Mutual Submission

How many of you are married? My wife and I have been married for over twenty-four years. One of the keys for a successful marriage is what I call mutual submission. Let me explain. If I want our relationship to go well, I let her have her way, sometimes. Her will be done. If I do that all the time, eventually I will come to resent not having a say in how or what things are done. I would become a doormat in our relationship and lose self-respect and the respect of others. I need to feel respected and listened too as well. My will be done. Is it important? Do I need to have an opinion on this? Can I let this one go? How much is being humble right now going to cost me? Will I resent or even remember this decision later?

I want to propose that any quality relationship is about give and take. That includes our relationship with God. After all didn’t Jesus come down to show us what having a relationship with God was like?

John 2:1-5
1 On the third day a wedding took place in Cana of Galilee. Jesus’s mother was there, and
2 Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding as well.
3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’s mother told him, “They don’t have any wine.”
4 “What does that have to do with you and me, woman? ” Jesus asked. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 “Do whatever he tells you,” his mother told the servants.

Jesus submitted to the request of his mother, even though wine at a wedding was supposed to be a future event (Revelation 19:7). In turn, Mary (Jesus’ mom) was happy to get what she wanted and spoke to the servants to make room for her desire to be fulfilled – providing more wine for the wedding.

I hear some of you thinking, but ‘He is God, He can do whatever he likes,’ True, but then at some point there is no relationship factor and we will come to see God as cold, uncaring, and distant.

Jesus encourages us to ask for things in His name (appropriate things). I believe the following scripture illustrates the idea of God doing things for us in faith.

John 14:11-14
12 Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it

Submission, of course with a motive. Does it advance His purpose, even glory in a relationship of joy and trust?

On the other side, our submission looks like doing the right thing.

John 14:20-21
20 “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you.
21 “The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

John 16:26-27
26 On that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will ask the Father on your behalf.
27 “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Relationship.

Through Jesus, we have entered into a betrothal process in our relationship as bride and bridegroom. It’s supposed to be a love relationship where you do things for each other. I believe that God will let us have our way and do what we have asked sometimes, out of a relationship of give and take. I believe that God humbles Himself to do our will due to love, as long as what we have asked is consistent with His word and doesn’t violate the principles of scripture. For example, love your neighbor as yourself. If what we ask are in violation of this principle, we are deceived and history is full of examples of misuse of the name given to us to use as the bride of Christ. That warning being given, I believe that faith pleases God, even in the little things.

Hebrews 11:6
6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

This scripture says that He rewards those who seek him. Like a loving Father, I believe that God loves to be asked, included, and involved in the even smallest parts of our lives. There is joy to be found there…

I’m writing this in an unprecedented time in history. I have started seeing God move in some little things that I’m learning and trying to improve in. It requires some intuition as well as wisdom to be successful. It is a simple game that requires both luck and skill. It is giving me hope, joy, and a belief that God enjoys being involved in the little things in my life. This builds my faith that I am hearing God again and that makes me happy! It’s something we can share and experience together. Kind of like a good-quality loving relationship.

What creative things can you do with God to build faith that you hear God and find joy? See if you can find faith in the give and take of a quality loving relationship with God.

The Gift of Love

I have been struck by the revelation of Christ in the book of Hosea.

I have been reading Ann Spangler’s “Praying the Names of God,” and was struck by this phrase, “Praise God because he is not power, knowledge, or wealth, but he is love.”

I have been struck by the revelation of Christ in the book of Hosea.

Contextually, Hosea is a prophet and God gives him a terribly difficult assignment to marry a prostitute who is adulterous and will bear children out of her unfaithfulness. Hosea is to deliver a prophetic judgment against Israel and Judah for their spiritual adultery in departing from the Lord.

Hosea 1:2

2 When the LORD first spoke to Hosea, He told him, “Go, take a prostitute as your wife and have children of adultery, because this land is flagrantly prostituting itself by departing from the LORD.”

Most readers and commentators will make this book as historical regarding the judgment of Israel, of which it is, and yet they miss Christ in the text. I believe if we look a little closer, the text has very clear language about promises that are fulfilled in Christ. Charles Spurgeon once said “A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it.”

Let’s look at the meaning of the names of our cast and finish with words of redemptive fulfillment.

Gomer

1) Gomer, the name of Hosea’s unfaithful wife comes from the Hebrew word ‘gamar’, meaning complete! What? I think many times people are given names which signify their calling in spite of how their lives seem to be anything but. For example, my name Timothy means Honoring of God. I’m still working on that one, lol! In the beginning of our story, Gomer is far from complete, looking for love in all the wrong places. Yet, with salvation offered to her through Christ (Hosea is a type), she can become complete through sacrifice, mercy (Hosea bought her back for fifteen shekels, the number of mercy), and everlasting love.

Aren’t we all like Gomer, continually running after the things that we think will make us complete, but leave us empty?

Jezreel

2) Jezreel, their first son’s name means “God sows.” I have been to the Jezreel valley which has become the breadbasket for modern day Israel. It’s now lush and fruitful. Yet, there’s more. God would sow a seed which would make the promises given to Abraham come to pass.

Hosea 2:22-23a (NASB)

And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel.

I will sow her for Myself in the land.

Hosea 1:10

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

This first portion of Hosea 1:10 was a prophetic promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ.

Galatians 3:29

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Lo-Ruhamah

3) Gomer’s second child is a daughter, named Lo-Ruhamah, meaning not loved or no mercy. We don’t know if the child was conceived out of unfaithfulness or not. What kind of name is that for a child? And yet, there’s something here for all of us who have felt like we weren’t loved or times where we received no mercy.

Hosea 1:6-7

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy,a for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

Mercy did come through the house of Judah through Christ, and the salvation that has come did not come through military might but through Jesus as Lord and the one who offered himself up as a gift of love and the way to salvation.

In the day of Christ, we can assure our brothers and sisters in Chris that they have received mercy and they are no longer unloved, but fully accepted and loved (Eph 1:6).

Hosea 2:1

Say to your brothers, “You are my people,”and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

Lo-Ammi

4) Lo-Ammi was the name Gomer was to give to her second son, meaning not my people. While slightly less egregious than Lo-Ruhamah, we all have a need to feel like we belong. People even join gangs out of this strong need to belong.

Hosea 1:9

9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people, and I am not your God.

