WEEK 9, 2018 – Getting to know God through His Word, the Bible

DAY ONE – Leviticus 11-14

Hygiene and healthcare: preventing infectious diseases and properly treating them in the event a plague should develop. Yahweh Creator God knows all the human weaknesses of fallen mankind. Just so, He prescribed proper eating habits and foods that were healthful rather than harmful. Among all the animals and creatures some could be safely eaten, while others were considered ‘unclean’ and should be abstained from at all times. Dead things were to be avoided studiously; and should one come into physical contact he was to wash with clean water and socially absent himself temporarily.  Should infection break out, whether on one’s person or in one’s physical surroundings, there were proper procedures to be followed to appeal to God for healing and to demonstrate that one had truly been cleansed and healed. These all contained religious rites and offerings to God. The priests were the judges of what was infectious or benign. In all of this Yahweh God indicated that the spiritual and physical are interminably intertwined and cannot be separated, leading us to conclude that He is the author of health and healing; and that we will always need Him for our life in this world. We were never intended to live our life apart from God, or to separate from Him if we wish to enjoy His blessings in this sphere.

DAY TWO – Leviticus 15-18

These are some of the most powerful and important chapters of the entire worship book, for they deal with the strongest passions of mankind. The sexual impulse, at least for men, adds strength and fortitude to the whole person when channeled properly. When the boundaries of sexual propriety are breached, no greater potential for destruction to the race exists. When one accepts and permits impropriety, the results cannot forever be hidden or evaded. When an entire social culture embraces and permits sexual perversion, damage and mischief of the most extreme kind threatens future generations. The pleasure of sex is a poor substitute for the power of love–a committed love that honors God and His creation.

No doubt this is why God’s Necessary Plan, as I sometimes call it, was so fraught with detailed instructions and the strictest prohibitions. In order for His plan to work, His people had to be reminded again and again the price of blood, the place of blood and its relationship to the revealing of our Lord’s mercy upon mankind. Blood sacrifice, accompanied and regulated as it was by laws and ordinances, provided access to God and covering for sin until the problem could be ultimately resolved.  We should always be grateful for a love that draws us to such a wonderful God. For it was in love that He created us, and it is in love that He teaches us how to live.

DAY THREE – Leviticus 19-22

‘Holiness’ has a different sound to it. When God says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” it raises all kinds of questions in our minds. The word simply means ‘set apart,’ something that is distinguishable from something else and has special purpose attached to it. These chapters go on to describe various laws and commandments which set Israel apart from the other nations. They dealt with community living–social and sexual relationships within and without marriage; spiritual boundaries which exclude all familiar spirits and practices outside of Yahweh; the land and its produce, especially how to honor the Creator with it; and other sundry areas of normal daily living. Once again, all of this appears as external and physical instructions which distinguish Israel from all the other nations. Yahweh specifically says that He destroyed the Egyptian religion with its gods and intends to plunder the Canaanites and destroy them by giving their land to Israel, so they are to remain ‘holy’ to Him to validate the Creator’s great power and purpose.

Since the days of Christ Jesus–His death and resurrection–holiness is measured and demonstrated by the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our life, whose influence and power within provide a constant spiritual growth and reformation that demonstrate the Kingdom of God–His rule and purposes. We may sometimes indeed look and seem different to the rest of mankind by our practices and lifestyle, but it is not to make us better than they; rather it is to shine a light on our Creator and bring Him into focus for the rest of the world. The primary witness of holiness will be faith, hope and love, these three described by Paul, for they testify of great inner workings accomplished by Holy Spirit in our life. Frequently in these chapters a reminder is given: “I am Yahweh;” sometimes is added, “who brought you out of Egypt.” Thus we always remember that all of this was initiated by God Himself; we are responders to His mercy and grace and the great work that He does in our behalf day by day. Given the severity and polarity of our social milieu, our world needs a clear picture of God, and true holiness comes closer to revealing His true nature and character than a world full of sermons and rules!

DAY FOUR – Leviticus 23-25 

Festivals, Assemblies & Convocations–specific and prescribed ways of honoring and obeying Yahweh God in Israel.  The Lord Himself called Israel to a lifestyle that punctuated their years with gatherings intended to keep them mindful of God’s place among them. The weekly reminder was called a Sabbath–literally a day of rest, no ordinary work schedules. Then there was the Passover Day, the annual ritual observing Israel’s redemption and deliverance from Egypt, followed by the Festival of Unleavened Bread. There was an annual Day of Atonement, special harvest celebrations of recognition and thanksgiving, and a Festival of Booths, reminder of their traveling days from Egypt to Canaan. Every one of these had special meanings, special instructions and sacrifices/offerings associated with them to test the patience, obedience and devotion to Yahweh among His people. The real test?  NOT WORKING! When people are engaged in enterprise of any kind from which they can begin to profit, not working, whether for a day, or a week, or whatever, disciplines their desire to improve their fortune. God promised special blessings to those who obeyed Him, but it nevertheless required them to trust Him to do what He said. Whenever we think we can do better than God at improving our lot, we will be tempted to violate both spiritual and common sense. And when we do, we will push the envelope of personal autonomy until we are no longer capable of following His leading in our life. At that point we are in crisis, whether or not we realize it. Israel often was awakened by the Lord’s strong hand to their destructive, wandering lifestyle that took them away from God’s care and provision. In those times they turned to other ‘gods’ to improve their lot through pagan appeasements, none of which worked.

Worship is a condition of the heart in which we delight in the Lord and desire to allow His work and oversight in our life. Delight…and Desire–this is MORE than just receiving His blessings! Therefore Leviticus is a book of WORSHIP. Let us never deceive ourselves into thinking that just because we ‘believe’ in God or have ‘received’ Jesus, that God’s blessings are automatic, or that He owes us anything. As children learn to take their place in a loving family and become responsible, participating members, so our place in God’s family is regularly tested by the discipline of our desires and proclivities. (pro·cliv·i·ty  — A natural propensity or inclination; a predisposition)

DAY FIVE – Leviticus 26-27, Numbers 1-2

With the Theocracy established by Yahweh in Israel, promised blessings encouraged them to live within God’s Creative Plan for them. It would come the closest to ‘heaven on earth’ that can be realized among a people. On the other hand, should Israel despise God’s rule among them and deface their culture, religion or land, Yahweh would stand against them to the degree that they rejected His rule. The evils they would face were common to other nations surrounding them, evils they could escape with the Lord’s mighty Presence and Protection around them. It was clear the Israelis had a choice–their power of choice would determine God’s Creative Plan, or Necessary Plan for dealing with all the nations of the earth. Our power of choice is not diminished by either ignorance or rebellion. We have responsibility to avail ourselves of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and to learn His ways on earth. His rule among us is by the Word and Spirit; and we exercise choice within those options. How BLESSED is the man who chooses the Lord as His God! How unfortunate are those who exclude themselves from the Lord’s grace and mercy as revealed and offered through the Lord Jesus.

With the law, commandments and religion in place, it was time to organize the new nation of Israel under a discernible government in which the Tent of Meeting remained center in the community. Three tribes were assigned by numbered census to each of the compass points around the Tent. The Levites, who were not numbered, camped around the perimeter of the Tent as a buffer between the common and the holy. So now the nation was ready to begin their journey, the cloud/fire of God’s Presence there to guide them toward the promise.

