Monday, August 30, 2010

Leviticus 13, 14, 15 Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...Image via Wikipedia
These chapters of Leviticus are pretty dry reading. However, in one verse, Leviticus 15:31, God summarizes their significance.

“Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.”

God again underscores that He is a Holy God who cannot be approached by anyone who is unclean, either by virtue of disease or sin.  God wanted the Levitical priests to recognize the disease while God would provide the healing.  This is really an interesting approach.  Without a diagnosis, an ill person may fail to recognize exactly what ailment he had.  While he might heal over time, he would just attribute his healing to himself or to the disease taking its course.  However, once a priest identifies the problem and classifies someone as clean or unclean, an unclean person has to face his uncleanness and petition God for healing. Once healed, he could glorify God, offer the appropriate sacrifices, and return to the community.

During this process, the healed individual would probably have a developed a deeper relationship with God because he understood that he was ill and separated from the community, and later was healed and restored to community.  This illness could be seen as symbolic of man’s relationship with God, who wants us to recognize our illness, sin, and then receive His healing, forgiveness.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leviticus 10, 11, 12: Yarah and Torah: Approaching a Holy God

Aaron's Sons, Nadab and Abihu, Destroyed by Fi...Image via Wikipedia
Off hand, I can't think of any experience in my life that parallels that of Aaron's sons,  Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10.  On the surface it would appear that they were doing the right thing, burning incense before the Lord.  Yet, Scripture states that they offered God a loathsome, unauthorized, unholy incense  for which they were immediately judged with instant death.

Leviticus 10: 3 states:

"Among those who approach Me, I will show Myself Holy; In the sight of the people I will be honored."

God took the sons of Jacob and claimed them as His own possession.  However, the absolutely holy God, Jehovah, has to show the nation of Israel how to relate to Him.  Something about what they did was done in violation of God's commands.  By disobeying God, these two sons of Aaron dishonored God before Israel.  Since God had just ordained Aaron and his sons to serve as priests for the nation, the irreverence of Nadab and Abihu was a pivotal point.  Everyone had to understand that God provided only one correct way to approach him, i.e. that God recognizes only the way that He provided as the only correct way to approach Him.

Levites were given the sacred responsibility to teach, in Hebrew יָרָה (yara),  the Israelites the decrees of the Lord as well as to distinguish between the clean and the unclean.  Of note here is that yara is the root word for the Hebrew torah (תּוֹרָה)  or law, which makes the words almost synonymous.  The Law functioned as a moral "target" for  the sons of Jacob.  It was behaviour and attitude toward which they could shoot or aim.

One of the definitions of yara,  יָרָה  , is to shoot straight or to shoot like an arrow which carries with it the idea of aiming at a target while the definition of sin, in Hebrew חָטָא (chata'), is to miss the mark.  With the Law, Israel learned what the target was, what God's expectations were, and they learned that they missed the mark, or sinned.  The Law taught Israel that they were, by nature, a sinful people incapable of keeping God's Law.  

Since God cannot tolerate sin and since man cannot keep the law, God provided the sacrificial system of atonement through which Israel could approach Him.  The Levitical system provided for Israel to receive mercy and forgiveness for sin on the basis of blood atonement. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies carrying blood, from the sacrificed animal, with which he  covered the mercy seat, hence atonement or covering.  When God looked down from Heaven into the Ark of the Covenant, He saw the blood covering and forgave Israel.  There was nothing Israel could do to earn forgiveness or to establish righteousness, it was entirely possible only through God's mercy, if done according to God's procedure.
Nadab and Abihu publicly dishonored God.  Had God allowed them to live, He would have given Israel the erroneous message that all ways of worship are acceptable to Him.  

