Crystal Writes A Blog

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Micro vs Macro


Japanese Anemone by Flickr Users Mike and Annabel Beales, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Japanese Anemone by Flickr Users Mike and Annabel Beales, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

One of my favorite types of photography is that which they call “macro” because it brings an almost unseen world to life. Macro photography gets as close to a subject as possible while still remaining clear. It allows you to see the eyes on a bug or the tiniest veins in the petal of a flower. Many of the photographers I follow on Flickr take macro photos, and if you do a search for just the word macro, you’ll see the tiny, up-close world I’m talking about.

Maybe it’s the peace that comes with focus required to see things that closely, or maybe I just like observation of detail, but I know it’s a stark contrast to what attracts many others. While I linger to see more things more closely, the world seems to want a super fast view of things from a distance. Commercial advertising on television flashes an array of images at you. Sentences are shortened to fewer words (got milk), and words are shortened to fewer letters or abbreviations (lol). And, no, I’m not laughing in that last line, but it’s an acronym I figure most people know. If you don’t, it stands for “laughing out loud.”

So, I got a new Twitter follower tonight that posts things in micro, which makes sense because Twitter is considered a “micro blog.” He writes micro poetry and micro fiction, and it’s actually quite entertaining. You all know that I’m a long-winded writer, so it might not hurt for me to learn how to say a few things in micro, but I’ll work on that later.

Anyway, this whole micro versus macro thing made me think about the still, small voice of God. Is that considered micro because the Bible calls it small? I don’t know what the writer or his scribe actually meant there, but I consider it more macro than micro. It’s not the fact that it’s small that matters, it that requires closer examination. Just like you have to tune out all the noise in order to hear a person whisper, you must tune out the cacophony of spiritual noise to tune into the voice of Yahveh.

I think we all get the idea that during the days of creation, God’s voice rang out like thunder and made a demand for the world to jump into being. I like the power behind that too, but what if He simply and quietly whispered in a still, small voice? What if that’s all He had to do because there wasn’t a bunch of noise for Him to have to speak over then? So, maybe we were created in quiet peacefulness, and maybe that’s why those of us who seek our Creator seek that peace as a blessing.

I think this new drive of people to see and hear things loud and fast coincides with the distance this world has from The God of Creation. Seeing His beginnings takes time, and understanding them takes even more time. Salvation is not a micro event either. The closer we examine Calvary, the more we realize what Yeshua did for us, and the more we fall in love with Him.

Time is our gift from God to learn whatever we need to make an informed decision about our eternity. We should fill our moments with as much of God as we can, bringing ourselves closer and closer to Him in the process. We can write micro fiction and micro poetry, and we can post micro blogs, but let God and His word be magnified and not diminished in our lives. Amen.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessings and Shalom


Shalom Cups by Flickr User W Keown, CC License = Attribution

Shalom Cups by Flickr User W Keown, 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.

I decided sometime ago to include “Blessings and Shalom” in my e-mail signature for personal messages. Sometimes I also include it for professional messages, but not always. Sometimes I add “Love with blessings and shalom” to the signature because I want to communicate my love, but I also want to speak God’s blessings and peace. In all cases, what I am wanting for the recipient is a taste of God’s presence and God’s peace that passes all understanding. I truly believe in Yeshua’s admonition to His disciples to go into every home with a pronouncement of “Shalom” that peace would find rest with those who live there that seek it.

In today’s reading from Numbers 25:10 through Numbers 26:4, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 41 is called Pinchas and is the Hebrew for Phinehas (Phineas), the son of Eleazar the high priest who is the son of Aaron the former high priest. At the end of the last portion, we read how Phineas stopped the plague against Israel by running his sword through the bellies of an Israelite and a Midianite prostitute who were openly defying God’s law.

God talks to Moses and says that Phineas has deflected His anger against Israel by being as zealous as He (God) is, and that deflection kept God from destroying Israel in His zeal. Because of that, God gives Phineas His covenant of shalom and His covenant of a perpetual priesthood in his bloodline. God says that because Phineas was zealous on behalf of Him, and because he made atonement for Israel, the office of priest will now be in his family forever.