I continue to be amazed at the BIG PICTURE that emerges when we read through the entire Bible. This is not a race–more like a marathon! And it works best when you are running alongside a friend or partner. So settle into a pace you can sustain and let’s continue our journey.

Welcome to Week 8, 2018 – Reading thru the Bible, Getting to know God

As we start this new week together, let’s focus again on our main purpose for reading the Bible: to get to know God, our Father in heaven. We will always have questions, but the more intimate we become with Him, the fewer loose ends we tend to have. So enjoy. Grab your cup and let’s begin.

DAY ONE – Exodus 33-36

It was not without pain and shame that Israel was restored by God’s grace. In the aftermath of the chaos Yahweh dispatched Moses to lead Israel to the land promised to Abraham and offered to send an angel in His place to help them gain the land and settle in it. When Israel heard that Yahweh didn’t want to be among them, they mourned and stripped off all signs of celebration and gaiety. Moses continued to go outside the camp to commune with the Lord and intercede for the nation. He made two major requests that we all do well to emulate throughout our lives. Exodus 33:13  Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your way, that I may know you, so that I may find favor in your sight: and consider that this nation is your people.”  Exodus 33:18  He said, “Please show me your glory.” 

 

Moses learned at Sinai that this nation-developing was not gained easily, and that he was not properly qualified to continue the work without a fresh, God-centered education from Yahweh Himself. Hence, his requests. In both cases the Lord answered positively and acted accordingly, giving fresh revelation to Moses and preparing Him for the long journey and life ahead. In revealing Himself to Moses, the Lord announced: Exodus 34:5-8  Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed Yahweh’s name. 6  Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, “Yahweh! Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth, 7  keeping loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and disobedience and sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, on the third and on the fourth generation.” 8  Moses hurried and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. In this manner they started over. God chiseled new engravings on the replacement tablets that Moses brought to the mountain; and when he came down, he gathered the people together and appointed the God-gifted men Bezalel and Aholiab to begin the development of the Lord’s sanctuary in the wilderness, commonly called the ‘tent of meeting’ or the ‘tabernacle.’  This entire experience demonstrates that God is merciful and gracious; that He hears and responds to intercessory prayer; and that He is willing to move forward with us as we humble ourselves in His Presence and seek His face earnestly and sincerely.  It is not an event but a way of life; may we learn God’s ways and mirror His true character to our generation.

NOTE: It appears from these encounters between Moses and Yahweh that God does not change His overall plans but is willing to change His mind as to how He will move forward with us.  Discipline is intended to humble us, not destroy us. When destruction does occur, it is among those who are rebellious and stiff-necked. In spite of that we may receive new mercies and learn more of God’s ways.

DAY TWO – Exodus 37-40

Exodus 39:42-43  According to all that Yahweh commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. 43  Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it as Yahweh had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.  Soon Moses set up the entire edifice exactly as Yahweh had instructed him, establishing a meeting place for Yahweh among the nation of Israelis. When it was done, Yahweh’s Presence came down upon the tent, appearing during the day as a cloud and at night as a fire. So intense was Yahweh’s Presence that Moses could not at first enter the tent. And now the nation of God’s people had their law, their culture, their religion and their meeting place–all given by Yahweh in order to set them apart and distinguish them from all other nations around them. This circumstance would remain for the next forty years, so long as they were on the journey to the land promised Abraham 400 years earlier.

They could see with their eyes all that God had done–

  • The miracles in Egypt that caused the Pharaoh to let them go as Yahweh commanded.
  • The miraculous parting of the Red Sea enabling Israel to cross on dry ground but drowning the Egyptians as they tried to pursue.
  • The unforgettable manifestations of God on Mt. Sinai when their Law was given by Yahweh.
  • The particular and minute specifications for the Tent of Meeting which point forward to the coming of Messiah–though at the time they had no clue!
  • And finally God’s fiery cloud to indicate that He was there, directing and watching over their future.

Their exodus is now complete, and their journey will soon commence. In a very short time God has built a nation–and it still exists with its original language, religion and relevance to the rest of the world!

DAY THREE – Leviticus 1-4

“Leviticus is a most interesting and important book; a book containing a code of sacrificial, ceremonial, civil, and judicial laws, which, for the purity of their morality, the wisdom, justice, and beneficence of their enactments, and the simplicity, dignity, and impressive nature of their rites, are perfectly unrivalled, and altogether worthy of their Divine Author. All the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law are at once dignified and expressive. They point out

  • the holiness of their Author,
  • the sinfulness of man,
  • the necessity of an atonement, and
  • the state of moral excellence to which the grace and mercy of the Creator have destined to raise the human soul.

“They include, as well as point out, the gospel of the Son of God; from which they receive their consummation and perfection. The sacrifices and oblations were significant of the atonement of Christ; the requisite qualities of these sacrifices were emblematical of his immaculate character; and the prescribed mode in the form of these offerings, and the mystical rites ordained, were allusive institutions, calculated to enlighten the apprehensions of the Jews, and to prepare them for the reception of the Gospel. The institution of the high priesthood typified Jesus, the Great High Priest, called and prepared of God, who hath an unchangeable priesthood, and is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” (Book Introduction from Treasury of Scripture Knowledge) The beginning of the book is all about offerings: who, what, how. The offerings are regulated by Yahweh, although they appear to be voluntary in nature. The regulations further allow discretion in the offering itself, determined perhaps by the person’s economic advantage and/or the kind of property he has. It might be from the herd, or the flock, or even a bird. In the end, it must represent a person’s ‘all;’ that is, all of the offering must be sacrificed on the altar. It must be burnt with fire, consuming that part which is specified by Yahweh, so that to Him it may be ‘a sweet aroma.’

From these chapters we discover things about God–His reasonableness, flexibility, willingness to allow personal choice, and the reasons behind whatever He prescribes. This is our God, bent on doing everything within His power to provide redemption, protection and a plan for future blessings–all descriptive of His character and purpose. God initiates, we respond; He instructs, we obey; He works, we benefit from all He has done and is doing. I love the Lord  and I pray every day that His kingdom will increase in my sphere of existence. May His kingdom come, His will be done here and now.

DAY FOUR – Leviticus 5-7

wor·ship – n.  — The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.  1) The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed:  2) Ardent admiration or love; adoration

v. — 1) To honor and love as a deity.  2) To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion. (From <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/_/dict.aspx?word=worship&h=1&w10app=1)

Leviticus is primarily a book about worship, especially the worship of Yahweh God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of those men, upon discovering the favor that God was adding to their lives, and wanting to acknowledge His Creatorship, built an altar and offered sacrifice to Yahweh, often several times throughout their wanderings and journeys. Reverent love and devotion toward God is a response not easily developed, as God must always take the first step to initiate relationship and show His nature to the respondent. And so Yahweh took the first, second and additional steps to reveal His good plans and purposes; to demonstrate His excellent character; and to facilitate a reconciliation and redemption toward mankind in general. So He is certainly worthy to be worshipped.

