Tag Archives: Exodus

Thou Shall Not Covet

The Ten Commandments are the basic law that was given to the Israelites by God. The last of the commandments is stated in Exodus 20:17 as follows: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

This commandment is in addition to the commandment to not steal, which means that to covet what belongs to your neighbor is something different from stealing it. But what exactly does it mean to covet what belongs to another and why is it a bad thing?

It certainly doesn’t harm God directly if we covet what belongs to another, and it doesn’t harm the person whose things we covet. So what’s the big deal? Why did God give us this commandment?

God instructed us not to covet what belongs to others because He loves us and wants what is best for us. He wants us to trust Him for what we need and what will make us happy and content. He wants to bless us uniquely, and not necessarily in the same way He has blessed another.

When we covet what belongs to another then we lose the blessing of contentment. A lack of contentment brings sorrow and strife into our life. When we covet what belongs to another we dwell on what we don’t have and forget to be thankful for what we do have.

Here are some examples from my own life:

  • If I covet the large families that my sisters-in-law all have (5, 4, and 3 kids, respectively), and dwell on a desire to have many children instead of the one son I do have, then I will feel sorrowful. I will forget to be thankful for the wonderful, generous, creative son that God has blessed me with. I will miss out on the blessing of being able to spend so much time with him because my time is not divided among multiple children.
  • If I covet the 5 bedroom house that my neighbor owns, and dwell on my desire to have my own library, a larger laundry room, and guest rooms for visitors, then I will feel that life is unfair. I will forget to be thankful for the beautiful house I do own in a great neighborhood. I will miss out on the blessing of my small family being so close because there is no room in our house to avoid each other. I will also miss out on the blessing of not having as many rooms to keep clean.
  • If I covet the Thunderbird I was following on my way to work the other day, and dwell on my desire to have a nicer car (preferably red), then I will feel sad. I will forget to be thankful for the (mostly) reliable car that I do drive and that I don’t have to ride the bus to work. I will miss out on the blessing of not having a car payment to make every month and not having higher insurance rates for a newer car.

There are many other things that my friends and neighbors have that I don’t have that I could covet. But God has commanded that I not covet these things because He wants me to be happy and content with the blessings I do enjoy. Although we may think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, God knows that there is no guarantee that having the things we covet would make us more content and happy.

As I thought about writing this post, a song by Dwight Yoakam came to mind. It’s called I Got You. It’s a song about a guy who has lost everything it seems, but he still has his girl and so he is content. He says:

Hey I know my life seems a mess but honey things to me still look real swell
Cause I’ve got you to see me through yeah I’ve got you to chase my blues
I’ve got you to ease my pain yeah I’ve got you girl to keep me sane
So let them do what they want to do cause it don’t matter long as I’ve got you

Sometimes in this life people do lose everything it seems. Sometimes they even lose the one person they think will get them through. But one thing is sure, and that is that we can never lose the love of Jesus.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NIV).

So let us not covet that which we do not have, but instead be thankful for the blessings we have been given and rejoice in the love of God that can never be taken from us.

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Manna for the Day

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided them with food called manna. The word “manna” is a Hebrew word that literally means “what is it?” The Israelites didn’t know what it was, but they discovered that it was nutritious and filling. They were instructed to gather only as much manna as they needed for each day, except the day before the Sabbath when they were to gather enough for two days. They discovered that if they gathered any extra it would spoil. See Exodus 16 (NIV).

Gathering only as much as was needed was a definite test in trusting God to provide. Because He is faithful and trustworthy, God always came through and there was always enough manna.

This past year of blogging, I have discovered that trusting God for what to write is kind of like trusting Him to provide manna in the desert. There have been times when I thought I would write ahead, spend a Saturday writing for the following week. Occasionally this worked when I really wasn’t going to have time to write the following week, like before we headed off to vacation. But other times I just couldn’t seem to think of anything to write ahead.

Last week, for example, while I was off work for the week before Christmas I was going to write this whole week’s worth of blog posts so I didn’t have to do any writing this final week of the year. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it done. I was left to trust God to provide something to write. So far He has come through, and knowing how faithful and trustworthy He is I know He will provide for the remainder of the week.