Wow, this is the language of disownment, and yet, God promises that this will be reversed.

Hosea 1:10

10 Yet the number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

This is the language of covenant and the phrase ‘not my people’ is a phrase that prophetically points to the time of the Gentiles. Apostle Paul writes the following:

Romans 9:22-26

22 What if God, intending to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the vessels of His wrath, prepared for destruction? 23 What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the vessels of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory— 24 including us, whom He has called not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles? 25 As He says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘My People’ who are not My people,

and I will call her ‘My Beloved’ who is not My beloved,”

26 and,

“It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,

‘You are not My people,’

they will be called

‘sons of the living God.’”

Hosea

5) Hosea comes from Hoshea or Joshua and means salvation. In the story, Hosea’s marrying an unfaithful bride is a picture of Jesus offering the gift of love and redemption to those who accept this offer.

The Hebrew word will look at here is ‘Ish’ meaning husband. ‘Ishi’ is first person for ‘my’ husband. In the day of Christ, our relationship has gone from knowing God as master or Lord to one that’s much more personal, my husband.

Hosea 2:16-17, 19-20

16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.

Hosea still has to keep running after his wife, even after providing for her and giving her children.

Hosea 3:1-2

1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethecha of barley.

What kind of husband is this that goes after us in our adultery and unfaithfulness, and buys us back in love and out of his mercy? His name is Jesus.


Conclusion

If I look to the end of Hosea, I see language referring to a ‘He’, whereas Israel is always referred to as a woman in the scriptures.

Hosea 14

1Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

for you have stumbled by your iniquity.

2Bring your confessions

and return to the LORD.

Say to Him: “Take away all our iniquity

and receive us graciously,

that we may present

the fruit of our lips.

3Assyria will not save us,

nor will we ride on horses.

We will never again say, ‘Our gods!’

to the work of our own hands.

For in You the orphan finds compassion.”

4I will heal their apostasy;

I will freely love them,

for My anger has turned away from them.

5I will be like the dew to Israel;

he will blossom like the lily

and take root like the cedars of Lebanon.

6His shoots will sprout,

and his splendor will be like the olive tree,

his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.

7They will return and dwell in his shade;

they will grow grain and blossom like the vine.

His renown will be

like the wine of Lebanon.

😯 Ephraim, what have I to do

anymore with idols?

It is I who answer and watch over him.

I am like a green cypress tree;

your fruit comes from Me.

9Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

whoever is discerning, let him know them.

For the ways of the LORD are right,

and the righteous walk in them,

but the rebellious stumble in them.

The shoots of Christ have sprouted and have spread. His fragrance is the spirit of salvation available to all who take it in. It’s the gift of love.

A New Creation

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The Greek word for ‘new’ in context is kainos, according to Strong’s it can also be described as fresh, recently made, of a new kind, unprecedented, uncommon, unheard of.

The Greek word for ‘behold’ is idou, and the Hebrew root (הֵן) pronounced ‘hayn’ for the word ‘behold’ is an interjection and contains the elements of surprise, to pay attention, and to pause in order to really notice and consider.

Contextually, Paul is speaking of no longer regarding people that have accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection as worldly. They are new creations. The word of faith is regarding identity, not sanctification as the some theologians would have you believe.

The text doesn’t say that “he is becoming” a new creation, it says “he IS” a new creation. By the way, the text is gender neutral as there is no male or female in matters of spiritual identity (Gal 3:28). The text doesn’t say that one is becoming new, the tense is that one HAS become new. A change of identity has already taken place.

For those who have accepted Jesus’ offer of a new life, the enemy of your soul and religion don’t want you to know who you are.

Satan repeatedly asked Jesus, “IF you are the son of God.” If Satan would tempt Jesus to believe lies about his identity, wouldn’t he do the same for you and I?

“Do you know who you are?”

The movie, “The Lion King,” contained a powerful portrayal of the very real issue of identity that we all must wrestle with. In the movie, Simba believed the lies that the enemy of his soul had told him. As a result, he lived in a place of shame and exile. Current researcher Brene’ Brown defines shame this way, “Guilt=I did something bad. Shame=I am bad.” The good news is that God offers a solution for both. The offer of continuing forgiveness of sins (for guilt) and a new identity (for shame).

Paul also made this statement:

Galatians 6:15 (ESV)

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Paul makes the bold claim that our religious efforts (circumcision) isn’t what will matter in the end, but our identity.

I want to introduce two Hebrew words to you as they have bearing on you becoming a new creation, giving credit to Rabbi Jonathan Kahn for the inspiration.

Rechem (H7357) רֶחֶם

This word means womb in Hebrew, and has racham as its root. The womb is the place where a delicate and precious new life is formed. The womb is a place of protection, warmth, nurture, and love.

In a healthy relationship, a child is conceived out of love. It is no different with God.

Most people that have gone through the experience of raising a child will have lots of respect and compassion for any pregnant woman. A pregnant woman usually evokes a compassionate response, and we will make all kinds of concessions for her.

A womb in Hebraic thought is synonymous with the word compassion. In fact, they come from the same Hebrew root.

Racham (H7358) רָחַם

This is a Hebrew word meaning to be soft, to have compassion, to pity, to show mercy, to cherish, to love.

Let’s tie some concepts together. In John chapter 3, we find the Pharisee named Nicodemus asking Jesus a question under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus exclaims that Jesus couldn’t do the miracles that he did unless God were with him.

John 3:3-6 (ESV)
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus was instructing Nicodemus in being born again of the spirit. This offer of becoming born again only comes through believing in the Son.

John 3:14-17
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

“For God so loved the world.” How can you believe that God loves you? I offer one new thought. God offers a new identity for you in the womb of God. The womb is a symbol of racham, where God offers compassion, mercy, warmth, and love. Your new identity is birthed in that love, and you are a new creation as a result.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Those old wounds in your soul of shame and rejection don’t have to stay.

Personally, I have been born again for fifteen years, and yet I am just now starting to get this. Recently, I have heard multiple messages regarding identity, building up my faith and tying things together. I am so tired of being rejected. I have decided that the only antidote to repeated rejection and the accompanying hurt is an upgrade in my identity. I am taking hold of this important truth by faith. I have a new identity and that is where I need to live from.