These chapters in Leviticus show the preparations to be undertaken by Israel in the course of worship, in order to satisfy God’s holiness and be acceptable to Him. And the first observation we must make is the BLOOD…so much blood! The blood of every animal was to be poured at the base of the altar designed by God for animal sacrifice. Imagine that many people bringing their offerings to the Lord to be presented by the priests at the designated location of the altar. It was a virtual slaughterhouse as the priests were kept busy in their work before God. And the blood flowed, day after day; and the fire burned, day after day; and the mess had to be cleaned up, day after day; only to be repeated again. Any thinking person can see the liability that sin has placed upon us, and the necessity of worship to God who saves us according to His own grace and mercy. Leviticus 7:37  This is the law of the burnt offering, of the meal offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecration, and of the sacrifice of peace offerings; 38  which Yahweh commanded Moses in Mount Sinai, in the day that he commanded the children of Israel to offer their offerings to Yahweh, in the wilderness of Sinai. 

DAY FIVE – Leviticus 8-10

The previous chapters outlined the detailed instructions for the Theocracy–God’s rule and government among the Israelis. Now it was time to implement everything. Moses brought Aaron and his sons to the newly-assembled tent of meeting and carried out the CONSECRATION of the tent, of Aaron and his sons. And, of course, it involved the shedding of blood in copious amounts, along with burnt offerings, sin offerings, and consecration offerings. The manner, the place and the ceremony were all specified in minute detail. Moses carried out his part of the ceremony, then had Aaron and his sons copy his actions on behalf of the people–God’s congregation. So they were all consecrated that day–everything and everybody–to demonstrate that they now belong to God and they are ready to enjoy His holy presence. Theoretically, at least, God’s rule is in place and the people are going to demonstrate to the rest of the world how wonderful God is through His work in their midst. Don’t we wish…

 

WEEK 7, 2018 — Through the Bible, Getting to Know God

DAY ONE – Exodus 14-18

Israel is out of Egypt, and Pharaoh is a raving lunatic! How could he have allowed such a thing? The Israelis did all the heavy lifting for Egypt, and now they are gone; they must be brought back. So Pharaoh amasses his chariots, captains, army and whatever else to pursue and recapture Israel. Bad move. On their part Israel is freaked out; they can see the Egyptian army in close pursuit, and they are quickly running out of time. There is no way of escape–at least none visible; and they cry to Yahweh God while they rail against Moses and Aaron. The Israelis feel totally powerless after decades of slavery to resist their tormentors, let alone deliver themselves from them. But God IS in control… Exodus 14:14-18  Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.” 15  Yahweh said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. 16  Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go into the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17  Behold, I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall go in after them: and I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. 18  The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.”  God has already gotten victory over the ‘gods’ of Egypt. They were no help to the Egyptians during the nightmares of the plagues. NOW God has determined to extend that victory over Pharaoh himself so that no doubt remains as to who the LORD is! Not only that, but Israel must also be retrained and brought to a new reality to go with her new status. Following the victory of the Red Sea, Moses led Israel in a song of praise to Yahweh… Exodus 15:11-13  Who is like you, Yahweh, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12  You stretched out your right hand. The earth swallowed them. 13  “You, in your loving kindness, have led the people that you have redeemed. You have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation. This is the REDEEMED nation, bought back from slavery by God to become a free people who live in the Presence of Almighty God! No one will be able to mess with them if they live in the relationship that God is offering them: “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” So the Red Sea incident is LIFE to Israel and DEATH to Egypt. It is the final rite of passage, as Paul also explains: 1Corinthians 10:1-2  Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2  and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea… Redemption and baptism seal the deal. Israel now belongs to God and must learn to live as this newly recovered nation under the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s COVENANT is now in full effect for an entire nation of people who will never be the same as they live in the community of nations.  Their God sets them apart and makes the distinction in no uncertain terms.

So Israel’s song is our song, and it begs to be sung at regular intervals to remind us with Whom we are in relationship. Exodus 15:1-3  Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to Yahweh, and said, “I will sing to Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2  Yah is my strength and song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3  Yahweh is a man of war. Yahweh is his name. We go forward; we have a destination; our God is leading us; He has always proved victorious and will again. What part of “don’t be afraid” do we not understand? It’s time, and it’s time NOW. The kingdom “suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Men and women of God, move forward in His Presence!

DAY TWO – Exodus 19-21

Living in a pagan culture has diminished Israel considerably. Being slaves to a nation of pagans has further eroded their sensibilities. Among other things, the sanctity of life is no longer understood clearly. So three months after God has delivered Israel from Egypt they arrive at the Mountain of Sinai, where the Lord intends to introduce Himself in a more personal demonstration. He has Moses sanctify the people and prepare them to meet God, after a fashion. On the third day a trumpet blast, long and loud, announces the momentous event, and the mountain begins to tremble as smoke and fire descend on the mountaintop. The blast continues, becoming louder and louder until everybody is trembling and wondering what’s next. With commands and warnings, God summons Moses and Aaron to the mountain and begins to speak. The discourse that follows is commonly called The Ten Commandments, although they are embellished with additional instructions and explanations. In essence, Israel is beginning over again, this time with Yahweh present and active among them to give them distinction and status among the nations. When the Lord is finished with the ceremony, Moses will possess two stone tablets with the 10 commandments etched in them by God’s finger (so to speak). A new understanding of life and relationships will grow out of these instructions, and a new measure of accountability will attend to them. A new degree of civilization will grow out of godly wisdom and training as they move toward their physical destination. It is understood that Yahweh God, who claims to be THEIR God, has done a wonderful thing and intends to see it through by remaining among them.

The instructions guide their relationship with Yahweh and with each other. They will learn the value of life and how to maintain civility in the culture. They will understand when and how to punish unacceptable behavior. Their sense of longevity will grow along with their knowledge and understanding of Yahweh. The end game is that they will procreate a long line of priests and kings who will accomplish God’s will on earth and further Yahweh’s future plans for mankind. For now, however, much of that remains obscure. There is too much to be grasped so soon, and coming generations will need constant reinforcement by Yahweh to keep from scuttling His long-range plans. God’s wisdom always has an invitation to go deeper into His wonderful nature and work with Him to sustain His efforts to salvage mankind and fulfill eternal purposes in His creation. We are privileged to receive His grace and mercy which results in salvation and a rich future with Him. The man of God wisely counsels– Psalm 90:12  So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

DAY THREE – Exodus 22-24

There are foundations upon which all societies are built. The Judaic tradition was pieced together from the instructions Yahweh gave through Moses to the people. It was a powerful beginning. First the plagues of Egypt caused the Pharaoh to release the entire nation of Israel to Moses to lead them away. Then at the Red Sea, with no place to go and the Egyptian army close behind, Israel saw the sea open and the water form two walls on either side of a dry passage through the sea. When the Egyptians tried to follow them across, it wasn’t dry anymore!  Now here they are at Mt. Sinai, and the top of the mountain is on fire! Moses is up there with God, and he has witnessed to the people all that God has told him concerning their new life as a free nation. God is a nation-builder, and He fashions the laws and customs of a land to reflect His sense of justice and righteousness, revealing in the process that He is a gracious God. It’s obvious that Yahweh God wants us to be like Him as much as possible. Foundations included property rights, how to live with and among each other, how to regard others fairly and righteously, and how to resolve differences without perverting justice. Once again it’s obvious that God doesn’t show partiality among those who are following and living by His precepts and statutes. He wants all to have a fair shake at life and enjoy the best we can. This is a good God. As Moses received from Yahweh all the ‘law’ for the people he wrote it down and preserved it for posterity. Soon the nation would leave Sinai and continue toward their destination which, four hundred years earlier, had been promised to Abraham and his seed. God is doing everything He said He would do. The people are asked only to fear and obey Him, especially the Angel He would send with them on the journey. When they arrive at their place, the Lord Himself will help clear out the land, remove the current inhabitants and purge the evil that has gone on there for generations. Then they may settle in peace and enjoy what God has done!

