Our Perpetual God

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Photo credit to Pearls of the Torah, Ahavat Ammi

“Because you have had a perpetual hatred…” Ezekiel 35:5a

 
Can you imagine having a perpetual hatred for someone? This is a pretty strong hatred. God uses the Hebrew word olam. Strong’s Concordance likens it as being unto the vanishing point or time out of mind. Sometimes it’s used for eternity or without end. The Pulpit series called this feeling that Seir or Edom had for Israel a “hatred of old, or eternal enmity.” Now remember who Edom is. Edom represents Esau and his descendants. Esau is long gone. Yet here his people are, generations later, still carrying deep enmity against Israel. The story of Esau and Jacob perpetually lives on, never changing, never being resolved, never being reconciled. Can you imagine life like that?

 
It doesn’t just make me think about the effects of hatred, but it makes me want to look at that word perpetual, or olam, because I’ve heard it used before in Scripture. And it makes me think that there are some things that God wants us to “perpetualize” in our lives. What might that be?

 
When I look back to Genesis 9, I see God establishing the rainbow. It was established for perpetual generations and as an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on earth. How many generations is that? Who knows? I mean, where is the vanishing point? Maybe there is no vanishing point and that’s the point. How long will this covenant last? To that same vanishing point, where ever and how far away in God it is. And I’m wondering if the vanishing point isn’t less of a time or place than it is a position in God? After all, He’s the one who established this covenant. It’s all on him. It really doesn’t matter what we do or how we respond. He’s not going to break His word and destroy the whole earth by a flood again. Out of love and faithfulness and His glory, He made this perpetual promise to be perpetually displayed before us.

 
Then there’s the land of Israel. In Genesis 13, God tells of a land that will be given to Abram’s seed for ever. It’s that same word olam. Now, Noah Webster says of the word perpetual that it is “literally true with respect to the decrees of the Supreme Being.” It’s never ceasing, continuing without intermission, permanent, and endless. Outside of God, what is? Maybe this olam is all dependent upon being in God. Face it, Seir and others are still fighting against Israel today, but there it still exists. Yet, does it exist as fully as God has decreed it would? Or will that existence solidify upon God being fully known and glorified in Israel? Yet try as you might to fight against God’s will, it’s a losing battle. God is this perpetual God and His will is perpetual and it will be as He declares. It really doesn’t matter how perpetual your hatred is. God’s glorious, loving, and righteous perpetualness is immensely more powerful and more real.

 
I could go on and on. Through Isaac, God established a perpetual covenant with his seed and those after. Get it, these perpetual covenants so far haven’t required action on man’s part. This is God’s doing, because He can and because His is faithful. In Exodus when God is telling Moses what to say to the children of Israel, He answers, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this is My name for ever [olam], and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Are we just talking about God having the same name forever? Or are we talking that He is always the same God whose every decree and every word is true and worthy of respect and is and was and will be exactly as He decrees?

 
As we progress through Exodus, we see God establishing the priests and giving them their office as a perpetual statute. It’s not just that God appoints who shall be priest. It’s that the priest must be so in Him as well. Their honouring His statutes isn’t legalism, it’s part of understanding the perpetual life-giving nature of God and His presence and power over our lives. Or what of the perpetual incense that Aaron was to burn? Is Aaron able to do something perpetually outside of God and the generations of priests that God would equip? Is the incense the point or is it the understanding and living in the perpetuallness of God?

 

Keeping and observing the sabbath throughout their generation was a perpetual covenant. Not eating fat or blood was another perpetual statute. Why? Because God was showing us something about Himself in all these things to help us grasp His perpetualness so that we could live in Him from day to day and not just some day in some far away future in some far away place. Maybe you disagree and that’s o.k. But I can’t help hear it again in Jeremiah 5:22 as God says, “‘Don’t you fear me?’ says the Lord: ‘won’t you tremble at My presence, who has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it can’t pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they can’t prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?’” It’s not just that God set these boundaries in motion for the waves. It’s perpetual. He’s always there controlling it. He’s never left. He’s not just in Heaven. He’s here, still, just as present and just as strong. All these things that mattered to Him still matter today. He’s never changed. We just missed out on what it means to fear Him. We forgot who and what He is. We forgot what it was to tremble at His presence because we live as though He’s not here.

 
It was Esau’s problem way back when. He didn’t get the perpetualness of God with Him and around Him. He forsook that birthright, that place in God and then despised his brother for treasuring it. God asks another good question in Jeremiah 8:5, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slid back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” And isn’t that Seir’s problem and our problem too often too? Instead of holding on to that which is truly perpetual, to God’s truth in Him and to His presence, we hold on to lies and deceit and hold on so tightly our lives our bound up in them. It could be hatred, or self-gratification, or pride, or whatever, but we ditch perpetual reality in God for perpetual falsehood because we like it better and figure the outcome is more to our immediate liking.

 

There are things that are perpetual in God that lead to blessing in Him and knowing Him and safety in Him and a future and a hope in Him. And there are perpetual things outside of Him that lead to perpetual sleep, perpetual desolation, and perpetual shame. This word olam or “perpetual” and it’s other forms is used at least 438 times in Scripture. Maybe it’s a truth God would like us to understand and live in.

 
Here’s a tidbit of Judaism. “Judaism advances the daring idea that man and God are partners in the work of creation. Faith is a call to human responsibility.” (Jonathan Sacks) It’s not that we can do it on our own. We must first partner with God in order for Him to partner with us. God created us for this purpose. Look back into the garden. God’s purpose, His perpetualness, was already in existence and already acting. Then He brought us into it, in Him and invited us to partner with Him in this work of spreading His perpetualness.

 

The problem with Seir is that they were not involved in any kind of intimate relationship with God. Life is all about embracing Him and all He does and thinks. Imagine having this kind of partnership with the One who created you! But Seir wanted none of it. Seir acted against it. We’re supposed to be intimately involved with Him managing His creation and being busy with restoration. We’re to be perpetually involved in what the Perpetual One is involved in. Eternal life doesn’t start in Heaven. It starts when we enter into the Perpetual One. Eternal Life has always been in Him. Eternal life is exhibited everyday and into forever.

 

Paul understood. That’s why he urged us, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1) It’s not just our spiritual service, it’s our perpetual service, and our perpetual position of being present in Him. This is life from now until eternity. This ought to change my every perspective.

