Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Unequal Pay for Unequal Work


Money by Flickr User Robert Huffstutter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Money by Flickr User Robert Huffstutter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
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 have never been what you might call a “women’s libber,” but I do feel that people deserve a fair wage for fair labor. When I was too young to understand it, I might have said that women should get paid the same as men if they do the same job, but with age and maturity, I have learned what doing the same job means. In truth, if a woman can do a man’s job–for example, lift exactly the same amount of weight in and for the exact amount of time, then sure, pay them what they’re worth. But It’s not about just holding claim to the same position. It’s about actually doing the same job with the same endurance and the same lack of risk. There may be muscular women out there that can lift and endure without risk, but for the most part, women are built differently and should not take risks just to “prove” themselves. We don’t typically see men with big bulky hands gluing tiny porcelain pieces together either, so just because the bull can fit in the front door of the china shop doesn’t mean you should employ the bull to repair the dolls.

In today’s reading from Numbers 18:21 through Numbers 18:32 (the end of the chapter), we complete the portion for the week, and we read more about the job of the Levites in the camp of Israel. God is still speaking to Aaron, and He tells him that the tenth of all donations, fruit of the land, etc., will belong to the descendants of Levi forever. It is their inheritance, and it is their pay for the service they will perform in the tabernacle. It is also why they do not have an inheritance of land as the other tribes of Israel have.

In the next verse, God talks about the value of the tenth that is going to Levi. He says it is the best of everything. It is like the best grain from the threshing floor and the best grape juice from the wine vats. It is a gift to God that He is passing along to the Levites. In addition, the Levites who receive the tenth are to set aside a tenth for God as well. They are to set aside the best of the best because it is a gift to God. This holy portion will be given to Aaron because he is the high priest. He and his family are able to eat this holy portion without guilt because it is in payment for the work they do for God.

God sharing what is given to Him shows how much He values the work that is done in ministry for Him. Sharing the holy portion, and the best of the best, shows that He feels the work done in keeping a holy place of sacrifice for His people is valued as the best of the best jobs. Ministry for God is not just a little thing. The sacrifice was not just a barbecue. The cleaning of the furnishings was not just a maid job. The emptying out, cleaning, and refilling of the water vessels was not just a job for the pool guy. These duties were sacred and not equal to simple tasks, so God paid for them with sacred and holy pay.

We have ministry duties today as well. We have the blood of Christ to take care of the tasks that formerly required a tabernacle and an altar of sacrifice, so Yeshua gets the highest praise for now taking care of these duties, but that does not mean God isn’t pleased when we minister to others. There is a payment of peace in the spirit that cannot be compared with any financial pay, and God showers it upon us when we determine that doing for Him is above any task or inheritance we could receive on this earth. The pay does not get poured out simply because someone is in a position of ministry, but God overflows us with unequaled value of blessing when He sees us doing the priceless work of building His kingdom.

 

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

When God Shares His Amazing Grace


Did you know there are six verses to the song Amazing Grace? In most churches and hymnals, we only sing four of them, but there are some beautiful words in what would be verses five and six (with the “ten thousand years” verse still remaining last). The words from the fourth verse line up perfectly with today’s reading, and they are…

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Today’s part of this week’s portion is from Numbers 17:25 through Numbers 18:20 (In The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 17:10 through Numbers 18:20 (in The Amplified and other Bibles). Whatever the verse number, the last few verses in chapter 17 fall after we see that God has chosen Aaron as a priest over Israel, and He has shown the people by making Aaron’s staff blossom with flowers and ripe almonds. God tells Moses to put Aaron’s staff back into the tabernacle and keep it there as a sign against the rebels to stop their grumbling against Him if they want to live. The people cry in fear that anyone who comes near the tabernacle will die and that all is lost.

From there, the chapter changes to a conversation between God and Aaron. Maybe Aaron was feeling a bit fearful after all the uprisings against him and Moses, and when even the deaths of thousands didn’t settle people down. Whatever the cause, God spends the next twenty verses speaking to Aaron about his job as priest and about all He (God) plans to share with him while he performs his duties.

God first tells Aaron that he, his sons, and his father’s line, will be responsible for the tabernacle, and especially for anything that goes wrong in the sanctuary and in their service as priests. The tribe of Levi, Aaron’s kinsmen, are to be available to work with Aaron and his sons in their tabernacle service around the tent, but they are not to come near the holy furnishings or the altar. God then tells Aaron that He has taken the Levites from among the people, and they are a gift to The Lord for Aaron to help him in his service to The Lord. In addition to God sharing the Levites with Aaron, He tells Aaron that He trusts him in decisions regarding the services, and that if an unauthorized person tries to perform priestly duties, he will die.

God goes on to tell Aaron that He is sharing sacrifices and offerings with him, and that Aaron is in charge of all contributions to God. God tells him that all wave offerings belong to him and are okay for all in his family who are clean to eat. The best oils, grains, and wine, and all the first produce of the land that people bring to God are available for Aaron and his family perpetually. Everything in Israel which has been consecrated unconditionally will belong to Aaron.

God speaks to Aaron about the firstborn of people and animals, and He tells Aaron that everything firstborn will now be his. Firstborn of humans and unclean beasts must still be redeemed, and firstborn that are brought for sacrifices still go on the altar, but Aaron and his family can eat the meat. All contributions of holy things from Israel will belong to Aaron, aka the priesthood, and God sets this up as a permanent regulation, an eternal covenant with salt for Aaron and his descendants.

The final verse says that while Aaron and his descendants will have no land or inheritance with the people of Israel, God Himself will be his portion and inheritance. Now, just sit back and imagine that. First, God says that everything given to Him now belongs to Aaron, and then He adds that He will be Aaron’s inheritance. Since we are considered a chosen generation and royal priesthood, that means that God is also our inheritance and our portion. By His amazing grace, He provides all we need; from our daily needs to our eternal needs.

It’s not always easy to take our minds off the hard work we do ourselves to earn the rewards we earn. Because we are the bodies doing the work, we may forget that He is the one that enables our bodies to do the work. He is the one that enables us to live in a place where it is possible to be paid for the work we do. He enables us to live in a society where what we earn can be used to purchase things we need and desire. There are people and countries where these things are not so, even in our advanced society here on earth, so each day we wake up with the blessing to make life work as we like, we must remember to thank God for sharing of His abundance with those He loves–you and me.

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

Best Buds


Aaron's Rod? by Flickr User Marilylle Soveran, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Aaron’s Rod? by Flickr User Marilylle Soveran, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How cool would it be to be “best buds” with Yahveh Almighty? I mean, having Him in your corner when people falsely accuse you, and having Him to stand up for you when you’re facing strong trials would be great, wouldn’t it? What’s that you say? He IS in our corner when we’re falsely accused? He DOES stand up for us when we face strong trials? Ah, well then we can say He is truly our Best Friend, can’t we?

In today’s reading from Numbers 17:16 through Numbers 17:24 (in The Complete Jewish Bible), and Numbers 17:1-17:9 (in The Amplified and other Bibles), we’ll read about God standing in the corner of Moses and Aaron because they were His friends. In this portion, God tells the men to have the leaders of each tribe take a staff (or rod) and carve the name of his tribe into it. He says for Aaron to carve in the name of Levi. He tells Moses to have the leaders bring him the inscribed staffs, and Moses is to place them inside The Tent of Meeting where God will grow blossoms on the staff of the person He has chosen as a leader of Israel. God tells Moses that this is to prevent anymore uprisings from other leaders who would accuse Moses and Aaron of uplifting themselves to their leadership positions.

Moses and the people did as God commanded, and the next day, when Moses went into the tent, he saw that Aaron’s staff had sprouted not only flower blossoms but also ripe almonds. Moses brought out all the staffs back out from the presence of Adonai and showed them to the people, so they would know that God Himself has chosen Aaron as a leader of the people. Each man looked at all the other staffs before reclaiming his own, so all knew it was Aaron’s staff that budded.

Yeshua told His disciples that they were His friends if they would do whatever He commanded them to do. Like any good friendship, it goes both ways. In John 15:11-15, The Message Bible offers a sweet translation of the conversation between Yeshua and His followers…

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

These verses clearly show how to behave in a true friendship. Yeshua tells the men to love others the way He shows them love, and to lay their lives on the line for each other. We are His friends when we obey these same commandments because we invite Him into our lives by this behavior. When we show His love to others, it is a form of praise to Him, and He dwells in the praises of His people. It was His idea to robe Himself in flesh, so that we could better understand Him, and it is His idea to create a friendship with those who follow Him rather than making us His slaves. A slavemaster demands a response from his servants, but in Revelation 3:20 (NLT), we read of His call to us in a much nicer way…

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

He is still knocking today, and He wants to be best buds. Will you answer and let Him in?

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

Boss; Da Plague, Da Plague


In yet another give-away to my age, let us harken back to that adorable little guy, Tattoo, that made the great announcement to his boss when he spotted the plane to “Fantasy Island” about to land. The boss of the island, Mr. Roarke, was basically the “god” of the island, and while people paid handsomely to enact their greatest fantasies, he was in charge of how those fantasies played out much like an author decides on the final plot for his or her characters. I don’t remember any specific episodes, but I remember how often things didn’t go exactly as people expected, and I remember that no matter how they went, most people learned some type of valuable lesson from their experiences.

In today’s reading from Numbers 17:9 through Numbers 17:15 (in The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 16:44 through Numbers 16:50 (in The Amplified and other Bibles), we’ll read about “The Boss” over the community of Israel. Yesterday, we saw that after Korah and his family and followers were killed, many of the Israelites began to falsely accuse Moses and Aaron of killing God’s children. Their false accusations didn’t sit well with Yahveh Almighty, so in today’s portion, He tells Moses and Aaron to get away from the rest of the community while He destroys them.

Moses and Aaron are good leaders, and they are not satisfied with the destruction of the people even when they would’ve been justified because of their attacks. Instead, these priests fall on their faces and beg God to–once again–spare the lives of the people. Moses knows what will get God’s attention, so he tells Aaron to grab a censer, put fire from the holy altar in it, and lay some incense on it. Moses then tells Aaron to hurry and go out to the people to make atonement for them because the anger of God has already gone out to them, and the plague has already begun.

Aaron did just as Moses directed and ran to the middle of the assembly where the plague was raging full speed ahead. He added the incense to make atonement for the people, and the plague began to slow down. As Aaron stood between the dead and the living, the plague stopped, but many were already dead. When it was finished, there were 14,700 dead in addition to those killed in the Korah incident. When the plague stopped, Aaron returned to The Tent of Meeting and to Moses.

There are plagues in the world that can enter “the church” because of the sins of the people, and it is prayer for God’s mercy that makes all the difference. The greatest leaders are the servant leaders who will stand in the midst of the people and offer praise to God that makes atonement because they care for the people and want the plague stopped. These are the ones that, like Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island” may not preach the fantasy message the spoiled people want to hear, but they will preach hard and true messages that will draw people to the God of Truth.

I hunger for the kind of preaching that hurts when it touches the things in my life that shouldn’t be there. I may not like the pain right when it happens. I may even bristle and feel a resistance at the first hearing, but good teaching from a caring teacher will find its place in my soul, and I will seek to get right with God. I call for all who consider themselves priests, prophets, preachers, teachers, or ministers of any kind to take up the cause of ringing the bell and calling out to those who would be lost, “Da plague, da plague; beware of da plague.” Even those who fight it at first will eventually receive it and apply it to their lives and gain the wisdom that will draw them closer to their Wonderful Creator. Proverbs 19:20 states it well…

Listen to advice, and accept discipline,
    so that in the end you will be wise.

May there be more teachers that are willing to stand between the dying and the living and give the advice and discipline that brings wisdom–and life.

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

Imitation is not Flattery to God


Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
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 recommend a visit to Flickr to view this image in full size. It’s actually very cool what the guy has done here, and apparently it’s an imitation of another artists style, but I think the guy did a great job. I thought it was perfect for this post because you can’t sit on a chair made with words , and you can’t depend on imitation service to Christ.