This is just one of many lessons in trust that we can learn from the story of the manna God provided in the desert. We all go through desert times. We all have times when it seems we can barely get through each day as we wander in seek of the promised land. It is during these times that we must trust in God to provide. I’ve discovered for myself that He always does.

But the Israelites didn’t wander in the desert wilderness forever. Eventually they reached the promised land, which was flowing with milk and honey and an abundance of good foods. Although they still were called to trust God, it was more of a “big picture” trust and not a daily food thing.

I think it is the same for us. Sometimes God takes us through wilderness experiences so we learn to trust daily for some basic and distinct need. He uses these times of intense trusting to teach us about big picture trust so that we will not forget Him when we emerge from the wilderness into the promised land.

We must always remember to trust God in and for all things. As James reminded us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV). Whether we are in the desert wilderness or the promised land, our faithful and trustworthy God will provide for what we need.

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Show Me Your Glory – A Poem

The Israelites saw the glory of God in the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke that led them through the desert. Still, Moses asked God, “Show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:18. I am thankful that, without even asking, God shows us His glory every day. So for Thankful Thursday I decided to write a poem about the Glory of my Lord and Savior.

Show Me Your Glory

Show me Your glory?
I don’t have to ask
You already have
In so many ways

The roses bloom
Revealing Your beauty

The birds sing
Revealing Your joy

The sun rises each morning
Revealing Your faithfulness

The wind blows
Revealing Your power

The ocean tide ebbs and flows
Revealing Your steadiness

The Bible is translated in many languages
Revealing Your truth

Your Holy Spirit indwells Your believers
Revealing Your wisdom

Your Son died on the cross
Revealing Your love

The women found the empty tomb
Revealing Your glory

In so many ways
You have shown me
All I must do is open my eyes
You show me Your glory

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The Veil Was Torn!

MercyMe is coming to Portland next Sunday, and I am hoping to go, so I’ve been listening to their most recent CD in the car this past week. It’s called The Generous Mr. Lovewell. I’ve written several posts about some of the songs on this CD, including Move, Crazy Enough, and Beautiful. But this week, a thought occurred to me about another song on that CD called All of Creation. The first verse is:

Separated
Until the veil was torn
The moment that hope was born
And guilt was pardoned once and for all

This verse reminded me of a women’s retreat I went to about eight years ago. I learned something at that retreat that makes this verse, particularly the second line, especially meaningful. I decided I wanted to share what I learned here on my blog.

When our dear Savior Jesus dies on the cross, something amazing happened. All our sins were atoned for, our debt to God was paid; and that is truly awesome. But something even more profound happened at exactly the moment He died.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:44-46 (NIV).

Did you catch that? The curtain in the temple was torn in two. Now you may have read this many times and thought nothing of it. I know I had before I learned what this meant. If you are picturing some sheer curtains like you have in your living room, or even some sturdy drapes, you are picturing this “curtain” or “veil” all wrong. And you will notice that no one tore it, it was torn in two all by itself; or more appropriately, by the death of Jesus.

So what is this curtain that was torn in two? To find out, we have to venture back into the Old Testament and see what was said about the temple, which was preceded by the tabernacle during the time the Israelites were journeying through the wilderness. These are God’s instructions to Moses:

“Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain. Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.” Exodus 26:30-33 (NIV).

The curtain was, I was told at the women’s retreat, at least two inches thick. From the description in this passage of Exodus, I suspect it was absolutely breathtaking. Of course, you would expect nothing less for the curtain through which one would pass to enter the Most Holy Place. This was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept; it was the place where God resided among the Israelites.

So do you think just anyone could go through this curtain, walk into the Most Holy Place, and have a chat with God? No way! We are told in Leviticus 16 about the Day of Atonement, the only day any of the people of Israel could enter the Most Holy Place; and on that day only the High Priest (which was Aaron at the time) could enter. In later years, the other priests would tie a rope around the ankle of the High Priest when he entered the Most Holy Place, just in case he died when he was in the presence of God, so they could pull him out.

But when Jesus died, that curtain was torn. The barrier between the people and the place where God dwelled was destroyed. At that moment, “hope was born” because we can now come boldly before the throne of grace and into the presence of God. To be sure, we ought to come into this place with reverence and awe for the Almighty, but we can come. We needn’t be the High Priest; and we surely don’t need a rope tied around our ankle.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV).

