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.

Blessing Israel – It’s Personal

Blessed are those who bless you, Israel, and cursed are those who curse you. Numbers 24:9b

And this he said of Judah: “Hear, O LORD, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.”
Deuteronomy 33:7

Through the prophet Balaam, whom Balak had hired to curse Israel, God said, “Blessed are those who bless you, Israel, and cursed are those who curse you.” Christian America has largely taken this as a directive to contribute to Israel’s national defense, but is that a good interpretation?

The political entity of Israel today is primarily made up of Jews, whether physically descended from the southern kingdom of Judah or adopted by custom or conversion from among the nations. In the passage quoted above, Moses blessed Judah with the ability to defend himself with God’s supernatural assistance. Their survival does not depend on powerful military hardware or better tactics. Their relationship with God and obedience to his commands is a much more effective weapon. There is really very little we can do to help them militarily because any assistance we provide is superfluous. At times it might even be counterproductive.

The actual well-being of Israel is of secondary concern to most Christians. They don’t promote the idea of a military alliance with Israel because Israel needs it; they promote it because they need it themselves. They want the blessing that God promised to those who bless Abraham. There’s nothing wrong with that–we should all desire blessing from God, especially that which derives from blessing others–but they should realize that there are many other means by which they can bless Israel: justice in international courts, open trade, charity, and scientific cooperation, to name a few.

Our government in the United States (and pretty much every other government, including the State of Israel) is really only good at one thing: destruction. It seems to me that one good way to bless Israel would be to keep our government out of it unless something needs to be blown up, and there’s precious little outside of North America that we have any business blowing up.

Let private individuals do whatever they feel led to do on Israel’s behalf. Pray for Israel and the peace of Jerusalem, invest in Israeli companies, contribute to charities that help believers in Israel, etc. If you really want to blow something up, join the IDF.

I would ask one special favor of you, though: As one who has been grafted into the tree of Israel, an adopted child of Abraham, you can bless me (and therefore yourself) by using your own hard earned money to do those things, not mine or that of your other neighbors. Keep the US government and our tax money out of it. You, personally, should bless Israel in whatever way God leads you to, without forcing anyone else to give with you.

Forced charity isn’t really charity, after all. It’s just extortion with a smile.

The greatest blessing of all is the Good News of the Risen Messiah. If you really want to bless the Jews and the State of Israel, teach them to bless the name of Yeshua and to keep the commandments of God. There is no better early warning system, no better missile defense, no greater offensive capability than armies of God fighting on your behalf.

Shadows of Jesus in Joshua

There are shadows of the multiple roles of Messiah revealed in the anointing of Joshua to succeed Moses.

 

The role of the Messiah is a complex subject, and like most complex subjects, you can often convey more information with a story than with a simple list of facts. And for this topic, just one story won’t do the trick. Fortunately, the Scriptures are full of them–Isaac, Joseph, David, etc.–like multiple shadows cast by the same man struck by light sources at different angles. Each character shows a different facet or role of who Messiah is supposed to be. Sometimes the same character plays several roles.

Moses and Joshua are two such types of the Messiah.

Moses set the people free from slavery, led them through the Red Sea after a three day journey, taught them from a mountain top, and guided them to the border of the Promised Land. He even told of another “prophet like me” to come.

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’
Deuteronomy 18:15-18

After Moses died, Joshua took the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He led them in war and destroyed their enemies. He fulfilled the promises that God made to Abraham to give that land to his descendants. He even had the name of the Messiah: Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) literally means “salvation”, but it was a common diminutive form of the longer Yehoshua (Joshua’s Hebrew name), which means “YHWH saves”.