 

Therefore, I’m still blessed in Him if people hate me and treat me poorly. Therefore I can love my enemies and do good to those who hate me. Why? Because I live in the One who perpetually loves and forgives. I live in the One who perpetually takes care of the hated and the forgotten. I live in the One who perpetually judges rightly and whose word and ways and decrees are true. I don’t just know about Him. I am intimately connected with Him through Jesus Christ. And because of this, I can enjoy Him now and look forward to an anticipation of something more to come in Him.

 

“In the Mishnah, one rabbi says, ‘This world is like a lobby before the Olam Ha-Ba. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.’ Similarly, the Talmud says, ‘This world is like the eve of Shabbat, and the Olam Ha-Ba is like Shabbat. He who prepares on the eve of Shabbat will have food to eat on Shabbat.’” (Jewfaq.org) I can choose to live life in and according to the perpetual nature of God, or I can choose to live according to my own nature, whether that be through hate, or whatever. One will leave me walking into God’s future for me with Him, prepared in Him. The other will leave me living outside of the presence of God, unprepared for a future with Him, devoid of His presence. What will my perpetual choice be? It doesn’t only matter for later. It matters each and every day of my life. What do I really want my perpetual story to look like? Maybe today is a good day to decide, before God must choose for me.

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Ditching the Attitude

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“‘Son of man, because that Tyre has said against Jerusalem: ‘Aha, she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me; I shall be filled with her that is laid waste…’” Ezekiel 26:2

 
Attitude matters. Promises are for real. Relationship counts. Integrity is more important than success. Loving our neighbors isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command.

 
Today, Ezekiel, that prophet of the Lord, brings up the strong city of Tyre. Tyre was a famous island city with a portion on the mainland. It’s king and his son covenanted with David and Solomon. That’s where the cedars of Lebanon came from. It was an important sea town and relied on Jerusalem for food. The men of Jerusalem and the men of Tyre ventured out together on sea trade. There was a relationship. It happened to be mutually beneficial.

 
Sometimes the king of Tyre acknowledged Jerusalem’s God. But they never left their own gods. As a matter of fact, at one point in history, the king switched over from temple worship of Baal and Asherah to Melqart who was more politically oriented and included the people more. They were very proud of their city and of their god and of their wealth. How hard was it to acknowledge another god if he helped them in their image? Only I guess they didn’t really realize who they were dealing with and that he wasn’t just some god, but God. And I guess they didn’t realize that there was more to life than self-exaltation, that our alliances are not just for our own benefit. Life is much bigger than us and our plans.

 
It’s so easy to be like Tyre and to think we’ve got it all together. It’s easy to be happy with other people when they help us obtain our desires, but it’s hard when they succeed more than us. It’s easy to become a friend, but it takes work and humility to stay a friend. It’s easy to lose sight of the real deal in the midst of it all and throw away the thing that was the real reason for our success.

 
The truth is that God has a purpose. It’s for You, God, to be glorified. You draw people to You to do that. Israel was Your very own people, born and raised for that purpose. And in that purpose, they would draw others to You, others like Tyre and Sidon, if they would come. I can’t help but think about that phrase in verse two that says of Jerusalem, the one that was “the gate of the peoples.” I can’t help but think that the phrase refers to more than a city of prosperity and trade but that Jerusalem was this source of light to others who came to her and got to know You, like the Queen of Sheba. I can’t help thinking about the magi that searched out the baby king of Jerusalem. This was a special city and a special people to God. This was Your own. This was Your chosen. Jerusalem was Your bride, Your light to the gentiles. And Tyre was more than a friend. Tyre was in covenant with Israel. That’s strong stuff. It’s supposed to be unbreakable.

 
Tyre’s life was wrapped up with Israel. By covenant they were bound together historically and as far as welfare goes. Understand that a covenant was an indissoluble commitment. Listen to what God’s word says in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When He separated the children of men, He set bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel, for Jehovah’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” But does Tyre want to hear or remember that? Does any other nation want to hear that Israel is chosen of God? I mean, who really wants to be humble? Who doesn’t want to be noticed and commended and famous and strong and powerful and beautiful and the best?

 
I suppose it is painful to think that someone else is the center of our universe and that everything revolves around them. That’s how it is with Israel. But it wasn’t like Israel said, “Hey, God, pick me because I’m the best and the most worthy!” Remember how God chose Israel? There was this man name Abram who listened to God and just followed Him even though all the people around him didn’t. That’s the credit Israel gets for being God’s bride. That’s the credit any of us get. We listen and we obey and we follow and we cling to a real and living God. And this is God’s design. This is the picture and the way that You want us to follow. This is what You wanted Tyre to see and do.

 
But they didn’t like the attention that Jerusalem got. Maybe they didn’t like Israel’s attitude. That could be, because she might have gotten a little puffed up in herself. But she was still Your bride. She was still and still is today “the hub of the nations and all things revolve around this people of destiny.” (David Cooper) God chose Israel for a reason and purpose. Don’t forget to look back at how it first happened because that’s the example of where faith begins.

 
Bu the story of Tyre is about something other than faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow their brother in faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow God. Tyre chose jealousy of their brother in covenant. Tyre chose to gloat over the calamity that befell their covenantal partner. Being that their animosity was toward Israel, that makes it anti-Semitism. And the problem with that is that it’s going against God. It’s like telling God, “You’re wrong in Your choice. I don’t agree with You.”

 
So, this nation Tyre, who should have been on Israel’s side, rejoiced about their downfall. “Hey, this is great! Now our opportunities will open wide. More riches for us. I get what was coming to her now. Thank goodness she’s laid waste so I can get it all!” And if the thought wasn’t bad enough, I’m pretty sure there was rejoicing over her downfall that went with it. That sad thing is that hate can well up out of jealousy. We can feel stiffed or slighted because we aren’t doing as well as someone else, even as a friend, and we can become jealous and bitter and gloating just like Tyre. Isn’t it sad when we would wish ill on someone else just for the benefit of goodness for ourselves?

 
But God cares about how we treat His bride and how we treat His people because He loves them. And another truth is that He is such a sympathetic God that He invites others into that relationship with Him and His people. He had invited Tyre in to that relationship, but it wasn’t the relationship they wanted most. They gave up on their sympathy toward others, for wealth and fame. And in doing so they brought on their own downfall.

