Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Brave New World Burnt Offering

Image by Greg Montani, from Pixabay.com
At Genesis 8:20-22, we have now come to the end of the account of the Great Flood, historical science which conveys to us both the mercy and the judgment of God.  A number of extra-biblical sources could be cited in substantiation to this world-altering event.  Even the very constitution of the Earth bears witness to the upheaval experienced 5000 years ago.  What Intelligent Being, after all, would have created a world with such imperfection?  None.  The once-perfect creation now bears the marks of the most severe of judgments, fallen...and continuing to fall.

As his first act upon exiting the Ark, the great patriarch, Noah, builds an altar and offers a burnt offering on it from those he worked so hard to save.  Why?

20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD. Taking from every kind of clean animal and clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from his youth. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
22As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
shall never cease.”
Genesis 8:20-22 (Berean Study Bible)

When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with severe allergies, one of which was to "animal dander".  Now, we never had a pet in the house, growing up.  Mother would not allow it.  But, we had a stray dog that had given birth to several puppies, which I adored.  Upon getting the verdict of my allergy to dog "dander", the parental units decided it would be best to rid the family of pets altogether.  So, Daddy boxed them up and took them "somewhere".  Let's not dig too deeply into that, shall we?  The point is, I had to say a very tearful goodbye to my furry, little friends.  I still remember the pain, over 50 years later.

The concept of animal sacrifice is so very foreign to us today, because it simply "is not done".  In fact, the idea of harming animals (except for food) is deeply frowned upon in our modern "1st World" society.

It was different in the Old Testament.  Animal sacrifice was instituted by God Himself, was central to Old Testament worship and was a multi-dimensional act.  It was right and appropriate that Noah acted as he did, upon leaving the Ark.

The Ark itself symbolizes Jesus Christ, in Whom we find rescue and shelter from God's judgment.  In the Old Testament, though, Messiah Jesus had not yet appeared.  His all-encompassing sacrifice had not been made.  His blood had not atoned for all the sins of those who believe in Him.  So, the sacrificial system was in play.

It began with Abel, who pleased God by bringing the second animal sacrifice.  "Wait," you exclaim, "what was the first?"  The first was made by God, in the Garden of Eden, when He sacrificed the life of an animal to make animal skin coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve.  While those skins covered their nakedness, they could not cover their sin.

Offering food to "gods" has happened since the days of the ancients, and still persists to this day.  Walk into some Buddhist businesses (nail salons come to mind) and you will frequently see fresh fruit offerings at a shrine, for example.  In India, where via Hinduism literally hundreds of gods are worshipped, shrines and altars are more plentiful than Starbucks and McDonalds outlets in America.
(The photo at the head of this post is one example.)
There were a couple of differences between pagan animal sacrifices and those made by the Israelites, the people of Yahweh God.1

First, the animal sacrifice was to be burnt (Exodus 29:18), as opposed to being offered as "food for the gods" in other religions.  Jewish tabernacles or temples contained no man-made idol to which food was given.  Burning the animal's flesh was entirely unique to the Jewish faith.

Second, the Jews were very deliberate in how they treated the blood of the animal, based on the instructions given to them by Yahweh God.  Leviticus 17:11-14 tells us (as the old hymn goes) "there is power in the blood".  The blood is the essence of physical and spiritual life.  Accordingly, long after Noah, when God set up the Levitical priesthood through Moses and Aaron, sacrificial blood took center stage.  It was considered the highest crime to eat or drink it, as well as to shed "innocent blood".

The design of animal sacrifice was two-fold:2

  • The forfeiture of the life of the animal represents the forfeiture of the life of the sinful human to God's divine justice.  
  • The fire of the burnt offering represents that the sinner is deserving of the fires of eternal death an damnation.

To study the meanings behind all of the O.T. sacrificial offerings, see Leviticus 7.

As the Ark was a "type", a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, so was the burnt offering.  Today, as Jesus has made the ultimate, final, eternal sacrifice for our sins, we no longer must offer animal sacrifices on altars of stone.  What God requires from us who walk in the faith that flows from His Holy Spirit is continual sacrifice on the altars of our hearts, the sacrifice of self-denial, humility and obedience.  With such a faith-based walk, our God and Savior is honored and glorified.

He was pleased with the burnt offering given by Noah, and in response promised to never again destroy the Earth by cataclysmic flood.  This promise is named by theologians as The Noahic Covenant.  The one-of-a-kind, sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords grieved His heart deeply, but it pleased Him even more than all the burnt offerings of history combined; it pleased Him forever.  Jesus, The Last Sacrifice, "sealed the deal".

It is no accident Jesus Christ is pictured as a slain Lamb in Revelation 5.

8When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song:
“Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals,
because You were slain,
and by Your blood You purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
10You have made them into a kingdom,
priests to serve our God,
and they will reignb upon the earth.”
Revelation 5:8-10 (Berean Study Bible)


Sources:

1   https://reformjudaism.org/role-sacrifice

2   https://biblehub.com/commentaries/clarke/genesis/8.htm

Friday, April 19, 2019

When Passover and Good Friday Kiss Each Other

Image result for google images christian jewish

For the past three Passion Weeks (2016-2018) I have posted here in the blog my study about the "10 Days that Changed the World", a series of posts concerning the events of Jesus' last week before His crucifixion, burial and resurrection three days later.  I didn't re-post them again this year, or on Facebook because, with the hundreds of views they have received (mostly from Facebook users), I figured I had about worn that horse out.  On the off-chance though, dear reader, you have not read them, I would recommend you do so before delving into this post, one which will be to some highly controversial.  You can find the first post here:  https://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/10-days-that-changed-world-passion-week.html
And, then, just read the next one in the line-up, through the end of March, ending with the post called "First Fruits".

Okay, on to today's topic.
In the aforementioned posts, I essentially made a case for how Jesus Christ fulfilled the Passover Feast of the Jews in His last days on earth.  Likewise, He fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits, all of which are slammed together adjacent to one another, forming what is commonly referred to as the first three of  "The Spring Feasts". (The fourth is Shavuot, what Christians celebrate as Pentecost.)  Jesus was a Jew, after all, and a perfectly devout One to boot.  It is important to remember that.

