Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Yellow Beauty Roses

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:32-39, ESV)

Though our author has given a very stern warning to those who “shrink back” from following Christ and treat his sacrifice as worthless, it is not his opinion that his addressees are of that ilk.  He must warn them just in case, because a servant of God must always follow the Lord in His desire to warn the world of His judgment.  Just as Yahweh sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of impending doom, knowing they would repent at the warning, so He has sent our author to write to this congregation and warn them lest there be any among them who are unclear about the consequences of rejecting the faith.

The evidence the author of Hebrews has that this congregation of Christ followers are genuine followers after all is the affliction they endured for becoming Christ followers and how they endured it with the assurance that this world was not their final home but a better one awaited them, an eternal one.  They didn’t throw away their confidence then, so he doesn’t believe they will throw away their confidence now, though it has been a temptation.

When someone we know acts like an unbeliever but we have seen evidence in their lives and behavior that they know the Lord, we may need to speak to them about the consequences of not knowing the Lord in order to call them back to their senses.  True believers will respond and be called back.  Unbelievers, who only embrace Christianity in a surface way, will not repent.  God uses our warnings, our admonitions made in love, to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Our confrontations are part of His disciplinary action.

Professor Williams received yellow beauty rose bulbs and planted them and cared for them.  As the plant grew he watched eagerly for the flower.  If the flower had been red, when might Professor Williams have assumed that the flower stopped being a yellow beauty rose?  If it bloomed yellow, was it a yellow beauty rose, being yet only a bulb?

Advertisements

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Trust God and Do the Right Thing

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—“that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”  (Exodus 4:1-9 ESV)

Have you ever wondered whether something God called you to do with people will be received by them?  Have you been afraid to take Him at His word that it will be used by Him for His purposes?  Magnify that multiple times for Moses, who was being asked to face down the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Moses is certain that not even the Israelites, let alone Pharaoh, will listen to him or believe Yahweh has sent him.  So Yahweh gives him three signs, the staff that turns into a snake and back again, his hand turning leprous and then healing, and the Nile water turned into blood.  Interestingly, God does not say that they will believe Moses.  He instructs him to use the staff “that they may believe” and the leprous healing that “they may believe” after not being satisfied with the first sign.  And He suggests that they may not believe Moses with those two signs and so gives the third.  That is not a guarantee.

But Yahweh has already told Moses that He will be with him.  Moses might understandably be nervous, as would we be, but God is asking him to trust him and has shown him several signs, including being a flame in a bush, to demonstrate His power and presence.  God is asking us to trust Him, too, and to take what should really be no risk at all, even if it does mean that we are not listened to or are treated shamefully.  Some who trust Him and go lose their lives (Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Acts 7; James, the first apostle killed, Acts 12).  Jesus was not spared and neither might we be, but we are doing the will of our Father, Yahweh Elohim.  That is the right thing to do.

Some will hate thee, some will love thee, Some will flatter, some will slight; Turn from man, and look above thee, Trust in God and do the right.

Simple rule and safest guiding, Inward peace and inward light; Star upon our path abiding, TRUST IN GOD AND DO THE RIGHT.

Norman Macleod, 1857

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Bearing the Name of God

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”  (Exodus 3:13-22 ESV)

Moses has another hesitation about doing what God (Hebrew ‘Elohim’) says, and that is, why should the people of Israel believe him if he doesn’t know God’s name.  God’s name, Yahweh (translated in our English texts as LORD in all caps), has been known and used from the beginning but it seems the Israelites have forgotten it.  Yahweh makes a play on His name saying, “I am who I am,” the Hebrew verb for “I am” being similar to the name Yahweh.  He tells Moses to tell the people that “I am” has sent him.  He is Yahweh, the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He is promising them that He will bring Israel out of Egypt to Canaan.

