New Covenant lens….

hebrews

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  ~ Hebrews 13:4-5

I’ve been studying and teaching Hebrews for the past 4 months. We are on the last chapter … and I have learned so much. It was not an easy book to study or teach and has stretched me and challenged me outside of my comfort zone.  But it is definitely a book that has helped me understanding the benefits of the New Covenant more than anything else I’ve read.

Hebrews is such a fitting name for this Epistle.  Not because it was written to Jews, but because of what Hebrews means.  The word comes from the Hebrew verb ivri meaning “to cross over”

The very first Hebrew was Abraham and there were 2 ways in which he “crossed over”… first, he crossed over from Mesopotamia into Canaan and secondly, he crossed over from the world of idol worship that was familiar to him and his family to a new realm, one in which the One True God was worshipped instead. In both senses Abraham became forever an “ivri” – a Hebrew, one who crossed over.

That fits this Epistle so well — crossing over.  These Jews had crossed over from the familiar realm of the Old Covenant to life in the unfamiliar but liberating, grace filled New Covenant.  They were under intense persecution and were being pressured into returning to the Old and this letter was to encourage them to remain in Christ.  This letter presented to them  a contrast of the old and new covenant — and the supremacy of Jesus and the New Covenant… a far better, superior covenant.

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness;

Our study of this book was verse by verse, always keeping it in context of who it was written to and why.  When I came to chapter 13, specifically verses 4 and 5, it just seemed so out of context to command them to keep the marriage honorable and the marriage bed undefiled with the warning that God will judge the immoral and those who commit adultery.  And then in the next verse he’s telling them to live free from the love of money and be content with what they have.  Sex and money…. were those the two biggest concerns the writer of Hebrews has for these believers?

Of course we are to live holy, pure, godly lives.  Of course we are to be faithful in our marriages and sex is wrong outside of the marriage relationship.  Of course we are to not be covetous, greedy, or lovers of money.  And of course we are to be content with what God has given us.

But is that all this verse is saying?

Remember, the book of Hebrews is about the contrast of Old Covenant and New Covenant.  The writer has explained theses contrasts to us for the last 12 chapters and has warned us several times throughout this letter to not fall from grace, to not turn away from Christ (apostasy), to steer clear of idolatry and going back to Judaism, and to enter into the rest of the finished work of the cross.

So, with all of that in mind, we don’t want to look at these 2 verses through the lens of the Old Covenant pattern which is…. if I am not faithful in my marriage or if I sleep around — if I mess up!  If I sin in this area!  If I do those things, then God is going to judge me.  The problem with that “Old Covenant” lens is that He already poured out all of His judgement for my sins on Jesus.

  • Isaiah 53:5: The punishment that brought our peace was upon Him
  • 2 Cor 5:21:  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 
  • Romans 5:8-9:  But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him!

This letter was written to believers (believing Jews) not unbelievers/unsaved.  So, even if I did do those things after I’m saved, God doesn’t call me an adulterer or a whoremonger.  He calls me righteous!  He sees me as I am… not by what I do or have done.  

So who does God call the adulterer and the whoremonger?  Who does He refer to as covetous?

  • several verses in the other epistles mention sexual immorality as a false teaching — Eph 5:3-7; Jude 1:4; 1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2:14; 1 Tim 1:3-10; 
  • Jeremiah 23:10 also talking about false prophets and calls them adulterers.
  • Sexually immoral in Heb 13:4 is the same Greek word used in Heb 12:16 to describe Esau as a fornicator.. an idolator.  — The root word is porne which means an idolatrous community.
  • Adulterers in Heb 13:4 is “moichos” which figuratively means an apostate
  • In the Old Testament, whenever Israel went into idolatry, God called it “adultery.”
  • Idolatry is spiritual adultery
  • Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever is worldly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry
  • 2 Peter 2:3  By covetousness they [the false teachers] will exploit you with deceptive words;

Historically, at the time this was written (and the other epistles), there were false teachers that had infiltrated the churches and were attempting to turn the believers away from the grace of the New Covenant…. away from it’s teachings… away from Jesus.  

What were some of the strange, false, demonic doctrines that these false teachers were teaching?

  • There were those who were forbidding marriage, believing celibacy was purity and pleasing to God (1 Tim 4:3)
  • There were those who were perverting the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 1:4)
  • Of course there were the Judaizers who were encouraging them to go back to the Law (which is adultery/idolatry – Romans 7:1-4)
  • All of these false teachers were motivated by greed (covetousness – love of money)

….and be content with such things as ye have:

Be content in the original language is “with the things that are present.”  Present = right now.  So, what was “present” for these Believing Jews the writer was talking to?

  • They had put their faith in Jesus alone for salvation.
  • And because of it, they were suffering intense persecution and the reality of having to flee Jerusalem and everything they had previously known
  • From all that was familiar… the temple, the priests, the sacrifices.. their family and friends.