When we call someone a copycat, it’s not usually a compliment, and yet, there’s the quote that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, is margarine a compliment to butter? Is polyester a compliment to silk? Most of the time, we use imitations of things not because we think the imitation is as good as the real thing, but because we have some reason (usually cost) for not using the real thing, and we are looking for an acceptable replacement. Me, I’m satisfied with cubic zirconia in my jewelry because it often has more sparkle than I could find in any type of diamond that would be affordable for me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:20 through Numbers 17:8 (in the Complete Jewish Bible), or to Numbers 16:43 (in the Amplified and other Bibles), we will find out what happens to people who imitate the things of God without being chosen to perform them.

The first thing we see is that Yahveh is angry enough with Korah and his followers that He is ready (once again) to destroy the whole community of Israel. He tells Moses and Aaron to step back while He comes down to take care of business. And, (once again) Moses saves their lives by presenting a perspective to God that turns His wrath around. This time, Moses asks God if all should pay for the sin of one.

With that question, God tells the community of Israel to get away from the tents and families and belongings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. As the people move away, the troublemakers come out and stand in the entrances of their tents with their families. Moses speaks out that if the men die natural deaths, the people can know that God did not send Moses as a leader for them. Moses goes on to tell them that if, however, God does a new thing and brings the men alive into Sheol (the place of the dead), the people can be sure that God is with Moses and has chosen him.

As soon as Moses quit speaking, the earth opened up beneath Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and swallowed them up completely. It also swallowed up all who sided with them and all their belongings before it closed up again. The community of Israel ran away shouting that the earth might swallow them too, and then the fire of God came down and destroyed the 250 elders that brought up fire in their censers. I’m guessing the fire in the censers part was based on the fact that the 250 elders were imitating an act of the priesthood, and back then, God did not put up with apostates in the camp, so He dealt with the trouble immediately.

God spoke to Moses and said to take up the censers that the 250 used for incense and hammer them into a covering for the altar of sacrifice. He said they were holy because they were used on God’s altar, and covering the altar with them served as a way to keep them holy as well as making them a warning to others of Israel who might consider trying to imitate the priesthood in the future. No ordinary person, not descended from Aaron, is allowed to offer incense at the altar of God if he does not want to suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

After all that was done before them, the community of Israel began to accuse Moses again. This time they said that Moses killed the people of God. (I did a mental “I could have had a V8” slap on the head when I read this.) However, as the community gathered against Moses and Aaron, they looked in the direction of the temple and noticed the cloud of God’s presence descending on it, and the glory of The Lord appeared. Moses and Aaron then went to the front of the Tent of Meeting to meet with God.

From all of this, I would guess that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery to God. He is interested in real people, real hearts, and real lives being dedicated to Him. Our position doesn’t matter to God except that He wants us to fulfill the demands of the position to which He has called us. In Malachi 1:6a, God speaks a message to the priests that can be applied to all of us…

The Lord All-Powerful said, “Children honor their fathers. Servants honor their masters. I am your Father, so why don’t you honor me? I am your master, so why don’t you respect me?”

I actually recommend a reading of the whole 1st chapter of Malachi for an interesting perspective on how we as people treat our Wonderful and Almighty Lord God. It’s eye-opening and heart-breaking. It reminds me of my own salvation experience, and what God spoke to my heart the night I gave my whole life over to Him. To keep it short, I’ll just say that I was not at church because I wanted to be, but I was there because someone manipulated me, and I could only have my way if I agreed to attend. The preacher did something he had never done before (or since) in asking everyone in the building to pray where they were because of a baptism they were having that night. As everyone knelt around me, I was the only one standing, so I got down by my seat to imitate what everyone else was doing.

Like I said, God doesn’t like imitation, so He used my own prideful behavior “against” me (though it turned out for me) by having all the women in the church gather around to pray with me. I thought to myself, “Oh, Crystal. What have you gotten yourself into now, and how are you gonna get out of it?” And then came a voice as audible as if He was in the room in human form, and God spoke these words, “You’re not rejecting these people or all the other people who have hurt you in your life. You are rejecting me, and I haven’t done anything to hurt you.” I broke at those words because the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt God even if I wasn’t purposefully walking according to His will.

I have served God to the best of my ability since that date back in July of 1983. I have failed Him many times, and I used to keep the Malachi 1:6 scripture printed on a card at my desk to remind me to always keep my attitude filled with honor and respect toward God. I cannot put into words how much I love Him, or how humbled I am by the fact that He loves me. When I try to make myself useful to Him, I usually fall flat on my face. Maybe my motivations aren’t right, or maybe I’m stepping outside of His calling for me when that happens, but I don’t like it. Oh, but when He chooses to use me for something, the feeling is indescribable. When it comes to God; keep is honorable, keep it respectful, and keep it real.

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

What’s the Point of Pointing the Finger?


Finger Pointing by Flickr User Chris Owens, CC License - Attribution

Finger Pointing by Flickr User Chris Owens, 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.

Accusations are hard to deal with when you’re guilty. I think they’re even harder to deal with when you’re innocent. In both cases, I’ve tried the retaliatory quote of “Don’t point at me because when you point one finger at me, there are three pointing back at you,” but people who are riding on the arrogance of being an accuser don’t care to look at themselves as they should. It’s very rare that you run across an accuser who is also wise enough to be led by the Holy Spirit. Wise people examine themselves, but fools stay wrapped up in their own foolishness, and we’re told in Proverbs 26:4 that it is worthless to argue with them.

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:14 through Numbers 16:19, we are still dealing with the party of fools that the lead fool, Korah, has stirred up against Moses. He has accused Moses of making himself a dictator simply because God chose to speak to him and make him a leader. As the reading begins today, they are still tossing out accusations about Moses not bringing them to a land flowing with milk and honey or to possessions of vineyards and fields. They even accuse Moses of gouging out the people’s’ eyes and treating them as if they’re too blind to see what he is doing to them.

Now Moses is boiling over with anger. He tells God not to accept the grain offerings these people bring, and he adds that he has never done anything wrong to any of his accusers. Then Moses goes back to Korah and tells him that he better show up the next day for a meeting with God. He told Korah that he and each of his 250 followers were to show up with their own fire-pan and their offering of incense in it, and he added that Aaron would be there with his fire-pan full of incense as well.

I guess Moses’ anger must have let Korah know he was serious because the next day, Korah and all 250 Levites who followed him showed up at the entrance to The Tent of Meeting with their censers and incense. And after they had gathered, The glory of The Lord showed up before the whole assembly.

If accusing the innocent is folly, what’s the risk of accusing a God-chosen man in the presence of Yahveh Almighty? We should find out tomorrow what God did with the assembly before the tent, but somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be good. That spirit of accusation is an old one that belongs to the enemy of our souls, and we can read about his end result in Revelations 12:10-11

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,

“Now have come God’s victory, power and kingship,
and the authority of his Messiah;
because the Accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them day and night before God,
has been thrown out!

They defeated him because of the Lamb’s blood
and because of the message of their witness.
Even when facing death
they did not cling to life.”

How awesome and amazing is that for a promise? God’s victory, power, and kingship flow to us, and together we are able to overcome the accuser because of the blood of Messiah Yeshua. HalleluYah! We don’t even have to point a finger at the enemy because the three pointing back at him will defeat him by his own accusations, and he will be thrown into a bottomless pit forever. Be comforted in the face of accusations by knowing that God’s presence will show up and will deal with those who falsely accuse you according to His power and His perfect will. Amen.

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

Rebels Without A Good Cause


Rebel Without A Cause by Flickr User Melo McC, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Rebel Without A Cause by Flickr User Melo McC, 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.

Rebellion seems to be a cause in itself these days. People will create a cause to rise up against something even when that something makes sense as it stands. Sometimes, people will even create a cause for something that totally doesn’t exist. If you’ve seen the movie “Wag the Dog,” you have seen how a Hollywood filmmaker can create a cause from scratch, and with the right emotions, can even create a huge amount of support for it. And in case you don’t believe this can happen in real life, you would be amazed at the amount of people who rose up to protect the “Naugas” due to an advertising prank by the makers of the “Naugahyde” material used for furniture. There’s some funny history of it (and the ability to adopt a Nauga) at http://www.nauga.com/history.html

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:1 through Numbers 16:13, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now at Parashah 38 with the Hebrew title of Korach which is “Korah” in English. If you’ve ever read stories from the Old Testament, you’ve probably heard of the rebellion of Korah already, and you likely know how it ends, but I’m certain God will show us some great truths as we study it through the week.

Korah is one of the Levites, a son of Levites, a grandson of Levites, and just basically a great man within the tribe of Levi. Remember that the Levites have the job of camping near the tabernacle to protect the rest of the community of Israel from the anger of God, and to do the work required for the tabernacle. So Korah gets a following of 250 strong Levite leaders to stand with him, and together they go out to confront Moses and Aaron.

The men have decided that Moses and Aaron have taken it upon themselves to decide that they are the only ones who can speak with The Lord God Almighty. They say that the whole community is holy, and they say that Moses has chosen to take too much upon Himself by thinking that he is the only one holy enough to commune with God. Korah tells them that since The Lord is with the whole community of Israel, Moses should not be lifting himself up above the assembly.

Moses handles the confrontation by telling Korah and the 250 leaders that only God should decide who is holy enough to meet with Him. He tells the men to bring an offering of incense to God the next day, and then they will see who God will accept to speak with. He also tells them that they are seeing the work they currently do for God as too small a thing if being chosen and set apart from the rest of the community is not enough for them, and if they will only be satisfied if they also have a part in the priesthood. And then Moses asks them why they would also point fingers at Aaron to show them where their hearts are really at.

After the conversation with Korah, Moses sends for two other leaders that were with him named Dathan and Abiram. The men send back a message that they will not come at Moses’ bidding. From the last two verses in our reading, you can hear the disrespect and accusations in their answer to Moses. Here’s what they say…

“But they replied, “We won’t come up! Is it such a mere trifle, bringing us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert, that now you arrogate to yourself the role of dictator over us?”

Their accusation makes me wonder if they are descended from the same people who accused Moses of trying to be a dictator when he stopped the two Israelites from beating up on each other back when things first began in Egypt. Back then, instead of listening to his logic that they should pull together as a people to stand against their tormentors, the men who were fighting just accused Moses of trying to be a dictator over them. Now it’s the same story, but on a different day.

To me, a cause should have a good cause, and not just good for me or for a few followers but good for the majority or whole of the people. Salvation is a good cause because it’s good for everyone, and it’s good for eternity. Atheism, however, is not a good cause because it leaves people without a support system that is above humanity, and it threatens their eternity. Whatever the cause, or the rebellion, the important thing is to make sure no one will be hurt.

The sign in the above image is a real sign. I believe it is in Chicago, and I believe it’s similar to one I took of my husband when we visited there. And the guy is likely standing there for the same reason my husband did–because we could see no reason for a sign that told people they couldn’t stand on a public sidewalk. But what if there was a reason? What if that particular area was known for having cars come up on the curb? Or maybe it was an area where a lot of overhead construction went on and debris could fly up. I don’t know if there is a cause for the city putting up such a sign, but since that photo on Flickr is dated December of 2013, it has been there for at least a few years. Maybe the city just wants to see how many people will rebel and purposely stand in that area just to say they did it.

Rebels and the spirit of rebellion have been around since the adversary challenged Yahveh Almighty for His throne. When their causes have been good, such as the fight against Goliath or the fights against Hitler in World War II, the victories meant freedom for people that were otherwise doomed. But when the causes are bad, such as the determination of the school system to fill the minds of students with everything they can find that opposes God, the results are a restless society with chaos and violence and total dissatisfaction. There is a time to fight, and there is a time to be content. Let God be the one to lead us in how we choose our causes, and we will be content with His peace whether we’re following Him into a time of battle or a time of rest.

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

Fringe Benefits of Serving God


NMAI_Woman's "Indian Cloth" Dress (Thimble Fringe) by Flickr User Lia, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

NMAI_Woman’s “Indian Cloth” Dress (Thimble Fringe) by Flickr User Lia, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Growing up as a “Valley Girl” in Southern California, I had a lot of neighbors who moved to California from Mexico and Tijuana. Their culture, at least in the twentieth century, was consumed with color and flair. I used to love the cars that had colorful fringe and beads sewn all the way around the perimeter of the headliner. I have always liked things like clothing and pillows with fringe attached, things with tassels, and other similar fancy edgings.

