Crystal Writes A Blog

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A Covenant Only God Could Keep


We have a long reading today from Genesis 15:7 through Genesis 17:6, and that means it is harder for me to boil it down–especially since it has two important story parts. I will focus this post on the first part, from Chapter 15, where we have a ceremony between God and Abram that most people likely read through without realizing its significance. To understand the importance of this ceremony, I first need to tell you about the meaning of the “Blood Covenant” which is what is being performed here in what is now known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” or “Covenant of the Pieces.” It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories because it gives us a glimpse into the future promise fulfilled by Jesus.

In a blood covenant, the sacrificial animals are cut in two pieces as a representation of the two parties or sides who are making the covenant. If either party breaks his agreement, the penalty is to pay in blood. At Wikipedia, I found an article explaining biblical covenants, and the writer there states it this way… “Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut”. It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.”

Now, here’s the understated thing about the covenant that I find very exciting: Each party walks through the pieces to symbolize his own keeping of the promise. This was a covenant between Abram (representing mankind) and God (representing Himself), and we see that before Abram was able to walk through, God put him to sleep. Both a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared in the midst of the pieces, which means that God Himself walked through the pieces as both man and God. By doing this, He promised that He would pay the price in blood if either side of the covenant was violated.

We know that God keeps His promises, but we also know that He understands the ways of man and knew we would not keep ours. That means He planned from way back to shed His own blood. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Italics mine.) Also, in 1 John 3:16a, the Bible says we know the love of God because He laid down His own life for us.

This was just a beginning of promises to Abram, who will be renamed to Abraham by the end of today’s reading, but I will cover the rest in a separate post due to the length of today’s post. For now though, it excites me to know that His plans for us–and me–have always been to do whatever it takes to make sure He can spend eternity with those He loves. He does this in spite of our rebellious behaviors and our rejection of Him. I guess that’s why in John 15:13-14, Jesus told the disciples that there is no greater love than that where a person would lay down his life for his friends. And then He called them His friends. Halleluyah! We have been granted the greatest love if only we accept it.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Promises of a Loving Creator


We humans think we have it all together sometimes. Just because all the parts are available, including the ability to think and create, we think because we build something, we are some type of creative geniuses. Here’s a little joke that gets the point across well…

One day, a group of scientists were discussing cloning, and they concluded that since they knew how to create humans, they no longer needed God. Upon sharing this news with God, He proposed that before they totally dropped Him out of their lives, they should have a man-making contest. The scientists agreed. God specified they had to do it from scratch–the old-fashioned way, and the scientists still decided it was something they could win.

Finally, the day of the big contest arrived. The timers were set, and the chosen scientist and God were at the starting line. When the whistle blew, the scientist reached down to the ground to grab a handful of soil. Just then, God shouted, “Hold it! Get your own dirt.”

Now, in today’s reading in Genesis 14:21 through Genesis 15:6, the King of Sodom is trying to bargain with Abram about which spoils of war he will keep and which he will give to Abram. But Abram tells the king he will not take anything from him because he wants to be sure the king cannot say later that he was the one who made Abram rich. Abram wanted every thing he gained to be known as a gift from His Creator. He trusted God for the promise of riches, and He knew that meant God would have to be his only provider. We may have many blessings from mankind, but the very source is always our Father God.

This story portion ends with Abram’s conversation with God about not yet having an heir. So, while Abram knew God was his provider, here we get to see his human side as he wrestles with trusting God for his future promise of children that would outnumber the dust of the earth. Abram begins to reason that maybe it is a servant’s child that will become his heir, but God tells him once again that the promise will come from Abram’s own body. He then takes him outside and compares his future promise with the number of stars in the sky.

God knows our form, and He knows that we often trust what we see, which is why we so often trust the creation over the Creator, but He is also kind and merciful as He tenderly reminds us who He is and that His plans for us are always for the good. I love how this little story shows Abram both at his best and at his worst, and it shows how God is ready to bless him in both of those places. God is always the Creator, and He always wants to create wonderful things in our lives if we will keep our sights and trust set on Him.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Aroma


This is my first post from my phone app since I know I will not get home on time. I’m thankful I have this option.

