What Grace Communicates…

My 21-year-old daughter had to write an essay for one of her classes.  It is so beautifully written (and no that isn’t mom bias!!) that I thought I would share it with all of you.  Enjoy!

THE RADICAL LOVE OF JESUS – WHAT GRACE COMMUNICATES

The most significant transforming truth I’ve come to understand this past year and a half has been the radical love of God. It’s a simple reality that I’ve claimed to know and encounter and yet something I’ve realized is that I knew absolutely nothing about the radical love of our Jesus. We often take the spotlight off of how radical it is and make it about ourselves. We make it about our sin, and our separation, and our need for a bridge back to God. But the crushing reality the Holy Spirit brought me to is that the cross was never about my lack or separation. It was always about a bold display of love. A love that cries out “YES!” to His people, “THIS IS WHO YOU ARE TO ME. THIS IS WHO YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN.” Never once was it about a wrath with which I have been taught that my God was bubbling. 

As long as I can remember, I saw the cross as a place where God poured out His judgment, His anger. But how can my God be both consumed by love and also wrath? The two oppose entirely one another! I have been taught that sin was so offensive to this holy, all-powerful God that He could not enter or be near it. How ridiculous is that? How can an all-powerful, strong God not be near something as little as my sin- when Romans describes sin as just ‘missing the mark’! How can such a loving God be offended by my merely missing the mark? That sounds like a sensitive man, a man who isn’t strong at all. I’ve come to learn that isn’t God whatsoever. My earthly father is never offended when I miss it! He embraces me even more, pouring the truth of who I actually am into me. I can’t imagine how much more my heavenly Father does that to me! Not only is He not offended by sin, but I also go as far as to say that He doesn’t even care about it. And I say that because the truth is: He cares about our hearts. The law, the cross- it was all to point out that our hearts were far from Him after the garden, but His was never far from us.

The garden has become one of my favorite stories. Holy Spirit has completely shifted my view of it! I had been so used to hearing an angry God call out to Adam after he had ‘sinned,’ “WHERE ARE YOU?!” When what happened was Adam hid, and a loving, tender Father cried out, “My son? Where have you gone? You are far from me!” All Adam did was miss the mark of his original design! In my relearning of this story, I found the word ‘sin’ isn’t even in it. The word used in the garden story is ‘disobeyed’ which is the word shemah in Hebrew. It’s ‘to listen.’ Nowhere in this story is God angry towards any ‘sin.’ In fact, He is overwhelmed by a passionate, zealous love that says, “I WILL NOT LOSE YOU TO YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU FAILED TO LISTEN.” The Father never separated Himself from humanity out of anger or disgust toward his son’s now presumed ‘unholiness.’ God sought humanity out! God went looking for Adam because the view of the son had not changed. What changed was our view of the Father. Here is where we see a passionate love story unfold.

When I came to these conclusions, my theology as a whole was on tilt. How then did the law, the wild stories from the Old Testament fit in with all this??? For if my God is the ‘same yesterday, today and forever,’ how could He be angry in the beginning stories of the Bible and pure love after a day of judgment toward His son? He couldn’t. So I had to go searching out what wrath and anger meant because those are words used in scripture! Here began my journey of grace- my journey of actually understanding the radical love of Jesus.

As I was reading up on this, seeking out, essentially, who God is- I discovered the meaning behind the word ‘wrath.’ I found the word used most often in the New Testament is the word orge, which means, ‘any strong passion.’ It’s the origin of the English words, ‘orgy’ and ‘orgasm.’ I would say those are definitely not words having to do with anger! I would even say the latter has to do with a response of overflowing love towards another person! I read a book by a man named Steve McVey called Beyond an Angry God. In his book, he describes ‘wrath’ like this: 

‘If a small child picked up a snake and his dad ran toward him screaming, grabbed him up and was slapping his hand, the child would perceive it as anger but in actuality, what he would be experiencing would be “fierce love.”‘

I discovered that the word wrath or orge is a violent love towards anything that harms us- such as sin and death. I called my mom, absolutely undone by everything I was learning. I felt as though I had no idea what the actual purpose of the life of Christ was until this very moment. She shared with me that the root word of orge is orego. It means ‘to stretch oneself out to touch or grasp something.’ This is what Jesus did toward us! The radical love of Jesus stretched Himself out (on the cross) to grasp us! Another meaning of orego is, “to yearn after, to desire, to stretch toward (to pull towards). “The Father in His love for us, desired us and stretched toward us (through Jesus), pulling us to Himself.”

Writing all of this has me wholly undone yet again. I find myself in tears as the reality of the garden married to the reality of the cross comes to settle within my heart. I have come to know the heart of the radical love of Jesus. It’s Hebrews 12:9, “His jealousy over us burns like fire.” It’s Hebrews 2:6, “Somewhere in the scriptures it is written, “What is it about the human species that God cannot get them out of his mind? What does he see in the son of man, that so captivates his gaze?” It’s God leaving the garden with Adam. It’s the radical, “YES! YOU ARE MINE!” of the cross! It’s the law fulfilling the emptiness within itself- crying out for an example of how to actually reach God and thus leading us to the realization we never lost the relationship with Him! 