The whole Bible reveals the Creator God who made everything and has persisted throughout the millennia to save mankind from a disastrous end of everything. Salvation is everywhere we look, if we are looking for it. God is behind all that is good, if we are considering the good. The natural world isn’t natural; it’s spiritual, for it contains the stamp of God’s creative wisdom everywhere we look. He is All in All, and I take time each day to worship and give thanks. So our ‘journey’ continues into the known future.

DAY FOUR – Exodus 25-28

Religion is God’s gift to man. After Adam and Eve rejected God and were disconnected from their True Source of life, God said to them, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission (or, forgiveness).” That occurred when He had to kill an animal for its skin to cover the first couple, who now knew they were naked. That was the beginning of religion–God’s requirements  to create a bridge for mankind to come to Him. From that time to Noah, very little was revealed by God as to how religion would be carried out on earth. When Noah came out of the ark, he built an altar to God and gave thanks. In return, God added religious context by stipulating the blood theme in religious covenant. People were not to consume the blood of a sacrifice; it was to be poured out as an offering. They were not to eat meat strangled with the blood still inside; it was to be drained from the sacrificial animal. Why? Because ‘the life is in the blood.’ This is what God said. We can thus conclude that all religion that God approved was initiated by Him, not by people. And now we are at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites, and God is downloading to Moses the ONLY religion He ever gave to the world, which means that the hundreds of religions we see among the peoples of the world are the creations of men, not of God. Since all of mankind has historically maintained some worldview that includes God, or god, or gods, religion has proliferated among almost all societies and nations, even if in primitive form. But be clear: the ONLY religion given by God to men is Judaism, for in it is contained all the revelation of God’s salvation being offered through Abraham and his descendants. Religion is God’s way of preparing mankind for His salvation, and Judaism was the beginning of that revelation. It would culminate with Judaism’s replacement, which is salvation through a Person rather than a religion! Jesus would become THE BRIDGE God would offer the world to replace mankind’s efforts to placate God or find a way to come near to Him.

Since we live in a visible, external world, all the religious instruction contained in these chapters creates a visible representation of God’s requirements and can be carried out in a visible and perfunctory manner. So Yahweh God has created a means of access and reminder with repetitive actions that will hopefully keep His people in a healthy relationship with Him…and all of this without them ever really seeing God as He is. External religion will have to suffice until the next part of the plan unfolds. Faith and obedience were needed then, and they are needed now.

DAY FIVE – Exodus 29-32

There is always a beginning. These chapters describe the beginning of Judaism, God’s gift of religion to the descendants of Abraham. However, what is begun as represented in this story is to continue throughout the generations until and unless God Himself provides something better. We repeat with emphasis that Judaism is the ONLY religion ever given by God to the world. All other religions are imposters and attempts of mankind to appease God or be acceptable to Him.

The first noticeable action in this story is the killing of a bull. And that’s only the beginning. Animals will be slaughtered daily throughout the generations by the designated priests of Yahweh to demonstrate the deadly effects of sin on mankind. To also demonstrate the hope associated with their religious observances, Yahweh designates Aaron (Moses’ brother) as high priest, and his sons as priests who serve at God’s tent of Presence, commonly referred to as the ‘tabernacle.’ Their lineage will be successor priests in coming generations. An elaborate ceremony is instituted by God to initiate their priestly service. It is external, observable. The people will SEE what is going on and hear the meaning as explained by Moses.

  1. The priests of God will wear special clothes for their service.
  2. They will operate in a physical facility whose very design, materials and dimensions are specified by Yahweh.
  3. They will be cleansed and anointed in special ceremonies.
  4. They will carry out the sacrifices and offerings–many different kinds–as specified by Yahweh.
  5. They will be set apart from the other tribes as God’s representatives for service.

As to the sacrifices themselves, they will consist of animals, grains, oil, spices, etc. They will occur annually and daily. There will be incense and smoke. Lamps will be lit throughout the night. The sounds of animals being slaughtered may be observed every day. The sights and smells of offerings being burned and otherwise administered before God will be a constant reminder to the people of the consequences of sin and its deadly power over mankind. This wonderful, gracious God of Creation is applying a remedy to sin and offering a BRIDGE over troubled waters so that all mankind may seek Him and find Him. And the first step is to SEE the religion God gave them. It was the first step to experiencing a relationship with Creator God, to entertain His Presence and blessing in their midst; and to remove the threat of extinction that has always existed.

As a footnote to the unfolding of this dramatic story, before Moses could even come down from the mountain with the tablets of stone engraved by the finger of God, the people had made an idol–a gold calf–and held a debauched festival to celebrate their ‘god’ who brought them out of Egypt! Thousands died in that melee, but merciful God salvaged His plan and moved forward with Moses and the Israeli nation.

Are you keeping a journal or notebook? You might be surprised at the insights you are gaining. Your notes will bring you great blessings in the years to come! And if you get behind in the reading, don’t panic; just pick up at our current location and keep moving. You can always go back later. May God add abundant grace to you!

If you live in the Chico area, you are still invited to our discussion group which meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., 1137 Arbutus Ave. – Chico First Assembly (no meeting February 14)

WEEK SIX – 2018, A Journey thru the Bible

DAY ONE –  Job 37-39, Psalm 19

What Elihu and Job’s three friends had to say all had some truth, but they couldn’t know what was not yet known. Mankind’s disconnection from God left him, so to speak, ‘in the dark.’ Wisdom was tainted when mankind turned from the Creator to the creation to find answers to cosmic mysteries. All science is based on suppositions and theories, and even discoveries are precipitated by poking in the right places. So even though knowledge has increased exponentially, mysteries still abound. What we ‘know’ is what the Creator chooses to reveal. It would seem then, that people would want to foster a relationship with Creator in order to understand His creation!

Yahweh God finally weighs in on the conversations that have gone on for days. And when He does, He addresses only Job.  Where were you, Job? Yes, where were you when I did… well, fill in the blanks. God takes credit for the creation. He claims original wisdom for all that exists–how it got here, how it stays here, how it all works. You know so much, Job–were you there when I did this…and that? What do you have to say for yourself? Well, Job doesn’t have much to say, except: “I am vile; What shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

And King David, after exclaiming over the creation, gains wisdom and prays, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (19:14) In Your sight… yes Lord, that’s my desire, to be okay in Your sight. It’s all that matters. Matthew 6:33-34  But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient. 

