A Peculiar People, Most Uncommon!

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“He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” Ezekiel 42:20

 
So here You are, Lord, continuing to give us detailed information about Your future sanctuary. And then at the end of this chapter You tell us You are making a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place. And I wonder if most of the time we just read over that like the reading itself is beneficial for us. Now I’m not saying the reading isn’t beneficial, but reading without thinking or understanding, where is the benefit? Reading and thinking this was only important then but not now, how beneficial is that? What if You want me to grasp some of this now? What if You do want it to be beneficial to me? What if it does matter today as well as then?

 
Maybe it would do me good to take time to see what You mean by this separation. Maybe I should try to understand Your meaning of sanctuary and what You mean by the profane place. Maybe all this would help me as I live out my life in You today.
The sanctuary in Hebrew is from the word qodesh. On the other hand, the profane place is from the Hebrew word chol. In one sense we can think of it as a separation (Hebrew badal) between the holy and the secular. But I think this requires a deeper investigation to understand. This word chol actually means profaneness or commonness. Qodesh, on the other hand, is sacred and holy. So right away we can see that there is a contrast between these two words, these to concepts.

 
If we jump back to Leviticus 10:8-11 we can see these words in play. “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generation: and that you may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” Is separating between holy and unholy and unclean and clean that important? It appears so. But what does that mean to us today?

 
Here were Aaron and his sons set apart by God to represent His holiness and to be the ones to come before Him in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people of Israel. Not only were they to live and act separated unto Him, but they were to teach the people to be separated unto Him. But separated from what? Separated from the common, separated from the world, separated from the secular. But here’s the deal. Hey, we are secular, we live in the secular, so how can we be separate from what we are? After all, secular is just the stuff of the world without regard to the spiritual. It’s the mundane part of living without attaching the spiritual aspects. It’s the common stuff of life.

 
But maybe here’s the other part of the deal. We’re not just secular. Or at least we weren’t created to only be secular and common. We were created with a spiritual aspect in the image of God our creator. And the spiritual acts differently than the wholly common or secular. The spiritual knows there is something greater and far more valuable to life.
I can just stop and think about God’s words to Aaron and his sons. Wine and strong drink are common things, secular if you will. They are not inherently bad. But if Aaron and his sons have been chosen and set aside to point people to God and to act as intermediaries, then their focus and energy and hearts ought to be focussed on God and bringing people back into right relationship with God and each other. God is not common. God is holy and above all. God should be in control of our every thought, not alcohol. We are called to make a separation. What is important? No, what is beyond important for my life? What does holiness look like in my life? What needs to be separated out so that my focus truly is in God?

 
It’s important that I understand this. There are things that are not harmful but neither are they beneficial. There are things that are common but will only lead me to the common. And then there is the holy. And then there is the holy which can use some common things and make them holy. But be careful because some common things can make the holy, unholy, like strong drink that led Aaron’s sons to not be able to separate between holy and common. And they took a holy censor and offered common worship and were killed in their commonness. That’s a tragedy because they were set apart to be holy and to know holiness. They were called out of the common to lead others to holiness. But they didn’t understand and they didn’t let go of their commonness.

 
Yochanan Zaqantov explains that qodesh (holy) has nothing to do with being untouchable or more righteous or greater than we. Qodesh has everything to do with being set apart and made “not ordinary.” We can see that in Exodus 3:5 when Moses was told to approach the burning bush and told to take off his sandals because “the place on which you stand- it is holy ground.” What made that ground holy? Before the bush was burning, wasn’t it ordinary ground that Moses may have walked over many times before? But now, God had set this ground apart for a purpose and because God had set it apart, it was to be treated and responded to differently.

 
In Exodus 16:23 God reminded again that the Sabbath, that particular day of the week was to be set aside. It was set apart to be different from the others. Prepare for the Sabbath so that the Sabbath can be what it was set apart to be. We can treat it like any other day, but God has set it apart as no longer common. It has been set apart and made holy. Do I treat it as common? Am I guilty of the sin of Aaron’s sons?

 
In Exodus 28:36-38 God instructs a pure plate of gold to be made with “Holines for Adonai” engraved upon it. This gold plate was to be threaded onto Aaron, the high priest’s turban, over his brow so that “Aaron is to bear the iniquity of the holy-offerings that the Children of Israel offer, all their gifts of holiness; it is to be on his brow regularly, for (receiving) favour for them before the presence of Adonai (God).” So stop and think about that. Who was Aaron? Aaron was just a common man. In himself he had no ability to bear the sin of the people. But God called Him and separated Him unto Himself and equipped Him by Himself to be holy. God separated Aaron onto Himself and imparted His holiness upon him. But Aaron, like his sons, and like us, must choose to differ between the common and the holy and walk in the holy where and as told to walk.
So now I’ve seen where You, God, take the common and make it holy and You teach us the difference between holy and common. I saw Aaron’s sons die because they would not live by the difference. Are they the only ones?