Remember they were feeling the pressure to return to Judaism and they were being influenced by false teachers.  This is an encouragement to them not to fall back into idolatry (the Law/Old Covenant) but walk free of that because Jesus is enough.

For hasn’t He promised you that “I will never leave you; never will I forsake you  

1 Kings 8:57 — Part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple was that the Lord would never leave them nor forsake them.  He was declaring that God had kept His promises and not one word had failed which He promised through Moses.

What a fitting thing for the writer of Hebrews to remind the people of…. he’s already told them that the New Covenant is far superior to the Mosaic covenant.   Now, he’s encouraging them that if God kept His promises and not one word failed which He promised Moses, they can trust Him to be with them and never leave or forsake them because “Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb 8:6). 

Then he reminds them that their response because of that… because Jesus is enough…should be “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.” (Heb 13:6)

When you begin reading the Bible through the lens of the New Covenant you begin to see things in Scripture that you never saw before…. and you truly begin to find the Father’s heartbeat.  This grace filled New Covenant is liberating!

~Robin

Distorted view of the Father

luke 15

What a beautiful description Luke 15:24 is of the Father’s love for us… truly His heartbeat is restoration and His response to our being restored to Him is to celebrate over us!!  Zephaniah 3:17 in God’s Word Translation says “The LORD your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you. He happily rejoices over you, renews you with his love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.”  I love that.  Psalm 91:15 He says He will rescue us and then throw us a party.  The more I meditate on His goodness, the more I see Him in this light…. rejoicing over me, renewing me with His love, celebrating over me and throwing me a party!!  I begin to see Him as Love… extravagant, lavish, outpouring, overflowing Love towards me!  This is the picture of the Father that Jesus is showing us in this parable… a picture of a Good, Good, Daddy.. full of chesed (Covenant Love) toward us (for more on chesed see my post Goodness and Grace).. a love that just won’t let us go!!

Both sons had a distorted view of their father…..

Both sons had a distorted view of their father and therefore a distorted view of themselves…. this identity problem made them unable to walk in the fullness of their positions as “sons” and enjoy the benefits of their inheritance.  They couldn’t see themselves the way their father saw them… accepted, loved and favored.

The Greek word for son is ‘huios’ and means son… a son having the nature of the father; a son representing the father — this is a word of position….a word of maturity.  As opposed to the Greek word ‘teknos’ which means child… one not fully grown or mature, still needing to be under tutors and governors (Galatians 4:2).  God has called us as sons…. Ephesians 1:5  Having predestinated  (in Greek:  proorizo…determined our destiny) us unto the adoption (in Greek:  huiosthasia… declaration of sonship) of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”.  How awesome and powerful is that truth!!  Before the foundations of the world, He determined and established our destiny as sons of God… being conformed to the image of the Firstborn Son.  

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  ~Luke 15:9

He had 2 sons… both were huios.  We are first introduced to the elder son as a huios (Luke 15:25)…  meaning having the nature of the father; one representing the father — this is a word of position and a word of maturity.  But his distorted identity was based on works… on what he did for the father instead of who he was.  Verse 29 gives us a glimpse of how this son saw himself.  “But he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have served you and never disobeyed a commandment of yours. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”  The word served is douleuo which means “to serve as a slave” — slave was “doulos”.  This was a distorted the view the son had of himself.  He was a son not a slave but he saw himself serving as a slave…. not as a representative of the father.  And the rest of the verse gives his distorted view of the father… not as an extravagant, generous father but someone withholding from him — even something as small as a goat to celebrate.  

The younger son is introduced in verse 12 as a huios…. again meaning having the nature of the father; one representing the father — this is a word of position and a word of maturity.  His distorted view of his identity was based on his inheritance.. what he would possess at his father’s death —  his priority was on his inheritance instead of relationship.  Although even after he leaves with the inheritance, he is still called a “son” (huios).  His position hadn’t changed even though he walked away from it.  Later in the story he comes to his senses and realizes he has sinned against heaven and against his father and decides to tell his father he is no longer worthy to be called “a son” but instead a hired hand (with no inheritance).  But the father’s response is one of love and although the son no longer sees himself as a son but a servant, the father sees him the way he always has… as a son… his son. 

He always makes grace available for us…..

Redemptive grace was offered to both sons to see themselves as they truly were and to see the father as he truly was.  While we know the younger brother repented and began to see clearly who he was, sadly we never know if the elder brother repented and if his heart was healed and he embraced his sonship.  But we do get a glimpse of the condition of his heart in looking further into how the father referred to him.  In verse 31 the father calls him son but the Greek word used is teknos instead of huios;  Teknos means child — a member born into the family but immature; not yet transformed into mature sons, able to inherit and to administer the father’s house and his belongings.

We are sons of God.  And our Father is a good Daddy to us.  Ask Abba Father today to reveal this truth to you…. begin to see yourself in Christ… as joint heirs with Him, carriers of His glory, made in His image and as a representative on earth of all that He is and all that He is… and then begin releasing that to those who have lost their way!