 
Attitude matters. Integrity matters. Compassion matters. Love matters. And most of all, God’s will matters above all. Why? Because there is a Judge who has set the standard. And it’s not about being strong or wealthy or noticed or significant or whatever. It’s about listening and hearing and obeying and following and belonging and being Yours. Israel is represented in Abram. That’s how any of us come to God, just like Him.
Jesus came because God knew we would have trouble getting it. Jesus came for the Jew first. Oh, now I’m jealous, just like Tyre. But so what if Jesus came for the Jew first? Wouldn’t you want to rescue your own child first? But first doesn’t mean only. He’s reaching out for anyone else who wants to listen and come and follow and be His. I’d rescue my own child but I’d also rescue as many other children as would let me. And then, once rescued they could become my own. That’s how adoption works. It makes me a whole child that belongs wholly. Why would I need to be jealous? We are brothers and sisters together. We have the same Father.

 
I don’t want to be guilty of anti-Semitism or jealousy or hatred against Israel. I love Israel. Israel is my heritage in the Lord. Jesus came out of Israel. Abram is a spiritual father to me and example. They were my first light. I owe so much to them. Why should I be jealous or angry? God called them so I could hear Him calling me.

 
And what about someone who might be prospering in some way around me? Am I going to resent them because of their prosperity and my lack of prosperity? I hope not. Maybe I can just keep loving them and being faithful to them and their prosperity will bless my life, not because I’m using their prosperity but because I care about them more. Being less can hurt, but judgment hurts way more. And learning how to be less and be content and make more of others is the beginning to knowing God. After all, Jesus became a man so He could make much of God and something of us so that by becoming less, we can make much of God and something of others. I pray that I learn from Tyre to ditch the attitude and cling to gratitude instead.

Life to a Dry Tree

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“…Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?” Ezekiel 17:15

 
Sometimes we get the idea that if things change, our promises are annulled. Maybe if something better comes along, our “old” covenants and commitments are no longer valid. If my feelings change, or a better situation comes, I’m not held to my word anymore. My feelings, my wants, my desires, my whatever is held in higher regard than my word, or what is that really called, my integrity.

 
But it’s not just about integrity here in Ezekiel today. I think it starts deeper. I think it goes to the roots and it begins at who we honor most. I think it goes back to the roots of who really is my authority and whether I really submit to Him or not. It goes back to what it really means to honor God. I’ll be the first to admit that honoring You, God, is not easy. Sometimes it means me making the most difficult decisions of my life. It could mean me choosing to do the thing that no one will understand. It could mean me holding on when I’d rather take the easy way out and let go. It could mean me choosing a right attitude in the midst of pain instead of snapping at people. It could mean me saying “No” when in my heart I want to say “Yes.” But what about today’s word n Ezekiel?

 
So Ezekiel is to talk for God to Israel again. Now, we know that God had chosen to send Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the land and rise up over it. He’s probably this first eagle with great wings and long pinions. And he takes the top of the cedar, the monarchy of Judah, and plants Zedekiah as king in Jeconiah’s place over Judah. So although Judah was under judgment, God’s appointed authority, Nebuchadnezzar had established a covenant to allow Zedekiah to reign in Judah under him and thus they would prosper under Nebuchadnezzar.

 
But what happened? Zedekiah would not honor his covenant with God’s appointed man for the time. He leaned toward the “eagle” of Egypt’s strength to find his own deliverance, his own way. But Egypt was not only not as strong, but not God’s way. If Zedekiah had remained under Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, which was under God’s authority, his kingdom would have had prosperity and born fruit. What God had planned for good, Zedekiah was choosing a different route that would lead to easy and irretrievable ruin instead.

 
The question posed is, “Shall it prosper?” Will any of our attempts to break covenant with the Lord and do things our own way prosper? Will any form of rebellion against God lead to fruitfulness? In truth, Nebuchadnezzar had weakened Judah by carrying off all it’s strength of people. It’s only strength could be found in her covenant with him. How can it prosper when we violate faith, a promise, vow, or allegiance? How can treachery profit? Webster calls this “a violation of faith or trust in friendship, in agency and office, in allegiance, in connubial engagements, and in the transactions of kings.” After all, the prophets tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was reigning by God’s right. “Render unto God what is God’s and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” right? If David knew how to submit under God’s appointed man, shouldn’t Zedekiah understand? And what about me? Do I know how to submit under God’s appointed authorities?

 
Zedekiah was trusting in the strength of Egypt instead of trusting in God. Zedekiah was missing the point that his rebellion was not only sin against Nebuchadnezzar as the vicegerent of God, but it was a sin against 
God Himself. Zedekiah was not the deliverer. God was going to bring a deliverer for Israel in His time and His way, the highest, most tender, and most slender branch of all and He would be planted forever. And this Branch (Jesus) that honors God in every way will God plant on the mountain heights of Israel, “that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:23,24)

 
Speaking of trees, that brings me to Jesus’ own words, because it seems that this type of submission, this amount of trust, this kind of obedience and commitment to relationship and covenant has been God’s plan for us all along. Unfortunately, we blew it in the garden just as Zedekiah was blowing it here again. but this is what the kingdom of God is supposed to be like. “It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:31,32) Do you get the idea that this is God’s plan all along? That maybe this is what I’m to be surrendering to?

 
What if I’m not the one planting myself? Because how can a seed plant itself? How do I have anything, any strength, and knowledge, anything without God doing the planting and making something of me? Should I fight how He wants to plant me or where He plants me or how deep or how long or how hard it is? Should I fight who He plants around me? When was the last time I planted a garden and the tomatoes or the green peppers or the lettuce fought back or argued with me? Ridiculous, huh? But it’s not ridiculous for me to argue with God?

 
Did Zedekiah not realize that You “know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”? (Jeremiah 29:11) Did he forget or did he knowingly choose his own way? Isn’t that what rebellion is? Is it knowing and choosing? What about me? Where has God placed me? Am I fighting against it? How am I handling my health circumstances? Am I angry at God and at people around me? What about all this waiting? Is God wrong? What about what’s going on with my parents or my spouse? Am I handling it my own way, so I’m in charge, or am I submitting to handling it God’s way?

