Now I Know You

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“For now I know that you revere God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” —Genesis 22:12

Throughout the scriptures there are various ways in which this word “yada” is used, but the overall implication is that it has very intimate connotations both in how we know something or someone, and how we are known.

In Genesis we see this word being used by God to express His knowledge of Abraham’s heart based on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice that which is most important to him. Through this act of obedience, God came to know the intimate devotion and faith within the heart of Abraham. It was revealed that Abraham not only believed that God’s promise would come to be, but that it would come about even when the command of God seemed to be stripping His very promise away.  Abraham had an incredible amount of faith, and this faith he possessed was demonstrated in the act of offering up his son, even when he knew that he needed that son for the promises to be filled. We know that it would have been easy and even appropriate for Abraham to rationalize his way out of this, for him to say, “I don’t really need to do this because God knows my heart and my intention. On the contrary, Abraham’s way of expressing his devotion and trust in God was to do exactly as God told Him… to carry out the command. 

Sure, because God knows everything—even the depths of our hearts, and every action we will perform—He could have said to Abraham, “I know that you love Me and believe My promises, so I am not going to ask you to sacrifice your son because I know that you would do this for Me.” He didn’t say this, and I cannot fully explain why God asks us to do these things, despite the fact that He already knows what would happen and what lies within our hearts. The only thing I can think of is that for some reason or another the act itself is important to God; it pleases Him, and it seems to be something He likes to experience with us. It is equally (or ought to be) equally important for us because it is a confirmation that the faith, trust, and devotion we have in our hearts are more than mere feelings, assertions, or intentions. The action confirms what we profess to “feel” or possess in our hearts. According to James, these actions complete our faith:


“You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was completed” (James 2:22).

What is important to note here is that it’s not just any action that confirms this for God, but it’s obediently carrying out the exact command that God asks us to do because this makes evident that we have faith that His exact word is true and right and beneficial for us, whether we understand or agree with it or not. Abraham was not permitted to modify the plans of God to accommodate his desires, preferences, understanding, comfort, or even his fears. Abraham did not say, “I know God told me to offer up my son, but I’m sure He would still appreciate it if I offered a ram instead because He knows my heart.” Nor did Abraham lean on his own understanding because if he had, it would have been easy to say, “I know God told me to sacrifice my son, but God is love and He is against murder, so what He said must not be true, or He must just want me to think about what this spiritually means.” We have to believe that Abraham struggled because what God asked him to do presented a variety of conundrums, but regardless, he did exactly as God commanded knowing that God had the power to work it all out in the end… and God did work it out in the end.

This is where faith and works intersect, as a way for us to demonstrate to God that we wholeheartedly believe that every word that comes from His mouth is not only true, but given to provide and bring life. Throughout the gospels, Jesus demonstrated and modeled this faith and obedience (he showed us its perfection). He came to this earth to teach and obediently live out the word of God (John 7:16; 4:34; 8:55; 12:44-50; 14:24, 31; Matthew 4:4). Jesus demonstrated exactly what it means to listen and to obey because He always did exactly as He was instructed by the Father. He did not deviate to the right or left, but obediently followed the path God laid out for Him. Even more, Jesus lived each command obediently, not only because He understood the physical implications of each command, but He understood the deeper spiritual truths behind each command. 

There are many words that God has spoken or commanded us that seem irrelevant, obsolete, or even contrary to His nature, but the measure of our faith lies in our confidence that if He said it, then it is true. The measure of our confidence in this truth, then, is whether we are willing to obey it despite our every inclination not to. Our obedience confirms our confidence and faith in the truth of God’s word, just as Jesus’ obedience confirmed the truth in and His devotion to God’s word and commandments. Thus, the obedience we live is not our own, but that of Christ (1 John 2:6), and Jesus was fully obedient to the word of God (John 15:10) because he knew that His commandment is life (John 12:50). In doing so, not only will we “know” God as Christ knew Him, but God will know us with the intimacy that He knew Abraham. After all, as we read in Matthew 7:21-23, knowing Christ is not the only essential thing, but Him “knowing” us seems to be of greater importance. How then will He know us? Through our doing the will of the Father (vs. 21). What is the will of the Father? The will of the Father is embedded in law, the prophets, and the rest of the scriptures, magnified in the obedience of Jesus Christ.

