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Sunday, November 15, 2009

(29) The Old Covenant

We follow Jesus Christ but does that mean the part of scripture we call the "Old Testament" is no longer valid? What should we do with all of the laws and ceremonies of Moses? Do we throw away those verses or can we use them?

The main problem is that Christians try and down play the importance of the Old Testament, or the Old Covenant. What they do not realize or forget is that Christianity has its roots in Judaism and the Covenant of Moses. Before the main part of this lesson gets started, here are the results of last months poll: "What do we do with Old Testament Laws?" .
  • 27% said, Keep the ones on morality but ditch the ones on ceremonies.
  • 27% said, Practice some of the ceremonies except the ones Jesus himself became.
  • 22% said,  Listen to all of them, Jesus did not change them only became part of them.
  • 11% said, Do away with all of them, Jesus changed/fulfilled them.
  • 11% said, I have no clue.
Jesus did say that He came to fulfill the law. And many will argue that since He said this the laws of the Old Covenant are no longer valid. And they way that we should look at all the old laws is by "filtering it through the cross". Such as if Jesus changed it then we no longer listen to it. But if He did not mention it then we are still held to it. One example of this would be, "do not murder". Since the Old Covenant said not to do it should we have to follow it? Well Jesus not only mentioned it, He added to it. He gave it a higher standard. Murder in the Old was the taking of a human life by intention. But Jesus said murder goes beyond that. Murder is when you destroy human life in any way, shape, or form. Hating your brother is a form of murder. So we are somehow supposed to listen to some of the Old Testament. But how much?
Should we listen to all of it? Should we do all of the offerings that Jews from long ago had to do? No. Sacrifice are no longer needed. Romans 6:10a says:
  • The death He died, He died to sin once for all
All of the ceremonies that involve some sort of sacrifice is no longer valid. When Jesus laid His life down on the cross for us, giving up His own physical life and pouring out His own blood, He paid the ultimate sacrifice. Man no longer needs a spotless lamb each year to cover his sin. Jesus did it once and He did it for all. So some are valid and some aren't. Which ones?

Let's go back then to the first point. Even though Jesus fulfilled the law and some He changed, it also says He did not abolish the law in the same verse. Jesus Himself even got involved with some of His Jewish roots. The night He was betrayed and was led to His trial and eventually His crucifixion, He took part of the Passover Meal (Pesach). He was raised in Jewish customs. He read from the Laws of Moses (Torah). He went to the synagogues and learned (and of course taught as well). He used Jewish teachings to explain His own ministry and His parables. He quoted the Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). He used the whole thing (TaNahK).

The point is, there was more to Jesus' ministry and life than just His teachings on morality. There are practices that allow us to become closer to God the Father. They were written down for us to use. Psalms was written for us to use as a worship book. The Ten Commandments were written so we would know how to treat each other. The history in Genesis was for us to know our beginnings and purpose. These were not meant to be thrown away just because Jesus came to earth. He is the bridge.

But the thing we can do with most of the laws of Moses is teach with it. Every law that passed down to him to give to the Israelites had its purpose and its significance. All of the offerings and sacrifices were about giving up the things that are deemed important in this life so that we can share even better things in the next life. All of the ceremonies were fore shadows of the one to come who would be the "end all" ceremony. All of the prophecies are of course there to give authenticity to the Messiah and as a sign for what to look for when needed.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

(28) The Perfect

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. - 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

This small piece of scripture actually is one of the largest pieces of information that the Bible holds. It will actually form your thinking and split the Christian world right down the middle because if it means one thing then only certain things can happen yet if it means the other thing then it opens up a whole new way of thinking. What are those two sides?
  1. The "perfect" means the written word of God
  2. The "perfect" means the second coming of Christ

Why does it matter which is right? If the written word of God is the perfection that Paul was writing about then things like Spiritual Gifts take on a different meaning and purpose for the 21st century Church. Many will say that these were not meant for us. But if it is the second coming of Christ then the 21st century Church needs to be working in all the same ways the 1st century Church was, meaning practicing your gift which may be of the "miraculous" type. Let's look at both sides.

The Written Word Scenario:

The first thing that people of this line of thinking will want to define is the term miracle itself. If we are talking the everyday mundane thing of how the sun rises and the workings of the universe being a work of God then yes it's a miracle. But if we want to use the correct terminology then the everyday events that happen in our lifetimes are not miracles. Yes, a baby being born is a miracle in the first sense, but is not by definition a miracle. It's a process of life. A miracle is something beyond the laws of nature that God uses to influence, authenticate, enhance, and/or edification of a person's mission or service, including personal worship. But here is where the one down this line will say miracles do not happen anymore. The first reason they will say this is because the only ones in their view who were given authority to use miracles was Christ Himself and His Apostles, the 12 men who were part of His ministry and Paul. And since they have long died then authentication is no longer available and the passing of these gifts onto other people by laying on hands would have also no longer been available. John would have been the last one to have this power. John is also the one who penned the last of the scripture as we know it today.

The second reason for this view is that many will say these gifts were only for the 1st century church. They needed them since they were young in existence and needed guidance in special ways to over the adversary and to keep the message of Jesus Christ moving. Such as tongues were needed because people may have been missionaries and would not know the language of the area they were going to. Miracles were needed as a sign for the unbeliever to trust the one with the message. Like an infant needs parental guidance and a helping hand so did the early church. But since we are no longer the infant church but mature then these gifts would not be needed anymore.

The main point is since we have the whole written word of God then we do not need to be authenticated. We do not need to prove the power of God like they did in Biblical times. The need for miracles are not around anymore since we can show them the word of God. Another scripture that will back this up is Hebrews 1:1-2

  • 1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
  • 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe

Therefore, since God speaks to us through His Son (the word of God, John 1:1-2) then we do not need things like prophets anymore. And prophecy is one of those miraculous gifts that will have ceased, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. The need for speaking in tongues has passed since we have known languages and interpreters. Laying on hands as a vessel of healing is no longer valid since Apostles were the only ones in the Bible who did it.

The Second Coming Scenario:

When Paul wrote this piece of scripture in 55 AD it was 40 years before the last of scripture was written. At the time he was writing there is no possible way he knew his words were going to be used for scripture. How could he have known when the end of scripture would have been written? He didn't. So how could he have known that some of these gifts would cease when the last piece of scripture would be written? Some would say by the Holy Spirit. But that still leaves holes to be filled. Such as when he mentioned gifts in Romans and Ephesians 2-5 years later, why did he not tell them these would cease?

Why in 1 Corinthians 13 does he only mention three gifts that would cease? Some would say that it's not an all included list and that it is just an example of the type of gifts that would cease, i.e.; miraculous ones. But then we would have to decide which ones are "miraculous" and which ones are not. (For a list of gifts the Bible mentions go to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. And perhaps there are more that are hinted at but not stated by Paul specifically like celibacy and intercession) Without going into detail the short version of which ones some are either skeptical about or deny being in use today are the ones they haven't seen, the ones they do not use, or the ones that have been abused. Prophecy, Tongues, Interpretation, Apostleship, Miracles, Healing, and for some reason Knowledge (saying it would be close to a revelation) are the ones that have "ceased" in their view. But would they cease due to scripture being perfected?

