What do Bats, Blue Whales, and Neutron Stars Have in Common?

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3

If you explored a mysterious cave in the depths of an unexplored jungle and found something there with all of these qualities, you might believe some lost civilization or advanced intelligence had made it.

  • Multiple, networked information storage and retrieval systems
  • Complex, interdependent systems
  • Materials with properties beyond anything our best engineering can duplicate
  • Flight capabilities with greater speed and maneuverability at low speeds than any bird
  • In-flight sensing systems that can detect and track multiple tiny objects simultaneously and calculate trajectories with pinpoint accuracy

Such a discovery would be undeniable proof of advanced intelligence, but really it’s just a bat like many that I’m sure you’ve seen before. They live in caves, barns, and forests, and under bridges all over the world. Bats are powerful evidence of God’s hand in the world, but as amazing as bats are, they are far from God’s most astonishing creatures. If you’re curious, look up glass frogs, compass termites, and blue whales.

Now move your attention to something bigger. Much, much bigger.

There are things in our universe that are so massive, so powerful, that we can only hold them in our minds if we imagine them to be much tinier than they are.

Think of yourself as the size of a grain of sand. The earth would be the size of an enormous mountain in comparison, and the sun would be the size of a large country. Now imagine the energy generated by all the wind, solar, hydro, coal, and nuclear power plants that have ever existed. Now add the power released by every nuclear device ever exploded. The sun releases millions of time more energy every single second than humans have produced throughout our entire history.

On the galactic scale, the sun isn’t very impressive.

The size of many other stars is as much greater than the sun’s as the sun’s is greater than the earth’s. The sun’s energy output is mind boggling, but a neutron star can release as much energy in a single second as the sun does in a million years. The Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars.

Hundreds of billions of stars.

And on the universal scale, the Milky Way isn’t a big deal.

It’s breathtaking. Astounding. There aren’t enough superlative adjectives in the English language–or any language–to describe the wonders of God’s creation on any scale you might use. The mind blowing complexity of the subatomic, quantum world, and the crushing grandiosity of the universe that is so big that no human will ever, ever see the light from the most distant stars.

And the most awesome thing is this: God spoke it all into existence.

We are awed by thunderstorms, but a thunderstorm doesn’t even rise to the level of a single spark compared to the power of the sun, which is, itself, a mere speck of dust compared to the Milky Way, which is….

You get the picture. We serve an awesome God indeed.

No wonder it’s so hard for some people to believe in God. He is so far beyond our comprehension that it’s simpler for many people to pretend that bats and black holes just happened all on their own.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Hebrews 11:3

We are incapable of comprehending God. His existence is more than our tiny minds can handle. It is only by faith that we are able to see what ought to be obvious and incorporate it into our worldview: the existence of the Creator and the evidence of his handiwork in absolutely everything that is.

And it is only by faith that we are able to comprehend what is even more incomprehensible than all of this: The Creator of heaven and earth sees us. He knows us. He cares about us.

6 Rules and 6 Excuses

What animals does God say qualify as food and what animals don't.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Peter’s vision of the sheet with the unclean animals and showed how it was not about animals and food, but about people and the Kingdom of God.

There are other arguments and New Testament passages that people frequently quote when they attempt to disprove Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:17-19, but before I address some of those, I probably ought to define the topic.

What does clean and unclean mean?

God’s rules aren’t arbitrary. There is always a reason for them, and that reason is always for our ultimate good. What makes an animal unclean is still a difficult question to answer, though, because the Bible doesn’t spell it out.

About the only thing we can be sure of is that “unclean” (tamei) doesn’t mean soiled or sinful. Uncleanness refers to a spiritual impurity, and is most often associated with death or a loss of life-force: blood, disease, corpses, graves, and bodily discharges.

Nothing in the Bible says “This is what makes an animal unclean,” but it does list some unclean animals and describe characteristics of others.

Leviticus 11 lists the basic rules of what animals God doesn’t want us to eat.

  1. Land animals that are cloven-hoofed and chew the cud are food. Any animal with one and not the other is not food.
  2. Water animals that have fins and scales are food. Anything under the water with neither or one and not the other is not food.
  3. Birds of prey and carrion birds are not food.
  4. Certain other birds are not food, but due to translation uncertainties and a lack of defining characteristics in Torah, we have no way besides inference and tradition to tell us about birds that aren’t mentioned. (“Living the Law: Reinforcing the Tradition with a Palpable Precedent” by Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan is an interesting article if you can find it.) Songbirds and wading birds (herons, storks, etc) are probably out, while pigeons, chickens, and turkeys are acceptable.
  5. Insects and other creepy crawlies are not food except for four types of grasshoppers and/or locusts that have over-sized rear legs for jumping.
  6. Anything that walks on paws or slithers on its belly is not food.

That leaves most ruminants, most fish, and many birds as suitable material for stew, salad, or stir-fry, but reptiles, amphibians, and shellfish are not allowed.

But…but…Acts 10!

There are six common objections to a Christian or Messianic Jew to keeping kosher:

  1. “Those rules were just because they didn’t have refrigeration. Now we know about tape worms and trichinosis and we keep everything frozen or at least cold before we cook it.”
     
    Beef spoils if left unrefrigerated for too long, and chicken is notoriously dangerous. Yet both are kosher. The rules for clean and unclean animals have nothing to do with safety or refrigeration.
     
  2. “Jesus made all foods clean. Jesus died so we don’t have to obey those laws anymore.”
     
    Actually, Jesus never said anything of the sort. When debating the Pharisees about whether or not it is acceptable to eat food with unwashed hands when that food would otherwise be perfectly kosher, he told them that they were so concerned about their own traditions that they were ignoring God’s actual laws.
     
