that we should not try to come into “the church” by doing all the right stuff without first repenting and being covered with the holy blood of Christ to make us clean. Like the verse above says, our salvation is a gift from God, and that alone should be enough to bring us to our knees before we strap on the apron of good works.

The teaching goes on to explain more ways in which a descendant from Aaron (member of the tribe of Levi) can make himself or herself unclean, and that uncleanness can prevent both doing the work of the tabernacle and partaking of the holy food. Even a daughter who has married outside of the tribe is no longer able to partake of the food, but a widow or divorcee with no child that comes back to live with her father may share in the food. Also, while an employee or tenant may not partake of the holy foods, a slave that lives in the home of a Levite may eat them.

I see all of this teaching as a simple commandment to not put the cart before the horse. We don’t do the works of God with unholy hearts that are not committed to Him. That means we don’t get brownie points for going to church on Sundays and hoping it will erase the demerits we earned during the rest of the week. We don’t get a pat on the back from God because we donate to good causes or give ourselves to service if we are doing those things in the sin of pride and arrogance instead of with a holy love for our Creator.

Holiness is a changed state of heart and mind that will have us proclaiming the glory of God in wondrous new ways. Here are just some of the verses from King David’s song in Psalm 96 in which I can see his holy heart…

1Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised…
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

I especially like that last verse because I see holiness as something beautiful and wonderful. It is an acknowledgement that God’s holiness is so majestic that all we can do is tremble in His holy presence. Hallelu-Yah!

April 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Managing the Management


Ethics are a journey to objective truth, where the individual is subordinate to the universal. Image (and quote?) by Flickr user Dan Hutcheson, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user's full photo stream at Flickr.

Ethics are a journey to objective truth, where the individual is subordinate to the universal.
Image (and quote?) by Flickr user Dan Hutcheson, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Have you ever worked under bad management in a job? Whether it is a team manager, a department manager, or the leader of a company, managers can make or break the future for every person who is subordinate to them. I’ve found the best managers to be the ones who know how to be managed by others and how to manage themselves.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:1 through Leviticus 21:15, we begin a new portion (Parashah 31). The Hebrew name for it is Emor and it means “Speak.” In this reading, we find God telling Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons about their requirements as priests. What is expected of the people will be expected that much more from those God has called to lead the people. And even in the leadership, the higher the rank (anointing), the stronger their need to adhere to God’s commands.

We begin with the ruling that a priest is not allowed to make himself unclean by touching anything or anyone dead except for his close relatives. Because he is a leader among his people, the priest must maintain an integrity to set an example that will never profane God’s call on him or God’s word to him. God gives the reason here to be more than just the example though. He must maintain these rules of being separate and clean because he is the one who offers sacrifices and bread to God.

Later, we learn that the priest ranked highest among his brothers (the one who has had anointing oil poured on him and who has adorned the consecrated garments) is not allowed to make himself unclean even if his father or mother dies. This is speaking of the priest who is actually on duty to make offerings at the time, so leaving his station to deal with the dead would interrupt the holy practices he is currently involved in. A modern-day visual might be something like a preacher stopping in the middle of a baptism to jump in a mud bath.

The other rules for our leaders concern their marriages. While some have decided that being a priest means being married only to the church or to God, (I’m guessing they’re leaning on Paul’s statement here that a man can be more effective if he stays unmarried), these priests could marry, but they had strict requirements about their marriages. They could not marry a prostitute, a widow, a divorcee, or any woman who had been profaned in any way. The high priest was required to marry a virgin of his own people so as not to disqualify his descendants from following in the priesthood.

These Scriptures explain why a calling to any kind of leadership for God is not just a simple “I think I want to be a preacher” thing. We have those who come in declaring themselves to be apostles and prophets for no reasons but pride and money. We have those who are barely saved but want to run their own churches and ministries before they have learned how to be submissive to God. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 lays out a modern-day equivalent to our reading from Leviticus (leaders and elders compared to high priests and priests) , and it explains well why leaders must be above reproach, and why they must not be new converts. It’s summed up well in verse 5 which reads (in NLT), “For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”

If it is not God who manages the management, then the management will not be able to bring forth the fruit God desires of His church. And that’s the key to remember if you are in any position of leadership or ministry…it is not our church, but God’s. He must increase, and we must decrease, and that even applies to management (leadership).

 

April 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be A Part of the Set Apart


Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution

Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I once received a request from someone who wanted to be apart (sic) of a writing project I was putting together. My first reaction was to wonder how much editing I would have to do based on that incorrect request, but after some of the “I know better than this” mistakes I’ve made on Facebook posts, I realized it was an easy mistake that spell-check would never catch. I sent a reply that I would like her to be “a part” of the project and hoped she didn’t really want to be “apart from” it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:23 through Leviticus 20:27 (the end of the chapter), God tells Israel to make sure they do not live by the laws of the land’s former inhabitants. He reminds them that the reason He detested those who lived in the land before He chose to give it to Israel is because they were doing all the things He’s been commanding Israel to avoid. And then He reminds them that He is their God, and He has set them apart from all other people groups.

He wants Israel to be a people that knows the difference in good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and unruly. He does not want them to be ignorant about what sets them apart for Him or what makes them holy to Him. He is a Holy God who has set apart a people to be holy to Him, so they can belong to Him.

As a Christian, I have been offered many opportunities to go along with the crowd and participate in a variety of behaviors that I felt were not something God would have me do. The ones doing the offering were always quick to explain how the activities would not hurt anyone, so they couldn’t really be wrong. I came up with a little chorus along the line of the country song “On The Other Hand” where the man says he won’t cheat on his wife because of the ring on the other hand. My chorus basically said something like…

On one hand, I could go out and party all night long,
And maybe grace could justify all your wild and wooly plans.
But even if our fun would not be all that bad or wrong,
The reason I can’t sin, is in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.

I can’t remember the actual words I wrote back then, and I don’t remember if I even had verses, but I’m sure you get the idea. If we try to fit in with the ways of the world by looking to justify the “minor” sins, how are we treating the price that was paid for our salvation? It doesn’t matter if a sin seems to be a little thing, or if it seems to be innocuous in that it would not really hurt anyone, if our purpose in committing it is to be a part of the world instead of being set apart for Christ, then we need to examine our hearts.  Because we serve a holy God, our hearts should desire holiness.

Think of it this way; just as we don’t want someone marching across our freshly washed floor with muddy boots (or paws if we’re talking about fur-babies), God doesn’t want a parade of unclean things in His presence. With His blood, God has set us apart and welcomed us to be a part of a wonderful eternity. And until then, He wants us to be a part of the intimate relationship He created for a set apart people. It should be our pleasure, and our gift back to Him for choosing us, to live in a way that seeks to be separated from all things God Himself would not want in His holy presence.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strange Bedfellows


Dog and Cat Together by Flickr User toastie97, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Dog and Cat Together by Flickr User toastie97, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Remember the commercial where a couple at the movies trip over each other and end up mixing their snacks? One of them says, “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” Then the other one says, “Hey, you got your peanut butter on my chocolate.” And items that at one time would have been considered strange bedfellows were suddenly finding themselves mixed together in the form of a peanut butter cup.

The phrase “strange bedfellows” has been in use since the 1400s as a reference to unlikely or peculiar alliances or combinations. For example, in nature, if we see a friendship between animals that normally would be enemies, it strikes us as odd. There are some things that we know just don’t go together, like cats and birds. But strange bedfellows usually refer to things that might seem odd together but actually work, like pickle and peanut-butter sandwiches. (But you do have to toast the bread and used thin sliced dill pickle if you really want it to taste right. 🙂 )

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:8 through Leviticus 20:22, God again teaches Israel what He considers to be “strange bedfellows.” The difference here, however, is that if God says we should not be in a bed together, He means it. It’s not a matter of figuring out that something unlikely might actually work together because if it goes against God’s perfect will and design, it goes into the arena of disobedience to God and irreverence of God’s holy word.

The reading begins with a reminder that a man should not curse his father and mother or he would face death. From there, it jumps right into a long list of what God considers to be sexual sin. Obviously, these things are important to God because this is the second such list in the book of Leviticus. This list has a little more detail in that instead of just calling people who commit the sexual sins unclean, God goes a bit further and speaks of those that should be put to death.

The first sin listed is that of a man committing adultery with another man’s wife. This says that both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Next it says that a man who sleeps with his father’s wife disgraces his father, and both of them should be put to death. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. And if a man goes to bed with a man as he does with a woman, both men are to be put to death.

God goes on to say that if a man sleeps with a woman and her mother, all of them are to be put to death by fire, so that no depravity will exist in the community. If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the human and animal are to be put to death. If a man sleeps with his sister (or half-sister), God says it is shameful and they are to be cut off from the people and will bear the consequences, but this does not appear to include death. And, finally, it goes into men who sleep with their mother’s sister, their father’s sister, or their uncle’s wife. The consequence for a man who sleeps with his aunt, even if she is only related by marriage, is that the two of them will be childless.

Going back to the first command about killing both the adulterer and the adulteress, I wonder if Yeshua wrote this Scripture in the dirt when the men of Israel were about to stone the woman caught in adultery. At that moment, it wasn’t as much about His having mercy on the woman as it was about His showing the hypocrisy in the men. Why weren’t they casting stones at the man who was with the woman? If they were so holy and so apt to keep the letter of the law, the woman was not the only one who should have been facing a death sentence.

This story, in John 8:1-11, does not end with the men facing their hypocrisy and dropping their stones. It’s one of the places where the mercy of Yeshua shines brightly. He physically demonstrates the grace and mercy He has for all of us when He tells the woman that He finds no fault in her and that she is free to stop her sinning. He didn’t tell her that she was free from that one sin, or for one day only, but he set her free to stop sinning for the rest of her life. No more strange bedfellows for her because she who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Death is still the price for adultery (and all the sins listed in today’s portion), but just as Yeshua protected the woman from the price of her crimes, His blood will set us free from every sin listed in His word–Old or New Testament–because He has paid that price of death for us. He set the woman free from the bondage to her sin with the words “Go and sin no more.” He sets us free in the same way. May we let go of our excuses for sin, and instead may we climb out of the bed we have made with our weaknesses and walk in the mercy and grace that sets and keeps us free. Amen!

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Community Sin


Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Flickr User marsmettnn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Flickr User marsmettnn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
There are a few messages on the Flickr site to go with this image as well.