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for yarah (Strong's 3384)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 29 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H3384&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for towrah (Strong's 8451)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 29 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H8451&t=KJV >

Leviticus Chapters 7,8,9: Relating to a Holy God

ShalomImage via Wikipedia

In these chapters of Leviticus, God continues to specify exactly how Israel is to approach Him in order to receive forgiveness for sin.  By using the word holy or in Hebrew  קָדוֹשׁ (qadowsh) to describe Himself and what is set apart from this world, what is free from impurities or defilement, God has shown Israel that He is an absolutely Holy God who hates all evil. In order for anyone to petition Him or to have fellowship with Him, they were required to confess the evil or sin they have committed and then to transfer their guilt to the sacrificial animal.  In Leviticus 7:1, the guilt offering itself was considered holy. When the offering was accepted, the person was forgiven and then  could enjoy reconciliation and peace with God.

I thought that this phrase was interesting in that God stated that He considered Israel’s confession of sin to be in and of itself holy.  I suppose that that means that the ability to perceive evil or sin in ourselves is really a godly gift in that it allows us to see sin from God’s perspective.  From man’s perspective, sin is really not too bad but from God’s vantage point, where there is no un-holiness, sin is seen as abhorrent and vile.

Before Aaron and his sons could begin to serve as priests for Israel, they underwent a seven day ordination period, during which time they were not permitted to leave the tabernacle.  On the eighth day, after they emerged from the tabernacle, they sacrificed a sin offering and a burnt offering both for themselves and for the people so as to make atonement for them; after this they sacrificed a fellowship offering on behalf of Israel.

Aaron blessed the people, Israel, and then the glory (in Hebrew כָּבוֹד (kabowd)) of the Lord appeared to everyone. Please note that before God appeared to the people, they had to be free of sin and in fellowship with Him.

As a supernatural fire consumed the sacrifices on the altar, all of the people fell down to worship the Lord.  According to the definition in Strong’s H3519, glory signifies something splendid, majestic; magnificent which makes it into a noun defined by adjectives.  I really can’t get a handle on this but I do get that God is amazing, and that whatever Israel saw of God in the desert that day probably helped to define a distinct people that still exist today in spite of all of the attempts over the millennia to decimate this nation.  That Israel exists is a testament to God's reality.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for kabowd (Strong's 3519)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 28 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H3519&t=KJV >
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 4, 5, 6 About Sin and Atonement or Forgiveness

Southern steps of the Temple Mount, Jerusalem.Image via Wikipedia
Leviticus simply states that when man sins, intentionally or not, he must be reconciled to God.  Over and over, God reiterates that once a person realizes that he has sinned against God or against another person, he must seek reconciliation.  Ideally, God did not provide for anyone in Israel to be separated from Him by sin.

There is no discussion in the Bible about whether or not someone even wants to be reconciled – rather, it seems to be a mandate.  Of course you want to be in good standing with God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth; with God, Omniscient and Omnipotent; with God, Sovereign over the universe; with God, the eternal I AM that I AM.  הָיָה (hayah)

So what is so bad about sin? What is sin anyway?  In our post-modern world, most people would decline to dignify this question with an answer.  Today, sin has neither relevance nor meaning.  Our culture urges people to do what feels good as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or as long as it doesn’t violate laws of the land.  The idea of good or bad is relative to each individual and absolutes are not countenanced.

However, in the Biblical context, sin has a very real meaning.  In Leviticus, sin is the Hebrew word חָטָא (chata') which means to miss the mark, to lose oneself, to wander from the way, to incur guilt.  When God gave laws to Israel, He showed them how to honor God and how to interact with each other.  By virtue of God’s Laws, Israel was set apart from all other nations.  So, basically, to sin is to do what is wrong – to violate God’s laws either intentionally or unintentionally.

Because God’s love for Israel could not bear to allow anyone to remain in a sinful condition, He provided for reconciliation with Himself or atonement which in Hebrew is כָּפַר (kaphar), Strong’s H3722, which means to pardon or  to acquit of a charge.   In Leviticus, God states that He will accept the death (the just punishment for sin) of a prescribed animal as a substitute for the punishment that man deserves.  If the man acknowledges his sin by laying his hand on the head of the animal, thus symbolically transferring his guilt to the animal, God will pardon that person of sin.  Through the sacrificial system, Israel had a “hands on” learning experience of how deadly sin is and of how seriously God views sin. 

