Month: March 2017

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.