DAY TWO – Job 40-42, Psalm 29

Job’s predicament has now reached crisis proportions. He is, as it were, face-to-face with God Himself. This is a private audience! And God now demands that Job answer Him; He proceeds to ask Job where He has been all the time God has been at work in creation. Using examples of behemoth and Leviathan, God suggests that Job stick to things he can manage and not try to go above his pay grade! Job 42:1-6  Then Job replied to the LORD: 2  “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. 4  You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ 5  I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. 6  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” 

Behemoth seems to represent strength and confidence. Leviathan suggests pride and invincibility. While both of these qualities are given to mankind as well, to enable us to conquer and rule, pride will destroy both us and our machinations. We need a clear vision of the Almighty God to keep us from exalting ourselves in a destructive manner. Psalm 29 is clearly the antidote to pride; it can be summed up in a simple command: Give God all the glory! Go to God’s temple (any place of worship, indoors or outdoors) and meditate on His glorious virtues and traits. Devour the Word of God with prayer for greater wisdom. Try a little dust and ashes, just to be different! God doesn’t want us weak, but He does want our pride under control for His greater purposes.

Conclusion: We may never fully understand the causes and reasons for suffering and pain, but we may be fully assured of God’s great love and care for us in any and all circumstances. Trying to speak for God is especially fraught with potentially risky results; better to simply quote the scriptures and let the Holy Spirit do the speaking for God! After all, He alone knows the mind of our loving Heavenly Father.

Summary: Having found Job’s faith and trust intact, in spite of the suffering the devil put Job through, Almighty God held Job’s friends accountable for their destructive religious philosophies which they piously spouted to Job, while blessing Job abundantly with double all he previously had! Who says Bible stories don’t have magical endings?

DAY THREE – Exodus 1-4

You would hardly call it an auspicious beginning, since Moses was born under a death threat (Auspicious means favorable, fortunate.) But then aren’t we all, since the wages of sin IS death? However, the scriptures are replete with God’s plans and efforts to bring us back from death to life. Here His plan to redeem Israel unfolds through a young Egyptian prince (actually a son of Levi) who has fled Egypt and lived another life until Yahweh God manifests through a burning bush.

Yahweh explains that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All Israel is His son, his firstborn, by right of covenant. So Yahweh has watched over them carefully until this time.  Exodus 2:23-25  In the course of those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24  God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25  God saw the children of Israel, and God was concerned about them. 

Exodus 3:7 -10 Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8  I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 9  Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10  Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 

God’s favor often attaches to His purposes–hence, Moses is raised as an Egyptian prince, suddenly loses favor with the Pharaoh, flees for his life, only to be apprehended by a burning bush some years later when he is near eighty years old. From the bush Yahweh identifies Himself, remembers the patriarchs of Israel, acknowledges the great deliverance that is about to occur, and calls Moses to be a Deliverer. In the same manner, each of us is purposed and called by God to be part of His plans and efforts to redeem all of mankind. Where and how we serve depends on God’s favor over our life and the circumstances in which we have arrived.

Take heart, Dear One; our Lord remembers us in every situation and retains great plans for the future. As unlikely as it may seem, all suffering is temporary and cannot endure beyond this current physical existence. Our God, Yahweh our Savior, has created a Promised Land that is within reach through our faith. Whatever the Spirit of God is saying to you about your life, be encouraged. Trust Him fully to finish what He has started. You are in GOOD hands!

DAY FOUR – Exodus 5-9

The beginning of signs, wonders and plagues before Pharaoh by Yahweh, God of Israel– even though the Israelites had no faith in Yahweh, they were willing to go along with Moses until the Egyptians upped the ante and caused their toil to become severe, with torture. Now everyone in Egypt is waiting to see what the standoff between Yahweh and Pharaoh will produce. Moses and Aaron begin working the signs given them by God, and the Egyptians begin to suffer under the heavy hand of the God of Israel. The Egyptian gods mimic some of the signs through their sorcerers in order to harden Pharaoh’s heart. When it becomes apparent after several signs that Yahweh trumps all the gods of Egypt, Pharaoh’s sorcerers let him know they’ve done all they can do, because this is ‘the finger of God.’ Hardened by his early successes, Pharaoh continues to resist God. Tension mounts throughout the land, especially when Yahweh creates a distinction between the neighborhoods of Egypt and Goshen, where the Israelites live. The plagues stop at the border of Goshen! What will it take to convince the Pharaoh that he is not a god?

Indeed, what does it take to convince any generation that there is a True God, Creator of all there is? The world has created its own gods, fed by demonic doctrines and lies. Darkened and confused, mankind persists in his own ways, carelessly ignoring the pleas and overtures of our loving Heavenly Father. Hardness takes many forms, but maybe the sufferings of the present age will cause many to call out for help to a God they don’t yet know. We pray so.

DAY FIVE – Exodus 10-13

God made clear to Moses that by the time He was finished, all Egypt, especially the Pharaoh, would know for sure that Yahweh God, the God of Israel, was more powerful than all the gods of Egypt. A progressive destruction occurred under the plagues of Yahweh, consuming vegetation, crops, cattle, and everything valuable. As God had made the Pharaohs rich under Joseph in order to save all Israel in Egypt, now He decimated them, taking away their riches and their strength. During the siege Moses was elevated in the eyes of all the Egyptians. Egypt was destroyed, Goshen sat pristine and undamaged. The Egyptian people must have wondered how long the Pharaoh could hold out against Yahweh; they were all ruined.

But the ‘piece de resistance,’ the last plague, was the showstopper–God’s masterpiece of sovereignty. In preparation for that fateful night, every Israeli household slew a perfect lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of their dwellings. They roasted the lamb and ate it in Yahweh’s presence with the prescribed meal. They ate fully clothed and with their sandals on–a state of readiness for departure at Yahweh’s word. It was THAT night that the destroyer–the death angel–was coming. He would strike every household in Egypt, and the firstborn would die, even in the cattle stalls. But Yahweh was the Protector of the households in Goshen, where the blood was sprinkled on the doors. Yes, the death angel was coming, but Yahweh was covering the doorway and preventing the destroyer from harming any Israeli.

One more bit of divine justice–as Egypt prospered through and by the slavery of the Israelis, so God turned the tables. Frightened out of their wits, the Egyptians loaded their Israeli neighbors down with every kind of wealth–gold, silver, jewels, clothing, everything they asked for. Thus the Israelis received eighty years’ worth of back pay and left Egypt with excessive wealth to start a new life!

Creator God, Yahweh, is the father of all creation and the Father of all who put their trust in Yahshua (Jesus), God our savior. Because God is the same now as He was then, we can expect all the blessings of which we read in scripture, as children of the Covenant, the New Covenant of our Lord Jesus. As Jesus taught us to Pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” My heart and soul cry out for the works of God to be seen again in the land, for our children to see again the great signs and wonders of God Almighty, for His Spirit to again light up the body of Christ with His glory.

REMINDERS:

  • To SHARE whenever you feel appropriate.
  • To COMMENT and give a little feedback on how we’re doing.
  • To join our discussion group in Chico at First Assembly Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m.
  • To CONTRIBUTE if you are motivated.

THANK YOU FOR BEING PART OF OUR 2018 JOURNEY THRU THE BIBLE!

