Thursday, December 30, 2010


     "Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the house of the heroes."  (NIV)

     The book of Nehemiah was originally in the Hebrew scriptures as one book with the book of Ezra; both Ezra and Nehemiah were written by the priest Ezra.  Because of the very similar writing style, many scholars also believe that Ezra was the author of I and II Chronicles, and that the four books all belonged together.

Modern-day walls of Jerusalem

     Although Nehemiah was born and raised in Babylon, he was brought up with strict devotion to Jewish tradition and laws.  Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king of Persia - a job of responsibility and trust. The cupbearer tasted and served wine to the king.  Ancient kings had to be extremely cautious about what they ate and drank.  They used trusted servants such as Nehemiah to taste everything before they did; if the servant did not get sick, then the king and queen ate and drank.  Nehemiah held this highly trusted position under King Artaxerxes. While serving the Persian king, Nehemiah learned that Jerusalem remained in ruins after nearly a century and a half.  The temple had been rebuilt after seventy years, but the remainder of the city was in ruins;  thus, the temple overlooked broken walls and destroyed buildings.  Nehemiah was so distressed when he learned of the condition of the holy city that he went to the king and asked for funding to rebuild the city walls.  Nehemiah must have been in good graces with the king and/or very persuasive, because the king immediately agreed to help!

  So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem.  He had an absolutely inspired way that he convinced the people to rebuild the city walls.  He convinced each man and his family to work on the portion of the wall nearest their own home.  This created a greater enthusiasm and spirit of pride in workmanship,  It was also much more convenient that having people travel to do the work of rebuilding.  And, when the wall needed to be defended, each man was defending his own work.
     During the rebuilding process, the people of Jerusalem endured ridicule and raids from nearby Samaritans.  But they persisted and the city became a proud city once again. Miraculously, the wall was rebuilt in only fifty-two DAYS!!!  Nehemiah was a courageous and prayerful leader!  He remained in Jerusalem as Persian governor of the area for the next twelve years, teaching and leading the people in several important religious festivals which they had forgotten or abandoned over the years.
     The Bible describes Nehemiah as small of stature.  He may have been a small man, but he had a big idea and a big influence on the people of God.
     Isn't it interesting how God can take one little person and make a big difference?  Y'know, that one little person could be you...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


                                                 "What's In A Name?"

     The book of Ezra does not contain a "3:16", so I am write about the man, Ezra.  We don't hear dramatic stories about Ezra like we do about David and Goliath or Daniel in the lion's den.  But Ezra was a true hero of the Jewish faith... which, of course, makes him a hero of the Christian faith as well. Ezra dedicated his life to serving God.  He was a priest, and the sages state that his knowledge and wisdom was equal with Moses. He was a humble and obedient servant. He restored unity to the Israelites when they were in danger of fragmentation and self-destruction through intermarriage and its resulting pagan worship.
     " For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observation of the law of the Lord, and to its decrees and laws in Israel."  (Ezra 7:10  NIV)

The name, Ezra, means "God's help".  And Ezra surely lived up to his name.  He had studied Torah and he knew right from wrong.  And he stood his ground whether it made him popular or not. This is a character trait we can see over and over throughout the scriptures.  Other examples are Amos, Jeremiah, and Jesus. We can continue to observe this today as well... a true prophet must often speak unpleasant truths.  A false prophet gives in to social  pressure.  The false prophet will soften or completely ignore the word of God;  he will try to make people feel good about themselves at all costs;  his goal is for everyone to like him...  But the true prophet, although not well-liked, speaks the Truth, and is the true helper.
    Ezra is a fairly unusual name. There are only three Ezras noted in the Bible.  I wonder how parents in those days came up with names for their children... The names all meant something.  In my studies I have discovered that the people had personalities to match their names.  For example, as we learned about a week ago, the name Ruth means "lovely friend", and Naomi means "pleasant".  The Hebrew name for Jesus (Yehoshua orYeshua) means "Savior".
     Well, this got me to thinking in terms like a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg-question.  Did the person become like their name?  Or, was the name divinely given with the knowledge of who the individual would become?  I think people, for the most part, turn out to be what they are told they canb e during their childhood.  So, if your folks named you "Wedon'twantcha", chances are you're gonna' have some problems with self-esteem...

