The Angel of the Lord

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 14

“…The angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.” Exodus 3:2

Let’s talk about the angel of the Lord for a moment.

The original Hebrew denotes that this angel is a special messenger of God. That is simply what angel means – a messenger.

I lay that groundwork because multiple sources believe that “the Angel of the LORD” is an incredible messenger. One very incredible messenger of God, who’s very existence is the reason Christianity has a salvation not based in acts – but grace and redemption.

That’s right.

The Angel of the Lord is often thought to be Jesus Christ himself.

This is not the first time we meet this pre-incarnate version of Christ the Messiah. The first time belongs to Hagar, at the well. (Genesis 16)

That is not to suggest we start worshipping angels. Angels protest when we bow down to them. This is seen throughout the Bible. They simply bring the mail, delivering the message to the humans.

How does the Angel of the Lord fit with the Exodus narrative, besides bringing destiny to Moses?

The Angel of the Lord comes back throughout the Bible. And the Angel of the Lord does some pretty serious stuff.

Things we’d never picture Jesus doing. It doesn’t fit with our nice version of Jesus.

This is the unconventional savior we follow…

Remember how I keep mentioning ezer? An ezer is a lifesaver who steps out to rescue in a dire time of need.

That’s what we’re seeing in these verses and situations. A powerful messenger, reaching out to save in the most unlikely situations.

And that’s what Moses is going to become. But first he has to learn who he’s dealing with and what ezer means outside of the Hebraic dictionary.

 

Sources:

All Bible verses and references taken from Bible Gateway.

List of angel of the Lord references from Bible Gateway. (Due to this site’s search engine it includes some passages that I did not list because they were not specifically dealing with the Angel of the Lord.) https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=NIV&quicksearch=angel+of+the+lord&startnumber=1

Angel of the Lord – From Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/angel-of-the-lord.html

Jesus in the Old Testament: http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/Jesus-in-the-Old-Testament.cfm

 

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Moses and the Mountain of God

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 13

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1)

Moses is about to complete his basic training. He’s been thrown out of his comfort zone in Egypt, chased through the desert, beaten up bandit bad guy shepherds, married a kick-butt Bo-Peep, had a kid and is now the security detail for a flock of sheep.

That may not seem important, but I’d like look at this progression in the form of a widening sphere of influence.

Moses, as an Egyptian had influence but no real power. Suddenly he takes the law into his own hands, and it results in him losing his status as “Very Important Law Abiding Citizen.” (Who could have, eventually, had a hand in releasing the Israelite people.) This results in complete and total loss of influence.

Moses runs. He meets a woman. She’s a woman who can give him a run for his manhood, and still look like a lady. She’s fire to his oil lamp… warmth to a soul who’s been destroyed and displaced. He rescues that woman and her sisters.

This rescue is a small increase of influence. What follows is shelter with a tribal family and a marriage. Moses finds himself with a wife and son. Then, he’s placed in charge of not only his personal resources, but his father-in-law’s resources.

God gave Moses a wife and son to support – but they are also supposed to support him in his endeavors. This is the family network. This is the balance husband and wives strike to make a partnership. And it must be an equal partnership. A woman who can defend her own will not stay with a man who doesn’t or isn’t willing to partner with her.

This is also the test. This is the work-life balance all leaders struggle with. We have few details on Zipporah and Moses’ marriage, but in the beginning years, it seems to be working out.

Moses is placed in charge over his father-in-law’s sheep. He’s defending a massive flock of brainless animals from bandits, lions, wolves, and other poisonous creatures which live in this desert region. He has to make certain none of them wander away. He has to care for them like helpless children. They are a commodity easily replaced, but they are also a food source. They are vital to the tribe for their survival as a people.

Shepherds are warriors. They are the protectors of the weak. That is why Christ was portrayed as a shepherd. Not just any shepherd – the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11-18)

The moment Moses shows himself capable and the next logical step for him would be tribal leader, replacing his father-in-law – there’s this flicker off in the distance, near the Mountain of the Lord.

Moses’ reaction is curiosity. And notice – he takes the sheep with him. He’s not abandoning them – he’s guiding them toward the light.

Guiding others toward the light of God reignites passion. That is what a good shepherd does.

And this is what Moses will be doing with the chosen people… leading them from slavery, to sheepdom, through the wilderness, where they learn who, and what they are – not in the eyes of their master – but in the eyes of the covenant-making God.

Remembering the Covenant

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 12

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:23-25)

While Moses is off in what is to become his version of basic training and leadership academy, the Israelites are still in slavery. While Moses is learning how lead through being a husband and father – the Israelites are still victims of enslavement. They are helpless. They continue to hold fast to the faith, and God remembers.

Well… actually God never forgot. The only thing God ever forgets is our sins, when we ask for forgiveness, because we haven’t done our best or our hearts aren’t in the right place for the situation.

We just celebrated Easter, which is considered the New Covenant. Jesus’ death on the cross is the culmination of God’s historical plan for all humanity. The Old Covenant involved Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This Old Covenant laid the groundwork for the New Covenant.