This year, 2019, today is Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar, the day the Passover Lamb would have been slain by the High Priest in Jerusalem's Temple, the day the Lamb of God was crucified on the cross for our sins.  It happened around 3:00 in the afternoon in those days and, were there a Temple in Jerusalem today with priestly animal sacrifices ongoing, it would be happening right about now as I type this post, because beloved Israel is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. 

Tonight, Jews around the world will eat the Passover Seder, celebrating their deliverance from Egyptian slavery, with many putting the twist on their reminiscences of the more recent Holocaust, when Jews were enslaved and many exterminated by the Nazis.  Many Messianic Christians, those who marry the Jewish feast celebrations with the finished work of Jesus Christ, will celebrate a Messianic Seder tonight, but in addition to how the more traditional Jews celebrate, their added emphasis will be on how Messiah Jesus fulfilled Passover by setting them free from the slavery of sin and eternal death.  Hallelujah to His name!

Today, Nisan 14 and what most Christians around the world call Good Friday happen to fall on the same day.  That is what I mean by the title of this post.

In the early Church of Jesus Christ, all of the members were Jews, the first "Jews for Jesus", if you will.  The earliest Christians (they were not called Christians until late in the first century A.D., in the town of Antioch - - Acts 11:20-21) celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, beginning on Nisan 14, whenever that fell on the other world calendars in use at that time.  In other words, they began their "Easter" celebration, more appropriately called their resurrection celebration, on the day Jesus was crucified.  IN OTHER WORDS, the first resurrection "anniversaries" aligned with the Jewish feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits, because that is in line with how things went in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, as years went on, there began to be division about when to celebrate the Lord's resurrection.  Satan got to work and planted in the minds of influential church leaders that the "new Christian religion" should separate itself from those awful Jews . . . you know, the ones who killed the Lord Jesus?  That hellish attitude still persists in some circles today.  It was especially heretical in those early years, to drive a wedge between God's chosen people, the Jews, and the Jewish and Gentile Christians.  Once the wedge was in place, the rift just continued to widen.

None other luminary that the apostle John advocated for celebrating the resurrection, on Nisan 14.1  Others of that era chose to celebrate the resurrection on the Sunday following Passover, since it is incontrovertible that Jesus arose from the grave early on a Sunday morning.  However, here is the problem with that, (other than the obvious divergence of opinions.)  Passover does not always begin at the conclusion of Nisan 14, going into Nisan 15, a Thursday going into a Friday, as it did the year Jesus died.  What about those years Nisan 14-15 fell on a Monday-Tuesday, for example?  Well, three days later would be, what?  A Friday?  You can see the obvious problems.  If, in that fictitious year, the resurrection were celebrated "three days later", you would be celebrating on a Friday, not a Sunday.  AND, if you waited until the Sunday after Passover, Jesus would have been left in the tomb too long.
What to do?

By the time of the Council of Nicea, in 325 A.D., you had Christians celebrating the resurrection "all over the place", at various times, which the Council felt was unseemly.  It is sad that, instead of establishing the date in congruence with the lunar Jewish calendar, the way it originally occurred, the Council decided to establish it on the Roman calendar, a solar calendar, always during the Spring Equinox.  For some reason they felt that "the consistency", not to mention the distancing of Christianity from Jewry, was more important. So, the Council arbitrarily chose a date, decreeing all Christian churches would celebrate the resurrection of the Lord on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. 

While this date certainly brought a unanimity to the resurrection celebration, which later began to be called "Easter", it certainly did not bring with it accuracy.  In my opinion, it is merely another example of theological "drift" or as I've heard it called "slippage in the system".  As the Church of Jesus Christ has moved on into history, getting ever farther, necessarily, from the faith's "point of origin" in 3 B.C. through 30 A.D., more and more dreck or "tradition" or outright error have crept in.

Where did the term "Easter" come from, anyway?  That's another blog post, and I'm not going to get into that here.  How did we get to Friday being the designated day of the week for the crucifixion? No way you can get "three days in the belly of the earth" (Jesus' words in Matthew 12:40) from Friday to Sunday.... Why are bunnies and eggs and so forth now part of the cultural celebration, although, thankfully, not yet the theological....?  Drift.  Dreck.  Etc.  Some would call it outright heresy....

This Sunday, two days from now, I will go to church with my husband, and we will both lift our hands in praise and celebration, to honor our Lord and King, and to celebrate His finished work for us.  We will do this in our Baptist church, which celebrates Jesus' resurrection on "Easter Sunday".  But, learning about the lost alignment between the Jewish feasts and the Lord's Passion has both enriched my joy during this holy season, while simultaneously making me wistfully sad.  The Passion season always speaks more deeply to me when Passover and the Christian resurrection celebration align.  Kiss-Kiss!

Today, for example, I am meditating on how, on Nisan 14, 3790 (today is Nisan 14, 5779), He died for me, in the Gregorian calendar year 30 A.D. That year, Nisan 14 was a Thursday.  His body lay in the tomb three nights and 2 full days plus a partial day, while His spirit descended into Sheol and did His liberating work there.  Then, early on Sunday morning, Nisan 17, His body was resurrected into a glorious "heavenly" physical form and reunited with His Spirit, after which He walked the earth and did many miracles for 40 more days, until His Ascension into Heaven.

Nisan 17, the resurrection day, the day of the Feast of First Fruits, falls on a Monday this year.  🤷‍♀️

But, you know, the most important thing is that we don't let these types of Bible nerd explorations take away from our celebrating the Lord's Resurrection.  Becoming overly divisive does not bring glory to God, and it takes away from the central truth more worthy of celebration than any other.  And that is this:

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, and in which you stand firm. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He appeared to Cephasa and then to the Twelve. 6After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one of untimely birth.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (Berean Study Bible)

Happy Passover!  Happy Resurrection Day!