There is an interesting set of phrases in the anointing of Joshua as Moses’ successor in Deuteronomy 31. (There are a number of interesting things going on in the structure of that chapter. See here: A Chiasm in Deuteronomy 31.) Take a look at these two verses:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.”
Deuteronomy 31:7

And the LORD commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
Deuteronomy 31:23

Notice that when Moses commissioned Joshua in verse 7, he said “You will go with this people,” but when God commissioned him in verse 23, He said, “You will bring the people of Israel.” It is a subtle difference that is easy to miss and even easier to dismiss as inconsequential, but there is a difference, so we know that there must be a reason for it.

Consider the idea of the two Messiahs as illustrated in the stories of Judah and Joseph (mentioned here May It Please Our Lord, We Will Be Servants of God and here The Betrayal of Mashiach ben Yosef).

Messiah ben Yosef comes to serve, to teach, and to suffer for his people, while Messiah ben David comes to throw off the yoke of foreign oppression and to lead his people to victory.

Moses’ told Joshua to “go with this people”. This implies that he must be one of them. He must not elevate himself above his fellow Israelites, but lead by example. Yeshua did exactly that. He lived among the people as a man, he experienced our pain and our temptation, spoke with us, ate and drank with us, he taught us how to live according to Moses’ instructions, and lived those instructions perfectly. Finally he died the most humble of deaths for us. As Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant, he truly “went with” his people.

God, on the other hand, told Joshua to “bring the people of Israel”. To bring a people anywhere requires authority and power. A commoner doesn’t bring his people anywhere unless he first earns or captures a place of influence over them. Yeshua didn’t need to take control, because the Father caused him to be lifted up (John 3:14). He was resurrected and elevated to the right hand of the Father, preceding his people into eternal life. He was made to be King, not only of Judah, but of the whole re-united Kingdom of Israel, wherever her people might be. He was the first across the River of Death and Resurrection into the ultimate Promised Land and will one day take the rest of us with him.

When Yeshua returns, Paul wrote that those who died believing in him will be resurrected (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Yeshua does not need to return to the grave to bring them out. He will command it, and they will rise because they are his subjects. He will also send fishermen to draw out those of Israel who are ready to receive him and hunters to flush out those who are hidden (Jeremiah 16:16). These too might have no choice in the matter, and it will not be a pleasant experience for all involved–there are sins to be recompensed and character flaws to be rectified–but they belong to the King, and he will not lose a single one of those whom God has given him.

Like Moses, Yeshua will lead his people out of bondage again, and, like Joshua, he will bring them back to the Promised Land as the Father promised through Moses and the Prophets. But he will not come again as the suffering servant. Our debt has been paid in full; his blood is fully sufficient to remove the stains of all our sins, and his resurrection has opened the way for us to follow.

Instead of him humbling himself to become like us, we will be exalted to become like him. Yeshua will always be our King, but by God’s grace, we will finally be made subjects worthy of him.

One Step to Save America

Our men are anemic and our women base. What’s worse is that they seem to be proud of it. They put their filth on banners and scream obscenities in the street at everything virtuous. I see images on social media of people deemed admirable by pop culture, and I am repulsed when I’m pretty sure they mean for us to be attracted.

You should watch a few hours of MSNBC and MTV, and then read Isaiah 3. I have been convinced for a long time that Isaiah 3 very closely matches our society here in America and in most of the European cultural demesne:

  • Our most capable men are so discouraged by injustice and a system designed to crush masculinity and patriarchy through legislation and public shaming that they are focusing on their own little worlds and hiding from the rest of the world.
  • Their absence left a vacuum that has been filled by children (Remember the political rallying cry of “But it’s for the children!”), women, and ineffectual men.
  • Injustice is the rule rather than the exception in our “justice” system. Political and bureaucratic oppression of those who might otherwise inspire others to greatness. Active and purposeful destruction of the family: divorce, family courts, and child “protective” services.
  • Physical appearance is everything, while character is nothing. Loose women who flaunt their independence and licentiousness are admired and called strong, while conservative women who keep a low profile and dedicate their lives to their children and husbands are made bitter by years of maltreatment and scorn.
  • The glorification of the perverse and the demonization of the virtuous. The cultural elite have declared war on righteousness and their primary tactic is the destruction of the individual conscience.

