You can understand the Bible…
The whole purpose of Scripture is to apply to your life.
You can understand the Bible…
The whole purpose of Scripture is to apply to your life.
Have you ever had trouble loving people? Is there a co-worker who just grinds your gears? Or an in-law (or blood relative) that knows how to irritate you beyond comprehension?
We all have been there. I know I have. I remember someone I used to work for, and this individual would purposely do some really hurtful actions. I never murdered this individual, but I can sadly say I had so not-so-fond thoughts.
Most people know some of the Ten Commandments, one of which is, ‘You shall not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, NAB) I’m working on a sermon that addresses this verse. Initially, I was intrigued. I have spent more than half of my life in church and have heard this command numerous times. The excitement of a new study excited me.
So, I set to work. Initially I began with a note pad and pen (which is my custom). However, about five minutes into my research I realized this job required something bigger. So I borrowed a white board from another room and set to work. In about ten minutes I had recorded most of the important material related to my study.
It was during this time of research that I found something incredible, and one that, I hope, will enable me to be more faithful in my love of others.
The word used for killing in Exodus 20:13 is רצח. I began looking for other usages of this, and once completed I summarized it with a basic definition of “to deprive of life.” Now, this is a very basic definition, I know. For in some instances, depriving something of life may save others. Or, it could provide the necessary sustenance for continued life. But for my study, I began to look at life in Scripture. Of course, life began in Genesis 1:20-28 with the creation of animal life and ultimately crowned with humanity. (You can check out my thoughts on the creation of האדם in a previous post.) Life, or נפש, is the key to our appreciation and ultimate love for humanity (and animal life too!).
Humans, however, are different. We were created בעלם אלוהים. And so, because humanity is the image of God, our lives are intrinsically valuable. That is, we matter because God matters. Or, God’s image in us makes humanity intrinsically worthy.
Now, it is possible to simply gloss over that. Chances are, you already did. But in the off chance that you are reading this contemplatively, humanity is intrinsically valuable.
It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes humanity worthy. It is the fact that they are human.
It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes a human being excellent. It is the fact that they are a human being.
It is not the color of one’s skin, the level of intelligence, or the physical or mental capacity that makes a human being invaluable. It is the fact that they are a human being.
Because “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 5:1b-2a, NAB) That is what makes a human being worthy.
Now, how does this help us love others more? When we stop looking at people in categories, we start to what is really there: people. She is not a Muslim, she is a human being created in the image of God. He is not queer, he is a human being created in the image of God.
When you and I begin to see God in others, our ability to love them is transformed. That is why Paul could write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NAB) There is humanity, gloriously and wonderfully bearing God’s image.
Do my words convey my belief that people are created in the image of God? Unfortunately, not always. But I am reminded of the weight of such ill-used words in Matthew 5:21-26. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day had broken the law down to manageable loads. In fact, the commandment regarding killing was boiled down to simple murder. As long as you don’t murder anyone, you’re good! (If these were the true standards, we would be much better off!) But Jesus wouldn’t let that slide. God’s standards are infinitely higher than we could ever imagine. Murder, as expressed in Exodus 20:13, does not involve just the literal taking of life. It goes beyond that to our words, the very basis of our communication to others. Whether it is Raqa or fool, if it does not proceed from the view of love and value, we are in trouble. (By the way, this does not absolve us for confronting errors, for in the next few chapters Jesus does just that, as well as recommending it in Matthew 7:1-5.)
So, are you having trouble loving others? Just see them the way God sees them: image bearers. I am amazed at what I can overlook when I see someone as a person, uniquely, incredibly, and fantastically made בעלם אלוה’ם.
P.S. I do not mean to convey that our own sins and shortcomings do not need to be addressed. When Jesus was speaking with the woman caught in adultery, his words were, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) While Jesus saw her humanity, he did not simply condone her sin. Likewise, it would be a mistake in the desire to love others that we would ignore sin in our own lives.
Where would we be without mothers? As a man and a father, I can say that on this side of eternity I will never truly understand everything they do. My own mother as well as my wife cause me to stagger in unbelief at the amount of work they accomplish, the love they shower on the family, and the countless hours spent worrying and caring for us.