Sources:

1   https://answersingenesis.org/holidays/easter/is-the-date-of-easter-of-pagan-origin/

2   http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume28/GOT028159.html

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Worst Weather Ever

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay 

Upon waking this morning, I nearly stepped on our 90-pound dog, Charlie.  He usually sleeps on his dog bed, across the bedroom.  But, when it rains (yes, just pure, old rain) or (God forbid) thunders, he gets as close to me as possible, shivering and shaking in fear.  Apparently, during the night, he came to my side of the bed...and when I found him his head was literally under it.  For a moment, I thought he was dead!

Throughout Scripture, we can find some awful geographic and atmospheric phenomena.  Examples:  the Earth opened up and swallowed an entire family (Numbers 26:10); fire and brimstone fell to the Earth and destroyed two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19); plagues of frogs in Egypt ( Exodus 7:25-8:15); the future hordes of "locusts" (Revelation 9, the Fifth Trumpet judgment).
But, the granddaddy of them all had to be the "weather" brought to bear upon the Ark, surely one of the best-built ships ever made: God-designed and God-protected.

The occupants were on the boat for just over a year.  Don't make the mistake of believing all they endured was "hard rain".  No, the Bible tells us that the very springs (fountains) of "the deep" were opened and then later restored.  In this process, there were cataclysmic earthquakes, violently tossing the Ark to and fro.  Historians tell us that, before the Great Flood, what we now know as the seven continents were more joined together into something called Pangaea (or Pangea, whichever spelling you'd prefer).  This was a "supercontinent", comprising most of the land of the whole earth.

Back in 2004, there was a tremendous earthquake in the Indian Ocean, near Indonesia, on Boxing Day, Dec. 26th.1  The resulting tsunami from this powerful quake killed over 100,000 people, in mere moments.  Now, imagine the worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis needed to break the supercontinent into seven, spreading them out around the globe.

Girls and boys, that must have been some boat ride.  It would have made the fiercest carnival attraction look tame.

But, then afterwards, what to do with all that water?  God sent strong, strong winds to dry up the Earth.  Honestly, I am convinced that, had not God supernaturally held them, the occupants of the Ark would have died from abject fear.

We read in Genesis 8:1 that "God remembered".  He remembered the humans and animals on His Ark.  This seems to indicate He had forgotten about them for some time which is, of course, ludicrous.  But, the tenor of this verse is that He cared for them, with lovingkindness, through it all, because He remembered His covenant promises to His people.2  What promise is relevant in this case?
At this time in human history, we have had the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 1:27-28) and the protevangelium, also called the first mention of Messiah.  We find it in Genesis 3:15.  Here, God promised to send a Messiah to redeem fallen man.  Obviously, by Noah's time, no Messiah had appeared.  Therefore, God preserved a remnant family through whose descendants Messiah would eventually come.  Even more relevant, God promised to keep Noah (Noahic Covenant) and his family safe through all the "bad weather" (Genesis 6:17-18).  And, He did, despite the awful ordeal.

There are times in our lives when we believe we are going through the very worst, living as a human can bring.  Our adverse circumstances can cause us to doubt the very existence of a Heavenly Father, much less whether or not He even sees our pain.  In the depths of despair we may give up hope that the Lord will remember His promises to us.  Yet, we must hold fast, because though it seems to us that he is slow to fulfill His Word, He always does and does so at exactly the right time.

9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,a not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

So ... don't be like Charlie.  When the torrential rains come, look up and remember God's promises to you.  Don't hide your head under the bed or shake with fear.  Trust His promises.  They will never, ever be moved, like the tectonic plates that moved to split the Earth's land into the 7 continents.  Nor will His promises or His care ever be removed from His own beloved.

Sources:

1    https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/2004-indian-ocean-tsunami-facts

2    https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/god-remembered-noah/

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Unplanned - - A Reflection and Movie Review


Before I formed you in the womb I knew you....
Jeremiah 1:5a (ESV)

Yesterday was one of those historic days where the events themselves just made an odd alignment in my soul.  First of all, it was our older son's 24th birthday.  So, my mind wandered back to that day when I gave birth to that nearly 10-pound baby.  God richly blessed us in the conception department.  It took little time for me to become pregnant with either of our sons.  I remember back in 1996 - - I felt we needed to start "trying" ahead of the schedule I wanted our second child to arrive on.  My hope was to have another mid-to-late spring birth, as our first son had been.  But, "trying" took all of one cycle and behold!  I was pregnant again.  My heart goes out to women who so desperately want to conceive and, for a myriad of reasons, just can't.  This very moment, friends are working through the adoption process . . . with a foreign country.  It is very difficult to adopt an American baby.  There just are not many babies who survive in order to become adopted here.

Then, also yesterday, I kept for the first time, my 3-month old great nephew all day.  I have committed to doing this one day a week for the foreseeable future.  He is a sweet, adorable baby and, although I smelled like baby puke from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., I enjoyed every moment of our time together.
By 6:35 p.m., Hubs and I were relaxing in a movie theater, popcorn and coke for dinner, watching insipid "pre-previews" until the movie, "Unplanned" began.  Last night was opening night.  Hubs had not wanted to go see this film; he went with me as an act of love.  And, I understand and appreciate that so much.

Never having been a girl to "look away" or to shy away from a fight, I have long been familiar with the American "fight for life".  I know how critical it is to financially support those who make such films, because, otherwise, the true, undistorted message of God's truth will not "get out there".  I so appreciate Mike Lindell, yes, the "My Pillow Guy", who was the executive producer of this film.  That means he bankrolled it.  Otherwise, it could not have been made.  The filmmakers said they had tried twice to bring the film to fruition, and their efforts had been frustrated both times.  I believe this is because God wanted this film to premiere at this time - - - a time when some states are enacting pro-death legislation (NY, VA, among others), and other are enacting strong pro-life legislation (GA, OH, etc.)  This fight will eventually return to SCOTUS, the Supreme Court of the United States.

