Sunday, February 23, 2020

Smoking in the Tech Booth

Photo by Wunderela, from Pixabay
Confession: I often have anxiety dreams.  Or, at least, I remember them upon waking, whereas when younger I rarely remembered my dreams.  Last week, I had an anxiety dream about church.  Oddly, most of the people in this church dream were people I don't actually know, in real life.  The gist of the dream was that my "church" and I were somewhere, and I was somehow the hostess of the group.  That is, I was responsible for feeding everyone, specifically, feeding them breakfast.  There were approximately 25 people present, and I just kept running into roadblocks to get it done.  The church people kept exhibiting all kinds of unholy behavior!  Nothing lurid....well, let me give you an example.  The pastor had counseled a member, and the member had told the associate pastor the details of the session, and then the associate pastor had gotten up and shared the details with the entire group in a meeting.  See? Cray.  I woke up as the pastor was chiding the tech team for smoking at the back of the room during the worship service, around the sound board, whereupon several tech team members left the building, ciggies in hand.  SMH!

I'm not really into dream analysis, but in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy the overarching theme is the holiness of God.  That's what I've been reading about the past few days.  These books are chock-full of edicts God gave the Hebrew people, through Moses.  Some of the requirements make no sense to us.  That's because our temptation is to get God to conform to OUR standard of "holiness", whereas the truth is that He IS the standard.  I think my dream reinforced in my mind that the people of God are to be a holy people, because He is holy (Leviticus 20:7).

The other 11 tribes of the Hebrew people were to produce the soldiers that fought the physical battles for the nation.  The tribe of Levi, however, was not to be numbered among the soldiers.  Back in Egypt, when God instituted Passover, He declared that the firstborn male of every human and animal would be holy unto the Lord.  In the first chapters of Numbers, He declared that the tribe of Levi would represent by taking the place of that firstborn consecration.  (See Numbers 3:41.) The entire tribe of Levi would not fight; they would be holy unto the Lord and would perform the priestly tasks associated with the Tabernacle (later the Temple) and with worship.

Aaron, the first Levitical priest, was Moses' brother.  Aaron had four sons when God named him to this role.  He must have been so proud, thinking, "This is great!  I have four young adult sons, who can help me carry out these new duties!"  Unfortunately, in the learning process, two of his sons, the two older ones, mishandled the worship objects (some theologians theorize they were drunk) and abused the sacred ceremonies decreed by God.  And, as a horrific result, God struck them dead.  It is a fearsome story, recorded in Leviticus 10.  God is serious about His holiness.

What are the implications for us today?
The command in Leviticus 20:7 to be holy because He is holy still applies.

So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:7 (NLT)

The temptation for the Christian is to overemphasize the grace of God, by which we are saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Many use this truth to justify being "loose and lazy" in the way we live our lives.  Are we bound by the Levitical rules laid out in the Old Testament?  No.  Has Jesus' holiness paid the penalty for our sins, all of them?  Yes.
But, consider this Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, concerning "cheap grace":

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

In other words, "cheap grace" is not true grace at all.
We ARE holy, because of the shed blood of Jesus, which covers every single one of our sins.  But, the apostles and writers of the New Testament repeatedly remind us to WALK in holiness, to live out that holy state which has been given to us through faith in Jesus, and by God's grace.  His standard of holiness has not changed, although Jesus paid the price for us.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are still thoroughly holy and perfect and pure.  We are to walk in that reality, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.

13Therefore prepare your minds for action.d Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. 15But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13-16
Did you catch that?  Peter quoted Leviticus 20:7!

I have found it fascinating (no, REALLY!) to read in Numbers about how God assigned the Levites different duties.  Moses and his brother Aaron were Levites.  It's no accident God appointed them born into this tribe.  Numbers 3 and 4 line out how the clans of the three sons of Levi (Gershon, Kohath and Merari) were to serve in their duties.  God was very specific, because He wanted to protect His people from His fearsome holiness.  Hebrews 12:21 tells us that the manifestation of God's holiness was so fearsome that even Moses was completely terrified!

