Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The God of Second Chances: The Day of Atonement

On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord {Lev. 16:30}.

So Christ also having been once offered to bear the sins of many shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for him unto salvation {Heb. 9:28}.

I love the Jewish feasts; Jesus celebrated the feasts, and each one is a beautiful illustration of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The feasts are not just Jewish holidays; Leviticus refers to them as God’s appointed days. For Christians, Jesus fulfilled the feasts for us. Now our eyes are fixed on the atonement of Christ. But it does not end there. Every event in Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth, through His ministry, and with His death and resurrection—all occurred on a festival of Israel—God’s appointed time—a kairos interrupting the chronos of a fallen and broken world. Many scholars argue that events yet to be fulfilled will occur on a kairos—God’s appointed feasts of Israel. 

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest enters the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the sins of Israel. Jesus Christ is our High Priest and was the perfect sacrifice for our sin, the epithet of the type and shadow woven in the liturgy of the Day of Atonement.

The first offering was a sin-offering and a burnt-offering for Aaron and his house. Then two goats for a sin offering and a ram for the burnt-offering for the congregation.

On this Day of Atonement, the high priest was required to first sacrifice an offering for himself and his family, then he could bring an offering on behalf of the people. First, it was a day of humiliation for the priest. He was required to put off all his priestly garments of glory. A shadow of Jesus, the King of Glory, leaving glory—from the foundation of the world; to redeem the world. Jesus’ humiliation on that day cries to us still through His Passion in the Scriptures.

On the Day of Atonement, two goats were brought; their fate decided by the priest’s lots. The Lord’s lot would determine which goat would die for the sin of the nation. The other— the scapegoat. Aaron the high priest would lay his hand upon the scapegoat and send it into exile in the wilderness or Azazel; the people’s sin is lost in the wilderness—to be remembered no longer. The act of slaughtering the goat, laid the judgment of death upon it—represented the people’s sin.
The casting of the lots to determine the scapegoat is displayed on the world’s stage between two men; Jesus and Barabbas. Their fate lies in the judgment of the people—who will die and who will escape…the scapegoat. The people’s voice was heard that day in Pilate’s court—choosing a brutal murderer to escape forever—laying the sin of the people on Jesus. Jesus would be the sacrifice the Lord’s lot fell upon that day—fulfilling the atonement offering.

Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish {John 11:50 ESV}.
The word atonement is used in the book of Leviticus forty-eight times, and it means covering. The blood offering was sprinkled on the mercy seat once and before it seven times. The high priest would then place incense on the altar before the mercy seat and a sweet cloud covered the mercy seat—a fragrant offering. The blood and the cloud of incense covered the mercy seat and this illustrated the work and worth of our precious Lord Jesus Christ—His blood causes the believer to be drawn near to Him.

This beautiful prose is part of the liturgy for Yom Kippur; a precious prayer of repentance:

We have become guilty, we have betrayed, we have robbed, we have spoken slander. We have caused perversion, we have caused wickedness, we have sinned willfully, we have extorted, we have accused falsely. We have given evil counsel, we have been deceitful, we have scorned, we have rebelled, we have provoked, we have turned away, we have been perverse, we have acted wantonly, we have persecuted, we have been obstinate. We have been wicked, we have corrupted, we have been abominable, we have strayed, you have let us go astray (Artscroll, 777).

The story of Jonah is recited on this night of atonement, revealing the God of second chances. Jesus fulfilled the sin offering for us, and absorbed God’s wrath.

I pray this inspires Christians to meditate on this Day of Atonement—of Christ and His sacrifice for us and instead of each one of us.

May God bless you on this, the Day of Atonement—He is the God of second chances…

L’shanah Tova may your name be inscribed in the Book of Life!

