Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Names Of God: Elohim-God, Mighty Creator

I want to know the Lord deeper. I have been walking with Him for twenty-five plus years, and I still desire more of Him. One way that I have come to know Him more is by studying His Names in Scripture. His divine Names teach us His nature and character, and help us to know Him in a deeper way. I pray that you go on this journey with me into the divine Names of God, so that you too, will know Him in a deeper, more intimate way.

I love nature. I can watch Planet Earth forever. My dream is to live on acreage with horses, and maybe a couple jersey cows, and definitely chickens. I yearn to walk out my backdoor and down a long dirt road with nothing but wide-open spaces before me. I want to grow my own food, as much as possible. Books on living in the country, gardening and farming, and the like adorn my bookcases. Wendell Berry…hello!

I love green and the fresh rain of spring, giving life to the dead left behind by the winter, and witnessing the growth of new life. I love the orange, reds, and yellow of autumn that usher in the harvest, and apples and pumpkins. The changing of the colors is a spectacular display of beauty in nature. Though winter is my least favorite season {I don’t like being cold}, here in Colorado a fresh blanket of snow on the landscape is breathtaking. The love I have for nature is not new, it has been a part of me since I can remember. To say that I love nature is not quite accurate; I love creation.

My love for creation is however, surpassed by my love for the Creator of the universe. The creation story begins in Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth {1:1}.

The Hebrew Word for God is Elohim {'elohim, אֱלֹהִים}. Elohim is the first Name for God found in Scripture, and it is the Name associated with creation. He created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing or out of the void). The original creation event wasn’t the making of something within time and space; that event created time and space and everything else from nothingness.[1]

Elohim is the plural form of El or Eloah. The Name is one of the oldest descriptions for divinity; it was borrowed from El. It can refer to pagan deities as well as the true God.  Elohim is used more than 2,500 times in the Old Testament, and thirty-two times in Genesis chapter one alone. The plural form is not used to describe a belief in many gods but to emphasize the majesty of the one true God, and Christians recognize the plural form as a hint of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[2] Beyond the first chapter of Genesis, Elohim is accompanied with the word Yahweh; we see Yahweh Elohim translated in Scripture as—the LORD God.

Elohim is the One who separated the water from the land; created the moon and stars and the seasons. He created Adam and breathed His breath of life into him, and He formed Eve from Adam’s side. This Name holds the idea of God’s creative power, and His authority and sovereignty over all the earth. The Bible tells us that when God brought the universe into existence, He exerted a tremendous amount of power.[3] Not only did Elohim create the world, but He sustains it as well. The world cannot be moved, and it is held together day-by-day; while you are sleeping, God is holding everything together.

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved {Ps. 93:1}.

Not only did Elohim create the world, but He sustains it as well. The world cannot be moved, He holds it together with great strength and power through His Son:

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 {Heb. 1:3}.

Elohim created the world, and His power is mightily displayed in creation for all to witness. One stroke of His paint brush and we see the green of spring, the tall, yellow sunflowers in summer, the orange and red of autumn, the snow-capped mountains in winter, as well as lightning and thunder—all display His power in creation. Paul tells us in Romans that “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse”{1:20}. Creation proves the existence of God.

The same power that created the world, raised Jesus Christ from the dead to live forever more, and His strength is exercised for us as well. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, also gives life to us through the Spirit that dwells down inside of us {Rom. 8:11}. Praise the Lord.

Further evidence of His power in creation is displayed in the galaxy. A galaxy is a cluster of stars, and according to one estimate, two-hundred billion stars exist in our galaxy. Dr. Futato explains further that our galaxy is only part of a cluster of galaxies. Our galaxy consists of twenty other galaxies in a cluster called the Local Cluster, which is part of a super cluster; all together an estimated 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars exist in the universe! Yet the Psalmist states that Elohim counts the number of the stars and gives names to all of them {Ps. 147:4}. Great is the Lord and mighty in power! {v.5}

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, Sing praises to the Lord, Selah. To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times; Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice. Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel And His strength is in the skies. O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God! {Ps. 68: 32-35}.

When I study the heavens, I see God’s character expressed in the order, beauty, complexity, and harmony of the many marvelous worlds he has made.[4]

Elohim is the Creator of this big, beautiful world. If He has all this power in creation—creating and sustaining all you see, you should be confident that He has the power to handle any situation that comes your way, any trial or circumstance, He has the power to overcome the enemy—He has already overcome him through Christ’s death and resurrection. If you need hope today, look at creation. Walk out into this beautiful world that He made and Loves. In awe and wonder praise Him for His creation and know that He holds everything in His hands. He will take care of you. The power that you see in creation declares His glory and might. The majestic mountains that reach into the sky, the roaring rivers, the burst of unimaginable colors of nature—all declare the glory of God. The power that raised Christ from the dead is God’s power for you too, to overcome even the darkest valley. He created the world, He created you. He sustains the world, He sustains you. He promises to sustain you, and He who promised is faithful {Heb. 10:23}.