In the end, the essential question may not be did you know Me, but does He know “yada” us? Or, what does He know of us? If God knows us the way that He “knew” Abraham, then we will not even have to bother with the first question, because it will be made evident through both our faith and obedience in His word. In other words, if God comes to know us the way that He knew Abraham, then it is clear that we know Him. 

Beware of the Adversary

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Matthew 16:22-23“And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God be merciful to you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but man’s.’”

The course of human history is wrought with men and women—some very well intentioned—who have stepped in God’s way. In this case, Peter is a prime example of how quickly we can “lose” our composure and become an adversary before God. In these situations, men and women often seek to “rescue” God from his own evil plan. This is what we see in Peter, and well intentioned or not, he was wrong. Jesus spoke sharply to rebuke him, addressing him as satan, and calling him a stumbling block. These are powerful words, but the spirit that was in Peter at this moment was the spirit of the adversary. 

At the beginning of His ministry, the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, and embedded in these temptations is the very spirit we see in Peter. On three occasions the devil attempts to persuade Jesus to abandon the path that was set before him for the less demanding way. In other words, he baits Jesus into ditching God’s will for humanity, and he does so cloaking his deception in light. First, He moves to convince Jesus that He does not really have to subject Himself to starvation because He wields the power to remedy His own hunger and is able to easily turn stones into bread. On his second attempt, he seeks to convince Jesus to throw himself down from the heights and God would be obligated to swoop in and act. He reinforces his deception by quoting the very words of God (Psalm 91), falsely attempting to reassure Jesus that these are God’s own words and not his own. Finally, the Adversary promises Jesus the kingdom—an easy life—if He would simply bow down and worship him, thus tempting Jesus to bypass the cruel suffering that God was subjecting Him to. In each of these temptations, we see the enemy attempting to either thwart the plan of God or paint God as the adversary. As we can see, there is no limit to what he will do. This is why it is said of him that he deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9). When the enemy uses counterfeit truth, then he is able to infuse men and women with the conviction that their cause is noble, righteous, and ordained by God. In reality, though, they are acting like adversaries. This is why truth is the enemy’s most powerful weapon, because he twists it in the attempt to make the Author of Truth look foolish, cruel, inadequate, self-seeking, and incompetent. 

We see this happen in the very beginning when the serpent tells Eve that God is forbidding the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because He is withholding enlightenment and godliness from His creation. In other words, the devil is swooping in to save Adam and Eve from the dictatorship and tyranny of God, pointing out that they “will not surely die.” On the contrary, they will become more alive, acquiring divine sight and knowledge. Why would God not want them to attain this? Perhaps they misunderstood Him. The seed of doubt concerning God’s character, intentions, and instruction is planted, and the two are quickly knocked off course, blaming each other, blaming the serpent, and ultimately blaming God. Satan attempts this same tactic in the wilderness, and he tries again through Peter. Peter, believing that he is doing right, rebukes Jesus for speaking such “evil”. Little did he know that the “evil” he was trying to protect Jesus from was the very centerpiece of God’s redemption of mankind. This is why Jesus’ rebuke was sharp and needed to be–Peter was standing in God’s way. 

Thus, we see that the greatest weapon the enemy uses against mankind is not direct sin. Men are inclined to sin; our nature drives us toward sin. Little effort is needed by the enemy to drive us into greed, sexual immorality, slander, malice, and the like. Why spend his energies on these when there is little return on his investment? His greatest weapon, his weapon of mass destruction, is his ability to use truth and “good will” to turn us into little adversaries—questioning, judging, and doubting the very word and authority of our Creator. If the enemy can twist our view of God by discretely polluting His plan, His character, and His credibility, then we risk becoming as Peter was: satan. He pulls us in to do the work for him. This should wake us up to the deceptive power of the enemy. After all, if it can happen to Peter, then we are all vulnerable. In this state, we stand in God’s way, question His motives, rebuke His actions, and unwittingly drive to overthrow Him. Often times we fervently join this fight under the banner of truth and righteousness, convinced that we are actually doing God and ourselves a favor. When the enemy has poisoned our minds in this fashion, he wins because it is in this state that we believe in the deception so much that we become disoriented and we make war against the light by throwing ourselves in God’s way.