 My name is Twyla.  My parents tell me I was named after an American Indian friend of theirs.  Several years ago, an American Indian lady told me that my name means "Tall Tree".  I laughed and immediately quipped that it should have been  whatever the word is for "short shrub". One of my favorite Psalms is the first Psalm.  It speaks of the blessed person, saying, " ...and he bee like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth fruit in his own season..." (KJV)  Well, I aspire to be a good tall tree, with deep roots fed on the Living Water... I hope to bring forth fruit in season.
     What's in a name?  How about the name "Christian".  Nowadays, it is so misused that one has to question the person who uses the name.  When someone says they come from a Christian family, it might mean that they go to a protestant church occasionally - and that's all.  The original meaning of "Christian" meant that Christ lived in the person. When you are truly a believer, you have Christ in you and Christ has you in Him.
He is not ashamed of you; are you ashamed of Him?
     I have to wonder about people who say, "Oh, I don't TELL anyone I'm a believer... I just let them see my actions."  Oh, really?  When you go in the bank, do you walk in and ACT like you need some cash?  Or, do you approach someone and tell them what you're there for? Do you not want to tell them what you need for fear that someone will be embarrassed?
     Are you softening the message? Yielding to social pressure? Making people comfortable with themselves - when they shouldn't be - so that they will like you?
     What's in a name?  Are you a false prophet, or are you an Ezra?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


     "And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains."   (NIV)

    King Solomon was called upon by God to build a great temple where God's people could worship, pray, and offer sacrifices.  Solomon received the instructions for the temple per an "oracle".  The definition for the Hebrew word, in which most of the Bible was written, is "utterance  from God".  All the details of the beautiful temple were from God.  As in the creation, every color, every item was directed by God. And, as in the creation, the temple was created in an orderly fashion and with indescribable beauty.

     Solomon traded with other countries to obtain the best resources, including some of the labor.  He hired a man - a master craftsman - named Huram (or Hiram) to create the artistic works of the temple... chains, pillars, pomegranates, cherubs, the altar, the vessels.  Everything was made of precious materials - gold, silver, rare fabrics, dyed with rare dyes.  The entire building was overlaid with gold on the inside... Truly, the most magnificent building ever created.
     This was a massive project.  Solomon hired 30,000 men to assist in the forests of Lebanon, 80,000 who quarried stone in the mountains, and 70,000 who carried the products from their origin to the temple site.  He had 3,300 men hires just to supervise the laborers.

  But, even more amazing is the temple that God created by creating mankind.  I Corinthians 3:16 (another 3:16!) states: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit if God dwelleth in you?" (KJV)
Even more than Solomon's temple is our body- our temple- a wonderful, beautiful, and detail-oriented creation.

Let us give thanks to The Creator.

Monday, December 27, 2010


          "The successors of Jehoiakim:  Jehoachin and Zedekiah."   (NIV)

   King Josiah, who can be read about in previous chapters, was one of the greatest kings of Judah. However, when his son Jehoiakim inherited the throne from his father, the son proved to be unfaithful in his kingly responsibilities.  He was, in fact, evil. I think it's a shame when it happens that a good man raises up a completely rotten descendant.  Did the success of king Josiah come at the cost of his family?  Did he ignore his sons in order to advance his career? Or did Josiah give too much materially,  thereby erasing ambition and discipline from his sons?  I don't know... just guessing.  We can inherit our parents' title, money, and property.  But we must develop our own character by making the right choices and by forming our own relationship with God.
       Well, anyhow, Jehoiakim's first son later inherited the throne, and he was even more evil than his father!  In reference to this, Jeremiah 22:24 reads: " 'As surely as I live,'  declares the Lord, 'even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.'"   In those days the king's signet ring was a VERY valuable object.  It was used to seal and authenticate all important documents. God was saying to Jehoaichin, "I have no use for you.  Even if you were one of my most valuable possessions, I'd rather throw you away than have you near me.  Because of the extent of your evil I am getting rid of you.  You are not salvageable."  Jehoaichin was exiled to Babylon at the end of his reign as king.

     Next in line for the throne was Jehoiakin's second son, Zedekiah.  There isn't a lot written about him;  he took over a king when his older brother was exiled to Babylon.  He was weak and easily tricked by false prophets and self-serving assistants.  He believed lies, but didn't believe the truth when he heard it.  He died before his exiled brother did.  He was the last of Israel's old testament kings from David's line.
     While it is sad that these kings were so vile,  it remains interesting that God used them in His master plan.
      I guess, that being the case, He can still use you and me...

Sunday, December 26, 2010


          And he said, "This is what the Lord says: 'Make the valley full of ditches... You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.'" (NIV)

  The book of II Kings was probably written by the prophet Jeremiah, although this is not known for certain.  It consists of history... the stories of the kings of Israel until Israel's defeat by Assyria.  Throughout these stories, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two areas - Israel and Judah - each with separate kings.  Unfortunately, the two groups didn't always get along with each other.  The stories in the book of II Kings are told chronologically; king-by-king.  Sadly, four out of five kings was evil... Not too surprising that the nation fell, is it?  (Sound familiar?)
Water flowing from a rock in the desert; unknown photographer
      The location of this three-sixteen is the desert of Edom.  The prophet Elisha is speaking,  giving a message from God to the kings of  Edom, Israel, and Judah.  Elisha's prophecy starts with the pronouncement that   despite their being in the Moab desert,  there would be water in the morning.  Prolific amounts of water. The prophecy goes on to say that against all odds the Lord will hand over Moab to Israel in battle.  Sure enough, God kept His promise, and the valley was flooded the next day despite the fact that it had not rained...
      The water played a large part in Israel winning the battle over Moab.  When the army of Moab saw the water, they saw a red reflection in it and thought it was blood.  They assumed that the kings of Israel, Judah and Edom had fought to the death, and that they were all slain in battle.  So they rode on their horses into the camps of the Israelites, where the Israelites fought them and won.