As God was developing the character of Israel, He never said that sin was alright or that most things could be overlooked.  Inasmuch as sin separates man from God, it is a very serious offense.  God is reaching out to mankind, anxious to forgive men – but forgiveness is only granted when men seek it according to God’s plan.  The Levitical system cannot work today because there are no ordained Levites, descendents of Aaron, ready to sacrifice animals in a consecrated tabernacle or temple.  Before the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, God provided another way by which men can be forgiven.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for hava' (Strong's 1933)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 27 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H1933&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for chatta'ath (Strong's 2403)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 27 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H2403&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for kaphar (Strong's 3722)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 27 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H3722&t=KJV >

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Leviticus: Chapters 1, 2, 3 Laws, Rules, and Regulations

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...Image via Wikipedia
A few days ago my husband dropped our daughter off at college.  Within a few hours of unloading the car, he began his journey home.
Since we have already done all that we could to help her get settled into her new off-campus apartment, there was nothing left to do except to leave her there.  Although we're only a phone call away, she is essentially on her own now.

I am so glad that God doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves.  God did not drop us off on this planet and then wish us good luck.  He promises to stay with us through all of life's experiences.

The Book of Leviticus begins with God's instructions on how to have a relationship with Him.  He tells Israel that they can enjoy a close relationship with Him by following His rules,  by honoring His holiness, by approaching Him according to His stipulations.  God alone designs the way in which man can talk to Him.  Though people reach out to God in all sorts of ways, through all sorts of religions, God plainly stated that there is only one way - His way.  However, God knows man  so he provided for a way for sinful men, for men who simply cannot obey God, to relate to a Holy God.  God wanted all of Israel to strive for obedience while recognizing the areas in which they fall short, i.e. sin.  God wanted Israel to confess their sin and then to receive forgiveness, which allowed  them to talk to God in prayer.  From the very beginning, God stated that fellowship with Him was not possible without a clean slate.

Interestingly, in the second verse of Leviticus, God says, "when you bring an offering ..." implying that Israel will try to relate to God.   Leviticus 1: 2 - 6 uses  the Hebrew word קָרְבָּן (qorban) for offering, Strong's number H7133, which technically means  sacrifice but is derived from the Hebrew word קָרַב (qarab), Strong's 7126,  meaning to approach, to draw near, or to enter into.  Here God tied the sacrificial offering with drawing near to Him through confessing one's sin.  In Leviticus 1: 2 - 4, it is written  "When any of you brings an offering to the Lord ...  he is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.  He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord."   When a person lays his hand on the head of the animal, he is identifying the animal with his own sin.  When he slays the animal, he lets the animal pay the price of sin, i.e. death.  The penalty for sin is death; think back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Death was introduced when Adam and Eve acquired clothing of skins, so that they wouldn't be naked anymore.  

While the penalty for sin has always been death, the consequence for sin has been separation from God or estrangement from Him.  When the burnt offering assumed man's guilt, man was temporarily able to enter into a conversation or relationship with God.  God wanted Israel to understand that He was a Holy God and that His people had to be a holy people, separated from sin.  Also, God continued to emphasize that all ways or roads do not lead to Him.  The only way to commune with Him is by following His directions.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for qarab (Strong's 7126)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 26 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H7126&t=KJV >

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Exodus 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 The Significance of Almond Blossoms

Flowering (sweet) almond treeImage via Wikipedia

Whew! Yesterday, we took my daughter to college and today we are resting after the flurry of activities related to packing.  Even now, I am finding odds and ends that were forgotten, but mostly, it is fait accompli.  Already, I am walking at a slower pace and can think globally again.