A covenant is a sacred bond of promise between two parties, which has dire consequences if broken. Many have compared it to marriage, or a business contract, but in a day where marriage is unfortunately falling to the wayside, both these explanations fail.

It gets especially complicated when we’re talking a multi-generational scope of time that no human being could live through or have a living memory of.  That is why we’re dealing with God. He is the only one who can already make this covenant happen. Its not just about Jesus. Jesus and the plan for redemption is barely on anyone’s radar.

And God seems to have turned away.

Where else does God seem to turn away?

The crucifixion. The moment where Jesus, his son – is dying.

Both were massive rescue operations. Both dealt with enslaved helpless people – moving them from victim, to victorious.

It takes awhile to see that shift occur, but we live in a post-Resurrection world. We are free. We are not victims. We don’t have to live in slavery toward things that kill us. We don’t have to live powerless and in fear.

That is the power of the resurrection… when God turns his back and motions, “Follow me.”

Have a victorious Easter – and new life in Christ!

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All Bible verses are from Bible Gateway. For clarity purposes, the New International Version has been used.

Image from: https://mudpreacher.org/2009/04/07/i-know-the-tomb-was-empty/

The War at the Well (Scene 2): The Seven Sisters

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 11

Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters…  (Exodus 2:16)

Seven daughters. You don’t get famous in the Bible by having daughters unless they’re:

  1. lecherous
  2. floozies
  3. OR bold, intelligent, and zealous women of God.

Stop picturing Little Bo Peep.

David records that as a shepherd he faced lions and bears. (1 Samuel 17:34-37) There are other accounts of wolves attacking sheep. There are also bandits.

These seven sisters had to face off against all these threats, and survive with virtue intact. This was not an easy task in an era where there were very little rights for people or criminal justice procedures beyond, ‘he said, she said’.

Start picturing this:

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(These women are from 1940s-1950s Iran, before the country was radicalized and hostile toward Western culture and women’s rights.)

Now, add that the shepherds involved are most likely bandits who would have been stupid to take on these women. But they probably assumed, “Oh. They’re just a bunch of girls… we won’t have a problem.”

To set the scene – picture an old western. The bandits are cattle rustlers and robbers. The women own the water rights, the land and the cattle (aka: biblical equivalent sheep).

The bandit shepherds found themselves with problems.

Seven women, armed and dangerous – carrying shepherd staffs, slingshots and probably arrows.

Those were the best weapons of the ancient world.

(Insert Clint Eastwood theme from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’)

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Not only that – but women are often better shots then men. In modern Central Asia the ancient Scythian people (of Colossians 3:11) used their long bows to shoot down precious jewels in the mountains unaccessible to traditional mining methods. It was the Scythian warrior queen Tomyris who killed Cyrus the Great in retribution for capturing her son and her male military force. She then rode in with an all-female military to rescue the men. (Yes, that’s the same Cyrus mentioned in Isaiah 45 and other places in Jeremiah and Ezra. Click here for a complete list.)

 Exodus 2:17Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.” (NIV)

Other versions suggest that they had the water ready and the sheep were just coming to drink, when the other shepherds came up and tried to drive them away.

They’d done all the heavy lifting, poured out the water, expended hours of energy getting  water, taken the dangerous trek to water the flocks, when a bunch of morons attempt to cut in.

Not only that… but sheep are incredibly dumb, easily scared and will run away and never find their way back. We raised three. One night the mother and two lambs escaped – we caught the black lamb in an hour, we dragged the mother out of the neighbor’s pond – waterlogged – and the second lamb we found two days later and three miles away from our house.

So, you can imagine how furious these seven sisters were when the other shepherds came in.

What follows is probably a bar fight which would make Clint Eastwood flinch and put the rescue scene in the 10 Commandments to shame.

It gets better…

These shepherd ladies are so independent that they leave Moses sitting by the well!

Directly from Exodus 2:18-22

When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?”

They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.”

“And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.”

Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershon, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.”

 

Zipporah gets married, but she doesn’t become a quiet domestic little housewife.

Instead – she has a fight with God – and wins.

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Sources:

All Bible References are from Bible Gateway, using the New International Translation.

First two photographs from: http://kavehfarrokh.com/iranica/the-women-of-persia/the-persian-lioness-iranian-women-in-history/

Arrows and Jewel Hunting reference from Adrienne Meyer’s book – Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: https://www.amazon.com/Greek-Poison-Arrows-Scorpion-Bombs/dp/158567348X

Tomyris sources: See above, and: http://www.advantour.com/uzbekistan/legends/tomyris.htm

Third image from: http://english.cntv.cn/program/cultureexpress/20110815/101336.shtml

And, in case you’re curious… Zipporah’s fight with God occurs in Exodus 4:24.

The War at the Well (Scene 1)

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 10

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Exodus 2:15-18

Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.  Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock.  Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

Welcome to another major understatement of the Biblical narrative. As a writer, I want more details. As a reader, I’m sure most people gloss over these three little verses and go right to the burning bush.

The paraphrase: Fugitive in skirt and mascara with sun-fried mind, rescues seven women Bo-Peeps and their sheep from other shepherds. Gets drink. Gets girl. Cut to burning bush. Cause that’s super important.