When was it perfected? Well the last written word we know of was around 90 AD. But was it perfected at that time? No. The last word of scripture wasn't even known it was written by the world for hundreds of years later. So how could they have ceased without the knowledge of the Word being completed? They wouldn't.

Does perfect mean complete? Apparently not. There are some writings that have been lost over time and never found. Paul even mentions one in 1 Corinthians 5:9. How can it be perfect if it is not complete? Keep in mind that does not mean it is fallible! The Word of God is perfect but not the perfect that Paul mentions. Throughout history the Canon has been changed a couple of times. Our scripture is not the same as 1st century Church's scripture. So was it completed by the Council of Nicaea? Probably not. So how could the Word be the perfect in question? It isn't.

Do the promises of Christ for the 1st century Christian only apply to them? No. He said He is preparing a place for us too. He said His grace is sufficient enough for us too. He dying on the cross was for us too. Receiving the Holy Spirit is for us too. So why wouldn't all the gifts be for us as well? They are!

If we only knew in part until the Bible was completed then why do we have so many questions today? Apparently we still know only the partial things we need to know.

And the most compelling reason why this passage is referring to the second coming of Christ is because we have to read the whole context. If you keep reading you will eventually get to 1 Corinthians 15:24 which says:

  • Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

Just this verse alone added to the whole context says to us that the previous chapters are geared towards the 'olam hazeh, or the end of this age. The age Paul is referring to is the end of the world which will happen when Christ returns, not when the Bible is completely done being written.

Now in their defense, some of these gifts may have ceased, but not in the way that "Written Word Scenario" believers say. Romans 12:3 says there are measures of faith for each of us. The Holy Spirit gives gifts differently. As an example, not all prophets will be the same kind of prophet. There are major prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, John) who were used for Messianic and/or Apocalyptic prophecies. They were used to fore-tell events and were long-termed visions. There are minor prophets (Jonah, Paul) who were used to warn those around them of their actions. They were used for telling of events (not fore-telling) and were more short-termed visions. Then there are preachers such as Billy Graham who will use the word given to them to be forth telling of events which is used for discipline. They will be used to show people how to live their lives. They have visions that are for the moment. Billy Graham would not be used as a Messianic or Apocalyptic prophet. These perhaps have ceased. These there are no more need for. The Messiah has come and the end will come too, one way or another.

The second coming of the Messiah is the perfect, where all prophecy and the like will have to cease for the Christ will have brought with Him the answers to all of life's questions. We will then know in full what we only knew in part.

Monday, October 12, 2009

(27) Spiritual Gifts: an overview

Spiritual Gifts is a topic that many people do not understand. Some people do not understand because they have never heard of them, although this would be rare. Some do not understand because they belong to a church that does not talk about them or use them. Some do not understand because even though thy may know about them they have never taken the time out to study them. And then there are some who misinterpret the meaning behind them and therefore are confused about them. Before we get into it here are the results from last month's poll: Do you believe in Spiritual Gifts? Each one will be discussed below the results.
  • 48% said, yes there are spiritual gifts and believe in all of them. This is saying that since they are listed in the Bible then the gifts must be real. Most who answered yes to this would also say that all of them are available to the church today.
  • 29% said, yes there are spiritual gifts but some are no longer around.These people say that certain gifts have ceased and are no longer available or needed for the church. The three that they will say is prophecy, tongues, and knowledge.
  • 16% said, yes there are spiritual gifts but they were skeptical about some of them. These people want to believe in them completely but perhaps have seen or have not seen the evidence of them to be either fake or blown out of proportion, e.g.; speaking in tongues.
  • 6% said, yes there are spiritual gifts but they are not supernatural only talents given to us. These people are saying that the word gift and talent are the same thing. using your naturally given talent is the gift that God gave you.
  • 0% said, no there are not any spiritual gifts, there are no such things. This speaks for itself. These people do not believe in any supernatural gift for Christians, or do not believe in God.
The good news is that everyone who voted on the poll believe in them one way or another but as you can see there is a diverse way of looking at them. Some people though have a hard time with all of them being around today or are skeptical of certain ones. Why would some people not believe in them? Because they have misinterpreted certain pieces of scripture. The first thing that many will get confused with is that they use gifts of the Spirit and gift of the Spirit interchangeably or will not know there is a difference. Once you have accepted Jesus Christ you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which means you now have access to His guidance and intercession. The gifts of the Spirit are special offerings from the Holy Spirit to each of us to enhance our worship and service. And the one scripture that many will use to decide that some gifts, if not all of them, are no longer around is 1 Corinthians 13:8
  • Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
And they use this as unwavering proof of their viewpoint. First of all, the wording here is not "disappear forever". The wording here is "cease" and "be stilled". This perhaps should best be interpreted as a temporary quietness. Some may say that is adding to scripture. Actually it is putting it in better light, not adding. They fail to see that what they are doing is subtracting from scripture thereby negating some of the promises that God has given to His people. What promises? Take a look at 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
  • 1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
  • 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
  • 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
  • 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
  • 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
  • 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
  • 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
  • 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
  • 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
  • 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
  • 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
This passage is just before the one mentioned that people use to discredit certain gifts. So it is funny how people will skip over this part and rush right to chapter 13. Paul is stressing some very important issues on gifts in chapter 11. He first mentions that he does not want anyone to be ignorant about the gifts. The Corinthians were apparently very gifted in this area, no pun intended. They had access to all the gifts but were not using them the way they should and had not been living the lives they were called to live, as can be seen in chapter 1. Paul says that to each (Christian) is given a gift they can use for serving God. Not only a gift given but a manifestation of a gift. Which means we not only get a small amount, we get whatever we can handle. And some people can handle a lot while some can only handle a little. That is why Romans 12:3 says:
  • For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
We all have a measure of faith. Some of us can move mountains, some of us would be scared to even try. God knows this and will use us in the way we can handle it. If you notice Romans 12 coincides with these passages in Corinthians almost perfectly. They both talk about the Church being a body. They both talk about gifts being used and have a list of some of them. They both mention though that love is more important. And this is what the Corinthians were missing. This is why Paul writes to them and says that you may have all of these gifts but without love you are nothing. Love is forever. These gifts are not forever. But does that mean they will cease? No. People will now use the second verse of misinterpretation to use as proof of gifts disappearing. They use 1 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
  • 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
What is the perfect? Those who say gifts will disappear will say it is the written word of God-the Bible. Once the Bible had been completed then there would be no more needs for the gifts, or at least some of them. But is that what the "perfect" really is? Perhaps not.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

(26) What is Hell?



When Christians talk about the afterlife and the two choices, heaven or hell, do they really know what they are talking about? Perhaps not. One problem we have today in all the Christian world is we have translated the word 'hell' incorrectly. The word we use in English is actually a German word. So what happened?