 
Hear what God tells to his people through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 22:24-26. “Son of man, say unto her, ‘You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them…’” Do I get that? When I take what is holy and make it everyday and disrespect what God has set apart, I not only make it common or chol, I make God appear as common, as profane.
The priests themselves were guilty of doing this, were guilty of taking what they knew God had set apart for Himself, had set apart as holy, and they irreverently used it or displayed or misused it in common ways for their own purposes. And it destroyed the people because it marred the image of God before them. Do I want to be guilty of that? Do I want to profane what You have set apart, God? Do I want to take what is sacred and make it irreverent?  Do I want to be one that abuses Your sacred things and treats them and You with irreverence? Would I rather be filled with contempt than reverence for You? It’s what will happen if I don’t keep separated what You have already separated in my life and the life of others.

 
Let’s go one more place in the Old Testament. Here we are in Ezekiel 44 hearing about the sons of Zadok again. Ezekiel 44:15-24, “‘But the levitical priests descended from Zadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from Me- they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood-‘ declares Adonai. ‘They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge.’” Notice that in contrast to the previous priests who had profaned God’s separations, the sons of Zadok had been faithful when everyone else bailed out on God. Now, not all of Aarons descendants will be priests but only those of the line of Zadok.

 
If we keep reading further on, God separates the clothing they must wear, linen and not wool. He separates how they are to dress. He separates them from the people in the outer court and has them remove their clothing from the inner court so as not to “consecrate” the people by touching the clothing. Get that? God’s set apart clothing could set a person apart? Wow! He sets apart their hair style and their consumption of alcohol while on duty. He sets apart their future wives. He sets them apart as judges. Why? Because they know how to set things apart. They already know how to divide the holy from the common, the clean from the unclean. They understand the difference and they already chose to live by it in a time when everyone else abandoned it.

 
These sons of Zadok are set apart to instruct others in understanding and choosing what is sacred and what is profane, what is clean and unclean. They have been set apart to live in accord with God’s rules and to teach others to do so. They are set apart to preserve God’s teachings and laws and fixed occasions and Sabbaths. Why the sons of Zadok? Because they were set apart and accepted their set-apartedness when others rejected it. They lived as they were created to be by God. I have that same choice.

 
David got it. He was a common kid. Even his dad and his brothers didn’t think anything special of him. But God set him apart for purpose in Him. In Psalm 4:3 David says, “But know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him.” The funny thing is that David wasn’t born godly, and neither was I. I think we’re born, all of us, with this godly potential. And God wants to set each of us apart into that godliness of Him. But not all of us accept His invitation when He sets us apart. Why? Because being set apart for God and in God means being separated from many other common things we are used to. Being set apart for and in God means we don’t use the common as common any more. We follow His lead on when to use and how to use and if to use it because He takes the common and makes it uncommon and holy in Him.

 
One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is in Revelation 17:14. It says, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” God is still setting people apart for Him. He calls, He appoints, He separates and it’s up to us to be faithful to His calling, His appointing, and His separating.

 
Have I allowed God to separate me for His service? Am I allowing Him to separate me every day and every moment of my life? Am I living according to His separation? 1 Peter 2:8 tells me, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light…” See, peculiar is not strange. Peculiar means I’ve been acquired and set apart by God. And if that makes me peculiar by this world’s standards, it’s because I’m not just common and secular any more. I belong to a God who is changing me into His image instead of the image of the world. The common is being folded into something uncommon and holy. I am God’s masterpiece, learning to imitate Him as I conform to His separation. May I continually learn and live the difference between the common and the holy.

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Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen…” (Ezekiel 39:28)

 
It must be really important to God that we know that He is the Lord. Is that because He is an egotistical tyrant? Absolutely not! All one has to do is look at what happens to those who deny Him. Cain waters the seeds of hate and kills his brother. People build towers to heaven and neglect the weightier things of life, like family and moving forward. Parents offer their children to the fires of Molech. Others exchange the natural for unnatural. Ecstasy outweighs love and commitment. Power and prestige are more important than compassion. People devalue other people. Why does this happen? Because people don’t KNOW God and won’t acknowledge Him as their Lord.

 
It happens to heathen nations, those nations and people who follow the masses instead of God. I guess that’s basically what a heathen is. It’s a Gentile. It’s someone outside of Abram’s seed who didn’t answer the call to follow God. It’s someone who was outside of the family of God, outside of the nation of Israel, outside of the children of God.

 
I wonder why there are so many heathen nations? Do you stop to think about that? Do you go back to Abram’s beginning as a child of God? He was living in a heathen nation. Actually, I think it would be accurate to say that all people had become heathen at that point. There were none who followed God. But something started moving in Abram’s heart and he realized something wasn’t right. Jewish oral tradition has Abram realizing the inability of idols. And then God speaks to Abram. And Abram listens and obeys and leaves his people and nation. And God begins forming from his obedience a new nation, a nation in God, His own children, from one man who chose to listen to Him. From one man who walked by faith.