Sustain me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope {Ps. 119:116}.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power {Is. 40:28-29}.

To believe in God the Creator means to believe that he created me along with all other created beings. Few have progressed so far as to believe this in the fullest sense. Martin Luther

[1] David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey, Star Struck: Seeing The Creator In The Wonders Of Our Cosmos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 38.
[2] Ann Spangler, Praying The Names Of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 17.
[3] Mark D. Futato, Creation: A Witness To The Wonder of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2000), 25.
[4] Bradstreet and Rabey, 36.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 26 A Prayer For Vindication

* The word “heart” is red today in honor of Valentine's Day :)

Protestation of Integrity. A Psalm of David.

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth {vv. 1-3}.

The Lord refers to David as a man after His own heart {1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22}, and this is one of the many reasons. David invites the Lord to examine him; literally putting himself on trial. He asks the Lord to vindicate him, but the literal meaning is judge. He is not asking God to merely defend him, but to justify him. He is up against God and his conscience; presenting his case before the Lord, and presenting proof of his integrity. Few today would extend such an invitation to the Lord. Few acknowledge their sin in our feel-good, self-help culture. David walks in the truth of God’s love toward him, and implores His favorable judgment, that David does indeed walk in integrity. This does not mean that David is sinless. The only sinless man is Jesus Christ. David is not contending that he is without sin, but every day He seeks the Lord, loves His Word, and lives according to His statutes.

We must courageously invite the Lord to judge our hearts and minds. He may find us integrous; He may not. However, when we come to Him with this invitation, we demonstrate that we love Him by confessing our sin and submitting our hearts and minds to Him, and He grants us peace. He justifies us by the blood of the Lamb.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus {Phil. 4: 6-7}.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer {Ps. 19:14}.

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel {Heb. 12:24}.

Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians to bring all our thoughts under the captivity of Jesus {10:5}. The Lord wants our hearts and thoughts to be on Him; like David.

 David continues to plead his case before the Lord:

I do not sit with deceitful men, Nor will I go with pretenders.  I hate the assembly of evildoers, And I will not sit with the wicked {vv. 4-5}.

Bad company corrupts good morals {1 Cor. 15:33}, says Paul, and it is true. Do not be lulled into believing that we need to fellowship with sinners in order to save them. We are to show the love of Christ to all people, but we are not to surround ourselves with them. Invite them to eat and minister the Gospel to them, but do not give them influence in your life. Do not be influenced by their behavior, or take your attention off the Lord. Do not love what they love if they are not serving the Lord. Hate sin. Shun evil.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? {2 Cor. 6:14-15}

David refused to have a band of friends who did not worship Yahweh. He had no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor with the workers of evil. He would not enter their assemblies, rather he chose to enter the assembly of the Lord. Though sometimes he could not avoid being in the company of bad people, he would not choose to be friends with them. We must not only avoid bad company, but we must have a repugnance to it. David says, not only ‘I have I shunned it,’ but, ‘I have hated it.’ 

I shall wash my hands in innocence, And I will go about Your altar, O Lord, That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving And declare all Your wonders. O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells. Do not take my soul away along with sinners, Nor my life with men of bloodshed, In whose hands is a wicked scheme, And whose right hand is full of  bribes.  But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me.  My foot stands on a level place; In the congregations I shall bless the Lord {vv. 6-12}.

Tabernacle imagery of the Bronze Laver, and the priest’s preparation in ministering to God is beautiful. Just as the priests’ wash their hands and feet before entering the Inner Court, David, in his priestly anointing, evokes the priestly ministry. He will wash his hands, and bring an offering—declaring the glory and wonder of Yahweh. We should prepare in much the same way when we come to the House of the Lord to worship. We should approach His altar washed and ready for service.

David’s protest looks both backward in his integrity, and forward, contending that he will continue to walk in it; I have not sat with them, and I will not go in with them. When we practice walking according to His Word, it is evidence of our integrity, and our resolve, in God's strength, to persevere and not to draw back.

David presents one last piece of evidence to prove his integrity; his affection for the ordinances of God, and the pleasure he took in keeping them. 

David serves as our example. Invite the Lord in your heart and mind; repent of anything that seeks to hinder you. Approach His altar, Christ’s blood justifies you; now wash in the water of the Word. Come to His House with a heart prepared to worship at the wonder and glory of God. Walk in the integrity of the Word of God, and take joy in keeping His statutes. Then like David, you will be a woman or man after God’s heart.

Happy Valentine's Day!

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through