There was a belief in this culture that knowing someone’s name gave you some influence in their lives and we may say that this is true.  But does it give us influence with God?  The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it does and fault orthodox believers for not using His name.  Interestingly, their understanding of His name is in error.  In the Hebrew language the words are made up only of consonants, no vowels, and Hebrews just mentally supply the vowels in order to correctly pronounce the words.  When it became a concern that Yahweh’s name should not be pronounced those who copied the sacred text used a series of dots and dashes under and between the consonants to represent the vowels for the word ‘Lord’ in order to encourage readers to say ‘Lord’ (Hebrew ‘adonai’) instead of Yahweh.  But when you read the vowels for adonai with the consonants for Yahweh you get Yehovah or Jehovah.  The correct pronunciation is Yahweh.

Should we hesitate to say the divine name?  Jews have become unwilling to do so because of the second commandment not to use Yahweh’s name in vain and they want to protect against accidentally doing it so they do not pronounce it but say, “Lord.”  In writings you might see “G_d” even to remind you not to say the divine name.  We should not feel that hesitation but when dealing with Jewish people we may want to yield to their sensitivities so as not to offend.  Moses wanted to know God’s name in order to have more credibility with the people and God conceded this to him, even though it had never been a secret.  God wanted him to know His name more so that he could reflect God’s character more faithfully.

Yahweh tells Moses that the people will listen to him and will go with him to Pharaoh to request time in the wilderness to sacrifice to Yahweh their God, knowing, of course, that Pharaoh will refuse.  But this will allow Yahweh to demonstrate His power as He strikes Egypt with plagues and makes the Egyptians show favor to the Israelites as they leave.  He has laid out the whole plan to Moses and guaranteed him success.

God often comes down to our level, so to speak, to help us obey Him and do His will.  He asks us to trust Him and to remember how He has cared for His people in all generations.  How has He proven Himself to you?  What does He have for you to do next?  How will you bear His name?

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Entrusting to God What We Hold Most Valuable

Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10, ESV)

 

Can you imagine a mother’s anguish at knowing that her son will be discovered soon and she will be forced to kill him?  She has already had a daughter but this son she sees is “good” (Hebrew), an echo of Yahweh’s statement at creation (“And He saw that it was good”).  Was there something special about Moses (this was not the name his parents gave him as we shall see) or is it simply acknowledging that Moses was God’s good creation as any child would be? Either way, in her desperation she finally entrusts Moses to God by putting him in a makeshift ark and sending him down river, his sister (Miriam) following to see what happens.

 

Something happens, something they could not have predicted but that further indicated God’s favor on this child.  We don’t know how many daughters Pharaoh had, or if this one told her father she had adopted a Hebrew child (would he have objected or given in to this decision?).  Miriam boldly speaks up to Pharaoh’s daughter and suggests a Hebrew woman, her mother, who can nurse Moses.  Pharaoh’s daughter even pays Moses’ mom to nurse and wean him.  But then she has to give him up again to Pharaoh’s daughter to live in her household, her consolation being that her son at least lives.

 

God is sovereign over all things, even the decisions of human beings.  Did He allow other Hebrew boys to die at their parents’ hands or sovereignly rescue them?  We don’t know, but for this one family who had faith, He delivered in a miraculous way and prepared Moses for a unique role in His story.  Every child is valuable and “good” and so Scripture teaches us that infanticide (and by extension, suicide), in whatever form, is wrong.  God has a purpose for every single person born into this world, including you and me.

 

We deprive ourselves of joy by turning to self in time of need – by George Muller

Daily Thoughts From Exodus: The Value of Suffering

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.  (Exodus 1:1-14 ESV)

Israel is the new name Yahweh gave Jacob when He wrestled with him at Peniel (Genesis 32), and his sons are here listed in order of their birth to their various mothers.  As a summary of what is recorded in Genesis, Moses notes how many of them there were when Joseph had them come to live with him in Egypt.  And even as Yahweh had commanded Adam and Eve, and later Noah, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, so the people of Israel thrived in Egypt.

But that created a problem in the minds of the new Pharaoh.  Joseph had favor in Egypt and was a leader but the new Pharaoh had no loyalty to him and feared the vast number of Israelites.  Yahweh had told Abraham that his offspring would be oppressed in Egypt for 400 years and Moses here explains just how that came about.  The Israelites became slaves to the Egyptians and were worked ruthlessly to build Pharaoh’s store cities.