Fringe usually means that little something extra that makes all the difference, whether it’s a row of dangling threads and beads or a two-week paid vacation as a hiring bonus. A job might come with fringe benefits when salary alone is not enough to attract the kind of employees the company wants to hire. A business might offer fringe benefits to customers as an incentive to return or to choose one business over another. Whatever the extra (fringe) is attached to, it generally adds value or beauty.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:27 through Numbers 15:41 (the end of the chapter), we complete this week’s reading, and we will learn that God, too, likes fringe. If you read yesterday’s post, you know I talked about the sacrifice required when the community committed a sin by mistake. Today, the reading begins with a little more on the requirements to be set free from the sins that a person might commit by accident, and it repeats the fact that there is one law, and all requirements are the same for both the community of Israel and the foreigners that live with them.

The reading then takes a more somber turn as it talks about those who do not fail by mistake but who sin on purpose. It says that any person, whether citizen or foreigner, that does something wrong intentionally is blaspheming God because he has had contempt for God’s word and disobeyed His commands. It says he will be cut off from his people completely, and it says his offense will remain with him.

That sounds harsh, but a person who does something intentionally against God does not likely have a thought in his heart about repentance or of being sorrowful for his wrong doing. We’re told in Proverbs 28:13 that to obtain mercy, a person must both confess and forsake his sins. But how can a person confess and forsake something that he doesn’t believe or care is wrong? And with the population of psychopaths and sociopaths that fill our prisons, I can certainly understand why God would want that type of people to be cut off from the rest of the community.

As our portion continues, we learn about a man who went out to gather wood on the Sabbath day. We don’t get the back story here, like whether he was sick on all the days leading up to it, or if it got colder than he expected and gathered for during the work week, or if he was simply lazy and didn’t care about God’s Sabbath or about entering into it. I’m guessing the lack of back story is why the people took him to Moses who sought God for an answer rather than just executing judgment. As it came out, God told the community to stone the man to death, so God must have known the man could have behaved better and chose not to.

And now we will see how much God likes fringe. He tells the people that He wants them to begin sewing fringe, called tzitzit in Hebrew, on the corners of all their garments, and to add a blue thread to each corner. I’ve always heard the fringe was for the corners of the prayer shawl, but this reading makes it sound as if the fringe was to go on all garments. I even looked it up in other translations. God wants the fringe on the garments to constantly remind people to obey God’s commands. It says that by looking at the fringe, they will not go around wherever their eyes and hearts lead them to prostitute themselves. God wants faithfulness, and He reminds them here that He is The Lord who brought them out of Egypt for the purpose of serving Him.

So, we get to escape an eternity of darkness, emptiness, and existence without The Lord of Love by choosing to give our lives to God and to serve Him. We escape the penalty of sin that is death. But we get so much more both now and in eternity. We get fringe benefits of serving God that go beyond mercy and straight into grace. Those benefits may be answers to prayers that are not about life and death matters, wisdom that leads us right when we need it, or a special touch of God’s presence to comfort us when we are lonely or sad. I find fringe benefits in serving God every day, even if some days I don’t notice them until after the fact. There is truly no comparison to walking with God or to the joy of dwelling in His presence.

And I’ll close with this–maybe silly–thought: As I read this, I began to wonder if this was maybe the first use of fringe. God certainly has a way with decorating. I mean, look at the beauty in nature, including the many flowers with fringed edges. There are even some birds that have fringed edges on their wings. So, did God invent fringe, or is He just good at knowing where to put it? Either way, I’m thinking that with God as the decorator, if I actually have a mansion in Heaven, I’m really going to like it. And if I get a bunch of stuff with fringed edges, that’s a benefit I’ll happily enjoy.

And with all this talk about fringe, especially in cars, how can I not include the video for the part of the movie “Oklahoma” that has the song, “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”? So, here it is…

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

A Balanced Meal


New York Steak and Rice by Flickr User Cliff Hutson aka The Marmot, CC License = Attribution

New York Steak and Rice by Flickr User Cliff Hutson aka The Marmot, 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.

Has anyone here tried quinoa? I’ve been contemplating giving it a shot because I like rice so much, and I’ve heard that quinoa is a grain that is also a complete protein, yet it absorbs other food flavor and has a texture like rice. If things slow down, I want to try a Tupperware party where we use the new metal-infused steamer to cook chicken on one level and quinoa on the next to simmer in the chicken juices. I’m intrigued with the idea but a little afraid to try something so new to me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:8 through Numbers 15:16, we’ll read about a balanced meal request from Yahveh when people offer him a meat offering. He wants all bulls, rams, male lambs, and kids offered with a partnering of a grain offering of flour and a meat offering of wine. I don’t know if rice grows (or grew) in the area where they were dwelling, but if so, the fine flour God requested could just as well have been rice flour as wheat or some other grain. Who knows, maybe they even had quinoa in that desert place.

The reading goes on to tell Israel to apply the formula of meat offering to grain offering to drink offering for every sacrifice they make, regardless of how many animals are offered. He also says this is to apply to every citizen and foreigner throughout all their generations as a permanent regulation. He then reminds them that the same Torah and standard of judgment is to apply to both citizens and foreigners living with them.

Way back then, there wasn’t the division of Jewish and Christian believers like we have now, but there was a division between those who served the God of Israel and the many false gods people created over the years. But regardless of the God or god a person was raised with, in the House of Israel, the God was The God of Israel, and His laws reigned supreme. It didn’t matter if the land they dwelt in was formerly a place where other gods were worshiped, when Yahveh Almighty came on the scene, He became what mattered most because even those that did not follow Him knew of His power and authority.

In our current world and culture, we try so hard to create balance in giving others what we expect them to give us that we often put the authority and power of Our God in the back seat. Our government–one that was supposed to have been built on the blessing of Yahveh and His Word–tries to make us allow people to come into our homes and businesses and conduct themselves as they choose rather than as we choose, and it’s as out of balance as an offering given in a different way than what God requested.

It’s not easy to stand for only our One God while refusing to bow to the gods of others, so some people try to create balance by creating things like “Chrislam” (a unification of Christianity and Islam) and saying we all serve the same god but by different names. But the fact is, if we do not adhere to the same foundations and laws, and if we do not abide by the same Word of God, we are not to be unified. If we serve the God of the Torah, and if we believe we have been grafted into the root of Israel, then we should be abiding by the laws of Yahveh in our hearts by keeping a lawful heart toward Our Creator.

Imagine the difference in just the United States of America if we applied all laws the same to all people. But we don’t. Instead, we make excuses for foreigners who “just don’t understand.” We give liberties to foreign leaders by allowing them to skate around personal responsibility while claiming “diplomatic immunity.” And, we pardon those who have skirted the laws we set for citizenship because we feel for whatever situation they are running from. We don’t have to boot them out, but we don’t have to let people just get away with everything either. God set the example even down to the details of how to present an offering that would be acceptable to Him.

We may not be able to change the laws ourselves, but we can govern our own homes, and we can vote in ways that bring spiritual balance to our country. We can stand for and support those businesses that have chosen to represent God in all their dealings both personal and business, and we can refuse to bring those that don’t under our roofs. For example, we may want to consider refusing to watch HGTV because of how they treated the Benham brothers simply because they stood for Biblical values. If we don’t bring balance according to God’s will and God’s plan, we will bring a false balance and a false peace that will end in sudden destruction.

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

Desert Breakdown


Desert wreck with cactus for seats by Crystal A Murray. Taken 05-17-2010 in Seligman, Arizona, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Desert wreck with cactus for seats by Crystal A Murray. Taken 05-17-2010 in Seligman, Arizona
CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The one place you don’t want to break down is in the desert. It’s hot, there are bugs and snakes and scorpions. It’s dry. There’s little to no water. You could die out there. And did I say that it’s hot? Yep, there are some beautiful things about the desert, like the colorful flowers on some cactus, but it’s definitely not a place to get stranded.

In today’s reading from Numbers 14:26 through Numbers 15:7, we read about a different kind of desert breakdown. In this one, there was a huge breakdown of honor and respect between the community of Israel and Yahveh, their Deliverer. The community of whiners and complainers have gotten on God’s last nerve, so He tells Moses to give them the bad news of what their complaining has brought to them.

God makes a promise that all who treated Him without honor and respect would die in their journey instead of entering into The Promised Land. He tells Moses to let the people know that their carcasses would fall and rot in the desert. On top of that, He says their children will be forced to wander the desert with them until their parents’ carcasses turn back to dust. I don’t know exactly how long that would take with the desert heat and scavengers, but God tells them they will wander for a total of forty years because their punishment is to wander one year for each day the spies were on their mission. Forty days of recon have now turned into forty years of sunburn.

But even as God is issuing this justice to those who continually failed Him, He lets them know that His eyes have been on two men from the same generation, and those two men have not failed God. Joshua and Caleb will enter the land sworn to their ancestors because they have honored God as God and respected His word with trust.

After all of this is decreed, the people are sorrowful and want to make up for their misdeeds, but again they want to do it on their terms and without either respecting or honoring God. This part really must be read to be appreciated, so here are verses 39-43 from Chapter 14 in The Message Bible

When Moses told all of this to the People of Israel, they mourned long and hard. But early the next morning they started out for the high hill country, saying, “We’re here; we’re ready—let’s go up and attack the land that God promised us. We sinned, but now we’re ready.” But Moses said, “Why are you crossing God’s command yet again? This won’t work. Don’t attack. God isn’t with you in this—you’ll be beaten badly by your enemies. The Amalekites and Canaanites are ready for you and they’ll kill you. Because you have left off obediently following GodGod is not going to be with you in this.”

Still, even with the warnings, these disobedient people did things their own way, and the Amalekites and Canaanites attacked them just as Moses said they would. Those who lived in the hill country beat the arrogant Israelites all the way back to Hormah.

The beginning of Chapter 15 talks of the sacrifices that will acceptable to God when those who do enter The Promised Land get there, so I guess this change is just to show that it’s time to focus on those who will dwell there and not spend anymore time on those who will die in the desert. I almost feel more of a sadness over the end of God’s conversation toward these people than when He was angry and threatening them.

To me, the very definition of “Hell” is eternal separation from God, and there can’t be more of a dry place than one where His presence and voice are absent. Thankfully, because our Messiah is The Lily of The Valley and The Rose of Sharon (desert), we have an advocate who will deliver us even from the dryest desert breakdown. If we are broken under the burdens of our sin, we can turn to Him for redemption and salvation. His mercy will bring us cool comfort in the dryest places of our lives, and from there, He will continue to deliver us as long as we walk with Him and show Him obedient trust.

And, here, for a little contrast to the rusty old cactus-filled clunker above, is a mosaic I put together from beautiful cactus flowers I found around Flickr. If you click on the image, you can find links in the image description to view each picture in full size and by its original photographer…

Colorful Cacti & Cactus Flower Mosaic

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

Forgive? Yes! Forget? Not Necessarily.


Forgive Anyway Quote by Flickr User BK of Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Forgive Anyway Quote by Flickr User BK of Symphony of Love, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

For as much of my life as I remember, I’ve heard that we should forgive and forget. Because of the latter half of this admonition, I’ve dealt with a lot of guilt whenever things happened that I just could not purge from my mind. I mean, how do you force yourself to forget something? But with both physical and spiritual maturity, I have realized that forgetting is not necessarily a requirement in an act of forgiveness, and forgiving when you still remember what happened may actually take more strength than trying to let go of something by simply erasing it from memory.

In today’s reading from Numbers 14:8 through Numbers 14:25, we read about the community of Israel needing to be forgiven by God. Yesterday, we saw their bad reaction to the return of spies from the Promised Land, and that they had started up again with whining to return to Egypt. Today, we see that they were so angry and frustrated with the hopelessness of facing giants in the new land that they were ready to stone Moses and Aaron, and maybe Joshua and Caleb–especially since Caleb was still trying to encourage them to be willing to fight with God on their side.