In establishing Old Testament law, God essentially said "There's one right way to do things, and only one."  In the New Covenant, revealed and established by Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus Christ), there is STILL one and only one way to please God, and that is the Way revealed and provided by Messiah Jesus.
The gospel message is not a popular one.  It is a message that divides, especially in our modern-day culture where the message is "You are a bum if you don't approve of anything and everything." Totally slippery, slidey, "anything goes" approval.
It's hard to stand up and speak out, and even harder to LIVE OUT the holiness of the gospel in our everyday lives.
  • To be holy in the quiet, unseen disciplines of holiness - - prayer throughout the day and daily personal Bible study
  • To be holy in our conversations with others
  • To be holy in the many unselfish acts the Holy Spirit convicts us to do, for others
  • To be holy in our witnessing and sharing the gospel with those who worship other gods
  • To be holy in our service in our local congregations
  • To be holy in our civic duties, campaigning for and making time to vote for candidates whose positions line up with God's standard of holiness
  • To be holy in our forms of entertainment, and the amount of time we spend in those pursuits
You get the idea.

It's good to read the Old Testament, because it's easy to be lulled into the false belief that God is only a god of goo-ey love, a love devoid of truth (which really is not love at all).  When we read the Old Testament, we are reminded that our God is also a God of uncompromising holiness, deserving of reverence and awe...and obedience.
Yes, oh yes, Galatians 4:24-25 and Hebrews 8:13 tell us that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament law, and Temple regulations, and such.

But, don't be fooled.  God's holiness never fades.  It never goes out of style.

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=gp30KnAeEKA



 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Good Roots, Good Fruits!

Image by Klimkin, from Pixabay
As most of you know I am reading through the Bible chronologically this year, using a Bible I received last year from a ministry close to my heart, Movieguide.  Yesterday, I finished the book of Leviticus.  But, in addition, I played a little Bible Bingo yesterday morning, because....Leviticus, right?  (This is what one of my friends, Lily, calls the process of just opening the Bible to "wherever" and seeing what treasures are revealed. In talking, we both realized we did this yesterday!)

At any rate, in my "bingoing", I landed in Isaiah 37, where a phrase caught my eye:  "take root downward and bear fruit upward" (vs. 31).  Just prior, I had been praying for my children and their girlfriends as always.  This verse spoke to me about a person's relationship with the Lord, something I talk with Him about often - - mine, and those of my loved ones too.  In order to flourish spiritually, we first must sink roots deep into our relationship with our Savior, by seeking His face in prayer, by studying His Word.  Only then can we "bear good fruit" in our lives with others.  The New Testament has a few passages1 which compare the evidence of salvation in Jesus Christ with the luscious fruit of a healthy tree.  The roots produce the fruits!  If you have loved ones spiritually far from God, this is a good passage to pray over them, and also over those who are not!  We can all pray to the Holy Spirit, that He will nurture our roots deeper into Him.

Now, let's briefly examine the passage in general. 

30“And this shall be the sign for you: this year you shall eat what grows of itself, and in the second year what springs from that. Then in the third year sow and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat their fruit. 31And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 32For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
33“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 34By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD35For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
36And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. 38And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword.

Isaiah 37 concerns the southern kingdom of Judah.  By this time, the nation of the Israelites had split into the northern kingdom, Israel, and the much smaller kingdom, Judah.  The northern kingdom had, through ungodly kings, veered off into apostasy years earlier.  Therefore, God had allowed the brutal Assyrian Empire to overwhelm and conquer them.   Now, the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, had his sights set on Judah, which was ruled at that time by the godly king, Hezekiah.  Sennacherib had offered Hezekiah a "deal with the devil", but the Judean king had wisely refused.  In response, around 700 B.C., the king of Assyria had brought 185,000 soldiers, the approximate population of the city of Ft. Lauderdale, FL2 and close to the population of Mobile, AL.  Imagine all those armed soldiers, surrounding the city of Jerusalem, ready to pounce and utterly ravage!