This long journey has offended my mind and my theology. This truth has unraveled me completely! I feel like Paul, “Overwhelmed by what grace communicates, I bow my knees in awe before the Father.” (Eph. 3:14 Mirror Bible) My heart cry is now, “The secret is out! His cherished love dream now unfolds in front of our very eyes.” (Eph. 1:9 Mirror Bible) Grace communicates my origin. Grace communicates that I am the very dream of the Creator. Grace communicates I never lost right standing with God. Grace is not an excuse for me to do as I please but causes my heart to shemah- to listen and respond to all He is and says. This is grace. This is the radical love of Jesus.

God’s great mercy………

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.  ~  Genesis 1:27

made in his image

That has become one of my favorite verses lately.  It’s our blueprint… our original design.  No matter what mankind may look like on the outside, no matter what sins we may commit, this is truly who we were created to be and how God sees us – because He always sees us according to our potential in Him not as we are at the moment.

The very first man walked in that design, and all mankind afterward were supposed to walk in the same pattern.  But although Adam was created in that design and walked in it for at least a few days, he sinned and introduced sin and consequently death into ALL the world.

SIN DIDN’T MAKE US SINNERS

All men born after him forgot they were born in God’s likeness and image. Adam gave birth to Seth and in the verse the order is reversed… instead of image and likeness it says likeness and image. I believe that reveals man’s distorted view of who they were.  Genesis 5:3 “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”  Sin had been introduced into the world through Adam’s disobedience. 

Sin in the Greek is hamartia and means to miss the mark.  To sin is to behave out of tune with God’s original harmony.  It is to believe a lie about ourselves.  It is to miss out on sonship.  Sonship is our blueprint… our true, original, chosen design.  Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”

God’s timing was absolutely perfect.

He always had a plan to redeem us.  He had found us in Christ before He lost us in Adam!  Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”  He always loved us too much to leave us in such a wretched state…. God never abandoned His creation!  Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s great mercy is FAR reaching and ALL encompassing.  Just as it took Adam’s one act of sin to condemn ALL of mankind, it only took Jesus’ one act of righteousness to completely declare ALL mankind innocent.  Romans 5:18  “So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life.”  Freely acquitted in the sight of God.

Through Adam, we were ALL were condemned and death reigned in BUT through Jesus, we are ALL declared righteous and life reigns in us.

Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciled us back to God (2 Cor 5:19) and to our original design of sonship.  The sin nature has been completely removed and we received a new heart.. a new spirit… His Spirit.  Ezekiel 36:26-27A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”   

Jesus defeated sin and death ONCE and for ALL.

God did not love us more once we were reconciled.  Reconciliation simply made us free to realize how much He has always loved us and free to enjoy our redeemed original identity — made in His image and in His likeness.  To see ourselves as He sees us — IN CHRIST.  Free to enjoy sonship and all of it’s joys and privileges.  And not just to see ourselves in this new light, but our old ways of seeing others is over as well (2 Cor 5:16).  We are now to see everyone through the eyes of our Redeemer.

He has made us ambassadors or ministers of His reconciliation with the world.  Our lives are now to exhibit the urgency of God to persuade everyone to be reconciled to God — because Jesus took their life to the Cross in exchange for His resurrected life in them.  He did a finished, completed work on the Cross for ALL mankind.

The language of the Old Covenant… of the old written code was “Do in order to become”.  The language of the New Covenant is “Be, because of what has been done.”  It’s simply a matter of saying yes to God through faith in the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s simply a matter of the lost awakening to their righteousness… of seeing themselves as God already sees them…. IN CHRIST.  So that then they will be able to say “I once was blind, but now I see.”

God’s great mercy for mankind is seen in the riches of His goodness toward us and His absolute passionate refusal to let us go.  His Covenant love for us is because He continues to hear the echo of His image and His likeness in us.

I love the Mirror Translation of Romans 3:23-26:

Humanity is in the same boat; their distorted behavior is proof of a lost blueprint. (24) Jesus Christ is proof of God’s grace gift;  He redeemed the glory of God in human life; mankind condemned is now mankind justified!  (25) Jesus exhibits God’s mercy.  In His blood conciliation, God’s faith persuades mankind of His righteousness and the fact that He has brought closure to the historic record of their sins (not by demanding a sacrifice but providing the sacrifice of Himself).  Jesus is the unveiling of the Father’s heart toward us.  (26) All along God refused to let go of mankind.  At this very moment, God’s act of righteousness is pointing them to the evidence of their innocence, with Jesus as the source of their faith.

It is the revelation of God’s goodness that leads men to repentance, not our repentance that leads to God’s goodness.