 
When people look at me and my responses to life, do they know, I mean KNOW that God is LORD? Or am I just getting them to look at me? Am I bearing the fruit of submission and obedience to God like Jesus? Or am I bearing some foreign fruit? Am I a puffed up tree, high on myself and my feelings and my rights? Those are the trees God lays low. Or am I a tree that realizes its total dependency on God for everything I am and wherever I am in life? Or am I in between those two trees somewhere, still coming to grips with the reality that I am a tree at all? Am I full of my own strength and acting in it like the green tree, forgetting that the sap that is my life blood comes from the One who planted me and sustains me. Or am I dry in myself and in desperate need of His life source to flow through me. After all, if God can cause dry bones to live, certainly He can give life to a dry tree.

 
Lord, teach me to guard myself against me. Continually remind me that You are in control always, no matter the situation, and give me a heart to submit under those authorities You place over me like Jesus did, and Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or even like Ezekiel. May I honor all those who You have given positions of authority, even mutual positions of authority, around me, that I may honor You. So let me draw so close to You that I think like You think more than I think like me so that I can act like You act more than I act like me.

Dust in the Wind

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“Ephraim feeds on wind, and follows after the east wind: he daily increases lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.” (Hosea 12:1)

 
The group Kansas said it was the same old song. The lyrics continue, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea/ All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see/ Dust in the wind/ All we are is dust in the wind.” Well, it is the same old song. Our life is brief and fleeting compared to eternity. And since it is so brief and fleeting, it would behoove us to learn how to make the most of this short life we’ve been given on this side of eternity.

 
It’s interesting to see here that the word used in Hebrew for wind is also the word used for the spirit. It can mean wind, breath, or spirit. In Genesis 1:2 we hear, “…And the Spirit of God (Ruach Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters.” In Genesis 6:17 it is used for the “breath of life.” In Genesis 8:1 it is the wind that passed over the earth that dried up the waters after the flood. Pneuma is the Greek equivalent found in the New Testament.

 
So how is it used in Hosea? And why is this important? Because “God’s Ruach is the source of life.” (gotquestions.org) You can deny that if you want, you can contradict the truth of it, you can refuse to grant it, you can neglect to acknowledge it, you can refuse to confess it, you can reject it and refuse to embrace it, but the truth remains no matter what you say. This Ruach, this Spirit of God, this Breath of God is the giver of life to all. He’s the One who put the “non-divine” ruach in each of us. We owe every breath we take in our life to His Creative Spirit. The God’s Word translation shares Moses’ words from Numbers 27:16 this way, “Lord, You are the God who gives the breath of life to everyone.” Job declared, “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils…” (Job 27:3) In his conversation with Job, Elihu shares, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” (Job 33:4)

 
This thought carries over into the New Testament in the word pneuma. We see it shared from the mouth of Jesus in John 3. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John is using intentional word play here with pneuma (wind) and pneumatic (Spirit). In writing it’s called an inclusion, “a rhetorical device that ties its contents closer together. In this case, the inclusion contains the comparison between the actions of the wind and being born of the Spirit.” (throughandto.com)  The metaphor becomes stronger. We see how the movement of the wind helps us see the movement of the Holy Spirit. There is an “‘other’ origin, destination, and power—like the wind” that is not “centered in human initiative.”

 
But Ephraim, God’s people were forgetting that. They were feeding on the wind but not feeding on the Wind that fills. They were feeding on air, the wind that blows to and fro and sometimes doesn’t blow at all. They were feeding on wind, on that air, that just blows and has no means of nourishing the body or soul. They were feeding on emptiness. And they were pursuing after emptiness all day long. They were adding lie after lie to their lives. It’s pursuit was bringing more wasting and more desolation and ravaging into their lives. It’s like they were choosing oppression.

 
Remember, God has made a covenant with His people. It was a covenant of love and care and provision. It was a covenant of His presence. It was a covenant of His Spirit with them. In truth, God’s covenant was all about them feeding on His Spirit and being blessed by that. It was about them following after Him by the power of His Spirit. They were to follow and be empowered by the wind, the breath that issued forth life and joy and strength and goodness from His Creative Being. But what did they choose? They chose to make covenant with the Assyrians and the Egyptians for temporary protection and temporary wealth. They broke covenant with the Breath of Life to establish covenant with that which is fleeting, simple dust in the empty wind.

 
Isn’t it the same old song today? God is calling us to covenant with Him. He has given His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin of turning away and wanting things our way instead of His. He has given us a way to come home by faith. He stands with His arms wide open. Just as He breathed the precious breath of life accompanied by His Spirit into Adam, so He wishes to breath His life-giving Spirit into each of us. Do you really believe that the complexity of human life and all of creation occurred by accident? Is that even logical or reasonable? Is that really intelligent? When was the last time that a house just fell into place with every brick, every piece of wood and nail, aligned just right? You really believe that? I don’t.

 
I believe the song that Jesus sang in the beginning with God when He breathed that breath of life into humanity and shared of His Spirit. I believe in a personal God who longs for His children to return to Him, to return to that relationship of fullness. I believe that we can choose to chase after the empty wind or we can choose to be filled with the wholeness of His Spirit. I think if we sit back and think about it, if we look and remember, we’ll see God’s hand in our life. If only Ephraim remembered Jacob and how God had a plan for him even in His mother’s womb. How He was there in the midst of his struggles. How Jacob wept before Him. If only we would remember. Remember what? That the LORD God of hosts takes time for us. That though You are God, You get close enough to breath Your breath of life into us. You come close enough to touch us and warn us and share with us and love us and guide us.

 
It’s true. I can’t explain the wind. And I can’t explain how You do what You do or how Your Holy Spirit can be or do what He does. But just as I know there is wind, not only when I fly my kite, but by so many other evidences, so I know that Your Holy Spirit is at work by His many evidences. I can choose to follow any wind. I can choose emptiness if I want to. But I want to turn to You. I want to keep mercy and judgment and wait on You continually, God, because You take this mere speck of dust that is me and give me a life that matters and is filled with Your Spirit. You give me an eternity that begins in the here and now. You give me meaning and purpose not just for today, but forever in You. You don’t just give me life, You give me LIFE, because You are LIFE. May I feed on You and follow You and increase in You all the days of my life. And may I live forever in covenant with You. I may be dust in the wind, but in the Right Wind, I will not crumble but I will rise with You, I will see LIFE and know LIFE and live LIFE forever with You. This dust matters. This dust, when surrendered to You, comes together with the other dusts surrendered with You, and we bring out LIFE, like You brought forth life when You gathered the dust of the earth and formed Adam and breathed Your LIFE into him. If all I am is dust in the WIND, there is no stopping me.