~Robin  

Following in the wrong footsteps….

inheritance

 

In our last post (Tammuz 5776 (2016) we learned that Reuben took his eyes off the prize (Phil 3:14).  Wrong vision can cost you your inheritance. The sad thing is his descendants followed in his footsteps… the tribe of Reuben also lost their inheritance.

As they were about to enter into the Promised land… the tribe of Reuben chose not to cross over.  They stayed on the east side of the Jordan.  They made a choice not to move towards their inheritance.  After 40 years in the wilderness Israel was getting close to the Promise Land.  They had to cross through Amorite territory in order to get to the Promise Land.

They were attacked by two Amorite warlords named Sihon and Og (Numbers 21:21-35).  

The Amorites were most likely the largest of the 7 enemy nations in Canaan.  They were large and powerful and controlled much of the Promise Land.  Their center of power was Cheshbon which means “reasoning”.  The Amorites were a warlike tribe and their name means to “say or speak” from a root word meaning to speak against or boast of self…. it includes all evil speaking, boasting, slander, boasting, murmuring, complaining, grumbling, blaming God, etc.  This translates as “a talker and a slayer.”  This enemy uses his words to reason with you and cause you to doubt what God has promised you or to settle for something less based on natural reasoning…. which is exactly what the tribes of Reuben, Gad and 1/2 the tribe of Manasseh did.  

King Sihon refused to allow the Israelites to pass through their land.  Sihon means tempestuous and also means warrior.  He gathered all his people together and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel.  Jahaz is from a root meaning to stomp.  It was here Sihon and his men fully intended to stomp out the Israelites but instead the Israelites defeated them with the edge of a sword and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok.  Arnon comes from a root word meaning a ringing cry, or joy.  Jabbok comes from a root meaning luxuriant or abundant… to pour forth.  

Like Sihon, we have a violent, raging enemy that opposes us, desiring to stomp us out.  He attempts to target our thoughts and reason with us…..”Has God really said?”  

Just like the Israelites defeated their enemy with the edge of the sword, so can we.  The word edge in Hebrew is mouth.  Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit.  By using our mouths to wield the sword against this enemy we will defeat him and take possession of territory that he has illegally stolen from us.  Not listening to his evil words but declaring the promises of God as yes and amen in Christ.  We will regain our joy and abundance.

Then Og, king of Bashan, went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei (meaning might or strength).  Deuteronomy 3:11 describes King Og of Bashan (meaning fruitful) as ‘the last of the remnant of the Rephaim’ and notes that his iron bed measured 13.5 ft by 6 ft.   Most likely, Og is not a personal name but a title given to the Canaanite king meaning man of valor.  God told Moses not to fear Og because He has delivered him into their hands.  Israel fought Og and conquered their land.  No matter how big or strong the enemy appears to be he is a defeated foe… stripped of all his power (Col 2:15).  Declare your victory over him and take back your fruitfulness and strength.

Amorite territory was never part of the promised land. Israel had told the Amorites that they did not want to posses their land and asked permission to cross over.

But Reuben looked around and said “We’ll take this for our land”  They chose the territory of Sihon and Og (Num 32:33) over the Promise Land God had chosen for them.

Because of this they had continual trouble:

  • They were attacked by their pagan neighbors
  • They were drawn into the idolatry of their neighbors
  • One of the first tribes to be taken into captivity

Why did the tribe of Reuben settle for a land that was not the Promised Land?

“The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock”  Numbers 32:1

They reasoned based on their natural vision, forsaking the vision God had for them.   The land of Gilead is lush and fertile; they saw that and thought, Why should we go any further? They saw something, it looked good, and they were willing to stop short of what God had promised to them.  What they saw was beautiful and bountiful…..however, what they saw was not the Blessing God had for them.

In this decision, the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manas’seh divided the nation. They separated themselves from the blessing of the land of Canaan. And they were farther from the tabernacle and much closer to the influence of the pagan nations that surrounded them.

God has promises for us that He desires we step into.   But to make this shift will require that we be willing to lay aside all natural reasoning… stop looking at things in the natural and step into faith….. like the children of Israel to go to a new place where we’ve never gone before.  

What has God promised you?…. health, healing, prosperity, etc?  Don’t settle for anything less!  In a time of transitioning not everyone will be willing to move forward with you. Be willing to leave behind the familiar to cling to the unknown.

~ Robin

 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

blessing 3

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy”  

Psalm 107:2

I kept hearing this scripture all day in my spirit!  Such a timely scripture since we just entered into the Hebrew month of Nisan a week ago and one of the key things about Nisan is it’s a month of redemption.   Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy;”  One translation says “let the redeemed tell their story” and the NLT says “Has the Lord redeemed you?  Then speak out!!”  I did just that as I went for my afternoon walk.  I began speaking forth what His redemption purchased for me.  What does it mean to be redeemed?