Well, now that you know how wonderful it was that the curtain or veil was torn, so that we are no longer prevented from approaching God’s throne, I hope you will enjoy this great MercyMe song that reminded me of this awesome truth.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

As part of the Post-a-Day 2011 Challenge, The Daily Post at WordPress.com has been providing an optional writing prompt to get bloggers started. Although I won’t use their prompt on most days, I have already found one that I like. It was posted on Jan. 1 for use in Jan. 2 posts, but since I already had plans for Jan. 2 as part of Psalm Sunday, and then decided I wanted to do Music Monday, I decided to save it for a later day. Here is the prompt:

Name someone who deserves more credit than they get. And for bonus points, how to change things so they get more.

The first person I thought of when I read this was the Holy Spirit. Even in the Apostles’ Creed, all we say is “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” The Nicene Creed does have a bit more to say about the Holy Spirit:

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

The Bible, however, has much to say about the Holy Spirit. Beginning at the beginning, Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” The Holy Spirit of God has always existed and was instrumental in the creation of the earth.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is revealed as powerful and magnificent. Many times, God filled prophets and others with His Spirit, giving them wisdom, expertise, knowledge, and strength beyond their natural abilities.

“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.” Exodus 31:2-4.

And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Then he gave the seventy elders the same Spirit that was upon Moses. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. Numbers 11:25.

At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him [Samson], and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. . . But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. Judges 14:6; 15:14.

Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, the leader of the Thirty, and he said,“We are yours, David!We are on your side, son of Jesse.Peace and prosperity be with you,and success to all who help you,for your God is the one who helps you.”So David let them join him, and he made them officers over his troops. 1 Chronicles 12:18.

His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent. Job 26:13.

But as for me, I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and strength to boldly declare Israel’s sin and rebellion. Micah 3:8.

The Old Testament also contains the promise, fulfilled in the New Testament, that God will give His Holy Spirit power to all who believe.

“Then, after doing all those things,
      I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
      Your old men will dream dreams,
      and your young men will see visions.
 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
      even on servants—men and women alike.” Joel 2:28-29.

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit continues to be revealed as powerful, as well as beneficial to the believer. Jesus, the Messiah, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and thus is the Son of God. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life and the source of wisdom, counsel, and more.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18.

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35.

But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11.

[Jesus said,] “You are witnesses of all these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:48-49.

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. John 3:6.

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor], who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. John 14:16-17.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26.

That last verse is one of my favorites. I have personally experienced the Holy Spirit reminding me of something Jesus had taught me through my reading of the Word, of His teaching. When I need a verse to help me through a difficult situation, it is the Holy Spirit that brings just the right verse to mind. I may not always remember the Biblical “address” of the verse, or even what book of the Bible it is in, but I know where it comes from and Who has brought it to my attention.

I think that too often even Christians forget to give credit to the Holy Spirit when it is due. All of the charitable acts or service for our fellow man that we do are born out of the power and desire of the Holy Spirit. Even our faith itself is given to us by the Holy Spirit. I have quoted quite a few verses here, but I really haven’t even scratched the surface of the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit.

So that brings me to the second part of the prompt. What can I do to change things so that the Holy Spirit gets the credit He deserves? I will endeavor, with the help of the Holy Spirit Himself, to write about the wonderful things He deserves credit for in my life and as promised in scripture in the weeks and months to come. I’m going to be posting every day, so I’ll certainly have plenty of opportunity.

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How Much Does God Love Us?

As part of my Bible-in-a-year schedule I’ve been going through the Old Testament again. As I read, I am reminded of the relationship between God and the nation of Israel. One thing that has occurred to me is that Israel in the Old Testament as an archetype of the present day believer. The whole story of Israel’s relationship with God has several important characteristics:

  • Israel becomes God’s own people and they follow God beginning with Abraham and his descendants
  • God watches over Israel by providing for them in Egypt when famine comes to their land
  • Israel is rescued by God and delivered from Egypt after the Egyptians enslave them
  • Israel turns away from God and worships a golden calf of their own making when they feel lost and don’t know what happened to Moses
  • God chastises them through Moses and they repent and return to God
  • Israel complains about their lot in the desert and say they were better off in Egypt
  • God provide them with food and water in the desert, but because of their grumbling their time in the desert is longer
  • God finally brings them into the promised land and they have an abundant life where they worship God
  • Israel enjoys prosperity and wealth in the land the Lord gave to them
  • Israel, under the rule of various kings, strays from God and begins to worship the pagan gods of the nations around them
  • God becomes angry and punishes them with defeat by their enemies and eventually exile from the promised land
  • Israel returns to the worship of the One True God and God brings them back from exile and restores them to the land they were promised

It is a  recurring theme of Israel straying from God in both good times and bad, then God would chastise and punish them, but then they would repent and He would save them. Through it all, Israel never ceased to be His people. He never ceased to love Israel. The prophet Hosea recorded the word of the Lord regarding His anger towards unfaithful Israel and His undying love for her:

Hosea 2

 13 I will punish her for all those times
      when she burned incense to her images of Baal,
   when she put on her earrings and jewels
      and went out to look for her lovers
   but forgot all about me,”
      says the Lord.

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

 14 “But then I will win her back once again.
      I will lead her into the desert
      and speak tenderly to her there.
 15 I will return her vineyards to her
      and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
   She will give herself to me there,
      as she did long ago when she was young,
      when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
       “you will call me ‘my husband’;
       you will no longer call me ‘my master. ‘
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
       no longer will their names be invoked.

  23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
       I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. ‘
       I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’;
       and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “

So how is this like the present day believer? There is a point in the life of each believer when we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. But as time goes on, we forget the initial joy we had when God saved us from the state we were in. We might encounter trouble and complain that God is not there for us. We turn away from God and seek our own answers, our own gods to worship such as power or money. Then God will somehow show us the error of our ways as those other gods truly fail us and we repent and are restored in our relationship with Him.

At other times, we may be prosperous and living a life that is going better than we ever imagined. We may forget God’s hand in our prosperity and pride may cause us to turn from God and worship our own abilities and strength. But because He loves us and is more concerned about our relationship with Him and our eternal destiny, God may not allow the prosperity to last as a means to bring us back to Him.

For some believers, this may happen several times throughout our lives as we, like Israel, forget what God has done for us and how much He loves us.

But once sealed with the Holy Spirit we will remain God’s chosen ones, we will remain His beloved people. As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.

Just as He did with Israel in the Old Testament, God will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him because He loves us even when we are unfaithful, because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us and convict us of sin so that we will return to Him when we stray. Israel had only the law to keep them in line with God’s will, but we have the Holy Spirit and the power of His grace to keep us safe and in His will.

Do you know how much God loves you? Do you continue to worship and love Him only in good times and bad? Do you hear His Holy Spirit say to you “you are My people” and will you always respond “You are my God”?

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The Third Day

Tonight I am going to go see the Christian band Third Day in concert. I love their music! Having seen them in concert before, I know that what lies ahead is a wonderful evening of praise and worship of our Lord.

I’ve always assumed that the band name is based on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead on the “third day” after His crucifixion. Since I have VIP tickets for a before-concert Q&A session with the band, maybe I will get a chance to ask whether that assumption is accurate. But in the meantime, I decided to do a search on www.biblegateway.com for the phrase “third day” to find the scriptures about this glorious event and write about Jesus’ resurrection. To my surprise, my search yielded more than a few Old Testament passages referring to something that occurred on the “third day.”

Genesis 22:1-19 is the story of when Abraham was tested by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Before he actually sacrificed Isaac, God provided a substitute sacrifice. This story is an example of Abraham’s complete trust in God. Verse 4 says, “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” The place referred to is the mountain on which he would perform the sacrifice.

In Genesis 42 is the story of when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph had put them all in jail because of a “stolen” chalice in their bags of grain.

On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. Genesis 42:18-20.

In Exodus 19, we find part of the story of Moses and the Israelites in the desert. They have come to Mt. Sinai and Moses has spoken with God.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Exodus 19:10-11.

The book of Ezra is the story of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Their return and the rebuilding of the city and the temple were assisted greatly by King Darius who believed in the Lord, the God of Israel. It took a long time for the work to be completed, but finally it was.

The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. 
Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. Ezra 6:15-16.