First of all here are the results to the poll of "What is hell?"
  • 51% said hell is a place of torment for unrepentant sinners
  • 21% said it is not one of the choices given
  • 12% said it was only a symbolic place meaning separated from God
  • 9% said there is no hell
  • 6% said it was a place for satan and his angels only
  • 0% said it was only a place on earth in the end times
The most important thing to realize is that 'hell' is not a place on earth, nor a place where only satan goes, nor is it only symbolic. It is a real place. But what is it for real? Technically, the word itself is not in the Holy Scriptures. If we go back to the original languages of the Scriptures (Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek) we find three main words that Scripture describes as an afterlife, She'ol, Hades, and Gehenna. There are other words used in scripture for places of the afterlife, some are mentioned in this lesson. Unfortunately, today we translate all three words as 'hell' and may have well destroyed the true meaning of the final place of the afterlife, especially when some of it may only mean death.

The abode of the dead or as Deuteronomy 32:22 calls it, the realm of the dead. The Greek equivalence to this word is Hades and was substituted for She'ol when the Greek manuscripts were created. But of course you should keep out all of the mythological non-sense that many of these stories have added, e.g.; Styx. Perhaps this is where we associate Hades with Hell since many mythological stories and Hollywood have sewn the two together by placing a man in charge of it-namely satan or the god Hades himself.  The NIV translation uses the word 'grave' in its place.  Any of these words are okay to use when you are referring to this place since it only means one thing-the resting place of a body.  Where do their souls go? Using the example that Jesus used while He was on the cross, souls that lived according to God's word will live in a place called Paradise after death. Other scripture calls it the "side of Abraham" (Luke 16:22). Perhaps this is the place that those "dead in Christ" shall rise from on the return of Jesus that Paul writes about 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

This word is Greek and is translated from the Hebrew term Ge Hinnom, or Valley of Hinnom. Hinnon was an area just outside the city of Jerusalem that was used as a garbage dump where its inhabitants, trash and unwanted items, were waiting to be burned; a refuse waiting for destruction. In Matthew 23:33, Jesus talks about this place but too many translations uses the word 'hell'.
  • You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Those who have not accepted Christ or who did not live by the Law on the point of their death will have their souls cast into Gehenna, a waiting place of torment until the final judgement is upon them. They have gone into the first death (loss of the flesh). And now they await the second death (loss of soul). But while they wait in Gehenna they will be tormented. They gnash their teeth in their waiting because they know they have passed the chance to believe. It would be like being on death row and you see the guards coming your way. You have no chance to repent and no chance of escape. You will now reap what you have sowed.

But, Gehenna and She'ol, even Paradise are not the final places. After the judgement, all of those who lived for Christ and are resting in Paradise and those living at the time of His return will go to live with Him forever in heaven. But those who are in Gehenna and are in torment will be judged for their sins and then thrown into the final death. They will be thrown in along with She'ol (Hades) and Gehenna because once the judgement has happened there is no more need for these places. Death will be swallowed up in victory.

After the judgement comes the real "hell" for many. The final destruction of their soul. Gehenna is just the waiting area while the real place of destruction perhaps does not have a biblical name save "lake of fire" where satan and his angels will be tormented day and night forever. While those who have been judged righteous will live forever in heaven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

(25) The Tabernacle, Part 4, Exodus 25-31

Last time we talked about a special place that we hold value. But sometimes even within that room there are objects that have special stories that only you will understand. When you look at that certain object you get a feeling that no one else will get because it is the most sacred of all possessions you have. Many things can be moved. You can change a room around and rearrange items but this object can not and will not be moved. This is what the Holy of Holies is all about.
The last section of the Temple (Tabernacle) is the Holy of Holies. This was the inner most part of the sanctuary, the place where God resided or resides in the case of a Christian. There are three main objects in this room; the Veil, the Ark, and the Mercy Seat.
The Veil. The veil was a sign that there was something secretive hidden behind it that only special people could see. Just like a Bride in a wedding, the only one who can see behind the veil is the husband. There was an appointed time for someone to see her. In the tabernacle behind the veil was the Ark. The Ark was the sacred possession. Inside it were other objects that showed how important the Jewish people were to God. Most famous of these things was the Ten Commandments, the law. As a Christian we know the Law to be Jesus. God hid Christ in a safe place until His appointed time, such as the Bride. Christ is God the Father's most valued possession, a part of Himself that He sent to be with His people. When Jesus was crucified, scripture says that the Veil was torn in two. Sacrifices under the old law were always cut in half and separated. The space between them is called the path of death. On one side is life, the other side is death. The veil was split in two as the new path of death, the new law. To get to Christ at the end of our lives, we have to pass through the path of death by going through the split veil; the symbol of Christ's sacrifice. This says that we accept Christ as the sacrifice. We pass through His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20). Josephus says that horses tied to both ends could not tear the veil apart. So imagine what the priests thought when they saw this non-tearable item being ripped from top to bottom!
When it split it opened up a way for us to approach the throne of God, or the Mercy Seat, without any shame. The seat was located on top of the Ark. This is the place where God would appear in the time of the Old Law. This is also where the sacrifice for atonement was done (Leviticus 16:15). When Jesus poured His own blood onto the earth, there was no more need for a physical Mercy Seat. We can go directly to Him. No matter what we have done His Mercy Seat is always there willing and waiting for those who want to receive it (Hebrews 9:14-16).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

(24) The Tabernacle, Part 3, Exodus 25-31

Do you have that special place where you go to that you keep all of the things that are valuable to you? Maybe it's your den. or family room. Maybe it's your own room that no one else really goes into. Maybe it's only as small as that special chair that no one else is allowed to sit in. This place usually holds something special to you; a memory or a feeling. When someone enters into that special place they come into your presence. Many times the people that want to go into these places have to have special permission from you. You become the one that those around focus on and that is why it is even more important to you. The ones who you love can now share in your thoughts and feelings. This is what the inner most part of the Tabernacle was all about, the Holy Place.
Inside the Holy Place were the following items: a golden lamp stand, a table of showbread, and an altar of incense.
The lamp stand of course is a symbol of light. It was placed in this room because if you make it here you are always in the light (sh'kinah) of God. It doesn't mean that you have made it to the full presence of God but close enough to see Him and want more. This may also be a reference to us being a light to the world since we are in Him and He is the light (Leviticus 24:1-4, John 8:12). We are also to be witnesses. We are supposed to keep the wicks clean and ready to burn. This is an ongoing task. If we let the wicks burn up then what use is our light? We put people in darkness by our actions. A daily worship of God means to be constantly ready to burn the light for others to see.
The showbread may perhaps mean communion with God. It was right near the presence of God because it is the step before you meet God. As with today's communion, before we take it, we need to have been through the rest of the "tabernacle", i.e., the outer courts and inner courts. We need to examine ourselves in the basin and clean ourselves before we partake of the showbread. Once we have taken communion we are ready to see the full image of God, for we have been united in His blood (John 6:35).
In Part 2, we talked about a fragrance being like a new born baby. The scriptures talk a few times about the aroma going up to God. Symbolic or not, just like for us, smell is the strongest thing related to memory and it brings either pleasure or a stench. Our prayers and praises rise like incense. They can either be pleasurable to God or cause Him to turn away from us due to our "stench". This turning away from us means His ears will not hear our words (Pslams 66:18). This altar of incense (our heart) is a place that needs to give off a beautiful aroma (Leviticus 16:12). This aroma can also be a "sinner" turning from his old ways, a heart that is new is like a new born baby. A heart that is repentive is like a new born baby. A heart that is sincere is like a new born baby.
This Holy Place was a place that only those whom God chose to close to Him could go. The ones who can share with God his own heart like David did so long ago.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

(23) The Tabernacle, Part 2, Exodus 25-31

Why do you have different rooms in your house? Why do you have a door into these rooms? Simple answers are: each room has its own purpose and the door symbolizes that a new purpose has begun. Other answers may be rooms and doors cause separation for privacy or shows ownership of a certain area. This is the same with God's house- the Tabernacle, the place to worship and meet God. Before we go on, keep in mind that you are today's tabernacle for God. But to understand how important you are today we have to see what the original tabernacle was like and why all of its inhabitants were instructed to be created the way they were. This will focus mostly on Exodus 27 with some others included.