Mere Men

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“…for I am God and not a man…” Hosea 11:9

What would you do if you had a child who you loved and who you had rescued out of a bad place? What if he was in a bad place and you were calling him out, calling him into your love and protection and care and yet, the more you called the deeper he went away into that bad place? What if he engrossed himself in everything that stood against you?
What if you had taught this child to walk? What if you had lifted him up in your arms time and time again and even healed him? And what if all this went unnoticed and unappreciated? What if you had led them with all your kindness, and with all your love? And what if you had helped bear his burdens and even bent down to feed them? What if this is how you had loved and taken care of him and devoted yourself to him and he turned away from you and wouldn’t return? What then?

What if your child’s own counsel, his every thought was against you and causing all of this? What if when they called you it was because they wanted something from you and not because they wanted you at all? Would you stop loving that child? Would you stop caring?

Some mothers and fathers would write them off or disown them. Some mothers or fathers would be offended and angry. Some mothers and fathers would long for their child to return. Some mothers and fathers would try to force the child back. Some would search. Some would waste away in grief.

How would God react? How would You respond, Lord? How did You respond to Israel and Ephraim who did this? How are You responding as they still do this? How do You respond to us who do this and to us who are still doing this? What are Your words and what are Your feelings and what are Your actions?

“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.” What does this even mean, like Admah and like Zeboiim? I have to run back to Deuteronomy 29 as Moses was speaking to the children of Israel. He had shared the blessing that would come by choosing to remain in the You and in Your way. But now he shares a warning of a curse. Now he shares the consequences of not living in You and Your way. And if we follow that route, we will come to Admah and Zeboiim.

Here was that child that You had rescued and delivered and loved and made Your own. Here is that child who was redeemed from Egypt. “Remember Who delivered you and what you were delivered from.” Why? Because it’s dangerous for a man or woman or family or tribe to let their heart turn away from their true deliverer and to turn back to serve that which is empty and dead like the gods of the other nations. Yet, even in the warning, some hear and choose to bless themselves in this way. Some choose to seek peace in that which cannot give peace. Some choose to walk in the stubbornness of their own heart and all the good that You have done for them is swept away.

This is sad because instead of receiving God’s love and provision, he will receive no pardon but only anger instead, and all that You said would befall One who is outside of Your care will come to pass. Worse yet, You say his name shall be blotted out from under heaven. He’ll be separated and not just separated but set apart to receive evil. He will receive hurt, and mischief, and grief and will not have a comforter. Why? Because this is what He chose. It’s not like God said, “I want to curse you. Go out and live so I can punish you.” Do we hear what God said? “Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) “Let the little children come unto me, and don’t stop them: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) It’s not God who chases us away into punishment. It is our own choice to separate ourselves.

The truth is that blessing and cursing are both part of covenant relationship. By keeping covenant with God, by keeping our relationship healthily intact, we receive the blessing of that relationship and in turn, bless God by our respect and love for Him. But to break covenant, to break relationship with You, God, is to enter into “sickness and death, barrenness in people and cattle, crop failure, poverty, defeat, and disgrace” instead. Our choice of what to do with our relationship with You determines whether we live blessed or cursed, not because You choose to curse us, but because life outside of You is accursed.

We’ve always been warned.  It’s written in Your word. It’s not like this is a surprise for anyone except those who have come in our footsteps, to those who we have lied to. There are those generations that have followed us from where we choose to live among the cursed things, and they look out at life and say, “Why are things so bad? Why has the Lord done this?” And one day we will have to answer truthfully in reply, “Because of us. Because we walked away from His covenant and we left His presence and protection. This is what happens.”

Our land and our hearts are of “brimstone, and salt, and a burning, that is not sown, nor bears, nor any grass grows therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.” Why? Because we forsook what was true and good and right and chose our own way, a way that caused those around us to fall and be sick and to hurt and to hurt others. Sodom and Gomorrah aren’t alone. Admah and Zeboiim went with them. Israel could go that way to and so could each of us. It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who won’t listen and respond to Your covenant now that You have demonstrated it through Christ, our living Example.

But we want to make our own choices and have our own way. And so some of us choose to face the sword and the Assyrians instead of facing God. We choose to be consumed instead of having our consuming God protect us and love us and care for us. We choose our own counsel instead of Yours. We backslide instead of walking forward in faith. We ignore Your calling and seek our own pleasure. And yet You don’t want to give us up. You don’t want to surrender us to the enemy. You don’t desire to make us like Admah or Zeboiim. Even when we feel nothing for You, Your heart is turned within You. You hold back from the fierceness of Your anger. You don’t respond like us. You respond like the Holy God that You are. You respond with Jesus. You respond by humbling Yourself for a people who don’t know to be humble before You. You love regardless of whether You are loved or feel loved. You receive pain to free us from our pain. You are hope when there seems to be none. You are ever faithful when no one else is. And You believe in us, that we will turn and return in covenant to You. You believe that we will walk with You. You believe that we will come to see You as You are and tremble before You, running to Your protection and love.

And all I can say is that I am so grateful that You are not a man, but that You are God. And I am so grateful that there is no god who could ever, nor will ever compare to You. You are God. You choose us. You equip us. You make us like You. You love us. You are for us. You believe in us because You know us and what You created us to be in You. You are good and true and faithful forever. You are blessing and anything outside of You is cursing. Maybe the question isn’t, “Why would a good God allow evil?” Maybe the appropriate question should be, “Why would I choose cursing? Why would I choose evil? Why would anyone? And then, why would I blame it on You, God?” I suppose it’s because we’re just men, but You, You are God, and You have a better plan for us then to just remain mere men.