We were slaves set free – Mark 10:45 (He gave His life a ransom); Romans 6:17-18 (we were once slaves); John 8:34 (everyone who sins is a slave to sin); Gal 4:6-7 no longer slaves but sons).  Slavery was a common institution in the ancient world… a man might be born into slavery,  he might be captured by an invading army and placed into slavery, or he might have fallen into debt with no way to pay and therefore sold into slavery.  Once a slave, he could gain his freedom again… but it was very costly.  

There are 3 Greek words for redemption… agorazo which means a purchase made in the market place;  peripoieo which means to acquire or purchase for oneself; and lutroo which means liberated – the ransom price paid for loosing captives from their bonds and setting them at liberty.  When Jesus redeemed us, we were not just purchased from the market place of sin and death (agorazo).. or even purchased for Himself (peripoieo)…. we were purchased and our bonds were loosed, we were set free and given liberty in Him (lutroo)!!  We were redeemed by His blood (1 Cor 6:19-20; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelations 5:9).  He paid the ransom and declared “it is finished (John 19:30).”

It is finished… or “teletesta” in Greek can also be translated “paid in full”.  It does not mean just to complete a task but to carry it out fully, to perfection.  His work of redemption is fully complete and nothing needs to be or can be added to it.   Sin was atoned for (Heb 9:12; Heb 10:12);  Satan was defeated and stripped of all power ( Heb 2:14-15; 1Jn 3:8);  Every requirement of the Law has been satisfied  (Matt 5:17; Rom 10:14);  God’s holy wrath against sin has been satisfied (or propitiated)… the punishment or penalty of sin has been met (Romans 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1Jn 2:2, 4:10);

Tetelesta was a legal term.  When a Roman prisoner had finished serving his sentence, the judge would inscribe the word “tetelesta” on the release paper which guaranteed his deliverance and liberty.  The charges for those crimes could never be brought against him again.   When Jesus cried “TETELESTAI” on the cross, He was saying that anyone who places his trust in His sacrificial death, receives in essence a “certificate of debt” with the inscription of “tetelestai”, indicating that all their “crimes” (past, present and future) against God have been PAID FOR IN FULL!  Christ has utterly wiped out or completely obliterated the condemning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over His own head on the Cross. And then He disarmed the powers against us, He publicly exposed them, shattered, shamed, emptied and defeated,completely stripped them of all power – Col 2:14-15

Redeem is first mentioned in Gen 48:16 next to the names  of Jacob’s grandson’s Manasseh and Ephraim as Jacob is blessing them after he has adopted them.  The adoption of them made them sons with full inheritance rights equal to Joseph…. we have become sons with full inheritance rights equal to that of Jesus.  

We have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13).  The scripture does not say Christ has redeemed us from the law, as if to say the law is a curse. No, the law of God is not a curse, the law is holy, and just, and good (Romans 7:12). What Christ has redeemed us from is the curse of the law.. the penalty or punishment of disobedience!  ALL the curses!!  Deuteronomy 28:15-68 is a list of the curses.  He has redeemed us from sickness, pain, sorrow, depression, poverty and even death that came as a result for disobeying God.  We were redeemed from the curse so that the blessing of Abraham (Gen 12:2-3) might come upon us.. the Gentiles, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal 3:14)

He didn’t just redeem us and leave us to fend for ourselves in our new found freedom.  He redeemed us from the dominion of darkness and redeemed us (transferred us) into the Kingdom of His dear Son.  2 Peter 1:3 tells us that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  Below are some of the things His redemption purchased for us – this is not an exhaustive list.. definitely do your own study 

  • Col 1:19-22 – we were reconciled to God in Him and presented holy, blameless and without reproach; made righteous.
  • Col 2:13-15 – we were made alive with Him, forgiven our trespasses, cancelled the record of debt with it’s legal demands, and completely stripped the enemy’s power over us.
  • 1 Thes 5:9-10 – we obtained salvationsozo: forgiveness of sins, healing, deliverance, and prosperity… made whole, complete, lacking nothing.
  • 1 Pe 2:24 – we are dead to sin, alive to righteousness, healed
  • Rom 6:6 – we are no longer slaves to sin
  • Galatians 4:5 – we received adoptions as sons
  • Isaiah 44:22 – our transgressions are blotted out
  • Romans 6:4 – we walk in newness of life
  • Ephesians 1:1-23 – we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
  • Rev 1:6 – we are made kings and priests
  • Titus 2:14 – we have become pure
  • Galatians 3:14 – we received the promise of the Spirit

When you know you are fully, completely redeemed, your walk with God will change.  You’ll see yourself in a brand new light. You will know God has placed such great value on you because He purchased you through the precious blood of His dear Son.  And you will tell others your story of redemption…. declaring that the Redeemer lives in you and that it is for freedom He set you free, never again to be subject to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1)!