Hosea is one of the minor prophets. When we say he is a “minor” prophet, that does not mean his writings are less important than the major prophets. Rather, the book that bears his name is one of the shorter prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Chapter 6 of Hosea begins like this:

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.
       He has torn us to pieces
       but he will heal us;
       he has injured us
       but he will bind up our wounds.

 2 After two days he will revive us;
       on the third day he will restore us,
       that we may live in his presence.

 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
       let us press on to acknowledge him.
       As surely as the sun rises,
       he will appear;
       he will come to us like the winter rains,
       like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea is the last Old Testament book to include the phrase “third day.” The next time we see this phrase, Jesus is predicting His own death and resurrection in Matthew 16:21.

As I read through these passages, I saw a common theme. The third day is a day of redemption, a day on which God is powerfully present. It is a day of celebration of the wonders of our God. It is a day to be in awe of God’s mercy, of His power and desire to restore us through the death and third-day resurrection of Jesus.

Now when I recite the Apostles’ Creed in church, when I say with my fellow believers “On the third day He rose again,” it will have more meaning.

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The Doorframe of My Heart

This morning during my prayer time a thought came to me. The blood of the Lamb is on the doorframe of my heart. Then I asked God for guidance on what to write here today, and again I thought “the blood of the Lamb is on the doorframe of my heart.”

“Yes, Lord, I know that,” I replied, “but what should I write about?” Then I realized that just because I know this great truth doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out in the blogosphere who needs to know, too.

So what does this mean, to have the blood of the Lamb on the doorframe of your heart? To understand this statement, one must first know the story of the Passover from Exodus 12.

The first Passover happened when God was bringing the plagues upon Egypt to convince Pharoah to let His people go. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn children and animals in Egypt. God instructed Moses to have the Israelites sacrifice a young lamb. “Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” Exodus 12:7. Then when the Lord struck the firstborn in Egypt He would pass over the houses that had the blood of the lamb on their doorframes and the firstborn of the Israelites would be spared.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29. But to take advantage of the blessing offered by the blood of the Lamb, we must have the blood on the doorframe of our heart. Just as the firstborn of Egypt died, the wages of sin for all mankind is death. Romans 6:23. “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Romans 14:10. But when we are sealed by the blood of the Lamb, when His blood is on the doorframes of our heart, we will be spared when we stand before God’s judgment.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18-20.

Understanding this connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament has been such a blessing to me. Jesus has existed before time and is revealed throughout the Old Testament. The Passover lamb is just one of many ways in which God’s relationship with the Israelites foreshadowed His relationship with all believers through our faith in Christ Jesus. God provided a way for the firstborn of the Israelites to be spared His judgment, and He provides a way for all men and women to be spared His judgment for our sins.

Have you put the blood of the Lamb on the doorframe of your heart? In Revelation 3:20, the Lamb stands at the door and knocks. Have you let Him in?

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Comprehending the Trinity

According to the liturgical calendar used by many Christian churches, last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. This is the day that the Church celebrates the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It falls on the Sunday following Pentecost, which is when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one that causes concern for many people, and some churches that consider themselves Christian refuse to adopt this doctrine because they believe it involves the worship of three gods instead of the One True God. This is because of how the doctrine is typically explained. It is said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three persons of the Triune God. But how can three distinct persons be one? Christians are monotheists; we believe in one God, not three.

The problem with rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity is that to do so one must say that Jesus is not God. And yet that is exactly who He claimed to be. Jesus said to the people, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24. Later in this same conversation, as the discussion turned to Abraham and how the people claimed Abraham to be their father, “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58. The Jews of His day clearly understood this statement by Jesus to be His claim that He was God. As they plotted against Him and threatened to stone Him, they said, “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:33.

But why did this statement by Jesus — “before Abraham was born, I am” — lead the Jews to the conclusion that Jesus claimed to be God? To understand this, we must return to the Old Testament and the stories the Jews were intimately familiar with. When God sent Moses to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, Moses was afraid to go.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:13-14.

When Jesus said His name was “I am,” the Jews understood this to be His claim that He was God. Jesus went on to make six other “I am” statements as recorded in the book of John, and to also claim that He and the Father are One.