Feast or Famine

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Photo credit to smithsonianmag.com

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’”  Amos 8:11

Ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine.  There are countries right now that are going through famine in the sense of lack of food and insufficient provisions for the people.  And just the same, ancient Biblical days are not the only days of famine when it concerns a destitution or lack or want in the spiritual realm.  Now, I’m not talking mysticism here.  There never seems to be a famine of that.  But what I am talking about here is a hunger from lack of the word of Life. 

Famine is visible.  It has tell-tale effects on the human body.  Go without food and water long enough, or go with less than sufficient food for long enough, and you will suffer weight loss.  Children’s growth will be retarded.  Malnutrition sets in and mortality rates go up, effecting the old and the young first.  It’s not just starvation, but the fact that their bodies can no longer fight infection.  It effects learning and concentration.  Childhood malnutrition can cause a host of other problems like “reduced intelligence, anxiety, psychiatric issues, and cognitive impairment.”   It effects the mind and body.  There can be visual problems, bleeding gums/decaying teeth,  inability for the heart to function properly, internal organ function threatened, the skin breaks down and can’t protect and shield, joints and muscles will ache and weaken and shrink, bones can become fragile, nerves in extremities break down, and diseases that are rare open up the body to a pandora’s box.  You actually wouldn’t even need medicine to stop these diseases, only proper nutrition. 

It doesn’t have to happen in a famished land either.  It can happen in a place where people have sufficient food.  But there are some who don’t have what they need and they get lost in the shuffle until the damage is apparent.  It’s like a little boy who didn’t have the right nutrition and by the time he could get to the hospital for treatment, the TB had gotten into his bones and effected his learning.  Thank God someone noticed.  Thank God someone did something when they noticed.  But the not noticing for a while caused permanent damage.

But there is a famine that is much more dangerous than that of hunger and thirst for our physical needs.  There is a  famine that can effect our souls.  Our souls were created to be fed by One Source, the Source who created them.  Our souls were meant to be fed by You God.  But somewhere along the line we start thinking other things can satisfy. 

In Amos’ day, the people were impatient and asking, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?”  Does that seem insignificant?  It’s not.  The new moon was at the heart of keeping the calendar and the feasts and festivals that You had established.  It was a reminder and an act of worship in remembering and doing.  It wasn’t about ritual.  The new moon was watching for that sliver to show up in the night sky to tell the end of one month and the beginning of the new and to count down the days to the next celebration of God.  But instead of looking for that sliver with anticipation, instead of looking forward to celebrating You and Your care, they wanted to sell their grain and get on with their lives despite You.  They were inflicting their own famine from You and no longer even felt hungry.  It reminds me of someone who was eating lots of salad during her pregnancy to watch her weight.  But when she went to the doctor, she found out that she was malnourished because iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value.  We can try to meet our own needs and totally get it wrong.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the people also couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get to selling their wheat.  Here was this day that God instituted for man’s welfare and even demonstrated for us.  Here was a day He gave us for rest and spiritual enrichment.  It’s that day when You ceased, ended, and rested from Your creative works.  You told Your people, “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Exodus 20:8)  Remember, zakhor, doesn’t mean to just not forget.  It means to observe and remember its significance.  It’s about creation and deliverance from slavery into freedom.  “Observe [shamor] the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” (Deuteronomy 5:12)  Sabbath was for remembering and observing by acting in a way that demonstrated that we are not in control over our environment but You are, God.  To want to ignore Sabbath is to wrench that control away from You and put it back in our own hands.

So there was this day coming, when there would be this famine and thirst not for food and water, but for Your words.  There would be a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD.”  That word for hearing is shama and it doesn’t just mean to hear.  It means to hear and obey.  Can you imagine people being famished for the words of the Lord, that people will want to hear You but won’t?  How does that happen?  Do You mean that people who have been hearing and obeying will no longer get to hear You?  Or is it that people who have been hearing but not obeying will look for You and not be able to hear or see You?  Will people ignore other people so that their spiritual famine grows to the point of no return?  Will people so ignore their own need that they can no longer be helped?

Imagine asking for help and not receiving it.  But in Isaiah 1:15 You say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”  Did You not hear the prayers?  But You hear and know everything.  Or did You choose to not respond to the prayers because shama is about hearing and doing, hearing and responding?  But You chose not to listen.  Why?  Is that fair? Is that right?  Well, if their hands were full of blood, doesn’t that mean that those who prayed weren’t hearing and combining the doing with it?  Because if I was listening to You and doing it, how could I have blood on my hands?  And if I won’t hold up my end of the covenant, then I have already broken the relationship, and You would no longer be bound to Yours.  Every moment that You continue to hold covenant beyond that is shear grace.

Why do we expect You to listen and respond rightly to us and we don’t feel ourselves obligated to You in any way?  Why are we not concerned about hearing You speak these words, “I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity”? (Matthew 7:23)  There are people out there who are thinking they are doing good things, but since they won’t listen to Your words, they don’t understand that You are the only Good Thing, that Jesus is the only Good Way, and the only Right Choice.  And no one gains eternal life in the next life without knowing eternal life in this one first.  And the only way to know eternal life now is to know the Eternal Life Giver, the one who was there in the beginning and created everything with His very words.

“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My commandments, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5)  You can’t help reiterating how important, how doubly important it is for us to hear and listen and obey and do.  Am I “indeed obey”ing?  Shamoa tishmeoo is the Hebrew.  It’s the double repetition of shama’.  “If you hear-hear My voice…”  Or since we know what shama’ means, we could listen as God also says, “If you obey-obey My voice…”  And wouldn’t that therefore mean You are saying, “If you hear-obey, hear-obey”?  And that’s with an exclamation mark.  Is hearing and obeying all of Your words that important to me?  Because it is to You.  And it is if I want a real relationship with You.  My hearing and obeying actually has bearing on Your hearing and responding.  Does that matter to me?