The Court System
Just like your house is divided into sections so was God's house. But these were called courts. There were two main courts- the outer courts and the inner courts. The outer court was an area of fellowship and personal business. It was place to meet others and share things with them. The inner court was a place to start preparing yourself to worship and meet God. For more on what the courts are see this link http://ideasoftimreligion.blogspot.com/2008/08/iv-worship.html. But before we get to the courts we have to go through an outer door. In Exodus it was a fence. When Solomon built the Temple it will be known as the Sacred Enclosure. The fence served as a barrier. It prevents the un-Godly from entering into His presence. God can not be around things that are unholy, for He is holy. To be in His presence means you have His protection. The fence kept out all of the wild animals that were wandering in the desert and wilderness. It was not a see through fence because the world will never know what God means until they enter His presence. The Sacred Enclosure by law was a place in the outer courts where the gentile could go to but not pass. The gentile was allowed to do business in this area just like Jews but could not pass the Sacred Enclosure. Because at this time the gentile knew not of what a relationship with the true God was like. It separated them (Isaiah 59:2). But today the gentile by the Grace of Jesus has been allowed to enter. Not to take the place of the Jew but to commune with him. Other scripture

Just like in your house you have set up adornments and accessories that are meaningful to you, so it was with God's house. Linen was added to the house (27:9) because it took a lot of time getting it to the final product. It was made from the flax plant. It was twisted together and beaten. Then boiled in water and wrung out. This process made the linen white and clean. It was a long process making linen to be a valued product, making it expensive. Sometimes our lives take a long time to be refined. Sometimes we get twisted together to make us strong. Sometimes we are beaten to make us tough. Sometimes we go through water to be cleansed so we can be purified. Our lives take a long process to get right but that just shows how important and valuable we are to God. He wants us to be right.

Just like your house there is a way in to the place (the back door is somewhat a new idea compared to time). To get into God's house you had to enter the Gate. There is only one gate. Jesus (John 10:9, 14:6). There was only one door in the Ark that Noah built. And there is only one gate to heaven. Only through Jesus can we actually enter into the presence of God.

Just like your house, there is a place to wash and be clean, so it is with God's house. On the side of the courts was a laver, or basin. This was a place to wash before you went on to worship. Today it could be a symbol of baptism, the washing off detestable flesh and making clean a new creature in Christ (John 13:8-10). Without this washing, the flesh is too much full of stench that the burnt offering will have a horrible aroma that will not please God. A new creature is the like the smell of a new baby.

Lastly, if you notice the tabernacle was a movable place. It is a protege of the new testament temple. You. Your body is now the temple. It is a movable object that you take with you everywhere. God wants us every place we go to be a place of worship. Rick Warren says that we should live a life of worship. This kind of life is described as "walking with God". This is why it is wrong to try and control our own lives, it's not ours to control. God designed us the way we are. We are specific in detail. Each one of us is important to Him like the original temple was.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

(22) The Tabernacle, Part 1, Exodus 25-31

The Tabernacle, before the Temple was built, was the place of worship. To understand the Tabernacle, you have to understand what life was like before it was built. God's original plan was to exist with humanity and walk with man on a day to day basis. But the first man sinned and cause a separation between God and man. God can not be around sin for he is holy. But, man without God is hopeless. There is nothing left for man if God was not around. God did not want man to be lost so He allowed a way for man to get the relationship back, worship.

Sin is when we worship our own will (desires) instead of God's. This is what separates us from God. We need a way to bridge the gap. Worship is when we have a relationship with God. To be able to get back that perfect relationship, sin had to be taken away. Sin kills this relationship. Worship helps bring it back. But there is still a separation. Only total atonement for sin can do that. In the OT, it was through sacrifice. But the New Covenant makes Jesus Christ the atonement, or sacrifice.

Eden was God's place on Earth. It was the place that God put His most prized possession, man. It was a place where God went to man to speak with him, to be with him. But Adam sinned. Sin cause man to be thrown out of God's place.

When Adam sinned, he tried to hide his sin by "covering" himself with a fig leaf. This was not good enough. God gave him a new covering; one made with skin of an animal. An animal had to die and the shedding of blood had to happen to cover us completely. Christ died and His blood now covers us. (Genesis 2:25-3:24)

Why blood? Because as in Hebrews 9:22, blood is a life force. When we died through Adam our blood line to God was cut. To get that blood line back, blood (innocent) has to be shed. In the Tabernacle days, it was through a spotless lamb; one without blemish. If they sacrificed an animal that was already dying or defective, what good would it have done? What would it have proven? Sacrificing a pure lamb showed that they could give up something so valuable in order to show their feelings to God. Do not worry, the animal is God's. Rest assured that the lamb was taken cared of. In the New Tabernacle, which is you, we do not have to sacrifice anymore. Christ is the lamb.

Worship involves sacrifice. It costs. When Cain sacrificed his offerings to the Lord he only gave some of it. When Abel sacrificed he gave the first fruits of his labor. He gave the best portions of what he had. Cain did not really sacrifice anything. Abel did. (Genesis 4:1-5) True sacrifice also means we have to be obedient. Obedience sometimes cause us to give up things we desire in order to get the things He desires for us. The bigger the sacrifice the larger act of worship it is. King David said in 1 Chronicles 21:24
  • 24 I will not sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.

David knew the real meaning behind worship. Is it any wonder why God had David write all of his Psalms? Worship is the connection that keeps us near to God. It allows us to be close to Him. It brings us back to "Eden", paradise. The Tabernacle was the place for worship. It was ordained by God with specific instructions and emblems. Each emblem had its own purpose and foreshadowed what the Christ would be for us. The Tabernacle was a physical place that was built so that God could exist with man again. But it had to be made holy. Even within the Tabernacle itself there were parts that God would not be present for not all of it was holy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

(21) The Decalogue, Exodus 21:1-24:18

Once the Ten Commandments were etched in stone, they became law; a Godly law. But, how does that transpire into man's law? Could you do something to man that was not against God? Is there a way around His law and still get away from helping man? God knew man's heart and knew his intentions. He knew what man would do if there was some loop hole or way out of something. So, God continued with explaining what the law meant. And since Israel was a stubborn nation, then punishment and atonement for breaking the laws needed to be strict. Israel was God's chosen people. They should have known the power of God yet somehow they remained worldly. He would put a stop to it. This is why chapters 21-24 in Exodus are long winded, extreme, monotonous, dare say...boring, along with Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Almost every aspect of life was written down on how to treat your fellow man. The first four commandments dealt with what your relationship with God should be. The other six deal with your relationship with other people. But notice when the covenant is expanded most of the laws deal with man. When God laid down the law about our relationship with Him, He needed no to expand. He is the Lord, nothing else will do, remember Him and Him only! Stray outside that and you have a problem. But He knew we would do things to each other and needed guidance. These chapters tell us how do deal with servants, injuries, property, social responsibility, justice, mercy, the sabbath and celebration days. Each topic mentioned has its own subtopics as well.