It occurred to me, while musing on the bloody legacy of Roe v. Wade this morning, that most of the people I now know could have been legally aborted by their mothers - - people I love and could not imagine my life without could simply have never existed at all outside the womb.  Over 61 million US babies' lives taken through abortion in the past 36 years!1

"Unplanned" is a movie of deep woundedness and supernatural redemption.  The film is based on the true story of Abby Johnson, who "rose" to be the youngest clinic director in the history of Planned Parenthood.  I watched her interview this morning on national TV.  She said it was hard to lay out the most intimate details of her personal life for all the world to see.  No kidding.... The movie goes beyond frank to being brutally honest.  The scene where Abby witnesses a late-term abortion - - I simply could not watch.  I just bowed my head and cried.

The movie gives an even-handed treatment of the topic, showing that fringe element of ugliness on the alt-right side of the issue as well as the pervasive evil at the core of Planned Parenthood.  I commend the filmmakers for their honesty.  Not all who call themselves "pro-life" are compassionate toward women who, through their own choices or not, find themselves faced with heart-rending decisions.  I do not condone or support such tactics, even though I am staunchly pro-life.  Y'all, Jesus deal with these situations similarly to how he dealt with the Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11) or the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42).  Jesus would NOT dress up in a Halloween costume as The Grim Reaper and scream invectives at sorrowing women in the worst crises of their lives.

There was another weird confluence yesterday, and I alluded to it above.  Here in my home state of Georgia the legislature passed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the nation.  And, the governor, himself pro-life, will sign it in a few days.  It will certainly be challenged in the liberal courts.  But, for now, those who believe in the sanctity of human life are rejoicing.  Well, most are.  There is a small element dissing the legislation because it allows for some exceptions.  I call this the "all or nothing" approach.  In the American system of governance one rarely achieves "everything" desired.  Compromise is a part of the process.  That Georgia was able to get this bill passed is in itself a miracle of God.  Why rail against it because it "does not go far enough"?  Thousands of babies' lives will be saved in Georgia because of this legislation.  I believe we should rejoice in that.

Redemption.  Oh how I thank God for His grace!  Only God can forgive my sins, your sins, the sins of anyone who throws themselves into His loving, forgiving, restoring arms.  This film does not leave the viewer without hope.  Hope is a thread woven throughout the movie, hallelujah!  Please go see it in a theater this weekend, if possible.  Take a pro-choice friend!  In doing so you will be supporting the efforts of those who are trying to save unborn lives.  Your support matters, whether you speak with your prayers, with your money, with your time, or all of those!  Locally, our pro-life center, The Hope Center of Woodstock, is having a Walk for Life, on April 27th, 9:00 a.m.  Learn more here:  supporthopecenter.com

#SaveTheBabyHumans

13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

Source:

1    http://www.numberofabortions.com/



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Purim - - a Story of Surrender


Tonight at sundown, the Jewish feast of Purim begins world-wide.  Purim is always the 14th and 15th of the 12th Hebrew month, Nisan.  This year, curiously, it falls very "late", straddling the Spring equinox.

The biblical story on which the feast is based is the Old Testament book of Esther, most likely written by either Mordecai, one of its central characters, or by the prophet Nehemiah, who would have been a young man when these events transpired.  The date of the book is somewhere between 464-415 B.C.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of Esther, go read the short Old Testament book.  It is fascinating to read about how God physically delivered His people from extermination by an anti-Semitic prime minister of the Persian Empire.  My commentary today will make more sense of you are familiar with the story.

This feast of Purim (which means 'lots' as in "casting lots") is a time of physical celebration.  The day before Purim, itself a one-day feast, is spent fasting from before daylight until dusk.  This year, that fast day would have been today, March 20th.  Then, from sundown on March 20th to sundown on March 21st this year, Jews (including Messianic Jews) participate in a variety of celebratory activities:
  • synagogue services in which the story of Esther is read
  • special prayers (such as Exodus 17:8-16) to celebrate God's deliverance in Jewish history
  • special feasts/recipes
  • giving to the needy
  • giving food gifts to friends (delivering it to their homes)
  • much alcoholic beverage
  • dancing
  • masquerade (to symbolize Esther hiding her Jewish identity and Haman keeping his motives for the Jews hidden)
Ultimately, the Jews celebrate their rescue, how God used one, surrendered young woman, to deliver the nation from the brink of extinction (Haman's goal).

So, yes, one of the central themes of the book is "surrender".  Esther, like all women of her day, had no power that accrued to her, simply because of her personhood.  Theirs was an extremely patriarchal society.  The best that a woman could hope for was to marry a powerful man.  In God's sovereignty, He appointed Esther to the position of Artaxerxes' (Ahasuerus') queen.  This made her the most powerful woman in that empire.
Even so, her predecessor, Vashti, had been killed due to her disobedience to the king.  It was a sobering lesson, a "cautionary tale".  Esther had good reason to fear standing up for the lives of her people.  She had every expectation that she, too, would be killed for daring to petition the king.  In the passage above, while she is pondering the implications of her task, her uncle reminds her that nothing happens by accident with God - - - that she had been uniquely placed into her position of influence so that she could be used by God to accomplish His purposes.

We are faced with this same challenge.  Each Christian is uniquely created and gifted to serve the Savior.  Each of us must decide every day whether or not we will allow our will to be submitted to His, whether we will allow our bodies, minds, souls and spirits to be used by Him to advance His kingdom.  I thank God I've never had to lay my life on the line for His sake.  But, that day may come. In the interim, in the little surrenders to His will, am I proving myself faithful?  That is the question each of us must answer every, single day.

But, why did the story of Esther even occur?  Why is it even in the Bible?  Is it really that important?  I mean, it is the only book of the Bible in which God's name is not even mentioned.  (Isn't that something?!)

I wonder if God allowed Esther's story to be told in order to show the long-range consequences of disobedience?

Did you notice in Esther 2:5 that Mordecai was a Benjaminite, and that his ancestor was Kish (also a Benjaminite)? This means Mordecai was of the tribe of Benjamin, and that Esther was also, as she and Mordecai were first cousins.  Equally important, Haman was a Agagite (Esther 3:1).  I know you are thinking, "Big deal...yawn..."