~ Robin

He has given us a new heart

love

“……God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:5

Recently I heard a church leader quote the scripture Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  I didn’t think much of it at the time… it’s not a scripture I quote over myself so I let it go in one ear and out the other so to speak.  Then I heard a couple of people in the same church begin parroting that same scripture.  When I heard it during a prayer meeting, for the 3rd time that week, I thought to myself “my heart is not deceitful and desperately wicked” and  Holy Spirit spoke Romans 5:5 to my heart… “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Jeremiah 17:9 in a few translations says our hearts are wicked beyond cure or incurable!  Sometimes we quote things out of context from the Old Testament… without the revelation of the blood of Jesus and what His death, burial and resurrection purchased for us.  We forget to put on our Jesus glasses while we read the OT.   This keeps us sin conscious instead of God conscious.  And heaps condemnation upon us.  So let’s look at Jeremiah 17:9 in context.

Jeremiah 17 is talking about a people who had turned away from God and had fallen into idolatry.  Verse 4 says that God will make them a slave to their enemies. And verse 5 says cursed is he who trusts in man and makes mere flesh his strength, and turns his thoughts from the Lord.”  In Deuteronomy 28 being a slave to our enemies is listed under the curse of the Law.  Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law… being made a curse for us.  So, Jeremiah 17:9 can’t possibly apply to us as born again believers.  Also, Hebrews 10:22 says that our hearts have been made clean from an evil conscience.  Yes, at one time my heart was deceitful and desperately wicked… but once I became born again, the blood of Jesus cleansed my heart and made me holy, righteous and blameless in His sight.

Instead of confessing Jeremiah 17:9 over ourselves, let’s look at a few of the things the New Covenant says about our hearts once we made Jesus our Lord.  And let’s start confessing these things instead…..

  • our hearts are pure as a result of being born again (Matt 5:8; 2 Tim 2:22; and 1 Peter 1:22 – in this scripture Peter connects the reality of having a pure heart with the new birth in the very next verse: “…since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… )
  • our hearts are full of  good treasure (Luke 6:45)
  • our hearts have rivers of living water flowing from them (John 7:38-39)
  • our hearts have been cleansed (Acts 15:9)
  • our hearts are filled with the love of God (Romans 5:5)
  • our hearts listen… hearing hearts (Rom 6:17)
  • God’s light shines in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6)
  • the Spirit of God’s Son dwells in our hearts (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 3:17)
  • our hearts are guarded by the peace of God (Philippians 4:7)
  • our hearts have God’s laws written on them (Hebrews 8:10)
  • our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22)
  • our hearts are continually strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9)

Ezekiel 36:26–27 is a prophetic promise of God giving us a NEW heart… and Jesus fulfilled that prophecy for us through His death, burial and resurrection.  By confessing that we still have hearts that are wicked and incurable is to say that the blood was not enough.  God makes it clear in this passage that we don’t have both an old and a new heart, but only a new heart. The old heart of stone has been removed, and all that remains is the new heart.

Jesus told us to “take heed how we hear” and “he who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying.”  Let’s make sure that when we hear scripture quoted that we don’t just parrot it but that we hear it with the revelation of what Jesus purchased.  ~ Robin

No Hebrew word for obey

keys bible

I was reading an article by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and he said that there is no Hebrew word for “obey.”I always just assumed the actual word ‘obey’ was in the Hebrew Bible….it’s translated in our English Bibles, and it’s definitely in most sermons that preached.   I did some further research, and sure enough, there is no word in Hebrew for our English word ‘obey.’ The word translated obey in our Bibles is the Hebrew word shema.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against obedience, and I’m definitely not advocating for disobedience.  I am one of those people that obedience just comes naturally to.  I was an extremely obedient kid… to the point of losing a cat once… but that’s another story for another blog!  I also like rules…truthfully I LOVE following rules and setting them.  In fact, my kids and husband call me the rule maker! I’m sure they mean it as a term of endearment… right??

Just as there is no Hebrew word meaning “obey,” there also is no English word for shema.  While this Hebrew verb translates as “hear” it means much more than just hearing or listening. The King James Bible chose the verb ‘to hearken’ rather than hear for them. But now, nobody hearkens anymore so the English translators of the Bible didn’t know what to do with this verb. So they translated it as ‘obey’.  But “obey” poses a problem…before we obey we usually go through a 3 part process…1.  We hear what God says….. 2. we evaluate the command based on our understanding…. 3.  we make a choice to obey based on our evaluation.  That’s a Greek mindset to understand first then obey.  But God doesn’t give us instructions in order that we might understand Him!  He gives His instructions to us that we might live life well… Proverbs 10:17 “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life.”

There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament and 1050 commandments in the New Testament.  With so many “commandments” you would naturally assume that obedience is what God is requiring.  But He’s not looking for obedience from us the way we understand obedience.  Webster’s Dictionary defines obey as to do what someone tells you to do or what a rule, law, etc., says you must do.  Some synonyms are to submit, to keep, to comply, to be governed by, bow to, do one’s bidding, do what is expected, do as told, to take orders.  Lots of English synonyms for a word that’s not even in the Hebrew language.