~ Robin

Hebrew month of Tevet 5777 (2016)

god_is_good     Today we enter into the Hebrew month Tevet.  Tevet is the 10th month of the year on the Hebrew Biblical calendar.  10 is a number of divine order … 10 is also 5 + 5… five being the number of grace or in this case, a double grace…. multiplied grace… abundant grace… dare I say it?… hyper grace!  😮

Tevet is a month full of the goodness of God.  The first two letters in the word Tevet is tet and vav.  Tet and vav make up the word “tov” which means good.  The first time the letter “tet” is used in Scripture is Genesis 1:4 …. and God saw that it was good.  The final letter in Tevet is also “tet”…. so the whole word Tevet from beginning to end is a word full of God’s goodness.   A month beginning with goodness and ending with goodness.  

I’m a lover of all things good.  I’m an incurable optimist.  I like looking for redemption and goodness….in people and all things in general.  I do believe it’s a gift from God… I’ve always been like that.  My mom nicknamed me Pollyanna Sunshine when I was little because of this abundance of optimism and hope.  Though, these past couple of years, there have been a lot of personal challenges that would try to produce a critical spirit instead of seeing the good.

Sometimes it is going to require more effort than usual to find the good in something…. thank God for His grace to help in those times.  Especially today when we are inundated with bad news from the media, bad attitudes from people, etc.  It’s a choice we have to make.  And when we make the choice, God will be faithful to open our eyes to see something good… even if it’s just hidden potential…or buried treasure in someone.  Then we get the privilege and joy of co-laboring with Him to pull out that potential and treasure in those around us.  

If I want to be like my heavenly Father then I need to make that choice to look for the good in everything around me daily.  Because He is good… ALL THE TIME!  In fact, good isn’t just a description of Him… it’s who He is.  1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  Good in this Scripture is called an absolute noun, meaning it follows another noun forming a single idea. “Good” and God are one single thought. There is no “good” separated from God and then associated with Him. “Good” and God are the same thing (see my blog post on Goodness and Goodness and Grace)

I’ve been teaching weekly Bible studies this past year and I’m always amazed when I teach on the goodness of God, how some people will adamantly argue against it.  They prefer to see God as judgmental, harsh, punishing and while they’ll see Him as sometimes good it’s based on only if they’ve done something to deserve it.  Sadly, their interpretation of Scripture is in light of that perception of God…. and their representation of Jesus and of the Father is also through that perception.

There is nothing I can ever do to deserve His goodness.  He is not good to me because I’m being good and “obeying” His Word (for a definition on obeying see my blog post on No Hebrew word for obey).  Goodness just overflows out of Him in my life because it’s who He is.  He can’t help Himself.  He’s not angry with us… He’s not angry with the sinner who is unsaved either.  That’s the good news of the Gospel.  Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, the punishment we deserved for sin, and He reconciled us to God.

Then He made us ambassadors of that reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20).  It’s going to be hard to be an effective ambassador for Christ if we fail to see the goodness of God in the land of the living (Ps 27:13).  2 Cor 5:19 says “He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” We have been anointed to preach the good news just like Jesus (see my blog post on Jesus is our JubileeThe widow of Sidon and one of my favorites Naaman the Syrian).  No one wants to be reconciled to an angry, harsh, God who is only going to breathe down our necks and punish us every time we slip up….. that’s not the good news of the Gospel.  

This month of Tevet, I encourage you to dig deeper into the Word and find out about the goodness of God… to quote Bill Johnson, “He’s better than you think”.  We have a responsibility to re-present Him correctly.  The more we begin to see Him as good in the Word, the more we will begin to see the goodness in the people around us and in this beautiful world of ours.

Then our co-laboring will be a joy to us and we will become true ambassadors of Christ…. running after ALL people, begging them to be reconciled to God because He is GOOD and wants to overflow that goodness into their lives.  

~ Robin

Inked for Jesus….

This weekend I attended a prophetic training conference.  I love these particular classes because they stretch me out of my comfort zones and teaches me new ways to hear from God and to minister to people.  These classes also remind me how easy the prophetic is when we trust God to speak to us and then through us to others.  Just simply saying what we hear the Father saying.

At the end of the conference I glanced over and noticed a woman’s tattoo, it was a flower and 2 letters in the middle of the flower on her wrist, and I “saw” a Hebrew word on it.  When I looked a second time I noticed it wasn’t a Hebrew word at all but I knew what God had shown me was the Hebrew word “bo” in the middle of the flower.  I’ve had that happen before where I see words that aren’t there… it was God was showing me what was going on behind the scenes of a situation.  Giving me insight.

I walked over to the woman and asked her what the tattoo was.  She got a bit embarrassed and said it was a tattoo she got before she was saved.  I asked her what the letters in the middle were and she said it was the Hindu word “ohm”.  She went on to tell me how much she dislikes the tattoo and you could tell from her expression and the fact that she pulled her arm from me to hide it, that it caused her great shame.  While it may at one time have represented who she thought she was, it now no longer defined her.

I apologized for making her feel uncomfortable and then proceeded to tell her about the word I saw in the flower.  Honestly, I am probably the least likely candidate to prophesy over a tattoo.  I don’t even like tattoos!!  LOL!  I love that about God though…. if we stay compassionate towards people, and if we seek after His heartbeat and desire to release His love and who He is, then we make ourselves available to Him in EVERYTHING.  I love co-laboring with Him.

