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I See Something You Don’t See


Vision of Eyechart with Glasses by Flickr User Ken Teegardin, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Vision of Eyechart with Glasses by Flickr User Ken Teegardin, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
The photographer also asks that attribution be given to http://www.seniorliving.org

When we go to the eye doctor, we all look at the same chart (more or less), but we don’t always see the same thing. Some of us see more clearly than others, and some of us can see just as clearly with assistance. Some cannot see well even with glasses, bright lighting, or other means of help. And yet, if we are not blind, we are all able to see.

In today’s reading from Numbers 24:14 through Numbers 25:9, we conclude another week’s portion, and we finish the banter between Balak and Balaam. No matter how plain Balaam has made things in the past week, Balak has just not been able to see that Israel is a blessed people, and that Balaam will not be able to curse them just because Balak has power and desire for that to happen. Today, however, Balaam will see things as if God gave him the best prescription available. He will take a look into the future.

Balak is done with Balaam, so Balaam tells him he has one more important pronouncement to make about what Israel will do to Moab in the latter days. I suggest reading today’s section in the Amplified Bible as it clarifies a few things, especially concerning actual cities referenced in the prophesy. So, Balaam says he once was blind but now has opened eyes. He says he now hears God’s words, knows God’s wisdom, and sees what The Lord sees. He begins telling of a future that seems quite distant. The commentary mentions that it may refer to King David or to the Messiah, but it also looks as if it could be in our latter days as well.

Balaam says he sees a man that he cannot see: A star that will step forth from Jacob, and a scepter that will arise out of Israel. He will be a ruler that will destroy the enemies of Israel, and even those who were first and strongest before will be no match for Him. It is a prophesy of great victory for Israel and great defeat for her enemies, and as soon as Balaam is done speaking it, he just goes home. Balak leaves and goes his way too.

But the reading continues with Israel deciding to start whoring around with the girls and gods of Moab. It’s not enough that they prostitute themselves among those who do not serve Yahveh Almighty, but they actually accept the invitation to bow down to their gods. Their behavior causes God’s anger to blaze against them to the point of a deadly plague that kills some 24,000 people before it is over. In addition, God tells the priests to kill the leaders of these people and hang them directly in the sun to absorb some of God’s anger.

As many of the people were weeping at the door to the Tent of Meeting, one Israelite comes walking into the community (maybe even into his own home and family from the way it reads) with a prostitute from Midian. Phineas, the son of Eleazar who is the son of Aaron, gets up from the crowd, follows the man into his tent, and runs his sword through both of them at once. Their deaths are what finally bring an end to the plague.

These words of prophesy are best read directly from the Scriptures to absorb their beauty. It’s much like when God gives you words and visions of His beauty, and you just can’t seem to share them in a way that speaks the beauty to others the same way God spoke it to your heart. My sister speaks of a sunset she once watched as she felt the presence of God speaking to her heart about His love for her, but all she could tell me is what she actually saw. His love note to her was left for her spirit to interpret and to bring her a blessing.

There will be things each of us sees as God leads us through this life. Some of what He gives us, He will give with interpretation to make it clear to others in the same way Yeshua later clarified some of His parables to make certain His disciples and followers could understand them. That’s like getting a pair of glasses to read the eye chart. Other things, He may speak to our hearts, and they will only be for us.

Balaam saw what Balak could not see, but that did not make it untrue, and it has come to pass to prove itself. If you see something I don’t see, or if I see something you don’t see, we should test the spirits to see if they are from God, and we should always check His written word. That applies no matter if the person is a writer, a big-time preacher, or a neighbor teaching a Bible study. When Paul taught the Bereans, they searched the Scriptures to make sure he was telling them the truth. We should do the same.

The word of God is alive–it can breathe new things into our spirits and our understanding each time we read the writing, but that takes reading the writing. We receive faith and vision by hearing God’s word and seeing it with the understanding He gives us through His Holy Spirit. And, one day, we will all see the same thing when we see The Lord as He is, and what a wonderful day that will be.