No. Its all important.

Last week I mentioned that this well was probably dug by Abram, who was the father Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac had a family which eventually becomes Israel. Ishmael had a family which eventually becomes Midian. The tribe of Midian is where these seven shepherd ladies are from.

Among Christians Ishmael is generally known as one of the Bible’s villains because of his modern day association with Islam. Islam did not appear until the year 610 A.D. The Quran also records that the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding areas were full of idol worship.

One visit to the British museum in London will let you see some of these idols – they’re nothing like the God of the Hebrews. Considering the book of Judges, and our own modern history we see how quickly people can be led away from God – usually within a few generations. In the United States it was from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Thirty years.

Thirty years of easy living and a lack of challenge or major causes to get behind for God, country and life, liberty and the joy as God intended it, was all it took a for a modern nation to walk away from God.

Looking at the life of Moses this well is a pivotal point. It is a moment where the passionate fugitive reignites with flame.

In the Bible, when people sit down by a well they’re exhausted.

 

The well in ancient times was like the last gas station before the badlands. The last chance you have to fill up your vehicle’s gas tank, use a toilet that flushes and grab a snack.

Trade routes follow water. Water follows the easiest route and where there’s no water ­– there’s death.

Eden was the convergence of four rivers.

The Jordan River marked the border of the Promised Land.

In World War II, the final moments of an uncertain victory were made certain by a small team of American combat engineers who crawled across a German-held bridge at Remagan under heavy fire to cut the dynamite’s wires so that the Allies could cross into Germany and take the land back from Hitler’s demented terrors and save the Jews.

The Russians met the US forces at the River Elbe in Southern Germany, shook hands and set about rebuilding Europe.

This moment at the well is God placing reconciliation between Isaac (from Moses’ Hebrew line) and Ishmael (Hagar and Abram’s child – Isaac’s half brother). Its meant to bring the family back together.

I didn’t say this last week, but there’s a high potential that the well Moses sat at, was the same well near Beersheba where Hagar met the angel of the Lord. (Genesis 16)*

Jesus did the same reconciliation program with the woman at the well in Sycar. (John 4)

She was a Samaritan – a branch of the Jewish family tree which had been cut off because they’d gone out of the normal and were no longer ‘pure’ Jewish. They were not welcome back into the culture because of who they were genetically.

She was also the town scandal and shame.

That’s why she’s at the well in the middle of the day. She’s avoiding everyone, so she doesn’t have to deal with her neighbor’s stares, pity, gossip and bullying.

Jesus is hungry and tired. His disciples are off trying to find food and here comes the town’s embaressment.

She’s been ostracized not because she’s a floozy, or an unfaithful woman – but because she’s barren. Her husbands (multiple men) had thrown her out because she could not conceive a child.

Once again – a woman is rejected because of her inability to do something (Eve – the mother of the living vs. ezer kenegdo… having to do something vs. just being who and what you are. We see this dynamic in Christianity all the time – we think we have to do something to get God to love us, when He really loves us just for who we are). For more information on women’s roles and the meaning of ezer see my post: The First Jewish Resistance.

The woman at the well, like Sarah, mother of Isaac, meets God and is given a task. Both women are profoundly changed by it.

While Sarah bore an actual child – this woman becomes like Mary, the mother of Christ, and bears good news – that the Messiah has come.

And knowing the Messiah brings us to the Bridge of Remagan and Elbe moments in our own lives – when we can reconcile with those who we’ve disagreed with and work together to take back the things which the enemy has stolen from us.

 

(*I have no documented proof of this well being dug by Abram – we’re not told where the well in the desert is in this chapter of the Exodus account. However, its been my experience studying history that the places of reconciliation are the most fought over spots on earth. Beersheba certainly fits the bill on that note.)

Sources:

Photograph: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/TelBeerSheba.html

Years of my own research.

Bible references are from Bible Gateway. (NIV version)

For more information on the Bridge at Remagen and an opportunity to attend a living history event to experience a recreation of this moment in history. https://www.tidioute.org/events/ww-ii-reenactment/

(There’s also a living history Elbe event, but it is unfortunately closed to the public.)

Moses was a Fugitive

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Redeeming the Plagues: Part 9

We often forget that little piece, so I’ll say it again: Moses was a fugitive from justice.

He was wanted by the law for homicide.

Exodus 2:14-15

The  [Hebrew] man said [to Moses], “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian…

Moses’ passion for justice had gotten him in trouble with the law. His murder of the Egyptian overseer probably wasn’t a planned killing. But Pharaoh heard about it and Moses wasn’t taking chances.

He fled across the ancient trade routes and into Midian. Midian is the northern most part of Saudi Arabia.

There is nothing in Midian.

I circled the historically accepted and supposed territory of the Midianites in red. Some accounts state that reached further southwest, and into the modern day lands of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Since the area has been home to nomads, there’s not a lot of archaeological evidence to be discovered.

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Route 40, in the map above is an ancient trade route. Bandits roamed and ruled this area. The Sinai Peninsula is a nasty hostile little spit of land caught between two continents – Africa on the left, and Eurasia on the right.