God is not for or against tattoos.  He is for people… ALL people…. believers and unbelievers (or as I now like to say “pre-believers”.)  And He is against bondage…..He’s against the devil and how he tries to enslave people in condemnation and guilt over things we did before (and sometimes after) we knew Jesus.

Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago and purchased our freedom.  We have been set free from the condemnation and guilt of sins, choices, mistakes, etc. of our past.  He forgave us completely… of ALL past, present and future sins.   This tattoo was causing guilt and shame to this woman… this daughter of God that Jesus had completely set free. 

The word “ohm” has a meaning in Hindu.  It means an eternal sound, the seed of creation, the sound of creation, truth, the name of Divinity, the origin of the universe.  It also means the place from where everything has come, in what everything dwells, and into what everything will dissolve into.  Wow!  What a lie from the pit!!  What a bondage from the devil!

No wonder God zeroed in on this particular tattoo.  There were several tattoos in the room and no one was going around prophesying over tattoos… it wasn’t part of the class info.  God was just focused on this one.  Contrary to religious thinking, He wasn’t angry about the tattoo… He didn’t see it as wicked, evil, or wrong… He didn’t even tell her to get rid of her tattoo…God simply renamed her tattoo.  What a beautiful expression of His redemptive power!  He is a good Father and He cares about what we care about.  His love envelops and consumes every area of our lives.

Words are powerful and carry the power of life and death.  I believe He simply didn’t want the “power” of this Hindi word speaking to her mind and thoughts any longer.  So he chose a simple Hebrew word “bo” to redeem this marking.

Bo in the Hebrew is a command meaning to come.  The verb “come” means, to move from a far position to a position nearby.   The King left His throne (a far place) to earth to redeem us back to the Father. We who were once far from Him came to Jesus when the Father drew us.  And then He came and made His dwelling place our hearts.  Now we are one with Him.  He told us to come to Him and He would give us rest.  His yoke is easy and never burdensome or heavy.  

This word that He chose for her tattoo speaks of her oneness in Him and about the freedom, He purchased for her.

She was so thrilled that God would do that and she lovingly put her hand on the tattoo, the one that she had just a few minutes before tried to hide, and she said: “this is my bo tattoo.”  Oh, Abba Father You continue to astound me!!  You are truly the God of restoration…. of ALL things.  

He can even turn tattoos that exalt a false god into ink for Jesus.

~ Robin

Hebrew month of Elul…… the King is in the field

king is in the field    We are currently in the month of Elul on the Hebrew Calendar.  My favorite thing about this month is that it is known as the month the king is in the field.  In the Bible, the king would leave his palace during the month of Elul and set up camp in the field and everyone was welcome to approach him.

Most of the year the king lived in a palace protected by guards and iron gates.   To have an audience with the king, you had to be summoned.  Should you approach without being summoned, you would die (Esther 4:11)… unless he extended the golden scepter to you and spared your life.  After the summons, there was palace protocol to learn before you could approach a king.  You had to dress correctly, speak correctly, and have proper mannerisms, your presentation had to be flawless.  Once you got to the capital, you were ushered to the palace through the many intimidating gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room.  Even the Queen of Sheba passed out when she came before King Solomon!  

BUT….once a year in the month of Elul, the king would come into the field.

He would leave his palace and go out among his people.  He would set up his royal tent in the field near a town and all who wanted to see him were welcome.  

The announcement was made, The King is In the Field.

They were all welcome to come just as they were… no dress code, no protocol, no intimidation.  The king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance, desiring to hear their concerns.  The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace. 

Let’s look at a couple of Biblical examples of kings in the field.  2 Chronicles 19 is about king Jehoshaphat going into the field. Verse 4 says “So Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem and went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers.”  The king went into the field to turn the people’s hearts back to the Lord — restoration.  When he went out among the people he saw things God didn’t like…. injustice, bribery, and oppression.  So, he established judges to end oppression and bring justice. — God wants his people to experience His character.  He wants to manifest His Justice, His righteousness and His love — this wasn’t being seen among the people.

Another king who went out into the field is Melchizadek in Genesis 14.  Melchizadek gave Abram bread and wine and blessed him saying:  “Blessed is Abram by God and Blessed is God who delivered your enemies into your hand.”  When Abram was weary from battle, king Melchizadek came into the field to strengthen and refresh him.  He blessed Abram.

Of course, the greatest King who left His throne to come into the field was Jesus.  He lived in our field in a tent of mortal flesh.  He was God made accessible, smiling and radiant.  He came to manifest God’s goodness, love and righteousness… to heal and deliver ALL.  He came to draw us into a relationship with the Father.  That’s what it looks like when the king is in the field.  

He is the King of kings.  Revelation 1:6 says He made us kings and priests.  We are in the field.  What should that look like?  We should be walking among the people, receiving them with a smiling face, listening to their concerns and like Jehoshopat reconciling them back to God by manifesting His righteousness and love towards them….. 