There are two things that we seem to be missing in spades: backbone and humility. Besides Yeshua, who in the Bible were exemplaries of backbone and humility? Some examples that immediately come to my mind are Moses, David, Deborah, and Abigail.

Moses was called the most humble man that ever lived, yet he stood up to Pharaoh and led millions through hardship and war. He begged God to spare the people despite their unfaithfulness, he answered their every call for help, and then he directed them in the destruction of entire armies and cities.

David constantly wrote of his own unworthiness and refused to attack the king who God said he would replace and who had tried to kill him. He sang, danced, and played the harp, yet hardened men of war flocked to his side, and he was Israel’s greatest general and king. He killed hundreds of men by his own hand and ordered the deaths of many thousands. He wept for his people on one hand, but never shrank from doing what was necessary to protect them on the other.

Deborah stayed out of the limelight except when she was called, and then she led a nation in justice and war by the respect of its people and the blessing of their God. When men failed, Deborah stood in their place and glorified God for the destruction of Israel’s enemies.

Abigail loved her husband in her deeds even if she despised his behavior and character. When his life was threatened by a powerful warlord bent on revenge, she didn’t step aside and gain her freedom. She confronted the warlord and saved her husband’s life. When God took her husband a few days later, she became a queen and an example for women in all ages.

America and the west has very few Davids and Abigails. Those we have are banned from the public square. But if we are to survive, then we must turn the tide. We must repent and turn back to God’s Law en masse. We have to stop making excuses for why God’s Law no longer matters.

“Oh, Jesus has already forgiven all the sins I will ever commit, so all that preachiness is straight from the Devil.”

Yeah, you just tell him that when you meet him. Do you remember what he said about peole who reject God’s Law? I quoted it last week:

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ -Yeshua (Matthew 7:23 ESV)

The solution to Israel’s problem in Isaiah 3 is repentance. Only then does the tide turn, and “In that day the branch of Adonai will be beautiful and glorious!” (Isaiah 4:2)

I don’t know exactly where you are in your life, but I know that you’ve been telling yourself that God doesn’t really care about something you’ve been doing. “Has God really said…?” you keep asking yourself, but you already know the answer. I know because I do the same thing. We all do. But don’t ask God to tell you what to do in a matter on which he has already spoken.

America isn’t Israel, of course, but many who are of Israel are Americans, and the burden truly to transform our society rests squarely on us. We can’t expect those who are lost in rebellion to turn around without someone to lead them.

Do you want a Moses to lead you in revival? Then become Moses.

Do you want an Abigail to show you how to be a wife and mother of great honor? Then become Abigail.

Take that one thing in your life that you know can’t possibly please God and commit to doing it differently. Pray earnestly and consistently for God’s help and be willing to accept that help when he sends it. He will show you the answers if you are willing to see them, and his answers to your personal issues frequently come from unexpected places. Don’t tell God how he is allowed to communicate.

Moses didn’t become Moses overnight. He spent a long time working out his issues in the desert before God sent him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. David had to fight his lions and bears before he faced the giant, and Goliath wasn’t his greatest foe.

Don’t expect too much from yourself too quickly. You will fail at times, but it will be okay. Just keep moving forward, one step at a time, patiently but surely, supporting one another without condemnation, and relying solely on God’s Grace for your salvation and certain victory. God will honor your faith and obedience.

Fear God and keep his commandments. There is no other way to make America or any other nation great again in any way that matters.

Fear God and keep his commandments, for there is no other way to make America great.

The Curse and Curses of the Law

A few thoughts on The Curse of the Law and the many individual and national curses within the Law…

The Curse of the Law is the eternal condemnation warranted by every individual who fails to live by God’s standards of behavior. Since nobody except Yeshua has ever lived a sinless life, this curse would apply to everyone alike if God had not made a way for us to escape it. No amount of obedience to the Law can ever deflect the curse. Once the soul is stained with sin, no amount of obedience without faith in God can ever cleanse it.