So, I feel that it is God’s humor that today’s chapters begin with Sabbath, a day of rest.

However, during this reading, my attention was drawn to a description of the lamp in Exodus 37: 17 – 20.  It is very intriguing that the cups, in which the pressed olive oil was held, were made of gold in the shape of almond blossoms. I suddenly began to wonder why God stipulated that the cups be in the shape of almond blossoms. Why not rose buds?

 In  Strong’s Concordance I found that the Hebrew word for almonds shä·kad' שָׁקַד (shaqad) (Strong’s 8246) is a denominative form of the Hebrew word for almond  shä·kād'  שָׁקֵד (shaqed) (Strong’s 8247)  which is derived from the Hebrew  shä·kad' שָׁקַד (shaqad) (Strong’s 8245) which means to be watchful or to be on the look out.  Since the almond tree is the earliest in bloom, the almond blossom oil cups in the lamp visually illustrate Israel’s position as the first nation to know God and to be considered a holy nation, God’s treasured possession (Exodus 19: 5 -6). As a nation, they were the earliest to bloom.  With God’s covenant relationship, Israel gained the responsibility of maintaining the light in the lamp from evening until morning (Exodus 27: 20 -21). Again, the flame emanating from the shä·kad' שָׁקַד (shaqad)  during the night echoes God’s sleepless watch over Israel.

 Additionally, by following God’s commandments, Israel was aligned with God; declared God’s existence; proclaimed God’s presence; served as a spiritual light in a world of darkness.  As the nation of Israel toiled to construct the tabernacle according to God’s plans, they acquired a supernatural understanding of how to work with the materials God gave them  as well as a greater knowledge of God.   By following His plans, they could see through His eyes that He valued beauty, proportion, aesthetics, good craftsmanship, engineering skills, etc.  God’s logic and thought permeated all aspects of life.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Exodus 32,33,34 The Golden Calf

The Adoration of the Golden Calf'Image via Wikipedia

While Moses was up in Mount Sinai, talking to God, the people of Israel perceiving that they were without a leader immediately decided to create a god they could see.  In Exodus 32:2, Aaron, the brother of Moses, tells Israel to give him the gold earrings that the women were wearing.  Aaron then made a golden calf for Israel to worship.

What really struck me here is that earlier, in Exodus 29: 19 – 21, Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests.  Part of the consecration included, sacrificing a ram and then putting some of its blood on the ear lobe of the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot.  Through this ritual God was blessing the priest so that with his dominant side, he would hear God correctly, do God’s will, and walk in God’s way.  When Aaron asked for the earrings (which draw attention to the ears), it would seem that most of Israel, including Aaron, no longer heard God clearly; no longer were listening to God. They wanted to create a god they would see but from whom they would receive no directions; this idol would mutely stand by allowing Israel to worship in whatever manner they pleased without inconveniencing them with Truth.  The people of Israel wanted to live life their way while maintaining an appearance of worshipping something.  It's a lot like people today - everyone believes in something but very few know the true God, the I AM that I AM.

When Moses returned to the camp, the tribe of Levi rallied to him and slew three thousand people who rebelled against God.  In Exodus 32:29, God proclaimed a special blessing upon Levi and set them apart from all of the other tribes.

Even though these chapters recorded both God and Moses as being angry because Israel so quickly turned to idol worship, I see Moses as identifying himself more with God’s perspective.  After all of this anger was played out, Moses drew closer to God; he wanted to know God better.  In Exodus 34: 6 – 7, God defined Himself to Moses.

            The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate, and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin; yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.