The reading then gives us some history about the two people killed to make the atonement. The Israelite was a son of a leader from the tribe of Simeon, and the Midianite woman was a daughter of a leader of a clan of Midian. In other words, both of them should have known better, and actually they probably did know better and were acting out in defiance, which is why they paraded themselves in front of the tabernacle before going into the tent to commit adultery.

God tells Moses to treat the Midianites as enemies and attack them. As I studied a bit deeper into this, it appears that Balaam may have gone back to Balak and told him that he couldn’t curse the people because God controlled his tongue, but he could tell Balak how to make the people curse themselves. This is shown in Revelation 2:14 where it says Balaam taught Balak to trick the people of Israel by causing them to eat food that was sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual sins.

It’s one thing to blatantly advertise sins to the world, but to parade them to Christians to try and sway them away from God and toward the flesh because you want them to be cursed is not something God takes lightly. He calls the whole thing the “incident at Peor” and future Scriptures will deal harshly with the Midianites, and Balaam, on account of it. Of course, this lines up with the prophesies of Balaam who spoke that he was able to see these things with open eyes, but when God’s Spirit was no longer speaking through him, apparently he went back to being a blind leader of the blind.

The reading ends with the beginning of a new census of the people and tribes of Israel. God wants Eleazar to count the entire assembly who are twenty years of age and older and subject to military service, and number them by their ancestral clans. So Moses and Eleazar call to all those twenty and older who came out of Egypt, and they gather them in the field by the Jordan river across from Jericho.

As of yesterday, I was thinking that Balaam had started as an unbeliever and become convinced of God by walking in His presence. I mean, he spoke God’s words, he saw God’s angel, and he even witnessed as God made his donkey talk. But after all that, it turns out that Balaam was worse than a donkey–he was an ignorant beast. He didn’t learn anything from all his experiences. He was a man whose own mouth spoke words that would bring blessings and peace, and yet he chose instead to play around with curses and chaos.

If we want God’s shalom in our lives, it takes more than just talking about it. We can pronounce every blessing in the Holy Scriptures from our mouths, but if our hearts are far from God, they will also be far from His peace. I bid you, my readers, blessings and shalom, from my heart to yours, and I pray that you are a true seeker who longs for the presence of Yahveh Almighty from the depths of your soul. I’ve heard it said that the Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not just cake for special occasions. The same can be said for God’s peace and His blessings. May those of us who have even an inkling of thought toward God let it become a head over heels love toward Him that will have us walking in His blessings and shalom every moment of our lives and right into eternity with Him.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When War is Your Only Option


War and Peace by Flickr User Jayel Aheram, CC License = Attribution

War and Peace by Flickr User Jayel Aheram, 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.

I had a wonderful day at the conference, and there was so much to learn from so many people that are willing to share because they value this calling from God to write as He leads. Liz Curtis Higgs, our keynote speaker, is as much entertaining as instructive, and she is humble enough to tell on herself in humorous ways that make us laugh with her.

But, as much fun as training can be, in the real field of life, the training is not just an exercise but is often real war, and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Of course, we all want peace, and we all want life to be comfortable, but we also want to stay young forever while gaining in the wisdom and authority that comes with age and not gaining in the pains and responsibilities. But that’s not reality anymore than the idea that all things will be at peace just because we want them to be.

In today’s reading from Numbers 21:21 through Numbers 22:1, we finish out our week and our 7th section of the week’s portion with another attempt on the part of Israel to pass through a land owned by a rival king. Israel does the right thing by sending a request to the king and promising to stay on The King’s Highway without entering into any of the fields or vineyards of the city or kingdom.

Most would say that Israel was being a peacemaker, but Sihon, king of the Amorites, didn’t care. He mustered all his people, and they went out to fight against Israel. Of course, because God is on the side of Israel, they defeated the Amorites by a force of arms and took control of all his land up to the river near the people of Amon. Israel did not fight the well-defended territory of the Ammonites but stayed in Heshbon and the cities they defeated.