John 1:12 (NIV)
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

You see, if you are in Christ, you HAVE been given a new identity as a child of God. You ARE a new creation. You HAVE a new life and destiny. You WERE born again in the womb of God. You WERE shown compassion and given mercy. You WERE conceived in love (for God so loved you).

It doesn’t matter what your old identity was.

Your new identity is who you are having been birthed anew out of the womb of God. You have been made new, clean, fresh, innocent, and dearly loved.

That is who you ARE, a new creation!

If you don’t yet know Jesus, an offer still stands for you to be cleansed, forgiven, and to receive a new identity and destiny.

In the Name of the Father

In my last post, I discussed the Song of Hallel, where Psalms 113-118 were sung as part of Jewish Passover tradition. There’s an interesting phrase in the middle of Psalm 118:

Psalm 118:26a
“Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the LORD.”

What does that mean?

Scholars point to two things which are true and yet I believe somehow insufficient to capture the essence of this verse.

First, Jewish scholars point to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6, where Aaron is told how to bless the people of Israel.

Numbers 6:23-27(NKJV)
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ‘
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Essentially, as a priests, Aaron and his sons are being given authority to bless the people of Israel in the LORD’s name. God is giving the priests authority to speak to the people on His behalf.

Secondly, scholars point to this verse being a Messianic prophecy. Based on the gospel accounts, this also appears to be true. These are the words being spoken upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, on Lamb selection day in preparation of the Passover.

Matt 21:8-9
8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!”

and

Mark 11:9-10
9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”

Hosanna originally meant God save me, but the phrase had turned into some kind of cheer. From the context of what people were cheering, we see a connection to the son of David and a coming Kingdom. The people expected that Jesus was going to be the anointed redeemer of the nation of Israel (Messiah), only that wasn’t God’s plan for this time in history.

What’s in a name?

We live in an age where personality or charisma is considered more important than character. It has been said that in America in the 1800s, your name was associated with your character. Your character was who you were when things mattered, and not about putting on a good show. American culture shifted in the 1900s with the focus on how you presented yourself and how to sell (e.g. Dale Carnegie – “How to win friends and influence people”). Essentially we learned how to pretend.

Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

So what does it mean to use someone else’s name? That is a concept that may feel somewhat foreign to most of us now, since we don’t live in kingdoms in this world. Yet, examples are still present.

South African minister and writer Andrew Murray suggests that using someone else’s name occurs legally (in business), in life (family blood lines and adoption), or in love (taking the name of a spouse).

While use of someone’s name granted authority like the priestly example above, the greater understanding was that a name represented someone’s character or what they were like.

One of the most profound revelations that I have personally received was that Jesus came to show us the Father. Specifically, He came to show us what the Father was like.

John 14:7-9
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”

Jesus would go on in this dialogue to invite His disciples to ask for anything in His name.

Come ask me for the things you want or need:

John 14:13-14
13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

This also shows the character of a good Father. A good father want their children to be able to come and ask them for the things that they need or want. Even if the answer is no, good fathers want their children to be comfortable enough in their relationship with to come and ask. It’s about children being able to express their hearts in the context of a loving relationship and trust.

To be clear, Jesus wants relationship versus being used for power. For instance, the sons of Sceva got their proverbial lunch taken when using His name without a relationship (Acts 19:13-17).

The following verse is one of my favorites in scripture, not that I have obtained understanding yet, but it gives me a sense of direction:

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

“You have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

I would suggest to you that Jesus was blessed because he came in the name and character of His Father. He did what His Father would do. In every reference to God except one, Jesus referred to God as My Father (Avi in Hebrew, Abba in Aramaic). The Hebrew for Avi (translated my Father) is shown below:

אָבִ֑י

You won’t find that kind of relationship anywhere in the Tanakh (old testament). No wonder the Pharisees wanted to stone Him.

The one exception to Jesus calling God His Father was when he felt abandoned by God on the cross bearing the weight of the sin of this world, along with the shame and scorn of his crucifixion (Matt 27-16). Here, he only called him, “My God.” Jesus came to know our feelings of what it felt like to feel cutoff or abandoned by God. Most of us can relate to this feeling in some season of our journey, whether it’s really true or not.

I want to give you some examples in scripture of how Jesus showed us the character of the Father.

I came to serve, not be served, and I will love and embrace those considered least:

Mark 9:35-37

35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

I reward the smallest things done for the sake of my name which exhibit my heart:

Mark 9:41

41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

I will never abandon you and will teach you the things of the Spirit:

John 14:16-18

16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–
17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

I am gentle and humble, learn from me:

Matthew 11:29

29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

This morning, we had a mourning dove just sitting on the railing of our back deck. It was resting peacefully even as my wife and I moved around in our kitchen. Normally doves are easily startled and fly off.

Much has been written about the I AM statements of Jesus. They too show us the heart and character of Jesus (e.g. I AM the good shepherd), but they also show us the heart of Jesus’ Father.

I want you to know that I love you and want you as my own child:

John 1:12
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

1 John 3:1
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

My personal challenge to you is to ask for an understanding heart to know the heart and character of Jesus, and by inference, that of His Father. When we do things by the spirit and with the heart and character of God, then we too, are truly blessed.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name and character of Jesus and our Father.

אָבִ֑י

Song of Hallel

Passover has already passed this year (is that redundant?). That being said, I can’t wait another year to share what I’ve recently learned!

Matthew 26:30 (HCSB)
26As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.”
27Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you.
28For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.”
30After singing psalms, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

In the scriptures, you will find a song for Moses, Miriam, and Mary, but you won’t find one for Yeshua or Jesus. Yet it’s right here in front of our noses.

Jesus being fully a Jew would have taken Passover with his disciples as prescribed in the Mishnah (oral traditions) unless He, being the Word incarnate, was doing something new.

The bread:

Three Matzot were used, symbolizing the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), made from unleavened bread (not puffed up). In Jewish tradition, the middle piece was broken which we now know represented the Son. Half of it is hidden for little children to find it.

Do you think Jesus was giving them Himself, the middle matzah, broken for them? I do.

I wonder if the tradition of sending children to seek the broken matzah relates to this verse?

Matthew 18:3 (HCSB)
3″I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The wine:

Part of the Jewish Passover tradition was four cups of wine.