In spite of how quickly and readily men turn away from God, the eternal I AM, I think that it is so reassuring to know that God first of all describes Himself as compassionate and gracious - that He desires to forgive sin, both then and today.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Exodus 28, 29, 30, 31: Establishing a Priesthood

Replica of the Temple menorah, made by The Tem...Image via Wikipedia

Over the last three days, I spent most of my time addressing the last minute preparations for my daughter's imminent departure for college.  Running errands, buying clothing, window shopping, making interminable "to do" lists, visiting and praying with friends, and just taking a little bit of time to talk and reflect on the upcoming academic year, are only a partial itinerary of everything we are doing to get her ready for this year.  This is another aspect of parenting which enables me to view these chapters in Exodus in a slightly different light than I had viewed them before.

 These four chapters of Exodus  are an over view of a "how to" and "to do" list which remind me a bit of how I am getting my daughter ready. While I want to do all that I can to help her get ready,  I can only so much and then I have to let her go.  God, on the other hand, not only showed Moses  a blueprint for the construction of the tabernacle, God also gave him explicit directions on how to worship Him and an assurance that He would always be present.   God, however, wanted Israel to understand that He could only be worshipped or addressed  in the way that He specified;  individuals could not arbitrarily create a system of worship that He would honor or to which He would respond.  It was only because God initiated the process that Israel was permitted to worship Him and enter into a relationship with Him.

Not only did God give Moses these comprehensive plans for temple worship, but He also chose men into whom He put His Spirit so that they could follow these plans.  Exodus 31:1 - 6 records "... I have filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut and set stones,  to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship."  In the desert, as the nation of Israel was beginning their journey of promise,  God gave men the ability to glorify Him with art, engineering, architecture, and with whatever was required to make the tabernacle.  Since God had already planned that the Israelites would construct a tabernacle in the desert, He made certain that they had all of the supplies such a temple required.  And then, once they were ready to hear about the next step of their journey, God gave them blueprints for the tabernacle.

Along with the tabernacle as the place to worship, God sanctified a special twenty four hour period of time, called the Sabbath as the day of worship.  In six days God worked when He created the entire universe, and on the seventh day He rested.  The Israelites were told to observe the Sabbath because this would serve as a sign between God and Israel for all generations so that they would remember that God is a holy God.  For the Jewish people, observing the Sabbath is an everlasting covenant which also reminds the rest of the gentile world that Creation took God six days to accomplish and that we have days off  from work because God ordained it.  I think that we really have a neat God who truly understands us!

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Exodus 25, 26, 27 Plans for the Tabernacle

Statue of Moses at the Library of Congress in ...Image via Wikipedia

A long time ago, I was in Washington D.C. when the Redskins won the Super Bowl.  There was such an out pouring of emotion that when The Redskins won, people jumped out of their houses hooting and hollering, joyfully screaming and yelling, giving expression to this monumental event.  Some people set off fire crackers, others careened in their vehicles – everyone did something because it was impossible to sit quietly on the sofa.  I remember running outside and just jumping up and down until my legs tired.

In Exodus 24, God did not just talk to Moses, but He met with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel. These men saw God and they ate and drank in His presence.  Afterwards, God called Moses to meet with Him alone.

Now, can you imagine the camp at the base of Mount Sinai?  Three months earlier, amidst great, supernatural signs and wonders, the people of Israel fled a hostile, oppressive regime.  They knew that they were going home – a land kept alive in their memories through stories passed down through generations.  They were going to return to a land this powerful God, whose name is “I AM that I AM”, had given to them.  Israel understood that this omnipotent God had not only covenanted to protect them and to fight for them, but also was going to deliver them into their land of promise. 

How much they must have rejoiced as they understood that never again were they to return to a life of slavery and cruel oppression.  If I were there, I would have speculated  about a new life of freedom and comfort.  The seventy elders who ate in God’s presence could describe the pavement beneath God’s feet as well as who knows what else.  I can imagine that as God became a tangible reality in Israel’s consciousness, their increasing awareness of the ramifications of this truth fostered a giddy relief and mirth.

While thousands of people were milling around jubilantly, God knew that aimless, undirected joy would not adequately direct the energy of the masses.  Before the celebrations were over, God took Moses aside and showed him the blue print for how to construct the tabernacle. 