This area of the world is so hostile that the toxins in scorpion poop eat through modern combat boots.

Moses comes running into this environment with a socially acceptable Egyptian high- fashion bald head, some eye makeup, maybe a bathrobe, mini-underskirt and flip-flops. (Sorry, that is the way ancient Egyptians dressed.)

A dude who’d lived in the palace his whole life, dressed only in flip-flops and a towel should not be physically able to make any desert journey – much less one of 150-200 miles. (It was probably longer. I measured using Google maps along the rim on the Sinai Peninsula.)

The mere fact that Moses makes it anywhere amid this wilderness of sand and bandits and poisonous poop makes it clear to us and him that Someone’s got a plan.

Why didn’t Moses go someplace better? A place where his skills from the Egyptian court could be put to use?

Egypt was the world’s superpower. News would have already gone out along the trade routes and Moses, if recaptured, would be carted back to a prison cell in Egypt – if he was lucky. More likely he’d be put into slavery, or killed as an example to keep the Hebrew slaves in line. He can’t expect to be hidden by the Hebrew people either. He’s the spoiled brat who survived and had a cushy life in the palace, remember?

So, Moses the fugitive wanders…

And the wandering through the desert teaches him daily reliance on God.

 

Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) – but iron needs to be melted and shaped first. The desert does that job well – attacking the mind, body and spirit. Moses had to get away from the easy life, losing everything, before he could become the leader God wanted him to be.

He needed a change of scenery and a dramatically shut door, so that he would be liberated.

Liberated from what?

Moses – even though he had a cushy life, he was trapped in a system which held him in fear. Fear to an Egyptian king who claimed he was a god, and surrounded himself by people who agreed with the pharaoh – because they wanted the good graces of the king.

Moses was also doing some soul searching. His own people had rejected him. He was homeless in body, divided in mind and broken in spirit. And where God stepped into do some serious rebuilding.

The desert journey is meant to build and prepare.

When Moses’ ancestor Abram (a.k.a. Abraham) traveled through the desert generations before Moses, he built wells. These wells were places of life-giving water.

Abram prepared the way. Moses is doing the same thing right now for the Israelites he’s going to end up rescuing – he just can’t see the set up God is planning for him at the moment.

At one of Abram’s wells near Beersheba, Hagar, the destitute slave woman and mother of Ishmael, was met by God at one of these wells. God told her to go back to her mistress, Sarai, because he knew she would be sheltered by Abram. (Genesis 16:7)

Moses is about to meet his destiny at possibly one of the same wells. And he’s going to be rescued by the descendants Ishmael. That encounter will change his life.

A quick dedication to Samantha at the historical diaries blog. Her mom passed away suddenly. This is for you. Desert journeys suck. Grief sucks. Thoughts and prayers coming your way!

Sources

Photograph of Charleston Heston is from Planet of the Apes. (I chose it because he’s the face of Moses to pretty much everyone. And its Heston. Its difficult to go wrong with Heston. Its very difficult to go wrong with shirtless Heston.) http://www.notesontheroad.com/Ying-s-Links/Today-s-Birthday-in-Film-Charlton-Heston.html

Exodus 2:13 – from Bible Gateway (NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+2&version=NIV

Midian location (personal and various archaeological research) Including a very awesome trip to the British museum.

Map is from Google maps. I added some of the labels for clarity. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Saudi+Arabia/@29.7055258,33.9347532,8z/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x15e7b33fe7952a41:0x5960504bc21ab69b

Scorpion poop reference from the book: Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs, by Adrienne Meyer. https://www.amazon.com/Greek-Poison-Arrows-Scorpion-Bombs/dp/158567348X (This is awesome book.)

Proverbs 27:17 – from Bible Gateway (NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+27%3A17&version=NIV

Genesis 16:7 – from Bible Gateway (NIV) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+16&version=NIV

For information on the Midianites and Ishmael: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=748

 

Co-Passion

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“American solider, Walton Trohon washes the face of a French orphan.” (World War II)

One thing which is seen consistently throughout war, especially the conflicts where American soldiers are involved, is consistent compassion.

Where suffering has been, kindness must follow.

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 8

Last week I mentioned that passion partnered with God was co-passion. Or more commonly ‘compassion’.

Compassion in the modern dictionary is defined as… “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

Passion, going back to Webster’s 1828 dictionary has seven definitions. The one we most associate passion with today, ‘love’ is the very last one on that list. The word passion come from the Latin, patior, meaning ‘to suffer’.

Not something we want to thing about, is it?

However, suffering builds courage and empathy. It puts miles on your soul. It deepens your trust in God, truth and wisdom. It allows you to be the person who comes in as hero, kneels down and says, “I’ve been there – follow me out of this damned dark hell.”

Exodus 2: 3-15

“But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.  His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” 

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh.

 

There are three profiles in courage, empathy and compassion here… (since we’ve already discussed Moses’ mother)

 

Pharaoh’s daughter:

Courage:  She saw a child in the water and reacted. A slave went to get the child. Her reaction was not to ignore the out of place basket. And when she lifted the lid she recognized the child as being a Hebrew baby. She chose to get involved.

