Crystal Writes A Blog

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The Watchtower of Angels


This post will be kind of short and fast because I had a rather difficult time getting connected to the internet–even from my phone. But I think I’ve got something now, so we’ll see what I can do. The reading today is from Genesis 31:43 through Genesis 32:3, and it continues on with yesterday’s story where Laban met with Jacob after chasing him down because he thought someone had his gods.

Well, today, he is trying to say that everything Jacob has belongs to him–including his daughters and cattle. But I think he’s saying it more like a protective daddy since after saying it, he makes a suggestion that he and Jacob make a commitment about caring for his daughters. They set up stones to represent the place of the deal. Laban gives it an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives it a Hebrew name. But one meaning for the place is also The Watchtower.

As part of the deal, Laban says his gods will watch him, and Jacob’s God will watch him. He then tells Jacob that if he hurts his daughters, God will be watching out. Later, as Jacob continues on his journey, he sees angels in the camp and declares it as God’s camp. He then gives it another name; Machanayim–meaning two camps.

In closing this, I’ll just say that I think we all live in two camps, and I believe that angels camp near us often. I also believe that God watches us, though not from a distance as the song declares. I’m thankful that even in unfair situations like Jacob went through, God can bring truth and His presence into the situation.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

Sun Rays in the Clouds by Crystal A Murray
St. Louis, Missouri, July 2011

This is a night where I am thanking God for another way to at least begin my post, and I’ll add that I’m thankful for the Nuance people who created the Swype keyboard since I can type so much faster with it.

So, tonight we begin a new portion since sundown was the beginning of a new week. We are at Parashah 7, called Vayetze and meaning He Went Out. The full portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through 32:3. Our first piece of this week’s portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through the end of the chapter at Genesis 28:22. In it, we read the story of Jacob and His meeting with Yahveh Almighty. We don’t get to see their full conversation yet, but the introduction has some great stuff in it.

Jacob lies down in a field to sleep, and he grabs a rock to make a pillow for himself. As he sleeps, he sees a ladder where angels are making journeys from Heaven to Earth and back. And then it says, “Suddenly, Adonai was standing there next to him.” He reminds Jacob that He is the God of his grandfather and his father, and then He reveals to him that the ground where he’s lying will be given to him and his descendants. He goes on to tell him of future promises like He gave to Abraham and Isaac; that his seed cannot be counted and that all the families of the earth will be blessed because of him and his descendants. And here, from verse 15, is my favorite part (and a part I am holding claim to for my very dear friends Mark & Debbie): “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Do you realize what that means? It means God is telling him that He will NEVER leave him since what He has promised him is untold numbers of generations in his future. It lines up with His promise from Matthew 28:20, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

When Jacob wakes up, he says, “Surely, God is in this place, and I did not realize it.”

Okay, so I have to break here for a minute for a song. I think in songs quite often, and I’m guessing it’s something I picked up from my grandmother who left this world back in 1988, and with whom I shared a birthday for my first 24 years. I heard she had a song for everything. Anyway, this Scripture makes me think about the song that goes…

Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place,
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can feel the brush of angels wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place.

So back to Jacob who declares the place the gateway to Heaven and names it The House of God even though it was originally called “Luz.” He then takes the pillow that he was sleeping on, stands it up, pours oil on it, and makes it into an altar for God. After setting up his altar, he makes a vow that if God will stay with him as a guard and provider, so he can travel in peace back to his father’s house, he will follow Him and will faithfully return ten percent of all God gives him. And that’s where this portion ends, but I have a last thought here.

The word tithe means tenth, so without God asking for it, Jacob has decided it is right to give back to God a tithe from all that God provides for him. This is the 2nd place since Genesis 1:1 where a tithe has been mentioned, and both were something men came up with as a way to say thanks in return for provisions. Later, we will read how that changed with it becoming a portion for the Levites, but I find it interesting that it was originally thought of by men as a type of “thank you” gift. I know the feeling of wanting to give back to someone who has freely given to me, and at that point, a tenth often doesn’t even feel like enough, so I can understand the idea of wanting to give back to God when He has been a faithful and loving provider. I can also understand the resistance of people who don’t want to feel forced into tithing to someone who they do not feel is giving to them and who is demanding that people give to them because they deserve it or because of their position, or whatever. Tithe belongs to God as a gift of thanksgiving, and when I look at it this way, giving feels much better. Actually, everything I look at from God’s perspective feels better.

P.S. Because this was our writer’s meeting day, my NaNo word count went way down. I’m incorporating the story I wrote for our writer’s exercise into my novel for this day just so I can have some kind of word count. My total for today is 18, 749, and that at least keeps me still on track for my personal goal.