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God.  ~  2 Cor 5:20

Like Melchizadek, strengthening and refreshing them…letting them know they have been blessed by God. Offering them the bread and the wine… offering them Jesus and what He did for them through the Cross.

And like our King Jesus showing forth the nature of our Father… His goodness, love, righteousness.  His ability to heal and deliver ALL.  Drawing them into a relationship with a Good Daddy.   Not just in the month of Elul but all the time.

~ Robin

Enemy of Israel…. healed!

naaman the syrian   And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath   ~ Luke 4:27-28

I started this blog post 2 weeks ago but a death in my immediate family forced me to put my study on hold.  Now that life has resumed back to normal, I’m excited to start blogging once again.  

We had been talking about Jesus’ teaching of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the past two blogs (see Jesus is our Jubilee and The widow of Sidon) and the people of Nazareth’s response to His teaching.  He was revealing to them that He had come to be a light and a blessing… to show forth His salvation… to the Gentiles (unbelievers) as well as the Jews.  

He was reminding them of their covenant responsibility to co-labor with Him in being a blessing to ALL the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3)…. He had blessed them to be a blessing… and to release that blessing to ALL we come in contact with.  

This example that He gave was unthinkable to their natural reasonings!  The widow represented Gentile sinners which was bad enough….. BUT Naaman represents much more than that… he was the captain of the Syrian army… the Syrians oppressed Israel.  They were enemies of Israel.  Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus.  

Surely Jesus wasn’t asking them to be a light and a blessing to their oppressive enemies, was He?  

Remember, God’s heartbeat is for the nations.  He was so intent on showing the Israelites His love and compassion for ALL people, and that ALL people can have faith in God, that He chose one of the most hated men in Israel at that time to prove it.  God in His mercy pursued Naaman…. there were MANY lepers in Israel but none of them were healed except Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:27)  

The Syrians were always terrorizing and attacking Israel and then taking prisoners back to Syria… and on one of these raids, Namaan carried off a little girl from Israel and made her his wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:2).  

2 Kings chapter 5 opens with the Lord allowing Syria to win a battle, although we don’t know who the other side is.  The Bible also tells us that Naaman was mighty, honorable to his King (King Aram) and strong in battle.  But his military strength and glory were marred by an incurable disease of leprosy.    

This little girl that he kidnapped tells Namaan’s wife about the prophet Elisha and that Naaman could be healed if only he were with him.  

I love the little girl in this story… she is definitely a co-laborer with God…a minister of reconciliation.  She is extending the light and the blessing to the one who took her captive.  She has complete faith that if Naaman were to see Elisha he would be healed!  She had faith in her God that He is not only able to heal but is also willing to heal…. even an enemy of Israel!

While this story in Luke 4 is a rebuke to the people listening to Him that they are neglecting their covenant role of being blessed to be a blessing to ALL the people of the earththankfully, however God doesn’t just rebuke us and leave in our neglectful condition.  It is also an invitation to be His ambassadors of unconditional love… God’s love that He poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5) … to even our enemies… those who oppose us… oppress us… or even enslave us (as Namaan did to this girl).  

Namaan goes to see Elisha.  An enemy of God, one who has attacked, killed, plundered Israel, one who has leprosy… an outcast of outcasts is standing at the door of the man of God hoping to be healed.  He comes carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing and with his horse and chariot and wealth.  What a sight Namaan was… power, prestige, a commanding presence.    He had yet to acknowledge with the psalmist that “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7).  

But rather than respond to such pomp and circumstance as Namaan was undoubtedly used to people doing…. rather than come personally, Elisha sends a messenger to him telling him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan River and he will be made clean.  God alone would get the glory for healing Namaan… not Elisha… because Namaan was expecting Elisha, the prophet of God, to heal him… he didn’t even know the God of Israel yet.  His trust was in a man whom he assumed had “magical” powers.  

Naaman comes from a pagan country, where his “prophets” made quite a spectacle when they healed the sick. According to the Bible Commentaries, they raised their hands in the air and shouted for the sick to be healed.  

But God was after Naaman’s heart not just in healing his physical body… He was pursuing Namaan in love!   

However, Naaman almost misses his miracle healing because of pride and self-importance.  The first words out of his mouth were “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.  He went away more than just mad… the word used means wrath, rage, full of poison and venom.  

Naaman thought!  He had a preconceived idea of how he thought his healing would come about.  

How many times have we missed or almost missed our miracle because we thought God would do something the way we preconceived it?  We had it all figured out in our minds!  Thank God He is not bound to the limitations of our preconceived ideas or the boundaries of our thinking!!  

Let’s let go of our limited expectations and have faith in the God of Israel and His limitless way of manifesting miracles in our life.

Naaman thought the resources he trusted in were better than what God was providing.  He said the rivers in Damascus are better than Israel…. they are tov.  Tov in Hebrew is good… to be in proper working order, the way it was meant to… the way God created it to work.  Naaman’s pagan ways were far from tov!  He lived in a culture that didn’t function the way God created us to live.  We were created to love Him… not to serve false gods. 