While Israel was staying in the land of the Amorites, Moses sent men to recon Jazer, and they captured its towns and defeated the Amorites that lived there. Then they turned and went along the road to Bashan where Og, the king of Bashan, came out against them with all his people. God told Moses not to be afraid and said he had given them to Israel just as He had given them Sichon, so they defeated all of them until no one was left alive and took control of that land as well. They stopped to camp in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan River, opposite Jericho, and that’s where the portion ends.

When I saw the mention of the Jordan River, I immediately thought of all the references we give in Christianity where death is compared to crossing “the chilly Jordan.” Somehow, that made me realize that God was giving all these life-giving victories to a people who would not even enter into The Promised Land. So, other than needing someone to raise the next generation who would enter, God didn’t necessarily need these people and could have let them die in all these battles. But He did not let them die because they were still His people, and He still loved them.

I think of all the times I am certain I have disappointed God, but He has delivered me in spite of myself. Just today, someone prayed with me about my uncertainties in things like writing, reading, singing, etc., and the part that meant the most was the reminder that if I have chosen to serve God, all my steps are ordered of Him–even in those places where I am uncomfortable. Israel dealt with all the stuff we do these days: discomfort, hopelessness, depression, and war in response to their call for peace. God continued to order the steps of Israel and give them victory in spite of themselves. Even when war is our only option, if God is our only Captain, we can face the enemy with confidence that He is ordering our steps and giving us victory.

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sin or Zen in the Tzin


Zen Image by Flickr User Matthew Kebbekus, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Zen Image by Flickr User Matthew Kebbekus, 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.

Zen is one of those things that has a real definition and an urban/cultural definition. The real definition is one of eastern religion tied to Buddhism, but the way it is used in current culture is typically devoid of anything “religious.” People say things like, “Find your zen,” and it simply means the equivalent of “just go to your happy place.” It usually means anything along the lines of peace, simplicity, balance, calm, or a general lack of chaos. I kinda like the definition from The Urban Dictionary:

One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts. “Sun is warm, grass is green.”

In today’s reading from Numbers 19:18 through Numbers 20:6, we continue from yesterday on what someone should do if they enter into a tent or field with a corpse in it, or if they touch the bone of a dead person or a grave. Because they have touched with is unclean, they cannot just be free to interact with the rest of the community until they have gone through a cleansing ritual. A clean person must sprinkle the water (mixed with the ashes of the red heifer as seen in yesterday’s post) over the unclean person on the 3rd day and again on the 7th day. The person will be clean after seven days. If they refuse to be sprinkled, they will remain unclean and must keep separated from the people, and God says this is a defilement of His holy tabernacle.

As all these things are being taught and being dealt with, the people are continually moving around and/or stopping in various deserts. This time, they have headed to the Tzin Desert and are stopping in Kadesh. While there, Miriam passes away and they bury her. Also while there, the community becomes upset because they have no water. They are smart enough to know that burial follows death, but they don’t seem to be able to figure out that prayer should be the natural response to need. Instead of finding their “zen” by trusting God, they begin to whine and complain against Moses and Aaron–again.

Even a little whining might be okay, but these people do a few things wrong at the complaint window. First, they take what should be taken to God to men. Then, they accuse Moses and Aaron of bringing them to the desert just to let them die. As if Moses and Aaron made the decision where to take them, and as if their wandering has nothing to do with their own behaviors. Above all, they show God disrespect by complaining about their current situation and wishing they were back in the captivity from which He saved them. Instead of finding balance by being grateful for their freedom, all they can think about is figs and pomegranates.

As the reading ends, Moses and Aaron do what the children of Israel should be doing; they fall on their faces before Yahveh Almighty. It is that act of desperation and humility that brings in the presence of God, and it will be the same for you and me. As the Scripture says in James 4:7 (NLT), “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Note that the “humble yourselves” (submit in King James Version) comes before resisting the devil. If we want “zen” instead of sin, we need to humble ourselves before The Lord, If we want peace and balance, we need to know our place in Him and in His will for us. Humility lets us look upward to God and see His wonder. His wonder brings us into a place of praise, and praise brings us into a place of peace.