Why is it so hard to stand for the right these days? I mean, it’s even hard for those who want to stand for the right things because there is such a rising up against standing for God’s holy word and standing against any kind of sin. People try to tell those who stand for the right things that what others do is none of our business. The popular culture of music has kids being harassed in the lyrics just for wanting to live on the right side of the law. There are even songs that warn people not to report a crime to protect the innocent. In those songs, they’re called snitches, and they’re threatened with violence.

But what happens if we all just give in and let the bullies win? The picture above is a good example of a land where sin became so accepted that it infiltrated the church and led to the slaughter of The True Messiah and later the destruction of the temple. Sure, Yeshua went silently as a lamb before the slaughter because He chose to give Himself as our Passover sacrifice to cover our sins, but does that mean we are supposed to watch silently as people commit one sin after another? Do we allow the innocent to pay the price of being sacrificed to gods of comfort and convenience through sins like abortion? Do we keep silent while the music steals the souls of the young by loudly proclaiming to them that life is better on drugs? Where does it cross the line between the individual’s sin and become the community’s sin because too many are turning away and pretending it doesn’t exist?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:1 through Leviticus 20:7, God talks to Israel about those in the land, including foreigners, who sacrifice their children to the god of Molech. I’ve been taught that in this sacrifice, women would self-abort and throw their fetuses into the fiery mouth of the stone god, and fathers would sacrifice infants after they were born. Supposedly, they have excavated jars with tiny remains in them, but I cannot verify that information. I did find some interesting information in an article at Wikipedia.

God tells Israel that if they see anyone at all performing this disgusting practice, they are to stone the person because it defiles God’s tabernacle, and it defiles the land. He goes on to say that if the people turn away and try to pretend they did not see this vile sin, God will set Himself against the sinner. Then, in addition to the person who committed the crime being cut off from his people, God will also cut off his family and all who follow after him. The cost of turning away is greater than the cost of making a person responsible for his own behavior.

For me. I would have trouble with the whole idea of being in the judgment seat to the point of stoning a person to death, but I understand why God wanted people to follow His will in this. I have yet to see a case where a person got away with a crime against the innocent and became a better person by getting away with it. In the end, many more members of their family, and often even their friends, end up paying prices for ignoring the original crime. It’s hard to find the line between having mercy for the sake of winning a person’s soul to Christ, and becoming a party to community sin by ignoring that a price must be paid and refusing to make the guilty person pay it himself.

But the fact is, God is a holy and a just God, and His laws and rulings are holy and just. If we ignore the laws of the harvest (men reaping what they sow), and if we decide that a person should not pay a price for a sin he commits–especially against the innocent, we are symbolically saying that we know more than God. And, we are also saying that it’s okay for the innocent to pay a price while the person who harmed them should go free. There is no balance or justice in that. Let us not participate in community sin by hiding our faces when evil is done because a price will be paid, and we do not want to get any part of that bill.

 

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Measure Up?


Measured Curves by Flickr User greenzowie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Measured Curves by Flickr User greenzowie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Do you measure up? Or, do you measure down? In other words, do you try to see people as better than they are, and give them the benefit of the doubt when you notice their failures? Or, are you quick to find faults and failures and to condemn someone who commits them to a hopeless end? There are a lot of Scriptures that refer to measurement with the most quoted being Matthew 7:2 that says (in CJB)… “For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.” So, we should be merciful in our judgment toward others (looking more to have compassion than to condemn to everlasting torment) if we want mercy given toward us, but that is not the only measurement in our lives.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:33 through Leviticus 19:37 (the end of the chapter), God teaches Israel about measurements that are both literal and figurative. This short portion begins with the literal in explaining to the community how to treat a foreigner in their midst as if he or she were native-born. God reminds the people how they were foreigners in Egypt, so they should love the foreigners as they love themselves.

This is the second time in this chapter where God has reminded Israel to love her neighbors as she loves herself. And Jesus quoted this statement as one of the two foundations on which all other laws are to be built. As servants of Christ, we must realize that at one time, all of us were foreigners to life with God, so while keeping ourselves in line with God’s word, we need to be gentle in bringing others along to walk that line with us. If they are true seekers, they may stumble, but they will keep learning to walk for God if we continue to teach in mercy. Even those raised in “church,” until they become familiar with all Christ did on the cross, and make a decision to serve Him because they love Him, they are still foreigners to His mercy.

In the latter verses of today’s portion, God gives Israel (and us) the rules for just measurements. He says to be honest in ALL that is measured; to be honest when measuring length, width, or capacity. He says to use an honest balance-scale, honest weights, honest dry measure, and honest liquid measure. And, after stating these rules, Yahveh once again reminds Israel to keep all His commands because He is God, and He is The Lord.

The measuring stick for everything we do should be honesty toward The Lord. He should always be our purpose. We can do all kinds of right and righteous works for the wrong purposes and the wrong reasons. Maybe we preach a message for the purpose of building up attendance in our churches. Maybe we give because of all the promises that if we give it will be given back to us overflowing. Maybe we sing to be heard, dance to be seen, and volunteer to be lauded. Whatever our reasons behind the works we do, God measures the honesty of our works by looking at the purpose in our hearts.

Good works are still better than bad works, and God will bless them because He measures up, and He gives us the benefit of the doubt as we grow in Him. But as we continue to seek and to learn, and as we continue to mature in the fruits we produce for God, let us measure ourselves against the holy word of God, and let us continually strive to make sure that God Himself is at the center of every purpose for every good work we do. And, let us remember that–as God said to Israel–He is The Lord.

April 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Edible Arrangement


Visual Food by Flickr User Rita Loccisano aka VisualFood Design, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Visual Food by Flickr User Rita Loccisano aka VisualFood Design, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Having been raised in the southwestern United States, I have had the privilege of tasting wonderful fruit, like strawberries, that was actually sweet without having to add sugar. The difference in eating fully ripened fruit instead of that which was picked early and artificially ripened with ethylene gas is indescribable. I’m sure you can imagine how much more flavor would be in any crop allowed a full stay in rich soil and sunshine.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:23 through Leviticus 19:32, the reading begins with instructions for planting fruit trees. In these instructions, it says that the fruit from the trees will not be edible and is forbidden to eat for three years. In the fourth year, it becomes holy for use in worshiping God. But in the fifth year, Israel may begin to eat the fruit, and that will cause the trees to produce even more fruit for them.

I don’t believe God compared the works we do for Him with fruit for no reason. His word says in Matthew 7:15:20 that we will know false prophets from true ones based on the fruit they bear. Comparing that with the instructions for letting a tree mature before eating its fruit, I would say that a true prophet will also bear mature fruit. Evidence of that is demonstrated in the story of an apostate preacher (Todd Bentley) who said God stuffed gifts into him (in a vision) without training him because he needed to teach right away. Now, even many who at one time believed the man was called of God have found out that he was running on his own power instead of on God’s anointing.

The rest of the verses for this portion give sensible advice including that Israel should not practice divination or fortune-telling, should not debase their daughters by making them prostitutes, and should not seek out spirit-mediums or sorcerers to be defiled by them. They are also told not to cut gashes in their skin when someone dies, and they are told not to tattoo themselves. In addition, they are to stand up and show respect for the elderly, and above all else, fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord.

As I read all these things, I wonder if that Scripture about there being nothing new under the sun is being played out before my eyes. Either the people who lived in the land before Israel, or some of the children of Israel, were doing things like cutting and living by horoscopes. Maybe a little of both. Now, we can pick up magazines on current culture and find advertisements for many of the things God forbade for Israel. We can read news stories where instead of respect for the elderly, people beat them because they are old and weak. It’s a scary world anymore outside the church and–unfortunately–inside many churches.

Maybe the obedience in waiting for physical fruit to mature is even more important than whatever scientific reasons are behind it. Outside the church, if people would learn to wait, anticipate, and mature before running headlong into life, they would make fewer bad decisions that affect their entire lives. In the church, if believers who want to be used of God would first study to show themselves approved before God, they would become–as the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:15–workers that do not need to be ashamed and can accurately teach the word of truth.

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tipping the Scales in God’s Favor


https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewgustar/8510497174/

Equipoise by Flickr User Andrew Gustar
CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works.
Visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewgustar/8510497174/ to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I remember learning in some class in school about butchers who would place a thumb on the scale when weighing out meats, and how this would charge the customers for more than they received. Later, I saw a few different movies where people would catch a merchant using lighter weights to make it appear the seller’s trades were not as valuable. Two different verses in Proverbs tell us what God thinks of those who try to tip the scales in their favor. Proverbs 20:23 says, “Adonai detests a double standard in weights, and false scales are not good,” and Proverbs 11:1 says, “False scales are an abomination to Adonaibut accurate weights please him.”

In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:15 through Leviticus 19:22, we get some examples of scales that are tipped out of balance in the eyes of God. One thing important to Him is how we judge others. He says in our portion for the day that we should neither show favor to the poor nor deference to the mighty, but we should always judge with justice. I believe the current economy in the USA is a good example of what happens when judgment is not done with justice. The poor have developed an attitude of entitlement–because of their history, because of their weaknesses, because of this and that, and the rich have learned how to buy their own way by greasing the palms of those in power. It has created an angry and bitter middle ground where many now hate all above and below them. But we can’t judge with justice if we don’t acknowledge Who determines what is truly just and balanced.

Another verse of wisdom from Proverbs 6:19 says, “A false witness who lies with every breath, and him who sows strife among brothers,” are among the things God hates. This speaks to the next Levitical law that says not to go around spreading slander among people. But there is balance needed here too. While God doesn’t want us sharing damaging thoughts about our brothers and sisters, He also doesn’t want us ignoring a neighbor who is being hurt by someone’s damaging ways. Israel is told not to stand by idly if a neighbor’s life is at stake. And that could also mean a neighbor’s spiritual life and soul as well.

Verse 17 really got my attention where it says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly.” The reason for the ruling is what grabs me. It says, “…so that you won’t carry sin because of him.” Carry sin? Can that happen from hating a brother? I think that’s answered in yet another verse from Proverbs. Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better open rebuke than hidden love.” I think we carry sin (and pain) when we do not speak what’s in our hearts, and then we allow it to fester and turn to bitterness.

Verse 19 simply tells God’s people to observe His regulations, and then the reading continues with instructions to not allow livestock to mate with another kind, to not plant two different kinds of grain in a field, and to not wear clothing made with two different kinds of thread. God knows what He made to go together and what should be kept apart. He knows when one species, grain, or type of thread could weaken or destroy the other. And our result of not observing those things when they were simple is to live now without even knowing if the corn syrup in our candy bar is made from genetically modified corn. (By the way, I’ve been told that most corn by-products these days are GMO, so I’ve got to wonder exactly what all that “franken-fruit” and “franken-vegetable” stuff really does to our systems. Don’t you wonder too?)