 
Now, maybe there were some others scattered somewhere around the earth, but if we look at the story, there weren’t many. And maybe there weren’t others. But compare the numbers. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

 
So we see that there are many among the non-God followers or heathen that don’t know God at all. But it’s God’s desire that they know Him. Only, if they won’t turn to Him like Abram and follow Him, the knowing at long last isn’t going to be a pleasant thing. The proof is going to come in judgement and not reward.

 
But the problem isn’t just one for the non-believer. Israel was suffering judgement too. Do I get that?  Israel, the nation of God, who were supposed to be God-fearers and God-knowers, had forgotten God and walked away from His ways. That means that this problem of not knowing and acknowledging God isn’t just a heathen problem. It effects believers too. It could wind up being my problem if I’m not careful.

 
There is a time that God sets his face against us, when He looks at us and judges us. And there is a time when God will hide his face from us as He allows the judgement to fall. But then there is also a time, when judgement has taught its lesson and God turns His face back in compassion. Is it egotistical for God to want us to learn to love rightly, to know Him and to know how to love others? Is it egotistical for a parent to punish the child who beats his siblings? Is correction wrong? Isn’t there a chance in correction that the harmful behavior and character might be corrected and changed? Or should Cain be allowed to slay his brother?

 
Imagine the patience and long-suffering of God as He waits and watches the travesties of our hearts where we mistreat and tear apart the lives of our fellow man. This is not His end goal. This is not His desire. This exists because of our choice and not His. He allows it but for a time. This is not His will. His will is far better. His will is love personified through and in Himself. His will is to know Him, our Creator and Benefactor. His will is to know Him intimately, by knowing His Character and His delights. His will is to know Him so intimately that we become like Him, that we are wholly influenced by His Spirit. His will is for Himself, His life, His love, His power to be spread from person to person throughout our planet.

 
Was that the heathen’s desire or goal? Was that Israel’s goal at this point? No. Their goal was to promote their own desires and themselves. Their goal was what they wanted. So God redirected them through situations they could not control. So God redirected them through times where they were confronted with the smallness of themselves so that they could see the bigness of God. God redirected them so that they could remember Him, and come to see their need for Him, and learn to rely on Him.

 
There is a time for everything. God will place a time in our lives that will be designed to be able to come to know Him. What we do with that time is up to us. I can fight the One who is wooing me to Himself. I can detest the One who puts the hard times in my life, who knows the egotism of my own heart. I can reflect it back on Him. It doesn’t matter if I’m a heathen or a Jew, my egotism can be the heart of my lack of knowing Him. But if I respond to Him, I can know Him and I can surrender to Him as my Lord. Because surrendering to Him as my Lord is the only way I can know Him. If anything else is lord of my life, I might as well prepare for judgement.

 
One way or another, I will know that God is Lord and God is God. I will either know it in the day of full judgement against me, or I will know it by my full surrender into His compassionate arms. The choice is mine. Even the heathen and the Jews had that choice. Look at Abram. He chose to know God. He chose to follow Him and obey Him. He escaped judgement because He attached Himself by faith to the Judge. What will I do? Whose side will I choose? I choose to stick to You God and wait for Your Spirit. I choose You, even through the tough times. You’re all there is.

Where Does My Help Come From?

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Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.

 

“O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in Me is your help.” Hosea 13:9

 
Sometimes it’s so easy to forget where we came from. We live in a world of the “self-made” and the “self-proclaimed.” Somehow we think we got ourselves where ever we are. If we stop to think about it, how did we even get to be born and exist? Did we determine it? Did we choose the country we were born in, or our culture, or our parents, or our circumstances? But somehow we find ourselves thinking that I am in control of my own destiny. And in so doing, we are like Israel and destroy ourselves, because we miss out on the reality of life, that life is in God and that God alone is our help.

 
Funny thing is that even the name or word Israel means “he will rule as God.” Now that is not implying that Israel will make himself a god. That’s implying that Israel will rule just like God, that Israel will think like God, and love like God, and act like God, and have the mind and heart of God in what he does. It means that Israel was created to bear Your image before the world.

 
But here we have this image bearer who has destroyed himself and his image because he stopped trusting in the One who was every help he would ever need. What does God mean when He says “but in Me is your help”? How is He a help? Is a helper that important? So do we mainly do it on our own and then get a little “help” from God? Is that the idea here?

 
This word for help in Hebrew is ezer. Let’s look at how it is used in Scripture. Actually, the first two uses of this word for help are in Genesis 2:18 and 20. “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.’” And in verse 20, “And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.” Why was it so important to God that Adam have a helper corresponding to him? Why was this so important from the start? Why did the very first “perfect” man in the beginning still need help? Why was it not good for him to be alone? Alone how? Help from who? What kind of help? Why would God design Eve from the stuff of man to give the help he needed and to keep him from being alone? And why would God use a masculine word to describe Eve?