June 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paying Our IOUs


IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, CC License = Attribution

IOU More Chocolate by Flickr User Tom_Bullock, 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.

If someone hurts you, even unintentionally, isn’t it nice to get an apology that says the person really cares how the hurtful behavior affected you? And if that hurt cost you something, isn’t it even nicer when the person who did the hurting makes an effort to make restitution? Knowing how nice that is, I’m sure you can agree that when you make apologies and restitutions for your own poor behaviors that you are doing more than just making up for a wrong, you are becoming a blessing.

In today’s reading from Numbers 5:1 through Numbers 5:10, God is giving Moses more instruction for how to keep the community of Israel peaceful. God wants to make sure the camp will not be defiled because that is where He lives among the people, and making restitution for wrongs done to others is one way to keep the camp a pleasant place for Our Creator to dwell.

The reading begins with instructions on putting the diseased outside the camp. Now, I don’t think God felt He might catch anything, so His instructions for keeping people on the outside until they were healed was for the benefit of everyone else in the camp. If a lot of people became diseased, or better said “in a state of dis ease,” there would be chaos in the camp instead of peace. Better to not have people running around with anxiety and rejecting every person with a suspicious spot on his or her skin.

The portion goes on to talk about actual restitution by telling Moses to make sure that all debts against another are paid. It says that if a man or woman commits a sin against another human being, that person incurs guilt for breaking faith with Yahveh. When that happens, the person must confess his wrongdoing and make full restitution for his guilt plus add twenty percent to give to the victim of his sin. This restitution is in addition to the ram offering of restitution, and it’s so important, that if the victim has no family to receive the restitution, it is still to be paid but given to the priests.

The last statement given for keeping the camp at peace is a reminder that whatever the people of Israel consecrate to the high priest belongs to him. It is his property, and he will decide how to divide it among the rest of the priests. This means that if we promise something toward God’s work, it belongs to that ministry even before we give it, so we should keep our word. I admit that I have too easily made promises out of heightened emotion without checking with my husband or my calendar first, but I hope I have kept those promises and paid those debts because I don’t want to be spending someone else’s money or time as my own.

As for restitution, I know we often think of the blood of Christ as paying for all of our debts in full, and in a very big way, that is totally correct–in the way of paying for the wages of sin that would be death. But I think God wants us to make restitution when we can for more than the reason of just paying our debts. It says above to make restitution in addition to the sacrifice, and I think it’s because it helps the doer of the deed pay attention, so he won’t repeat the misdeed. It also adds a tangible freedom to the spiritual freedom we receive in Messiah. And, as I said above, it can help the sinner become a blessing to the person he sinned against.

I just rewatched The Passion of The Christ movie yesterday, and it still brings me to tears when I see what all Yeshua went through for me. I know that if no one ever sinned, from Adam to me and beyond, He would not have had to go through the torture, the disrespect, the false accusations, the pain and the death He suffered. I know I have gained multiple debts in my life–especially when I was young and had no understanding of how my actions affected others, and I know He bore those things all the way to Calvary, so I could be free of them.

As the lyrics say, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away.” He did that for me. And now, because I am thankful for all He did, and because I love Him with all my being, I want to keep myself clear of debts–current and future, to the best of my ability. If I sin against someone, or if I hurt someone, I want to make it up to that person and be a blessing. As Forrest Gump might say, “Life is like a box of chocolates; if you eat the ones that belong to someone else, you should buy them another box.” 🙂

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shalom, Jerusalem


In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:6 through Leviticus 26:9, we read of God’s promises of Shalom to the children of Israel. Again, it’s a short reading of only four verses, so I’ll paste it here in the post…

“‘I will give shalom in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone. I will rid the land of wild animals. The sword will not go through your land. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before your sword. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand — your enemies will fall before your sword. “‘I will turn toward you, make you productive, increase your numbers and uphold my covenant with you.”