Let me close now with something interesting I’ve learned recently. Did you know that there is no Hebrew word for “fair” or “fairness”? So balance may not mean exactly what we think it means in our human understanding. There are Hebrew words and descriptions for justice, so we can trust that God does believe in balance by justice, which is why He couldn’t just let us “get away” with our sins simply because He loves us. Too often, that’s what we do–we let people off the hook for their behaviors because we love them, and somehow we don’t think it’s fair for them to pay for their misdeeds. But God knew the price needed to be paid, so He robed Himself in flesh to pay the cost of justice and bring things back into a right balance. Every time a new soul commits his or her life to Christ, and every time we make a genuine effort to live according to God’s word, I believe we are bringing balance by tipping the scales in God’s favor.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy God, Holy People


In Him by Flickr User Sharon aka Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

In Him by Flickr User Sharon aka Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

If our salvation is all by glory and grace, and if we are not to boast in any good works, why is it so important for us to be holy? If works and holiness won’t get us into Heaven, why should we try so hard to please God? And if no matter what we do, how well we believe, or how hard we try, some things will not go our way but will work out only for God’s will in the end, why should we keep acting in faith? The answer to all these questions is the same: because we love and serve a holy God.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 19:1 through Leviticus 19:14, we begin a new portion for our new week. Parashah 30 is titled in Hebrew K’doshim and it means “Holy People.” The second verse says, “You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” And everything else builds from there. Every law, every ruling, every direction and teaching all point to the same purpose; be holy because Yahveh, your God, is holy. That sentiment is repeated in The New Testament in 1 Peter 1 where verse 15 (AMP) says, “But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.”

The next verses have a few repeats of statutes given in “The Ten Commandments,” but there are a few more details as well. For example, in edition to telling Israel not to turn to idols, this says for them not to cast metal gods for themselves. It goes on to tell them to make sure that all their peace offerings bring acceptance to them. Next God tells Israel not to harvest their crops all the way to the corners, and not to pick up dropped grapes or ears of corn. Those remaining bits of harvest are to be left for the poor and the foreigner.

As the reading continues, God reminds the children of Israel not to steal from, lie to, or defraud each other, and not to oppress or rob their neighbors. He also says not to withhold pay on the day the work is done, so apparently that is the same as oppressing your neighbor. I can see how it would be more kind to receive your pay the day you work for it, so you can be the one to bank it for interest instead of your boss. I know lots of wait staff who prefer their tips in cash, so they won’t have to wait to receive them on their paychecks.

On the topic of being kind to each other, God reminds the community members to never speak a curse against a deaf person or put an obstacle in the way of a blind person. I find it a little sad that God had to tell people that though. It would seem that not being unkind to someone who struggles would be common sense, but with so many physical weaknesses being signs of sinfulness, maybe the people felt judgment against those who bore such weaknesses. Maybe it even made them feel justified in their cruelties. Still, to me, kindness seems like something that should not have to be taught.

Above all else, God reminds Israel not to swear by His name falsely since that would be profaning His name, and He reminds them that they should fear Yahveh and remember that He is The Lord. That’s a wrap-around of what our reading started out with. So, if we remember that Yahveh is our God and our Lord, and we remember that He is holy, we should automatically desire to be a holy people as a way to honor our Holy God.

I believe people who don’t know God fight His laws simply because they are of God. But for those of us who know Him, that should be reason enough to not fight them. It is reason enough for me, as someone who serves Him because I love Him, to adhere to a lifestyle of holiness because He is a Holy God. I don’t want to look for whatever I can get away with because I have His mercy and grace on my life. Instead, I want to please Him because He showed me that mercy and grace in spite of the fact that I did not deserve it.

In truth, the laws of God would serve all humans well. I mean, why should the world get offended by the idea of putting “The Ten Commandments” in public places when most of the rules given there would only serve to make life better for all of us? Is there anyone who likes to be lied about or lied to? Is there any parent who does not desire respect? Is there anyone who wishes for themselves or someone they love to be murdered? I don’t think so. What God calls being holy to Him is mostly just a matter of taking care of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us where we have an influence. Those who don’t serve God may call things like this “random acts of kindness,” but those of us to love Him know they are a way to get in touch with the holy part of Him that dwells in us.

That holy part of God that lives in His believers is what cleanses us to make us fit for the building. It’s also what smooths us to where we can be fitly joined together, and it’s what binds us together in Him. His power gives us the energy that makes us living stones. When we come together according to His plan, His light within this temple of living stones will shine out from us to draw in the lost and confused or our world. More than our “good” behaviors, His holiness set free within us and governing our desires is what makes us a holy people and a holy temple. What better living offering can we give to a Holy God?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

P.S. On the subject of the holy temple, I want to link you to a long but worthwhile article by Chip Brogden from The School of Christ. It’s called “Escape from Churchianity” and it explains how the church (the ekklesia) is to be a holy temple of Christ that is built of living stones. You can read it for yourself at http://theschoolofchrist.org/articles/escape-from-churchianity.html where you will find other great articles and books as well.

April 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Abominable “No” Man


Abominable Snowman in Lego by Flickr User George, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Abominable Snowman in Lego by Flickr User George, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I used to see God as something kind of like “The Abominable Snowman” who grimaced and growled and hated everyone who didn’t do things His way. I imagined Him sitting on His big throne, watching us (humans), and ready to throw out fiery judgments the minute we violated His laws. I don’t know what my reasons were for thinking He changed (I know it wasn’t just a bad tooth–LOL), but I got it in my head that His personality in the New Testament was a 180 degree difference from that of the Old Testament. He went from an abominable “no” man to a furry “bumble” who loved everyone.

I’m certain all my beliefs stemmed from some type of teaching I heard when I was young, just as many of us misunderstand God as being out there, far away, watching us from a distance as the song lyric says. But the more I get to know Him, the more I see Him as walking around with us, right here on earth, and I understand the things He wants to keep us separate from as well as the motivations behind His desires. Besides the fact that He loves us and wants to protect us from consequences He knows we won’t enjoy (disease, sickness, etc.), He also knows that we will be more comforted in His holy presence. Since He cannot dwell where sin roams free, He tries to tell us how to keep separate from sin, so we can draw nearer to Him.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 18:22 through Leviticus 18:30 (the end of the chapter), we complete this weeks portion and continue on the topic of sexual practices God does not approve of. Yesterday, it was about relatives that God said He didn’t want people to have relations with. Today, He says quite plainly that we should not have relations with those of our own sex or with any kind of animal. He goes on to say that a woman should not make herself available for an animal to have sex with, I’m guessing because of how animals are driven by pheromones and instinct and cannot tell that it is wrong.

As the chapter continues, God explains that it is because of these practices that the land has become unclean and is vomiting out the inhabitants. God says He is actually punishing the land because of the disgusting practices of the people. In verse 27, it says that the people have committed all these abominations, and that is why the land is now defiled. But it goes on to describe why that is not God’s desire for His people. He tells them to keep His laws and rulings, to keep His charge to not follow the abominable customs of the previous inhabitants, and to remember that He is The Lord.

I know there’s a new teaching out there about the word “abomination” that says it does not mean it the way we have always taught it. Of course, we use abominable for things that are big, hairy, scary, and mean, like a yeti, and we use the word as a judgment and put-down against those who stand against the word of God. So, in an effort to love all that are made in the image of God, this teaching is trying to say that the word is not as harsh as previously believed.

Because of those I love who are still walking in sin, and because of my “do unto others” attitude that would not have wanted to be judged harshly for sins I committed before turning to God, I want to believe the soft and easy idea that God really wants to live and let live. But that is not the truth. Even if the word “abomination” meant something else, the other detailed statements about the land vomiting out the people, the land being defiled, and the practices being disgusting, cannot all be misinterpreted.

Here’s at least part of the truth; if homosexuality is okay to God when it’s done by two people “in love” with each other, then we would have to make excuses for the pedophile who says he would never hurt a child and only does things out of love as well. And what if a woman truly believed she was loved by an animal she had sex with? I mean, I believe my kitty cats love me, and I know I love them, but I don’t believe that could excuse behaviors that God did not plan according to His perfect will.

As much as I love people who walk in a lifestyle that is plainly spoken against in these and multiple Scriptures, I cannot say that the behavior does not defile God’s perfect plan for His people or His land. That defiling is what makes it an abomination. And because it is an abomination, it will not draw God close to the lives of those who engage in what He considers disgusting. So, if I truly love people, I have to beg them to discontinue behaviors outside of God’s perfect will because I want them to walk in His presence just as I want myself to walk in His presence. If someone who loves me sees me walking in a way that will create a wedge between me and my loving God, who says “yes” to new mercies EVERY morning, I pray they will care enough to lead me away from that behavior. And I pray that God Himself, will show all His children more loving and better ways to stand for His truth and share His love without making Him look like an abominable “no” man.

 

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Affair–It’s All Relative


 

It Is All Relative by Flickr User Lorenzo Pasqualis, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

It Is All Relative by Flickr User Lorenzo Pasqualis, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What’s wrong with the above picture? Nothing? Look again. Actually, I really like what the photographer did with it. It’s a creative and beautiful treatment. We know from creation history that there are waters above the earth and below it, but even in a heavy downpour, I’ve never seen so much water in the heavens as to create ripples in the sky. And if I saw this in real life, I’d be running for cover. Even when presented as beautifully as this is done, we all know it’s not the way God made things.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 18:6 through Leviticus 18:21, we read about God’s designs and plans when it comes to human sexuality. The presentation goes into tomorrow’s reading as well, but the breaking point for today is at verse 21, so I’ll only discuss up to there. Of course, from the beginning, we know that God made Adam & Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply. And from the ark, we know that God had Noah collect a male and female animal from each species and told them to be fruitful and multiply. But somewhere along the line, people apparently got more interested in the being fruitful part than in the multiplying.

So now God is following up on His ruling not to imitate the behaviors of the former inhabitants of the land. He goes into great detail to explain that no one is to approach a close relative to have sexual relations with them. He not only says that fathers should not be with daughters, and mothers should not be with sons, but that neither should be with step-parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, etc. He even says that no one should be with a woman and her daughter.