    His central point was this: What difference does it make if a man eats with dirty hands (or eats pork or lobster!) if he is a murderer, a liar, or an adulterer? If you put something into your mouth, your body eventually purges it. If you put something into your heart, however, there is no automatic, natural process to remove it.
     
    Jesus didn’t die so you could eat bacon. He died so you could have eternal life in spite of eating bacon.
     
  3. “That was only for the Dispensation of Law. God told Noah he could eat any animal. That changed when God gave the law at Mt. Sinai, then it changed again when Jesus rose from the grave. Now we are in the Dispensation of Grace and can ignore the Law of Moses.”
     
    Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 12:20 that the Israelites could eat whatever meat they wanted, but just 2 chapters later he repeated the list of things that God didn’t want them to eat.Sometimes one passage, when removed from the context of the whole Bible, appears to contradict one or another passage. That’s an illusion caused by our preconceptions and inability (refusal?) to consider those same passages from a more holistic perspective that harmonizes all of Scripture as a unified whole.
     
    Everyone reads the Bible through a lens that colors their interpretations. The problem with most people is that they don’t know it, and act as if their vision is crystal clear with no possibility of tint or distortion. Humility is a rare commodity.
     
    When you read about Noah after the Flood or Peter and Paul after the resurrection, consider–as an intellectual exercise if nothing else–reading those stories as if you believed that not a single letter could ever be removed from God’s Law. Do some of the words have alternate meanings (they all do) that work in the new context? Are you able to understand those passages in that light? If so, then it’s just possible that it is the correct light.
     
  4. “Those are ceremonial laws. They don’t apply to us anymore. Only the moral laws are still in effect.”
     
    I have never yet seen a reasonable defense of such a distinction in the Law. There is no civil vs ceremonial vs criminal or any such division in Scripture. It’s an invention of man. To the contrary, God said, “Do not take anything away from my laws nor add anything to them.” On one side are hazy conjectures and complicated theories. On the other side are several very clear, unambiguous statements from God. I’ll go with the latter.
     
  5. “All of the Law of Moses was abolished. It was entirely replaced with a new set of morals defined by Jesus and fleshed out by Paul: Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
     
    When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he quoted the Torah, and he said that all of the rest of God’s words hang on just two commandments. He didn’t say that the rest of Torah was no longer relevant. He didn’t add or subtract anything at all from the Torah. He didn’t even say anything new, although it might have been new to the Pharisees with their burdensome traditions:
     
    Matthew 22:37-40: And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
     
    Jesus (aka Yeshua) wasn’t telling them anything new. He was just quoting Moses, words with which they were already very familiar:
     
    Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
     
    Leviticus 19:18b You shall love your neighbor as yourself…
     
    Earlier I mentioned something else Yeshua said about the Law of Moses:
     
    Matthew 5:17-19: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (19) Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
     
    Note two things about that statement: 1) Whatever “fulfill” means here, it does not mean to destroy. 2) Nothing can be removed from the Law until heaven and earth pass away.
     
  6. “The Law of Moses is still valid and still applies, but only to Jews. It was never intended to apply to gentile Christians.”
     
    As far as salvation is concerned, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, the New Covenant was not promised to gentiles. It was promised only to the houses of Israel and Judah. See Jeremiah 31:31.
     
    Those of us, who were once Gentiles, have been grafted into the tree of Israel, not the other way around. There is only one body in the Messiah, one law, and one nation: Israel. If you want to be part of that body, then you have to become an Israelite, which means that, even if this objection were true, the Law must apply to all true believers in Yeshua. (Notice that I did NOT say you have to become Jewish.)

There are many strong-sounding arguments for ignoring God’s instructions regarding which animals are acceptable as food, and I don’t have time to hash them all out in this one article. Stick around, though. I’ll get to them eventually.

I assure you that every argument that relies on interpreting some Bible verse to mean the opposite of what Yeshua said in Matthew 5 falls apart when you start assuming that Yeshua knew what he was talking about.

The Prophetic Significance of Hanukkah

The Prophetic Significance of Hanukkah

 

Hanukkah commemorates a miracle at the Temple after the “abomination that brings desolation” prophesied by Daniel was removed and the Temple cleansed. After Yehudah the Hammer (aka Judah Maccabee) chased the Greek interlopers out of Israel, the Temple was cleansed and rededicated.

In order to put the Temple fully back into working order, the menorah had to be lit. It took about 8 days to make a batch of the sacred oil, but there was only enough left to keep it burning for a short while. They decided to light it anyway, trusting in Providence. They weren’t disappointed, as God kept the menorah burning for eight days until a new batch could be made.

The victory of Yehudah and the Jewish freedom fighters over the Greek armies of Antiochus is real history. The miracle of the Menorah isn’t so well established. It’s still a great story, though, and the miraculous liberation of Judah is worth commemorating.

One of the most well known Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of a hanukkia, a special menorah with eight candles for the eight days that the oil lasted, plus an extra candle for lighting the others.

Interestingly, the number 8 is often associated with new beginnings in the Bible.

Hanukkah is mentioned once in the New Testament at John 10:22. Yeshua had come to Jerusalem for the holiday, referred to as the Feast of Dedication, and spent much of his time at the Temple.

Like so much else that has happened to God’s people, the events preceding and during Hanukkah were a shadow of greater things to come. The Abomination That Brings Desolation came once under the rule of Antiochus, but Yeshua said that it would come again. Some say that happened when the Roman general Titus invaded Jerusalem. Perhaps it did, but I think it will happen again.

Like birth pangs, each of these prophetic fulfillments is larger than the one before. Antiochus set up an idol in the Temple and sacrificed a pig. Titus tried to set up an idol, but destroyed the Temple before it could be done. They were both antichrists, shadows of the Antichrist prophesied by John. What form will the abomination of that one take?