The Holy Place Part III: The Altar of Incense

My scribbling...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: The Days of Awe: Awe and Wonder

Rosh Hashanah commenced the New Year—literally the head of the year. It is a fresh start, a brand new year. It also is the beginning of the Days of Awe, (Yamim Noraim), or the Days of Repentance, which will culminate on Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement.  It is a season of chronos, interrupted by a kairos—an appointed time. Jews worship in the synagogue, and break bread with loved ones—at home and within the community of faith. 
The Days of Awe are filled with wonder and worship. They are days for self-reflection, fasting, and prayer; they are solemn days. The Yamim Noraim are meant to set the tone for the coming year. Traditionally, this is a time of reconciliation with others. Reconciliation and Reflection.

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering {Matt. 5:23-24}.

So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless {Eph. 5:26-27}.

But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world {1 Cor. 11:31-32}.

Our heart should be drawn to the Lord in worship; worshiping Him in spirit and truth {see John 4:24}. We should stand in awe of Him and all that He has done for us, and all that He is going to do. He is Amazing. He is Awesome. He is Wonderful. He is Magnificent. He is Holy. This is awe.

YHWH (Yahweh) is God’s sacred covenant Name. Adonai and Elohim were heard among the nations, but Yahweh is the name unique to His people; by this Name God identified Himself with His people. He desires to dwell with His people. The Creator of the universe desires to make His abode in our hearts. I am brought alive by this, and it should stir in us the Awe and Wonder that He deserves—He wants to be with us. He loves us that much.

Yom Kippur is approaching next week, though I don’t keep the Jewish festival of The Days of Awe, I feel a nudging in my heart to spend this week in self-reflection, fasting, and prayer. I will search my heart: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God{Heb. 12:1-2}.

I pray for a revival to restore the Awe of God to His beloved, precious, blood bought Church, and that His people would come alive with Awe and Wonder at the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I pray His Word would come alive in the hearts of His people, afresh and new. That our eyes will be opened and our hearts awakened again by His Word.
They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us? {Luke 24:32}.  

Yahweh, I want to be in awe of You. I want to fall in love with You and Your Word. I pray that it wash and cleanse me of all that breaks Your heart. Open the eyes of our hearts Adonai, to all that Your Word reveals about You. Let us be in awe of You again. 

Rest this Sabbath in Reconciliation, Reflection, Awe and Wonder. 

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Resting in the Passion of Rabbi Jesus

The disciple that Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus…He leaned back on Jesus’ breast {John 13:23, 25}

I heard a minister on television this past week speak about passion. He suggested that many Christians are not succeeding in life because they do not know what their passion is. Find your passion and your life will change. There is much wisdom is this and it struck a chord in my heart. 

What is my passion? What sets me on fire? I love to read, I love to write, but are they my passion? Do I live and breathe reading and writing? Some who know me would argue that they do, but I am not so sure. I love Jesus with all my heart; but is He my passion? How do we find our passion?

Just after hearing the minister speak on passion, the next day in my devotional from Brennan Manning’s The Rabbi’s Heartbeat, I was awed at the grace and mercy of God. The chapter is entitled Recovering Passion and he speaks about his challenge in finding his passion.

If you have lost your passion, or are trying to discover it—read the account of John reclining on the table with his head on the Master’s breast in John 13.

“We must not hurry past this scene in search of deeper revelation, or we will miss a magnificent insight. John lays his head on the heart of God, on the breast of the Man whom the council of Nicea defined as ‘being coequal and consubstantial to the Father…God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” (Manning, p. 96)

Sometimes it hard to imagine that you or I could lie on the breast of Jesus—but He is beckoning us to do the same.

“Fearing that I would miss the divinity, I distanced myself from His humanity, like an ancient worshiper shielding his eyes from the Holy of Holies. But as John leans back on the breast of Jesus and listens to the heartbeat of the Great Rabbi, he comes to know Him in a way that surpasses mere cognitive knowledge. What a world of difference lies between knowing about someone and knowing Him!” (p. 96).

John discovered in this encounter with Jesus, by experiencing Him, listening to His heartbeat, that he is loved. As Manning so poignantly affirms, God allowed a young Jew in the rags of his twenty-odd years, to listen to his heartbeat. It was in this experience that John discovered who he was and that Jesus the Great Rabbi loved him.