So, what does God require from us?  He’s looking for shema levot….for hearing hearts.  A hearing heart is a heart that is intent on… or committed to doing whatever God commands… whatever He asks from us.  And most importantly a hearing heart is rooted in love (Deut 11:1; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).

The first time “shema” appears in Scripture is in Genesis 3:8. “And they heard (shema) the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Adam and Eve had just sinned and eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This scripture shows us God’s response to them in spite of their sin… in spite of them not following their hearing hearts and doing what God required of them. God came walking through His garden in the cool of the day. The word walk is halak; it has the idea of moving or going as opposed to just sitting there.  The term “cool of the day” wasn’t just added as a poetic phrase, the word cool is the word reach which is the word for spirit.  

Immediately following their disobedience they “heard”(shema) the Spirit of the Lord in the Garden ready to walk with them… eager to enjoy the move of His Spirit with them. They heard His Spirit come into the garden desiring to be with them like always.  To hear (shema) is hearing with understanding, attention, and with a response.  Response to what?  To come to Him and walk with His Spirit as usual.  Allowing the wind of His Spirit to blow over them and make things right.

Our translations then tell us that God said “where are you?”  Actually, in the Hebrew it is a Semitic idiomatic expression meaning “he is nowhere.”  God wasn’t asking a question; He wasn’t asking where Adam was.  He was crying out “Adam is nowhere in My Heart.”

This is not a picture of an angry God who is looking for Adam so that he can punish his “disobedience”… this first look at sin for us is a picture of a caring Father so sad that His son left His heart.

Today let’s have hearing hearts, let’s respond to Him, walk with His Spirit, committed to doing whatever He asks.  Today let’s be hearers and doers.

~Robin

 

Joy

joy

Joy is to abound the entire Hebrew month of Adar…. and this year because it’s a leap year we get 2 months of Adar… double the joy!   Joy is not happiness… they are vastly different words!

Words are powerful.  I’m one of those mom’s who is constantly correcting her kids on their grammar as well as the words they use.  I ask them “is that really what you mean to say?” Proverbs 18:21 in the New Living Translations says “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”  Since I am definitely one who LOVES to talk, I want to make sure that I’m reaping good consequences.  That’s why I love studying words in English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew… really digging out the meanings.  So that I know exactly what I’m saying.  Choosing joy this month is much easier if I know the difference between joy and happiness.

Happiness is from the Middle English word meaning “hap” or “chance”… based on outward happenstances. Joy comes from the Middle English from the French Anglo word “joie” meaning rejoice! I love that! The Apostle Paul thought it was so important to rejoice that he felt the need to repeat it twice… “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”.  Infact, Paul talks about joy at least 16 times in the 4 chapters of Phillipians.  King David also exhorts us to serve the Lord with joy… Psalm 100:2 “Serve the LORD with joy. Come before him with a joyful shout!”  This exhortation wasn’t borne out of “happy” circumstances… he was at the time hiding in a cave, exiled from his throne, having barely escaped from the murderous intentions of his power-hungry son Absalom. What a rough set of circumstances!  And yet David chose this moment to compose a psalm of rejoicing.  

Joy is a deep down confidence that all is well, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the problem.  Jewish sages have a saying, “simcha poritz geder” — joy breaks all barriers.  Joy is a gift from God… Psalm 4:7 says Thou hast put joy in my heart”  The Greek word for “joy” is chara (χαρὰ), a word related to “grace” (χάρις).  There is grace for joy available for us.. we need only spend time in His presence to be full of joy (Ps 16:11).

Today rejoice…. choose joy whether your circumstances are joyful or not….get into His presence and let Him fill you with His joy (Ps 16:11))… let it strengthen you (Neh 8:10), causing you to superabound with hope (Rom 15:13) and that joy will breakdown any barriers in your life.  I recently read a wonderful definition for joy:  joy is the flag that flies on the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.  

Naaman the Syrian

naaman the syrian

And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath   ~ Luke 4:27-28

I started this blog post 2 weeks ago but a death in my immediate family forced me to put my study on hold.  Now that life has resumed back to normal, I’m excited to start blogging once again.  We had been talking about Jesus’ teaching of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the past two blogs (see Jesus is our Jubilee and The widow of Sidon) and the people of Nazareth’s response to His teaching.  He was revealing to them that He had come to be a light and a blessing… to show forth His salvation… to the Gentiles (unbelievers) as well as the Jews.  He was reminding them of their covenant responsibility to co-labor with Him in being a blessing to ALL the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3)…. He had blessed them to be a blessing… to release that blessing to ALL we come in contact with.  

This example must’ve struck a nerve with them and just pushed them over the edge…. this example that He gave was unthinkable to their natural reasonings!  The widow represented Gentile sinners but Naaman represents much more than that… he was the captain of the Syrian army… the Syrians oppressed Israel.  They were enemies of Israel.  Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus.  Surely being a light and a blessing didn’t mean extending it to their oppressive enemies did it?  