And here’s a nice little video about that day–A Gaither gathering singing What A Day That Will Be

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Third Time’s Not Always a Lucky Charm


Charms Cereal by Flickr User Chris Metcalf, CC License = Attribution

Charms Cereal by Flickr User Chris Metcalf, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Persistence should be a good thing, but when it gets mixed with stupidity, it’s just plain annoying. There are people who persist on pushing their ways on others whether it makes sense or not, and when someone tries to explain the problem, they just don’t get it. Ya know, like the woman who got drunk, stole a horse, and then when caught, blamed the horse and said she was sober, but the horse was drunk. Really, it happened even if it sounds impossible. Just look up “stupid criminals” and you’ll be amazed at the persistence of stupidity in some people.

In today’s reading from Numbers 23:27 through Numbers 24:13, Balak is at his insistent best again. As if it wasn’t enough for Balaam to tell him he could only speak the words from God, and then to speak words saying that Israel is blessed by God and cannot be cursed, Balak asks Balaam one more time if he will curse Israel. He takes him to another mountain where he can clearly see the community of Israel camped out below, and he tells Balaam that maybe he’ll be able to curse them from this new locale.

Balaam has Balak do the usual act of building seven altars and sacrificing one bull and one ram on each altar. This time, however, Balaam doesn’t go to seek God to see if it’s okay to curse Israel, but God speaks through him anyway. The Spirit of God moves upon Balaam, and he speaks an abundant and beautiful blessing over Israel that ends with the well-known statement, “Blessed be all who bless you! Cursed be all who curse you!

After the blessing, the portion says that Balak blazed with fury against Balaam. He clapped his hands together and yelled that he called on Balaam to curse Israel and all he did was bless them three times. Balak then accused The Lord of stealing the reward that he was going to give Balaam in exchange for the curse. But Balaam calmly answered that nothing had changed, and that he told Balak’s servants from the beginning that he could not disobey God even for a palace filled with silver and gold.

I am amazed at how calmly Balaam dealt with the stupidity of this guy. Balak’s accusation against God reminds me of those many who excuse their not serving God by saying that He takes away their right to have fun or be free or whatever. It’s senseless. Without God, we have NOTHING good AT ALL in our lives, so even the fun or freedom to get into trouble people think they have by not serving Him would not exist if He didn’t wake them and the world up on a daily basis.

I want to break away from the blessing and curse direction for a moment, and just give you a little example of how much we receive in this life. There’s a momentum that is built by provision on top of provision, and it gets us to our own provisions over and over again throughout our days. God is our ultimate Provider, and He uses others to help that process along.

Think about a simple cup of coffee and the amazing steps from the coffee bean bush to your cup. You have the people who plant it, pick it, haul it, cook it, haul it again, package it, brew it, etc. Then there are the people who build the harvesting equipment, the trucks for hauling, and the ovens for cooking. If you have it in a paper cup, you’ve also got all the manufacturing that goes into that, and if you bought your cuppa in a restaurant, you’ve got your barista, your managers, your building owner, and so forth.

It’s not so simple now, huh? What you’ve just seen should demonstrate that God is absolutely and totally in control even when we don’t see all the steps He takes to provide for us in this life. Every person involved in our provisions are given breath by God. All that grows is given life by Him.

Balaam couldn’t curse Israel if he wanted because God was protecting them from his magic to the point of using him to do the opposite of what he planned. Balak couldn’t pay Balaam enough because God stepped in and interrupted his plans and processes. The third time of requesting a curse against Israel didn’t work like the charm either of them planned. They should have learned from this that it’s better to walk in God’s blessing than to even try to play games with God or those He loves. If not, they’re in for a wild ride because when God is running the show, there’s no “third time’s a charm” or “lucky seven,” there’s only blessings or curses.

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donkey Talk Blues


I think it’s been a while since I shared from my favorite band, ApologetiX–That Christian Parody Band. The song in the above video is called Donkey Talked With Him and it’s a parody of Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones. It uses music to tell the story of Balaam’s donkey saving his life, and if you click on the link with the title, you can read the story of how ApologetiX came to write this particular parody. The words in my title are in the song, and I just couldn’t pass up using them for this post, especially since it’s quite a bit later than usual, and I’m getting sleepy. (I haven’t been to sleep yet, so it’s still in my Monday, so even if you found it posted on Twitter on Tuesday, you’ll notice I’ve backdated it as Monday’s post.)

