Saturday, February 14, 2009
Has this ever happened to you?
Something is wrong...
Probably something I did...
She's cold and distant...
What did I do? How do I make it right?
This HAS happened to me. Many times...
I guess this is an approriate question, for Valentine's Day.
Our reading in Leviticus 5-7 talks about the same problem. Except the relationship is with God. We commit sins both known and unknown. And God presents several solutions.
"When you are guilty, immediately confess the sin that you've committed and bring as your penalty to God for the sin you have committed a female lamb or goat from the flock for an Absolution-Offering."(Lev. 5:5&6)
There was a fix for every different relationship problem with God. "These are the instructions for the Whole-Burnt-Offering, the Grain-Offering, the Absolution-Offering, the Compensation-Offering, the Ordination-Offering, and the Peace-Offering which God gave Moses at Mount Sinai on the day he commanded the People of Israel to present their offerings to God in the wilderness of Sinai." Leviticus 7: 37, 38)
Come to think of it, that works for your wife or girlfriend also. Recognize what you did wrong. Confess it. Make it right.
Happy Valentines's Day!
Friday, February 13, 2009
In my reading this morning, I am charging into Leviticus. Before I get into it, I should admit that I have always found Leviticus and Numbers boring and repetitious. Like, what is wrong with having Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy. A Triptateuch instead of a Pentateuch?
I know, I know. It is the Holy Book. Inspired by God. I have no right to question what is there and what is not there. But reading through the Psalms has taught me that God is not afraid of our questions, and emotions, and doubts and struggles. We do not have to hold back from God, afraid we will hurt His feelings, or afraid He will hurt our - well our existance! You know - bolt of lightning/ smudge of soot. "Oops. Did I overreact to your question?" sort of relationship with God. So, we are not to be "flip" with Him, but nor do we have to walk on eggshells. It is, after all, a relationship. One that He wants...
Back to Leviticus.
Here we are introduced to the whole offering thing. One little piece of it jumped out at me today. "present a male without a defect at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting that it may be accepted by God." That is repeated several times.
God wants our best. What does that mean?
I guess we always give our gods our best. Watch a man washing and polishing his cherished car. No spots are left dirty, or unwaxed. Think of the tremendous effort that materialistic North Americans give to their job. They sacrifice their sleep, their time, their comfort and many times even their dignity for the money they make. Don't get me wrong. A job is important. Paying your bills is important. But when money is your god, it is clear that you give it your very, very best.
A flashback from my own life. I had been a very high producing real estate salesperson for a large chunk of my life. (I may have to go back to that) I remember HOW much effort, and attention, and time, and energy, and creativity I dedicated to that endeavor. Why? Well, to make good money, of course.
A small experience from a few weeks ago. A dear couple whom we love and have known for years called us. Wanted to get together. Any night of the week would work. When we finally got to the purpose of the visit, it was to present some multi-level marketing thing. My wife said - NO. Cancel the appointment. I called them back. "Would LOVE to get together, I said. But not for THAT. But if you will not mention your multi level thing, come on over." Suddenly they did not have time. Some other time, they said.
So we routinely (me included) give money our best. We routinely give our other gods our best.
What does it mean to give GOD our best?
(Maybe Leviticus won't be so bad, AFTER ALL).
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Todays reading in Chapters 39 and 40 of Exodus finishes the book. It involves the completion of the Tent of Meeting, its assemblage and its consecration. What do I learn today?
One thing is that God loves quality, beauty, skill. Listen to these descriptions:
"Using the blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics, they made the woven vestments for ministering in the Sanctuary."
"They hammered out gold leaf and sliced it into threads that were then worked into designs in the blue, purple, and scarlet fabric and fine linen."
"They mounted four rows of precious gemstones on it. First row: carnelian, topaz, emerald. Second row: ruby, sapphire, crystal. Third row: jacinth, agate, amethyst. Fourth row: beryl, onyx, jasper. The stones were mounted in a gold filigree"
"They made the plate, the sacred crown, of pure gold and engraved on it as on a seal: "Holy to God." "
Another is that when you fully obey the Lord, His power and His presence are manifested. Listen to this:
Moses finished the work.