 
But those aren’t my only questions. Where did help really originate. I mean, Eve’s not masculine so maybe the origin is not in Eve. Maybe it’s origin, the origin of help itself, is in and from God and His alone to impart. What if ezer, that kind of help, is a “divine characteristic”? What if it has to do with God and Your relationship with Israel? How does that work? What does that look like? How are You a “help”?

 
It’s interesting. Hosea shares God’s words to Israel, “Yet I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; and you know no God but Me, and beside Me there is no savior.” This takes us back to Exodus 18:4 where we see ezer again. Moses named one of his sons Eliezer as a declaration “for the God of my father was my help [ezer], and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.” The ezer delivers from oppressors and rescues from danger. We have something similar in the next occurrence in Deuteronomy 33:7: “And this he said of Judah, “Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.” What does this tell us of the ezer? “God assists, supports, and reinforces Israel against her enemies.” (Skip Moen)
The ezer doesn’t stop there. Psalm 33:20 declares, “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.” What kind of help is that? He is the deliverer and the one who showers with loving kindnesses (hesed). He blesses and watches over. Armies don’t save kings, strength doesn’t deliver warriors, war horses don’t save or rescue but this God, this Help does! This ezer can deliver even our souls from death and fill us with gladness.
We hear an honest cry in Psalm 70:5, “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” Are we afflicted and in need? God provides. Why do we look elsewhere?

 
Why trust? Because only God is our help and our shield. “O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” (Psalm 115:9) The kind of help we need, the kind of shielding cannot come from anywhere else. Only God is mighty enough to save the way we need to be saved.

 
Why rely on God’s help? “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God…” (Psalm 146:5) This is where all blessing, all true blessing and hope comes from. This is where it exists in reality. This is its origin and creator.

 
This, all of this, is help. This, all of this, is ezer. This, all of this, is God and God alone. If I am to be a help, then I can only be a true help if it is in the image of the One who IS HELP. Israel is not the creator of help and neither am I. The truth is that “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2) I didn’t make heaven and earth. I didn’t create life. Even when I gave birth to my daughters, the stuff that conception occurred from, someone else created it because there it was in my body without me putting it there. I mean, I didn’t even have a hand in forming myself. And it was the same story for my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother and on and on. How easily we exalt ourselves and give ourselves credit for things we have no power over.

 
Like Israel we sin more and more because we started giving credit to ourselves where it wasn’t due. We start seeing ourselves as our own helpers, even though it’s been You God all along. We design our own way, our own help, our own worthless idols. We think according to our own measly understanding. We become fickle and think of nothing past the here and now. We lose the eternal perspective. We create little minds grasping after air instead of great minds molded by a great God grasping after Your gloriousness and seeing and declaring greatness that is You.

 
Instead of bearing Your great image and helping like You help us, we hurt and destroy ourselves and others. We’re like morning clouds instead, that are here and then gone and leave no effect behind of any value. We’re like the worthless chaff blown away by the wind or smoke from a chimney that no one is benefitted by.

 
But the truth is that God is God. God delivered Israel from Egypt by His help. Israel was helpless on his own. Only God saves. Only God. Only God walked with Israel in the wilderness keeping the shoes and clothes whole over all those years and providing food and water. Only God fills. But the danger is in our filling and in our wanting to be filled when we want to be filled with anything other than You, God. When we hunger for other things, we help ourselves, and that’s trouble. Actually, that’s worse than trouble; that’s sin.

 
Israel isn’t the only one who has destroyed herself. You and I could be in the middle of destroying ourselves right now. Who is my help? Is it You alone, Lord? I want to be like the Canaanite woman who had the daughter who was troubled by a demon and she came to Jesus worshipping Him and said, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25) Or like the father whose son was tormented by demons who came to Jesus saying, “And often it has cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if you can do anything, have compassion on us, and help us!” (Mark 9:22) I want to be like that father who then cried out to the Lord, “Lord, help my unbelief!” Yes, I want to come to where help originates and true help is found and given. I want to go to where Paul invited us with God. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Paul knew and I know that our help, every help we need, is only found in You and that is where I want to be found- in You, all the days of my life, for in You is my help.

Loving the Gomer

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“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali.” Hosea 2:16

 
I so wish that I had a strong knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. Why? Because there is so much I don’t want to be taking for granted and just passing over in Your word, Lord. I mean, if I read Hosea’s words and just read them as words and names and go on, I’ll miss so much. But if I take the time to search out what the words and names really mean and the magnitude of what You are saying through them, then these words impact my life so greatly. It’s not just a story. It’s not just Hosea and Gomer’s story. It’s not just Israel and Judah’s story. This is a living and continuing story. This is my story. And what I get from it can effect the outcome of my story and the next person’s story. And it’s not just any kind of story either. It’s a living love story.  And ultimately it’s God’s story, Your story.