Empathy: She cared about the child.

Compassion: She chose to suffer the challenges and potential persecutions of raising a child who would probably not mesh well with the surrounding Egyptian society.

 

Miriam:

Courage: She confronted royalty. This was a time when permission had to be sought to see the king. The people holding her brother were also the oppressors of her people.

Empathy: She dared to make a connection and offer services which might get the whole family in trouble.

Compassion: It was a long-term process. (Nursing in Biblical culture often lasted at least 4 years.) She had to view and respect the Egyptians who were going to take her brother away. Her family was effectively giving their son to the enemy.

 

Moses:

Courage: He cared about the plight of the Israelites and reacted. But his reaction caused death and fear. Death for the Egyptian, and fear for himself.

Empathy: He connected and felt strongly for those who were oppressed.

Compassion: He reacted. It was not a constructive reaction. It did solve the immediate problem of the Hebrew who was being beaten, but it was not a long term solution to the crisis of the Hebrew people. It was also a reaction which would cause him to lose his potential to be a leader in the Egyptian court, where he could have potentially freed the Israelite people through law.

 

However, leaving his homeland propels Moses into his destiny, because that is what happens when you leave your comfort zone.

Why do we need these traits?

These are the traits that save the world.

These are the traits which bring us to Christ’s plan for our lives.

This is co-passion. Passion with God: recognizing what is evil and standing in the gap for good.

Moses’ reaction was passionate, but it was not God-centered passion.

Only God-centered passion leads us out of destruction.

 

PS: For modern research done on the topic of rescue and the traits of the rescuers involved check out the book, “When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland.

Other Sources:

Photograph: Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/83949980527022246/

Definition of compassion: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/compassion

Passion according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary: http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/passion

Exodus 2 (NIV): https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+2

 

 

 

Fingerprints

Redeeming The Plagues: Part 7

This was what I really wanted to discuss last week… not a history lesson… but my writing partner (aka The Ringmaster of the Universe) had other plans.

Exodus 2:1-3, “Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman,  and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.  But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. ”

When I first read the above verse my reaction was borderline contempt. “Well – duh – what mother doesn’t think their kid is special?”

And then I had to do some major rethinking.

There’s no recorded divine intervention for Moses as in the case of the other famous Bible babies. We’re given no clue – except that a mother who cared wouldn’t hide her child from the world and drop him in a river filled with crocodiles and hippos.

Yes, Hippos.

Hippos aren’t cute. They are territorial and known to attack people and boats. There were also rapids, commerce and crocodiles. Dropping a child in the Nile River is what the genocidal pharaoh had wanted to do with the Hebrews’ male children!

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It kind of reminds you of the difficult questions of Christianity. Why put a tree in the middle of a fantastic garden, which would destroy everything? Its the spiritual equivalent of a placing a nuclear device into a playpen!

And how could a loving God put His own son on a cross to die for us, when removing a tree could have prevented everything?

I was taught as a child that Jesus died for our sins because God loved us and thought we were special.

Special turned cynical when the world’s population reached more than a mom, a dad and a child.

Cain and Abel were the first sibling rivalry and it turned to murder. The lie which was perpetrated in the Garden of Eden, “God is holding out on you,” had metastasized into, “God is holding out on you, and He loves someone else more.”

Multiply that statement by today’s population of over seven billion and you’re left with the question, “Why am I special if you’re God and you love everyone?”

Some might be content with leaning on God’s ability to love everyone by the simple default answer that “He’s God,” and “has enough love to go around.” Which sucks – because it leaves you feeling like the nagging Christian wife in a Kendrick brothers film attempting to get your husband’s attention.

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Christianity was never meant to be a relationship in crisis.

It was meant to heal a relationship crisis.

In AD 69 the world was in chaos and it was changing due to the radical love of a new sect called Christianity. This was the generation after Jesus – they knew him, they’d seen him,, touched him and followed him. Or if they’d been too young – their parents had received Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ or Messiah they’d been searching for. In some manner or an encounter with Jesus or his disciples the average person had been won over and became a “little Christ” themselves.

These people know a Christ who wouldn’t have had the patronizing attitude of platonic love for the whole world – or given their children the answer of, “Well He’s God – He has enough love in Him for everyone in the whole wide world… I guess…”

Within a few decades there was rampant persecution of Christianity – matched with incredible growth of the church – throughout the Roman Empire. Early Christians couldn’t have gotten from nearly modern day Iran to England on the wishy-washy phrase, “I guess,” and a shrug.

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The phrase, “I guess,” does not sustain prisoners who are bing fed to the lions. It is not a phrase echoed by a dying prisoner. Its not the courage which a Roman soldier witnessed and made him convert on the spot – only to be immediately imprisoned or mauled alive. (Adrian of Nicomedia, patron saint of mercenaries – the events differ depending on the accounts. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_and_Natalia_of_Nicomedia)

Since I could not find that radical faith-based courage to heal and love, I turned toward other evidence. Not in an act of desperation, but to discover how much effort God puts into creating each person. And to ask the question – if I’m saved, and my salvation is secure – why is God out looking for the person who hasn’t found Him yet? Is that lost soul more important than me?

