Got Torah? Celebrating Shavuot 2019

shavuot
“Shavuot, which means “Festival of Weeks,” is just one name for the holiday. It also goes by Harvest Festival (Chag HaKatzir), Day of the First Fruits (Yom Habikurim), The Stoppage/Restrain (Atzeret – a reference the sages use to highlight the prohibition against work on this day), and Time of the Giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Torah).”

It is celebrated 50 days after the second day of Passover (Pesach) and it “commemorates the day when the Israelites received the Torah during their desert wanderings. The rabbis say that Passover and Shavuot are really one holiday – the Exodus from Egypt was only complete with the giving of the Torah.”

Source: Israel21c.org Fun Facts About Shavuot in Isra’el. It’s an interesting article and well worth reading.


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All copyright and ownership of the text and logo images for the quoted websites belong to them. However, while some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

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Judging Bathsheba: Reading the Bible Righteously

cibo00-Water-DoveI have never heard a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job.

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

45594452_sMaybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.
People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.

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Footnotes:
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Beyond the Sparrow: The Depth of God’s Compassion

In verse 5 of Matthew 10, “Jesus sent out the twelve apostles
with these instructions…

But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29b-31

I am a frequent viewer of Safari Live on Youtube which is pure educational, conservation-based safari drives in Kenya and South Africa. – It has sad parts, but everywhere I look, I can see how the Lord has built many defences into animal biology so that animals can take care of themselves, even amidst savage competition for food. I can see His loving, providing Hand everywhere.

Screen shot of Silver Clusterleaf

Screen shot of Silver Cluster Leaf under a microscope, from Safari Live Youtube Channel.

It goes way deeper than the animals too; for example: in Africa they have a tree called a Silver Cluster Leaf, and all the leaves are covered with fine hairs. They way the leaves taste puts off a lot of insects that would like to chow down on the plant – so even the trees have defences!

The function of the hairs is to stop the leaves from losing moisture. The thought and detail The Lord has put into designing this gorgeous world is so beautiful. I see love everywhere. God cares for all the plants and animals just as He cares for us, because He adores all of His creation.

This new revelation has profoundly impacted me a few times over the last year, and has expanded my view of the depth and detail in God’s passion for His creation.  We frequently quote the Scripture above and sing, “His Eye is on the sparrow and His Hand it comforts me…,” but less often do we stop to mediate on how much love He has put into the design and care of these creatures: all creatures, all plants, even down to mosquitos and leeches.

God… loves… leeches…

Well, that proves beyond doubt that He loves the unlovable. My new view of God’s devotion and protection has been a valuable, faith-strengthening revelation for me. It is helpful to see that everything natural we are surrounded by is so full of His love and care, and nothing goes defenceless, even in the harshest environment. It’s a message of hope for us all.


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. While some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

Book Review: Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide

705424Jacket Blurb – don’t let the heavy wording put you off, see what I have to say about it below! : In an engaging style–characteristic of the author, Walter Brueggemann–this Essential Guide describes the leading motifs of ancient Israel’s worship traditions in the Old Testament. The author guides the reader through the themes, central texts, prayers, festivals, and practices of that worship. He sees throughout the Old Testament a central emphasis on worship as a covenantal gesture and utterance by the community in the presence of God. In addition to being an essential guide to this subject, this book is intended to be in the service of current theological and practical issues concerning worship of the church in its ecumenical character.

As this month contains a number of significant festivals in the Jewish calendar, (which I have blogged about), this book fits right in. The festivals were based around celebrating the provision and faithfulness of God towards Isra’el, and of course, that is done through worship.

I will start by saying that I learnt masses through this great little book. I picked it up to learn about David, then found myself spending more time thinking about how I worship. While not every reviewer has agreed with Professor Brueggemann, he inspired me to take a look at whether I fit in with the current church trend and praise God their way, or whether I worship genuinely, using my own initiative as my heart leads me. This is both a book to help you understand the past, and to make you take a good look at where you’re at with God now.