I’ve known of brothers who would date each other’s girlfriends, and sisters who even stole the other’s boyfriends, but according to this, the code about not sharing that is kept among most siblings is also the way God wants things. God even says not to take a woman to be a rival of with her sister while the sister is still alive. And I can see how that would be even more important when everyone lives in a community as the camp of Israel is living.

God designed everything about us with a perfect plan in mind. He designed our bodies to work a certain way, the harvest to work a certain way, the seasons to work a certain way, and procreation to work a certain way. I don’t know if He installed failure mechanisms to kick in when things don’t go by design, but I know they do kick in. Many of the diseases and issues we have these days can trace their lineages back to relatives that should not have slept together, or an infusion of contagions by animals that should not have been brought into human sexual relationships.

Like the picture above, some things not of God’s design may look okay on the outside, but only God knows what’s really changing on the inside. He knows about the crossed lines of DNA that should not happen. He knows about that hormone they call the “monogamy hormone” that He put in men to make them want to be with the same woman, and how the overly active sexual appetite of men these days is making them immune to it, and making men almost unable to be faithful. And all we have to do to make sure things go as He planned is to trust Him and obey His word–the written one, and the one He speaks to our hearts.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Trespassing


Stop Sign No Trespassing by Flickr User Lee Cannon, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Stop Sign No Trespassing by Flickr User Lee Cannon, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How many different ways can you forbid someone from stepping over the line? No trespassing. Beware of Dog. Speed Limit 55. Go to Jail: Do not pass go. Our world is made up of laws, both written and implied, that are meant to keep us living within some kind of safe borders. Laws are supposed to be fences that keep us safe, but not in bondage.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:8 through Leviticus 18:5, we also learn that God’s laws add life. The laws covered today include both community members and foreigners living with them. They are told, as yesterday, that no one is to offer a burnt offering without bringing it to The Tent of Meeting. And then we are told that no one is to eat blood of any kind because life is in the blood. The law of the hunt is that if a person kills game, whether animal or bird, he is to drain the blood and bury the blood under dirt. And all these laws come with consequences for not keeping them.

In the last paragraph, God reminds the people to not live as the Egyptians from the land out of which they were delivered, and He tells them not to live as the Canaanites in the land which He is giving them. He reminds Israel that it was the disrespect of the law by the Canaanites that caused them to lose their lands and homes to begin with. He tells them that if they will see Him as God and live according to His laws and rulings, they will have life through the very laws they keep.

We have the same promise now. Even though we are forgiven for the sin that brings death, seeing Yahveh as The Lord of our lives, and living accordingly, will bring life. The natural laws show us this in how much better a baby will thrive it is adheres to the law of staying in the womb to a full term. Some manmade laws, like traffic lights at busy intersections, show us how much better we adults thrive if we show respect for the laws that are meant to protect us.

So many want to see God as just slinging laws around for the purpose of wielding His power, but I can see love–toward us and toward all life that He has created–in most every law I read. I say most because I don’t always have clear understanding of the laws, but even when I don’t see the love, I can trust that it’s there. I trust that a God who would create beings with free will instead of forcing us to obey and worship Him, truly has our best interest at heart. And, if we seek after His heart, we will want to show Him that we trust Him by not trespassing against His will. And like a child finds joy in pleasing a parent, I believe we will find joy and life in pleasing God by doing our best to walk within His safe boundaries and laws.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slaughter Fodder


One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

By definition, fodder is something that is set aside for a particular use but has no natural value. It’s like the stuff of life that a comedian might turn into a joke for his next routine, and then the value would be added. But when God created life–all life–He created it with value. If He thought of the animals He requested for sacrifice as fodder, He would not have cared if they were spotless, and He would not have demanded such care be taken even when their end was to die. But if these same animals were killed senselessly, or killed to be offered to a false god, the killer would be seeing them as mere fodder and without value.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:1 through Leviticus 17:7, we find that the community of Israel doesn’t see the animals with that value. Instead, they have been slaughtering some of their sacrifices away from the tabernacle, and God is saying it must come to an end. When I first started reading it, I thought it was speaking of slaughtering for the purpose of a meal, and I was praying in my heart; asking God about it. Then I kept reading (which didn’t take too long at only seven verses, but the mind works pretty fast), and I found God’s reasons.

As it turns out, there were people in the camp who were slaughtering animals to make offerings to a false god. This Scripture calls these false gods “goat-demons” and says the people were prostituting themselves before them. After everything they have seen Yahveh Almighty do in their midst, I’m amazed they would even consider giving a sacrifice to a false god, but I’m also thinking they knew it was wrong since some were doing their sacrifices outside the camp. They’ve already received the commandments, and they know Yahveh is a jealous God, but I wonder how they could not know He is also an all-seeing God.

To prevent the people from being able to sacrifice to anything or anyone other than Their Holy Creator, God institutes a permanent regulation that all slaughters must take place at the door of The Tent of Meeting. My guess is that some people caught in the act of sacrificing to a false god might have tried to hide it by saying they were just preparing their offering for Adonai. But whether they lied about who it was for, or lied about why they had blood on their hands, performing the offering only at the door of the tabernacle and with the tabernacle priests would put a stop to the bad practices. It would also create a system of accountability.

The idea of accountability is helpful in everything from dieting and exercise to business and government. If we are only accountable to ourselves, we can eventually lose perspective. In the case of the tabernacle, the priests were accountable to the “high priest” who was accountable to God. The one(s) to whom you are accountable must be someone who truly cares to help you do the right thing. If a criminal is accountable only to other criminals, they will excuse his behavior rather than holding him to a higher standard. That’s why the people could not be accountable only to themselves.

As we walk and live for Christ now, we are living sacrifices and not just fodder. God looks on us and all we do with value. He saw us with enough value that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now, after choosing to live for Him, we have our High Priest Yeshua to oversee us and offer accountability. We also have the accountability of God’s Holy Spirit living in us to guide us, so we don’t just run off trying to do things our own way.

I like the way The Message Bible talks about the living sacrifice from Romans 12:1-2

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

And to close, let me give one more wonderful verse portion from Colossians 3:15-17 also from The Message Bible…

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prepare to Let God Fight for You


Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution

Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In Proverbs 21:31 (AMP), we are given the following wisdom…

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance and victory are of the Lord.

So we do all we can to prepare to take a stand and to fight if necessary, but in reality, the battle against sin truly belongs to The Lord. Paul said he kept doing the things he didn’t want to do, and he kept failing when he tried to do the right things, because sin reigned in his mortal body. That doesn’t mean we quit fighting, but it does mean that it takes something (or Someone) greater than our personal self-control to wage and win this war.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:25 through Leviticus 16:34, we are still reading God’s instructions for the priest making atonement for the sins of Israel. We’re told that the man who takes the scapegoat outside the camp must wash his clothes and bathe before he can return to the camp. And then we’re told that the person who takes the hides and dung from the offerings and burns them outside the camp must also bathe and wash his clothes before he can return to the camp.

I see the verses above as a sort of physical representation of the symbolic steps we take as we change from who we are without Christ to who we will become with Him. These steps include confession (we saw that over the head of the goat yesterday), repentance, sending our sinful behaviors away from us, burning up any remnants of sin, and then washing our bodies and clothes (baptism) to show that we are fresh and new without even the smells of “old goat” or “smoke” of sin remaining on us.

And this walks us perfectly into the next part of today’s portion where we learn about The Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. We learn that the community is to take a complete Sabbath on this day, and that atonement will be made to purify them. While this high holy day is prepared for with fasting, self-assessment of sins and weaknesses, confession and repentance, the day of Yom Kippur is a day of complete and total rest, and a day of self-denial. It is the actual day when the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies, and the congregation would wait in silence to see if he would come back out to them alive to declare their salvation.

In our lives today, we should not enter lightly into the atonement we have under the blood of Yeshua. Yes, He does all the work. Yes, His blood completely cleanses us. But to say we should not prepare for that holy moment would deny us of the knowledge of the awesome work Christ (our High Priest) does on our behalf. How can we value the depth of what He has delivered us from if we go in with our eyes closed and never look at the pit? How can we even know which side we’re on until we understand where the enemy occupies in his stand against our souls? Yes, Yahveh Almighty is The One who will win the victory for us; who has already won the victory through the blood of Christ, but let us prepare for the battle to stand for Him that we can cheer with everything in us when we hear His voice as He declares our salvation.

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Follow Your Sins to Hell


Goat on Desert Mountain by Flickr User S. F. Pitman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Goat on Desert Mountain by Flickr User S. F. Pitman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Do you realize that Hell was not actually made for people? According to Matthew 25:41, it was made for the adversary and the fallen angels. Personally, I don’t believe God has ever desired for any of those He created to suffer an eternity of torment, but the enemy chose to try and exalt himself above God and it’s unforgivable to know God and not recognize Him as God. But He has always wanted mankind to walk with Him as a friend. Someone even pointed out to me recently that when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they already had knowledge of good, so the reason God told them to stay away from the tree was to protect them from the painful knowledge of evil. But unfortunately, now that we have the knowledge, we often choose evil regardless of the end result.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:18 through Leviticus 16:24, we read of more instructions for Aaron to atone for the uncleanness in the camp of Israel. Because God wants to dwell with His people, He must find ways to bring cleansing to His altar and His people. Aaron will sprinkle blood on the altar to atone for it, and then he will change clothes and offer the sacrifices that will atone for the people.

We touched lightly on the 2nd goat yesterday, but today there’s a bit more detail on what is often called “the scapegoat.” Aaron must place his hands on the head of the 2nd goat, and he must confess all the transgressions, crimes, and sins of the people of Israel over the head of the goat. After that is done, he will send the goat away to the desert with a man appointed for that purpose. The goat will then bear away the transgressions of the people to an isolated place in the desert.

I may have mentioned this before, but when my nephews were little, I told them the story of sin using helium balloons. (It is my intention to put the story into an illustrated children’s book someday.) The balloons represented sins and things God does not want in our lives. I told them that if they didn’t let go of the balloons, they could be carried away by those sins. The blood of Christ gives us the ability to let go of our sins and let them be sent to Hell without us like the goat was sent to the desert without the people following. But if we choose to hang on to our sins instead of putting them under the blood, then when God sends the sins to Hell, we will go where they go.

As I said at the beginning, sending people that He created to a place of eternal torment has never been God’s perfect will. His word says in 2nd Peter 3:9 (and I love the way this reads in The Names of God Bible)…

The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.

So, when we are given the opportunity to repent and let go of our sins, let’s do it, so that we don’t follow them to a destination intended only for them and not for those God loves.