How do we then recover our passion?

“The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved. If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him. This is the goal and purpose of our lives. John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing” (p. 97).

In order to have a passion for Jesus, we must be hungry for it.

There have been times when I preferred slivers of glass to the pearl of great price. B. Manning
The world offers many allurements, but we must not fall in their trap. Jesus is calling us. Only Jesus can give the peace we need—it is freely ours if we will rest in Him.

The paltriness of our lives is largely due to our fascination with the trinkets and trophies of the unreal world that is passing away…our capacity to be affected by Christ is numbed. B. Manning

Manning began this chapter with a story of a young Jewish boy who had been dedicated to the Lord by his parents. This boy was ensnared by the world, much like the prodigal son parable we know so well. The parents attempted, to no avail, to convince the boy to give up his ways. Their wisdom fell on deaf ears.

“But one great day the Great Rabbi visited the village and asked to be left alone with the boy. To leave their son alone with this lion of man terrified the parents, but they left him. He then picked up the boy and held him silently against his heart” (p. 95).

The next day, the boy began going to synagogue and allowing the Word of God to penetrate his heart. He grew up and helped many people. The end of the story and what the boy answered to the change in his life; touches my heart deeply:

Mordecai grew up to become a great man who helped many people. And when they came to him he said, “I first learned the Word of God when the Great Rabbi held me silently against his heart” (p. 95).

By this, we know we are the passion of Jesus, His heart beats for us. What then should our passion be? Maybe our passion is not what we do; maybe our passion is a person—Jesus Christ. Once we know deep down in our spirit that we are Jesus’ heartbeat and He is ours, and we rest a while longer on His breast, He will instruct us what to do. His passion will beat in our heart. If Jesus loves people—if they are His passion—they should be ours too. We will each have a different calling and assignment, but our passion should be the same.

Rest. Recline on the breast of Jesus and hear His heartbeat. It beats for you. You are loved.

God's Appointed Times: Yom Teruah: The Day of Blowing Trumpets

Rosh Hashanah: The Feast of Trumpets

There is much talk these days of moons, blood moons, signs in the heavens, the shemitah, etc. I am not writing to fuel the hype. I love the Christology in these events, and I celebrate all that Christ fulfilled for us.

Many deem the feasts unimportant, or believe that they have passed away and are only for the Jews. But we miss out on so much beautiful imagery found in the the Lord's feasts when we view them through that lens. Every feast appointed by God was bathed in the work and person of Christ. They spoke to everything Christ was, is, and is to come {Rev. 1:8}.

We  must remember that Jesus celebrated all the feasts, and every event in Jesus’ life and ministry occurred on a feast day. God’s prophetic pen writes concerning the feasts in future events. The feasts, especially the three fall feasts {Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles} have prophetic implications for future events. While I don’t keep the feasts as Jews around the world do, I celebrate the foreshadowing of Christ in them, and that He will be revealed in the Last Days through them as well. Christ is our salvation. 
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ {Col. 2:16-17}.

A tradition of the Rabbis suggest that God breathed the breath of life into Adam and formed him from the dirt on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem on the first day of Tishri—the place that later Abraham would offer his only son on the altar—and eventually where the Father offered His only Son.
The Feast of Trumpets, is observed on the first day of the seventh month. It is the beginning of the Days of Awe leading up to the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles

“These remaining feasts all point forward to great events of the future, which God will yet bring to pass, both for His heavenly and His earthly people, for in the days that are to come He will glorify and exalt His Christ in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, and gather together in one under Him, things celestial and things terrestrial {Eph. 1:10}.” 1

The blowing of trumpets was an ordinance in Israel {see Num. 10:2}. There were two sliver trumpets made from the atonement money of the people. The blast of these two silver trumpets were a comforting and familiar sound in Israel. The people knew with the blast of the trumpet that Jehovah their Redeemer was calling them unto Himself as His special people. When one trumpet sounded God was gathering the princes of Israel, when both sounded the entire nation of Israel gathered at the door of the Tabernacle to hear from God. On the Feast of Trumpets, the gold-plated shofar was also sounded. As the silver represents redemption, gold represents deity.