Professor Brueggemann’s chapter which spoke of the Israelites honest communication with God, was challenging and comforting to me, as I am pretty much a straight talker in the prayer department too. If I feel hard done by, the Lord knows about it and has a sore ear. David was the same, as were quite a few people I had never thought of. I was relieved to know that this is acceptable, as long as I am respectful of Who God is and don’t stoop to abuse or blame; (that last part was my reasoning, not Professor Brueggemann’s content.) A blog post on this topic will be coming out shortly, as it inspired me so much.

The way God’s relationship with Isra’el was interpreted in terms of His covenant with His people and their response, was absolutely correct and added a beautiful rich texture to the book. The focus on worship building a relationship, and adding constant new depth to it was just awesome.

loyaltyHonestly, I think David would really like this book and how he and his nation are represented. It’s not a theological tome on what people did, it’s a key hole view into how God built His nation, and how Isra’el was able to freely embrace and benefit from that in a loving way. Worship is the key response and still is. Some things have never changed.

The Psalms are mentioned in quite a few places and some of Professor Brueggemann’s breakdown of their structure was the least dry assessment I have read yet: and I have slogged through many cracked, mouldy dissections which bled the life out of David’s beautiful responses to God.

There is one problem, sadly… while the jacket blurb refers to an engaging style, the heavy theological language that this book started out with, was anything but engaging and easy to read. I had picked this book up a year ago, tried to read it and failed. This time, I knew I needed the content, so I hung in there, and thankfully, that perseverance paid off exceptionally well. If you cannot handle theological language, big words, or academic, formal writing styles, you won’t appreciate the book, which is a shame as it has so much to offer. My only other criticism is I wish I knew what Professor Brueggemann meant by “thick.” I can take a guess, but a definition would have been beneficial.

I do recommend this work. It doesn’t take too long to read, and has left me more aware of the depth of God’s love for me.

 

amazon-logo_transparentGet it on Amazon
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005 ISBN: 0-687-34336-4.(This post has been neither sponsored or requested.)

Read a second opinion / review from a theologian. ~


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

My Favorite Christian Resources

This is a great post by Christina Rosa, clarity chaser, which lists some great online resources for studying the Word of God. Enjoy her post and have fun checking out her suggestions.

Chasing Clarity

Hey y’all! I know how confusing it can be to navigate faith sometimes; I’ve been there and there’s no doubt that I’ll be back there again. Life is gonna life. Of course, God is my ultimate recommendation for a resource, buuuut, what if you don’t even know how to reach God? What if you know how to reach Him, but you feel kinda lost anyway? What if you need help praying or reading the Bible? What if you just need some encouragement real quick?

Toy Story GIF - ToyStory Woody YoullBeFine GIFs

Never fear.

Here are some of my favorite resources for the person at any level in their journey into or through faith.

THE(PHYSICAL)BIBLE

Why: Surprise! My 1st resource is the physical Bible itself. At its core, the Bible is about God and His plan for salvation through Jesus. Reading the Bible is the most direct way I’ve been able to get to know, love, and understand…

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Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

baldhonestfaithWe are familiar with Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most;” and Ephesians 3:12: “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence;” but what you may not know, is that boldness before God isn’t a New Testament privilege that arrived with Jesus.

This confident attitude in approaching God is evident in how David communicates with the Lord, and was also seen in Moses, Job and other Psalmists. It may look a little disrespectful sometimes, but it is a hallmark of a dynamic, covenant relationship with God.

“I cried out to you, O LORD.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will You gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise You?
Can it tell of Your faithfulness?
Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O LORD.” Psalm 30:8-10 (See also Psalm 44 by the Sons of Korah)

I didn’t know about these ancient roots of boldness, until I read “Worship in Ancient Israel,” by Walter Brueggemann. On page 46-47 he writes: “Isra’el also engaged in truth telling about its life with YHWH in confession, lament and protest… Isra’el was not a submissive, second-rate player, but was a full, vigorous partner to YHWH with an unapologetic presence and an unembarrassed voice that refused to be silenced or cowed… Isra’el refuses to submit too readily to YHWH’s sovereignty when that sovereignty was seen to be unfaithful; in such circumstances, Isra’el instead of submitting, made a claim for itself against YHWH.”

