Not One Word…Had Failed…All Came to Pass

Map of IsraelAlthough it’s been a while since I read these words while going through all 66 this year, they have stuck with me:

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:45, English Standard Version).

This could not be any more true in my life and that of my family. It doesn’t mean that we (or I) have gotten everything we (or I) wanted. Instead, our Lord has always provided exactly what He has promised.

When we think otherwise it is just proof that we have misunderstood (often fundamentally) His guarantees.

May God give you what He promised instead of what you want. May you recognize your need so that when, in eternity, you get what you desire…it shows you have chosen wisely.  Your choice, thanks to the Most High’s promises, will come to pass.

Do You Know What Your Sin Is, Balaam?

Balaam with a donkeyAs seems so often true, if I really like a television series it only lasts one season (or less). Firefly fits that category perfectly (although I don’t know if I actually watched it while it was first airing). The good news is that it was followed up by a tremendously entertaining movie, Serenity. (If you like sci-fi and/or action-adventure.)

In that film, the primary “bad guy” (known as “The Operative”) is played perfectly by Chiwetel Ejiofor. One of his most memorable phrases is “Do you know what your sin is?”…first used with a doctor whose pride meant he exposed Alliance leaders to a mind-reader (who has now escaped and holds their darkest secrets).

The Operative’s “Do you know what sin is?” question came to mind as I read the story of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Short version is that Balak, king of Moab, was wise enough to see how large Israel was and what had happened to those who opposed them. (It did not bode well for him and his nation, Moab.) Balak figured he could pay/bribe the prophet Balaam to curse Israel, and all would be well. [Read more…]

To See or Not to See

God holding lightning In the first chapter of today’s Bible reading I ran into this interesting section:

9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Exodus 24:9-11, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

The reason I found it interesting is because it brought this other verse to mind:

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18).

And…if that isn’t enough…also check out Exodus 33:20, John 6:46, Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:16, 1 John 4:12.

What gives? Nobody has seen God but Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel” and “beheld God”?

The answer is simple. We should take the Bible literally…but we also should take it literarily. That is, when we read any other literature we have no difficulty understanding how language works, including levels of meaning for the same word.  Those seventy-four men saw God in that they saw His effects and how He chose to reveal Himself. It is applying the words “saw” and “beheld” too literally to insist it is the same as you and I sitting across from each other at a booth at a diner.

Having said all this, if you long to see God you can…and I’m not talking about waiting until you are on the other side of eternity (assuming you are saved).

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:1-3, emphasis mine).

Or, more simply (from the mouth of Jesus)…

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9, in part).

And whoever sees me sees him who sent me (John 12:45).

Doubling Down

Israelites with bricks

As I continue this year’s trek through all 66, I ran into the incident where, when asked by Moses to allow the Israelites to go worship in the desert for three days, the Pharaoh wasn’t so inclined. Not only did he say no, he decided to double down:

6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God (Exodus 8:6-8, English Standard Version).

That incident reminded me of when, after his father Solomon died, Rehoboam was approached by “all Israel,” asking him to reduce the burdens Solomon had put on them. King Rehoboam told them to come back in three days for an answer. Although the new monarch was wise enough to ask for counsel, that’s about as far as his wisdom went as three days later…

13 And the king answered them harshly; and forsaking the counsel of the old men,
14 King Rehoboam spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (2 Chronicles 10:13-14).

In both cases we have people implicitly questioning a ruler’s power, and in both cases the ruler doubled downed on proving who was in charge.

The first lost his army at the bottom of a sea (Exodus 14:28) and the second saw his kingdom shrink from twelve tribes to two (2 Chronicles 10:16-11:4). Maybe doubling down wasn’t such a great approach? Something we ought to consider when someone dare question our authority, eh? 🙂

Oh, and we all know Who really was in charge…

Normative Versus Descriptive

Oriental womanAs I continue my blessed journey through all 66 books in the Bible, I ran into what I thought could be a humorous example of why you want to make sure whether what you are reading is normative or descriptive.

What is normative? Per my Mac’s dictionary:

normative |ˈnôrmətiv|
adjective formal
establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm, esp. of behavior: negative sanctions to enforce normative behavior.

How about descriptive? Same dictionary:

descriptive |diˈskriptiv|
adjective

2 describing or classifying without expressing feelings or judging.