 

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Presents to Present before God’s Presence


Come Boldy by Flickr User Dr Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Come Boldly by Flickr User Dr Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Now isn’t that title just a mouthful? Of course, I love words, and I have a thing for words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They call them homophones, and the list includes many words that often get misspelled like there, their, and they’re; hear and here; to, too, and two, your and you’re; etc. I have challenged myself many times through the years to see how big a list of these I can make. I currently have over 400 sets and well over 800 words total, especially since so many of them have three to a set.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:1 through Leviticus 16:17, we begin a new portion for a new week, Parashah 29: Hebrew Acharei Mot meaning “After the Death.” This portion focuses on the requirements of Aaron before he is able to enter the Holy of Holies to meet with the presence of God. It begins by focusing on what not to do that got the sons of Aaron killed, and it explains that the rules apply because God’s presence is actually there in the Holy Place.

We’ve read the laws in previous portions but to summarize, there will need to be gifts from the community of Israel who will provide a bull, a ram, and two goats. Aaron will put on the priestly vestments, and then he will give a sin offering and a burnt offering, and he will cast lots over the goats to determine which will be for The Lord, and which will be for Az’azel. (Note: KJV translates this word as “scapegoat” but many are unsure what the word actually means.) After the blood sacrifices, Aaron will perform the other cleansing and praise rituals with the incense and the sprinkling of blood.

The important things in these behaviors are in Aaron doing whatever it takes to gain atonement for himself, for his household, and for the community of Israel, before he enters into the presence of God. The incense is to create a cloud over the Ark of the Covenant because God’s presence dwells there, and the smoke will keep Aaron from dying. Even though we now have the blood of Christ for our atonement, so we can come boldly before the throne of grace and mercy, I think heartfelt and sincere praise as we enter into the holy Presence of Yahveh Almighty is a valuable offering. I guess it’s like greeting someone you love with a kiss before you start making demands on them. 🙂

The verse that stood out to me today is verse 16 which reads…

He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.

Mostly, I noticed the fact that the tabernacle, which represents God and His presence, was right in the middle of the sins and unclean behaviors of God’s people. It makes me think of Psalm 40:2 (CEB)

He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.

I know God’s presence can stand right in the middle of sins and uncleanness now just as it did then. Because the blood of Christ covers our sin, even those in sin can now come boldly before the throne of grace. When we come into His presence bearing presents (fruits of repentance), God will reach into the pit of miry clay and pull us to safety. I’m watching Him perform a miracle right now in the life of my nephew that overdosed three weeks ago, and I’m believing that He will pull him out of that pit and raise him to new and clean places in His holy presence. And that’s worth any thank-you gift (any presents) I can give to Him.

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning Up the Church


Church Cleaning by Flickr User Judy Baxter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Church Cleaning by Flickr User Judy Baxter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

When I was younger and a member of a small congregation, I took my turns with church cleaning duty because I believed it was a necessary sacrifice. It was odd to go to a larger church where they had a paid cleaning crew. Even though I’m not one of those who really likes to clean, I like the feeling of doing my part and being a part of everything.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 15:29 through Leviticus 15:33 (the end of the chapter), we finish the portion on being clean and unclean from leprosy and bodily discharges. The one thing I noticed that was different is the following statement from verse 31…

“In this way you will separate the people of Israel from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in a state of uncleanness for defiling my tabernacle which is there with them.”

I’m big on looking for the purpose in God’s laws because I am convinced that He never does anything without some reason that will ultimately benefit His creation. I loved reading this verse and seeing that His purpose in keeping Israel clean was to keep them from dying in a state of uncleanness and to keep the tabernacle pure. God is merciful, and He knows the end results of impurity. The biggest result of purity and cleanness though is being able to draw nearer to God because He will not dwell in the presence of sin.

I wonder sometimes if the people back then really understood why God wanted them to stay pure since so many of us now question why God wants us to do or not do certain things. As I’ve been reading all these rules since we’ve been in Leviticus, I’ve imagined both the frustration of the people when they didn’t understand the “why” of it all, and I’ve thought about the great mercy of God and how much He just wanted the people to trust Him. It’s not easy to just blindly trust, but that is the goal of putting our faith in Him–trusting that He always knows what’s best for keeping the church body clean and close to Him.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Need More Than A Healing


I love the times when reading something in the Torah, or other parts of the Old Testament, shines a new light on some message or story from the New Testament. On that note, I want to begin with the story about the woman with the issue of blood. The video above is the ApologetiX parody of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” and it’s called “More Than A Healing” which is exactly what happened to the woman in the short version of our story from Matthew 9:20-22…

20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment;
21 For she kept saying to herself, If I only touch His garment, I shall be restored to health.
22 Jesus turned around and, seeing her, He said, Take courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well. And at once the woman was restored to health.

And if you click here, it will take you to a page including all the texts with that story, (from Matthew plus from Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48). In addition, the link gives parallel views of all verses in both The Complete Jewish Bible and The Amplified Bible.

Today’s Torah reading is from Leviticus 15:16 through Leviticus 15:28, and it speaks of more private things about discharges and uncleanness. There are many reasons why these things would not fare well in our current society, such as not being able to call into work sick because you are unclean due to spending some intimate time with your wife. To the extent of uncleanness in these verses, you would have to stay in and away from people if you even touched the bedding. But I’m certain there was more to it than we have available in current Scripture, and I think the advent of soap probably makes a big difference from those who could only bathe and wash their clothes in water to be cleansed.

But it’s the rest of the verses that brought light to the story I’ve included above. The remaining subject in today’s reading is all about when a woman is on her menstrual cycle. If you were a woman without soap, pads, underwear, etc., it was something better to endure by yourself because no one would be–or feel–clean around you. The laws made the woman unclean during her entire time plus seven days, and it made everything and everyone she came in contact with unclean as well. No one could touch her or her garments, and no one could sit where she sat or sleep where she slept without also being considered unclean.

So use what I’ve just spoken of, or read today’s portion for yourself, and then go back and read about the woman with the issue of blood. Now think about it. For twelve years this woman has not only been sick and bleeding, but she has also been considered unclean. No one would touch her, no one would sit with her, and no one would hold her, unless they were willing to be called unclean for a time. She was sick, tired, and completely alone. I imagine doctors tried to help her by prescribing medications, like whatever herbal remedies they normally gave to women who had issues with menstrual flow. The doctors likely did not actually examine her because it would have meant they had to spend the rest of the day as unclean. If they touched her menstrual flow, they would have had to be unclean for seven days. For her, this was a hopeless situation…until she heard about The Messiah.

I’m guessing that when the woman made her way into the crowd, they stepped away from her because they did not want to take a chance of touching her and becoming unclean themselves. The audacity that she would even try to get near the Messiah might have made them step between Him and her, so she would not touch Him and make Him unclean. (Ah, but they knew so little, right?)

When you read the story in The Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll see that what she reached for was not actually his robe, but the Hebrew word tzitzit which is the fringe on his prayer shawl. For a single man, the prayer shawl is long, so the fringe would have been closer to the ground and easier to reach for a weak, and possibly crawling, woman. But this daughter of Israel knew the promises of God’s word. Those pieces of fringe had knots in them that represented God’s promises to His people, including promises of healing. She may have reached for the fringe because it was easier to grasp, or because it was easier to get to without people stopping her, or she may have reached for the knot that promised her the healing she could not get from the hands of man. I believe that was the act of faith (trust in God’s promises) that brought her healing.

In spite of her fear of being condemned for touching another human being in her unclean state, this faith-filled woman was willing to take a chance because of all she would get as a result of stopping the plague that had been hers for far too long. With her healed body, the woman was not only reclaiming physical promises of strength and health, she was also reclaiming physiological strengths–being clean again, being able to socialize again, and being able to live and work among her peers again. This was more than a healing; it was a declaration of peace and joy for her future.

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germophobia


Germs by Flickr User Russ Seidel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Germs by Flickr User Russ Seidel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Are you afraid of germs? If so, are you just a little afraid, or are you afraid like Howie Mandel, John Travolta, and Monk? I used to love the way the character of Monk dealt with all the regular germs life deals out to us. He made it funny, but somehow, his craziness about it made me more aware of germs than I had been before. I think the acceptance of Mr. Monk might even have made it more acceptable for germophobic actors to do things they do like using a fist-bump instead of a handshake (Mandel) and wearing gloves in scenes where touching another’s skin is required (Travolta). Though much of germophobia is extreme, there are actually some biblical roots for wanting to keep yourself from all things unclean.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:54 through Leviticus 15:15, we move from the laws about leprosy to the laws about a person who has a discharge. The Scriptures state that even if the discharge is no longer flowing, any person who has a discharge is considered unclean. I’m guessing that even included a runny nose back then, and as I’ve said before, it’s because God knew about germs before we even had a clue they existed.

For those with a discharge, their unclean status affected their lives in many inconvenient ways. Not only were they considered unclean, but the clothes they put on were unclean, anything they sat on was unclean, and everything they touched was unclean. It was like a Midas touch of uncleanness. Beyond that, if someone touched them or their clothes, sat where they sat, or even carried their unclean belongings for them, they were unclean until the evening. Oh, and if an unclean person spat on you, there was no question that you would become unclean in the process. At least the uncleanness was not hopeless. Once a person’s discharge was cleared up, they could be declared clean again after a seven-day purification process and the sacrifices of sin and burnt offerings.

The image above may make germs look kind of attractive with its color and design, and I guess the germs we need to kill bad bacteria have their own kind of beauty, but germs–for the most part, are not pretty. And like “little sins” that can look fun and colorful on the outside, tiny germs can kill great creatures. If we were only as careful to wash our hands of every little sin the way we wash our hands of every little germ, we’d be far less apt to get caught up in something that can grow until it’s beyond our control. That first dip into temptation so often leads to that final deadly dose–be it deadly drugs, a drowning-in-alcohol liver, or the death of a marriage due to infidelity. Thankfully, God’s Spirit is the best antibacterial agent we know when it comes to the uncleanness of sin,

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s In Your Walls


 

Wall Cleaner by Flickr User Dan Brady, CC License = Attribution

Wall Cleaner by Flickr User Dan Brady, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

 

Have you ever visited an old building that left you feeling sick after your visit because of whatever was in the old walls? What about visiting somewhere (old or new) that left you feeling sick in your spirit because you just knew something unseen was there?