God did not execute His judgment on the land of Judah at that time, although the people were spiritually wandering, already headed in the direction of their brothers from the northern kingdom, Israel.  He gave them additional chances to repent.  In fact, He supernaturally destroyed those 185,000 Assyrians (verse36).  The Angel of the Lord struck them down during the night.  Verse 29 predicted this when God said, "I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth; I will make you go back {to Assyria} the way you came."
In utter shock and complete defeat, Sennacherib slunk back to Nineveh, the Assyrian capitol.  Shortly thereafter, he was murdered by his own sons' hands.3

Unfortunately, even these mighty acts of their almighty God did not change the spiritual direction of the people of Judah.  Although Hezekiah was a righteous ruler, his successors were not.  In 586 B.C., God's patience with His increasingly-wandering people of Judah became exhausted. He brought King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians along to take many of the citizens of Judah away into captivity for 70 years.

Lord Jesus, thank you for nurturing our roots and tenderly calling us back to You when we wander.  Your "chesed", your lovingkindness, is better than life4!  Please continue to grow us up into You, no matter how long we have known You as our Savior, no matter how far away we have wandered.  Abundant life is found only in You.  Water our thirsty plants, who don't even know they thirst.  All glory belongs to You, Holy One of Israel!  Thank you for all You are going to do, in and through us today.  In the Name that is Above Every Name, the mighty name of Jesus, amen.

Sources:

1.     Matthew 7, Matthew 12, Luke 6, John 15, to name a few.   http://biblehub.net/search.php?q=fruit

2.
https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_population

3.
https://study.com/academy/lesson/king-sennacherib-facts-accomplishments-death.html

4.    Psalm 63:3

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Pustulence of Ignunce

Photo Credit: Fabio Rezende Fabinho, from Pixabay 

The funniest thing happened yesterday on the way to a funeral.  On such a sad occasion, you grab hold of all the humor you can find, I guess.  Maybe that's why people sometimes stand around funeral homes and share joyful stories of the "dearly departed".  That's not what this is about though.

I had volunteered to drive my mother (whose age shall not be mentioned) from her house to the funeral of one of her first cousins, in a town a good 90 miles away.  Then, our group got larger when my sister decided to tag along, and then my uncle (whose age shall not be mentioned either because some nosy souls would then closely peg my mother's age).  And, you know, I've got to stay in good standing with The Queen.

So, yesterday morning, my sister, who lives about 30 minutes from me, came over to the house, and away we went to pick up mother, followed by picking up my uncle, who lives "on the way".  

I have not traveled to the town in question before, I don't think.  If I have, there's no memory of it.  As we approached our destination, we blipped through this very small town called Oxford.  I had no idea there was a little town in my state called Oxford.  My mother says, "Oh, I remember _____ {the dearly departed} showing me around the college here, Emory at Oxford."  I nearly wrecked the car.  I legit thought I was being punked; but, I was cool.  I said, "There's a college here called Emory at Oxford?!"  "Oh yes, we may drive by it," she replied.  My uncle sagely agreed.

Now, "everybody knows" (natives of my state) that the esteemed Emory University of Atlanta GA, has satellite experiences in Oxford, England, at Oxford University.  If you get in to Emory University, well, that's like the Ivy League of the South.  And, if you can study at Oxford University in England, through Emory University, then, you have really done a prestigious thing.
The cognitive dissonance my mother innocently generated was real, Y'all.

In mere moments, here came this small college campus, appearing on our right.  "There it is!", exclaims mother.  I could not believe my eyes.  My uncle had been back-seat driving since we had picked him up; so, I was a little on-edge anyway.  I still "rode low on my shetland pony" and did not admit to my ignorance, since the proof was undeniable.  There in living glory was Oxford College, a two-year, private liberal arts college, named after the town in which it resides.  Oxford College is the birthplace, and one of the nine academic divisions, of Emory University.

When I got home, I scoped all this out.  (If Mrs. Catherine Bomar taught me this in 8th grade GA history, I must not have been paying attention!) Did I feel like an ignoramus?  Why yes!  Yes, I did!
By the same token, I learned something new and in the process thought the whole thing was hilarious.

Have you ever had an experience studying the Bible where, you think you know something?  And, THEN you read a previously undiscovered passage that makes you go...."Wait a minute!"  That has happened to me many times.  On the same day my "Oxford enlightenment" happened, I was reading in Leviticus before we left my house that morning. There's a lot I don't know about Leviticus.