The first cup was the cup of sanctification (I will bring you out). The second cup was the cup of plagues, drunk before the meal and not mentioned here (I will free you from slavery). The third cup was the cup of redemption which is the one mentioned here (I will redeem you). The fourth cup was the cup of completion which is not shared, but referred to. Here, Jesus redefines the tradition to show that the completion is when we drink wine with Jesus after he comes again and the wedding feast takes place – Revelation 19:9 (I will take you as my own).

Jesus is also redefining the cup of redemption to show that redemption comes through accepting and taking in His blood shed for the forgiveness of sins along with his sacrifice (matzah, body) being broken for us that we might become whole and holy.

The song:

The reference is small, yet profound. Which Psalms did they sing together? I didn’t even know Jesus sang, did you? Of course he would, being a Rabbi. As part of the Passover tradition, Jesus would have been singing the Psalms of Hallel which traditionally cover Psalms 113-118.

Hallel is one of many Hebrew words to praise.  I was taught that this word is accompanied by an action of extending both hands high in the air (faith without deeds is dead from a Jewish perspective).

While I won’t be looking at all the references, I want to focus on the pinnacle of Hallel, Psalm 118.

If you study the text carefully, you may discover like me that this Psalm is really pointing to Jesus. I wonder if Jesus’ disciples got that the song they were singing was right in their midst? I wonder if they understood the references that described what Jesus was about to do, or did that understanding come when they were walking with Jesus after His resurrection (Emmaus walk – Luke 24:32)?

I want to highlight some verses from the Psalm:

Psalm 118 begins and ends with the same text as bookends. A common literary device in scripture is a chaism that has the meat in the middle.

1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.”

The Hebrew word for love used here (checed), sometimes translated as mercy, can be described as a the intersection of faithfulness, loyalty, and steadfast love.

Psalm 118:14-29 (NKJV)
14 The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
15 The voice of rejoicing and salvation
Is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
16 The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
17 I shall not die, but live,
And declare the works of the LORD.
18 The LORD has chastened me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD,
Through which the righteous shall enter.
21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the LORD’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
27 God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
29 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

In verse 14, Jesus has just become their song and their salvation (Jesus is LORD). Wow!

In verse 19, I don’t find the word ‘the’ in the Hebrew, instead I see first person references. I believe it would read more like ‘open my gates of righteousness, I will enter them, thank you God.’ Jesus is returning to the Father.

פִּתְחוּ־לִי שַׁעֲרֵי־צֶדֶק אָבֹא־בָם אוֹדֶה יָהּ

In verse 20, it has been translated ‘this is the gate of the LORD, but the lamed prefix is usually translated ‘to’. This could be paraphrased as ‘This is the gate to the Father (I am), the righteous will enter through me.’  I wonder if His disciples picked up on Jesus calling himself the ‘gate’ to salvation and that righteousness had to come through Him?

זֶה־הַשַּׁעַר לַיהוָה צַדִּיקִים יָבֹאוּ בוֹ

In verse 24, this verse is often taken out of context. Which day were they to rejoice? The day of Passover which begins at sundown. Why? It’s proscribed in Exodus 12:14, because it marked their day of deliverance, but what else might it be saying in a new covenant? I believe that this new Passover is to celebrate the love that is the culmination of this song of praise. The love is demonstrated in verse 27.

In verse 27 in the language of symbols, light is a metaphor for truth, illumination, or understanding.

I believe another way that the Hebrew could read is as follows: The LORD God has become light to us (I am the light of the world). Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.

אֵל יְהוָה וַיָּאֶר לָנוּ אִסְרוּ־חַג בַּעֲבֹתִים עַד־קַרְנוֹת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

This song was about Jesus becoming the sacrificial lamb of God to be sacrificed as a Passover lamb, once and only once for the sins of the world. It is the greatest expression of love the world will ever know. The altar was in the shape of a cross.

Wow, imagine singing this song with Jesus after sharing the Passover meal, rich with symbolism! The symbolism that they had previously learned had just been turned upside down.

This is the song of Hallel or we might call it the Jeshua or Jesus song. He has become our song and our salvation (Yeshua in Hebrew).

1 John 3:16a
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.

For God so loved the world…

Turning of the Cherubim

I was mentored in spiritual dream interpretation for five years. For many years, I taught courses and mentored many people in how to interpret dreams. I qualify dream interpretation with the word “spiritual”, as I always want to make room for God to be present and to speak. Interpretations belong to God (Gen 40:8).

I love understanding the patterns and richness that come through contemplating what a symbol might mean in scripture or a dream (1 Cor 2:14).

The scriptures are full of symbols. One look at the description of the tabernacles should convince you that is true.

Recently, I came across the idea that the wings of a cherubim are a symbol of God’s glory. Let’s look and see if that fits.

One important principle in understanding scripture and dream interpretation is that of context. At the same time, it does not negate the place for a sanctified imagination.

Exodus 25:20 (NASB) “The cherubim shall have [their] wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be [turned] toward the mercy seat.

In context, the tabernacle was to be built according to these instructions as a shadow of the heavenly one.

Let’s look at some interesting and intriguing symbols and language around this text.

1) Cherubim

Let’s first use our sanctified imagination regarding the cherubim. While they are formed in beaten gold, we discover that this is a limited representation. In Solomon’s temple for example, the cherubim were 15 feet tall and their combined wingspan filled the entire 30 foot room (1 Kings 6)!

They are the same as the four living creatures (ref Ezekiel 10) in the following passage:

Ezekiel 1:5-11 (HCSB)
5 The form of four living creatures came from it. And this was their appearance: They had human form,
6 but each of them had four faces and four wings.
7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the hooves of a calf, sparkling like the gleam of polished bronze.
8 They had human hands under their wings on their four sides. All four of them had faces and wings.
9 Their wings were touching. The creatures did not turn as they moved; each one went straight ahead.
10 The form of each of their faces was that of a man, and each of the four had the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle.
11 That is what their faces were like. Their wings were spread upward; each had two wings touching that of another and two wings covering its body.

We get the basic idea that one pair of wings would be used as a covering, and the other pair of wings would be used to glorify the presence of God.

While the word origin of cherub is unclear, possible word origins from other ancient languages suggest that the word means to be gracious to, to bless, and to make great and mighty.

2) The number two

Numbers have meaning in scripture. Why are there two cherubim and not some other number like three? In context, two cherubim suggests the number of witness. A requirement of Mosaic law says let every fact be established by two or more witnesses (Deut 19:15). The cherubim are bearing witness to the presence of God.

