Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Ruth vs Job

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The book of Ruth and the book of Job both deal with God’s faithful people during times of great struggle.

Let’s look at the contrasts.

Job is male; Ruth is female.

Job is a Jew; Ruth is a foreigner (and a hated one at that!)

In the ancient world the roles of men and women are vastly different. Job has the ability to be autonomous and pull himself up by his boot straps, while Ruth, as a female and a foreigner, has less opportunity to provide for herself and her mother-in-law.

Job is wealthy and loses everything quickly. Ruth marries into a starving immigrant family and loses the little she has over time.

Job loses his children, but his wife survives. Ruth loses her husband and has no children.

Job’s wife is not an encourager; neither are his friends. Boaz and Naomi work in Ruth’s best interests.

Job has friends who come to help him (which is a mixed blessing). Ruth has a mother-in-law, whom she helps.

Job is wrongly blamed for his situation. Ruth is praised for her godly actions.

Job’s losses are evident. Ruth and Naomi live in a cave and it is not until Ruth begins to glean that the extended family seems truly aware of how bad off they are.

Job loses his health. Ruth is strong and able.

God speaks to Job. For Ruth, God works through Boaz, a godly man.

So, Job has some advantages. He is male, self-sufficient, married and has friends. Ruth too has some advantages. She is in good health and has her mother-in-law, who owns land.

Both have disadvantages as well…

In addition to the devastating losses both suffer, Job has ill-health, and psychological ‘torture’ from his wife and friends. Ruth has racism and sexism to combat as well as a history of being barren, which makes her a poor marriage choice.

Both Ruth and Job are restored and extremely blessed. What the two accounts show us is that no matter how you end up in difficult situations, and no matter what is stacked against you, God is able to bless you beyond your wildest imagination. Nothing is impossible. Both accounts encourage us to be godly, and to remain godly, despite our circumstances.

 

Side note: What is interesting to me, at this time, is that Naomi has land. It is likely that the cave Ruth and Naomi are staying in is on her husband’s land, indicating that the house she thought to return to is not in livable condition. It is likely that Ruth and Naomi thought to farm the land, but were unable to produce enough to support them. Naomi may have stayed on the property to tend to their crops while Ruth gleaned. It is also likely that Boaz did not help prior to this time as it may have appeared that Ruth and Naomi were getting along okay. Ruth showing up to glean may have been the first indication the community had that things were not going well for the two women. Just something to think about. When scripture tells us to look out for the widow and the orphan it is implied that we are to know their situation and help as is appropriate. Too often in our society we find people saying, ‘If I had known, I would have….’ As Christians it is our job to keep our eyes open so that those who are in need do not suffer unnecessarily.

Leadership

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Notes and Ideas based on my reading of

Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the New and the Old Testaments, An Argument of Their Veracity by John James Blunt

(published by Robert Carter & Brothers, New York, 1851)

Ideas to Think About Regarding: Leadership

  1. Cain and Abel may have brought their offerings to the East of Eden, near where the angel with the flaming sword guarded the entrance, in order to be as close to God as possible. While scripture only suggests that there was a designated spot for offerings, this spot has been suggested historically and does make sense.
  2. The ‘coat of many colors’ given to Joseph may have been a priestly garment.

Arguments for this theory include:

-The high priests garments were blue, purple and scarlet (many colors).

-The garment of Esau’s that Rebekah places on Jacob is called a ‘goodly rainment.’ The Hebrew word translated as ‘rainment’ is also the word used for the high priests clothing later in scripture, and, when referring to the priests’ regular clothes (when they are told to rend their garments) a different word is used. Further, the word translated here as ‘goodly’ is also used to describe sacred things elsewhere in scripture. Isaac ‘smelled’ Jacob’s clothing, and believed him to be Esau. This may be because the clothes smelled of incense offered to God, and not due to Esau’s natural scent.

If the clothing mentioned in these passages is a priestly garment, then the histories actually make more sense from a human nature stand point.

First, if Cain, as first-born is being raised to be the priest of his future extended family, then his belief that he could vary the offering makes more sense. Cain may believe as priest he is ‘in charge’ of how things are done, and in changing things finds out that, despite some God-given authority, God is still the one ‘in charge’ and that God can remove His priests from their position if they do not obey.