Remember, God’s heartbeat is for the nations.  He was so intent on showing the Israelites His love and compassion for ALL people, and that ALL people can have faith in God, that He chose one of the most hated men in Israel at that time to prove it.  God in His mercy pursued Naaman…. there were MANY lepers in Israel but none of them were healed except Namaan the Syrian (Luke 4:27)  

The Syrians were always terrorizing and attacking Israel and then taking prisoners back to Syria… on one of these raids, Namaan carried off a little girl from Israel and made her his wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:2).  Chapter 5 opens with the Lord allowing Syria to win a battle, although we don’t know who the other side is.  The Bible also tells us that Naaman was mighty, honorable to his King (King Aram) and strong in battle.  But his military strength and glory were marred by an incurable disease of leprosy.    

This little girl that he kidnapped tells Namaan’s wife about the prophet Elisha and that Namaan could be healed if only he were with him.  I love the little girl in this story… she is definitely a co-laborer with God…a minister of reconciliation.  She is being a blessing to even the one who took her captive.  She has complete faith that if Namaan were to see Elisha he would be healed!  She had faith in her God that He is not only able to heal but is willing to heal…. even an enemy of Israel!

While this story in Luke 4 is a rebuke to the people that they are neglecting their covenant role of being blessed to be blessing to ALL the people of the earth… thankfully however God doesn’t just rebuke us and leave in our neglectful condition.  It is also an invitation to be His ambassadors of unconditional love… God’s love that He poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5) … to even our enemies… those who oppose us… oppress us… or even enslave us (as Namaan did to this girl).  

Namaan goes to see Elisha.  An enemy of God, one who has attacked, killed, plundered Israel, one who has leprosy… an outcast of outcasts is standing at the door of the man of God hoping to be healed.  He comes carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing and with his horse and chariot and wealth.  What a sight Namaan was… power, prestige, a commanding presence.    He had yet to acknowledge with the psalmist that “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7).  

But rather than respond to such pomp and circumstance as Namaan was undoubtably used to people doing…. rather than come personally, Elisha sends a messenger to him telling him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan river and he will be made clean. God alone would get the glory for healing Namaan… not Elisha… because Namaan was expecting Elisha, the prophet of God, to heal him… he didn’t even know the God of Israel yet.  His trust was in a man whom he assumed had “magical” powers.  Naaman comes from a pagan country, where his “prophets” made quite a spectacle when they healed the sick. According to the Bible Commentaries, they raised their hands in the air, and shouted for the sick to be healed.  But God was after Namaan’s heart not just in healing his physical body… He was pursuing Namaan.    

However, Naaman almost misses his miracle healing because of pride and self importance.  The first words out of his mouth were “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.  In fact he went away more than just mad… the word used means wrath, rage, full of poison and venom.  

He thought!  He had a preconceived idea of how he thought his healing would come about.  How many times have we missed or almost missed our miracle because we thought God would do something the way we preconceived it?  We had it all figured out in our minds!  Thank God He is not bound to the limitations of our preconceived ideas or the boundaries of our thinking!!  Let’s let go of our limited expectations and have faith in the God of Israel and His limitless way of manifesting miracles in our life.

Naaman thought the resources he trusted in were better than what God was providing.  He said the rivers in Damascus are better than Israel…. they are tov.  Tov is good… to be in proper working order, the way it was meant to… the way God created it to work.  Naaman’s pagan ways were far from tov!  He lived in a culture that didn’t function the way God created us to live.  We were created to love Him… not to serve false gods. 

He was asked to do nothing less than to betray the faith of his fathers. He was being asked to be willing to acknowledge that there was a possibility that Israel’s God could do something the Syrian god was unable to do. Naaman would have to let go of everything he trusted in and trust God for his healing.  The Jordan means to descend… Namaan would have to humble himself… to descend… to lower himself in order to be made clean.  And this was exactly what Jesus was saying to the people in the synagogue listening to Him that day… if they wanted salvation, they were going to have to let go of everything they trusted in… their adherence to the law…their good works…. and admit they were the poor, the blind, the oppressed, unclean.. that they were no different from Namaan.. or for that matter their Roman oppressors…in need of a Savior.    Instead of responding to the rebuke and the invitation to release His goodness and His presence… His salvation…. to the Gentiles (the unbelievers), they responded with offense.  

So, after being encouraged by his servant to do what was asked of him, he steps out in faith and humbles himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan 7 times.  Naaman experienced the overwhelming power, presence, and mercy of Israel’s God and his whole attitude changed.  Naaman had a whole-hearted transformation: “Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’”  When Naaman goes back to Elisha’s house – he’s a changed man! There is no mention of horses and chariots this time as he returns to Elisha.  And he doesn’t just declare the goodness of God but that God is the only God in the entire world.  This is a radical statement for a man of his time, living in a polytheistic society.