Page 49: “Such speech, in its rawness, is in fact an expression of great faith; it expresses deep conviction that when YHWH is mobilised in order to honour YHWH’s covenantal commitments to Isra’el, YHWH has full capacity and power to right any situation or wrong. Thus the voice of protest and rage is characteristically in the service of plea and partition to YHWH.”

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I agree with Professor Brueggemann that calling God to action like this can seem irreverent. However, David is never rebuked by God for being too direct. God could destroy him for speaking out, but as David’s boldness is coupled with praise and dependence on God for help, He doesn’t. It seems that those without the faith to get in God’s face and speak their mind lose, and those with the faith to be bold, win. Honesty with God obviously pays off.

“Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:20-21

Calling on God is submissive, rather than subversive. David could have taken his problems into his own hands and dealt with his enemies by the sword. Instead, he persisted in knocking on God’s door, and his perseverance got him a better answer.

If you study the Psalms, you will find that his entreaties to God are also tempered by praise and a promise to make an offering to God when deliverance has been granted. God gets His due recognition, gratitude and with David, the testimony of what God had done is also shared among the people via a Psalm, to encourage them as well. David’s brave, bold faith benefitted many people, including us today.

“Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars…”
verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise You with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise Him again—
my Saviour and my God!” Psalm 43:1 and 4-5 (Also see Psalm 66:13-15)

So are there limits to how bold we can be? Yes; the limits begin if we abuse the Lord, blame Him for our problems, or in short, cease to address Him with any attitude that doesn’t demonstrate the *fruit of the Spirit. He is merciful and patient, but He is neither a scapegoat, nor a punching bag. Respect is absolutely always called for, in every situation and praise absolutely must accompany these kinds of prayers. Submission is always a requirement.

There are times when like David, regardless of the trouble we are in and how urgent it is, we just have to wait patiently for an answer and keep hoping in the Lord. There are other times when due to complications, such as the effect of other’s free will on our circumstances, God can’t do as we ask, and we have to submit to His authority and wisdom, like it or not. Plus there are times when we’re wrong. Our ‘fix it’ answer was a poor one. In all these conditions we need to adopt the humble attitude Job had when he said:
“I know that You can do anything,
and no one can stop You.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.” Job 42:2-3
Despite how humbled he is, Job still has the courage to front up and reply to the Lord.

So the next time you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to be honest with God. He already knows every detail of your circumstances and feelings. so hiding what is really going on is impossible. The Lord has promised to **bless us with every spiritual blessing. We are ***beloved, treasured heirs with Christ, and He will always ****be on our side to help us through every trial and battle. Tell Him how you feel and ask for help… And don’t stop asking and seeking Him. You’re not crossing a line, you’re building your faith and a better, active relationship with Him.

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References:
Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide,” by Walter Brueggemann, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.  ISBN: 0-687-34336-4. (Academically, theologically worded and not easy to read for the average person, but if you can get through the wording it is a massive blessing. I learned so much which reflected on my relationship with the Lord and encouraged me.)

*The fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
**Every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3
***Beloved joint heirs: Romans 8:15-17
****By our side: Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5

Re: Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God…” This may refer to David planning to go to the tabernacle to give a peace offering as thanks, as per Leviticus 7:11-15.

Moses’ honesty with God can be seen here: “Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favour and spare me this misery!” Numbers 11:10-15


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Praise and Worship: Keith Green Sings About Dealing With Sin ~ Psalm 51

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The second song is based on 1 Samuel 15, however, David’s Psalm covers the message that both of them give. I have loved Create in Me A Clean Heart for many years and it’s beautiful to know that now David and Keith are in Heaven singing for the Lord. One day I’d like to join them and do that, to.

Psalm 51:10-19
“A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with BathSheba.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spiritd from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Look with favor on Zion and help her;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.”

I am aware that this form of video is pirating, even though the channel means to encourage and share with others; please take the time to purchase these tracks if you like them.