Now, to continue on with the story of Noah. In today’s reading from Genesis 8:15 through Genesis 9:7, he and all living things from the ark are finally getting to come out and restart life on earth. I don’t imagine life trapped inside the ark for almost a year was pleasant. Yet, the first thing Noah did when he exited the ark was to build an altar and give an offering to the One who saved him and his family. There’s no record of what Noah thanked God for, but I imagine it was an extensive list. If I were Noah, just some items from my list would be…

  • Thank You for looking at me with grace;
  • Thank You for saving me from destruction;
  • Thank You for being my Provider and sustaining me for all those months;
  • Thank You for saving my family;
  • Thank You that I know You Yahveh Almighty.

Whatever Noah thanked God for, that smell of his thankful offering went up as a sweet aroma to God and was pleasing to Him. And I believe that sweet aroma was more about the offering of thanksgiving that came from Noah’s heart and mouth than it was from anything that burned upon the fire. I believe this because of the new testament verses that tell us that the sacrifice of our praise goes up as a sweet-smelling aroma to God. I can compare this to how I respond to the smell of something grilling on a barbecue. Even when I’ve just eaten and am full, I could sit downwind of the aroma of a barbecue and just enjoy it as it wafts in my direction. If our praise smells even close to that good to God, no wonder He is enthroned on the praises of His people.

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Righteous Before The Creator


My reading today from Genesis 7:1-16 is short, but it puts feet on the commands God gave to Noah yesterday. The ark is built, the animals have shown up, and now God invites Noah & his family into the place that will save them from destruction.

You know, it seems from the beginning that God has always delighted to give those who love Him a refuge from the troubles and trials that are created by the disobedience of those who do not love Him. He truly lives up to the name, Deliverer. Here is a slide from a Bible study by Beth Moore that nicely describes how God is ALWAYS our Deliverer:

Image

While the slide talks of fire, it was no less a deliverance for Noah and his family to be delivered from the death of all other living things. This story is only the beginning of God showing people that He wants to be our Deliverer, and it represents His heart of hearts–to deliver us from the ways of sin and the wages of sin (which is eternal death). Now our question; will we give up our own ways and go into “the ark” when we are invited?

October 6, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Fall Before the Fall


Today’s reading comes from Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3:21. As usual, there is so much I could comment on, from God Himself breathing the breath of life into the first man, to the heavenly garden in Eden where mankind could eat fruit planted by His Creator, to man and wife being as one flesh. But I’d like to focus on the verses from 3:1 through 3:6.

So imagine Adam & and his new companion walking along a path and just enjoying the beautiful creation that surrounded them. Somehow, they end up right in front of the one tree of which they are not to partake. A voice comes from a serpent also hanging around this very tree. (Of course, this makes me wonder if all the animals talked since neither the man or woman seemed to have been surprised to be conversing with a snake.) And the first thing the snake does is challenge their Creator on whether He is a good provider. My translation: The serpent asked, “Hey, you people, did God say you could not eat from EVERY tree in the garden?

Wait a minute–ONE tree vs EVERY tree? That lying snake was trying to make the one forbidden tree look like it was of more value than all the other trees put together. The focus was shifted from all they did have to the one little thing they didn’t have. And that’s not a new trick. I think it contributes to much of the depression in today’s world. Sure, I’d love to live a cushy life where all my big desires are covered with plenty to spare. But I have the blessing of remembering times when I’ve had less, so those memories often bring me back to a place of gratefulness. The newly created couple didn’t have that to lean on, so all they could do is imagine that maybe they were missing out on something.

Next, the woman restated the rule of the tree of knowledge. Now, it could be that God said more to them with the first given orders, but if not, I’m wondering why the woman enhanced God’s words and added the part about not touching the tree. Did she fill herself with extreme fear to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow? Or, maybe the law was spoken to Adam, and in his overly zealous desire to protect his wife from disobedience, he told her that she was not only to avoid eating it but also to avoid touching it. (Kinda like when parents tell their kids things like, “If you keep doing that, it’ll stay that way forever.”) Unfortunately, even strong warnings of never and forever don’t always work, and the fear of discipline in front of the woman was not enough to stop her from listening to the next lie.