WEEK 5, 2018… Finding hope in God

DAY ONE – Job 14-17

Is there hope, or not? If there is, where do we find it? Job 14:6-9  Look away from him, that he may rest, until he shall accomplish, as a hireling, his day. 7  “For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, that the tender branch of it will not cease. 8  Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stock dies in the ground, 9  yet through the scent of water it will bud, and sprout boughs like a plant. A story is told of single grain of wheat found in a tomb, its home for 3,000 years. When the wheat berry was planted, it acted like any other seed. Its outer shell gave way to the wet, warm earth, and from within the berry a sprout shot forth and grew into a stalk of wheat! Hope lies in the life that is written into all creation. Yes, things die, but God’s life within His creation does not die. Hope rests in God who created us. IN Him is life, and we connect to His life through faith. The ‘scent’ of water is the life that is in God Himself. Therefore, there is hope… always hope, no matter how evil the day may seem to become. Romans 8:38-39  For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from God’s love, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Hope. Jesus. Hope.

DAY TWO – Job 18-21

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Ah, not true. The soul as well as the body may be broken… and often by words. Words seem to find a life of their own and merge with the life of the person to whom they are spoken. Job’s ‘comforters’, his friends, unfortunately turned out to be his tormentors. No matter how well-meaning they might have been, their words were like arrows which pierced not his skin, but the matter of his soul. Job could have covered his ears, I suppose, and said, “Na na na na na…!” But the contentious nature of their words struck him hard and forced him to try to give meaning to his unspeakable suffering. He couldn’t. And sometimes neither can we. When offering comfort to our friends and associates, we do well to simply remind ourselves that hope lies within God, not our circumstances. As we point away from ourselves to the One who created and loves us, our words may actually heal more than hurt. Wouldn’t that be nice!

DAY THREE – Job 22-25

If the world’s accusations against Job sound familiar, it is because we hear the same accusations in our religious circles. Ignorance of God’s character and of the Scripture, combined with the pain of living in a broken, fallen world, fashion the philosophies and theories which make God out to be either unconcerned or at fault for all the world’s pain, suffering and problems. The devil’s most successful attack against our Lord is defamation, libel and slander. If we can be persuaded to believe that 1) God is not available or approachable; 2) God doesn’t care; 3) God created good and evil and administers both as He wishes; 4) we will never understand God, so why bother… then the problem of pain and suffering will always take us down, without remedy. At that point we can only try to stay on top of life with all the resources we can muster, and hope that we are ‘lucky’ enough to escape the worst.

After more ‘logical’ diatribe against Job, Bildad finally summarized the problem: “How then can a man be righteous before God?” (25:4) Until we properly answer that question we can’t understand the problem of pain and suffering. Let’s remind ourselves that the Creator God, Yahweh by name, made everything good and pleasing, the Garden of Eden being a place of incredible blessing and profuse sufficiency. The first two people, Adam and Eve, forfeited all of that when they wanted to elevate their awareness of themselves. Instead, they lost the immediate Presence and awareness of God. We are all still trying to get that back.

DAY FOUR – Job 26-28

Chapter 28 deals with wisdom–what is it, and where does it come from? Both Kings David and Solomon wrote about  it in their writings. But Job said it first (28:23-28): “God understands its way.” “…and to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.'”  If we deal with pain and suffering in this manner–to fear God and depart from evil, we are on the right path in our earthly quest.

And as Job rightly notes, most people tread the surface of the earth and find all they need. But to discover the riches this planet has hidden away, one must go deep–he must descend to the depths to bring out treasures that are not readily accessible. Gold, silver, minerals, precious stones, fossil fuels–are all beneath the surface. Deep mining in fearful places–the product of sweat, blood and tears–often results in hidden riches. Will we do no less in our attempts to find God and discover the true riches of His nature, the unfathomable depths of His love?

DAY FIVE – Job 29-36

If we learn anything from this incredible book, it might be…

  1. Satan was permitted to remain in cosmic darkness and hide his evil deeds from mankind, masking the real source of evil in the universe.
  2. Mankind, though he was aware of God, didn’t know God with any sense of intimacy. The Creator was as mysterious as life itself.
  3. It appeared that God blessed the righteous and struck the wicked, but nobody could seem to define the parameters of such an arrangement.
  4. Morality and justice were thought to be related to a righteous God who was in total control of the universe and all its goings on, who could act in any manner he pleased at any time.
  5. Mankind had no satisfying explanation for any of this.
  6. Job’s three friends thought he sinned and deserved God’s wrath.
  7. Job thought he hadn’t sinned and could not understand God’s treatment or His silence.
  8. Elihu, who had listened at length to all the conversations thought that he should come to the defense of Almighty God, since no one else had properly explained all that was happening.
  9. Trying to understand the mind and actions of Almighty God falls completely short when we are not CONNECTED to Him as the original Adam and Eve were.
  10. The plight of mankind as to suffering, pain and logic is utter failure so long as God remains in obscurity. There is no cosmic explanation, therefore there is no real hope. God alone retains the initiative and power to connect with mankind and to reveal himself as He will.
  11. We MUST treat the ancient world with its understanding of God as only the partial revelation it was, until the time God Himself was pleased to come down from heaven to walk among us as an earthly man with heaven in His soul. Jesus Christ is the revelation of Heaven living among us by the Spirit of God working among us. Gal 2:20 -21 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. 21  I don’t reject the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” 

Thank you for following INSIGHTS. You can receive an email link every week when I publish if you simply scroll all the way to the bottom of the post and check the box. My hope is that hundreds of our friends will read the bible through this year and be greatly strengthened and encouraged as we journey together.

WEEK FOUR, 2018, Reading God’s Word

DAY ONE – Genesis 44-46

We all love stories with happy endings. But getting to the ending isn’t always pretty or happy. Although Joseph was aching to reveal himself to his brothers, he put them through one more grueling situation in order to reveal their true character. In so doing, he forced them to come clean before God and everyone concerning their heinous crime against Joseph. It’s true we make messes at times; we sometimes try to sweep our mess ‘under the rug’ and move on; but the mess still has to be cleaned up, and we have to take responsibility for our own mess! By the time Joseph’s brothers had their backs up against the wall, they made a clean breast of everything, admitting to God, themselves and Joseph their guilt and sorrow. Twenty years… that’s how long ago they had sold their brother as a slave, and now he was about to save them, their families and all their living. Joseph’s dreams had come true, and Yahweh God had engineered the whole thing–over twenty years in the making! If God can do that, back then, what can He do now… with you… with your mess? What has He been planning for any of us, in order that our story will have a happy ending? And how do we know what that ‘happy’ ending should look like, until the moment of revealing? The brothers didn’t ‘get away’ with anything; neither do we. But what they found, to their amazement, is that God never gave up, their brother didn’t get lost in the mess, and he, Joseph, had forgiven them and gone on to greatness in God’s wonderful plan. Joseph is the example of saving grace–a grace that not only forgives, but actually saves and restores, as we see in the last scenes of our reading. The brothers are sent back to get their father, their children, grandchildren, and everything they own, in order to go to their new home where they will grow from a family of about seventy persons into a great nation of millions.

And what did Jacob do? On the way to Egypt he stopped at Beersheba and built an altar to Yahweh God–the Lord. After worshipping with his sacrifices, he heard the Lord once again repeat the promises and expand them to include what was yet to come. God can ALWAYS be trusted to work tirelessly and without impediment to implement His plans and fulfill His purposes in our lives. Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12  You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. 