"Blood River",  from

  God keeps His promises.  In this story, Elisha's prophecy was fulfilled right down to the tiniest detail. That's the way it is when you listen and obey. (Yup; it's the pesky obedience word, again!)
     Elisha was the direct spiritual heir of Elijah.  Both prophets had deep compassion for the people, but their focus was different.  Elijah was a warrior who called down fire from heaven to destroy captains and armies.  Elisha, on the other hand, performed miracles to serve the common people, such as providing water in the desert.
      But, all miracles come from God.   Are you prepared for miracles in your life?
       They happen every day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I KINGS 3:16

                       "Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him."   (NIV)

     Well, now, you don't see THAT verse every day!  Let's see what we can find out about this story!

     The king mentioned in this verse is king Solomon, David's son.  God gave Solomon the gift of wisdom.
When two women came to him, they presented Solomon with a problem.  The first woman spoke: "Both of us live in the same house and we both had babies within three days of each other.  During the night this woman's baby died, so she got up and traded the babies while I was asleep.  When I woke up to nurse my son, I found the dead baby. But, when I looked at him closely, I could see that this was not the little boy I had given birth to."
     But, the second woman insisted, "No!  The dead child is hers and the living one is mine!"  The two women argues back and forth before the king.  Then Solomon said to the guards, "Bring me a sword."  They did so.  Then he gave the order: "Cut the baby in two and give half to one woman and half to the other."
          (Oh, my!  I remember hearing this Bible story when I was a child.  Being fairly sensitive and one with an active imagination, I always feared that the end of the story would change!  oh, no!  And something terrible would happen to the little baby!  Would they cut him up and down or at the waist? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!  And, I would be praying, "Please, oh, PLEASE, don't let them hurt the baby!"  But, I digress... let's get back to the story...)
     So, after the "solution" was offered - to give one-half of the child to each woman, the first woman (whose son it really was) said, "No, please my lord, don't kill him.  Give her the living baby instead."  But, the second woman said, "Neither I nor you shall have him.  Cut him in two."   Then king Solomon gave his ruling:  "Give the living baby to the first woman.   Do not kill him; she is his mother."
     King Solomon's wise decision spread throughout Israel and the people held their king's wisdom in awe.

     We all have wisdom available to us; it is a gift from God.  We only need to pray, listen, and apply God's word to our lives.

Friday, December 24, 2010


            " Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim.  Then Abner said to him, 'Go back home', so he went back."   (NIV)

     This quote is found right smack dab in the middle of a soap opera story!  And you thought that the soap opera was a modern-day invention...Didn't I tell you that the Bible has everything about everything?

the boy David, playing the harp for Saul...
the early years... artist, unknown


       The main character is David, the former shepherd boy, now a powerful politician who makes lots of mistakes in his personal life. (Imagine that!)  David is not yet king, but he is on his way...  Some years earlier David married king Saul's daughter, Michal, in an arranged marriage as a reward for David's bravery in battle. Then, as David's popularity increased, Saul's jealousy increased proportionately. So Saul took Michal away from David and forced her to marry Paltiel. (Ugh; I hate the way women were treated  and traded like possessions, but, that's another story...)
     David wanted Michal back.  The reasons why are uncertain.  He may have loved Michal, but later verses in II Samuel strongly hint that this was not the case.  David was preparing to negotiate for peace among the tribes of Israel;  having king Saul's daughter as his wife could strengthen his political appearance. Or, maybe it was just part of the ongoing power struggle between David and Saul...
     Meanwhile Michal's new husband, Paltiel, apparently truly loved her.  When  king Saul sent men to capture Michal and bring her back to him, Paltiel ran after her captors, weeping and pleading, until they threatened him and made him go back home. He followed all the way to Bahurim - a town midway between Jerusalem and Jericho.   Michal's captors were king Saul's sons.  They don't sound very royal to me;  no, they were rough and brutish.  What a cast we have for our soap opera!  Michal herself was quite a character.  At first she was quite smitten with David, but she didn't share David's love for God.  She mocked him and she grew to despise him.  She ended up barren and bitter.
     The book of II Samuel tells David's story.  His victories and defeats.  His strengths and weaknesses.  David governed the people using God's laws as his basis.  He was a man after God's  heart.  But he was human;  he sinned.  God forgave him, but David suffered the consequences of his sin... read II Samuel...
 you'll see....