Watch for a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt. The world will almost certainly be enraged. If an outsider then manages to take it over and defile it, watch for the ensuing bloodshed to be like nothing Israel has ever seen before.

Our salvation won’t come through arms or stockpiled food, but only through the miraculous intervention of Yeshua, Messiah son of David. He will rescue his people, cleanse the Temple, and fill it with new light.

Yet, there is more to Hanukkah than war and blood. It is a celebration of light and God’s Spirit, and there are types and shadows within types and shadows.

The menorah is a type of the Holy Spirit and we are the Temple. After having come to belief in our Messiah, if we were left to ourselves to make our own way to holiness, we would be hopelessly lost. When we are reborn, we have no power in ourselves to accomplish anything. We have no oil of our own, and we can do nothing in ourselves.

Whether in war or acts of kindness, there is no circumstance in which we are capable of acting in any truly meaningful way without the aid of our Creator. It is only God’s mercy which fills us with his Spirit and allows us to be a light to the world.

Note: Although I believe Hanukkah has prophetic significance and its celebration honors God, it is not one of God’s commanded feast days. If you choose to celebrate it, great! If you don’t, that’s great too!

White Sheets, Creepy Crawlies, and Unclean People

Does Peter's Vision in Acts 10 mean that we can eat anything we want now?

Peter’s vision in Acts 10 proves beyond any doubt that the Jewish dietary laws were canceled by God and have no relevance whatsoever to Christians.

This is a common objection to Christians continuing to keep God’s Law as given to Moses. It is a serious objection too. If God really commanded Peter to kill and eat a sheet full of unclean animals, that would be a very strong indication that the dietary laws are no longer in effect, so it warrants a thorough examination. It’s a long passage to cut and paste into a blog, so I’ll break it up into chunks and see if I can’t pare it down a little.

Acts 10 begins by telling us about Cornelius, a man very much like Abraham. They were both gentiles who loved God and lived by faith. God respected that faith and sent Cornelius an angel who told him to send for Peter. Note that the Angel did not tell Cornelius to go to Peter but to have Peter brought back to him. This was because Peter had a very important lesson to learn about gentiles and faith. (We are never too big, too smart, too Spirit-filled to learn from someone else, even someone of apparently much lesser rank.)

(9) The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. (10) And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance (11) and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. (12) In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. (13) And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (14) But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
Acts 10:9-14

There are two very startling things going on here.

  1. God appears to tell Peter to kill unclean animals and eat them.
  2. Peter is shocked that God would tell him to do such a thing.

The first thing was startling to Peter who, as an observant Jew, had never eaten anything “common or unclean.” To him this was nearly as bad as idolatry or murder. He was startled and dismayed that would God command him to transgress the Law, to commit sin.

The second thing, the fact that Peter was shocked–ought to be quite startling to any Christian who believes that Jesus died so that we don’t have to keep the Law anymore, particularly the parts of the Law concerning what we are and are not to eat.

How could Peter not know that Jesus made it OK for him to eat unclean animals? He had walked at the Savior’s side as his friend, daily hearing him teach and preach on how to live a holy life and on the deeper meaning of God’s commandments. Peter had personal, intimate conversations with him about God, faith, salvation, and the Law. He was there on the day that the Pharisees confronted Yeshua about the disciples eating with unwashed hands and heard with his own ears the Messiah proclaim all foods clean. He must have known for many years by this time that no meat could be unclean anymore! At the very least he must have known that this day was coming. Yet he had never in his life eaten anything unclean, and he was shocked at the suggestion.

Why then was he so surprised at it? And why aren’t more Christians surprised at Peter’s surprise?

Is it possible that the subject never came up during Peter’s three year theological tutelage at the feet of Israel’s Messiah? Even after that famous confrontation with the Pharisees in which Yeshua supposedly declared all “foods” clean?

I don’t think so. Yeshua and his disciples ate together almost every day, multiple times each day, and sometimes even with gentiles, while he expounded at length on the meaning of the Law. Most likely, the subject came up more than once, yet it never crossed Peter’s mind that he might be free to eat any animal he wanted.

The truth is that Yeshua never even hinted to Peter that he had come to die so that everyone could eat bacon with their eggs. If God really wanted Peter to eat unclean animals, then this was a new change, and not something that Peter had heard or suspected before.

(15) And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (16) This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. (17) Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate (18) and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.
Acts 10:15-18

Three times, God told Peter to kill and eat, but each time he took the sheet with the animals away before Peter could carry out the command. If God sends a vision or a dream, then we know it must have an interpretation, but Peter didn’t immediately know what it might be. In fact, he spent much of the rest of that day puzzling over it and didn’t fully realize God’s message until the three men arrived from Cornelius.

Here is what puzzles me most about this perennial controversy: We don’t have to wonder what Peter’s vision meant. When he arrived at Cornelius’ house in Caesarea, he told everyone there in plain language exactly what the vision meant, and Luke recorded his statement for us:

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”
Acts 10:28

The sheets, the animals, the voice… It was all about people, not food! God wasn’t telling Peter that he had changed the rules about what animals were acceptable for food. God sent the vision to tell Peter that he was bringing people from all nations into the Kingdom, that the Jewish traditions keeping Jews and Gentiles apart were not right. The salvation bought by Yeshua’s blood was for all people, not just the Jews, and Peter had no right to exclude anyone from full fellowship in the Commonwealth of Israel based solely on the circumstances of their birth.

Some will object, saying, “Surely God would never command someone to commit a sin even in a vision, so Peter’s vision in Acts 10 presupposes that unclean animals have also been made clean.”

Why wouldn’t he? This is another parallel with the story of Abraham.