34 -35 The Cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of God filled The Dwelling. Moses couldn't enter the Tent of Meeting because the Cloud was upon it, and the Glory of God filled The Dwelling.
36 -38 Whenever the Cloud lifted from The Dwelling, the People of Israel set out on their travels, but if the Cloud did not lift, they wouldn't set out until it did lift. The Cloud of God was over The Dwelling during the day and the fire was in it at night, visible to all the Israelites in all their travels.
How cool is that? God power. God's presence. In an environment of lavish beauty.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
We are always amazed and inspired when we experience great talent. Whether it is Michael Jordan with his "air walk", Denzel Washington the actor, or Celine Dion singing her heart out.
Yesterday I was introduced to Akiane, artist, poet, child prodigy. She found God when she was 4. The painting above was done when she was 8 years old. You could buy an awesome print, 36" by 48" for $3100. She is now an experienced professional at the ripe age of 13. Here is her web site: http://www.akiane.com//home.htm
I will let her tell you the story of this painting.
Why did you paint the portrait of Jesus?
It was God's timing; I had been looking for a Jesus model for two years, and I could not find the right face. Then one day I asked my family to pray with me all day. We petitioned God to send the model right through our front door. The next day a tall carpenter came in. He was so humble, and I was surprised that he agreed to model for me. But a week later he called back to say that he was unworthy to represent his master. We all prayed together again, and a few days later he called back to tell us that God wanted him to do it, but he had to cut his hair and beard in three days. So we took a few pictures and I studied his face for a long time. After dozens of sketches, I started painting. It took me 40 hours to finish the first Jesus painting –The Prince of Peace-- and I still remember I lost four teeth in that time!
Today's reading is all about talent. In Exodus 36 to 38 only 2 people are mentioned by name. Bezalel and Oholiab. They are the Akianes of their day. God's people are building a beautiful tent to be the focal point of their worship of God. The most skilled artisans are sought out and entrusted. The resulting creation is spectacular. Gold, burnished wood, embroidered tapistries.
So, I bet you have not named your children Bezalel - or Oholiab. But they are famous. In the Bible record for all time. Because of their talent. Used for the glory of God.
Now we bring it down to a personal level. Me, for instance. I feel very low on talent. I like music, but am not that good. Thought I was a business man, but now I wonder if that was ever true. I NEVER was good at sports. So - a man with very little talent. I would not have been named in the story of the building of the Tabernacle.
Yet - whatever talent I DO have, I offer to God. He gave it. We are designed to derive pleasure when we use our talents. And ultimately, when they are employed for Him, our talents, even if small, give glory to God.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The relationship between God and His people was broken.
They complained about dying when Pharoah's army was behind them - God delivered them. They sang, and worshipped and praised (for a day or two). Then they complained bitterly because they were hungry - and God gave them manna. Then God put on a spectacular display of power in preparation for delivering The Law - and they all pledged faithfullness and obedience. Moses is up on the mountain for LESS than 40 days - and they build a hand made god and throw a wild party to worship it.
God is not thrilled with His people at this point. Here is what He says, "Tell the Israelites, 'You're one hard-headed people. I couldn't stand being with you for even a moment—I'd destroy you. So take off all your jewelry until I figure out what to do with you.'" So the Israelites stripped themselves of their jewelry from Mount Horeb on." (Exodus 33:5,6)
So the rest of the reading today deals with the renewing of that broken relationship. God and Moses talk as friend to friend. God has Moses chisel out the 10 commandments on two tablets of stone. There is ANOTHER period of 40 days on the top of the mountain with God. God lays out AGAIN the path for His people to follow and obey Him.
This time the people wholeheartedly enter in. They obey. And when Moses describes the building of the gorgeous portable tent that God specified, EVERYONE joyfully participates.