For example, I did not know that the skin disease called leprosy was connected with mold and/or mildew.  Children raised in church have heard of "leprosy", a mysterious disease, for centuries incurable, that turned skin an unnatural scaly white and eventually "ate" entire digits, limbs, facial features, etc.  The disease was thought to be highly contagious and accordingly caused those who unfortunately contracted it to be exiled into "leper colonies", communes cut off from the rest of the community.  Greatly feared, leprosy was viewed as a curse on an individual.  Most Christians have heard of leprosy because Jesus healed some lepers in the New Testament.  Christians tend to not know what Leviticus says about leprosy because...Leviticus is a fearsome book, Y'all.

At any rate, reading in Leviticus 14 yesterday morning, I learned that sometimes mold and/or mildew (?) would appear on the interior walls of a house.  צָרַ֔עַת (ṣā·ra·‘aṯ)  is the Hebrew word translated variously as "contaminant", "mold", "mildew", "plague", "contagion", "plague of leprosy", "diseased infection".  Basically, it was believed this manifestation of cankerous crud inside a home rendered that house "unclean".  The ... stuff ... had to be abated, rooted out, gotten rid of - - or the occupants would not only be "unclean" themselves - - they would likely get leprosy.  Leviticus 14:33-53 gives instructions for how this situation was to be dealt with, so to keep the Israelites as healthy as possible.  (Southeastern Restoration was not around...)
I had no idea it was "a thing" to "make atonement for the house" in this manner.
SELAH!  (which means, "how about that!")

Isn't the Bible amazing!

P.S. - - Credit for the title of this post goes to my second cousin, David Nash, one of the funniest people I've ever known.  (And, no David, I did NOT make up the name of the photographer who took the picture at the top of this post!)
P.P.S.- -  Cousin Brent was pretty funny too.  One time I made a boo-boo and did a Facebook live make-up demo on my main page instead of my make-up business page, as planned.  He weighed in, toward the beginning, and said something like he wished he could "unsee" me without any make-up on.  HAHA!  He was a sweet, generous man, and we will miss him, until we see him again in Heaven.  So glad he was a follower of Jesus Christ!

Source:

https://www.google.com/search?q=Is+Emory+at+Oxford+in+England%3F&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS829US829&oq=Is+Emory+at+Oxford+in+England%3F&aqs=chrome..69i57.18168j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


Thursday, February 13, 2020

FCA LAX 1

Image by Keith Johnston, from Pixabay
A couple of days ago I entered into a new initiative for Resplendent Daughter Ministries, and I'm very pumped about it.

About four months ago, a Christian brother invited me to work in his ministry, FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) as a Character Coach.  At first, I had the "Sarah reaction".  I laughed, (like Sarah did when she was told she would have her first child, at 90 years old!) There are so many reasons why jumping into this is "illogical': too little time for current projects; I'm not much of a sports person by nature; know nothing about lacrosse; etc., etc.  But, I figured he asked me for some reason; so, I prayed about it.

In our couples Bible study group, led by my husband, we've been working through this study called, "Experiencing God".  One of the things I've learned is that God does not call those who are fully equipped for the task.  Instead, He calls you and THEN He equips you, as you walk with Him in faith.  It's just the reverse of how the rest of the world operates.  (Sort of like how He gives eternal life.  But, I'll get to that later.)

So, feeling very ill-equipped, but trying to be faithful, I agreed to do this thing.  God, help me!

This past Tuesday, I got to meet around 45 lovely, lovely young lacrosse ladies, as they came off the field from practice.  So well-mannered and kind, they actually listened to my remarks and some of them hung around afterwards for more.
Here's how this character coaching thing works:  the FCA character coach gets to attend as many games and practices as his or her schedule will allow.  And, then, once a week, he/she spends time speaking with the team to help build character in the lives of the young people.  That little talk lasts 5-10 minutes, tops, and then you can invite the team to stay for an additional 5-10 minutes for an optional group conversation, where matters of the Christian faith are discussed.  Several choose to stay, hallelujah!  :)

There's this app that FCA uses where the team can opt in to the app and we can communicate back and forth in it.  I gave the girls the opportunity to scan themselves in via a QR code, and 19 took advantage of that.  I hope to hear from some of them before next week, when I'll see them again.