In the end though God tells His people He will protect them if they abide by the rules. He sends an angel out before them preparing their way. Who is the angel? No one knows. It could be any of them but verse 23:21 says he will not forgive your rebellion since my Name is in him. Is that a hint that it could be Christ or is it symbolically saying there is no excuse for rebellion against something from God? You have to be the judge there.

The covenant is finally confirmed with the sacrifice of a life. A young bull (several of them) was sacrificed to claim the testament in blood, the life force, the essence of being. And as a final witness to this covenant God showed Himself to Moses and all the elders of Israel. They ate with Him and had fellowship. But God would not do this all the time. He is too holy to be seen by all so the next step was to build a place where God could meet His creation; the tabernacle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

(20) Freedom is never free, Exodus 13:1-20:26

When someone is in prison and they are forced to give up their lifestyle and freedom in order to pay their sentence of punishment, they start to become accustomed to another way of life. Once they are free they go through a phase called de-institutionalizing. They have to relearn the way of reality. This is why many convicts commit crimes after they have been freed. They do not know how to handle the real world anymore so they revert back to what got them punished in the first place. Same with Israel.

Israel had been a prisoner for over 400 years, they had lost some of their culture and had picked up some of the Egyptian culture. God did not want them to hold on to the Egyptian culture. So, before any of the major traveling went on, God started to set down laws. If He did not then one of two things would have happened; either Israel would not have known how to survive on their own and the nation would have perished or they would want to revert back to Egyptian ways. As you read you will notice they try to revert back many times. It's a wonder why God stayed with them.

Laws, Customs and ways of Life

  1. Consecration of the first born-no matter what the child was the first born of all families was to be dedicated to God. This was to remind all of Israel that the one plague that allowed them to go free was that the firstborn of all Egyptians was killed. This is also a foreshadow of the Christ. In order for us to go free the firstborn of God had to die.
  2. Manna ,Quail and Water-not even three months had passed and the Israelites were complaining about the outside world. Some of them cried out that they would rather have died in Egypt. But, God listened and gave them plenty of food by sending manna and quail, everyday. They were to trust in Him and not gather any more than what they needed or were told to gather. Still some of them did not trust. And since this happened maybe another major necessity of life was denied to them so they would appreciate being free. They ran out of water. So God caused water to flow from a rock.
  3. War- Never thought of this before but the Israelites, although had to take the land that was promised to them, were not the aggressors. The Amalekites attacked them first. And they won't be the last. Why was war necessary? Because the land was consecrated by God hundreds of years earlier with Abraham. The people living in the land now had defiled the land by their practices. What was done there in the past few hundred years had to be wiped out so the land could be worthy again. Plus the people living there would not leave voluntarily.
  4. The Commandments-In Greek called the Decalogue or The Ten Words. Words is a term that describes a covenant in OT times. Why were they given? They were a sign to God's people that there was a special bond between them. He chose them to be His people and if they abide by His laws then they will share in His glory and presence. Why these certain laws? First of all its what His original plan was anyway. To love God above all, to remember what He has done and all of His power, to take care of each other by not causing each other to fall by certain acts of selfishness i.e., murder, stealing, etc.. Oddly enough Jesus restated the Ten Words into two: Love God and Love your neighbor. He did not change the law keep in mind, the Ten Words are still a covenant. Jesus just simplified it. He also expanded on it with what we call the Sermon on the Mount.

These ways of life were written down due to the fact that the culture of Israel and its original purpose of existence had been watered down by life in Egypt. Before these were written down people lived by faith. Abraham was not "under the law" because he lived by faith. Through the years people had lost faith and never knew what it was like to live by faith. This is why when they got to the dessert they did not know how to trust in God and turned so easily to idols and grievances. So God wrote down these things to help them remember, but since they were a hard-headed people He gave them strict conditions to abide by as written down in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Today we are not "under the law" per se. Jesus is the law. We are back to living by faith. However, we are living in times that say faith is not valid. We are sliding back into Egypt, if you will. This next time God will not send another savior. This next time that our faith needs refining will be the end. Third time is a charm...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

(19) The Plagues, Exodus 7:7-12:36

The plagues of Egypt. Why did God use these certain ten plagues to change the mind of Pharaoh? He could have used anything yet He chose to use these. Most of the plagues were directed at the religion of Egypt. Most of the plagues were directed specifically at the gods of the Egyptians. These were signs to show the Egyptians that the one true God was powerful than anything that the gods of Egypt could muster.
  1. Plague of the Nile turning to blood: The Nile was of course the Egyptians lifeline. A fertile land region that no one else could control. There were three gods whom the Egyptians felt gave them this control. Khnemu was the guardian of the Nile. Hopi was the spirit of the Nile. Osiris was the creator of Egyptian civilization using the Nile as his bloodstream after he was murdered and his body thrown into the Nile.
  2. Plague of the frogs: The goddess of fertility was Heket. She helped women with childbirth and her symbol was a frog.
  3. Plague of gnats and the Plague of flies: These were references to Ba'al. The term Ba'al itself means "lord" but later in the Bible a term comes out of this to refer to what we know today as satan; beelzebub or "lord of the flies". Ba'al originated in the Middle East and not Egypt but since the Egyptian kingdom grew and they were always willing to adopt new gods then this became part of their worship. Ba'al had died and his sister resurrected him, virtually a living dead, where flies would be attracted.
  4. Plague of Cattle dying: These were direct to Hathor, goddess whose form was a cow, and Apsi who was called the bull god. Both of which have too of long stories to divulge. You can read more about them via Internet.
  5. Plague of Boils: Boils of course are a skin irritation that can be treated with medicine. But the Egyptians could not cure this even with the help of Imhotep, the god of medicine.
  6. Plague of hail: The weather was also controlled by Egyptian gods such as: Nut, the sky goddess, Isis, who was partly known as a mother of nature and giver of life, and Seth who was known as the protector of the crops and god of storms.
  7. Plague of locusts: Again directed at Seth who protected the crops.
  8. Plague of darkness: Ra, the sun god.
  9. Plague of death (first born): Directed straight at Pharaoh, who was considered one of the gods.

With each plague God Almighty showed that He could out do any Egyptian god there was and it was He who controlled the world not them. Each plague caused the Egyptians to want to get rid of the Israelites. Each plague only effected the Egyptians while the Israelites were protected by God. Even by the fourth plague, the Pharaoh's advisers were telling him to give in and let them go because for the first two plagues they had reproduced the act. Now they are finding out that they can't do what God does.