In fact, one of my favorite passages comes from this text:
"Then they came back, every one whose heart was roused, whose spirit was freely responsive, bringing offerings to God for building the Tent of Meeting, furnishing it for worship and making the holy vestments. They came, both men and women, all the willing spirits among them, offering brooches, earrings, rings, necklaces—anything made of gold—offering up their gold jewelry to God. And anyone who had blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics; fine linen; goats' hair; tanned leather; and dolphin skins brought them. Everyone who wanted to offer up silver or bronze as a gift to God brought it. Everyone who had acacia wood that could be used in the work, brought it. All the women skilled at weaving brought their weavings of blue and purple and scarlet fabrics and their fine linens. And all the women who were gifted in spinning, spun the goats' hair.
27 -29 The leaders brought onyx and other precious stones for setting in the Ephod and the Breastpiece. They also brought spices and olive oil for lamp oil, anointing oil, and incense. Every man and woman in Israel whose heart moved them freely to bring something for the work that God through Moses had commanded them to make, brought it, a voluntary offering for God..." (Exodus 34:21-29)
Community! Excitement! Joyful giving!
When the relationship with God is renewed, there is an outpouring of love and obedience. There was such lavish giving, that Moses had to ask them to stop!
"So Moses sent out orders through the camp: "Men! Women! No more offerings for the building of the Sanctuary!" The people were ordered to stop bringing offerings! There was plenty of material for all the work to be done. Enough and more than enough." (Exodus 35:6,7)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Up at the top of the mountain, God and Moses are in heated discourse. "I'm going to kill them all and start over with you", God says." "Think about it" says Moses. "All the nations will say the you brought your people out here to the desert to kill them."
Moses (who had NO idea what the people were doing) grabs the two original stone tablets and comes down the mountain. (I wonder what THOSE would fetch today on Ebay?)
Joshua hears first. "Is it war", he asks? Moses says, "Nope. It is not the song of victory. Not the song of defeat. It is a huge party." So you see, they DID have Rock and Roll in the Old Testament.
When Moses sees, for the first time, what is going on - is he ever mad! Now he understands why God was so mad. He smashes the stone tablets, grinds up the gold idol, puts it in water, and makes them all drink it.
He's not done.
Then he bawls his brother out, and draws a line in the sand. People. Time to choose. Who is on God's side? Come over here. Most people did. A few did not. He asked the Levites to put on swords. And they killed the 3000 people who didn't join the God side of the line.
Then he tells them he is going back up the mountain to ask what God wants to do about their sin.
"Moses went back to God and said, "This is terrible. This people has sinned—it's an enormous sin! They made gods of gold for themselves. And now, if you will only forgive their sin. ...But if not, erase me out of the book you've written."
God said to Moses, "I'll only erase from my book those who sin against me. For right now, you go and lead the people to where I told you. Look, my Angel is going ahead of you. On the day, though, when I settle accounts, their sins will certainly be part of the settlement."
God sent a plague on the people because of the calf they and Aaron had made" (Exodus 32:31-35)
It seems pretty easy for me to put other gods into Gods' place. My motorcyle gives me pleasure. It is easy to put it in Gods' place. My house is beautiful. It is easy to put it in Gods' place. Food is wonderful. It is easy to put it in Gods' place.
No wonder the first commandment (which God has to write over, now that Moses smashed the tablets) is:
"No other gods, only me.
No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God" (Exodus 20:3-5)
Remember Titanic the movie? It was a huge financial success, netting almost 2 billion dollars worldwide. At the heart of the movie was a love story. Yes, the couple shown on the poster.
What bothered me about the fictional story is that the girl pictured had officially pledged herself in marriage to someone else. So the entire movie, this engaged girl is carrying on with someone else. SO wrong!
We could call her fickle. But she is not the only one.
In todays story the people of Israel get impatient. Less than 40 days ago they had pledged their love and obedience to God almighty. Now they weren't so sure. Maybe Moses died. We pledged our obedience and loyalty to God yesterday, but this is today.
So they do the unthinkable. They build a calf out of their earrings and gold jewelry. And they bowed down and worshipped it. Unbelievable!
They threw a party for this "god" they made and the party got out of control. This was in the days BEFORE cocaine...
God - Almighty God - is so mad He wants to kill them all and start over with Moses!
(We'll finish THIS drama tomorrow...)