Monday, January 28, 2019 0 comments

Where the Beauty of Israel Comes From

Ezekiel 16 is an extended allegory of Israel as a woman the Lord finds naked, abandoned, and dirty in the field, and the Lord washes, clothes, and covenants with her and cares for her.

These verses struck me:

13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.
15 But thou didst trust in thine own beauty… (Ezek. 16:13-15)

This reminds us of an important truth: Israel’s beauty is perfect because it comes from God. It isn’t Israel’s at all, but the goodness Israel is given by grace through obedience.

I think it is also the same on the individual level. Any attractiveness we have is from God. Looks are only surface-deep, but the real attractiveness rests in attitude and outlook and the way we do things, all of which, when affected by and guided by the Lord and our focus on His ways, will be greater than it would be otherwise.  Interestingly, with God’s help, we escape the excessive preoccupation with looks that makes beauty less appealing because our priority are on the things of eternity that really matter.

Let’s not make the mistake of “trusting in our own beauty.” (I’ll leave it to you to look up verse 15 to read the rest of what happens when that mistake is made.)

Sunday, January 20, 2019 0 comments

The Lesson in Darius’ Decree

When we were studying Daniel back in December and got to the story of Daniel being protected in the lion’s den, I thought it was really interesting to read the decree King Darius sent out to his people afterwards. You’d think it would be something like, “Daniel’s God does signs and saves and delivered Daniel from the lions,” but there is more to it.

26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. (Dan. 6:26-27)

When even the conquering gentile king acknowledges God’s kingdom will not be destroyed, that’s a strong encouraging message to the Jews. It’s probably the main message of the book to the Jews, who had their kingdom taken over. It’s to remind them that God’s kingdom can exist even if their nation didn’t have independent political power. The Jews of Daniel’s day didn’t yet know that.  
Saturday, January 12, 2019 0 comments

Joseph’s Revelation to Take Mary to Wife & a Connection to Family History

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. (Matt. 1:18-25)

It is interesting to think about how we got this information about a very private and personal dilemma Joseph had and the significant decision he had to make and an important revelation he had—that he had planned to put Mary away privately and was reassured by an angel in a dream that Mary’s pregnancy was not because of fornication but was a miracle according to the will of God.

We know this stuff about Joseph because at some point he told others about it. Maybe he told Mary and it became a story that was part of their family culture of raising Jesus. At some point that story got around among believers, and we know about it today because Matthew recorded it.

This is so fascinating because a private part of someone’s personal history became part of a family history tradition and eventually became part of shared church history of all Christians.

Applying this to us, I think it shows how important it is to record the events surrounding our dilemmas, our decisions, and our revelations concerning the same. Those things change the course of our lives and our families, though we may not know the full extent of their impact until much later. We also don’t know how those stories will help our families in the future, or even other people. We don’t know how far those stories may travel.

Thursday, January 10, 2019 0 comments

The Recipes for the Anointing Oil and Incense

22 Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
23 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
24 And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
26 And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,
27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,
28 And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.
29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
30 And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.
32 Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
33 Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people. (Ex. 30:22-38)
In these verses the Lord gives Moses directions for a recipe for holy anointing oil and for incense. The oil was for anointing and sanctifying the tabernacle and the priests. The Incense was to be burned in the tabernacle. Both were to be holy and not used for any other thing outside the tabernacle. Anyone who made it and used it for other purposes was to be cut off (or excommunicated).

Why was this so important? Why was it to be so exclusive?

It seems to me that the Lord was trying to use the power of smells and how they create strong associations with memories and feelings. He wanted a particular set of smells to be associated with the act of anointing and with going into the tabernacle.

Smells create atmosphere, and they are a good symbol for how the Spirit of God creates an atmosphere when present as part of priesthood ordinances and holy places.

Also, often smells of places cling may cling to people, and if people who had been worshipping at the tabernacle had those smells on them, everyone who came close would know where they’d been and what they’d been doing and associate it with the tabernacle and the positive feelings of that. Those associations would strengthen over time. Perhaps those who were distanced from God could be reminded by smelling those smells again from other people around them who worshipped faithfully at the temple.

How might this be useful to us today? What if parents had a particular perfume or cologne they only used after having gone to the temple? It might do the same thing for them and their family.

More lessons I get from these verses:
1)    The anointing oil can symbolize the Spirit of God. If so, then we can’t (and should not try to) imitate the workings of the Spirit. Attempts to imitate would amount to emotional manipulation, which isn’t what the Lord wants. The Lord wants us to imitate Christ’s works, but let the Spirit work as it will.
2)    The incense can represent prayer, since it was to be burned will the priests prayed. Thinking about the ingredients of the incense might make us think about the proper ingredients of prayer—humility, submission, requests for help, gratitude for blessings, confessions for sins, requests for forgiveness, pleas for protection from temptation, requests for guidance, confidences about one’s situation and feelings, praise and adoration for mercy and power manifest, etc.

Update on the Revelation Commentary: I’m still working hard on it!  My word count is up to about 153,000 right now. The whole thing has been drafted, but each chapter requires multiple draft iterations for refinement. I’m very excited about it.