There are physical explanations for each plague. Such as sulfur in the Nile caused the river to turn red and poisoned to drink, thereby causing all of the frogs to get out of the river since they could jump but the poor fish were left to die. Since the frogs could not go back into the river to be rehydrated they died causing swarms of flies and gnats to devour their left over carcasses. And since there were carcasses that means disease may have spread out of this causing the cattle to die with cowpox and may have spread to humans as small pox which cause irritation of the skin and boils. A freakish once in a hundred years storm produced hail hitting the crops and making the locust fly prematurely all at once and blocking the sun out, or the same hail storm had no rain but only wind causing a dust storm to hit blocking out the sun. And of course the only explanation for the oldest son dying is there must have been a plague...duh! Even if all of these had a natural explanation, then why did they all happen at this certain time and why the coincidence that it didn't happen to the Israelites?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

(18) Preparing the way, Exodus 2:24-7:6

Moses' story is more complicated than one would realize. He was a man who did not have a people of his own, for he was Hebrew and he was Egyptian, yet neither group had accepted him. He lived in a place called Midian, yet felt like a foriegner. He even named his first son, Gershom; "foreigner". He was royalty, being raised by Pharaoh's daughter. He was a slave, being born of a Hebrew. Yet he ended up being a shepherd for his father-in-law. He knew of his real kinsmens' troubles and wanted to lead them out of Egypt but no one would listen to him. (Acts 7:20-25) His time had not yet come.

Preparation #1-Life experiences
His first 40 years of his life he had spent in his Egyptian customs. He learned what it was like to have everything. He was educated in the finest of things. He learned how to speak up and was given power in his tenure. Some traditions say he was commander of the southern army of Egypt. In any case, he was being trained to be a leader. But as we have read earlier, he had to flee. Where did he go? To a desert.

His next 40 years he was being trained how to survive on the littlest of things. He tended flock, not for himself but for a master, his father-in-law. When he fled he would travel through the lands that God would eventually lead him to when he used him to free the Israelites. Moses came to know the land that God would him send him through.

That last 40 years of his life he led Israel to the Promise Land by using his wisdom of leadership, his ability to confront crowds and his knowledge of the wilderness. God had used a lifetime to prepare a man for one of the greatest purposes in history. To show mankind that God can free us from our own bondage.

Israel was in Egypt for 400 years because they chose to stay. They could have left Egypt once the drought and famine was over during Joseph's time and had gone back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They put themselves into bondage. God freed the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. Jesus freed us all from the bondage of sin.

Preparation #2-God Calling
Once Moses had life experiences to prepare him for what he needed to be like, God now called him to fulfill his purpose. Moses was now 80 years old when God called to him. Out of the blue, Moses just happened to be leading his flock in the desert near a mountain; Horeb, "the mountain of God", and called out to him from a bush that was burning.

Why a bush? No one really knows but maybe because of a couple of reasons. First, a bush when set on fire will burn. It was a sign of the power of God. It wasn't a tree because if a tree was burning others may have seen it. A tree is huge and a bush is small. It was a sign that God sometimes uses the small things in life to talk to us. Why didn't he just speak to Moses? The answer lies within a question. Was Moses ready to hear him? Moses was 80. He had spent a life that he had not wanted. Speaking to Moses may not have been enough for a man who thought God may have deserted him. When God calls, he will get your attention, but sometimes it's by the smallest things in our life.

Preparation #3- Acceptance of who you are
Moses even after hearing and seeing God, even after a life of wanting to take leadership of the Israelites, still was reluctant to do what God said to do. He was not willing to accept his fate. He made excuses, "They won't believe me", "Who should I say told me", "I have a speech impediment". With each excuse God answered him. God has a purpose for all of us. We have to accept who we are and God will give us the ability to use what we have.

Preparation #4- Perseverance
When Moses came back to Egypt, his task was not easy. The Pharaoh made the lives of the Israelites harder and many of them blamed Moses. But in the middle of the persecution came the prosecution. God stepped in and things began to happen. If Moses quit and gave up, it would have been a horrible witness to the power of God. But through perseverance God will follow through on His promises.

He may be preparing the way for you. If you persevere in your life's experience and wait upon the Lord, then listen for His calling so he can prepare you for something great, even if it's small.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

(17) No Oridnary Man, Exodus 2:1-23

Moses (Moshe), was no ordinary man says the scriptures. His father was Amram, a Levite. His mother was Jochebed who was also a Levite, since Jochebed was actually Amram's aunt (this was before the Law was given). He was the great-grandson of Levi. When the Pharaoh handed out the law that all male Hebrew newborns should be killed, Jochebed hid Moses for three months. When it became apparent she could not hide him anymore she put him in a basket and pushed him down the Nile. Amazingly, the Pharaoh's daughter (let's call her Sitamun) just happened to be there when Moses went floating by. Moses' sister, Miriam, watched on the side of the Nile to make sure he was okay. Miriam talked Sitamun into letting a "Hebrew woman" nurse him for her. Oddly enough who does Miriam go get? His own mother! Not only that Jochebed was paid by Sitamun for taking care of him. Moses was not only supposed to have been killed, but ended up in his own house anyway and his family was compensated for it. Truly, not ordinary.

Moses was not the name that Jochebed gave to her son. His real name is unknown. "Moses" was the name that Sitamun gave him. By the way, why are we calling her Sitamun? Well, if the Exodus was 1488 BC, then the Pharaoh at the time of Moses being born would have been Ahmose I. Ahmose had three daughters and only one of them was not married, which probably meant that she would bear no children, thereby making her more than likely wanting one. God gave her one in this way. Pure speculation. Either way, look at the name 'Moses'. Sounds a lot like her father's name Ahmose. Ahmose means "the moon is born" or "the moon's child". Moses in Hebrew is Moshe which means savior but is also very close to the Hebrew word, mashah; "to draw water" (Exodus 2:10), but it's closest equivalent in old Egyptian is 'mes' which means "son". Sitamun probably named him this to fit both languages. Again, no ordinary man.

Somehow, Moses knew of his heritage. When he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew he defended the Hebrew and killed the Egyptian. The very next day someone was threatening to turn him in for his actions and the new Pharaoh (Amenhotep I) found out. So, he left his home and fled to Midian where he met his future wife, Zipporah. Where did he meet her? She was at a well...drawing water; mashah! No ordinary man!

And his non-ordinary life had still the most non-ordinary experience yet to come.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

(16) When was the Exodus?

If one does a study on genealogy and starts with the Bible and Adam you can find the date of the Exodus from one angle. Such as:

  1. Adam was 130 when he had Seth, Seth was 105 when he had Enosh, Enosh was 90 when he had Kenan, Kenan was 70 when he had Mahalalel, Mahalalel was 65 when he had Enoch, Enoch was 65 when he had Methuselah, Methuselah was 187 when he had Lamech, Lamech was 182 when he had Noah, Noah was 502 when he had Shem, Shem was 100 when he had Arphaxad, Arphaxad was 35 when he had Shelah, Shelah was 30 when he had Eber, Eber was 34 when he had Peleg, Peleg was 30 when he had Reu, Reu was 32 when he had Serug, Serug was 30 when he had Nahor, Nahor was 29 when he had Terah, and Terah was 70 when he had Abram (Abraham). That is a total of 1948 years. (Genesis 5:3-11:26)
  2. Abraham was 75 when he left his father and he was 86 when he had Ishmael. (Genesis 12:4-16:15) The promise of his descendants being slaves in Egypt was somewhere between these two dates. The best thing we can do on this end is split the difference. Say he was 80. That gives us a total of 2028 years from the time of creation of man to the promise of being slaves.
  3. Galatians 3:17 says that there were 430 years between this promise and the actual exodus. So that gives us a total of 2448 years after the creation is when the Exodus happened.