Take a look with me back at 1 Samuel 9:1-2.  Who was Kish's son?  That's right, Saul, the first king of Israel.  By all appearances, Saul would have made a fine king.  Unfortunately, he turned to disobedience, and his disobedience to God figures into the Esther story.  Now, let's look at 1 Samuel 15:1-11.  Of particular interest is verse 9.

9Saul and his troops spared Agag, along with the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calvesb and lambs, and the best of everything else. They were unwilling to destroy them ...

Do you see it?  God had commanded Saul to destroy utterly all of the Amalekites, including Agag, their king.  When Haman is called an Agagite in Esther 3:1, it means he was a descendant of Agag.
Once again, history repeats.  In the Esther story, we have an Agagite trying to destroy the Jews.
HAD SAUL DONE AS GOD COMMANDED HIM, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO AGAGITES, meaning, no Haman, no crisis, no pending extermination of the Jewish people, hundreds of years after Saul, in the 5th century B.C.
Boom.

When we consciously disobey God, thinking we know better than He (or for whatever god-forsaken justification) we rarely can foresee the long-range consequences of our disobedience.  Thankfully, He allowed descendants of Kish to redeem that family name through their obedience, because both Mordecai and Esther surrendered to His leading at this critical point in Jewish history.

As Mordecai pointed out to Esther (Esther 4:13-14), if she had said, "No!", God would have raised up someone else to deliver His chosen people.  Both Mordecai and Esther were devout Jews, who were well aware of the covenants which God had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. They knew He would keep His word, which declared He would not allow His chosen ones to be utterly destroyed.  The question was, "Would Esther and Mordecai fulfill the purpose to which God had called them, in this cosmic battle?"  Would they embrace the task, risking their very lives for Him? Or, would they decline, and miss the blessing God had for them, even if that blessing was in the form of death?

Here is something that Christian martyrs have understood for two milennia, whether you are talking about first century Christian martyrs or those ruthless killed by Muslims in Nigeria just a few short weeks ago.  ( https://www.christianpost.com/news/fifty-christians-burned-alive-in-pastors-home-in-nigeria-78303/ ). If they are living in the center of God's will, fulfilling His purpose for them, then death is not a punishment.  They understand that following hard after Jesus Christ, their Savior, is better than physical life and that, in the end, physical death is ... irrelevant.

At Purim, followers of Jesus can celebrate this:
that He has delivered His chosen people from extermination and that He has, through His earthly redemptive work, His perfect sacrifice for our sins, delivered us from the penalty of sin and eternal death.  Our Savior is our Deliverer.  Hallelujah!  Although orthodox Jews still look for a Messiah, we have this treasure, this gospel of Jesus Christ - - - that He, the Son of God, has come that we might have (eternal) life, and that we might have life here on earth more abundantly. (John 10:10)  Now, THAT is a great reason to celebrate!

Happy Purim! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A Year on a Boat


Sitting here, writing this, it is raining outside...again.  We have had a lot of rain over the past few months.  Not too long ago, just a few years, we were in what seemed like a cycle of drought.  No more.  Yesterday, driving to work at the pie shop (which my voice-to-text translates as "pot shop", much to my friends' amusement), I noticed in one spot that the water nearly was over the roadway.  Most of us north GA locals are not pleased.  We post memes about how tired we are of all this rain.  Our discontent is nothing, compared to the year+ which Noah's family spent on the Ark, I'm quite sure!

Today, we are going to look at how long the biblical Great Flood lasted.1  The Bible gives a great deal of specificity as to the timeline, and it's quite interesting (or, at least, I think it is).
Let's start with Genesis 7:10-11 (Berean Study Bible):

10And after seven days the floodwaters came upon the earth. 11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12And the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

The rain began to fall (it had never rained on the Earth prior to this) and the great "fountains of the deep" were broken open, when Noah was 600 years old.  We can infer that Noah had entered the Ark 7 days prior, the week during which all the animal pairs were sent to him.  (We can only imagine the organization that went on during that week...)
When I was a child I had this little plastic statue that sat in my bedroom window.  There was this little woebegone figure holding an umbrella, and printed on the base of the statue were these words:  "Into each life some rain must fall, but this is ridiculous."  I think of that as I think of the ferocity of the Flood.  I wonder if Noah's family believed they would survive it?  During this time, continents actually broke apart and new oceans were formed.  The Earth was completely reconfigured!2
Genesis 7:19-24 (BSB):

19Finally, the waters completely inundated the earth, so that all the high mountains under all the heavens were covered.
20The waters rose and covered the mountaintops to a depth of fifteen cubits.b 21And every creature that had moved upon the earth perished—birds, livestock, animals, every creature that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind. 22Of all that had been on dry land, everything that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23And every living thing on the face of the earth was destroyed—man and livestock, crawling creatures and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth, and only Noah remained, and those with him in the ark.
24And the waters prevailed upon the earth for 150 days.

Sometime between the 40th day, when the rain stopped, and the 150th day, the flood waters reached their highest point, which was at least 20 feet above the highest mountains on Earth.  They then began to recede.  By the 150th day (Genesis 8:4), the Ark had found ground, coming to rest somewhere in the mountains of Ararat.  (Notice this is not the same as today's Mt. Ararat.  More on that in the next Genesis post)

74 days later (Genesis 8:5), the tops of the surrounding mountains were visible, as waters continued to recede.  This puts the timeline at Day 224.  40 days after that (Day 64) (Genesis 8:6), Noah sent out a raven to explore the surrounding area.

5And the waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark 7and sent out a raven. It kept flying back and forth until the waters had dried up from the earth.
Genesis 8:5-6 (BSB)

Then, Noah sent out a dove, which returned to him as it could find no landing place.  He did this again 7 days later, and again 7 days later, at which time the dove did not return.  264 + 21 = Day 285, the day the dove was sent out the last time.  (We can infer there were seven days between the raven and the dove's first flight because in Genesis 8:10 the text states Noah waited "another 7 days".)