Just as they were about to take things into their own hands, the presence of God came down in a pillar of cloud to speak with Moses. He asked Moses how long the people would doubt Him in the face of all the signs and wonders He had used to prove to them that He had a plan. God even said He would destroy them all with sickness and disease, and then He said He planned to make a new nation from Moses.

But Moses began to plead with God to spare Israel and show them mercy. He didn’t beg for God to forgive them as much for their sake as for the sake of what the Egyptians would say about God if Israel was not able to enter into the Promised Land. He made the point that Egypt would hear about it because of God’s amazing deliverance of Israel from there, and that if He didn’t bring Israel to the end of the journey, the Egyptians would say He could not let them in. Moses reminded God that He had put up with them and this kind of behavior since Egypt and that He could endure it.

Imagine Moses encouraging The Almighty. He actually had a heart that wanted to protect God from being looked down on by unbelieving nations. He cared enough about God’s reputation to speak to Him as a friend who wants to protect another friend from harm generated by false accusations and slander. So when God said He spoke to Moses face to face as a friend speaks to a friend, He was seeing Moses as a true friend to Him as well as seeing Himself as a friend to Moses. How awesome is that?

As the reading comes to an end, God tells Moses that He has forgiven (not will forgive, but already has) just as Moses asked Him, but with a caveat. God says that He absolutely will not forget what the people have done after all He has had to put up with from them. He says that because they have seen His signs and His deliverance yet continued to test Him, not one of those who treated Him with contempt will see the land He promised to their ancestors. He does add, however, that because Caleb had a different spirit about Him, and because he fully followed Him, he would see the land. The chapter ends with God giving Moses a new direction for Israel to walk.

So, we can see that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting or letting someone get away with treating us badly. God withheld a blessing from those who treated Him with contempt, but He stills said they were forgiven. Considering God was ready to totally annihilate them more than once, just going without the blessing is still a big hunk of forgiveness. Israel may not have seen it that way, and they may have complained about their lack of that particular blessing, but because we see in hindsight, we know what kind of mercy God was showing them here even if He refused to forget their misbehaviors.

I prayed for many years about the guilt I felt regarding things I remembered being done against me. Some of it did need to be dealt with by a more sincere forgiveness. Some thoughts were simply memories in the same way I have remembered tastes and smells of foods that have made me sick. I have come to believe that remembering is not necessarily a bad thing, and it can save us from setting ourselves up for a fall.

Whatever the cause of an offense in our lives, we can and should forgive the offender. We should never hold bitterness because that will bring even more damage to the situation. If the offense was done by mistake and not with cruel intentions, and then we refuse to offer another chance, that means we’re being unforgiving. Refusing to let go of hurt, especially if the hurtful thing was followed with an apology or an act of repentance, also means we are not being forgiving, and it means we need to examine ourselves. However, just because we remember a wrong done against us, does not mean we are being bitter or unforgiving, and just because we think it’s right that a person pays for a wrong done (to us or anyone else) does not mean we are unforgiving. We should always look deeper to make sure we don’t harbor an unforgiving spirit that could create a wedge between us and our Creator, but we also need to remember God’s example in today’s reading. It is always good to forgive, but it is not always good to forget.

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

I Spy Games


Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, 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 spy with my little eye, something giant. Traveling is the most fun when you have people to travel with, and even more fun when you play travel games together. When hubby and I traveled with the boys, we played games like “I Spy,” “A to Z” where you have to find something beginning with all the letters in the alphabet, and any variety of word association games. Hubby and I still like to play the one where each person says the next thing that comes to mind from the previous person’s word or statement, and we don’t even wait for long trips to be an excuse to play.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:21 through Numbers 14:7, we’ve got the leaders from yesterday’s reading actually in The Land of Canaan to spy it out for God’s people to move in. They ran their recon mission from the wilderness of Zin to the entrance of Hamath, and then up into the south desert of Hebron. When they got there, they saw the wonderful fruit of the land of Eshcol (meaning “cluster”), and they cut a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on the shoulders of two men.

But then they spied the inhabitants of the land. Of course, giant fruit means giant people to eat it, right? They saw the sons of Anak who were likely descended from Nephilim (giants that were said to be half angels and half men), and they suddenly felt like grasshoppers by comparison. But God only sent them there to look at things, not to compare themselves until they saw themselves as too small to make a difference. Hmm, I wonder if I have ever done that? 🙂

Now they get back to Moses, and they begin to tell him of their journey. “It’s just like you said, Moses. It flows with milk and honey. And, wow, check out this fruit. But…” Ah, the “but” sentence. How often do we use it to excuse away a wonderful gift God has prepared for our lives? “But, what if I can’t succeed?” “But what if they don’t like me?” “But what if someone gets mad?” Of course, there’s a big difference in questioning things because you’re using wisdom to count the cost and questioning things because you’re scared to receive something promised to you by Your Creator.

Most people find it easier to see the glass as half empty, so when the travelers came back from their spy game with scary stories of giants and fortified cities, the children of Israel suddenly lost all hope in the promises of God. The people of the camp wept all night long because of their hopelessness. As if the fear of the unknown isn’t enough of a battle, to top it off with a good dose of discouragement made it just that much worse. Well, for most of them anyway.

Joshua and Caleb refused to agree with the other ten members of the jury. They chose to believe the word of God, and Caleb tried to quiet the people with encouragements. He said, “We ought to go up immediately and take possession of it; there is no question that we can conquer it.” But the people wouldn’t listen. Instead, they listened to the negative reports and began complaining to Moses that they wished they had stayed in Egypt. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people, and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and said to the whole community, “The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land!

God’s word tells us that God has only good plans for us, and that He will do far more than we can even ask or think, but if you’re like me, you struggle with knowing exactly what it is that He has promised. I trust God that His perfect will is better than whatever blessings I can conceive, but there are some that believe it is a lack of faith to just let go and let God. Truthfully, I have no problem claiming the promises of God if I am sure they are from Him, but my struggle is with the knowing. I’d love to believe that no one who serves God will ever have to deal with sickness or trouble, but that doesn’t line up with even what His own disciples went through. So I will make my requests to God with the humility of knowing that He has already done more for me than I deserve or can repay. I spy with my little eye that His word promises me an eternity where God will wipe away ever tear from my eye, and where pain, death, and sorrow will be no more, and that makes this race of life worth running to the end.

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

Scout it Out


Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, CC License = Attribution

Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, 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.

Many years ago, I was a “Girl Scout,” but I wasn’t in it long enough to figure out why we were called scouts. Maybe it had something to do with preparedness. Hubby always says he could not be a scout in the military because he doesn’t pay enough attention to little details. Me, I might pay too much attention to the little things. In a recent TV western I watched about Bat Masterson (the man who became a legend in his own time), a scout made all the difference in catching the bad guys who got ambushed after the scout had passed, so it’s a pretty important position to hold.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:1 through Numbers 13:20, we begin a new portion, Parashah 37, This one is called Shlach L’kha in Hebrew and means “Send on Your Behalf,” It tells of the men whom God is gathering from the ancestral tribes to go before the rest of the people to scout out the land of Canaan. Moses chooses leading men from among the people of Israel, one from each tribe (listed in the link), and sends them out from the Paran Desert.

Many of the names listed should sound familiar, including Joshua and Caleb, but until this reading, I was unaware that Moses renamed Joshua from Hosea. As I understand it from teaching I’ve received so far, his original name means “salvation,” and his new name means “God’s salvation.” What a name to give someone who is about to scout out the promises of God for a whole nation of people.

So Moses sends the men on their recon mission, and he tells them to take notice of things like the people who live there, if there are just a few or a lot of people, and if the people are strong or weak. He also tells them to take notice of the land. He says to see if the land is good or bad, fertile or unfertile, whether it has many cities or just a few, and whether the cities are open or fortified. As a last order, Moses tells the men to be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit from the land, and he sends them out right after the first grapes have begun to ripen.

I’ve heard a lot of messages about this story, and usually they have been about it being a lack of faith to send scouts ahead to claim a land that God has already promised. But in reading it more closely, the scouting of it is God’s idea. I believe it is all about proper prior preparation, and it is actually an act of faith to find out what movements and tools will be needed to claim God’s promises. God does not expect us to walk by ignorant faith when we have His wisdom to guide us and light our way. Luke 14:28 (CJB) puts it this way…

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Don’t you sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough capital to complete it?”

And we read in Psalm 127:1 of the Common English Bible (CEB)

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
    the guard on duty is pointless.

God is not only the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but we’re also promised in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a great work within us is sure to finish it within us. That means that even our scouting and recon missions can be done in faith because we know that He is the One who started it all, promised it all, and will finish it all. Truly, He is the Alpha and Omega in and of all things.

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

A Grave Situation


Flooded Graves in Mexico by Flickr User bigdadventures aka David, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Flooded Graves in Mexico by Flickr User bigdadventures aka David, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

The dictionary says that when grave is used as an adjective, it means things like “serious,” “solemn,” and giving cause for alarm. I would say that makes walking in a way that causes God to be either hurt or angry is a grave situation, especially on the definition of solemn. I think it would do us well to take more time for self-examination to check not only our behaviors but the attitudes and motivations behind them.

In today’s reading from Numbers 11:30 through Numbers 12:16, we read about some people that most certainly should have taken things a lot more seriously. If you read yesterdays Scriptures or post, you know that the people were complaining over a lack of meat, so God promised so much quail that it would come out their noses and they’d be sick of it. Today, the wind comes in and brings with it piles of quail.

As the reading continues, it says that while the meat was still in the people’s mouths, God becomes angry and strikes them with a plague that kills all those who were greedy. Because so many died there, the place was called in Hebrew, Kivrot-HaTa’avah meaning “Graves of Greed,” Yesterday, it said the greedy ones were the strangers that lived with the community of Israel, so I don’t know if they were the only ones to die, or if it was all who gathered in the piles of the birds. It is against God’s law to eat animals that are dead by reasons other than men killing them for their meat, so if the birds came in on a wind already dead, they would not have been okay to eat. The strangers would not have known that, but if any children of Israel gathered the birds, they would have known, so that could be what kindled God’s anger.

Now we switch chapters and we go to Miriam and Aaron talking against their brother, Moses, for marrying a Kushite woman. In their criticism of him, they start asking why he thinks he’s so special because he hears from God. They state that God likely speaks to them as well. So God comes down in the column of cloud and calls Miriam and Aaron to the Tent of Meeting. He explains that He does in fact talk to men who are prophets, but that He mostly talks to them in dreams and visions. He goes on to tell them that Moses is the only one who is faithful enough to Him that He talks to him face to face.

When they walk away from the meeting, Miriam is suddenly completely white with leprosy. When Moses sees it, he begs God not to let Miriam die as a baby born with parts of its body rotting away from the time it leaves the womb. God agrees to take away the plague from her, but He says that since she would have to be put out of the camp for seven days if someone simply spit on her, she must be put out of the camp for a week because of the leprosy as well. After she comes back in, the community is ready to move on, and they travel to the Paran desert.

Like I said yesterday, when I read about things that cause God to get angry, I feel a strong need to examine myself to make sure I am not wrapped up in the same types of sin. I know I have an advocate in Christ and His blood over me, but I figure that if something made God angry at one time, He doesn’t feel any less affected by it just because there is a blood covering over it. I think about the song that says, “Does He still feel the nails every time I fail? Does He hear the crowd say ‘Crucify,’ again? Am I causing Him pain; then I know that I must change. I just can’t bear the thought of hurting Him.”

Even if I could get away with every type of sin that is available on this earth, I don’t want to do anything that would hurt my Lord and Savior. I don’t want to do anything that would drive even the slightest bit of wedge between me that my Wonderful Creator. I don’t want to allow anything into my life that would open up even a tiny crevice for the enemy (who is an enemy both of me and of God) to find a camping spot in me. I know I’m not perfect, and I know I fail daily, but I do not want to excuse my failures–only humbly beg God to forgive me because I don’t deserve it but gratefully receive it. It is truly a grave situation when someone who claims to love Yahveh Almighty can commit sin that hurts Him without feeling broken when He confronts their behavior. May I never get to that point, and if you agree with me, may you never get there either. As King David said in Psalm 51:17 (NLT), “…You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Amen.