He was asked to do nothing less than to betray the faith of his fathers. He was being asked to be willing to acknowledge that there was a possibility that Israel’s God could do something the Syrian god was unable to do. Naaman would have to let go of everything he trusted in and trust God for his healing.  The Jordan means to descend… Namaan would have to humble himself… to descend… to lower himself in order to be made clean.  

And this was exactly what Jesus was saying to the people in the synagogue listening to Him that day… if they wanted salvation, they were going to have to let go of everything they trusted in… their adherence to the law…their good works…. and admit they were the poor, the blind, the oppressed, unclean.. that they were no different from Namaan.. or for that matter their Roman oppressors…in need of a Savior.    Instead of responding to the rebuke and the invitation to release His goodness and His presence… His salvation…. to the Gentiles (the unbelievers), they responded with offense.  

So, after being encouraged by his servant to do what was asked of him, he steps out in faith and humbles himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan 7 times.  Naaman experienced the overwhelming power, presence, and mercy of Israel’s God and his whole attitude changed.  Naaman had a whole-hearted transformation: “Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’”  

When Naaman goes back to Elisha’s house – he’s a changed man! There is no mention of horses and chariots this time as he returns to Elisha.  And he doesn’t just declare the goodness of God but that God is the only God in the entire world.  This is a radical statement for a man of his time, living in a polytheistic society.

Naaman’s God is now the God of Israel and he declares he will only make sacrifices and offerings to God. Before he didn’t want to wash in the Jordan River, because the waters of Damascus, were better than any of the waters of Israel, and now he wants to take dirt from Israel (v 17).

The Bible Commentaries say: he wants to take dirt because God’s presence was in Israel.  His solution to worshiping in Syria was to take Israeli dirt with him.  He asks God to forgive him when he has to bow to other “gods” because of his obligation to the king. This gentile, knows it’s a sin to bow down to any other “god” that isn’t the God of Israel.  Elisha blesses him and tells him to go in peace.  

In Luke 4:27 Jesus says there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”  

God’s heart is for the Nations…. Naaman was a changed man… a redeemed man all because of one little Jewish girl who had compassion on him… her oppressor.  

~ Robin

The widow of Sidon

 

pot of oil     “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Luke 4:25-26

Yesterday my blog post was on Luke 4:16-30… Jesus is our Jubilee.   When He begins talking to them in verses 23-27, He was addressing their neglect of being a people of The Blessing….Gen 12:3 “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth”  

It’s important when we read Scripture that we really read it with the heartbeat of our Father.… a heart that beats with restoration and love.  

In Luke 4 the people expected God to judge their enemies… to have vengeance on them.

Truth be told, sometimes we all feel that way…. so angry with someone or tired of their treatment of us that we cry out like David “slay the wicked Lord!” or like the disciples “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”.  We tend to like Scriptures like the one in Romans 12:19 that says “Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay”…. of course the next part of that Scripture is if your enemy is hungry, feed him and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.

And Jesus rebuked His disciples telling them they didn’t know what kind of spirit they belong to because He didn’t come to destroy men’s lives but to save them….. sozo – to heal, deliver, rescue, make whole… nothing missing, nothing broken in their lives.  Remembering Romans 5:10 that we were once enemies of God and yet Jesus laid down His life for us.  Our hearts need to beat for our enemies the way God’s does… with love, restoration, being ministers of reconciliation.  Overcoming evil with love – not judgement.

God’s heart has always been for ALL people, every nation… Jews (believers) AND Gentiles (unbelievers).  Rahab, Ruth and the people of Ninevah are examples of God’s saving grace in the Old Testament.  Psalm 2:8 says ask of Me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance.

In Luke chapter 4 Jesus was giving them examples of the Gentiles that Elijah and Elisha had done miracles among… and this widow woman in 1 King 17:8-16 is one of them.  We don’t know the widow’s name, but we know where she is from, her circumstances and the circumstances of the nation at that time.

The land was in a middle of a drought and the brook that Elijah was at was dry. The drought had been for 3.5 years.. meaning the people of Israel could not grow crops and in turn they could not feed and take care of their own widows.

The verses before that tell us that Ahab was Israel’s king and he had married Jezebel.  And then Ahab built altars and groves for her god Baal.  And in doing so he angered God more than any of the Israelite kings before him.  And during this time Ahab commissioned the rebuilding of Jericho through Hiel, the Bethelite…. although God had ordered through Joshua that it never be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26).

This is where the widow resided… a place that was full of idolatry and rebellion… and yet it was just the place where God was going to pour out His grace and extend His love to this Gentile woman.  Luke 4:26 says there were many widows in Israel at the time but Elijah was sent to none of them…. he was sent to this widow only.. a Gentile widow.  God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there because He has commanded a widow there to supply him with food.

God chose her… she didn’t choose Him (John 15:16).  She had no idea that God had commanded her to feed Elijah.  Ephesians 2:8-10 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.  God prepared her good works in advance… long before she had the opportunity to do them.

