Crystal Writes A Blog

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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

When God is in Your Fan Club


Image

Fractalius Fan and Roses by Crystal A Murray–See the original in my photo stream at Flickr by clicking on the image.

Today, we have another short reading of only seven verses. This one, from Genesis 26:23 through Genesis 26:29 is all about the blessings of Isaac and the promises God made to him. In verse 24, Yahveh appears to Isaac and lets him know he has nothing to fear because He is the God of his father, and that means He is the God of him. Yahveh reminds Isaac of the blessings He has in store for his future descendants because of the promises He made to Abraham. And at this point, Isaac builds an altar and worships God.

I don’t remember if Scripture tells us that Isaac ever built an altar to God before, and whether it does or not, I don’t know if he did. In trying to look back over the last few weeks, I don’t think he did, so I’m thinking this is beginning of Isaac’s personal relationship with his Creator. But here is what I find truly interesting about this event. When Isaac dealt with Abimelech before, maybe even expecting the king to defend him as he had done his father, Abimelech suggested he leave town. Now, since Isaac has talked with God, Abimelech and the commander of his army have shown up on Isaac’s doorstep to make sure things are right between them.

In verse 28, after Isaac asks them why they would show up after now after sending his family away (and not defending him against the lying herdsmen who were stealing the wells Isaac dug), Abimelech tells him how they want to make sure that Isaac will not treat them badly because they may have sent him away, but they did so in peace. I can just hear them tripping over their own tongues trying to make sure that Isaac will treat them as friends and not as enemies. And in verse 29, they give away the reason they are so concerned about how he will treat them. They say, “You are now the blessed of the Lord.”

Huh, so when they just thought he was the son of one favored by God, they didn’t defend him, and they sent him away. Their blessings toward him were simply to do him no harm. Oh, but now that they know God is in Isaac’s fan club just like He was in Abraham’s fan club, they want to make sure they’re on the right side of the blessed man.

It’s like people who think they’re special because they get the autograph of someone who is famous to others, as if they’ll be sort of famous by osmosis. I think these guys were thinking that if they befriended someone who was blessed by God that they would get blessed by osmosis. And the funny thing is, Abimelech did the same thing to Abraham, right down to asking for the same protection and bringing up how good they treated him. But if folks want to hang around Christians and treat them well to keep themselves out of trouble, at least that means they can see that we are blessed by Him and walking in His presence. After all, God’s word says He will bless a city for the righteous that live there, so I guess it is in people’s’ best interest to get near those who are blessed by God. But I think it’s even better if we can be the blessed and say, “Guess who is in my fan club? Yep, it’s God Almighty!”

And with that I will close with my report on NaNo that I have reached 12,613 words for day #5. And I’m hoping God is in my reading fan club and will help me turn this one into something because I’m liking what my characters are doing now. Oh, and pardon the use of my “punny” picture for this post. I just liked the idea of showing off my fractalized fan to go with the title. 🙂

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is a Promise Keeper


In the last few days, we studied how Lot had many blessings as a relative of Abraham. When God blesses someone, He does it so well that their blessings cannot help but spill over to others. In today’s reading from Genesis 21:5 through Genesis 21:21, we read about God’s blessings on Abraham’s sons.

Now, I’m saying sons because at the beginning of the reading, Sarah has finally given birth to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise. She is amazed at the experience and even praises God for being able to nurse her son. She doesn’t even mind that his name means laughter since she now says that others will laugh with her in celebration of this great joy in her life.

Unfortunately, her happiness comes to a screeching halt when she sees the son of her handmade Hagar making fun of Isaac. She chased Hagar out once before because she was making fun of Sarah for being barren. Now, she demands that Abraham make her leave again because she cannot bear to see the other boy teasing her son. Abraham goes to God to find out what to do, and God tells him to listen to Sarah. But God also promises Abraham that He will be with the boy and make a great nation of him “because he is descended from you,” God says.

Even though there will come a time in the future where Isaac is referred to as Abraham’s only son, God is faithful to extend the blessings and promises He has poured out upon him throughout his generations. Since those of us who are circumcised in heart toward God are now considered to be of Abraham’s seed (See Galatians 3:29), that means God’s promises and blessings come all the way down to us as well. Praise God that He is a promise giver and a promise keeper.

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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