DAY TWO – Genesis 47-50

This completes the story of Joseph–how he was treated by his brothers, by Potiphar’s wife and Potiphar; by the chief cupbearer, and others. Yet in all this, Joseph did not sin or accuse God. He remained faithful and became a great deliverer of all Egypt and his own family. And yet once again I am deeply moved by the story of how Yahweh caused His words to be fulfilled, blessing those He chose and eliminating those He found to be wicked. Even Pharaoh was used by God to bless the Lord’s people and nurture them through a deadly famine. In the unfolding, Jacob raised an altar to Yahweh on his way to Egypt, then lived seventeen more years, dying at one hundred forty seven. Before his eyes closed for the last time, he blessed his sons and prophesied things to come for each of them. He was buried by his family and an entourage of Egyptians in the family burial plot in Canaan.

Epilogue:  Genesis 43:8 -10 Judah said to Israel, his father, “Send the boy with me, and we’ll get up and go, so that we may live, and not die, both we, and you, and also our little ones.  Psalm 118:17  I will not die, but live, and declare Yah’s works.  Ezekiel 18:21, 28  “But if the wicked turns from all his sins that he has committed, and keeps all my statutes, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die… 28  Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live. He shall not die. 

DAY THREE – Job 1-5

In the beginning only God knew of the evil that had entered His universe, His dominion. With deadly prejudice did the devil, Satan, begin to foment rebellion toward God in order to frustrate and bring to an end God’s handiwork of creation, both earth and mankind.  So the Lord instructed Adam concerning his future, promising that in the day he rebelled against the word of God he would die. It was never God’s plan that mankind would know evil. Yet it happened, the day the ‘serpent’ tempted Eve; and she and Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. No, it was not God’s plan, but it happened anyway, and mankind began to die, slowly but surely. Once evil was out of the bag, and the couple were out of the Garden of Eden, it was now necessary for God to reveal the extent of the evil rebellion against Him so that mankind could find real salvation.  Job became God’s example to teach us all about good and evil.

The Book of Job opens with the story of a righteous man who fears God and carefully serves Him. The man’s knowledge of evil is extremely limited because the Lord has blessed him abundantly, and life is just good. Enter the devil in the Presence of God, filled with accusation against Job and determined to defeat God’s goodness. With permission the devil sends untold suffering and depletion against the unaware and unarmed man. We must remember mankind witnessed evil but knew little about it, so it was easy to blame God for both good and evil. The first five chapters of Job dispel this myth.

FACTS REVEALED:

  1. All of God’s actions toward Job were good. Job was blessed every which way by God–this is the Lord’s essential nature: goodness.
  2. From the beginning the devil’s intent was evil; he hated Job because he hated God.
  3. God protected Job from the evil.
  4. God temporarily lifted His protection so that mankind could learn how extensive evil is apart from God.
  5. Bereft of everything as the devil persecuted him, Job maintained his integrity toward God.
  6. Job’s friends were aghast at his calamity, then pressed for a rational explanation of Job’s suffering.
  7. Their obvious first response is that Job must have sinned, and God must then be punishing him. The nature of evil was totally misunderstood, and God was blamed for both good and evil!

DAY FOUR – Job 6-9

Job was both suicidal and defensive, so great was his suffering. Yet he knew that there was nothing in his humanity that could successfully argue a case with the Almighty. So he instead shrank into hopeless despair, knowing all the while that God could do something if he chose to. The ‘why’ remained intact–“What have I done to You, O Watcher of men? Why have you set me as your target?” (7:20)

(Bildad the Shuhite) God doesn’t subvert judgment or pervert justice, so you need only repent and get right with him if you want to recover! This is the logical approach, but logic works only when the suppositions are correct.

Job has already asked why, now he wants to know ‘how’ a man can be righteous before God. He is at least asking the right questions! After I have done all I can do, it will not be enough. Nor can I answer Him properly, seeing He is not a man as I am. Where is my mediator?  All great questions; we MUST find the answers!

DAY FIVE – Job 10-13

Sparring between Job and his ‘comforters’ seems endless. Nothing new emerges, just the same, tired philosophies such as we hear today between people of different persuasions. Job is innocent of great transgression in his own eyes; no, say his friends, he is guilty as sin, otherwise God would not have stricken and punished him. Job wants to die, wonders why he was born, wishes the grave would overtake him quickly, wonders why God has singled him out for persecution. Job wants an audience with God but realizes that those things just don’t happen within the world of mortals. But it’s the loss of control, the dark night of trial, the horror of pain and grief, and the overwhelming hopelessness that is consuming Job. His friends on the other hand, desperately want him to admit his guilt so they can say, “See, we told you so! Why couldn’t you just admit it?” So it is a standoff. Where will it go?

As I read Job, I want to shout out, “Wait, you’re missing the most vital truth–the Creative goodness of God!  He is good and stands beyond all reproach. God didn’t do this to you, Job; the devil did. Why can’t you see that there is a personification of evil in our world? God is good; He isn’t evil…ever. But we cannot help Job, for the truth that he seeks has not yet been added to the arsenal of man’s wisdom, and Job has no idea that this truth will soon burst into the human consciousness through, of all people, him. Yes, God has singled him out…but for his righteousness, not his sin! The Lord has allowed him to become conspicuous in his suffering in order to bring a greater revelation to all of humankind–that there is a greater evil, and it is NOT in God. A cosmic rebel appeared in antiquity to fight against the Almighty God and His Creation–the devil himself; no, he is not God, but he is the god of this created world, the imposter god, the usurper god, exalting himself and seeking to turn good and righteous people away from the Lord.

God Himself identified Job as the most righteous man of his generation, and then the devil prophesied, falsely, that Job would curse God and die when all his blessings were removed and his health was stolen from him. He was a liar then, and he is a liar now. There is no truth in him, for he lives and moves in darkness, outside the light. We MUST, no matter the circumstance, worship the Creator in His goodness and love, resisting the lies and accusations of the enemy. We are wise to the devil’s schemes; we stand our ground, as Paul declares, armored up and ready to fight in any manner necessary, with all the spiritual equipment and gifts the Lord has endowed us.

Congratulations! We are well into our plan to read the whole Bible in the following months for the sole purpose of getting to know the God whose loving heart wants to save the world! One day at a time… that’s how we gain success.

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WEEK THREE, 2018 – Getting to know God through His Word…

DAY ONE – Genesis 27-29

With his mother’s help, Jacob continued his deceptive ways, getting for himself all he could from his father. By cunning he stole the birthright from Esau, then managed through a deceitful plot concocted by his mother to get the patriarchal blessing as well. Of course at this point Esau hated him, having pleaded in vain, with tears, for a blessing from his father. So he schemed in his heart to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac had died. Intervention came once again from Rebekeh as she counseled Jacob to flee to Padan Aram and her brother’s house for a season. Jacob went out still virtually a boy and had an encounter with Yahweh at a rock which he named Bethel. After a very realistic dream in which angels were coming and going from heaven, Jacob promised God that if the Lord would keep him, protect him, and bring him back safely to his father’s house that he would serve God and give him a tenth of all he had. He had no premonition of the trouble he was about to encounter. Interesting, isn’t it, how Yahweh God can continue His plans even through a ‘dysfunctional’ family! Surrounding the world’s mess is a loving, patient, merciful God sending forth blessings, causing a light to shine, and helping us pick up the pieces of our own broken dreams as we continue to move forward with Him.