Despite this and other scriptural evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, many have trouble with the concept because scripture also says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. This past Sunday the guest pastor at my church spoke of the Trinity in a way that made this apparent problem or inconsistency a non-issue. It was a way of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity that I had not heard before.

The word “personae” that is translated “person” in most explanations of the Trinity is a Greek word that does not actually mean person. This is an incorrect translation of the Greek word. The word “personae” actually means “face,” “mask,” “role,” or “appearance.” One American Heritage Dictionary definition of the word is “The role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one’s public image or personality, as distinguished from the inner self.”

Used in this way, one can understand Jesus as the role God assumes or the mask He displays to humans who are not able to stand in the presence of God the Father. The Holy Spirit can be understood as the role God plays or the face He displays within the hearts of believers to guide them in their daily living. Each “personae” of the Trinity serves a different purpose or role, but He is only One God. God’s appearance as Jesus here on earth served a specific purpose, and His indwelling in the hearts of believers as the Holy Spirit serves another purpose. But always He sits on His heavenly throne in all His glory and splendor as the Father.

The Christian band Third Day sings a song called “You Are So Good To Me” that is a song to the three personae of the Trinity. Whenever I hear the closing reprise, I better understand this complex but simple way in which God reveals Himself to us:

You are my Father in Heaven
You are the Spirit inside me
You are my Jesus who loves me

When I sing along with this song, I know that the “You” I sing to is One God, and He is all three of these wonderful things to me.

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God’s Right Hand Saves

Some Christians never read the Old Testament, preferring to read the New Testament stories of Jesus and various epistles. Some may venture to read a few Psalms, but otherwise some Christians think that the Old Testament is not relevant because Jesus replaced its rules and laws. But truly these Christians are missing out on a fuller understanding of their faith.

The Old Testament tells of the messiah who is to come. The New Testament tells of the messiah who has come. They are two parts of the same story: The story of God’s love for and redemption of His creation. A number of years ago I decided that I wanted to read the entire Bible, so I downloaded a Bible-in-a-year schedule from Biblegateway and read through the Bible in an organized fashion by checking off each chapter as I read it. I must confess it took me 2 1/2 years instead of 1 year, but it was well worth the effort. By not skipping anything (not even Leviticus or Numbers) I gained a broader understanding of the whole of scripture.

One thing that I discovered by reading the whole Bible was the ways in which Jesus is portrayed in the Old Testament and how that portrayal is connected to the accounts of His ministry in the New Testament. In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus saves those who believe in Him. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. Jesus defeated our enemies, death and the devil. We are also told that after His ascension Jesus was seated at the Father’s right hand. “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19.

But one need not get to Matthew to find talk of being saved. Redemption and salvation were also themes in the Old Testament. We learn that it is God’s right hand that saves His people and defeats their enemies.

“Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.” Exodus 15:6.

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;
       give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of your great love,
       you who save by your right hand
       those who take refuge in you from their foes. Psalms 17:6-7.

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Psalms 20:6

In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. Psalms 45:4.

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. Psalms 48:10.

Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. Psalms 60:5.

Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted. Psalms 89:13.

Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalms 98:10.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10.

These are some, but not all, of the Old Testament references to God’s right hand, His mighty hand, doing great things. God’s right hand does in the Old Testament the same things Jesus accomplishes in the New Testament. I know it doesn’t fit neatly into the idea of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being individual persons that make up the one Godhead, but it has occurred to me that Jesus IS the right hand of the Father. They accomplish the same things.

My Vine’s Theological Dictionary says that the word translated “right hand” in the Old Testament is sometimes used to anthropomorphize the power and might of God, who is spirit. Since God the Father is spirit, He does not literally have a right hand in the same way that we humans have a right hand. This supports the idea that Jesus is God’s right hand.

The nature of God is difficult for us finite humans to understand, but I think it behooves us to not try to put Him into a theological box. The scriptures seem to clearly indicate that Jesus is at God’s right hand. To get from there to the idea that Jesus is God’s right hand is to me not much of a stretch. I may not completely understand it, but if I completely understood the nature of God then He would be so simple as to not be worthy of worship and praise.

But He is worthy of all my worship and all my praise, even though I do not completely comprehend all that He is. I am humbled that I am saved by God’s right hand, and to Him belongs all the glory for my salvation and yours.

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