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

Cheap Talk and Whine


No Whining by Flickr User Rachael Voorhees, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

No Whining by Flickr User Rachael Voorhees, CC License = Attribution, 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.

When I read in the Scriptures of people whose whining upset Yahveh, my first reaction is to look at myself and check to see if I have been hanging out at the complaint department window too much myself. It’s easy to do, especially in our current culture of constant comfort seeking and bad attitudes caused by lack of rest and improper diets. Add to those things the media blitz of commercials advertising the stuff we can’t possibly live without any longer, and whining becomes almost second nature.

In today’s reading from Numbers 10:29 through Numbers 11:29, we see a few different personalities from the people of Israel, and some of them are not pretty. The reading begins with Moses trying to convince Hobab, the son of Moses’ father-in-law, to travel to the promised land with Israel. He wants to go home to his own people, but Moses convinces him that he’ll be blessed because of the promises God gives to Israel. In the next verse, the people are heading in that direction, so I guess he convinced him. I don’t think the Midianites served the God of Israel, so this may have been the first recorded act of proselytizing.

As the journey begins, the Scripture talks about Moses reaction to the movements of The Ark of the Covenant. When it was lifted to move forward, Moses would shout a praise to The Lord and a blessing that His enemies would be scattered. When it was set down again to rest. Moses said, “Return, Adonai of the many, many thousands of Israel!” But while Moses was shouting praises, the same could not be said of the others on the journey with him. Instead, the people complained so much that they stirred up God’s anger until He broke out against them with fire and consumed the edges of the camp. Oh, if only they had taken Moses’ example and spent their time praising their deliverer.

Some of the complaining from the people came from the mixed crowd with whom they were traveling. The strangers became greedy for comfort and got the people complaining about the provision of mannah. The people started crying and whining about the lack of meat and spices until God finally told them they would have a full month of meat, and they would eat so much that it would be coming out of their noses–and they would hate it. When they should have be content with God’s provision for them, they were ungrateful and wishing they were back in their bondage.

By now, Moses was beginning his own whining, but it did not appear to be the type that made Adonai angry. Moses asks God why He is allowing the burden of all the people to rest solely on him, especially if He is pleased with all that Moses is doing. God understands and tells Moses to choose seventy leaders of Israel with whom he can share his burden. God takes some of the burden off of Moses and places it on the seventy elders who begin to prophesy whenever God’s Spirit rested on them.

As we get to the end of today’s reading, we find two men in the camp named Eldad and Medad, and the Spirit of God comes to rest on them, so they begin to prophesy in the camp. A young man runs to tell Moses about it, and when Joshua hears about it, he tells Moses that he should make them stop. But Moses tells Joshua that he wished all of God’s people were prophets and that God would put His Spirit on all of them.

I can understand Moses sentiments in the last paragraph. After hearing the people whine and complain and seeing what that brought upon the people, Moses would want them all to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit for their own protection as much as to relieve him of some of his burden. When I see people follow after the things of the soul (the mind, will, and emotions) instead of after the things of the spirit, I get frustrated and wish more people would seek God from the depths of their hearts. The things of the soul can imitate the spirit (which is how we get false prophets), but we’re told that the “soulish” man won’t receive things from God. It is far better to let God’s Spirit take over our spirit-man and be led by God’s truth, and then we will be sensitive to the moving of God, so we can lift up genuine shouts of praise to Him instead of spending our prayer times caught up in the “why me” syndrome or in depressing cheap talk and whining.

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

Corporate Travel Policies for Israel


Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Camel Rides in Egypt by Flickr User Jeremy Jones, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
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 have great travel memories all the way back to times as a small child when most of my car travel included long naps in the backseat. I still love the atmosphere of a truck stop early in the morning just before the sun comes up because I remember that first stop on a drive we started at about 4am. That time of day, the idling truck engines create a steady hum, and in the late spring and early summer, there is is just enough crispness in the dew-filled air to chill you awake. That first stop on a long trip is also still charged with excitement about both the journey and the destination.

In today’s reading from Numbers 10:11 through Numbers 10:28, we read about the beginnings of travel for the community of Israel. I don’t know if they had any camels, but I imagine a camel ride would be preferable to a very long walk. The journey ahead would take the children of Israel from the Sinai Desert to the Paran Desert as the pillar of cloud led them. This was Israel’s first journey, and the Scripture says they followed according to all of God’s words to Moses. In other words, they adhered to God’s corporate travel policies.

As they traveled, they moved by companies and leaders, and the divided movement allowed the Levites to take down and carry the tabernacle according to God’s direction. The descendants of K’hat who carried the tabernacle were ahead of the other tribes, so that the tabernacle could already be set up by the time the rest of the community of Israel arrived. You can click on the above link to read the exact divisions of camps and leaders as they traveled in the orderly fashion directed by their travel agent, Moses, according to all the instruction He received from God.

While I still love going places, travel is not as easy for me with having to carry a CPAP machine, get someone to care for my kitty cats, and the general issues with age and pain. But I imagine things were quite a bit rougher for a people that had to carry their entire house and home with them as they moved along. Still, I wonder if they got excited to see where God was going to take them next. They knew their stops were temporary because they knew their final destination was “The Promised Land,” but each step along the way must’ve held some excitement as they knew it was getting them closer to home.

Even with the enjoyment I find in traveling, seeing new sites, visiting with those I love, and finding fun things to do along the way, there is nothing like getting back home and back into my regular routine. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it well when she said, “There’s no place like home.” For believers in Messiah who trust in the promises we will receive after He comes back for His own, we know that our stops in this temporary life are steps to move us closer to that place we long for, that place we will one day call “home” for eternity. In the meantime, if we move forward according to God’s travel plans, we can enjoy the journey.

As I finished this post, I thought about an old song by Johnny Cash called “Over the Next Hill We’ll Be Home” and I’ve found it here sung by him and June. It even includes his notes about writing it. Enjoy…

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

Blow the Trumpet in Zion


Wake Up! The alarm is going off, and the time has come to arise.

I use an alarm on my phone that allows you to type in whatever message you like, so you can remind yourself of why you have set the alarm. Unless I need to put in a specific reminder, the default message reads, “Wake up, Sweetie.” I did it that way on purpose because I’m not one who likes to be startled awake. Sometimes, it’s hard to pull myself out of sleep mode and realize the alarm is not just in my dream, but a gentle reminder works better for me than a loud blaring alarm.

In our reading today from Numbers 9:15 through Numbers 10:10, we read about the alarms God says to sound before His people. But first, the reading starts out talking about the cloud of God’s presence over the tabernacle. I almost named the blog “I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now,” but since the majority of the reading talks of sounding the alarm, I decided to use that as a title–and an excuse to include the inspiring praise video.

God showed the children of Israel when to move and when to stay by the cloud of His presence. If He settled on the tabernacle, the community knew to stay. If the cloud lifted from the tabernacle, the community knew it was time to travel. Whether the cloud stayed for a week, a month, a year, or just overnight, the people camped for as long as it was there. And as soon as the cloud lifted, the people rose up with it.

In addition to knowing God wanted them to travel, the people learned to find the exact time to travel by listening for the sound of the trumpet. God told Moses to make two trumpets of hammered silver. He told Moses they would be used both for summoning the community and for telling Israel when to break camp and move on. When the alarm was used for summoning the community, one blast meant that only the leaders were to gather at the tabernacle, and two blasts meant the entire community was to assemble before the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

God told Moses to sound different alarms for different events. Some alarms told which camp was to begin traveling. Some proclaimed war with an oppressive enemy. Some proclaimed celebration, like the alarm that was sounded at the beginning of each month, called Rosh Hodesh in Hebrew. And some were sounded along with the sacrifices offered before God. The call to assembly was not to be one of alarm. All trumpet calls were to be given by the sons of Aaron, the priesthood, according to the permanent regulation of Yahveh.

Alarms aren’t always fun to hear when they first go off, especially if they are used to wake us from sleep, but sometimes they can signify a great day ahead. We set our alarms for regular events, like going to work, but we also set them for special events, like weddings and graduations. Our purposes in setting alarms may often be different, but our reason–that is to get up and move toward a specific event–is always the same.

God’s word has both warning and inspiration, and both require us to move from wherever we are to wherever He wants us to go. Let us hear the alarm He sets in our hearts, and let us wake up to whatever He is calling us to do, whether it is to sound the alarm to the lost around us, or to sound the alarm to ourselves that we will wake and watch with Him. Blow the trumpet in Zion: The Messiah has come to save and deliver us, and He is coming again to take us home. Halleluyah!

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

Failure to Lunch


Seder Plate by Flickr User Dara Skolnick, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Seder Plate by Flickr User Dara Skolnick, CC License = Attribution, 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.

In many areas of my life, I’m a totally disorganized person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like organization. I like knowing that our local Christian writer’s group always meets on the 2nd Saturday of the month. I like knowing that the free country music concert night for Christian Country Cowboy Church is always the last Friday of the month. Most of the time, those certainties make it easier to join my fellow writer and Christian friends for some enjoyable fellowship. I like to meet with smaller groups of friends as well for things like lunch at a local restaurant, but I’ve also been known to totally forget a lunch date because I don’t have a repetitive certainty to keep it in my mind.

In today’s reading from Numbers 9:1 through Numbers 9:14, God talks to Moses about the people’s celebration of Passover, Pesach in Hebrew. Since we celebrated Passover early last month, I talked a little about it during my posts at that time. It is a holy celebration created for the purpose of learning to observe God’s teachings and not forget all He has done for His people. There are a lot of observations that make up the retelling of God’s deliverance of Israel, including the seder meal. The image above is of a beautiful seder plate with some of the food items visible, including the horseradish with beet juice that represents the bitter herb called maror in Hebrew.

The portion today talks of following all the observances for this feast on the fourteenth day of the first month, beginning at dusk. God tells Moses that the people are to observe it according to all the regulations and rules. Those regulations and rules include being clean in order to celebrate, so the reading talks of those who were made unclean by a corpse and therefore would be unable to observe the Passover.

God tells Moses that for those who are unclean, and for those who were away on a trip during Passover, that they can celebrate their Passover on the fourteenth day of the second month instead. He tells them that even though they are not celebrating at the regular time, they are still to observe it by keeping all the regulations and rules. He also tells them to keep it with the use of matzah and bitter herbs. I’m not sure if this means they are supposed to keep the entire week of unleavened bread that follows on the heels of Passover, or if it is because that feast is passed that God is telling them to make sure to use unleavened bread with their Passover meal.

I realize through this teaching that God does not want anyone to miss out, and He does not want anyone to fail–even at having dinner (or lunch). He likes organization, so He set up these feasts on specific days (which vary on our Christian calendar) to make sure people would be more likely to keep them. But because He knows our form, He knows that things happen, like a death in the family, that can change everything, so He created an option for those who could not stick to the original way of doing things.

But the reading says a couple of interesting things about the option that God created. First, as I mentioned, it says to keep it all the same regulations and rules. That means that when God gives us a break on something, He doesn’t expect us to come back and try to make up for our failure with a half-hearted effort. We should be grateful for the chance to have a “do-over” and put our best effort in play to show our appreciation.

The next thing God says about using an option to observing things exactly as He arranged them is that if a person is clean and in town, they are required to celebrate the feast on the actual feast day. To me, this says that if we can, we are required to keep our behaviors lined up with God’s will. His mercy is not an excuse to slack in our efforts to walk according to His word. We don’t get to just say something like, “Hey, I don’t feel like doing Passover this month, so I’ll do mine with those who observe it next month.”

If we fail to lunch (or celebrate Passover dinner, or observe any holy day or feast or law) at the appropriate time, we have mercy through the blood of Yeshua. We can be forgiven if we forget to meet for lunch with a friend, and we can be forgiven if we forget to light our Sabbath candles until well after sunset, but just because we can be forgiven doesn’t mean we should make habits out of these things. If we don’t at least feel conviction, how can we honestly repent?