The Bible is literature in many forms (e.g. poetry, narrative); sometimes its message is telling us what to do (normative)…and sometimes it’s just describing what someone did (descriptive).  (Normative versus descriptive or prescriptive versus descriptive.)

Keeping that in mind, can you imagine how putting this in the wrong category would lead to a heap ‘o trouble?: 🙂

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Then Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. And Leah said, “Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher (Genesis 30:1-13, English Standard Version).

If those verses are normative, then “barren” women should furnish someone (preferably cute) to provide children in their place, right? (Somehow I can’t imagine my wife Michelle buying that.) The Bible is just describing Rachel, Jacob, Bilhah, Leah, and Zilpah’s behavior…it is not telling us to emulate it. For that matter, we aren’t even supposed to follow their example by recreating the original polygamous state (Jacob having both Leah and Rachel as wives).

But, I will admit, I did think of having a little fun with Michelle and suggesting that if she was a Bible-believing woman she should…err…

It would have been worth the well-deserved slap. 🙂

P.S. Bonus video…Tim Hawkin’s “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife”:

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What?! Wait! You Knew?!

God pointing at cowering man

Just imagine you are Abimelech. A rich guy comes into your territory with a cute sister (although she had to be pretty old) and you take her for your wife. Win!

However…

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3, English Standard Version).

Ack! But…wait a minute…

Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this (Genesis 20:4-5).

Touché. Good to be able to clear that up. But…wait a minute…

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her” (Genesis 20:6).

If I were Abimelech, I would have said…

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You Were Promised by God to Abraham

Starry night skyYou were promised by God to Abraham.

How do those words speak to your heart? Do they make it “jump for joy”?

Doesn’t the idea that the Most High Himself spoke of you cause you excitement…at least a little bit?

Or are you a bit incredulous and need hard “head” proof before you are going to allow any fickle “heart” emotions to kick in?

Ask and you shall receive. 🙂

First, let’s stroll back to the first book of the Bible and join Abraham when he was still called Abram:

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted” (Genesis 13:14-16, English Standard Version).

Two chapters later the Most High assures less-than-confident Abram that he and Sarai would have a child:

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5-6).

Now let’s zoom over 1,000 years forward to Paul trying to keep the Galatian church out of the grip of Judaizers:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Galatians 3:7-9, emphasis mine).

Next time you look at the dust of the earth or all the stars in the clear night sky…

I kind of prefer the latter. 🙂

Next time you look at the dust of the earth or all the stars in the clear night sky…

Remember you were promised thousands of years ago to a man of faith, and let it strengthen yours.

UPDATE: Dust of the earth…stars in the sky…and “sand that is on the seashore”!:

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I 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” (Genesis 22:15-17).

See why it’s great reading the Bible cover-to-cover? 🙂

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Remembering the Bow

Noah's ark and a rainbowThis year I am reading the entire Bible again (you should too), and yesterday the flood subsided. Afterward, our Lord tells Noah:

14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9:14-16, English Standard Version).

Considering God is an omniscient and omnipotent being, doesn’t it seem odd that He would need a rainbow to be reminded that he promised not to drown all of us again? We could say that this is a case where humans, naturally being human-centric, are using anthropomorphic language to describe God…but here the Most High is being directly quoted.

So, does God have to, like His creatures, tie a string around His finger to not forget things?

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Sodom, but Not Isaac?

Abraham Sacrificing IsaacSo, as I was reading through today’s verses (reading through all 66 in 2012), it hit me. Back in Genesis 18:22-33, Abraham tries to get Sodom and Gomorrah off the hook, actually (respectfully) arguing a bit with God about it (although notice his concern for God’s reputation).

However, in Genesis 22:1-14 we hear God tell Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac…and…queue the sound of crickets…

Abraham says nothing…he just goes and almost carries it out.

Now, yes…the Bible doesn’t record every word. The Holy Spirit inspires its writers on what to include and what to exclude.

And yes…it could be a sign of Abraham’s increased maturity…both in that he now trusted God so much he no longer questioned His acts or decrees…and that he know the Lord would take care of it (e.g. God could resurrect Isaac, see Hebrews 11:17-20).

But, seriously? All that concern about Sodom, and nary a peep about Isaac?

What do you think?