3) The mercy seat

The mercy seat is a single Hebrew word kapporeth, meaning mercy seat of or place of atonement. Under the Mosaic covenant, a high priest would sprinkle this seat 7 times on the annual day of atonement for the forgiveness of sins and reconciling God with His people. The number seven was used to signify fullness in scripture. Under the new covenant of Jesus, His own blood was used to atone for or cover the mercy seat once and for all eternity (see the book of Hebrews). We are reconciled with God through acceptance of His gracious sacrifice.

The first interesting question is why the mercy seat would be covered. The Hebrew root is calak (translated covering), which also means to hedge or screen. In the Hebrew, the form of the word calak is the plural calakim, suggesting that there are multiple wings forming that hedge.

I would suggest to you that how God transacts mercy with you is very personal and intimate. It is not for anyone else to see.

4) The face

In the text, the cherubim are facing towards each other. Why is that important?

In a Hebraic understanding, the face of God is analogous with God’s favor.

When Adam fell into sin, the face of the cherubim faced outwards, forming a hedge of protection guarding against anyone being able to get back into Eden (Gen 3). In Exodus and subsequent tabernacle depictions, they are not facing the door as a guard, but are facing the mercy seat. The text indicates they are facing each other, but that imagination leaves God out of the picture. They are facing God and protecting an altar of mercy. The cherubim are witnesses of God’s mercy transacted in the presence of God.

Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

5) Wings

Wings are represented by the word Kanaphim in Hebrew, which also refers to the edge of a garment (tzi-tzi of a prayer shawl).

A Hebraic way of thinking is looking at the function of a symbol. What do wings usually do? They cause one to ascend higher. In this case, though I would suggest that the function of the wings are to glorify God.

The Hebrew word for upward in our text is ma’al which has the context of higher.

The wings stretched upward reminds me of praise as hands lifted high to glorify the one who is in their midst and above them.

Isaiah reflects on this in his declaration, that it’s God who is enthroned by the cherubim.

Isa 37:16
16 LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are God — You alone — of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth.

Hebrews 9:5 (NLT)
Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement.

Their role is to glorify the LORD.

So, what does this mean to me? In His presence you can find mercy. In His presence you can find rest and healing for your souls.

I would encourage you to use your sanctified imagination to find yourself receiving God’s mercy. Just you and God in the presence of His cherubim and covered in the wings of mercy. Imagine yourself seated on the mercy seat. The blood of Jesus shed for you has made a way for you to be forgiven, accepted, at peace, and made whole.

Crisis of Goodness

Am I a good person?

Someone close to me recently asked me this question. I had replied with a pat answer from the Scriptures where Jesus asked the question, “why do you call me good? Only the Father is good.” My answer reflected the tainted core belief I carried.

Last night, I had a self-condition dream, where I essentially believed I was rotten at the core. I woke up with a sore back and aching bones. I asked my wife to pray for me and I realized that I needed to change my mind about whether I thought I was a good person. Perhaps this applies to you, too.

If you had asked me prior to this morning if I thought I was a good person, I would have told you “no.” Out of my own core belief, I didn’t believe anyone was good (except for God), and was jealous or mocked those who thought they were. Their behavior indicated otherwise, and I thought they were either misguided or full of themselves.

Is someone good because of their potential? Many young children are sweet and appear innocent enough. I can see potential in people where most of us don’t live up to our potential as we grow up and struggle with life.

Are we good because of our choices and the “good” things we do for others? Religions, philanthropy, and our culture would seem to indicate so. We can even come up with scripture to support our claim. You judge actions by the fruit that they bear (Luke 13:6-9) You will know our faith by our works (James 2:24).

What about those of us who have prodigal children who seem selfish and rebel against the status quo and go do their own thing? Are they good? Are they good people? Their actions would lead us to say no. However, have we lost sight of their potential that we once saw when they were small and innocent? Have they lost sight of their own potential? How do they feel about themselves? Do they believe they are good, or have they given up trying to be good enough?

“Can I ever be good enough?” I believe that is a question in the hearts of many and probably causes many to struggle and is the root of many diseases.

I have been trying to get to the root of an internal fifteen-year struggle (i.e. as long as I have been a born-again believer). For whatever reason, the struggle has been getting worse lately. I have tried some new things in life that didn’t have storybook endings (and had critical reviews to go with them).  Like it or not, people will reflect what we carry, and mirror how we feel about ourselves.  I now see that the internal struggle probably has a lot to do with how I feel about myself. Specifically, the question of whether I am inherently good.

I have struggled with understanding the bread when we take communion, and I think I now understand why.

I was excited about a new thought that the bread represents righteousness, out of looking at the opposite of a Proverb. In Proverbs 4:17, it is said of someone who forsakes wisdom “They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.”

My new working phrase is that when we take communion, we take in the wine of forgiveness and the bread of righteousness. They are opposite words of the proverb above, exchanging the lack of wisdom for having the wisdom of Christ (1 Cor 1:30).

Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins. That much is obvious. In John 6, Jesus reveals that He is the bread of life, and saying that the bread symbolizes life is a reasonable answer, but there seems to be more than that. Jesus makes this statement in John 6:58b, “The one who eats this bread will live forever.” He is clearly talking about more than the life that we live in these bodies.

I believe righteousness is a much bigger encompassing word. I believe it includes life, healing, deliverance, and wholeness as part of having peace (Shalom) and being right before God. I believe it includes having the faith that we will be like Jesus, being fully loved and accepted. I believe righteousness means having faith that we both “are” and “will be” good enough. Not because of all the things we did or didn’t to, but because of the price paid for our “good enough” status. I believe that righteousness means that we will have a glorified, resurrected body like Jesus, without sin, decay, or corruption.

Ravi Zacharias said this, “In every religion except Christianity, morality is a means of attainment.”

I would amend that to say morality is a means of attainment in all religious, and self-help forms. It shouldn’t be in the church, but it is there, as well. The good news of Jesus is that righteousness is by faith lest anyone should boast (Romans 3:28).

I have always thought that there was something missing in my faith. I now understand that it is the belief that I am good. In Romans 10:9-10 below, I had received the salvation part through faith, but I failed to believe in the free gift of righteousness (I am now good enough).