The blast of the trumpet calls to the saints today, for we are a special people as well; we are the Lord’s purchased people, a people for His own possession {Titus 2:14}. He redeemed us from lawlessness; we are not our own, but we have been bought with a price to glorify God {1 Cor. 6:20}.

Rabbis refer to this day as Yom Zikkeron or the Day of Remembrance. This day is also referred to as Ha Melech—coronation of the King! The prophetic imagery in the various names for the feasts are incredible.

The Feast of Trumpets represents a call to awaken out of slumber. For the Church, the awakening blast occurs at the resurrection of the dead in Christ {1 Thess. 4:16-17}. The day of remembrance is for those living at the time, those who esteem His Name, and He will spare them from the tribulation {see Mal. 3:16-17}. The coronation of the King could signpost that Christ will return to gather together believers during the Feast of Trumpets, and return to earth with them after the tribulation. He will receive His coronation as King of Kings in Jerusalem {Zech. 14:9, 16}.

Blessed is the people that knew the trumpet sound, they walk O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance {Psalm 89:15 R.V.}.

Such a beautiful picture for saints today—you and me. The beauty of the Feast of Trumpets is in the future complete fulfillment in the awakening and gathering of God’s earthly people Israel, who have been slumbered and scattered for so long,

You will arise and have compassion on Zion; For it is time to be gracious to her, For the appointed time has come {Ps. 102:13}.

“The prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament teem with glowing words descriptive of this event, when the trumpet shall be blown in Zion (see Ps. 81:3), and the long-last and scattered people shall flock around their once-rejected Lord and King.” 

One day as Jesus overlooked Jerusalem and wept; His heart broken, for He tried many times to gather Israel to Himself, yet they were unwilling {Matt. 23:37-39}, He made a promise to them through His grief,

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other {Matt. 24:30-31}.

The saints also hope for the coming day…

The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God {1 Thess. 4:16}.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed {1 Cor. 15: 52}.

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord {1 Thess. 4:17}.

The feasts of Israel may seem far and away and not relevant to the Church today, but they are very relevant, and they are a shadow of Christ and His return. He is coming for His people that He loves dearly. The feasts are not our salvation, they point to the One that died and was resurrected for us. He will be coming back to gather His people. The return of Christ will be a joyous occasion—can you hear the sound of the trumpet?

With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, the Lord {Ps. 98:6}

God has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet {Ps. 47:5}.

L’shanah Tova
may your name be inscribed in the Book of Life!

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[1]John Ritchie, Feasts Of Jehovah (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1982), 56.
[2]Ibid., 59.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Resting in God's Glory

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you” (Is. 60: 1–2).

Many different pictures enter our minds when we think about the glory of God. But what is God’s glory? It is the radiance of His Holiness. The glory of God refers to what He is, all of His attributes, His greatness that is His glory, and His glory should cause us to stand in awe and wonder. We are to glorify Him: Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due His name” (KJV).

When we hear about the glory of God, many times we imagine the cloud of God's glory descending on Mt. Sinai or in the Tabernacle; the Shekinah glory of God was so heavy at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, that the priests could not stand to minister to the Lord (2 Chron. 5:14; 1 Kings 8:11).

God's glory is not limited to the Old Testament—His glory is all through the New Testament as well. The Beloved Disciple describes the glory of God:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14 NIV).
Jesus is to us a living hope and Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27 NASB). In Him we find rest—for Christ is the glory of God. Heb. 1:3 tells us, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (NASB).

We can rest in the glory of God through Jesus Christ who sustains creation (Heb. 1:3), secures our salvation (Heb.7:25), and rests at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3). He is not resting idly in a cloud, He continues to intercede on our behalf (Rom. 8:34), sustains creation and holds the world in His hands (Heb. 1:3). Rest in the fact that Christ is in you the hope of glory and take that glory to the world.