In giving very specific dimensions to Moses, God also specified a north/south orientation for the tabernacle.  The entrance was at the south end of the tabernacle courtyard while the Most Holy Place was at the farthest north end.  With many pagan sun-worshipping religions, it’s interesting to note that God did not want to place any emphasis on the east/west axis which would lend significance to the sun.

Israel received laws from God which would become their most treasured possessions.  These laws separated them from other nations and made the God of Creation into an absolute, sovereign God with a special purpose for and relationship with Israel.  From this point on, God’s everlasting covenant was linked to the entire people of Israel.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Exodus 22, 23, 24 Covenant Confirmed with Israel

Mount SinaiImage via Wikipedia

How does one even establish an agreement with God?  How do you know it’s real?  Feelings are absolutely inconclusive – indigestion could easily be mistaken for a “sign” or something.  Whereas, good feelings could be a sugar high.  These chapters record that God confirmed His covenant with an entire nation. 

Earlier, God had given the Israelites the Ten Commandments and other laws pertaining to property and injuries.  In Exodus 24, Moses told the people of Israel all of God’s words to him.  And, in one voice, they responded that “Everything the Lord had said, we will do.”  It sounds like an agreement or a deal but it wasn’t totally ratified yet.

The following morning, Moses offered fellowship offerings to the Lord.  Moses sprinkled part of the blood of the bulls on the altar.  He then read the Covenant with God to the people of  Israel and they again responded that “they will do everything the Lord has said.”   Moses then sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice onto Israel.  The covenant between Israel and God was now sealed with blood.

Since God created man, He chose men to whom He would reveal Himself.  First it was Adam, then Abel, the Seth, much later Noah, then Abraham, whom God selected from all of the men on the earth.   The interesting tie-in here is that the Hebrew word for covenant is בְּרִית (bĕriyth) (Strong’s 1285) which is derived from the Hebrew  בָּרָא (bara') which implies selection or choosing (Strong’s 1254).  The whole idea of a covenant is that God chose a man with whom He would have an agreement or a pact.  In Genesis 15, God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and that his descendants would have the land of Canaan, “from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates”.  About twenty five years later, when God reaffirmed this covenant (Genesis 17:13 the covenant in the flesh) as an everlasting covenant with Abraham which was ratified in the flesh through circumcision.  Though Abraham was concerned about his son Ishmael and how he would fit in, God told him in Genesis 17:21 that He chose to establish His covenant with Isaac who was yet to be born to Abraham.

As it turned out, God chose someone in each successive generation with whom He would build on the initial covenant wit Abraham.  Finally, when the Israelites were in the desert, near Mount Sinai, God established His covenant with the entire nation.  While in the past, God chose one person over another, here He selected an entire nation.  God gave them His promises and they agreed to obey His laws.  While living in the land of Canaan peacefully or otherwise was contingent upon obedience to God’s Laws, ownership of the land was unconditional.   

In Exodus 24, God ratified and sealed His everlasting covenant with Israel.  After the Romans defeated Judah about 2000 years ago, they taunted the Jewish people by calling their land Palestine, which is Latin for Philistine, the ancient, sea-faring enemies of Israel.   Though the name Palestine stuck, the land was and shall always be Israel, because God had ordained that.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for bara' (Strong's 1254)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2010. 26 Aug 2010. < http://
Strongs=H1254&t=KJV >
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Exodus 19, 20, 21 The Ten Commandments

In this 1768 parchment, Jekuthiel Sofer emulat...Image via Wikipedia

When I was in grade school, my friends and I decided to form a club that would be very secret and exclusive by nature.  When we met in the defunct chicken coops in my best friend’s back yard, we tried to create order and meaning for our club.  One girl wanted each of us to pay ten cents a week as club dues so that we could raise money for something; another one wanted to meet so that we could have a private place to discuss school.  We were four girls who didn’t really know what we wanted to do, but we finally  agreed that our club had to have rules.  So, rule number one was ” No boys allowed”.  I forget the other rules.  Even as kids, we immediately understood that when individuals become a group, they devise laws to define themselves.

In the third month, after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived in the Desert of Sinai.  Over the past few months, the Israelites witnessed God working and fighting on their behalf numerous times:  the plagues affecting the Egyptians but not the people of Israel; the parting of the Red Sea; the manna from heaven;  water flowing from a rock; winning the battle against the Amalekites in Rephidim.  The nation of Israel experienced God’s powerful and miraculous work. 

While Israel camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Lord called Moses from the mountain and spoke to him.  Over the course of these three chapters, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments which defined Israel’s relationship with God and with each other while separating them from all other nations.  God gave Israel laws which dignified them as a nation.

Many of these Commandments lay the foundation for laws that govern countries today.  “You shall not murder” establishes the inherent value of life.  In most societies murder is considered a heinous crime, often punishable with a death sentence. 

But on a different note, a joyful and interesting commandment is to “ remember the Sabbath”, the seventh day of the week.  (Though Christians celebrate the Lord’s Day, Sunday, as a day of worship, it is not the Sabbath.  Sunday is the first day of the week while Saturday is the seventh day of the week.  In terms of the Commandments, Saturday and Sunday are very different and not to be confused.  Interestingly, Christians were not specifically told to observe the Sabbath because it was part of the covenant with the Jewish nation)  Anyway, the Sabbath is a day of rest because,

“ For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in      them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:11

This is an amazing law.  God created a twenty four hour period which is eternally holy, set apart for God.  When we wake up on a Saturday morning, we live and function in a holy period of time.  The Law requires all Jewish people to refrain from any work during these twenty four hours so that they could focus on God and rest in eternity for that day,   which basically means spending time in God’s presence.  Even though, our world owes God and this fledgling Jewish nation acknowledgement and thanks for the two days we get off every week, most people today don’t recognize God for providing respite. 

It’s ironical that evolutionists insist on their understanding of life’s origins while happily enjoying God’s provision for he Sabbath rest, created because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. 
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Exodus 16, 17, 18 Manna from Heaven: God's Provision

God rays in IsraelImage by wili_hybrid via Flickr

After two months into their journey to the land of Canaan, Israel complained about starving and speculated as to whether or not they would have been better off in Egypt because their pots were always full there.  God just rescued them in a miraculous manner from a cruel and hostile state, yet they fondly reminisced about meals they ate as slaves.
In response to their complaining, God patiently informed Moses that He would send bread from heaven (manna) each morning, so that each family could collect enough to feed the group.  Furthermore, God told Moses that he would send meat for that particular evening meal and bread for the morning so that Israel would know that it was the Lord who delivered them from Egypt. So, on the fifteenth day of the second month, Israel enjoyed a hearty meal provided by God.  This should have been a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving, but there is no mention of that in Scripture.

Some time later, when the nation of Israel ran out of water, they again complained and grumbled against God.  “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and our livestock to die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) When I imagine this scene, I can hear the mob jeering at Moses and taunting God.  If I were in this crowd, would I too have forgotten how God provided manna every morning; how God brought the quail; how God caused the Red Sea to part; how God inflicted all of the plagues upon the Egyptians?  I don’t know. 

Even though God has often blessed me in extraordinary ways, when a new problem or difficulty arises, I often succumb to hopelessness and self-pity before turning to God for direction.  Maybe my memory of God’s blessings fades when supplanted by the demands of problems.  Problems can usurp my entire field of vision until I can see nothing good anywhere.  But, thankfully, God refocuses me.  When I look to God, the Creator of this Universe, for direction, my problems become the venue in which God can further reveal Himself to me; in which God can show His love.

So, God told Moses to strike a rock and water would flow from it.  Now Israel had enough water to drink.  Though God again provided for their need, the place was named Massah and Meribah, which means testing and rebellion. Though God was patiently teaching His people about Himself, there were some who just didn’t understand that Israel was a special nation, chosen by God to enter into a special and unique relationship with Him.  They didn’t understand that God was going to both provide for them and protect them. They yearned for the certainty and predictability of living in Egypt – even though they were slaves there.

As Israel was learning to trust God to meet their daily needs, the Amalekites came to the Israelite camp and attacked them.  Another problem.  Although Moses appointed Joshua to raise an army to fight the Amalekites, he stayed behind, with arms lifted up, in prayer. As long as Moses arms were up in prayer, the Israelites were winning.  When Moses lowered his arms, the Amalekites were winning.  Eventually, Aaron and Hur stood with Moses and held his arms up so that the Israelites won the battle.

Moses, Aaron, and Hur understood that God was fighting for them as long as they looked to Him in prayer.  It seems as though God was saying that even though some battles can go on for a long time, it’s mandatory to not stop praying for victory.  One quick prayer  would not have won the battle for Joshua – prayer had to be continuous until the battle was won.

Through the events depicted in these chapters, God taught Israel to trust in Him to meet their needs and to trust in Him to fight their battles.  I think that God deals with believers in similar ways – we often have problems so that we can turn to Him in prayer, trusting in His love for us.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Exodus 13, 14, 15 Crossing the Red Sea

Pharaoh and His Host Drowned in the Red Sea (i...Image via Wikipedia

We often hear that we should just believe that everything will work out alright. Others say “relax – don’t worry.” Just believing that everything will be fine, doesn’t change anything, except possibly, one’s frame of mind. When my Dad was in the hospital, sustaining multiple heart attacks in succession, we visited him and encouraged him to get better by talking to him about all of the travel plans he made; we all desperately believed in a future in which he would travel in his RV and visit all of the places on his list. He believed; we believed; together we echoed each other’s beliefs about healing. Yet, one afternoon, when my Mom popped into his hospital room to let him know of the errands she had to run, he simply breathed his last. No medical wizardry could revive him; my Dad simply passed on.

We were all so stunned. But, the truth settled thickly around our hearts; how much you want something to be true doesn’t alter reality. Reality is what it is. Dad died. So what about believing? Intelligent believing is about whom you place your trust in and why.

Similarly, Israel was learning who God was and why they should trust Him. After witnessing the devastating plagues which afflicted the Egyptians, the Israelites fled Egypt in order to return to the land of Canaan, which was promised to them by God. As they began their journey, they soon realized that Pharaoh's army was in hot pursuit of them and that it would soon overtake them. When they saw the army, Israel responded in fear rather than in trusting God. Moses assured the nation of God's deliverance and exhorted them to trust God to do His work.

In response, God chose to part the Red Sea and to dry the land beneath the sea so that His nation would cross on solid ground. After all of Israel crossed the sea, the Egyptians followed them, but God released the waters so that all of the Egyptians were drowned.

Exodus 14:31: And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him and in Moses His servant (NIV).

Even though this fledgling nation had an oral tradition, which assured them of God’s covenant promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they haven’t heard from God in four hundred and thirty years. While some in that population may have believed in God’s promise to deliver them from the land of bondage, a great many others may have dismissed this promise as a cultural fable.

But really, God’s plan of deliverance was not dependent upon how many, if any, believed in it. Rather, God wanted Israel to know that He was a mighty and powerful God acting on their behalf; God demonstrated His power with the plagues and later with the crossing of the Red Sea. To personalize His relationship with the nation, He told Israel to memorialize Passover with a feast every year on Nisan 14.

 After the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses and his sister, Miriam, lead the people in song praising God for all that he has done.  A verse I really like is, Exodus 15:11:
   Who among the gods is like You, O Lord?
Who is like You - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory,
working wonders?

Israel as a nation began to see God and to glorify Him.  And, this is a refrain we can still sing today.

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