I shared with them that I'd post in the app bullet points from the remarks I make each time, and this blog post is my feeble attempt to do that.  I'll post the link from this blog post into the app.

Our first conversation in the mandatory meeting concerned what character is, and one of the girls gave the best answer: "what you are when no one is looking".  So true!  You can pretend to be one thing among other people, but God knows you inside and out, who you are when you don't think anyone else sees.  We also talked about the importance of character to a team.  I asked if a girl can have poor character and be a great lacrosse player, and again, one of those fabulous young ladies had a great answer:  "You might be a great lacrosse player, but not a good team member."  Wow.  They already amaze me, and we've only gotten together once.

In the optional session, I shared about the importance of relationship to the formation of character.
1.  The non-Christian world looks at eternal life (salvation, Heaven) and character-building the same: a person works and works and labors and strains and agonizes to earn the right to go to Heaven, and in so doing builds his or her own character.
2.  The Christian realizes there is nothing a person can do to earn eternal life, because God's standard for getting into Heaven is perfection, and who can achieve THAT?!  Answer: no one.  The Christian realizes the only way to Heaven is to accept what Jesus has already done: achieved salvation and freely given it to anyone who asks for it.  As one of the young ladies said, "Acceptance".  Our role is to believe, turn from our formerly sinful way of life and accept what Jesus has already done.  Period.  But, where does character development fit in?
3.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, that begins a relationship with Him.  His Holy Spirit comes to live within us and begins to develop our character within us, to transform us through our circumstances, human relationships, life events.  The way we respond to those (our choices), impact and develop our character.  Again, totally opposite from how the non-Christian world does it.

Here was the key verse from our conversation this week, the verse my friend Donna shared with us in the huge Baptist Girls Sunday School class back in the last century (lol).  I can still see her up there, teaching us this truth.   These verses capture it all  - - - salvation (becoming a Christian) and character development (sanctification).  Words in { } are mine.

...that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness {work, work work!} from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ,a the righteousness from God on the basis of faith {believe, turn away from sin, accept}.
10I want to know Christ {relationship} and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead {eternal life/salvation}.
Philippians 2:8b-11

6being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you {salvation} will carry it on to completion {sanctification} until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Looking forward to seeing the team next week!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Zipporah's Revulsion?



Who was that, again?
If you don't know who the biblical character Zipporah was, don't feel bad.  Honestly, if I had not been studying Exodus, I would have had trouble remembering too.
Perhaps that is because you don't hear many sermons about this biblical character, and perhaps that is because this is one of the most perplexing short stories in all of Torah, (eclipsed only by the first few verses of Genesis 6.)  Although it has been interpreted in a variety of (and some of them very strange) ways, I am going to go with one of the most obvious, for the sake of illustration.

Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro, a priest of Midian.  Some have thought Jethro was a pagan priest, but the preponderance of evidence in Genesis indicates that he was a godly man.  In fact, later he is called Reuel, a second name, a title or a last name perhaps?  Reuel means "friend of God".  At any rate, he appears to have been a worshipper of Yahweh, since, in Genesis 18 he blessed the name of Yahweh, offered him burnt offerings, and so forth.  Zipporah was one of his shepherdess daughters, whom Jethro gave to Moses as his wife.  She bore Moses two sons.

Zipporah comes to prominence in Scripture in a brief, but important, story found in Exodus 4:24-26 (BSB).

24 On the trip, at an overnight campsite, it happened that the Lord confronted him and intended to put him to death. 25 So Zipporah took a flint, cut off her son’s foreskin, threw it at Moses’s feet, and said, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me! ” 26 So he let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” referring to the circumcision.