This morning in my devotion, I was reading a prayer from the Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions;

Jesus My Glory
O Lord God,
Thou hast commanded me to believe in Jesus; and I would flee no other refuge, wash in no other fountain, build on no other foundation, receive from no other fullness, rest in no other relief.
His water and blood were not severed in their flow at the cross, may they never be separated in my creed and my experiences;
May I be equally convinced of the guilt and pollution of sin, feel my need of a prince and saviour, implore of him repentance as well as forgiveness, love holiness, and be pure in heart, have the mind of Jesus, and tread his steps.
Let me not be at my own disposal, but rejoice that I am under the care of one who is too wise to err, too kind to injure, too tender to crush.
May I scandalize none by my temper and conduct, but recommend and endear Christ to all around, bestow food on everyone as circumstances permit, and decline no opportunity of usefulness.
Grant that I may value my substance, not as the medium of pride and luxury, but as the means of my support and stewardship.
Help me to guide my affections with discretion, to own no man anything, to be able to give to him that needeth, to feel it my duty and pleasure to be merciful and forgiving, to show the world the likeness of Jesus. (P. 43)

Finding Rest In God's Faithfulness

I have been writing for some time now on finding rest in God, and studying Sabbath Rest has been refreshing at times, but also frustrating. The thesis of Sabbath is resting in God. My imagination takes me to swinging in a hammock in a field on a warm spring day with a cool breeze—resting in His presence. This does paint a peaceful picture; I could day-dream about it for a while. However, my circumstances cause me to contemplate a hard question—what if resting in God is not easy breezy? What if resting in God is hard?

This past weekend I went to my favorite place to receive the rest and refreshing of God’s presence. I went as Jacob to my Bethel. Jacob returned there when he needed to hear from God. It was at my personal Bethel that I prayed, dreamed, and heard God speak promises into my life. I return to Bethel many moons later seeking much-needed answers for situations facing me, and to pray over the promises God has graciously seeded into my heart. I sat, prayed, and listened, and though I felt His presence, I heard no answers. No epiphanies. No opened heavens pouring wisdom down on me. I sat in stillness. I explained to God that I needed answers, and still nothing.


How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? {Habakkuk 1:2a}.

I brought on this pilgrimage to Bethel, a book by Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild, (which if you do not own, consider yourself deficient) and his prose pricked my heart:

Habakkuk throws that challenge skyward, then stands on the watchtower and waits. He doesn’t have to wait long. But some people do. Some people’s lives get stalled here. They hurl their questions skyward and watch to see what God will answer. They wait. They spend long nights and gray mornings waiting, scanning the unbroken sky for a sign. Any sign. Dramatic, subtle, gigantic, miniscule—anything at all that signals divine response.[1]

Heaven is brass. What did I miss? Why can’t I hear you?

Where is God when He won’t answer me, or when His answers defy all my most cherished convictions about Him? God’s second answer to Habakkuk, though it comes swiftly enough, is almost as frustrating and cryptic as His first. Basically, God says, “Wait a little longer. Trust Me”…In some ways, this again seems like no answer at all. [2]

My heart sank when I read this. God breathed into my spirit, My grace is sufficient for you. The rest of the verse encourages Paul (and me), for power is perfected in weakness. Honestly, that is the last thing I want to hear. Do you know how long I have heard that? It brings me no comfort. My prayer journal reveals my heart—the day after I came home:

“You say your grace is sufficient for me, but Lord I don’t feel grace, I don’t feel wind beneath my wings, I don’t feel strength to go on, I feel drained, unmotivated, and lost. I feel foggy and unsure. I don’t feel your breath on me, I feel like I don’t care anymore.”

Wait, God says. Be patient. It will all work out in the end. That answer is infuriating in its vagueness and insipidness.[3]

I pleaded with God to take the promise away. Unspeak it. Siphon it from my spirit. It’s too hard. It hurts too much. God lovingly answered back,

If I take it off you, do you think it will take the pressure off and make your situation easier? The only reason you have been able to stand thus far, is that the promise remains on your life. That is the grace that sustains you. If you did not have the hope of that promise, of that deliverance, you would not make it. The Israelites were in slavery for 400 years, and if they did not have the promise of a deliverer, they would have all died in Egypt; breaking under the yoke of slavery—no light in their darkness. The promise is the grace that is sufficient for you and sustains you.