 
You start out with two of Hosea’s children, the ones named Loammi and Loruhamah, the one who was not your people and the one who would have no more mercy. You took these pictures of what was going on with Your people who should have been living like Your people and enjoying the blessings of that relationship and instead were receiving the consequences of their choice to abandon You and You showed what it looked like. I mean, here is Gomer, having relations with other men who don’t care as much as Hosea does about her. And these two children may even be by these other relationships. Yet Hosea remains faithful. Why? Because it’s a picture of You and how You God, remain ever faithful to Your bride.

 
But therefore, that also means that this Gomer is a picture of the bride. And who is the bride? The people of God. And who are the people of God, only Israel and Judah? No. The people of God are all those believers who not only believe with their heads but believe with their lives. They are the ones who once acted on their own, like they were not Your people, but now they are fully Yours.

 
And how do You treat them? I mean, after the way they treated You? After all that unfaithfulness? You call them Ammi and Ruhamah, Yours and Beloved! And that’s how we are to look at each other also. But the intensity of the love doesn’t stop there. Look at how God treats Gomer. Look at what the problem was in Gomer’s heart.

 
Hosea says, “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband…” Really? Gomer wasn’t Hosea’s wife? Yes, she was. But she was not living as though she was. She was not thinking as though she was. Instead of running to the arms that provided for her, she ran to other arms. And as she ran to the other arms, she saw them as caring for her. She thought they were better than Hosea. She chose not to be Hosea’s girl. She chose to not receive Hosea’s goodness. She was that deceived.

 
Here’s the thing. Gomer is like us when we think things are better outside of God’s care. We attest all our blessings to some other cause when God is really the cause. And then it takes losing it all before we ever get our focus right and see that it was You all along. It takes losing everything before we see how faithful You have been when we were not, how righteous, and loving, and merciful You have been through it all and despite it all. And after all that shameful behavior, You would still redeem us back to Yourself and make us Your own glorious people, Your beautiful bride, and then we will not only be Yours but we will understand what it is for You to be our God.

 
And that brings us to verse 16. “And it shall be at that day, says the Lord, that you shall call me Ishi; and shall call me no more Baali.” Now, because I’m not a Hebrew scholar, I’m just wondering if this form of Ish is a really personal form, like when I change Dad to Daddy. I ask, because it just tells something deeper about the relationship. That maybe, at one point, that false god Baal was looked at as “daddy.” That Baal was the one who ruled her world. And it seems that Baal rules the world by force so we might as well get what we can how we can because who knows if we’ll get what we want. And that’s the thing. Like Gomer, we can treat You God, like Baal. We can treat You as though You rule the world by force. Then that influences every part of our thinking and our acting.

 
How does it influence my thinking and acting if I believe that God rules the world by force? I follow suit and rule my world by force. Husbands rule wives by force. Parents rule children by force. Nations rule people by force. Religion rules by force. Power determines relationship. But that’s not God’s picture. That’s not the picture You painted through Hosea and Gomer. The picture You paint is that love rules relationships. Mutual loyalty rules relationships.

 
That ish thing is so important because it takes us back to the first man and woman and Your original intent. Adam rejoiced in Eve because she was part of him, not because she was less then him. It wasn’t good for man to be alone, to be cut off from the tree. Eve is part of Adam. Together they were mankind. Adam without Eve was incomplete. Mankind would not continue. They were created for mutual love, mutual loyalty, mutual care, mutual respect, and mutual reflection of Your attitude, God.

 
Force did not come until after the fall and it was a byproduct of the fall, a result of sin. Our purpose is still to reflect God’s glory and we can only reflect God’s glory by relating in love. God is not just some ultimate power. He is “the ultimate person, the Other in whom I find myself.” (Jonathan Sacks) In other words, You are not a moral policeman. That’s a pagan idea. I mean, if I look at the evidence and I see how Jesus, Your Messiah “deliberately changes the perceived hierarchy of master-slave to teacher-friend (John 15:15)” (Skip Moen) that throws that idea out the door. I can see how Jesus treated women and Samaritans and Romans and see that power play go out the door. The more I read, the more I listen, the more I see, it’s about joy in the presence of another.

 
God’s relationship with us is based on this joy just as much as our marriage should be based on this kind of mutual joy. I find my joy in the other person because I find God’s joy in them and in me. See, I am who I am because of who she or he is, just as I am who I am because of who You are God. My marriage relationship reflects my relationship with You.
It wasn’t like You forced Adam to name Eve. Adam was so overjoyed, so excited, so exuberant that he took his name, Ish, and voluntarily changed it to give it to Eve as Ishshah. Paul got it. That’s why he reminded husbands and wives, “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21) Mutual submission and loyalty and love and enjoyment isn’t a bad thing. It’s rejoicing in each other and rejoicing in what You, God, have done together.