God’s peace is truly beyond understanding, and it is far more than what we consider peace these days. It is not peace as we understand it, where things must be in balance and comfort. And it is not an incomplete peace that can be broken by the enemy. It is peace that drives out all fear, all discouragement, and all unrest. The desire for this peace, and the claim of the covenant God made with Israel, may be the reason the word “shalom” is used as a greeting for both hello and good-bye, and I believe for bidding someone best wishes as well.

In Luke 10:5-6, Yahshua is giving instructions to the apostles and 70 other followers on how to minister His word as they go through the land. Upon arriving at each home, He gives them advice that we could all use as we enter into any home, business, or communication in each other’s lives…

Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘Shalom!’ to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your ‘Shalom!’ will find its rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you.

So, it’s a win-win situation. If we walk in carrying this peace that passes understanding, and if we then pronounce it upon the houses we enter, it will either find rest with those who seek God, or it will return to us, and we will have this peace. It’s the reason I first say “Shalom,” as the welcome message on my answering machine. This world is filled with so much chaos and trouble that we need this complete and wonderful peace from God’s throne just to make it through each day. I don’t know how those without God even continue in this life, and the idea of being without God’s peace would seem to me the very definition of Hell.

God is not a man that He should lie, so that covenant is still with us, and it is still with Israel. He desires that two-way conversation of peace and love with His people. He dwells in our praises because it gives Him a chance to rain down His loving presence on those He most desires to share it with–whosoever will receive it. No matter what you may be going through, lift your voice up to Him in praise, and receive His peace like a river that passes all understanding. And while you’re at it, join me in praying, “Shalom, Jerusalem, today and always” every time you can think of it. There will come a day when those prayers, and the wishes in the above video (from songwriter and singer, Paul Wilbur) will come true for Israel, and then we will all rejoice with great joy as she receives her Messiah, our Prince of Shalom, Yahshua.

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fat Tuesday Forever


Bead Kaleidoscope for Fat Tuesday by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Bead Kaleidoscope for Fat Tuesday by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
I made this image from a picture of Mardi Gras beads someone shared as a challenge. Click the image if you want to scroll through the other designs I made (21 in total) from the original beads.

I’m sure there are some celebrants who might think the idea of celebrating Mardi Gras forever is a great idea, but I’m one of those who only likes the colors and the music and wants nothing to do with the idea of being in the midst of it. In truth, however, I could have named this “Fat” plus “any day of the week” because it’s not really about the celebration.

In our reading today from Leviticus 3:1 through Leviticus 3:17 (the entire chapter), we read some more about the requirements when bringing an offering to The Lord. The offerings covered here are those brought at peace offerings. Now, I’m not certain exactly what that means according to God. I don’t know if it was a way to ask Him for peace, or if it was a way to bring peace between the one giving the offering and someone else. I’ll just say that it’s one of those things that I will need to study more before I can even think to teach it to others.

I can say from the reading that the requirements are very similar to the offerings for atonement, including that whatever is offered needs to be without defect. Of course, which one of us would like someone to give us a gift that is from the “bottom of the barrel” so to speak? I know it did not make me happy when I once drew a white elephant gift that ended up being a cookie tin–and the crumbs were still in it. :-/ So, for The One who has given us everything, it is right to give–and to want to give–our very best.

And one new thing is added to the requirements this time. When giving an offering from the flock or herd, God says to make sure to offer all the fat to Him. He says, for now and for all future generations that the fat belongs to Him, so we are never to eat fat or blood. There are a lot of ideas of what that means, such as that we should only eat lean and fully cooked meats. Again, it’s one of those things I would have to study more to be able to say. I do know that I’m one of those who likes fattier cuts of meat, so it would be hard for me to accept that everything being cleansed does not change that all fat belongs to God, but if I were sure of it, I would change that. I’m certain lean meats are healthier as well, and well-cooked meats have fewer bacteria. And maybe that’s exactly what this last rule is for, a way to help us keep our temples healthier to be able to have more years to worship God. I’d love to hear what some of you think about these things that puzzle me. In the meantime, may you find many bright and colorful blessings and you walk with, and serve, Yahveh Almighty–on Tuesday and on every other day of the week.