In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to make a human sacrifice of his own son, something that was clearly against God’s Law. Even before Sinai, only certain animals were acceptable for offerings and God has always abhorred human sacrifice. When God told Abraham to kill his son, he never intended anyone to believe that he had therefore abrogated laws against murder and human sacrifice. It was a sin to offer up a human before Mount Moriah, and it remained a sin afterwards. Although God told Abraham to kill Isaac, he prevented him from shedding even a drop of blood.

Now, to make this even clearer for the hard of hearing and the poor of vision:

Abraham Peter
Commanded to make a human sacrifice Commanded to eat unclean animals
Prevented from making a human sacrifice Prevented from eating unclean animals

God commanded both of these men to do something that was against his Law, and in both cases God prevented them from carrying out the command. In neither case did God change his Law. In both cases, God taught us something about his plan of salvation for mankind.

Abraham learned that God would send a substitute sacrifice to do what we could not, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

Peter learned that God can make children for Abraham from anyone in any nation, that there are no unclean people among those whom God has redeemed.

After telling Cornelius what he had learned from his vision, Peter went on to teach that whole household about Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, about his miracles, his death, and resurrection. All of those present, both Jew and Gentile, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in tongues and praising God.

All that… and not a single word about lobster ravioli, BLTs, or the flesh of any other unclean animals.

We know that Yeshua said that not even the least significant commandment would be removed from the Law until heaven and earth pass away and “all is accomplished.” Heaven and earth are still here. All has not been accomplished. Unless Yeshua lied, then the dietary laws cannot have been removed from God’s requirements of his people, and nothing in Acts 10 implies otherwise.

Peter’s vision of unclean animals was never about food. It was always about people. Unless Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac means that murder is no longer a sin, Peter’s vision does not mean that eating “all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds of the air” is no longer a sin.

God’s Law stands unchanged, just as Yeshua said it would in Matthew 5.

Six Exercises to Find Your Calling

Six exercises to find your calling

Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution…
Exodus 35:5

I believe that everyone has a job to do in God’s Kingdom. Nobody is useless. Nobody is leftover bolt. Everyone has a calling from God to do something.

But how are you supposed to know what God is calling you to do?

Let’s take a look at how God called some famous people in the Bible…

Moses – God caught Moses’ attention by an small, unusual fire on a remote mountain. He plucked at his curiosity and then spoke to him in an audible voice. I’ve seen bushes on fire, but I’ve never seen one that wasn’t consumed, and I’ve certainly never heard one speak except in a crackle, pop, and hiss. Moses hemmed and hawed a bit, but in the end he confronted Pharaoh in God’s name and led the Hebrews out of Egypt.

Gideon – God appeared to Gideon as a man and told him directly what he was supposed to do. To be certain that this was God and not just his own imagination, Gideon asked God to cause a fleece to alternately collect moisture and repel moisture. Surprisingly–at least to me–God obliged him. Gideon responded by raising an army through which God would drive the Midianites out of Israel.

Samson – Samson didn’t hear God’s call himself, but an angel appeared to his parents and told them what Samson’s role was to be. I don’t know if he ever believed it himself, but the nature of Samson’s character led him into one confrontation after another with the Philistines until finally he called out to God for the strength to bring down the house of Israel’s enemies.

Samuel – God called to Samuel in the night while he was a small boy watched the waning lights of the Menorah. The voice of God seemed so normal to Samuel that he thought it was a mere man. Samuel heard the voice three times before the corrupt priest Eli had to tell him that it was God speaking to him. It took four tries before Samuel answered God, but from that day on he let God’s words flow through him into the world.

David – David was a shepherd, and he was a good one. He kept his flocks safe–even killing lions and bears–until God sent Samuel to anoint him to be the shepherd of a much bigger flock. God’s Spirit filled David and guided him from that day on.

In the Bible, God spoke to people through a variety of media: fire, smoke, men, angels, prophets, visions, dreams, and disembodied voices. That’s great for them, but what about you and me? Signs and wonders weren’t normal even for those times, and we can’t all be judges and kings and prophets. How are the rest of us supposed to find our calling in God’s kingdom?

First, let me assure you that you do have a calling. You have a job to do in God’s kingdom.

Think of the Kingdom like an automobile. Some people are hood ornaments or custom alloy wheels, but is an engine mount or a bearing less important because you can’t see it? They’re actually more important than those other parts! Just like the parts on a car, everyone serves a purpose in the Kingdom, and everyone suffers when parts are missing and things don’t move the way they’re supposed to.

So, what’s your part? Should you ask God for a sign or should you put out a fleece like Gideon did?

I believe that God can still speak to people in dramatic ways like he did back then, but that’s not what we should be looking for. Notice that none of the people I listed above went to God and asked for a sign until after God came to them. They were just minding their business, doing the work that life had put in front of them.

Let me tell you a little about how God called me.

There have been two constant tendencies in my life. Drives might be a better word.

I write. I don’t remember when I first started writing, but I do remember that I started on my first novel in sixth grade. I would write a chapter in pencil, and my sister would type it out for me. It was all dreck, of course, and I never did finish it, but it started something. I’ve been writing more or less ever since, pouring words out on paper and screen in the form of stories, essays, letters, and endless online debates on politics, religion, technology, and whatever else caught my attention. I’m always thinking about the next thing I want to write, always writing essays in my head. I’ve never written professionally, and I know I don’t write as prolifically or as well as many others, but I’ve always been a writer.

I solve puzzles too. Crosswords, sudoku, troubleshooting computers, and even filling in the family tree. I’m not a genius, but I have a good eye for spotting patterns and making connections. Sometimes I wonder if I see patterns that aren’t really there, but I make my living as a computer systems administrator, and I’ve found that I’m pretty good at eliminating the noise of irrelevant data to help me zero in on the real source of a problem. Because of that, I’ve learned to trust my instinct on what might or might not be a real pattern. I always have a puzzle near at hand for idle moments, and I usually have my eye out for chiasms and parallelisms when I’m reading the Bible. It might even rise to the level of a compulsion.