It often seems like God has a teenage crush. He just can’t get the popular people to pay attention to Him… when He has a perfectly good crew of people to hang out with.

The desperation builds when we realize that even as saved salvationally secure people – we have not been touched by God. The generations after major biblical miracles stayed closer to God because they’d witnessed His power.We have not openly seen God’s power like that. Jesus hasn’t physically shown up in person and healed or fed you. We don’t have that intimate connection with God in the physically present realm. We have a long distance relationship. And no matter how hard we work – the physical distance remains.

With regard to the teenage crush, Jesus never pretended to be one of the cool or popular kids. He knew who he was and that brought people to him. He also built unconventional relationships, walking between worlds with his heavenly Father and his earthly father, family and buddies.

We have a massive disconnect.

A massive disconnect and a serious intimidation factor. We are the grumpy older brother in the prodigal son parable (Luke15:11-32) because, like in a marriage crisis, we’ve forgotten how to love – so we live in fear.

A lack of love starts with the inability to feel. Its easier to turn off your emotions than to process the spiritual devastation of our world and sometimes our personal lives.

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The nerves in our fingers are connected to our fingerprints. Fingerprints are not flat – but small ridges, lines, valleys, swirls, tents and other designs. They are unique to each finger and each person. Not even identical twins have the same fingerprints. Fingerprints are formed in the womb within 9-10 weeks of conception when the fetus is only about 2 inches long. Which means, the method used to acquit or convict is already created and in place before the fetus is legally protected under the law.

These fingerprints allow us through their unique topography of ridges and valleys, to pick up objects, touch others, hold babies, feel pain… When these ridges harden or build up calluses they loose the ability to feel. This is especially common among people who work with their hands for a living, often in manual labor.

Jesus was a carpenter and stonemason. (The word in Greek implies both professions.) He had the roughest most callused hands – but he didn’t let his heart get that way, because he recognized full range of emotion was as healthy, natural and creative as fingerprints.

The calloused heart holds in the emotions – making an emotional wall – like a castle’s keep. A keep was a tower used as a last resort defense in a time of battle or siege. Its modern equivalent would be an underground bunker.

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We have the ability to lower the walls of our hearts – but the king who lives inside our hearts has reign over the castle keep, regardless of the battle outside. It is this king who determines who we let in and how much we feel, just like the calluses on our hands.

I mentioned that fingerprints  were made up of ridges and valleys.

When we flatten what God intended for us to feel – we destroy diversity and creativity.

This flattened topography makes us all the same and turns us into Christian zombies, repeating the same scripts and shallow teachings. Zombies don’t enjoy life. They don’t have life anymore. Their single focus is destruction and their own survival. A brainless shuffling mob mentality ensues….

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Welcome to Christianity.

No wonder the world runs away in fear. Its not just about how Christianity or religion is stupid and the people don’t have brains anymore.

One of the main things which drew people to Jesus was his compassion.

Listen to the word… Com-passion.

Co-passion.

Co-passion: Doing passion with God – instead of having a fear of passion and associating the word with lustful illegitimate love affairs.

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Co-passion requires removing the calluses and letting the spiritual topography of our hearts show. Topography which is unique as our fingerprints.

Topography is also on God’s hands.

Our names are written on His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

And those ridges and lines make up maps.

Maps show us our destiny. They lead us new places, through winding paths to forgotten ancient cities and to glorious treasures.

God mapped out our lives in His hands and the hands of His son.

Christ came to earth to find that treasure – Us.

And on the hands which were pierced for our mishaps, short comings, personal disasters, lack of passion, a lack of courage, and blatant rebellion through apathy… was the way back to Eden.

The way back to restoration.

The way back to our authority.

The way back so that we could feel, be in passion, and co-create with God and be free to feel His touch and love again…

That was on Christ’s hands.

These maps were thought destroyed when Jesus was thrown in the tomb.

But we know better.

And that is why we are special to God… because our fingerprints have touched His and we are one.

More importantly – His fingerprints are all over our heart and co-passion is what He breathed into us – just like Adam.

 

You’ll see why this is important in the life of Moses next week…

Sources:

The Ringmaster of the Universe

Exodus 2: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus2&version=NIV

Hippo photo: http://nypost.com/2015/06/19/hippo-bites-crocodile/

Hippo information: http://www.hippoworlds.com/hippopotamus-aggression/

Nagging wife photo: http://www.crosswalk.com/family/marriage/engagement-newlyweds/5-truths-i-learned-about-being-a-nagging-wife.html

Christian persecution: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-27/persecution-in-early-church-did-you-know.html

Map of the Roman Empire: http://www.ancient.eu/Roman_Empire/

Adrian of Nicomedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_and_Natalia_of_Nicomedia

Luke 15: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15%3A11-32

Fingerprint photo: http://fphoto.photoshelter.com/image/I0000dQxF0PokM1w

Fingerprint information: Criminalistics 101 – Harrisburg Area Community College 2012. Professor Adam Barton (who has real-life experience being on a police force)

Fingerprints before birth: http://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit10.php

Greek word for stonemason: http://www.mysteriesofthemessiah.net/this-book-and-more/ (I served as one of several video editors for this book. The video I referenced has not been uploaded at this time, however, the information is available in the .pdf file.)