 
The truth is that God wanted to rejoice in Gomer and Jezreel and Loammi and Loruhamah. But sometimes He has to take us to a place where we can learn the reality of His feelings for us so that we can return them in the same joy that He gives them. I mean, what if You had just cut them off? But You didn’t. You were long-suffering. You kept calling and waiting and loving and placing situations in their lives.

 
I think of a friend of mine who is missing. I think of how he has lost sight of how much the people around him love him. I think he lost sight of the fact that You were still acting for his benefit even in the tough, the really tough and heart wrenching things going on in his life. And I think how I want to put letters and notes all over the world for him just to let him know how much he is loved so he will come back. But I don’t even know where to look. But You, on the other hand, know just where to place Your love notes. And You go to the uttermost extreme. As though it wasn’t enough when Christ paid the price on the cross for each and every one of us, You put situations in our lives and people in our lives to help our blinded eyes see. You are always loving us more than ever we could deserve.

 
If I weep over my friend being lost and somewhere where I can’t demonstrate my joy in him, then think of how much more our Heavenly Father must feel for us when we wander or when we don’t even get it. Lord, I was Gomer and You were ever faithful. I don’t want to be a Gomer again. But what I do want, is for You to give me a heart for all the Gomers out there. And I pray that You would help me to help the Gomers and the Loammis and the Loruhamas know the joy You really feel for them. And I pray that Your joy over us would so infect our lives and attitudes that we would be filled with that same joy for You and Your ways. Thank You for Hosea and Gomer and all their kids. Thank You for Israel and Judah. Thank You for being a God who reigns by love relationship and by the joy of Your being and presence. Thank You for inviting us into You and into Your joy.

No Better Cake

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“…and I will save them by the LORD their God…” Hosea 1:7

 
Hosea was a prophet of God over a pretty long period of time, like maybe 70 years. That’s a whole average life span today! He shared the words of God over the reign of four or more kings, both influencing Judah and Israel. As I spend time going through Hosea, chapter by chapter, I really want to think about it. I want to think about what was going on and why. I want to think about what life was like for Hosea as Your representative during those times. I want to think about the things You required of Hosea and his attitude to Your requirements. I want to look at Your heart and Hosea’s heart and the people’s hearts and my heart.

 
Right at the beginning of Your words to Hosea, Lord, You help us to see his wife and children. You tell Hosea to go out and marry a whore. Wow, that’s strong language! What a requirement! What does Hosea do? He does it! You told him “Marry a prostitute, and have children with that prostitute. The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2) So Hosea marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Do you know what Diblaim means? It means “two cakes.” I can’t help but think of that expression, “have your cake and eat it too.” So I guess his daughter, Gomer, liked multiple cakes at the same time too.

 
Why would Hosea do that? Why would he marry a known prostitute? Why would he choose someone who was already unfaithful? Was it just obedience to You, God? Or was it more? Was it just fear of You? Or was it more? Could Hosea have truly understood Your heart for people and could it have been the heart that filled him for them also?

 
Hosea took Gomer as his own despite her background. Don’t You do the same with each of us? Didn’t we all start out as sinners; men, women, and children who prostitute Your ways and run after others more than You? Are we that far off from Gomer and Israel? All I can think of is how much love and mercy and patience this prophet Hosea must have had. He could have despised Gomer just as You could despise Israel or us. But Hosea took Gomer unto himself. And isn’t that what You do for us? You take us unto Yourself to make us Yours and make us holy in You.

 
Hosea doesn’t despise her but is intimate with her. From the fruit of that intimacy comes a son. God names him Jezreel, “God will sow.” All along, God is using this family as a picture to the people. It’s a picture of the reality of who Israel is, running after other gods, other “loves,” other pleasures. It’s a picture of our own hearts. It’s a picture of Your faithfulness, God, in the midst of when we don’t deserve it because of our lack of faithfulness. It’s a picture of unconditional love and love beyond imagination. It’s a picture of warning and long-suffering. You reap what you sow. But God is the Final Sower. And in the midst of all the junk we throw around in our lives and at God, You’re busy sowing love and patience and seeds for repentance and a return to relationship and forgiveness and restoration.

 
But there’s a price to pay. We can’t stay the way we are. Our strength in ourselves and our pleasures has to be broken. So that’s not so bad to be named Jezreel, and to be a warning to Israel, is it? But then Gomer conceives again and bares a daughter. Hopefully this is from Hosea’s loins. But wherever she was from , God named her Loruhamah. Now that’s a sad name. It means, “not pitied.” Why? Because this is how God would act toward Israel; no more mercy. He’ll take them “utterly” away. Can you imagine having a name like that? Ow!

 
But again, You will have mercy on Judah, and here’s the great part I got excited over- You will save them by the LORD their God, not by bow or by sword or by battle or by horses or horsemen. It’s so easy to look towards things to save us. “Oh, God, send Your angels to watch over me!” “Oh, God, do this or do that…” But You don’t need bows or swords or armies or horses or horsemen. Maybe we look for salvation in all the wrong ways and all the wrong places. Maybe salvation is in You and You alone. Maybe salvation is in our relationship with God who gave Jesus so He could take us unto Himself and make us His very own.