Scripture, the Tanakh and the New Testament, was written during the patriarchal period. I doubt many people would argue with the fact that women were treated unequally, to say the least. However, several prominent women stand out as incredible women of virtue. Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, and Abigail, all women of wonderful faith.
But one sticks out to me: Mary. I was raised in a independent, fundamental baptist church. In order to keep from ‘compromising’ they put Mary on the back shelf, in order to not appear to ‘worship’ her, as they accused Roman Catholics of doing (which is absolutely absurd, but let’s stay on task). So I never really thought about her, other than that she gave birth to Messiah.
Mary stands out as the preeminent mother in Scripture.
But when I really began to look at Mary, I was overwhelmed at her simple faith and trust-informed action. I wish to spend the next few moments with you looking at Mary and hopefully encourage our mothers (my own mother and my wife stand as examples of this as well).
One of the first aspects of Mary’s life that draws me to mirror her life. This poor girl, unknown to the world of first century Israel, became the mother of God, the theotokos. This betrothed young lady is visited by Gabriel, an angel.
Let that sit in just for a moment. Just meditate on the fact that this simple lady, waiting to join Joseph, has Gabriel (consider his history in Israel, that was an incredible honor!) come and declare a wonderful announcement: she would bear the Messiah.
After being told she would bear Jesus, her saintly reply was, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Can you imagine that simple faith? Even when she asked how it would be possible, she was not asking from a position of doubt but of curiosity of means. What simple faith!
Contrast that with our own lack of belief. When God says that he will never leave us, our reply: Why are you so far off God? When God said that he desires to be with us every day, our reply: Only when it is convenient for me, God. But Mary? Her reply: whatever you say Lord! That is the essence of simple faith.
After being told that her Son would die and she would experience a pain compared to a sword piercing her heart, Mary simply believed. That is simple faith.
Another act of simple faith (and should we say profound faith?) is her interactions with Simeon. During a prophetic utterance, he mentions something terrible, “…and you yourself a sword will pierce…” (Luke 2:34). This, of course, is a reference to the horrific torture and death her Son would endure and the pain a mother would be overwhelm with at the thought and eventual sight of it. Now, as a father, I cannot grasp this. How could a parent cope with such an utterance?
How can Mary, after being told such a thing, have simply “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”? (Luke 2:19) Again, this is the essence of simple faith. What a challenge to us! If God were to tell me of some horrific death one of my children were to undergo, I confess that my faith is weak and that I would struggle. I would take them and flee for protection. But not Mary. Mary trusts in God, that God would protect them. This is such a challenge to me, and as a mother she is an incredible example.
Trust-informed action? What in the world? Let me break this down and then we can look at this in the life of Mary. Action is our efforts in accomplishing a task. For instance, if I want to build a bookshelf I set up plans, procure the materials, and then begin the work. Now, it would be foolish if I were to just grab some two-by-fours and start building. My action would be building, my truth-informed aspect is that planning and procuring part.
Mary’s life was trust-informed. She knew the Scriptures. If one was to compare her song (Luke 1:46-55) with that of some of the songs in the Tanakh (see Exodus 15:1-21, for example) one would see how close they are. Though Scripture is silent to this, I imagine she would think of the many Psalms that speak of the Messiah as her Son grew up. Whether she learned this through Synagogue or attending Temple doesn’t matter, the fact is Mary’s faith was informed by Scripture.
Mary’s actions were informed by the sweet Scriptures.
But it did not stop in her head. She “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” And then she spent her life raising her Son, the Messiah.
Do our lives reflect this? Do we know the Scriptures like Mary, and do we follow through with it?
Mary’s life as a mother is incredible. My wife and mother are incredible. Happy Mother’s Day, and may we all be more like Mary!
What makes you you? Finding you is a great place to start on your prayer journaling journey.