      We can learn many lessons from David's story.  I have chosen three from our "soap opera":

     #1: No matter how popular, how powerful, or how courageous we have been, God is
           100% Holy and 100% moral;  He always rates sin as sin.
     #2:  Any personal greatness that we experience here on earth is a gift from God.  Give Him
            all the praise and glory.
     #3: Following God's plan is the best plan.  If we fail to apply God's principals in our lives,
           we will  and up making mistakes and we can expect to pay the consequences.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


          "But when Eli called him and said, 'Samuel, my son', Samuel answered, 'Here I am'."   (NIV)

Hannah bringing Samuel to Eli -  Artist George Tinswell
      Samuel was promised to the Lord by his mother before he was even born.  When he was weaned,  his mother brought him to the temple, where he was mentored by Eli, the high priest.  The young Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli.  Thus, from childhood he learned how to serve the Lord..  As was the custom, Samuel and Eli slept in small rooms outside the Holy Place.  In one room was Eli, and in another nearby room was Samuel, the apprentice to the priests.
     God needed to deliver an important message.  You or I would have probably chosen the priest to speak to, but God chose the child.  Eli was much older, but Samuel's faith was pure.  Eli possessed the title and social position, but Samuel had the willingness to say, "Here I am;  I am listening."
     Yes, Eli was a high priest.  But, he was also the father of two sons.  Two very immoral and blasphemous sons.  Eli's sons robbed and seduced people at the very entrance to the temple as they arrived to worship and to offer sacrifices for their sins.  When Eli was told of this matter, he spoke to his sons about it, but did not discipline them.  Furthermore, Eli failed to follow up on them and see if their behavior had changed.  It did not; they continued to blaspheme the temple and the Lord.  Eli put his sons' desires above the honor of God.  Thus, when God spoke to Samuel, the message was something like this:
     "I have warned Eli before that his sons have made themselves contemptible, but Eli failed to restrain them.  The guilt of Eli's house will never be forgotten by sacrifice or offering.."
Eli listening to Samuel  Artist: John Singleton Coply
          That morning when Samuel opened the doors of the house of the Lord, he was afraid to tell Eli what the fearful message was.  But Eli insisted, and Samuel finally told him in full.  Eli  realized his wrongdoing, and said, "He is the Lord; let Him do what is good in his eyes."  Eli had spent his entire life serving God, but he had neglected his family duties.  Now the :Lord planned to discipline Eli and his sons.  The fearful message  God gave to Samuel was that Eli and his sons would die... on the same day.
     At a later date Eli's two sons were killed in battle - on the same day, as foretold by Samuel in his vision.  When Eli was told of his sons' deaths, he fell backwards and broke his neck, further fulfilling the prophecy.  What an inglorious ending to a long career of service! Whatever Eli's intentions may have been at the beginning of his priesthood, his lasting reputation was that of one who ignored God's word.
      But Samuel grew in stature with the word of God.
      Sadly, we can probably all recall instances of clergy  within our lifetimes who have met inglorious ends to their careers as well.  It is always a grievous thing to have turned one's back on God after committing one's life to His service.

     Are you an Eli?  Or a Samuel?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RUTH 3:16

     "When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, 'How did it go, my daughter?'  Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her."   (NIV)

Ruth and Naomi, from "Women in the BIble", painter unknown 
    Love. Selfless love. The kind in which each party places the other ahead of self.  The kind we all wish we could be a part of.  Ruth and her mother-in-law had that type of love.  Ruth was from Moab, a territory which was well-known for idol worship.  But when Ruth married one of Nami's sons, Namoi taught her about God.  And Ruth became a faithful follower of God.
     The name "Ruth: means "lovely friend",  and the name "Naomi" means "pleasant".  But, as the story unfolds, both Ruth and Naomi are recently widowed and destitute.  Naomi has made plans to return to her hometown of Bethlehem;  she hopes that she will find a relative there who will take her in.  As a widow, this is her only hope of survival.  Unsure of what will happen in Bethlehem, Naomi encourages Ruth to stay put, remarry, and be secure.  But Ruth insists on going with Naomi to Bethlehem;  she can't allow her friend to go alone with no one to take care of her.  This was a true friendship between these women;  each was putting the other's needs first.
Ruth in the Fields, painter Merle Hughes