From the other angle:
  1. Nebuchadnezzar who was king of Babylon and took captive Jewish people from the land of Israel reigned from 605-562 BC, by secular dates. He destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon in 587 BC meaning the kings of Israel and Judah were no more.
  2. Counting backwards now are the kings of Judah: Jehoiachin really didn't have a reign, Jehoiakim 14 years, Jehoahaz 0 full years, Josiah 31 years, Amon 2, Manasseh 55, Hezekiah 29, Ahaz 16, Jotham 16, Azariah 52, Amaziah 29, Joash 41, Athaliah 6, Ahaziah 1, Jehoram 8, Jehoshaphat 25, Asa 41, Abijah 3, Rehoboam 17, Solomon 40 years. That gives us a total of 425 years. Which means Solomon would have been king of Judah and Israel around 1012 BC, keeping in line with secular dates.
  3. The Temple was built in the 4th year of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 6:1) which means the Temple was built in 1008 BC. The same verse says it was 480 years after the Exodus that the Temple was started. So if you add that together then the Exodus was in the year 1488 BC.
By the way that means 3936 years of man's existence before Christ. As a side note: many scholars believe they were off by 4 years of Christ's birth. But if we add 3936 and 2009 we get 5945 total years of existence of man.

Back to the point, if it was 1488 BC then who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?  Most think it was Ramesses.  The timeline if that was the case is not accurate.  And if it was 1488 BC then by the standards of those who study the history of Egypt (http://www.egyptologyonline.com/new_kingdom.htm) it was Tuthmosis III, who was 6 years old when he became king but his stepmother (who was also his aunt) ruled in his stead until he was 21. BUT, Tuthmosis III would have been only 16 when the Exodus happened and would have still been under his stepmother-aunt's authority. So maybe the Pharaoh of the Exodus was not a man. Maybe it was Hatshepsut. She was known for trying to be very masculine such as wearing a false beard. Maybe this is why we are not given the name of the Pharaoh because it was not the true and rightful leader. Maybe the son that was taken as one of the plagues was her son who was going to be the heir which caused her so much pain, so she let the Israelites go. But why address her as "he" in the Bible? All pharaohs were considered masculine and given that she posed herself as a man, she became a "man".  Oddly enough, she was famous for restoring monuments and buildings.  And what were the Jews known for?  Building things as slaves.  One of her accomplishments was building the Djeser-djesru which was dedicated to Amon.  The Temple was known as the holiest of holy places.  God would soon replace that with His own.  Tuthmosis III went around and destroyed much of the things that showed she was Pharoah.

Others will have a problem with the Israelites only being in Egypt for actually only 210 years. If they left Palestine to go to Egypt with only 70 people how could they leave only 210 years later with roughly 2 million? Numbers 1:46 says they left with 603,550 men over 20, not even counting the Levites. This means that the population of Israel would have had to double itself every 14 years. According to http://www.ecofuture.org/pop/facts/exponential70.html Israel's population would only have to grow 5% each year to reach the total stated. And according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(real)_growth_rate there are at least 37 countries today that have higher growth rates, so it can be done.  Even if we take the US alone, which has been a country for the past 233 years has grown from 3 million in 1790 to over 300 million in 2009. That is 297 million more people than when it first started. Of course some of that was immigration but it does show how fast a country or people can grow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

(15) Isra'el Who?, Exodus 1:1-1:22

Remember in Genesis, the family of Jacob (who had his name changed by God to Isra'el) had traveled to Egypt to be with Joseph, a son of Jacob who had been sold to nomads and eventually became the 2nd in command of all Egypt, due to a drought, although at first they did not recognize Joseph for it had been 22 years since they had seen each other. The book of Exodus (Sh'mot) starts approximately 210 years after the last page of Genesis.

When the Israelites first came into Egypt around 1698 BC they numbered 70. By the time we start to Exodus it is around the year 1488 BC and the Israelites had multiplied so much that we are not even given a number. Verse 7 says, "the land became filled with them".

After 210 years and many Pharaohs had come and gone, one Pharaoh (king) had risen to power who knew nothing of Joseph. How could the Egyptians forget about a family who was once part of their history? They multiplied fast! The name of Joseph had probably become synonymous with Isra'el and Isra'el had become so numerous that each individual become less important to the Egyptians who would still see these people as foreigners (non-Egyptian). Joseph's name was lost in the crowd. This was also a time of confusion for the Egyptians called the 2nd Intermediate Period. The Hyksos came to power and the kingdom became divided for awhile. The Hyksos controlled the Delta area while native Egyptians controlled from Thebes. Perhaps during this period the Egyptians weren't really in charge of their own country and that is why the new Pharaoh did not know of Joseph.

If the Israelites though were a nuisance to the Egyptians why did they allow them to stay so long? Apparently the Israelites were prosperous for the Egyptians and maybe God had blessed Egypt due to their presence. Verses 9-10 (NAS):
  • 9 He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.
  • 10 "Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land."

The Israelites were more powerful than the Egyptians, yet they did not want them to leave the land. Why? Again, apparently the Israelites had made the Egyptians prosperous. So one way to keep them in the land but to keep them less powerful and to dehumanize them was to make them slaves. Verse 11 says that Egypt put slave masters over them and oppressed them with forced labor. But this action backfired; the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied putting even more fear into the minds of Egyptians. This could be where many will get the idea that the Israelites were builders of some of the pyramids. Verse 13 says that they were forced to work with mortar and brick, maybe eluding to the pyramids, at least some of them. It may have been for Egyptian history and glory. It may have been Egyptian architecture but they probably wouldn't have done the work, especially if they had slaves. The point is apparently this did not work to destroy the Israelites either. So, Pharaoh devised another plan: kill all the babies that were born male. But as you will read later...it didn't work either. God used two midwives to attend to this request by Pharaoh who secretly refused to carry out the action and God allowed them to be prosperous as well. And because of their actions, Isra'el became more numerous and powerful. So, Pharaoh had to try and carry out the order some other way...but...

Nothing man can do can stop the power of God. In the end, Pharaoh kept trying to wipe out the name of Isra'el, but with every decision came a backfire and the hand of God kept the name of Isra'el alive. Hence, the name of Isra'el means "protected by God". Who is protected by God? Isra'el, that's who.

Monday, June 15, 2009

(14) Exodus

The second book in the Canonized Bible is Exodus. The Hebrew name for this book is Sh'mot and it does not mean "to leave". Sh'mot means "names". As you can see the first few lines from this book are about the names of the descendants of Israel who were in Egypt. There were 70 descendants of Israel. All of them came to be with Joseph, a child of Israel (Jacob), who had become 2nd most powerful man in the land. Yet by the time we pick up the story, a new king (Pharaoh) had risen to power and he didn't know of Joseph. All he knew is that this people had multiplied and filled the land. This book deals with names more than it does about an escape. It can be separated into 3 main parts (with many other subsections). The following is a breakdown of what it is all about.