For others who are artistically gifted, art may be the avenue in which they pray. If they need strength for a difficult time, painting a picture of a field with a rock while meditating and praying to the God who is their rock may prove to be helpful. The bottom line is to find out who you are and then proceed to the type of journaling. I’d also recommend taking an Emotional Quotient test and a multiple intelligence test.
Do you have the ability to write? Or do you prefer painting? Not only should the specifics of the journal and the means of journaling come into examination, but also the time. What does your life best equip you for? Does your career demand work regardless of time? Do you maintain a 9-5 job? Learning the best time to journal is as important as journaling itself. Being consistent is the key to helping you in your walk as well as deepening your perception of God.
I love the old world: leather-bound books, verbose works, and beautiful handwriting. So I use a leather-bound journal, I have a felt-tip pen (thanks Mrs. Burnside!), and I love crafting the beauty of the written language as I create a prayer to God and an extension of myself. If drawing your prayers is your preference, then get quality materials for the art. Make it a beautiful extension of your soul to God’s.
Here are the notes covering Hebrews 2.1-4. This passage is so convicting because we all are tempted to ‘drift away’. What, in your life, has caused you to drift away? What, like the swaying tides of the sea, has drawn your heart further away from Jesus? More importantly, what brings you back? What anchors your soul to the Savior?
I pray that this is a blessing to you!
Hebrews 2.1-4 A Dire Warning
1 Corinthians 10.6
Introduction: We are introduced to this section with a connecting word, ‘therefore.’ Whenever we see such a word we should immediately look back and see what was written previously, in order to place the following section in its proper context. The passage we looked at last time covered the deity of Jesus, that, compared to the angels, God’s Word confirms that Jesus is truly God in human flesh. As this lends itself to the topic, let us look once again at the main points presented by our author.
It is on this foundational knowledge of the deity of Jesus Messiah that the writer issues what should be taken as a very serious and dangerous warning: do not turn back from Jesus. It is a serious matter, when presented with truth, to either ignore it or to walk away from it.
We read throughout Scripture of similar warnings. In 1 Samuel 5.22-23 we see a warning to Saul. In Jeremiah 6.19 we see another severe warning. In Deuteronomy chapter 28 we see a list of both blessings and curses; blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. It is a serious thing to ignore or work against the truth. James speaks of self-deception when knowledge does not affect our lives (James 1.22-25).
Read Sir Robert Anderson’s quote, ‘Types in Hebrews’ page 38.
The doctrine to which we shall focus our attention is: Rejection of God’s truth will bring judgment.
The Reasons for this Doctrine
Why can we arrive as this teaching? Why can we, from the reading of these verses, render such a terrifying thought? Because…
The Details of this Rejection
I find it very interesting that those who leave the faith rarely do so from a one-time event. Perhaps after a tragic event one may leave. I think of Bart Ehrman. He is gifted with an incredible intellect and is one of the most recognized scholars of our time. Bart Ehrman began his life as a believer. In his story he explains how the ‘problem of evil’ and ‘suffering’ led him to eventually become an agnostic. I use Dr. Ehrman as an example because he slowly, over the course of many years, left the faith. And this is exactly how we leave the faith, or stop believing what God has said. We don’t typically just flat our deny the Bible. We gradually do so. We may slowly stop believing that God will judge this sin in our lives, or believe that He will indeed be with us, or so on and so forth.
It is important to note, here, that faith is not without evidence. When we get to Hebrews 11 we will see an abundance of Old Testament saints that prove the validity of faith. But let me give you a personal illustration. I love my kids. They are my little lady and my buddy. But there are times when I, as the father, have to discipline them. Now I may warn them repeatedly, ‘Don’t do that or you will be punished’. And they hear it, stare directly at me, and then proceed to do that which I told them not to do. They face a punishment that is deserved. That is the idea here.
The Remedy for this Rejection
There is also the connection here to the Old Testament warnings given by Moses to Joshua (and by extension the people of Israel) in Deuteronomy 32.46-47. Moses details the importance of the word he gave the Israelites, and the extension through the author of Hebrews, that the word is our life.