 When the two women arrive in Bethlehem, they start to glean grain from a field.  In those days, it was the law to leave the corners of one's field unharvested.  These corners could then be gleaned by widows, orphans, and foreigners - all of whom would starve otherwise.  The women were gleaning the field when Boaz, the owner of the field, arrived on the scene.  He instructed his men to give them extra grain and to be kind to them.  As it turns out, Boaz was related to Naomi's deceased husband, but Boaz showed kindness to the women before he knew this.
     The book of Ruth has only four chapters.  It's an easy read.  And it's sort of like a "Cinderella story". Ruth would be "Cinderella" and Boaz would be "Prince Charming".  Boaz, a wealthy man, showed kindness to both women upon their arrival in Bethlehem.  Eventually, Boaz married Ruth, and they took Naomi in and cared for her the rest of her life.  It is recorded in the Bible that throughout her days Ruth was known for her love and kindness toward others.  That sounds like "happily ever after" to me...
     But, then, the writer tacked on a little list of geneology at the end of Ruth's story. And, we find out from this list of who-begat-whom that Ruth was the great-grandmother of king David, which makes her a direct ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.  There are only four women listed in the geneology of Jesus Christ.  Ruth is one of them. So, from an "unimportant" widow from a pagan country... came a great woman of God.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


     "Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing."  (NIV)

     This  verse is at the very core of an odd little story; it's one of my favorite Bible stories because of its oddness...
         Eglon was a foreign king who reigned over the Israelites for 18 years during the period of the judges.  Allied with  the Ammorites and the Amalakites, Eglon invaded the land of Israel.  His army captured Jericho, and he enforced taxation upon the Israelites. After the 18 year reign, God raised up Ehud to deliver Israel.  Ehud stabbed Eglon with his foot-and-a-half dagger, and did not draw the sword back out. Now, king Eglon was very obese.  When the sword went in to him, his fat closed over it - even over the handle. ( I'm not sure why this detail was included in the scriptures, but it was.  My guess is that's why he didn't pull the sword back out...he couldn't!)
         Ehud, the hero of our story, was left-handed.   In those days left-handedness was a handicap and was considered  a curse.  Being left handed generally meant ostracism from society.  But, as often is the case, God took a weakness (or a perceived weakness) and turned it into a strength. How did Ehud manage to get past the king's guards?  They  "frisked"  him as usual to check for weapons... Ah, but Ehud taped his sword to his right thigh.  Had he been right-handed, the sword would have been taped to his left thigh and the guards would have found it! ( God thinks of everything, doesn't he?)
     In II Corinthians 12:7, the apostle Paul says that he was given a "thorn in the flesh".  Many have speculated on what Paul's "thorn" was;  but no one knows.  We all could probably name something about ourselves which holds us back and keeps us from doing our best.  We are all "handicapped".  Limited.  Mortal.  Some handicaps are obvious: blindness, paralysis, or a missing limb for example.  Others are much more insidious: self-doubt, low self-esteem, or lack of direction in life.  With any of these challenges it would be easy to give in to negative feelings such as bitterness, rebellion, or self-pity.  But it is much more productive to accept ourselves the way we are.
     Yes, Paul mentioned his thorn in the flesh, and he prayed that it be removed, which it never was.  BUT  HE  KEPT  ON  WITH  HIS  MISSION.  He looked past his problems.  Didn't let them hold him back. Paul never mentioned what his "thorn" was.  He wrote a lot about Christ's suffering, about the cross.  A lot about the burdens of his fellow Christians.  Not much at all about himself.  Think on that.
     The Bible truly has a bit of everything in it, doesn't it?  I've heard people say they get bored reading the Bible.  My reply, "Well, you ain't readin' the same BIble I'm readin'?"  Seriously, read the Bible prayerfully; ask the Holy Spirit to open up the scriptures to you.  Read it with the eye of a detective.  Read it as your life depends on it...
     So, in spite of shortcomings, both Ehud and the apostle Paul changed history.  With God, in spite of our limited selves, we  CAN  make a difference.  Whose life could you change if you were willing to give up your handicaps?

Monday, December 20, 2010


     "That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan; and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people passed over right against Jericho."  (KJV)