Naaman’s God is now the God of Israel and he declares he will only make sacrifices and offerings to God. Before he didn’t want to wash in the Jordan River, because the waters of Damascus, were better than any of the waters of Israel, and now he wants to take dirt from Israel (v 17). The Bible Commentaries say: he wants to take dirt because God’s presence was in Israel.  His solution to worshiping in Syria was to take Israeli dirt with him.  He asks God to forgive him, when he has to bow to other “gods” because of his obligation to the king. This gentile, knows it’s a sin to bow down to any other “god” that isn’t the God of Israel.  Elisha blesses him and tells him to go in peace.  Luke 4:27 Jesus says there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”  God’s heart is for the Nations…. Naaman was a changed man… a spiritually cleansed man all because of one little Jewish girl who had compassion on him… her oppressor.  

Jesus is our Jubilee

Jubilee 1

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  ~ Luke 4:18-19

2016 is a Jubilee year (see post 2016 year of God’s manifested goodness).  In Leviticus 25, Jubilee has promises attached to it…. Liberty for the captives, restoration of family, land, and possessions, increase from your field, freedom from oppression, safety and triple blessings!   

In Luke 4,  Jesus  goes into the synagogue… which was his custom to read and teach the Word.  The Word was teaching the Word!  This time He went to the synagogue in Nazareth, His home town.   Jesus had just begun His ministry and was becoming pretty well known for all of the signs, wonders and miracles that He was doing in Capernaum and the rest of the Galilee of the Gentiles.

The synagogue was an intimate place that allowed the Jewish people to gather in a less formal setting than the Temple itself. There were no high priests, no Levites, nor any standard liturgy. Anyone was allowed to get up and read from the sacred scrolls.  The reader stood and the rabbi sat. They stood up to read the Torah, and they sat down to teach to Torah (Matthew 5:1-2:; Luke 5:3; Matthew 26:55;Luke 10:39;) In ancient times sitting was the posture of authority.   Here, after reading the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2,  Jesus assumed the position of a rabbi….sitting while teaching.

The rabbis taught that these two verses were a messianic prophecy…. and everyone in that synagogue knew the acceptable year of the Lord was the great Jubilee of Leviticus 25. Jubilee was always a symbol of salvation.. this was the hope of Israel… that there would come a final Jubilee.  When the Messiah would arrive and all the promises to Abraham and David would be fulfilled.  They knew this passage well… it was their hope.  So all eyes were fixed on Him as they waited until He sat down to teach on what He just read.

The only thing He said upon sitting was “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  What a short teaching… but so life changing for the people listening!  Everyone else whoever read and taught on that scripture said “someday”…. but Jesus said TODAY!  Jesus was saying everything you’ve been waiting for is here!  The Jubilee you’ve been hoping for stands  before you…. I AM your Jubilee… I am your Messiah…. the Messianic age (the age of Salvation) has begun… it is no longer a future hope.  Your Messiah is here!  Salvation has come!  That they no longer had to be poor, broken hearted, captive, blind or bruised.  That day Jubilee became a person…. not just a year in time!

Jubilee was a time to sound your trumpet of freedom!  Freedom from slavery to Satan (Ephesians 1:17, 2:17; Colossians 1:12; Romans 6:14).  Freedom from sickness and disease (Deuteronomy 28:61; Galatians 3:13).  Freedom from debt to Satan and the World’s system (Colossians 2:13-14).  Freedom from fear (1 John 2:5, 4:17-18).  And a time of the commandment of blessing (Leviticus 25:20-21; Deuteronomy 28:8; Ephesians 1:3; Galatians 3:13-14).

He closed the Book….He left on the 2nd part of Isaiah 61:2 which was to proclaim the day of vengeance for our God.  Jewish expectation was that when Messiah arrived, He would not only restore the fortunes of Israel, but would do so by destroying her enemies.  They expected a Messiah who was a Warrior King!  Such an exclusion from this reading of Scripture was unthinkable for most Jews.

Deliverance from captivity always included destructive judgement upon the enemies of God who enslaved or oppressed them…. the deliverance from Egypt…. the entrance into the Promise Land…. deliverance from the Babylonian Empire…. from the Medo-Persian Empire… why should the Roman Empire be any different.  But God was doing a new thing!!  Isaiah 43:19 “”Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

He also gave them examples of Gentiles that Elijah and Elisha had done miracles among.  When He begins talking to them in verses 23-27 He was addressing their neglect of being a people of The Blessing….Gen 12:2 “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth”  In verse 23 Jesus indicates that they are asking for signs and for the blessings to flow in their own town because so far Jesus had been doing miracles in Capernaum which was city of both Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus was indicating that He had come also to be a light and a blessing to the Gentiles.  This would include their Roman oppressors… unthinkable!  Were they offended that He had taken a passage of vengeance and judgement upon the Gentiles and turned it into a passage of mercy and blessing?  Were they offended that His gracious words…. or words of Grace were towards the Gentiles?  He reminds them of Elijah and the widow from Sidon.  He also reminds them of Elisha and Naaman the Syrian.

More on both of the widow and Namaan next time…. 

~Robin