November 9, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hugging Porcupines


Have you ever tried to hug a porcupine? No? Well, me either. But even if I had the opportunity, I don’t think I would want to do so. I have hugged someone wearing wool, and the itchy scratchy feeling that makes me feel like I have little pins sticking me all over doesn’t make me want to continue for long. It’s just not pleasant to hug something that hurts. Well, sin is like that to God. He wants to spend time with us, but He doesn’t want the prickles of pain caused by our being covered in the sin in which we immerse ourselves. So, He asks us to “come out from among the unbelievers and be separated from them.” (See 2 Corinthians 6:17.)

In today’s reading from Genesis 19 verses 1 through 20, God sends angels to Sodom. Abraham’s nephew Lot recognizes them, and he knows the situation in the town is something these men should not have to deal with, so he asks them to come stay at his house. Maybe he feels that if he hides them out of sight, they will be protected, but the sinners in that city are so bent on defiling all that is good, they show up at the house and demand that Lot send his guests out to them as playthings for their disgusting lust. It’s as if they can smell purity and innocence and will not be satisfied unless they can destroy it.

Since Lot has lived with these people for so long, maybe he has learned to ignore much of their behavior thinking that as long as he is not part of it, it doesn’t matter if he lives in the midst of it. But he doesn’t realize how much can change just by being in the constant presence of sin. So, while he knew it was wrong to let the men have their way with his angelic guests, he apparently did not see the harm in trying to appease them by offering them his virgin daughters. In that moment, he forgot that part of his role as a father included protecting their innocence.

In the end, the angels pulled Lot in from trying to make deals with the evil men, and then they blinded the men at the door so they could no longer find the door. They protected Lot and his daughters and then warned them not only to walk away, but to run away, from the coming destruction. Unfortunately, though freedom was also offered to his other children who lived in different parts of the city, they chose to stay rather than to heed the warning.

I guess the moral of this story, whose ending should come in tomorrow’s reading, is that it is better for us to come out from among unbelievers and keep ourselves pure and separate than to try to pry ourselves away when we finally get a clear vision of where sin is leading. Lord, please separate us and keep us out of the miry clay. Set our feet upon You–our Rock and our Salvation.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For the Sake of the Righteous


In our homes, if we have a family member that routinely violates the law and the respect of other household members, we will usually find that our households feel like places of chaos and unhappiness. Even when that family member no longer lives with the family, the strain is heavy. We call for interventions. If we pray, we call our prayer-warrior friends and ask them to bring the situation to God. We plead for God to have mercy on the soul of the disobedient one, but we also pray that somehow the rebellion will stop, so we can have peace. And in those situations where a positive change takes place, we are grateful for whatever it took to bring it about and for having our families back in order and harmony.

In today’s reading from Genesis 18:15 through Genesis 18:33, we learn the real reason the three men stopped by Abraham’s homestead; to bring peace to a chaotic situation. There was a cry of help rising from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People created in the image of God were in trouble. They were victimized. They were miserable. Like Abel’s blood crying to God from the ground, this creation was crying to The Creator from the depths of misery. And Yahveh God grabbed a couple of warrior angels and headed to earth to deal with it. As the story continues, God talks with the angels about letting Abraham in on the details of the mission. God said He wanted to include Abraham in His plans because of the strong future he had in front of him. Maybe God also thought it would be good to share with Abraham out of respect for his nephew’s family that still lived there–especially since the mission included the destruction of the city because of the abundance of wickedness.

Now Abraham, like any loving family member, begins to plead with God on behalf of the possibility of righteous men having to pay a price for the deeds of the wicked. He even says to God, “Far be it from You to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” Of course, he was likely imagining that Lot and his family were righteous since they were raised up that way, and maybe he even thought they were stuck in the depths of that horrible place. So begins the conversation between God and Abraham about just how many righteous men would have to dwell there in order for the city to be saved.

Eventually, Abraham brings the number all the way down to ten people. God tells him that even if there are ten righteous people there, He will spare the city. Of course, we know the outcome of that, so we can be sure there were not even ten righteous men living there. It was like the wrong side of the tracks on the wrong side of the tracks–all the wickedness gathered into one bad place. But even with all that evil, God would have been prepared to have mercy on them if He could have found ten people who could lift Him up as a light in the darkness. He is just that merciful. And He let Abraham pose scenario after scenario until even Abraham knew the situation in the place was hopeless.

There are days when I look at the behaviors of people that just don’t make sense, and I know God must be sparing this whole earth just for the righteous on its face. I know He is strained at the cry of the victims against those who kill, steal, and destroy for whatever evil reason they can justify–and often just because they don’t care. I know God grieves even more than I do over the pain of the righteous and the innocent as we live out these last days where men are calling good evil and evil good. And I know God longs to bring those who love Him to that promised place of eternity with Him. But, for now, we have to trust that He is sparing the earth because there are still enough righteous people who follow their Creator and will bring His light to a lost and dying world. Let us ask Him to continue to help us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. And if we have unsaved family and friends, we can praise God for His mercy as He delays His return and His judgment for the sake of the righteous.

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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