  • Exodus 1:1-12:51, the dehumanization of Israel. Pharaoh tries to wipe out the names of all the Israelites by hard labor, genocide of male infants, and a refusal to allow them to be a people of their own.
  • Exodus 13:1-20:26, the deliverance of Israel. Once Israel had been set free, God would start to re-establish the name of Israel throughout the region by starting their journey to the Promise Land.
  • Exodus 21:1-40:38, the rules for Israel. To get their name back they had to prove themselves worthy and were given a set of rules to live by so their names would not be wiped off the face of the earth.

This book is the manual for being Jewish. However it is a direct parallel to the life of Christ and what He means to the world. We are dehumanized as believers in Christ but He delivers us from this world with rules to live by. It shows how God remembers us (those who love Him). It shows how God cares for us (taking our oppression away) and shows how much He wants us to be with Him (living by the law-Christ). It is also an analogy of what God can do in our life. He first prepares us. He then redeems us for His purpose and then He reveals to us what that purpose is.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

(13) Bibles

This one is not actually a lesson but a result of a poll about what Bibles are being used.
  1. NIV, ASB, ESB (modern English) (69%) are using modern translations of English. The New International Version which means if you understand English you will understand it. The same word will be used in England, Canada, Australia and the US. The American Standard will be more for American English and so on. There are other modern English translations: ESV, NAS, TNIV, NCV
  2. Hebrew, Greek (23%) said they are using original languages Bibles. Probably they are using them as a reference to see what the original meanings of the words were. The problems with many modern English language translations is that we do not have a direct word for words used in the past so many times paraphrases are inserted.
  3. Amplified, Message (paraphrased) (15%) said they use a paraphrased version. These are the easiest to read but to many some of these verses are watered down. Some of the verses seem to have things added to them to make it easier to understand.
  4. KJV, NKJV (any Authorized) (15%) said they use what was known as for hundreds of years as the "Authorized" version. They claim they use this because it is the most accurate. Well, yes and no. For someone who speaks English from the 17th century then yes it is the most accurate but we do not speak that language anymore. The KJV speaks of unicorns. Now maybe in the 17th century the word unicorn meant something like a rhinoceros but today it means a mythological creature, so the translation is inaccurate in that account.
  5. Other (15%). I would like to know what the other is. I have no idea.

The point is, it doesn't matter what translaton you prefer, but you might want to carry another one around to let some other perspective in just in case. God speaks to us through scripture at different times and in different ways.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

(12) Paul

His name was Paul. His name was Saul. Paul was his Roman name. It comes form a family name of Paulus meaning "humble". Saul was the name Jewish people would have known him by. But the real translation in Hebrew is Sha'ul.

He was born in the Greek region known as Tarsus. He was also of course Jewish (Acts 22:3). And not only was he Jewish, he was in the top of his class. He calls himself a Pharisee among Pharisees. (Acts 26:4-8). Yet, he was Roman citizen (Acts 22:27). How could someone so devoutly given to Judaism also be a Roman citizen. Only by one of three ways 1) You could buy your way into it. 2) Do a great deed for Rome or 3) you were born into it. Paul was born into it. (Acts 22:8). But how was he born into it? By speculation his family must have done a great deed for Rome such as help their military. By profession he was a tent maker (Acts 18:3). If he like so many of the culture followed in his family's ways then his father and perhaps grandfather were tent makers as well. Maybe they built tents for the Roman army. His family is never mentioned. No one knows if he had children or even a wife. But there is hints to him being married at one time. (1 Corinthians 9:5). But probably by the time he was converted somehow he either lost his wife in death, by divorce, or they were just never together. Scripture says he was celibate because he was unmarried (at the time of the writing in 1 Corinthians 7:1-9). He also mentions how important it is to take care of the widow, which could be a hint that he was widowed himself. Since he was Greek, Jewish and Roman he undoubtedly knew all three languages and knew them well, which makes his writings even more intriguing.

At first he was a Jew who hated Christianity. Being raised as a Jew, he probably did what was customary of his time; he left his home of Tarsus and went to study in Jerusalem at a young age, perhaps even as young as 13. He may have been mentored under the teacher Gamaliel, a famous teacher in the line of Jewish teachers called Hillel. (Acts 22:3) This Gamaliel has had rumors of becoming Christian himself by some historians. It would fit his character since he actually stood up for the Apostles in Acts 5:34-39
  • 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.
  • 35 Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.
  • 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.
  • 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
  • 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.
  • 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Paul was part of the Sanhedrin that Gamaliel was in charge of and may have heard this speech. He was later hired by the same Jewish council to find Christians and bring them to trial so they could execute them. He was well on his way to find Christians when Jesus came to him and changed his life and purpose.

He was a very educated man. As already stated he learned from the Hillel and his training cause him to be very fluent with scripture (Galatians 1:14). He knew the Torah and Prophets like the back of his hand (Philp 3:4-6). At one time the man whom we have learned to love was filled with hate and violence (1 Timothy1:13) , which is probably why the council chose him to go after Christians: they knew he would do it! Paul gave orders to kill hundreds perhaps thousands of Christians. He was even there to see the first martyr of Christianity, Stephen. In fact he was the one who gave the order to stone him (Acts 8:1). However, this attitude did give him the edge when he had his transformation. His upbringing and zeal for Judaism was turned into an immovable object when it came to Christianity as well. He was bold. He didn't back down. One time he was stoned and left for dead and after he was helped back to his feet he ran back to those who stoned him (Acts 14:19-20) probably to argue some more.

His Life Changing Experience:
Acts 9 says it all.

  • 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest
  • 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
  • 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
  • 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
  • 5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
  • 6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
  • 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
  • 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
  • 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
  • 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
  • 11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
  • 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
  • 13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
  • 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
  • 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
  • 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
  • 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
  • 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
  • 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
  • 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"
  • 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
  • 23 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,
  • 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
  • 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
  • 26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
  • 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
  • 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord

From here on he was a changed man.

His importance:
Paul was the one chosen by God to be the one to carry the message to the Gentile. All of the others were mostly for those who had heard Judaism and tried to convert them. But Paul, even though he always wanted to try and convert his fellow Jews, was not picked for that calling. He was chosen to go to far away places deep into the enemy's territory; Rome, the pagan among pagans. It is there we will meet his maker. It is there he will be called home. But not until he had ran the race and wrote most of what we know as the New Testament. It is mostly accepted that Paul was beheaded by an anti-Christ figure, Nero. Josephus claims that when Paul was led to the chopping block, he did not go with resistance. He writes that when Paul saw the actual place where he was to be beheaded, he broke free from the Roman guards and ran to the block. He placed his head down and waited. It is thought that without a doubt he preached all the way while he was running. Paul is a symbol of what it means to persevere.

One thing we all need to understand and remember, Paul was not perfect. We all say I wish I had the faith of Paul but sometimes you may not want to be like him. He suffered with his own insecurities. His sin tormented him. His past caught up to him many times. God put a "thorn" in his side to remind him of his job and his cross he had to bear. But one thing we never study for some reason and so many never think about it is Paul struggled with the same things we do. He couldn't stand the fact that he had troubles like you and me. Romans 7:15
  • 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do...I do not do, but what I hate...I do.

Paul sinned just like you and me.

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