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

Close Enough to Perfect


Not Always Perfect by Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Not Always Perfect by Former Flickr User marsmet472, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I remember an old Hemphill’s song that was mostly sung for children but can easily apply to any one of us doing our best to live for God while we dwell here on earth. It included the chorus lyrics…

He’s still workin’ on me,
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me.

I’m not perfect by any means, but I am thankful that line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, God is still building and making me closer and closer to His perfect image. There will come a day when I (and all of God’s people) will be like Him, when we see Him as He is, but until then, we can be thankful that He knows our forms, and that He gives us a mercy that is new every morning.

In today’s reading from Numbers 8:15 through Numbers 8;26 (the end of the chapter) we see a people that are also not yet perfect, and we see a God who is perfect. We also see a people who are not holy enough to approach a perfect and holy God without dying in His presence, but because God wants His people in His presence, He creates a proxy of people that can come before Him on their behalf.

The Levites are once again cleansed and presented before God as an offering, and they work in and around the tabernacle to keep the rest of the community of Israel from coming too close to God’s perfection. Because the Levites are accepted by God in the stead of all the firstborn of people and animals that belong to Him, they are an acceptable offering so that He will not cause any plagues to come upon the people of Israel.

The community of Israel obeys the orders of Yahveh that are given to Moses concerning the Levites. They cleanse them and present them as an offering, and God accepts them. Then the Levites do their service as ordered by God. The Levites told to serve are all those between twenty-five and fifty years of age. The Levites older than fifty are told to assist in the tabernacle services, but they are not to do any actual work in the tabernacle.

I’m grateful that God established the Levitical priesthood to make sure that He could always have a people to whom He could draw near, but I’m even more grateful now that Yeshua has become my permanent high priest, so that I can always draw near to My Creator. I need to walk in God’s presence to make it through the troubles and trials of this world, so having a proxy tribe to step in for me is not close enough to “Perfect” (God’s perfect presence) for me.  Because of Christ, I do not have to fear getting too close to the tabernacle in an unholy state that would bring me plagues because His cleansing blood perfects me and allows me to come boldly before God’s throne of grace. I will be perfected in His presence one day, but until then, being able to walk in His presence each moment of every day of my life is close enough to perfect for me.

Now, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song mentioned above, He’s Still Workin’ On Me…

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

Razor Burn


Clean and Shaven by Flickr User Stefan Ray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Clean and Shaven by Flickr User Stefan Ray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
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 have cats. Not just one cat, and not just one color of cat. That means I also have hair on stuff. Not just one hair, and not just one color of hair. My cat’s hair likes to travel with me wherever I go. If I wear dark colored clothing, I wear light-colored cat hair with it. If I wear light-colored clothing, I wear dark cat hair with it. But I love my kitties, so I carry a lint roller. But there are times I wish I could just take a razor and shave off all their cat hair, so maybe I wouldn’t run late to all the places because of forgetting that I needed extra time to try to get all the hair to stick to the roller instead of me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 8:1 through Numbers 8:14, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 36 is called, in Hebrew, B’ha’alotkha, which means “When You Set Up” in English. In this reading, God is giving Moses more information on setting up the tabernacle, and He begins by talking about the menorah. We get a description of the menorah, how it is a work of hammered gold, and then God tells Moses to make sure to have Aaron light the lamps in such a way that the light shows in front of the menorah.

The next section talks of pulling the Levites out from among the rest of the Israelites to prepare them for the service of the tabernacle. The first thing God tells Moses to do after separating the Levites is to cleanse them, and then He gives instructions on exactly how to cleanse them. They are to completely shave their bodies, and then they are to wash their bodies and their clothing. After they are cleansed, they will bring sacrifices, and then Aaron can present them to all the people.

As I searched for pictures to represent the clean shave, I came across a number of different types of shavers and razors. Suddenly, I thought about how much those Levites might have appreciated some of the shavers we use today. I wonder just how much they had to deal with razor burn after shaving desert-toughened skin with a straight-edge.

And that leads me to another type of cleansing where the Word of God which is sharper than a two-edged sword is able to shave off the layers of sin that threaten to keep us separated from Our Creator. His Word will cut as deeply as necessary to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, so we can be free. But sometimes, even when we know something is bad for us, we resist allowing God to cut it away. But if we will trust God and allow Him to coat us with the oil of the Holy Spirit, we can freely get rid of our five-o-clock shadow of sin instead of resisting until we end up with spiritual razor burn.

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

The Chuck Wagon Gang


I have a lot of old gospel favorite songs and a few favorite groups, but the one that covers both is called “The Chuck Wagon Gang.” I grew up listening to their album titled “Hallelujah” with songs such as “If We Never Meet Again,” “Happy and Free,” “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” and–the one I sang most with my sister and my mom–“I’m Bound for the Land of Canaan.” The history of this group can be found here, at their official website, and it spans over 75 years.

Today’s reading from Numbers 7:72 through Numbers 7:89 (the end of the chapter) brings a close to our week and the portion. It covers the last two days of offerings which were brought in by the leaders of the tribes of Asher and Naphtali. After twelve days of offerings, there were wagons and wagons of gifts for the priests to use in the tabernacle and for their own living. (It’s the reference to covered wagons at the beginning of the description of the caravan that led me to share my favorite group because of the name.)

The reading gives a breakdown of the total items offered if you want to read it yourself. In summary, there were silver vessels, gold vessels, bulls, rams, lambs, and goats. All this was given as offering in dedication of the altar after it had been anointed.

The reading concludes with what could almost be an introduction to the next chapter as God calls Moses into The Holy of Holies to speak with Him. The voice of Yahveh spoke from above the ark cover over the Ark of the Covenant from between the two angels.

Since there’s not much more to say on this subject with it being the third day of it, I will close now and bid Shabbat Shalom to all my readers. Blessings to you, and I hope you enjoy the music. I have been unable to find a good video of “Canaan Land,” but here are a few other Chuck Wagon Gang song videos I really like…

Jesus Hold My Hand

Looking for a City (Live Recording)

Church in the Wildwood

And here’s a 38 minute video with a variety of songs

I’ll keep looking for a link to somewhere you can hear “I’m Bound for the Land of Canaan.”

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

God is Just


Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball

Book Cover for Shattered Justice (Family Honors Series, Book I) by Karen Ball
Click the book cover image to open a new tab/window for the book page at Amazon.

God is just. No matter what we may see, feel, imagine, or think, that is an absolute fact. Sometimes it feels like He is far away, maybe even ignoring us, but He always knows what He is doing, and He will always answer the right answer in the right time. This world has so much injustice, which by definition means justice is not done, so we may wonder what God is doing as we watch the innocent suffer and the criminals prevail, but there is an eternity of true justice in our future if we trust God.

In today’s reading from Numbers 7:42 through Numbers 7:71, we get a little more of a glimpse of what our future world might be like as we see more of Israel’s leaders bringing gifts for the wilderness tabernacle. I say it’s a glimpse of our future world because right at this moment of our reading, we’re only seeing the well-oiled workings of people in obedience to Their Creator. In addition to obedience, these men are gathering love offerings to help keep the ministry moving forward, and the offerings are abundant.

For just a quick rundown, yesterday’s reading covered days one through five in the list of those bringing gifts to the priests, and today covers days six through ten. Yesterday’s givers included representation from the tribes of Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, and Simeon. Today’s givers include representation from the tribes of Gad, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and Dan. On both days, the gifts included silver, gold, grains and oils for sacrifices, animals for sacrifices, and much more. And, again, I recommend reading the linked passage above for complete details.

Now, I’m going to go in a totally different direction here and use something from the reading to jump off into a quick book review. One of the leaders of Israel, the one from the tribe of Benjamin, is named “Avidan.” That is the name of the main character from book one of the Family Honors trilogy by Karen Ball. Avidan means “God is Just.”

I’ve read all three of the books in the trilogy, and they are some of my favorite books. The three books are about three siblings in the Justice family, and each sibling gets the focus of one book, though all the siblings show up in all the books. The characters all became so real to me that now, years later, I still want to find the little town in Oregon where they lived and try to meet all three of them. 🙂

Book one is called Shattered Justice, and it focuses on the story of Avidan, aka Deputy Sheriff Dan. Dan is the law in a small town that has its share of big problems. He faces more than most of us could deal with, and it shatters his sense of justice. In a “Job-like” storyline, we watch Dan go through his trials in very human ways as he struggles to find the help he knows God promises his children. As readers, we get to see the people God sows into Dan’s life to give him strength to face each new trial and an uncertain future, and we get to watch Dan discover why these people are there as he needs them.

I’m struggling to figure out what to tell that won’t be considered spoilers, though knowing things ahead of time does not hinder the reading. I read the books out of order since book two, “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” was the first one recommended to me, and I read it before realizing it was part of a series. The affect it had on my reading of book one was simply that I was prepared to cry at any moment because I knew bad things were going to happen, but the story still surprised me with just how they happened.

I want to just say, “Trust me, this book and series is worth reading,” but I know people want reasons for that, so I’ll just add that if you have ever experienced struggles that seemed impossible to get through, read this great piece of fiction with realistic events and emotions to find hope. By the time you get to the end of Dan’s struggles to come back from blaming and rejecting God, you will see how, even in the face of tragedy, God is just.

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

The Welcome Wagon


Ghost Ranch Welcome Wagon by Flickr User Angi English, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Ghost Ranch Welcome Wagon by Flickr User Angi English, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What a marvelous array of images you get when doing an image search for the words “welcome wagon” on Flickr. I was torn between the one above, one that showed a wagon that said “Needles, California” on it (because I’ve been there, and I can tell you stories), and the one with the words “Welcome to Calaveres County” because of the tie into a famous writer. I decided on the one that actually said “welcome wagon” in the description, plus it’s a beautiful image.

In today’s reading from Numbers 7:1 through Numbers 7:41, we will read about all kinds of welcome wagons. Knowing that the term actually means “a wagon full of necessities for new residents to make them feel welcome” makes the details in the reading just that much better.

We begin with Moses as he finishes putting up the tabernacle. He consecrates and anoints all the furnishings and articles used in tabernacle service and is greeted by the leaders of the clans of Israel bringing him an offering. They brought him six covered wagons (a wagon for every two leaders) and twelve oxen. Moses receives the offerings and then directs them to be given to the appropriate Levites. He divides up the wagons to the clans based on their tabernacle service, so he gives 2 wagons and 4 oxen to Gershon, 4 wagons and 8 oxen to Merari, and no wagons or oxen to K’hat because their service only uses the holy things of the tabernacle.

The rest of the reading details the gifts received by five of the twelve tribes, and it appears they each present their gifts on a different day. The next two days of reading will details the gifts from the rest of the tribes. You can read the Scriptures for yourself if you want to see exactly what each tribe gave, and I will add notes if anything about their gifts speaks to me somehow. I do recommend that visitors click the links I provide for Bible reading because you can do so without leaving my blog, and the readings may speak to you in ways it does not speak to me.

I do find it amazing how the whole community of Israel pulled together with offerings to make sure the operations of the tabernacle were fully provided for. Of course, unlike our churches and fellowships now, the tabernacle represented their place of salvation, so it was important to keep it operational to keep the people free from sin. The tabernacle was a place where representatives met with the presence of Yahveh to keep Him from being angry with the community, so it was also necessary for going forward with day to day life.

For us now, we have The Holy Spirit (called The Ruach HaKodesh in Hebrew) dwelling within us and willing to walk with us through our daily lives. We no longer have to gather around a building or bring offerings to a priesthood in order to be free of our sins because Yeshua became our High Priest and allows us to bring our confessions and sacrifices directly to Him. That is why we can now come boldly before His throne–to GIVE Him our repentance and offerings to show we are serious about it. It actually hurts me to hear preaching that tells people to come boldly to GET something from God because I know the people are missing out by having a “taking” spirit instead of a giving one. God’s “welcome wagon” has always worked on a “give and it shall be given” basis, and if we give Him our hearts, He will give us more than we can conceive.