NOTE: Isaac blessed Jacob again before he left home–“…and give you the blessing of Abraham.” (28:4) By the time Jacob will arrive back (20 years later), he will be fully aware of all that Yahweh God has done for him. Time and experience frequently grant us a new perspective on things we thought we already knew! How is God revealing His mercy and grace to you as we enter this new year?

DAY TWO – Genesis 30-33

At his Uncle Laban’s house Jacob met his match. Falling in love with Rachel in the first month he was there, he agreed to work seven years in Laban’s employ to earn her as his wife. At the appointed time Laban substituted Leah for Rachel under the ruse of local custom. So Jacob agreed to work another seven years for Rachel and was married to her a week later. Since our customs approve of only one wife for a man, we don’t really have a sense of what it must have been like for Jacob’s two wives–sisters, no less! One felt unloved, the other was childless. Each had a heavy burden to carry in life. Yet somehow God turned the ‘impossible’–so it seemed to each of them–into circumstances that made life bearable. Shouldn’t we remember that the sun actually does rise each morning and go to its place each evening, though clouds may obscure its light and warmth? So we must remember that the Lord Yahweh has said, “I will never leave you; no, not by any means will I ever forsake you.”

After fourteen years God appeared again to Jacob to instruct him to return home; but since he had no wealth to support his growing family, he received instructions in a dream from God as to how to amass large flocks and herds of goats, sheep and camels. At the end of twenty years it was time to go, and the man Jacob–for he had by now become a stronger man and a leader–picked up and left by night to return to Isaac with a large entourage. Laban, now angry and afraid of his future with Jacob gone, pursued him for seven days, insisting that he owned all that Jacob had. But God intervened in a dream to Laban, warning him not to do anything stupid! The encounter resulted in a feast covenant of peace between the two men. With that dread behind him, Jacob faced another when he learned that his brother Esau had heard of his coming and would soon arrive with four hundred men! Fearful once again for his life, Jacob spent a night alone in which he wrestled with an angel of God until morning, then asked for a blessing. The man certainly never lost his nerve! His name was changed by God to Israel–no longer the deceiver but now a prince. The meeting between the twin brothers was emotional and powerful and peaceful. Jacob was a worrier! But God was always one step ahead of him, as He is with us as well.

What is to be learned?  1) God initiates covenant, as He did with Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob. 2) God blesses those who are faithful and obedient in the relationship. 3) God turns bad situations around so that they become blessings. 4) God always acts in accord with future plans to accomplish what is best for mankind. And he is still doing it!

DAY THREE – Genesis 34-37

In fairness to Esau, and to demonstrate the sovereignty of God among all peoples, Esau’s genealogy is included in this section, naming his generations and indicating their locations, as Luke speaks in Acts 17:26–God determines the times and places for all peoples. Nations come and go, but the Lord’s sovereignty remains intact.

A tragic incident in Jacob’s family involved Dinah and her two brothers Simeon and Levi. Shechem, son of Hamor, raped the girl but then sought to marry her, offering whatever price to Jacob’s family. By subterfuge the two brothers, attempting to avenge Dinah’s honor, persuaded all the males in the city to be circumcised, then came upon them while they were sore and killed all of them! God chose this critical moment to appear to Jacob once more and instructed him to build an altar at Bethel. So he went up with all his family and worshipped there. God renewed his promises to Jacob. On the way back Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin and was buried.

Enter Joseph, 17 years old. A drama now begins to unfold with two dreams God gave him, which he related to his brothers and father, suggesting delusions of grandeur. Hated by his brothers over his father’s favoritism, Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers and thrown into a pit, while they cavalierly sat down to a meal. Some passing traders bought Joseph and went on to Egypt, where they sold him to Potiphar, an officer in Pharaoh’s household. So the incredible story commences.

Throughout the generations that have appeared from Adam to the time of Jacob, it is imperative that we keep in view not the God of mystery, but the God of revelation. True, Yahweh God was virtually unknown to the ancients, but a faithful man was always found by the Lord who believed God’s word and remained faithful. Through these individuals God continued to work His inimitable plans and prepared the world for saving grace.

DAY 4 – Genesis 38-40

“The Lord was with Joseph”–spoken three times in chapter 39–in Potiphar’s house into which he was unjustly sold; in the prison to which he was unjustly confined; and generally in all that he did. Romans 8:28-29 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. 29  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. This readily explains Joseph’s success and rapid advancement to Prime Minister over all Egypt. Joseph’s own testimony as we read on will confirm that he believed that God was in control of his circumstances; and that the Lord was surely WITH him in his many pursuits. As a matter of fact, Joseph is often referred to as a TYPE of Christ, raised up by Yahweh God to bring salvation to his father’s house and posterity. While we are not a type of Christ, we are still his brothers and sisters who indeed are intended to become like Him by the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. This is all happening as we are fulfilling our ‘created purpose’ ordained in God’s infinite wisdom. How were you made? Why were you made? Those are discoveries we enjoy along the way in our relationship with and service to God. Hold fast, dear Ones, to your faith in Jesus; don’t be quickly upset by the incredible turning and speed of events happening around us. There is no solid foundation left in and of this world. As we used to sing, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand.” See Ephesians 6:10-18 as a powerful reminder of how we get on in these days. We can do this… together.

DAY FIVE – Genesis 41-43

When God writes a story, it is a zinger! I can hardly stop reading long enough to share the joy in my heart as I realize how wonderful the Lord is in this story of Joseph. God’s mercy is epitomized in the words of Joseph’s servant to Joseph’s brothers after they finished explaining the money in their sacks on their second trip to buy grain: Genesis 43:22-23  We have brought down other money in our hand to buy food. We don’t know who put our money in our sacks.” 23  He said, “Peace be to you. Don’t be afraid. Your God, and the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks. I received your money.” He brought Simeon out to them. They got their money back; they got their brother back (he was kept in prison, remember); now they are at Joseph’s house and are about to have lunch with him. Are these guys dense, or what? They still can’t put it together. But it will get better; they will sit open-mouthed as they are seated for lunch, beginning with the oldest to youngest; and Benjamin’s food portion is five times as much as the others! Joseph is doing all he can to restrain himself from self-disclosure; he is dying for them to share the joy of who he is and WHAT GOD HAS DONE!

Do we have any idea how much joy and pleasure our Father God receives in blessing us and helping us along our way? Do we realize how He plans ahead, sometimes years, to make our circumstances favorable? Do we harbor an inkling of the life with Jesus He is preparing us for… and preparing for us? Surely life in this world can be tough; it may become unbearable at times. But this is a broken and fallen world–look how tough it was on Jesus, our Savior. Look how tough it was on Joseph, who was totally defrauded by his brothers. Yet when the time came, God had prepared Joseph to be the savior of his family and provide a safe and plentiful place for them. Yep, when God writes a story, it IS GOOD! What part of ‘hang in there’ don’t we get? Get up and get moving– Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Yahweh’s house forever.