These two skills have served me well professionally. In fact, in almost every job I’ve ever had, I gravitated into a role of expert troubleshooter, sorter, and documenter. Sift the data for what really matters. Catalog, categorize, and sort until it all makes sense. Then simplify, systematize, document, and organize the result into something useful, like training materials or operating procedures. I don’t care much for technical writing–it’s boring–but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t good at it.

I have some talents. So what does that have to do with God’s calling?

I am convinced that if God gives you a job to do, he will also give you the means to do it, and among those means must be the talents you were born with, plus the experiences you’ve gained along the way. I can’t not write. I can’t not solve puzzles. It’s who I am, and there’s no getting around it. So, if God has a job for me, then how can who I am not play a role in that job?

If you’re not sure what skills or characteristics drive you, let me ask you four questions to help you find out. Ask yourself these questions and answer them as honestly as you can. Then ask a few other people to answer them about you too. Their answers might be more revealing than your own!

Six exercises to help you discover your calling…

1. What activities or responsibilities do you consistently find yourself handling in almost everything you do? Whether at work, play, school, or home, what are the consistent threads?

2. What kinds of problems do other people always come to you for help with? Avoid listing learned skills here. Try to focus on the broader picture. Instead of saying “fixing a car” or “programming the VCR”, say “mechanical problems” or “understanding incomplete or confusing directions”.

3. What kinds of activities do you get completely lost in? What can you do for hour after hour and hardly even notice that time has passed? How does that activity correlate with your answer to question 1?

4. What brings you peace? When your confused, lonely, angry, depressed…what calms your storm and brings you back to a place of focus and usefulness? (Drugs, alcohol, and mindless entertainments don’t count. Those things don’t calm the storm so much as dull your senses to it.)

The answers to these questions will contain a wealth of information about who you are and therefore what kinds of jobs God has prepared you for.

For many people–maybe even for most–discovering who you are isn’t quite enough to tell you what you’re supposed to be doing. Before you can really take your place in the Kingdom, there are two more things you need to know:

1. Where are you right now? I mean “where” in almost every way: geographically, economically, spiritually, professionally, etc. Are you a husband? An accountant? Do you live in Alaska or Costa Rica? Wherever you are right now, whatever you do, whatever circumstance you find yourself in, start right there. Make the most of it. Be the best husband or wife, the best job seeker, the most studious learner, the kindest grandmother.

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Matthew 25:21

Unless there is something immoral about where and how you find yourself at the moment, don’t try to change everything. Just apply the talents that God has given you to the place that you are in.

2. What has God already told you? We shouldn’t be looking for signs in the heavens or a prophetic word to tell us what God has already told us plainly in writing. I mean the Bible. Are you reading it and taking it seriously? The character of God’s Kingdom, his people, and of God Himself is revealed in Scripture. If you want to be a part of this machine, you should know what the machine is for and what kind of performance the driver expects to get out of it. God doesn’t waste words, so if you can’t be bothered to find out what he’s already said, why should he bother telling you anything more?

When you have honestly and prayerfully considered these six questions, I believe you will have a very good idea of what role God wants you to play in his plans. That might even make you a little frightened. Don’t let it. God provides. What he didn’t put in your genes, he put into your life experiences. What he didn’t give you through experience, he will give you through relationships, community, and even what might seem like blind luck, but is actually divine Providence arranging the universe to make sure you will have what you need, when you need it to accomplish God’s purposes.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:3

It’s good to enjoy life, and you should enjoy what God has given you, but remember that everything God gives you is ultimately for a purpose, which is always to serve him.

Don’t be afraid that these exercises lock you into anything. You will gain more insight over time as you contemplate them over years of life and work. Your perspective will change. The things that thrill you and calm you might change too. That’s all fine, because your role in the kingdom might change too.

King David’s entire life was characterized by leadership, passion, and faith in God, but those qualities manifested differently at various stages of his life. He was a shepherd in his youth, then a raider, a general, and finally a king. Your role will also change over time. You will expand, contract, and shift gears. Don’t be afraid of change when it comes. This too is part of God’s plan.

Sometimes he even changes everything, turning caterpillars into butterflies and weaklings into warriors. There are exceptions to almost every rule. God sometimes sends cowards to fight battles and introverts to preach on street corners. Sometimes he even sends prophets and burning bushes. Whenever we think we have God figured out, he burns our pathetic little boxes to ash.

Roll with it. God knows what he’s doing.

If you don’t mind sharing, tell me what you discover through these exercises!

Walk with God

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 ESV

Micah said that one of God’s greatest desires is for us to walk with him, but what does that mean?

The Bible talks about three kinds of “walking” in relationship to God.

  1. Walking in God’s ways or Torah
  2. Walking before God
  3. Walking with God

Walk in God’s Ways

If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them…
Leviticus 26:3 ESV

And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
1 Kings 3:14 ESV

The idea of walking in God’s ways, commandments, or instructions, is a common theme in the Scriptures, and the meaning isn’t difficult to discern from context: Keep the commandments. Follow God’s instructions.

Walk Before God

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Genesis 17:1-2 ESV

That the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
1 Kings 2:4 ESV

Abraham and David both “walked before God”, but the meaning of this phrase is somewhat less obvious. From it’s use in other passages (e.g. 1 Kings 9:4, 2 Chronicles 6:16 and 7:17) it is strongly associated with obedience to God, but what really distinguishes Abraham and David from many others is their extraordinary faith in God. They obeyed, but they obeyed because they trusted.

To walk before God is to believe in him above all things, and to believe in him is to obey him.