29 days later (Day 314) on "the first day of the first month", Noah removed the Ark's cover, where he discovered the surface of the land was dry.  (Genesis 8:13).  57 days later (Day 370), God commanded Noah and his family to "disembark" (that is, leave the ark), because the Earth was dry and once again able to sustain life.  They emerged, to find the physical world tremendously changed.

13And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.
14And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.
Genesis 8:13-14 (BSB) 

So, the inundation lasted approximately five months and the waters returning to their places another five months, with an additional two months or so required to dry everything up, cause plant life to re-grow, etc.  Amazing, isn't it?!

5Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.
6You covered it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
7At your rebuke they fled; at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.
8They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which you have founded for them.
9You have set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
Psalm 104:5-9 (King James 2000)

Sources:

https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/biblical-overview-of-the-flood-timeline/

https://answersingenesis.org/geology/plate-tectonics/noahs-lost-world/

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"Kind" Of...


In Genesis 7:4 we learn that the assembling of The Ark's animal menagerie was accomplished in seven days.  I find it interesting that the entire creation of "all that is" was accomplished in six.  The preservation of that creation by its being gathered into The Ark took seven.  Noah needed one more day than had God.  What about that! (a little tongue-in-cheek humor there...)

Now, obviously, water-breathing animal life did not need to be brought on board The Ark, nor did marine vegetation.  Some theologians1 believe that, literally, two of every existing, air-breathing species were brought onto the boat.  It certainly had a lot of room, one source saying enough to house 125,000 sheep (and most animals are smaller than a sheep).  In today's zoological classification of animals, the term "species" is the lowest, most specialized tier, and there are (conservative estimate) 1 to 2 million animal species on Earth today.  "Well, there certainly was not room for all that!", you say.   True, but we must remember that a sizable number of those animals are/were not air-breathing, but were instead water-breathing.  Another unknown is whether there were that many animal species in Noah's day, or not.  If NOT, then it is possible that two of every species were brought on board.

Others, such as the Answers in Genesis group, believe that only representative pairs of "kinds" were brought aboard, these containing in their genetic make-up the material to diversify over time, and that animal kinds became more diverse as centuries followed and kinds adapted to their environments.  A synonym for "kind" on the taxonomy chart is "family".  For example, dogs are in one family; cats are in another, and humans in yet another.  The next rung down from family is genus; each family contains several genera.  For example, in the cat family (Felidae), you have Felis (small cats and domestic cats), Panthera (tigers, leopards, jaguars and lions) and Puma (panthers and cougars) genera.  And, as previously noted, the lowest rung, the one below genus, is species.

But, what IS a "kind" as it is referred to in the Bible?  The word occurs in both Genesis 1, during creation, and then again in Genesis 6 and 7.  Would it correspond to our modern-day terms "species" or "genus" or "family"?

Remember that (at the risk of stating the obvious) our zoological classifications did not exist in Noah's day (Duh!).  In the older translations, "kind" was used to translate the Hebrew word "מִין" (Min) which means "an entity distinct from other entities".2  Every time this word appears, it is used in a taxonomical context. 

Here's perhaps an easier way to understand it.  God brought onto the Ark a representative pair of animals/plant life that could interbreed with others in that "kind" to form the biological diversity we see today.  For example, a dog and a dingo could interbreed and produce offspring, because they are of the Canis family (kind).  So, only one breeding pair from that family would have been needed. 

What we see having happened over hundreds of years since the Flood is that within the zoological designation of family (kind), much variation has occurred as animals adapted to their environments.  Hence, you have the arctic hare, the pygmy rabbit, the jackrabbit, etc.  This is not evolution.  Evolution has never been actually observed to naturally occur outside the zoological designation of family.  For example, a dog cannot breed with a cat.  A human cannot breed with a cow.  Etc.  (Thank God!) . Further, God in His infinite wisdom has closed some doors so that, even within a family, certain species cannot interbreed successfully to perpetuate the line.  An example of this would be a horse interbreeding with a donkey, producing the sterile mule.

Why does this matter?  It matters because atheists use this point to attack the veracity of the Bible.  Scoffing, they ridicule creationists by claiming that the Ark story could not have occurred, as the boat was not big enough to contain enough "pairs" to repopulate the Earth.  However, it certainly occurred, and here we are today.

In addition to the above points, we must embrace as Christians that the Great Flood was a supernatural event, never to be repeated (rainbow promise from God, remember?  Genesis 9:13).
And, nowhere in Scripture does it say Noah went out and found these pairs of animals.  God sent them to him (Genesis 6:20).  Christian, is it preposterous to believe that God could load the Ark up with all the "seed" necessary to repopulate the Earth, when He created it all in the first place?  Why is it some can believe the creation account, but not the flood account? 

Well, I "kind of" think this post has gone on long enough.  If you want to study this point further, check the sources below. 

Sources:

1    http://www.ldolphin.org/cisflood.html

2    https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/what-does-two-of-every-kind-mean/

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Windows, Yet Door


"One door and only one, and yet its sides are two?  I'm on the inside.  On which side are you?!"1

Why do you suppose there was only one door into the Ark?  Pictured above is the representation of Noah's Ark found at The Ark Encounter, in Williamstown, Kentucky.

16Make a roof for the ark and finish it, leaving 18 inches from the top. Put a door in the side of the ark, and make lower, middle, and upper decks.
Genesis 6:16 (NET)

The "cubit" of space between the top of the Ark and the roof allowed for windows of light and ventilation, but it was not enough space to permit water to overwhelm the Ark during the many tempestuous days of the Great Flood.  The windows figured prominently in determining when the judgment was concluded.  (See Genesis 8:6-12.)

There is little we actually know about the door of the Ark, other than God commanded Noah to set it in the side of the large boat.  However, it would make sense for the door to be located "on the middle deck".  In The Ark Encounter photo, you can see a ramp that extends diagonally up the side of the Ark, to a door in the middle deck.  There were so many animals to load, though....why only one door?

We see, further, in Genesis 7:16 that the Lord shut the door to the Ark, sealing inside all the human and animal and plant life.  This is significant.  Why mention the shutting of the door at all?  Or, why did Noah or his sons not shut it?