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

Purity Testing & The Nazarite Vow


Testing Lab by Flickr User USDAgov, CC License = Attribution

Testing Lab by Flickr User USDAgov, 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.

It sure seems hard to find anything or anyone that is truly pure anymore. Even when you find shows that are “pure” for the most part, you must endure commercials that are not. It’s like trying to find pure seeds that have not been affected by the farm next door that is growing genetically modified crops. Everything around us seems to be seeking to bring us out of a state of purity and into a state of chaos.

In today’s reading from Numbers 5:11 through Numbers 6:27 (the end of the chapter), we have a long reading with God telling Moses how to have the priests deal with matters of impurity. I chose the image of the lab above because it reminded me of what the office of the high priest might look like today if God still wanted purity testing done. It’s a pretty detailed process that God lays out, but it’s interesting to read about.

If a man becomes jealous of his wife because he thinks she cheated on him, he is to bring her to the high priest for a test of her purity. The husband comes in with a sacrifice for his own spirit of jealousy, and then the wife meets with the priest who performs a ritual to see if she really has been unfaithful. The ritual involves water, a clay pot, and some dust, and if the woman is found guilty, she receives a curse that her private parts will shrivel and her abdomen will swell. I think that would be enough to keep a woman faithful, don’t you? Read it for yourself if you want to see the details of the ritual.

The next part of the reading concerns men who want to take the Nazarite vow. This is the same vow that Samson took, and it includes not cutting the hair, not drinking any wine or other alcohol, and not ever touching anything dead. Again, it has a lot of details, which is why the reading is so long, but it’s actually quite interesting. It is in my plans to go read it in The Message Bible as well, to see how he deals with it in a more poetic type of writing. But there is a poetic end to the reading that some of you may be aware of. It is called the Aaronic blessing and it goes like this from The Complete Jewish Bible…

24 Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.
[May Adonai bless you and keep you.]
25 Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekka.
[May Adonai make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]
26 Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.
[May Adonai lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’

And just a quick note before I close tonight: Most of the images we see of The Messiah have Him with long hair because of this Nazarite vow. The confusion comes in the crossover of the words “Nazarite” and “Nazarene.” Yeshua was a Nazarene because He was born in Nazareth, but He did not take the Nazarite vow as evidenced by His touching the young girl to raise her from the dead. So, if you didn’t know this already, you can say you’ve learned something today. And with that, may the blessing above be upon all of my readers and followers, and upon the whole community of those who love Our Almighty Creator, Yahveh. Amen!

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

Paying Our IOUs


IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, CC License = Attribution

IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, 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.

If someone hurts you, even unintentionally, isn’t it nice to get an apology that says the person really cares how the hurtful behavior affected you? And if that hurt cost you something, isn’t it even nicer when the person who did the hurting makes an effort to make restitution? Knowing how nice that is, I’m sure you can agree that when you make apologies and restitutions for your own poor behaviors that you are doing more than just making up for a wrong, you are becoming a blessing.

In today’s reading from Numbers 5:1 through Numbers 5:10, God is giving Moses more instruction for how to keep the community of Israel peaceful. God wants to make sure the camp will not be defiled because that is where He lives among the people, and making restitution for wrongs done to others is one way to keep the camp a pleasant place for Our Creator to dwell.

The reading begins with instructions on putting the diseased outside the camp. Now, I don’t think God felt He might catch anything, so His instructions for keeping people on the outside until they were healed was for the benefit of everyone else in the camp. If a lot of people became diseased, or better said “in a state of dis ease,” there would be chaos in the camp instead of peace. Better to not have people running around with anxiety and rejecting every person with a suspicious spot on his or her skin.

The portion goes on to talk about actual restitution by telling Moses to make sure that all debts against another are paid. It says that if a man or woman commits a sin against another human being, that person incurs guilt for breaking faith with Yahveh. When that happens, the person must confess his wrongdoing and make full restitution for his guilt plus add twenty percent to give to the victim of his sin. This restitution is in addition to the ram offering of restitution, and it’s so important, that if the victim has no family to receive the restitution, it is still to be paid but given to the priests.

The last statement given for keeping the camp at peace is a reminder that whatever the people of Israel consecrate to the high priest belongs to him. It is his property, and he will decide how to divide it among the rest of the priests. This means that if we promise something toward God’s work, it belongs to that ministry even before we give it, so we should keep our word. I admit that I have too easily made promises out of heightened emotion without checking with my husband or my calendar first, but I hope I have kept those promises and paid those debts because I don’t want to be spending someone else’s money or time as my own.

As for restitution, I know we often think of the blood of Christ as paying for all of our debts in full, and in a very big way, that is totally correct–in the way of paying for the wages of sin that would be death. But I think God wants us to make restitution when we can for more than the reason of just paying our debts. It says above to make restitution in addition to the sacrifice, and I think it’s because it helps the doer of the deed pay attention, so he won’t repeat the misdeed. It also adds a tangible freedom to the spiritual freedom we receive in Messiah. And, as I said above, it can help the sinner become a blessing to the person he sinned against.

I just rewatched The Passion of The Christ movie yesterday, and it still brings me to tears when I see what all Yeshua went through for me. I know that if no one ever sinned, from Adam to me and beyond, He would not have had to go through the torture, the disrespect, the false accusations, the pain and the death He suffered. I know I have gained multiple debts in my life–especially when I was young and had no understanding of how my actions affected others, and I know He bore those things all the way to Calvary, so I could be free of them.

As the lyrics say, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away.” He did that for me. And now, because I am thankful for all He did, and because I love Him with all my being, I want to keep myself clear of debts–current and future, to the best of my ability. If I sin against someone, or if I hurt someone, I want to make it up to that person and be a blessing. As Forrest Gump might say, “Life is like a box of chocolates; if you eat the ones that belong to someone else, you should buy them another box.” 🙂

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

The Clans Go Marching One by One


Let’s start with a little bit of fun today…

The clans go marching one by one,
The little one stopped, there was work to be done.
The clans go marching two by two,
Each clan has an assigned task to do.
The clans go marching three by three,
Descendants of K’hat, Gershon and Merari.
The clans go marching four by four,
The last of these will guard the door.
The clans go marching five by five,
Worker bees in God-ordained hives.
The clans go marching six by six,
No non-Levite was in the mix.
The clans go marching seven by seven,
They pack the bread not made with leaven.
The clans go marching eight by eight,
Some lift, some carry, some serve and wait.
The clans go marching nine by nine,
With God’s direction, the tribes align.
The clans go marching ten by ten,
From thirty to fifty years old were the men.

Today’s reading from Numbers 4:34 through Numbers 4:49 (the end of the chapter) again tells of the census counts from the descendants of the sons of Aaron. These counts, however, only cover the men from ages thirty to fifty who are able to work in God’s service. Based on reading stopping at the breaks marked “A” (Ashkenazi) and “S” (Sephardic), you’ll notice an overlap from yesterday. I read to 37 to stick to the pattern I started with, but since 34-37 include census information, I’m backtracking a bit.

Much of the information is similar to yesterday’s reading concerning which jobs will done by which tribes. I combined some of the information from yesterday and today in my little parody above, so all that’s left to be added are the actual numbers. The men who could serve from the clan of K’hat totaled 2,750. Those from the clan of Gershon totaled 2,630. And, those from the tribe of Merari come in with 3200, so our total from the three clans is 8,580 men between the ages of thirty and fifty who would work in the service of Yahveh’s tabernacle. According to God’s order to Moses, the Levites counted each man, and then assigned the men to specific services and works.

Counting people to do specific works for God makes me think of the following verses from 1 Corinthians 12:15-26

15 If the foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If it were all hearing, how could it smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as he wanted them. 19 Now if they were all just one part, where would the body be? 20 But as it is, there are indeed many parts, yet just one body.21 So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”; or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary; 23 and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity; and the parts that aren’t attractive are the ones we make as attractive as we can, 24 while our attractive parts have no need for such treatment. Indeed, God has put the body together in such a way that he gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it, 25 So that there will be no disagreements within the body, but rather all the parts will be equally concerned for all the others. 26 Thus if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness.

I love how The Complete Jewish Bible says that last line, that all parts will share in the happiness. I know that if we all did things God’s way, the whole body of Christ would participate in the happiness created by our obedience. If we all take our marching orders and do our assigned services with praise, we will soon find we are not marching alone but with the presence of God because He dwells in the praises of His people. Now that’s a beat I can march to.

And just for a tad more fun, here’s a video of The Ants Go Marching…

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

Uncommon Corps


Old Corps-New Corps by Flickr's United States Marine Corps Official Page, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial.jpg

Old Corps-New Corps by Flickr’s United States Marine Corps Official Page, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial.jpg
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Some things are good common, but some things are better uncommon. For example, sensibility is good to have as a common thing, as is courtesy. Believing that the Bible is the word of God is a good common doctrine. Trusting in common that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself (in that order), sets up a secure foundation. But thinking that every person who serves Christ will do so in exactly the same way, and not build different houses on the one foundation, is not a necessary commonality. God made each of us with different strengths, so we can each do the jobs He has set in our paths to do.

In today’s reading from Numbers 4:21 through Numbers 4:37, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 35 is titled in Hebrew Naso and it means “Take.” Just as the previous portion talked of taking a census of the clan of K’hat, this portion gives details on the census of the clans of Gershon and Merari. The clan of Gershon will have the responsibility to carry and transport the parts of the tabernacle. The parts include the curtains, tents, and all types of coverings. The Gershon families will carry out their service under the direction of Aaron’s son Ithamar and under the supervision of Aaron and his sons.

The clan of Merari will be in charge of carrying the framework of the tabernacle. They will carry the posts, crossbars, frames, sockets and tent pegs plus all accessories having to do with the tabernacle. The Scripture states that the Merari clans will be in the corps, doing the work of serving in the tent of meeting. Their service will also be directed by Ithamar, the son of Aaron.

I find it interesting that the corps services for the tabernacle involve the framework. How many times do we work on the outside decor and coverings of things and not the foundations and frames? For a moving temple, the foundation would have been the framework that held it up; the parts that no one sees under all the coverings and tents. But the foundation and framework truly are the most important things. The wilderness tabernacle took an army of supervised families to do the service required. The corps of the Christian community then is an army of those who work to keep the community building on the truth of God’s holy word.

For those who wish to be in God’s “uncommon corps” of saints, we must uplift the Word of God in all of our own words and deeds. We must yield to the service He has called us to do, and we must not compare ourselves with others because it is unwise. But we will have some things in common. A bird cannot swim, and a fish cannot fly, but they are both created by God for whatever their purpose. What we should have in common is our love for God and His Word along with gratefulness and humility for the grace and mercy in salvation through the blood of Christ. But, it is those common bonds we share as servants of The Almighty that place us into God’s not-at-all-common family.

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

Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go


Are you the type that likes to make a list of items to pack before you get ready to travel somewhere? I know I make a list because there are too many things I’m just afraid I can’t live without if I forget them. But even with the best lists, I still showed up for one of my writer’s conferences without certain essentials, and boy was I glad that Wal-Mart sold Fruit of the Loom products. 🙂

The song in the video above says…

I am on my way to that New Jerusalem
Where the sun will never go down.
Every day I’m making preparation
Packing, getting ready, getting ready to go, I’m packing up getting ready to go.

In today’s reading from Numbers 4:1 through Numbers 4:20, we come to the end of the “In the Desert” portion, and it’s time for the Levites to pack up the tabernacle and get ready to go where God leads them. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that there are parts and pieces to God’s tabernacle that are especially holy. Packing them takes a bit more finesse to keep from exposing them to anything or anyone not meant to interact with them.

To start, God has Moses take a new census of the Levites from the clan of K’hat (sons of Kohath aka Kohathites) that are between the ages of thirty and fifty. They will help get the tabernacle, and especially the articles of The Holy Place ready to travel. God gives an exact list of the items, how to disassemble them, how to wrap them, and how to pack them. Most of the items will be covered with cloth and fine leather (or possibly porpoise or dolphin skins). The cloth will be blue, purple, or scarlet, depending on the item to be wrapped.