     DANGER: KEEP OUT: FLOODING!   If this event happened nowadays, surely some government agency would post a danger sign.  It was Springtime, and, as we read in the prior verse, " the Jordan overflows all his banks through all the time until harvest."   So, every year, from Spring through Autumn, the Jordan River was at flood stage.  Despite this, God gave specific instructions on what to do at the river;  he also gave His promise that He would be there... just as He had been with Moses...
the Jordan River
     Just as crossing the Red Sea with Moses to escape from Egypt was a milestone in the Israelite's history, so was the crossing of the Jordan River with Joshua to enter the promised land.  There are many similarities between the two events.  Both were God-directed.  And, both were God-delivered journeys.
     God gave specific instructions that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant go first and stand in the water. The preists, Joshua, and the people obeyed.  ( Oh, boy, there's that obedience thing again! Are you beginning to notice a trend here?)  The waters parted when the priests' feet hit the water. It actually piled up in "heaps".  (Gives new meaning to the term, "standing water", doesn't it?) The priests then took the ark to the center of the DRY riverbed, and all the Israelites followed, successfully crossing the Jordan River. 
     Now, we're not talking about a couple dozen people here... The army was forty thousand men, fully dressed for battle.  Add to that women and children,  the priests and Levites, and any foreigners who had elected to join the Israelites.... a very low estimate of the people crossing the river would be 100,000.  This was no small pathway!  No small miracle!
     Once all the people had crossed the riverbed, the priests with the ark came out.  Then the water returned and ran at flood stage as it had before the crossing.  Only God could make that journey possible.  All He asked for was faith and obedience.
     The Israelites had been trapped in terrible slavery and oppression in Egypt.  Although their situation was of their own doing, God, with His amazing love and mercy, provided them a way of escape.  Are you experiencing an "Egypt" of your own today?   People are slaves to schedules, the media, substances, possessions, emotions... Do you recognize the slavery in your life?  God can make your journey out of "Egypt" possible.  He will tell you how.  Be willing to listen.  And obey.
     And, if needed,  be prepared to get your feet wet.

priests carrying the ark, as the water parts...

Sunday, December 19, 2010


     "But to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory from Gilead down to the Arnon gorge and out to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites."

     Okay, this might sound like a boring verse. "So what if God gave certain territories to certain tribes?", we might ask.  Well, it was a little more involved than that. God promised the land to these people, but in order to possess the land, they had to battle the giants living in most of the territories. The Israelites were ordinary people - not particularly tall - not particularly short - average.   But the Bible describes the inhabitants of these lands as very powerful and tall.  Giants.  The Ammonites were descendants of the Rephaites - giants. 

     Ella Ewing was 8 feet 4 inches tall.  Photo courtesy of
     Imagine a giant 2 to 3 feet TALLER than her!   Intimidating, to say the least...

     Looking back just a few verses, Deuternomy 3:11 states that Og, King of Bashan was so big that his bed measured 13 feet tall and six feet wide!  Now, I', thinkin' that the Israelites were more than justified in being nervous about fighting a battle with these people...
     BUT, God said, "Do not be afraid; I will hand them over to you - the entire army and the land."  The Israelites obeyed God  (there's that pesky obedience word again!).  And, they won the battle.  Battles have a way of being won when the Lord is on your side.
     What if they had disobeyed? What if they had given in to fear?
     Are you, perhaps, missing a blessing because of fear?  Or are you missing God's best because you avoid conflicts on God's behalf?  How can you gather the spoils of war if you are unwilling to fight the battle?
     Enlarge your territory!  If life hands you illness or disability, allow the slowing of your physical self to create a richer spiritual self - the plunder of spiritual warfare could be a life you never knew was available.  For a financial setback,, allow God to do His mighty work in your life so that you can tell others of His power - the spoils of spiritual battle.  Surrender any small defeats in your life and He will make you a mighty warrior.
     What battle are you fighting today?  Are you trying to fight it alone?  God will help.  Ask Him to help and He will.  Even if your problem seems to be a giant.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


     " So Moses counted them as he was commanded by the word of God."   (NIV)