 
What if life isn’t about my mission or my job or my ministry or my family or my wealth or my whatever? What if life is all about who I am in God? What if everything else is effected by that relationship? What if true living is getting that relationship right? What if Hosea was successful despite the “crazy” things he had to do because he understood the One He was listening to? What if Hosea is a great man not because He was a great prophet but because he walked with God in relationship step by step no matter what? What if that is why God chose to speak to him? What if that is why we’re still reading about him today? And what if that walk and that relationship is what makes the stories of Gomer and her children a beautiful story of love and redemption by a man who got it because he understood the God who gives it and is it?

 
And if this family doesn’t seem sad enough, another son is born and God names him Loammi- not my people. And not being God’s people implies that neither is God your God. But this is not without hope! God says that in the same place where they were called Loammi- not my people, one day it would be said again there that “You are the sons of the living God.” And in that day there will be a great gathering together of Judah and Israel and they’ll appoint themselves one head. I think that head is more than a ruler but that head is One Source. That these sons of the living God will understand together that they have become sons because of Jesus, the Son of God who sacrificed His life to restore them to His Father. There is coming a time when those who ran from the Creator will run to Him in awe.

 
That word for head in Hebrew is rosh. It’s the same word used in Rosh Hashanah which is the Hebrew new year. And it’s all about recognizing and acknowledging the Source of everything. As a matter of fact, Rosh Hashanah begins the time period on the Hebrew calendar known as the Days of Awe. And I think, Lord, that’s pretty much where You were trying to lead the people during Hosea’s time, back to the reality of awe in You, not because it was ritual but because You are so worthy of awe. We are nothing without You. The problem is that we are so prone to forget the truth.

 
Here You are, King of the Universe, Creator of everything, and yet we won’t even give You the time of day. Sometimes You just have to blow Your shofar loudly enough for us to hear it and be startled out of our self-induced slumber. And sometimes a shofar isn’t loud enough so it takes hard things in life to wake us up. We need to remember who we really are and we can’t remember that until we remember who You really are and that we wouldn’t exist without You. According to rabbinic teaching, “the sound of the shofar, then, is meant to stir the heart to fear and to inspire teshuvah (repentance).” Here in Hosea, Your story through the words and through Isaiah’s family was like a shofar. It was sounded to turn people back to You, to draw Gomer to Hosea and to You, to give his children a hope and a heritage, to give the people a way to return.

 
But it’s not just for Hosea, and Gomer, and Jezebel, and Loruhamah, Loammi, and Judah, and Israel. This is for us too. This is for me and this is for you. I’m just as much in need of redemption as Gomer; we all are. Jezreel isn’t the only one who will reap what he sows. And I’d rather reap what You sow, Lord. I can choose to live my own way and not accept Your pity. But I don’t want to. I want to be a Loruhamah who runs to You to receive the pity that You want to show me. Once I was not Yours, just like Loammi. But that was then. Now, I am Yours and You are mine. And if there is hope for me, then there is hope for anyone. I guess what happens is determined by how we respond when You blow the shofar. I just know that I want to wake up and listen. I want to wake up and hear. And I want to go even farther. I want to do what the shofar is signaling. I want to run to You for safety and salvation and belonging and purity and love and security and power.

 
Salvation is getting back to the relationship in the garden before the fall. It’s getting over me and never getting over You. You are the wonder of salvation. Jesus personified You for us but You are so much more. You are so much more that Jesus can change us and fill us with Your Spirit. You are so much more that You can be there in the midst of a prison or country where we are stripped of everything, yet we are not stripped of You. Our hope is not in any thing. Our hope, our reality, is in You. It is You. Oh, Lord, why do my eyes look at lesser things when You are every thing? You are It. That’s all I know. And maybe that’s all I need to know to think rightly.  You can choose your cake and eat it too.  But as for me, there is no better cake than Jesus.

Rising Up to the Calling

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts; ‘In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.’”  Zechariah 8:23

Imagine that.  Imagine looking at someone and thinking, “Wow!  God is with them.  Just look at their life.”  I know people that I look at and see that.  Their life just exudes that You are with them.  And it’s not because everything in their life is always going wonderfully.  It’s something different.  It’s like in the verses in this chapter that talk about the old men and women and boys and girls dwelling in the streets of the city again.  It’s about dwelling or living in You in contentment and safety.  It’s about being brought into the midst of You.  It’s about being Yours and You being theirs.  It’s about truth and righteousness.  It’s about prospering in You and bearing Your fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It’s about receiving Your provision and Your goodness.  And it’s reflected in how we speak truth and treat others in truth and peace and fair judgment.  It’s reflected in how we don’t want to treat others wrongly, or lie.  It’s in joy and gladness and celebration because of who You are and what You do.  And others see this and are drawn to know You in their lives.