Further, it explains why Cain becomes so upset over Abel’s offering being preferred. Not only is there sibling rivalry, and a dislike of not being the ‘best’ in comparison, there may also be a ‘how dare you question my authority and make me look bad’ reaction. Even though Abel does nothing wrong, many in authority do not like being confronted by their wrong doing, or even seen being less than perfect.

This also explains how Esau profaned his birthright. Esau was a hunter and enjoyed being away from the household, while Jacob stayed close. As priest, Esau would have been expected to learn from his father and be present for sacrifices, judging, counseling etc. Jacob may have been performing these tasks and the soup was just an excuse for the brothers to finalize what was already becoming apparent- that Esau had no desire to behave as the head and priest of the family when his father passed away. Esau may have thought to only be shedding the burden of the priesthood however, and may not have realized that the headship of all his father owned would go with it as well.

Joseph, as Rachael’s oldest son, and the son of the only wife Jacob really wanted, may also have been chosen as the family priest. Jacob may have begun to train Reuben (his oldest) as priest and heir, and then, when Joseph was born, decided to split the first born role between the first born of Leah and the first born of Rachel. Having their actions judged by a much younger brother, and knowing this role was stripped from their other brother, would have caused dissention. It would also explain why Joseph was back home studying. Reuben would later lose his role as head of the clan (first born) to Judah when he slept with his father’s concubine.

Why did Reuben sleep with his father’s concubine?

Likely, after Joseph as sold and Jacob was depressed, Reuben assumed head of house duties. As Jacob did less, and Reuben took on more responsibility, it is possible that Reuben saw himself as truly the head of the clan, even though his father was still alive. In those days concubine were property, and were passed down to the new ruler when a change of leadership occurred. (This is why Absalom slept with David’s ten concubines, who were left to care for the palace, in a public way in a tent on the roof. Absalom was saying, through his actions, that he was the new ‘head’ and demonstrating that David could not protect his women. The irony that David first gazed at Bathsheba from this roof is also not lost to history…) This action, of course, infuriated Jacob. Reuben lost his rights as first-born, and Judah became the future head of the clan.

These accounts teach us much about authority.

  1. We must remember when we are in authority that our word is not law. As leaders God’s Word is law and our actions and decisions better line up with it.
  2. As leaders we must remember that we can, and will, be removed from leadership if our actions merit it.
  3. If we, as leaders, do not fulfill our role, there will be those who are willing, and able (no pun intended) to take our place. We are not indispensible. Leadership requires hard work, time and attention.
  4. We must wait on God’s time to assume leadership. Absalom may have become the next king, Reuben may have inherited as first born, and Jacob may not have had to flee if God’s timing had been respected.
  5. Jealousy will be fueled by a leader’s misbehavior and cause others to seek your position, and perhaps your life. Servant leaders who obey God’s Word are less likely to have this problem.
  6. Sleeping with your father’s concubines is never a good idea. It is a sure way to ruin the relationship.

Seven Types of Pharisees

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The Talmud defines seven types of Pharisees. *

  1. The ‘Shoulder’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee carries all of his ‘good’ deeds on his shoulder so all can see (and it is assumed praise) him.

Make sure when you do good it is not for the praise, but because it is the right thing to do.

  1. The ‘Wait a Moment’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee does not attend to the needs of the people who are right in front of him because he needs to go off and do good deeds for others.

This would be the pastor who cares for his flock, but ignores his family. Or the parent who always has to do something for work, the church or friends while their children are begging for attention.

  1. The ‘Bruised’ Pharisee

This Pharisee runs into a wall while trying not to look at a woman.

This is a person who takes the commands in the Bible too far and does stupid things in order to overly obey God’s laws. We see this person when they refuse to meet with a woman in a normal work situation when she has done nothing inappropriate to warrant this behavior towards her.

  1. The ‘Reckoning’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee commits a sin, then performs a good deed to make up for it. He believes he can sin as long as he does something good to balance the scales.

This is the husband who is mean to his wife and then thinks that buying her something makes it all better. This is the wife who is mean to her husband and then thinks that letting him sleep with her makes it all right.