Even though there were 7000 in Israel who were still faithful to the Lord… and many would’ve considered it a great honor to help Elijah.  Instead God chose a widow in Zaraphath… a foreigner outside of Israel’s borders.  God chose a Gentile to take care of Elijah…. she didn’t have the priviledges that Paul talked about in Romans 9:4-5….. the people of Israel, chosen to be adopted to sonship, God revealed his glory to them, He made covenants with them and gave them his law, He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned.   Not only did she not have that great heritage…. she had a distinctly ignoble one.

But she did have one thing going for her… in 1 Kings 17:12 she acknowledges the “Lord, God of Israel lives”.  She is a pagan Gentile widow in the midst of a pagan godless area but acknowledges the true and living God. And then she did what the prophet… the man of God asked her to do.  She added faith to her acknowledgement. She believed the word of the prophet and gave ALL that she had. She gave everything… the last little bit to God.   God also later raises this woman’s child back to life.  Faith pleases God.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.. healing, deliverance, rescue, making whole… to ALL who believe (Romans 1:16).

Next blog post we’ll look at Jesus’ other example, Naaman the Syrian…..

~ Robin

Jesus is our Jubilee

Jubilee 1

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  ~Luke 4:18-19

2016 is a Jubilee year (see post-2016 year of God’s manifested goodness).  In Leviticus 25, Jubilee has promises attached to it….

  • Liberty for the captives
  • restoration of family, land, and possessions
  • increase from your field
  • freedom from oppression 
  • safety
  • triple blessings…. blessings upon blessings!   

In Luke 4,  Jesus goes into the synagogue… which was his custom… to read and teach the Word.  The Word was teaching the Word!  This time He went to the synagogue in Nazareth, His home town.   Jesus had just begun His ministry and was becoming pretty well known for all of the signs, wonders, and miracles that He was doing in Capernaum and the rest of the Galilee of the Gentiles.

The synagogue was an intimate place that allowed the Jewish people to gather in a less formal setting than the Temple itself. There were no high priests, no Levites, nor any standard liturgy.  Anyone was allowed to get up and read from the sacred scrolls.  The reader stood and the rabbi sat. They stood up to read the Torah, and they sat down to teach to Torah (Matthew 5:1-2:; Luke 5:3; Matthew 26:55; Luke 10:39;)  In ancient times sitting was the posture of authority.   Here, after reading the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2,  Jesus assumed the position of a rabbi….sitting while teaching.

The rabbis taught that these two verses were a Messianic prophecy…. and everyone in that synagogue knew the acceptable year of the Lord was the great Jubilee of Leviticus 25.  Jubilee was always a symbol of salvation.. this was the hope of Israel… that there would come a final Jubilee.  When the Messiah would arrive and all the promises to Abraham and David would be fulfilled.  They knew this passage in Isaiah well… it was their hope.  So all eyes were fixed on Him as they waited until He sat down to teach on what He just read.

The only thing He said upon sitting was “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  What a short teaching… but so life changing for the people listening!  Everyone else whoever read and taught on that scripture said “someday”…. but Jesus said TODAY!  

Jesus was saying everything you’ve been waiting for is here!  The Jubilee you’ve been hoping for stands before you…. I AM your Jubilee… I am your Messiah.... the Messianic age (the age of Salvation) has begun… it is no longer a future hope.  Your Messiah is here!  Salvation has come!  They no longer had to be poor, broken hearted, captive, blind or bruised.  That day Jubilee became a person…. not just a year in time!

  • Jubilee was a time to sound your trumpet of freedom!
  • Freedom from slavery to Satan (Ephesians 1:17, 2:17; Colossians 1:12; Romans 6:14).  Freedom from sickness and disease (Deuteronomy 28:61; Galatians 3:13).
  • Freedom from debt to Satan and the World’s system (Colossians 2:13-14).
  • Freedom from fear (1 John 2:5, 4:17-18).
  • And a time of the commandment of blessing (Leviticus 25:20-21; Deuteronomy 28:8; Ephesians 1:3; Galatians 3:13-14).

Then He closed the Book….He left off the 2nd part of Isaiah 61:2 which was to proclaim the day of vengeance for our God.  Jewish expectation was that when Messiah arrived, He would not only restore the fortunes of Israel but would do so by destroying her enemies.  They expected a Messiah who was a Warrior King!  Such an exclusion from this reading of Scripture was unthinkable for most Jews.

Deliverance from captivity always included destructive judgment upon the enemies of God who enslaved or oppressed them…. the deliverance from Egypt…. the entrance into the Promise Land…. deliverance from the Babylonian Empire…. from the Medo-Persian Empire… why should the Roman Empire be any different.  But God was doing a new thing!!  

Isaiah 43:19 “”Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

He also gave them examples of Gentiles that Elijah and Elisha had done miracles among.  When He begins talking to them in verses 23-27 He was addressing their neglect of being a people of The Blessing….Gen 12:2 “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth”  

In verse 23 Jesus indicates that they are asking for signs and for the blessings to flow in their own town because so far Jesus had been doing miracles in Capernaum which was a city of both Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus was indicating that He had come also to be a light and a blessing to the Gentiles.  This would include their Roman oppressors… unthinkable!