That is so powerful for all of us. The just live by faith.And as I cried out to God, I expressed my frustration in what I can’t see. I needed to see myself move. But God reminded me that the just live by faith. I may not see it, but I have to trust God that it is happening.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen {Heb. 11:1}.

And faith is finally this: resting so utterly in the character of God—in the ultimate goodness of God—that you trust him even when He seems untrustworthy.[4]

I never feel that God is untrustworthy, but sometimes His silence is deafening. In those times, the precious Holy Spirit brings the Divinely Inspired Word to my remembrance…

He that promised is faithful…

God’s faithfulness is one divine characteristic that we rest in so completely that our rest has become apathy.[5]

Sometimes having to rest in God is dark and lonely. Sometimes we feel stuck in our situations with no way out. But in the silence, like in the dark cave I spent the weekend in, I hear the still, small voice. I met the God of Elijah—who also found himself in a cave of loneliness, asking God to kill him.

“But I have also seen this: Here, especially here—in this silence, this darkness, this loneliness, this sorrow—many people meet the God of the Broken hearted. This is the God who sometimes just sits with us, silent, shadowy. This, too, is part of the Holy Wild where we meet the God whom Elijah knew, not in the exhilaration of the mountaintop, but in the loneliness of the cave, in the smallness of a whisper after windstorm and firestorm. The God whose faithfulness is displayed, sometimes in the storm and fire, but more often in bread enough for today, arriving in the most surprising ways.”[6]

God is so faithful to me. I asked God to kill the dream He placed inside of me. Just as with Elijah, He refused to let me die in the cave. He told me to get up and move.

He answered back to me, that He could not take the promise off my life because His gifts and calling are irrevocable (See Romans 11:29)

So here I find myself resting in the faithfulness of God. It is not a rest I anticipated. I want the hammock-in-the-pasture-with-wildflowers-rest. I can rely on Him for that too, but that is not the rest I need now. He knows what I need better than I do. When Paul wrote about his experience and asked God to remove something from His life, He received the infamous “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul wrote it in the midst of great suffering.

“The apostle Paul celebrated loud and long and eloquently the unfailing faithfulness of God. Yet what was his experience? ‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death…But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope.

On Him we have set our hope. On Him we have set our hope…He will deliver me, and though I am in a dark cave right now, looking for God in the fire and the windstorm, I find Him in the still small voice. God is faithful. He always is—He is immutable—He changes not.

If Paul can endure persecution—betrayal, beatings, stoning, lashes, disease and threat of death—my troubles are nothing; if Christ can humble Himself by being obedient to the point of death, certainly I can endure to see the promises of God fulfilled in my life. In that I can rest.

[1]Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting In The Character Of God,(Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2003), 39.
[2]Ibid., 40.
[3]Ibid., 41.
[4]Ibid., 43.
[5]Ibid., 57.
[6]Ibid., 63.
[7]Ibid., 64.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 19—The Greatest Poem Ever Penned

I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world. C.S. Lewis

The Works and the Word of God. For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (v.1)

I love nature. I love the sky; the splendor of the sunrise and sunset. Those who know me will tell you I am always watching the sky. I love the majesty of the moon and the glory of the stars. Summer storms hold my attention; my eyes to the skies for the likely funnel cloud. Thunderstorms are one of my favorite things to listen to. There is something about the sky that entices my mind this verse exemplifies my feelings perfectly. The poetry of this verse comes to mind often as I witness God’s glory displayed in the heavens. I can’t watch a thunderstorm or a sunset over the Rocky Mountains where I live, without the prose of this verse invading my thoughts. Elohim created the world in Wisdom and by His Power.

“The vast heavenly bodies orbiting with flawless precision in the skies are a clear manifestation of the infinite wisdom and power of the Creator.”[1]

It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens {Jeremiah 10:12 NASB}.