When God called Moses out of Midian, to return to Egypt on his important mission, Moses took Zipporah and their two sons with him.  Along the way, it appears God was dealing with Moses about circumcising his elder son, Gershom.  Whether or not because Zipporah was against it or for other reasons, Moses was not immediately obedient to the Lord on this matter.  Genesis 4:24 relates that God became so displeased with Moses, over his disobedience, He confronted Moses and intended to kill him.  Zipporah, at that point, apparently "got with the program" and circumcised Gershom herself.  She was highly offended and disgusted, it seems.  Her revulsion were illustrated by her words and the fact that she either threw the skin at Moses' feet (some translations) or "touched his feet with it" (original Hebrew).  But, due to their (albeit reluctant) obedience in the matter of Gershom's circumcision, God "left him alone" (referring to Moses).

Now, at some point, whether it was immediately after this fractious incident or some other time before they reached Egypt, Moses sent Zipporah and the two boys home to Jethro.  This is not explicitly stated in Genesis 4.  We know this occurred because in Genesis 18 we learn that Jethro brought Zipporah and the boys to Moses at Mount Horeb/Sinai, after Moses had led the people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea.

Zipporah's disgust and reluctant obedience are not the point of this story, though.

The biggest take-away I get from this tale is a leadership lesson.  Moses failed a leadership test...nearly to the point of being "taken out".  (God don't play.)

God demanded Moses "practice what he preached".  How could Moses speak for God when he was not leading by example, not walking in obedience, regarding the matter of circumcision?   Satan will use whatever is most potent, to tempt us to disobedience.  This includes those dearest to us, who can unwittingly be used by the enemy to turn us aside from God's truth and God's purposes.  In this case, Satan may have used Zipporah to turn her husband from obedience to the LORD.  And, Moses nearly forfeited a mighty calling, to keep peace in the home.

Or, maybe not.
Moses had been circumcised as a baby, owing to the fact his parents were Hebrews; and, the daughter of Pharaoh recognized him as a Hebrew baby (Ex. 2:6).  How else would she have recognized that, except by his circumcision?
Still, for whatever the reason, it could be that Moses was disobeying God's command to circumcise his son, all on his own, and that Zipporah heroically saved his life by intervening quickly to perform the circumcision.  Although her impassioned remarks afterwards seem to indicate she was "not a fan" of the religious rite, the Scriptures do not explicitly say which way it went, do they?

These are just some of the questions this episode generates.  If you really want to "go down the rabbit hole", just go read the two sources below.  Many and varied interpretations!

I find this story very sobering.  Think about it.  Moses was approximately 80 years old at this time (Exodus 7:7).  God had been preparing him for this mission for 80 years!  Yet....circumcision and the obedience which produced it, as well as the integrity of leadership, were so important to God that He nearly rejected Moses as the one chosen for this monumental leadership role.

We may not be Moses, but God takes our obedience very seriously.  When we knowingly disobey Him, we may not immediately see the results/consequences in our lives.  There are always negative consequences, however.

Sources:

https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTLit/Week3/Allen-Ex4-Bloody-BSac.htm

https://drmsh.com/thoughts-on-the-bridegroom-of-blood/


Monday, February 3, 2020

The Finger of God

"Finger of God", Tenerife Canary Islands, Spain
photo credit to Maria Stichert, from Pixabay

When you determine to read through the Bible in one year, the Scriptures fly by at lightning speed, providing multiple topic on which to blog.  This morning, I was reading about the 10 plagues of Egypt; so, it's those we will be examining today.

And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the Israelites; and God knew.
Exodus 2:24 (CSB)

God heard.
God remembered.
God saw.
God knew.

One little-known fact about the 10 plagues was why God chose to bring those particular pestilences upon the Egyptian people.  The Hebrew people experienced personally the first plagues.  But, the last and most severe ones affected the Egyptians only.  Before we look at the 10, however, let's note a verse that explains why God chose to use this particular method of liberating His people.  It's found in Exodus 9:16.

"I have let you live for this purpose: to show you my power, and to make my name known
on the whole earth."

Here, the LORD is talking to Pharaoh, through Moses and Aaron.   And, here, we see God's purpose for this particular plague methodology.  The first two plagues the magicians of Egypt were able to replicate.  But, the plagues got both more severe and more complex, although all were supernatural.  Unable to counterfeit the 3rd plague, the magicians told Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19) - - "This is the finger of God."  Indeed.