     Uh-oh... There's that pesky obedience thing again!  Moses was out in the desert with all God's people, and God spoke to him, giving Moses the order to count all the Levites  And Moses obeyed!   He could have said, "Well, I'll go and put together a committee, and we'll elect a chairman, and then we'll develop a form as to how to count the men, and then we'll vote on exactly what date we will start counting them..., etc."  Or, he could have asked, "Why me, Lord?"  Or, just, "WHY?"
     Backing up a bit in the story,  we find that Moses came down from the mountain only to find the Israelites worshipping a golden calf in place of God.  He had just left the Presence of Almighty God, only to enter into the vastly disappointing company of his own people.  How quickly they had gone away from the ways of God!  Now, before we start shaking our heads, we might want to examine ourselves a bit... If we looked at our own lives, we would probably see glimpses of the same behavior - on a frequent basis!  And that is why daily prayer and Bible study are essential - to keep us close to God.
     Anyhow,  still in the flashback,  Moses called out to the people, "Who is on the Lord's side?"  And, the tribe of Levi set itself apart from the other eleven tribes, proving  loyalty to God.  In return, God chose the Levites as His own.  The Levites were taken to the tabernacle and blessed by the priests.  They were then honored with lifetime careers maintaining the tabernacle.  They became gatekeepers, musicians, guardians of the sacred treasures. 
     It's interesting, isn't it, how things work out when we stand up for what we believe in?  It sets us apart.  It  probably will make us feel "not part of the crowd".  Are you willing to stand up and be counted when the question is asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" ?
     But, I digress.  Moses obeyed God, rather than asking, "WHY?".  Those "WHY" questions can be tough, can't they?  I'll bet God gets pretty tired of hearing them...
     I think that  bringing up children is in many ways similar to God's caring for humanity.  We want to teach our children right and wrong, what's best for them,  and we don't always know whether or not we get through to them.  Sometimes we don't realize until years later that a lesson either did or did not sink in...
     Oh,  the "WHY" questions....  When my daughter was about eight years old she constantly asked, "Why?" Not in an unpleasant or disrespectful way; but, rather, in an intelligent and curious manner.  Most of the time I was glad to answer in detail how our hearts pump blood to our bodies, why the sun sets in the evening, or, " Why aren't there red M&M's like there were when you were little, Mommy?"
     But, every now and then I would tire of it - especially when she questioned why she was to do her chores.  Once when I told her to set the table, she asked, "Why?"  Exasperated, I replied, "Melody, some day something  could happen to us where our lives could depend on you listening to me and obeying me. Now, I don't mind answering your questions, but maybe you need to stop questioning everything and start simply obeying the things I tell you to do." (Needless to say, the table got set!)
     Eight years later our house was broken into at about three in the morning.  I heard the noise of the back door being pryed open... and, somehow, I knew exactly what that noise was, even though (obviously) I'd never heard it before.  Then I heard the heavy footsteps of a person walking through the house... through the den, into the kitchen on into the dining room...  I crept through the bathroom that joined our bedrooms, and whispered, "Melody, give me your cordless phone,  get up,  and be ready to run out the door if I tell you to."  Without delay, she did exactly what I told her to do.  I called 911, and the police arrived within minutes.
The intruder got away, but we were safe.  When the police investigation was over, Melody said, "Well, Mommy, I did good, didn't I?  I didn't ask you why.  I just trusted you and did what you told me to do."
After all those years she remembered our conversation!
     I am certain that God must feel that same sense of love and relief when His people apply the scriptures to our lives.  He gave us His Word to protect us from harm.  But, we need to read,  memorize, and apply the scriptures to our lives for them to be of benefit.  "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee."  Psalm 119:11 KJV
     Oh, by the way, did you wonder how I knew what the noise was when the back door was pryed open?  I am certain that the Holy SPirit told me what the noise was and what actions to take that morning.... So, you see.  my daughter wasn't the only one who needed to listen and obey!

Friday, December 17, 2010


     "The priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering by fire, a pleasing aroma..."  (NIV)

My husband Moshe as High Priest (Cohen Gadol) at the altar
     This verse is in reference to making a peace offering, which is also known as a fellowship offering.  It was an expression of gratitude for one's relationship with God.  The priests tended the holy fire on the altar.  God had started the fire, but it had to be tended to keep burning. The continually burning fire symbolized God's eternal presence.
     Nowadays there is no Temple in Jerusalem, so there is no way to tend the holy fire on the altar.  Ah, but, the fire of God is present in believers today.  When the Holy Spirit enters our lives the fire is lit.  And, as in the days of the Temple,  God's intention is that the fire be eternal,  but it needs to be tended.  Tending the fire means communing with God; don't let the ashes of your life overcome the flame.  Tend the fire with prayer, repentance for sins, and caring for others in a Christlike way.  Do you and I qualify to tend the fire?  Well, do you know that YOU are a priest?  I Peter   2:5 states:  "Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."  (King James Version)
     Today the pleasing aroma to the Lord is the aroma of praise.  The songs of worship and thanksgiving.  The sweet incense of prayer without thought of self.  If you have never visited this altar,  God invites you to make a peace offering of your own.  Express your gratitude to Him for His willingness to share Himself with you. Enjoy the peace that only He can offer.
     " But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?"  (II Corinthians 2:14-16  NIV)
     THE  FIRE  IS  HERE.  You need only to ask for a spark.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


     "Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.' "   (NIV)