Were they offended that He had taken a passage of vengeance and judgment upon the Gentiles and turned it into a passage of mercy and blessing?

Were they offended that His gracious words…. or words of Grace were towards the Gentiles?

He reminds them of Elijah and the widow from Sidon.  He also reminds them of Elisha and Naaman the Syrian.

More on both of the widow and Namaan next time…. 

~Robin

 

Goodness and Grace

 

chesed love      Yesterday we looked at the word good.  We studied 1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…  ” and learned that good is not an adjective describing God but it is who He is (see yesterdays post entitled “Goodness“).  Good and God are the same thing… they are a single idea.  He is good!  And He can’t be anything but good to you!

Good and God are the same thing… they are a single idea.  He is Good!  And therefore He can’t be anything but Good to you!

The rest of that scripture says “for His mercy (lovingkindness) endures forever”.  The word mercy is not an accurate translation.  Translators use words like kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, loyalty, steadfast love, and graciousness because there really isn’t a proper English word that encapsulates the meaning of this word. Perhaps loyal love is close.  

The Hebrew language has a word for this loyal love that is richer and deeper than anything in English—it is chesed (KHEH-sed). It is a covenant word that goes beyond the requirements of mere duty and obligation…..it is a love that WILL NOT let me go!  It is from the root word chacad, which is to be good or kind…..”to bow down.” It is a picture of God coming down to where we are (in the person of Jesus)  and providing us the Way of Salvation! It truly is covenant love…. an immovable, unshakable, unchanging loyalty to His covenant with us.

We also quoted Ps 23:6 yesterday “Surely goodness and loving kindness (chesed) will follow me all the days of my life…. goodness, and chesed (God’s loyalty to His covenant) will follow me ALL the days of my life.   The word”surely” is set as a seal upon it… it’s guaranteed… a done deal! It doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t do… I can add nothing of myself to it.  I am sealed with His goodness and chesed!

Psalm 107:1 is the same verse as 1 Chronicles 16:34 (above) and the same word chesed is used.  Psalm 136 is another identical Scripture….again the word used is chesed although our English uses the translation mercy.  I like Psalm 136 in the Complete Jewish Bible translation (you can go to bible gateway.com to read it)…. this translation always translates chesed as grace, and not just in this Psalm only.

One of the earliest usages of chesed is by Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, when he was sent to find a wife for Isaac. He realized that his success was because of the Father’s chesed (translated “kindness” in Genesis 24:12).  It was because of God’s covenant loyalty to his master Abraham.

Moses used this term to show why God delivered Israel from captivity in Egypt…. because of covenant loyalty (chesed). “You in Your mercy (chesed) have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation” (Exodus 15:13).In Ex 34:5-8 after God gives Moses the Tablets, He descended in a cloud and stood before him proclaiming who He is… verse 6 translates

In Ex 34:5-8 after God gives Moses the Tablets, He descended in a cloud and stood before him proclaiming who He is… verse 6 translates chesed as abounding in goodness! He abounds in covenant loyalty towards us.  

We see a similar statement in John 1:17  “grace (charis) and truth (reality) came through Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is the manifestation and the reality of grace and truth… of chesed (covenant loyalty). Thus we see the connection between the Hebrew word chesed (translated here as “goodness”) and the Greek charis, meaning “grace.”

Ps 117 says Praise the LORDall nationsExtol him, all peoples!
For great is his loving kindness (chesed) toward us, and the faithfulness (truth) of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!…..The CJB translation says in verse 2… For his grace has overcome us, and Adonai’s truth continues forever.

Grace and truth! Jesus came full of grace and truth….this had always been His character and by extension the character of His Father. 

Chesed is covenant word ….  it is the Old Testament equivalent of the New Testament word charis which is “grace.”  Sometimes we view the Old Testament (Judaism) as a religion of laws and the New Testament (Christianity) as a religion of grace.  God extended his grace in both Testaments… both Covenants. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He revealed his grace to the fullest in the New Testament coming of Jesus …John 1:16-17 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…….grace and truth came through Jesus Christ…. but His grace is also displayed throughout Old Testament Scriptures

Chesed is definitely a word that begs for a deeper study than we can give to this one blog post.  Now that I know it is the equivalent of New Testament grace, it will change how I read scriptures and it will definitely cause me to do a deeper study of it.  I hope it sparked you to do a deeper study as well.

Hosea 6:6 says that God desires chesed (covenant loyalty) not sacrifice, and He desires the knowledge of Him (yada – intimate knowing as in a husband and wife) not burnt offerings.  

That reminds me of Paul’s words in Phil 3:10 that I may know (ginosko in Greek – the equivalent of the Hebrew word yada) Him and the power of His resurrection.  By going deeper, drawing nearer to Him… knowing Him more intimately… only then can I fully understand chesed.

God’s grace is a given that is always being given!  There is nothing you can do to earn or merit His grace.  It is given because of chesed… His covenant loyalty toward us…. HIS LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET US GO!

~ Robin