Now, let's look at the plagues and the specific false Egyptian gods/goddesses these judgments of God through nature demolished.

1.  Water to Blood
The Hebrews and Egyptians experienced this one alike, because all the water in Egypt became blood for 7 days.  Even the stored water turned to blood.  Folks were digging in the ground like gophers, in their attempts to find fresh water.  This was a judgment against Apis, Isis and Khnum, deities of the Nile River.

2.  Frogs
The frog was considered sacred in Egypt, and they would not kill them.  They were used to represent Hequet, the goddess of childbirth.

3.  Gnats
This judgment was towards the false god of the desert, Set.

4.  Flies
The Egyptians had a Lord of the Flies, the false god Uatchit.  The Hebrews did not experience the plague of swarms of flies.  With this plague, the LORD distinguished between His people and the Egyptians.  From this point forward, because they were worshipping and obeying God, the Hebrews were spared the remainder of the plagues.

5.  Cattle
Egypt had two false deities depicted as cattle:  Hathor and Apis.  (It is no accident that when the Israelites backslid in the wilderness at Mt. Horeb/Sinai, they made a golden calf.)

6.  Festering Boils
This plague showed the impotency of the false gods Sekhmet, Sunu and Isis, deities who were believed to control health/disease.  Exodus 9:16, the guide verse mentioned earlier, took place in the aftermath of this plague.  Pharaoh was warned the remaining plagues would be much more devastating and costly.

7 and 8.  Hail and Locusts, respectively
I have grouped these two together because they are related in outcomes.  The 7th plague, huge hailstones, destroyed the early grains, flax and barley.  These are the first grain crops to be ready to harvest.  A few months later, the 8th plague occurred, when swarms of locusts came and ate the later-blooming grain crops of wheat and spelt.  These devastations demolished the faux-power of Nut (sky goddess), Set (storm god) and Osiris (god of crop fertility).  There was no harvest in Egypt that year.

9.  Dense Darkness
This plague lasted 3 days, in which there was no light in Egypt except where the Hebrews lived.  This unearthly darkness smothered the rest of the land of Egypt for 72 hours.  Exodus 10:21 describes it as "a darkness which could be felt".  People could not see literally anything.  If you are wondering how the Hebrews escaped these plagues 4-10, as far as proximity was concerned, they lived in the area of Egypt called Goshen.  It was basically the area of northern Egypt encompassing the Nile River delta.

10.  Death of the Firstborn Males
This plague targeted Isis, the false deity Egyptians believed protected children.  This was the only plague that required an act of faith on the part of the Hebrew people.  They were required to take action that demonstrated their faith in God to deliver their firstborn sons and the firstborn males of their animals from the angel of death ("the destroyer" Ex. 12:23) whom God sent to carry out this ultimate devastation of the land of Egypt. 

Through all these mighty, supernatural, specifically-timed acts (Moses told Pharaoh in many cases exactly when they would begin and when they would end), God demonstrated His incomparable power.  One other tidbit before closing;

Question:  Who did the hardening of Pharaoh's heart?
Answer:  Both God and Pharaoh.
When God did it:  Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8
When Pharaoh did it: Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34
Here we see the inexplicable interplay of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, on display.
In addition, there were several instances in this story where the scriptures merely say "Pharaoh's heart was hard", without indication of who hardened his heart.
A lot of people stumble over this, thinking Pharaoh was merely a pawn in God's hand, that he had no real choices in the matter.  It's clear from at least three of those verse above that he did, and squandered those opportunities to choose.

Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned, King forever.
The LORD gives his people strength;
the LORD blesses His people with peace.

Psalm 29:1-2, 10-11 (CSB)

Source:

https://www.gotquestions.org/ten-plagues-Egypt.html

Saturday, January 25, 2020

With New Eyes

Image by Gerhard Gellinger, from Pixabay

Puttering around the house today, dealing with the inevitable clutter that piles up, I saw a plaque with a worn, plastic sleeve over it.  It was a memorial plaque, made in honor of my husband's brother, who died in 2015.  For the past 3+ years, it had been sitting in a spot I pass by several times a day.  Initially, with the best of intentions, the sleeve was left in place to protect the plaque.  Now, though, as I looked at it, I saw it with new eyes, and ... it just looked ridiculous to me.
It's best not to "assume" about such, however; so, I asked The Hubs if he minded if we got rid of the plastic sleeve.  He had no objections.  Into the trash the plastic cover went.  Now, there was nothing obscuring the beautiful plaque beneath...

