Friday, August 30, 2013

That's My Son

Years ago I sang a song in a choir production that mentioned Jesus being my father. To be perfectly honest, I had trouble with that song and it's words. When I sought counsel on it I was told to keep praying about it. Never having received an answer I dropped the issue. Now, years later my eyes have been opened to understanding.

Listening To The Language of the Bible is a book that helps you to see and understand the Hebrew thinking behind a word or statement. This has been an eye-opening book to read. And, I have mentioned it several times over the last two years.

One of the Hebrew words for son is 'ben'. 'Ben,' like so many other Hebrew words, has more than one facet to the meaning and its application. The obvious meaning is the son of parents. But, it can actually extend to include the relation of an heir to a forefather. And, interestingly enough it could mean a disciple or student of a rabbi.

Basically, wrapped up in the word is a similarity with one who came before you, or leads you. When you were called the son of someone it was because you had their characteristics. Although, in the case of a natural born son he was expected to be like the father. If the father was kind, the sons were expected to be kind. If he was a free-will rule-changing-aggressive man, like Ishmael, then his sons would be like him. So to be called a son of someone could be a compliment or an insult.

Throughout the ages there have been many children who attempt to walk a different path than their parents. Some change to be better than what they had at home. Some change because they themselves are rebellious and can't keep up with the ideals of their parents. . .perhaps it's just not in them.

I always wondered why Jesus told the Pharisees that their father wasn't Abraham but rather the devil. Now it all makes sense. He was relating their current attitude and behaviors to the one who acts the same way. If you want to call your self the son of someone then you very well better act like him. It's not just a name or a title. It's a behavior that has to be harnessed and embraced.

The book also stated that when genealogies are listed that some generations are skipped. They only list the known names, or those of people who stood out with certain characteristics.  Now I get why the Bible does that. . .skipping names in the genealogy of Jesus. But, that's why it was easy to call Jesus the son of David. I thought he was just trying to point out that he was born into the right lineage thus a check mark on the list of prophecies about the Messiah. But Jesus is a son of David in that he loves God with his whole heart, and he will take the throne as king for eternity.

Let's not forget the last association on the list. The one that was the eye opener for me. When a student embraces a teacher's instructions and follows him, he is also called a son. Thus making the teacher a father to the student. Yes, the student can still love his biological father as much as he loves the teacher. But when the teacher's ways become his ways then he becomes the son of the teacher, so to speak.

If Jesus is our teacher and we follow his teachings and instructions then we can be called a son of Jesus. That would mean Jesus can be looked at as our father. What a concept! All these years of not getting it. The song was right all along.

The question remains. . .do we follow his teachings so closely that we are thought of as a son of Jesus? Do we embrace everything he says? Everything he demonstrated in the scriptures? Do we give him our best effort?

Jesus said he was the Son of God. His actions showed that. So when we try to follow Jesus we are in essence trying to act as God in heaven wants us to act and be. Showing his love to those he places in our lives. Directing them to God in heaven. Is it our goal? It's certainly a way to make our teacher desire to call us his sons.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Not The Same Size

Have you ever read 1 Samuel 17 and wondered what in the world was going on?  Why would tall Saul give short young David his armor? Wasn't it obvious they weren't the same size?

Imagine David saying, "I can do this thing for you." Then within minutes he has all this protective metal and leather around him making it impossible to move. Trying to picture his trial walk around the tent with the armor on can be humorous. It's no wonder David turned around and diplomatically gave it all back.

If you're having trouble picturing this, think of a baseball playing father telling his young son he can play for the father in the game. He even gives the son his uniform to wear. The shirt ends up going to the middle of his thigh. The 'short' pants hang at the waist and run down to the lower part of his calf. The socks can be pulled clear up to his thigh. The team ball cap falls down over his eyes and onto his nose. The glove, too loose in the grip, slips with the slightest tip downward. The shoes have to be stuffed so the son can move without stepping out of them. Are you getting the picture of this?

