Thursday, August 30, 2012


Have you heard the song "Days of Elijah" which talks about the year of jubilee?  I love that song.  By definition jubilee means a celebration of certain anniversaries, like a twenty-fifth anniversary.  Did you know that it all started in the Bible?

In Leviticus 25 God introduces the concept of a year of jubilee which was to take place every fifty years. In that year of jubilee all debt could be cancelled and land that was once sold could be returned back to the original owner.  Since the tribes have been divided they have not celebrated this.

When Jesus read from the scriptures in Nazareth (Luke 4) he read from Isaiah 61.  Interestingly enough, in this reading he not only claimed to be the Messiah but he also proclaimed himself as bringing the jubilee. This was something the people anticipated the messiah doing.  They just didn't like Jesus making that announcement.

Lois Tverberg points out in  Listening to the Language of the Bible that Jesus spoke many times of this jubilee freedom from debt, from sin.  It was a big part of his teaching to the people who listened. 

He did bring a freedom from the debt of sin.  And it doesn't happen once every fifty years.  It happens once when we bring him into our life.  And, it's renewed each time we confess our failures and shortcomings.  How cool is that?  To have that feeling of jubilee each and every morning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Have you ever noticed the tassels hanging from the prayer shawls being worn by visitors to the western wall in Jerusalem?  Ever wonder why they wear them?

Well, in Numbers 15 God instructs them to wear the tassels.  He tells them it's a reminder of how He has commanded them, of how they are to obey, and how they are to seek to be holy to Him. That's a cool way to have something always before you as a reminder.

Did you read that the tassels were tied with a blue cord or had a blue cord running through them?  According to Listening to the Language of the Bible  not only were tassels a sign of royalty but the high priest had blue threading in his robes.  So in essence, when wearing the blue threaded tassels on the outer garment the statement being made was 'I am a child of the Holy King, chosen to serve God in heaven.'  And while this was intended to give the people reminders it did get the attention of the nations around them.  Who, in turn, watched the Hebrews to learn about their God.

As I read Listening to the Language of the Bible I learned another interesting detail.  When the bleeding woman of Luke 8:44 touched Jesus she was actually touching the tassels of his clothing.  The Greek word used in Luke 8 (kras'-pe-don) and the Hebrew word in Numbers 15 (tzitzit) both can mean 'tassels'.

I had never thought about Jesus wearing tassels, but he did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So You Want Some Bread?

If you suddenly realize you forgot to get a loaf of bread, what is the first thing you think of?  Getting back in the car and running to the store again, right?  Ugh, sometimes that seems like such a bother.

But, when I compare this with what a woman had to do to make bread for dinner say two thousand years ago I realize how easy I have it made.

After rising early enough to get started.  Turning the millstone to get the grain needed.  Then continuing to grind the grain until small enough pieces fall onto an animal skin placed under the millstone.  Mixing it with water and maybe adding a lump from the day before for flavor.  Then it was time to heat the ovens to bake the bread.

There were two types of ovens that were used.

One was a hole in the sand that was lined with stones.  The fire to heat this oven was built at the bottom of the hole.  When the stones were hot the bread pieces were laid on top of them.  Since the bread was more a flat variety it cooked quickly on the stones.  (No multitasking here.)

The other type of oven was an earthen jar that stood about three feet high.  It had an opening at the top and was wider at the bottom where there was a hole through which the fire was built.  When the jar reached the right temperature the thin bread was placed on the outside portion of the jar.  But, it could also be placed on the inside of the jar.  The bread cooked quickly in this method as well.  (Again, no multitasking for those cooks.)

I'm exhausted just thinking about the energy needed to do what women had to do everyday, with the exception of the Sabbath.  Whew.  Like I said . . . I'm spoiled.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's Community?

Ever wonder what people did before TV and radio, or even the internet?  What was their form of entertainment in the evenings?  How did they get any news? Well, in my grandmother's day they would sit out on the front porch and talk with anyone walking by.

According to the book Bible Almanac, in biblical days there was a routine.  After dinner the men of the town would gather together in a large circle in an outdoor meeting area, possibly with a fire going to light up the place when the sun set.  The older and more respected men would be at the center, with the younger boys to the outer edge.

They would begin by sharing all the day's occurrences.  You know, like the birth of a baby, or someone being sick, or a lion coming near the town, or things heard to be going on elsewhere; the list goes on.  Then there would be a time of silence, which would be brought to a close by one of the older men reciting a poem of heroic deeds, say something about  King David or Moses. Then a song would be sung.

To finish the night out on a happy note someone would quote one portion of a proverb.  Others chiming in with witty examples of that statement would bring laughter to all who were gathered.

What a way to know each other. What a way to support one another through the tough times.  What a way to get the word out.  Now that was community.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wash up First

"Wash your hands before you eat that."  How many times have you heard, or said those very words?  Not pouring water over cupped hands before eating was one of the things that made the Pharisees angry with Jesus and his disciples.  Mark 7 mentions that there were all kinds of 'washing-up' rules that the Pharisees clung to. There was one practice that was not mentioned in the gospels, however.

The Hebrews would wash-up before going to the temple.

I learned this while watching "The Temple Controversy" episode on the series Day of Discovery.  There were, in fact, pools along the southern entrance of the temple area that were for that very purpose.  The walls being plastered in such a way kept the water flowing in and out of the pool.  The people would enter from one end (considering themselves unclean), immerse themselves at the deeper end (which was only waist deep), and then walk out the other side (considering themselves clean).

This was new to me.

What an awesome concept though.  Whether going to temple to offer sacrifices that confessed their sins, or to bring an offering, or just to worship, the people made the effort to clean the dirt off that had accumulated from the road and others.  It's a superficial cleaning, but one performed to make themselves presentable before God in his house. Once clean offerings could be presented, they could be free to go about the temple, worshiping with the singers, listening to the teachings of the scribes, learning more about their wonderful God.

Albeit we don't have to offer blood sacrifices anymore because Jesus did that for us on the cross.  But, do we make the effort to clean up? Putting aside things that might make the outer man appear dirty compared to our clean God?  Confessing our missteps before we sit down to read or study the Bible?  Do we do our part to come clean first so we can better worship and learn about our God?

When I remember to confess sins and shortcomings beforehand, I feel as though I have a clean slate.  It sure does make my worship time sweeter.