My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts

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imageIsaiah 55:8-9
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
           As we begin this journey that God has called us forth to, as we make the commitment to ingest the scriptures from beginning to end, we must do so with the words of the prophet in the forefront of our minds. In fact, we must imprint this truth on the forefront of our minds. Failure to do so will most certainly lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and accusation. For generations, men and women have both embraced God and viciously attacked God, all based on their willingness to accept or reject this one premise: His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. The Word of God contains stories of beauty, but there are also many realities that are difficult to swallow and grasp. The temptation of man—since our birth in the garden—has led us to the same end: to make the word of God more palatable and enticing, understandable and simplistic. Instead of wrestling with the difficult spiritual and ethical truths, instead of seeking divine knowledge and understanding, we have taken it upon ourselves to become the chief editors of God’s Word. In other words, instead of taking God at His Word, we have taken the liberty to tell our fellow human beings—and God Himself for that matter—what He is thinking, how He feels, how He must act, what His own intentions are, and how He must behave in His dealings with mankind. For indeed, God’s ways are are higher than our ways, and instead of striving to grasp them, we’ve pulled them down so that He essentially acts and thinks as we would want Him to in any given situation.
The scriptures have been a thorn to man because they certainly do not conform to our expectations. In fact, they often transcend our understanding, and they speak in contradiction to our own ways. If we can learn to submit to the pure, unadulterated Word of God, then it, by no means, will make them easier to grasp, but piece by piece, we will begin to see beauty in the incongruity. God’s web of truth and majesty will slowly unfold before our eyes.
In several of his writings, Paul emphasizes these truths:
1 Corinthians 1:20
“Where then is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to gentiles foolishness. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
1 Corinthians 2:6
“Yet we do speak a wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”
The wisdom of God is not synonymous with the wisdom of man. Through our own wisdom, through our own understanding, we will never come to fully see, know, or understand God. God designed it this way, why?
1 Corinthians 1:27-28
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, THAT NO MAN SHOULD BOAST BEFORE GOD.”
Reading and grappling with the story, from beginning to end, I am being deconstructed, we are being deconstructed. Before God can unveil His truths He must unravel ours. Unless we allow Him to do so, and unless He chooses to do so, then we will never grasp the truths of the good tidings from Genesis 1:1 through the book of Revelation. They will always remain to us a collection of disconnected fables, proverbs, prayers, and myths.

Hear and Obey: Vayyakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

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The word sh’ma in Hebrew is such a beautiful and instructive word, speaking to the very heart and nature that God desires from His children. For the people of Israel are to be characterized not only by their attentiveness to God’s instruction, but also by their steadfast obedience to those very instructions. Sh’ma is a double command to “hear”—with attention, interest, and understanding—and to obey. In living the divine life, both aspects of the command are not only necessary, but without exception. In other words, to have one without the other leaves the follower susceptible to either irreparable negligence or inaction. In this week’s Torah portion, we bear witness to the fullness and reality of this command, carried out by Moses and the people… Continue Reading            Vayyakhel PDF

Take Heed, Lest We Fall

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The portion for this week is a lengthy one and includes the infamous construction of the golden calf. This reading is always a tough pill to swallow and for obvious reasons. To begin with, God’s people made a hasty choice in turning from God, especially after basking in all of the signs and wonders in the days and weeks prior to this event. How quickly they lost faith, especially in the wake of seeing God provide manna, water, deliverance, protection, and shelter. On another level, it was difficult to see such a respectable, godly figure like Aaron buckle under the pressure of the people, allowing and even encouraging their infidelity. This year, though, what really increased the burden of this story is when I took into consideration the conversation that was happening in the previous chapters of Exodus, the conversation and planning that was unfolding upon the mountain. God was laying the groundwork for His tabernacle, the place where He would dwell—that He desired to dwell—with His people, the ones who were, in that moment, dancing and reveling and lifting their worship to an inanimate chunk of metal. How disheartening is this? God is making preparations to build the “love nest,” the very place where He would commune with His bride, and all the while His supposed bride is fornicating unfaithfully in the next room.