There are plenty of television series where people try to use fancy technology to discover what might be hiding in the walls of old places. Apparently, the idea that spirits might become attached or trapped in parts of old buildings is pretty intriguing to a lot of people. I think most people want it to be at least a little true to explain some spooky feelings they’ve had from their own chilling visits to places.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:33 through Leviticus 14:53, God is giving Israel instructions for when they move into the land of Canaan and take over houses already there. It starts by mentioning that if they go into a house where Yahveh put leprosy, they need to call the priest to examine it. It doesn’t make it clear when The Lord would have put leprosy there, but I’m guessing it would have been something done to former occupants that were enemies of Israel.

The portion tells the priest exactly what to look for to determine if there’s a contagious infection in the walls. Then, God tells the priest to remove any stones with infection and scrape off any plaster. After they replaster and then close the house up for seven days, if they come back to spreading stains, they are supposed to tear the house down completely and throw all its remains in an unclean place outside the city. If the stains don’t come back, they declare the house clean and perform a purification ceremony.

One of the things I really liked about moving into my current home was that I knew the former occupants, who had been living here for three years, spent a lot of hours in prayer and praise in its walls. I could feel the presence of God whenever I came over to visit with them, and I knew they were leaving me with a spiritually clean home. The last home I lived in did not have that same clean feeling when I moved in, but I wasn’t taught to search that out before buying, so it took me a few years to figure things out.

When we are forgiven of our sins, the wage of sin (death) is removed from us, but the consequences and side-effects may remain. For example, a woman who commits adultery or fornication and gets pregnant will not suddenly become un-pregnant just because she repents and is forgiven. In our daily failures, there may be times when, with God’s help, we must clean our lives of lingering side-effects that can inhabit our homes and/or lives. That’s why He gives us authority over the spirits of darkness.

While it’s nothing to boast about since it’s just housecleaning in the spirit realm, we can rejoice that God will strengthen us to do it even if we’re not the type that likes housecleaning much. We can also rejoice that when God placed us in The Lamb’s Book of Life, He gave us the tools and instructions for keeping our path toward Him free of the debris and remnants of sin that plagued us before we walked with Him. When we’re feeling sick in our spirits, it may be time to ask ourselves what’s in our walls, and then to start some spiritual housecleaning.

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Affordable Health Care Act


 

Medicine of the Highest Order by Flickr User Benjamin Golub, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Medicine of the Highest Order by Flickr User Benjamin Golub, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

It is not in God’s perfect will for anyone to be left out of any blessing He has to offer. Unlike politically motivated health and welfare services, God’s idea of affordable health care is not driven by brownie points to get votes. God has actual compassion to make sure we can all receive His benefits even if we have previously rejected Him and/or brought many of our troubles onto ourselves. Oh, if only those who think God makes all His rules to exclude people could just see that He actually makes them to be inclusive of more people. Rather than just letting us languish in our sins and sicknesses, He provides instruction for prevention, healing, and purification. And He even provides adaptations to His plans, so they can apply to both rich and poor.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:21 through Leviticus 14:32, we have the same basic instructions as yesterday, but today’s rules are slightly different to cover a case of a poor person who needs purification after healing from leprosy. The many offerings that were used in the act of purification could get expensive, especially if someone did not already own flocks and herds. So God set up a contingency plan to make sure those who could not provide sacrificial lambs could also receive the needed rituals.

Most of the steps toward purification are exactly the same, including putting blood on the right ear, the right thumb, and the right toe of the person needing to be cleansed. The priest is still required to pour olive oil in his left hand and then sprinkle it seven times before The Lord before also placing it in all the places where the blood has been placed. The difference for a poor person is that the blood for the sacrificial offerings can come from a dove or pigeon instead of it needing to come from lambs.

God is more than good to us, and He has provided all we need in order to serve Him according to His perfect will, including even having the desire to serve Him in the first place. Why can some people get saved in some room or deserted place when they are all alone? Because the desire was planted in their hearts from the beginning. It may be hidden beneath ignorance, false teaching, sinful desires, etc., but God will make Himself known to a hungry soul just as soon as He is invited. He says we will find Him when we seek and search for Him with all our hearts.

For me, I can see where God actually pursued me–before I invited Him. I believe He tries to show people how much He cares before we meet Him, and then He confirms that it was Him all along once we begin to study His word. I used to sing a song called “I Keep Falling in Love with Him” that says in part, “I thought I couldn’t love Him (God) more than I did right at the start. But when I look back over the mountains and valleys where we’ve been, I find I love Him more every day, much more than I did then.” The more I get to know Him, the more I realize that ALL His plans (for health, for life, for salvation, for eternity) are for our good and to give us a hope and a future.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Oil


Palm Oil Plantation by Flickr User Rainforest Action Network, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Palm Oil Plantation by Flickr User Rainforest Action Network, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve always known there were different types of palm trees–like date palms and coconut palms, but I had no idea there are also completely different palm trees that are used for making palm oil; oil palm trees to be exact. And until I did a search to go with tonight’s post, I also had no idea that using palm oil is said to have a negative effect on rainforests. Of course, that’s what the rainforest defenders say, but I also haven’t read the whole story, so I can only report what I found while doing my search.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:13 through Leviticus 14:20, the palm oil mentioned here is not actually the kind from the trees, or from any palm tree, but rather it is oil in the palm of the priest’s hand. I thought that might be harder to find a picture of, so I decided to add an image of something a little greener and prettier. In the process, though, if we can learn something more about the earth God created and how to protect it, that will be a good thing. The image above will open a new tab or window, so if you want to see all of what the group posts, and read about what they stand for, don’t forget to click on it before you leave.

So, we know the focus for this week’s portion is on helping a person become clean who has been infected with leprosy. We saw most of the process in yesterday’s reading, and what continues today is a bit more detail on the lamb sacrifices. The two lambs, one for the sin offering and one for the guilt offering, are to be slaughtered in the place of the sanctuary that is designated for those offerings. That is what is most often represented by an altar in the sanctuary of a modern church. The altar is the place we humble ourselves and confess our sins and our need for atonement, and it’s a place where we understand that the blood of Our Messiah is the only thing that can truly deliver us from our sins. And, just like the altar in the Torah, it is there for us every time we need it.

Truthfully, I’ve always disliked the statement that a person who wants to follow God just has to accept His salvation. My reason for this is that acceptance says to me, it’s a one-time thing. We can only accept the same gift from a friend once. I think it’s more important that we teach new believers that their new life is more about rejection. We reject sin; we reject doing things our own way; and we reject anything that is not of God as much as we are able. This is not a one-time thing, but a daily, and sometimes multiple times per day, activity. We actively seek to push away those things that would separate us from the heart and love of The One who offers us His salvation. That is an active way of accepting His gift.

After the sacrificial offerings have been taken care of, part of which includes placing the blood of the guilt offering on the right ear, right thumb, and right toe of the person seeking purification, the priest is told to put oil in his right hand and dip into it with his left finger. He sprinkles the oil seven times, and then he takes what’s left and puts it over the blood on the ear, thumb and toe, plus over the blood of the guilt offering, and then on the head of the one who needs atonement. After these things are done, the priest is to offer the burnt offering and the grain offering, and then the person will be clean.

After having gone through so much to be purified, don’t you suppose the person who is now clean will reject anyone he even thinks might be contagious? And don’t you suppose he will do his best to be cleaner than he has ever made an effort to be in the past? I think so, and I think that rejection of the things that put him out of the camp, and that needed to be atoned for, will now be easy for him. It’s not always easy for those of us who make an effort to walk blamelessly before Our Creator to reject every sin that comes our way, but the more we learn about the depth of the sacrifice He made for us, the more we willingly reject anything that separates us from His salvation, His love, and His wonderful presence.

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shave and a Haircut–Two Birds


Shave and a Haircut by Flickr User Pete Markham, CC License = Attirbution, Share Alike

Shave and a Haircut by Flickr User Pete Markham, CC License = Attirbution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Even if you’re not old enough to realize there is a tune to the words shave and a haircut, two bits, you probably know the rhythm. Someone, at some point of your life, probably knocked on a door with the beat of “knock knock knock knock knock (rest) knock knock.” Then again, that may only be for my readers in U.S. since I don’t think a quarter was called two bits anywhere else. Still, I find it a catchy tune, and I can rarely see a barber shop pole without thinking of it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:1 through Leviticus 14:12, we begin a new Parashah (portion); number 28. The Hebrew title for it is M’tzora and it means “Person afflicted with Leprosy.” Okay, so that means I was wrong yesterday when I said we were probably done talking about leprosy. Of course, for me, the hard part is taking a few verses–often with repeated statements or themes–and trying to find something deeper to share with my readers. When I can find the truly spoken word within the written word, I get very excited though, and I hope you do as well.

So, from the title of the portion, I’m going to guess that our entire week will focus on what to do if someone is definitely infected rather than in making the determination as to if the person is clean or unclean. Today’s section of the portion deals with a person who has been infected and has been put out of the camp to begin purification. The first thing I noticed here is that the priest goes outside the camp to examine the man. If you think of leprosy as sin, it means we should not be waiting for sinners to walk through the church doors, but should be ready to speak with them about their sin where they are.

Next, the purification requires a sacrifice of two birds. One of the birds must be slaughtered over a clay pot under running water, and the other will be sprinkled with the blood of the dead bird and then set free. The live bird, along with a cedar plank, scarlet yarn, and hyssop leaves, is to be dipped into the blood, and then all of those will be used to sprinkle blood on the person who needs to be purified. The death over clay speaks of Calvary to me, so I’m certain there is more here in the process that is represented by the sacrifice of our Messiah, but I am unsure, so I won’t try to teach something I don’t know.

Once the infected person is cleansed, he is to shave off all his hair, beard, and even his eyebrows. Then he must wash his clothes and bathe before he returns to camp. Once he’s in the camp, he still can’t go to his own tent for another seven days, and then he has to shave everything off again before he is completely clean. Once he has reached that point, the priest will offer a sacrifice of two lambs and a grain offering to complete his purification process.