Walk With God

There are only two men in Scripture described as having walked with God: Enoch and Noah.

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
Genesis 5:24 ESV

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
Genesis 6:9 ESV

Other than a general sense of righteousness, there is very little in the context of these statements to tell us what it means to walk with God. Fortunately, there are some other passages that mention this concept:

The first half of Leviticus 26 describes the many blessings that God promises Israel if they keep his Torah. Those promises end with this statement:

And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.
Leviticus 26:12-13 ESV

If the people keep the commandments and love God with all of their existence, he will walk with them, whether among the tents in the Wilderness or among the fields and hills of the Promised Land. It’s the same idea expressed by descriptions of God tabernacling (camping/dwelling) among his people.

Because of this they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. And He sitting on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.
Revelation 7:15 LITV

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 ESV

The great hope of the Gospel and the New Jerusalem of John’s Revelation is the restoration of our relationship with God, that we will once again be able to walk in the Garden with God as Adam did before he disobeyed. That is what is being described in these two verses from Revelation: God coming to live with mankind just as he did at the beginning.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8 ESV

I began this article with Micah’s statement that God wants us to walk with him. We can see from the preceding verses, Micah 6:6-7, that walking with God is not the same obedience, but it goes hand in hand with justice and mercy, qualities that God loves in his people and that are integral to obedience. You can’t truly obey God without emphasizing justice and mercy.

I can’t help but think of Yeshua’s words to the Pharisees:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23 ESV

The distinct impression I get from reading these passages is that walking with God isn’t about obedience or belief or even about faith. It’s about relationship. More than anything, God desires an intimate, personal relationship with his people. He wants to live and walk among us. He wants to spend time with us.

Faith and obedience, however, are prerequisite to that kind of relationship. They are the feet that carry us along in God’s presence, and, without them, God cannot take pleasure in our company. We can’t earn a place in the New Jerusalem through obedience, but there will be obedience and only obedience there. God does not live with rebels, but with his faithful children.

In order to walk with God we must walk before him and in his instructions.

The Link between Lot and Rahab

A series of parallels in the stories of Lot and Rahab

In his creation of life, God reused code in projects as varied as people and plantains. That’s not a lack of imagination as some ignorant people insist. It’s a love of elegance. Things that appear to be wildly different becoming quite similar when you look closer.

God clearly loves a good pattern, and this character trait comes out all through Scripture. From a distance, Genesis, Leviticus, Psalms, Ezekiel, Matthew, and James all look very different, but when you put them under a microscope, segments of reused code–like DNA–begin to emerge.

Consider the characters of Lot and Rahab. They are fairly minor characters in the Old Testament, but they are both discussed in the New Testament more than Josiah, Ezekiel, Esther, Samson, Ezra, or Nehemiah, all of whom are might seem to be more significant. When you look closely, they have a lot more in common with each other too.

Lot Rahab
A sinner living in a sinful city, doomed to destruction. A sinner living in a sinful city, doomed to destruction.
Two men entered the city gates by day. Two men entered the city gates by day.
Sheltered the two visitors in his house at night. Sheltered the two visitors in her house at night.
Men of the city demanded he surrender the two visitors. Men of the city demanded she surrender the two visitors.
Believed the two visitors. Believed the two visitors.
His home city was destroyed. Her home city was destroyed.
Saved himself & part of his family. Saved herself & part of his family.

That’s pretty amazing! It’s what Tony Robinson calls a “thematic connection,” and I don’t recall anyone every mentioning it in Sunday School.

It’s very cool, it’s fascinating, but, having made the connection, is there any practical value to be had?

Yes!

A sinner living in a sinful city. Neither Lot nor Rahab were perfect people. In fact, they are remarkable for their glaring failures. Who else is a sinner living in a sinful city, doomed to destruction? You and me. We’re all sinners (Romans 3:23), and all cities are doomed to eventual destruction. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you are a sinner living in the modern equivalent of Sodom, Jericho, and Nineveh.

Two visitors sheltered, nourished, and believed. Unlike the ACLU and the court of public opinion, God never passes judgment without due process. He respects his own rules, and he provides both warnings of pending judgment and credible witnesses to all accusations. We have been warned by an unending stream of prophets and teachers from the very beginning, and there are several pairs of witnesses that testify of our sins. Just four of those pairs are (1) the Torah and the Spirit, (2) the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and the Apostles (the New Testament), Moses and Yeshua (Jesus) and (3) the written word and the living Word.

Lot and Rahab took their two witnesses into their homes, sheltering and nourishing them. We need to do the same with the written word, as Moses instructed us (Deuteronomy 6) and as David exemplified (Psalm 119): read, listen, study, discuss… Hide God’s Law in your heart. We need to pray and commune with God regularly and consistently (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Worship, prayer, and emulation are like the food of God. He doesn’t want us to be always learning and never doing. He wants us to spend time with him, and he wants to see us living as Yeshua lived. In these ways we ensure that God’s witnesses will be in our favor at the end and will rescue us from the destruction that awaits those who refused them.

The men of the city. We are assailed daily by attacks on our faith, on the reliability of the Scriptures, and on the reality and sufficiency of Yeshua. Schools, courts, friends, family, and employers under the sway of humanists and God-haters tell us that God’s Law is evil and that sin is virtue. The primary mission of our Enemy is to defile everything that is pure, and the more determined you are to hide God’s word in your heart and display it in your life, the more determined he will be to tear you down. Your only hope for salvation is in the forgiveness of the Father and the strengthening of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation of self and family. Like Lot and Rahab, your faithfulness can help to save your family. You can’t force anyone to believe in Yeshua–remember Lot’s wife–but you can have enormous influence on them through your own faithfulness. As your character and your love increases, those who have a willing heart will be drawn to God through you. Noah, Joseph, Paul’s and Silas’ jailer, the faithful wife of 1 Corinthians 7… all these were able to save some or all of their families through extraordinary obedience to God.