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible {Heb. 11:3 NASB}.

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him {Col. 1:16 NASB}.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being {Jn. 1:1-3 NASB}.

Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.  Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. {vv. 2-6}.

Do the heavens have a voice? Can they speak? No, the heavens cannot communicate with man, but they do move man to speak and give praise to the One that created them.

“The heavens possess no means of verbal communication. Yet, the inner soul of man, through the perception of his spirit and intellect, can discern their message clearly.”[2]

There is an order to this universe; set by the only Wise God, and displayed in the heavens. Every day the sun will rise, and each evening it will find its home beyond the horizon; beckoning from slumber the other side of the planet that slept while we were awake. Night after night the sun will set and the moon will take its place; a constant display of the order of creation, and the Glory and Wisdom of God.  

God spoke and it was good.  He created the world by His Word. David is able to make the correlation between the sun and the Torah. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat (v.6). God’s Word will never pass away—you cannot hide from the truth of the Word:  

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me {Psalm 139: 7-10 NASB}.

Suddenly, David shifts in his poetry from the celestial to the Torah. The shift seems so impulsive; almost like a misplaced metaphor. Further reflection reveals that David’s poetry is in sync; comparing the light and warmth of the sun to the Torah.

“The Torah plays the role of the sun itself within the present creation.”[3]

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward {vv. 7-11}.

  The law of the Lord is perfect, and by living according to God’s law the soul is restored. His precepts are perfect. I love David’s heart for God’s law. David prayed this before the New Testament; for the most part, the Law was the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which most people find arduous—David deemed them life-giving. David considered the law to be food for the soul, worth more than gold, and like honey dripping from the mouth. He loved the Law, and by living according to its precepts, understood its rewards. It is truth and it renders justice. The Law makes the heart rejoice, and enlightens the eyes to God’s Wisdom. God longs to dwell in His people—we are the Mishkan Elohim—the Tabernacle of God. We are the temple the Holy Spirit.

“The notion of YHWH dwelling in the Temple has not been abandoned, but it is translated into the notion of his dwelling with his people—within his people, wherever they are—through their study and heartfelt practice of the Torah. Through that same Torah, his people discover not only that he can be their ‘refuge,’ the ‘place’ where they are at home, but that he will make his home with them, within them.”[4]
Now, David makes another shift from the love of the Law to personal prayer. He prays for God to help him against the temptation of sin.

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression {vv. 12-13}.

No matter how hard we try to live right, we all sin. But the Bible encourages us that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us of our sins.
“One hardly needs to add that this poet is wholly free from self-righteousness and the last section is concerned with his ‘secret faults.’ As he felt the sun, perhaps in the desert, searching him out in every nook of shade where he attempted to hide from it, so he feels the Law searching out all the hiding-places of his soul”[5].

Our best efforts to live perfectly prove grueling. Though we try to live according to God’s Word, who can be so careful that he never sins unintentionally?

David desires to live as close to God as he can. His heart longs to be righteous in His sight. He asks God to also keep him from presumptuous sins. We must never believe the lie that we do not sin, or become lax with “smaller” sins. The beloved disciple admonishes us, that if we say we don’t sin, we are liars and Gods truth is not in us.  We must remain humble before God knowing that we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior.  

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer {v. 14}.

God knows our thoughts and the inner most workings of our hearts. He longs to fill our hearts, minds, and imaginations of His people with His glory. That is why it is vital to allow the Torah—God’s Word (Old and New Testaments) to wash us clean. The Lord implores us to meditate on the Word day and night. Not as a liturgical duty, but so that we may know Him deeper, and live a life that reflects Him, and live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

[1] “Psalm 19,” In Tehillim: The Book of Psalms, edited by Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, 239, Vol.1 (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995), 239.
[2] Ibid., 240.
[3]N.T. Wright, The Case For The Psalms: Why They Are Essential (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 105.
[4]Ibid., 107.
[5]C.S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms (New York: HBJ Publishers, 1958), 64.