The Grace of God is his willingness to forgive our sins and make a way for us to be reconciled to him, IF we repent of sin (behavior that is contrary to the Law) and put our full faith and allegiance in him. Yeshua takes our curse upon him, and his blood cleanses what we could not. This happens outside the provisions of the Law because the Law was never intended to provide a way of permanently restoring a man’s soul to God. (This is what Paul meant when he wrote “The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” in Romans 3:21.)

The Curse of the Law and the individual curses contained in the Law are different things. The former is eternal and only individual, while the latter are temporal and both individual and national.

A person who has been forgiven his sins and has been brought into relationship with God is not free to behave in any way he pleases. Absolution from a crime is not a license to commit more crimes.

Yeshua said that not a single mark will be removed from the Law, and that includes the various curses for individuals who commit serious crimes and the national curses for failing to keep God’s Law collectively.

These are curses in the here and now, in the temporal world, not the world to come. A promise of resurrection and eternal life in the future doesn’t mean there are no (or should not be) consequences for idolatry, murder, and sexual perversion today. Crime must be punished (cursed) by God’s people or else God’s people will eventually suffer national punishment (curses) that will be much more severe.

The Law actually predicted that Israel would fail to maintain God’s standards and would suffer the consequences. Those national curses are still in effect today as most of Israel remains in exile among the nations and will only finally return in full when the nation returns to obedience.

The Contempt of God

Fear God. There is no other way to have a healthy relationship with him.

You can read the Bible in many ways. You can read it silently or aloud, or you can listen to someone else read it. You can take it in pieces, by verse, section, or chapter, or you can take it in great big chunks, whole books at a time.

I recommend all of those. Your brain will process the text differently each time, partly because it’s entering by a different route.

My wife and I were driving home from visiting her family this last weekend, and to pass the time we listened to an audio version of the Gospel of Luke, pausing now and then to talk about some point or other. It’s about a five hour drive, so we got most of the way through the book before we got home.

One great thing about listening to the Bible this way is that it lets you see broader trends that you might otherwise miss.

For example, Luke liked to present dichotomies. Do this, not that. This thing, not that thing.

The humble, poor, kind, and obedient, not the rich, proud, disdainful, and disobedient. The worshipful prostitute, not the inhospitable Pharisee, Simon. Treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth. Rock, not sand. The one grateful leper, not the ten who were ungrateful.

I hadn’t noticed that before.

There is one example of these comparisons that connects to another pattern I heard in Luke: Foreign cities that have never heard the Gospel will fare better in the final judgment than will Israelite cities that refused to heed the great miracles that were done there.

People usually had intense emotional reactions to Yeshua’s miracles. They ran the gamut from joy to terror.

Except in Nazareth, Yeshua’s home town. At Nazareth, Yeshua did a few miracles, but their apathy and disbelief kept him from doing much more. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they said.

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24 ESV)

Even demons had a more positive response than did Yeshua’s own family and friends. In Luke 4:34, a demon acknowledged his power and position: “I know who you are: the Holy One of God.” Then it obeyed him. In 8:28, another demon called him “Son of the Most High God” and begged him for mercy. In 9:42, yet another demon, who respected none of Yeshua’s disciples, immediately obeyed his command to leave.

What was the biggest difference between Nazareth and those demons? Familiarity.

The people of Nazareth knew Yeshua when he was a child. They grew up with him, and they saw him playing with other children. They knew his parents, his grandparents, and his siblings. They were comfortable with Yeshua, because they thought they knew him.

The demons, on the other hand, really knew him in a way that no mortal ever could. They didn’t like him, as I’m sure many of his neighbors did, but they knew the reality of his raw, unparalleled power, and they were terrified of him.