2 Peter 1.5, 10, and 3.14- Peter encourages believers to develop their faith. He says, ‘make every effort’, ‘be all the more diligent,’ and ‘be diligent’.
Psalm 119.4- God commanded that His Word be kept diligently (think of the
Chapter 14 is comprised of two main accounts: the battle of the kings and the encounter with Melchizedek. The chapter gives several truths that can be extremely beneficial for the believer today.
The Battle of the Kings
Synopsis: This section deals with the battle of kings whose names I can hardly pronounce! The basics of this story are four kings went to war with five kings. The basis for the war was the five kings were wearied after serving Chedorlaomer for twelve years (14.4). During this battle Lot (Abram’s nephew) was captured along with his possessions (14.12). Abram then gathered his trained men (which totaled 318) and went and rescued Lot (14.13-16).
Application: If you are like me, at first you were probably pretty perplexed to gather something from this that we could apply today. However, there are several truths that we can and should apply.
1. First, the deeds of the five kings were noble. To rise up and face those who are taking advantage of you is quite a noble thing to do. Of course, the additional lesson here is that all of our efforts to avenge ourselves (or others) do not always result in the desired outcome. In this case, the five kings were effortless defeated and also led to the defeat of other groups of people, including Lot. So, stand up for what is right, even though sometimes it may result in your own defeat. We are reminded of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing.”
2. The Boy Scout motto is the next thing we can learn from: Be prepared. For both Lot and Abram this event had incredible consequences. For Lot, the failure to provide protection resulted in his kidnapping. Of course, there are somethings that we cannot prepare for in life. But “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Our own failure to plan for the attacks of the enemy (the flesh, the world, and the devil) inevitably leads to our own capture. From Abram’s perspective, his ability to plan out and execute an attack with his limited resources led to the rescue of his nephew, in addition to the other people (14.16). The same stands true in our lives, if we plan and make the necessary provisions we can face the enemy head on with victory. A perfect example of adequate preparation for the believer can be found in Ephesians 6.10-20.
3. The final aspect of application from this glorious battle is that some things are worth fighting for in our lives. Abram believed he was able to help Lot and the others and took action to deliver them. He gathered his own men and supplies and through incredible warfare defeated his foe. There will be times in our lives where we face something for which is worth fighting. Your spouse, your family, you friends, your church, and most importantly, your God are all worth fighting for. Sometimes these battles will vary from an inward attack on doubt or unbelief while other times it may be overt and in public view. But take heart in Abram’s example, fight for the things that are dear to you, and embrace victory.
The Meeting of Melchizedek
Synopsis: On Abram’s return from victory he meets the King of Salem, Melchizedek. He blesses Abram, offers a sacrifice of bread and wine, and then accepts tithes from him. After this interchange the king of Sodom attempts to offer gifts to Abram for saving him but Abram declines. His reason for doing so was for people to see the God had blessed Abram and not the king of Sodom.
Application: This part of chapter 14 is a little easier to see application for us today, and for the serious student, it provides a depth of material.
Genesis is sometimes tricky, but I think you and I are starting to see that this incredibly old book has some wonderful applications for us today. Stay tuned as we continue Walking Through Genesis!
There are many books available for the eager Christian on which to read and reflect for growth. The first book, without a doubt, should be the Bible. Whatever translation you may use, read it! Growth comes through a consistent, systematic reading of the Word of God.
Besides that, there are many other books, of a variety of genres, that can help sour growth and love for God and fellow man. There are biographies, histories, systematic theologies, the collected works of individuals, sermons, fiction, devotional books, and the list goes on. All you have to do is walk into the local book store and you can find a dozen books from which to choose. But how do you find the best ones?
I recommend browsing through several genres and finding out which one appeals more to you. It will help you get an idea of how you and your own soul interact with that of the individual or material you are reading. There are some who reap much fruit from biographies, while others prefer the more devotional readings of the Puritans. So choose a few books and spend some time working through them.
The most important factor of any reading, whether Biblical or otherwise, is to get closer to God. So, with that aim, go and read!
And let me know what you like, what’s your favorite author? What books have made an impact in your life?