Think about this: As God and Moses are pouring over the details of the holy of holies, adorned with the purest of gold and the finest wood and tapestries, the people are freely and willingly handing their gold to Aaron, demanding and cajoling him to fashion a golden replica of the Most High. As God shares, piece by piece, the details of the priests’ clothing—the onyx stones engraved with the tribes of Israel and the breastplate mounted with precious stones, one for each of the tribes—the very people these stones represented were simultaneously celebrating their return back to the chains and shackles from whence they came. As Moses was receiving from God the layout for the golden plate, on which was engraved the phrase “Holy to the Lord,” the very priest on whose head that crown would rest was proclaiming as he pointed out the golden calf, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Yes, and as God was writing the marriage vows, the terms of the covenant, the people were already hastily violating them.

This thought of the people turning against God and throwing their trust onto the graven image is, no doubt, disturbing; but when juxtaposed with the intimate plans that were being written on the mountain, the treachery is elevated to a whole new level. It’s nauseating when we consider the irony of this story because little did the people know that the very groom they were abandoning was up on the mountain unveiling His desire to draw closer to them. In their feeble minds they assumed that He had abandoned them, sweeping Moses with Him. Guided by this grave assumption, they took matters into their own hands, created their own deliverer, and with little resistance, shifted their loyalty.

Every time I read this story, I cannot help but think about how easy it is to scoff at the so-called harlotry of the Israelites. In fact, I am guilty of detaching and elevating myself in judgment of these people… our forefathers. We all are. After all, we would never stoop to this level of insolence, now would we? Before we are quick to answer, we who are confident in our own so-called “stability” and quick to judge ought to, in the words of Paul, “take heed lest he (we) fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The warning from Paul is very clear and imperative because he knows that we possess within ourselves the very same nature as those who exalted the calf. In fact, Paul sternly warns,

1 Corinthians 10:6, 11

“Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved… Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.”

The words recorded in the scriptures were written for our preservation, that we would not fall into the same impulsive error as those who stumbled before us. In his second epistle, Peter echoes this warning, commanding us to be careful because in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? Forever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Do these words sound familiar? They are words that carry the same tone of impatience and rebellion as those spoken by the very people whom we are quick to condemn for turning on Moses and casting their allegiance to the golden calf. In their impatience, these people succumbed to their own understanding and devices, which—if we are honest with ourselves—seems to also be our fatal flaw as well. Therefore, in light of their fall, Peter charges us to “be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).

The fact of the matter is this: As we diligently wait for the return of Christ, He is preparing, preparing to return and do what He initially intended to do in the desert: dwell in intimacy with His bride (John 14:1-4). Yes, He will again betroth His bride, and this time it will be an everlasting betrothal. Yet, until that hour comes, we must do what Israel failed to do: patiently wait, expectantly watch, faithfully prepare, and diligently persevere until He descends. Let us not acquiesce to temptation, trial, or doubt, for we have seen that these only have one end: destruction. Therefore, it is imperative that we hold fast to the admonition of Peter,

2 Peter 3:13-14

“But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”

Hallowed be Your Name

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by Andy Goodnow

Matthew 6:9-13 

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Your name….” 

When we pray, we call upon, we bless, and we ask in, His Hallowed Name. Our requests, pleas, and praises find their center at His name. If His name is at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of our prayers, and if it is His name that we put our trust in, then it is important for us to understand what the passage means when Jesus states “Hallowed be Your Name”.