The one thing that stands out to me in all this is how difficult it is to become clean once you have been infected by leprosy. We want to march people into a church building and say that since Christ offered Himself for their sins, becoming sin free is just as easy as reciting the sinner’s prayer. But the offering of blood was only one part of the process. I know we don’t want to scare people away with a bunch of religious rituals, but I think it’s important to teach that our walk with God is not to be taken lightly. If God required these things to represent purification during the times of the wilderness temple, He has made a way to fulfill those things for us now. They haven’t gone away, but are being carried out in another way–through the blood of Christ, through the Holy Spirit making intercession for us, etc. To me, that is all the more reason to get up each day and praise Him for all He has done, and for all He continues to do, to bridge the gap between Himself and us. He is worthy of more than we can even think to praise Him for.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lather, Rinse, Repeat


Shampoo Bottles by Flickr User Eric Mesa, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Shampoo Bottles by Flickr User Eric Mesa, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I don’t know how often bottles are printed with the instructions to “Lather, Rinse, and Repeat” anymore, and I’m not sure if they were only on some shampoos previously. Maybe they were used as a default instruction on all shampoo to help consumers go through a bottle faster. I do know the second application of shampoo always foams up more, so it feels like hair is cleaner anyway. I’m not sure of the reason, maybe just expense since I use some pricier shampoos than when I was younger, but I haven’t done the double wash in a while. Are you one who still washes twice?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:55 through Leviticus 13:59 (the end of the chapter), we come to the end of the portion, and likely to the end of instructions for dealing with leprosy and contagious infections. Yesterday, we learned about washing a stain and then waiting to make sure it didn’t reappear to know if an item that picked up an infection was clean or not. Today, we’re told that if the stain does not change color from washing, the item is rotten is should be burned up. If it fades, the stained portion should be torn out of the garment. And if the stain evidence of infection goes away completely, the garment is to be washed a second time before it can be called clean.

Whether you lather, rinse, and repeat, or just lather and rinse, you do so because you know if your hair and scalp feel clean. The end result is the important factor, and the same is true of sin. Being cleansed of anything and everything that would separate us from a pure and holy walk with Our Loving Creator should be our goal. We can get dunked in a thousand baptismal pools and still be just as unclean as the permanently stained garments in this week’s Torah portion.

When we are clean, we will have a clean, new heart, that is sensitive toward God and His directions to us. I love the way God’s Word describes our new heart in Ezekiel 11:19 (NLT)… And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart. In a bit more context, here’s a paragraph from “The Message Bible” of Ezekiel 11:16-20

“Well, tell them this, ‘This is your Message from God, the Master. True, I sent you to the far country and scattered you through other lands. All the same, I’ve provided you a temporary sanctuary in the countries where you’ve gone. I will gather you back from those countries and lands where you’ve been scattered and give you back the land of Israel. You’ll come back and clean house, throw out all the rotten images and obscene idols. I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you. I’ll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you’ll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!

And before you go, here’s a beautiful song I used to sing at all my concerts (and will be on my album if I can ever figure out how to move forward with it). It’s called I Wanna Be Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and it speaks my heart of always wanting to repeat the cleansing process to keep my heart pure before God. This video includes the lyrics, my favorite of which come in verse 2 where it says, “How oft I’ve cried when far away from You, my heart would catch a glimpse of Calvary; remembering nights down on my knees in prayer when I said, ‘Lord, here I am, please use me.’ ” Enjoy!

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When It Won’t Come Out in the Wash


Somewhere in my youth, I used to enjoy all those scary shows like Outer Limits (I really did think they had control of my TV set), Night Gallery, and others. I still watch Twilight Zone and own the whole collection. Some of the morals given in many of those old programs have stayed with me for years. The episode above has stuck with me, though I’m not sure when I saw it, since IMDB says the series, Tales from the Darkside, started in 1983, and I had quit watching TV for a time as of July of that year. In reading through the other episode descriptions, I would never watch the kinds of things it tells stories about, so I’m thinking this may be the only episode of the program I ever saw (thankfully). I posted this before I realized the content of the other episodes, so I will say this one is safe, but in case you don’t want to spend 20 minutes watching it, here’s the gist (spoiler alert–words in green)…

An evil man would rather use a special laundry service to wash the sins from his clothes than to stop sinning. He hires a launderer who charges him big money, keeps raising his prices, and finally quits picking up the clothes which have greatly accumulated since the man now feels no guilt for his actions. When the man calls the launderer, the guy tells him he won the lottery and is out of business. The evil man then knows he’s stuck with his sins, so he jumps to his death.

Well, in today’s reading from Leviticus 13:38 through Leviticus 13:54, we’ll learn about leprosy on clothing. We’re still on the subject of what types of skin sores need to be shown to the priests, and we even get a little comic relief in verses 40-41…

40 “If a man’s hair has fallen from his scalp, he is bald, but he is clean. 41 If his hair has fallen off the front part of his head, he is forehead-bald; but he is clean.

At least I thought it was funny–“he’s bald but he’s clean.” LOL

In the next verses, we get a bit of insight about those who live in the isolation I mentioned in another post. They must live outside the camp, and wherever they go, they must wear torn clothes, leave their hair hanging down, and put their hand over their lip while calling out, “Unclean, unclean.” I’m guessing the hand over the lip is to amplify the sound, but it could mean something else that I’m unsure of.

Now we get into the verses that talk about what to do when a sore has caused a stain on clothing. The instructions to the priest are to watch the stain to see if it spreads through the fibers of whatever material it is found on. If the stain spreads, it is contagious and the articles of clothing must be burned up. But if the stain doesn’t spread, the clothes are to be washed and set apart for seven days.

Since leprosy represents sin, I find it interesting that God says whatever it touches is to be burned up. That tells me that, even when we ourselves are washed of our sins, the things (not people) in our lives that were connected to the sin, must be destroyed. They demonstrate that well in the movie Fireproof where they have the main character destroy the computer he was using to access pornography. For someone who practiced witchcraft, that would mean getting rid of things like Tarot Cards and Ouija Boards. For a drug addict, it would mean getting rid of drug paraphernalia. We must separate ourselves from the things that could reinfect us with sin when we choose to walk a road of pure service to God. His will and ways must become our priority. But I can tell you from experience, what we give up for Him is NEVER a loss.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Set Apart for a Time


Isolation by Flickr User digitalmindphotography (David Smith), CC License = Attribution

Isolation by Flickr User digitalmindphotography (David Smith), CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Have you ever felt the need to just “get away” for a little while? Do you ever find that the day in, day out, ongoing events of life sometimes make you feel like you’ve just got to declutter and thin things out a bit? Something about isolation can often help us to sort through the stresses and re-prioritize what’s important in our lives.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:29 through Leviticus 13:37, we read about times of purification–set apart times of isolation to allow the healing necessary to be considered clean once again. In this week’s portion, we’ve read all about leprosy and learning it could be speaking of other viral or contagious skin diseases as well. Today, we see the instructions to the priest on how to check a sore on someone’s head or on the skin beneath a beard to find if the person has an infectious disease. If the signs of infection are there, the person is to be put into isolation for 7 days.

There’s nothing that describes the isolation, whether they had a quarantine tent or just what, but later, the time in isolation is described as a time of purification. The instructions even include having the person shave around the sore, but not shaving the sore itself. After that time alone, the person is to be examined again, and if there is no change, they get 7 more days in isolation before they will be examined again to determine if they are clean enough to go back into the community.

While these instructions were given for the physical health of the community, I can see how the same situation could be a good way to reclaim the spiritual health of a Christian community as well. If we’re all so busy planning events and looking perfect for “Sunday School,” when do we take time apart to examine ourselves before God to determine if there might be some purification needed? I’ve heard it preached that we should be in church every time the doors are opened, and I spent part of my Christian walk doing just that. But now, I see the great need for that time to be set apart for a time of purification.

We all need vacations from the daily grind, the irritating boss, and the demands of life in general. We need vacation to renew and refresh our minds and bodies. And I believe we also need times of renewal for our spirit, and that won’t always come with just a different set of circumstances–even if those circumstances are for a higher purpose. The priests had to examine sores to look for crusty spots that might be contagious to others. Let’s examine ourselves, or get with an accountability partner for examination, before we get any “crusty spots” on our spirits that might be contagious to others. 🙂

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just A Scar


 

Tree Scars by Flickr User Randy Robertson, CC License = Attribution

Tree Scars by Flickr User Randy Robertson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

 

Besides a bit of a hard day with some news I’m not quite free to share yet, I’m having some issues with WordPress and images and changes they’ve made, so I’m going to keep this short. Of course, the current portions of Scripture we’re in are a bit short anyway, but I hope I’m able to bring something out that will bless all those who read–at least a little. Today, I want to focus on the fact that I believe God made scars with a purpose.

In today’s reading (another super short one) from Leviticus 13:24 through Leviticus 13:28, there is more instruction on determining if a person has leprosy. This time, it is talking about a person with a burn and how to tell if the burn has become infected with leprosy. The fact that a previous injury can get infected seems to support the article I mentioned in another post that said these statements about leprosy may also refer to other types of viral infection.

So, God explains to the priest, through Moses, that if a person has a burn, the priest should examine it thoroughly to check for signs of infection, so it can be determined if the priest can declare him clean and not contagious. The signs of infection to the burn are similar to the signs in other wounds except that with a burn, redness may simply indicate a scar instead of an infection. If it is just a scar, the person can be considered clean.

I decided to use tree scars in the image above because, just like God gave DNA to all living things, I believe He created all living things with the ability to be scarred when hurt. It’s all part of His way of showing us that we cannot be damaged without a permanent record of it. And, if He will not go without remembering hurts on our behalf, I believe that means He will not go without doing something about it in His way and time.

I believe scars are just one of God’s ways of caring for His creations. Other ways include self-healing attributes, toxic cleansing, regeneration, and so much more. But, while He created our bodies (and many bodies in nature) to work toward their own healing, He made sure the healing does not discard all traces of the injury. And even though we cannot see them, I believe God also sees the scars on our souls as well. So, next time you look at one of your own scars, or next time you see a scar in nature, remember that God created those scars in His infinite wisdom and mercy to let you know that He is watchful and caring over all your days.

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Declared Clean


 

Clean Dirty Magnet by Flickr User Lindee Photo Designs, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Clean Dirty Magnet by Flickr User Lindee Photo Designs, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

 

Are you old enough to remember this slogan: Have you had your Shower to Shower today? Or maybe you remember the old Irish Spring commercial slogan: Fresh and clean as a whistle. And then we’ve got: If it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide. And, finally: You’re not fully clean until you’re Zestfully clean.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:18 through Leviticus 13:23, we have a very short reading about priests declaring people clean. The whole thing just talks about how to tell if a boil is clean by examining whether it is red, raw, swollen, has white hair, is dried out, etc. Each of the instructions either says the priest is to declare the person clean or unclean.