Why would God allow this?  God loved Abraham, Isaac and Israel and had made a covenant with them and their children forever to bless them in the land of Canaan.  But now He was allowing them to suffer and even causing their numbers to swell the more they suffered.  It would seem that God was doing something miraculous to build the number of Israelites.  And Satan, who has been at enmity with God’s people from the beginning (Genesis 3:15), was seeking to destroy them.  The Israelites could well be complaining about God’s treatment of them and wondering why He didn’t rescue them.

God saw a bigger picture than they did, one that included suffering and that nevertheless was good for them, a plan to bless them and all nations through them (Genesis 12) and show His mighty power to save.  You and I parallel Israel in our own lives as we too were slaves to sin and miserable without God until we surrendered to Him and found life and freedom in Jesus the Messiah.  The rest of our story is about becoming a blessing to others and demonstrating the power of God to save.  We may well be complaining about the suffering God is allowing in our lives and wondering why He doesn’t save us.  But He sees the bigger picture and knows how to use suffering in our lives to bring honor to Him and blessing to the world.  And, He knows how to take care of us in the middle of the suffering.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Value of Suffering

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.  (Exodus 1:1-14 ESV)

Israel is the new name Yahweh gave Jacob when He wrestled with him at Peniel (Genesis 32), and his sons are here listed in order of their birth to their various mothers.  As a summary of what is recorded in Genesis, Moses notes how many of them there were when Joseph had them come to live with him in Egypt.  And even as Yahweh had commanded Adam and Eve, and later Noah, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, so the people of Israel thrived in Egypt.

But that created a problem in the minds of the new Pharaoh.  Joseph had favor in Egypt and was a leader but the new Pharaoh had no loyalty to him and feared the vast number of Israelites.  Yahweh had told Abraham that his offspring would be oppressed in Egypt for 400 years and Moses here explains just how that came about.  The Israelites became slaves to the Egyptians and were worked ruthlessly to build Pharaoh’s store cities.

Why would God allow this?  God loved Abraham, Isaac and Israel and had made a covenant with them and their children forever to bless them in the land of Canaan.  But now He was allowing them to suffer and even causing their numbers to swell the more they suffered.  It would seem that God was doing something miraculous to build the number of Israelites.  And Satan, who has been at enmity with God’s people from the beginning (Genesis 3:15), was seeking to destroy them.  The Israelites could well be complaining about God’s treatment of them and wondering why He didn’t rescue them.

God saw a bigger picture than they did, one that included suffering and that nevertheless was good for them, a plan to bless them and all nations through them (Genesis 12) and show His mighty power to save.  You and I parallel Israel in our own lives as we too were slaves to sin and miserable without God until we surrendered to Him and found life and freedom in Jesus the Messiah.  The rest of our story is about becoming a blessing to others and demonstrating the power of God to save.  We may well be complaining about the suffering God is allowing in our lives and wondering why He doesn’t save us.  But He sees the bigger picture and knows how to use suffering in our lives to bring honor to Him and blessing to the world.  And, He knows how to take care of us in the middle of the suffering.

A Biblical Theology of Work – Part 4

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.  Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8)

Here is a fascinating application of God’s perspective on work.  Fascinating because it is addressed to someone who has no choice in the work he or she does because he or she is owned by another human being.  Nevertheless, there is an understanding that the slave can do legitimate work for this master and so fulfill the Cultural Mandate.  We may suppose that if the master were asking the slave to do something contrary to the will of God that this would not be fulfilling the Cultural Mandate, which requires that we work under God’s authority to better the world.

But assuming that the master has the slave doing legitimate work, the slave is to do so with sincerity of heart, being motivated out of love for God and for one’s fellow man in accord with the Great Commandments.  He or she is not to do it begrudgingly, simply to avert the master’s anger, but is to do it as serving the Master, the Lord God, who is the ultimate rewarder of good work.

Though it is not clearly stated in this passage, we may assume from what Paul says elsewhere (Titus 2:9,10) that he is also concerned that the way a slave works in subjection to his or her master is a reflection of the gospel and its transformative power.  The Great Commission is always a factor in how and why we work.