How would you characterize the month of August? How about September? Or January? Just like the Gregorian calendar in which each month reminds us of the season and a mood, the Hebrew sages have determined the spiritual seasons of the year.
The Hebrew month of Elul is considered the start of the “Season of Repentance.” This season extends 40 days, from Elul 1 to Tishrei 10, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). (more…)
In Part 1, we looked at the Hebrew understanding of the month of Elul, which begins 40 days before Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). From the days of the Israelites in the wilderness, this period has emerged as a Season of Repentance, specifically repentance from idolatry, and originally the idolatrous Golden Calf.
For us it may not be a statue, figurine or carved image, but idolatry can take many forms. Repentance is an ongoing process of discovery of sin in our lives and realignment with God’s ways. In my own journey I’ve found four places where idolatry can hide and have watched God realign my life as I walk through each one. We’ve discussed the first two: discontentment and following my own plans. Let’s continue with the third:
To many, the account of Abraham offering up Isaac to God in Genesis 22 is one of the hardest stories in the Bible to read and comprehend. You don’t have to be a parent to feel the anguish Abraham must have felt, to question how he could attempt such a heartbreaking act, and even to doubt the goodness of God.
In addition to the emotion it raises, there are several unanswered logical mysteries as well. What did Abraham tell Isaac they were doing? Was Isaac really that gullible? The fact that Abraham had Isaac carry the wood up the mountain indicates that Isaac was stronger than Abraham. How did Abraham wrestle him onto the altar? Furthermore, the surrounding information indicates Isaac would’ve been an adult, probably near 37 years old. Just how did Abraham get him to go along with this preposterous plan? There are enough holes in the report to make us wonder if we’re really hearing the whole story. (more…)
In Numbers 11 we read of one of the complaints the Israelites brought against God and Moses during their sojourn in the wilderness. They asked for meat; however, as we discussed in Part 1, they already had meat. Their true sentiment stemmed from discontent and a rejection of God’s provision.
As true today as it was then, when we reject God’s provision, we end up pursuing our own agenda. As a result we are presented with opportunities to either turn back or continue with our own way of living. In this case the Israelites’ choices led them away from the blessing of God and into separation from God’s presence.
Did they realize what they had done and what the implications were? Hindsight is wisdom’s teacher. Based on their experience, I realized I had to change my own course. (more…)
To this point in our journey, we’ve progressed from a casual recipient of God’s gift of faith, just barely inside the fence surrounding the tabernacle, to a partner in his business functioning as His very presence on earth, just as the Ark of the Covenant did in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle.
If we are now functioning as the Ark did, what can we learn from the Ark about what God considers representative of His presence on earth? What’s inside the Ark provides us great insight in answering this question.
On a recent vacation, I decided to try rock climbing on the simulated rock wall. I had never done it, but watched several people in front of me, some succeeding to the top and some quitting part way up. With each one I could, I asked how they did it or what stopped them from finishing, trying to learn whatever might help me make it high enough to ring the little bell at the top, announcing my success.
When it was my turn, the attendant, Alex, roped me up and gave me climbing shoes to help me hold on. I took my first few steps on the holds and knobs. “This is pretty easy,” I thought. But like anything else physical, it got harder as I went along. (more…)
Not long ago I saw a documentary featuring the gray whale migration from Mexico to Alaska. A mother and her new calf, born just a few months earlier, were passing off the coast of Monterey, California, when they were attacked by a pod of killer whales. The story showed the hunting strategies of the six killer whales and the rare escape of the two grays.
Since an adult gray is far too large for a killer whale to overtake, the baby calf was the prey. The main strategy of the killer whales was to separate the calf from its mother. A brutal struggle went on for hours. With the two grays becoming weaker and weaker, I couldn’t imagine how the two whales would ever rid themselves of the strong and determined predators. (more…)
“A living sacrifice to God” (Romans 12:1). It’s a familiar term, one that’s always in the back of my mind as my position and purpose in God. Then, I unexpectedly learned a deeper understanding of what that actually means and how I can really live it out.
The idea of sacrifice to us today refers to giving something up. But the audience of Paul’s day at the time it was written would have understood it to refer to the temple sacrifices — animals, birds, oil, grains — which were a major part of their life and had been in their history for nearly 1,500 years.
One of the offerings required was a “whole burnt offering” — the Hebrew word “olah” (referred to repeatedly in Lev. 1-6). This offering was used to symbolize that the worshipper had offered himself in service and obedience to God. But what I didn’t know was that the word “olah” was also used to describe bondservants. (more…)
“But [He] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8
This is God Himself in the flesh, being crucified as a criminal by those He created, in order to pay their penalty for them. That’s humility–and more, a concept for which we have no frame of reference.
What was He hoping to achieve? The answer was another astonishing realization: (more…)
On a recent vacation, my husband and I stayed at a house beside the Wenatchee River in Eastern Washington. There were two families of geese, one with three goslings, one with four. The cute babies were very young, their feathers still fluffy yellow. We watched them in our small yard for nine days.
It quickly became obvious how completely trusting and dependent on their parents the goslings were. The parents did all the planning and leading. The goslings were only concerned with eating, sleeping and following their parents. (more…)