Without much to work with in these few verses, I am choosing to focus on the term “declared clean” because there is a difference in actually being clean and in being declared clean. Of course, if the person who is doing the declaring is honest, the two will mean the same thing. But what about when the declarer is not honest? Maybe it’s a preacher who’s just trying to get more money or accolades from the sheep, so he tickles the ears of any sheep that will give him a dollar bill or a pat on the back.

But the one that really worries me is the person who just doesn’t want to accept any kind of judgment (even personal accountability), so she declares herself clean (or saved) just because it seems easier than actually repenting. It would be like someone taking the dishwasher magnet above and turning it to say “clean” when the load has not been run through the dishwashing cycle. What good is it to put dirty dishes back into the cupboard just because the magnet says they’re clean?

I’ll close with this. We have promises of forgiveness in Scripture, and our promises are beyond what we deserve because of the wonderful blood of Christ. But declaring ourselves to have mercy without changing anything in our lives is not supported in any Scripture that I have found. To the contrary, we have abundant Scriptures that read like Proverbs 28:13 that says (in NLT)…

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.

Just as God told the priests how to determine if someone was clean before they declared the person clean, we have God’s precious word to speak to us now. If we confess our sins, it doesn’t say we are covered. If we forsake our sins, we haven’t been given promise. But, if we both confess AND forsake our sins, God’s promise is that we will be declared clean.

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling Doctor Cohen


Doktor Sleepless by Flickr User Team Tanenbaum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Doktor Sleepless by Flickr User Team Tanenbaum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

So how would you feel if your doctor walked into the examination room looking like the costumed guy above? Probably not comfortable unless you were a little kid. And what about if a priest of God was the one who walked into the room; would that make you feel at least a little better? The Hebrew word Cohen means “priest,” and Cohen HaGadol is “high priest.” And they had some duties that go well beyond those who are in similar careers these days.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:6 through Leviticus 13:17, we pick up where the last paragraph left on in the previous portion that was talking about leprosy. Between the two days, we have some detailed description being given to the priests, so they can determine whether or not a person is unclean with leprosy. Yesterday, the description talked about sores that turned the body hairs white. Today, it talks about raw skin and how much of the body is covered by the sores.

I was actually looking for an image of a pair of exam gloves because I planned to focus on the difference in perspectives from then to now. I mentioned before that there was no thought of germs or germ theory. I don’t know if anyone back then had any type of material they would put over their hands to prevent them from touching the raw or swollen wounds that are described in the reading, but I imagine having to examine a person for an uncleanness was one of the least desirable parts of being a priest. It’s probably pretty undesirable for a lot of medical professionals as well.

Upon studying, I found some information that said the Scriptures that speak of leprosy were likely speaking of many different kinds of spreading skin infections and not just what we know today to be leprosy. The main thing it seems they were looking for was to see if a person was contagious. If they were covered with sores but with no swelling or rawness, and all their sores had dried up and turned white, they were declared clean.

As with all of God’s laws, the purpose behind this one was to protect His people and give them a longer life. When His children didn’t know about germs, He devised ways to protect them before hand-washing and exam gloves. Before we learned that fish without both fins and scales would absorb toxins from whatever water they swim in, He told His children to only eat fish with both fins and scales to protect them from digesting toxic substances.

While so many (mostly those who don’t follow God, but some who do) are complaining that God makes too many rules, those of us who love and trust Him know that He is trying to create a safe environment for those He loves. We can thank Him as would a child who grows up to thank the loving parent he once considered overprotective until he had his own children to protect. Even what we don’t understand from the Old Testament is worth examination to look for God’s purposes and protection for those He loves.

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl, UhOh


Twins by Flickr User Brandie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Twins by Flickr User Brandie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’m trying to think back to all the family members I can remember having babies, and I don’t think anyone in our family has ever had twins–or any other multiple births. I guess it really is something that runs in certain families. And, while our Torah reading for today doesn’t say anything about twins, you’ll see when you read it why I would wonder how twins would affect a new mommy based on the Levitical laws.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 12:1 through Leviticus 13:5, we begin a new week with Parashah (portion) 27. The Hebrew name for it is Tazria and it means “She Conceives.” The first paragraph in this reading concerns how a woman is to be considered if she conceives and gives birth. If she has a boy, she is unclean for 7 days and then has 33 days of purification to follow. If she has a girl, those numbers are doubled. And that’s where I asked myself, “But what if she has twins, and one is a boy and one is a girl?”

I always wonder things in a more complicated way, but I guess it would be as if she had a girl since she would have. I wonder, though, what the scientific reasoning behind this is. Does a female infant do something different to the mother’s body that keeps her bleeding longer than if she carries a boy? Bleeding is the reason for the uncleanness and the need for purification, so it would not surprise me to find out there is something physiologically different about carrying a girl. I mean, this is where it says to circumcise a boy on the 8th day, and I have read that on the 8th day of life, every male’s blood coagulates faster than on any other day of his life. That’s a good idea when your physician is actually a priest and may not be the best at what he does with a knife.

The next paragraph talks about her atonement after her days of purification have passed. The mother is to bring a lamb, or a pigeon or young dove if she cannot afford a lamb, to make an offering for the child. This appears to be sort of the sealing for her days of purification.

The final paragraph talks about leprosy, but there is more on that tomorrow, so I’ll save that conversation other than to say, this is actually medical training for the priests. I think it’s amazing that God was giving them information on how to diagnose viral illness, so it would not spread through the camp. He gives exact descriptions for the priest to look for to make sure the priest can know whether to get the person into quarantine or let him go about his business. We truly have a God who cares for us in both the big and little details. Have a blessed week walking in His presence.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Don’t Know Why She Swallowed A Fly


She Swallowed a Fly by Flickr User Gordon McLean, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

She Swallowed a Fly by Flickr User Gordon McLean, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How is it that so many of my topics remind me of songs? I guess I think in lyrical ways. Of course, thinking of this cute children’s song is better than actually thinking of swallowing bugs, don’t you think?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 11:33 through Leviticus 11:47 (the end of the chapter), we pick up where the reading yesterday was talking about not touching the carcass of an unclean animal. It goes on to say that if the unclean thing touches a clay pot, a stove, or an oven, they must be broken. I’m guessing stoves and ovens were also made of clay, so I guess by their being porous, it made it impossible to clean the germs effectively. But, I also think of our human flesh any time I think of clay, so this says to me once again how cleansing our flesh from something unclean will take some brokenness. Thankfully, we also know the Master Potter who can remake our broken vessels when we keep them in His hands.

As the reading continues, we find out that any swarming insect that swarms the ground is not only unclean, but God describes it as detestable. I can agree with that description, and I’m glad I now have a reason to turn down any kind of bug-related cuisine someone might try to offer me. Of course, now I’m wondering about those little red bugs they use to color things like strawberry yogurt and Starbucks’ strawberry Frapp. (In case you haven’t heard about this, here’s a link to the article at Snopes.com that verifies its truth, and there are links for more info at the bottom of the article.)

And that’s it for this reading and this week, so I bid you Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) as you bring your week to a close. As a final note, in preparing for this article, I was looking to see if there was a Scripture that ever declared any of these “unclean” animals and bugs as being clean, and it turns out there is not one. While the biblical dietary laws are not something of a Heaven and Hell matter, I certainly think its worth more study as to best practices. I have never looked into it before, but as I learn little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept, I invite you to join me in my discoveries and to share your own thoughts and discoveries with me. I did find an interesting article at http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/RA/k/1049/Clean-Unclean-Meats.htm and I welcome any thoughts or commentary on its contents. We’re all in this together, friends, and I value your time in reading my posts and the comments and replies you add to them. Many blessings to you all!

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hallelujah

Thinking about all the reasons we have for praising our LORD.

Cladach Publishing

Producing and Providing Christian Books from Our Shore to Yours

For Birds & Tea

A blog about the day to day of a writer, a fighter and an ornithological admirer.

Fellowship of the Minds

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

The Narrowing Path

walking together in truth and love.

Writing Prompts &Thoughts & Ideas...Oh My!

Follow Your Yellow Brick Road

Happy Eco Mama

Green parenting, positive psychology and connecting our little ones to the natural world

Create With Joy

Infuse Creativity In All You Do

thefrontwindow

BEST SELLING AUTHOR OF ..........

Sly Twin Tiger

do not draw attention to yourself

Above All Else

Thoughts from Katie Foster

Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Editor

Simply beautiful publishing powered by WordPress.

THE WORD on The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog)

BREAKING FREE from The Word of Faith Movement & telling the World about it! TELL US YOUR STORY

Write One Real Life

Where writing meets faith in the real world.

behind the lens

the view from the other side of the window

Blaire McDaniel

Finding God in the Gray.

The Matt Walsh Blog

Absolute Truths (and alpaca grooming tips) **Facebook.com/MattWalshBlog

Buy Wall And Floor Tiles

Know more about Tiles

On Faith and Writing

A Daughter of the King

Christian Design and Video Share

A great WordPress.com site

Wordsmith's Desk

some thoughts along the way

Socialism is not the Answer

Limited Government Is

By the Blood of the Lamb

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...

Iris Grace

Iris Grace Painting

Today's Author

Fostering a community of creative writers through articles, comments, writing prompts and a healthy, supportive environment.

Redeemed Hippies' Place

Trying to Keep it Real in an Unreal World

Louisville Christian Writers blog

For members of LCW to spread their blogging wings or reblog their own posts.

Musings from a Mynk

A Christian Writer's Journey

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Women: Each One A Survivor

Enjoying Every Moment

Jessie Jeanine

A survivor inspired by the tragedies and triumphs of life.

DiscernIt

Deut 32:28 "They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them."

mixedbrainwriting

Messages from both sides of my brain.

Lisa Preuett~Rest Stop for the Soul

"COME TO ME ALL WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST" Matthew 11:28

Life's Highs & Lows

Michael C. Mack's Blog about Living Life to the Fullest Despite the Circumstances

Lana H. Jackson

Step Into God's Love

searchinghisword

Searching His Word; Seeking His Heart

WordServe Water Cooler

A community of agented authors encouraging, engaging, and enriching others throughout their writing journey.

Sola Dei Gloria

Sola Dei Gloria

Garden Devotions

Learning Spiritual Lessons through Gardening

catnipoflife

Observe life at its best, listen to life’s songs, embrace life’s bounties, breathe the breath of life and savor life to its fullest!

CROSS-SHAPED STUFF

i want to see more stuff shaped like a cross

Cocoon

When you are free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.

%d bloggers like this: