Crystal Writes A Blog

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Follow the Angel of God


Angel with Lights by Flickr User Lois Elling aka CatDancing, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Angel with Lights by Flickr User Lois Elling aka CatDancing, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Do a Flickr image search of the word angel, and you’ll get a huge variety of images that you may or may not consider to be angelic. We have so many ideas in our minds of what it means to be an angel, from believing that good people (especially children) die and become angels in Heaven, to believing they are all beautiful and have halos and feathery wings. I won’t say I’m any kind of specialist in angels, but I do know they are placed in service of humans, and I know they desire to look into this thing we know as grace because their obedience is compelled rather than free will. But even though they are assigned to serve and protect us, they are still worthy of respect for their God-given powers and their position in God’s realm.

As a quick note here: I have learned through study that the word halo comes from the Greek word helios and concerns sun worship. If you put the sun behind the head of a person, the ring surrounding their head looks very much like the halos we put on the heads of all we would consider to be angelic, including images of Jesus Christ. This is just a little commercial break for your information since we’re talking about angels. Now, back to our regular programming. 🙂

In today’s very short reading from Exodus 23:20 through Exodus 23:25, Yahveh is speaking to His people about the angel He is sending before them to guide them and to guard them. God tells the people to pay attention to him, to listen to him, and to not rebel against him. He adds that the angel will not forgive them of any wrongdoing because God’s name dwells in him. In this sentence, I’m thinking it might actually mean, don’t expect the angel to forgive you just because God’s name is in him. I say that because of new testament Scripture that says God alone is able to forgive sins.

The reading goes on to encourage the people that their guardian angel will be an enemy to their enemies and a foe to their foes. God tells them that when the angel leads them to lands inhabited by their enemies, God will make an end of those enemies. Then God reminds them to not worship any of their gods or follow in their practices, but rather they are to smash their statues to pieces. I’m thinking here that this was God’s way of telling the people that they did not need to fear what their enemies might do to them, since people are generally very protective of gods they worship–even false gods–because they believe those gods are looking out for them and providing for them. Destroying them is the same as destroying their hopes. But, because they are false gods, and because Israel serves the true God and is being protected by His angel, they can stand for Yahveh even to the extent of destroying that which is false.

As the reading comes to an end, Yahveh reminds Israel of His provision for them. He tells them to serve Him and Him alone, and that He will bless their food and water. He goes on to tell them that He will even take sickness away from them. He gives them plenty of reason to trust Him, follow His lead, be obedient, and not fear any of their enemies. We have these same promises and provisions, but like Israel, we often back down and fear standing on something that might offend those who worship false gods. Of course, it is often confusing to determine when to stand against wrong by doing something like destroying that which is false and trying to be harmless as doves, but if we can become more sensitive to God’s voice, maybe we can stand more strongly. Lord help us to know what strongholds You have given us direction and strength to stand against and to tear down.

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

We Will Be Right Back


Image by Flickr user Miles Berry

Abraham & Isaac–Baptisitry door panel in Florence, Italy by Flickr user Miles Berry

So, we know that Abraham has learned to trust God in everything, and we know that his belief has paid off. His trust in and of itself was so great that it was counted as righteousness. That’sbig trust. What we will read today is going to take every bit of that big trust. The last part of this week’s portion is the entire chapter; Genesis 22:1 through 22:24. It is the story of when God gives Abraham the ultimate test of his life.

First, a little note, if you read this in the King James’ Version, you will see the word “tempt,” but I looked up the Hebrew word used here, and it means, test, try, or prove. I have heard people argue because of the New Testament quote that God does not tempt any man, so I wanted to clear that up. Of course, I’ve also heard people change that to say that God doesn’t test anyone, but I believe this shows us that there are times when testing can prove us like the trying of gold in the fires of purification. However, I also believe that God will never make or allow something to happen to us that is not ultimately for our own good.

Now, back to the story. At this point, Isaac is said to be in his early twenties. God wakes Abraham with a command to take his only begotten son, the son who Abraham loves and has all his hopes and dreams resting in (italics mine), and offer him up to God for a burnt offering. I feel like Abraham would’ve needed to wrestle that one through a bit to convince himself, but maybe not. I do know, however, that by the time they got to the foot of the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, Abraham was convinced enough of God’s promises to him that he said the following from verse 5:

“The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (NLT)

Do you see the faith and trust there? Can you hear the hope in his words? He didn’t say, “I’ll be back,” he said WE will be right back. Somehow, Abraham knew God would keep His promises. He knew that either God would change the way things were planned out, or he knew God could raise his son up from the ashes. Abraham was known as a man of his word, so if he said “we” to his servants, then he meant both of them would be returning.

If you’ve read the story, you know what happens next. Abraham stacks the wood and stuff on Isaac’s shoulders, and they head to Mount Moriah. (This is also thought to be the same mountain where Jesus was crucified. I found an interesting article on the archeology of the place at the Discovery News site.) Anyway, Isaac takes note of the lack of sacrifice and Abraham tells him that God will provide Himself a sacrifice. Whether that wording was intentional or not, I can’t be certain, but that it has arrived to us saying that God would provide (or make) Himself a sacrifice, I think is definitely in His plan.

As the story closes, Abraham has Isaac bound and ready for sacrifice, and he even has the knife raised to do the deed when The Angel of the Lord tells him to stop. He also tells him that now He is certain Abraham will hold nothing back from Him. Somehow, I think God already knew that about Abraham, but I’m sure now Abraham knew it about himself. We can all say we won’t sell out our beliefs for a million dollars or a bag of gold, but until someone offers us a million dollars or a bag of gold, do we really know that for sure? Well, if Abraham ever said he would do anything for God, he just proved it to himself beyond all doubt. And then, just when Abraham needed it, God provided a lamb stuck in the briars, so Abraham was able to worship God with a proper sacrifice.

On a personal note here, I want to say that some years ago, I went to Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida and saw an amazing movie about this subject. It was sort of a triple story showing Abraham and Isaac, Jesus on Calvary, and the destruction of the temple, all in tandem. It was quite powerful to watch in that fashion. One of the most beautiful parts showed Isaac putting his arms out, willingly allowing himself to be bound and laid on the altar of sacrifice. I wish they would make that available as a DVD, but last time I checked, it was not. If any of you have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have not been to Holy Land, I recommend a visit. I’m sure some things have changed with the new ownership, but I loved my visits there each time, and I hope to go again someday. Let me know if you have been there and what you took away from your visit.

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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