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His Eye is on the Sparrow


Sparrow by Flickr User Abhilash Kumar aka Hitched Hiker, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Sparrow by Flickr User Abhilash Kumar aka Hitched Hiker, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Many years ago, when I was about 12 years old, I learned that my great-grandmother’s favorite song was His Eye is on the Sparrow. I learned it to sing for her funeral, though I did not truly understand what I was singing at that age. Now I can understand why it was important to her. The last line of the song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” What precious and comforting words, and they were used to comfort people in anxiety when Yahshua spoke them in Luke 12:6-7.

In today’s reading from Exodus 23:6 through Exodus 23:19, we have more rulings, and today they all seem to be centered around what God has His eyes upon in our world. He has His eyes on the poor, so He tells people not to deny them justice. He has His eye on the innocent and righteous and says not to cause their death. He watches the wicked and says He will not justify them. And for all these He watches, God says not to take bribes because they subvert justice.

He has His eyes on the foreigner, and because He saw how His own people were treated as foreigners, (sometimes well and sometimes mistreated) He wants His own people to remember and treat guests right. He watches for the needs of the poor, so as He watches the harvest, He asks His people to gather for six years and leave the seventh for the poor and wild animals to gather. Of course, because of George Washington Carver, we have since learned how that helps the land produce better for the next six years, so God was watching out for the farmer even as He was caring for poor people and animals.

God even watches our work animals and for people who work for us (slaves in those days), and He requires that owners only work them for six days and then give them a Sabbath of rest.

The remaining part of the reading concerns how to uphold this wonderful Creator who watches over us. First, He says, do not ever call on the names of other gods (who are not watching them as He does), and not even to let the names of false gods pass over the lips of Yahveh’s people. Three times per year, we are to have feasts that directly honor our Creator. In these three feasts, we are to gather into His presence as we remember that He is The One who enabled the feasts. The three feasts are Matzah (the feast of unleavened bread) held right after Passover and at the Spring harvest time, the feast of First Fruits, and the festival of In-gathering (Sukkot) which is held at the fall harvest. They all represent God’s provision for us.

One of the last reminders in today’s text is the rule to bring the best of our first fruits into the house of Yahveh Almighty. While it doesn’t tell us exactly why, isn’t this a way we can offer our thanks to Him and honor Him as our Provider? I mean, if we offered the worst and the last, would that be fitting for someone whose eye is on everything and everyone, and who makes plans for us for our good? Yes, His eye IS on the sparrow, and because we are worth many flocks of sparrows to Him, we know He watches us. May we always bring our very best to Him in thanks for this.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WWID–What Would Israel Do?


Urban Legend by Flickr User John Flanigan, CC License =  Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Urban Legend by Flickr User John Flanigan, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

While I do not believe in what is known as “replacement theology,” I do believe that the Ekklesia (Greek word for the “church body” or “body of Christ”) is a flock just as Israel was, and the lawfulness of our hearts should be based on the laws God gave Israel to be a thriving community. We are no longer under the curse of the law, but that does not mean that law itself has no place in our lives. For example, the blood of Christ does not mean we are free to commit murder. God has always been drawn to people with governable hearts, just as He was to Abraham long before there was a Jewish people. We may be a new flock whose Shepherd is also our Messiah, but we have wonderful promises when our government rests on His shoulders.

In today’s reading from Exodus 22:27(28) through Exodus 23:5, the first instruction to God’s people is not to curse God and not to curse a leader of the people. If we love God, we have no desire to curse Him, so that ruling is pretty easy. The next though? A nephew listening to us read tonight was certain the Scripture had to be misinterpreted if it expected us to respect the current leadership of the U.S. It can be hard to draw the line between honoring the law of the land and honoring a person who makes laws against God. Many people point to Romans 13 regarding obedience to leaders, but since that reading also says that doing good will always win the approval of the leaders. it’s obviously not talking about some of the leadership we face now; leadership that would have a Christian businessman pay for an employee’s right to murder her unborn child regardless of the businessman’s own morals. Whatever we do or stand for should honor God above all else.

The next rulings include those concerning not delaying our offerings of things that would spoil, the importance of the firstborn to God, and the advice to not eat roadkill. It’s all sensible advice based on what we know now about bacteria and its contribution to deadly illness.

And then we have the ruling that lead me to choose the image above: Do not repeat false rumors. I almost looked for a video from Hee Haw of the girls singing, “We’re not ones to go around spreading rumors, so you better be sure and listen close the first time,” but I decided against it. Though when I looked for an image to go with the word rumor, I couldn’t find anything suitable, so I did the search for urban legend and found the one above that represents the oft-spread rumor of alligators and crocodiles in the sewers of New York. Cute one huh? 🙂

As we continue in the reading, we learn that God even watches over the courts and laws of our lands. He tells men not to perjure themselves by offering false testimony, not to allow popular culture to sway them toward offering testimony that would pervert justice, and not to favor a lawsuit just because a litigant is poor. All of that is summed up in God’s direction to not follow the crowd in doing wrong. Oh that these things could be read and obeyed by our current lawyers and juries.

Finally, the people are advised to return a wandering animal to its rightful owner, even if the owner is their enemy, and not to pass by an overburdened animal even if the owner hates them. This can be summed up in the reminder to be governed by God rather than by the emotions and offenses of our flesh. Really, all of these rulings can be summed up with Romans 13:10 which says (in CJB), “Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.”