Job had a similar experience.  The episode is revealed in Job 38 and 39.  He had been viewing God a certain way for years.  Repeatedly, in earlier chapters, Job described his God as he believed Him to be.  At the end of his book, though, he saw God "with new eyes".

We can get a lot of information about the character of God by studying His words and actions in the Bible.  But, at the end of the book of Job, God gave a lot of information about Himself at once, in an effort to describe The Indescribable to a mere human.  He did so in the form of questions, peppered with asides to Job like, "Can you do that?"  "Have you ever done that?"

We find God describing himself in Job 38 and 39, because Job had been busy justifying his life before God, telling God how righteous a man he was, and how he really didn't deserve all the calamity that had befallen him.  Essentially, Job was questioning God's actions in his life.  This is how God so aptly put Job's actions and attitudes in Job 40:8 (NIV) - - -

Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Here are the things God listed (not in question form, though, but in statements)

  • He laid the foundation of the Earth.
  • He measured the Earth and marked off its dimensions.
  • He laid the Earth's cornerstone, while stars sang and angels shouted for joy.
  • He brought the seas under control, setting their "doors and bars" in place.
  • He gave orders to the morning and showed the dawn its place.
  • He knows the location of the "springs" of the sea and walks in the recesses of its deepest parts.
  • He knows the location of the gates of death.
  • He also knows the way to the abode of light, where light lives, and where darkness resides.
  • He binds up the snow and hail in storehouses, held waiting for when He calls on them to fall.
  • He knows the point from where lightning is dispersed and where east winds originate.
  • He designs the paths for torrents of rain and decides the path of the thunderstorms.
  • He fathers the rain and the drops of dew.  He births frost and frozen waters.
  • He brought forth the constellations of the heavens and controls them to this day, displaying His dominion over heavens and Earth.
  • He counts the clouds and sends lightning bolts on their way.
  • He provides food for the lioness, the raven and all living things.
  • He knows where the mountain goats give birth and the does bear their fawns.
  • He created and easily controls the wild donkey and the wild ox.
  • He created the silly ostrich who, although created with little sense (she tends to kill her young), can run faster than horse and rider.
  • He created the wild mustang, giving him his strength and spirit of fearlessness.
  • He created the hawk and eagle and knows their ways as well.
  • As He sees fit, He endows human hearts with wisdom and gives understanding to the mind.

After hearing this list, Job's response was much like Isaiah's when he "saw the Lord, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).  Isaiah said, "Woe to me! ... I am ruined!"  In Job 40:4 Job answered the Lord saying, "I am unworthy...how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth."

Then, God goes for round two.  

In Job 40:9-41 He continues to describe His marvelous character, attributes and deeds.
After that list, Job confessed that he despised himself, and he repented of his actions, in dust and ashes (42:6).  Humility and repentance, in the presence of One Job could not begin to fully comprehend.

Now, remember, Job was "the finest of the fine".  I don't think any of us, even those who love the Lord the most (not me, by the way), can truly see him for who He is.  The apostle Paul confessed that he saw "through a glass darkly"(1 Corinthians 13:12).  Ever look through a glass window pane into the abject darkness?  That window is clear as glass, but it is of no use.....  Darkness is still all you can see.  None of us can fully appreciate our God, because we can't approach a full understanding of His character.

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we do as Job did - - construct a God of our own making.  It may be we go beyond what God reveals in Scripture to do that.  Other times, we may do so out of an ignorance of what the Scriptures say.  I take comfort in this verse, though:

                       Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
James 4:8a

This is a call to shut out the clamoring voices of the world and to spend time in prayer and Bible study with the Lover of our Souls, to "draw near".  

...that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving...
Ezra 9:8