So, in today’s reading from Numbers 22:21 through Numbers 22:38, Balaam gets up with the servants of Balak and heads out to meet the King of Moab. Now, yesterday, God told Balaam that if these guys summoned him, he should go, but today this behavior stirs up God’s anger against Balaam. I can only think there was something in Balaam’s heart about his decision to make this journey, something that made it more than just obedience to what God had spoken to him the night before, that could make God rise up against Balaam.

The Angel of The Lord stood in Balaam’s path, but Balaam couldn’t see Him. Balaam’s donkey, however, noticed the Powerful Being and the sword in His hand and decided to run out across the field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road, and this time the Angel stood in a narrow path that went through the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. The donkey went to the side and crushed Balaam’s foot between herself and the stone wall, so Balaam beat her again. When the Angel of God stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or the left, the donkey lay down under Balaam, so he hit her with his staff.

After the last beating, God opened up the mouth of the donkey, and she began asking Balaam why he was beating her. Balaam, seemingly unimpressed and not at all surprised that this animal was talking, spoke back to the donkey about her behavior. He even told her he wished he had a sword because he wanted to kill her. She continued her side of the conversation with some logical reasoning about her faithfulness to him and how she’d never done anything like that before. As the truth dawned on him, God opened Balaam’s eyes, so he could also see the Angel standing there with the drawn sword.

God asks Balaam why he beat his donkey when she was only trying to save his life. He tells Balaam that He had come out against him and would have killed him for opposing him if she had not stopped it from happening. Balaam hung his head and bowed before God, and he repented and confessed his sin. He told God that if what he was doing was displeasing, he would turn around and go home, But God told him to go on, and reminded him again to only do what He directed.

When Balaam got to Balak’s palace, Balak asked why he had not come sooner. He wondered if Balaam thought he would not be able to pay enough. Balaam told Balak that he had come to him as he asked, but he could not speak to his requests unless God told him what to say. He told Balak he would only be able to speak whatever words God put in his mouth to speak.

When all was said and done, Balaam did the right thing and became willing to fully obey God and His word and to communicate that to the King of Moab, but it took a near-death experience for him to make that decision. How close to death do most of us have to be to make a decision to fully follow God in every word and deed of our lives? I hope it doesn’t take nearly dying at the hand of God for most of us. His ways may not always seem clear right off, but if we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, we will hear His voice, so we can follow Him instead of giving Him or us the “donkey talk” blues.

Well, it’s late, so I’ll sign off for now, but I can’t leave you without adding one more video from YouTube. Many years before ApologetiX, I listened to the humorous telling of the Balaam story by Don Francisco. The last line is the best, so be sure and listen to the whole thing even though you already know the story. Enjoy.

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Would You Sell Your Soul for a Palace of Gold?


Mysore Palace by Flickr User Ashwin Kumar, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Mysore Palace by Flickr User Ashwin Kumar, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Would you sell your soul for any price? For a palace filled with gold and silver? For fame? For power? It’s easy to say we would not sell our souls for something that is not being offered to us, but what if we were struggling and an offer was made? If you were starving to death, you could be tempted to sell your soul for a morsel like Esau did when he gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew when Jacob offered it to him. Until that moment, he may not have valued it like he should, but that doesn’t mean he would have been willing to sell it.

In today’s reading from Numbers 23:13 through Numbers 23:20, we continue the story where Balak wants Balaam to curse the people of Israel. The first servants Balak sent came back with the report that Balaam would not go along with the plan. Balak does not accept that answer, so he finds princes that are higher in status than the first group and sends them to beg Balaam to come with them for whatever price he wants. Balak’s fear has made him desperate, so he hopes to persuade Balaam with a higher reward for his services.

Balaam says he has made the decision to serve The Lord no matter what. He answers the servants that even if Balak gave him a palace filled with silver and gold, he would not go against the word of God in any matter great or small. He then tells the servants to spend the night while he again seeks God. When God comes to Balaam to speak to him this time, He tells Balaam to go with the men that summoned him, but only to do what He says and nothing else.