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pulling Your Own Weight


Strongman Pulling Weight by Flickr User U S Army Korea Historical Archive, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Strongman Pulling Weight by Flickr User U S Army Korea Historical Archive, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

As I typed the title for this post, the first thing that came to me was, “No way could I pull anything that weighs as much as I do.” Thankfully, pulling my own weight is not literal and only means to take care of that which is mine to take care of. What is interesting is how this lines up with the thoughts that woke me today. Without reading this passage, I woke up thinking about how much better we tend to take care of things that don’t belong to us–like borrowed clothes. And then I thought about our own lives and bodies, and how they are borrowed in a sense. God’s word says that our bodies are the temple for His Holy Spirit, so that means we are actually caretakers rather than owners. Even more, it clarifies what Yahshua meant when He said He only said and did what His Father directed. Because He knew the purpose for His body on this earth, He yielded to that purpose. If we are of those asking WWJD (or WWYD), then we too should be yielding to the purpose of our lives and bodies on this earth. This certainly is stirring a lot of thought in my mind and heart.

So, in today’s reading from Exodus 22:4 through Exodus 22:26 (verses 5-27 in other versions), the rulings given are mostly about what people need to do to take care of their own business. For example, it talks of all the ways to make restitution if you allow something that does not belong to you to become harmed or lost. And people then took great responsibility for that which did not belong to them. That’s why, in 2nd Kings, the man who was chopping wood and lost the ax head in the water was so upset because he knew he could not afford to make restitution to the actual owner of the ax. In that story, Elisha prayed, and the ax head swam (or floated–depending on translation) through the water to him. As Wendy Bagwell would say, “It’s a fact with my hand up.” Click the link to read it for yourself.

After the verses about making restitution for things borrowed, things rented, etc., there are instructions for dealing with a man who desires to take a wife and the value of a bride. And then it goes into some more serious matters, such as the ruling not to allow a sorceress to live. It also says that anyone who participates in bestiality is to be put to death. At that time in history, no one could have known about strains of virus and bacteria that lived in animals without harm but would kills humans. We’ve had to learn the hard way with the spread of things like gonorrhea and AIDS caused by men who thought they could partner up with animals.

The next statement has brought much argument in Christian vs. Athiest circles because it says that anyone who sacrifices to any god other than Yahveh is to be utterly destroyed. But the verse right after it clarifies that this is only talking to those who claim to serve Yahveh because it says not to wrong or oppress a foreigner living with you (Israel) because you were once foreigners in Egypt. And it makes sense that if you are one who claims to be a child of Yahveh Almighty, you know His requirements, and you would be faithful to Him. Otherwise, it would be like allowing your parents to completely support you, but giving all your thanks and obedience to the parents of your next-door neighbor.

The last few verses talk of God’s anger toward those who abuse widows, orphans, and the poor. God tells the people that if they give a loan to a poor person, they are not to charge interest, and if they take the person’s coat for collateral, they are to restore it before sunset when the person will need it for sleeping. Knowing that in those days, and in that culture, there was no welfare and women could not work, means most of the poor were that way by no choice of their own–not even the types of bad choices that put many these days into poor situations. As the reading ends, it says that if the poor person without a coat cries out to God, He will listen because He is compassionate.

I will close by saying that I’m finding it a bit difficult to write on these subjects with all the rulings because there are so many all wrapped up in a few verses, and I don’t want to just type a list of rules. I’ve been praying and looking for the commonalities and the common sense applications while trying to keep things shorter than a novella. If you are reading to the ends of these posts, thank you for your perseverance, and please continue to pray for me as I try to bring my heart about God’s word plus cover all of what is taught in each portion. I appreciate each reader who stops by whether I am aware of your visit or not. Thank you.

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out of Balance


Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Seagull Out of Balance by Flickr User Erwin Fisser, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

In the Proverbs of Solomon, Chapter 11, verse 1, we read (from the Amplified version)…A false balance and unrighteous dealings are extremely offensive and shamefully sinful to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. I think people (made in God’s image) feel something similar. We need to see things in balance to feel like life is working as it should. We desire justice, and most people want to see fairness and equity in all parts of life. It is this need for balance that makes the blood of Yahshua necessary.

Without the blood of Christ, the balance of sin must be paid for with the wages we see in today’s reading from Exodus 21:20 through Exodus 22:3 (4 in other versions) of a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, etc. The rules given in the Scriptures from yesterday and today all lead to that same need for balance. Sadly, too many people think that evil does not need to be recompensed. They think that saying I’m sorry is a recompense for doing wrong. They think having a good excuse for evil doings is reason the evil should not require recompense at all. And, sadly, too many Christians think the blood of Our Savior removes more than just the wages of death, and that repentance should mean they earn a “Get out of jail free” card from a trip to the altar.

Of course, some wages do escape payment by the unmerited favor of God known as grace. I cannot tell you how many issues I should have paid for while I was living in a constantly sinful state. I did things that the laws of the land would have punished with jail time, and I’m certain I’m not alone in that based on many testimonies I’ve heard. But I would never dare to demand that God follow after me with a spiritual “pooper scooper,” cleaning up my messes just because I committed my life to Him. I believe that committing my life to Him makes me that much more responsible for learning what He considers to be a balanced walk of faith and obedience.

When God was giving these rulings to Israel, He was speaking to those who were supposed to be His people; those who desired to live in a way that uplifted and glorified their maker. That said, they had to be told how to keep those things in order. For example, the reading talks of the owner’s responsibilities if one of his animals gores a human being–especially if that animal was known for doing that, and the owner did not properly restrain it. Most of the reading covers common sense ways to keep balance even for those who do not claim to serve Yahveh, such as paying for an animal that falls into a cistern if you were the one to leave the top off of it.

If you decide to read the passage for yourself, refer it to the Scripture I used at first, and remember that God’s ultimate goal is to keep things in balance. Just like we need a balance of faith and works to keep from going in circles as if we were rowing with one oar. The world is balanced with seasons, and our lives are balanced by work and wages, sin and grace, and always by the governing of God who promises to make all things balanced and beautiful in time. (See Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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

   

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