March 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Good Rule of Thumb


Storytelling Rules of Pixar by Flickr User Alex Eylar, CC License - Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Storytelling Rules of Pixar by Flickr User Alex Eylar, CC License – Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s photo stream at Flickr, including his images of all the other Pixar rules of storytelling as acted out by Lego figures.

The rule above, and the other Pixar Rules of Storytelling, are great rules of thumb for creating a successful story. Rules, like ingredients in a recipe, are there to make sure that your end result is exactly what you plan from the beginning. A lot of people don’t like rules, but put one of them at a busy intersection with no lights or stop signs, and they’ll wish there were rules to keep everyone from crashing into each other. Many years ago, when Grissom was still a character on CSI, he mentioned that people liked sports because they represented a perfect community; the rules are the same for everyone, and the violations and penalties are acted on swiftly and exactly. Rules bring us peace.

Our newest portion, Parashah 18 is titled Mishpatim which is Hebrew for “rulings.” The full portion runs from Exodus 21:1 through Exodus 24:18, and today’s reading is from Exodus 21:1 through Exodus 21:19. It begins with the sentence, “These are the rulings you are to present to them,” and it goes into the beginnings of the rules Yahveh set forth in order for Israel to live in a peaceful community.

The first set of rules concerns the purchase of Hebrew slaves. I’m not a fan of what we equate with the word slavery, but I feel that if this is something God is governing, anyone who is obedient to Him, is going to treat his slaves as the human beings they are. I believe it is only out of sin that any man has ever treated another man as if he is less than human, whether or not the one doing the mistreatment would call his victims slaves, servants, employees, or any other name. Of course, all these rules follow the 10 Commandments, so if we are loving God first, how we treat others will reflect that.

After the rules about the treatment of slaves, this reading covers the laws that take place when a human hurts another human. It tells what to do when the victim is injured, and when the victim is killed. And it differentiates between the person that is victimized by accident and the one where it was premeditated. Verse 14 is quite strong in that it says if someone kills another person by premeditated planning, they should be taken to their death even if they are at the altar of God.

In these rules, even kidnapping and cursing your parents are causes for death, but fistfighting is apparently not a death penalty unless the person dies. The person who injured another is, however, responsible for caring for the injured person until he recovers. It would be nice if people kept at least that latter rule since it would mean we wouldn’t need all the crazy lawsuits to make it happen.

I’ll close now with a wish that all my readers will keep the law of love as the government over their hearts, so they would not even have to be concerned with these or other rules that come down in Scripture with harsh penalties. And I praise God for the mercy and grace He has given us in sending Yahshua to shed His blood to cover all the rules we do break. Amen.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ease on Down the Road


Red Dirt Road--CC License

Looking down a red dirt road,
CC image by Yeweny at Flickr
Click image to visit Flickr page

It wasn’t that many months ago that I had to make a major move after nearly 19 years of living in the same place. Many years ago, and without nearly as much stuff, I remember thinking what so many of us think, I never want to go through this again. Moving is just plain difficult. Well, imagine what it would have been like way back in Old Testament Bible times when moving may not have meant moving as much stuff as we deal with now, but it did mean moving lots of people (family, servants, etc.), and lots of animals. Plus, it meant huge changes to cultures and traditions in the places you wanted to set up house. And many of those we read about had to move many times over. Today’s short reading from Genesis 26:13 through Genesis 26:22 tells of just such a situation.

From the end of yesterday’s reading and into the beginning of today’s reading, we are told that God blessed and prospered Isaac more and more until he became quite rich. And then we find out that the Philistines began to envy him. They went through the land and put dirt in all the wells his father Abraham dug while he was living. So Isaac, trying not to fight, dug new wells. The first one he dug, God revealed a natural spring, so the envious Philistines claimed it as their own.