The people of Nazareth had no fear of the Holy One of God, the Son of the Most High, and so he could do nothing for them. Wherever the people feared God and the growing reputation of Yeshua–at Nain in chapter 7, for instance–he raised the dead, healed the sick, and drove out unclean spirits.

The only difference between Nazareth and Nain was the level of familiarity and comfort that the people had toward Yeshua. The people of Nazareth saw him as an odd but friendly boy, while the people of Nain had heard the amazing stories that were spreading across the countryside, and they were afraid. They approached him on the road eagerly, but nervously. When he healed their sick and raised their dead, they were astonished. They were both joyful and even more fearful than before.

Perhaps we don’t see the miracles they saw because we don’t see the God and Messiah that they saw.

Consider the songs we sing in our churches.

He touched me. He guides me. He’s my hope, my support, my rest. I love him dearly, and I’ll follow him everywhere. Yadda yadda.

There’s nothing wrong with those specific words; they’re all great sentiments. There are many Psalms that sound very similar. The problem is that they’re all sentiment and no fire. They’re all “Me and Jesus,” and very little glory and majesty.

Why don’t we sing more hymns like Psalm 9 (written by David)?

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.

But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
And he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness….

(Verses 1-8 ESV)

Or Psalm 76 (of Asaph, also from the ESV)?

In Judah, God is known;
his name is great in Israel.
His abode has been established in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah.

Glorious are you, more majestic
than the mountains full of prey.
The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil;
they sank into sleep;
all the men of war were
unable to use their hands.
At your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
both rider and horse lay stunned.

But you, you are to be feared!
Who can stand before you
when once your anger is roused?
From the heavens you uttered judgment;
the earth feared and was still,
when God arose to establish judgment,
to save all the humble of the earth. Selah.

Surely the wrath of man shall praise you;
the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared,
who cuts off the spirit of princes,
who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

Wow! What a God our Savior is!

God’s power is truly incomprehensible and it is all concentrated in the one man we know variously as Jesus and Yeshua. As Asaph wrote, our God, YHWH Elohim, is to be feared even by the most powerful men on earth. They are nothing to him. He brushes them aside like gnats.

We must never be overly familiar and comfortable with God. He is a consuming fire and a jealous God who will not stand by forever while his name is profaned and his people ignore his laws. Eventually, there will be an accounting, and every person will be repayed according to his deeds.

Many preachers today love to talk about how forgiving and gracious God is (And they’re right!), but they mistake his patience for apathy. They tell their flocks that God no longer cares about sin, that anything you do after the cross will never count against you. It’s all just love and bacon pancakes from here to the streets of gold.

Sin is a non-issue with God, but religious people make it a major issue. This is because they do not understand the new agreement. -Creflo Dollar

The Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. -Joseph Prince

In 2005, we were the first church in America to endorse marriage equality. We’re doing justice. -United Church of Christ

What nonsense! “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2) I know that those preachers have read the Bible, but they are truly the blind leading the blind, because they haven’t even seen what is so clearly written.

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. -Yeshua (Luke 13:5 ESV)

Yes, our Lord is patient. Yes, he is forgiving. No, your good works will never earn you a place in heaven. But none of that means that his standards of behavior have slackened by a single letter.

God’s Law still stands today as the eternal measuring stick for those who would call themselves his people. There is no division in that Law. There is one Law for one People, and unless you repent, you too will hear those dreadful words one day:

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ -Yeshua (Matthew 7:23 ESV)

Trust in God’s faithfulness to forgive, in Yeshua’s blood that removes the stains of sin from our souls, but never forget that God is a force more powerful than anything today’s cosmologists have yet imagined, and he has rules for his house.

Go ahead and memorize Psalm 23–it’s beautiful and definitely worthwhile–but memorize Job 38 and 39 along with it.

Until we learn to fear God in all his power, I fear that we will never see his true power in our lives.