What really connects Lot and Rahab–and you and me–is their faith. God sent messengers to warn them of the destruction of their cities. Alone of the inhabitants in the city, they believed God, they acted on their belief, and their faith was counted to them as righteousness.

They weren’t perfect; they were sinners like you and me. Lot fathered children with his daughters, and Rahab was a prostitute who betrayed her people. This too is a consistent pattern. David was an idolater, adulterer, and murderer, yet God loved him and called him faultless because of his faith and repentance from sin.

We are Lot and Rahab and David, and if there’s hope for them, there’s hope for us too.

The Heart of the Tabernacle of You

Curtains, planks, loops, staves, horns, crowns, sockets, skins, hair, linen, gold, silver, bronze, red, blue, purple, white, cherubim, pomegranates, height, width, length, cubits, hands, two, three, four, five, six, ten, eleven, twelve, twenty, fifty… I understand why some instructions on the construction of the Tabernacle were necessary, but why such detail? And why do we need to know about it 3500 years later? Why wasn’t all of this recorded in a separate manual just for the craftsmen?

God said that the Torah is not difficult to understand or even to follow, and it’s not, at least not on the surface. It says to make a box of certain dimensions out of a certain wood, overlay it with gold, put certain decorations on it, and put certain items in it.

Simple to do. Not so simple to understand why. There are some things that we aren’t meant to know or that we are incapable of understanding, but I don’t think that’s the entire story here. The rabbis have many traditions about why things were done one way and not another, and some of those traditions might even be right. The book of Ezekiel also hints that the ancient Israelites should have been able to derive moral truths from these technical instructions. (Ezekiel 43:10)

There are actually three tabernacles, and the wilderness mishkan is the middle one acting as a sort of intersection or focus point for the other two. The first tabernacle is of Heaven (Hebrews 8:2). Yeshua is the high priest there, and it is a temple for all Creation (Hebrews 9:11). It is the highest and most real of the three. The second tabernacle is that of Moses (Hebrews 8:4), as already mentioned. Aaron is its high priest, and it is a temple for a nation. It is an earthly copy of the heavenly reality. The third tabernacle is every person, and, as the mediator between the body and the Creator, you are its high priest, and the Holy Spirit is the presence of God above the Ark. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Moses recorded the details of God’s instructions on the earthly tabernacle so that we could use it as a model for reshaping our fleshly tabernacles into the image of the heavenly. Our goal is to be remade in the image of Yeshua, to remake our lives in the image of the tabernacle, and specifically to remake our hearts in the image of the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses recorded the details of God's instructions on the earthly tabernacle so that we could use it as a model for reshaping our fleshly tabernacles into the image of the heavenly.

The Ark of the Covenant was made of only two elements, wood and gold. It contained a golden* jar of manna, Aaron’s staff, and the stone tablets of the Law. It had a cover, made of pure gold and adorned with golden cherubim.

The wood, which formed the core of the Ark, symbolizes two things: a heart of flesh and the individuality of each person.

A heart of flesh instead of stone indicates that we are to be soft-hearted to allow God to work in us. His Spirit cannot commune effectively with a stone, but works to transform our hard hearts so that we can have a more perfect relationship with God.

Gold represents purity in righteousness, and the Ark was covered with it inside and out. This means that we should strive to conform our hearts to his standards of perfect righteousness, not only through our outward behaviors, but also through the internalization of his Word.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Psalm 119:11

If this is so, why wasn’t the whole Ark made of pure gold?

The Ark is a pattern for everyone, and not just a single person. God wants to build his kingdom, his nation, through us, and you cannot build a nation out of a million identical units. An object made of metal is uniform throughout. It has the same density and consistency on the surface as it has a centimeter or an inch deep. Wood, on the other hand, is infinitely variable. If you analyzed every square inch of wood that has ever been grown, you will never find two of them the same.

If you want to build an army of robots, you might manufacture a million identical parts out of metal. If you want to build a nation of people with varying roles, however, you should consider the geometry of trees.

Within the Ark, the stone tablets represent God’s Law. At Sinai, they were written on stone. In the New Covenant, they are to be written on our hearts, and they were stored within the Ark as a metaphor for storing them in our hearts.

“And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11)

Aaron’s staff represents the life-bringing rule of the true High Priest, Yeshua of Nazareth. When we submit to his yoke, we find freedom and purpose. When we obey his direction, we find life.

The jar of manna represents our faith in God’s provision. The jar is pure gold, because it is our faith in him which makes us perfect in his eyes.

Genesis 17:1 gives another example of these three elements in the life of a believer: “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” “I am the Almighty God” echoes the first commandment on the stone tablets; Abraham walks before God who is his shepherd and high priest symbolized by Aaron’s staff; and he was considered perfectly righteous because of his faith in God symbolized by the golden jar of manna.

The atonement cover on the Ark is Yeshua, our Messiah and King. He is wholly sinless as solid gold. He covers us with his blood, with his perfect life, and with his authority. Our prayers rise from our heart through him, between the wings of the Cherubim, to the Father in Heaven. So it is that no man comes to the Father except through him, and so it is that our prayers will be hindered if we do not forgive and love according to his example.

There is one true Tabernacle in Heaven, and Yeshua presides there as High Priest. We are to pattern our lives after it, and our hearts after the Ark within. The earthly tabernacle was given as a pattern for us to follow until the final veil is removed and we might see the reality with our own eyes.

For now we look forward to it through the lens of the tabernacle as described in the Torah and the Prophets.