Psalm 20:7

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

So, what does it mean that God’s name is “Hallowed”? Why Hallowed? Over all other words that could have been spoken in it’s place, hallowed is what Jesus says. To understand the depth of His statement, we must first understand what “Hallowed” itself means. To hold someone as “Hallowed” is to greatly revere and respect them. To begin to understand how we hallow God’s name, we must first understand how to revere and respect “ Our Father who art in heaven”.

Let’s take a journey back in time (over 3500 years to be more precise) to a mountain covered in a dense cloud, to a man sanctified, cleansed and humbled standing in reverence and respect before his Creator. On this mount we’re given two stone tablets with the foundation of God’s holy law engraved upon them. When we look upon these tablets etched by the mighty chisel of the Creator, we find the instructions on how to honor Him. Within these commandments, we find the third commandment to be of great use in helping us to better understand the importance of the name of God.

Exodus 20:7 

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

Deuteronomy 5:11

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

We have heard this commandment preached from the pulpits of our homes and churches to children and congregations alike. We may even balk and cringe at the sound of His name proceeding a curse of any kind. But are we seeing the true meaning of this commandment? As we look to the Word we see the true instruction take on a little different form taught by the prophets, disciples, and even God Himself, then from parents and pastors. We have interpreted vain to simply mean that we are not to use his name in a profane way, but are we grasping the depth of the message that the Lord Himself is trying to teach us? To shed light on the meaning of this thought we need to venture deeper into His Word and plunge further into the pages of His Holy letter to us. We see a warning when we look in the Word to Romans, where Paul gives further insight into this commandment when he  writes: “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written” (Romans 2:23-24) 

Now how does this passage give more detail of the third commandment? Let’s look at the definition of “blasphemy”. When we look up the definition of “blaspheme” we find to blaspheme is to “speak irreverently about God or sacred things” It’s synonyms are to “swear, curse, to take the Lord’s name in vain”. Now knowing this, we see that Paul is making a connection between the Law of God and the name of God. But what is the connection? To get to that answer, let’s see what else God’s Word has to say.

There is no greater thing than the name of God, right? Once again a look at the Word of God reveals what His stance on the subject is: “I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name, For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name (Psalm 138:2). His Word, His Law, His commands, His instruction, magnified above His name….We find a similar correlation in the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel the word of the Lord came to the prophet with a word for Israel and this is what the Lord said: “Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed Me, in that they have  committed a trespass against Me” (Ezekiel 20:7). So what was the trespass of Israel who blasphemed God to the point that He withdrew His hand of protection and provision from them (Ezekiel 20:22)? What form of rebellion did they commit that drew Him to divide the nation and scatter them between the lands (Ezekiel 20:23)? Because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their father’s idols” (Ezekiel 20:24). After reading this passage it is clear that blasphemy (aka. taking the Lord’s name in vain) is much more than what we say. It is in what we do (or fail to do). With this knowledge the commandment becomes an even greater warning, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7b).            

So, why is it that in church pulpits today people worship, praise, pray, and preach the name of God but teach a completely opposite message of the Word (the Law and commands of God)? Church leaders teach that the laws and commands of God were done away with when Jesus came to this earth. If this is the case then are we to teach that the “name” of God is done away with in Jesus as well? Clearly this isn’t the case, but it is what is implied if we make the statement that the Law is done away with, especially with the knowledge of what God Himself says about His Law and name. As believers we desire to truly praise the Name of God, and from the previous text we understand that this is accomplished by loving His word (law, commands, and instructions). In fact, by honoring and obeying His word we hallow it.

1 John 5:2-3

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13: 

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Psalm 103:17-18

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

When we truly “Hallow” The Name of God we humble ourselves and give our lives, hearts, minds, and beings to the pursuit of revering and respecting His Holy Word! When we understand this, we can read the following passages with such enlightenment and joy. (try switching the word “name” for the word “word (law, commands, instructions) and see if they bring a new insight to the power of His “Hallowed Name”

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Micah 4:5 All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.

Psalm 61:8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.

Psalm 135:13 Your name, LORD, endures forever, your renown, LORD, through all generations.

Psalm 72:17 May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.