When we think of a miracle, what comes to mind?  We need to remember that not all of God's miracles were miracles of healing or of restoration.  Some, as in the case of the Flood, were miracles of judgment.  The Flood was not just some "natural disaster".  This was a supernatural judgment of God (and a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus Christ).  How else could this overgrown boat, albeit impressive, have survived such catastrophic upheaval, where the very "fountains of the deep" burst open? (Genesis 7:11)

God Himself shut the one-and-only door to keep the living inside safe through the year-long cataclysm.3  In Revelation 3:7 we read that when God opens a door no man can shut it and when He closes a door, no man can open it either.

There is a symbolic meaning in the Flood judgment.  As He did in the case of the Ark and the Flood judgment, God provides a way for people to escape eternal judgment through Jesus Christ.  Jesus referred to Himself as "the door", in John 10:9.  In that specific instance, Jesus was referring to the door or gate of the sheep pen, but the principle is the same.  He is the one and only way God has provided to "enter in" and receive salvation, eternal life.

The italicized quote at the top of the page is from a song I learned as a child.  It asks the question, "On which side of the door are you?".  Have you entered through the Door into God's Ark of eternal security?  If not, please enter in today!

Through the writing of the apostle John, Jesus uses the "door" metaphor again, in a slightly different way.  Open the door of your heart to Him today!

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20 (ESV)

Sources:

1    http://www.digitalsongsandhymns.com/songs/7817

2    http://www.alfredplacechurch.org.uk/index.php/sermons/genesis/71-16-the-lord-shut-the-door/

3    https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/biblical-overview-of-the-flood-timeline/

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Gopher Wood


Many ancient earth cultures have flood legends in their oral and written histories.  You can read some of them here:  https://answersingenesis.org/answers/magazine/v11-n4/bible-culture/worldwide-flood-legends/
Scientists tend to dismiss a worldwide flood as causal factor for much of what we observe in the fossil record today.  However, if it did not happen, why would there be so many legends from all parts of the world testifying to its occurrence?
Furthermore, why would there be so much observable evidence for a "young earth"?

As Christians, our authoritative source is neither observable evidence, nor ancient literature.
We are going to look at the Ark as it is described in the Old Testament scriptures, since the Bible is our supreme authority as Christians.  Let's start with Genesis 6:14 NET) - -

Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out.

The Hebrew word translated "ark" here is "tebah" and is used only 28 times in the Old Testament.  Every time, it is used to refer to either Noah's Ark or the woven basket used by Jochebed to house Moses, when she (his mother) set him afloat in bullrushes along the edge of the Nile River (Exodus 2:3 and Hebrews 11:23).
There's a reason I chose the NET translation of the preceding verse.  Translators of this version have extrapolated to say "cypress wood", whereas most older translators/translations say "gopher wood". (Gopher wood bears no relation to the prairie rodent pictured above, far as I can tell!)

Gopher wood no longer exists today.1  It was apparently so well known in the antediluvian world Noah knew what it was.  The Hebrew word translated "gopher" is used only once in the Bible, and that is here in Genesis 6:14.  The NET translators used "cypress" because it is a very hard, durable wood that could theoretically withstand brutal winds and rain.  But, bottom line, none of us knows beans about the wood used to create the Ark.

There are other speculations.  One is that there was a scribal error made in that word, between the Hebrew letters translated "g" and "k", because both look very similar to a backwards "c".  If the "g" was supposed to be a "k", then the resulting word "kopher" means "pitch", and the passage would read, "Make for yourself an ark of pitched wood."  In that case, it could have been any of several types of wood, as long as they were treated inside and out with pitch.

Still other scholars believe the word refers to the processing of the wood, that the planks were squared off with some sort of lamination process applied, in order for the planks to accommodate the dimensions of the overall structure.  We tend to assume that life before the flood was terribly antiquainted; I think that is a mistake.  It is very likely that antediluvian world was actually more advanced than is ours.

Isn't that something?

Moving on . . .

15This is how you should make it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. 16Make a roof for the ark and finish it, leaving 18 inches from the top. Put a door in the side of the ark, and make lower, middle, and upper decks.
Genesis 6:15-16 (NET)

If you have not visited the Ark Encounter in Williamston, KY, you should really go.  The replica of Noah's Ark they have created really brings to life this part of human history.  No longer must we imagine the scope of the Ark, because we can see a replica of its dimensions, before our very eyes.  As you pull up to the Ark Encounter complex, you can easily spot the massive boat,  perched on a hilltop in the distance.  The unit of measurement in the Hebrew text is "cubit".  No one is totally sure what the length of a cubit was, as there is some discrepancy between the Egyptian royal cubit and the typical OT cubit, which was about 3 inches shorter.  Using the Egyptian measure, the Ark would have been close to 512 feet in length; using the OT cubit, it would have been closer to 437 feet in length.

The dimensions of the Ark were a ratio of 30 x 5 x 3.  (Did you know that, according to ship-builders, this is the optimum ratio for stability of a vessel in rough seas?2  Furthermore, it was not until the late 1800s that a post-Flood sea vessel of this size was attempted.)

Even going with the shorter cubit, the Ark could have held the equivalent of 569 railroad boxcars.  If you use as an average that each animal was the size of a sheep, the Ark could have held over 125,000 animals.  We will examine passengers and cargo in an upcoming post.

Before we leave these verses, however, we will, in the next post, examine the roof vents and the door of the vessel.


Sources:

1    https://www.gotquestions.org/gopher-wood.html

2    http://www.ldolphin.org/cisflood.html


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ruined


What does it mean when something or someone is "ruined"?  Not a pleasant thought, is it?
Today's text is Genesis 6:11-13 (ESV).  Notice the word "corrupt" in this passage, because a more accurate translation of it would be "so corrupt that it was totally ruined".1  (The NET version, in fact, uses the word "ruined".)  We've now returned, here in the blog, to the book of Genesis!