So this is what You were telling Israel that You would do with them.  You wanted to do it already but they had chosen another way.  And now You wanted to give them a flavor of what it tasted like and felt like to be a light to each other and the Gentiles again.  But You also wanted them to know that they were to be a part of the building of an even larger kingdom than themselves. 

Those who are not of Israel, must not lose sight of Your vision, Lord.  Because You still have a plan for Israel to be Your light.  And Israel is our light through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, who lived and died and rose again for Jew and Gentile to be reunited in You and to You.  But You have not forgotten Israel, Lord, and neither should we.  Maybe if the Gentile community of believers focussed more on the heart of Your word in all of Scripture instead of following “church history” we might have the kind of relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters that would help them to see the Messiah.  And maybe we would be part of helping them to fulfill this vision as they are drawn back to You when they see others with a living relationship with You.  What if they became jealous for a relationship with the Holy One like that?

Paul was a “Jew of Jews.”  It took a “knock you off your donkey and blind you” experience for him to stop and rethink and see Jesus.  Paul knew what it was to be wholly Jewish.  As a matter of fact, he never stopped being Jewish.  But listen to what he said about his Jewish brothers and sisters who did not know or accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.  “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall?  By no means!  Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”  Some Jews believed, but not the majority.  You, Lord, had already implemented a plan before time began and that was to use Gentiles to minister back to those who had ministered to them.  Why?  So that, “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them,” said Paul.  Why would any one want someone else to receive Your love and care, more than us?  We looked on and saw that love and wanted it for our own.  Are we demonstrating that kind of love that was shown to us so that they would want it for their own and miss it in their lives?

Listen.  The Lord of hosts wants to take Israel, and have people of every nation taking hold of the robe of a Jew and wanting to go with them, together, to the God that is with them.  Why?  To worship together.  But look at that idea of grabbing the skirt or robe of the Jew because if we stop to look back to what this is really saying in the original language, it’s beautiful.

The word for skirt or robe here is kanaph.  It means an edge or extremity, especially like that of a bird or army, like a wing.  It is also used as the word for the tzit tzit on the edge of the men’s shirts/robes in those days.  They are still used today on Jewish men’s shirts.  So a kanaph has to do with the outer edge or corners of this cover, or shirt.  And as I said, it could be used for bird wings, or wings of other heavenly creatures.  Metaphorically, it could be used for God’s protective covering.  Could this tie in with the Messiah?  Listen to Jesus’ words to Israel, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34)

So could this grabbing on have to do with the “wings” of this garment on the Jew and grabbing on to Your protection, Lord?  Kanaph isn’t just about a garment or skirt.  Canapé is about that specific part, that part attached to the corners.  That’s where the tzitzit comes in.  It’s the ritual knotted fringe worn on the edges of the prayer shawl.  It represents Your word, the Torah.  Remember that woman with the bleeding issue all those years?  Remember how she grabbed the hem of Jesus’ robe?  She was doing the same things these people from other nations would be doing.  I suppose she was setting an example for those in the future or maybe she just understood.  Why did she do that?  Maybe she understood that one could find “healing in the ‘wings’” of Jesus, of Yeshua.  So maybe what You are saying through Zechariah is that the nations will grasp Your word, even that of the Torah, the Old Testament, and join in it’s righteousness with the Jews.  Why?  Because they’ll see God in them.

God’s vision has already started.  God was bringing it to pass when Naman took hold of his little Jewish slave girl’s advice and came to Israel for healing in the Lord.  The woman at the well took hold of it when she heard the words of Jesus at the well.  There’s no way any of us can come, Jew or Gentile, without taking hold of the wings of that Jewish carpenter who is the Messiah.  Either we come under the protection of His wings and enter into His life by living in His Word or we live outside of any true protection. 

And although Jesus is the Ultimate One we must cling to, I still believe that You, Lord, have a heart for Your people Israel to shine Your light in Jesus Christ throughout this world again for all to see.  So I pray that You would make me a light to them, to those who haven’t seen You yet, that I might see You as You really are all throughout Your Word, because You are the Word, in order that they might be able to see You where they haven’t seen You before.  It’s not that there is anything wrong with being Jewish or practicing Judaism.  It’s a vision problem.  It’s a matter of whether one sees the wings of the One who has always been there to protect and be theirs.  It’s a matter of abiding under the Mother Hen’s wings and seeing things Her way or just following the traditions of our fathers.  And the fact is, today is no different than the days of Zechariah and we can get lost in traditions of men.  And we can follow traditions of God without understanding the heart of it, or His heart.  But what a joy it would be for Jew and Gentile to grab hold of each other’s hands and run together to the city of God with nothing but rejoicing and gratitude and worship and love in our hearts.  Lord, Your will be done, and may I be a part of that and may Israel rise up to it’s calling.