Do I somehow think that Your covenant with other people outside the nation of Israel is different?  Do I think that Your requirement for “If you hear-hear (obey-obey)” (Skip Moen) is only for the nation of Israel but for us Your covenant is absolute and unconditional?  Did Jesus come so I wouldn’t have to hear and obey?  I only have to hear and believe in what I hear?  How empty is that?  How hungry will that leave me?  What kind of relationship is that?  Why don’t we just leave off on eating and drinking and just live on the thought of food and water?  If is a bigger word than it looks.  If says there is a condition, a relationship to the following words.  Man is called to cooperate.  God chooses but His people who are chosen must respond.  You can’t just hear and go your own way.  Shama’, hearing and doing, “precedes active citizenship.” (Skip Moen)

And it’s not that I just get to hear and obey just the things I like, like Thomas Jefferson who went to the extent of cutting out the words of his Bible that he didn’t agree with.  He even wrote His own Gospel!  The Smithsonian says Jefferson “was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents.”  So what did he do?  He took “a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy,” he penned the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  This “bible” excluded miraculous events or anything “contrary to reason” including the resurrection!  How can one be classified as “devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ” without accepting the words of God that Jesus accepted as true?  Because those words tell of his death and resurrection.  Those words tell of God doing miraculous things.  But I suppose that’s a choice any of us can make, to grasp the “manhood” of Jesus and strip Him of His Godhood.  Then it’s ok for me to listen to what I want to because Jesus was just another good moral teacher and that’s all.

But what a dangerous and empty thing that is, to write everything up according to my understanding.  What ludicrous thinking to imagine that I can understand everything.  To think that I can rewrite Scripture when I can’t even speak a universe into being?  To write off miracles when even my own birth is one?  If no one can create a camera as accurate as the human eye and yet somehow that eye came into existence.  If you choose to believe it all came into being by chance, or by some story you want to create, that’s your choice.  But to tell you the truth, that actually seems contrary to reason to me.  I’ve seen the effects of the words of God.  I’ve seen how Your word changes lives, including mine.  I’ve heard how it raises the dead and sets the prisoners free.  I’ve seen it do so. I’ve see the hungry fed and the thirsty satisfied.  I’ve seen lives changed and empowered by Your words as people did more than believe with their heads, but as people obeyed and lived according to Your words.  I’ve seen life bloom where death was imminent where Your word took root in a heart, where broken families have been restored, where people become new creations all together.

Simon Peter was just as credible a witness as any of us because he was just as human.   He was there when Jesus shared, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. “  But Thomas Jefferson could have been one of the followers in the crowd that day.  Many of those who had been his disciples walked away, saying, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”  What were Your words, Lord?  “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.”  And many walked away.  But Jesus turned to the twelve, and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?”  But Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6)   There is only One who can satisfy us eternally, here and into eternity.  There are words of eternal life.  Only the word of God will satisfy completely, believing is acting upon them and living in them and holding on to them with all my life.  Yes, I can trust the same Word that brought me into existence for that Word is the same that will forever keep me in Him.  I don’t have to be hungry or thirsty.  I can drink from the Fountain of Life and eat from the Bread of Life, every day for every meal and continuous snacks in between.  I never have to be malnourished if only I will hear and obey Your words, whether they are sweet like honey or bitter to the taste.  My life depends on it.  Our relationship depends upon it.  And I can’t have life without having a relationship in You and with You first.  Lord, I don’t want to experience a famine from You.  I want to hear Your words, love Your words, and live out Your words in my life. 

Covenant Keeper or Covenant Breaker?

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“And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.”  (Zechariah 11:10)

You know, I’ve never heard this before.  God chose to break His covenant He had made with His people.  That’s pretty serious.  That makes me think.  What does it take for You to break covenant, Lord?  And wait a minute!  God never breaks His promises!  Is that so?  Then how can I explain this, Lord?

Well, to start with, a covenant is not just a promise.  A covenant is a binding agreement/ relationship between two parties.  Yes, it’s a promise.  But it’s more than a promise.  It’s all about relationship and commitment to that relationship.  It’s like the idea of marriage, or at least, marriage the way it was intended to be.  Now, there are Biblical covenants that God instituted with Israel for the sake of Israel and with Israel for the sake of all mankind.  There are Biblical covenants that God invited Israel to enter into with Him that are conditional upon Israel’s response and there are those that are unconditional because they are supported by God’s character and faithfulness alone.  This continues to hold to our invitation today to enter into covenant with You, Lord. 

In Zechariah, You were pretty disappointed in those who should have been shepherding Your flock and being a light to the nations.  They had forsaken You and broken covenant with You.  So here You are allowing the Romans to come in and destroy them, Your very people.  In Zechariah, You foretell of the 67 CE Roman massacre coming, You describe the hearts of the High Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers; You tell of the Messiah’s ministry; the breaking of the Covenant with Judah, the price paid by Judas for Jesus; a broken brotherhood; the end of the Nation of Judah after the Second Temple; and another revolt.  It’s like You had just had enough.  You are long-suffering and You were.  You had put up with false worship and idol worship for so long.  But enough is enough.  Turn or suffer what You practice- life outside of God’s safety and care.

There were a number of God instituted covenants in Scripture.  The first was the covenant between Adam. Well, it was actually between Adam and Eve.  It was about obedience.  Oh, obedience.  Isn’t that a little harsh?  It’s hard to obey.  Well, maybe it is hard to obey.  But maybe the whole idea of obedience is actually wholly devoted relationship based on right love and esteem.  Here, Adam and Eve would be rulers of the earth and all upon it and live in the presence of God.  What was the only condition?  Don’t eat from that tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Who broke that covenant?  Was it You, God?  No.  It was Adam and Eve.  Why?  Because what they desired was more important than their relationship with You.  What they desired was more to be desired than You, or so they thought.  I suppose they forgot to count the cost.  Or when they counted, they thought knowledge was worth more than relationship with God.  And so the covenant was broken because a covenant is more than a promise.  It’s a relationship and they tore it to shattered pieces.  And we’re still picking up those pieces today and being cut by them.   Is it God’s fault?  No.  But in His grace and mercy, He continued to extend an even deeper covenant that existed before this broken one. 

You introduce us to the covenant You made with Noah, his family, and all mankind.  Here, You made an unconditional covenant, that You would never again destroy the earth by a flood.  It’s a perpetual covenant until the earth passes away.  Now, I think of perpetual as always and forever.  But the word used, olam, is until that properly concealed time or vanishing point.  Which really makes sense.  Because this covenant is in place until Christ comes into His place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and from that point on into eternity, the world and it’s people won’t need a legal covenant any more because the Covenant Maker will have fulfilled everything and we will no longer be covenant breakers!