11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,c for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Some of us question God's actions in this story, because we cannot fathom how "bad" things were.  Surely, we reason, things could have been turned around or repaired.  After all, the Bible is filled with other stories of how God took the most extremely sinful people and the most horrible, seemingly-irredeemable circumstances and did miraculous spiritual transformations.  But, to make this wrong assumption is to demonstrate misunderstanding of how bad things actually were.

In their lust for knowledge and power, mankind had "sold out" to the fallen angelic beings who had come to live among them, after their expulsion from Heaven, after their failed rebellion against Jehovah Sabaoth, (the God of Angel Armies, the Lord of Hosts).  Being thoroughly evil, these beings had intermarried with humans, thereby ruining the human bloodline of every family making that irreversible choice.  And yes, they had a choice.  We see this from the deliberateness of the phrase "had corrupted their way".  The Fallen surely provided a strong temptation, but God never leaves Man without a choice.  (It was the exercise of free will in the Garden of Eden that started this downward spiral, after all.)  The legacy of the "ancient aliens" (to borrow the title of a popular TV show here in America), the demonic Nephilim, the gibborim (Genesis 6:4), was complete, pervasive violence.  They were not a benevolent group of entities.  No, they were hell-bent on destroying the human race, in order to prevent a pure human bloodline through which Messiah would be born.  And, they very nearly succeeded.

Satan and his minions (thankfully, the major architects of the pre-Flood world's ruination are currently locked up tight in Tartarus....2 Peter 2:4) are today still at work, trying to convince us that we are all hopelessly ruined.  Perhaps you have felt that way.  I know that I have . . . and, from time to time, still do.

There is good news, though - - such incredibly good news!  Because of Jesus, and His finished work, NO ONE is hopelessly ruined.  As long as there is breath in the body, there is the potential for God to turn things around, to redeem the broken. There is only one sin which cannot be forgiven2 , and that sin is a deliberate decision on the part of the person who willfully commits it.  (If you don't know what that unforgivable sin is, click on Source 2 below, because it is a whole blog post, in itself.)

When we feel hopelessly, irrevocably ruined, the best thing we can do is to look at the Word of God and cling to His promises.  Here's one of them, that the Lord brought to my mind just now.  Perhaps it was meant not only for me today, but for you also.

12What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.
Matthew 18:12-14 (NET)

And, one more....

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
1 Cor. 10:13 (NASB)

Yes, God IS faithful!  In the next post, we will examine Noah's Ark and God's promises to Noah, which still apply to us today.

Sources:

1    https://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/6-11.htm

2    https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-Holy-Spirit.html

Friday, January 11, 2019

A New Moon

The truth is . . . I had to drag myself here this morning.  As the extended hiatus I've been on since just before Christmas stretched on and on, each day made me less inclined to return to this blog and write.  There are a couple of reasons for my absence, well, three if I'm honest.
The first is that my last child left home and I have been trying to adjust to that new void.
The second is that my house was (I felt) physically in such disarray I could no longer cope by ignoring it.
The third is that I have been, quite honestly, in a state of spiritual funk, where I just felt there was no point, that I have nothing worthwhile to say, etc.
Taken altogether, these kept me away, as I walked through the recent days of both growth and grief.

If God gives you the grace to be an "emptynester", there is some adjusting to do regarding how quiet the house becomes.  You realize that your job, as parent, is largely done - - at least, you realize that if your children are as independent as mine.  That is a sobering and saddening thought.  You acknowledge you should be giving thanks for all God has done in your life and the life of your children.  Knowing something intellectually, however, does not equate to feeling it in real time.

On the bright side, my laundry room, pantry, home office and more generally the rest of the house has been restored to some semblance of order and peace.  I'm not a fastidious housekeeper, preferring usually to do things of more "value" (a deeply personal construct).  It gets to a point, though, where the disorganization is overwhelming.  I reached that point just after Christmas.

Don't ever make the mistake of looking at anyone and believing that they have it easy or "all together".  I am supremely grateful to "giants of the faith" like Charles Spurgeon, who was open about his emotional struggles.  I've not been doubting my faith, although God forgives even that.  I've just been sad in my deepest heart of hearts, and I'd appreciate your prayers about that.

Well now, after that rather lengthy (and probably distracting) introduction, let's examine some Scripture together.  Presently, we will return to the book of Genesis in this blog's ongoing exegesis.  However, today is not that day.

19He made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows when to set.
Psalm 104:19 (BSB)

Earlier this week, leaving the house after nightfall, I spotted the new moon in the night sky...just the tiniest sliver!  Some have compared the people of God to the moon.  This is because, although there are times the moon is not visible, yet it is still there.  Some nights are "dark as night" as a result; others are nearly as bright as midday, when the moon is full and in close perigee to the Earth. 

The Jewish calendar(s), {and of course, there is debate about which "one" is "the one"}, share this feature in common.  They are lunar calendars, whereas the Western, Roman calendar is a solar calendar.  And, the beginning of each month is marked by the spotting of the new moon, Rosh Chodesh.  However, in the more ancient times, Jews would search the night skies for that sliver of hope, that new moon, to declare a new month had begun.  "In ancient times Rosh Chodesh was declared by the beit din (Jewish court) only after two credible witnesses would testify that they had seen the new moon. Since the fourth century, however, it has been determined by a preset calendar."1

This week's most recent new moon has ushered in the Jewish month of Shevat (or Shvat).  Although it occurs in the dead of winter, it is seen as a time or rebirth and new beginnings - - a harbinger of spring.  Thanks be to God that the days are gradually "getting longer"!

If you feel you are wandering in the dark today, look for the new moon.  If you are a Christian, you are not immune from apogee and perigee.  There will be times you will feel like you are stumbling in darkness, others when you are dancing in the light.  God, your Father, Christ, your Savior, and the Holy Spirit within you are no more "with you" or "far from you" at either time.  His presence is not dependent upon your cares or your moods or even your legitimate life circumstances.

He has promised to "be with you always", if you have accepted and trusted Him as your one and only Savior.  On that His children can always depend.

Source:

1
https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1928828/jewish/What-Is-Rosh-Chodesh.htm