So, in verse 4, the serpent flat-out calls God a liar. The husband is standing there, (we see that in verse 6), but he doesn’t seem to be getting defensive about all these lies. I wonder why he wasn’t shouting, “Come on, Honey, let’s get out of here. This little wimp has challenged our Creator on His ability to care for us, and now he’s calling Him a liar! We don’t need to hear anything else that snake has to say.” But they just stood there and listened, and the lying words started sinking in.

Now the woman takes a more deliberate look at the tree and begins a thinking process that has gotten man into trouble ever since. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Now look at the thoughts it says were going through the woman’s mind: When the woman saw the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she was enticed. She imagined trying to BE like God rather than to SERVE her Creator, and in that, she imitated the very thoughts that got the voice behind the lying serpent thrown out of the Heavenlies in the first place. This was the fall before the fall. Before she even partook of the forbidden fruit, she engaged in evil thoughts and let the flesh win. And because her husband did not challenge the lying voice, she took him down with her.

But I do not want to stop here with hopelessness. It is evident that sin is something born into the flesh from its inception, or she would not have been able to sin in her mind before acting on her thoughts. But knowing this gives us a way to fight when those same thoughts try to bombard our minds. And even better, we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How was Yahshua (Jesus) tempted on all points? In Luke 4:1-13, we read of “the temptation in the wilderness.” The temptations included the lust of the flesh (turn these stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (look at all the kingdoms I can give you), and the pride of life (cast yourself down and make a show of the angels not letting you fall). He was truly tempted in EVERY way we can be tempted, and thus continually delivers us from what started with a liar at the beginning of creation.

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wholly Good Creation


I am so in love with the word of God that I can find multiple things to talk about from even a short reading. For me, Scripture is living and filled with wonder and awe. I can see the possibilities of mistranslations by mankind, and yet the thread of truth is so strong that I do not doubt the validity of life I receive from the written words. Today, I read from Genesis 1:24 through Genesis 2:3.

Creation day 6 was quite the busy one. All the rest of the animals brought forth from the dust of earth, and then mankind. And it was so much more than simple creation. It was the decision to make man a little higher than the animals, so that he could rule them from the earth. It was the decision to risk putting God-like attributes in human flesh made from dirt.

Surely, God being God, knew what He was getting into when He did all of that, and yet upon its finish He said, “It is very/vehemently/wholly good.” Apparently, He saw something more in us that we can see in ourselves. He didn’t just like what He had accomplished, He vehemently loved what He had accomplished. It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone would want to reject that, but I can only guess it comes from people who see themselves as good in their own eyes rather than accepting themselves as wholly good as He sees them and created them to be. That gives me understanding as to why He prefers a humble spirit.

And, after all the flourish of work, creation, risk, and emotion, God was done. He wasn’t done being God, but He was done setting up the dominoes, and it was time for them to do what He created them to do… to multiply, to govern, and to be like Him and create things on their own. I wonder though if His letting go was similar to a parent taking the training wheels off a child’s bike and just letting the child go–even knowing the child may fall. I hope when He takes a chance on me, I bring Him reward that makes it worth the risk of His letting go and letting me have free will.

And this seems like a great place to post a poem called “Free Will” that I wrote back in 2002 in the aftermath of so many claiming 9/11/2001 was something God allowed (or caused) to punish sinful Americans.

FREE WILL

Free will, I say, to all free will,
To do just as you desire.
Tis the greatest of gifts giv’n to man,
It can help or can hurt, as does fire.

Many men seek to do all good,
Neither hurt a friend, nor a foe.
But some men abuse this gracious gift,
And it makes God’s head bow low.

So let us not blame our God above,
For men and their evil deeds.
Let us instead use our own free will,
To comfort a heart that bleeds.

An object or word can cause great pain,
In the hands of hatred and spite.
But in the hands of men filled with love,
A balm of healing and light.

May God be thanked for His gift of free will.
Let all men use it for love.
And bless each other as we fulfill,
The goodness of God above.

Copyright ©2002 Crystal A. Murray

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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