We’re not given any reason to think Balaam would have a reason to sell his soul, so if he goes with the men, we know that–at least at this point in time–he is going in obedience and with the right heart. But most of us know the story doesn’t end that way, so what do you suppose might change for Balaam?

Right plans and right ideas can sour and go in a wrong direction in an instant. The girl who starts out singing praise for The Lord, and walks through the door that leads to fame and fortune, may do so because she honestly believes it’s just a way to spread the message to more people. But then, a contract or a new group of friends takes her to places and decisions that turn her away from God, and she finds herself on the edge of selling her soul without even knowing how she got there.

For now, Balaam still has the right heart and mind about the matters. For now, many who desire fame or fortune to do more and greater works for God have the right hearts and minds about the matters. Let us keep each other in prayer that should doors open to expand our territories, we will keep a humble heart and remember that it’s all about God. Let us also pray that for any child of God who truly loves The Lord with a pure and whole heart, no door would open that could lead to soul theft, and if a door does open, pray for God to pour out wisdom and discernment to keep His child from buying into any lie the enemy might send.

Our souls–ALL of our souls–are worth more than many palaces filled with silver and gold. Let us keep them with every ounce of care and diligence they deserve.

And somehow, this post made me think about an old song called Guns and Wars also known as I Wish We’d All Been Ready. I found it on YouTube by DC Talk. Lyrics are on the YouTube page. Enjoy…

June 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futuristic Science Fiction


I Can See the End But It Hasn't Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I Can See the End But It Hasn’t Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

If you could know your future, would you want to? Would you want to know exactly what person you were going to marry, when you would get married, how many kids you would have, whether or not you would work in your dream career, etc., all before it happened? We all worry about our future (even though we’re not supposed to be anxious about anything), but somehow, I think knowing everything ahead of time would make it boring. We build our strength in our struggles to make the future come out the way we hope.

In today’s reading from Numbers 22:2 through Numbers 22:12, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now on Parashah 40, titled Balak after the main person in the beginning of the story. Balak, the son of Zippor, is the king of Moab, and he’s been watching the battles between Israel and the Amorites. Now, the Amorites had already defeated Moab in previous wars, so when Balak saw Israel defeat them, he got real afraid real fast. Now, he’s running to the leaders of Midian and trying to provoke them with fear by telling them the Israelites will eat up everything in their land the way the oxen eat up a field of grass.

So Balak decides to get out a message to this guy he knows who apparently lives in the land of his people, the Moabites. He tells the elders to take money and to take the message that a people has come out of Egypt who cover the earth, and now they have moved in right next door to him. He sends this message to a guy named Balaam who is a teller of the future and who has favor with God, so that whoever he blesses is blessed, and whoever he curses is cursed.

Balak tries to put the same fears that he feels into Balaam. He tells him to curse the people because he says there are too many for him to fight, and he says that if the guy will curse them, maybe he will be able to drive them off. Balaam asks the men to stay the night and wait for an answer. He says he can’t promise he will do it because he has to talk to God first and see what He has to say about the situation. By the way Balaam asks God about it, I’m thinking he doesn’t know who the people of Israel are, but when he asks God about it, God tells him not to go with Balak’s servants and not to curse the people because they are a blessed people.

Balak let fictional fears of the future control him instead of turning to the real God for help. He turned to a man who knew the real God, but he didn’t seek God for himself. Had he done that, God would have told him about that blessed people and how a future Moabitess (Ruth) would be in the bloodline of their (and our) Messiah. He would have had reason to care for the people and offer praise to God instead of fearing the people and hoping to manipulate God.

Too many people live as Balak did. They don’t want to see The Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls, or The Holy Bible on the school bookshelf. They fear what these things might mean instead of seeking God to find out what they do mean. They miss out on the peace we have by serving a God we know watches over and cares for us. We don’t know the future either, but we trust the One who created it. We know His plans for our future are only good and include an eternity in His presence. As the hymn says…

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

It’s not science fiction to trust our future to a God so big He can watch over all the world at once and yet count every hair on each person’s head. He will walk with us each and every day of our lives straight into eternity, and that’s all the future we need to know.

Enjoy this version of the song I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Alison Krauss (includes lyrics)…

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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