Because the Levites that are doing this work are not all priests, if they look on the things of God, they risk being killed–or at the very least being separated from the community. To prevent this, God instructs Moses what to do for those in the clan of K’hat to avoid the risk. Aaron and his sons will be the ones to move and touch the holy items and wrap them to prepare them for packing.

Aaron and all his sons are to remove the sheet that separates the Especially Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. Aaron’s son Eleazar is in charge of all the oils. He will prepare and wrap the oils for the menorah, the anointing oils, the holy incense, and all that is used for the daily offerings. After the priests cover the holy items and bring them out, the other Levites will be able to pack them up without looking at or touching the holy parts and risking their own deaths.

If you’ve ever packed up for more than a trip, like packed up a house to move, you know that all things are not packed with the same level of care. Books, CDs, DVDs, and the last remaining VHS tapes can be packed as much as you can stuff in a box and still be able to carry. Clothing can be folded, or if you’re in a hurry, stuffed in a bunch of suitcases. (I know I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. LOL) Oh, but your fine china, and the blown glass that was passed down to you from Grandma, will be treated with extreme care and caution.

God wanted his house packed up carefully and with the utmost respect. He did not want to risk any holy items being treated as if they were just some old plastic-ware from the kitchen. His items were a part of Him, and they represented Him to the whole community of Israel. So what does that say about us now? We are God’s current tabernacle. We are what God has poured His Holy Spirit into as fine vessels made holy by His presence. There will come a day when we will move to the New Jerusalem. Now, it’s time for us to live like we’re on our way and get packed up and ready to meet Christ when He calls us home. Let us remember our value to Him and pack carefully.

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

License and Registration Please


Registration by Flickr User NHS Confederation, CC License = Attribution

Registration by Flickr User NHS Confederation, 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.

“License and Registration, Please.” Aren’t those just some of the scariest words in this life? They usually mean we have done something wrong, or that we have some unfixed issue with our vehicle that we will be forced to deal with now. But how much scarier will it be when a government official can come to your door any time he wants and ask that question? As much as I don’t want to think about it, that day may come for the USA, and it may be here sooner than we think. But until it does come, I will thank God for every day my freedoms are mostly intact.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:40 through Numbers 3:51 (the end of the chapter), we read more about the census God has asked be taken for the community of Israel. In this chapter, all the males from one month and older have been numbered, and God wants Moses to register all those who are firstborn. From the counting and registration, the total number of firstborn males comes in at 22,273.

You may remember from yesterday that the total number of Levites ended at 22,000. Well, since the Levites are to belong to God as a redemption for all the firstborn males of Israel, there’s a difference of 273 that have no one to redeem them. But all must be redeemed, so God tells Moses what he needs to do for their redemption. God has Moses take 5 shekels for each of the 273 males that is not redeemed by a Levite, and then He tells Moses to give the redemption money for the extra people to Aaron and his sons. Moses, of course, did just as God ordered him to do.

Maybe it’s from watching too many post-apocalyptic movies and/or shows, but the idea of each and every person being registered sounds scary to me. Of course, if it was God asking for the registration, it wouldn’t seem so bad because I know He only has plans for my good and never to harm me. But I don’t know that about the U.S. government–or any government in the world. But even with the fear out there that ungodly governments could acquire information and abuse what it finds, I know that I can trust being in the hands of a God whose only desire is my redemption. And besides that, I’m already registered with Him since even the very hairs of my head are numbered.

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

Priests, Preachers, Pastors, and Parsons


There are many ways to minister to our fellow man, and only a small portion of them include being up behind a pulpit. Those in front of the crowd do get noticed more than the mammas on their knees begging God to have mercy on their wayward children, but are they one bit more important? Granted, we need confident speakers to spread the good news across the airwaves, but we also need the missionaries who are willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience to carry the good news around the world. And we need the home missions preachers who survive on a small budget to bring the gospel to the streets and towns where others fear to tread.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:14 through Numbers 3:39, we see the breakdown of the census for all those within the tribe of Levi. They are the servants for the tabernacle, and they each have duties that are to be done with complete obedience to God’s commands. We have three sons of Levi who are the fathers of the clans of the Levites, aka “the preachers.” The people from each clan will camp around the tabernacle, and each will have specific duties in the care of God’s house.

The children of Gershon (about 7500 males a month and older) are told to camp behind the tabernacle, to the west. They will be in charge of the tabernacle itself including all the coverings inside and out, the screens at the entrances, the curtains that surround the courtyard, and all the fixtures and ropes used for these items and for maintenance.

The children of K’hat (about 8600 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the south. They are to be in charge of The Holy Place. They are responsible for the ark, the table, the menorah and altars, the curtains, and all the utensils used by the priests when they serve in The Holy Place.

And, the children of M’rari (about 6200 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the north. They are assigned responsibility for the frames of the tabernacle. That includes maintenance for the crossbars, the posts, the sockets and fittings, and the posts that surround the courtyard with their sockets, pegs, and ropes.

Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons who were in charge of The Holy Place were to camp at the front of the tabernacle, in the east, toward the sunrise. They were told to carry out all their responsibilities on behalf of the people of Israel, and anyone else who tried to do the job without being called to that responsibility would be put to death. But there were plenty to do the job since the total number of Levite males a month or older was 22,000.

Now, I know there weren’t televisions, fancy church buildings, and all that we have today back then, but I just can’t equate the jobs this tribe of preachers has been asked to do with anyone who is up doing it for accolades from the crowd. If anything, I’m guessing there were more than a few of the boys who were sorry they were born into the tribe of Levi due to all the work it required. But for those who did the job from their hearts, the rewards of knowing The Almighty Creator was pleased with them was likely pay enough.

In answer to the song title in the video above, no, I don’t believe Jesus would wear a Rolex. Some televangelists, pastors, etc., have jobs outside their preaching positions that enable them to afford a comfy life, so I can’t say they don’t deserve it anymore than I can say a doctor who barely survived internship shouldn’t find some luxury once in private practice. But I definitely have concerns about the ones who use the funds from the flock to pay themselves as if they are a higher shepherd than The Shepherd to whom all our allegiance should be given. And the free-spending on things like gold faucets for a yacht makes it more clear to me why some religions make those in ministry positions take a vow of poverty.

Yeshua asked one man who wanted to follow Him if he was okay with the idea of sleeping on a stone. He pointed out that even though He was The Messiah and The One in charge of the ministry, He Himself did not have a pillow to lay His head on. I am thankful for some of the outreach that is done with the funds going into the big ministries, but I wonder how much could be done if more funds went to actual needs and less into the art of attraction.

The video, and the requirements we read for the Levites, should prompt us to ask this question about all whose ministries we follow and support: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) if He were walking around in human form and ministry these days? Are all these who say they are called to minister for God camping around the tabernacle and keeping up the care of God’s house, or are they camping out in their own comfortable houses while starving sheep foot the bill?

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

Sons of the Preacher Man


Hamburg Famous Street Preacher by Flickr User Marnie Pix, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Hamburg Famous Street Preacher by Flickr User Marnie Pix, CC License = Attribution, 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 grew up listening to the Dusty Springfield song, Son of A Preacher Man, but I didn’t really listen to all the lyrics. I loved that the preacher’s son was the only one that could ever reach the girl singing because at that point in my life, I believed there was something special about preachers and their families. In a way, I guess I sort of still do, but it’s not exactly the same. Then, it was anyone who had the position of preacher or the prefix of reverend. Now, it’s more about respect for the genuine calling of someone who would dedicate his or her whole life and family to reaching others with true love of Christ.

In today’s reading from Numbers 3:1 through Numbers 3:13, we’ll read about the sons of Aaron, one of the original preacher men. All four of Aaron’s sons served in the priesthood, but two of them were killed for getting egotistical about it and making it more about themselves than about The Creator. (This is a stern warning to those preachers, pastors, prophets, prophetesses, etc., these days who might think their position is one of anything other than servant-hood to The Almighty.)

God tells Moses to summon the entire tribe of Levi, so they can learn their duties as Israel travels. They are to be in charge of the tabernacle, all its furnishings, and all the continued duties of the priesthood. Anyone who is not of the tribe of Levi who tries to work in the priesthood is to be killed.

The word then goes on to tell us that the Levites are actually in the position of firstborn to God. The reason they do not have a division of the lands and possessions of the community of Israel is because they have become owned by God in place of His taking the firstborn of all the people. Because the firstborn always belongs to God, the Levites belong to Him in their stead.

In learning this, I can now see why God told King David not to harm Saul even though he deserved it. He told King David not to kill Saul because he had been anointed of God, and even with Saul’s failures, the anointing apparently doesn’t wash off. It is also why we must be careful how we treat all humans because, as Scripture says, they are made in the image of God…and that doesn’t wash off either.

Children of preachers, often called PKs (for “preacher’s kids), have frequently been looked down on because people could see the truth of the private household in their lives, and their lives have too often reflected the opposite of what was seen in the pulpit. While I agree that it’s good for truth to come out, it hurts me to see such disrespect toward the calling of God–even if that disrespect is earned. I haven’t even watched the show on Lifetime network called “Preacher’s Daughters” because I expect, with the general attitude of the network, that it will be looking for faults in the children of preachers. I could be wrong, but I just don’t want the world to have yet another reason to seek answers in anything but God and His holy word.

I know God still anoints people to work in ministry for Him, though it seems to be getting more and more rare to find the ones that are in it for God instead of for themselves. So many worry more about building up a congregation instead of building up the Spirit of God in each congregant. Or they worry about building up a doctrine, a method, a theology, or a theory instead of worrying about building up the God who is above all doctrines, methods, theologies and theories. But it is God that must increase; not us, not any people, and not church congregations. And if the preachers will remember that, then it will also show in the lives of the daughters and sons of the preacher men.

 

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

When the Saints Go Marchin’


What makes a saint? It depends on who you ask. Some will say a person can only achieve sainthood by doing great works, and then the church leadership votes them to that exalted position. Others will declare that all who serve God are saints. The classic jazz song above refers to all those who get to walk in when Heaven’s gates swing open wide. By the definition that those who serve God can be called His saints, all the believers in the community of Israel would qualify since the Scriptures keep repeating how they did everything just as God asked them.

In today’s reading from the entire second chapter of the book of Numbers, Numbers 2:1 through 2:34, we read of the division of people into tribes, clans, and families as they prepare to travel wherever God directs them. The people are set up by camps on the east, south, north and west sides of the camp, and each man is to travel under a banner with his clan’s symbol on it. The campers are to surround the Tent of Meeting but at a distance (except for the Levites).

When these saints go marching, they will march according to the direction of the leaders assigned to them, and those leaders march according to the directions they receive from Moses who gets them directly from Yahveh. That is why, even though each man does not hear from God for himself, when they follow these directions, the Scriptures are able to say that they did everything as God directed.

It takes a lot of faith to trust that these men are following the directions of a man who is hearing directly from God, so I’m thankful that God saw fit to include His Holy Spirit in our lives to give us personal direction these days. Of course, the children of Israel had the pillars of cloud and fire, and they were able to see certain evidences of when God was pleased and not. I wonder, though, if we could go back and ask them if they’d rather live in our day and age, would they choose the personal directing of God’s Spirit over the trusting of men?

It’s funny, though. I know there are some people who would rather have the Bible read to them on Sunday mornings, and maybe a few other times if they attend weekly studies, and that’s pretty much the end of their thinking about it. Then there are others who would rather search the Scriptures and study for themselves. The Scriptures tell us to study and to rightly divide (analyze) the word of truth, so I think that covers self-study and group study. I enjoy both. I love to study for myself, and I love to hear and read the perspectives of others. I tend to enjoy discussion more than lecture though because I retain conversations better, and my mind doesn’t wander as much.

Whatever way you learn best, just keep learning. God’s Word is alive, and it can change lives from the page or from the pulpit. We know from our readings, and from history, that God’s ultimate goal is to march ALL His saints into a place of eternity with Him, so whatever camp we march from, let us keep our destination and goal in mind. Let us, as Paul said, press toward the mark that is the high calling in Christ, and be numbered with the saints who will one day march through those heavenly gates.

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

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

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

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