  1. The ‘Pestle’ Pharisee

This type of Pharisee’s head is bowed in false humility. He is always asking what his duty is, so that he may do it as if he has already done everything else.

This is the person who believes they do nothing wrong. They will say things like, ‘If you tell me what you want, I will do it’ as if it is your fault they are not living up to your expectations. The unreasonableness of your expectations is implied. They are not trying to change because all the fault in the relationship is the other person’s.

  1. The Pharisee of the ‘Fear of Consequences’

This Pharisee does good because he is afraid of what would happen if he does not do it. There is no love in his actions.

This person does all of the ‘right’ things, but it is empty because he is acting out of fear. It is difficult to explain to the person what they are doing wrong, because while their actions are ‘right,’ they clearly are not enjoying any of it. The fact that they do not want to do what they do is evident.

  1. The Pharisee of Love

This is the ‘right’ kind of Pharisee to be. Their motivation is love. There are two things they love- people and God in general, and the rewards from doing what is right.

In Jewish culture loving the rewards that are inherent in doing what is right is not wrong. This Pharisee’s goal is not selfish- they are not doing things just for gain, but they do love the things God blesses them with. This is a healthy relationship with God. The prime motivation is love, and there is thanks, praise and enjoyment when God blesses them.

*adapted from Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern 1992 p. 69-70

(please pray for Dr Stern, last report was that he was in very poor health)

The Last Day of Sukkot

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On the eighth day of Sukkot (The Feast of Booths/ Tabernacles) God commands all the Jews in Israel to hold a sacred assembly (get together in Jerusalem, do no work and eat).

On this day the Jewish custom is to pour water on the altar as an offering to God. It is also on this day that the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read.

It was on this day that Jesus said ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink..’ (John 7:37-39) implying that He was the source of living water (God).

So how would a Christian home celebrate this day?

Some suggestions include:

-Reading Deuteronomy 28- the blessings and curse- explaining to your children the benefits and disadvantages of following God’s Word. (This is not the final chapter. The final chapter of Deuteronomy involves Moses’ death and Joshua’s commission.)

-Pouring out water (onto the ground) as a reminder that God provides the water of life.

-If your climate co-operates water activities for the children or the young-at-heart may be part of the celebration. Slip and slides, sprinklers, pools and water guns are always fun, as is a trip to the water park. If your climate does not co-operate, you may wish to include snow cones, dry ice concoctions, bubbles, water colors, or fishing may be fun.

-A happy birthday Jesus party. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born in the fall, and many believe that it may have been on the last day of Sukkot, since Sukkot commemorates the time when God ‘tabernacled’ or lived among the Israelites in the desert. (FYI: The Jewish people at this time did not typically celebrate birthdays. Instead they tended to remember death days…)

-Since the last day of Sukkot was the day the Jewish people finished reading the Torah in the synagogue, (the readings would begin again with Genesis 1:1), they frequently passed out candy at this time (honey treats). As a reminder that God’s Word is ‘sweet’ (pleasant to follow) the candy would be distributed among the children. A piñata, or throwing of candy during the reading of the blessings in Deuteronomy may help reinforce this concept.

-During this time Jewish children often paraded by with flags they had made symbolizing what they had learned. Adults would toss candy for the children to catch. Making flags that represent your thanks for what God has blessed you with may also be a fun activity. (Instead of flags, you may make other items such as collages.)

-Food ideas: Create a menu that includes food from the sacrifices at the temple: beef, lamb, goat, unleavened bread, and wine (grape juice for the kids). You may also wish to include citrus fruits, since the lulav is to have citrus associated with it. A Happy Birthday Jesus cake may also be fun. (FYI: There is no prohibition against eating leaven at this time. Unleavened bread is typically offered at the Temple.)

-The final waving of the luval, a bundle of four types of branches: citrus, palm, myrtle and willow. (Lev. 23:40)

Ideas for the day after Sukkot

Since Sukkot represents the end of the harvest season, ideally the end of fall, this is a good time to get ready for winter. The day after Sukkot may include:

– Getting the yard ready for winter (putting away lawn chairs, the grill or anything else that will not be used in the coming months). Play praise music and make it fun, thanking God for the seasons, and the fact that summer yard work has come to an end!