Now picture David trying to walk around the king's tent. . . tripping and stumbling. Granted David wasn't a young boy but by the preceding verses we know he wasn't old enough to go to battle. Think about it. Where was David before this? At home, minding the sheep. . .not fighting for his country like his brothers. Was it because he was too weak to fight? No, he was strong enough to fight off and kill a bear and a lion while doing his job.

I've gotten off track, let's get back to the armor.

Have you ever wondered why Saul didn't take the armor off someone else? You know, closer in size to David. And, why would the king give his music playing servant his own armor? Well, perhaps, Saul wanted to thank him for playing soothing music by giving him the best protection he could...his own armor. Or, was he so desperate to have someone fight Goliath that he didn't think clearly when he offered his armor to David? Maybe he felt responsible, or guilty, in agreeing to send a young boy to battle the giant everyone else was too afraid to fight.

But there was more to it than meets the eye. I was recently reminded of the significance of this act when I read The Chronological Study Bible. Back then offering his own armor to David was in essence offering David the position of king. Was Saul seriously giving his position as king over to a boy who wasn't his son? Did he even think it through?

Whatever the underlying reason we know from the chapters that follow that Saul, who was too afraid to lead the people to fight a mean group of people, had no intention of giving his throne to David. Let alone following through on his promise of a reward marriage to his oldest daughter for the one who killed the giant.

Yet, in this whole process David set an example for us. He knew he was to be the next king. He was already anointed. But, he knew it was to be in God's timing. He was patient and willing to wait until God handed him the crown. . . not Saul, not Johnathan, not himself. . .only God.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I'm Not so Different

It's confession time I'm afraid. I recently realized I shouldn't be so hard on the Israelites who traveled with Moses.

After writing about them the last few weeks and how they seemed to miss the boat in what was happening to them. . .wishing they were back in Egypt instead basking in the presence of Almighty God. . .I kept asking myself, how could they do that? Why would they do that? Didn't they trust that God was taking them where there was green grass and freedom? I know I'm seeing it from the 20/20 hindsight mode, but why did they doubt and grumble?

Was it the change they were experiencing? Change can be hard. If you've ever moved away from the known to the unknown, you know how easy it is to compare the new to the old. It's a natural thing. So, maybe that was why they grumbled.

I mean after all, they went from having a flowing river with green vegetation nearby to walking in a desert for over forty years. They went from growing and eating a variety of foods to eating the same food every day. How many of us can do that without complaining?

And, they went from having market places hosting products from all over the world to having no place to upgrade or change their belongings. We're talking no malls, no strip-centers, not even a Target or Walmart. How long could you go without shopping?

But the one thing that gets me. . .they went from having dwellings that had doorposts to living in tents. I am not a camper, hello, need I say more?

Ok. So, if I look at it from their shoes I get the grumbling. I can understand where they're coming from. Do you? Would you have grumbled?

But my confession doesn't stop there. So many changes have hit my life lately that I found myself, for several days, wishing I was back on an old path and not having to face the changes ahead of me. My anxiety increased with each passing day making it harder to get anything accomplished. Then reality hit me. . .I'm an Israelite. . .a full-fledged grumbler and doubter. Ouch! I didn't just understand them I had become just like them. How easy was that to do? Ouch again.

I want to follow God's leading hand. I want to be where he wants me. And, right now in my life that requires changing some things. So I started telling myself. . ."God's taking me to the promise land". This has worked well to change my attitude and focus. And I strive to remember that I can do all things through Jesus who strengthens me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Two Strikes You're Out

I know what you're thinking. . .no, it's three strikes you're out. But have you ever looked at Moses? He only got two strikes. His first time to strike a rock for water was done following God's instructions, shortly after the group's departure from Egypt. Then after the second time, God informed him he'd lost his opportunity to go into the promise land with his people.