     In this verse Father God spoke to Moses.  The name of God was so revered that the people would not utter it.  To keep from breaking the commandment against taking the Lord's name in vain, the people called Him "Adonai" (LORD or "Abba" (Father).  Nowadays most Jews and many Messianic followers still avoid speaking or writing any of the commonly-used names for God.  Have you ever seen something written with "G-d" rather than "God"?  This is that writer's sign of respect for our Heavenly Father. I don't necessarily agree with doing this, but I appreciate others' sense of respect for the Holy Name.  The scriptures say that the true name of God - translated into English as YAHWEH - is unpronounceable, so my deduction is that writing God is not an offense to Him.
     Nevertheless, we should respect the Lord's name.  The ten commandments have not changed.  And, the way we use God's name reflects how we really feel about Him...
my miniature watercolor,  "Oasis in the Desert"
      In Exodus 3:16 God told Moses to assemble the people and give them His message. He still wants us to do that today;  He desires that we assemble and that we continue to speak His message.  One way to speak to others about God's goodness is to share what He has done in your life.  Have you ever done this?  Has anyone ever done this for you?
     God watched over the Israelites while they were captive in Egypt.  He promised to take them to a better place.  He kept His promises, too.  He still watches over us and He still keeps His promises.  Every single one. Are you in an Egypt?  A place of loss and helplessness?  God will take care of you.  He will deliver you from every hurt, every situation.  And,  He will take you to a much better place when the time is right.
     Are you ready for that day?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


     " To the woman He said, 'I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.' "  (NIV)

     Adam and Eve had sinned;  they had disobeyed.  They had not heeded God's warning that to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in death.  When faced with temptation each of them made the wrong decision.
     You see, God created us with the ability to make choices.  Otherwise we would be hollow and incomplete - not human.  We learn from making decisions, good and bad, throughout our lives. Disobedience (like eating the forbidden fruit)  is sin.  In fact, it's probably the most frequent sin of mankind.  Somehow, we are often willing to listen to voices other than  the Good Shepherd's, resulting in disobedience to God's word. Sigh.  But, when we recognize and confess our sins God is always there, willing to forgive us, restore our relationship with Him, and help us try not to make the same mistake again.
     Not only did Adam and Eve disobey God, they also tried to hide from Him.  I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking how silly they were to try to hide from God... After all, God knows and sees eveything, right?  Well, then, why do we today try to hide from God through the misuse of drugs, alcohol, materialism, or _____________________? (You fill in the blank.)
     When confronted by God no one in the Garden of Eden was willing to take responsibility for what happened.  Adam blamed Eve.  And Eve blamed the serpent.  Owning up to what we have done isn't usually easy, but it's the right thing to do.  God already knows; don't try to put the blame on someone else or on circumstances.  Confess your sins and ask Him for forgiveness.  Receive God's forgiveness.  Then, move on!
     Okay.  We can easily be forgiven, but sometimes there IS punishment for sin. There ARE consequences for our actions.  (Reminds me, somehow,  of Newton's  third law of motion:  "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.")  In reading through the remainder of the book of Genesis, we find many examples of life's poor choices and their resulting consequences.  Those stories are there for a purpose - to give us examples of what NOT to do, how NOT to act, what NOT to say...  As we read in the Bible, we might feel that some of the punishments seem a bit harsh.  But, we need to remember that God is Holy, totally Righteous,  a completely moral Being. We make our choices, and, if we choose sin, He chooses the consequences.  We don't necessarily understand because all we see is the life we are living.  But, He sees the larger picture called eternity.
     So... when you are tempted, if that little voice in the back of your mind says, "Don't do that",

"After The Fall"  My  watercolor collage of Eve and the serpent - after the sin of disobedience.
She doesn't look very happy, does she?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three Sixteen Thoughts

I painstakingly wrote the ten commandments in Hebrew within the Toral scroll of this watercolor;
 the background is my impression of God's shekinah glory.
        I first got the idea to write on this subject several years ago during a church service.  The pastor told us to open our Bibles to the third chapter of Malachi.  He then read verses sixteen and seventeen:   "Then they that feared the LORD spake often to one another; and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I take up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (KJV)  After reading those verses and hearing Pastor Donnie's inspiring sermon, I realized (as I hope you will) that God treaures each of us.  It amazes me that God would consider ME a treasure!
      Later in that same sermon, we turned to I John 3:16, as follows:  "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (KJV)
     And, then it hit me.  Not only had I received the intended lesson, I also experienced an additional message that morning in church.  I started thinking about the oft-quoted scripture, John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (KJV)
     At home that afternoon I wondered, "What if I look up all the 3:16 passages in the BIble? Would they all teach as profound a lesson?"  I didn't have time that afternoon to search my Bible.  But, as if in answer, the first scripture reference in the evening Bible study was II Timothy 3:16, which reads: "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." 
     So, I began my search.  The writings on this blog are the result. I will try to remember to include which Bible translation my quotes come from, as I will be using various translations from time to time.  My favorite translations are the King James and  David Stern's translation, The Complete Jewish Bible.  Regardless of the translation I'm reading,  I like to look up the original words in Hebrew or Greek and find the deepest, truest meaning I can possibly discover.  I really don't want this blog to be overly studious.  I'm hoping it will be an enjoyable read for the learned and the unlearned, the saved and the lost,  young and old... anyone who is trying to better understand The Word.
     Each post on this blog will be about one 3:16.  Hmmmm... maybe I should start with Genesis?