So You continued in Your plan to call out a people of Your own and You made a covenant with Abraham.  We find it in Genesis 12:1-3.  Go where I show you and “…I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  And I’m thinking, and who am I, right? that if Abram had not left his country and followed You, that You would not have fulfilled this covenant through him.  But Abram did leave and did follow and so You ratified this covenant with Him while he slept and You passed through the sacrificed animals because You would fulfill what You said.  The fulfillment of Your plans was fully dependent on You.  You will give Israel the land by Your power.  You will create a great nation out of him through believing Israel and those grafted in by faith in Messiah.  All families will be blessed through him by the same faith that will be manifested through the Messiah, Jesus, who comes through the nation of Israel.  Here’s the thing.  Who are the “all families” that will be blessed by this covenant?  Will every person of every nation and tongue stand before the Lord and receive that blessing?  Or will a representation of all families, a remnant of each that has chosen to go and follow You be that all that are blessed through this covenant? 

Obedience is the heart of the Mosaic covenant.  Why obedience?  Because obedience shows that we have bound ourselves in relationship with God and His character.  The obedience that God set before us also shows that we, like God, care for the well-being of those around us.  The law was not given at Mt. Sinai for rules and regulations.  It is a test of whether we will turn to You as our sovereign King and submit as Your loyal devoted subjects.  We actually have an obligation to You.  This is the only correct response to our Creator.  You require a response and commitment on our part.  Just like the Israelites who answered, “all that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 19:8) You ask us for a response.  I mean, come on, you can’t be without being.  Do you know what I mean?  Either you are or you aren’t.  God is God no matter what we decide.  He will always hold true to Himself.  We can depend on that.  And He takes the time to covenant with us so that we experience that faithfulness of You.  And in covenanting with us, You give us the opportunity to show ourselves faithful.  You are not obligated.  You just are faithful.  We are obligated.  Through covenant, we have an opportunity to learn faithfulness from You.  I’m starting to think that Your covenants are beautiful personal relationships if we look at them the right way.

Now this is the covenant that really comes into play in Zechariah.  Part of this covenant is about You making Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6)  Why?  So that Your same desire for Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham could be fulfilled- that Your people would be Your light to the darkness around them.  Why were they to be separate and called out?  For their own good? Or so that all the nations around would get to see this God they worshipped and the reality of Him alone?  It was never about rules and regulations but always about following a God and His ways.  By faith we follow and obey because God makes the way.  The priesthood itself and the sacrificial system were a bigger picture that pointed to the Messiah and relationship with Him through walking in obedience by faith.  This is what the priests and levites and leaders should have seen and been doing.  They were supposed to be a light for their own people and a light unto the nations.  But they weren’t upholding their part of the covenant.

Hosea shares Your thoughts about this behavior, this heart attitude, “As at Adam, they have broken the covenant; they were unfaithful to me there.”  So we see that we can break our part of a covenant.  It’s like we just turn our hearts away from what we committed to and turn a different way.  Earthly kings did it.  They would make a covenant with another nation and if another stronger nation came along, oh fickle nature, they would turn to the stronger nation and make a new covenant, breaking the bond of the old.  But that’s not what God does.  When You take your staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, and break Your covenant which You had made with all the people You are only breaking what has already been broken by Your covenantal partner.  You were faithful yet Your partner was unfaithful.  You remained faithful through their faithlessness.  You continued to bear their unfaithfulness.  You gave them every opportunity to return.  But there comes a point where they must pay the price for their unfaithfulness.  They loose their relationship with You.  They don’t get to reap the benefits of Your faithfulness any longer.  You never cease to be faithful.  But they have removed themselves from Your presence and chosen another and now are freed to fulfill their lusts in another, another who can never be so faithful as You.

Now You didn’t stop there.  You also make a covenant with David.  Now David was like Abram, a man following after You God.  And he was dear to You because of Your dearness to him.  And maybe I’m wrong, but because of the demonstrated faithfulness and devotion to You, You instituted a covenant through/with David. You promised both David and Israel that the Messiah (Jesus) would come through his lineage and that You would establish a forever kingdom through Him.  You would fulfill this; not David.  You would be the faithful One to do this.  It’s not dependent on David’s obedience or Israel’s obedience.  But the truth is, if David or Israel or John Doe or I want to experience this covenantal relationship, this bond with God through Jesus, well I just better not be going my own way.  The only way to experience this relationship is to depend on the Faithful One, to rely on You so much that I love Your ways and need Your ways because I love You and need You.

The shepherds of Israel were like hired shepherds who didn’t have a right heart for their Master or their sheep.  God never had to make any covenant with man.  He’s not obligated in any way to that which He created.  Why would You have to be faithful to us?  But in covenanting with us, You promise Your faithfulness to us.  We get to experience You according to our faithfulness to You.  But whereas You are a Covenant Keeper by nature, we are not, we are covenant breakers.  But You know that about us.  You’re not surprised.  Disappointed, but not surprised.  “‘Behold, the days come, says the Lord, ‘that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah…’” (Jeremiah 31:31)  “For finding fault with them, He said, ‘Behold, the days come,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…’” (Hebrews 8:8) And what will make this covenant better?  “‘I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people…they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them…” (Jeremiah 31:34)  I won’t have to experience You through a priest or a teacher.  I and everyone else can experience a covenant relationship with You myself and Your Holy Spirit will change me and teach me.  And here’s how that new covenant works.  “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of Abel.”  (Hebrew 12:24)  This covenant of relationship with God wasn’t sealed by animal sacrifice.  This offer of a covenant relationship with You is sealed by the blood of Jesus at the cross.  The King of kings and Lord of lords became the sacrifice for us.  He holds the right as mediator between God and man because He is God and He was man at the same time.  And now think of the ramifications of a life in Christ empowered by His Holy Spirit.  Here is the One who introduced life and death (the tree of life versus the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) from the start.  Here is the One who has always held Life before us in Himself.  And here He is again, offering back that Life in Himself.  So, what will I choose?  Will I choose to enter into the covenant of Life with You?  Or will I choose to be a covenant breaker and live after my own ways?  All I know is, I can’t give myself life.  I can only find it in You.  I want to be a covenant keeper.  I want to live in covenant with You all the days of my life.  And in the safety of Your covenant, that means I get to live into eternity with You and I can’t think of anyone I would rather be with more.