I've often wondered why one strike on a rock was acceptable and another one, albeit angry, wasn't. Without going deeper into study one might think God is wishy-washy. But we know he's not. God never changes. His laws remain constant. It's people who change and think the rules should change with them.

Studying the book A Visual Guide to Bible Events gave me a great insight into the second strike. It took place in a different location from the first. The second area has porous rocks that from the description sounds more like the rock beds we have in Texas, with one major difference. Those rock beds held water under pressure, ours do not. And, in those days any astute person could find the right bulging rocky-mineral cap, hit it and produce an abundant amount of water.

So, when Moses struck the rock with his rod it was something anyone could have done. And at the time, he was angry at the people. Note: he struck it twice. Sure, the people saw the rod as a tool God used in the hands of Moses. But that wasn't the instructions he was given this time.

With the same need in place, in this second episode God gave different directions. He told Moses to speak at the rock not hit it. Because speaking at the rock would have been a sign for the younger Israelites that God was their provider. Instead the grumbling people saw Moses as the provider. In a sense, he now joined the grumbling, rebellious people in their grumbling, rebellious nature and sin of not honoring God as holy. And that's why he was out after the second strike.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doubters United Equals Regret

Have you ever regretted doubting someone? Wishing your trust had been there before the person had to prove he was worthy of your trust? Remember Thomas? Doubting Thomas? How he demanded to see for himself before he would believe? But he shouldn't be the only one to be known as doubting. I mean he wasn't the first one to doubt.

Way back when Moses was trying to get his people to the promise land they threw him a doubters' curve ball. He sent twelve spies into the land so they could return with reports regarding the nature of the land and conditions of any cities. Oh, yes, and to bring back some samples of food.

And they did. They brought back pomegranates, figs, and one cluster of grapes that took two men to carry. But in spite of wonderful reports about the land, what they focused on were the fortified cities and the giant people that lived there.

Just an aside: All these years I thought Goliath (1 Samuel 17) was an odd ball; you know, genes gone wild. But, here we read about a whole group of people known for being extremely tall. . .giants in fact. Look at Deuteronomy 9. . . Moses reminds his people that the men they will face live in cities with high walls and even without the walls no one can win against these giant men. So Goliath wasn't an odd man. He just had giant genes.

Well, enough of that. Getting back to our spies. . .ten of them focused on the bad; letting the negatives outweigh their God. They in a sense doubted that God could go before them and bring them victory. Never mind they recently witnessed a wind strong enough to dry land and keep the water away while hundreds of thousands of them traveled to safety. And, then the wind dying back so quickly that the water rushing to return to its place took out the entire Egyptian army. That wasn't the only example of God's might. Why did they forget? Did they not understand the reason for the mission?

Moses sent them into the land not to be scared spit-less to the point they would convince the others it was too much for their God to help them. He sent them to see just how much God was going to do for them and how much the booty was going to be. It was suppose to be an encouragement, not a doubt-giving experience.

Was it just fear that gripped them? Or, did they really doubt and not trust God enough to protect them? To go before them? Equally perplexing is that the people listened to the ten who were weak. They saw the same evidence of God's presence and yet they still did not give him the trust he deserved for their final step into the promise land. They didn't believe the two men whose trust in God's ability to protect the nation were speaking the truth.

It saddens me when I read how there was no second chance given. There was no going back even after they confessed their sin. Maybe their heart wasn't right. You know, they only regretted their words because they didn't want the punishment. They even tried to make it right, on their own terms, by attacking the people, in their own accord. And, guess what? They were defeated and sent running back home. All because they didn't trust God the first time.

Forty years. The doubt of the people was so great. . .not giving God the chance to show his stuff. . .that they continued a nomadic life; one year for each day that the spies spent in the promise land. That's a lot of years of regret. Hopefully, the adults raised their children, who would be allowed entrance into the promise land, to listen to Moses and to trust God in all things.