 

*Only the Septuagint says this jar is made of gold, but it is confirmed by Hebrews 9:4.

Yeshua, Our Great Atonement

Whenever you see the numbers 4 or 40 in scripture, I suspect that you will find some lesson about the Messiah nearby.

  • The fourth day of creation brought lights to rule the heavens.
  • Esau, a type of antichrist, married two Hittite women when he was forty years old, a pre-figuring counterfeit of Jacob.
  • Jacob was mourned for forty days.
  • Israel ate manna, bread from Heaven, in the wilderness for forty years.

There are probably dozens of other examples, but Noah and the flood is one of the best known. The rains fell for forty days and nights. One clear connection between the Flood and the Messiah is in the salvation of Noah and his family, as well as the means of that salvation.

There are three words in Genesis 6:14 that are directly connected with the atonement of Yeshua.

  • Gopher – גּפר (gofer)
  • Cover – כּפר (kafar)
  • Pitch – כּפר (kofer)

Since vowel points weren’t added to Hebrew for two thousand years after the Torah was first written down, the only difference between these words in print is the gimel (hard g sound) in gopher versus the kof (k sound) in the other two words. Otherwise all three words are spelled the same. The puns are clearly intentional.

What makes this even more interesting to me is that kafar (cover) and kofer (pitch) are also identical in spelling to the Hebrew for atonement: kippur. (The F and P sounds are represented by the same Hebrew letter, peh.) Kippur is the root of kapporet, which is Hebrew for mercy seat*. See Exodus 25:17 and 30:10 among many other verses.

These particular words (gofer, kafar, kofer) were used in Genesis 6:14 as a deliberate allusion to atonement.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. (ESV)

Make yourself an ark of atonement wood. Make rooms in the ark, and atone it inside and out with atonement.

Noah’s ark was covered with pitch to shelter the survivors from God’s wrath, while Moses’ ark was covered with the mercy seat to be a buffer between us and God’s overwhelming presence. The first ark contained God’s chosen people and miraculously provided sustenance. The Ark of the Covenant contained emblems of God’s Law (the stone tablets), guidance (Aaron’s staff), and sustenance (manna), all given to God’s people and carried by them through the Wilderness.

Messiah Yeshua is the atonement which carried Noah through the flood by which the earth was cleansed of violence and tyranny. Ultimately, he is the atonement, which carries us through Death itself to be resurrected and to stand before the Judgment Seat of God. He will cover us and carry us through that as well.

Back to the numbers…

Noah’s Ark protected its inhabitants through forty days and nights of rain that eventually covered the whole earth, crushing and drowning millions, possibly billions of people. How can such unimaginable destruction contain a teaching on the Messiah?

One of the most profound truths of the Messiah is that he not only saves us from death, but he saves us by and through death.

We cannot approach God directly in our sinful, corrupted state. We need atonement to cover up our stench. The blood of bulls, goats, lambs, and doves was offered on the altar and on the mercy seat as a temporary atonement, but Yeshua’s blood atones for our sins more completely than that of any animal. His blood makes a permanent atonement that cleanses not only our flesh, but our spirits from all taint of sin.

Through Yeshua’s death, we have been enabled to live eternally, but we must pass through death ourselves to obtain it, just like Noah and his family had to pass through the rains in order to be saved from the destruction that took the rest of the world.

Messiah is the atonement which carried Noah through the flood by which the earth was cleansed of violence and tyranny. Ultimately, he is the atonement which carries us through Death itself so that we may be resurrected to stand before the Judgment Seat of God. He will cover us and carry us through that as well.

Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
Revelation 7:15

Yeshua doesn’t always save us from trials, but he does save us through them. Our faith and mettle is tried continually by flood and fire and death, and his atonement will never fail us. We will come through the other side one day with a trove of refined spiritual gold, silver, and jewels in exchange for our own faithfulness.

* “Mercy seat” is a terrible translation of kapporet. Although the cover of the Ark of the Covenant could be considered the seat or center of God’s mercy, “covering” would be a much better translation.

The Holistic Nature of Scripture

To resolve apparent contradictions and other points of confusion, realize that Scripture is a palace, not a line. Read and understand it accordingly.

When God made mankind, he put them in the Garden and told them they could eat from every plant, right?

Genesis 1:29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”

Genesis 1:1-2:3 is a summary of creation week. Genesis 2:4-25 tells the same exact story but from a different vantage point. It’s hazy regarding the passage of time, leaves out some details, and adds some others. That doesn’t mean the two accounts are contradictory, only that they have different foci.

There is one problem, however. There is an apparent contradiction between Genesis 1:29 and 2:16-17.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Which is it? Can man eat every plant or not? The answer is yes!

There is no contradiction. The confusion is not in the words, but in the reader who treats them like a mathematical text. Genesis was written to be understood by ordinary people. It’s bare meaning had to be accessible to shepherds and farmers, so it was written in the same basic language that they themselves used.

When a subsistence farmer says, “Let’s get all these fields planted,” does he mean every single field in existence? Of course not. Does he even mean all of his own fields? No again. He only means all the fields that are supposed to be planted at this time, and he expects that everyone to whom he is speaking will understand that.

The ancient Hebrews knew the story of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they heard or read, “I have given you every plant that grows on the earth,” they didn’t need to hear “except for this one” to understand that there was at least one exception.

We don’t need to hear it either. Instead, we need to understand that God and his words recorded in the Scriptures are holistic. They are a unified whole (echad in Hebrew) with depth and height and breadth. We cannot understand the words of Paul or John without understanding Moses and Isaiah, because the latter are a foundation and framework for the former. Likewise, since we do not live within the cultural context of Moses or Isaiah, we cannot completely understand their words either without Paul and John to finish the walls and trim.

Scripture is a palace, not a line. Read and understand it accordingly.