Romans 10:9-10 (HCSB)
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

I would offer the following equation – resurrection = redemption = righteousness = goodness. It is having the faith that you are good enough if you have Jesus.

I believe that is the answer our hearts need.

 

The Gospel Anti-formula (Salvation of a Thief)

I ask you to read the following narrative and consider, how one of the thieves hanging on a cross beside Jesus was saved (e.g. delivered to everlasting life – Paradise).

Luke 23:32-42 (HCSB)
32 Two others – criminals – were also led away to be executed with Him.
33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.
34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided His clothes and cast lots.
35 The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!”
36 The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine
37 and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
38 An inscription was above Him: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment?
41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

First of all, let’s debunk a myth that the place called the Skull aka Calvary (Golgotha in Hebrew) was a hill. While traditional, this doesn’t have any scriptural or archaeological evidence to support it. My family and I were there in Jerusalem in 2015. All we know from scripture was that the place was a public place, that it was outside the original Jerusalem walls, and that it was in a place where would people would pass by (Matt 27:39).

So, what did the thief on the cross do to be saved?

While the thief did not confess all his sins so he could be saved, he did acknowledge his guilt. He acknowledged that he deserved the punishment that the two thieves were receiving. In this, he demonstrated humility (God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble). He certainly didn’t lead a life that was worthy of being saved to everlasting life.

More importantly, he didn’t follow a prescribed formula for salvation.

I know a woman who demonstrates solid Christian character and was saved by Jesus appearing to her in a dream. Jesus introduced himself to the dreamer, she believed and was saved. I also have heard of hundreds of encounters through dreams of Jesus in Muslim nations around the world.

I would suggest that the thief’s salvation came by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

I would also suggest that the two thieves are a picture of the separation of the sheep from the goats. One enters in (on the right) due to their faith, the other is shut out (on the left) because of their unbelief and rejection of a substitute.

I would offer that the thief demonstrated two things by his words.

1) He acknowledged that Jesus was Lord. Those who were mocking him (blasphemeo in the Greek), did not fear God. This man asked the other criminal, “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment?” The thief, in saying “this man has done nothing wrong,” recognized the innocence of Jesus. Did he know that Jesus was to be an innocent offering for his sin, we wonder? Whether he knew this by the spirit or not, he recognized that this King of the Jews was going to come into His kingdom, and therefore be Lord (which means ruler or master by the way).

2) He had faith in His resurrection. Recall that the thief said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” In this statement, the thief is acknowledging that Jesus will be resurrected. The thief knew that no one survives an execution on a Roman cross, especially one that had been brutally beaten and scourged. In the request to remember him, the thief was taking a risk and exercising some faith which is pleasing to God.

I believe this thief was saved because of his faith in the resurrection and Jesus as Master of a coming Kingdom along with the gift (grace) of God.

I would suggest that Paul writes about a similar pattern for salvation in Romans 10:8-13:

Romans 10:8-13 (HCSB)
8 On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim:
9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.
11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame,
12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him.
13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

In verse 9, we see that faith in Jesus’ resurrection and acknowledgement of Jesus as being God are what saves a soul from separation from God. The Greek word for Lord in the phrase “Jesus is Lord” is ‘kyrios’ for Master or recognizing that one greater than you has the power and authority to decide. Trusting that Jesus as being Master brings honor to God the Father (John 5:24). The Greek word for Jesus is transliterated ‘Isousâ’ and comes from the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’ meaning to save and deliver.

In sharing all this, my intention is not to come up with another formula, but rather something I found interesting to reflect on. We are saved by the grace that is a gift of God, and the faith in the resurrection and acknowledgement of Jesus as Master of our lives.

God demonstrates through scripture that He is better and bigger than the formulas and boxes we constrain him to. What formulas and boxes need to be undone for you?

Resurrection

We are going to look at one of the most confounding and embarassing narratives in the Bible, and I’m going to make some suggestions on how we are to understand the story. As a back drop, Abraham has already been promised by God to have numerous offspring through Isaac. These promises came through angels as well as a dramatic experience of covenant in Genesis 15. Abraham has been growing in faith and trust in his relationship with God. Earlier in the scriptures, Abraham is called a friend of God.

Genesis 22:1-18 (ESV)
1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

What? This is a crazy story, and if we’re honest we have trouble fathoming God testing Abraham like this. If we take an objective look at this, it appears that God is asking Abraham to murder his son. It’s premeditated. He has intention. He has the knife in his hand. Why would God do this, and what kind of God is this? It seems monstrous on the surface. For those of us with children, it’s really unthinkable. We could intellectually rationalize that this event occurred before the law of Moses was given which said do not murder, and therefore no transgression (violation of a law) was being committed. However, God makes it clear in Genesis, chapter 4, that murder is not OK. Later, in the book of Leviticus, we learn that child sacrifices to a foreign god like Molech are an abomination. We also have scriptures that say God doesn’t tempt anyone to sin, yet that seems exactly what God is asking of Abraham.

The other crazy thing in this narrative is that Abraham doesn’t question God at all. I would ask questions like “Is this you, God?”, “Am I hearing you right?”, “Are you sure about this?”, “Why?”, “Isn’t this the son of promise where our blessings are supposed to come from?” Most of us would ask these questions, even of our spouse or best friend. In the account with Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham bargained with God. Why wouldn’t he do this now, when the son whom he loves and his future offspring are on the line? ‘Olah’ is the Hebrew word used for burnt offering and really means whole burnt offering, but it can also mean to ascend. Did Abraham understand God’s instructions?

I read recently that Abraham’s obedience demonstrated the level of Abraham’s friendship with God, but that doesn’t help me understand it any better. What kind of friend would ask me to murder my son?

Additionally, what about Ishmael? God doesn’t even acknowledge him as being a son in this narrative even though he technically would be a first born. Didn’t Abraham love him, too? He seemed to care for him. I believe that the language is deliberately used to point us to something bigger and more important.

I believe there are three concepts that help us get any kind of resolve in this story.

1) Cultural context.
2) Abraham believed that God could raise him from the dead.
3) The central character of the story is God (not Abraham)

Let’s look at the first concept:

Cultural context

Abraham is in a culture from at least 3500 years ago which seems very foreign to ours. For example, how did Abraham know that he was to use a knife for a burnt offering? The instructions given to Moses in the book of Leviticus wouldn’t come until at least 400 years later. For that matter, how did any of the people before Moses know to bring an offering to God? Culturally, making offerings to appease their gods was common in ancient cultures. Sacrificing children was also common in this age, which is perhaps why we don’t see Abraham arguing with God. He was born into culture, as are we.