– Winter clothes shopping. Hats, boots, gloves etc will soon be needed. The day after Sukkot is a nice time for this event. Since it is a planned outing, and not a rushed trip when the first snow hits, this should be a relaxing, fun time away from the house. Plan a nice meal out as well to make it a relaxing, fun day for all.

– The first cup of hot cocoa, or pumpkin pie may also be a nice treat, indicating that fall is finally here.

You may stretch these activities out instead of doing them all in one day, since this is not an official holiday. Just remember, it is easier on a family to do these activities as relaxed, fun, planned events, rather than rushing around at the last minute to get everything done. Sukkot gives us a date that reminds us the time to do these things is near.

Sukkot: The Feast of Booths

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The Feast of Booths

aka The Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles

aka Sukkot (Sue-coat)

The Feast of Booths is a time of joyous celebration, when everyone is to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the end of the harvest season. It is basically a week-long camping trip for all believers.

During Sukkot a family would travel to Jerusalem. There they would build a shelter using wood and intertwining vines and flowers so that the stars could be seen through the roof at night. It is here that the family will reside for the week.

The Jewish people celebrated Sukkot to remind them of their time of wandering in the desert. It was also a time to bring in their tithes and offerings, and thank God for the harvest. The Jewish people also poured out water at the Temple and thanked God for the rain that occurred during the proper season at this time.

Sukkot is also a time for people to get together. God requires each family to gather and wave four different types of branches. This bundle of branches is known as a lulav and it consists of citrus, palm, willow and myrtle branches. Since these branches grow best in different areas it can be assumed that God wished for the people to interact with people from all areas of the land. This wish for the people to interact is further exemplified by God’s command for the people to leave the city from the gate opposite to the one from which they entered. (Ez. 46:9). God wants us to know and interact with other believers from all over.

It is believed that it was at Sukkot that Jesus proclaimed that He was the Water of Life. It is also believed to have been Sukkot when Peter wished to build booths for Moses and Elijah when Jesus transformed on the top of the mountain and was seen speaking to these men. It is also believed that Sukkot is the only Old Testament feast we will be celebrating when Jesus rules and reigns on earth, likely as a reminder of the time when His presence was not here. (Zec. 14:19)

So how may we honor this feast today?

While a week off of work would be nice, it is not practical for many families. And, since the weather in northern climates is harsh and/or rainy during this time, living in a booth is also not practical. Many families choose to celebrate this holiday instead by building a simple shelter and eating dinner in it for the week, with perhaps one night set aside for star-gazing and/or outdoor sleeping.

By the way, Jeroboam changed the time for celebrating Sukkot to one month later in order to discourage people from wanting to celebrate it in Jerusalem (outside of the kingdom he ruled) where it would now be too cold for comfort. (1 Kings 12:32)

For more information check out http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm (Judaism 101), Leviticus 23, and Deuteronomy 16.

Yom Kippur/ The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)

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Today (9/13/13 beginning at sunset) the Jewish people, and many Messianic Jews, celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Like most Jewish feasts the traditions of today are not the same as they were in Biblical times due to the absence of the Temple, but there is rich meaning in the events that were to occur on this day.

The Day of Atonement is the only ‘sad’ feast, and the only one that requires a 24 hour (from sunset to sunset) fast. Why is this feast different from the others? Because this is a day of repentance for all of Israel, and there are sacrifices prescribed for the priests, the leaders and the people. No one is without sin, and those who hold a position of respect are required to do more to repent.

This is the day when the high priest, who has washed and remained awake all night so that he may not sin accidentally, goes behind the curtain of the Temple and sprinkles the blood of bulls and goats (guilt offerings for the priests and people) behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, and it is hoped that God would give him a message for the people. In the year that Jesus was crucified, God did just that, and the message that Caiaphas received was that it was better for one man to die for all the people. (John 11:50-51) (He, of course, misunderstood what was being said exactly, but that is another story…)

On the Day of Atonement two goats are brought to the Temple. Lots are drawn and one goat is sacrificed while the other becomes the scapegoat. A bull is also sacrificed for the sins of the priests. These sacrifices are unique because although the blood of the animals is sprinkled seven times on the altar, as well as in the Temple, the entire animal is burned outside the camp, rather than on the altar itself. This imagery fits with Jesus, who is our lasting atonement, being sacrificed outside of Jerusalem as well.