Castle keep photo and information: https://www.castles-of-britain.com/keeps.htm

Zombie photo: http://www.gettyimages.com/photos/zombie-mob?excludenudity=true&sort=mostpopular&mediatype=photography&phrase=zombie%20mob

Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Close up. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/572731277581669745/ 

Isaiah 49: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+49&version=NIV

 

Priest and King

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 6

Exodus 2:1, “Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman…”

This is the only piece we get of Moses’ parents – but its an important piece. This one tiny verse tidbit is the hinge point of a historical legacy which at the time of the Exodus already had significant footing.

The Levite tribe are later to become the priests of Israel. The kid who will become Moses is destined to be both priest and king.

Does this sound familiar?

Hebrews 7:1-3, 22 and 26-28, “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,  and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

That was a lot.

I’ll break it down and hopefully all of this will make sense. Stay with me – this is a long road through history.

First – let me introduce you to Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was the priestly king of Salem in the time of Abram. (Abram later becomes Abraham and Salem later becomes Jerusalem.) Read Genesis 14 for the details.

The king of Sodom (yes the same Sodom of Sodom and Gomorrah infamy, Genesis 19) had kidnapped Abram’s ungrateful nephew Lot, and also made off with some of Melchizedek’s people as well during some localized tribal city-state warfare.

Abram’s nephew Lot had been a selfish brat and chosen to settle in a rich pastureland near the city of Sodom, while his up in years uncle Abram – was stuck living in a desert oasis, with growing wealth and dwindling resources – because at that time wealth was measured in livestock.

As the elder, Abram could have claimed the better portion of the land. But he didn’t and Lot got captured in the middle of a local turf war.

Abram hears the news of the kidnapping and hostage situation from an escapee and then despite his old age – he puts together a crack team of warriors and busts out errant nephew Lot, and the other captured parties – men, women, children and their wealth… which again, would have been sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, and cattle.

So its “The Expendables” meets “Wagon Train”… or Seal Team Six plays John Wayne… with camels, chariots and tar pits outside of Damascus, Syria. (You’re welcome for that confusion and analogy. Whoever said the Bible wasn’t exciting didn’t know enough about history.)

With all this in tow – Abram’s warriors ride into the Valley of Salem. They are greeted by the priestly king Melchizedek, who worships the Most High God. Abram and Melchizedek exchange food, hospitality and Abram gives King Melchizedek a tenth of everything.

After this God shows up to Abram and we get to hear the prophecy of enslavement and redemption – which leads us to Moses.

I share that because Moses, Melchizedek and Jesus are related. Not necessarily by blood – but by God – in the same way Christians and Jews are related: Spiritually.

Melchizedek was king and priest – but couldn’t rescue her people without Abram’s help. He had power in the supernatural and geo-political realms – but that wasn’t enough. Most priestly kings perpetrated themselves to be divine so they could hold all the power and control their people with more authority.

Melchizedek came out with food to a stranger and dined with him. In Middle Eastern culture, dinning with someone is a way of showing them that they have been taken into the family… like adoption.

Contrast this mindset and actions with Moses.

Moses was adopted into a family in Egypt. The Egyptian pharaohs were both king and priest over their people. They often took their authority a step further and declared they were gods.

Moses, as a pharaoh could have freed his people that way – like Abraham Lincoln did with the Emancipation Proclamation with regard to the African American slaves during the American Civil War.

But God saw that freedom wasn’t enough. Training would be required.

When the Emancipation Proclamation took effect there was nothing to do with a significant portion of the population. They were suddenly out of housing, food and a ‘job’.***

And people without purpose do one of two things:

  • They wander aimlessly.
  • They stay stuck.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, most former slaves ended up in a new form of slavery called sharecropping – where they were paid, but still lived in the same situations they’d been in when they were slaves. Their former masters owned everything except the human beings. They weren’t free, they lacked purpose, and were still in a mental, physical, emotional and geo-political state of slavery. (A similar situation existed later in US history in the coal mining towns.)

Lincoln’s Emancipation proclamation was piece of paper, a rule in a book and it was an unenforceable standard because no one understood freedom. Dominion and paranoia held both master and slave in fear. Slaves were afraid of their freedom, while masters were afraid of what would happen if the slaves were freed.

The same dynamic existed in ancient Egypt at the time of Moses. God knew He had to move the Israelite people from the slavery based land of Egypt – or they would treat it as their security blanket and never move from a ratty old blanket into a fine priestly robe of identity and authority.

So, Moses was equipped to chose between life in the palace – pretending to be a god-king in a secular kingdom, or humbling himself and taking a boots-on-the-ground, public and personal defender approach. This would cost him in personal power, authority and wealth.