Let’s look at the procedure that was prescribed to Moses in Leviticus for preparing a burnt offering (Lev 1:1-9).

1) The offerer was to bring an unblemished male
2) The offerer was to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
3) The offerer was to slaughter the male before the LORD.
4) The priests were to present and sprinkle blood on the four sides of the altar.
5) The offerer was to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces.
6) The priests were to prepare a fire, arrange the wood and pieces.
7) The offerer was to wash the entrails with water.
8) The priests were to burn all of it as a burnt offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

I don’t know about you, but I would venture a guess that most of you haven’t done anything like this. Deer hunting is about as close to this as most of us get. I don’t even like preparing a turkey. This kind of procedure was fairly common to the culture.

As mentioned, ‘olah’ is a Hebrew word for whole burnt offering. How is the burning of animal flesh pleasing to God (it wasn’t bacon)? 🙂 In ancient cultures, animals were provision and a reflection of what you owned. You might say meat was money. This offering was essentially setting their money on fire and watching it burn and go up in smoke. This seems ridiculous to the world, but the kingdom of God is upside down. ‘Olah’ as mentioned, also means to ‘go up.’ In the book of Leviticus, when this burnt offering was made to God, the offerer would “watch the smoke and sparks ascend heavenward and know that God had accepted him as he identified himself with the sacrificial animal.” (Hebrew Word for the Day, Dr. J.D. Watson, p.110).

While our culture is now very different, the matters of the heart remain the same.

The burnt offering showed their love for God. They gave up something of value (essentially their money) for God, and in turn believed that God would accept their sacrifice as an expression of that love.

If you believe and follow Jesus, a new covenant has been presented where we don’t have to slaughter animals anymore to believe that God will accept our sacrifice. Jesus is the only sacrifice needed (by faith) to be acceptable and pleasing to God. Scripture also writes that obedience is better than sacrifice (Jesus was sacrificed once for all time).

That said, there are things we can do in this present age and in light of a new covenant.

‘Qorban’ is the Hebrew word for any general kind of offering (Lev 6:13).

I believe we bring an offering to God whenever we walk in faith, hope, and love. Especially if it costs us something.

Obviously, we can bring an offering to God with how we give (with our money, time, resources, and gifting).

We can love God by how we steward our hearts, how we spend our lives, and our choices with our bodies.

Romans 12:1 (HSCB)
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

A sacrifice costs us something, but when directed by the spirit, brings God pleasure.

In a cultural context, perhaps God was inviting Abraham into a familiar experience (child sacrifice) to teach him first hand that child sacrifice is not the way any more, and that God will provide the Lamb needed to make atonement.

Secondly, let’s look deeper beyond the culture and the sacrifice. This is really about faith in a resurrection.

Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead.

The writer of Hebrews is speaking to a Jewish audience and writes this:

Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV)
17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

How do we know that Abraham knew that God could restore Isaac from the dead in the book of Genesis? We don’t, but I would suggest that it is only through Christ, that we see the possibility of a resurrection from this text.

Jesus suggests that Abraham actually was looking forward prophetically to the time of the lamb coming as a substitute.

John 8:56
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.

In the 1970s there were toys for little kids called “Weebles”. Their tag line was that “weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” If you knocked a weeble over, it would wobble, but bounce right back up. Abraham somehow believed that God would make things right. Abraham had faith that God had resurrection power. Even toward the very end, Abraham is expecting God to provide a lamb in his place. He has to look “up” in order to see it.

One of the characteristics of God that we don’t hear much about any more is that God is a jealous God. He wants relationship with us above everything else. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees because of how difficult they were making it to have any kind of relationship with God. Above the people and things we love, and even above our understanding of the promises He’s made, God wants relationship with us.

Finally, let’s look at the even more profound idea that God is the main character of the story and not Abraham.

The central character of the story is God (not Abraham)

In this story, we will substitute our heavenly Father for Abraham and Jesus for Isaac.

In the Genesis 22 account, Abraham doesn’t finish the slaughter. In the case of God with his son Jesus, he does finish the slaughter, allowing him to be crucified. Rather than just being a burnt offering, Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Through this sacrifice, relationship with man can be restored.

John 1:20 “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”

Abram means exalted father. Abraham roughly means father of a multitude. Our Heavenly Father wanted to move from exalted Father to Father of a multitude.

John 1:12 (ESV)
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Isaac means laughter in Hebrew. I wonder if God the Father had to sacrifice the laughter and mirth He had with His Son in order to redeem mankind from his sin and in three days get it back.

In Genesis 22:2, the echoes of the “only son whom you love,” point to God’s love towards Jesus as revealed in the New Testament (Mark 1:11, Matthew 17:5). God reveals this in the baptism of Jesus (as well as his transfiguration), highlighting his divine nature and the quality of the relationship between them.

Mark 1:11 (NLT)
And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

We know Jesus wasn’t offered up as a burnt offering, but rather for the sins of the world (John 1:29, John 3:16). Additionally, Jesus was placed on an altar in the shape of a cross. Like Isaac, Jesus didn’t open up his mouth to complain (Is 53), and like Jesus, he seems to be innocent. While Jesus was innocent, we aren’t told of any sin that Isaac commited to warrant the death penalty.

Genesis 22:12 – “for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me”

It was God’s obedience to fulfill his word. Does God fear God in this context? It’s an interesting concept to think about. We know from Isaiah 11, that Jesus would delight in the fear of the LORD and would even have this as a double portion (Isaiah 11:3).

God, in obedience did not withhold his only son from the slaughter (in the form of a brutal crucifixion) (Gospel accounts, Romans 8:32).

We are blessed because of this obedience and what the sacrifice made possible.

In Christ, the New Testament reveals that we are grafted into being part of Abraham’s seed and part of the blessing.

Galatians 3:29 (HCSB)
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

Did Abraham have to sacrifice Isaac to receive this blessing? Studying out the previous chapters in Genesis, the blessing that God had already promised to Abraham was already pronounced, with one exception. The additional blessing reads “And your offspring will possess the gate of his enemies and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” We have these as an additional blessing because of Abraham’s obedience and God’s fulfillment of this blessing through Christ.