Okay, to tell you the truth, I’m getting a bit miffed with these guys now. It doesn’t seem right that Isaac is just doing what is right in God’s eyes and receiving a just reward as a result, but these people seem bent on making his life miserable instead. I mean, why couldn’t they have befriended him and shared in his blessings? That seems like common sense to me, but unfortunately, common sense isn’t all that common, and I guess it never has been. And Isaac seemed to have a better attitude than I think most of us would these days. Instead of fighting, he just dug another well.

As we read on, we find that every time Isaac moved down the road and dug another well, these envious men started a fight over it and said it was their well. They didn’t want him to have what had already been dug (meaning they even buried their own blessings by filling in the wells), and then they fought over every new well he dug. At least as the well-digger, he had the right to name the wells, so he named them words that meant fighting and quarreling. Finally, though, he moved again, and this time he dug a well that no one fought over. He named it “Rehoboth” meaning room or wide open spaces and said, “Now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper.” The great attitude that Isaac had made me think of the title for this post which comes from the song of the same name. While I haven’t yet seen The Wiz, I have always liked the song. One line in it says, “Don’t you carry nothin’ that might be a load, come on and ease on down, ease on down the road.” I think Isaac did well at not carrying argument, resentment, or his own envy against these men who had set themselves up as his enemies.

One final thought: Maybe our land here in the United States was settled in a similar way. Men got tired of quarreling, so they set off for a new land where they could prosper. They still had to fight for it, whether fighting the original inhabitants, fighting those who wanted them back under their rule, or fighting the land and weather and illness. But they did make it a prosperous place, and they gave God praise for it. Now, we have envious people that want to “stop up our wells” and fight over what we claim through our original Constitution. Many have walked away and just gathered in states with like-minded folks who believe in the same history, but the envious have pushed to take over and take away our rights now in almost every part of our land. Sadly, we are probably going to have to fight another war within our own borders or ease on down the road and hope for another place to build a dream while the ungrateful destroy what our founding fathers built. But we must pray and ask God whether He wants us to fight or move. And when we get His answer, it might just be to wait because He has plans to ease us down the road into the New Heaven and New Earth where we will prosper and where we’ll never have to move again.

BTW, just to keep stepping stones on my daily word counts, my NaNo total for day #4 is 9487.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Battle in Clay


I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.

When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.

Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.

So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.

And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thanks A “Lot”


Maybe my title should actually be “Thanks Á la Lot” since the story, from Genesis 13:5 through 13:18 is the story of Abram and his nephew Lot, but I just couldn’t pass up the pun. 🙂

In today’s part of Torah portion three, Lot and Abram were both so abundantly blessed that they began to overrun each other. Their servants even started fighting with each other. So Abram, ever a fan of peace and family, decided that it would be best of they put some space between them. Because Abram was the one with the blessing, and because he was the elder, he could have chosen the land he wanted and given Lot the leftovers. Instead, he told Lot to choose whatever he wanted, and he would be the one to take what was left.

Lot decided to take for himself the land that looked the best. The well-watered plains of what we now called Jordan. He did not seem concerned about the inhabitants who already lived there–in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will see in later chapters how that should have been a top concern for him. Still, because Lot took Jordan, Abram took Canaan.

Starting with verse 14, we find Yahveh talking with Abram and making him some more promises. Now, in addition to the promise of making a name for him, God tells Abram to look around him and see if he can count the grains of sand because his family of descendants will be just as innumerable as the sand. With that, the Lord also tells him to look around at all his eyes can take in and to walk the length and breadth of it. Yahveh promises Abram it will all belong to him.

So, because Abram put love, peace, and family first, God added to his blessings. And Abram knew these things were gifts from the Almighty and built an altar of thanksgiving. To those who are the type to count their losses, having to give up land to Lot may have seemed like a sacrifice too great to pay. But because Abram knew where his blessings originated, he willingly did what was needed and was rewarded for a heart that counted blessings instead of troubles. And what was left for Abram to do after God rewarded him? Offer a sacrifice of praise for God’s abundant blessings on his life in spite of any loss–and he lost “a Lot.” (Sorry, I can’t help it. But laughter is good for us, so I hope my silliness makes someone smile.)

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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