The other goat, known as the scapegoat, has a red ribbon tied to its horns. The Talmud reports that a portion of the ribbon was then cut off and placed on the Temple gate. By morning it would turn white indicating that God had accepted their sacrifices. (After Jesus’ death the ribbon ceased turning white.) The scapegoat is then taken outside the camp and let go to signify that the people of Israel wish to have their sins taken as far away from them as possible. Since the goat occasionally wandered back into the city, it became customary to drive it off a cliff to prevent its return. But Biblically, it is to go free.

Now the Day of Atonement only removed one’s debts to God. Fixing relationships with others continues to this day to be something that requires getting up from the altar and going to another for forgiveness. This is why, when we come to Christ and our sins are forgiven, we may go to heaven (since our relationship with God is fully restored) but there are still consequences and relationships that need to be rebuilt here on earth. The sacrificial system at the Temple, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which replaced it, are for repairing a relationship with our Creator. Our debts to others require paying the debt, or asking for forgiveness from others. And God believes fixing relationships with others is so important that He tells us to leave our gifts (offerings) at the altar and deal with the people we have hurt before doing anything extra for Him. (Matthew 5:24)

Today the Day of Atonement is a day of reflection and asking forgiveness. Since there is no Temple, and since Jesus’ sacrifice makes the need for additional sacrifices obsolete, the blood of bulls and goats is no longer necessary. Examining your relationship with God and others however is always a good idea, so if you wish, put aside time on this day, and fast from sunset to sunset, and allow God to show you how you need to change.

Scapegoat references: http://www.calvaryoxnard.org/studies/nt/Mark/The%20Torn%20Veil.htm

http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm

Repenting Like a King (of Nineveh)

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In Jonah 3 we see an excellent example of how to repent and escape an almost certain judgment.

Nineveh was a city known for its cruelty. No matter what you have done in your life, you have likely not done as much as these people had. Killing brutally was a way of life, and Jonah had a reason to be scared.

And God sent an imperfect prophet, one who had run from the assignment, and one who had been recently spit from a fish onto their shores. He was likely not as clean as one would like (there is no mention of his baggage being spit out too), and if questioned he would likely reveal his weaknesses as a leader. There was every reason for the people not to listen to this man, yet they did.

And the king listened as well. He arose from his throne (took action). He humbled himself (laid aside his royal robes). He put on sackcloth and sat in ashes (performed deeds that at that time showed he was sorry). Then he issued a proclamation (He explained to the people under his authority why it was good to do what they were already doing. He encouraged them in their repentance.)

The question is: Do we repent in this manner?

Or do we instead:

-Make excuses as to why the person bringing this to our attention is not worthy to be listened to. Or worse, begin to criticize and harass them publically to all who will listen.

-Refuse to change and find excuses to believe we are fine the way we are.

– Refuse to humble ourselves because of our position, or because we do not want to look weak. Other people may apologize, but what would it look like if the pastor, elder, parent etc did so.

– Refuse to do things that demonstrate our repentance. We may say we are sorry, but often we forget that actions speak louder than words. When there are no acts of repentance (doing nice things for the person you hurt etc), it is often hard to believe that someone is truly sorry. Words are easy, it is your actions that tell who you truly are.

– Neglect to encourage the people under our authority to follow our example. Leaders are examples to those under them whether they do what is good, or what is bad. For this reason it is important to allow those under you to see you are repentant, to know that you are acknowledging that what was done was wrong even if it was done by the leadership and to explain your motivation for repentance. A leader who fails to do this will often have followers (or children) who begin to repent, but then return to evil because they do not see why it is truly important to change, since their leadership does not seem to be getting on board.

Repentance is hard, especially when one is in leadership (even if that leadership is just parental). But, if you do not wish for those under you to follow in your bad example, you must show them, and explain to them, what repentance is and why it is important to do it when we realize we have messed up.

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