We are blessed because of Abraham’s faith in God’s ability to raise his son from the dead. We are blessed because Jesus’ resurrection made a way for us to be grafted in to the seed of Abraham, regardless of lineage.

In Christ, you are blessed. Your family name is blessed because of it. You are blessed because of Abraham and God’s obedience (yes, I know that sounds funny). You have authority over entry points of the enemy (gates). Give thanks for the blessings you have received. Walk in them. Use them for His glory. In realization of the blessings that we have received, we can go and be a blessing to others. That is our calling.

The 4 C’s of Love

I don’t know about you, but I have wrestled with how to define love and how to know what love is.  I believe everyone must work out their understanding of love through scripture and through the lessons of life.

When looking for a quality diamond, there are four aspects (4 C’s) to consider – color, clarity, carats, and cost.  In a similar manner, I have learned what I call the 4 C’s of love, and that they are in progressive measure – compassion, caring, commitment, and covenant.

Compassion:
The first level of love (compassion) is situational, but it does not necessarily involve any kind of relationship, great cost, or commitment.  Nevertheless, the recipient will often feel cared for as a result.

Mark 1:41
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.”

Compassion is represented by the Greek root spl├ñ’nkh-non meaning from the spleen or bowels (G4698), and by the Hebrew root racham (H7356), meaning from the womb (as if cherishing a fetus), from the bowels, having pity or mercy on someone.

Most of the healing and miracles that were recorded in scripture were done out of compassion.

I am not someone who has a natural bent towards mercy or compassion, but if my heart is soft, the LORD’s compassion can flow through me from time to time.

I am learning to try to be more available for the LORD’s compassion to move through me.

Caring:
The next level of love is caring.  This goes beyond being compassion towards someone in a moment of need.

Last year, I had been wrestling inside with the probing question of whether I loved or cared for people.  Shortly after that time of wrestling, a situation came up affecting my rheumatologist whom I had known for the past sixteen years.  We had gotten to know about each other’s lives, families, and she had let me share my faith with her.  I had prayed for her and her family daily.  She had recently been diagnosed with a rare immune disorder of the blood, was in the hospital, and nobody knew if she would be coming back.  I was furious.  I was ticked off at SatanΓÇÖs strategies to steal, kill, and destroy.  He couldn’t have her or take her life.  Out of this, I realized that I do care.  I stepped into the gap and stepped up interceding for her for a period of six months.  After that season, the burden lifted, and sadly, she has since gone to be with the LORD.  I believe she came to know Jesus before she passed on.  She was a blessing to me.

I can think of no better example of caring in the scriptures than the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:33-36
33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.
34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

Commitment:
The third level of love is commitment.  It is easier to say I love you and much harder to do.  Spend three days with me and then see if you still love me.

Commitment has an element of loyalty.  Most of us have limits of how long we will be loyal to a person, institution or cause.  In the Hebrew, the word ‘chesed‘ (H2617) sometimes translated as mercy is best described as the intersection of kindness, goodness, and steadfastness.

Long-term friendships, children, and marriage are good examples of loving commitment.

In a marriage which is a long-term commitment, one of the ways we show our love for one another is our commitment, fidelity, and our faithfulness to one another.  Marriage is God’s design for sexual expression, faithfulness, and commitment.  There is a level of commitment in a marriage (how many times must I forgive?), that aren’t in most relationships.  Jesus had the following to say:

Matthew 19:4-6
4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,”
5 and He also said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

In the new covenant scriptures, the Greek word ‘agape‘ is introduced.  It is commonly described as unconditional love.  However, when love is tested, this is really difficult to do.  ‘Agape’ is also described as God’s kind of love, for loving anyone unconditionally often becomes impossible when the going gets tough.

John 13:34-35
34 “I give you a new command: Love (agape) one another. Just as I have loved (agape) you, you must also love (agape) one another.
35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another.”

For example, I can purpose in my heart that I will always love my daughter.  However, there are times as a teenager that my love and respect are tested and for a while seem to disappear.  I have learned that I need the power of the Holy Spirit for me to forgive, to soften my heart, restore the relationship, and to love again.

When Jesus over on the earth as Son of Man, He demonstrated love in different ways and measure.

John 21:15-17
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) Me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love (phileo) You.”  “Feed My lambs,” He told him.
16 A second time He asked him, Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love (phileo) You.”  “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?”  Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, ‘Do you love (phileo) Me?’ He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love (phileo) You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Peter had previously learned that his efforts to be faithful, ultimately would fail (he previously denied knowing the LORD three times).  When Jesus asked Peter, will you love me without condition (agape), Peter knew in his heart that loving him as a friend (phileo) was the best he could offer.

It has been said that it takes God to love God.  There will be life events that we go through where we are disillusioned or disappointed.

I would also submit to you that it takes God to love someone without condition.  There are ways we are treated (e.g. disrespect, betrayals of trust, disappointment, unmet expectations, harsh words, sinful behavior, being condemned) that on our own we simply can not tolerate.  All that we can do is to forgive and pray for those who mistreat us.

Covenant:
Covenant is the fourth and greatest level of a love commitment.  Covenant requires the shedding of blood to ratify it.  It goes beyond a contract which is legally binding; it is to be a commitment that is to last for the life of the one making the commitment.  Marriage is to be an example of this kind of loving relationship.  At an even more profound level, Jesus offers his own blood to bind our hearts to His as an everlasting covenant.

Many books have been written on the subject of covenant.  I recommend studying the book of Hebrews.  I would suggest the following to summarize the covenant that Jesus offers to us, knowing that any attempt will be complete.

1) The forgiveness of sins

Matthew 26:28 (HCSB)
For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

2) Establishment as a first-born son (there is no gender in the spirit), and being considered, and called family

Hebrews 8:10 (HCSB)
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

3) The faithfulness of God

2 Timothy 2:13 (HCSB)
if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Hebrews 10:23 (HCSB)
Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 13:5 (HCSB)
Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

Conclusion:
Like a good diamond, love has different facets, ways of expression and ways of considering value.  I believe that Jesus showed different levels of love commitment, depending on the context that He was in.  He demonstrated the 4 C’s of love (compassion, caring, commitment, and covenant), and invites us to do the same.