Its interesting to note – Moses had some training in Hebrew customs – but did not necessarily believe in the Hebrew’s God – because he doesn’t recognize God when He shows up to have a destiny chat with Moses in the burning bush.

We’ve covered Moses and Melchizedek… now I’m going to put it all together.

In Melchizedek we see the adoption, acceptance and love – not only in thanks for Abram’s rescue and the return of the captives – but also acceptance and welcoming for the captives, at the table of the king.

With Moses we see a geo-political, spiritual-social law based process. This law based process and wilderness journey will become the standard for destiny maker and the history shakers of the Bible.

However, Jesus Christ combines them both – recognizing the need for an adoption, a new identity – as a son or daughter of God, seated at His table – not as a captive, or a servant. No, there’s a legal loophole for that. No – thanks to adoption, you are officially rescued and a legitimized member of holy royalty. Nobody can question your authority or identity, which happened frequently to Moses – both as a prince and leader of the Hebrew people, especially when they chose to complain instead of trust.

The Hebrew’s trust was fractured because of the abuses of slavery. They chose the rule of law because it did not require trust.

Christ amended the law, when he replaced it with love. A fine example of this is marriage. Everyone knows in a marriage there isn’t supposed to be cheating. This rule doesn’t need to be stated if the couple trusts and loves each other. No one worries about how their needs will be met and no one goes hunting for someone else because there is love – not neglect.

Rules which are made to control and dominate seek to replace love with unhealthy boundaries. God wanted something better than dominion.

That’s why the Exodus happened.

But it wasn’t complete until everyone could be free again, as humanity had been in Eden.

That would take a miracle.

And that’s why we celebrate Easter.

 

***(No matter how awful that daywork was it still gave them a title, just like our modern jobs. It wasn’t that they were getting paid. Here I’m using ‘job’ to say they had a purpose – something to do – not necessarily a paid career or position. They usually didn’t, although in certain cases those who worked off the plantation or in skilled labor were offered a small salary.)

 

 

The First Jewish Resistance

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 5

Amid Pharaoh’s genocide of the Israelite children we learn of two women: Shiphrah and Puah.

They were Hebrew midwives. You will probably never hear a sermon about them – and that’s shameful, because these ladies were ordered to kill children, but stood against the law of the land and did not.

They chose to obey God over the ruling authorities and prospered because of it.

Yes. Prospered.

Watch this…

Exodus 1:15-19 – “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’ The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, ‘Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?’

The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.’

So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Women.

Women were the leaders of the resistance.

This was true in World War II as well. Women led the resistance organizations because they were less suspicious than a man. They could flirt their way through danger. They relied on their intuition and won the day because a small smile got the messages through without gunplay.

There is an account of a resistance leader in Poland. She lived near the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jews were being confined. She herself, was Jewish, but because she was blonde, she could pass freely on the streets without being questioned.

She was smuggling messages and firearms into the ghetto, when she was stopped by a police officer. The officer was part of the occupying German forces. She was frightened, because she had black market food in her basket – but the thing which frightened her more, was inside that loaf of bread was a gun.

Firearms were illegal. The civilians were not allowed to resist occupation. Most of them complied. Those who didn’t were shot. Those were suspected of even thinking of resistance – were shot. Those who looked suspicious, or didn’t have the proper paperwork – were shot… or worse – tortured.

She reluctantly showed the officer that she had bread. He looked at her, and allowed her to leave, because he knew those around him were starving. He never knew about the gun in her basket.

Too often, we as Christian women are taught to bow down and submit to authority… never questioning.

This kind of submission is a theme of slavery – not dignity.

Women are leaders of the modern underground church. They teach the children. Women teach the future generations. This is a place of honor.

God has always had a place of leadership for women.

The fact that Pharaoh consulted with them, brought them before him and asked why his plans weren’t being carried out, shows what kind of authority these women had.

They stood before the king and told him a lie, because they knew God. The text says that they ‘feared God’. This fear isn’t quaking in your sandals fear.

Moses had quaking in your sandals fear.

These women had courage. And they honored God. They honored Him more than the ruling authorities.

They loved God. They loved the children. And they were willing to die for it.

And they prospered – because God gave them families of their own. (verse 19)

The original term for woman’s purpose isn’t helpmate – which sounds like servant. The original term is, ‘Ezer Kenegdo.’

Its more like ‘a life saver.’ Or a ‘rescuer.’

The best translation of the phrase is ‘a helper who rides in during a desperate moment and saves’.

Like in the photos below…

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The word ‘ezer’ is often used to describe how God rescues.

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And we’re going to see that ezer rescue first hand in the coming weeks.

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Exodus 1:15-19 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1&version=NIV

Kashariyot: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/kashariyot-couriers-in-jewish-resistance-during-holocaust and http://www.holocaust.com.au/the-facts/resistance-/the-kashariyot/The-Kashariyot-Couriers-

Exodus 1:19 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+1%3A19&version=NIV

Ezer Kenegdo: https://www.ransomedheart.com/daily-reading/ezer-kenegdo

First two Photographs: https://www.pinterest.com/dustytrayl/cowboys-and-cowgirls/

Third Photograph: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/436075176389540868/